Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Motley Looking Crew

This entry is from  The Campaigns of Walker's Texas division by Joseph P. Blessington, member of the16th Texas Vol. Infantry

In this entry Blessington describes the various "uniforms" the men in his regiment wore, and the beards they donned.  They must have been quite a sight.
May 31, 1863,  In the Mississippi bottoms
"While we remained encamped in the Mississippi bottoms, Falstaff's ragged regiment was well uniformed in comparison with our troops. No two were costumed with any attempt at uniformity, and each individual stood forth a decided character. But few of the troops had shaved for weeks, and, as a consequence, there was a large and general assortment of unbrushed black, gray, red, and sandy beards, as well as ferocious mustaches and whiskers enough to rig out an army of West India buccaneers. A more brigandish set of Anglo-Saxon forces has never been collected. 

Then as to costume, it is utterly impossible to paint the variety our division presented. Here would be a fellow dressed in homespun pants, with the knees out of them ; on his head might be stuck the remnant of a straw hat, while a faded Texas penitentiary cloth jacket would perhaps complete his outfit. His neighbor, very likely, was arrayed in breeches made out of some cast-off blanket, with a dyed shirt as black as the ace of spades, and no hat at all. Then would come a man with a woolen hat made like a pyramid, sitting jauntily upon his head, while, to introduce his style of hat, he had it covered over with assorted buttons ; and, to top the climax, had a red tassel sewed on top. Notwithstanding his gaudy hat, a part of a shirt, and occasional fragments only of what had once been a pair of military pantaloons, made up the rest of his attire.

But, singular as it may seem, there could hardly be found a merrier, I might be going too far in saying a happier, set of men in Christendom. Our very looks bred good humor ; for there was something irresistibly ludicrous in the appearance of each man a quaint solemnity and droll gravity of countenance, which would elicit some facetious and good-natured remark from his neighbor. The comic and eccentric were strangely mingled with the tragic and melodramatic ; but the former predominated to a degree that completely stifled any pathetic feelings which might otherwise have arisen, and induced us to laugh rather than cry at the forlorn but fantastic figure each one presented in the moving panorama.
Another Motley Crew of Civil War Soldiers: The Washington Artillery of New Orleans
From he Civil War an Illustrated History by Geoffery C. Ward, from the U. S. Army Military Historical Institute, Carlisle, PA

Monday, May 30, 2011

I Am A Soldier Of This Republic

This entry is from Biographical Sketches of Illinois Officers Engaged in the War Against the Rebellion of 1861 (1862) by James Grant Wilson.

The subject is James A. Logan, who eventually became a general during the Civil War.  According to www.usmemorialday.org,  Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on  May 5, 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, and was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.

Logan was from Illinois, and this quote is from a letter written to  Hon. O. M. Hatch, Secretary of State, dated August 26, 1862, and read at the Illinois Union Convention, September, 1862, declining to become a candidate for Congress for the State at large.  Logan was going to fight in the war instead.

. . .I express all my views and politics when I assert my attachment for the Union. I have no other politics now, and consequently no aspirations for civil place and power.
No! I am to day a soldier of this Republic, so to remain, changeless and immutable until her last and weakest enemy shall have expired and passed away.
Ambitious men, who have not a true love for their country at heart, may bring forth crude and bootless questions to agitate the pulse of our troubled nation and thwart the preservation of this Union, but for none of such am I .  I have entered the field — to die if needs be — for this Government, and never expect to return to peaceful pursuits until the object of this war of preservation has become a fact established.
Whatever means it may be necessary to adopt, whatever local interest it my affect or destroy, is no longer an affair of mine. If any locality or section suffers or is wronged in the prosecution of the war, I am sorry for it, but I say it must not be heeded now, for we are at war for the preservation of the Union. Let the evil be rectified when the present breach has been cemented forever.. . .
If the South by her malignant treachery has imperiled all that made her great and wealthy, and it was to be lost, I would not stretch forth my hand to save her from destruction, if she will not be saved by a restoration of the Union. Since the die of her wretchedness has been cast by her own hands, let the coin of her misery circulate alone in her own dominions, until the peace of Union ameliorates her forlorn condition.. . .
John A. Logan, from the Library of Congress Collection

Sunday, May 29, 2011

How Can you Subdue Such a Nation as This!

From Three Months in the Southern States, April - June 1863 by Lieut-Col.
Fremantle. Fremantle was an English "tourist" who came to America to see the conflict firsthand.

May 29th, 1863 (With General Polk near Shelbyville)

Before going to bed, General Polk told me an affecting story of a poor widow in humble circumstances, whose three sons had fallen in battle one after the other, until she had only one left, a boy of sixteen. So distressing was her case that General Polk went himself to comfort her. She looked steadily at him, and replied to his condolences by the sentence, " As soon as I can get a few things together, General, you shall have Harry too." The tears came into General Polk's eyes as he related this episode, which he ended by saying, " How can you subdue such a nation as this ! "
General Leonidas Polk, From the Library of Congress Collection

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Alabama Homespun

This entry is from Letters from a Surgeon of the Civil War compiled by Martha Derby Perry.  They are letters of John G. Perry, surgeon with the 20th Massachusetts.

He tells about meeting a Confederate officer he is treating in this touching description.

May 28th, 1862

. . .On one of the beds there lies, fast asleep, a Confederate surgeon, — a thoroughbred South Carolinian, who never, before the war, passed his State lines. He was captured with a number of others in the last engagement before Richmond, and as most of these men were wounded, he was detailed to care for them.
Dressed entirely in Alabama homespun, — which is the ugliest snuff-colored stuff imaginable, — a broad-brimmed planter's hat covering his head, and stained with mud and blood from head to foot, the appearance of this officer when he first arrived was strange enough; but his face was bright and intelligent. His greeting was unexpected: "I am delighted to meet men from Massachusetts, for I know I shall find in them intelligence and hospitality "; and he certainly did find the latter, for we furnished him throughout with clothes. 
He enjoys reading the Boston newspapers, and we have many pleasant chats together, for I find he is anxious to discover for himself the true state of affairs at the North, and whether the Yankee hordes are such bloodhounds as he has been taught to consider them. We seem to be making each other's acquaintance by simple good fellowship, and this, after all, is the only true way.
Unidentified Confederate Officer Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-119426
Library of Congress Collection

Friday, May 27, 2011

Friends in High Places

This entry is from The War Of The Rebellion: A Compilation Of The Official Records Of The Union And Confederate Armies Series 3, vol 1, Part 1 (Union Letters, Orders, Reports)

In this letter written to the Secretary of War, Simon Cameron, Erasmus D Keyes gets a recommendation for a promotion  from General W. B. Franklin.  Cameron must have taken Franklin's advice, for it wasn't long after this that Keyes was promoted to Brigadier General with an effective back date of May 17th, and he briefly served on the staff of New York Governor Edwin D. Morgan where he helped to raise militia, which is why Franklin originally suggested him.

Also, comments Franklin makes about Scott in this quote are of interest.

NEW YORK, May 27, 1861.
Secretary of War, Washington:
SIR: .. . . there is nevertheless much confusion and clashing caused by the adverse opinions and interests of those engaged in raising and equipping these regiments. I believe that the knot will be cut at once if an officer of high rank be ordered here to take charge of this whole business. He may be either regular or volunteer, provided he have experience and power enough be given him to stop all unauthorized organizations, and that he be informed of all orders given by the department concerning the organizations.. . .

 . . . .It may be objected to my proposition to have a commanding officer here to take charge of this business that Colonel Scott represents the commanding general here. That is true, but he keeps quiet, seems to take but little interest in the whole matter, and is, in short, of no use. The whole of the trouble about this business wold have been avoided had the Department had here an energetic and reliable officer, who could have answered questions, given orders, have communicated daily with the Department, and l of its orders. It is not too late now to save much trouble and much money by the appointment or detail of such a person. Colonel Keyes is here, and would, I think, like to have a volunteer brigadier-general's commission, probably giving up for it his Army commission. I do not know that he is the best man for the purpose, but I suggest him if no one else be mentioned.

Very respectfully, yours,
Colonel Twelfth Infantry, U. S. Army.

General Erasmus Keyes, from the Library of Congress Collection

Thursday, May 26, 2011

How I became a POW (Part II, Libby Prison)

This entry is From The  Civil War Diary of Sergeant Henry W. Tisdale, Company I, Thirty-Fifth Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteers 1862-1865.  This diary can be found at www.civilwardiary.net .

Tisdale was a prisoner of war at Andersonville and tells about it at length, including all the grim details in his diary.  This entry is a continuation of Henry's story started on May 24th.  Henry tells  how he became a temporary resident of Libby Prison in Richmond (before being transported to Andersonville).

See May 24th, 2011, "How I became of prisoner of war) for the account of Tisdale's capture by the Confederates during the battle of North Anna.

May 26, 1864  (Libby prison)

At near 1 p.m. were put on board what were once passenger cars and off for Richmond, and at about 4 p.m. became an inmate in the second story of Libby Prison.  Here we were searched.  All U. S. money taken from us (i.e. all that which we did not succeed hiding).  All our personal effects left us, but all our canteens, haversacks, knapsacks, rubber blankets taken.  Found we were in a room which had just been whitewashed and cleaned up.  Two of the windows looking out upon the James river.  Windows large and devoid of glass and heavily grated with a fairly good place for sanitary and washing.  Thus far have been well treated by our guards.  In passing through the city we were greeted with a few of the citizens making insulting remarks about we “Yanks”, and a few youngsters had a little hooting for us.  The guards would allow but little intercourse between us however.  Feel I cannot be too thankful that I have been able to keep my writing case, sewing case, letters, an extra shirt, and my wool blanket.  I find many a poor coward in the room disrobed of all but what he had on, and some who have been forced to exchange United States rigs for ragged rebel clothing.

 Libby Prison, Richmond, Va., April 1865.
Andrew J. Russell, photographer
 From Library of Congress Collection

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

50 to 70 Miles More

From a letter written by Thomas J. Bartholomew, 40th Infantry, Indiana (see http://www.soldierstudies.org).

This was written by a march-weary soldier on the day that the Siege of Corinth began.  Bartholomew wished for a fight then and there, but he didn't get his wish.  Instead Beauregard had the Confederate army sneak away, while making it appear like they were getting ready to fight.  The Confederates set up dummy guns along the earthworks, kept camp fires going, and the drummers and buglers continued to play.  And no doubt Bartholomew had some more marching to do.

Camp near Corinth
 May 25, 1862

I do not particularly, desire to get in a fight, but if we must fight them at all I do hope that it will be done here, for it is just as good a place for both us, and the rebels to test, and decide this matter, as can be found anywhere in the Southern States. I am sure they will never find a more convenient place and I am sure I never want to march 50 or 70 miles farther South and then have them to fight.
The 31st regt. Ohio Volunteers, building breastworks and embrasures before Corinth, Miss., May, 1862
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, reproduction number LC-USZ62-25421.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

How I Became a Prisoner of War

This entry is From The  Civil War Diary of Sergeant Henry W. Tisdale, Company I, Thirty-Fifth Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteers 1862-1865.  This diary can be found at www.civilwardiary.net .

Tisdale was a prisoner of war at Andersonville and tells about it at length including all the grim details in his diary. However, in this entry he tells how he first became a prisoner of war.

May 24th 1864  (during battle of North Anna)

. . . .Continuing the advance we were met with such a shower of shell, grape, and cannister combined with a sudden downpour of rain that our little were broken and orders were given to fall back to breastwork which our reserves had thrown up in our rear.  In the scrimmage our regiment line was broken up as we fell back through the woods.  Suddenly found myself alone with three of our 35th and the main body of the 56th.  Going up to General Leddlie, I asked for the whereabouts of the 35th.  He said they were all mixed up with the other regiments and I had better go in with 56th.  Joined them and tried to find some of the 35th, but in vain, and soon concluded that the place for me was with my own regiment and started back to the river.  Soon came upon Captain Hudson, and Co. H., who were doing picket duty on the left.  He did not know where the rest of the regiment was.  We remained in quiet for near an hour when a downpour of rain came on in the midst of which the rebels succeeded in getting on our flank, which caused a “grand skedaddle” on our part towards the river.  We stopped to give a wounded man some water.  I got separated and found myself alone and mid the rain, mist and wood began to be in doubt as to the line of retreat when I came upon Lt. Creasy, and two other staff officers chatting unconcernedly and so felt all right and kept on coming out to open field when I came upon a line of skirmishers lying upon the ground.  Marched towards them supposing them our own men when suddenly a half a dozen or more jumped up took  aim and yelled out “drop that gun”-kept towards them yelling out “don’t fire on your men”, only to receive a second yell from them.  Then to suddenly realize that death or surrender was my alternative and with a feeling of shame and mortification, threw down my gun which I had hoped to carry home (with scar of rebel bullet received at Jackson, Mississippi) as a memorandum of the war.  Was soon taken in charge by a member of the 7th Alabama with a reproof for not dropping my gun at their first call, and the remark that in “another minute you would of been a dead man.”  Marched to the rear was relieved of rubber blanket, shelter tent, and cartridge box, and found myself with about 25 more unfortunates.  Was humiliated to find myself alone of the 35th at first but not for long, for soon came in the three staff officers, and five comrades of the 35th.  Were marched about a mile to Andersons station where we found more of wearers of the blue and by night we numbered about 70.  Our guards treated us well.  As we stretched out upon mother earth another shower greeted us so that with our previous duckings we were so well soaked that our weary bodies soon forgot it all in “nature’s sweet restorer balmy sleep.”
Federal troops occupying the north bank of the North Anna River, Virginia
Timothy O'Sullivan, photographer.  From the Library of Congress Collection.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Virginia Votes Yes or No

This entry is from a letter of Mary A. Smiley to her brother, Thomas A Smiley, who was in the Confederate army (as found at http://valley.lib.virginia.edu). The Smiley family owned a small farm in Augusta County, Virginia.

May 23, 1861 was the day the Virginia voted on two referendums, whether to secede from the Union, and on the taxation of slaves.  In this excerpt Smiley discusses how she suspects the voting is going, and her own sentiments.

This is election day it has been beautiful so far even the morning appears to favor the election for ratifying what the convention has done I think a great majority of the people will go for secession revolution or what ever it is called The greatest number of the papers urge the people to ratify the acts of the Convention to present a bold and united front to the North against its tyrany Even to the Spectator which you know was as strong a union paper as could be found I dont hear of many union people about here now Billy Beard J Buchanan & John Withrow are all that I hear spoken of. " " was here one night he was wishing Virginia had let the South alone and staid in the union I'll declare I could hardly hold my toungue but as he was talking to ma I had to, pa didn't agree with him
Ordinance of Secession, 1861 Virginia Convention from www.lva.virginia.gov

Saturday, May 21, 2011

From Maine to the Mississippi

A few Letters and Speeches of the Late Civil War by August Belmont

Belmont was Chairman of the Democrat National Committee.

May 21, 1861, in a letter Baron Lionel de Rothschild

The whole North, without distinction of party, is determined not to 
allow our government and our Union to be destroyed, and I am sure 
the sword will never be laid down until the American flag floats again 
from Maine to the Mississippi. The people feel that they are fighting 
for their national existence, and that no sacrifice can be too great in 
order to maintain and preserve that boon. 
August Belmont, Pach Brothers, photographer from Library of Congress Collection

Friday, May 20, 2011

One Fork (One Prong Deficient)

 From Three Months in the Southern States, April - June 1863 by Lieut-Col.
 Fremantle.  Fremantle was an English "tourist" who came to America to 
see the conflict firsthand.
Description of General Joseph Johnston
(In Louisiana)
20th May, 1863 
General Johnston received me with much kindness, when I presented my letters of introduction, and stated my object in visiting the Confederate armies.

In appearance General Joseph E. Johnston (commonly called Joe Johnston) is rather below the middle height, spare, soldierlike, and well set up ; his features are good, and he has lately taken to wear a greyish beard. He is a Virginian by birth, and appears to be about fifty-seven years old. He talks in a calm, deliberate, and confident manner ; to me he was extremely affable, but he certainly possesses the power of keeping people at a distance when he chooses, and his officers evidently stand in great awe of him. He lives very plainly, and at present his only cooking-utensils consisted of an old coffee-pot and frying-pan — both very inferior articles. There was only one fork (one prong deficient) between himself and Staff, and this was handed to me ceremoniously as the "guest." 

He has undoubtedly acquired the entire confidence of all the officers and soldiers under him. Many of the officers told me they did not consider him inferior as a general to Lee or any one else. 

He told me that Vicksburg was certainly in a critical situation, and was now closely invested by Grant. He said that he (Johnston) had 11,000 men with him (which includes Gist's), hardly any cavalry, and only sixteen pieces of cannon; but if he could get adequate reinforcements, he stated his intention of endeavouring to relieve Vicksburg. 
From Three Months in the Southern States

Thursday, May 19, 2011

They Came in Time to Save Their Regimental Brethren

This entry comes from The War of the Rebellion:  A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,  Series I, Volume XIII.

Peter J. Osterhaus  participated as a leader in some notable battles during the War.  He is one of the lesser known Union generals, but considered one of the more competent ones.  A native German, he was a volunteer soldier.

Here Osterhaus describes a confrontation that men under his command were in, the Skirmish at Searcy Landing, Arkansas.   He was a Colonel at the time, but soon to become a General.

MAY 19 1862
Report of Col. Peter J. Osterhaus, Twelfth Missouri Infantry, commanding Third Division, to Maj. Gen. Samuel R. Curtis, Commanding Army of the Southwest, in the Field.

GENERAL: After a very bloody skirmish I have the honor to report on the occurrences of to-day: 
. . . .Colonel Waring had detailed this morning a strong detachment of his regiment to protect a foraging party sent on the south side of Red River. Some infantry accompanied the expedition also. A few miles from the camp they fell in with a large force of the enemy. They opened fire at once, and the infantry (only parts of two companies of the Seventeenth Missouri Volunteers) stood their ground, notwithstanding they were completely wrapped up in the masses of the rebels. The lire attracted the attention of Colonel Hassendeubel, who had command at Searcy Landing, and he detailed at once all the companies of the Seventeenth Missouri at his disposal to succor their friends. They came in time to save the rest of their regimental brethren, and soon succeeded in driving the enemy from the field. 

Our loss is comparatively very large. The forces engaged on our side did not exceed 250 to 300 men, and the casualties amount in Companies A, F, G, H, Seventeenth Missouri Volunteers, to killed, 14; wounded, 31; missing, 2; total, 47. In the Fourth Missouri Cavalry, killed, 1; wounded, 1.

The fight having been at very close quarters, the wounds are mostly severe and dangerous. One man had sixteen buck-shot in his shoulder, and is still living.

The loss of the enemy, whose strength is differently reported by our men and prisoners at from 700 to 1,200, could not be ascertained. They left 18 killed on the spot. 

When, after the first encounter, our ambulances were sent out for the wounded, the atrocious enemy received them with their shots again, attacked them, took the mules, broke the ambulances, and made Dr. Krumsick, Third Missouri Volunteers, a prisoner. Immediately after my arrival I sent the available cavalry in pursuit of the retreating foe, and marched myself, with twelve companies of infantry, one light 12- pounder howitzer, and two companies of cavalry, toward Searcy and beyond, but the enemy had gone probably to his old camping ground, behind Bayou Des Arc, whence they had started this morning very early.. . .

From the Library of Congress Collection

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


From Harpers Weekly, May 18, 1861


I KNOW the sun shines, and the lilacs are blowing,
And Summer sends kisses by beautiful May
Oh ! to see all the treasures the Spring is bestowing,
And think—my boy Willie enlisted to-day!

It seems but a day since at twilight, low humming,
I rocked him to sleep with his cheek upon mine,
While Robby, the four-year old, watched for the coming
Of father, adown the street's indistinct line.

It is many a year since my Harry departed, 
To come back no more in the twilight or dawn;
And Robby grew weary of watching, and started
Alone, on the journey his father had gone.

It is many a year—and this afternoon, sitting 
At Robby's old window, I heard the band play,
And suddenly ceased dreaming over my knitting
To recollect Willie is twenty to-day;

And that, standing beside him this soft May-day morning,
The sun making gold of his wreathed cigar-smoke,
I saw in his sweet eyes and lips a faint warning,
And choked down the tears when he eagerly spoke :

"Dear mother, you know how those traitors are crowing,
They trample the folds of our flag in the dust;
The boys are all fire; and they wish I were going—"
He stopped, but his eyes said, "Oh say if I must!"

I smiled on the boy though my heart it seemed breaking :
My eyes filled with tears, so I turned them away,
And answered him, " Willie, 'tis well you are waking—.
Go, act as your father would bid you, to-day!"

I sit in the window and see the flags flying,
And dreamily list to the roll of the drum, 

And smother the pain in my heart that is lying,
And bid all the fears in my bosom be dumb.

I shall sit in the window when Summer is lying
Out over the fields, and the honey-bees' hum 

Lulls the rose at the porch from her tremulous sighing,
And watch for the face of my darling to come.

And if he should fall....his young life he has given
For Freedom's sweet sake.. ..and for me, I will pray
Once more with my Harry and Robby in heaven
To meet the dear boy that enlisted to-day.

U.S. volunteers and militia. Printed on border: "Wilson's Zouaves; Duryee's Zouaves; De Kalb Zouaves; Rhode Island officer; Massachusetts officer; Pennsylvania officer; Michigan officer." Written on border: "Aug 24, 1861." From Harpers Weekly.
From NYPL Digital Collection

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The "Beast" Benjamin Franklin Butler

This entry is from  A Confederate Girl's Diary  by Sarah Morgan Dawson

Dawson discusses life's uncertainties amid the turmoil of Union occupation, and the "Woman Order" of the Union officer in charge,  Benjamin Franklin Butler (nicknamed "Beast" or "Brute")  which stipulated that women who insulted Union soldiers would be treated as prostitutes. 

Baton Rouge, Louisiana, amidst chaos
May 17th, 1862
One of these days, when peace is restored and we are quietly settled in our allotted corners of this wide world without any particularly exciting event to alarm us; and with the knowledge of what is now the future, and will then be the dead past; seeing that all has been for the best for us in the end; that all has come right in spite of us, we will wonder how we could ever have been foolish enough to await each hour in such breathless anxiety. We will ask ourselves if it was really true that nightly, as we lay down to sleep, we did not dare plan for the morning, feeling that we might be homeless and beggars before the dawn. How unreal it will then seem! We will say it was our wild imagination, perhaps. But how bitterly, horribly true it is now!

Four days ago the Yankees left us, to attack Vicksburg, leaving their flag flying in the Garrison without a man to guard it, and with the understanding that the town would be held responsible for it. It was intended for a trap; and it succeeded. For night before last, it was pulled down and torn to pieces.

Now, unless Will will have the kindness to sink a dozen of their ships up there,—I hear he has command of the lower batteries,—they will be back in a few days, and will execute their threat of shelling the town. If they do, what will become of us? . . . .

. . . .A new proclamation from Butler has just come. It seems that the ladies have an ugly way of gathering their skirts when the Federals pass, to avoid any possible contact. Some even turn up their noses. Unladylike, to say the least. But it is, maybe, owing to the odor they have, which is said to be unbearable even at this early season of the year. Butler says, whereas the so-called ladies of New Orleans insult his men and officers, he gives one and all permission to insult any or all who so treat them, then and there, with the assurance that the women will not receive the slightest protection from the Government, and that the men will all be justified. I did not have time to read it, but repeat it as it was told to me by mother, who is in utter despair at the brutality of the thing. These men our brothers? Not mine! Let us hope for the honor of their nation that Butler is not counted among the gentlemen of the land. And so, if any man should fancy he cared to kiss me, he could do so under the pretext that I had pulled my dress from under his feet! That will justify them! And if we decline their visits, they can insult us under the plea of a prior affront. Oh! Gibbes! George! Jimmy! never did we need your protection as sorely as now. And not to know even whether you are alive! When Charlie joins the army, we will be defenseless, indeed. 

Come to my bosom, O my discarded carving-knife, laid aside under the impression that these men were gentlemen. We will be close friends once more. And if you must have a sheath, perhaps I may find one for you in the heart of the first man who attempts to Butlerize me. I never dreamed of kissing any man save my father and brothers. And why any one should care to kiss any one else, I fail to understand. And I do not propose to learn to make exceptions.
Benjamin Franklin Butler. by Warren's Boston, Mass
  from NYPL Digital Gallery

Monday, May 16, 2011

Most Unjust War

This entry is from Three Months in the Southern States, April - June 1863 by Lieut-Col. Fremantle.  Fremantle was an English "tourist" who came to America to see the conflict firsthand.

May, 16, 1863, somewhere near Jackson, Louisiana on the road
. . . . The natives, under all their misery, were red-hot in favour of fighting for independence to the last, and I constantly hear the words, "This is the most unjust war ever waged upon a people by mortal man."

At 11 A.M. we met a great crowd of negroes, who had been run into the swamps to be out of the way of the Yankees, and they were now returning to Louisiana.

At 2 P.M. a wounded soldier gave us the deplorable information that the enemy really was on the railroad between Jackson and Brookhaven, and that Jackson was in his hands.  This news staggered us all . . .

From Frank Leslie's Illustrated, March 7, 1863.  Pickets of the First Louisiana
"Native Guard" guarding the New Orleans Opelousas and Great Western Railroad

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Be Free!

From a letter written by Job Barnard, 73rd Infantry, Indiana (from http://www.soldierstudies.org).

 Camden, Alabama
 May 15, 1865

Perry has just been talking to a squad of negroes who have come across the Tennessee River from the Rebel Salt Petre Works where they have been kept at work. They had a pass from the Captain Commanding the Nitre works and were to report to their Master, C.C.Clay in Madison country, Alabama. Perry told them to call no man master but to report to Provost Marshal in Huntsville and that the same C.C.Clay whom they call master was one of the men who helped to murder President Lincoln and he is now in Canada. It made us all mad to think that in Alabama yet lived such men as those who traffic in flesh and blood. They seem loth to give up the idea of slavery and hang on as long as they can keep up even a shadow of reality. But the Colored populace have nearly all learned by this time that "Massa Lincoln" broke off their fetters and bid them be free.
Postcard honoring president Abraham Lincoln for his Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves, 1860s.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Sound of Minie Balls Singing

From a letter written by Walter Battle, 4th Infantry, North Carolina (from http://www.soldierstudies.org)

Dated May 14, 1864 describing Battle of Spotsylvania Court House

. . . .There is not a man in this brigade who will ever forget the sad requiem, which those minie balls sung over the dead and dying for twenty-two long hours; they put one in mind of some musical instrument; some sounded like wounded men crying; some like humming of bees; some like cats in the depth of the night, while others cut through the air with only a "Zip" like noise. . . .

A stormy march--(Artillery)--Spotsylvania Court House by Edwin Forbes
From Library of Congress Collection

Friday, May 13, 2011

Demoralization Produced by Hopes of Freedom

This entry is from Mary Chesnut's Civil War, edited by C. Van Woodward.  Mary Boykin Chesnut was married to a Civil War General and was a Southern Belle from South Carolina.

May 13, 1861

. . . . Saw for the first time the demoralization produced by hopes of freedom.  My mother's butler (whom I taught to read, sitting on his knife board) continued to keep from speaking to us.  He was as efficient as ever in his proper place, but he did not come behind scenes as usual and have a friendly chat.  He held himself aloof, so grand and stately we had to send him a "tip" through his wife, Hetty, mother's maid. . . 


From The Civil War Notebook of Daniel Chisholm edited by W. Springer Menge 

Chisholm, from Uniontown, PA entered the army later February 1864, and was in the 116th Pennsylvania Infantry.

May 12th 1864 (The day begins)

At 3 O'Clock we halted with orders in whispers to lie down on our arms, after loading and fixing bayonets.  It is still raining and very foggy, between four and five O'Clock, still dark, wet and gloomy  Attention was whispered and silence was enjoined.  Then again forward was whispered and away we went falling over stumps, old logs, brush and into gullies, it was still not light enough to see well . . .

Glorious charge of Hancock's division (2nd) of the Army of the Potomac: at the battle near
Spotsylvania Court House Va., May 12th 1864,  Currier & Ives
From Library of Congress Collection

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Night Battle (Chancellorsville)

This entry is from Memoranda During the War, Civil War Journals 1863-1865  by Walt Whitman

This is part of Walt Whitman's description of Chancellorsville battle, written down on May 12, 1863.

. . . . Such, amid the woods, that scene of flitting souls -- amid the crack and crash and yelling sounds -- the impalpable perfume of the woods -- and yet the pungent stifling smoke -- shed with the radiance of the moon, the round, maternal queen, looking from heaven at intervals so placid -- the sky so heavenly -- the clear-obscure up there, those buoyant upper oceans -- a few large placid stars beyond, coming out and then disappearing -- the melancholy, draperied night above, around......And there, upon the roads, the fields, and in those woods, that contest, never one more desperate in any age or land -- both parties now in force -- masses -- no fancy battle, no semi-play, but fierce and savage demons fighting there -- courage and scorn of death the rule, exceptions almost none.. . .

. . . . Unnamed, unknown, remain, and still remain, the bravest soldiers.  Our manliest -- our boys -- our hardy darlings.  Indeed no picture gives them.  Likely their very names are lost. Likely, the typic one of them (standing, no doubt, for hundreds, thousands,) crawls aside to some bush-clump or ferny tuft, on receiving his death-shot -- there, sheltering a little while, soaking roots, grass and soil with red blood -- the battle advances, retreats, flits from the scene, sweeps by --  and there, haply with pain and suffering (yet less, far less, than is supposed) the last lethargy winds like a serpent round him -- the eyes glaze in death -- none recks -- Perhaps the burial squads, in truce, a week afterwards, search not the secluded spot -- and there at last the Bravest Soldier crumbles in the soil of mother earth, unburied and unknown.
The Wilderness Near Chancellorsville,
taken by United States Signal Corps, War Department,
From the NYPL Digital Collection

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The S. C. 1st Artillery Regiment and the Ladies

This entry is from A Rebel War Clerk's Diary at the Confederate States Capital by John Beauchamp Jones
May 10, 1861

The ladies are postponing all engagements until their lovers have fought the Yankees. Their influence is great.
Day after day they go in crowds to the Fair ground where the 1st S. C. Vols, are encamped, showering upon them their smiles, and all the delicacies the city affords. They wine them and cake them — and they deserve it. They are just from taking Fort Sumter, and have won historic distinction.

I was introduced to several of the privates by their captain, who told me they were worth from $100,000 to half a million dollars each. The Tribune thought all these men would want to be captains! But that is not the only hallucination the North labors under, judging from present appearances ; by closing our ports it is thought we can be subdued by the want of accustomed luxuries. These rich young men were dressed in coarse gray homespun! We have the best horsemen and the best marksmen in the world, and these are the qualities that will tell before the end of the war.

We fight for existence — the enemy for Union and the freedom of the slave.  Well, let the Yankees see if this "new thing" will pay.
Bombardment of Fort Sumter: John Rogers, Engraver
From NYPL Digital Gallery

Monday, May 9, 2011

Brain, Courage, Dexterity (who does this describe?)

This entry is from My Diary North and South by William Howard Russell.

According to Wiki, Russell was an Irish reporter with The Times and is considered to have been one of the first modern war correspondents.

May 9th,1861

To-day the papers contain a proclamation by the President of the Confederate States of America, declaring a state of war between the Confederacy and the United States, and notifying the issue of letters of marque and reprisal. I went out with Mr. Wigfall in the forenoon to pay my respects to Mr. Jefferson Davis at the State Department.  Mr. Seward told me that but for Jefferson Davis the Secession plot could never have been carried out. No other man of the party had the brain, or the courage and dexterity, to bring it to a successful issue. All the persons in the Southern States spoke of him with admiration, though their forms of speech and thought generally forbid them to be respectful to any one.

There before me was " Jeff Davis's State Department " — a large brick building, at the corner of a street, with a Confederate flag floating above it. The door stood open, and ''gave" on a large hall whitewashed, with doors plainly painted belonging to small rooms, in which was transacted most important business, judging by the names written on sheets of paper and applied outside, denoting bureaux of the highest functions. A few clerks were passing in and out, and one or two gentlemen were on the stairs, but there was no appearance of any bustle in the building. . . .

. . . .I had an opportunity of observing the President very closely: he did not impress me as favorably as I had expected, though he is certainly a very different looking man from Mr. Lincoln. He is like a gentleman — has a slight, light figure, little exceeding middle height, and holds himself erect and straight. He was dressed in a rustic suit of slate-colored stuff, with a black silk handkerchief round his neck ; his manner is plain, and rather reserved and drastic ; his head is well formed, with a fine full forehead, square and high, covered with innumerable fine lines and wrinkles, features regular, though the cheek-bones are too high, and the jaws too hollow to be handsome ; the lips are thin, flexible, and curved, the chin square, well defined ; the nose very regular, with wide nostrils ; and the eyes deep-set, large and full — one seems nearly blind, and is partly covered with a film, owing to excruciating; attacks of neuralgia and tic. Wonderful to relate, he does not chew, and is neat and clean-looking, with hair trimmed, and boots brushed. The expression of his face is anxious, he has a very haggard, care-worn, and pain-drawn look, though no trace of anything but the utmost confidence and the greatest decision could be detected in his conversation. He asked me some general questions respecting the route I had taken in the States.

I mentioned that I had seen great military preparations through the South, and was astonished at the alacrity with which the people sprang to arms. " Yes. sir," he remarked, and his tone of voice and manner of speech are rather remarkable for what are considered Yankee peculiarities. . . .

Jefferson Davis,  Wm. S. Pendleton, photographer
From Library of Congress Collection

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Calamity Impending

Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee, by Captain Robert E Lee, his Son

May 8th, 1861 in a letter to his wife:

. . . . When I reflect upon the calamity impending over the country, my own sorrows sink to insignificance . . . .

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Son of Light Horse Harry

This  entry is from A Rebel War Clerk's Diary at the Confederate States Capital by John Beauchamp Jones 

May 7th 1861

Col. R. E. Lee, lately of the United States army, has been appointed major-general, and commander-in-chief of the army in Virginia. He is the son of "Light Horse Harry" of the Revolution. The North can boast no such historic names as we, in its army.
Robert E. Lee by Julian Vannerson,
From Library of Congress

What Next? (Lincoln's Question to Hooker)

This entry a letter from Abraham Lincoln  to General J. Hooker.  Hooker has just lost 11,000 men in the Battle of Chancellorsville.

May 7, 1863

MY DEAR SIR:--The recent movement of your army is ended without effecting its object, except, perhaps, some important breakings of the enemy's communications.  What next? If possible, I would be very glad of another movement early enough to give us some benefit from the fact of the enemy's communication being broken; but neither for this reason nor any other do I wish anything done in desperation or rashness. An early movement would also help to supersede the bad moral effect of the recent one, which is said to be considerably injurious. Have you already in your mind a plan wholly or partially formed? If you have, prosecute it without interference from me. If you have not, please inform me, so that I, incompetent as I may be, can try and assist in the formation of some plan for the army.

Yours as ever, A. LINCOLN.

Major General Joseph Hooker
Library of Congress

Yours as ever, A. LINCOLN.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Charging the Swamp (Battle of the Wilderness)

From All For the Union, The Civil War Diary and Letters of Elisha Hunt Rhodes
May 6, 1864 (Battle of the Wilderness)
. . . . Our brigade charged into the swamp six times, and each time were driven out.  Darkness again put an end to the fighting, and we lay down amid the dead and wounded.  During the night the brush caught fire, and many of the wounded burned to death.  . . .
 Wounded escaping from the burning woods of the Wilderness by Alfred R. Waud
From Library of Congress Collection

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Rocking Chair

This entry is from Letters from a Surgeon of the Civil War compiled by Martha Derby Perry.  They are letters of John G. Perry, surgeon with the 20th Massachusetts

May 5th, 1863, Falmouth, VA.  Perry was in Fredericksburg at the time of this incident.
I had to run the gauntlet many times, and on one of my expeditions heard a woman's piercing screams from a house by the way. I rushed in, and found an elderly woman of immense size in a violent fit of hysterics. She was seated in a rocking-chair, swaying back and forth, evidently beside herself with terror, screaming, moaning, and crying.
While I did what I could in the hurry of the moment to reassure the poor thing, a shell came whizzing through the air above, exploding as it fell into the square in front of us. Over went the old woman backwards, turning a complete somersault, chair and all.

For a moment there was a convulsion of arms and legs, and then such shrieks that it seemed to me the din outside was nothing to that within. I gathered her together as quickly as I could, — it was difficult to find any particular part to hold on to, — and when she had wit and breath enough to answer, asked for the other inmates of the house; vague and muffled sounds told me they were near, and when she pointed with her finger downwards, sure enough, I found them in the cellar huddled together, both whites and negroes.

It seemed that the old woman was too large to manage the cellar stairs, and they, supposing from all the uproar that she was killed, were every moment expecting a like fate for themselves. However, they soon ventured up, and I hurried back to my hospital.

John C Perry, from Frontispiece of the book

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

With the Alligators

This entry is from Brother of Mine, The Civil War Letters of Thomas and William Christie, edited by Hampton Smith.

William and Thomas Christie were half brothers, 13 years apart in age.  They served in the same Regiment,  the 1st Minnesota.

May 4th 1863, Smith's Plantation. Louisiana (near Vicksburg) - Thomas
Four hundred and fifty of the prisoners taken at Port Gibson passed our camp this evening under guard . . . As they marched past, all the men of our Division lined the road on both sides.  Both prisoners and we were in great good humor; many a joke flew back and forth between us.  It is due to our men to say that not an insulting word was spoken.  One well-dressed Texan in conversation with one of our boys inadvertently used the word "Yankees" in speaking of us.  He instantly corrected himself, and with a graceful bow begged our pardon.  "We do not consider you Western gentlemen to be Yankees."  One of our fellows replied laughingly, "I think you will find that although we are Western men we have Yankee principles!"  "Boys," said one of them, "we are going North.  but  you will have to stay here with the alligators!"  Indeed no one would have thought in hearing the talk that we were enemies."
Three Confederate prisoners (Gettysburg) from Library of Congress Collection

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Coming Home

From Letters of a War Correspondent by Charles A. Page, Special Correspondent of the New York "Tribune" during the Civil War

May 3, 1865,  Springfield, Illinois
. . . .The train that brought him to his long home, moved slowly into the town, moved slowly through the masses of "plain people" who had come from all the country round about. These people had known him always as the boy struggling for knowledge while he battled with poverty; as the young man who surveyed their lands, and read all night, when perchance he stayed at their humble houses ; as the rising young lawyer who pleaded the causes of the poor for " only sweet pity's sake," who upheld the weak against the strong for only justice's sake, and because oppression was hateful to him ; as the politician whose continual plea was: "Let us see if this thing be right; if it be right let us have it, but if it be wrong let us put it away from us;" as the State legislator who, with one other, against an intolerant majority dared to file upon the records his protest against slavery; as the Presidential Elector who each four years spoke his convictions in every town in the State, though in a hopeless minority, for conscience' sake, and yet never lost his temper or called bad names ; as the candidate for senator who deliberately said, "I will not be double-faced, I will utter the same opinions at both ends of the State, I will not be made Senator by a fraud." And by and by he was made President and went from among them ; and they, watching from afar, were proud that one of themselves had become, in virtue and in station, " the foremost man of all this world."

Monday, May 2, 2011


This entry is from Mary Chesnut's Civil War, edited by C. Van Woodward

May 2, 1865 (Camden, SC, from the roadside below Blackstock)

Since we left Chester -- solitude. Nothing but tall blackened chimneys to show that any man ever trod this road before us.

This is Sherman's track. It is hard not to curse him.

I wept incessantly at first. "The roses of these gardens are already hiding the ruins, " said Mr. C. "Nature is a wonderful renovator." He tried to say something.

Then I shut my eyes and made a vow. If we are a crushed people, crushed by aught, I have vowed never to be a whimpering pining slave.
From the book A Diary from Dixie, as Written by Mary Boykin Chesnut

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Yankees are Coming!

From:  Diary of a Refugee, edited by Frances Hewitt Fearn  (This is her mother’s diary)  Her mother resided on a Plantation near New Orleans before becoming a refugee.

Thurs, May [1,] 1862
My son's news of the fall of New Orleans was confirmed while we were at breakfast by a man on horseback, riding rapidly down the Bayou road, calling out as he went by, "The Yankees are coming!"  It was the signal for us to gather up the things we most valued of our belongings and to go on board "The Lafourche," which was waiting with steam up in the Bayou, fronting the house, to carry us off.

"The Writer of the Diary"