Sunday, June 23, 2013

June 23, 1863

June 23, 1863

---Siege of Vicksburg, Day 32

---Siege of Port Hudson, Day 27

---Gen. Robert E. Lee writes to Pres. Davis with a plan to divert Federal attention away from his movement into Pennsylvania, which would look like this:  detach Gen. Beauregard with troops from North and South Carolina (since recently diminished Federal troop strength there indicates no Northern offensive planned there for the near future), and send this force up to the Rappahannock River around Culpeper, to threaten Washington from that front. 

---Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans, commander of the Army of the Cumberland (U.S.), puts his army on the road out of Murfreesboro to execute his planned campaign of maneuver against Bragg’s Army of Tennessee at Tullahoma.

---Maj. Gen. J.E.B. (Jeb) Stuart continues probing to discover the exact location of Hooker’s army, since Lee has tasked Stuart with determining whether Hooker has crossed the Potomac yet, or whether the Yankees will remain inactive.  Lee’s discretionary orders are actually quite ambiguous, and leave room for Stuart to ride north following Ewell’s path, or to detach two brigades and take the rest for a ride around the Union army, which he is undoubtedly eager to do.  And yet, he is expected to keep in touch with Ewell’s right.

---Gideon Welles, Lincoln’;s Secretary of the Navy, writes in his journal of a Cabinet meeting this day, and the apparent condition of the President:

Neither Seward nor Stanton was at the Cabinet-meeting. Mr. Bates has left for Missouri. The President was with General Hooker at the War Department when we met, but soon came in. His countenance was sad and careworn, and impressed me painfully.

---British observer Lt. Col. Arthur Fremantle writes in his diary concerning his visit to Winchester, Virginia, and the damage done to it by the occupying Yankee forces:

I understand that Winchester used to be a most agreeable little town, and its society extremely pleasant. Many of its houses are now destroyed or converted into hospitals; the rest look miserable and dilapidated. Its female inhabitants (for the able-bodied males are all absent in the army) are familiar with the bloody realities of war. As many as 5000 wounded have been accommodated here at one time. All the ladies are accustomed to the bursting of shells and the sight of fighting, and all are turned into hospital nurses or cooks.

From the utter impossibility of procuring corn, I was forced to take the horses out grazing a mile beyond the town for four hours in the morning and two in the afternoon. As one mustn’t lose sight of them for a moment, this occupied me all day, while Lawley wrote in the house. In the evening we went to visit two wounded officers in Mrs ——’s house, a major and a captain in the Louisianian Brigade which stormed the forts last Sunday week. I am afraid the captain will die. Both are shot through the body, but are cheery. They served under Stonewall Jackson until his death, and they venerate his name, though they both agree that he has got an efficient successor in Ewell. . . . At no period of the war, they say, have the men been so well equipped, so well clothed, so eager for a fight, or so confident of success—a very different state of affairs from that which characterised the Maryland invasion of last year, when half of the army were barefooted stragglers, and many of the remainder unwilling and reluctant to cross the Potomac.

---John C. West, of the 4th Texas Infantry (in Longstreet’s corps in Lee’s army), writes to Miss Decca Smith of South Carolina, detailing the miseries of an infantryman on a brisk campaign march:

June 23rd, 1863.
To Miss Decca Stark, Columbia, South Carolina:

Dear Decca: Yours of the 6th inst., with one from Miss Nannie Norton of the same date reached me about eight days ago, and I have not had a moment since to answer you, and even now cannot tell whether I shall be interrupted before I am half done this. I am writing on my knee, with everything packed ready to move at the sound of the bugle. I wrote you last on the 6th of June from near Culpepper Court House. On that day we took a hard march of eighteen miles through the rain, and on very muddy roads. We halted about 10 o’clock at night. I was wet and very tired.

There was an order against making tires, as we were near the enemy, being on the same ground on which Stuart fought them a few days afterwards. Of course I slept; a soldier, if he knows his own interest, will sleep whenever opportunity offers, but there were 10,000 or 12,000 men huddled on the side of the road in a promiscuous mass, just as you have seen cattle about a barn lot; no one knowing how much mud or filth he reposed in until the generous light of day revealed it. It rained a good deal during the night and kept me thoroughly soaked. . . .

On the 13th we received orders to be ready to march or fight, but it turned out to be only a march of five miles, which we accomplished in an hour and reached Cedar Run, the scene of one of Stonewall Jackson’s battles last August. There were a great many unburied skeletons, presenting a very ghastly appearance. There were forty-nine skulls in one little ditch. . . . A hand or a foot might be seen protruding from the earth, here and there, to mark the last resting place of the patriotic victims of this horrible war.

We left this camp on the 15th and marched through Culpepper towards Winchester. This was one of the hottest days and one of the hottest marches I have yet experienced. Over 500 men fell out by the road side from fatigue and exhaustion, and several died where they fell; this was occasioned by being overheated and drinking cold water in immoderate quantities, and the enforcement of the order requiring us to wade through creeks and rivers up to our waists without the privilege of even taking off our shoes. I felt quite sick and giddy with a severe pain in my head as I was climbing the hill after wading the Rappahannock, but it passed off, and I kept with the company, though I saw two dead men during the time and several others fall.

Oh! how I would have enjoyed one of mother’s mint juleps then as we rested in “the shade of the trees.” I slept gloriously that night on a bed of clover and blue grass. . . . On the 16th we marched twenty miles without so much suffering, though the day was very warm, and many fell by the way, and like the seed in the parable, “on stony ground,” for we were getting towards the mountains. . . .

All the country we have passed through is perfectly charming, and I cannot see why any Virginian ever leaves Virginia. All that I have seen so far fills my ideal of the-”promised land.” On the 18th we marched to the Shenandoah, ten miles, and waded it with positive orders not to take off any clothing. The water was deep and cold. I put my cartridge box on my head. The water came to my arm pits. We camped about a mile beyond the river. A tremendous rain drenched us before night, so we were reconciled to the wading. My blankets and everything that I had was soaked, except Mary’s daguerreotype, which Colonel B. F. Carter took charge of for me. I slept in clothes and blankets soaked wet. On the 19th we marched down the river about ten miles over a very muddy road, . . . and here about dark we experienced the hardest storm of wind and rain I ever saw. It seemed to me as if the cold and rain, like the two-edged sword of holy writ, penetrated to the very joints and marrow. I laid down but did not sleep a wink until about an hour before day, and woke up cold and stiff. More than half the soldiers spent the night in a desperate effort to keep the fire burning, which was done with great difficulty.

I took off my clothes, one garment at a time, and dried them, and baked myself until I felt tolerably well; but truly a soldier knows not what a day may bring forth. Just as I was thoroughly dried, up came another cloud and soaked us again, and then came an order to fall into line “without arms.” . . . we discovered that we had been encamped in a cloud on the mountain top, right in the heart of the rain factory, the summer resort of ├ćolus himself. . . . I have quite a severe cold, though I am better to-day than I was yesterday. Don’t write this to Mary. I hope we will soon get through our demonstrations and come to the fighting part of the drama.

I have not heard from home yet, though it is more than two months since I left Texas, and there are several letters in the regiment of recent date. I understand there is a large mail for our brigade at the Texas depot, in Richmond, awaiting an opportunity to be sent to us.

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