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

December 2011

Tuesday, December 31, 1861. — New Year’s Eve — the last day of the year — a busy day with me. A review, an inspection, and a muster of the regiment all by me; also an inspection of McMullen’s Battery. Yesterday received letters from Platt and Dr. Joe. The little stranger is more like Birt than the others and smaller than Rud. Birch indignant that he isn’t big enough to drill! — A lovely day today. Twenty-six fine days this month; a few [of] them cold, not severely so, but all good weather. Lucy getting on well. Good, all!

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Tuesday, 31st—The boys are all preparing for New Year’s Day celebration. Thus ends 1861.[1]


[1] The last day of 1661 found our regiment stationed as follows: Company E at Lookout Station, Companies B, G, K and H at California, Companies A, C, D, F and I at Fulton, all in the State of Missouri, and not far apart. They were all in winter quarters, occupying vacant store buildings. We saw some pretty hard service during the month of December, but only in the suffering by exposure to the cold weather.—A. G. D.

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December 31 — The men were a little slow in bunching this morning, but eventually we all got together and proceeded to an old stone church at the eastern edge of town on the Berryville pike, which was used as an arsenal. There we got a new gun, ammunition, harness—a full equipment for a new detachment. Heretofore we had but two pieces in the battery, both rifled guns. This new one is a twelve-pound howitzer, a valuable and necessary adjunct to the battery, as howitzers are very effective at close range, and especially adapted for grape and canister.

After we got everything arranged in good condition we struck out for Martinsburg, where we arrived this evening, New Year’s Eve.

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DECEMBER 31ST.—Northern papers, received in this city, show very conclusively that the enemy are pretty accurately informed of the condition of our defenses and the paucity of the numbers in our regiments.

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TUESDAY 31

The old year goes out today, bright and dry. I have been in the office nearly all day. The boys called about 1/2 past two. I came home with them, stopped and bought Bud a cap. After dinner, bought some coal, and went down to the Ave with Holly and bought him a suit of clothes, and an overcoat for Bud, paid $12.00. Paid my fuel bill for Dec $9.00, grocery bill $24.00. Bud (H N Jr) went up to the Presidents this evening. The boys have a Dark lantern to exhibit. The President looked in at the boys show. Genl McClellan is sick abed. A fight is expected over the River now anytime. The Army seems to be getting ready. The Banks in all the Cities and also the U.S. Treasury have suspended specie payments today. No particular excitement in the City tonight, but the Ave & 7th St are swarming with people and business was never so brisk. I have been over to Mr Hartlys after Julia. The Band of the Regulars on Franklin Square are performing now and do every night. VanMaster called today, Col is improving. The health of our family is now good.

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The three diary manuscript volumes, Washington during the Civil War: The Diary of Horatio Nelson Taft, 1861-1865, are available online at The Library of  Congress.

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December 31.—The Canadian press comments upon the release of Messrs. Mason and Slidell in the same spirit which has prompted its various representations hitherto in their treatment of the rebellion. The Leader uses the most abusive language at its command. It pronounces the surrender one of the “greatest collapses since the beginning of time,” and has much to say of the “humiliation” of the National Government. The Globe talks much more moderately, and heartily congratulates its readers on the result; and the Montreal Gazette speaks of it as a “bitter, bitter pill for the fire-eaters to cram down their noisy throats.”—N. T. Times, December 81.

—In the United States Senate a communication was received from the Secretary of War, to-day, stating that it is incompatible with the public interest to furnish the correspondence which has passed between General Scott and General Patterson, relative to the conduct of the war.—N. Y. Herald, December 31.

—Captains Shillinglaw and Mason, of the Seventy-ninth New York regiment, Lieutenant Dickinson, of the Third United States infantry, Lieutenant J. W. Hart, Twentieth Indiana, and Corporal Thomas McDowell, of the Seventy-ninth New York, arrived at Fortress Monroe, from Richmond, Va., by a flag of truce from Norfolk.

—At Washington, D. C., Daniel S. Dickinson presented a costly stand of State colors to the Dickinson Guard, Eighty-ninth New York Volunteers. E. H. Duell received .them in behalf of the regiment, delivering a felicitous address. Vice-President Hamlin, Gen. Casey and Staff, W. S. Doane, Augustus Schell, and others, were present.

—At seven o’clock this morning an expedition, consisting of three U. S. gunboats, with an additional force of marines, left Ship Island, in the Gulf of Mexico, under command of Commander Melanchthon Smith, U. S. N., for the city of Biloxi, Mississippi. No resistance being met with, Commander Smith landed at the wharf, under a flag of truce, and held a short conference with the Mayor of the city, who, after an hour’s consultation with some prominent citizens, surrendered the town and the battery commanding the harbor. The guns of the battery were dismounted and carried to the boats by U. S. sailors—the inhabitants witnessing the proceedings. While this was transpiring on shore, a schooner was discovered working her way back of Deer Island into Biloxi Bay. A boat was instantly manned and sent in pursuit. After rowing about nine miles, the vessel was overtaken and forced to surrender— she was on her way to New Orleans with thirty thousand feet of hard pine flooring boards as a cargo. It not being Commander Smith’s design to hold Biloxi, the expedition returned this evening to Ship Island with their prize in tow.—(Doc. 245.)

—The Richmond Examiner of to-day, publishes the following on the Confederate Tax Bill: In the Tax bill enacted by the Confederate States Congress there is a clause placing a tax upon “all interest-bearing bonds.” We learn that, according to the construction of the law given by Secretary Memminger, the taxpayer will not be permitted to deduct his liabilities from the amount of money due him, although he may be, in fact, in arrears.

Thus, if his liabilities amount to one hundred thousand dollars, and he holds “interest-bearing bonds” to the amount, of fifty thousand dollars, he has to pay a tax upon the fifty thousand dollars, when, in reality, he is worth nothing. Again: A has purchased a farm at forty thousand dollars, and sold his own for thirty thousand dollars. He is in possession of the forty thousand dollar farm, and has to pay a land tax thereon; at the same time be holds the bonds, “interest-bearing,” for the thirty thousand dollar farm, because the “stay law” prevents their execution. He is, therefore, required to pay a tax upon the thirty thousand dollars, and also upon the forty thousand dollar farm; thus paying a tax upon seventy thousand dollars, when in reality he holds only forty thousand dollars’ worth of property.

His bonds are fastened upon him, and he cannot collect them. Again, B holds A’s bends for the forty thousand dollars farm; B must, therefore, pay a tax upon these bends. Therefore, the land purchased by A from B is paying a double tax; Be is the land sold by A to C; for A pays a tax on C’s bends for thirty thousand dollars, and C pays on the land in kind. Such a law, or the construction of it, is certainly wanting in uniformity and justice.

—At Berlin, above the Point of Rocks, in Maryland, an affair occurred which illustrates the necessity of extreme caution in dealing with the rebels. Two men approached the river on the Virginia side with a flag of truce and begged to be brought over, stating they were refugees. Captain Pardee, of Company A, Twenty-eighth Pennsylvania, gave orders to so dispose of his force as to cover a boat to bring them over, in the mean time entertaining those on the opposite side by conversation to distract their attention. When all was ready he despatched a sergeant and two men in a boat to bring them off. As the boat approached the shore a company of dismounted rebel cavalry showed themselves on the hill above and fired a volley upon the boat. The crew threw themselves overboard toward the Maryland shore, and thus protected pulled the boat across. In the mean time Pardee’s concealed riflemen opened on the cavalry with such effect as to came a stampede with great loss in wounded, at least. One of the boatmen had an ear lacerated by a ball from the cavalry.—N. Y. Evening Post, January 4, 1862.

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Monday, December 30. — A “magnificent splendid” day — the twenty-fifth fine day this month; twenty-five out of the last twenty-six!! The companies at Raleigh diminish our strength. Five hundred and twenty present. Total in companies here seven hundred and forty-three.

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Monday, 30th—We made all the citizens at this place take the oath; they have to take the oath not to aid or shelter those who are fighting against the Union. There are but few men left in this locality, they having enlisted, some of them in the Union army, but most of them with the South.

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MONDAY, DECEMBER 30, 1861.

We have had no winter weather as yet. No snow at all to lay on the ground. Today has been cool and fine. Troops are moveing some across the River, and we may soon expect lively times. I have been in the office as usual today. Col Merrick is improving, has been out doors today. I was on the Ave this evening at Willards, Browns & the National Hotels. Nothing new in particular. At almost every corner on the Ave the mounted guard (Cavalry) stand as still & immovable as the Bronze statue on Lafayette Square. Their business is (principaly) to prevent rapid riding & Driving.

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The three diary manuscript volumes, Washington during the Civil War: The Diary of Horatio Nelson Taft, 1861-1865, are available online at The Library of  Congress.

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December 30th, 1861.

My dear Mother:

I hardly know what you all think at home — Hall gets married, and I send no word of congratulation; Walter sends me a beautiful present, and I return no word of thanks; Horace writes me a letter full of kindness, and it lies still unanswered; your letters come with such regularity, and yet are hardly better treated. You have been waiting, I suppose impatiently, to receive some news, but I have been obliged to be silent, for I have been quite ill with a fever. I am better this morning, so I write to set your mind at ease. I am under the charge now of Dr. McDonald, who is excessively kind and supplies me with every comfort a sick man could desire, such as clean sheets, cheerful faces, currant jelly, easy chairs, etc. I do not feel much like writing I must say, and, after I’ve told you I am now getting along very comfortably, you will excuse me from making this letter a long one.

With best love,

Very Affec’y.,

W. T. Lusk.

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