Friday, February 14, 2014

February 13, 1864

February 13, 1864

—After occupying Decatur, Mississippi, the Federals put most of the town to the torch and march on. Gen. Sherman takes a chance to catch up on sleep, but a counter-raid by Rebel cavalry nearly captures the house in which he has been sleeping. As the Yankees march eastward through the night, Gen. Loring, commanding Polk’s troops in Meridian, prepares to evacuate the city.


—On this march, Sergeant Alexander G. Dowling, of the 11th Iowa Infantry Regiment, participates in an act of war that does not sit well with him:
Saturday, 13th —We left Decatur early this morning and marched fifteen miles before going into bivouac. The Sixteenth Corps corralled their train and leaving a brigade to guard it pushed forward after the rebels. Skirmishing in the front continued and was brisk at times. The weather is pleasant and the roads are fine for marching. There is still plenty of forage along the way. This morning I saw a woman with her children forcibly moved out of her residence, all the household goods and the house set on fire. The deed was ordered by our officers, for they had been informed that her husband was out in the brush with his rifle, killing Union soldiers at every opportunity. The plantation home had the appearance of wealth.

—Mary Boykin Chestnut, living in Richmond, notes in her diary about her husband’s work in the Confederate government, and of a visit from crutch-born Gen. John Bell Hood, whose appearance puts to flight Mary’s friend Buck Preston, whom Hood has attempted to woo:
February 13th.—My husband is writing out some resolutions for the Congress. He is very busy, too, trying to get some poor fellows reprieved. He says they are good soldiers but got into a scrape. Buck came in. She had on her last winter’s English hat, with the pheasant’s wing. Just then Hood entered most unexpectedly. Said the blunt soldier to the girl: "You look mighty pretty in that hat; you wore it at the turnpike gate, where I surrendered at first sight." She nodded and smiled, and flew down the steps after Mr. Chesnut, looking back to say that she meant to walk with him as far as the Executive Office.

The General walked to the window and watched until the last flutter of her garment was gone. He said: "The President was finding fault with some of his officers in command, and I said: ‘Mr. President, why don’t you come and lead us yourself; I would follow you to the death.’" ‘Actually, if you stay here in Richmond much longer you will grow to be a courtier. And you came a rough Texan’". . .

To-day a terrible onslaught was made upon the President for nepotism. Burton Harrison’s and John Taylor Wood’s letters denying the charge that the President’s cotton was unburned, or that he left it to be bought by the Yankees, have enraged the opposition. How much these people in the President’s family have to bear! I have never felt so indignant.

—Gideon Welles, the Secretary of the Navy in Lincoln’s cabinet, writes in his journal about a conversation he has with a Congressman concerning the corruption and treason infecting New York City–and reflecting a heartfelt note in Welles about his lost idealism:
Had a pleasant half-hour with Preston King, who made a special call to see me. Few men in Congress are his equal for sagacity, comprehensiveness, sound judgment, and fearlessness of purpose. . . .

I sometimes think he is more true to principles than I am myself. Speaking of Fernando Wood, we each expressed a common and general sentiment of surprise and disgust that any district could elect such a Representative. But the whole city of New York is alike leprous and rotten. This brought the question, How can such a place be regenerated and purified? What is the remedy? While I expressed a reluctant conviction, which is gradually coming over me, that in such a vicious community free suffrage was abased, and it was becoming a problem whether there should not be an outside movement, or some restriction on voting to correct palpable evil in municipal government, King maintained the old faith and would let the evil correct itself. If factious or partisan violence will go so far as to elect men like Wood or Brooks; if men of property and character will prostitute themselves to vote for them and consent to have their city misgoverned and themselves misrepresented, let them take the consequences. The evil will correct itself. After they have disgraced themselves sufficiently and loaded themselves with taxes and debt, they will finally rouse to a sense of duty, and retrieve the city from misrule and bad management and their district from misrepresentation. Such is the reasoning of Preston King.

I felt a return of old enthusiasm of former years, when in the security of youth I believed the popular voice was right, and that the majority would come to right results in every community; but alas! experience has shaken the confidence I once had. In an agricultural district, or a sparse population the old rule holds, and I am not prepared to deny King’s conclusions, but my faith in the rectitude of the strange material that compose a majority of the population of our large cities is not strong. The floating mass who have no permanent abiding-place, who are the tools of men like Wood and Brooks, who are not patriots but party demagogues, who have no fixed purpose or principle, should not by their votes, control and overpower the virtuous and good. Yet they do. Some permanent element is wanting in our system. . . .


No comments:

Post a Comment