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

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

29th.—No official accounts from “Stonewall” and his glorious army, but private accounts are most cheering. In the mean time, the hospitals in and around Richmond are being cleaned, aired, etc., preparatory to the anticipated battles. Oh, it is sickening to know that these preparations are necessary! Every man who is able has gone to his regiment. Country people are sending in all manner of things—shirts, drawers, socks, etc., hams, flour, fresh vegetables, fruits, preserves—for the sick and wounded. It is wonderful how these things can be spared. I suppose, if the truth were known, that they cannot be spared, except that every man and woman is ready to give up every article which is not absolutely necessary; and I dare say that gentlemen’s wardrobes, which were wont to be numbered by dozens, are now reduced to couples.

It is said that General Johnston, by an admirable series of manœuvres, is managing to retreat from Williamsburg, all the time concealing the comparative weakness of his troops, and is retarding the advance of the enemy, until troops from other points can be concentrated here.

MAY 29TH.—More troops are marching into the city, and Gen. Lee has them sent out in such manner and at such times as to elude the observations of even the spies.

Thursday, 29th—There was heavy cannonading today off on the left flank and the pickets are still fighting. General Pope cut the railroad and with the aid of the Second Iowa Cavalry burned a train of cars and took one thousand stand of arms.

May 29th. Early this morning the Brooklyn, with her attendants, arrived from up the river, when the Flag Officer ordered the troops, fifteen hundred in number, ashore to watch the city, while we broke out of our ship’s hold nearly all of our provisions for their use. At ten o’clock the Brooklyn got under way for New Orleans, and we soon followed, leaving two gunboats to guard the place by water. We anchored at night as usual, and on the morning had the misfortune to lose our anchor by the parting of the chain. We got under way early, and reached New Orleans a little after noon, where we found a display of shipping not unlike the happiest days of the Crescent City.

There were some half dozen men-of-war here, also the U. S. mail packet Ocean Queen, a large and splendid ship; also the U. S. transport Connecticut, with a mail for us, and a large number of transports and merchantmen lining the levee, while the merchant steamers flying about the river created a lively and pleasing appearance. On this passage, Quartermaster Donnelly died of apoplexy, induced by the heat of the sun and season, being the second case from the same cause. We lay here for more than a week, during which time steamships were constantly arriving from the North, bringing mails, dispatches, &c., and a corresponding number departed, among them the U. S. sloop-of-war Dacotah.

29th. Thursday. Went to Neosho Falls, nine miles, to see the Indians play ball. Gay time and gay dinner. Visited them in their camp and home. Saw some slaves among them. Was disgusted with their primeval customs. Saw Seminoles and Delawares. About 7,000 encamped along the river.

May 29th. Weather fair, and ground drying up. Had a fine battalion drill during the morning, all hands on parade; about noon, a body of prisoners over six hundred strong marched through our camp, to the rear; they were captured yesterday by Porter, and are a dirty, unhappy looking set of fellows, more like tramps than soldiers. Wrote to the lieutenant colonel, who is unluckily at home sick. Detailed Captain Jones, with Company H, for duty at Dispatch station. H is an excellent company, and Jones a good reliable officer. I also detailed Company K, Captain La Valley, by order of the colonel, in the afternoon, to guard the rebel prisoners, from corps headquarters to the White House. It turned out seventy-six muskets strong, and looked splendidly. What a contrast they made to the forlorn prisoners, but still these men have an ugly look, and one would scarcely like to meet them alone after dark, they give us an idea of guerrillas in their slouch hats, and gaunt, half starved figures. I noticed they took very kindly to the grub, which our men generously gave them.

The Peninsula, Va. Lts. George A. Custer, Nicolas Bowen, and William G. Jones

Photograph from the main eastern theater of war, the Peninsular Campaign.

Photographed by James F. Gibson

Part of Civil War glass negative collection.  Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Record page for this image:

May 29. [Okolona, Mississippi]—In company with a lady, I visited the General Hospital. Dr. Caldwell has improved much since my last visit here, as he granted us permission to go through it, and has condescended to have one lady—Mrs. Woodall—in his hospital. I was introduced to her, and tendered my services, but she did not accept them. I should not think that it was possible for her to do one third part of the work necessary. I am told that there are no less than two thousand patients in the place.

Quite a number of new buildings have been erected—large wooden sheds, well ventilated, and capable of holding from twenty-five to thirty patients each. The part which we visited looked very well, but there is certainly room for improvement . We were shown the bread which the patients eat; it was black and sour; but as Mrs. W. has been here but a few days, she has not had time to improve matters. It is said that an improvement is visible already.

We met a young man from Alabama at the doctor’s office, by the name of Harry Gordon. He was attending his captain, who was very sick, and was acquainted with my brother, whom he had seen a few days before. We met many of our old patients in the hospital, who were delighted to see us. There is a great lack of shade-trees, and it is a serious want.

It is impossible to learn any thing relative to our army at Corinth.

It is reported that the Federals have taken Booneville, burned the depot, captured two hundred of our men who were very sick, and that quite a number of sick were burned. This last I scarcely think possible, I can not think that the enemy are capable of any thing so cruel. Rumor is busy with her many tongues. I am anxious to learn the truth. Mrs. Ogden is about ten miles beyond Booneville; I hope nothing has happened to her.

May 29th.—Betsey, recalcitrant maid of the W.’s, has been sold to a telegraph man. She is as handsome as a mulatto ever gets to be, and clever in every kind of work. My Molly thinks her mistress “very lucky in getting rid of her.” She was “a dangerous inmate,” but she will be a good cook, a good chambermaid, a good dairymaid, a beautiful clear-starcher, and the most thoroughly good-for-nothing woman I know to her new owners, if she chooses. Molly evidently hates her, but thinks it her duty “to stand by her color.”

Mrs. Gibson is a Philadelphia woman. She is true to her husband and children, but she does not believe in us— the Confederacy, I mean. She is despondent and hopeless; as wanting in faith of our ultimate success as is Sally Baxter Hampton. I make allowances for those people. If I had married North, they would have a heavy handful in me just now up there.

Mrs. Chesnut, my mother-in-law, has been sixty years in the South, and she has not changed in feeling or in taste one iota. She can not like hominy for breakfast, or rice for dinner, without a relish to give it some flavor. She can not eat watermelons and sweet potatoes sans discrétion, as we do. She will not eat hot corn bread à discrétion, and hot buttered biscuit without any.

“Richmond is obliged to fall,” sighed Mrs. Gibson. “You would say so, too, if you had seen our poor soldiers.” “Poor soldiers?” said I. “Are you talking of Stonewall Jackson’s men? Poor soldiers, indeed! ” She said her mind was fixed on one point, and had ever been, though she married and came South: she never would own slaves. “Who would that was not born to it?” I cried, more excited than ever. She is very handsome, very clever, and has very agreeable manners.

“Dear madam,” she says, with tears in her beautiful eyes, “they have three armies.” “But Stonewall has routed one of them already. Heath another.” She only answered by an unbelieving moan. “Nothing seemed to suit her,” I said, as we went away. “You did not certainly,” said some one to me; “you contradicted every word she said, with a sort of indignant protest.”

We met Mrs. Hampton Gibbes at the door—another Virginia woman as good as gold. They told us Mrs. Davis was delightfully situated at Raleigh; North Carolinians so loyal, so hospitable; she had not been allowed to eat a meal at the hotel. “How different from Columbia,” said Doctor Gibbes, looking at Mrs. Gibson, who has no doubt been left to take all of her meals at his house. “Oh, no!” cried Mary, “you do Columbia injustice. Mrs. Chesnut used to tell us that she was never once turned over to the tender mercies of the Congaree cuisine, and at McMahan’s it is fruit, flowers, invitations to dinner every day.”

After we came away, “Why did you not back me up?” I was asked. “Why did you let them slander Columbia?”

“It was awfully awkward,” I said, “but you see it would have been worse to let Doctor Gibbes and Mrs. Gibson see how different it was with other people.”

Took a moonlight walk after tea at the Halcott Greens’. All the company did honor to the beautiful night by walking home with me.

Uncle Hamilton Boykin is here, staying at the de Saussures’. He says, “Manassas was play to Williamsburg,” and he was at both battles. He lead a part of Stuart’s cavalry in the charge at Williamsburg, riding a hundred yards ahead of his company.

Toombs is ready for another revolution, and curses freely everything Confederate from the President down to a horse boy. He thinks there is a conspiracy against him in the army. Why? Heavens and earth—why?

May 29.—Lieutenant-Colonel Downey, of the Third regiment, Potomac home brigade, in a skirmish this morning, drove a large party of Ashby’s rebel cavalry through Wardensville, killing two and wounding three.

—The English steamer Elizabeth was captured off Charleston, S. C, by the United States gunboat Keystone State.—The public debt of the United States on this day was four hundred and ninety-one million, four hundred and forty-five thousand, nine hundred and eighty-four dollars, at an average interest of 4.35 per cent.—Captain Frisbee, commanding a detachment of three hundred and seventy-eight infantry and First Missouri cavalry, captured near Neosho, Mo., two colonels and one lieutenant-colonel, two jayhawkers, and numbers of guns, revolvers, fifteen horses, and a train of forage.—Dubuque Times, June 3.

—This morning at nine o’clock, the Yankee cavalry followed by infantry, entered Ashland, Va. The confederate troops, quartermasters, and commissaries, and even the pickets had withdrawn, leaving valuable stores behind, including cars filled with flour, etc. The village was swarming with the people of the neighborhood, and negroes who were helping themselves to the public stores. Mr. Crichter, of Westmoreland, and Mr. Grimes, of King George, assumed authority to order about forty negroes to push the cars about one hundred and fifty yards to the point of descent, whence they would run three miles toward Richmond; but after removing eleven cars to the point, the Yankee cavalry dashed into the village, and Messrs. Crichter and Grimes escaped unpursued. —Richmond Whig, June 2.

—Brigadier-General Schofield, commanding the Missouri State Militia, issued a general order, stating that all guerrillas and marauders in that State, when caught in arms, engaged in their unlawful warfare, would be shot down on the spot, and that all citizens who should give shelter and protection to those outlaws, or who would not give all the assistance in their power to the military authorities in detecting and bringing them to punishment, would be regarded and treated as aiders and abettors of the criminals.

—A skirmish occurred at Pocotaligo, S. C, between a party of Union troops, under command of Colonel B. C. Christ, of the Fifteenth Pennsylvania volunteers and a party of the rebels, numbering about eight hundred. After a contest of two hours the rebels were routed with severe loss.— (Doc. 123.)

—Near the “Seven Pines” Va., the rebels made an attack upon the pickets of Casey’s division about sunrise this morning. They approached under cover of a dense fog, to within fifty yards of the pickets of the Eighty-fifth Pennsylvania and Ninety-sixth New-York regiments, when a sharp fight occurred. The pickets were driven back a short distance, when they were reenforced, and drove the rebels, regaining their former position. Major Kelly, of the Ninety-sixth New-York was shot through the neck, and bled to death. Orderly-Sergeant David II. Lancaster, company C, Eighty-fifth Pennsylvania regiment, had his left arm shattered at elbow, and private William Leighty, was shot through left thumb.

—Colonel C. C. Dodge with two companies of the New-York Mounted Rifles, while on an expedition into North-Carolina, captured seven officers of the rebel army, at Gatcsville, in that State. —(Doc 124.)

—The publication of the New-Orleans Bee was resumed this day, the proprietors having made a satisfactory explanation to General Butler.

—The Sixth United States cavalry burned a bridge five hundred feet long over South Anna Creek, a tributary of the Pamunkey. The bridge was on the line of Stonewall Jackson’s retreat to Richmond.—The Eighth and Thirty-seventh regiments, N.Y.S.M., left New-York City for Washington.—General Pope’s heavy batteries opened upon the rebel works at Corinth, Miss, at ten A.M., this day.