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

Friday, May 4, 2012

Georgeanna to Mother.

Off Ship Point.

It was the Wilson Small (a little steamboat chartered by the Commission to run up the creeks and bring down sick and wounded), that came alongside with our first patients, thirty-five in number, typhoid cases, from Ship Point, who were slung through the hatches on their stretchers. . . . We women arranged our days into three watches, and then a promiscuous one for any of us, as the night work might demand.

After breakfast, Sunday, on the Webster, we all assembled in the forward ward, and Dr. Grymes read the simple prayers for those at sea and the sick. Our poor fellows lay all about us in their beds and listened quietly. As the prayer for the dying was finished, a soldier close by the doctor had ended his strife.

We crawled up into our bunks that night amid a tremendous firing of big guns, and woke up in the morning to the announcement that Yorktown was evacuated! Franklin was in McClellan’s tent when the news came, and he says McClellan did not know what to make of it.

A little tug has just passed, calling out to each transport to be ready to move in ten minutes if the order is given; probably to go round to Yorktown, and be ready to push up the river in case our men advance. A tug from Baltimore came alongside just now with contrabands and workmen for the “Ocean Queen,” which the Commission has secured, and E. and I will probably go over to her this evening.

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Written from the Sea islands of South Carolina.

Sunday, May 4, 1862.

[Diary]

My thirty-seventh birthday yesterday. Never thought I would spend it in South Carolina, on a plantation too, and there by right as occupant.

It was beautiful this morning at church. The live-oaks were more mossy and gray than ever and the spot more lovely. The crowd was greater, and the dresses cleaner and more picturesque too. The man with the carpet poncho did not have it on to-day, probably as it was so warm. But the turbans were grand. Mr. Horton conducted the services finely, with plenty of old-fashioned doctrine, to be sure, but with good sense, especially when he told them how much greater men are than the beasts of the field. One old negro made a fine prayer after the service, just what it should be, in which he prayed that God would guide and bless the good folks who had come down to help them. He did not dare to mention General Hunter’s call for black soldiers, and all the superintendents fear it will not be responded to. Will Capers has enlisted, however, and others talk of it. Will is a fine fellow in every respect.

After church, groups formed outside. It was a beautiful scene. The church overflowed; there were over three hundred inside and many out — seven hundred and thirty-eight in all, Mr. Horton says. The children behaved well and I think the Sunday School was a success. I talked of Christ’s love for children and how He would take them to Heaven if they were kind to each other. I had between twenty and thirty in my class. I also taught them their letters and a card of words. There were several black teachers. After church the superintendents gathered around and had a little talk. Then ration bread was taken in the carriage with us arid distributed after church. That is the time for getting letters, too, for those poor, out-of-the-way fellows on some plantations.

It was amusing to see the vehicles by which some of the gentlemen came. Mr. Philbrick rode on a skin-and-bone horse with rope for bridle, and a side saddle. Mrs. Philbrick accompanied him in a sulky, holding the ropes and an umbrella, while the little negro clung on the “tree” between the wheels with the whip and used it when directed by Mrs. P. Behind was tied a square box for bread. As we left the church, the long line of negroes going slowly home was very pretty. Some of them carried shoes to church in their hands and kept them so, to show they owned a pair, I suppose. Decidedly they were more cleanly and better clothed to-day than before, and happier too. Paying them even a little has reassured them. They are very eager to believe we are their friends, but have had some things to make them doubt. At the paying-off on this plantation the other night they seemed all thankful, though some objected to the bank bills. Mr. Pierce was very sorry they had not specie to give them. It was a strange looking spectacle, all those black faces peering in at door and window, for they assembled on the front porch and answered when Mr. Pierce called their names. Mr. Hooper had the money and handed it over to Mr. Pierce, who gave it to each. The earnings were from seventy-five cents to three dollars each. Cotton only is paid for, not corn. Each man took his money with a scrape backwards of his foot, each woman with a curtsey. Rina says that they never had anything but ground for floors to their cabins, and they had no lofts. But after massa left, they took his boards, floored their own cabins and put in lofts. This does not seem as if they preferred to live in their present style.

Mr. Boutwell, of the Coast Survey, was here to-day. He says the St. Helena people were hard, and not considered well educated or good specimens of planters. Certainly they were hard to their negroes, especially on this place. It was being prepared for Mr. Fuller’s residence when the flight occurred.

Yesterday Mrs. French, Mrs. Nicholson, and Miss Curtis were here with Lieutenant Gregory and Lieutenant Belcher, of the Michigan regiment. They have some special care of the ladies at Mr. French’s. Lieutenant Gregory said we have but 4000 soldiers here; 15,000 in all Port Royal; and the enemy are concentrating around us. They have already 20,000 surrounding us and may take it into their heads to rout us. Their approach would be in three directions, one through this island.

We have heard to-day that there is a mail to Beaufort, a late one, the earlier having been detained at Hampton Roads — why, we know not. It is over three weeks since a mail came in. I expect Ellen to-night. I have often expected her before; but to-night she must come, and Mr. Hooper has gone for her and the letters.

I heard a story of a negro the other day who was saying all manner of hard things of the old masters and his own in particular. “Well,” said an officer, standing by, “we have caught him and now what shall we do with him?” “Hang him, hang him — hanging is too good for him,” cried the negro, in great excitement. “Well,” said the officer, “he shall be hung, boy, and since he injured you so much, you shall have a chance now to pay him back. You shall hang him yourself, and we’ll protect you and see it done.” “Oh, no, can’t do it — can’t do it — can’t see massa suffer. Don’t want to see him suffer.” . . .

One of the most touching of all songs I have heard is that “croon” in a minor key —

“Poor Rome — poor gal —

(is to)

Heaven (will) be my home.”

I never heard anything so sad. I will get the words and tune some day.

My housekeeping experiences are very funny. No milk — and breakfast. I send Lucy to send Aleck to find Robert and bring the milk. Aleck comes back, saying, “Can’t get no milk, ma’am. Calf run away. Cow won’t give milk if the calf don’t suck, ma’am.” Two hours or so after, milk comes. The cow will give no milk except while the calf is having its supper, and so it is a race between old Robert and the calf to see which will get the most or enough.

There are sometimes six negroes in the dining-room at once during meal-times — the other day Aleck making his appearance with two huge fish, which he held up triumphantly, raw and fresh from the water. On the other hand, often at meal-times not a negro can be found; the table is not set, for Lucy has gone; the fire cannot be kindled, for there is no wood and Aleck has gone; the milk has not come, etc., etc.

A sad thing here is the treatment of animals. The other day one of the oxen came home almost flayed, with great skinless welts, and a piece of skin (and flesh, too, I think), taken out over the tail. This afternoon Miss Winsor and I stopped Joe, who had taken Mr. Whiting’s little colt and harnessed him without any permission. Then he drove him at a gallop, with negroes hanging on, through the deep sand, so that he came home all of a tremble. All the gentlemen being gone, and nearly all the ladies, they thought they could do as they pleased; but Miss Winsor, with admirable tact and authority, made Joe dismount, unharness, and care for the horse after his return from a first trip. The dogs are all starved, and the horses are too wretched.

Last night we heard the negroes singing till daylight. Rina said they thought as they had Sunday to rest they would keep up their meeting all night. It was a religious meeting.

Mr. Hooper has returned with letters — none from home for me; one from Sophie, fortunately. The other two were with supplies from Philadelphia — $2000 worth to be distributed by me. They speak of having read my letters to committees, etc., and that frightens me.

New Orleans is ours — has capitulated. Mr. Hooper, Mr. Ruggles, and Mr. Horton, the Baptist minister, were sitting in the parlor this Sunday afternoon. Suddenly we heard three lusty cheers. I ran in, little bird in hand, and heard the joyful announcement of this news.

Miss W. has been sick and I have taught her school. Did very well, but once heard a slash and found Betty with a long switch whipping two of the girls. I soon stopped that and told them I had come here to stop whipping, not to inflict it. Aleck, that “limb,” stopped in front of the desk and harangued me in orator style to prove that Betty was authorized by Miss Nelly. Mr. Severance drove me there and back, with a rabble of negroes hanging on behind. We rode to church to-day with nearly half a dozen somewhere about the carriage.

Lieutenant Belcher, who was Provost Marshal of Port Royal, is a stanch homoeopathist, and we have promised to doctor each other should occasion require. I have a great many patients on hand —”Too many,” as the negroes say.

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Camp Number 5, Princeton, May 4, 6 A. M. [1862].

Sir: — At this time I have received no communication from [you] written after you heard of the capture of this point. I shall hold this until 10 o’clock if I don’t sooner hear from you.

I send you enclosed a list of Captain Foley’s men, the “Flat Top Copperheads,” taken from the pocket of one killed by Lieutenant Bottsford’s men. You have the precious document with spelling, etc., etc. It should be copied for all who are likely to catch any of the scamps. Foragers yesterday found considerable quantities of well-cured bacon and fresh meat. With the new grass coming on and this meat, an enterprising army is not going to starve. This move was not made a day too soon; a further advance while the panic prevails is a plain duty and I doubt not you will order it as soon as you arrive. Company C will be very anxious to come here to be ready to go forward with us. If a guard is required when you reach them for their wounded, I suggest that you order a detail of say two men from each company of this regiment, to do that duty and thus relieve the company.

Two citizens of Kanawha County fled here with their slaves soon after our forces entered the valley, — Colonel Ward and Blain, or some such names. They hesitated about taking the oath to support Governor Pierpont’s Government. They will take the oath to the United States. This simply means secession. One of them got a pass from General Cox, dated December 17.

I think these wealthy scoundrels ought to be treated with the same severity as other Rebels. They want food for their slaves. We have none to spare to such men. Colonel P. [Paxton] will perhaps pass them to you. If you allow quartermaster Gardner to furnish them, let them pay sutler’s prices the same as our soldiers do. If I hear that you put them in the guard-tent, I shall be pleased. They may not leave here until you come.

I have stricken Rev. Amos Wilson’s name from the rolls. If he sends his resignation, all well; if not the order will be published if you approve. I enclose Major Comly’s remarks on the Foley list.

Respectfully,

R. B. Hayes,

Lieutenant-colonel 23D Regiment O. V. I.,

Commanding.

[Colonel Scammon.]

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Camp 5, Princeton, May 4, 1862. Sunday. — A fine day. Rode with Avery out two or three miles. This is a fine country. Mountainous but with much good land and tolerably well cultivated. A train of waggons with eight or ten thousand rations arrived about 2 P. M. escorted by Captain Townsend’s Company B, Thirtieth. Captains Hunter and Lovejoy arrived from Cincinnati bringing good letters from Lucy — all about the dear boys. . . . She takes a great interest in Will De Charmes; I have today written Corwine of Fremont’s staff to get him a place if possible. A pleasant night — the men sitting around their fires and in tents on the fine hillside, laughing, joking, singing so happily! A more happy lot of men can’t be found. It is everywhere cheerfulness and mirth.

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May 4 — Our camp being in the immediate vicinity of one of Virginia’s most beautiful curiosities, Weyer’s Cave, some eight or ten of our battery and some thirty or forty cavalrymen visited the caverns to-day. It certainly is the most beautiful hole in the ground I ever was in, and the environments on the outside are strikingly picturesque. Here nature was lavish in bestowing its wild charming beauties on the flower-bedecked wooded hillside, as well as its sparkling gems that glow and so profusely adorn the caverns inside, where the mystic goddess has been weaving her brightest jewels in silent gloom for thousands of years and is still at work putting delicate touches of lace-work as white as the virgin snow on every glowing ornament.

At four o’clock this evening we received marching orders, and renewed our march, turning westward toward the Valley pike. We forded South and Middle Rivers, both head streams of the Shenandoah. Camped this evening in a beautiful country a few miles east of Mount Sidney, a village in Augusta County, twelve miles north of Staunton.

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MAY 4TH.—The Yankees on the Peninsula mean to fight. Well, that is what our brave army pants for.

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From the foretop of the war steamer Mississippi, Mr. W. Waud sketches the engagement between the federal fleet and the rebel forts below New Orleans of April 24.  Published on the from page of Leslie’s paper May 31, 1862.

 

From the foretop of the war steamer Mississippi, Mr W Waud sketches the engagement between the federal fleet and the rebel forts below New Orleans

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Sunday, 4th—It rained nearly all day. We received orders to cook four days’ rations and be ready to march at a moment’s notice. Henry L. Sweet of our company died of fever this morning at the Division hospital.

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4th. Sunday. In the morning went with Archie to the river, saw some very pretty scenery, high bluffs, a cave, and fine foliage. Wrote home.

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May 4th.—Sun-rise brought us the intelligence that during the night the enemy had evacuated Yorktown, and their Warwick Creek fortifications. Now for a chase. Immediately started—whole army in pursuit—and on overtaking the rear guard had considerable fighting through the day, in which, though we get reports of our victories, I am inclined to the opinion that we came off “second best.” We have had a very hard march, many of the men being compelled to fall out. But we have Yorktown, without a fight. As the telegraph speeds this over the country, what relief it will bring to thousands of anxious, aching hearts! If the relieved feelings of anxious fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, friends, lovers, could be told on paper and started to the loved ones so long exposed to danger here, what a burden of mail matter our good uncle Samuel would have on his shoulders!

A few incidents of the chase are worth remembering. Our cavalry started at a dash past the nearest abandoned fort, but suddenly under their feet burst a shell in the road, killing two horses and one rider. The savages had planted the shell in the road, and when struck by the horse’s foot it exploded. There was an immediate halt, the road was examined, quite a number of shells exhumed, and the chase resumed. The infantry, after bridging the creek near Lee’s Mill, pushed forward. A march of three miles brought us to the handsome new brick mansion of Captain Dick Lee, nephew to the General, and a large property holder here. I did not withstand the temptation to leave the ranks and take a look at the house. Our Vandals had been there, and all was chaos; furniture broken to pieces, books and papers scattered to the winds. At a short distance from this new building, into which the family had but lately moved, stood an old, weatherbeaten, moss-covered wooden building, till recently their residence. I there found one relic which even Vandalism had respected—the leaf of a diary dated “May 3rd, 1862.” “Oh, my dear, dear home, the home of my childhood—my life! Oh the old time-beaten, moss-covered house where my eyes first saw the light, and my tongue was taught to lisp its first prayer; how I have watched your decay, and my proud heart has been ashamed of your age. My own wicked spirit is now humbled, and I come to you to-day where my first prayer was uttered, to offer up the last in the home of my former happiness. Farewell, dear home, forever.” This was written in a lady’s hand. So the people here were happy once; but I suppose they did not know it, else why this wanton, wicked war, carrying misery into so many homes? Captain Dick Lee and all his family had left. Capt. Lee was only an hour ahead of us, and is, I hear, a prisoner to-night. His family were in Williamsburg yesterday. To-day they are doubtless flying in a pitiless storm before a pursuing army, homeless and houseless. Oh, Capt. Lee, think of that happy family one year ago, and now! We had two running fights, in one we were repulsed; in the other we drove the enemy, killing and wounding many of them. Our loss is stated at 40 to 50 in killed and wounded. But I am learning to put but little reliance on the reported results of a battle. We always exaggerate the loss of the enemy, whilst we lessen our own.

At sun-down we arrived at Mill Quarters, the residence of a Mr. Whittaker, about three miles from Williamsburg, formed Hancock’s Brigade into line of battle, and skirmished till night. Then we laid on our arms in front of the first line of the defences of Williamsburg.

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