Monday, July 29, 2013

July 7, 1863

July 7, 1863

---Siege of Port Hudson, Day 41

--- Word arrives in Port Hudson that Vicksburg has surrendered.  Gen. Franklin Gardner, in command of the Southern garrison inside, decides that their surrender is inevitable.

---Pres. Lincoln receives Gen. Grant’s dispatch that Vicksburg has fallen.  This evening, a large spontaneous crowd gather at the White House.  A band shows up and, as always happens on such occasions, the people call for a speech from the President.  Among other things, Lincoln offers these thoughts:

Fellow-citizens: I am very glad indeed to see you to-night, and yet I will not say I thank you for this call, but I do most sincerely thank Almighty God for the occasion on which you have called. [Cheers.] How long ago is it?---eighty odd years---since on the Fourth of July for the first time in the history of the world a nation by its representatives, assembled and declared as a self-evident truth that ``all men are created equal.'' [Cheers.] That was the birthday of the United States of America. . . . and now, on this last Fourth of July just passed, when we have a gigantic Rebellion, at the bottom of which is an effort to overthrow the principle that all men were [are?] created equal, we have the surrender of a most powerful position and army on that very day, [cheers] and not only so, but in a succession of battles in Pennsylvania, near to us, through three days, so rapidly fought that they might be called one great battle on the 1st, 2d and 3d of the month of July; and on the 4th the cohorts of those who opposed the declaration that all men are created equal, “turned tail” and run. [Long and continued cheers.] Gentlemen, this is a glorious theme, and the occasion for a speech, but I am not prepared to make one worthy of the occasion. I would like to speak in terms of praise due to the many brave officers and soldiers who have fought in the cause of the Union and liberties of the country from the beginning of the war. There are trying occasions, not only in success, but for the want of success. I dislike to mention the name of one single officer lest I might do wrong to those I might forget. Recent events bring up glorious names, and particularly prominent ones, but these I will not mention. Having said this much, I will now take the music.

---Torrential rains have made nearly all roads in the Pennsylvania-Maryland-Virginia area all but impassable.  Both Southern and Northern troops are bogged down.  Gen. Sedgwick, with the VI Corps of the Army of the Potomac, try a little probing at mountain passes along the Blue Ridge, and cannot break through.  Meade begins to concentrate his army at Middletown, Maryland, but later in the day reaches Frederick, and orders all troops to that city.  Lee is concentrating mostly around Hagerstown, west of the Blue Ridge.  The Confederate First Corps under Longstreet arrives in Williamsport, Maryland, and a few wounded are crossed over the Potomac to Virginia on flatboats.

---Captain William Thompson Lusk, of the Union army, temporarily assigned to Wilmington, Delaware, writes to his cousin Louise, telling what he knows of Gettysburg, and adding---perhaps in a fit of optimistic excess---hopeful but improbable import to the victory:

Dear, dear Cousin Lou:

I said I would write you so soon as the full purport of the good news was ascertained. And now that it has all broken upon us, although my heels are where my head ought to be, I will try and fulfil my engagement as coherently as possible. We have had the dark hour. The dawn has broken, and the collapsed confederacy has no place where it can hide its head. Bells are ringing wildly all over the city. Citizens grin at one another with fairly idiotic delight. One is on the top of his house frantically swinging a dinner bell, contributing thus his share of patriotic clamor to the general ding-dong. Bully for him! How I envy the heroes of Meade’s Army. It would be worth while to die, in order that one’s friends might say, “He died at Gettysburg.” But to live to hear all the good news, and now to learn that Vicksburg has surrendered, is a little too much happiness for poor mortal men. I can laugh, I can cry with joy. All hysterical nonsense is pardonable now. Manassas, twice repeated, Fredericksburg and Chickahominy! Bless them as the cruel training that has made us learn our duties to our country. Slavery has fallen, and I believe Heaven as well as earth rejoices. Providence has tenderly removed that grand old hero, Jackson, before the blow came, that the one good, earnest, misguided man might be spared the sight of the downfall of a cause fanaticism led him to believe was right. Slink away, ye copperheads to your native slime, and there await until in Hell is ready the place your master has prepared for you! There, Oh Fernando, go reign in torment to all eternity! These enthusiastic citizens of Wilmington, not content with bell-ringing, have taken to firing cannon, and the boys, to help matters, are discharging pistols into empty barrels. The people in a little semi-slaveholding State, when not downright traitors, are noisily, obstreperously loyal, to a degree that New England can hardly conceive of. My letter must be short and jubilant, I cannot do anything long to-day.

Just dance through the house for me, and kiss every one you meet. So I feel now. Good-bye.


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