Tuesday, May 6, 2014

May 3, 1864

May 3, 1864

---William Meade Dame, a Southern artilleryman in the Richmond Howitzers, writes in his memoirs many years later of this time in the Army of Northern Virginia, and of the privations endured by Lee’s men—including the minutiae of the private soldier’s life and handling of his gear:

For some days we had seen great volumes of smoke rising, in various directions, across the river, and heard bands playing, and frequent volleys of firearms, over in the Federal Camp. Everybody knew what all this meant, so we had been looking for that courier.

Soon after we reached the Captain’s tent, orders were given to pack up whatever we could not carry on the campaign, and in two hours, a wagon would leave, to take all this stuff to Orange Court House; thence it would be taken to Richmond and kept for us, until next winter.

This was quickly done! . . . It did not take long to roll all the “extras” into bundles, strap them up and pitch them into the wagon. And in less than two hours after the order was given the wagon was gone, and the men left in campaign “trim.”

This meant that each man had, left, one blanket, one small haversack, one change of underclothes, a canteen, cup and plate, of tin, a knife and fork, and the clothes in which he stood. When ready to march, the blanket, rolled lengthwise, the ends brought together and strapped, hung from left shoulder across under right arm, the haversack,—furnished with towel, soap, comb, knife and fork in various pockets, a change of underclothes in one main division, and whatever rations we happened to have, in the other,—hung on the left hip; the canteen, cup and plate, tied together, hung on the right; toothbrush, “at will,” stuck in two button holes of jacket, or in haversack; tobacco bag hung to a breast button, pipe in pocket. In this rig,—into which a fellow could get in just two minutes from a state of rest,—the Confederate Soldier considered himself all right, and ready for anything; in this he marched, and in this he fought. Like the terrapin—“all he had he carried on his back”—this all weighed about seven or eight pounds.

The extra baggage gone, all of us knew that the end of our stay here was very near, and we were all ready to pick up and go; we were on the eve of battle and everybody was on the “qui vive” for decisive orders. They quickly came! . . .


---General George G. Meade, commander of the Army of the Potomac, writes home to his wife on the eve of the campaign, and adds this personal admonition:

I beg of you to be calm and resigned, to place full trust in the mercy of our heavenly Father, who has up to this time so signally favored us, and the continuance of whose blessing we should earnestly pray for. Do not fret, but be cheerful, and go about and do just as if nothing was going on, and above all things don’t anticipate evil; it will come time enough. Give my love to all the dear children. I shall think a great deal of you and them, notwithstanding the excitement of my duties. I feel quiet and determined, satisfied I have ever striven to do my duty to the best of my ability, and believing that in time posterity will do justice to my career.

At midnight tonight, Meade’s troops step off, marching east and south.

---The President asks his Cabinet—each member--to prepare a statement concerning what they would recommend for what action or response that the Government should take in response to the massacre of black troops at Fort Pillow. 

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