Wednesday, August 24, 2016

August 24, 1861: Elisha Franklin Paxton to Editor of the Lexington Gazette


On August 24, 1861, Elisha Franklin Paxton wrote to the editor of his hometown newspaper to correct the record regarding Paxton's action at the Battle of Manassas. While Paxton had been in the thick of the fighting, the editor of the Lexington Gazette had perhaps exalted Paxton at the expense of others. Paxton wanted to make sure his fellow soldiers received the credit they were due.
LETTER TO THE EDITOR OF THE LEXINGTON "GAZETTE."

Camp Harmon, August 24, 1861.

I do not merit the compliment paid me in a paragraph contained in a recent number of your paper, which gives me the position of leading a portion of the 4th Va. and 7th Geo. in the charge upon the enemy's batteries. The 4th Va. was led by its gallant officers, Preston, Moore and Kent, and it was by order of Col. Preston, who was the first to reach the battery, that I placed the flag upon it. The 7th Geo. was led by one whom history will place among the noblest of the brave men whose blood stained the field of Manassas -- the lamented Bartow; when he fell, then by its immediate commander, Col. Gartrell, until he was carried, wounded, from the field; and then, until the close of the day, by Major Dunwoodie, the next in command.

If the paragraph means, not leading, but foremost, the compliment is equally unmerited. In the midst of the terrible shower of ball and shell to which we were subjected, and whilst our men, dead and wounded, fell thick and fast around us, my associates in the command of our company, Letcher, Edmondson and Lewis, were by my side; the dead bodies of my comrades, Fred Davidson and Asbury McClure, attest their gallantry; and the severe wounds which Bowyer, Moodie, Northern, Neff and P. Davidson carried home show where they were. I witnessed, on the part of many of our company around me, heroism equal to that of those I have named; but as others whom, in the excitement of the occasion, I do not remember to have seen, did quite as well, I may do injustice to name whom I saw. Compared with the terrible danger to which we were exposed at this time, that seems trifling when, at a later hour and in another part of the field, the flag was placed on some of the guns of the Rhode Island battery, which the enemy were then leaving in rapid retreat, the day being already won, and the glories of Manassas achieved.

Again, I did not get the flag when Bartow fell, but sometime after, from the color-sergeant of the regiment, who, wounded, was no longer able to bear it.

The work done by Jackson's Brigade and the 7th Geo., and the credit to which they are entitled, is stated in the following extract from the official report of Gen. McDowell: "The hottest part of the contest was for the possession of this hill with a house on it." Here Jackson and his gallant men fought. Here the work of that memorable Sabbath was finished.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

August 23, 1861: The Diary of Mary Boykin Chesnut


Mary Boykin Chesnut visited an army hospital on this day, 150 years ago.
August 23d. - A brother of Doctor Garnett has come fresh and straight from Cambridge, Mass., and says (or is said to have said, with all the difference there is between the two), that "recruiting up there is dead." He came by Cincinnati and Pittsburg and says all the way through it was so sad, mournful, and quiet it looked like Sunday.

I asked Mr. Brewster if it were true Senator Toombs had turned brigadier. "Yes, soldiering is in the air. Every one will have a touch of it. Toombs could not stay in the Cabinet." "Why?" "Incompatibility of temper. He rides too high a horse; that is, for so despotic a person as Jeff Davis. I have tried to find out the sore, but I can't. Mr. Toombs has been out with them all for months." Dissension will break out. Everything does, but it takes a little time. There is a perfect magazine of discord and discontent in that Cabinet; only wants a hand to apply the torch, and up they go. Toombs says old Memminger has his back up as high as any.

Oh, such a day! Since I wrote this morning, I have been with Mrs. Randolph to all the hospitals. I can never again shut out of view the sights I saw there of human misery. I sit thinking, shut my eyes, and see it all; thinking, yes, and there is enough to think about now, God knows. Gilland's was the worst, with long rows of ill men on cots, ill of typhoid fever, of every human ailment; on dinner-tables for eating and drinking, wounds being dressed; all the horrors to be taken in at one glance.

Then we went to the St. Charles. Horrors upon horrors again; want of organization, long rows of dead and dying; awful sights. A boy from home had sent for me. He was dying in a cot, ill of fever. Next him a man died in convulsions as we stood there. I was making arrangements with a nurse, hiring him to take care of this lad; but I do not remember any more, for I fainted. Next that I knew of, the doctor and Mrs. Randolph were having me, a limp rag, put into a carriage at the door of the hospital. Fresh air, I dare say, brought me to. As we drove home the doctor came along with us, I was so upset. He said: "Look at that Georgia regiment marching there; look at their servants on the sidewalk. I have been counting them, making an estimate. There is $16,000 - sixteen thousand dollars' worth of negro property which can go off on its own legs to the Yankees whenever it pleases."
The last bit of this diary entry is interesting. Chesnut and her doctor friend notice slave servants being taken to war with a Georgia regiment. The doctor speculates that the slaves will escape as soon as they can. A very different image from that presented by those who would have us believe that slaves willingly served in the Confederate army.

Monday, August 22, 2016

August 22, 1861: U.S.S. Lexington seizes rebel steamer


On August 12, 1861, the converted riverboat Lexington was taken into U.S. service as the "timberclad" gunboat USS Lexington. As part of her conversion, the Lexington was planked over with thick wooden sides and armed with four 8-inch Dahlgren guns and and two 32-pounder cannon. Only ten days later, on August 22, 1861, the Lexington was in action against a rebel steamer reported to be at Paducah, Kentucky.
U.S. GUNBOAT LEXINGTON,

Cairo, August 22, 1861.

COLONEL: Agreeably to your verbal order, communicated to me at midnight of the 21st instant, I got under way, and proceeded to Paducah, Ky., where I arrived at 7.03 a.m. The gentleman you placed on board to designate the steamer employed in the rebel trade and carrying their flag pointed out the
W. B. Terry as being the vessel thus illegally engaged. I ran alongside of her, cut her out, made her fast to the Lexington, and immediately returned to this anchorage and placed her in your possession. I was not opposed in the performance of this duty by either the citizens of Paducah or the officers and crew of the Terry, for the latter, evidently suspecting my object, left the boat hastily, with such articles of clothing as were at hand. I was therefore unsuccessful in capturing any of them.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant

R.N. STEMBEL,
Commander, U. S. Navy.

Colonel OGLESBY,
Commander Military Post, Cairo, Ill.
The Lexington--along with her sister timberclads Conestoga and Tyler--would become mainstays of the Federal river fleet on the western rivers.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

August 21, 1861: "$100 reward"

The outbreak of war made escape easier for Southern slaves. Before the war, escaping slaves were not completely safe until they reached Canada. Even if a slave reached the North, he would have been subject to the Fugitive Slave Act. The outbreak of war all but ended the enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act. Now all a slave had to do was reach Union lines. On August 21, 1861, the Daily Dispatch carried an advertisement for a reward for a slave named "Beverly."
$100 reward

--For the delivery to me of my Carriage Driver, Beverly. He is twenty-seven years old; color, black; six feet high; face covered with short beard, and moustache; large eye-brows and curling eye-lashes. He probably travels in a dark grey mixed summer coat, or blue cloth with brace buttons, and carpet-bag. He says he has read Shakespeare, and may travel with a forged pass, and shave off his beard when he reads this. He has relatives at Dr. R. H. Steward's, in King George, and at Mrs. Dr. Frank Taliaferro's, in Orange, with whom he has been recently corresponding by letter. His object being evidently to escape, he is doubtless lurking about the shore of the Potomac, or making his way Northward, and may be about our encampments. The above reward will be paid if caught over fifty miles from Fredericksburg; otherwise, $59 [au 2--2w*] A. N. Bernard.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

August 20, 1861: Mattie Read to her husband, Thomas G. Read

Mattie White Read and Thomas Griffin Read were married in late 1860 or early 1861. Thomas G. Read was a tailor by trade in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley. Thomas joined the 33rd Virginia Infantry, which became part of the Stonewall Brigade, on July 11, 1861. Mattie spent the war at her parents' farm in Augusta County, Virginia. On August 20, 1861, Mattie wrote to her husband, bringing him up to date on local news from home and promising to send him clothing and supplies.
Waynesboro Augusta Co., Va. Aug. 20. 1861.
Dear Husband,

I received your dear letter yesterday and now at the top of a sheet of foolscap, commence to answer it. I am so much relieved, and trust I feel grateful to our Father in Heaven; to hear that you are well. I have for the present; cast away all my fears on that subject. I have written to you twice since the thirteenth. Wrote last Thursday by Mr. Seyrich of Monroe, who was going to Manassas to see a sick son. He took several letters, said he would put them in the office at the Junction. Wrote again, and put in G.K.s box, sent by Mr. Walker yesterday. Mr. K. told me on Friday at B. Brown's funeral, that he would find out that evening if Walker was certainly going on Monday, & would let me know Sat morning and see about it. "No, he would save me that trouble, he would send me word." Well, Griffin, he did not send me word, & I just took it for granted that Walker was not going Mon. Mr. K. had said that the box he intended sending was so large he was afraid we could not fill it. I told him no danger of that, I would fill it, if he could not. Well, he told Mr. Brown's family that they could put in some articles. But recollect, now, if I just had not, on account of the unfavourable morning, gone to Bethlehem, I would not have known any thing of it. Well, Nan & I took down the peach box of famous memory, a bag full of crackers, two loaves of bread, a box full of tomatoes. Well, the box was full when we got there; & Mrs. Killian "thought there was no room for mine;" Mr. K. told me to "take every thing out of it, & repack, he knew I could get more in than she could; so I managed to squeeze a few things in, which I hope you got. I know you would not fail to get them if G.K. got the box, but they seemed to think that probably Walker was not a very safe head to take charge of such things; were afraid he would lose it or I should have put yours in a box by itself. Well, as soon as I can hear of any reliable person going over, I shall send you a box full, I will put in as much of the articles you mentioned as I can. I was so grieved that I was disappointed in sending all I had prepared.

I hope you won't come to the conclusion that I don't do anything but write to you, as I write so often, and so much. I accomplish an amount of work besides, I assure you. Yesterday (Monday) our Bethlehem Soldiers' aid Society met, and packed a large box for the Monterey Hospital. We put in 6 quilts, 3 comforts, 12 pillows, 24 pillowcases, 13 shirts, 9 pr drawers 1 bushel crackers, 16 lbs sugar 1 1/4 lbs. tea, 1 doz spoons, 6 mugs, besides soap, herbs, candles, corn starch, rags, towels, & bread. Everything is done systematically; we have upwards of 30 names; & each one gives 25 cts per month to purchase necessary articles. Mrs. Clinton Miller is Pres. Mrs. Read Vice Pres. Nannie White Sec. & Mrs. Alexander Treas. We want to send a box of provisions to Staunton in a few days. There were 500 sick there last week. The general Hospital is there. All who are able to be moved are brought there from the North-West. They have Measles mumps fever & dysentery. We are all willing to deny ourselves any thing to afford them every relief.

You folks down there should keep a lookout for old Abe's balloons. The papers say that the old scamp started on a tour with Leowe, but had scarcely got fairly started when, he spied a "masked battery", & begged piteously to return to earth again. I hope Beauregard will contrive one that will blow up balloons, next. Did you see Prince Napoleon? Wouldn't I like to know what he came for! When ever you can do so, try & find out if Andrew & Charley Brooks are well, & mention them when you write.

It has rained here for several days; yesterday it poured down about 12 o'clock, & last night it rained very fast; I thought about the "dwellers in tents," & am afraid many of them would get a drenching.

I would have sent you more huckleberries, but they were hardly dry enough to keep well. We intend drying all the fruit we can; apples, plums, damsons & quinces; we have no peaches. I sent the coffee, just because I thought you would like to drink some that I had prepared; now if I could only have made it for you. But I expect your cooks can beat me. (Tuesday evening) Nannie and I went to the orchard today; climbed the trees to get some apples without bruising them; so as to have them ready to send to you, if we should hear of an opportunity. Mary S. has a very sore throat tonight. Mine was sore for about a week, when I had that cold, I cough a good deal yet. I did not feel at all well all last week; but am now about as well as ever. I think trouble about your being sick, made me sick: and as soon as I heard you were well, I got well too. I recieved a letter from Cous. Sally, & one from Mother yesterday; they were both in one, & Sally wrote for Mother. They had a letter from Cous. John; it was written in June, they got it last week. They got to Canada in safety; could not tell how they would be pleased, met with a kind reception by the church.

Griffin, do you remember when we came to Augusta we heard of the arrest of Ed. C. Randolph suspected of being a spy, but he was allowed to go free. He lived in Middlebrook. Well, the other day, he murdered his wife! ripped her open with a large knife. Now is not it a horrible case! I think he ought to be put up in Staunton, and let the regiment shoot at him. Well, my candle is almost out & I must stop for tonight. Wednesday morning. It is again cloudy, & a strong east wind, this morning. I hoped to see the sun, as it cleared off so prettily yesterday evening. It is so muddy we can scarcely get about. Mother said they had sent you and Mr. V. [ i.e., Private Lemuel Vawter, Company I, 33rd Virginia Infantry] a box of provisions by Capt. Sibert [i.e., Captain Marion M. Sibert, Company E (the "Irish Guard"), 33rd Virginia], did you get it? I am sorry to hear that our Irish company fared so badly on the 21st [i.e., at First Bull Run]. But their wounds are marks of honor. I see in the last "Register" that Casper Branner died at Charleston, Kanawhas of fever. He was a member of Capt. Brook's cavalry.

I am vexed yet at the way I was deceived about that box, but you need not tell any body, only cousin Lem. Mr. K. had said to me, "let us fill a large box, of course I agreed. Then when I carried my cargo down there, they had taken a smaller one & I had to bring more than half home. If I can find any one going, I will send you a box, or barrel full. Will send apples tomatoes and nice potatoes. You ought to save some of your good biscuit and eat them cold, you dont have them hot every time do you? I have knit you a famous pair of socks, for winter, and intend knitting several more.

you must send me word when you need any new ones, and if you wear the feet off the blue ones try & save the tops, put them in the bottom of your knapsack. If you have to stay in camp this winter, and I am spared to fisc for you, I will make you new flannel drawers, & color them, so they will not need washing so often. There is a flaming advertisment in the Register of the "N. Market Female Seminary," Mrs. Jessie Hainning Rupert," & don't you think after all their fuss about getting married, Rupert has not gone to war yet. I was glad to hear that Henry had got off, he is making cartrige boxes. Mother wrote that Carry talks so much about "Aunt Mattie," thought one morning that I was there, and wanted to go over to see me.

Yes, dearest, I hope you will all soon get home, but am afraid that peace will not soon o'erspread our land with the balming wings. We dont want peace at the price of our independence, & I believe the wicked leaders of Yankedom are determined that they will try to make us pay that price for it. Well, we would all rather die fighting than get peace that way, I dont want to live, if I must live under the tyrranical sway of such a degrading despotism. "Liberty or Death". I see a great many instances of female heroism, recorded in the papers. A Mrs. Grove (formerly Miss Rohr of Rockingham) of Upshaw Co, in the absence of her husband, when the Lincolnists came & tried to carry off some of her property, siezed the shovel, & broomstick (woman's weapon) & beat them so that they dropped the articles & fled. Well, I do not say it boastingly, but it is just as I feel when I reflect upon it, that if they ever cross my path and offer harm to one or mine, if I am able I'll fight them, any way I can. I am generally peaceable you know, but if I had a good chance at Lincolns minions I would try & give them some marks to carry with them. But our God is just, dearest, & I trust him with it all. He maketh even the wrath of man to praise Him, & if it is his will that we must suffer, his will be done. Farewell, my husband, and pray for

Your Mattie.

Friday, August 19, 2016

August 19, 1861: Abraham Lincoln promotes George H. Thomas to Brigadier General


On this day in 1861, President Abraham Lincoln appointed George H. Thomas a Brigadier General of Volunteers in the U.S. Army.
To Simon Cameron

Hon. Sec. of War Executive Mansion
August 19, 1861

My dear Sir

At the request of Brigadier General Anderson, I have concluded to appoint George H. Thomas, of the 2nd. Cavalry, a Brigadier General of Volunteers.

Also, let the Hon. James Shields, now of California, be appointed a Brigadier General of Volunteers.

Also, Col. Michael Corcoran, now a prisoner at Richmond.

Yours truly A. LINCOLN


Thomas was a controversial appointment at the time because he was a native of Virginia. Unlike so many other Virginians, Thomas decided that his loyalty lay with his nation first, and not his native state as was the case with so many other Southern officers. Thomas would go on being controversial. On the battlefield in tactical command, few men were his equal. When in command of armies though, he gained the reputation of being a procrastinator.