Wednesday, March 12, 2014

March 12, 1864

March 12, 1864

—Pres. Abraham Lincoln issues new orders today, to the effect that Gen. Henry W. Halleck is being retired as General-in-Chief of the Army, and re-assigned as Chief of Staff, under command of Lt. Gen. Grant and the Secretary of War; that Grant is promoted to be General-in-Chief of the Army; that Gen. Sherman is taking command of the Division of the Mississippi (all armies west of the Appalachians); and that Gen. James McPherson is promoted to command of the Army of the Tennessee. A new era has begun.

President Abraham Lincoln


—The Rebel ship Marion has been captured off the Texas coast by the USS Aroostook, and the Rebel sloop CSS Persis was captured off the coast of Georgia by the USS Massachusetts and other ships.


—Maj. Gen. Frederick Steele, Federal commander of the Army of the Arkansas, writes to Gen. Halleck to plead his case for not requiring him to march his army south to join with Banks on the Red River expedition. He cites poor roads and scarcity of rations as reasons to exempt his part in the project.


—Mary Boykin Chestnut, living in Richmond, writes in her diary, and upon the thought of upcoming weddings, gets distracted with Shakespeare and Milton—and their amours---and other thoughts:
March 12th.—An active campaign has begun everywhere. Kilpatrick still threatens us. Bragg has organized his fifteen hundred of cavalry to protect Richmond. Why can’t my husband be made colonel of that? It is a new regiment. No; he must be made a general!

"Now," says Mary Preston, "Doctor Darby is at the mercy of both Yankees and the rolling sea, and I am anxious enough; but, instead of taking my bed and worrying mamma, I am taking stock of our worldly goods and trying to arrange the wedding paraphernalia for two girls."

There is love-making and love-making in this world. What a time the sweethearts of that wretch, young Shakespeare, must have had. What experiences of life’s delights must have been his before he evolved the Romeo and Juliet business from his own internal consciousness; also that delicious Beatrice and Rosalind. The poor creature that he left his second best bedstead to came in second best all the time, no doubt; and she hardly deserved more. Fancy people wondering that Shakespeare and his kind leave no progeny like themselves! Shakespeare’s children would have been half his only; the other half only the second best bedstead’s. What would you expect of that commingling of materials? Goethe used his lady-loves as school-books are used: he studied them from cover to cover, got all that could be got of self-culture and knowledge of human nature from the study of them, and then threw them aside as if of no further account in his life.

Byron never could forget Lord Byron, poet and peer, and mauvais sujet, and he must have been a trying lover; like talking to a man looking in the glass at himself. Lady Byron was just as much taken up with herself. So, they struck each other, and bounded apart. . . .

"Oh, you wish you had lived in the time of the Shakespeare creature!" He knew all the forms and phases of true love. Straight to one’s heart he goes in tragedy or comedy. He never misses fire. He has been there, in slang phrase. No doubt the man’s bare presence gave pleasure to the female world; he saw women at their best, and he effaced himself. He told no tales of his own life. Compare with him old, sad, solemn, sublime, sneering, snarling, faultfinding Milton, a man whose family doubtless found "Les absences délicieuses." That phrase describes a type of man at a touch; it took a Frenchwoman to do it.
"But there is an Italian picture of Milton, taken in his youth, and he was as beautiful as an angel." "No doubt. But love flies before everlasting posing and preaching—the deadly requirement of a man always to be looked up to —a domestic tyrant, grim, formal, and awfully learned. Milton was only a mere man, for he could not do without women. When he tired out the first poor thing, who did not fall down, worship, and obey him, and see God in him, and she ran away, he immediately arranged his creed so that he could take another wife; for wife he must have, à la Mohammedan creed. The deer-stealer never once thought of justifying theft simply because he loved venison and could not come by it lawfully. Shakespeare was a better man, or, may I say, a purer soul, than self-upholding, Calvinistic, Puritanic, king-killing Milton. There is no muddling of right and wrong in Shakespeare, and no Pharisaical stuff of any sort."

Then George Deas joined us, fresh from Mobile, where he left peace and plenty. He went to sixteen weddings and twenty-seven tea-parties. . . .and in the large drawing-room sat [Gen.] Hood, solitary, sad, with crutches by his chair. He could not see them. Mrs. Buckner came in and her little girl who, when she spied Hood, bounded into the next room, and sprang into his lap. Hood smoothed her little dress down and held her close to him. She clung around his neck for a while, and then, seizing him by the beard, kissed him to an illimitable extent. "Prettiest picture I ever saw," said Lily. "The soldier and the child."

John R. Thompson sent me a New York Herald only three days old. It is down on Kilpatrick for his miserable failure before Richmond. Also it acknowledges a defeat before Charleston and a victory for us in Florida.

General Grant is charmed with Sherman’s successful movements; says he has destroyed millions upon millions of our property in Mississippi. . . . The Yankees say that at last they have scared up a man who succeeds, and they expect him to remedy all that has gone wrong. So they have made their brutal Suwarrow, Grant, lieutenant-general. . . .

Somebody counted fourteen generals in church to-day, and suggested that less piety and more drilling of commands would suit the times better. There were Lee, Longstreet, Morgan, Hoke, Clingman, Whiting, Pegram, Elzey, Gordon, and Bragg. . . .

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