Civil War Sesquicentennial
Jan. Feb. Mar. Apr.
- 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:
“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. . . .
Captain [John N.] Maffit is still here waiting for a steamer. He is drunk the greater part of the time.”
- Friday, Apr 1: Military operations occur from Florida to Louisiana, Arkansas to North Carolina, giving rise to the notion that with spring such activity will continue to increase.
Confederate ordnance chief Josiah Gorgas is guardedly optimistic:
“There is no war news. The bad weather prevents all military operations; and there is no information as to the plans of the enemy. They openly threaten Richmond, but it is Still believed their main attack will be in Georgia.”
The situation is less sanguine in Bristol, Tennessee, where Milton Barrett tells family members of the plight of the men in his unit:
“Tha curtail down our rashings to two thirds of a pound of flour not bolted and 1/3 a pound of bacon. This cose grate dissadisfaction a mong the soldiers. in fack it was barely enuf for one meal per day. Hungry will cose a man to do all most any thing. Tha was severil depperdation committed on the sittuzins property sutch as taken chickens and meat. . . . We all a greede to go to the genral and if he did not give us moar rashings to charge the comasary an take by force. He had us a extray days rashins ishued and got us all sorty pasafide.”
- Saturday, Apr. 2: Light skirmishing again flashes at points across the South.
- Sunday, Apr. 3: Once more Fort Sumter comes under shelling.
- Monday, Apr. 4: Major General Philip H. Sheridan takes the place of David Gregg as commander of the cavalry of the Army of the Potomac.
To Albert Hodges, a newspaper editor in Frankfort, Kentucky, Abraham Lincoln explains the substance of an earlier conversation between them:
“I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I can not remember when I did not so think, and feel. And yet I have never understood that the Presidency conferred upon me an unrestricted right to act officially upon this judgment and feeling. It was in the oath I took that I would, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. I could not take the office without taking the oath. . . . I did understand however, that my oath to preserve the constitution to the best of my ability, imposed upon me the duty of preserving, by every indispensable means, that government—that nation—of which that constitution was the organic law. Was it possible to lose the nation, and yet preserve the constitution? By general law life and limb must be protected; yet often a limb must be amputated to save a life; but a life is never wisely given to save a limb. I felt that measures, otherwise unconstitutional, might become lawful, by becoming indispensable to the preservation of the constitution, through the preservation of the nation. Right or wrong, I assumed this ground, and now avow it.”
In Southampton County, Virginia, a frustrated Daniel Cobb scribbles in his diary:
“A Mr Lark Impressed 1 of my horses for Government[. . . .] Valued at $450 that $1000 Could not buy so we are imposed on[.]”
- Tuesday, Apr. 5: As part of the redistribution of forces, Union colonel Alvin Coe Voris, is in “Camp Distribution, Va.” outside of Washington City. The circumstances afford him the opportunity to venture into the Capital and avail himself of the chance to visit with politicial figures from Ohio, including Senator Benjamin Wade:
“I called on Judge Wade, whom I found in one of the committee rooms. On meeting me he most cordially took me by the hand and greeted me with grave politeness and Senatorial dignity as follows—‘Why Voris I am d—d glad to see you. I am by G-d I am.’ Now dear wife don’t you think I was awe struck with such marks of consideration so elegantly bestowed on my modest self. . . . Judge Wade promised to come to camp & see me. If he does I hope he will not have as hurried a ride back to Washington as he did from the first Battle at Bull Run.”
William T. Sherman offers his brother, Senator John Sherman, his views on matters that range from current military affairs to the state of slavery:
“However much I dislike war for its pains & turmoils I do hope it wont Cease till our People learn to leave to Congress, to the Armies, & to the Courts their appropriate business. The idea that the People through the instrumentality of the Press should supervise these matters which from their nature must be confidential is what brought on us the contempt of all Civilized Peoples.
Too much stress has been laid on the Negro. It is used as a touch Stone, a test. It should not be, but treated as any other minor question. The Negro question will solve itself. The Government of the United States is the Issue. Shall it stand or fall?
We are gradually shaping things for a Grand Campaign. We have a well organized force to our front. . . . Grant is as good a Leader as we can find he has honesty, simplicity of character, singleness of purpose, and no hope or claim to usurp civil Power.”
- Wednesday, Apr. 6: Louisiana’s pro-Union convention meets in New Orleans to produce a new state constitution that will abolish slavery.
- Thursday, Apr. 7: From his camp in London, Tennessee, Emerson Opdycke pauses for reflection in a letter home:
“Two years ago to this day, I was in my first battle on the field of Shiloh. It seems a long time since, but the scenes of that terrible contest of arms are as fresh, as if but a few days old. I would be glad never to repeat them, if the nation could be saved purified from slavery, and firmly established without it; but if more blood must flow, more patriots go down, I feel ready and willing for any fate which God decrees.”
- Friday, Apr. 8: Today is marked in the Confederacy as a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer.
Union major general Nathaniel Prentiss and Confederate major general Richard Taylor confront each other for the second time since the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia in 1862 near Mansfield, Louisiana. An assault by Confederate brigadier general Jean Jacques Alfred Alexander Mouton suffers heavy casualties as the troops attempt to drive the Federals from positions athwart the Old Stage Road, but Union forces retreat from several lines toward Pleasant Hill. In addition to twenty artillery pieces and supplies, U.S. losses in the engagements amount to 113 killed, 581 wounded and 1,541 missing or captured. Confederate casualties stand at approximately 1,000, including General Mouton.
The U.S. Senate moves 38 to 6 to abolish slavery and adopt the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
Josiah Gorgas looks back upon his service for the Confederacy with unrestrained pride:
“It is three years ago to-day since I took charge of the Ord. department of the Conf. States at Montgomery—three years of constant work and application. I have succeeded beyond my utmost expectations. From being the worst supplied of the Bureaus of the War Dept. it is now the best. Large Arsenals have been organized at Richmond, Fayetteville, Augusta, Charleston, Columbus, Macon, Atlanta, & Selma and Smaller ones at Danville, Lynchburg and Montgomery, besides other establishments. A superb powder mill has been built at Augusta, the credit of which is due to Col. G.W. Rains. . . .
All of these have required incessant toil & attention, but have borne such fruit as relieves the country from fear of want in these respects. Where three years ago we were not making a gun, a pistol nor a sabre—a pound of powder—not shot nor shell (except at the Tredegar Works) we now make all these in quantities to meet the demands of our large armies. In looking over all this I feel that my three years of labor have not passed in vain.”
- Saturday, Apr. 9: Banks continues his withdrawal, shaken by the setback of the previous day. His dispositions at Pleasant Hill, Louisiana, contain flaws that General Taylor can exploit. Nevertheless, confusion and a long flanking march by some of the Confederates fail to produce results and cost the Southerners severely in casualties. Banks decides to pull back once more, rather than push against his discomfited opponents. Union forces suffer another 150 killed, 844 wounded and 375 missing or captured. Their opponents set their own losses at 1,200 killed and wounded, with 426 missing.
- Sunday, Apr. 10: The Trans-Mississippi remains active as operations continue under Banks in Louisiana and Union major general Frederick Steele in Arkansas.
From Nashville, Sherman sends Grant a “Private & Confidential” communication:
“I will not let side issues draw me off from your main plan in which I am to Knock Joe Johnston, and do as much damage to the resources of the Enemy as possible.”
- Monday, Apr. 11: Mary Chesnut has been in the company of Varina Davis, who has seemed preoccupied by the likelihood that Richmond will soon come under attack once more, but is currently engaged in more domestic battles:
“Drive with Mrs. Davis and all her infant family. Wonderfully clever and precocious children—but unbroken wills. At one time there was a sudden uprising of the nursery contingent. They fought, screamed, laughed. It was Bedlam broke loose.
Mrs. Davis scolded, laughed, and cried.”
William P. DuBose allows himself to contemplate the possibilities that a new campaign season might offer for peace:
“I have several grounds for hoping that it will be the last of the war, all of them based upon the contingency of Grant’s defeat which I will not allow myself to doubt. The first is that if Grant is defeated they lose their main, & so far as I can see, their last dependence as a general. The second is that failure in his campaign will defeat Lincoln in the approaching election, & perfect the formation of antagonistic parties at the North.”
- Tuesday, Apr.12: Fort Pillow, with a garrison of African American and white Tennessee Unionist troops, falls to forces under Nathan Bedford Forrest. The initial assaults pin the garrison in the works, while the gunboat New Era offers some hope of succor or refuge from the river. The Union commander, Major Lionel Booth, dies while supervising Union artillery fire against Confederate sharpshooters and the authority of the post devolves on Major William Bradford, one of the blue-coated Tennesseans. Despite the disadvantages of the Union position, Forrest fails to obtain the surrender of the fort, and sends in a final assault that overwhelms the defenders. Much of the unnecessary bloodshed occurs below the bluff along the riverbank, where confusion reigns and the sectional and racial antagonisms of the opponents comes significantly into play before killing comes to a stop.
Despite overall success, the Confederates in Louisiana continue to endure significant setbacks. Soldiers under Brigadier General Thomas Green catch Union vessels stranded by low water levels in the Red River at Blair’s Landing, but aside from harassing the crews with covering fire can do no more than threaten the squadron, while suffering the loss of their own commander in the process to return fire.
Kentuckian Edward Guerrant encounters a lonely traveler in East Tennessee, recalling the incident in his journal:
“How I envy the equanimity of that soldier whom I met riding through the pelting rain this evening. ‘Sir,’ said I ‘this is awful weather!’ ‘Yes, the roads are pretty splashy!’ said he. He was a philosopher of the Stoic school, no doubt. Wonder what he would have thought of the [Great] Flood!?”
Michigan surgeon John Bennitt tells his daughter what it is like to be stationed in “this land of Rebels” near McMinnville, Tennessee:
“I say this land of Rebels, for it is said that nearly all the men here voted for secession three years ago. But I think nearly all of them are regretting it; for they see what dire calamities it has brought upon them and their fair land. Very many of the men that formerly lived here have left their homes and are now in the rebel army while others are in the Federal army—others still away from home [as refugees], for fear of being killed by the rebels or compelled to go into their army.”
- Wednesday, Apr. 13: Like others in both North and South, Ned Guerrant speculates about the approaching storm clouds of war:
“Great armies are ‘dressing their lines’ for terrible conflict, and nations hang trembling in the balances of hope & despair in expectation of the result. Every day brings the minutehand near the hour of destiny, when the doom of millions will be struck, in tones of sublime triumph or dark despair.”
- Thursday, Apr. 14: Colonel Opdycke’s speculations about the future come on the heels of a review of his command and amidst the prospects of promotion:
“A new list of Brigadiers will soon be sent in, and my name will be among them. I give but little attention to it, and I shall not feel badly if I never get beyond the eagles. If I can serve my country well and then go home to you feeling that I have done my duty I shall be happy. . . . No one here thinks that our Corps will go east except by way of Atlanta!"
- Friday, Apr. 15: USS Eastport strikes a torpedo or underwater mine on the Red River.
- Saturday, Apr. 16: Near Culpeper, Virginia, Union major Charles Mattocks is thrilled by developments in camp:
“Glorious news today. The Paymaster has been visiting the 17th. Of course I happened around and was
Paid off to March 1.
much to my gratification as I could find but thirty-five cents in my pocketbook. The two months’ pay amounts to $295.”
Things are less favorable in Savannah, Georgia, where a bread riot by local citizens breaks out.
A Confederate device sinks the Union transport General Hunter on the St. John’s River in Florida.
- Sunday, Apr. 17: Suffering from an acute shortage of foodstuffs, Union general Steele orders an expedition of 1,100 men and wagons to depart Camden, Arkansas.
- Monday, Apr. 18: The Union foraging expedition outside Camden meets with difficulty near Poison Spring. As the Federals retreat, some of the Confederates kill a number of incapacitated or captured members of 1st Kansas (Colored) Infantry. Their losses amount to 117 dead and 65 wounded among a total of 301 Union casualties.
From the Mississippi Gulf Coast, New Englander Rufus Kinsley, responds to reports of recent developments on the Mississippi River north of Memphis:
“News of the capture of Fort Pillow, by Forrest, and his massacre and burning of the colored soldiers and their officers. ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay saith the Lord.’”
Abraham Lincoln declares his views on the notion of liberty and asserts his position on the Fort Pillow affair in an address for the Sanitary Fair at Baltimore, Maryland:
“The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. . . .
The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep’s throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as a liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty. . . . Plainly the sheep and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of the word liberty; and precisely the same difference prevails to-day among us human creatures. . . .
A painful rumor, true I fear, has reached us of the massacre, by the rebel forces, at Fort Pillow, in the West end of Tennessee, on the Mississippi river, of some three hundred colored soldiers and white officers, who had just been overpowered by their assailants. . . .
We do not to-day know that a colored soldier, or white officer commanding colored soldiers, has been massacred by the rebels when made a prisoner. We fear it, believe it, I may say, but we do not know it. . . . We are having the Fort-Pillow affair thoroughly investigated; and such investigation will probably show conclusively how the truth is.”
- Tuesday, Apr. 19: The Confederate ironclad Albemarle renders important service near Plymouth, North Carolina. In addition to ramming and sinking USS Southfield, the Southern vessel damages and disperses others, allowing their comrades on land to close on the town. Union brigadier general Henry Wessells holds the town.
- Wednesday, Apr. 20: With assistance from the CSS Albemarle, Confederates forces under Brigadier General Robert Hoke capture Plymouth, with substantial military stores and 2,800 men.
From Bermuda, U.S. consul Charles M. Allen offers a comprehensive list of blockade-runners, including cargos and the conditions of the vessels.
- Thursday, Apr. 21: General Banks remains in retreat in Louisiana.
Former slaves are being brought in from near Port Hudson to the Gulf Coast, as staunch abolitionist Rufus Kinsley notes in his journal:
“Two hundred Contrabands arrived at Cat Island. . . . They are to cut wood and saw lumber.”
- Friday, Apr. 22: Setbacks continue for Union water-borne assets as the gunboat Petrel falls to Confederates in Mississippi.
In Virginia, Major Mattocks records the appearance of a special visitor:
“Today our Corps was reviewed by Lieut. Genl. Grant. It was a very fine affair. This is the first time we have had the chance to see the hero and conqueror of twenty-two battles. He is a very plain, unassuming man, but we hope that he is the man who has so long been needed in the brave ill-starred Army of the Potomac.”
President Davis advises Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk on the matter of captured black Union troops who can be identified as once having been enslaved:
“If the negro soldiers are escaped slaves, they should be held safely for recovery by their owners.”
- Saturday, Apr. 23: Guerrant responds to word of Forrest’s success in Kentucky and Tennessee and the psychological impact this will likely have in Union ranks:
“Forrest will soon be as terrible as Stonewall Jackson!”
Cump Sherman references Bedford Forrest as well to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton as testimony begins to be gathered on Fort Pillow:
“I know well the animus of the Southern Soldiery, and the truth is they cannot be restrained[.] The effect will be of course to make the negros desperate. . . .
I doubt the wisdom of any fixed Rule by our Government, but let [the] Soldiers affected make their Rules as we progress. . . . The Southern Army, which is the Southern People cares no more for our Clamor than the idle wind, but they will heed the Slaughter that will follow as the natural consequence of their own inhuman acts.”
- Monday, Apr. 25: General Taylor still hopes to trap Banks and close the ill-fated Union Red River Campaign with a Confederate flourish. Federal troops managed to evade a strong position and continue on to Alexandria.
In the meantime, Confederates under brigadier generals James F. Fagan and Joseph “Jo” Shelby confront a Union force of 1,600 men and 240 wagons at Marks’ Mills. The Union commander falls wounded and the rout of his command forfeits 1,300 Union prisoners and the wagon train.
A caustic Robert G.H. Kean reacts to reports that the Confederate government may relocate:
“It was Bragg’s plan I think. . . . The scheme would have been, and will be whenever tried, a miserable failure. Besides, so large a population cannot be transferred to other points. They could not be subsisted elsewhere as easily as they can be here. The idea was worthy of the hero of Missionary Ridge!”
- Tuesday, Apr. 26: The crew of the USS Eastport destroys their troubled vessel.
After serving with James Longstreet in the West, Thomas J. Goree and his chief are back in Virginia, anticipating decisive events in the struggle for Southern independence. From Gordonsville, Goree writes home:
“There is pretty general rejoicing, Mother, that we are back again in the noble old Army of Northern Virginia, but as far as I am concerned, I should have much preferred that we had been allowed to make a Kentucky campaign. I think it would have been better. However, we ag. constitute a part of the greatest of all armies under the leadership of the greatest living chieftain, and if we can succeed in inflicting on Grant a crushing defeat, it will do much towards bringing about a speedy peace. . . . [All] feel great confidence in the result. The army is in fine spirits and in splendid condition.”
As a relatively newly-minted captain, Edward Bacon has arrived at Beaufort, South Carolina, with the 29th Connecticut Infantry (Colored). He writes home to tell of the already sweltering conditions of the new billet:
“I have several times within the last two weeks essayed to write to you, but the exceeding pressure of Company & other business which attends an officer in a colored regiment more than any other, has each time prevented my success.
We are still employed in getting to rights our camp which promises to be a very nice one and in which I shall probably spend the next year of my life. . . . I suppose the sand is as fine & sifting and the flies which live there as numerous & annoying at one post in our Department as at another. . . .
The excessive heat & the prospect of a permanent residence here almost induces me to ask you to pack up my white clothes [from earlier service in the navy].”
- Wednesday, Apr. 27: A constitutional convention opens in Annapolis, Maryland.
- Thursday, Apr. 28: President Davis informs Edmund Kirby Smith of his view on the latter’s authority in the isolated Trans-Mississippi theater:
“As far as the constitution permits, full authority has been given to you to administer to the wants of your Dept., civil as well as military.”
- Friday, Apr. 29: War Clerk John Beauchamp Jones observes the ominous developments of the impending campaign season:
“Troops are passing through Richmond now, day and night, concentrating under Lee. The great battle cannot be much longer postponed.”
- Saturday, Apr. 30: Edmund Kirby Smith drives his men relentlessly through rain and over deteriorating roads. The Union troops improve the roads as best they can, while engineers construct a pontoon bridge across the Saline River at Jenkins’ Ferry. Smith’s men strike, but are unable to prevent the Federals from crossing and dismantling the bridge behind them, preventing further pursuit. Casualties in the affair are approximately 700 U.S. and 1,000 Confederate.
On the eve of Spring campaigning, Abraham Lincoln sends Ulysses Grant a message to express his “entire satisfaction with what you have done up to this time, so far as I understand it. The particulars of your plans I neither know, or seek to know. You are vigilant and self-reliant; and, pleased with this, I wish not to obtrude any constraints or restraints upon you. . . . If there is anything wanting which is within my power to give, do not fail to let me know it.
And now with a brave Army, and a just cause, may God sustain you.”
Jefferson Davis returns to the question of slavery in wartime from the Confederate perspective, telling General Polk:
“Captured slaves should be returned to their masters on proof and payment of charges.”
Davis’s 4-year-old son, Joseph Evan “Joe” Davis, plummets from the outside balcony of the Confederate executive mansion in Richmond, and shortly perishes from the effects of the fall onto the brick pavement below.
John B. Jones watches as troop movements continue unabated:
“[T]he work of concentration goes on for a decisive clash of arms in Virginia.
And troops are coming hither from all quarters, like streamlets flowing into the ocean. Our men are confident, and eager for the fray.”
Ned Guerrant responds to word of Nathan Bedford Forrest’s death, but expresses confidence in fellow Kentuckian Abraham Buford, who has been serving under the famed cavalryman:
“There is also a distressing rumor of the death of Genl. Forrest, the hero of West. Tenn. & K’y. We hope & believe it is untrue. Genl. Buford is said to be in West’n Ky, & proclaim his ability & intention to hold it. One good Abe!”