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

A Rebel War Clerk’s Diary at the Confederate States Capital, By John Beauchamp Jones


April 19th.—Yesterday windy, to-day bright and calm.

It appears that the day of the death of President Lincoln was appointed for illuminations and rejoicings on the surrender of Lee. There is no intelligence of the death of Mr. Seward or his son. It was a dastardly deed—surely the act of a madman.



April 17th.—Bright and clear.

I add a few lines to my Diary. It was whispered, yesterday, that President Lincoln had been assassinated! I met Gen. Duff Green, in the afternoon, who assured me there could be no doubt of it. Still, supposing it might be an April hoax, I inquired at the headquarters of Gen. Ord, and was told it was true. I cautioned those I met to manifest no feeling, as the occurrence might be a calamity for the South; and possibly the Federal soldiers, supposing the deed to have been done by a Southern man, might become uncontrollable and perpetrate deeds of horror on the unarmed people.

After agreeing to meet Gen. Green this morning at the Provost Marshal’s office, and unite with him in an attempt to procure the liberation of Capt. Warner, I returned home; and saw, on the way, Gen. Ord and his staff riding out toward Camp Lee, with no manifestations of excitement or grief on their countenances.

Upon going down town this morning, every one was speaking of the death of Lincoln, and the Whig was in mourning.

President Lincoln was killed by Booth (Jno. Wilkes), an actor. I suppose his purpose is to live in history as the slayer of a tyrant; thinking to make the leading character in a tragedy, and have his performance acted by others on the stage.

I see no grief on the faces of either officers or men of the Federal army.

R. A. Pryor and Judge W. T. Joynes have called a meeting in Petersburg, to lament the calamity entailed by the assassination.

I got passports to-day for myself and family to the Eastern Shore, taking no oath. We know not when we shall leave.

I never swore allegiance to the Confederate States Government, but was true to it.

April 14th.—Bright and cool.

Gen. Weitzel and his corps having been ordered away, Major-Gen. Ord has succeeded to the command at Richmond, and his corps has been marching to Camp Lee ever since dawn. I saw no negro troops among them, but presume there are some.

Gen. Weitzel’s rule became more and more despotic daily; but it is said the order dictating prayers to be offered by the Episcopal clergy came from Mr. Stanton, at Washington, Secretary of War. One of the clergy, being at my house yesterday, said that unless this order were modified there would be no services on Sunday. To-day, Good Friday, the churches are closed.

The following circular was published a few days ago:


“To the People of Virginia.

“The undersigned, members of the Legislature of the State of Virginia, in connection with a number of the citizens of the State, whose names are attached to this paper, in view of the evacuation of the City of Richmond by the Confederate Government, and its occupation by the military authorities of the United States, the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, and the suspension of the jurisdiction of the civil power of the State, are of opinion that an immediate meeting of the General Assembly of the State is called for by the exigencies of the situation.

“The consent of the military authorities of the United States to the session of the Legislature in Richmond, in connection with the Governor and Lietenant-Governor, to their free deliberation upon public affairs, and to the ingress and departure of all its members under safe conducts, has been obtained.

“The United States authorities will afford transportation from any point under their control to any of the persons before mentioned.

“The matters to be submitted to the Legislature are the restoration of peace to the State of Virginia, and the adjustment of questions involving life, liberty, and property, that have arisen in the State as a consequence of the war.

“We therefore earnestly request the Governor, Lieutenant-Governor, and members of the Legislature to repair to this city by the 25th April (instant).

“We understand that full protection to persons and property will be afforded in the State, and we recommend to peaceful citizens to remain at their homes and pursue their usual avocations, with confidence that they will not be interrupted.

“We earnestly solicit the attendance in Richmond, on or before the 25th of April (instant), of the following persons, citizens of Virginia, to confer with us as to the best means of restoring peace to the State of Virginia. We have procured safe conduct from the military authorities of the United States for them to enter the city and depart without molestation: Hon. R. M. T. Hunter, A. T. Caperton, Wm. C. Rives, John Letcher, A. H. H. Stuart, R. L. Montague, Fayette McMullen, J. P. Holcombe, Alexander Rives, B. Johnson Barbour, James Barbour, Wm. L. Goggin, J. B. Baldwin, Thomas S. Gholson, Waller Staples, S. D. Miller, Thomas J. Randolph, Wm T. Early, R. A. Claybrook, John Critcher, Wm. Towns, T. H. Eppes, and those other persons for whom passports have been procured and especially forwarded that we consider it to be unnecessary to mention.

“A. J. Marshall, Senator, Fauquier; James Neeson, Senator, Marion; James Venable, Senator elect, Petersburg; David I. Burr, of House of Delegates, Richmond City; David J. Saunders, of House of Delegates, Richmond City; L. S. Hall, of House of Delegates, Wetzel County; J. J. English, of House of Delegates, Henrico County; Wm. Ambers, of House of Delegates, Chesterfield County; A. M. Keily, of House of Delegates, Petersburg; H. W. Thomas, Second Auditor of Virginia; St. L. L. Moncure, Chief Clerk Second Auditor’s office; Joseph Mayo, Mayor of City of Richmond; Robert Howard, Clerk of Hustings Court, Richmond City; Thomas U. Dudley, Sergeant Richmond City; Littleton Tazewell, Commonwealth’s Attorney, Richmond City; Wm. T. Joynes, Judge of Circuit Court, Petersburg; John A. Meredith, Judge of Circuit Court, Richmond; Wm. H. Lyons, Judge of Hustings Court, Richmond; Wm. C. Wickham, Member of Congress, Richmond District; Benj. S. Ewell, President of William and Mary College; Nat. Tyler, Editor Richmond Enquirer; R. F. Walker, Publisher of Examiner; J. R. Anderson, Richmond; R. R. Howison, Richmond; W. Goddin, Richmond; P. G. Bayley, Richmond; F. J. Smith, Richmond; Franklin Stearns, Henrico; John Lyons, Petersburg; Thomas B. Fisher, Fauquier; Wm. M. Harrison, Charles City; Cyrus Hall, Ritchie; Thomas W. Garnett, King and Queen; James A. Scott, Richmond.

“I concur in the preceding recommendation.

“J. A. Campbell. “

Approved for publication in the Whig, and in handbill form.

“G. Weitzel, Major-Gen. Commanding.

“Richmond, Va., April 11th, 1865.”


To-day the following order is published:


“Headquarters Department Of Virginia,
“Richmond, Va., April 13th, 1865.

“Owing to recent events, the permission for the reassembling of the gentlemen recently acting as the Legislature of Virginia is rescinded. Should any of the gentlemen come to the city under the notice of reassembling, already published, they will be furnished passports to return to their homes.

“Any of the persons named in the call signed by J. A. Campbell and others, who are found in the city twelve hours after the publication of this notice, will be subject to arrest, unless they are residents of the city.

“E. O. C. Ord, Major-Gen. Commanding.”

Judge Campbell informs me that he saw Gen. Ord yesterday, who promised to grant me permission to take my family to the Eastern Shore of Virginia, and suggesting some omissions and alterations in the application, which I made. Judge C. is to see him again to-day, when I hope the matter will be accomplished.

Judge Campbell left my application with Gen. Ord’s youngest adjutant, to whom he said the general had approved it. But the adjutant said it would have to be presented again, as there was no indorsement on it. The judge advised me to follow it up, which I did; and stayed until the adjutant did present it again to Gen. Ord, who again approved it. Then the polite aid accompanied me to Gen. Patrick’s office and introduced me to him, and to Lieut.-Col. John Coughlin, “Provost Marshal General Department of Virginia,” who indorsed on the paper: “These papers will be granted when called for.”

April 13th.—Raining. Long trains of “supply” and “ammunition” wagons have been rolling past our dwelling all the morning, indicating a movement of troops southward. I suppose the purpose is to occupy the conquered territory. Alas! we know too well what military occupation is. No intelligent person supposes, after Lee’s surrender, that there will be found an army anywhere this side of the Mississippi of sufficient numbers to make a stand. No doubt, however, many of the dispersed Confederates will join the trans-Mississippi army under Gen. E. Kirby Smith, if indeed, he too does not yield to the prevalent surrendering epidemic.

Confederate money is valueless, and we have no Federal money. To such extremity are some of the best and wealthiest families reduced, that the ladies are daily engaged making pies and cakes for the Yankee soldiers of all colors, that they may obtain enough “greenbacks” to purchase such articles as are daily required in their housekeeping.

It is said we will be supplied with rations from the Federal commissariat.

April 12th.—Warm and cloudy. Gen. Weitzel publishes an order to-day, requiring all ministers who have prayed for the President of the Confederate States to pray hereafter for the President of the United States. He will not allow them to omit the prayer.

In answer to my application for permission to take my family to the Eastern Shore of Virginia, where among their relations and friends shelter and food may be had, Brevet Brig.-Gen. Ludlow indorsed: “Disallowed—as none but loyal people, who have taken the oath, are permitted to reside on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.” This paper I left at Judge Campbell’s residence (he was out) for his inspection, being contrary in spirit to the terms he is represented to have said would be imposed on us.

At 1½ P.M. Another 100 guns were fired in Capitol Square, in honor, I suppose, of the surrender of Johnston’s army. I must go and see.

Captain Warner is still in prison, and no one is allowed to visit him, I learn. ,

Three P.M. Saw Judge Campbell, who will lay my paper before the military authorities for reconsideration to-morrow. He thinks they have acted unwisely. I said to him that a gentleman’s word was better than an enforced oath—and that if persecution and confiscation are to follow, instead of organized armies we shall have bands of assassins everywhere in the field, and the stiletto and the torch will take the place of the sword and the musket—and there can be no solid reconstruction, etc. He says he told the Confederate States authorities months ago that the cause had failed, but they would not listen. He said he had telegraphed something to Lieut.-Gen. Grant to-day.

The salute some say was in honor of Johnston’s surrender— others say it was for Lee’s—and others of Clay’s birthday.

April 11th.—Cloudy and misty. It is reported that Gen. Johnston has surrendered his army in North Carolina, following the example of Gen. Lee. But no salutes have been fired in honor of the event. The President (Davis) is supposed to be flying toward the Mississippi River, but this is merely conjectural. Undoubtedly the war is at an end, and the Confederate States Government will be immediately extinct—its members fugitives. From the tone of leading Northern papers, we have reason to believe President Lincoln will call Congress together, and proclaim an amnesty, etc.

Judge Campbell said to Mr. Hart (clerk in the Confederate States War Department) yesterday that there would be no arrests, and no oath would be required. Yet ex-Captain Warner was arrested yesterday, charged with ill treating Federal prisoners, with registering a false name, and as a dangerous character. I know the contrary of all this; for he has been persecuted by the Confederate States authorities for a year, and forced to resign his commission.

My application to Gen. Shepley for permission to remove my family to the Eastern Shore, where they have relatives and friends, and may find subsistence, still hangs fire. Every day I am told to call the next day, as it has not been acted upon.

April 10th.—Raining. I was startled in bed by the sound of cannon from the new southside fort again. I suppose another hundred guns were fired; and I learn this morning that the Federals declare, and most people believe, that Lee has really surrendered his army—if not indeed all the armies.

My Diary is surely drawing to a close, and I feel as one about to take leave of some old familiar associate. A habit is to be discontinued—and that is no trifling thing to one of my age. But I may find sufficient employment in revising, correcting, etc. what I have written. I never supposed it would end in this way.

Ten A.M. It is true! Yesterday Gen. Lee surrendered the “Army of Northern Virginia.” His son, Custis Lee, and other generals, had surrendered a few days previously. The men are paroled by regimental commanders, from the muster rolls, and are permitted to return to their homes and remain undisturbed until exchanged. The officers to take their side-arms and baggage to their homes, on the same conditions, etc. There were 290 pieces of artillery belonging to this army a few weeks ago. This army was the pride, the hope, the prop of the Confederate cause, and numbered, I believe, on the rolls, 120,000 men. All is lost! No head can be made by any other general or army—if indeed any other army remains. If Mr. Davis had been present, he never would have consented to it; and I doubt if he will ever forgive Gen. Lee.

April 9th.—Bright and beautiful. Rev. Mr. Dashiell called, after services. The prayer for the President was omitted, by a previous understanding.

Rev. Dr. Minnegerode, and others, leading clergymen, consider the cause at an end. A letter from Gen. Lee has been found, and its authenticity vouched for (Rev. Dr. M. says) by Judge Campbell, in which he avows his conviction that further resistance will be in vain—but that so long as it is desired, he will do his utmost in the field.

And Dr. M. has information of the capture of three divisions of Longstreet since the battle of Sunday last, with some eight generals — among them Lieut.-Gen. Ewell, Major-Gen. G. W. Custis Lee, etc.

The clergy also seem to favor a convention, and the resumption by Virginia of her old position in the Union—minus slavery. Charlottesville has been named as the place for the assembling of the convention. They also believe that Judge Campbell remained to treat with the United States at the request of the Confederate States Government. I doubt. We shall now have no more interference in Caesar’s affairs by the clergy—may they attend to God’s hereafter!

Ten o’clock P.M. A salute fired—100 guns—from the forts across the river, which was succeeded by music from all the bands. The guard promenading in front of the house says a dispatch has been received from Grant announcing the surrender of Lee!

I hear that Gen. Pickett was killed in the recent battle!

April 8th.—Bright and pleasant weather.

We are still in uncertainty as to our fate, or whether an oath of allegiance will be demanded.

Efforts by Judge Campbell, Jos. R. Anderson, N. P. Tyler, G. A. Myers and others, are being made to assemble a convention which shall withdraw Virginia from the Confederacy.

Hundreds of civil employees remained, many because they had been required to volunteer in the local defense organization or lose their employment, and the fear of being still further perfidiously dealt with, forced into the army, notwithstanding their legal exemptions. Most of them had families whose subsistence depended upon their salaries. It is with governments as with individuals, injustice is sooner or later overtaken by its merited punishment.

The people are kinder to each other, sharing provisions, etc.

A New York paper says Gen. H. A. Wise was killed; we hear nothing of this here.

Roger A. Pryor is said to have remained voluntarily in Petersburg, and announces his abandonment of the Confederate States cause.

April 7th.—Slight showers.

Wm. Ira Smith, tailor, and part owner of the Whig, has continued the publication as a Union paper.

I visited the awful crater of the magazine. One current or stream of fire and bricks knocked down the east wall of the cemetery, and swept away many head and foot stones, demolishing trees, plants, etc.

It is said President Lincoln is still in the city. Dr. Ellison informed me to-day of the prospect of Judge Campbell’s conference with Mr. Lincoln. It appears that the judge had prepared statistics of our resources in men and materials, showing them to be utterly inadequate for a prolongation of the contest, and these he exhibited to certain prominent citizens, whom he wished to accompany him. Whether they were designed also for the eye of President Lincoln, or whether he saw them, I did not learn. But one citizen accompanied him—Gustavus A. Myers, the little old lawyer, who has certainly cultivated the most friendly relations with all the members of President Davis’s cabinet, and it is supposed he prosecuted a lucrative business procuring substitutes, obtaining discharges, getting passports, etc.

The ultimatum of President Lincoln was Union, emancipation, disbandment of the Confederate States armies. Then no oath of allegiance would be required, no confiscation exacted, or other penalty; and the Governor and Legislature to assemble and readjust the affairs of Virginia without molestation of any character.

Negotiations are in progress by the clergymen, who are directed to open the churches on Sunday, and it was intimated to the Episcopalians that they should pray for the President of the United States. To this they demur, being ordered by the Convention to pray for the President of the Confederate States. They are willing to omit the prayer altogether, and await the decision of the military authority on that proposition.