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

Friday, April 13, 2012

APRIL 13TH.—Gen. Wise now resolved to ask for another command, to make another effort in defense of his country. But, when he waited upon the Secretary of War, he ascertained that there was no brigade for him. Returning from thence, some of his officers, who had escaped the trap at Roanoke, crowded round him to learn the issue of his application.

“There is no Secretary of War!” said he.

“What is Randolph?” asked one.

“He is not Secretary of War!” said he ; “he is merely a clerk, an underling, and cannot hold up his head in his humiliating position. He never will be able to hold up his head, sir.”

Sunday, 13th—It is clear and warm today. We had battalion drill again, twice today. Not more than two hundred of the regiment are fit for duty. Major Abercrombie, who drilled us, gave us a lecture about getting out to drill. He assured us that the battle we just had would be classed as a skirmish in comparison with what we would have to go through with before this war is over. The boys declared that if he called this battle a skirmish, they would like to know what he called a real battle.[1]

[1] Major Abercrombie’s words were quite true, as we found out later by experience.—A. G. D.

Sunday, 13. — Rain begins at guard-mounting. A year ago today Sumter was taken. Great events, great changes, since then. The South was eager, prepared, “armed and equipped.” The event found the North distracted, undecided, unarmed, wholly unprepared, and helpless. Then came the rousing up of the lion-hearted people of the North. For months, however, the superior preparation of the South triumphed. Gradually the North, the Nation, got ready; and now the victory over Beauregard and [that] at [Island] Number 10, following Fort Donelson, put the Nation on firm ground, while the Rebellion is waning daily. Tonight received Commercial of the 10th, with pretty full accounts of the great battles.

Captain Haven and Lieutenant Bacon, Companies G and K, marched seventy miles on their late scout into Monroe. Scout Jackson, Company B, gone one week today toward Logan. I hope he is all right.

To Mrs. Lyon

April 13, 1862.—We are just starting for the regiment, which left New Madrid last night, or will this morning, to go down the river. We shall catch them the first time they stop. ‘Forward to Memphis’ is the word. We are all in capital spirits and our hearts bound with exultation at the prospect of diving into the very bowels of ‘Secessia’.

13th. Sunday. In the morning cleared up to my disgust. In the afternoon had my horse shod and visited hospital, very neat and clean. There seems to be so much need of female nurses. Went down and saw Indians (Delawares and Osages) in their savage state—had heavy beads and rings in their ears—wore buckskin leggings and red blankets, faces all painted and marked. Good visit with A. B. N.

13th.—I have been made very glad by the receipt of a letter this morning from my dear M――. It is older than her letters used to be when they reached me; but whether old or new, her letters never lose their freshness. They are like the beautiful evergreens, standing in mid-winter amid the bare and ragged oaks. When I cannot get a new one I often go back to one of the old, and always read it with pleasure and instruction. But she does ask so many questions for me to answer. * * * *

At Fortress Monroe and at Norfolk lie the Merrimac and the Monitor, in sight of and watching each other, like two dogs with a bone between them, each wanting and neither daring to take it. By the side of the Monitor lies the Mystic, (now named the Galena,) and the little model of Stevens’ battery —all iron-clad. By the side of the Merrimac lie four ironclad gun boats. Either of these miniature fleets, unwatched by the other, could in a few days destroy the whole wooden fleet of the other party, and burn its principal cities. Either one, unwatched by the other, could change the whole aspect of the war, and work a revolution which would shake the world and indelibly stamp its future. For these reasons they do not fight. There is too much at stake for either to venture. Suppose a fight in which the Merrimac should prove successful; the mouth of the James and the York Rivers would be effectually closed to us, our supplies entirely cut off, this army starved out in a week, captured or destroyed, the iron fleet of the enemy free to go where it pleased, and, in twenty days, the destruction of Washington, Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore and Boston, would be as certain as that the enemy should wish to destroy them. The stakes are too large. We dare not risk the wager.

Fort Barnard, Va., Apr. 13, 1862.

There are few military movements around here. A regiment now and then goes up the road. I suppose they think the army is regulated and are now ready to fight. Mr. Wilson was here this afternoon and gave us a short discourse on strong drink and profane language. At dress parade he gave each man a tract. He is out here to take the money of the men home, if we ever get any. Now I must write out some passes and fill out a blank for discharge. Yours truly,

L. B., Jr.

April 13th. Sunday morning. Awoke from an unusually refreshing sleep, jumped into the bath tub (another half barrel) and had a glorious wash, then dressed and went outside to enjoy the magnificent spring morning and sniff the balmy breeze. The weather is so fine now, it makes one impatient of this slow siege, but I suppose we can’t hurry matters any more than we are doing. In the afternoon, the major and I rode out for an airing again; the gray in splendid condition, full of life and anxious to jump every fence and ditch we came across. He is a magnificent little horse; never tires, and is without a fault. I got a great bargain in him, surely.

Heavy fatigue party under Captain Gott returned, and joined the regiment tonight.

Sunday, April 13.—Enjoyed a very good night’s rest upon some boxes. We all slept below stairs, in the front room— our baggage separating us from the front part of it, which is the clerk’s office, and sleeping apartment of some dozen men. It was a laughable sight to see Father Miller fixing our beds for us. Poor man! He tried so hard to make us comfortable. Some slept on shelves. I slept so soundly that I did not even dream, as I was completely worn out with the labor of the day. I could realize how, after a hard day’s marching or fighting, a soldier can throw himself upon the ground, and sleep as soundly as if he was on a bed of down. A number of persons arrived last night, looking for their relations. One very pretty lady, with her parents, is in search of her husband, a colonel, who is reported badly wounded. I have since heard that she has found him at a farmhouse, and ho is much better off than she had been informed. Her mother, on leaving, presented me with some very nice sperm-candles.

I have just seen my brother. He looks rather the “worse for wear.” But, thank God, he is safe! This was his first battle, and I have been told that “he was brave to a fault.” The company distinguished itself on that eventful day; and Mobile may well be proud of the gallant men who compose it.

I have been told by a friend that the night of the first day’s battle he passed by a wounded Federal, who requested him to bring him some water from a spring near. On going to it, he was much shocked to see three Federals lying with their heads in it. They had dragged themselves to the spring to slake their thirst, and there they had breathed their last. There is no end to the tales of horror related about the battlefield. They fill me with dismay.


“O shame to men! Devil with Devil damn’d

Firm concord holds; men only disagree,

Of creatures rational, though under hope

Of heavenly grace: and, God proclaiming peace,

Yet live in hatred, enmity, and strife

Among themselves, and levy cruel wars,

Wasting the earth, each other to destroy:

As if (which might induce us to accord)

Man has not hellish foes enow besides,

That, day and night, for his destruction wait.”


The confusion and want of order are as great as ever. A great many doctors are here, who came with the men from the different regiments. The amount of good done is not near what it might be, if things were better managed. Some one is to blame for this state of affairs. Many say that it is the fault of Dr. Foard, the medical director. But I suppose that allowance must be made for the unexpected number of wounded. I trust that in a little time things will be better.

One of the doctors, named Little, of Alabama, told me to-day that he had left his young wife on his plantation, with more than a hundred negroes upon it, and no white man but the overseer. He had told the negroes, before he left, if they desired to leave, they could do so when they pleased. He was certain that not more than one or two would go.

I have conversed with some of the wounded prisoners. One of them, quite a young man, named Nott, is very talkative. He says that he dislikes Lincoln and abolitionism as much as we do; declares that he is fighting to save the Union, and nothing more. All of them say the same thing. What a glorious Union it would be!

Quite a number of bunks arrived today, and we are having the most severely wounded placed on them. I am so glad, as we can have some of the filth taken off the floors. A doctor requested me to go down stairs and see if there was a bunk with a Federal upon it, and if so have him taken off, as he had a badly wounded man that needed one. I went and asked Mrs. Royal, from Mobile, whom I had heard talk very bitterly. She knew of one, but would not tell me where it was. Her true woman’s nature showed itself, in spite of her dislike. Seeing an enemy wounded and helpless is a different thing from seeing him in health and in power. The first time that I saw one in this condition every feeling of enmity vanished at once. I was curious to find out who the Federal was, and, as Mrs. R. would not tell me, I wont in search of him. I found him with but little trouble; went to the men who were upon the bunks, and asked them where they were from. One, quite a youth, with a childish face, told me that he was from Illinois. I knew in a moment that he was the one. I asked him about his mother, and why he had ever left her. Tears filled his eyes, and his lips quivered so that he was unable to speak. I was deeply moved myself, spoke a few words of comfort, and left him. I would not have had him give up his bunk for the world. Poor child! there will be a terrible day of reckoning for those who sent you on your errand, and who are the cause of desolating so many hearts and homes.

As I was passing one of the rooms, a man called me, and begged me to do something for him and others who were with him. No one had been to see them that morning, and they had had no breakfast. I gave them something to eat, and got a nurse to take care of them. About eight were in the room, among them Mr. Regan of Alabama and Mr. Eli Wasson of Texas, both of whom had lost a leg. I paid these special attention, as they were worse than the others. They were very grateful, and thanked me all the time. Mr. W. said that he knew that he would get well now. They are both unmarried, and talk much of their mothers and sisters, as all men do now. “Home, sweet home,” is the dearest spot on earth to them, since they are deprived of its comforts. Mother, wife, and sister seem to be sweeter to them than any words in the English language.

We eat in the kitchen, surgeons and all. It is not the cleanest place in the world, and I think, to use a Scotch phrase, would make even Mrs. McClarty “think shame.” Hunger is a good antidote for even dirt. I am aware that few will think so except those who have tried it.

April 13, 1862.—This morning I was sewing up a rent in H.’s garden-coat, when Aunt Judy rushed in.

“Laws! Mis’ L., here’s Mr. Max and Mis’ Annie done come back!” A buggy was coming up with Max, Annie, and Reeney.

“Well, is the war over?” I asked.

“Oh, I got sick!” replied our returned soldier, getting slowly out of the buggy.

He was very thin and pale, and explained that he took a severe cold almost at once, had a mild attack of pneumonia, and the surgeon got him his discharge as unfit for service. He succeeded in reaching Annie, and a few days of good care made him strong enough to travel back home.

“I suppose, H., you’ve heard that Island No. 10 is gone?”

Yes, we heard that much, but Max had the particulars, and an exciting talk followed. At night H. said to me, “G., New Orleans will be the next to go, you’ll see, and I want to get there first; this stagnation here will kill me.”


Note: To protect Mrs. Miller’s job as a teacher in New Orleans, the diary was published anonymously, edited by G. W. Cable, names were changed and initials were often used instead of full names — and even the initials differed from the real person’s initials.