Wednesday, March 27, 2013

March 26, 1863

March 26, 1863
---Gen. Pegram of the Confederate army is raiding deep into Kentucky, while Nathan Bedford Forrest conducts raids of his own behind Rosecrans’ lines in central Tennessee.  Yesterday, he attacks the town of Brentwood, and the Yankees there---a regiment of Wisconsin infantry, under command of Col. Edward Bloodgood---immediately surrender.  The Rebel troopers carry off supplies and destroy the railroad depot.  Then, Forrest sends an officer to a railroad bridge nearby over the Little Harpeth River, who demands that Yankee garrison’s surrender as well.  This colonel accepts the deception, and surrenders his regiment of Michiganders.  Forrest, in one day, captures 750 Yankees, losing only 4 dead and 13 wounded in the attack on Brentwood.  With his loot and prisoners, Forrest departs the area in haste, as a Union cavalry force is on his heels.
---Gen. Robert E. Lee writes to the Confederate Secretary of War Seddon about the scarcity of rations in the Army of Northern Virginia, detailing his own efforts to secure food for his men, and clearly putting the problem where it belongs---with Seddon’s department.  Lee concludes his letter:

The troops of the portion of the army have for some time been confined to reduced rations, consisting of 18 ounces of four, 4 ounces of bacon of indifferent quality, with occasionally supplies of rices, sugar, or molasses. The men are cheerful, and I receive but few complaints; still, I do not think it is enough to continue them in health and vigor, and I fear they will be unable to endure the hardships of the approaching campaign. Symptoms of scurvy are appearing among them, and to supply the place of vegetables each regiment is directed to send a daily detail to gather sassafras buds, wild onions, garlic, lamb's quarter, and poke sprouts, but for so large an army the supply obtained is very small. I have understood, I do not know with what truth, that the Army of the West and that in the Department of South Carolina and Georgia are more bountifully supplied with provisions. I have also heard that the troops in North Carolina receive one-half pound of bacon per day. I think this army deserves as much consideration as either of those named, and, if it can be supplied, respectfully ask that it be similarly provided.

I have the honor to be, with great respect, you obedient servant,


---As U.S. naval gunboats and transports are being pushed through the Yazoo Pass to make their slow, laborious way down to reinforce the Union forces in front of Fort Pemberton, artilleryman Jenkin Lloyd Jones writes in his journal about the tough going in river channels that are narrow and twisting in a heavy forest:
On Yazoo Pass, Thursday, March 26. A fine day. Health poor. Nausea and diarrhea very bad. Advanced very slowly to-day, the current being swifter than before, so that we are just tossed from tree to tree. Obliged to use the capstan continually. A limb took off one of the escape pipes, another entered the cook room on the second floor. It is with great trouble the men can save themselves from falling limbs. One fell on two boys which came very near proving serious. Passed at 2 P. M. by the “Hamilton Belle”, dispatch boat.

Monday, March 25, 2013

March 25, 1863

March 25, 1863

---The night before, the USS Lancaster and USS Switzerland, ironclad gunboats, try to run past Vicksburg’s guns in the dark.  The Switzerland suffers a shot through her boiler, and the Lancaster is so badly battered, with her bow shot off, that she takes on water and sinks.  Her crew escape to safety.

---Col. Robert Gould Shaw, commander of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment in training, writes home to his mother:


March 25 1863

Dear Mother,

I have received two notes from you, one about our course of conduct at Aunt Mary’s, and the other about shirts.  I agree with you entirely about what you said in the first, and shall do as you suggest.  I burned the note, as you requested, and will not say anything to Aunt Mary about it.  I have bought the shirts but will pay the bill myself, as I shall be happy to make Howard a present of the others.

If the success of the 54 Mass. gives you so much pleasure, I shall have no difficulty in giving you good news of it, whenever I write.  Everything goes on prosperously.  The intelligence of the men is a great surprise, to me.  They learn all the details of guard duty and Camp service, infinitely more readily than the Irish I have had under my command.  There is not the least doubt, that we shall leave the state, with as good a regiment, as any that has marched.  One trouble, which I anticipated, has begun-viz: complaints from outsiders of undue severity.  But I shall continue to do, what I know is right in that particular, and you may be perfectly certain, that any reports of cruelty, are entirely untrue.  I have treated them much more mildly, than we did the men of the 2d.

Tell Father I received his note, and would like very much to have him send me the horse he speaks of, if he is satisfied with him.  I want as handsome a horse as I can get & need it as soon as possible. . . .

Your loving son

---Sarah Morgan writes in her journal about some of the few social encounters that can occur amongst young people in wartime:

Those vile Yankees have been threatening Ponchatoula, and his battery, with a regiment of infantry, was on its way there to drive them back. The Captain sent me word of the distressing departure, with many assurances that he would take care of “my” John.

Scarcely had he departed, when lo! John arrives, and speaks for himself. Yes! he is going! Only a moment to say good-bye . . . sunset approaches. Well! he must say good-bye now! Chorus of young ladies: “Oh, will you not spend the evening with us? You can easily overtake the battery later.” Chorus of married ladies: “You must not think of going. Here is a comfortable room at your service, and after an early breakfast you can be on the road as soon as the others.” No necessity for prayers; he readily consents. And yet, as the evening wore on, when we laughed loudest I could not help but think of poor little Mrs. McPhaul sitting alone and crying over her brother’s departure, fancying his precious bones lying on the damp ground with only the soldier’s roof — the blue vault of heaven — above, while two miles away he sat in a comfortable parlor amusing himself.

---Leverett Bradley, a young soldier in the 1st Massachusetts Heavy Artillery Regiment, is writing home and speculating about how much longer the war might last, as do all soldiers:

What do you think the prospect is of our getting home? Of course you know it can not be till the war is over. The general opinion is that six months will see all the fighting over. One thing more, we must not give them peace, unless honorable to our arms: there must be no squeezeing out place, keep them until they submit to our terms. The end greatly depends upon our success at Vicksburg, port Hudson, and Charleston. If we whip them at these places I think Joe Hooker will start them and will drive them till they get some thing very strong to hide behind. About influence, I don’t urge my case hard, but just mention the thing, and if any thing should turn up, you might put it to use in my case, as I am in the army. I think not to use any bragadocio, that I am as capable as a great many others. Jere will write next Sunday. Much love to all.

Yours &c.

L. Bradley. Jr.

March 24, 1863

March 24, 1863
---The Richmond Daily Dispatch regularly publishes ads for escaped slaves, usually house slaves.  On this date, this one appears, as an example:
Five Hundred Dollars Reward.

–I will pay $500 reward for the apprehension and delivery to me, in Richmond, of my house boy Albert, who absconded from my residence, corner of 5th and Grace streets, on the morning of the 25th inst.Albert is of a dark gingerbread color, 27 years old, about 5 feet7 inches high, is well formed, quick and active in his motion, and wears rather a grim countenance when in conversation. He was raised by Mr. Isaac A. Goddin, and has two brothers and other relations in this city.

W. M. Sutton


---Oliver Willcox Norton, of the 83rd Pennsylvania Infantry, writes home to his family.  Among other topics, he discusses the need for intellectual diversion in the dreariness of camp life, and what he and a few comrades do to relieve it:

The meeting of the debating club last night was a feast for a hungry mind. The scene reminded me much of some exhibition at home. The building is a log one covered with canvas, and the seats mere logs, but a big fire was blazing in the fireplace, and the room was warm and comfortable. It was decorated with pendant wreaths and loops of evergreen, and two tasty chandeliers lit up the hall cheerfully. It was filled with well dressed, gentlemanly soldiers, and the exercises, a paper, a poem, and a debate, were so interesting I had hard work to tear myself away before it broke up, but duty first and pleasure afterwards is military style.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

March 23, 1863

March 23, 1863

---Yazoo Campaign – Gen. Isaac Quinby arrives from Helena, and turns around the retreat of the Navy and Gen. Ross’ troops.  Lt. Cmdr. Foster takes the De Kalb and Chillicothe downstream close to Fort Pemberton, and fires a few shots into the fort, but there is no response from the Rebels.

---Sergeant Alexander Downing of the 11th Iowa Infantry Regiment, serving with Grant’s army near Vicksburg, writes in his journal:

Monday, 23d—It rained nearly all day and our new camp has become very muddy. Today I read the two books of Chronicles in the Bible, sixty-five chapters in all. Our picket duty here is very light at present.

---John Beauchamp Jones does not see things getting any better in Richmond since yesterday, and so notes in his journal:
MARCH 23D.—The snow has nearly disappeared, and the roads are very bad. No food is brought to the market, and such as may be found in the city is held at famine prices.

I saw a letter to-day from Bishop Lay, in Arkansas. He says affairs in that State wear a dark and gloomy aspect. He thinks the State is lost.

Gen. Beauregard writes the Hon. Mr. Miles that he has not men enough, nor heavy guns enough, for the defense of Charleston. If this were generally known, thousands would despair, being convinced that those charged with the reins of power are incompetent, unequal to the crisis, and destined to conduct them to destruction rather than independence.


Friday, March 22, 2013

March 22, 1863

March 22, 1863

—John Beauchamp Jones, a clerk in the Confederate War Department, writes in his journal about the poor conditions in Richmond, especially in regard to groceries being unavailable:
The snow has laid an embargo on the usual slight supplies brought to market, and all who had made no provision for such a contingency are subsisting on very short-commons. Corn-meal is selling at from $6 to $8 per bushel. Chickens $5 each. Turkeys $20. Turnip greens $8 per bushel. Bad bacon $1.50 per pound. Bread 20 cts. per loaf. Flour $38 per barrel,—and other things in proportion. There are some pale faces seen in the streets from deficiency of food; but no beggars, no complaints. We are all in rags, especially our underclothes. This for liberty!

March 21, 1863

March 21, 1863
—The Richmond Daily Dispatch has heard of speculation and skyrocketing prices for goods in Vicksburg, whose economy is already being adversely affected by the tightening grip of the Union forces on free trade:
From Vicksburg.
–The correspondent of the Mobile Advertiser, writing from Vicksburg, says:

If Vicksburg should ever be so unfortunate, as to fall into the hands of the enemy, it will be accomplished by the untiring exertions of some of our own Southern people, rather than by the assault of the enemy. The unquenchable thirst for speculation has already brought a degree of privation and destitution upon this place that would otherwise have remained strangers and at a great distance.– spirit of speculation has taken hold of almost everybody and every interest is sacrificed to Mammon. To such an extent has this spirit reached, that it now pervades every class of people and every branch of business and there families whose male stays are in the army suffer severely from it.

—The newly-promoted young Col. Robert Gould Shaw of Boston is organizing Massachusetts’ first all-black regiment, what will soon be known as the famous 54th Massaxhusetts Infantry Regiment. He writes home to his parents, and includes some details about how carefully the men for the regiment—both white officers and black enlisted men—are being selected:
March 21, 1863

Dear Father,

Yours of the 18th Inst is received. I don’t think there is any chance for Mr. Wingate in my regiment. We have filled the list of Officers already. There will probably be some vacancies before we leave, but I don’t want to take any one whom I don’t know myself, and the Governor is averse to any but Massachusetts men, as there are a great many applications from his regiments.

Please tell Mother I received her note and will take her advice about Aunt Mary’s house. Charley and Effie arrived safely night before last. The latter found some beautiful bouquets awaiting her, and yesterday received a swarm of visitors.
We have received a large number of men lately from New York State & Pennsylvania. Mr. Stearns’ recruits are beginning to come in too. We are picking them carefully & shall have a very sound set. I expect to have, at least 450 in camp before the middle of next week. Don’t you think Brown had better give up his office in New York? We get finer men from the country, and there is no doubt of our filling up pretty rapidly. . . .

The snow here is still deep, and is making a good layer of mud for us. We can’t drill out of doors which is a great disadvantage as the barracks are crowded.

Give my love to Mother. I hope Nellie is having a pleasant time in Philadelphia. I suppose it is pretty gay there.

Your loving son
Robert G. Shaw

Col. Robert Gould Shaw

---At a March 6 mass rally at the Cooper Union in New York City, John Van Buren, a notable lawyer and War Democrat and therefore supporter of the administration, speaks to an overflow crowd about the war and Copperheadism, as reported on this date in Harper’s Weekly:
The election came and passed, and it is no part of our province or purpose to consider the particular result, except to say that the people of the State of New York, after a very active canvass, were about equally divided. . . . And there being no election pending, I hold it to be entirely preposterous to assume that people who differed during the last canvass in this State may not unite a fe[w] minutes together and tell what we think will be the end of this war—unite cordially in such measures as may be necessary to put down rebellion that has no shadow of justification. [Applause.] Under such circumstances I have been called upon by a Committee of highly respectable gentlemen to redeem the pledges made in the campaign, in the very place where I now stand. And if I was in truth, as I then declared I was, in favor of a vigorous prosecution of the war, and if I did truly believe that the interest of the country far transcended in importance any political and party organization that was in existence, now to come forward and say so in common with those who be-longed to a different political party. [Applause.] Such being the fact, I have no hesitation in saying that I cordially agree to the resolutions that have been adopted. [Applause.] I am for the vigorous prosecution of the war. [Applause.] I am for the prosecution of the war until this rebellion is wholly overthrown. [Applause.] I am for destroying the usurped Government that has been set up over the Southern States, and this thing that calls itself a Confederate Government ; and until that is done I hold that all propositions for peace are entirely preposterous and absurd. [Applause.] Now being for the war, I am necessarily with every body that is for the war; and being opposed to peace, I am necessarily opposed to every body that is for peace. . . .

THE RECENT LEGISLATION OF CONGRESS. Now let us see whether there is any thing worth considering in what is suggested by those who dissent from us, and are unwilling to prosecute this war. The measures that have been recently adopted by Congress are so lately adopted, that it becomes any man who is careful what he says to be guarded in speaking of them. The President issued two Proclamations—both of them, as I have frequently stated, I disapproved. He issued both before I spoke on the 13th of October, and before Governor Seymour spoke. Neither of us saw any thing in them which prevented its from favoring a vigorous prosecution of the war. If there was nothing then, it is certain that there is no-thing now. [Applause.] . . .

I can very well understand how, if I sympathize with the rebellion—if I deemed that this war should fail—I could spend hours and columns in picking flaws in this act. But if I believed that substantial justice required that the great ends of prosecuting the war demand that this whole power of the Government shall be lodged by the Congress of the United States in the President of the United States, I would bow in silence to the act whether I approved of it or not. [Prolonged cheers.] If the President of the United States had usurped these powers there might be a degree of propriety in denouncing it; but when the representatives of the people, legally elected, after due deliberation, assume the responsibility of lodging these trusts in him, in my humble judgment, and certainly in view of the precedent to which I have referred, no wise man will ever complain of the act. [Applause.] . . .

March 20, 1863

March 20, 1863

Yazoo Campaign: Being entirely unable to mount an effective attack or seige on Fort Pemberton, Brig. Gen. Ross is even more frustrated to learn that the Rebels appear to be making an attempt to cut off his retreat, farther north on the Tallahatchie River. His naval counterpart, Capt. Smith, has gone back to Helena, Arkansas, ill. Ross decides that the expedition is no longer viable—indeed, is in jeopardy, and orders a retreat. Gen. Wm. Loring, commander of Confederate troops in the area, sees the Yankee gunboats and transports head back upstream, and crows, in his report, "Enemy in full run, as fast as steam can carry him, and my men after him."

St. Andrew’s Bay: Near Panama City, Florida, the USS Roebuck lands a part of seamen in an attempt to "cut out" a blockade runner that had made it into port. But the sailors ran into an unusually strong home guard defense, and had to abandon the project, with 2 men dead and 7 wounded out of the 11 who landed. Ship’s records indicate that at least another 4 of the wounded died later.

March 18, 1863

March 18, 1863

---Battle of Kelly's Ford, Virginia: Although not the biggest cavalry battle in the war, this is one of the more significant, since it is the first time the Yankee riders are able to best the Rebels in a direct, pitched battle. Averill and 3,000 Union cavalry move near Culpeper Court House, where Averill leaves some troopers to guard that flank. With 2,300 he rides to Kelly's Ford and attempts to cross, but 60 Rebel sharpshooters are taking down too many men in blue with each attempt. Finally, Maj. Chamberlain of Averill's staff leads a charge across the ford with only 20 volunteers from the 1st Rhode Island Cavalry Regiment, and succeed in capturing the ford. The Federals cross to the south side of the river, where they are soon met by 800 Rebel troopers under Gen. Fitzhugh Lee. Averill forms a line, and repels attack after attack by the Rebels. Lee moves back to get reinforcements, but Averill withdraws back across the river, having dealt the Rebels a blow that will be felt. Union Victory.

Losses: Union 78 Confederate 133

---On this date, a crowd of as many as 80 women in Salisbury, North Carolina, gather to demonstrate for food: flour shortages and prices make it nearly impossible for soldier's wives, especially, to find enough food for their families. According to the Richmond Daily Dispatch:
A correspondent of the Petersburg Express, writing from Salisbury, N. C., on the 18th instant, says that about 12 o'clock on that day a rumor was afloat that the wives of several soldiers now in the war, intended to make a dash on some flour and other necessaries of life belonging to certain gentlemen who the ladies termed "speculators."-They alleged that they were entirely out of provisions and unable to give prices now asked to give Government prices. The letter adds:
Accordingly, about 2 o'clock they met, some 50 or 75 in number, with axes and hatchets, and proceeded to the depot of the North Carolina Central road, to impress some there, but were very politely met by the agent, Mr. -, with the enquiry: "What on earth was the matter?" The excited women said they were in search of "flour," which they learned had been stored there by a certain speculator. . . . The old gentlemen seeing their determination to have the flour, compromised the matter by saying if they would desist he would give them ten barrels, which he readily did. . . .

—Charles W. Hill, a young married soldier in the 5th Massachusetts Infantry, serving in coastal North Carolina, writes home to his wife Martha. After a good deal of news about battles and rumors of battle, of officers, camp gossip, and related news, he closes his letter with these rather poignant devotions in his "P.S." from a lonely soldier:
. . . I will write no more tonight hope to get time to add more tomorrow. The mail goes Saturday I could fill a good many sheets if I had time
Good night to you all
From your own "Johnny" (C W Hill)

I want to see you very much but I think it the wisest way is just [feel?] that it can not be now and wait patiently for the time to come. Let us each cheerfully do the work before us whatever it may be and the time will not seem long I love to feel as I always have been able to that I can rely [?] on your love and [dis]regard what ever others may think or say. It makes a man feel strong to know that he is all the world to somebody But I must stop

—An editorial in the Richmond Daily Dispatch savages the Yankees for even thinking that the South will ever undergo "Reconstruction"—or the knitting of the two parts of the country again:
Reconstruction. The tenacity with which the Yankees cling to the idea of reconstructing the old Union, at the very moment they are devising schemes for prosecuting with new vigor the work of bloodshed and desolation, is one of the most astonishing things of this unparalleled war. For two years has our soil been drenched in the blood of our sons and brothers; our dwellings burned, our fields devastated, our women insulted and outraged, the very altars of our religion and even the tombs of our dead desecrated, and yet they expect us once more to hug to our hearts as brethren of the same political family the monsters who have committed these deeds. There can be no better proof of their own utter heartlessness than their belief that men can do such foul wrong to their dead kindred as reconstruction implies.

March 17, 1863

March 17, 1863

---In central Virginia, Gen. Stoneman, in command of the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac, directs Gen. William Averill to take 3,000 troopers and artillery and to strike Stuart's cavalry in the vicinity of Kelly's Ford across the Rappahannock. Averill's force rides out this evening.

March 16, 1863

March 16, 1863

---Major Thomas J. Halsey, of the 11th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry, encamped at Winter quarters at Falmouth, Virginia, writes home to his wife about the political fallout of Copperheadism at home:

. . . I see by the Papers that the Copper Heads are making quite a stir and may make some trouble but it will not amount to much as I think this government is strong enough to put them through.  Our Regiment had a meeting last week and passed Resolutions of a Patriotic nature condemning the Peace Party and pledging our Lives and all that we have in the cause of our country.  There were several speeches made on the occasion, among others, your humble servant.  (I do not care to brag, Lib, but as no one but you will see this, one of the bigest [sic] men in the Regiment said to me after the Meeting, “Why, Halsey, did not know that you were so much of a talker.”)  The meeting passed off pleasantly.  The men cheered, the Band played, the Bonfire burned brightly, and alltogether [sic] we had a good time. . . .

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

March 14, 1863

March 14, 1863

---Battle of Port Hudson, Louisiana (Naval):  In tandem with Gen. Nathaniel Banks’ approach to Port Hudson, Admiral David Farragut and his river fleet begin bombarding the Confederate fortifications at this Mississippi River strong point. 
Admiral David Glasgow Farragut
Expecting that Banks and his troops would be up and ready to attack Port Hudson, Farragut lashes some of his ships together in pairs and prepares to steam upstream past the fortress.  At the last minute, Farragut learns that Banks is not very close to Port Hudson and will not arrive into position, but he decides to proceed without the Army.  As his ships steam up the Mississippi around the large bend where the Confederate guns are, they are peppered coming and going.  The Hartford (Farragut’s flagship) and Albatross are lashed together, followed by the Richmond lashed to the Genesee, and then the Monongahela lashed to the Kineo.  The USS Mississippi, being a side-wheeler, brings up the rear alone. 
Confederate batteries at Port Hudson batter the Federal flotilla on March 14, 1863
As the seven vessels make their dash, sometime after 10:00 PM, the Rebel gunners send up a signal and open up on the slow-moving Union flotilla.  Farragut has ordered his ships to hug the east bank of the river, so that the heavy guns up on the bluff will have trouble depressing their muzzles low enough to hit the Yankee gunboats.  The Union flotilla moves slowly, being lashed two-by-two, and upstream against a strong current. 
USS Kineo (foreground right) and USS Hartford (back) at anchor at Baton Rouge
The Hartford and Albatross get through with a little damage and are able to round the very sharp bend in the river.  By 12:45 AM, the Hartford and Albatross are past the range of the Rebel guns.  The Richmond and Genesee proceed, but before they can round the bend into safety, Rebel shells disable Richmond’s boiler, and the ship and its consort run aground briefly, and then begin drifting downstream, no longer driven by the larger frigate’s engines.  Gunnery is difficult in the darkness, with the heavy smoke cloaking what little could be seen.  Monongahela and Kineo run aground on the west bank, and the Confederate commander, Gen. Gardner, orders his heavy artillery and a few field guns on the bluffs to focus on the stranded vessels.  As the two vessels back off, Rebel shots disable Kineo’s rudder post, and Monongahela’s engines are disabled, and they drift back downstream, being peppered all the while by Rebel gunners.  The Mississippi comes up, last in line, and also runs aground on the west bank. 

USS Mississippi, side-wheeler steam frigate

The Southern gunners concentrate on the large steam frigate, and shoot it to pieces, hot shot having set the ship on fire.  Capt. Smith orders the abandonment of the ship, and she drifts downstream, causing consternation among the other disabled Union ships, lest her magazine explode near them.  The Mississippi continues downstream and finally blows up soon after 5:00 AM in an explosion that could be seen from New Orleans, 80 miles away.  Confederate Victory.

With most of his fleet disabled, including the hardy Richmond and Mississippi, both veterans of the actions near New Orleans and Vicksburg, Farragut is, for a time, unable to do much more than annoy the Rebels at Port Hudson, and naval power has practically no impact on the upcoming land campaign.  Losses:  The Confederates lose only 3 men killed, and 22 wounded, while the U.S. Navy suffers at least 78 killed and 35 wounded.

---Of this duel of large guns at Port Hudson, Sarah Morgan, living for the time being with friends in nearby Clinton, Louisiana, writes his her journal about her anxieties:

Saturday, March 14th.

5 o’clock, P.M.

They are coming! The Yankees are coming at last! For four or five hours the sound of their cannon has assailed our ears. There! — that one shook my bed! Oh, they are coming! God grant us the victory! They are now within four miles of us, on the big road to Baton Rouge. . . . No matter! With God’s help we’ll conquer yet! Again! — the report comes nearer. Oh, they are coming! Coming to defeat, I pray God. . . .

Only we seven women remain in the house. The General left this morning, to our unspeakable relief. They would hang him, we fear, if they should find him here. . .

Half-past One o’clock, A.M.

It has come at last! What an awful sound! I thought I had heard a bombardment before; but Baton Rouge was child’s play compared to this. At half-past eleven came the first gun — at least the first I heard, and I hardly think it could have commenced many moments before. Instantly I had my hand on Miriam, and at my first exclamation, Mrs. Badger and Anna answered. All three sprang to their feet to dress, while all four of us prayed aloud. Such an incessant roar! And at every report the house shaking so, and we thinking of our dear soldiers, the dead and dying, and crying aloud for God’s blessing on them, and defeat and overthrow to their enemies. That dreadful roar! I can’t think fast enough. They are too quick to be counted. We have all been in Mrs. Carter’s room, from the last window of which we can see the incessant flash of the guns and the great shooting stars of flame, which must be the hot shot of the enemy. There is a burning house in the distance, the second one we have seen to-night. For Yankees can’t prosper unless they are pillaging honest people. Already they have stripped all on their road of cattle, mules, and negroes.

Gathered in a knot within and without the window, we six women up here watched in the faint starlight the flashes from the guns, and silently wondered which of our friends were lying stiff and dead, and then, shuddering at the thought, betook ourselves to silent prayer. I think we know what it is to “wrestle with God in prayer”; we had but one thought. Yet for women, we took it almost too coolly. No tears, no cries, no fear, though for the first five minutes everybody’s teeth chattered violently. . . . We know absolutely nothing; when does one ever know anything in the country? But we presume that this is an engagement between our batteries and the gunboats attempting to run the blockade.

Firing has slackened considerably. All are to lie down already dressed; but being in my nightgown from necessity, I shall go to sleep, though we may expect at any instant to hear the tramp of Yankee cavalry in the yard.

---Today’s issues of Harper’s Weekly publishes this editorial that acknowledges the unprecedented power being put into the hands of the President during the crisis of the Rebellion, but the editorial also argues that it is not only justified but sorely needed:


THE Thirty-seventh Congress of the United States has expired, having, in the short session which ended on March 4, passed some of the most momentous measures ever placed upon the statute-book. Those measures, as a whole, are equivalent to the step which, in republican Rome, was taken whenever the state was deemed in imminent danger, and which history calls the appointment of a Dictator. The President of the United States has, in effect, been created Dictator, with almost supreme power over liberty, property, and life—a power nearly as extensive and as irresponsible as that which is wielded by the Emperors of Russia, France, or China. And this is well. To succeed in a struggle such as we are waging a strong central Government is indispensable. One great advantage which the rebels have had over us is the unity of their purposes, and the despotic power of their chief. We are now on a par with them in these respects, and we shall see which is the better cause.

The measures which collectively confer upon Mr. Lincoln dictatorial powers consist, 1st, of the Conscription Act; 2d, of the Finance measures; and, 3d, of the Indemnity Act.

After reviewing the Conscription and Banking acts the article discusses the Indemnity Act or Habeas Corpus Suspension Act 1863

It is quite evident that in the face of such a state of things, and when the nation is engaged in a death-grapple of which the issue is very doubtful, the slow and cautious remedies which the law provides for the redress of wrongs in time of peace would be out of place. The country might be ruined while we were empanneling a jury to try a traitor. Inter arma leges silent.

When we undertook the war we tacitly agreed to accept it with all its evils. Prominent among these are a depreciated currency, a temporary deprivation of personal liberty, and a liability to be taken from one’s business to carry a musket in the army. These are grave inconveniences. But they are temporary and bearable; whereas the evils which would result from the disruption of the Union are lasting and intolerable. . . .

March 13, 1863

March 13, 1863

---The Federal gunboats on the Yazoo River once again make an attempt on Fort Pemberton, on land and on water.  The USS Baron De Kalb and the USS Chillicothe both steam closer to the fort, the Chillicothe sustaining significant damage, with the Rebels suffering very little discomfort.  The Federals pull back once again, being unable to sustain the attacks.

---Battle of Fort Anderson, N.C. -- Near New Berne, North Carolina, 12,000 Confederate troops under Gen. D.H. Hill and commanded directly by Brig. Gen. J. Johnston Pettigrew, advances on the Union positions commanded by Lt. Col. Anderson.  The Federals are driven back for 8 miles to Fort Anderson, where Pettigrew asks for the surrender of the blue troops.  Anderson asks for time to consult with his superior, Gen. Foster.  But Anderson instead sends to the Union naval forces, and heavy gunboats appear before Pettigrew sees his error.  A marginal victory, but nonetheless a Confederate Victory.

---A tragic story in the Richmond Daily Dispatch reveals that an explosion in the Confederate Ordnance Laboratory in Richmond has killed 69 workers, almost all of them women.  This fact reinforces our sense of how women, both North and South, have stepped up to take roles normally filled by men, such as industrial workers, farm supervisors, and sole breadwinners for families.

March 12, 1863

March 12, 1863

---Gen. Robert Schenk, in command of Union forces in and around the city of Baltimore, under martial law proclaims a ban on secessionist sheet music in that very pro-Confederate city.  It seems that Gen. Schenk is targeting songs like “Maryland, My Maryland” as being seditious and giving aid and comfort to the enemy.

March 11, 1863

March 11, 1863

---The long-delayed naval expedition in the Yazoo River Delta in Mississippi finally reaches the confluence of the Tallahatchie and Yalobusha rivers, on a sharp bend of the river near Greenwood, Mississippi.  The newly-built Fort Pemberton---a fortification stretched across the narrow isthmus of a sharp loop in the river---blocks the Federal progress downstream.  In command of the 2,000 Rebel troops there is Gen. Loring.  Brig. Gen. Ross and two regiments of his Federal troops are landed upstream, but they are unable to get close to the Southern earthworks because they have no artillery that can compete with the fort’s large guns.  The USS Chillicothe steams downstream in two instances during the day to exchange shots with the fort, but the Yankees can find no weaknesses in the Southern position, and the ironclad sustains fairly solid damage in the attempt.  The Yankees bide their time, trying to find a way to get access to the Rebel fort at this strong point.

---In New York City, George Templeton Strong writes in his journal about a strange series of high-level endorsements for a patent-medicine purveyor.  As a principal member of the governing body of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, Strong and his colleagues have a deep interest in all medical issues that involves the government and the army:

A curious correspondence sent us by the Surgeon-General.  Autograph letter from the President to him, asking him to employ in the hospitals a certain quack named Forsha, proprietor of a certain oil which acts like magic on all wounds and contusions.  Another letter to the same effect signed by Blair, Bates, Welles, and other of the Cabinet, and a copy of the Surgeon-General’s reply, stating that Forsha is an ignorant pretender, and that if he wants his panacea used by the Medical Bureau he must reveal its ingredients.  This does not indicate a profound wisdom in our national councils.

March 10, 1863

March 10, 1863

---President Lincoln issues a proclamation of amnesty to soldiers who are absent from their regiments, if they return by April 1, 1863.  After this date, such soldiers will be considered deserters, to be arrested and prosecuted according to military law.  The President maintains that such desertions are “weakening the strength of the armies and prolonging the war, giving aid and comfort to the enemy, and cruelly exposing the gallant and faithful soldiers remaining in the ranks to increased hardships and dangers.”

---Miss Sarah Morgan has opinions about Banks’ move against her home town of Baton Rouge---the second time the Yankees will have occupied it:

I had so many nice things to say—which now, alas, are knocked forever from my head—when news came that the Yankees were advancing on us, and were already within fifteen miles. The panic which followed reminded me forcibly of our running days in Baton Rouge. Each one rapidly threw into trunks all clothing worth saving, with silver and valuables, to send to the upper plantation. I sprang up, determined to leave instantly for Clinton so mother would not be alarmed for our safety; but before I got halfway dressed, Helen Carter came in, and insisted on my remaining. . . .

Such bustle and confusion! Every one hurried, anxious, excited, whispering, packing trunks, sending them off; wondering negroes looking on in amazement until ordered to mount the carts waiting at the door, which are to carry them too away. How disappointed the Yankees will be at finding only white girls instead of their dear sisters and brothers whom they love so tenderly! Sorry for their disappointment!

"They say" they are advancing in overwhelming numbers. That is nothing, so long as God helps us, and from our very souls we pray His blessing on us in this our hour of need. For myself, I cannot yet fully believe they are coming. It would be a relief to have it over. . . . These Yankees interfere with all our arrangements.

I am almost ashamed to confess what an absurdly selfish thought occurred to me a while ago. I was lamenting to myself all the troubles that surround us, the dangers and difficulties that perplex us, thinking of the probable fate that might befall some of our brave friends and defenders in Port Hudson, when I thought, too, of the fun we would miss. Horrid, was it not? But worse than that, I was longing for something to read, when I remembered Frank told me he had sent to Alexandria for Bulwer's "Strange Story" for me, and then I unconsciously said, "How I wish it would get here before the Yankees!" I am very anxious to read it, but confess I am ashamed of having thought of it at such a crisis.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

March 9, 1863

March 9, 1863

---Lt. Col. Rutherford B. Hayes writes to an uncle with details about the extended visit by his wife and boys to his regiment’s camp in the mountains of western Virginia.  The future president also offers his succinct opinion of the new draft laws, of wasteful strategies, and of the best way to win the war:

Camp Reynolds, March 9, 1863.

Dear Uncle: — Yours of last Sunday came to hand yesterday. Wife and boys still here — very happy. They fish and row skiff and ride horseback. They can all row. Webb and Birch rowed a large load of soldiers across the river and back — a large roaring river, almost like the Ohio in a fair fresh. They will go home in a week or two probably. We shall remain here two or three weeks and then probably go to Charleston.

The new conscript act strikes me as the best thing yet, if it is only used. I would only call enough men to recruit up weakened regiments, and compel the return of the shirks and deserters. Make our commanders give more time to drill and discipline; make the armies regulars — effectives; stand on the defensive except when we can attack in superior numbers; send no more regiments or gunboats to be gobbled up one at a time. Mass our forces and we shall surely conquer.


R. B. Hayes.

---Kate Cumming, a nurse at the Confederate Army hospital in Chattanooga, writes in her journal about the care of patients, especially in regard to the doctrine of “fresh air” for regaining health—and of the ministrations of the patients’ wives:

March 9.—Yesterday was a very warm day. Just before sunset we had one of the most terrific hail-storms I have ever seen; some of the hail-stones were the size of a hen’s egg. It broke nearly all of our windows on the west side of the house. It only lasted a few minutes. Had it been of much longer duration, I think the house would have fallen, as the rain poured through the windows in torrents, and would have swept all with it. . . . They get plenty of fresh air now; Dr. Hunter is a great believer in that any way. He says that when men have been living in the field as ours have, without even a tent to cover them at night, when brought into a close room, especially when wounded, they get worse right away. I have seen the truth of this exemplified.

When we first came here, there was a very sick man, whose wife was nursing him; he was in a small room, which the wife would not permit a breath of fresh air to enter, thinking it would kill him, as he had a very bad cough; we all thought he would die. One day Dr. Hunter ordered him to be put into a large ward, where there were about twenty patients; but it was well ventilated. The wife was in a terrible state, and said the moving would kill her husband, and asked me to beg Dr. Hunter to have him moved back. I did so, but he would not grant my request; he said fresh air was the only thing that would save the man, and he did not care to have his murder on his conscience. I found him inexorable, and thought him very hard-hearted. From that time the man commenced to improve, and in a week or two received a furlough, and went home with his wife.

The doctors do not like the wives of the men to come and nurse them; they say they invariably kill them with kindness. . . .