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

Diary of US patent clerk Horatio Nelson Taft.

Washington March 25th/64

Nothing very important has occured in regard to the war since my last date. No movement of the Army of the Potomac has taken place. Some Cavalry “raids” have been made and some skirmishing has been going on. Today an order is published consolidating the Army of the Potomac into three Corps Commanded by Genls Warren, Hancock and Sedgwick. Three fighting Genls. Genl Grant does not take command in person. Genl Mead is to command still. Genl Grant will have his head Qrs (it is said) here in the City. I do not like that. The Army of the Potomac has “swamped” so many Genls that I fear for him. Should that Army be defeated now, it would be ruin to him. In fact I think the political atmosphere of Washington itself will ruin him, but it seems necessary to put forward our “biggest gun” against Lee the Rebel, who has proved himself a most consumate General and so far more than a match (as to skill and ability) for any one we have had against him. If Grant can crush the Army of Lee, then the Rebellion seem to be nearly to an End. The trial will “come off” before long. There is thought to be no great difference in the strength of the two armies now facing each other. I hope ours will be largely re-inforced before the “Trial” as everything seems to depend upon our success, at least the length of the War will very much depend upon it. A few crushing blows this spring will do the work, and not only virtualy end the War, but disappoint the slipery and “sympathising” politicians at the North who are prophesying evil things of our army and obstructing the wheels of government in every way in Congress & out of it.

March 20th 1864

On Friday last Julia and myself went on board the Govt Steamer at 3 o’clock P.M. and were landed at Rosiers Bluff or rather Fort Foot in about an hour after. I remained overnight and returned yesterday, leaving Julia to spend a few days with her Cousins Maj E P Taft and family. There is now about Six hundred men there and the Fort seems to be completed but the guns are not all mounted yet. There is one 400 pounder mounted and a number of 200 pounder Parrots. Lieut Col Seward is now in Com[ma]nd. His Lady came up on the Boat with me and I saw her safely landed and through the Street cars to the Secretarys House on 16th St. On my return I found a letter for Julia from her particular friend Capt McLeod now with the Army of the Cumberland in Tennessee. He is on Genl Garrards Staff. I mailed it to her without delay as I presumed She was anxious to hear from him and I was willing she should, and was not disposed to pry into their secrets by opening it. She has shown me his letters before and I doubt not will show me this if I desire her to do so as she is very open and frank with me in regard to him and all others who pay attention to her. Julia is a very discreet girl, very careful of her steps, and of the company she keeps. She will not go on to “the Avenue” alone, or without a Gentleman with her, after 12 o’clock A.M. for shoping or any other purpose. Consequently I always feel quite confident that she is safe whenever I miss her from the house. We shall start for home about the first of next month. I expect her up from the Fort in three or four days but she is enjoying herself riding on horseback and otherwise so much that she may stay a little longer.

Washington D.C. March 20th/64

Not much of importance has transpired in regard to the War since my last date. Genl Grant has been here (He is now Lieut Genl) and has gone back to Tennessee, but soon returns and takes command of the Army of the Potomac in person. Having command at the same time of all the Armies of the U.S. The spring campaigns will open before many weeks and desperate fighting is expected. More desperate probably than any Battles we have yet seen for the Rebels are staking their last chances and are desperate. Our Armies are strong and are better officered than ever before as there has been a great “weeding out” going on during the past year of good for nothing “Shoulder Straps.” The coming next six months must be decisive of the war or I am much mistaken. It is without doubt assuming a more relentless and cruel character as it progresses, on both sides, but the rebel “papers” are getting furious and call loudly for vengeance even on the prisoners in their hands, but as we hold many more of theirs than they do of ours they will have to take it out in raving. The rebel leaders are determined to prolong the War until after the next Presidential Election at least in the hope that a “Peace Democrat” will be Elected and then they can make better terms, or even be acknowledged Independant. But from present indications their hopes will not be realized. Most of the leading Democrats in the States are “War democrats” and would concede nothing to them until they laid down their arms and submitted to the laws. Mr Lincoln seems to be the favorite candidate of the Republicans, but I should not wonder if there should be a Split in the Party.

March 10th 1864

The Military affairs of the Nation has not been “all a success” for the past two or three weeks. Our troops were repulsed in Florida with a loss of some 1200 men killed, wounded, and prisoners. They are now at Jacksonville and have been re-inforced, and will be able to stay there. Genl Sherman has returned to Vicksburgh from his great “raid” into the heart of Miss. He met with no very great losses of men, destroyed a Vast amount of property belonging to the rebels, captured a great number of horses, and brought away (the papers say) 8000 Negroes. Genl Kilpatrick of the Army of the Potomac made a “raid” last week upon Richmond with some four or five thousand Cavalry. He approached within two miles of the City, had a fight but found the rebels too well prepared for him and he passed down the Peninsula to Fortress Monroe. The Rebels seem strong this spring and the indications are that there must be a good deal more desperate fighting before the war closes. The impression is generaly entertained that they have got all their men in the field and are determined to make a desperate effort to regain what they have lost the past year. But their desperation will only prolong the war, in the end they will have to give in. We must have double the number of men in the field but our lines are vastly more extended and we are occupying positions in strong force over thousands of miles of territory. Genl Grant arrived here on Tuesday, he has recently been made a Lieut Genl and is just now the “Lion of the day.” I hope he will return to the West soon or before he becomes paralyzed by breathing the atmosphere of the Potomac. Congress does not seem to be doing much and the political cauldron does not boil much yet.

Saturday February 27th 1864

The day has been beautiful as could be wished and the streets have swarmed with ladies. The country is getting considerably excited upon the question of the “succession” to the Presidency. Mr Lincoln seems to have the “inside tract,” but he will find a good deal of opposition in the Republican party. A Strong section are talking of bringing out Mr S. P. Chase, Sec’y of the Treasury. He has managed the finances of the Country with consumate ability and is very popular. If he succeeds in giving to the Country a Uniform Currency by the banishment of State Bank bills He will deserve the everlasting gratitude of the people. There is a report tonight that our forces in Florida have been repulsed with heavy loss and have fallen back to Jacksonville. No particular news from other sections of the army.

Feb 26th 1864

As the season advances and Spring approaches the news becomes more interesting. The Armies begin to move and important events are expected to happen soon, are in fact happening at the present time. Genl Sherman has struck out from Vicksburgh with about 30,000 men and has advanced far into the interior taking Jackson the Capitol of Miss and other towns in his course. It is supposed that Mobile is his destination. Genl Grant is moveing South from Chattanooga and the papers tonight say that he is at Dalton Georgia. The Army of the Potomac stretches from near Fairfax Courthouse to Culpepper some Thirty Miles and is now fast being reinforced. Recruits are now arriving rapidly and more than fifteen thousand soldiers have crossed the long Bridge into Virginia this week. Troops are crowding the cars & marching and again we hear “the drums beat at dead of night.

Monday 22nd

No particular notice was taken of the birth day of Washington in this City. The public offices were not closed but the flags were hung from numerous dwellings and offices. Julia and myself had intended to go down to Fort Foot today but the River is still too full of ice to make it pleasant and we decided not to go at present. The great Fair opened this evening for the benefit of the soldiers. Capt Roeselle of the 9th Artillery went with Julia, presented her with an elegant Boquet before starting.

February 18th 1864 (Thursday)

This is the coldest weather that I have ever seen in Washington, that is for Six years. The Mercury was below zero this morning. The River is again frozen over, but there is no snow on the ground and the streets look quite lonesome. A cold cutting wind banishes everybody but those who must go.

February 9th 1864 Monday

Julia and myself took the Govt Steam Tug “Lookout” at 3 o’clock P.M. on Saturday and went down to Rosiers Bluff or to “Fort Foot” three miles below Alexandria on the Maryland side on a visit to Maj E. P. Taft who is at present in command. We returned last evening. While there we enjoyed ourselves much. We visited Mt Vernon with a select company and in a special steamer which is employed for the Fort. The Company consisted of Maj Taft & Lady, Capt Lyon & Lady, Surgeon Sabin & Lady, Capt & Lady, Surgeon Chamberlin of the 9th, Capt Winchester, Commissary of the 9th at Fort Foot, Lieut Wellington, and ourselves. Capt Roeselle at the Fort was quite attentive to Julia. He was officer of the day and did not go on the trip. Surge[o]n Chamberlin did the polite to her on the trip.

Washington January 1st 1864

This has been a pleasant day and people have I think enjoyed themselves much better in making their “calls” than they did last year and especialy the year before. Every one seems to feel in good spirits and very hopeful in regard to the future. Mr Lincoln looks brighter and less “woebegone” than usual. Mr Seward is a[s] gracious and confident of the early termination of the War as ever. He receives his guests with more formality than any one else. His gentleman Usher anouncing the name of the visitor in a loud voice at the door of the receiving room. At the Presidents, the Gentleman who introduces stands directly opposite the President with only room for a couple to pass betwen them. Mrs Lincolns Gentleman stands beside her and does the introducing. I made fifteen or twenty “calls” and got to my lodgings early in the evening. The whole City seemed to be alive and the ladies all “at Home.”