Wednesday, February 12, 2014

February 11, 1864

February 11, 1864

—Sooy Smith and his cavalry column finally step off, many days after Sherman had intended him to, from Collierville, Tennessee, just outside of Memphis. His goal: Meridian, Mississippi.


—Gen. Sherman’s campaign through central Mississippi is of a new kind: he is carrying few supplies, and therefore has very little of a wagon train for the Confederates to attack. He is living off the land, and is systematically (and doctrinally) laying waste to any and every thing that might be useful to the Confederate cause. Grant did it during his sweep through central Mississippi a year earlier, but Sherman is now doing it deliberately as part of a strategic doctrine, used here for the first time: Total War. Today, at Lake Station, Federal troops destroy train engines, cars, a half-mile length of track, the depot, machine shops, and a mill.


---George Templeton Strong of New York City comments in his journal on the writings of Count Gurowski on the war:

He growls, as we all do, at our slow progress toward suppression of slavery and the rebellion. Is not this because he keep his eyes fixed on the hour-hand of the clock? Look back at July, 1861, and then look where Maryland, Missouri, and Arkansas stand in 1864; at West Virginia, and at the Mississippi relieved from rebel strangulations. Our progress has been beyond what we had any right to hope for three years ago, in spite of the blunders he attributes (very justly, I suppose) to McClellan, Scott, Halleck, and others. He is humiliated because rebel generals---Lee, Jackson, and so on---show energy superior to ours. But did he ever try to gag in infuriated tom-cat? If he ever did, he would do well to remember that he found the job troublesome, and that he did not feel inclined to give the tom-cat higher rank than his own on the scale of being because of its difficulty. . . .

—Sergeant Alexander G. Downing, of the 11th Iowa Infantry Regiment, writes in his journal of their march with Sherman deep into Mississippi, and of the "foraging" the Federals do to feed themselves:

Thursday, 11th—We moved but ten miles today, when we went into bivouac. Our men are foraging on the way, especially for meat, of which there is a plenty of fresh pork. Some of the foraging parties sent out today were captured and roughly used by the rebels. General McPherson had his headquarters in a large mansion on a rich plantation today. There had been hundreds of slaves on this plantation, but all the able-bodied negro men were taken along by the rebels for their army.

—Faced with the lack of resources to build a Navy that can compete with the U.S. Navy, the Confederate Navy department puruses a number of technological innovations, one of which appears to be a bomb made to look like a chunk of coal that would explode in a Federal ships firebox, crippling the vessel. This report details information given by a refugee from Richmond who verifies the rumor:
U.S.S. Jacob Bell,
Off Blakistone Island, February 9, 1864.
SIR: I have to report that I received six refugees on board this morning, coming direct from Richmond, Va. One of them, Joseph Leuty, made the following statement, which I thought important enough to bring to your notice. He says:

I am an Englishman by birth, a molder by trade; have lived in the South for the last four years; for the last eight months I have been working in the artillery shop on Seventh street in Richmond, where they are now making a shell which looks exactly like a piece of coal, pieces of which were taken from a coal pile as patterns to imitate. I have made these shells myself. I believe these shells have power enough to burst any boiler. After they were thrown in a coal pile I could not tell the difference between them and coal myself.
They are intended to be thrown among the coal in Northern depots by bogus refugees, spies, etc. Every blockade runner is to be provided with them, and in case of being captured are to be thrown among the coal. They commenced making these shells two weeks ago. . . .
(from Seven Score and Ten blog)

—Sarah Morgan of New Orleans receives word of another brother’s death by disease, less than a week after the passing of her brother Gibbes:
O God, O God, have mercy on us! George is dead! Both in a week. George, our sole hope — our sole dependence.

—David Lane, a young Federal soldier in the 17th Michigan Infantry Regiment, posted at Chattanooga with Gen. Thomas and the Army of the Cumberland, writes a poignant passage in his journal about the problem of a soldier filling up his time:
To most soldiers, when not on duty, time passes heavily. It is impossible to procure reading matter. Men do not always feel like talking. Most men cannot sit down by themselves and indulge in calm reflection—they must have some excitement—consequently, for want of something better, they gather in knots and shuffle cards. My pastime is to dream of home and loved ones. From early morn until late at night I am busy—yes, doubly busy—for, while I do not neglect my duties, my mind is hard at work far from this cumbrous body. Annihilating space, it leaps all barriers and pauses not until by my loved one’s side. . . .
Unnamed Federal cavalryman

—David L. Day, of the 25th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, is marching up the James Peninsula from Yorktown as a supporting column for a cavalry raid toward Richmond. He notes several incidents on the march, including almost a fragging incident:
While standing in line, waiting the order to march, a scene is transpiring which to us of the 25th is altogether new and strange. The ladies living here in camp are all out, and wetting their handkerchiefs with their tears, are watching the preparations to leave. They are struggling under a fearful burden of anxiety which will not be removed until our return. Groups of men and women are standing around, taking each other by the hand and kissing their good-byes. Our Brooklyn friends are visibly affected, while the 25th boys look on stoically. While men and women with streaming eyes are bidding perhaps their last farewells, these roughened, hardened sons of Mars look with unpitying eye on this affecting scene and laugh. I confess I should have taken a greater interest in the thing and my sympathies would have flowed more freely if I could have taken a hand in the kissing. . . .

There was one of the general’s aids who seemed to take a great interest in getting us along, and his interest from some cause or other (probably his canteen) seemed to increase with the evening. The boys would be groping their weary way through the darkness, when some one would give a whistle and they would all squat in the road. This aid would ride up in a great passion and order them up, telling them if they didn’t get along faster he would put a regiment of colored troops on the advance. The response to that threat would be: "Bring on your niggers!" This officer had another provoking habit which he came well nigh paying dearly for. There were occasional mud holes in the road caused by the rains; some of them two or three rods across. The boys would flank these to keep their feet from getting wet and sore, but this officer attempted to drive them through, saying it took up the time flanking them. At one of these places he was going to drive them through anyway or it would be the death of some of them. I was quietly going around, and halted to see how he made it work with them. He was swearing at them, wheeling his horse right and left among them, and making himself about as disagreeable as he could. Just then I heard the ominous click of rifle locks, and heard some one ask him if he was aware those rifles were loaded. He seemed to catch on to the idea, and got himself out of that as quickly as possible, and was seen nor heard from no more during the march. Soldiers are human, with feelings and passions like other men; they can and do stand a great deal, but they cannot stand everything any more than a stone drag. . . .

It is curious how sometimes the most trifling act or expression will raise up the almost exhausted energies of men and inspire hope when almost on the verge of despair. As an instance of this, the boys while marching along had for some time preserved a dead silence; not a word had been spoken, and all seemed to he absorbed in their own reflections, when suddenly I stumbled over a stump. Gathering myself up I exclaimed: "There, I know just where that stump is!" The effect was like magic; all within the sound of my voice broke out in a loud and hearty laugh, and for a time forgot their fatigue and trudged lightly along. . . .

This Baltimore is the junction of several roads; the one we came up from New Kent extends on to Richmond, one runs south to Charles City, one northeast to White House, and another runs north over into Northumberland, where once lived a little boy who owned a little hatchet and couldn’t tell a lie. . . . In the little square formed by the intersection of the roads stands an interesting old building—the church in which Gen. Washington was married. It is a long, low, rather narrow building, without belfrey or ornament of any kind outside or in. It is without paint or even whitewash, and shows the rough marks of age and neglect. . . .

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