Friday, September 13, 2013

September 13, 1863: The Diary of John B. Jones

Major General George E. Pickett, C.S. Army
On this day 150 years ago, Confederate war clerk John B. Jones wrote of conscription, desertion, and the condition of George Pickett's division as it marched through Richmond.
September 13th.—A letter from Gen. J. E. Johnston, Atlanta—whither he had repaired to attend a Court of Inquiry relating to Pemberton’s operations, but which has been postponed under the present peril—repels indignantly the charge which seems to have been made in a letter from the Secretary of War, that in executing the law of conscription in his command, he had acted hastily, without sufficient attention to the rights of exemption under the provisions of the act. He says the law was a dead letter when he charged Gen. Pillow with its execution; that Gen. Pillow has now just got his preparations made for its enforcement; and, of course, no appeals have as yet come before him. He hopes that the Secretary will re-examine the grounds of his charge, etc. He is amazed, evidently, with the subject, and no doubt the “Bureau” here will strain every nerve to monopolize the business—providing as usual for its favorites, and having appointed to snug places a new batch of A. A. G.’s—men who ought to be conscribed themselves.

Col. Preston, under the manipulations of Lieut.-Col. Lay, is getting on swimmingly, and to-day makes a requisition for arms and equipments of 2500 cavalry to force out conscripts, arrest deserters, etc. I think they had better popularize the army, and strive to reinspire the enthusiasm that characterized it at the beginning; and the only way to do this is to restore to its ranks the wealthy and educated class, which has abandoned the field for easier employments. I doubt the policy of shooting deserters in this war—better shoot the traitors in high positions. The indigent men of the South will fight, shoulder to shoulder with the wealthy, for Southern independence; but when the attempt is made to debase them to a servile condition, they will hesitate.

Gen. Pickett’s division, just marching through the city, wears a different aspect from that exhibited last winter. Then it had 12,000 men—now 6000; and they are dirty, tattered and torn.

The great Blakely gun has failed.

We have reports of the evacuation of Cumberland Gap. This was to be looked for, when the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad was suffered to fall into the enemy’s hands. When will this year’s calamities end?

Gen. Lee is at Orange Court House, and probably will not leave Virginia. He will still have an army of 50,000 men to oppose Meade; and Richmond may possibly be held another winter.

Congress will not be called, I think; and the Legislature, now in session, I am told, will accomplish no good. It will not be likely to interfere with the supreme power which resolves to “rule or ruin,”—at least this seems to be the case in the eyes of men who merely watch the current of events.

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