Wednesday, March 5, 2014

March 5, 1864

March 5, 1864

—In Richmond, the Confederate Cabinet debates (in apparently heated and acrimonious tones) the official response to the Dahlgren Papers. Many are in favor of hanging, but Davis will not allow it: it would be contrary to the laws of warfare and would be dishonorable.

—The Richmond Inquirer, and the Sunday editions of the other city papers, publish the Dahlgren Papers, and offer searing editorials on the conduct and honor of the Yankees. The Inquirer’s response is typical, even restrained:

Should our army again go into the enemy’s country, will not these papers relieve them from their restraints of a chivalry that would be proper with a civilized army, but which only brings upon them the contempt of our savage foe? Decidedly, we think that these Dahlgren papers will destroy, during the rest of the war, all rosewater chivalry, and that the Confederate armies will make war afar and upon the rules selected by the enemy.The Richmond Daily Examiner is even less restrained:

Our soldiers should in every instance where they capture officers engaged in raids characterized by such acts of incendiarism and wanton devastation and plunder, as this last raid as been, hang them immediately. If they are handed over as prisoners of war, they at once come under the laws of regular warfare and are subject to exchange. . . . therefore we hope that our soldiers will take the law in their own hands . . . by hanging those they capture.

(Source: The Civil War Daily Gazette )

—Mary Boykin Chestnut, in Richmond, writes in her diary about the news of the Kilpatrick-Dahlgren raid:

March 5th.—Tom Fergurson walked home with me. He told me of Colonel Dahlgren’s[1] death and the horrid memoranda found in his pocket. He came with secret orders to destroy this devoted city, hang the President and his Cabinet, and burn the town! Fitzhugh Lee was proud that the Ninth Virginia captured him.

Found Mrs. Semmes covering her lettuces and radishes as calmly as if Yankee raiders were a myth. While "Beast" Butler holds Fortress Monroe he will make things lively for us. On the alert must we be now.

—Commander John Taylor Wood, CSN, takes 15 men on a barge across Chesapeake Bay, capture a Federal Telegraph Station, and with the telegraph, instruct two ships to dock there, tie up, and abandon the vessels. This the Yankee crews do, while Wood and his men sink one of the ships and take the other as a prize and sail away.


---The Confederate government, in an attempt to reign in the blockade running economy, issues regulations requiring at least half of the cargo space of all vessels to be used for government cargoes and military supplies.

—Yazoo City, Mississippi, is attacked by Rebel forces today, and the three regiments there—one white and two black—repulse the attack handily.


—In New Orleans, living at the home of her Unionist half-brother, young Sarah Morgan writes more on the abrupt news of the deaths of both George and Gibbes, her brothers:

Dead! Dead! Both dead! O my brothers! What have we lived for except you? We, who would have so gladly laid down our lives for yours, are left desolate to mourn over all we loved and hoped for, weak and helpless; while you, so strong, noble, and brave, have gone before us without a murmur. God knows best. But it is hard — O so hard! to give them up. . . .

If we had had any warning or preparation, this would not have been so unspeakably awful. But to shut one’s eyes to all dangers and risks, and drown every rising fear with "God will send them back; I will not doubt His mercy," and then suddenly to learn that your faith has been presumption—and God wills that you shall undergo bitter affliction — it is a fearful awakening! What glory have we ever rendered to God that we should expect him to be so merciful to us? Are not all things His, and is not He infinitely more tender and compassionate than we deserve? . . . After the first dismay on hearing of Gibbes’s capture, we readily listened to the assertions of our friends that Johnson’s Island was the healthiest place in the world; that he would be better off, comfortably clothed and under shelter, than exposed to shot and shell, half fed, and lying on the bare ground during Ewell’s winter campaign. . . .

"Hush, mother, hush," I said when I heard her cries. "We have Brother and George and Jimmy left, and Lydia has lost all!" Heaven pity us! George had gone before — only He in mercy kept the knowledge of it from us for a while longer.

On Thursday the 11th, as we sat talking to mother, striving to make her forget the weary days we had cried through with that fearful sound of "Dead! Dead!" ringing ever in our ears, . . . Miriam rushed in, holding an open letter in her hand, and perfectly wild. "George is dead!" she shrieked, and fell heavily to the ground.

O my God! I could have prayed Thee to take mother, too, when I looked at her. I thought — I almost hoped she was dead, and that pang spared! But I was wild myself. I could have screamed! —laughed! "It is false! Do you hear me, mother? God would not take both! George is not dead!" I cried, trying in vain to arouse her from her horrible state or bring one ray of reason to her eye. I spoke to a body alive only to pain; not a sound of my voice seemed to reach her; only fearful moans showed she was yet alive.

Miriam lay raving on the ground. Poor Miriam! her heart’s idol torn away. God help my darling! I did not understand that George could die until I looked at her. In vain I strove to raise her from the ground, or check her wild shrieks for death. "George! only George!" she would cry; until at last, with the horror of seeing both die before me, I mastered strength enough to go for the servant and bid her run quickly for Brother.

How long I stood there alone, I never knew. I remember Ada coming in hurriedly and asking what it was. I told her George was dead. It was a relief to see her cry. I could not; but I felt the pain afresh, as though it were her brother she was crying over, not mine. . . . It was from Dr. Mitchell, his friend who was with him when he died, telling of his sickness and death. He died on Tuesday the 12th of January, after an illness of six days, conscious to the last and awaiting the end as only a Christian, and one who has led so beautiful a life, could, with the Grace of God, look for it. He sent messages to his brothers and sisters, and bade them tell his mother his last thoughts were of her, and that he died trusting in the mercy of the Saviour. . . .

At last Brother came. I had to meet him downstairs and tell him. God spare me the sight of a strong man’s grief! Then Sister came in, knowing as little as he. Poor Sister! I could have blessed her for every tear she shed. It was a comfort to see some one who had life or feeling left. I felt as though the whole world was dead. Nothing was real, nothing existed except horrible speechless pain. Life was a fearful dream through which but one thought ran —" Dead — Dead!"

Miriam had been taken to her room more dead than alive — Mother lay speechless in hers. The shock of this second blow had obliterated, with them, all recollection of the first. It was a mercy I envied them; for I remembered both, until loss of consciousness would have seemed a blessing. . . . How will the world seem to us now? What will life be without the boys? When this terrible strife is over, and so many thousands return to their homes, what will peace bring us of all we hoped? Jimmy! Dear Lord, spare us that one!

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