Wednesday, April 17, 2013

April 17, 1863

April 17, 1863

---Virginia:  Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker is amassing 133,000 Federal troops in the Army of the Potomac against Gen. Robert E. Lee’s 55,000 Confederates, and as Springtime flourishes and develops, thus ensuring the imminent movement of armies and campaigns, both commanders eye each other warily. 

---Gen. Stoneman’s cavalry raid, crucial to Hooker’s plan, has stalled.  After getting part of his force over the Rappahannock, Stoneman withdrew them back across the river, after his troopers have been sparring with Fitzhugh Lee’s Rebels.  Stuart’s rebel riders keep a close eye on all Yankee movements along the front.  The Federal ruse that Stoneman is headed to the Shenandoah Valley fails to entice the Rebels, who are keeping their station and watching Stoneman’s stymied foray.

Brig. Gen. Fitzhugh Lee, CSA

---Mississippi River:  About 12 noon, Admiral Porter’s squadron arrives at New Carthage, Louisiana.  Gen. McClernand, whose troops hold the area, find the burning hulk of the Henry Clay floating by, and three barges, two of which soldiers in small craft are able to recover.  They are loaded with coal and camp equipment and rations.  When Porter arrives, he cooperates with McClernand in sending the Tuscumbia to shell a Rebel position at Perkins’ Plantation, with McClernand’s troops pursuing by land.

Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter

The Running of the Guns
---Grierson’s Raid: On this date, Col. Benjamin Grierson, a piano teacher from Illinois, sets out with 1,700 troopers from La Grange, Tennessee for an extended raid down into Confederate-held Mississippi. 

Col. Benjamin Grierson

---John Beauchamp Jones, a clerk in the Confederate War Department, records a journal entry on a variety of issues, gossip, and worries about the scarcity of food in Richmond:

April 17th.—From the Northern papers we learn that the defeat at Charleston is called by the enemy a reconnoissance. This causes us much merriment here; McClellan’s defeat was called a “strategical movement,” and “change of base.”

We have some rumors to-day, to the effect that Gen. Hill is likely to take Washington and Newbern, N. C.; Gen. Longstreet, Suffolk; and Gen. Wise, Fort Magruder, and the Peninsula—he has not troops enough.

Gold advanced 7 per cent. in New York when the news of the “reconnoissance” reached that city.

We are planting almost every acre in grain, to the exclusion of cotton and tobacco—resolved never to be starved, nor even feel a scarcity of provisions in future. We shall be cutting wheat in another month in Alabama and other States. . . .                       

The President is in a very feeble and nervous condition, and is really threatened with the loss of sight altogether. But he works on; and few or no visitors are admitted. He remains at his dwelling, and has not been in the executive office these ten days. . . .

Pins are so scarce and costly, that it is now a pretty general practice to stoop down and pick up any found in the street. The boarding-houses are breaking up, and rooms, furnished and unfurnished, are rented out to messes. One dollar and fifty cents for beef, leaves no margin for profit, even at $100 per month, which is charged for board, and most of the boarders cannot afford to pay that price. Therefore they take rooms, and buy their own scanty food. I am inclined to think provisions would not be deficient, to an alarming extent, if they were equally distributed. Wood is no scarcer than before the war, and yet $30 per load (less than a cord) is demanded for it, and obtained.

The other day Wilmington might have been taken, for the troops were sent to Beauregard. Their places have since been filled by a brigade from Longstreet. It is a monstrous undertaking to attempt to subjugate so vast a country as this, even with its disparity of population. We have superior facilities for concentration, while the invader must occupy, or penetrate the outer lines of the circumference. Our danger is from within, not from without. We are distressed more by the extortioners than by the enemy. Eternal infamy on the heads of speculators in articles of prime necessity! After the war, let them be known by the fortunes they have amassed from the sufferings of the patriots and heroes!—the widows and orphans!

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