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

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Camp New Madrid, Mo., April 12, 1862.

I have the extreme happiness to inform you that there is at last a hope of my dating the next letter from Memphis or vicinity. Our regiment has for several days been alone at Point Pleasant and we enjoyed it very much. When we are under a general of an infantry division we are run to death or thereabouts, for whenever anything is to be done the cavalry is sure to be called on. Yesterday we were ordered to report here immediately to General Granger, commanding cavalry division which numbers full 4,000. There are two brigades in this division; Colonel Kellogg commands the 1st brigade and therefore is now a brigadier general. There have been about 25 steamboats arrived here since 4 p.m. yesterday and the army will probably commence embarking to-day. It will take full 60 boats to hold us all. The rain has been falling in torrents ever since we started from the Point yesterday, and you can imagine the time we had pitching tents in a cornfield, and yet we are comfortable now as we can wish. I have faith to believe that they (or anybody else) can’t keep me from being comfortable under any circumstances, if my hands are loose and I can walk. I think that Pope’s hurry is caused by his fear that Grant and company will reach Memphis before him. We hardly think that the Rebels will make a stand at Pillow, Randolph or Memphis if the news from Corinth is correct. I’m almost afraid to look over the list of dead that fight was made. Sid. says he is sure Billy Stockdale is killed. We received papers of the 10th last night but are not sure the victory is a complete one yet. I can’t think of the point where the enemy will make another stand if they are perfectly whipped at Corinth.

I know as many people here as in Fulton, almost, and I have yet to hear the first insulting speech or word to me. “What are they going to do with Island No. 10 I wonder; I am afraid that Commander Foote and his gunboats are a humbug.” Aren’t you ashamed of that speech? Damn the New York Tribune. I do believe in McClellan and nearly all the rest of our leaders. If those Tribunes, big and little, were where any regiment in this army could get at them they wouldn’t stand fifteen minutes. McClellan knows his business and we don’t know a thing about it. Now old Pope here is as mean a man as ever lived, curses every man that comes within a hundred yards of him and nobody knows a thing of his designs, but we all have the utmost confidence in him. I’ve never seen him and wouldn’t go in sight of him for a horse, but he’s my man for a’ that.

Orders have just arrived for embarking this p.m. Will be under way down the river to-night. Wish us a pleasant voyage.

April 12 — Went on picket. After we were at our picket a while, which is on the Valley pike a mile from Edenburg, Colonel Ashby came riding from some of his places of observation up the creek and said to Captain Chew: ” I want you to take a gun up the creek about half a mile,— I will show you where I mean,— and fire five shell in as little time as possible into an infantry camp of the enemy’s. Get your five shell ready, and as quick as you fire them, retire.”

We proceeded to the place indicated by Colonel Ashby. It was an open field from which we plainly saw, half a mile away, a Yankee camp of infantry that was to be stirred up. We did it effectively and in double-quick time. When we went in position there was a band playing in an old barn that stood in the camp. Our first greeting shell cruelly cut the music short off, to be concluded, I suppose, at a healthier and more convenient season. After we fired the five shell and started away a Yankee battery opened fire on us and gave us a few parting shell for spoiling their band music and making their infantry go through with the intricate evolutions of a sure enough war dance.

APRIL 12TH.—The committee (Congressional) which have been investigating the Roanoke Island disaster have come to the conclusion, unanimously, and the House has voted accordingly, and with unanimity, that the blame and guilt of that great calamity rest solely upon “Gen. Huger and Judah P. Benjamin.”

Saturday, 12th—It is still raining every hour and the floors of our tents are very wet.1 Our camp has become very muddy, which, with constant rain and the braying of mules day and night, makes it a very gloomy time.

Camp Hayes, Raleigh, Virginia, April 12, 1862. Saturday. — Windy, cold, and cloudy — another storm impending. Cleared up towards noon. Had two good drills. A first-rate ride,— new horse getting up to it.

Further news confirms the victory at Pittsburg or Corinth. The first day, last Sunday, our men [were] surprised and badly whipped; the second day, the fresh troops redeemed the day and gained a great victory. Island Number 10, a most important capture; now said to have taken six thousand prisoners.

Nothing as to our future movements. Perhaps we are waiting to see what effect these victories will have. — Blowing up a storm again.

(To Horace Barnard)

Beaufort, S. C. April 12th, 1862.

I hardly know how, writing from peaceful Beaufort, I can find themes so exciting as to gratify the tastes of the public, used to tales of victories purchased at bloody rates; yet the importance of the work now quietly being wrought at Beaufort must not be underrated.

Here too, as well as on the splendid fields of the West, the spirit of John Brown is marching on. Toward the close of last autumn our troops entered Beaufort, then deserted by its inhabitants, and looking sad and desolate. Now the winter has passed away and the spring is far advanced. Nature has put on her most lovable hues. The dense dark foliage of the pine and the magnolia harmoniously mingle with the bright new leaves of the forest. The streets of the city are once more busy with life. Vessels float in the harbor. Plantations are being cultivated. Wharves are being built. Business is prosperous. And the quondam proud resort of the proudest of Aristocrats is being inundated with Yankees acquainted with low details regarding Dollars and Cents. There are all sorts of Yankee ventures in town, from the man with the patent armor recommended by McClellan, which no one buys, to the enterprising individual who manufactures pies in the old Connecticut style, and who has laid the foundation of an immense fortune. Even the “one only man of Beaufort,” catching the spirit of trade, displays a few dingy wares in a shop-window. “But why,” the impatient public asks, “is our Army so far away from Savannah?” “Strategy, my dear public,” I answer. Can anything be more beautiful than the strategy of our Leaders, which strips war of its terrors and makes it so eminently safe? Tell me, if Mars chooses to beat his sword into a ploughshare, and devote himself to the cultivation of sea-island cotton, and invites live Yankees to assist him therein, ought not the satire of the thing to please the restless spirit of John Brown and excite it to renewed efforts in its great performance of marching on? Now there is no doubt that our Army ought long ago to have been in possession of both Charleston and Savannah. Common sense teaches us that much, although we know nothing whatever of military affairs forsooth, and still less of the peculiar circumstances which happen to govern the action of our Generals. Well, when we see matters in this condition, common sense teaches us that the proper remedy is to decapitate incompetency, and to put the “right man in the right place.” The proper time for doing this is when, after long and earnest labor, a Commander is seen to be ready to strike a blow. Then is the moment to clamor loudly for his dismissal, and insist that another be put in his place, and when this one shall reap the harvest his predecessor sowed, we will all nod our heads approvingly at such evidence of our own ineffable wisdom. This is decidedly the most pleasant mode of proceeding for a public unacquainted with military matters but governed by common sense, and it is so satisfactory to all parties concerned, excepting perhaps the poor devil that gets decapitated. This, however, is a digression, intended possibly as a sort of “hæc fabula docet” derived from the recent capture of Pulaski. So, to return —

Oh, darn it all, my dear Horace, I’ll send the subscription price of the Evening Post without further delay. Here I’ve been floundering around, using up whole reams of paper trying to work up a newspaper style, but I have only succeeded in getting together a vast amount of material to kindle fires with. I thought I was doing beautifully when I commenced this, but, becoming disgusted with myself, I have concluded to give you the benefit of the production and spare the public. Thanks many times for your long, kind letter. You don’t know how enjoyable it was. It has got to be late at night and soldiers must rise early you know. I have just been reading over this epistle and see that I have been making a feeble effort to be funny. Prithee forgive me. I didn’t mean to. Give my love to Cousin Lou, Miss Hattie, Anima Mia, Miss Alice (if it be proper), and friends upon Murray Hill.

Very affec’y.,

Will Lusk.

12th.—Am not well to-day. Have diarrhœa, and at midday had high fever. How much I miss the tender care of my family in sickness. Am much better to-night, but feel sad. Have been reading Ernest Linwood, and, by contrast, it has recalled pleasant family scenes, which I miss in my sickness. I wish I had not written my last letter to my family. I felt badly when I wrote it, and spoke harshly of officers. ‘Twas wrong, but I cannot recall it. Oh, if every thought is a material thing, an entity, and goes forth to make a part of the great mental and moral atmosphere, how is it possible that, with the great preponderance of evil imaginations there can be moral or mental advancement? We should be as careful of our thoughts as of our acts.

Since the sailing of the great expedition from Annapolis, Francis Bacon had been on active duty with the troops on the coast of South Carolina and Georgia, and at the reduction of the two forts at Port Royal, and of Fort Pulaski, April 11th. At the siege of the latter he was on duty with the battery nearest the fort, and was requested by General Gilmore to keep an account of the shots fired from our batteries and from the rebel guns within the fort. Here he stood in a scarlet-lined cloak with Gilmore’s long, shining, double-barrelled field-glass in his hand for two days,—a fine mark for the enemy. After the fight he went about the fort with the rebel officer who surrendered it, and who said, as they came to a big gun, “I commanded here, and sent a large number of shots at a man who stood at the corner of that cistern, and wore a cloak, and had some long shining thing in his hand. I wonder if I hit him!”

General Franklin’s wife to Eliza.

April 12.

My dear Mrs. Howland: Last night (late) I was informed as a great secret that General Franklin’s Division was to go to General McClellan after all! I was wondering when I awoke this morning if I might not go and tell you. . . . General Meigs was one of the authorities given for the truth of the report—so I think we may believe the good news. . . .

I have a favor to ask, which is, if you decide to go down to Alexandria to try and see your husband on his way through, will you let me know? as I would like very much to go too.

I feel as if it would be a great comfort to see them before they start South.

Love to your mother and sisters. It is truly a mercy from above to have the Division relieved from the false position they were placed in, and now we have only to pray for their safety.

Yours aff’ly,

Anna L. Franklin.

April 12th. Another delightful morning: Continuous streams of troops still arriving and marching to the front. Stores and guns too, are landing now, and the siege train is getting ready for its terrible work.

Detailed four hundred and fifty men for fatigue duty in the trenches before Yorktown, with Captain La Valley to command them. They greatly enjoyed the change from road building to making forts, all hoping to get a view of the enemy. Enjoyed myself immensely to-day, having entirely recovered my health. In the afternoon, Major Parisen and I rode out to see the country, and on our way stopped at one of the two houses in the neighborhood. We found an old lady and a young one, who were both glad to have some one to talk to. The girl told us her lover was in the rebel army, as was every other young man belonging in that part of the country, and she hoped they would soon drive us all away. She seemed to have no doubt of their ability to do this, thinking them much better soldiers than we are. We gathered from what they said, that they have had communication with some of the rebels, their friends, since we landed, which would be an easy matter in this thickly wooded country at night.

April 12th.

Day before yesterday, just about this time of evening, as I came home from the graveyard, Jimmy unexpectedly came in. Ever since the 12th of February he has been waiting on the Yankees’ pleasure, in the Mississippi, at all places below Columbus, and having been under fire for thirteen days at Tiptonville, Island No. 10 having surrendered Monday night; and Commodore Hollins thinking it high time to take possession of the ironclad ram at New Orleans, and give them a small party below the forts, he carried off his little aide from the McRae Tuesday morning, and left him here Thursday evening, to our infinite delight, for we felt as though we would never again see our dear little Jimmy. He has grown so tall, and stout, that it is really astonishing, considering the short time he has been away. . . . To our great distress, he jumped up from dinner, and declared he must go to the city on the very next boat. Commodore Hollins would need him, he must be at his post, etc., and in twenty minutes he was off, the rascal, before we could believe he had been here at all. There is something in his eye that reminds me of Harry, and tells me that, like Hal, he will die young.

And these days that are going by remind me of Hal, too. I am walking in our footsteps of last year. The eighth was the day we gave him a party, on his return home. I see him so distinctly standing near the pier table, talking to Mr. Sparks, whom he had met only that morning, and who, three weeks after, had Harry’s blood upon his hands. He is a murderer now, without aim or object in life, as before; with only one desire — to die — and death still flees from him, and he Dares not rid himself of life.

All those dancing there that night have undergone trial and affliction since. Father is dead, and Harry. Mr. Trezevant lies at Corinth with his skull fractured by a bullet; every young man there has been in at least one battle since, and every woman has cried over her son, brother, or sweetheart, going away to the wars, or lying sick and wounded. And yet we danced that night, and never thought of bloodshed! The week before Louisiana seceded, Jack Wheat stayed with us, and we all liked him so much, and he thought so much of us; — and last week — a week ago to-day — he was killed on the battle-field of Shiloh.