Tuesday, August 20, 2013

August 20, 1863: The Diary of John B. Jones

Wartime Richmond, Virginia
From his desk at the Confederate War Department in Richmond, Virginia, John B. Jones surveyed the state of the war from the Confederate point of view: Bragg's inability to stop Rosecrans, the siege of CHarleston, South Carolina, speculation in cotton in Mobile, Alabama, and the consequences of the surrender of Vicksburg.
August 20th.—A few weeks ago Gen. Cooper wrote to Bragg, suggesting that he advance into Middle Tennessee, reinforced by Gen. Johnston, and attack Rosecrans; Gen. Bragg replied (8th inst.) that with all the reinforcements he could get from Johnston, he would not have more than 40,000 effective men, while Rosecrans has 60,000, and will be reinforced by Burnside with 30,000 more—making 90,000 against 40,000—and as a true patriot he was opposed to throwing away our armies in enterprises sure to terminate disastrously. He said, moreover, that the enemy could starve him out, if he were to advance to the place designated, and thus destroy his army without a battle. Gen. Cooper sent this response to the President, asking if Bragg should not be ordered to fight under such circumstances. But the President paused, in following the guidance of this Northern man at the head of all our Southern generals—and to-day sent back the paper indorsed that “only a suggestion could be given to a commanding general to fight a battle; but to order him to fight when he predicted a failure in advance, would be unwise.”

A paper from Beauregard intimates that even if batteries Wagner and Gregg should be taken by the enemy, he has constructed another which will render that part of Morris Island untenable. But he relied upon holding Sumter; and there is a vague rumor to-day that Sumter must surrender—if indeed it has not already been reduced.

Hon Wm. Porcher Miles writes another most urgent letter, demanding reinforcements of seasoned troops. He says Charleston was stripped of troops against the remonstrances of Beauregard to send to Mississippi—to no avail—which invited this attack; and now he asks that Jenkins’s brigade of South Carolinians be sent to the defense; that South Carolinians are fighting in Virginia, but are not permitted to defend their native soil in the hour of extremity; and that if the enemy, with overwhelming numbers, should take James’s Island, they would, from thence, be able to destroy the city. We are looking with anxiety for further news from Charleston.

Gen. Maury writes from Mobile that he has seized, in the hands of Steever (who is he?), receipts for 4000 bales of cotton—orders for 150 bonds, each £225 sterling, and two bags of coin, $10,000. The President indorses on the paper that the money had better be turned over to the Secretary of the Treasury. What is all this?

The Secretary sent a paper to the President relating to some novel action performed or proposed, asking his “instructions.” The President returned it to-day indorsed, “The Secretary’s advice invited.” How in the mischief can such non-committalists ever arrive at a conclusion?

Hon. E. S. Dargan writes that if Pemberton be restored to command (as he understands this to be the government’s purpose), our cause is ruined beyond redemption. I say so too. When he made up his mind to surrender, it is unpardonable that he did not destroy the 50,000 stand of arms before he made any overture. I shall never forgive him!

The signal officers report that three large ocean steamers passed down the Potomac day before yesterday, having on board 1000 men each; and that many large steamers are constantly going up—perhaps for more.

Brig.-Gen. Roger A. Pryor, after dancing attendance in the ante-rooms for six months, waiting assignment to a command, has resigned, and his resignation has been accepted. He says he can at least serve in the ranks as a private. The government don’t like aspiring political generals. Yet Pryor was first a colonel, and member of Congress—resigned his seat—resigned his brigadier-generalship, and is now a private.

Our cause is dim in Europe, if it be true, as the Northern papers report, that the Confederate loan has sunken from par to 35 per cent. discount since the fall of Vicksburg.

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