Thursday, June 27, 2013

June 27, 1863: With Lee gone, Richmond is all but defenseless

Richmond, Virginia during the American Civil War.

On this day 150 years ago, the inhabitants of Richmond, Virginia were on edge, keenly aware that with Lee's Army of Northern Virginia in Maryland and Pennsylvania, Richmond was all but defenseless. Lee had gambled, placing both Richmond and Vicksburg on the table, wagering that with his invasion of Pennsylvania he could force the Union to the negotiating table or draw Great Britain and France into the war.

In Richmond, Confederate war clerk John B. Jones spent the day updating his diary as news came in of alarms and Union raids around the exposed Confederate capital.
June 27th.—An officer of the Signal Corps reported, yesterday, the force of Gen. Keyes, on the Peninsula, at 6000. To-day we learn that the enemy is in possession of Hanover Junction, cutting off communication with both Fredericksburg and Gordonsville. A train was coming down the Central Road with another installment of the Winchester prisoners (some 4000 having already arrived, now confined on Belle Island, opposite the city), but was stopped in time, and sent back.

Gen. Elzey had just ordered away a brigade from Hanover Junction to Gordonsville, upon which it was alleged another raid was projected. What admirable manœuvring for the benefit of the enemy!

Gen. D. H. Hill wrote, yesterday, that we had no troops on the Blackwater except cavalry. I hope he will come here and take command.

Gen. Whiting has arrested the Yankee crew of the Arabian, at Wilmington. It appears that she is owned by New Yorkers, sailed from New York, and has a Yankee cargo!

Capt. Maury writes from London that R. J. Walker, once a fire-and-fury Mississippi Senator (but Yankee-born), is in Europe trying to borrow £50,000,000 for the United States. Capt. Maury says the British Government will not willingly let us have another “Alabama;” but that it is also offended at the United States for the atrocities of Wilkes, and this may lead to war. The war, however, would not be intended as a diversion in our behalf.

Nothing is heard to-day from Lee, except what appears in Northern papers several days old, when our troops were occupying Hagerstown, Cumberland, etc., in Maryland, and foraging pretty extensively in Pennsylvania.

Nothing from Vicksburg.

Just as I apprehended! The brigade ordered away from Hanover to Gordonsville, upon a wild-goose chase, had not been gone many hours before some 1200 of the enemy’s cavalry appeared there, and burnt the bridges which the brigade had been guarding! This is sottishness, rather than generalship, in our local commanders.

A regiment was sent up when firing was heard (the annihilation of our weak guard left at the bridges) and arrived just two hours too late. The enemy rode back, with a hundred mules they had captured, getting under cover of their gun-boats.

To-day, it is said, Gen. Elzey is relieved, and Gen. Ransom, of North Carolina, put in command; also, that Custis Lee (son of Gen. R. E. Lee) has superseded Gen. Winder. I hope this has been done. Young Lee has certainly been commissioned a brigadier-general. His brother, Brig.-Gen. W. H. F. Lee, wounded in a late cavalry fight, was taken yesterday by the enemy at Hanover Court House.

Gen. Whiting’s letter about the “Arabian” came back from the President, to-day, indorsed that, as Congress did not prohibit private blockade-running, he wouldn’t interfere. So, this is to be the settled policy of the government.

This morning the President sent a letter to the Secretary of War, requesting him to direct all mounted officers—some fifty A. A. G.’s and A. D.’s—to report to him for duty around the city. Good! These gentlemen ought to be in the saddle instead of being sheltered from danger in the bureaus.

3 o’clock p.m.—Three proclamations have just been issued! One (a joint one) from the President and the Governor, calling[Pg 362] upon everybody to organize themselves into companies, battalions, and regiments, when they will be armed. They say “no time is to be lost, the danger is great.” The Mayor, in his document, warns the people in time to avoid the fate of New Orleans. He says the enemy is advancing on the city, and may assail it before Monday morning. This is Saturday. The third proclamation is by E. B. Robinson, one of my printers, twenty years ago, at Washington. He calls upon all natives of Maryland and the District of Columbia to report to him, and he will lead them against the enemy, and redeem them from the imputation of skulking or disloyalty cast upon poor refugees by the flint-hearted Shylocks of Richmond, who have extorted all their money from them.

Besides these inflammatory documents, the militia colonels have out notices for all men under forty-five years of age to meet in Broad Street to-morrow, Sunday.

I learn, however, that there are some 25,000 or 30,000 of the enemy at Yorktown; but if we can get together 12,000 fighting men, in the next twenty-four hours, to man the fortifications, there will not be much use for the militia and the clerks of the departments, more than as an internal police force. But I am not quite sure we can get that number.

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