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

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Written from the Sea islands of South Carolina.

April 18, 1862 — Friday.


When I said something to Mr. Pierce about not wishing to interfere with the system, he answered, “Oh, Miss Towne, we have no systems here.” He spoke playfully, but I think there is truth in it. The teachers who came down here with us have not yet got to work and are going about, not knowing their destination. When we came, Mr. Pierce sent us here to Mrs. Forbes without any invitation from her and has left us here since without knowing her wishes about it. She has nothing to do with the Commission and should not be troubled with its affairs, which makes it uncomfortable for Mr. Philbrick and me. . . .

There has been a little rebellion upon Mr. Philbrick’s plantation (the old Coffin plantation).[1] Two men, one upon each estate, refuse to work the four hours a day they are required to give to the cotton, but insist upon cultivating their own cornpatch only. They threaten, if unprovided with food, to break into the corn-house. One man drew his knife upon his driver, but crouched as soon as Mr. Philbrick laid his hand upon his shoulder. Mr. Philbrick came to Beaufort and has taken back a corporal and two soldiers to arrest and guard these men for a few days. The negroes, Mr. Philbrick says, are docile generally and require the positive ordering that children of five or ten years of age require, but are far more afraid of any white man than of their drivers.

[1] At the eastern end of St. Helena Island.

April 18 — This morning we went a little below Sparta, took a position, and waited for the advancing foe. About midday we saw a Yankee battery go in position on a hill west of the pike and about two miles distant from us. It was too far away for us to do any effective execution by firing on it, consequently we slowly retired from our position. Just after we started to retire a shell from the Yankee battery, nearly spent and almost as noiseless as a bird, flew over our heads and harmlessly dropped in a field, not more than thirty feet from us.

The rear guard duty we are doing now does not require us to fight the whole Yankee army, nor even their vanguard unless they press Jackson’s rear on his retreat, and as I have not seen a live sign of Jackson’s rear for a week, we allow the Yanks to advance almost undisputedly as long as they do it slowly and decently, without in any way interfering or intermeddling with Jackson’s movements.

After we left our first position we moved leisurely up the pike to Harrisonburg, which is sixty-seven miles from Winchester. There we turned east and moved down the Standardsville road five miles, where we are camped this evening.

Headquarters Porter’s Div., 3d Army Corps,

Camp No. 5, April 18, 1862.

Dear Mother, — The siege of Yorktown has not yet begun, and will not I am afraid for a week to come. We have skirmishes almost every night, some of their forces rushing out and firing a few rounds, and then running back again as fast as they can. Cannonading goes on from one morning to another without ceasing. It does not come from our whole line at once, but is kept up on any of their working parties we see, and by them upon our gunboats and barges. It seems strange to hear the reports of heavy guns, and the whistling of shot all the time, but one soon gets used to it. At times, as last night, the firing becomes pretty rapid, and then we are all routed out, to go to bed again in a few minutes. The enemy made an attack last night upon our pickets, but withdrew as quickly as they came out, but making us all leave our beds to repel them. The place is a perfect Paradise for fleas and wood-ticks. They abound in every place, and are the bane of one’s existence. The country is very level and swampy, the ground near the river being much broken up by deep ravines, which are not visible until one comes within a few feet of them. I am very careful about the dampness, and have boards all over the floor of my tent. The nights are a little chilly, but not nearly as bad and damp as I expected them to be. There is a delightful breeze to-day which cools the air, and makes it feel soft and balmy. It is a pleasant change from the last few days, which have been extremely hot. . . .

I have a request, Mother, to make of you, and one which I depend on you to have carried out. Don’t let any of the girls or female relatives come on to take care of me, in case I am wounded. Nothing would be more unpleasant to me or make me feel so anxious as the idea that Father should allow any such thing. This is no place at all for women, — a thing which many of them cannot realize. I mention this because Hannah has frequently spoken of the Hortons staying at home, as being very strange. They are perfectly right. A woman in a place like this would be a source of trouble and anxiety to a wounded soldier. James will be able to take care of me in case of any such necessity, which I hope will not exist.

We must have over 100,000 men here now, and 295 cannon. One hundred guns compose the siege train, and among them are some of the heaviest guns and mortars used in the service. The remaining 195 guns are light artillery. Our corps under the command of Heintzelman consists of 34,810 men. Of these our division has 13,400. We have 64 guns, and about 2000 cavalry in the corps.

The 1st Massachusetts is in our corps, and also the 11th Massachusetts. I am going over to see Sergeant Brazier, and Rice, in a day or two.

My man was going in bathing in the river yesterday when a round shot flew over him close to his head. It stopped his bathing for the day. General Porter sent him to dig it up, which he did, and on weighing it, it turned out to be a 64-pounder. It was fired from Yorktown at some of our boats in the river. . . .

Friday, 18. — A. M. Finished letter to Lucy. Must get ready to move. Put all the regiment into tents today, by one o’clock. A shower fell just after the tents were up.

Colonels Scammon and Ewing [arrived]; Lieutenant Kennedy, A. A. A. G. to Colonel Scammon, and Lieutenant Muenscher, aide, with an escort of horsemen came with them. The Thirtieth began to arrive at 2:30 P. M. They came in the rain. Major Hildt came to my quarters. I joined the regiment out in camp — the camp in front of General Beckley’s residence one mile from Raleigh. Rainy all night. Our right rest on the road leading southwardly towards Princeton, the left on the graveyard of Floyd’s men. The graves are neatly marked; Twentieth Mississippi, Phillips’ Legion, Georgia, Fourth Louisiana, furnished the occupants. Four from one company died in one day! (November 2, 1861.)

Slept in Sibley tent. Received orders to proceed with Twenty-third, thirty [of] Captain Gilmore’s Cavalry, and a section of McMullen’s Battery to Princeton tomorrow at 7 A. M.

Raleigh, Virginia, April 17, 1862.

Dearest: — I was made happy by your letter and the fine picture of you it contained. You seem undecided which you intended should have it, Uncle Joe or your husband. But I shall keep it. You will have to send another to Joe.

Very glad the money and everything turned out all right. I get the Commercial quite often — often enough to pay for taking it. And you paid Mr. Trenchard! Why, you are getting to be a business woman. I shall have to let the law out to you when I come home again. I do not know that I shall have an opportunity to do much for Will De Charmes, but I shall bear him in mind. If Fremont ever comes along here I may succeed.

We are still hunting bushwhackers, succoring persecuted Union men, and the like. Our intended advance was stopped by a four-days rain which, like the old four-days meeting, I began to think never would end. We are now getting ready to go on — in fact we are ready, but waiting for others. A great battle at Pittsburg [Landing] and probably not a very great victory. It will all come right, however. We are told that Captain Richardson of the Fifty-fourth was killed. You will perhaps remember him as a gigantic lieutenant of Company D, whose wife was at Camp Chase when you were there.

18th, A. M. — We shall make a short march today. Letters, etc., may be directed as heretofore. Very glad to hear your talk about the boys. It is always most entertaining to me. You will be a good instructor for them. Let me hear from you as often as you can. You need not feel bound to write long letters — short ones will do. I always like your letters to be long, but I don’t want you to put off writing because your time will not allow you to write long ones.

It begins to look like spring at last. We are on very elevated ground. The season is weeks later than in the valley of the Kanawha.

Kiss all the boys. Love to Grandma. I wish so much to be with you all. I think of you constantly and with much happiness and love. Good-bye.

Affectionately, your


P. S. — 18th, P. M. I am ordered to advance to Princeton tomorrow morning, in command of [the] Twenty-third, a section of McMullen’s Battery, and a squadron of cavalry. We are all delighted with this plan.

Mrs. Hayes.

APRIL 18TH.—The President is thin and haggard ; and it has been whispered on the street that he will immediately be baptized and confirmed. I hope so, because it may place a great gulf between him and the descendant of those who crucified the Saviour. Nevertheless, some of his enemies allege that professions of Christianity have sometimes been the premeditated accompaniments of usurpations. It was so with Cromwell and with Richard III. Who does not remember the scene in Shakspeare, where Richard appears on the balcony, with prayer book in hand and a priest on either side?

Friday, 18th—No news of importance.[1]

[1] While the battle of Shiloh was a Union victory, nevertheless it was dearly won and could easily have been a defeat. Even at that time the men in discussing it, pointed out some of the mistakes made by the Union forces. I wish to point out how the day at Shiloh was almost lost to the Union Army. In the first place, when the different commanders called out the troops under arms at 6 o’clock on Friday evening, April 4th, they kept them in line until midnight, when, since the immediate danger was past, they ordered them to return to their quarters. Then it was that a great mistake was made, for instead of sending the men back to camp, they should have been put to work, every man with shovel, pick or axe, digging trenches, throwing up breastworks and fortifying their camps. Thus by the morning of the 6th they would have had two or three lines of works. That this was not done must of course be charged to General Sherman. Each man behind the works would have been equal to five men in the open. General Prentiss’ men, protected in the old, sunken roadway, in making their attack upon us proved the worth of a man protected, to one out in the open. The mistake cost the Union army more than a thousand men, besides those captured.

In the second place, when the Union army was attacked on that Sunday morning, there were but four regiments in line of battle and ready for the assault of the Confederates. The officers did not succeed in forming a continuous line of battle until late in the day. Regiments and brigades would march to the front and form in line, but they were usually unsupported by troops on the right and left at the same time. This enabled the Confederates to come in on the flanks and the rear, thus compelling our forces to fall back or be captured. This continued till late in the afternoon, when Webster succeeded in forming a continuous line of artillery, supported by all arms. This, together with the arrival of Buell’s brigade, which formed a line on the left, saved the day to the Union cause for all time to come.—A. G. D.

April 18th. In order to understand the proceedings of our fleet fully, it will be necessary to explain the position of the enemy. Forts Jackson and St. Philip are situated on a short bend of the river, some forty miles from its mouth, Fort Jackson occupying the right bank and being the principal fort, and the other fort being situated opposite and a little below Jackson. A chain had been stretched across the river on eight schooners, and guarded by a water battery at its extremity. This, with the forts which mounted in the aggregate more than two hundred guns, was considered impregnable and impassable. This morning early the mortar boats were placed in position, and immediately opened fire on the forts, mostly engaging Fort Jackson. We were answered from the forts, but both parties fired slowly and endeavored to get the range, which was in distance some two to two and a half miles. In the meantime our advance fleet of gunboats moved up under cover of the point in the river’s bend, and in turn dealt a few blows, all the time changing their position and dropping down with the current. In the evening a large fire in Fort Jackson gave evidence of the effect of our shells, and at night we hauled off our gunboats and ceased firing.

To Mrs. Lyon

April 18, 1862.—We remained at Tiptonville until yesterday afternoon, when we started and steamed down the river until dark, and then tied up to a tree, and this morning ran on down to a point said to be within ten miles of Fort Pillow, 20 of Fort Randolph and 70 from Memphis. There we were ordered back to New Madrid. We do not know the significance of this movement, but think the high water in the river prevents present operations against Fort Pillow. I think that when we get to New Madrid we shall find nearly all of General Pope’s army there.

18th. Marched to Lamar, Mo. Met Major Miner’s command from Carthage. Creek at Lamar was high, so we left the baggage and a detail to guard it, and went up the creek to a bridge. Found the town, county seat of Barton County, almost deserted. Only a few dwellings.