Thursday, February 7, 2013

February 6, 1863

February 6, 1863

Virginia – Gen. "Fighting Joe" Hooker makes changes to improve morale in the Army of the Potomac. He orders corrupt quartermasters to be sacked, and improves the distribution of rations; orders more bakeries to be built, and that the troops are to be given fresh bread, potatoes, and onions at least three times per week. New sanitary regulations are to be enforced, and the cleanest camps compete for the reward of furloughs. Furloughs in general are to be more frequent and regulated, hospitals cleaner and more capacious, and drill to be more frequent and more professional. He founds a new program for better officer training.

Gen. George Stoneman and staff, of the new Cavalry Corps in the Army of the Potomac

-- Mississippi – Gen. Grant sends orders to Admiral David D. Porter to send a gunboat naval expedition through Yazoo Pass, to the Coldwater River, then to the Tallahatchie River, to the Yalabusha, to the Yazoo, thence to Yazoo City and on to Grenada, in order to destroy the bridges for the railroad there, and by denying them use of the railroads, thus hamper any invasions of West Tennessee that the Confederates might want to launch while the Yankees are busy down at Vicksburg. Grant offers the use of 600 infantry "to act as marines to the expedition." This will be a difficult task, since navigating the winding, twisting waterways of the Mississippi Delta region is likely to be treacherous.

Grant's campaign for Vicksburg

-- Walt Whitman, the poet, is working in the army hospitals in Washington, D.C. as a volunteer nurse. He receives a letter from his brother Jeff (Thomas Jefferson Whitman) back home in New Jersey, who writes (among other things) about Walt’s service and about their brother George who is a soldier:
Walt, you must be doing more real good than the whole sanitary Commission put to-gether Mr Lane, in conversation with a gentleman in the office, said yesterday that we ought to raise money enough to keep a 100 Walt Whitmans, support them and pay them, (if they could be found.) and by that means take the rough edge off the War. Tis indeed true. I am thankfull that you are there. Somehow I feel that as if George, God bless him, was a little safer while you are so near him and while you are doing so much good.

-- Lucy Chase, a Quaker woman from Massachusetts, is a volunteer teacher to teach school to the "contrabands" (escaped slaves) on Craney Island, near Norfolk, Virginia:
Feb 7 1863

Dear home folks

I am rejoicing with the happy negro in his greed for letters. One word of instruction from a teacher brightens the face of the learner with shining content. Frock coat or shoes, he takes as his due; but every step of his creeping progress into the mysteries of letters elevates his spirit like faith in a brilliant promise. Scattered about the houses of the whites are pleasing, intelligent women, who serve as cooks. One of them told me that she was very willing to take her share of suffering and all who were in the room with us, said they would suffer still more, rather than again become slaves. The woman said she should the very happy, feeling that her children can spend "The balance of their days in freedom, though she had been in bonds." Want of house-room makes it impracticable to form classes at present, but we can assist those we employ directly about us, and may be able in that way, to form a corps of A.B.C. teachers. . . .


–Oliver Willcox Norton, a bugler with the 83rd Pennsylvania Volunteers, writes home. Among the matters he discusses are his captain (who apparently has an aversion to violence) and the ever-present lice:
As to being the "captain’s friend" I don’t see the point. I despise him too much for that. Personally I have no fault to find. He has always treated me well, perhaps favored me some, but I am not the friend of the man who always has the piles or something of the sort when a fight is coming off. At Hanover Court House he couldn’t keep up, at Gaines’ Mill he lay behind a tree and laughed while the men fell all round him. At Malvern he shouted retreat and ran like a greyhound and got shot in the back with a three-cornered something. Last summer at Fredericksburg when we expected a fight he was too weak to march, and we didn’t see him again till after Antietam. At this last at Fredericksburg he did go in and acted something like a man, the first and last time he has done so. When we moved last, expecting another battle, he couldn’t go, he had the piles. Should I be the "captain’s friend"? I don’t know that he has but one in the company, and he is a sort of sucker. . . . I do not believe there was a man in our brigade, officer, private or nigger, but was lousy. They grow to enormous size and are the most cunning and most impudent of all things that live. During the late snow storm the boys, for want of something else to do, made sleds of their jaw bones, and slid down the bank of the railroad. The other night after supper I was sitting by the fire smoking a cigar, when I felt something twitch at my pants’ leg. I looked down and there was one of the "crumbs" with a straw in his mouth, standing on his hind legs and working his claws round like a crab on a fish line. I gave a kick at him, but he dodged it and sticking up his cigar squeaked out, "Give me a light."


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