Thursday, March 5, 2015

March 5, 1865: The Diary of John B. Minor

On this day 150 years ago, Professor John B. Minor continued his vigil at the University of Virginia.
Sunday, March 5, 1865.

Thanks to a kind providence, we are all safe this morning. No Sunday school, nor service in any of the Churches, I believe. The day a glorious one, but how futile is the flow of sunshine to inspire our hearts with cheerfulness! In the course of the day, we were visited by Capt Moore of Gen Sheridan's staff, at the instance of the General, to express his determination to preserve the University unharmed and to inquire if we had any complaints to make. This gentleman is a grandson of Rt. Rev. Bishop [Richard C.] Moore of Va. and altho' by birth, descent, education and interests a Northern man, yet evinced more polish of manner than usual with his Countryman.

In the afternoon, the University was searched by order of Gen Sheridan, under the direction of Col Sherman, his inspect gen and his brother and aide Capt Sheridan. They were as civil as possible and of course found nothing contraband. I told them, as I had already told at Gen Merritt's hdqts that I had a musket at my house, which they said I should keep, but as I was not present when my house was searched, the musket was carried off and broken.

March 5, 1865: Custer destroys a supply dump

Brigadier General Wesley Merritt, U.S. Army

On this day 150 years ago, Union Brigadier General Wesley Merritt reported a success won by George Armstrong Custer. Custer and his men had found and destroyed a supply dump containing clothing, blankets and food and destroyed it.

Brevet Brigadier-General FORSYTH,

Chief of Staff:

GENERAL: A dispatch just received from General Custer reports that the bridges, culverts, and other property on the Gordonsville railroad had been destroyed up to a point twelve miles from this city, and that the brigades had returned to camp, save a small party. As soon as the last arrives the bridge over the river will be destroyed. Some skirmishing took place between the brigade and the enemy; a picket of about thirty men were driven in at Keswick Station, and a battle-flag of the Twenty-third Virginia Cavalry [rebel] taken. Five prisoners were captured and Commodore Hollins stated to have been killed whilst attempting to escape; his son is among the prisoners. It was observed that parties of the enemy were watching the movements of the force from the hills on the right. Some letters found on the persons of the prisoners, dated February 25, 1865, describe the state of things in Richmond as most uncertain, rumors of the intention of the government to burn the stores of tobacco and cotton in that city being rife. Colonel Fitzhugh, commanding Second Brigade, First Cavalry Division, reports that Major Douglass, commanding a detachment of the Twentieth Pennsylvania Cavalry, proceeded to Swoope's Station under orders and destroyed quartermaster's and commissary stores, most of which were found in the neighboring barns, 3,000 blankets, 2,000 boots, 2,000 stockings, 2,000 trousers, 2,000 jackets, 2,000 shirts and drawers, 50 000 pounds meat [ham, shoulders, and beef], and a bridge on the railroad; also a small quantity of arms and ordnance stores. A short time before the arrival of Major Douglass at Swoope's Station a party of fifteen men, clad in rebel uniform, whom the major has every reason to believe belong to our scouts, had preceded him, and had been bribed by a farmer in the vicinity to spare his barn, containing a large amount of stores. Captain Earle, chief commissary of subsistence, reports that the cavalry is supplied with seven days' rations, and the train loaded as ordered, viz, the wagons lightened.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Brevet Major-General.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

March 4, 1865: The Diary of John B. Minor

On this day 150 years ago, Professor John B. Minor of the University of Virginia continued his efforts to prevent the destruction of the University.
Sat. March 4, 1865

By day-light this morning I went out and was thankful to find all quiet. It rained almost incessantly during the night, but this morning is clear and beautiful. I fear the state of the roads may delay the departure of our unwelcome visitors. Our guard I found attending to his horse and by six o'clock he was gone. Before 7 I recd a note from Col Preston begging me if possible to get him a guard, that his person had been robbed of watch and money during the night, and his house of many valuables, and he feared a recurrence of insult and outrage. The little girl who brought me the note tells me several of his servant boys have gone off and have betrayed all his horses to the enemy. I c[oul]d only reply by telling him our unprotected condition, but that I hoped from what Custer's adj gen had said, and also from some expressions of the provost marshall last evening, that they would leave here this morning.

About 9 o'clock, a heavy column appeared coming up the road from towards town wh[ich] took the left hand at the Harris House, whence we inferred that they were going to Lynchburg, but we soon found they were only bent on tearing up the Lynchburg R R, and then we apprehended the danger to which we were exposed from plunderers. M[aupin?] and I thereupon posted off to town, sought out Gen Sheridan's head quarters, where we were denied admittance, and referred to Gen [Wesley] Merritt's. After some huffing from the subs there, we met with a civil looking officer of Gen Merritt's staff who detailed a guard (too small as it proved), and we made all haste back, and again were just in time. The plunderers were already in the Infirmary and Mr. [Robert R.] Prentis's. Soon afterwards we got a larger guard of some 25 men, and thenceforward were comparatively easy. I behaved in a manner as conciliatory as possible, to the guard, the commandant of which, (Lieut David Collins by name), was a plain and illiterate but kindly disposed Mich farmer, (the guard was detailed from Co. L, Mich Cavalry), and we got on very well. I had made Simon carry our old mule out in the mountain yesterday, but he said they had found the place of concealment and he feared wd take her, so by Lieut Collins' advice, we had her brought home and put in the cellar, to which the animal demurred not a little.

I am told this evening by Miss Bessie McCoy that some soldiers have uttered threats to the servants that they would sack the University to-night in spite of the guard. Upon mentioning it to Collins, he said there was no danger, but would be on his guard. I have no serious apprehensions, but I shall not go to bed.

March 4, 1865: Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address

On this day 150 years ago, Abraham Lincoln was sworn in for a second time as the President of the United States. Lincoln delivered the following remarks:

FELLOW-COUNTRYMEN:—At this second appearing to take the oath of the presidential office there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement somewhat in detail of a course to be pursued seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself, and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.

One eighth of the whole population was colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, "The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
Lincoln's assassin John Wilkes Booth attended the ceremony and is visible in the picture standing in the corner of the enclosed balcony behind President Lincoln. Click on the picture to enlarge it.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

March 3, 1865: Sheridan's army arrives in Charlottesville, Virginia

John B. Minor
Professor John B. Minor and other members of the University of Virginia's faculty had stayed in Charlottesville, Virginia as the Union army commanded by Philip H. Sheridan advanced on the town and University. They hoped to persuade the Union commander, who had burned down a great part of the Shenandoah Valley the previous autumn, to spare the historic university. On the evening of March 3, 1865, the Union forces arrived in Charlottesville. From the diary of John B. Minor:
Whilst engaged in my school-room (with wandering thoughts on the part of both teacher and pupils), Albert tells me that a young gentleman wishes to see me at the door, where I find Geo Carr, to announce that our picket line has been driven in, and that the enemy are about Dr. [George D.] Stephens' (the D. S.), and may be expected in an hour or two at farthest. Soon after Dr. Maupin sent me word that the town authorities (the Mayor, Cap [Christopher L.] Fowler, and some of the Council), had come up, and would join us in our proposed application for protection. Accordingly between one and two o'clock, we repaired to the grounds opposite Carr's Hill, just by the pool which in happier hours bore the name of "the pellucid", and there awaited the enemy's coming. Our town friends had already arrived, and had displayed a flag of truce, and in a short time the enemy's scouts were visible at the old toll gate, approaching with extreme caution. Videttes were stationed on each commanding eminence, near the road, and it was not until they reached the brook below the ice-pond, that they advanced with confidence. The flag then became visible, and 10 or 15 men approached at a gallop with their pistols in rest, the residue of the column dragging its slow length through the mud. We announced to these men, who were accompanied by a dirty-looking lieutenant, that no defense of Charlottesville was contemplated, that the town was evacuated, and that we requested protection for the University, and for the town.

They told us Gen Sheridan was in command, that Gen [George Armstrong] Custer led the van, and would be on in a few minutes, and then staying no further question, put spurs to their horses, and rode as fast as the deep mud would permit, towards town,—we feared to plunder. In a few minutes a good looking officer rode up, who announced himself as Gen Custer's ad[jutant] genl, I believe and upon our restating our wishes, said a guard would be furnished the University, and private property everywhere would be protected. Immediately afterwards Gen Custer passed in triumph, with 3 of our battle flags displayed, when two members of his staff rode out of the line to repeat the assurance of protection to the University. The town gentlemen now hastened to Charlottesville, whither Dr. Maupin and I also resolved to go that the promise of a guard might not be forgotten. The staff-officer first mentioned, expressed doubt whether their column would remain at Charlottesville, so that we are cheered with a glimpse of hope that we may not suffer from their presence long.

As I was leaving the University I remembered that I had seen several men diverge from the direct route, and go around towards my house, and I therefore hastened home to see if things were safe there, before I looked after the general security, and it was well and providential that I took the precaution, for as I entered at the back gate I found two Yankees actually dismounted and in colloquy with [Minor's wife] Nannie who was gallantly confronting them. They demanded to search for arms, but upon learning that I was just from the general, with assurance of a guard, they desisted from whatever depredations they had contemplated, and they certainly designed some, having made sundry enquiries of the servants as to whether I had a watch, whether there was any plate in the house, etc.

Dr. Maupin and I found the column had passed on to the bridges to destroy them and Marchant's factory, and so were unable to prefer any further request for a guard, but upon returning we found one had been posted, which however, was in a short time reduced to a single man. He remained all the afternoon, at the corner opposite the Medical Hall, and was extremely serviceable, and very courteous. About night-fall, the provost-marshall came to relieve him, and was about to leave us defenseless, but agreed, with the man's consent, that he might stay until the morning. I got a place for his horse, and Sister Gert (Mrs. [Raleigh E.] Colston) who has been occupying the house at the corner for some months, proposed that he should stay in their parlor. Between 9 and 10 o'clock he and I made the circuit of the University, and then he went to sleep, but I propose to remain up all night.

March 3, 1865: The Diary of John B. Minor

On this day 150 years ago, Professor John B. Minor and Dr. Socrates Maupin of the faculty of the University of Virginia prepared to face the advancing Union forces under the command of Philip H. Sheridan. While many citizens of Charlottesville fled, Minor and Maupin were determined to do what they could to save the University of Virginia.
Friday Mar. 3, 10 'oclk.

Dr. Maupin and I hold ourselves in readiness for our embassy. The state of the roads and of Meechum's river, and even of Ivy Creek, may delay the advance of the Yankee column for many hours. Amidst conflicting rumors, I can't determine whether they got beyond Greenwood last night or not. Several trains passed down in the night, and there is a story of one of them having been fired into whilst moving off from Greenwood, but I know not whether it is not one of the multitudinous sensations with which the very air tingles. Every one who supposes himself liable to capture, has gone into the woods in various directions. I know not if I myself am safe, but I cannot refugee it in such weather, and besides owe it to the University, to try to get protection for it.

Having gone to Fisher's shoe-shop, near the book store, to get a pair of shoes he had been repairing for me I saw Ferril and Geo Carr (Frank's son) riding up the road on a scout. They tell me that our pickets are still near Meechum's River, and that they have been directed to communicate with them. I enjoined upon them to come by on their return and let me hear definitely what was the situation. I now commit my watch to as safe custody as possible, and having made the best dispositions I could I calmly await the result, with a comfortable trust in the Divine Providence that has hitherto possessed me and mine. I betake myself to the boys' room, to hear their lessons.