Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

21st. Sunday. Pickets driven in early. 2nd sent to support the 3rd N. J. Suffered some. Train ordered back one mile. Went back. Found rebels in possession of Charlestown road, one mile further. Sent out a picket from an escort with ambulance train, and made a little reconnoissance, discovering a small rebel force. Soon two regiments in charge of half a dozen aides came back to guard the train through. Laughable time. Passed through Charlestown and by order of Gen. Torbert, went on to Bolivar Heights, near Harper’s Ferry. Major N. sick and along with us. Got a supper in town.


Sunday, 21st—It is the same thing over again—lonesome, lonesome, lonesome. The first thing in the morning is to serve each man with food according to his condition and the doctor’s orders, and then deal out the medicine. There is a death every day.


Sunday, August 21. — Went down to the navy room and spent most the day with them, and dined there. Read most of the day and finished Waverley.


Etowah Bridge, Sunday, Aug. 21. A very wet and rainy day. Kept all hands in doors as much as possible. Washed off the hill, raising the river very fast. Two small packages of mail received, but none for me. Wrote home. Uncle Lester received a new supply of reading matter, monthlies, etc. Very welcome. Bathed in the evening. Captain White, A. A. G. of the Division, died to-day, the most loved of all Smith’s staff, a bright and promising young man.


August 21st. This morning opens up bright and fine. Early we go on the march. Cross the Smithfield road, southwest of Charlestown. Line of battle formed. Ordered to intrench by digging rifle pits. Working while under a heavy fire, solid shot and shells dropping all around us. The enemy was forced to retire. This battle was at Smithfield and the Opequon Creek. We are waiting for orders. While waiting, surprised to receive a large mail for our regiment. We put in a hard day, digging rifle pits under fire and battle, changing position at double-quick time. The brunt of the battle was fought by our cavalry.


by John Beauchamp Jones

            AUGUST 21ST.—Cloudy and pleasant; no rain last night, but the earth is saturated. No additional news from the army. It is said Gen. Bragg prevents news, good or bad, from expanding—believing that any intelligence whatever in the newspapers affords information to the enemy; and he is right. All the mysteries will be solved in a few days, and we shall have all the news, good, bad, and indifferent. I heard cannon last evening; also this morning. Our casualties could not have been large, else the ambulance train would have been in motion. That is certain. It may be that Grant’s army is crumbling,—I hope so; and it may possibly be that negotiations are in progress. There must be an end of this; for the people of both sections are tired of it.

            So far Grant has unquestionably failed in his enterprises againstRichmond, and his present reduced strength certainly renders it unlikely that he can prevail against us hereafter. His new levies, if he gets any, will not be fit for the field this year; and all his veterans will soon be gone,—killed, or home,—never to return. Thank God, the prospect of peace is “bright and brightening,” and a dark cloud is above the horizon in the North. Lincoln and his party are now environed with dangers rushing upon them from every direction.

            No doubt Lee’s army is weakened by detachments sent to Early; but then the local troops have been sent home, which is at least a favorable augury. The following order is published:


            “It having been represented to the War Department that there are numbers of foreigners entrapped by artifice and fraud into the military and naval service of the United States, who would gladly withdraw from further participation in the inhuman warfare waged against a people who have never given them a pretext for hostility; and that there are many inhabitants of the United States now retained in that service against their will, who are averse to aiding in the unjust war now being prosecuted against the Confederate States; and it being also known that these men are prevented from abandoning such compulsory service by the difficulty they experience in escaping therefrom, it is ordered that all such persons coming within the lines of the Confederate armies shall be received, protected, and supplied with means of subsistence, until such of them as desire it can be forwarded to the most convenient points on the border, where all facilities will be afforded them to return to their homes.

            “By order,

                        “(Signed)                                 S. COOPER,

                                                                                    A. and I. General.”

            My turnips have not come up yet, and I fear the hot sun has destroyed the vitality of the seed. It is said the enemy still hold theWeldon Road; if so, then I fear our flour will be delayed, if not lost.

            What if Grant now had the 140,000 more—lost in this campaign? Or ifLincoln should succeed in getting into the field the 500,000 men now called for?

            The next two months will be the most interesting period of the war; everything depends upon the result of the Presidential election in theUnited States. We rely some little upon the success of the peace party.

            The order from the Adjutant-General’s office was first suggested by Gen. Beauregard, discountenanced by Mr. Secretary Seddon, approved by the President, and slightly modified by Gen. Lee. It remains to be seen what will be its effect. Deserters are certainly coming over in large numbers; so much so, that it is proposed to establish a depot for them in Georgia. Gen. Winder writes that it is not his province to be charged with them as well as with the prisoners. He is miserable; his rogues and cut-throats have mostly remained behind, preferring a city residence; and the Bureau of Conscription will not, it seems, conscribe Marylanders, most of whom have grown rich here. Will the President and the Secretary of War yield to Assistant Secretary Campbell, and the “Bureau,” and Judge Halliburton,—or will they execute the act of Congress, enrolling all “residents” for the common defense? Nous verrons.

            One meets no beggars yet, although we have been suffering a famine for more than a year.

            The State Government is now selling a little rice—one and a half pounds per month to each member of a family—at 50 cents per pound, the ordinary price being about $2. And the City Council has employed a butcher to sell fresh meat at about $3.50 per pound. The State will also distribute cotton cloth and yarn, at something less than the usual prices. There would be quite enough of everything necessary, if it were equally distributed.


20th. Saturday. Spent the day quietly in camp. A little skirmishing between pickets. Rebels reported moving on Martinsburg. Some talk about officers in regt. Rained.


20th.—A friend from the Valley has described a successful attack made by Mosby on a Federal wagon-train near Berryville. It was on its way to the army near Strasburg, and Mosby was on the other side of the Shenandoah. He crossed in the night with one cannon and about seventy-five men, and at daylight surprised the drivers and guard as they were beginning to hitch their mules, by a salute from the cannon and seventy-five pistols. There was a general stampede in an instant of all who were unhurt. As quick as thought, 600 mules were turned towards the river, and driven to the command in Loudoun. In the mean time, the wagons were set on fire, and most of them and their contents were consumed before the luckless drivers could return to their charge.

It is said that our new steamer, the “Tallahassee,” has been within sixty miles of the city of New York, very much to the terror of the citizens. It also destroyed six large vessels. I bid it God-speed with all my heart; I want the North to feel the war to its core, and then it will end, and not before.


August 20th, 1864.

I have visited the regiment, as I intended. I found them all well except Colonel Luce. He is suffering from injuries received at Spottsylvania and from fever. Preparations are being made to send him home. I had but little time to visit with the boys, as they moved that night. When I returned this morning I found great changes had taken place in the hospital. First, a new Surgeon is in charge, and, of course, new regulations. All the old incumbents have been removed and an entire new set installed. An order has been issued by General Meade forbidding any enlisted man helping in any of the hospitals or commissions, which throws me out of a job. As things are not to my liking here, I will report at once to the field hospital.


Saturday, 20th—This is general scrub day. We had a busy day in the hospital fitting out cots for the latest arrivals. Our ward is crowded to the limit, there being more sick and wounded here now than at any previous time. Our hospital number 4 contains only the sick. All is quiet. No news from General Grant.