Tuesday, September 30, 2014

September 30, 1864: The Diary of John B. Jones


On this day 150 years ago, Confederate war clerk John B. Jones noted that fighting had occurred near Fort Harrison out on the New Market Heights south east of Richmond.
September 30th.—Cloudy, and occasional showers.

None of the papers except the Whig were published this morning, the printers, etc. being called out to defend the city. Every device of the military authorities has been employed to put the people here in the ranks. Guards everywhere, on horseback and on foot, in the city and at the suburbs, are arresting pedestrians, who, if they have not passes from Gen. Kemper, are hurried to some of the depots or to the City Square (iron palings), and confined until marched to the field or released. Two of the clerks of the War Department, who went down to the Spottswood Hotel to hear the news, although having the Secretary’s own details, were hustled off to a prison on Gary Street to report to Lieut. Bates, who alone could release them. But when they arrived, no Lieut. Bates was there, and they found themselves incarcerated with some five hundred others of all classes and conditions. Here they remained cooped up for an hour, when they espied an officer who knew them, and who had them released.

To-day the guards arrested Judges Reagan and Davis, Postmaster-General and Attorney-General, both members of the cabinet, because neither of them were over fifty years old. Judge Reagan grew angry and stormed a little; but both were released immediately.

Gen. Lee dispatched Gen. Bragg, at 9 p.m. last night, that all the assaults of the enemy on Fort Gilmer had been repulsed, the enemy losing many in killed, and wounded, and prisoners, while our loss was small.

And we have driven the Yankees from Staunton, and have them in full retreat again as far as Harrisonburg.

To-day at 2 p.m. another battle occurred at or near Fort Harrison or Signal Hill, supposed to be an attempt on our part to retake the post. I never heard more furious shelling, and fear our loss was frightful, provided it was our assault on the enemy’s lines. We could see the white smoke, from the observatory, floating along the horizon over the woods and down the river. The melee of sounds was terrific: heavy siege guns (from our steam-rams, probably) mingled with the incessant roar of field artillery. At 3 p.m. all was comparatively quiet, and we await intelligence of the result.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

September 27, 1864: The Diary of John B. Jones


On this day 150 years ago, Confederate war clerk John B. Jones wrote in his diary about trading cotton with the enemy, the expenses of burying John Hunt Morgan, and John Mosby's operations in Northern Virginia.
September 27th.—Bright and pleasant.

We have rumors of heavy fighting yesterday near Staunton, but no authentic accounts.

A dispatch from Gen. R. Taylor says Gen. Forrest had gained a victory at Athens, Ala., capturing some 1500 prisoners, 500 horses, etc. etc.

We still hear the thunder of artillery down the river—the two armies shelling each other, I suppose, as yet at a safe distance. A few more days and the curtain will rise again—Lee and Grant the principal actors in the tragedy!

The President is making patriotic speeches in Alabama and Georgia.

Mr. Hudson, of Alabama, proposes to deliver to the government 5,000,000 pounds of bacon for the same number of pounds cotton, delivered at the same place.

Our cotton agent in Mississippi is authorized by the government here to sell cotton in exposed situations to the enemy’s agents for specie, and to buy for Confederate notes.

The funeral expenses of Gen. Morgan the other day amounted to $1500; the Quartermaster-General objects to paying it, and sends the bill to the Secretary for instructions.

The following is a copy of Gen. Lee’s indorsement on Lieut.-Col. Moseby’s report of his operations from the 1st of March to the 11th of September, 1864:


“Headquarters, Army Northern Virginia,
“September 19th, 1864.

“Respectfully forwarded to the Adjutant and Inspector-General for the information of the department. Attention is invited to the activity and skill of Col. Moseby, and the intelligence and [Pg 294]courage of the officers and men of his command, as displayed in this report.

“With the loss of little more than 20 men, he has killed, wounded, and captured, during the period embraced in this report, about 1200 of the enemy, and taken more than 1600 horses and mules, 230 beef cattle, and 85 wagons and ambulances, without counting many smaller operations. The services rendered by Col. Moseby and his command in watching and reporting the enemy’s movements have also been of great value. His operations have been highly creditable to himself and his command.

“(Signed) R. E. Lee, General.”

“Official: John Blair Hoge,
“Major and Assistant Adjutant-General.”

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

September 24, 1864: The Diary of Mary Boykin Chesnut


On this day 150 years ago, Mary Boykin Chesnut wrote in her diary with a growing sense of dread about the many defeats suffered by the Confederate Army.
September 24th.-These stories of our defeats in the valley fall like blows upon a dead body. Since Atlanta fell I have felt as if all were dead within me forever. Captain Ogden, of General Chesnut's staff, dined here to-day. Had ever brigadier, with little or no brigade, so magnificent a staff? The reserves, as somebody said, have been secured only by robbing the cradle and the grave-the men too old, the boys too young. Isaac Hayne, Edward Barnwell, Bacon, Ogden, Richardson, Miles are the picked men of the agreeable world.

September 24, 1864: The Diary of John B. Jones

CSS Advance made 20 trips through the blockade before being captured on September 10, 1864 off Wilmington, NC.
On this day 150 years ago, Confederate war clerk reported General Robert E. Lee's concern that the Confederate commerce raiders operating out of Wilmington, North Carolina were interfering with the blockade runners bringing supplies in for the Army of Northern Virginia. Lee suggested basing the raiders somewhere else, so as to divide the federal blockaders off Wilmington, making it easier for the blockade runners to slip in.
SEPTEMBER 24TH.—Raining alternate hours and warm. Had a chill this morning, and afterward several spells of blindness, from rushes of blood to the head. Came home and bathed my feet and recovered.

Another disaster but no great loss of men. Gen. Early was compelled to retreat again on Thursday, 22d inst., the enemy flanking him, and getting in his rear. He lost 12 more guns. This intensifies the chagrin and doubts prevalent in a certain class of the community. However, Lee commands in Virginia, and there may be better luck next time, which will cause everybody’s spirits to rise.

Gen. Lee writes a long letter to the Secretary of War, deprecating the usage of the port of Wilmington by the Tallahassee and other cruisers, that go out and ravage the enemy’s commerce, such as the destruction of fishing smacks, etc. Already the presence of the Tallahassee and the Edith at Wilmington has caused the loss of one of our blockade-runners, worth more than all the vessels destroyed by the Tallahassee, and the port is now guarded by such an additional number of blockaders that it is with difficulty our steamers can get in with supplies. Gen. L. suggests that Charleston or some other port be used by our cruisers; and that Wilmington be used exclusively for the importation of supplies—quartermaster’s, commissary’s ordnance, etc. Gen. L. advises that supplies enough for two or three years be brought in, so that we shall not be under apprehension of being destitute hereafter. Such were his ideas. Lieut. Wood, who commands the Tallahassie, is the President’s nephew, and gains eclat by his chivalric deeds on the ocean; but we cannot afford to lose our chances of independence to glorify the President’s nephew. Gen. Lee but reiterates what has been written on the same subject by Gen. Whiting at Wilmington.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

September 23, 1864: The Diary of John B. Jones


On this day 150 years ago, Confederate war clerk John B. Jones wrote in his diary about Confederate losses in the Shenandoah Valley. Robert E. Lee had begun asking for slaves to serve as noncombatant support with the Army of Northern Virginia.
September 23d.—Raining.

Our loss, killed, wounded, and taken in the battle near Winchester, is estimated by our people at 2500. The enemy say they got 2500 prisoners. The enemy’s loss in killed and wounded amounted probably to as much as ours.

Gen. Lee writes that, in his opinion, the time has come for the army to have the benefit of a certain per cent of the negroes, free and slave, as teamsters, laborers, etc.; and he suggests that there should be a corps of them permanently attached to the army. He says if we do not make use of them in the war, the enemy will use them against us. He contemplates staying where he is during the winter, and proposes building a railroad from his rear to the oak woods, as the pines do not answer a good purpose.

Gen. Hood telegraphs (dated yesterday) his intention to get in the enemy’s rear, and intercept supplies from Dalton. Sherman must either attempt to drive him from that position (north bank of the Chattahoochee), or advance farther south with his supplies cut off and our army assaulting his rear.

Mr. Roy (clerk), cousin of Mr. Seddon, said to-day that he regarded the Confederacy near its end, and that the Union would be reconstructed.

Our good friend Dr. Powell brought us a gallon of sorghum molasses to-day.

September 23, 1864: Jefferson Davis' Speech at Macon, Georgia


On this day 150 years ago, Confederate President Jefferson F. Davis delivered the following address to an audience in Macon, Georgia. He blamed Southern setbacks on deserters and predicted that Sherman would be unable to maintain his communications and would be forced to fall back.
Speech at Macon, Georgia

September 23, 1864

Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends and Fellow-Citizens: --

It would have gladdened my heart to have met you in prosperity instead of adversity - But friends are drawn together in adversity. The son of a Georgian, who fought through the first Revolution, I would be untrue to myself if I should forget the State in her day of peril.

What, though misfortune has befallen our arms from Decatur to Jonesboro, our cause is not lost. Sherman cannot keep up his long line of communication, and retreat sooner or later, he must. And when that day comes, the fate that befel the army of the French Empire and its retreat from Moscow will be reacted. Our cavalry and our people will harass and destroy his army as did the Cossacks that of Napoleon, and the Yankee General, like him will escape with only a body guard.

How can this be the most speedily effected? By the absentees of Hood's army returning to their posts And will they not? Can they see the banished exiles, can they hear the wail of their suffering country-women and children, and not come. By what influences they are made to stay away, it is not necessary to speak. If there is one who will stay away at this hour, he is unworthy of the name of a Georgian. To the women no appeal is necessary. They are like the Spartan mothers of old. I know of one who had lost all her sons, except one of eight years. She wrote me that she wanted me to reserve a place for him in the ranks. The venerable Gen. Polk, to whom I read the letter, knew that woman well, and said that it was characteristic of her. But I will not weary you by turning aside to relate the various incidents of giving up the last son to the cause of our country known to me. Wherever we go we find the heart and hands of our noble women enlisted. They are seen wherever the eye may fall, or step turn. They have one duty to perform - to buoy up the hearts of our people.

I know the deep disgrace felt by Georgia at our army falling back from Dalton to the interior of the State, but I was not of those who considered Atlanta lost when our army crossed the Chattahoochee. I resolved that it should not, and I then put a man in command who I knew would strike an honest and manly blow for the city, and many a Yankee's blood was made to nourish the soil before the prize was won.

It does not become us to revert to disaster. "Let the dead bury the dead." Let us with one arm and one effort endeavor to crush Sherman. I am going to the army to confer with our Generals. The end must be the defeat of our enemy It has been said that I abandoned Georgia to her fate. Shame upon such a falsehood. Where could the author have been when Walker, when Polk, and when Gen. Stephen D. Lee was sent to her assistance. Miserable man. The man who uttered this was a scoundrel. He was not a man to save our country.

If I knew that a General did not possess the right qualities to command, would I not be wrong if he was not removed? Why, when our army was falling back from Northern Georgia, I even heard that I had sent Bragg with pontoons to cross into Cuba. But we must be charitable.

The man who can speculate ought to be made to take up his musket When the war is over and our independence won, (and we will establish our independence,) who will be our aristocracy? I hope the limping soldier. To the young ladies I would say when choosing between an empty sleeve and the man who had remained at home and grown rich, always take the empty sleeve. Let the old men remain at home and make bread. But should they know of any young men keeping away from the service who cannot be made to go any other way, let them write to the Executive. I read all letters sent me from the people, but have not the time to reply to them.

You have not many men between 18 and 45 left. The boys - God bless the boys - are as rapidly as they become old enough going to the field. The city of Macon is filled with stores, sick and wounded. It must not be abandoned, when threatened, but when the enemy come, instead of calling upon Hood's army for defence, the old men must fight, and when the enemy is driven beyond Chattanooga, they too can join in the general rejoicing.

Your prisoners are kept as a sort of Yankee capital. I have heard that one of their Generals said that their exchange would defeat Sherman. I have tried every means, conceded everything to effect an exchange to no purpose. Butler the Beast, with whom no Commissioner of Exchange, would hold intercourse, had published in the newspapers that: that if we would consent to the exchange of negroes, all difficulties might be removed. This is reported as an effort of his to get himself whitewashed by holding intercourse with gentlemen. If an exchange could be effected, I dont know but that I might be induced to recognise Butler. But in the future every effort will be given as far as possible to effect the end. We want our soldiers in the field, and we want the sick and wounded to return home.

It is not proper for me to speak of the number of men in the field. But this I will say, that two-thirds of our men are absent - some sick, some wounded, but most of them absent without leave. The man who repents and goes back to his commander voluntarily, at once appeals strongly to executive clemency. But suppose he stays away until the war is over and his comrades return home, when every man's history will be told, where will he shield himself? It is upon these reflections that I rely to make men return to their duty, but after conferring with our Generals at headquarters, if there be any other remedy it shall be applied.

I love my friends and I forgive my enemies. I have been asked to send reinforcements from Virginia to Georgia. In Virginia the disparity in numbers is just as great as it is in Georgia. Then I have been asked why the army sent to the Shenandoah Valley was not sent here? It was because an army of the enemy had penetrated that Valley to the very gates of Lynchburg, and Gen. Early was sent to drive them back. This he not only successfully did, but, crossing the Potomac, came well-nigh capturing Washington itself, and forced Grant to send two corps of his army to protect it. This the enemy denominated a raid. If so, Sherman's march into Georgia is a raid. What would prevent them now, if Early was withdrawn, penetrating down the valley and putting a complete cordon of men around Richmond? I counselled with that great and grave soldier, Gen. Lee, upon all these points. My mind roamed over the whole field.

With this we can succeed. If one-half the men now absent without leave will return to duty, we can defeat the enemy. With that hope I am going to the front. I may not realize this hope, but I know there are men there who have looked death in the face too often to despond now. Let no one despond. Let no one distrust, and remember that if genius is the beau ideal, hope is the reality.