Wednesday, February 26, 2014

February 26, 1864

February 26, 1864

—On this date, Brig. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick, commanding a division of the Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac, receives orders to prepare for a raid down to Richmond, with his 4,000 troopers and some artillery. Their purpose is to free the Union prisoners at Belle Isle and Libbey Prison–in addition to disrupting Lee’s lines of communication with Richmond and thus create mayhem in Lee’s rear, and distributing Lincoln’s amnesty order for rebel states who wish to re-enter the Union. Kilpatrick is to leave on this ride in 2 days. Col. Ulric Dahlgren, the 21-year-old son of Admiral John Dahlgren, is recovered from an amputated leg from the Gettysburg Campaign, and is eager for action; he asks to go along, and Kilpatrick gives him command of a column of his men. Custer is to take a brigade of cavalry toward Charlottesville also, as a diversion, while Meade will send two corps of infantry to strike Lee’s left while Kilpatrick skirts around it. 

 Dahlgren writes to his father:
I have not returned to the fleet, because there is a grand raid to be made, and I am to have a very important command. If successful, it will be the grandest thing on record; and if it fails, many of us will ‘go up.’ I may be captured, or I may be ‘tumbled over’; but it is an undertaking that if I were no in, I should be ashamed to show my face again. With such an important command, I am afraid to mention it, for fear that this letter might fall into the wrong hands before reaching you.
Colonel Ulric Dahlgren, USA

—Mary Boykin Chestnut writes in her diary about affairs in Richmond, and of a visit to Gen. Lee’s wife and daughters:
February 26th. - We went to see Mrs. Breckinridge, who is here with her husband. Then we paid our respects to Mrs. Lee. Her room was like an industrial school: everybody so busy. Her daughters were all there plying their needles, with several other ladies. Mrs. Lee showed us a beautiful sword, recently sent to the General by some Marylanders, now in Paris. On the blade was engraved, "Aide toi et Dieu t'aidera." When we came out someone said, "Did you see how the Lees spend their time? What a rebuke to the taffy parties!"

Another maimed hero is engaged to be married. Sally Hampton has accepted John Haskell. There is a story that he reported for duty after his arm was shot off; suppose in the fury of the battle he did not feel the pain.

General Breckinridge once asked, "What's the name of the fellow who has gone to Europe for Hood's leg?" "Dr. Darby." "Suppose it is shipwrecked?" "No matter; half a dozen are ordered." Mrs. Preston raised her hands: "No wonder the General says they talk of him as if he were a centipede; his leg is in everybody's mouth."

—President Lincoln issues a new order with regard to soldiers sentenced to death for desertion:
The President directs that the sentences of all deserters, who have been condemned by Court Martial to death, and that have not been otherwise acted upon by him, be mitigated to imprisonment during the war, at the Dry Tortugas, Florida . . . The Commanding Generals, who have power to act on proceedings of Courts Martial in such cases, are authorized in special cases to restore to duty deserters under sentence, when in their judgment the service will be thereby benefited.

—Pres. Lincoln attends Grover’s Theatre again, this time to see Edwin Booth play Shylock in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.

Edwin Booth

—Horatio Nelson Taft of Washington, D.C., writes in his journal of the feeling of expectation in the city as Spring draws near:
Feb 26th 1864

As the season advances and Spring approaches the news becomes more interesting. The Armies begin to move and important events are expected to happen soon, are in fact happening at the present time. Genl Sherman has struck out from Vicksburgh with about 30,000 men and has advanced far into the interior taking Jackson the Capitol of Miss and other towns in his course. It is supposed that Mobile is his destination. Genl Grant is moveing South from Chattanooga and the papers tonight say that he is at Dalton Georgia. The Army of the Potomac stretches from near Fairfax Courthouse to Culpepper some Thirty Miles and is now fast being reinforced. Recruits are now arriving rapidly and more than fifteen thousand soldiers have crossed the long Bridge into Virginia this week. Troops are crowding the cars & marching and again we hear "the drums beat at dead of night.

—Against the wisdom of some observers, Pres. Davis appoints Braxton Bragg to be his military advisor, which essentially makes him Chief of Staff.

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