Monday, September 15, 2014

September 15, 1864: The Diary of John B. Jones


On this day 150 years ago, Confederate war clerk John B. Jones wrote in his diary about the opinion of the Confederacy's Vice President Alexander Stephens: "we ought to make peace."
September 15th.—Bright and pleasant.

The firing was from our gun-boats and two batteries, on Gen. Butler’s canal to turn the channel of the river.

Our fondly-cherished visions of peace have vanished like a mirage of the desert; and there is general despondency among the croakers.

Mr. Burt, of South Carolina (late member of Congress), writes from Abbeville that Vice-President A. H Stephens crossed the Savannah River, when Sherman’s raiders were galloping through the country, in great alarm. To the people near him he spoke freely on public affairs, and criticised the President’s policy severely, and the conduct of the war generally. He said the enemy might now go where he pleased, our strength and resources were exhausted, and that we ought to make peace. That we could elect any one we might choose President of the United States, and intimated that this would enable us to secure terms, etc., which was understood to mean reconstruction of the Union.

A dispatch from Gen. Hood, dated yesterday, says Wheeler has been forced, by superior numbers, south of the Tennessee River; and he now proposes that he (W.) shall retreat south along the railroad, which he is to destroy. This is the very route and the very work I and others have been hoping would engage Wheeler’s attention, for weeks. For one, I am rejoiced that the enemy “forced” him there, else, it seems, Sherman’s communications never would have been seriously interrupted. And he proposes sending Forrest to operate with Wheeler. Forrest is in Mobile!

Gen. Morgan’s remains are looked for this evening, and will have a great funeral. And yet I saw a communication to the President to-day, from a friend of his in high position, a Kentuckian, saying Morgan did not die too soon; and his reputation and character were saved by his timely death! The charges, of course, will be dropped. His command is reduced to 280 men; he was required to raise all his recruits in Kentucky.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

September 14, 1864: Low morale in the Confederate Army of Tennessee?

Major General Samuel Gibbs French, C.S. Army
John Bell Hood had intrigued successfully against Joseph E. Johnston to get command of the Confederate Army of Tennessee, but after weeks of intense fighting ending with the loss of Atlanta, there were grumblings against Hood himself. On this day 150 years ago, Confederate Major General Samuel Gibbs French, a division commander in the Army of Tennessee, wrote directly to Confederate President Jefferson Davis requesting an inquiry into the army's "spirit of confidence."
LOVEJOY'S STATION, GA., September 14, 1864.

His Excellency the PRESIDENT CONFEDERATE STATES:

Mr. PRESIDENT: Several officers have asked me to write to you regard to a feeling of depredations more or less apparent in parts of this army, and I have declined doing so, but for your own satisfaction it might be well that you send one or two intelligent officers here to visit the different DIVISIONS and brigades to ascertain of that spirit of confidence so necessary for success has or not been impaired within the past month or two. They might further inquire into the cause if they find in this army any want of enthusiasm. I am sure you will pardon my writing to you thus when I tell you it is dictated by the purest of motives and in the spirit of friendship.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

S. G. FRENCH,

Major-General.

[Indorsement.]

Respectfully referred, in the absence of the President, to the honorable the Secretary of War.

BURTON N. HARRISON,

Private Secretary.

September 13, 1864: The Diary of John B. Jones


On this day 150 years ago, Confederate war clerk John B. Jones wrote in his diary about the failure of the Confederate conscription bureau to provide sufficient men for the Confederate Army and the dwindling supply of provisions in Richmond.  Richmond was partially cut off from the rest of the South, and food could be moved only with great difficulty. Jones also blamed speculators for buying up supplies and interfering with what transportation remained.
September 13th.—A bright, cool morning.

Dispatches from Lieut.-Gen. R. Taylor indicate that Federal troops are passing up the Mississippi River, and that the attack on Mobile has been delayed or abandoned.

Gen. Lee writes urgently for more men, and asks the Secretary to direct an inquiry into alleged charges that the bureaus are getting able-bodied details that should be in the army. And he complains that rich young men are elected magistrates, etc., just to avoid service in the field.

Gen. McClellan’s letter accepting the nomination pledges a restoration of the Union “at all hazards.” This casts a deeper gloom over our croakers.

“Everybody” is now abusing the President for removing Gen. Johnston, and demand his restoration, etc.

Our agent has returned, without wheat or flour. He says he has bought some wheat, and some molasses, and they will be on soon. I hope Gen. Grant will remain quiet, and not cut our only remaining railroad (south), until we get a month’s supply of provisions! I hear of speculators getting everything they want, to oppress us with extortionate prices, while we can get nothing through on the railroads for our famishing families, even when we have an order of the government for transportation. The companies are bribed by speculators, while the government pays more moderate rates. And the quartermasters on the roads are bribed, and, although the Quartermaster-General is apprised of these corruptions, nothing is done to correct them.

And Mr. Seward has promised, for President Lincoln, that slavery will not be disturbed in any State that returns to the Union; and McClellan pledges States rights, and all the constitutional guarantees, when the Union is re-established. A few more disasters, and many of our croakers would listen to these promises. The rich are looking for security, and their victims, the poor and oppressed, murmur at the Confederate States Government for its failure to protect them.

In this hour of dullness, many are reflecting on the repose and abundance they enjoyed once in the Union. But there are more acts in this drama! And the bell may ring any moment for the curtain to rise again.

Dr. Powell brought us some apples to-day, which were fried for dinner—a scanty repast.

Friday, September 12, 2014

September 12, 1864: The Diary of Judith White McGuire


On this day 150 years ago, Judith White McGuire, a Southern refugee living in wartime Richmond, wrote in her diary about the death of John Hunt Morgan and the sad fate of the residents of Union-occupied Atlanta.
September 12th, 1864.

After holding a consultation with a particular friend of Dr. M., together with Mr.-- and the “Colonel,” we have determined to await the decision of Mr.--about the rooms on Franklin Street, and not to attempt to get others, hoping that as there are so many competitors for them, we may be considered the rightful claimants. There can be no doubt that they were promised to us.
The morning papers report “all quiet” at Petersburg, except that shells are daily thrown into the city, and that many of the women and children are living in tents in the country, so as to be out of the reach of shells.

The death of the bold and dashing General Morgan is deeply regretted. He has done us great service throughout the war, but particularly since his wonderful escape from his incarceration in the Ohio Penitentiary. It seems so short a time since he was here, all classes delighting to do him reverence. It is hard for us to have to give up such men.

General Hood telegraphs that the inhabitants of Atlanta have been ordered to leave their homes, to go they know not whither. Lord, how long must we suffer such things? I pray that the enemy's hands may be stayed, and that they may be driven from our fair borders to their own land. I ask not vengeance upon them, but that they may be driven to their own homes, and that we may be henceforward and forever a separate people.

September 12, 1864: The Diary of John B. Jones


On this day 150 years ago, Confederate war clerk John B. Jones reflected on the situation around Union-occupied Atlanta and the deteriorating situation at Petersburg. Just weeks earlier, Jones had forecast the retreat or collapse of Ulysses S. Grant's Army of the Potomac and Army of the James. Now Jones had to acknowledge that Union forces were steadily clamping down on Richmond.
September 12th.—Clear, and quite cold.

Gen. Hood has agreed to a short armistice with Sherman, ten days, proposed by the latter. Our people don’t know what to think of this, and the government is acquiescent.

But there is a mournful gloom upon the brows of many, since Gen. Grant holds the Weldon Road, and is daily receiving reinforcements, while we get but few under the Conscription system and the present organization of the bureau.

There is a rumor of an intention to abandon Petersburg, and that 20,000 old men and boys, etc. must be put in the trenches on our side immediately to save Richmond and the cause.

Over 100,000 landed proprietors, and most of the slaveowners, are now out of the ranks, and soon, I fear, we shall have an army that will not fight, having nothing to fight for. And this is the result of the pernicious policy of partiality and exclusiveness, disintegrating society in such a crisis, and recognizing distinction of ranks,—the higher class staying home and making money, the lower class thrust into the trenches. And then the infamous schedule, to make the fortunes of the farmers of certain counties.

I bought 30 yards of brown cotton to-day, at $2.50 per yard, from a man who had just returned from North Carolina. The price here is $5. I sold my dear old silver reel some time ago (angling) for $75, the sum paid for this cotton.

Already the Dispatch is publishing paragraphs in praise of the “Bureau of Conscription,” never dreaming that it strikes both Gen. Bragg and the President. These articles are written probably by Lieut.-Col. Lay or Col. August. And the Examiner is opening all its batteries again on the President and Gen. Bragg. The conscription men seem to have the odds; but the President, with a single eye, can discern his enemies, and when fully aroused is apt to pounce upon them like a relentless lion. The times are critical, however, and the Secretary of War is very reserved, even when under positive orders to act.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

September 2, 1864: The Diary of Mary Boykin Chesnut


On this day 150 years ago, Mary Boykin Chesnut wrote in her diary that she feared Atlanta was lost, though official news had not yet reached her in Camden, South Carolina. Chesnut, shrewder than many Confederate diarists, feared that the loss of Atlanta would lead to the loss of the war by the Confederacy.
September 2d. - The battle has been raging at Atlanta, and our fate hanging in the balance. Atlanta, indeed, is gone. Well, that agony is over. Like David, when the child was dead, I will get up from my knees, will wash my face and comb my hair. No hope; we will try to have no fear.

At the Prestons' I found them drawn up in line of battle every moment looking for the Doctor on his way to Richmond. Now, to drown thought, for our day is done, read Dumas's MaƮtres d 'Armes. Russia ought to sympathize with us. We are not as barbarous as this, even if Mrs. Stowe's word be taken. Brutal men with unlimited power are the same all over the world. See Russell's India - Bull Run Russell's. They say General Morgan has been killed. We are hard as stones; we sit unmoved and hear any bad news chance may bring. Are we stupefied?