Thursday, March 27, 2014

March 27, 1864

March 27, 1864

—Gen. Ulysses S. Grant spends a good deal of today in conference with Pres. Lincoln, Gen. Halleck, and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton.


---Colonel John M Hughes, commanding the 25th Tennessee Infantry Regiment, CSA, makes contact with Federal troops in Sparta, Tennessee, and asks to take the U.S. oath of allegiance.


---John Beauchamp Jones, of Richmond, notes glumly in his diary of the failure of some of his gardening efforts:

MARCH 27TH.—Bright morning, but windy; subsequently warmer, and wind lulled. Collards coming up. Potatoes all rotted in the ground during the recent cold weather. I shall rely on other vegetables, which I am now beginning to sow freely.
We have no war news to-day.

—Maj. Gen Nathaniel Banks, in command of the Federal Army of the Gulf, campaigning in the Red River Valley, writes to the Adjutant-General of the Army, explaining his raising and use of black soldiers in his army:

Alexandria, March 27, 1864
Washington, D. C.:

SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication of the 7th instant, relating to the organization of the negro troops in this department, under General Orders, No., 47, and to state in reply thereto that the order was issued while the army was on the march at Opelousas. Up to the date of the order, three regiments of negroes had been organized according to the provisions of the Army Regulations.
These regiments absorbed all the material that was available at that time. It became necessary during the campaign of last year to organize new regiments for instant service. The men, of course, were utterly unused to everything appertaining to military service, the negroes of Central and Northern Louisiana being perhaps less adapted to this service than those of any other State.

The officers, with few exceptions, were necessarily taken from the ranks. These regiments being required for immediate service, it was necessary that the number of men should be limited, so that inexperienced officers might render wholly uninstructed troops available in the shortest possible time. The number of each company was limited to 50, it being the intention as soon as more country opened to us to fill the regiments to the minimum or maximum number, and also to recruit from the plantations within the lines of the army, in accordance with the instructions which I had received from General Halleck. . . .

From the moment these regiments were organized they entered active service, and have been from that day constantly in the presence of the enemy, from Brashear to Port Hudson. Two brigades will participate in this campaign. I was conscious that there was a departure from the Regulations of the Army on this subject, but the necessities of the case seemed to justify it. These regiments did excellent service, and it is no more than just to say that the campaign of last year could hardly have been accomplished without their aid.

The restrictions as to numbers are in accordance with military experience in regard to the organization of recruits intended for immediate service. To one instance I may properly refer. In France, under Napoleon, when intended for immediate service the battalions were limited to 300 instead of 1,000 men. My experience in this department fully justifies this practice when the troops are required for instant service. Under other circumstances a departure from the Army Regulations would be inexcusable. It is my intention to fill these regiments to the minimum and maximum numbers as soon as possible, and I hope that this campaign may furnish the material for such purpose.

With much respect, your obedient servant,
Major-General, Commanding.

—Captain Augustus C. Brown, commander of Co. H of the 4th New York Heavy Artillery Regiment—now being transformed into infantry—writes in his diary about leaving the comforts of their barracks in the fort, arriving in in the field at Brandy Station, and having to sleep in canvas shelter tents:

Sunday, March 27th.
At 7 o’clock this morning, being relieved by the 3d Pennsylvania Artillery, a German regiment, the company was formed for the last time on the parade ground in front of the old barracks, and one hundred and eighty-two men answered to their names at roll call. Filing slowly out of the little fort which we had built and had garrisoned for nearly two years, we formed with Co.’s A and I, and marched to Fort Ethan Allen, where we found the other companies of the regiment just falling into line. After the usual delays we took up the line of march about nine o’clock for Alexandria, where we found a train of cars awaiting us, and arrived at Brandy Station about ten o’clock that night. Here we had our first experience with shelter tents, which we pitched near the depot, and in an incredibly short time, notwithstanding the state of the weather, which was decidedly cold and unpleasant, "sleep and oblivion reigned over all."
Brandy Station, as we saw it, presented but few inducements for permanent residence. A few tents, sheds and dilapidated old buildings standing in the midst of a rolling prairie and immediately surrounded by acres of boxes, bags, bales, barrels and innumerable other army stores, comprised all the natural or architectural beauties of the place, but, being then the terminus of the railroad, the whole Army of the Potomac drew its supplies from this point. Should the track be relaid to Culpepper, however, in two days’ time no passing traveler would be able to locate the ancient site of Brandy Station.

—Oliver Norton Willcox, an officer serving with the 8th U.S. Colored Troops, writes home to his sister, and tells of his awakening to the pleasures of the game of chess:

Do you want to know how I spend my time here? Well, in the first place I am a member of a court-martial that meets every morning at 10 o’clock. If there is business enough we sit till 3 or 4 p. m., and then adjourn, but usually we get through much earlier. Then I come back to camp, and after dinner I read or write or play chess. I play a great deal lately and the more I learn the more I like it. It is a noble game and I am determined to be no mean player. I have already beaten the best player I can find in the regiment, and I mean to get so I can do it every time. Last winter I used to play "euchre" or "old sledge," but it never improved me much. Chess on the contrary is a never ending study. Dr. Franklin called it the "King of Games."

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