Monday, March 4, 2013

March 3, 1863

March 3, 1863

---On this date, the Congress of the United States passes the National Enrollment Act, the first military draft in the U.S., to wit:  That all able-bodies male citizens of the United States, and persons of foreign birth who shall have declared on oath their intention to become citizens under and in pursuance of the laws thereof, between the ages of twenty and forty-five years, except as hereinafter excepted, are hereby declared to constitute the national forces, and shall be liable to perform military duty in the service of the United States when called out by the President for that purpose.”

U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C., Winter 1863

---Confederate spies tell Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton, the commander in Vicksburg, that they believe that Grant will land troops on the riverfront at Vicksburg and attempt to carry the works with a frontal assault---and that the canals being dug and the attempt to hit Vicksburg from behind via the Yazoo River are merely feints.  Of course, Grant has no such plans, since a frontal assault would be disastrous, but it serves to illustrate the high state of anxiety the Rebels are experiencing about the fortress city.

---Oliver Willcox Norton, a soldier in the 83rd Pennsylvania Volunteers, writes home to a favorite cousin, who has just lost her baby, and offers some interesting and perhaps surprising thoughts on bereavement, religion, and his own skepticism:

How it must have jarred on your already overwrought feelings, but, L., I did not, I could not, have guessed that the reason I did not receive my usual letter was that your baby’s cradle was empty. It grieves me beyond measure to think that I should have written anything that would add a sorrow by my thoughtlessness, when you had already all you could bear. I can only ask you to forgive my haste. If I caused you pain, believe me it was unintentionally done. I have read your letter again and again, and every time I have laid it down feeling that I could not understand it. Something of that feeling of loneliness I can understand. . . . it seems to me I know something of that desolation that would creep into your heart, but that does not seem to be the main thought in your letter. There is a sweet and quiet joy, I might almost say, that I cannot understand. I can sympathize with you in your double bereavement, but in that consolation so precious to you I have no share.

I have asked myself again and again what is this mysterious power of religion that so wonderfully supports its possessor in times like this? How can she, while the earth is yet fresh above the coffin of her only child, and before the first blade of grass has sprung on her mother’s grave, so far forget her own sorrow and bereavement as to feel such an interest in me, a person almost a stranger in comparison with these? Oh, L., I believe I need your sympathy more than you mine. I cannot tell you just how I feel. I would be a Christian but I cannot. I mean there is a vague longing for that happiness I know must be there, but an unwillingness to do my part to secure it. I cannot even yet desire to be a Christian so much that I am willing to try. I wonder at myself and you will wonder, too, but that is only too true. . . . If I had your faith I should be a better soldier.

Remember me in kindness to your husband, and, if I did not know you would do so unasked, I would say—remember me in your prayers.

---U.S Naval vessels near Savannah, Georgia on the Great Ogeechee River, bombard Fort McAllister for most of the day, with little effect.  Captain Drayton commands the flotilla.

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