February 17, 1863
---Yazoo Delta, Mississippi: In a bid to gain access to the back door of the Vicksburg via the tangled maze of rivers and bayous in the Mississippi/Yazoo delta area, by way of the Yazoo River and the Tallahatchie River, the Union forces have cut a break in the levee between the Mississippi and the Yazoo delta. However, ambushes and obstructions laid across the narrow waterways by the Rebels have slowed the Union naval gunboats nearly to a stop. Commander Isaac Brown, the C.S. Navy commander for the area, reports to Pemberton that he has nothing to stop them. He has two boats, the Star of the West and the Mary Keene, but no crews for them. Gen. Pemberton sends heavy artillery and more infantry to Yazoo City, a potential blocking spot.
---The Richmond Daily Dispatch, in an effort to editorialize the North as being in dire straits, offers an argument that the Yankee nation is gasping its last breath, bereft of the necessary resources for their industry: Southern staples. (Read: cotton):
Tuesday morning…Feb. 17, 1863.
What the North is fighting for
What the North is fighting for
The North is fighting for self-preservation as much as for Southern subjugation, the latter of which is now chiefly desired because it involves the former. The time when, possessed of devils, is sought to exterminate the South, in a fit of foaming, diabolic phrensy, has long since passed, and, in spite of Lincoln’s proclamation, the clear, distinct object of the great mass of that nation in the further prosecution of this war is to save themselves from the overhanging avalanche of ruin which the success of the Southern cause must precipitate upon their heads.
They have learned a good deal since this war commenced. They were going to wipe us out in sixty days! . . . Two years of war, and they have not even taken Richmond, which lies on the margin of our territory, and is accessible by fine, navigable waterways. Wipe us out in sixty days! And now, after two years, they are engaged in a death struggle to keep themselves from being “wiped out” from the map of nations!
The final defeat of the North in this struggle involves its total bankruptcy — commercial, financial, and political. No lobster, divested of its shell, was ever more at the mercy of the rest of the animal creation. It produces nothing of its own which cannot be produced elsewhere in greater perfection. Its manufactories would tumble into ruins: for the South, their principal customer even if it could ever defile its hands again with Yankee actions, could buy cheaper and better elsewhere. Its ships would rot at the wharves; for the South would carry its staples in its own vessels, and the monopoly of the coasting trades the fishing bounties, &c., would be dreams of the past. . . . The Northwest would set up for itself. The Middle States would shake themselves clear of New England, which might humbly petition to be once more received as a British colony. These are some of the inevitable calamities which the North is now fighting to escape, but which, in all probability, no effort she can make will be sufficient to avert. Her doom is written, and, what is worse for her, it has been written by her own hand, and she will be her own executioner.
Without placing an invading foot upon her soil, without burning one Northern homestead, or bombarding one Northern town, the South has only to stand by and see the retribution which Providence permits these wretches, whose hands are stained with the innocent blood of our people, to inflict upon themselves.
---Horatio Nelson Taft of Washington, DC, writes in his journal about the progress of the war, and the beginning of the Conscription system for the North:
An important Bill passed the Senate last night to enrol the whole Militia force of the U.S. No one exempt but governors of States, all betwen 20 & 45 included and liable to draft. It passed unanimously. The Rebellion is to be put down at any cost of men and money. I am over “forty five” by 12 years but am not realy older than many men of fifty. I may volunteer yet if necessary. I am a volunteer now. The members of the “Union League” are all “Minute Men” “armed to the teeth” and always ready. We have pledged our lives in support of the Govt. Let Traitors South or North beware. There will soon be an irresistable power in the land, ready for all emergencies. I think myself that the Rebellion is near crushed out now than it has been for six months past.
---In his journal, Lieut. Josiah Marshall Favill, a young English immigrant serving in the 57th New York Infantry Regiment, writes of the delicious opportunity for a furlough to visit home, and of the disappointment in returning back to the army in the field:
It [request for leave of absence] was readily granted, and for the first time since 1861, I found myself in New York City again, amongst my friends, untrammeled by autocratic rules. What a luxury it was! I left camp on February 2d and was obliged to be back there on the 17th, so I had no time for hesitancy, and plunged directly into a round of gaieties. I called immediately upon H___, at the hotel on Fifth avenue, and found my status unimpaired, although no correspondence had passed between us. We visited the Russian warships then in port, and without any interruption, kept busy sight seeing, going to theaters, operas, etc., etc. The time seemed abominably short, and when the evening of the 16th arrived, and I had to take my leave for an unknown period and unknown vicissitudes, I was very desolate, but it was necessary to brace up, so I kept the faith and took my train, and rushed back to my home and duties with the grand old army in the field, carrying along a brand new uniform, new overcoat, boots, etc., and a very empty pocket book. I landed on the afternoon of the 17th in rear of the hills, just in front of Fredericksburg, where the train stopped, and the stores were all landed. Stepping on the ground I looked about me, hardly recognizing the country. All the trees for miles had been cut down for the use of the army, and it looked like a wilderness of stumps and mud. My man Green was on hand with the gray, and together we rode over the desolate country. It was cold and cheerless and I felt no enthusiasm in returning.