Monday, March 2, 2015

March 2, 1865: The Diary of John B. Minor

On this day 150 years ago, Professor John B. Minor of the University of Virginia learned that he had been made part of a committee charged with surrendering the university to the advancing federals and obtaining protection for the historic university buildings and library.
Thursday March 2

Tonight we have authentic intelligence that Early has been totally routed, nearly all his men captured and the rest dispersed, his transportation, artillery and ordinance in the enemy's hands and (most unfortunate of all), he himself escaped! Nothing intervenes now between us and the Yankees, but the mud, and we may not flatter ourselves that we shall escape the visitation. Most persons think they will destroy the University. I am not of that opinion, but I cannot avoid much anxiety in consequence of so many having a contrary impression.

Last night, as I understand, (I was too unwell to be present), the Faculty deputed the chairman, Dr. [Socrates] Maupin, Colonel [Thomas L.] Preston (the Rector), and myself ut capiat Universitas nil detrimenti, by soliciting a guard, etc I have just heard that the enemy reached Meechum's river this afternoon, and will be here tonight. That would be an incredible celerity of movement in the best condition of the roads, but as they are now it appears impossible, especially as it is raining hard and is very dark. However, I shall sit up, indisposed as I am, to be ready if they should come.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

March 1, 1865: The Diary of John B. Minor

John B. Minor
On this day 150 years ago, Professor John B. Minor of the faculty of the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville, Virginia, contemplated the approach of Union forces under the command of Philip H. Sheridan.
March 1. Wednesday

Rumors thicken as to the enemy's approach. His troops are undoubtedly not far from Staunton, perhaps have entered it. Their commander is various named as Torbut [Alfred Thomas Archimedes Torbert], [Philip] Sheridan, and perhaps others. The roads are so deep as to suggest the hope that they may not get beyond Staunton, the terminus of the McAdam [paved] road, or at least may go on up the Valley instead of coming hither, and that hope is strengthened by the fact that consisting as the command does, of mounted men exclusively, on a raid, that cannot wish to fight, and [Confederate general Jubal A.] Early's force, though too small to oppose them in the open field, may successfully resist the passage of the mountain. The number of Early's men is variously reported. I suppose it to be from 2000 to 2500. I understand Genl Early states the enemy's force at 7000, with several pieces of artillery.

March 1, 1865: The University of Virginia prepares to surrender

The University of Virginia in the mid- to late 1860s.
On this day 150 years ago, the faculty of the University of Virginia discussed how best to preserve the University in the event of the Union capture of Charlottesville.
At a meeting of the Faculty held March 1st, 1865
Present The Chairman and Professors [Henry] Howard, [William H.] McGuffey, [James L.] Cabell, [Francis H.] Smith

Professor [Maximilian] Schele [de Vere] absent from indisposition communicated in writing the following report of delinquencies in the classes under his charge for the months of January & February.

Charles W. Anderson in French & Excercises omitted in Latin


It being reported that the Federal forces under Genl [Philip] Sheridan, now in the [Shenandoah] Valley will probably penetrate to Charlottesville whereby the safety of the University may be endangered—on motion

Resolved that the Chairman & Professor [John B.] Minor be appointed a committee to meet the commanding General of any forces that may reach this place and request of him a guard to protect public & private property at the University during the passing by or sojourn of the Federal troops here, and that Col Th. L. Preston, the Rector, be requested to cooperate with said Committee in discharging of the duty assigned them.

The Faculty adjourned.

S[ocrates]. Maupin


Saturday, February 28, 2015

February 28, 1865: The Diary of Judith White McGuire

On this day 150 years ago, Southern refugee Judith White McGuire described life in besieged Richmond.
February 28th, 1865.

Our new Commissary-General is giving us brighter hopes for Richmond by his energy. Not a stone is left unturned to collect all the provisions from the country. Ministers of the Gospel and others have gone out to the various county towns and court-houses, to urge the people to send in every extra bushel of corn or pound of meat for the army. The people only want enlightening on the subject; it is no want of patriotism which makes them keep any portion of their provisions. Circulars are sent out to the various civil and military officers in all disenthralled counties in the State,--which, alas! when compared with the whole, are very few,--to ask for their superfluities. All will answer promptly, I know, and generously.

Since I last wrote in my diary, our Essex friends have again most liberally replenished our larder just as they did this time last year — if possible, more generously. The Lord reward them!

Friday, February 27, 2015

February 27, 1865: The Diary of John B. Jones

On this day 150 years ago, Confederate war clerk John B. Jones noted in his diary that pressure was building in the Confederate Congress to pass a law allowing Black combat troops for the Confederate Army.
February 27th.—Bright and windy. The Virginia Assembly has passed resolutions instructing the Senators to vote for the negro troops bill—so Mr. Hunter must obey or resign.

It is authoritatively announced in the papers that Gen. J. E. Johnston has taken command of the army in front of Sherman (a perilous undertaking), superseding Beauregard.

Grant is said to be massing his troops on our right, to precipitate them upon the South Side Railroad. Has Hill marched his corps away to North Carolina? If so, Richmond is in very great danger.

The Examiner to-day labors to show that the evacuation of Richmond would be fatal to the cause. The Sentinel says it has authority for saying that Richmond will not be given up. “Man proposes—God disposes.” It is rumored that Fayetteville, N. C., has fallen into the hands of the enemy.

I saw Col. Northrop, late Commissary-General, to-day. He looks down, dark, and dissatisfied. Lee’s army eats without him. I see nothing of Lieut.-Col. Ruffin. He always looks down and darkly. Gen. Breckinridge seems to have his heart in the cause—not his soul in his pocket, like most of his predecessors.

I saw Admiral Buchanan to-day, limping a little. He says the enemy tried to shoot away his legs to keep him from dancing at his granddaughter’s wedding, but won’t succeed.

Robert Tyler told me that it was feared Governor Brown, and probably Stephens and Toombs, were sowing disaffection among the Georgia troops, hoping to get them out of the army; but that if faction can be kept down thirty days, our cause would assume a new phase. He thinks Breckinridge will make a successful Secretary.

The President and Gen. Lee were out at Camp Lee to-day, urging the returned soldiers (from captivity) to forego the usual furlough and enter upon the spring campaign now about to begin. The other day, when the President made a speech to them, he was often interrupted by cries of “furlough!”

The ladies in the Treasury Department are ordered to Lynchburg, whither the process of manufacturing Confederate States notes is to be transferred.

A committee of the Virginia Assembly waited on the President on Saturday, who told them it was no part of his intention to evacuate Richmond. But some construed his words as equivocal. Tobacco, cotton, etc. are leaving the city daily. The city is in danger.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

February 26, 1865: The Diary of John B. Jones

On this day 150 years ago, Confederate war clerk John B. Jones noted that preparations were being made to burn the tobacco and cotton stored in Richmond.
February 26th.—Cloudy and cool; rained all night. No news from the South, this morning. But there is an ugly rumor that Beauregard’s men have deserted to a frightful extent, and that the general himself is afflicted with disease of mind, etc.

Mr. Hunter is now reproached by the slaveowners, whom he thought to please, for defeating the Negro bill. They say his vote will make Virginia a free State, inasmuch as Gen. Lee must evacuate it for the want of negro troops.

There is much alarm on the streets. Orders have been given to prepare all the tobacco and cotton, which cannot be removed immediately, for destruction by fire. And it is generally believed that Lieut.-Gen. A. P. Hill’s corps has marched away to North Carolina. This would leave some 25,000 men to defend Richmond and Petersburg, against, probably, 60,000.

If Richmond be evacuated, most of the population will remain, not knowing whither to go.

The new Secretary of War was at work quite early this morning.

The “Bureau of Conscription” and the Provost Marshal’s office are still “operating,” notwithstanding Congress has abolished them both.