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

Sunday, April 15, 2012

15th.—Another fine day spent in camp waiting for better roads. I am getting out of patience with red tape. Since our arrival at Fort Monroe, we have been without many hospital stores absolutely necessary to the comfort of sick and wounded. Three weeks ago, drew for articles to make up our loss. Notwithstanding that we have been almost constantly since in face of the enemy, frequently fighting and constantly expecting a general engagement, the supplies are not furnished, but all this time spent in enquiring “how were they lost,” as if that would comfort the suffering army. At night received orders to be ready to move at 7 A. M. tomorrow, and yet without hospital supplies. Poor men!

April 15th. This afternoon, Major Parisen and I rode over to the mouth of the inlet which is about two hundred yards wide, shallow, and full of oysters; on the other side stood a large white house, and when we rode up there appeared to be several women walking about it. Being in search of adventure, we dismounted, gave our horses to the orderly, and bailed out an old boat we discovered sunk on the beach. Finding it all right, we paddled across and walked up to the house. Three women, two young and one old, received us at the door and gave us a hearty welcome. They were dreadfully nervous, fearing our men would raid their house and murder them. They were almost beside themselves with fear, telling us they had heard such dreadful tales of the Yankee soldiers, and that they went to bed every night, expecting to have their throats cut and house burned down before morning. We quieted their fears, in exhibiting ourselves as specimens of the terrible Yankee, and soon talked them into a better state of mind. We staid over an hour; the girls were very sociable; then promising to come again, rowed back in our muddy scow, taking with us a live duck and pail of milk, for which we duly paid, in Uncle Sam’s currency. The major carried the duck and I the milk; both of us became disgusted with our burdens; the duck quacked and flapped its wings, scaring the horses out of their wits; the major’s horse got away from the orderly and ran into the woods, and it took more than half an hour to recapture him; the milk would not stay in the pail, and by the time we got home, there was little of it left, but we had lots of fun and intend repeating our visit. In the evening, the major called on General French, and explained to him the exposed situation of the women, resulting in the general’s permission to establish a guard there for their protection.

April 15th. Weather dull and looked like rain in the morning, but towards noon the clouds disappeared and the sun shone beautifully. Regiment still building roads and docks. At twelve o’clock, received orders to recall all fatigue parties and be prepared to march at a moment’s notice. As the guard placed yesterday at the house across the creek where the ladies lived had to be withdrawn, the major and I thought we might as well do it ourselves, and so took a gallop to the creek and rowed ourselves over again. The women were dreadfully sorry to lose the guard and entertained us very pleasantly, urging us to call again, if we ever came back, which we promised to do. The rowing, or rather paddling, of that old boat gave me a lot of pleasure. I was almost brought up on a boat and love the water dearly. At two P. M. we received orders to strike tents and move to the front. We marched about five miles, coming in sight of the Yorktown works, then turned into a field to the right, stacked arms, and awaited further orders. Just before dark, we were directed to pitch tents and form a regular camp. The regimental headquarters tent was soon up, and by eight o’clock we sat down around a pleasant camp fire and ate our supper of roast duck, the spoils of our creek adventure. The evening closed with much hilarity.


Note: The two entries for the 15th are as published in the book.  There was probably a day mis-dated in the diary or the book — perhaps the tenth — with subsequent entries off by one day.

Georgeanna’s Journal.

Alexandria, April 15, ‘62.

Saturday morning we had private information that Franklin’s Division was shipping down the river, and we packed our bags at once and with Mrs. Franklin came down to the Dysons’ Cottage, Alexandria. . . . Dyson’s two slaves, Harriet and her mother, have run away, for which I sing songs of thanksgiving. . . . The 16th and all the others have arrived and are camping under Fort Elsworth, their old ground.

At the street corner coming down here, we found ten men struggling with one of their comrades of the 5th Maine, who had just fallen in a fit; about a hundred had collected to shut off the air and double him up, with his knapsack still strapped on his back. We asked the crowd to do what they ought to do for him, till we were tired; and then we pushed them aside and went in ourselves, had a strong sergeant keep the crowd off, put the man on his back with his clothes loose, bathed his head and poured brandy down his throat. E. went to a near hospital, but they would not take him in. So we put him in his blanket for stretcher, and started him off with bearers to the Mansion House, while the crowd dispersed, one woman saying, “Poor fellow, he is fighting in a good cause, and ought to have a dose of ipecac.”

April 15th.—Mrs. Middleton: “How did you settle Molly’s little difficulty with Mrs. McMahan, that ‘piece of her mind’ that Molly gave our landlady?” “Oh, paid our way out of it, of course, and I apologized for Molly!”

Gladden, the hero of the Palmettos in Mexico, is killed. Shiloh has been a dreadful blow to us. Last winter Stephen, my brother, had it in his power to do such a nice thing for Colonel Gladden. In the dark he heard his name, also that he had to walk twenty-five miles in Alabama mud or go on an ammunition wagon. So he introduced himself as a South Carolinian to Colonel Gladden, whom he knew only by reputation as colonel of the Palmetto regiment in the Mexican war. And they drove him in his carriage comfortably to where he wanted to go—a night drive of fifty miles for Stephen, for he had the return trip, too. I would rather live in Siberia, worse still, in Sahara, than live in a country surrendered to Yankees.

The Carolinian says the conscription bill passed by Congress is fatal to our liberties as a people. Let us be a people “certain and sure,” as poor Tom B. said, and then talk of rebelling against our home government.

Sat up all night. Read Eothen straight through, our old Wiley and Putnam edition that we bought in London in 1845. How could I sleep? The power they are bringing to bear against our country is tremendous. Its weight may be irresistible—I dare not think of that, however.

April 15.—The Norfolk Day-Book of to-day contains the following: “A party of gentlemen left this city on Saturday last, in the steamer S. S. Anderson, and proceeded down the river.

“In the course of the day they went well over to the enemy’s lines, in the direction of Newport News, and went alongside Her Britannic Majesty’s steamer Rinaldo.

“They were not permitted to go on board the Rinaldo, as Her Britannic Majesty’s gallant subjects informed them that they could hold no communication with us. (Query—Would they have said the same to a Yankee?) Her officers and crew, however, evinced great pleasure at the visit, and testified their delight by the waving of hands and hats, and responding to the cheers given them by those on board the Anderson as they were about leaving.

“After leaving her, our boys thought they had not sufficiently teased the Yankees, and in order to vex them as much as possible, they waved the ‘rebel’ colors directly in their teeth and courted a shot, but to no purpose. The ‘rebels’ ruled the Roads, and the Yankees manifested no disposition to dispute the ground with them.

“The above narrative we obtained from a gentleman on board the Anderson at the time, and as he related it to us, we were struck very forcibly with one expression, and the reader has doubtless been equally as much surprised as we. We refer to the refusal of the officers of the English steamer to permit our men to tread her deck. We confess we do not altogether understand their assertion that they had instructions to hold no communication with us; and if it be that such instructions were really given, we think it high time we had taken the hint, and thrown ourselves back upon our dignity.

“As we derive no real benefit from a friendly relation with England, we can afford to abstain from communication with her, without detriment to ourselves or our country; and if she is equally independent of us — an assertion which she will be slow to make — then no harm will accrue to either party by an agreement to disagree.”

—The United States steamer Yankee, Capt Eastman, arrived at the Navy-Yard at Washington to-day, having left York River at six o’clock yesterday morning. The Yankee went about eight miles up the York River on Sunday night, and anchored off Gloucester Point, where the steamers Penobscot, Marblehead, and Wachusett were already lying. The rebel batteries at the Point tried the range of their guns on the steamers at about three o’clock yesterday afternoon, the shot falling very little short of the Marblehead. The vessels then dropped down the river, and about three miles below the Point discovered a party of rebels building a battery on the north bank, on whom the Yankee opened fire at a distance of three fourths of a mile.

The rebels seemed loth to abandon their works, and although the shells of the Yankee fell in their midst, they did not- leave the vicinity, but took refuge in the woods and behind some neighboring log-houses. The Yankee, after firing some sixty or seventy shot and shell during an hour and a half, left the scene. As she was leaving, the boats of the Marblehead were on the way to the shore to burn the houses behind which the rebels had taken refuge. During the engagement, a battery up the river fired some eight or ten shots, but they fell far short of them.— Philadelphia Bulletin, April 16.

—Simon Cameron, late Secretary of War, was arrested at Philadelphia, Pa., at the suit of Pierce Butler, for alleged false imprisonment in Fort Lafayette, last summer.—N. Y. Tribune, April 16.

—To-day was the date appointed by the rebels for convening the court of Berkeley County, at Martinsburgh, Va. At the appointed hour the sheriff under the rebel regime entered the courthouse, and was about to ring the bell, summoning the late confederate judge, John B. Nedenbush, to his seat, when Thomas Noakes, a well-known loyal citizen, seized the sheriff by the arm and emphatically notified him that “no rebel court should hereafter convene in Berkeley County, without passing over his dead body.” The sheriff desisted and the rebel court did not meet.

Subsequently by permission and under the direction of Major C. M. Walker, of the Tenth Maine volunteers and Provost-Marshal of the town, three Union magistrates were selected by the loyal citizens and held the court.

Some official business was transacted, court and county officers appointed, and the court adjourned until the next term, without ordering any election, but awaiting the action of the constitutional State authorities in the premises.—NewYork Commercial, April 18.

—The rebels have been for several days building large fortifications on the Gloucester side of York River, about two miles from Yorktown, Va., and within sight of the national gunboats, but their guns were of too long a range to allow of the approach of the gunboats to shell the works. About one thousand men were at work on the fortifications, and the mortars were not of sufficient range to check the operations. This morning, however, the gunboat Sebago arrived, having a heavy hundred-pound rifled Parrott gun, and at once opened upon them with shell, which were; so well aimed, that they could be seen falling in their midst and exploding with fatal effect. The rebels could be distinctly seen carrying off their killed and wounded, and in the course of two hours the work was entirely suspended, the men retiring out of range. At every attempt to renew the work they were driven back up to night.—Baltimore Sun, April 17.

—The fine weather is very favorable to the operations at Yorktown, and it is probable that Gen. McClellan will soon be able to open his batteries on the fortifications of the enemy.

The preparations for the assault are diversified by occasional skirmishing between pickets. On Friday evening the enemy made a demonstration with a force of two or three thousand men, who drove in our pickets. Two or three regiments were sent to their support, which induced a hasty retrograde movement on the part of the enemy. Their object was probably a reconnoissance. They fired a good many shells and round shot, but with very little effect. On Monday morning, about two o’clock, a section of Union artillery was posted within half a mile of the rebel works, near the river, supported by sufficient infantry to prevent their being captured. Fifteen shots were fired into the rebel earthworks before the enemy were able to bring their guns to bear upon the Union forces, when they withdrew without damage.—General Wool’s Despatch.

April 15th.—Trescott is too clever ever to be a bore; that was proved to-day, for he stayed two hours; as usual, Mr. Chesnut said “four.” Trescott was very surly; calls himself ex-Secretary of State of the United States; now, nothing in particular of South Carolina or the Confederate States. Then he yawned, “What a bore this war is. I wish it was ended, one way or another.” He speaks of going across the border and taking service in Mexico. “Rubbish, not much Mexico for you,” I answered. Another patriot came then and averred, “I will take my family back to town, that we may all surrender together. I gave it up early in the spring.” Trescott made a face behind backs, and said: “Lache!”

The enemy have flanked Beauregard at Nashville. There is grief enough for Albert Sidney Johnston now; we begin to see what we have lost. We were pushing them into the river when General Johnston was wounded. Beauregard was lying in his tent, at the rear, in a green sickness— melancholy—but no matter what the name of the malady. He was too slow to move, and lost all the advantage gained by our dead hero.¹ Without him there is no head to our Western army. Pulaski has fallen. What more is there to fall?


¹ The battle of Shiloh, or Pittsburg Landing, in Tennessee, eighty-eight miles east of Memphis, had been fought on April 6 and 7, 1862. The Federals were commanded by General Grant who, on the second day, was reenforced by General Buell. The Confederates were commanded by Albert Sidney Johnston on the first day, when Johnston was killed, and on the second day by General Beauregard.