Civil War Sesquicentennial
Jan. Feb. Mar.
- Friday, January 1: Emerson Opdycke greets the coming year from East Tennessee, telling his wife:
“I wish you a Happy New Year, from my heart but cannot say that mine has been such. . . But what will the Year 1864 have in store for us?”
At Brandy Station, Virginia, Vermonter Lemuel Abbott is more upbeat:
“All are wishing me a ‘Happy New Year’! God grant that I may have one. I was awakened long before daylight by a band serenading the birth of the New Year.”
Elsewhere in Virginia, Judith Brockenbrough McGuire begins work in the Confederate Commissary Department, observing:
“the duties of the office are not very onerous, but rather confining for one who left school thirty-four years ago. . . . The ladies, thirty-five in number, are of all ages, and representing various parts of Virginia, also Maryland and Louisiana. Many of them are refugees. It is melancholy to see how many wear mourning for brothers or other relatives, the victims of war.”
Residing for now in the Confederate capital, the spirited South Carolinian, Mary Chesnut, starts the new year on a plaintive note:
“God help my country. . . . I think we are more like the sailors who break into the spirits closet when they find out the ship must sink. There seems to be for the first time a resolute feeling to enjoy the brief hour and never look beyond the day.”
- Saturday, Jan. 2: George Davis of North Carolina receives confirmation from the Confederate Senate as the new attorney general.
Meeting with fellow officers from the Army of Tennessee at Dalton, Ga., Patrick Cleburne offers his “Memorial” calling for armed service for slaves and freedom to those who will have remained faithful to the cause of the Confederacy. The Irish-born general, who has served the Confederate States unfailingly himself, sees the matter as one of crucial importance in maintaining sufficient numbers of troops in the field and looks upon the issue as steadfastly patriotic in nature:
“As between the loss of independence and the loss of slavery, we assume that every patriot will freely give up the latter—give up the Negro slave rather than be a slave himself.”
From Richmond, war department clerk John B. Jones records the call for dramatic action from a neighboring community:
Only the day before Jones had found the price of a barrel of flour to stand at $150.
“The Lynchburg Virginian has come out for a dictator, and names Gen. Lee.”
- Sunday, Jan. 3: Opposing forces clash in far-southwestern Virginia.
- Monday, Jan. 4: Lemuel Abbott records the weather at his billet:
“It has snowed nearly all day, but not very hard. To-night there is about two inches on the ground and it is still snowing.”
- Tuesday, Jan. 5: Abraham Lincoln addresses the matter of bounties for service as the U.S. Congress reassesses such incentive payments.
Confederate bureau chief, Robert G.H. Kean assesses the latest rumor for aid from outside of the South:
“It has been determined, as I am informed, to send a minister to the French in Mexico with a proposal of alliance between the Southern Confederacy and [Emperor] Maximilian. I doubt if that card will win.”
In Louisiana, William Henry King reacts to the news that William Hardee has replaced Braxton Bragg as an army commander:
“Don’t know much about Hardee’s merits, but feel quite certain the Confederacy is not worsted in the exchange. Bragg would make a fare general for an aristocracy or a monarchy, but not for a people battling for independence.”
Despite bitterly cold temperatures, Union guards at Johnson’s Island Prison exercise greater vigilance over their captives. John Dooley writes:
“Snow 6 inches deep: since the recent escapes we are obliged at roll call, no matter how severe the weather, to stand outside our blocks and not only to answer to our names but be counted and wait until all the other prisoners are counted throughout the prison, when, at the sound of the drum, we are permitted to return; this act of discipline generally lasts from a half to three quarters of an hour.”
- Wednesday, Jan. 6: Some light fighting takes place near Dalton, Ga.
Colonel Christopher “Kit” Carson is at the head of forces aimed at compelling the remaining Navajos operating independently onto a reservation. The action occurs in the vicinity of Canyon de Chelly in the far U.S. southwest.
- Thursday, Jan. 7: From Washington City, President Lincoln makes another of a number of pardons for troops in the field, explaining as motivation in this instance: “I did this, not on any merit in the case, but because I am trying to evade the butchering business lately.”
Former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Caleb Smith dies in Indianapolis, Indiana.
- Friday, Jan. 8: Southern artillerist Henry Robinson Berkeley poses a difficult philosophical question after he witnesses the dispensing of military justice in Virginia:
“Saw a man shot today for desertion. Poor fellow! His crime was only going home to see after his wife and children. It was his third or fourth offense. . . . He was buried where he was executed. Did he not die for his country?”
Accused Confederate spy David O. Dodd, meets his fate on a gallows in Little Rock, Arkansas.
The colorful Southern horseman, John Hunt Morgan, attends a reception arranged for him in Richmond.
- Saturday, Jan. 9: President Davis is worried about a potential Union assault on Mobile, Ala.
- Sunday, Jan. 10: Although the Union blockade of Southern ports is proving ever-more effective, the U.S.S. Iron Age falls victim to shallow waters and Confederate fire off the South Carolina coast.
Confederate ordnance chief Josiah Gorgas records recent developments in Richmond and elsewhere in Virginia:
“The arrival of Gen. Jno. H. Morgan created quite a stir here on Friday. The city authorities and the Govt received him at the Ballard House, and gave him a handsome reception.
Gen. Early is operating in the lower valley of the Shenandoah, to get beef, of which the army is in great need. We shall get thro’ the winter without manifest suffering, tho’ shoes and blankets are still wanting.”
- Monday, Jan. 11: Union naval forces achieve a measure of retribution for the loss of a vessel on the previous day by causing the destruction of two blockade-runners in the same vicinity.
William T. Sherman is at Memphis, keeping one eye one the ice flowing by on the river and the other on Nathan Bedford Forrest. Concerning the latter and his own plans for the future, Cump confides to his wife Ellen:
“It is exceedingly difficult to deal with these Mounted Devils and I am sure all we can do is to make the Country feel that the People must pay for these wandering Arabs. I will run down to Vicksburg, and back to Memphis and be ready to start on some expedition by the 20th. I may strike for Meridian and Selma.”
- Tuesday, Jan.12: Disturbances in Matamoros, Mexico, prompt efforts to remove the U.S. Consul from danger.
- Wednesday, Jan. 13: President Davis wants his field commander in Georgia, Joseph E. Johnston, to understand the vital nature of his position and the desire of the commander-in-chief not to forfeit it by retreating from it:
“I trust you will not deem it necessary to adopt such a measure.”
In Tennessee, Emerson Opdycke notes:
“Three of Longstreet’s men deserted and came over to us; they reported that they had been living off the country and everything was ‘mighty scarce.’”
Major General Samuel R. Curtis assumes command of the Federal Department of Kansas.
- Sunday, Jan. 17: Ordnance Chief Gorgas looks to the government’s measures to bolster the armies as well as civilian morale:
“Our armies are filling up and will I hope, be strong enough for their work by the 1st of May. A law abolishing all substitution has just been passed. While I don’t think this will materially Strengthen the army, it will give general satisfaction.”
While in Hartford, Conn., during a transfer from one vessel to another, Union naval officer Roswell Lamson finds time for social pursuits as well as professional ones, including services conducted by one of the leading lights of New England:
“This morning I went to church . . . and heard a most excellent and interesting sermon from the Rev. Mr. [Nathaniel J.] Burton who is called the most able preacher in Connecticut, and is thought by many to be equal if not superior to Henry Ward Beecher. I would rather hear Mr. Beecher—he speaks more from his everyday observation of the world and of men and touches springs that few men know to exist. Mr. Burton speaks more from books and from his own inward consciousness—he may be superior in intellect but with my [limited theological] training it is natural I should prefer Mr. Beecher.”
- Monday, Jan. 18: Union forces continue to confront Confederate guerrillas along the Mississippi River.
John C. Breckinridge demonstrates his sense of diplomacy and tact when a guest at a social event in the Confederate capital “pitched into [him] for his conduct of affairs at Missionary Ridge. ‘Well, sir, how came we to lose Chattanooga?’ General Breckinridge coolly responded, ‘It is a long story,’ turned away, and began talking to someone else.”
- Tuesday, Jan. 19: Just northeast of Knoxville, Emerson Opdycke lets off steam as his command battles the elements and what he deems as less than competent leadership in his own ranks:
“I am sick of being under Potomac Generals. . . . The campaigning is exceedingly rough cold rain, snow, no tents and short rations.”
- Wednesday, Jan. 20: Jefferson Davis’s fears seem to be confirmed of Mobile as an emerging focal point for Federal attentions with Union vessels maneuvering into position at the entrance to Mobile Bay.
General Sherman keeps fellow general John Logan abreast of developments in Mississippi:
“The River has been little molested by the Guerillas who find it dont pay, and as the waters rise they know we will go up the Yazoo & Red Rivers and punish the Interior for their rascality. On this trip I have not seen or heard of a Guerilla and the Merchant Boats pass up and down with little fear. Abundance of wood has been gathered, and swarms of adventurers are crowding Vicksburg to hire Abandoned Plantations. The negro soldier idea is nearly exhausted and the popular idea is now to convert them into laborers for the benefit of the hungry Plantation Contractors. Well I am willing the Philanthropists should take the job off our hands and I tell them to go ahead, but I will not divert troops from Military duties to guard local interests.”
- Thursday, Jan. 21: Gorgas notes both the threats and the benefits still being derived from blockade-running traffic:
“Movements reported seem to indicate designs against Mobile. . . . A couple of good cargos have lately arrived there for us from Havanna.”
John B. Jones records an unsettling development for the Confederate president:
“The Army of the West desire the negroes freed and put in the ranks. They wonder it has never been done before.”
“Last night an attempt was made (by his servants, it is supposed) to burn the President’s mansion. It was discovered that fire had been kindled in the wood-pile in the basement. The smoke led to the discovery, else the family might have been consumed with the house. One or two of the servants have absconded.
Mary Chesnut references Patrick Cleburne’s proposal for arming slaves in terse fashion:
- Friday, Jan. 22: Major General William Rosecrans will become the next Union commander of the Department of the Missouri, in place of the controversial Major General John M. Schofield, who will be headed for the Department of the Ohio.
Arkansas now has a pro-Union government, with a provisional governor. Isaac Murphy will lead the effort to establish this new administration.
“Went to Mrs. Davis’s. It is sad enough. Fancy having to be always ready to have your servants set your house on fire—bribed to do it. Such constant robberies—such servants coming and going daily to the Yankees, carrying one’s silver, etc., does not conduce to make home happy.”
Recent events at the Davis home continue to garner attention. Diarist Chesnut observes:
- Saturday, Jan. 23: Abraham Lincoln responds to a request for his opinion on the matter of returning plantations to productivity in the wake of war and emancipation developments:
“You have enquired how the government would regard and treat cases wherever the owners of plantations, in Arkansas, for instance, might fully recognize the freedom of those formerly slaves, and by fair contracts of hire with them, re-commence the cultivation of their plantations. I answer I should regard such cases with great favor. . . .”
- Sunday, Jan. 24: Small operations mark the day in areas as wide-spread as Mississippi, East Tennessee and Tidewater Virginia.
- Monday, Jan. 25: Long the scene of contention, Corinth, Miss. has ceased to hold the same importance as occupying Union forces leave the town to move to other posts.
- Tuesday, Jan. 26: President Lincoln is once more active, addressing trade in areas once controlled by the Confederates and suspending execution sentences for a number of Union soldiers.
- Wednesday, Jan. 27: Developments in Central Virginia continue to look promising for the Union cause there, as Lemuel Abbott records in his diary:
“Two deserters came into our lines this morning; they report Lee’s army in a miserable condition—no rations or clothing, and the citizens nearly starving. They say that ‘Secession is playing out.’”
President Davis requests that Braxton Bragg travel to Richmond for consultation.
- Thursday, Jan. 28: President Lincoln requests that Henry Halleck encourage steps to be taken to secure the lines of communication and transportation westward from Missouri from any potential Confederate actions:
“Some citizens of Missouri—vicinity of Kansas City—are apprehensive that there is special danger of renewed troubles in that neighbourhood and thence on the route toward New-Mexico. I am not impressed that the danger is very great or imminent, but I will thank you to give Genls Rosecrans and Curtis respectively such orders as may turn their attention thereto and prevent as far as possible the apprehended disturbances.”
Roswell Lamson explains in a letter home that hard work remains to be completed before making his vessel, the Gettysburg, ready for service, attributing the level of effort required to “evidences of stupidity almost past belief.” But, he has also maintained sufficient time for other activities and remarks on one of his companions in particular:
“Wednesday evening I was invited to Mr. Beechers to tea and to spend the evening which passed very pleasantly. There was a ‘Secesh’ lady there from South Carolina whose father owned a large share of the Margaret & Jessie before she was captured; her husband is a Yankee and it was very amusing to hear her remarks about Yankees in general, and Yankees in particular.”
- Friday, Jan. 29: A new round of Federal bombardment of Fort Sumter begins, although the Confederates now have the ironclad Charleston to bolster the defense of the name-sake city.
- Saturday, Jan. 30: Rosecrans assumes command in Missouri, while Major General Frederick Steele does the same in Arkansas.
- Sunday, Jan. 31: Gorgas reflects on recent Congressional action that aims at placing men between 45 and 55 in the ranks:
“In such a war as this—a war for national existence the whole mass of the nation must be engaged. It must be divided into those who go to the field and fight, & those who stay at home to support the fighting portion, supplying all the food, and material of war. . . . It is absurd to call on all to fight. Some must labor or all will starve. There is much crude legislation going on, but we shall work thro’ this revolution [even] with some blunders.”
Mary Chesnut continues to socialize, observe and record events in her diary:
“General Hood informed today that he was ordered to the Army of Tennessee, that he was now a corps commander. Suddenly his eye blazed as he said this.
Said I to myself, ‘All that ambition still—in spite of those terrible wounds.’ Did he read my thoughts? He added, ‘This has been the happiest year of any, in spite of all my wounds.’
Again his eye blazed up.”
In the midst of an on-going struggle between the legislative and executive branches of the Confederate government, Robert Kean laments the apparent loss of one crucial official:
“The clamor against the nitre and mining bureau as a refuge for skulkers and exempts has caused Colonel [Isaac] St. John to resign. . . . Colonel St. John has developed the production of nitre from almost nothing to nearly a full supply. But for the loss of territory where the richest nitrous earths are found, he would have been wholly independent of importation. The loss of Tennessee has caused him to develop his works further in the interior, and in a few months his beds laid down near all the interior cities will be ripe. To his great energy, talent for organization, and skilful invention in supplementing defective resources, the country owes as much as to any man in the service, whatever his rank or fame. Others have made good use of what the country afforded in resources. He has created when resources there were none.”
To a colleague in Alabama, General Sherman addresses questions concerning civilians in occupied areas:
To those who submit to the Rightful Laws & authority of their State & National Government promise all gentleness and forbearance, but to the petulant and persistent secessionist, why death or banishment is a mercy, and the quicker he or she is disposed of the better.”
“In my former letters I have answered all your questions save one, and that relates to the treatment of inhabitants known or suspected to be hostile or ‘Secesh.’ This is in truth the most difficult business of our Army as it advances & occupies the Southern Country. It is almost impossible to lay down Rules and I invariably leave this whole subject to the local commander, but am willing to give them the benefit of my acquired Knowledge and experience. . . .
We of the North are beyond all question Right in our Cause. . . .
When men take up Arms to resist a Rightful Authority we are compelled to use like force, because all reason and argument cease when arms are resorted to. When the provisions, forage, horses, mules, wagons, etc., are used by our enemy it is clearly our duty & Right to take them also; because otherwise they might be used against us. . . . But the question arises as to the dwellings used by women, children & non-combatants. So long as non-combatants remain in their houses & Keep to their accustomed peaceful business, their opinions and prejudices can in no wise influence the War & therefore should not be noticed. . . .
- Monday, February 1: The U.S. House of Representatives moves on the matter of reviving the rank of lieutenant general.
British Minister to the United States, Lord Richard Lyons, communicates with Foreign Minister John Russell concerning the views of U.S. secretary of state William H. Seward:
“Mr. Seward said to me this morning that he was informed that a move would be made by the English Friends of the Confederates on the meeting of Parliament, and that the object of it would be not to obtain the recognition of the Confederacy as an Independent State, but to induce Her Majesty’s Government to interpose for the restoration of Peace, on the basis of an eventual abolition of Slavery, and assumption of the restored Union of the Confederate Debt. . . .
He should, he said, inform Mr. [Charles Francis] Adams that no Foreign Intervention, in any shape or under any pretext would be admitted [considered] for a moment; that the President was determined to suppress the Rebellion by the strength of the United States and by that alone.”
Additionally, the effects of the Emancipation Proclamation would remain “strictly adhered to.” “As to the Confederate Debt, the United States, Mr. Seward said, would never pay a dollar of it.”
President Lincoln sends condolences to Kamehameha V, the “King of the Hawaiian Islands,” on the death of his predecessor and brother. He also orders a vessel to travel to Santo Domingo “to bring back to this country such of the colonists there as desire to return.”
- Tuesday, Feb. 2: Indicative of both audacity and reality for the embattled South, a small team of naval personnel board and take the USS Underwriter, a Union gunboat located in the Neuse River in eastern North Carolina. But circumstances prevent the new proprietors from doing more with their acquisition than destroying the vessel. In the meantime, Federal forces continue to hold nearby New Berne and other critical points.
- Wednesday, Feb. 3: Sherman’s Meridian Campaign begins as some 26,000 troops leave Vicksburg heading initially for Jackson before moving on to Meridian.
President Jefferson Davis continues to implore his nation to pluck up its resolve. He considers those who “have enjoyed quiet and safety at home” and yet remain openly discontented particularly problematic for the Confederacy.
- Thursday, Feb. 4: The area between Vicksburg and Jackson sees renewed action as Sherman moves toward the Mississippi capital.
Patrons of the Macon Georgia Journal and Messenger learn the effects of warfare on their newspaper:
“We cannot afford a larger sheet when we have only increased our rates from two dollars and fifty cents to five, while the quantity of paper for which we paid three fifty, we now pay fifty five dollars.”
- Friday, Feb. 5: Sherman’s command reaches Jackson, Miss.
- Saturday, Feb. 6: Sherman’s troops leave Jackson for Meridian.
Union major general Benjamin Butler is active on the Virginia Peninsula. Federal forces under Brigadier General Alexander Hays cross the Rapidan River at Morton’s Ford, with reinforcements following in a demonstration to support Butler’s movement.
- Sunday, Feb. 7: U.S. forces enter Jacksonville, Fla.
The arrival of Confederates under Lieutenant General Richard Ewell compel the Federals at the Rapidan to pull back.
Elsewhere in Virginia, Vermonter Lemuel Abbott sneers:
“On arrival there we found there had been a great scare from Mosby but it amounted to nothing; wonder if he thinks guerrilla warfare manly?”
- Monday, Feb. 8: Confederate war clerk John B. Jones relates levels of disaffection at various points in the South, but concludes his diary entry for this day on a positive note:
“Everywhere our troops in the field, whose terms of three years will expire this spring, are re-enlisting for the war. This is an effect produced by President Lincoln’s [amnesty] proclamation; that to be permitted to return to the Union, all men must first take an oath to abolish slavery!”
- Tuesday, Feb. 9: A dramatic escape occurs when 109 Federal officers tunnel their way to freedom from Libby Prison. Among the escapees is Abel Streight, incarcerated since his capture by Nathan Bedford Forrest in Alabama in the previous spring.
- Wednesday, Feb. 10: A tragic fire occurs in the stables serving the White House. Although Abraham Lincoln lends his hand to the efforts, several animals cannot be rescued in time from the burning structures.
- Thursday, Feb. 11: After some delays, Union brigadier general William Sooy Smith sets out for Mississippi from West Tennessee with 7,000 horsemen and twenty pieces of artillery, having previously promised “to pitch into [Bedford] Forrest wherever I find him.”
- Friday, Feb.12: Lyons passes along to Russell the statements that Secretary Seward has made to him regarding the matter of opening up to international commerce those ports of the South under Union control, while declaring others to continue to be “abolished as Ports of Entry.”
“Mr. Seward maintained that the events of the war had now proved beyond a doubt that the South would never achieve its independence, and that this being the case, the occupation of particular points ought not to be regarded as disturbing the old legitimate jurisdiction.
I conceive that Mr. Seward’s main object is to obtain, with a view to the moral effect both in the North and in the south, the revocation of the recognition of the Belligerent Rights of the Confederates. . . . [H]e appears never to lose sight of this object. . . .”
- Saturday, Feb. 13: John B. Jones hears rumors of the price of gold soaring in the North and concludes wistfully:
“If this be true, our day of deliverance is not distant.”
- Sunday, Feb. 14: Sherman’s men take Meridian and begin a systematic destruction of everything of military significance.
Josiah Gorgas records his views of the motivations for Union military activities:
“The enemys movements are now no doubt partly political. They try to get possession of the capitals of the States & institute State governments, for effect on the next elections. All such governments would be subservient to Lincoln.”
- Monday, Feb. 15: President Lincoln instructs Major General Daniel Sickles to travel to various posts from Memphis to New Orleans and over to the Atlantic coast to “ascertain at each place what is being done, if anything, for reconstruction—how the Amnesty proclamation works, if at all—what practical hitches, if any, there are about it—whether deserters come in from the enemy, what number has come in at each point since the Amnesty, and whether the ratio of their arrival is any greater since than before the Amnesty—what deserters report generally, and particularly, whether, and to what extent, the Amnesty is known within the rebel lines. Also learn what you can as to the colored people—how they get along as soldiers, as laborers in our service, on leased plantations, and as hired laborers with their old masters, if there be such cases. Also learn what you can about the colored people within the rebel lines.”
- Tuesday, Feb. 16: In Washington Territory, U.S. forces begin an operation against Native Americans in the region.
- Wednesday, Feb. 17: The submarine, H.L. Hunley, sets out to a strike a blow against the Union blockade in Charleston Harbor. She closes on the USS Housatonic and uses her spar torpedo to blast a hole beneath the ship’s waterline. Most of the Union crew members are able to escape drowning, but the Confederates who man their craft are not so fortunate.
- Thursday, Feb. 18: Gorgas notes the number of escaped Union officers from Libby Prison who the Confederates have recovered, while also observing that captives from a nearby facility on the James River are heading South for incarceration in a remote camp that has not yet been finished:
“Fifty-four of the Yankee officers have been recaptured. The prisoners on Belle Isle are being sent to Americus, Ga., at the rate of 400 a day.”
J.B. Jones discusses another matter in the Confederate capital:
“The Legislature has a bill before it to suppress theatrical amusements during the war. What would Shakespeare think of that?”
- Friday, Feb. 19: President Davis is anxious to know from Admiral Franklin Buchanan how he expects to deflect Union threats to Mobile, Alabama.
- Saturday, Feb. 20: The Battle of Olustee, or Ocean Pond, occurs when Union forces under Brigadier General Truman Seymour encounter Confederates under Brigadier General Joseph Finegan in a push toward Tallahassee. Casualties amount to 203 killed, 1,152 wounded and 506 missing among the 5,500 Federals. Finegan’s troops suffer 93 killed, 847 wounded and 6 missing out of 5,000.
- Sunday, Feb. 21: Fighting occurs at Ellis Bridge in West Point, Miss., as elements of N.B. Forrest’s cavalry confront W.S. Smith’s advancing column.
Josiah Gorgas notes the arrival of a guest from the Western Theater:
“Gen. Bragg spent Tuesday Evey. with us. . . . Bragg was talkative. We had a good game of whist.”
- Monday, Feb. 22: Forrest engages in a running fight at Okolona with Sooy Smith. Despite some success, he loses his youngest brother, Jeffrey, to Union fire. By the time the fighting has subsided, the Federals tally losses of 54 killed, 179 wounded and 155 missing to the Confederates’ 27 killed, including Colonel Forrest, 97 wounded and 20 missing.
In Richmond, offices close to honor the birthday of George Washington.
In Washington City, Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase denies knowledge of a letter, by Senator Samuel Pomeroy, of Kansas, that has appeared publicly opposing Lincoln’s nomination for re-election and touting his. Chase explains that he does not want his post to become adversely impacted and notes, “For yourself I cherish sincere respect and esteem; and, permit me to add, affection. Differences of opinion as to administration action have not changed these sentiments. . . .”
- Tuesday, Feb. 23: Union troops are testing the strength of the Confederate position in the vicinity of Dalton, Georgia.
In another confidential message, Lyons informs Russell about attitudes of the Lincoln administration regarding the recognition of a French-backed monarchical government in Mexico:
“Mr. Seward observed that he was in the habit of saying to such Members [of the U.S. Congress who opposed such action] that he conceived that it was quite as likely that he should recognize Mr. Jefferson Davis as King of Richmond, as that he should recognize the Archduke Maximilian or any other person as Emperor of Mexico.”
- Wednesday, Feb. 24: Braxton Bragg becomes President Jefferson Davis’s chief advisor.
The U.S. Senate considers reviving the rank of lieutenant general.
- Thursday, Feb. 25: John B. Jones notes the elevation of Bragg to the advisory post “once occupied by Lee.
No doubt Bragg can give the President valuable counsel—nor can there be any doubt that he enjoys a secret satisfaction in triumphing thus over popular sentiment, which just at this time is much averse to Gen. Bragg.”
- Friday, Feb. 26: General Lee comes to confer with President Davis.
- Saturday, Feb. 27: The first Union prisoners from Richmond arrive at Camp Sumter near rural Andersonville, Georgia.
- Sunday, Feb. 28: Brigadier General Judson Kilpatrick and Colonel Ulric Dahlgren begin what they hope will be a successful raid on Richmond, in part designed to free Union prisoners of war being held there.
War Clerk Jones assesses the state of the Confederate government:
“Congress and the President parted as the adjournment in bad temper. It is true everything was passed by Congress asked for by the Executive as necessary in the present exigency. . . . These were conceded, say the members, for the sake of the country, and not as concessions to the Executive.”
- Monday, Feb. 29: President Lincoln responds to Secretary Chase on the Pomeroy matter, insisting that he does not see the need, for the moment, to change the leadership of the Treasury Department.
- Tuesday, March 1: The plan by Judson Kilpatrick and Ulric Dahlgren to enter Richmond, liberate Union prisoners being held there and impact the government and its officials experiences a dramatic turn as the former turns back with his larger raiding force, leaving the latter to fend for himself with some 500 men against aroused local defenders, including civilian personnel pressed into action.
Confederate war clerk John Beauchamp Jones records the reaction of the Confederate capital to the Union raid:
“As the morning progressed, the city was a little startled by the sound of artillery in a northern direction, and not very distant. Couriers and horsemen from the country announced the approach of the enemy within the outer fortifications; a column of 5000 cavalry. . . . To-morrow we shall know more; but no uneasiness is felt as to the result. In a few hours we can muster men enough to defend the city against 25,000.”
President Abraham Lincoln nominates Ulysses Grant for the rank of lieutenant general.
He also revisits the case of a soldier whose sanction for an offence has included a reduction in his pay:
“I do not like this punishment of withholding pay—it falls so very hard upon poor families.”
From Bermuda, U.S. Consul Charles Maxwell Allen informs Secretary of State William Seward:
“Captain [John N.] Maffitt, late of the privateer Florida, intends to leave here tomorrow as Master of the steamer Flora.”
- Wednesday, Mar. 2: Trying to extricate his command, Colonel Dahlgren rides into an ambush. Confederate fire fells him from his saddle, where papers on his person suggest his intention to kill President Davis and any other Confederate leaders he may encounter on his mission.
The U.S. Senate confirms the Grant nomination.
J.B. Jones observes proudly of the role of the civilians in Richmond’s defense:
“The Department Clerks were in action in the evening in five minutes after they were formed. Capt. Ellery, Chief Clerk of 2d Auditor, was killed, and several were wounded.”
- Thursday, Mar. 3: The U.S. Congress authorizes the Treasury to issue $200,000,000 in ten-year bonds.
- Friday, Mar. 4: President Lincoln inquires of Major General Benjamin Butler concerning the latest intelligence on Ulric Dahlgren on behalf of that officer’s illustrious father:
“Admiral Dahlgren is here, and of course is very anxious about his son. Please send me at once all you know, or can learn of his fate.”
The U.S. Senate acts on the nomination of Andrew Johnson as military governor of Tennessee.
Michael Hahn takes office as governor of Louisiana as efforts continue to place pro-Union administrations where possible in seceded Southern states.
- Saturday, Mar. 5: J.B. Jones continues to note the impact of the recent Union raid on the city:
“Some extraordinary memoranda were captured from the raiders, showing a diabolical purpose, and creating a profound sensation here.”
From prison at Johnson’s Island, John Dooley observes:
“Snowing very hard and very fine—it nearly always snows fine in this region. To day our room holds a meeting and, in conclave assembled, condemn in unmeasured terms the conduct of the Yankee whining Chaplain who attempted to force political and religious tracts on us yesterday.”
- Sunday, Mar. 6: Confederate raids continue on land and water in Kentucky and South Carolina. In the latter instance, an effort to sink the U.S.S. Memphis proves unsuccessful.
- Monday, Mar. 7: Jefferson Davis calls for General James Longstreet to exercise the initiative from his current position at Greeneville, Tennessee.
Abraham Lincoln turns his attention to the question of emancipation in Maryland and the Union Pacific Railroad.
- Tuesday, Mar. 8: President Lincoln and General U.S. Grant meet personally for the first in an awkward moment in the White House.
- Wednesday, Mar. 9: Brigadier General Matthew W. Ransom’s forces confront Union troops at Suffolk, Va., that include African Americans, many of whom had come from the area before returning in arms to it.
President Lincoln reflects privately with Ulysses Grant on the conditions under which that general has received his recent promotion and with the words that plans to make public on the following day at a formal ceremony:
“The nation’s appreciation of what you have done, and it’s reliance upon you for what remains to do, in the existing great struggle, are now presented with this commission, constituting you Lieutenant General in the Army of the United States. With this high honor devolves upon you also, a corresponding responsibility. . . . I scarcely need to add that with what I here speak for the nation goes my hearty personal concurrence.”
In South Carolina, Emma Holmes provides a long diary entry that covers matters as diverse as social matters and currency policy to the recent Union cavalry raid on Richmond. She concludes:
“Dear old Charleston still receives daily her allotted portion of battering, and ‘The Gillmore district’ is showing ghastly rents in many a once fair & goodly mansion.”
- Thursday, Mar. 10: General Grant accepts his promotion formally:
“I accept this commission, with gratitude for the high honor confered [sic]. . . . I feel the full weight of the responsibilities now devolving on me and know that if they are met it will be due those armies, and above all to the favor of that Providence which leads both Nations and men.”
In his new capacity, General Grant also undertakes “the command of the armies of the United States.”
William T. Sherman writes his friend Grant to express satisfaction at the promotion:
“You are now [George] Washington’s legitimate successor, and occupy a position of almost dangerous elevation . . . . I believe you are as brave, patriotic, and just, as the great prototype Washington; as unselfish, kind-hearted, and honest, as a man should be; but the chief characteristic in your nature is the simple faith in success you have always manifested. . . .
Now as to the future. Do not stay in Washington. . . . Come out West; take to yourself the whole Mississippi Valley; let us make it dead-sure, and I will tell you the Atlantic slope and pacific shores will follow its destiny as sure as the limbs of a tree live and die with the main trunk!
For God’s sake and for your country’s sake, come out of Washington!”
In Louisiana, William Henry King notes the disaffection of the men in Confederate major general John G. Walker’s command “on account of the trade now being carried on between the Federals & our officers. Hoozah for them! That this is ‘a rich man’s war, & a poor man’s fight,’ needs no further proof.”
U.S. Consul C.M. Allen continues to report on the state of affairs in his jurisdiction, noting in part:
“Brig Carl Emile from Liverpool, barque Enterprise from Newport, and ships Storm King and Gambia from Cardiff, have arrived during the past week with cargoes for the Confederates. The Gambia went onto the rock near the entrance of this port (St. George’s). Vessel and cargo nearly a total loss.”
- Friday, Mar. 11: W.H. King is unimpressed with defensive efforts on the Red River:
“A portion (110 feet) of the obstructions in R. River at Fort DeRussy has been forced from its place by high water. Great engineering! When this water is low, & gun boats can not pass, obstructions are put in the River under the supervision of ‘Competent Engineers,’ but as soon as there is plenty of water for the gun boats, it sweeps the obstructions out. Consummate folly!”
- Saturday, Mar. 12: General Nathaniel Banks is on the move in Louisiana.
Sherman tells his wife that he expects the critical juncture of the war to be coming:
“All that has gone before is mere Skirmishing—The War now begins and with heavy well disciplined masses the issue must be settled in hard fought Battles. I think we can whip them in Alabama and it may be in Georgia, but the Devils seem to have a determination that cannot but be admired—No amount of poverty or adversity seems to shake their faith. . . .”
- Sunday, Mar. 13: Mary Chesnut notes the presence of numerous Confederate generals in worship in Richmond, including Robert E. Lee, James Longstreet and Braxton Bragg:
“Somebody counted fourteen generals in church and suggested that less piety and more drilling of commands would suit the times better.”
Of the recent Union raid she explains:
“Now that Dahlgren has failed to carry out his orders, the Yankees disown them. They disavow it all. He was not sent here to murder us all, hang the president, and burn the town. There is the notebook, however, at the executive office, with the orders to hang and burn.”
Robert G.H. Kean relates the war department news in his journal, but saves his severest assessment for Georgia governor Joseph E. Brown, former secretary of state Robert Toombs and Vice President Alexander Stephens, comparing them unfavorably to the notoriously anti-Davis administration critics, North Carolina governor Zebulon Vance and N.C. Justice Richard Pearson:
“These people—Brown, Toombs, Stephens and their set—are the most pestilent demagogues in the land, more injurious than the North Carolina buffaloes because [they] are more able and influential.”
President Lincoln sends a private message to Michael Hahn:
“I congratulate you on having fixed your name in history as the first-free-state Governor of Louisiana.”
- Monday, Mar. 14: Fort DeRussy falls to Brigadier General Joseph A. Mower’s Union troops, with strong support from Union ironclads, as the Red River Campaign opens with a Federal success.
- Tuesday, Mar. 15: Keen notes the “intrigue” present at the highest levels of the Confederate government to replace Secretary of War John Seddon with administration-favorite Judah Benjamin, currently secretary of state. Benjamin had served as head of the war department in 1861-62.
- Wednesday, Mar. 16: Alexandria, Louisiana, surrenders to naval forces under the command of Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter.
- Thursday, Mar. 17: William Henry King underscores the elevation of concern in Shreveport as Union forces penetrate deeper into Louisiana:
“This evening we get the intelligence to the effect that Alexandria has fallen into the hands of the Federals. The intelligence occasions a great stir. Thirty volunteers are called for to do temporary service on the gun boat, Missouri. Eleven of the post guard volunteer, but that lacks 19 of the required number. That 19 is not lacking long, for the guard house is called on, & the deficit is made at once. Some of the men were brought in & imprisoned to-day. That is the way it works.”
Back in Washington City, President Lincoln reflects once more on a familiar theme:
“It needs not to be a secret, that I wish success to emancipation in Maryland. It would aid much to end the rebellion. Hence it is a matter of national consequence, in which every national man, may rightfully feel a deep interest.”
- Friday, Mar. 18: Arkansas ratifies a state constitution that eliminates slavery from within its borders.
- Saturday, Mar. 19: Consul Allen passes along word that has reached him of a scheme for Southerners posing as passengers to travel from Bermuda to New York City “for the purpose of shipping on board some of our steamers and capturing them if the opportunity offers or of working themselves into the favor of parties whereby they may be able to destroy government and other property.”
- Sunday, Mar. 20: The C.S.S. Alabama reaches Cape Town, South Africa, as it continues its operations against Union commerce.
- Monday, Mar. 21: Jefferson Davis and a number of well-wishers greet returning prisoners. Of the interesting tableaux, J.B. Jones observes:
“A large company of both sexes welcomed them in the Capitol Square, whither some baskets of food were sent by those who had some patriotism with their abundance. The President made them a comforting speech, alluding to their toils, bravery, and sufferings in captivity; and promised them, after a brief respite, that they should be in the field again.”
Abraham Lincoln embodies the notion of “free labor” that has represented the bedrock of the Republican Party since its inception by explaining to an audience:
“That some should be rich, shows that others may become rich, and hence is just encouragement to industry and enterprize.”
- Tuesday, Mar. 22: From Shreveport, La., King observes:
“Gov. [Henry W.] Allen of this State has issued an order for the conscription of the free negroes of this place. When the Federals received negroes into their army the Southern press, & the Southern people in general, made a great ado about the matter. Now negroes are conscripted in the South, & I reckon that if the South urges any thing against the Federals on that score, it will be the ‘pot saying to the kettle, you are black.’”
- Wednesday, Mar. 23: In the Confederate capital, prices soar and Ordnance Chief Josiah Gorgas terms these domestic conditions, “deplorable. Flour $300 the barrel. A shad costs $35. Turkey 5 to $9 per lb. Beef $5 to 6. Eggs, $7, and so on. How the poor live is incomprehensible. Even meal sells at $30. per bu.”
Edmund Kirby Smith responds to the crisis in his region by issuing Special Order No. 71:
“Shreveport and the adjoining country extending five miles beyond the fortifications, is declared an In-trenched Camp.”
- Thursday, Mar. 24: One of Nathan Bedford Forrest’s subordinates, Colonel William L. Duckworth, achieves a victory at Union City, in a raid in western Tennessee that results in the capture of Tennessee Unionist Isaac Hawkins and some 500 prisoners, with arms and supplies. The operation is already paying dividends in bolstering Forrest’s command and reputation, as well as in producing consternation among the Federals in the region and beyond.
Cump Sherman offers his brother, John, suggestions regarding General Grant:
“Give Grant all the support you can. If he can escape the toils of the schemers he may do some good. He will fight, and the Army of the Potomac will have all the fighting they want. He will expect your friendship—We are close friends. His simplicity and modesty are natural & not affected.”
In his journal, W.H. King writes about the reactions locals have to captives that arrive in their midst:
“Ten Federal prisoners brought in to-day. Five negroes brought in with them, but not taken from among the Federals. While guarding them, many crowded around, and declared the negroes ought to be killed. How inconsistent! It is but natural for them to desire to be free, & if they do nothing but runaway from their masters to obtain their freedom, certainly they do not merit death.”
- Friday, Mar. 25: Forrest’s troopers reach Paducah, Kentucky, where stout resistance by land and water assets inflict a costly setback on the Confederates. Among the dead is Colonel A.P. Thompson, who perishes when he and his men impulsively try to storm Fort Anderson, a key earthwork on the outskirts of the town. That repulse and the heavy fire from two gunboats in the Ohio River, force the Southern horsemen to withdraw after having inflicted such damage as they can under the circumstances.
Saturday, Mar. 26: General Grant is back in Virginia, after consulting with Sherman. He has decided to remain in the East, with the Army of the Potomac, which continues under the command of George Gordon Meade.
- Sunday, Mar. 27: Josiah Gorgas ruminates on his service with the Confederate States of America and the young country’s prospects for the future on this Easter Sunday:
“It is just three years ago to-day since I sent in my resignation in the U.S. Service. Another year of hard struggling will I hope serve to consolidate this Confederacy, & establish its right to enter the family of nations. Then it will I believe rapidly recover from the wounds it has received.”
At Johnson’s Island, Dooley remarks on religious matters and cannot help but take a swipe at his Protestant brethren:
“Beautiful day. In the afternoon the Baptists, who are very numerous in the prison, immerse in the lake about 60 postulants—taking them into the lake up to breast high. . . . Looking at these drenched Baptists reminds me of the village-countryman who one day perceiving an old acquaintance of exceeding bad repute, undergoing a similar operation in the clutches of a Baptist minister, stopped his horse and sang out to the minister ‘I say mister, I don’t wish to interfere with any of your religious ceremonies but if you want to get all the sin out of that fellow, you’d better keep him under a thundering long time.”
Monday, Mar. 28: John Dooley notes new developments for the Confederate prisoners:
“[G]reat excitement around the sutler’s shed this morning. He has opened with a fresh supply. . . . [G]et a pound of butter @60cts.”
- Tuesday, Mar. 29: President Lincoln responds to a sensitive George Meade over the appearance of criticisms concerning his performance at Gettysburg in the New York Herald and the general’s desire for official exoneration of his actions:
“It is quite natural that you should feel some sensibility on the subject; yet I am not impressed, nor do I think the country is impressed, with the belief that your honor demands, or the public interest demands, such an Inquiry. The country knows that, at all events, you have done good service; and I believe it agrees with me that it is much better for you [to] be engaged in trying to do more, than to be diverted, as you necessarily would be, by a Court of Inquiry.”
- Wednesday, Mar. 30: Henri Garidel goes to his office in Richmond as usual, but shortages have limited any personal comforts:
“We had no fire at our house because there was no coal.”
J.B. Jones reports the latest developments:
“Many ladies have been appointed clerks. There is a roomful of them just over the Secretary’s office, and he says they distract him with their noise of moving of chairs and running about, etc.
The papers publish an account of a battle of snow-balls in our army, which indicates the spirit of the troops, when, perhaps, they are upon the eve of passing through such awful scenes of carnage as will make the world tremble at the appalling spectacle.”
- Thursday, Mar. 31: After a long stint on the South Carolina coast and some time in Ohio, Colonel Alvin Coe Voris notes that except for a corporal who had jumped from the train in an alcoholic stupor, the rest of the command arrived safely:
“The men were kept so closely & quietly on the cars that the people of Pennsylvania thought we had a lot of rebel prisoners.”
From Bermuda, Consul Allen provides the latest intelligence report:
Captain [John N.] Maffit is still here waiting for a steamer. He is drunk the greater part of the time.”
“The following steamers have left for Wilmington during the past few days, viz: Steamer A.D. Vance, Captain Wiley, a southern man left of the 26th. Steamer Minnie, Gilpin, an Englishman who has twice been captured left on the 27th.
Captain Beers [of the Greyhound] was formerly in our Navy. He is called the Admiral here and is considered the King of blockade runners. If he is captured he will claim to be an Englishman. . . .