Tuesday, November 25, 2014

November 25, 1864: The Diary of Mary Boykin Chesnut

On this day 150 years ago, Mary Boykin Chesnut wrote in her diary about the progress of Sherman's March to the Sea.
November 25th. - Sherman is thundering at Augusta's very doors. My General was on the wing, somber, and full of care. The girls are merry enough; the staff, who fairly live here, no better. Cassandra, with a black shawl over her head, is chased by the gay crew from sofa to sofa, for she avoids them, being full of miserable anxiety. There is nothing but distraction and confusion. All things tend to the preparation for the departure of the troops. It rains all the time, such rains as I never saw before; incessant torrents. These men come in and out in the red mud and slush of Columbia streets. Things seem dismal and wretched to me to the last degree, but the staff, the girls, and the youngsters do not see it.

Mrs. S. (born in Connecticut) came, and she was radiant. She did not come to see me, but my nieces. She says exultingly that "Sherman will open a way out at last, and I will go at once to Europe or go North to my relatives there." How she derided our misery and "mocked when our fear cometh." I dare say she takes me for a fool. I sat there dumb, although she was in my own house. I have heard of a woman so enraged that she struck some one over the head with a shovel. To-day, for the first time in my life, I know how that mad woman felt. I could have given Mrs. S. the benefit of shovel and tongs both.

That splendid fellow, Preston Hampton; "home they brought their warrior, dead," and wrapped in that very Legion flag he had borne so often in battle with his own hands.

A letter from Mrs. Davis to-day, under date of Richmond, Va., November 20, 1864. She says: "Affairs West are looking so critical now that, before you receive this, you and I will be in the depths or else triumphant. I confess I do not sniff success in every passing breeze, but I am so tired, hoping, fearing, and being disappointed, that I have made up my mind not to be disconsolate, even though thieves break through and steal. Some people expect another attack upon Richmond shortly, but I think the avalanche will not slide until the spring breaks up its winter quarters. I have a blind kind of prognostics of victory for us, but somehow I am not cheered. The temper of Congress is less vicious, but more concerted in its hostile action." Mrs. Davis is a woman that my heart aches for in the troubles ahead.

My journal, a quire of Confederate paper, lies wide open on my desk in the corner of my drawing-room. Everybody reads it who chooses. Buck comes regularly to see what I have written last, and makes faces when it does not suit her. Isabella still calls me Cassandra, and puts her hands to her ears when I begin to wail. Well, Cassandra only records what she hears; she does not vouch for it. For really, one nowadays never feels certain of anything.

Monday, November 24, 2014

November 24, 1864: Abraham Lincoln suspends five executions

On this day 150 years ago, President Abraham Lincoln intervened to delay the execution of five men held for desertion in Minnesota.
War Department
Washington City,
Nov. 24, 1864

Officer in Command at
Fort Snelling, Minn.

Suspend execution of
Patrick Kelly, John Lennor, Joel H. Eastwood, Thomas
J. Murray, and Hoffman until further order from


No.2 W
Recd 8.50am
sent 939
By McK

Sunday, November 23, 2014

November 23, 1864: Captain Frederick Charles Winkler to his wife

On this day 150 years ago, Captain Frederick Charles Winkler of the 26th Wisconsin Infantry wrote home to his wife from Sherman's army as it marched through Georgia:
I write at the Capitol of the State of Georgia, We left Atlanta a week ago yesterday, in the rear of the whole train of the corps; that is always a very tedious marching, and we marched all night to make the distance to Stone Mountain, about sixteen miles. We had only time for a short rest and breakfast before we started again, and marched in the same tedious fashion until ten in the evening. The next few days we had to work tearing up the railroad a good deal, besides marching; only the last few days have we got into camp before dark. We marched along the railroad to Augusta as far as Madison, and then south to this place. The country is full of large plantations; some of the villages are very beautiful. Madison has magnificent mansions and gardens, roses and other flowers are in full bloom everywhere. The last two nights, however, have nipped them with frost. I am sitting this evening at the opening of a wall tent, with a big fire before me.

The white people of Georgia are cold and for the most part intensely Secesh, and remain true to the most terrible resolutions that they will never give up, but the negroes, black and white-for it is difflcult to distinguish them from white men-are the most devoted friends of the Yankee soldiers. Their demonstrations are literally frantic. They dance and shout and clap their hands when they see our column approach. Whatever a soldier may ask for, they hasten to do for him. Whatever their masters have, he will get. It is claimed the negroes are so well contented with their slavery; if it ever was so, that day has ceased to be. Hundreds of men go with us, and thousands would if they could take their families along. Most of them have more or less white blood in their veins, and though they are not taught even to count, they are by no means unintelligent. Up to this time I have thought the South could organize a formidable military force out of their negroes, but I am satisfied now that they dare not attempt it. Every negro in the land will defend a Yankee soldier to the utmost of his power; many of our prisoners have escaped by their aid, and not one I believe has ever been betrayed by them. At Madison they burned the calaboose or whipping post, and the wild transports of men, women and children, dancing about, was really a spectacle worth seeing.

Friday, November 21, 2014

November 21, 1864: The Diary of Judith White McGuire

On this day 150 years ago, war refugee Judith White McGuire wrote in her diary of the sad case of a young wounded soldier who committed suicide to end his suffering.
November 21st, 1864.

We attended hospital services yesterday as usual. There are few patients, and none are very ill. On Friday night a most unexpected death took place, under very painful circumstances. A young adjutant lost his life by jumping out of a window at the head of his bed, about ten feet from the ground. His attendants were a sister, brother, and two servants. His suffering with a wound in his foot had been so intense that he would not allow any one to touch it except the ward-master, who handled it with the greatest tenderness. Yet while his attendants were asleep (for they thought it unnecessary to be up with him all night) he managed to get up, raise the window, and throw himself out, without disturbing one of them. His mind was no doubt unsettled, as it had been before. He lived about an hour after being found. His poor sister was wild with grief and horror, and his other attendants dreadfully shocked.

November 21, 1864: Abraham Lincoln to Mrs. Bixby, a Five-Star Mother

On this day 150 years ago, Abraham Lincoln wrote the following letter to a Mrs. Bixby of Boston, Massachusetts who had lost five sons fighting with the Union Army.
MRS. BIXBY, Boston, Massachusetts.

DEAR MADAM:—I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant-General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.

Yours very sincerely and respectfully,

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

November 19, 1864: "Proclamation Concerning Blockade"

On this day 150 years ago, President Abraham Lincoln issued the following proclamation lifting the federal blockade against certain Southern ports that were under Union control, allowing a limited resumption of trade with these ports.


A Proclamation.
Whereas by my proclamation of the 19th of April, 1861, it was declared that the ports of certain States, including those of Norfolk, in the State of Virginia, Fernandina and Pensacola, in the State of Florida, were, for reasons therein set forth, intended to be placed under blockade; and:

Whereas the said ports were subsequently blockaded accordingly, but having for some time past been in the military possession of the United States, it is deeemd advisable that they should be opened to domestic and foreign commerce:
Now, therefore, be it known that I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, pursuant to the authority in me vested by the fifth section of the act of Congress approved on the 13th of July, 1861, entitled "An act further to provide for the collection of duties on imports, and for other purposes," do hereby declare that the blockade of the said ports of Norfolk, Fernandina, and Pensacola shall so far cease and determine, from and after the first day of December next, that commercial intercourse with those ports, except as to persons, things, and information contraband of war, may, from that time, be carried on, subject to the laws of the United States, to the limitations and in pursuance of the regulations which may be prescribed by the Secretary of the Treasury, and to such military and naval regulations as are now in force, or may hereafter be found necessary.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed. Done at the city of Washington, this nineteenth day of November, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-four, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-ninth.

By the President: WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.