Monday, April 15, 2013

April 12, 1863

April 12, 1863

---Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, commander of the Army of the Potomac, the principal Union army in the East, plans for Gen. George Stoneman, his Chief of Cavalry, to take his 10,000-man cavalry corps far behind Confederate lines to disrupt Lee’s line of supply and force the Rebels out into the open, where the weight of Federal superiority in numbers could be brought to bear.  The plan called for Stoneman’s troopers to ride far out to the west, up the Rappahannock River, then to cut south at Culpeper Court House and move along the Orange & Alexandria Railroad as far south as Gordonsville, thus turning the Confederate left flank, and then to cut east and end up astride Lee’s supply line (the Richmond & Potomac RR) to the rear of the Rebels’ right flank, near Hanover Junction.  It was a long ride and a long shot.

Maj. Gen. Geore Stoneman, USA

---The Rochester Union reports from a letter written home by an officer in the 20th New York Infantry Regiment, that a corporal in said regiment gave birth to a health baby boy.  It turns out that the gender-ambiguous corporal was the wife of a sergeant, and had until now kept the secret of her sex hidden.

---Elisha Franklin Paxton, a Virginian and an officer in Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, writes home to his wife expressing feelings about spring spreading across the countryside, and of the impending moves of the armies, and of his mortality:

It is a very pleasant and warm April day, -- so pleasant that our log church has been abandoned and the chaplains had service in the open air. I witnessed to-day what I never saw before: the sacrament administered in the army. It was, indeed, a solemn and impressive scene; a congregation composed entirely of men, standing around in the circle of which the chaplain was the center, receiving the bread and wine in renewal of their vows and fellowship as Christians. . . . To such men death is no enemy, but a messenger expected from God sooner or later, and welcome as the quick path to a holier and happier life. With such soldiers in our army and such men at home, we might bid defiance to all the boasted numbers and strength of our enemies and feel sure of victory. But it is sadly true that the mass of our men here and at home are not of this type. Very many of our officers and soldiers -- very many more, I think, of our people at home -- have grown worse instead of better by the calamity which has fallen upon us. It is strange that it should be so; strange that adversity makes us no wiser and better; that our depravity grows deeper and darker in proportion to the severity of affliction. How little we know of the future! . . .

. . . We have a just cause and a splendid army, and I trust that our next engagement may be attended with such signal success that much will be accomplished towards closing the war. I look to the future with much confidence. Many of us must go down in the struggle, never to rise again. Such may be my fate. Sometimes I try never to let my hopes fix upon anything beyond the war, such is the uncertainty of surviving it. Then I find myself happy in the dream and hope of the time when it will all be over, and I shall be with you again, to spend the rest of life in peace and quiet. God will that it may be so! If not, I am content. Sooner or later we must separate in this life, and it will be whenever God so wills it. . . .

---Kate Cumming, a volunteer nurse at a Confederate Army hospital in Chattanooga, writes in her diary her observations of the men working, as is idle waiting for an injury of her own to heal:

I have been looking at some men working. I do not think that any of our negroes ever worked as hard. Our firewood is brought in in large logs. We have no saws, so the men have to cut it. There is one man now chopping away, who I am told is worth his thousands. He is dressed in grey homespun, and seems as much at home as if he had always been accustomed to that life. War is a great leveler, and makes philosophers of us, when nothing else will. It astonishes me to see how the men adapt themselves to circumstances. The men in the kitchen act as if that was their place, and always had been. I saw one of them receive a letter, this morning, from his wife, and as he read about her and his little ones the tears trickled down his cheeks. They were manly ones, and will never disgrace the bravest and best.

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