May 5th.—Very warm, and no cold water, unless one went to the river. The hotel baths were not promising; This hotel is worse than Mill’s House or “Willard’s. The feeding and the flies are intolerable. One of our party comes in to say that he could scarce get down to the hall on account of the crowd, and that all the people who passed him had very hard, sharp bones. He remarks thereupon to the clerk at the bar, who tells him that the particular projections he alludes to are implements of defence or offence, as the case may be, and adds, “I suppose you and your friends are the only people in the house who haven’t a bowie-knife, or a six-shooter, or Derringer about them.” The house is full of Confederate Congress men, politicians, colonels, and placemen with or without places, and a vast number of speculators, contractors, and the like, attracted by the embryo government. Among the visitors are many filibusters, such as Henningsen, Pickett, Tochman, Wheat*. [*Since killed in action.] I hear a good deal about the association called the Knights of the Golden Circle, a Protestant association for securing the Gulf provinces and states, including —which has been largely developed by recent events— them in the Southern Confederacy, and creating them into an independent government.

Montgomery has little claims to be called a capital. The streets are very hot, unpleasant, and uninteresting. I have rarely seen a more dull, lifeless place; it looks like a small Russian town in the interior. The names of the shopkeepers indicate German and French origin. I looked in at one or two of the slave magazines, which are not unlike similar establishments in Cairo and Smyrna. A certain degree of freedom is enjoyed by some of the men, who lounge about the doors, and are careless of escape or liberty, knowing too well the difficulties of either.

It is not in its external aspects generally that slavery is so painful. The observer must go with Sterne, and gaze in on the captives’ dungeons through the bars. The condition of a pig in a sty is not, in an animal sense, anything but good. Well fed, over fed, covered from the winds and storms of heaven, with clothing, food, medicine provided, children taken care of, aged relatives and old age itself succored and guarded—is not this ——? Get thee behind us, slave philosopher! The hour comes when the butcher steals to the stye, and the knife leaps from the sheath.

Now there is this one thing in being an ẵvaξ ẵvδpϖv, that be the race of men bad as it may, a kind of grandiose character is given to their leader. The stag which sweeps his rivals from his course is the largest of the herd; but a man who drives the largest drove of sheep is no better than he who drives the smallest. The flock he compels, must consist of human beings to develop the property of which I speak, and so the very superiority of the slave master in the ways and habits of command proves that the negro is a man But, at the same time the law which regulates all these relations between man and his fellows, asserts itself here. The dominant race becomes dependent on some other body of men, less martial, arrogant, and wealthy, for its elegances, luxuries, and necessaries. The poor villeins round the Norman castle forge the armor, make the furniture, and exercise the mechanical arts which the baron and his followers are too ignorant and too proud to pursue; if there is no population to serve this purpose, some energetic race comes in their place, and the Yankee does the part of the little hungry Greek to the Roman patrician.

The South has at present little or no manufactures, takes everything from the Yankee outside or the mean white within her gates, and despises both. Both are reconciled by interest. The one gets a good price for his manufacture and the fruit of his ingenuity from a careless, spendthrift proprietor; the other hopes to be as good as his master some day, and sees the beginning of his fortune in the possession of a negro. It is fortunate for our great British Catherine-wheel, which is continually throwing off light and heat to the remotest parts of the world—I hope not burning down to a dull red cinder in the centre at last—that it had not to send its emigrants to the Southern States, as assuredly the emigration would soon have been checked. The United States has been represented to the British and Irish emigrants by the free States—the Northern States and the great West—and the British and German emigrant who finds himself in the South, has drifted there through the Northern States, and either is a migratory laborer, or hopes to return with a little money to the North and West, if he does not see his way to the possession of land and negroes.

After dinner at the hotel table, which was crowded with officers, and where I met Mr. Howell Cobb and several senators of the new Congress, I spent the evening with Colonel Deas, Quartermaster-General, and a number of his staff, in their quarters. As I was walking over to the house, one of the detached villa-like residences so common in Southern cities, I perceived a crowd of very well-dressed negroes, men and women, in front of a plain brick building which I was informed was their Baptist meeting-house, into which white people rarely or never intrude. These were domestic servants, or persons employed in stores, and their general appearance indicated much comfort and even luxury. I doubted if they all were slaves. One of my companions went up to a young woman in a straw-hat, with bright red-and-green ribbon trimmings and artificial flowers, a gaudy Paisley shawl, and a rainbow-like gown, blown out over her yellow boots by a prodigious crinoline, and asked her “Whom do you belong to?” She replied, “I b’long to Massa Smith, sar.” Well, we have men who “belong” to horses in England. I am not sure if Americans, North and South, do not consider their superiority to all Englishmen so thoroughly established, that they can speak of them as if they were talking of inferior animals. Tonight, for example, a gallant young South Carolinian, one Ransome Calhoun [since killed], was good enough to say that “Great Britain was in mortal fear of France, and was abjectly subdued by her great rival.” Hence came controversy, short and acrimonious.


Went to ch this morning with whole family, some soldiers in the congregation in uniform. Cool day, wore my cloak. Chas was up to dine with us. Doct Eddy called in the afternoon with Mr Cramer. He is on a visit to the City, staid an hour or two. Went down to Willards, saw A B Williams, Mr Pomeroy, the new M.C. from our district, and other gentlemen at his room. On my return home, got challenged by the Sentinel at Franklin Square. I did not understand that he was talking to me as it was dark, until he cried Stand, and cocked his Musket. I was very near the point of his Bayonet then, but backed down and went another way home.


The three diary manuscript volumes, Washington during the Civil War: The Diary of Horatio Nelson Taft, 1861-1865, are available online at The Library of  Congress.

Cairo, May 5, 1861, Sunday, 11 a.m.

The bells are just ringing for church. I intended going, but it is such hard work getting out of camp that I concluded to postpone it. Anyway, we have service in camp this p.m. This is an awful lazy life we lead here. Lying down on our hay constitutes the principal part of the work. As our routine might be of interest to you, I will give it. At 5 a.m. the reveille is sounded by a drum and fife for each regiment. We arise, fold our blankets in our knapsacks and prepare to march. We then “fall in,” in front of our quarters for roll-call; after which we prepare our breakfast and at the “breakfast call” (taps of the drum at 7) we commence eating; and the way we do eat here would astonish you. At 9 a.m. we fall in for company drill. This lasts one hour. Dinner at 12. Squad drill from 1 to 3 and supper at 5:30. At 6 p.m. the whole regiment is called out for parade. This is merely a review by the colonel, and lasts not more than 30 minutes and often but 15. After 8 p.m. singing and loud noises are stopped; at 9:30 the tattoo is beat when all are required to be in quarters, and at three taps at 10 p.m. all lights are put out, and we leave things to the sentries. Our company of 77 men is divided into six messes for eating. Each mess elects a captain, and he is supreme, as far as cooking and eating are concerned. Our company is considered a crack one here and we have had the post of honor assigned us, the right of the regiment, near the colors. Our commanders, I think, are anticipating some work here, though they keep their own counsels very closely. They have spies out in all directions, down as far as Vicksburg. I think that Bradley’s detective police of Chicago are on duty in this vicinity. We also have two very fleet steamers on duty here to stop boats that refuse to lay to, and to keep a lookout up and down the Mississippi river. Yesterday, p.m., I noticed considerable bustle at headquarters which are in full view of our quarters, and at dark last night 20 cartridges were distributed to each man, and orders given to reload revolvers and to prepare everything for marching at a minute’s notice, and to sleep with our pistols and knives in our belts around us. That’s all we know about it though. We were not aroused except by a shot at about 2 this morning. I heard a little while ago that it was a sentinel shooting at some fellow scouting around. The Rebels have a host of spies in town but I think they are nearly all known and watched. The men confidently expect to be ordered south shortly. Nothing would suit them better. I honestly believe that there is not a man in our company that would sell his place for $100. We call the camp Fort Defiance, and after we receive a little more drilling we think we can hold it against almost any number. We have 3,300 men here to-day, but will have one more regiment to-day and expect still more.

We are pretty well supplied with news here; all the dailies are offered for sale in camp, but we are so far out of the way that the news they bring is two days old before we get them. Transcripts and Unions are sent to us by the office free. I wish you would send me the Register once and a while, and put in a literary paper or two, for we have considerable time to read. We have a barrel of ice water every day. Milk, cake and pies are peddled round camp, and I indulge in milk considerably at five cents a pint. Everything is much higher here than above. Potatoes, 50 cents; corn, 60 cents, etc. It has been raining like blue blazes since I commenced this, and the boys are scrambling around looking for dry spots on the hay and trying to avoid the young rivers coming in. Almost all are reading or writing, and I defy anyone to find 75 men without any restraint, paying more respect to the Sabbath. We have not had a sick man in camp. Several of the boys, most all of them in fact, have been a little indisposed from change of diet and water, but we have been careful and are now all right. There are 25, at least, of us writing here, all lying on our backs. I have my paper on a cartridge box on my knees.

We have been seeing and feeling the roughest side of camp life, ever since my last. Rain in double-headed torrents; lightning that will kill easily at five miles; thundering thunder; and wind from away back. But the mud dries like water on a hot brick, and six hours sun makes our parade ground fit for drill. Afternoon when the sun is out its hot enough to scorch a phoenix; yesterday we drilled from 1 to 3. I was almost crisped, and some of the boys poured a pint of grease out of each boot after we finished. Up to 10 last night when I went to sleep it was still boiling, but at five this morning, when we got up, we shivered in coat, vest and blankets. Bully climate! And then the way that the rain patters down through the roof, now on your neck; move a little and spat it goes, right into your ear, and the more you try to get away from it the more you get, until disgusted, you sit up and see a hundred chaps in the same position. A good deal of laughing, mixed with a few swears follows, and then we wrap our heads in the blankets, straighten out, “let her rip.” I never was in better health, have gained four pounds since we started, and feel stronger and more lively than I have for a coon’s age. Health generally excellent in our company, because we are all careful. There has not been a fight yet in the whole camp. A man was shot dead last night by one of the guards by accident. We have a fellow in the guardhouse whom we arrested a couple of days since as a spy. He is almost crazy with fear for his future. His wife is here and has seen him. His trial comes off this p.m. We all hope that he will be hung, for he laid forty lashes on the back of a man down south a few weeks since, who is now a volunteer in our camp. The boys would hang him in a minute but for the officers.

The news of the fuss in St. Louis has just reached us. We suppose it will send Missouri kiting out of the Union. General Prentiss has some information (don’t know what it is) that makes our officers inspect our arms often and carefully. I know that he expects a devil of a time here shortly, and preparations of all kinds are making for it.

The boys are just now having a big time over a letter in the Transcript of the 10th, signed W. K. G. Of course it is a bundle of lies. We have given nine groans and three tiger tails for the writer W. K. G. A man just from Mobile is in camp now. He landed this morning. He took off his shirt and showed a back that bore marks of 30 strokes. They laid him across a wooden bench and beat him with a paling. His back looks harder than any one I ever saw. He says that nine men were hung the day before he left, good citizens, and men whose only crime was loyalty to the United States Government. They would not volunteer under the snake flag. He reports 1,500 men at Memphis, a few at Columbus, only 50 at Mobile, and none worth mentioning at other points. A man has been here this morning from 20 miles up the river in Missouri. He wants arms for four companies of Union men that have formed there, and who are expecting an attack from the secessionists. The Union men have but 20 shotguns now. A boat came up yesterday crowded with passengers. Looked as though she might have a thousand on her. All Northerners.

One of the boys has just come in with a report that there are “to a dead certainty” 5,000 men now at Columbus (20 miles below) who have just arrived this morning. They are after Cairo. The boys are all rumor proof, though, and the above didn.t get a comment. One of the boys has just expressed my feelings by saying: “I don’t believe anything, only that Cairo is a damned mud hole.” I have not stood guard yet a minute. Have been on fatigue duty is the reason. A general order was given last night for every man to bathe at least twice a week. Most of us do it every day. The Ohio is warm enough and I swim every night now. There were over 2,000 of us in at once last night. We had a candy pulling this p.m. There was an extra gallon in to-day’s rations, and we boiled it and had a gay time. Our company is, I believe, the orderly one here. We have lots of beer sent us from Peoria, and drink a half barrel a day while it lasts. (Do those two statements tally?)


Life at Fort Defiance is also described today at Seven Score and Ten from an 1861 New York Times article.

Fort Taylor, May
5, 1861.

Col. L. THOMAS, Adjutant-General U. S. Army:

COLONEL: The Illinois, from Fort Pickens, is in coaling, and knowing the anxiety of the Government with respect to the insulated forts, Taylor and Jefferson, I communicate direct. This key is in an excellent state for defense. The few suggestions given by me to Captain Meigs are all that will be required until winter. The more men the more disease. I have used my general authority to mount a section of Light Company K, and expect acclimated horses from the Havana in a few days, cheap and hardy. With these the island can be patrolled, vedettes kept up, and light guns moved rapidly.

The sentiment on the key is strictly selfish. The Union man to-day is the disunionist of the morrow. My effort has been to make it the interest of the citizens to be loyal, to encourage the Union men, and to lift up the faint-hearted. The judiciary (Federal) have had but little to act upon. I call upon them officially, indirectly. Brought up and resident with the citizens, it might at this time compromise. I have made myself acquainted with the respectable inhabitants under the same rules and formalities which exist elsewhere. The effect has been to open the trial sooner than might have been anticipated. Everything which should have been for sale, after a refusal, when Captain Meigs passed by on the Atlantic North, is now given–coal, water, wharfage. I am opening propositions through Colonel Patterson, naval officer, to buy out for the Government at reduced rates water lines, &c. I have asked from the mayor of Key West lists of the inhabitants, extra mouths, &c., which will have to be fed by the United States. Extraneous people will have to leave. Now there are not ten barrels of flour for sale on the island. Military organizations have been directed to make to me (ex officio) their rolls. No more troops are needed; water is scarce, not doubtful, and the command is equal to every occasion. My position has required me to take responsibility. This I never shrink from. I have the confidence of my officers and the loyalty of the rank and file. Indorse my recommendations, as they are moderate. This place is safe.

I am, colonel, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,

Brevet Major, U. S. Army, Commanding.

A likeness of Jones when he was editor  and majority owner of the Daily Madisonian during President John Tyler's administration.

A likeness of Jones when he was editor and majority owner of the Daily Madisonian during President John Tyler’s administration.

MAY 5th. —President Tyler has placed in my hands a memorial to President Davis, signed by himself and many of the members of the Convention, asking appropriate civil employment for me in the new government. I shall be content to obtain the necessary position to make a full and authentic Diary of the transactions of the government. I could not hope for any commission as a civil officer, since the leaders who have secured possession of the government know very well that, as editor, I never advocated the pretensions of any of them for the Presidency of the United States. Some of them I fear are unfit for the positions they occupy. But the cause in which we are embarked will require, to be successful, the efforts of every man. Those capable of performing military duty, must perform it; and those physically incapable of wielding the bayonet and the sword, must wield the pen. It is no time to stand on ceremony or antecedents. The post of duty is the post of honor. In the mighty winnowing we must go through, the wheat will be separated from the chaff. And many a true man who this day stands forth as a private, will end as a general. And the efficient subordinate in the departments may be likewise exalted if he deserves it, provided the people have rule in the new confederacy. If we are to have a monarchy for the sake of economy and stability, I shall submit to it in preference to the domination of the Northern radicals.

—Raleigh, North Carolina, is alive with soldiers, who have been pouring in at the call of the Governor. Sixteen companies, comprising twelve hundred men, rank and file, are encamped at the Fair Grounds, and there are several more quartered in other parts of the city. They are all fine looking, and in their eagerness to acquire military knowledge frequently have voluntary drills, not being satisfied with the three regularly appointed ones for each day.

Ten companies have been selected by the Governor to constitute the “First Regiment of North Carolina Volunteers,” and an election of field officers has taken place, resulting in the selection of D. H Hill, O. C. Lee, and J. H. Lane, respectively, to the offices of Colonel, Lieutenant-Colonel, and Major.—Charleston Mercury, May 11.

—The Twenty-eighth New York Regiment (from Brooklyn) arrived at Washington by the steamer Star of the South. In the absence of Col. Bennett, detained at home by sickness, Lieut.-Col. E. Burns is in command. The other officers are Acting Lieut.-Col. W. R. Brewster; Adjutant, D. A. Bokee; Surgeon, P. B. Rice; Surgeon’s Mates, Drs. Rappold and Prentice; Captain of Engineer Corps, Von Kumeke; Quartermaster, F. Steigier; Assistant Quartermaster, O. Menseh; Acting Paymaster, W. Mavelle; Chaplain, Mr. Zapt. They number about six hundred men, divided into ten companies, commanded by Captains Brewer, Baker, Campbell, Brandenberry, Beadle, Seeper, Ruegor, Wills, Kuhl, and Weaver. —National Intelligencer, May 7.

—Brigadier-General Philip St. George Cocke commanding the “Potomac Department” of the State of Virginia, in orders issued to-day, says:

“The capital of the United States has never been threatened, and it is not now threatened. It is beyond and outside the limits of the free and sovereign State of Virginia.”

If Gen. Cocke means to say that the “capital of the United States” has never been threatened by him, all credence will be given to his declarations under this head; but if it is intended to suggest that there have been no threats of attack from other quarters, sufficient to justify the precautionary measures taken by the Federal Government, his assurances cannot be received without casting discredit on men high in the confidence of the Confederate States, and on able and influential journals, heretofore understood to be the authentic exponents of Southern wishes and purposes.—(Doc. 134.)

—A body of, Federal troops, under command of Gen. B. F. Butler, arrived at the Relay House, nine miles from Baltimore, took possession of the telegraph wires, planted eight howitzers on the viaduct, and invested the entire neighborhood. They encamped on the grounds of William Talbot, adjoining those of George W. Dobbin, on the west side of the Patapsco. This point is the junction of the Baltimore and Ohio road, and the Washington branch, and gives full command of the road to and from the West.—The World, May 6.

—The women of Mobile organized themselves into a society to make sand bags for defence, lint and bandages for the wounded, clothes for the soldiers of the Confederate Army, to nurse the sick and wounded, and to seek out the families of those volunteers upon whose exertions their families are dependent for daily support.—N. O. Picayune, May 5.

May 4th.—In the morning I took a drive about the city, which is loosely built in detached houses over a very pretty undulating country covered with wood and fruit-trees. Many good houses of dazzling white, with bright green blinds, verandas, and doors, stand in their own grounds or gardens. In the course of the drive I saw two or three signboards and placards announcing that “Smith & Co. advanced money on slaves, and had constant supplies of Virginian negroes on sale or hire.” These establishments were surrounded by high walls enclosing the slave-pens or large rooms, in which the slaves are kept for inspection. The train for Montgomery started at 9·45 A.m., but I had no time to stop and visit them.

It is evident we are approaching the Confederate capital, for the candidates for office begin to show, and I detected a printed testimonial in my room in the hotel. The country, from Macon in Georgia to Montgomery in Alabama, offers no features to interest the traveler which are not common to the districts already described. It is, indeed, more undulating, and somewhat more picturesque, or less unattractive, but, on the whole, there is little to recommend it, except the natural fertility of the soil. The people are rawer, ruder, bigger—there is the same amount of tobacco chewing and its consequences—and as much swearing or use of expletives. The men are tall, lean, uncouth, but they are not peasants. There are, so far as I have seen, no rustics, no peasantry in America; men dress after the same type, differing only in finer or coarser material; every man would wear, if he could, a black satin waistcoat and a large diamond pin stuck in the front of his shirt, as he certainly has a watch and a gilt or gold chain of some sort or other. The Irish laborer, or the German husbandman is the nearest approach to our Giles Jolter or the Jacques Bonhomme to be found in the States. The mean white affects the style of the large proprietor of slaves or capital as closely as he can; he reads his papers—and, by the by, they are becoming smaller and more whitey-brown as we proceed—and takes his drink with the same air —takes up as much room, and speaks a good deal in the same fashion.

The people are all hearty Secessionists here—the Bars and Stars are flying at the road-stations and from the pine-tops, and there are lusty cheers for Jeff Davis and the Southern Confederacy. Troops are flocking towards Virginia from the Southern States in reply to the march of Volunteers from Northern States to Washington; but it is felt that the steps taken by the Federal Government to secure Baltimore have obviated any chance of successfully opposing the “Lincolnites” going through that city. There is a strong disposition on the part of the Southerners to believe they have many friends in the North, and they endeavor to attach a factious character to the actions of the Government by calling the Volunteers and the war party in the North “Lincolnites,” “Lincoln’s Mercenaries, ” ” Black Republicans,” “Abolitionists,” and the like. The report of an armistice, now denied by Mr. Seward officially, was for some time current, but it is plain that the South must make good its words, and justify its acts by the sword. General Scott would, it was fondly believed, retire from the United States’ army, and either remain neutral or take command under the Confederate flag, but now that it is certain he will not follow any of these courses, he is assailed in the foulest manner by the press and in private conversation. Heaven help the idol of a democracy!

At one of the junctions General Beauregard, attended by Mr. Manning, and others of his staff, got into the car, and tried to elude observation, but the conductors take great pleasure in unearthing distinguished passengers for the public, and the General was called on for a speech by the crowd of idlers. The General hates speech-making, he told me, and he had besides been bored to death at every station by similar demands. But a man must be popular or he is nothing. So, as next best thing, Governor Manning made a speech in the General’s name, in which he dwelt on Southern Rights, Sumter, victory, and abolitiondom, and was carried off from the cheers of his auditors by the train in the midst of an unfinished sentence. There were a number of blacks listening to the Governor, who were appreciative.

Towards evening, having thrown out some slight out works against accidental sallies of my fellow-passengers’ saliva, I went to sleep, and woke up at 11 P.M. to hear we were in Montgomery. A very rickety omnibus took the party to the hotel, which was crowded to excess. The General and his friends had one room to themselves. Three gentlemen and myself were crammed into a filthy room which already contained two strangers, and as there were only three beds in the apartment it was apparent that we were intended to “double up considerably;” but after strenuous efforts, a little bribery and cajoling, we succeeded in procuring mattresses to put on the floor, which was regarded by our neighbors as a proof of miserable aristocratic fastidiousness. Had it not been for the flies, the fleas would have been intolerable, but one nuisance neutralized the other. Then, as to food—nothing could be had in the hotel—but one of the waiters led us to a restaurant, where we selected from a choice bill of fare, which contained, I think, as many odd dishes as ever I saw, some unknown fishes, oyster-plants, ‘possums, raccoons, frogs, and other delicacies, and, eschewing toads and the like, really made a good meal off dirty plates on a vile table-cloth, our appetites being sharpened by the best of condiments.

Colonel Pickett has turned up here, having made his escape from Washington just in time to escape arrest— travelling in disguise on foot through out-of-the-way places till he got among friends.

I was glad, when bed-time approached, that I was not among the mattress men. One of the gentlemen in the bed next the door was a tremendous projector in the tobacco juice line: his final rumination ere he sank to repose was a masterpiece of art—a perfect liquid pyrotechny, Roman candles and falling stars. A horrid thought occurred as I gazed and wondered. In case he should in a supreme moment turn his attention my way!—I was only seven or eight yards off, and that might be nothing to him!—I hauled down my mosquito curtain at once, and watched him till, completely satiated, he slept.

SATURDAY, MAY 4, 1861.

Rain all the first part of the day. Soldiers still drilling in the Halls. Our ears are constantly saluted with the word of command and and [sic] the clangor of arms on the marble floors. Went on to the Ave after dinner with wife and Juliet. Soldiers and citizens crowded that prominade about equaly divided in numbers. In the streets Regiments were paraded. We saw 2200 march into the Treasury. At the Pat office the RI Regt were paraded and reviewed by Gov Sprague. On Louisiana Ave another Regt were paraded. Went down to Willards in the evening. Not much of a crowd. Mostly soldiers.


The three diary manuscript volumes, Washington during the Civil War: The Diary of Horatio Nelson Taft, 1861-1865, are available online at The Library of  Congress.

MAY 4th. —Met Win. H. B. Custis, Esq., to-day in the square, and had a long conversation with him. He has made up his mind to sign the ordinance. He thinks secession might have been averted with honor, if our politicians at Washington had not been ambitious to figure as leaders in a new revolution. Custis was always a Democrat, and supported Douglas on the ground that he was the regular nominee. He said his negro property a month before was worth, perhaps, fifty thousand dollars; now his slaves would not bring probably more than five thousand; and that would be the fate of many slaveowners in Virginia.

FORT TAYLOR, FLA., May 4, 1861.

J. P. BALDWIN, Esq., Mayor, Key West City :

MY DEAR SIR: I proposed on yesterday to print an address to the citizens of the United States on Key West. The address was delayed, and I take the opportunity to say to you, in continuation of the conversation had a few days since, that from circumstances brought to my attention direct, and from reliable sources, it is my opinion that there will be a strong effort made to distress the inhabitants of this key. Isolated and shut up by the water of the Gulf, should what I hear prove correct, the distress would be extreme upon the inhabitants of the island. It is in your power to aid in avoiding this contingency, which, whether near or remote, will be terrible when it comes. I have served in Florida during the early wars, and remember the distress of the inhabitants of Saint Augustine, to whom the government had to furnish subsistence. It is probable that such may be the case on the key. The government determining to hold it will be responsible for its loyal citizens; and should the necessities referred to arise, it will be necessary to discriminate, and those who do not belong here should be so notified.

It is also essential that it should be generally known that the functions of the commanding officer on Key West, ex officio, embrace during the present crisis all the military, including citizens desirous to bear arms for the preservation of life and property. It will be necessary for me, in order to combine them with those of the government, that a muster-roll according to the form prescribed should be supplied to these headquarters by any military organization now existing.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,

Brevet Major, U. S. Army, Commanding.

At Home, May 4, 1861.—I am too nervous, too wretched to-day to write in my diary, but that the employment will while away a few moments of this trying time. Our friends and neighbors have left us. Every thing is broken up. The Theological Seminary is closed; the High School dismissed. Scarcely any one is left of the many families which surrounded us. The homes all look desolate; and yet this beautiful country is looking more peaceful, more lovely than ever, as if to rebuke the tumult of passion and the fanaticism of man. We are left lonely indeed; our children are all gone—the girls to Clarke, where they may be safer, and farther from the exciting scenes which may too soon surround us; and the boys, the dear, dear boys, to the camp, to be drilled and prepared to meet any emergency. Can it be that our country is to be carried on and on to the horrors of civil war? I pray, oh how fervently do I pray, that our Heavenly Father may yet avert it. I shut my eyes and hold my breath when the thought of what may come upon us obtrudes itself; and yet I cannot believe it. It will, I know the breach will be healed without the effusion of blood. The taking of Sumter without bloodshed has somewhat soothed my fears, though I am told by those who are wiser than I, that men must fall on both sides by the score, by the hundred, and even by the thousand. But it is not my habit to look on the dark side, so I try hard to employ myself, and hope for the best. To-day our house seems so deserted, that I feel more sad than usual, for on this morning we took leave of our whole household. Mr. ––––and myself are now the sole occupants of the house, which usually teems with life. I go from room to room, looking at first one thing and then another, so full of sad associations. The closed piano, the locked bookcase, the nicely-arranged tables, the formally-placed chairs, ottomans and sofas in the parlor! Oh for some one to put them out of order! And then the dinner-table, which has always been so well surrounded, so social, so cheerful, looked so cheerless to-day, as we seated ourselves one at the head, the other at the foot, with one friend,—but one,—at the side. I could scarcely restrain my tears, and but for the presence of that one friend, I believe I should have cried outright. After dinner, I did not mean to do it, but I could not help going into the girls’ room, and then into C.’s. I heard my own footsteps so plainly, that I was startled by the absence of all other sounds. There the furniture looked so quiet, the beds so fixed and smooth, the wardrobes and bureaux so tightly locked, and the whole so lifeless! But the writing-desks, work-boxes, and the numberless things so familiar to my eyes! Where were they? I paused, to ask myself what it all meant. Why did we think it necessary to send off all that was so dear to us from our own home? I threw open the shutters, and the answer came at once, so mournfully! I heard distinctly the drums beating in Washington. The evening was so still that I seemed to hear nothing else. As I looked at the Capitol in the distance, I could scarcely believe my senses. That Capitol of which I had always been so proud! Can it be possible that it is no longer our Capitol? And are our countrymen, under its very eaves, making mighty preparation to drain our hearts’ blood? And must this Union, which I was taught to revere, be rent asunder? Once I thought such a suggestion sacrilege; but now that it is dismembered, I trust it may never, never be reunited. We must be a separate people—our nationality must be different, to insure lasting peace and good-will. Why cannot we part in peace?


Harper’s Ferry, May 4, 1861.

Write very often. Nothing can be so interesting to me as your letters. Some of the other wives, you think, get more letters than you do, and you women measure your husband’s love by the number and length of their letters. I will write to you, Love, about once a week and half a page at a time. I cannot with justice to my eyes write longer letters. This will be handed to you by Maj. Preston, who will tell you everything you want to know. Kiss the children for me, and for yourself take my best love.

—A large Union meeting was held at Kingwood, Preston county, Va., when resolutions were adopted expressing unalterable opposition to the ordinance of secession, favoring a division of the State, and resolving to vote for a delegate to the next session of Congress.—National Intelligencer, May 11.

—Commodore Charles Stewart, of the United States Navy, addressed a letter to George W. Childs of Philadelphia, furnishing him with the reminiscences of a conversation which passed between Com. Stewart and John C. Calhoun, in the year 1812, after the declaration of war against Great Britain by the Congress of the United States.—(Doc. 132.)

—The artists of New York met at the rooms of Messrs. Kensett and Lang in that city. Mr. D. Huntingdon was called to the chair. Messrs. Kensett, Gray, and Lang embodied resolutions which were adopted by those present, expressing their desire to contribute to the relief of families of volunteers of the city of New York who are now serving in defence of government and law, and resolving that a committee be appointed to solicit contributions of pictures or other works of art, to be disposed of at public auction; said committee to have power, also, to receive moneys presented in aid of the fund. Messrs. Gray, Lang, Hubbard, Huntington, Stone, and Baker were named the committee, with full power to forward the plan proposed. —N. Y. Evening Post, May 7.

—The Ithaca (N. Y.) volunteers arrived in New York on their way to the seat of war. They number one hundred and fifteen men, and are commanded by the following officers:—Captain, Jerome Rowe; First Lieutenant, James Tischner; Ensign, William O. Wyckoff; Orderly Sergeant, William Godley; Second Sergeant, Edwin C. Fulkenson; Third do., Edward Atwater; Fourth do., Dr. Tolbo; First Corporal, Leonard Atwater; Second do., Clinton McGill; Third do., James A. Dickinson; Fourth do., George Shepherd.—N. Y. Herald, May 5.

—The Onondaga Regiment left Syracuse, N. Y., for Elmira. This is the first regiment organized under the new Volunteer bill of the State of New York. Ten full companies presented their muster-rolls to the Adjutant-General, not merely full, but with an excess of nearly one hundred men.—N. Y. Tribune, May 5.

—The New Orleans Delta of to-day contains a full account of the numbers and condition of the rebel troops and defences in the vicinity of Fort Pickens; from which it appears that Gen. Bragg has under his command an army of over six thousand fighting men, besides a large force of laborers, sailors, and marines.—(Doc. 133.)

—The Buena Vista Volunteers, from Philadelphia, Captain Powers, arrived at New York. They are to join Col D. E. Sickles’s regiment. These are men who went unarmed to Baltimore, and fought the Gorillas with their fists.— N. Y. Tribune, May 5.

—The Phoenix Ironworks at Gretna, opposite Lafayette, New Orleans, cast the first gun for the Confederate Navy. It is an eight-inch Dahlgren shell, and has eight feet six inches bore.

The steamship Star of the West was put in commission as the receiving ship of the Confederate States Navy at New Orleans. She is stationed at the navy yard at Algiers, under the temporary command of Midshipman Comstock, for receiving sailors and marines now being enlisted for the navy.—N. O. Picayune, May 5.

—A committee of the Maryland Legislature held an interview with President Lincoln. They admitted both the right and the power of the government to bring troops through Baltimore or the State, and to take any measures for the public safety which, in the discretion of the President, might be demanded either by actual or reasonably apprehended exigencies. They expressed their belief that no immediate effort at secession or resistance of the federal authority would be attempted by the Legislature or State authorities, and asked that, in this view, the State should, as long as possible, be spared the evils of a military occupation or a mere revengeful chastisement for former transgressions. The President replied that their suggestions and representations should be considered, but that he should now say no more than that the public interests, and not any spirit of revenge, would actuate his measures—N. Y. Herald, May 5.

—A Union meeting was held at Wheeling, Va, Hon. Frank Pierpont, of Mason county, and George M. Porter, late member of the convention, addressed the people in able speeches, urging resistance to the secession ordinance, ad favoring the division of the State. Resolutions were adopted approving the action of the merchants in refusing to pay taxes to the authorities at Richmond, denunciatory of the secession ordinance, and declaring adhesion to the stars and stripes.—Boston Transcript, May 8.

—The American flag was displayed from the tower of the First Baptist Church in Broome street, New York, with appropriate ceremonies. A large concourse of people listened to stirring speeches by President Eaton, of Madison University, Rev. Dr. Armitage, Rev. Mr. Webber, of Rochester, and Hon. W. D. Murphy, of the Oliver street church.

Dr. Armitage referred to the fact that the pastors of this First Baptist Church (a church which has existed more than a century) had all been noted for their zealous patriotism. One of the most eminent of them—Spencer H. Cone—had, in the war of 1812, himself gallantly defended that emblem of civil and religious liberty, the stars and stripes, at Fort McHenry; and at this moment members of this church are in the camp, equally ready to defend it against all aggression. No free government or constitutional liberty have ever been secured or perpetuated by any nation without the seal of its own blood. If the liberties thus purchased for us by our fathers, and the government which they founded—the best the world has ever seen—are to be insulted and trampled upon, shall we not strike down the traitor, even though he be one of the family—even though he be our own brother?

“I too,” said Dr. Eaton, “am emphatically a man of peace, for I am a minister of the gospel of the Prince of Peace; but in this crisis, my friends, it is my firm conviction that the best and surest way to perpetuate the blessing is promptly to send down, if need be, half a million of men to those seditious brethren of ours, and compel them to keep the peace. We cherish no malice against them—God forbid. But their traitorous hands are now clutching the very life of our body politic, and we must use prompt and vigorous action in defence of our very national existence.”—N. Y. Evening Post, May 7.

May 3rd.—I bade good-by to Mr. Green, who with several of his friends came down to see me off, at the terminus or “depȏt” of the Central Railway, on my way to Montgomery—and looked my last on Savannah, its squares and leafy streets, its churches, and institutes with a feeling of regret that I could not see more of them, and that I was forced to be content with the outer aspect of the public buildings. I had been serenaded and invited out in all directions, asked to visit plantations and big trees, to make excursions to famous or beautiful spots, and specially warned not to leave the State without visiting the mountain district in the northern and western portion; but the march of events called me to Montgomery.

From Savannah to Macon, 191 miles, the road passes through level country only partially cleared. That is, there are patches of forest still intruding on the green fields, where the jagged black teeth of the destroyed trees rise from above the maize and cotton. There were but few negroes visible at work, nor did the land appear rich, but I was told the rail was laid along the most barren part of the country. The Indians had roamed in these woods little more than twenty years ago—now the wooden huts of the planters’ slaves and the larger edifice with its verandah and timber colonnade stood in the place of their wigwam.

Among the passengers to whom I was introduced was the Bishop of Georgia, the Rev. Mr. Elliott, a man of exceeding fine presence, of great stature, and handsome face, with a manner easy and graceful, but we got on the unfortunate subject of slavery, and I rather revolted at hearing a Christian prelate advocating the institution on scriptural grounds.

This affectation of Biblical sanction and ordinance as the basis of slavery was not new to me, though it is not much known at the other side of the Atlantic. I had read in a work on slavery, that it was permitted by both the Scriptures and the Constitution of the United States, and that it must, therefore, be doubly right. A nation that could approve of such interpretations of the Scriptures and at the same time read the “New York Herald,” seemed ripe for destruction as a corporate existence. The malum prohibitum was the only evil its crass senses could detect, and the malum per se was its good, if it only came covered with cotton or gold. The miserable sophists who expose themselves to the contempt of the world by their paltry thesicles on the divine origin and uses of slavery, are infinitely more contemptible than the wretched bigots who published themes long ago on the propriety of burning witches, or on the necessity for the offices of the Inquisition.

Whenever the Southern Confederacy shall achieve its independence — no matter what its resources, its allies, or its aims —it will have to stand face to face with civilized Europe on this question of slavery, and the strength which it derived from the ægis of the Constitution — “the league with the devil and covenant with Hell” — will be withered and gone.

I am well aware of the danger of drawing summary conclusions off-hand from the windows of a railway, but there is also a right of sight which exists under all circumstances, and so one can determine if a man’s face be dirty as well from a glance as if he inspected it for half an hour. For instance, no one can doubt the evidence of his senses, when he sees from the windows of the carriages that the children are barefooted, shoeless, stockingless — that the people who congregate at the wooden huts and grog-shops of the stations are rude, unkempt, but great fighting material, too — that the villages are miserable places, compared with the trim, snug settlements one saw in New Jersey from the carriage windows. Slaves in the fields looked happy enough — but their masters certainly were rough looking and uncivilized — and the land was but badly cleared. But then we were traversing the least fertile portions of the State — a recent acquirement — gained only one generation since.

The train halted at a snug little wood-embowered restaurant, surrounded by trellis and lattice-work, and in the midst of a pretty garden, which presented a marked contrast to the “surroundings” we had seen. The dinner, served by slaves, was good of its kind, and the charge not high. On tendering the landlord a piece of gold for payment, he looked at it with disgust, and asked, “Have you no Charleston money? No Confederate notes?” “Well, no! Why do you object to gold?” “Well, do you see, I’d rather have our own paper! I don’t care to take any of the United States gold. I don’t want their stars and their eagles; I hate the sight of them.” The man was quite sincere — my companion gave him notes of some South Carolina bank.

It was dark when the train reached Macon, one of the principal cities of the State. We drove to the best hotel, but the regular time for dinner hour was over, and that for supper not yet come. The landlord directed us to a subterranean restaurant, in which were a series of crypts closed in by dirty curtains, where we made a very extraordinary repast, served by a half-clad little negress, who watched us at the meal with great interest through the curtains — the service was of the coarsest description; thick French earthenware, the spoons of pewter, the knives and forks steel or iron, with scarce a pretext of being cleaned. On the doors were the usual warnings against pickpockets, and the customary internal police regulations and ukases. Pickpockets and gamblers abound in American cities, and thrive greatly at the large hotels and the lines of railways.


Rainy day, cold and chilly. In the Pat office the troops have been drilling in all the Halls. The RI Marine Battery, 6 [Janus?] rifled cannon, 150 men, 90 Horses, &c have arrived. They marched through PA Ave to the Prests with their guns and attracted much attention. There is not much doing in the office at present. I have plenty of time to read and write letters. But there is so much excitement that it is almost impossible to fix ones mind upon any one subject long at a time.


The three diary manuscript volumes, Washington during the Civil War: The Diary of Horatio Nelson Taft, 1861-1865, are available online at The Library of  Congress.

A likeness of Jones when he was editor  and majority owner of the Daily Madisonian during President John Tyler's administration.

A likeness of Jones when he was editor and majority owner of the Daily Madisonian during President John Tyler’s administration.

MAY 3d. —No letters from my wife. Probably she has taken the children to the Eastern Shore. Her farm is there, and she has many friends in the county. On that narrow peninsula it is hardly to be supposed the Yankees will send any troops. With the broad Atlantic on one side and the Chesapeake Bay on the other, it is to be presumed there will be no military demonstration by the inhabitants, for they could neither escape nor receive reinforcements from the mainland. In the war of the first Revolution, and the subsequent one with Great Britain, this peninsula escaped the ravages of the enemy, although the people were as loyal to the government of the United States as any; but the Yankees are more enterprising than the British, and may have an eye to “truck farms” in that fruitful region.

Abby Howland Woolsey to Eliza Woolsey Howland


Dear Eliza: We got off our first trunk of Hospital supplies for Colonel Mansfield Davies’ Regiment yesterday and feel today as if we were quite at leisure. You have no idea of the number of last things there were to do, or the different directions we had to go in, to do them. Mr. Davies came in at breakfast yesterday, in his regimentals, quite opportunely, to tell us what to do with the trunk. It went down to his headquarters at 564 Broadway and thence by steamer to Fort Schuyler for the sick soldiers there. Charley and Ned drove out there yesterday afternoon from Astoria to see the drill, and saw the box safely landed within the walls. It was the old black ark which you and G. had in Beyrout, Syria, marked with a capital H, which now answers for Hospital. There were in it as follows—for you may be curious to know:—

42 shirts,

2 drawers,

6 calico gowns,

24 pairs woolen socks, .

24 pairs slippers,

24 pocket handkerchiefs,

18 pillow sacks,

36 pillow-cases,

18 damask napkins,

36 towels,

24 sponges,

4 boxes of lint,

beside old linen, oiled silk, tape, thread, pins, scissors, wax, books (Hedley Vicars and the like), ribbon, cloth, etc., and fifty bandages.

This morning Mother has been putting up a tin box of stores for Mr. Davies — sardines, potted meats, arrow root, chocolate, guava and the like, with a box of cologne, a jar of prunes and a morocco case with knife, fork and spoon, fine steel and double plated, “ just out “ for army use. Lots more. The box, a square cracker box, holds as much in its way as the trunk. I am glad you are in the library at last. You will grow accustomed to it and find it pleasanter even than the dining-room.

—The American flag was elevated above the roof of the University at New York, by Captain Jones, late of Harper’s Ferry, amid the enthusiastic cheers of a large collection of people.

Dr. Bethune made some remarks, taking occasion to make a fitting allusion to Major Anderson and Fort Sumter, which were received with repeated and enthusiastic cheering. He had looked over ancient history for a parallel to this deed of valor, but found none. The bravery shown by the three hundred Spartans at the Pass of Thermopylae was well known; but there still was one coward among them. There was no coward among the men at Sumter. He had been present at a conversation with the gallant defender of the fort, when a gentleman remarked he regretted that the major had not blown up the fort, to which Major Anderson replied that it was better as it was. The ruined battlements and battle-scarred walls of Fort Sumter would be an everlasting shame and disgrace to the South Carolinians. At the conclusion of Dr. Bethune’s remarks the “Star-spangled Banner” was sung, all the audience rising to their feet and joining in the chorus. Col. Baker and Capt. Jones also made short addresses.—The World, May 4.

—Governor Letcher published a proclamation, saying that the sovereignty of the Commonwealth of Virginia having been denied, her territorial rights assailed, her soil threatened with invasion by the authorities of Washington, and every artifice employed which could inflame the people of the Northern States against her, it therefore becomes the solemn duty of every citizen of Virginia to prepare for the impending conflict.

To this end, and for these purposes, and with a determination to repel invasion, Governor Letcher authorizes the Commanding General of the military forces to call out, and cause to be mustered into service from time to time, as the public exigencies may require, such additional number of volunteers as he may deem necessary.—(Doc. 129.)

—The First Regiment, Colonel Johnson; the Second, Col Baker; the Third, Col. Napton; the Fourth, Col. Miller, of New Jersey Troops, with Brigadier-General Runyon and staff, left Bordentown for the seat of war, proceeding down the Delaware, via the Delaware and Chesapeake canal. The troops and stores are in a fleet of fourteen steam propellers, the W. Woodward, Henry Cadwalader, Octorora, Delaware, Raritan, Trenton, Patroon, F. W. Brune, Elizabeth, Franklin, Farmer, J. B. Molleson, Eureka, and Fanny Gardner.— World, May 4.

—Union Ward meetings were held to-night throughout Baltimore, Md., and resolutions were adopted to the following purport:—

That we cherish the Constitution and laws of the United States, and will devote our fortunes and lives to defend their integrity against all revolutionary or violent assaults; that we regret the violent attacks on the troops of the United States while peacefully marching through the city to protect the seat of Government, and indignantly repudiate making it a pretext to organize an armed mob, under the guise of a special police, to place the city in a hostile attitude to the General Government; declaring abhorrence at the attempt of the Legislature to inaugurate a military despotism by the bill for the creation of a Board of Public Safety; that the persons named for said Board have not the confidence of the people, and we protest against the whole measure as an invasion on the prerogatives of the Governor and a usurpation of the Executive power by the Legislature.—N. Y. Tribune, May 4.

—The following notice was issued at Pittsburg, Pa., to-day: Shippers of goods in New York are hereby notified that all packages found to contain guns, pistols, powder, and other articles contraband of war, destined for the Southern States, will not be permitted to pass the city of Pittsburg.
………..By order of the Committee,
………………..E. D. Gazzani, Chairman.
N. Y. Tribune, May 4.

—A letter was received at New York giving information of a design to burn that city, the supply of water to be cut off at the time the city was fired. Philadelphia and Boston were also to be burned.—(Doc. 130.)

—Fourteen companies of Kentuckians from the border counties tendered their services to the Secretary of War through Colonel T. V. Guthrie. Ten were accepted with orders to encamp on the Ohio side of the river.—Boston Transcript, May 4.

—The Connecticut legislature unanimously passed a bill appropriating $2,000,000 for the organization and equipment of a volunteer militia, and to provide for the public defence.—N. Y. Tribune, May 4.

—Governor Jackson of Missouri, in a message to the legislature of that State, says the President of the United States in calling out the troops to subdue the seceded States, has threatened civil war, and his act is unconstitutional and illegal, and tending towards consolidated despotism. While he evidently justifies the action of the Confederate States in seceding, he does not recommend immediate secession, but holds the following language:

“Our interest and sympathies are identical with those of the slaveholding States, and necessarily unite our destiny with theirs. The similarity of our social and political institutions, our industrial interests, our sympathies, habits, and tastes, our common origin, territorial contiguity, all concur in pointing out our duty in regard to the separation now taking place between the States of the old federal Union.” He further adds that “Missouri has at this time no war to prosecute. It is not her policy to make an aggression; but, in the present state of the country, she would be faithless to her honor, recreant to her duty, were she to hesitate a moment in making the most ample preparation for the protection of her people against the aggression of all assailants. I therefore recommend an appropriation of a sufficient sum of money to place the State at the earliest practicable moment in a complete state of defence.”

In conclusion he says: “Permit me to appeal to you and through you to the whole people of the State, to whom we are all responsible, to do nothing imprudent or precipitate. We have a most solemn duty to perform. Let us then calmly reason one with another, avoid all passion and tendency to tumult and disorder, obey implicitly the constituted authorities, and endeavor ultimately to unite all our citizens in a cordial cooperation for the preservation of our honor, the security of our property, and the performance of all those high duties imposed upon us by our obligations to our families, our country, and our God.”—Louisville Journal, May 4

—President Lincoln issued a proclamation calling into the service of the United States 42,000 volunteers for three years’ service, and directing the increase of the regular army and navy of the United States.—(Doc. 131.)

—Four companies of volunteers left Buffalo, N. Y., for the rendezvous at Elmira. They were escorted to the depot by the Home Guard. Major Millard Fillmore, Ex-President, commanding in person. The Home Guard is composed of retired commissioned officers of the State Militia, and is being thoroughly drilled by Major Fillmore. About 150 members are already enrolled.—N. Y. Tribune, May 4.

—Two associations of ladies of New Orleans were formed for aiding and equipping volunteers, and for making lint and bandages, and nursing the sick and wounded. The meetings were very large and enthusiastic.—Baltimore Sun, May 7th.

May 2nd.—Breakfasted with Mr. Hodgson, where I met Mr. Locke, Mr. Ward, Mr. Green and Mrs. Hodgson and her sister. There were in attendance some good-looking little negro boys and men dressed in liveries, which smacked of our host’s Orientalism, and they must have heard our discussion, or rather allusion, to the question which would decide whether we thought they are human beings or black two-legged cattle, with some interest, unless indeed the boast of their masters, that slavery elevates the character and civilizes the mind of a negro, is another of the false pretences on which the institution is rested by its advocates. The native African, poor wretch, avoids being carried into slavery totis viribus, and it would argue ill for the effect on his mind of becoming a slave if he prefers a piece of gaudy calico even to his loin-cloth and feather headdress. This question of civilizing the African in slavery is answered in the assertion of the slave-owners themselves, that if the negroes were left to their own devices by emancipation, they would become the worst sort of barbarians—a veritable Quasheedom, the like of which was never thought of by Mr. Thomas Carlyle. I doubt if the aboriginal is not as civilized, in the true sense of the word, as any negro, after three degrees of descent in servitude, whom I have seen on any of the plantations—even though the latter have leather shoes and fustian or cloth raiment, and felt hat, and sings about the Jordan. He is exempted from any bloody raid indeed, but he is liable to be carried from his village and borne from one captivity to another, and his family are exposed to the same exile in America as in Africa. The extreme anger with which any unfavorable comment is met publicly, shows the sensitiveness of the slave-owners. Privately, they affect philosophy; and the blue books, and reports of Education Commissions and Mining Committees, furnish them with an inexhaustible source of argument if you once admit that the summum bonum lies in a certain rotundity of person, and a regular supply of coarse food. A long conversation on the old topics— old to me, but of only a few weeks’ birth. People are swimming with the tide. Here are many men who would willingly stand aside if they could, and see the battle between the Yankees, whom they hate, and the Secessionists. But there are no women in this party. Wo betide the Northern Pyrrhus whose head is within reach of a Southern tile and a Southern woman’s arm!

I re-visited some of the big houses afterwards, and found the merchants not cheerful, but fierce and resolute. There is a considerable population of Irish and Germans in Savannah, who to a man are in favor of the Confederacy, and will fight to support it. Indeed, it is expected they will do so, and there is a pressure brought to bear on them by their employers which they cannot well resist. The negroes will be forced into the place the whites hitherto occupied as laborers —only a few useful mechanics will be kept, and the white population will be obliged by a moral force drafting to go to the wars. The kingdom of cotton is most essentially of this world, and it will be fought for vigorously. On the quays of Savannah, and in the warehouses, there is not a man who doubts that he ought to strike his hardest for it, or apprehends failure. And then, what a career is before them! All the world asking for cotton, and England dependent on it. What a change since Whitney first set his cotton gin to work in this state close by us! Georgia, as a vast country only partially reclaimed, yet looks to a magnificent future. In her past history the Florida wars, and the treatment of the unfortunate Cherokee Indians, who were expelled from their lands as late as 1838, show the people who descended from old Oglethorpe’s band were fierce and tyrannical, and apt at aggression, nor will slavery improve them. I do not speak of the cultivated and hospitable citizens of the large towns, but of the bulk of the slaveless whites.


Cold today, fire comfortable. M. down to 40. A fine flag was raised on the Pat office today at noon. The RI Regt paraded with Gov Sprague at the head on 7th St. The 7 NY Regt went into camp up 14th St. near Collumbia College. Regiments are now drilling and parading in the streets every day. I was at Willards tonight when the NY Zuaves Col Ellsworth Regt marched up the “Ave” to the War department, eleven hundred strong, and every man with a Sharps Rifle on his shoulder. Signed a petition for Mr Wood of NY to be Comr of public Buildings. Conversed an hour with Prof Heidrick. Went “Maying” with wife & Julia after dinner.


The three diary manuscript volumes, Washington during the Civil War: The Diary of Horatio Nelson Taft, 1861-1865, are available online at The Library of  Congress.

Fort Pickens, May 2, 1861.

Lieut. Col. TOWNSEND. Assistant Adjutant-General:

COLONEL: I have heretofore addressed my official communications to Colonel Keyes, because he, as the agent of the President as well as military secretary of the General-in-Chief, superintended the fitting out of the expedition for the relief of the fort, which expedition was then a secret one. The reasons for secrecy no longer existing, I address my letter, according to regulations, to you. Since my last letter to Colonel Keyes nothing of special interest has occurred. We have been unceasingly employed with my whole force and part of the ship’s in preparing the fort for defense and in unloading the Illinois. Some idea of the condition of the fort for defense may be had when it is considered that every day (one Sunday excepted) since the 17th of April, the day of my arrival, I have had from 1,000 to 1,200 men constantly at work, and of these, 800 have been employed on the work; and although we have achieved quite as much as I expected, we want a fortnight more of work before we shall be fully prepared to resist the numerous batteries and heavy guns that are bearing all around on us. The enemy are equally busy, having large numbers at work on several batteries which are visible to us, and judging by the number of men we see around one or two other places, I think that they have at least two other batteries we cannot see. All the guns excepting those of the forts seem of large caliber, 8 or 10 inch columbiads.

We can see one battery (No. 1) at the navy-yard; one (No. 2) in the rear of Warrington church–a large work, looking like an instruction camp; No. 3, near the barracks–no guns can be seen in it; a little southwest of the fort, and near the old light-house, a battery (No. 4) of four guns, very much concealed; and south of the new light-house another (No. 5) of four guns, plainly to be seen. There is probably one more between this and Fort McRee. These batteries and the forts enfilade and take in reverse every face and curtain of this work but one.

Fort McRee takes in reverse one more important battery, which is exposed front, flank, and rear to heavy and numerous guns (Plan D).(not found) I have no apprehensions whatever of an attack by escalade, as I think can whip them in open field; and in a very few days, by the able assistance of Major Tower, I shall be so protected from bombardment as, I hope, to be able to hold the fort a long time.

A man presented himself a few nights since to one of my sentinels, pretending to be a Northern man and a reporter of a newspaper. He brought us valuable information, and thinking his safety might be jeopardized if he returned, I sent him on board the Powhatan. Captain Porter suspected him, and there is but little doubt of his being a Southerner and a spy, as the inclosed letter, marked A, will show. He tore the original up, and scattered the fragments in a spit-box. Captain Porter had them collected and pasted together. Two days afterwards a constable or sheriff came over, under a flag, with a warrant against him for theft. I dismissed him without any name.

My command continues comparatively healthy, although the men are worked hard. In the hurry and confusion of our sudden departure from New York, articles of the first importance, which had been prepared and ready to go on board ship, were left behind, and others of little importance shipped; among the former, some 8 or 10 inch shells, which, as reported to me, were in a lighter alongside the Atlantic, and yet not taken on board. A special request to have them put on board the Illinois was also neglected, and not one of the former came. I have by borrowing of the Navy obtained enough of the latter for immediate service, and one hundred of the former, so that I have now 150–not enough for one day’s continuous firing. There are a great many guns in the fort, most of them from want of shell useless. There are twelve 32 or 42 pounder rifled guns. With a full supply of elongated balls [they] would be of inestimable value, and I earnestly hope that some of this kind are, in compliance with my former requisition, now on the way here, as also four sea-coast 10-inch mortars, and the 8 and 10 inch shells which were left behind. The 10-inch siege mortars will barely reach the navy-yard, and will not be so efficient as they should be, though I hope with the maximum charges to render them effective. I have a battery of two mortars in the ditch, and am now building another about half mile from the first, where I also propose to erect a battery of heavy guns, if the enemy gives us time and I can get them.

I am no further enlightened than when I last wrote on the cause of delay in their opening fire on us. Every day makes me feel more secure of making an efficient defense, and in a very few days my defensive preparations will be complete. I learn from several sources that the Montgomery and Pensacola Railroad is not finished by eight miles, and that they have two bridges yet to build.

Having received unofficial information that the President has issued a proclamation blockading the ports of the seceding States, I requested a conference with Captain Adams, commanding the naval forces, and asked him if he would not feel himself authorized to anticipate its official reception. Having also heard that a vessel loaded with an Armstrong gun and ammunition is on her way here from Charleston, I asked the captain if he would examine vessels entering the port, and stop such as have articles contraband of war. He said that his orders were to act strictly on the defensive; that a sufficient time has elapsed since the date of the proclamation for him to have received official notice of it if it were published, and as he has received no such notice he did not feel at liberty in any manner to alter the existing status. The next day I renewed the subject in a letter, a copy of which I send you (B) with his answer (C), in which he accedes to my wishes that vessels having articles contraband of war on board shall be stopped, and Captain Porter, with the Powhatan and a small schooner I let him have, is now boarding all vessels entering the harbor.

Major Arnold reports all well at Fort Jefferson; that he is busily engaged in strengthening his post, and that he considers himself capable of repelling any force that can be brought by the rebels against him.

At Key West the secession feeling fomented by the Confederate Secretary of the Navy still prevails among some influential citizens. Major French’s policy has been, I fear, too tampering, and he has not taken sufficiently active measures in strengthening the Union party and fostering the Union feeling. I have therefore given him peremptory orders (letter D)on the subject. I do not consider Key West to be sufficiently garrisoned, and have therefore ordered Major French, in case of the arrival of troops there on their way north, to detain two full companies (letter E). Should no troops be expected to touch there, I respectfully recommend that two companies of regulars or four of volunteers be immediately sent to that place. A small steamer or steam-tug–one that is fast and of light draught of water–would render us very great service. I have chartered a small schooner, but have had to let the Navy have her for overhauling vessels attempting to enter the harbor, and besides a sail vessel is not suitable for our purposes.

I am, colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Major, Second Artillery, Colonel Commanding.

[Inclosure A. ]

U. S. STEAM-SLOOP POWHATAN, April 28, 1861.

Col. HARVEY BROWN, Commanding Fort Pickens, Fla.:

DEAR SIR: The inclosed letter will give you a pretty good idea of our “spy.” He tore it up and threw the pieces into a spit-box. I had them collected and put together. All his movements are watched.

He wrote another yesterday, which I shall get hold of before long. Please save the inclosed for me. I shall probably be pulling about the channel and harbor to-night or to-morrow night. Will you direct your guard-boat to keep clear of me? I shall be in a black double-banked boat, and the enemy have none such. If the guard-boat gets close to us, the watchword is “Bragg.”

A little pilot-boat schooner chartered by the Army arrived here yesterday. She would be a great acquisition to us for certain purposes, while here doing nothing. I am to act as guard-ship hereafter, and prevent the inside people from receiving munitions of war. The schooner would be a great assistance in enabling me to cut off fast sailing vessels. If you have the authority, do you not think that it would be well to keep her here? I will mount a rifle gun on her. Captain Adams has appointed the Wyandotte to assist me, but she draws fifteen feet of water, and could not chase those fellows over the shoal spots, and her machinery is defective. I could do more with the schooner, particularly with a breeze.

I am, very truly and respectfully, yours,

Lieutenant, Commanding.

J. C. MORRIS Esq.:

DEAR SIR: I wrote you from Atlanta. Was my note received and attended to? Please telegraph my friends that I spend a couple of days at Pensacola previous to my departure for Texas. I want to see a besieged fortress once in a life-time. Everything goes on finely here. Hope to hear of surrender of Fort Sumter to-day; next Pickens, and then Washington.

Very truly,


[Inclosure B.]

Fort Pickens, April 26, 1861.

Capt. H. A. ADAMS, Commanding Naval Forces off Pensacola:

CAPTAIN: I received yesterday the lanterns and your order, for which I am much obliged. We are sadly deficient in 8-inch shell for one sea-coast howitzer, to act against the navy-yard. I am told that you have some. If you have and can spare a part of them it will greatly relieve me. I am also told that the Brooklyn has an abundance of 9-inch shell guns, and I would submit to your consideration the expediency of establishing a naval battery near the fort of, say, three of those guns, to be manned and fought exclusively by the Navy. Their co-operation in this manner would be of the most essential importance, and the Navy associated with the Army in the defense of this fort would cause a generous emulation between the two services promotive of the best feeling. I am told that a vessel is now on her way from Charleston to this place, loaded with an Armstrong gun, ammunition, and projectiles. It is of vital importance to us that such a gun should not be used against us, and I cannot but think that with the information we now have of hostilities having actually commenced, you will be warranted in detaining her, or any other vessel having articles contraband of war, and I would suggest whether your not doing so might not be unfavorably received at home. I do not, under present existing circumstances, propose capturing the vessel, but only that entrance to this harbor should be prohibited.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Colonel, Commanding.

[Inclosure C. ]

Off Pensacola, April 28, 1861.

Col. H. BROWN, Commanding Department of Florida, Fort Pickens :

SIR: I fully concur with you in the propriety of preventing munitions of war from being carried into Pensacola, and have given the necessary orders to that effect. The establishment of a naval battery on shore seems to me at this time almost impracticable. Our men are exhausted by hard work, which is still accumulating, and diminished by sickness and detachments. The remainder are necessary for the care and defense of the ships, and for landing parties to co-operate with you. Officers we have none. I am hourly looking for the arrival of Flag Officer Stringham, to whom I will refer your proposal immediately. He will have a fresh crew and officers to spare. In the mean time I would suggest that a place for the battery be selected and prepared for the guns by laying platforms, &c. They are very heavy, and will require solid foundations.

Will not the guns of the Brooklyn do quite as efficient service on board as they would on shore to prevent in the manner we discussed the other day the approach to the fort by Santa Rosa? In case of necessity she can get much nearer the beach than she now is.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Captain, Senior Officer Present.

[Inclosure D.]

Fort Pickens, Fla., May 2, 1861.

Maj. W. H. FRENCH, Commanding Fort Taylor:

MAJOR: Your communication of 24th ultimo, regarding affairs at Key West, is received.

The colonel commanding approves your reasons for not cutting the brush and undergrowth on the island, and you will, therefore, leave it uncut. The purchase of the schooner is also approved, but the colonel thinks it might have been better to submit the matter to the proper authority in Washington. Your proposed purchase of mules is approved, and you will send them here by the first opportunity. As soon as possible, endeavor to learn certainly whether Judge Marvin intends to resign, and if he does, direct him to report the fact to Washington immediately by the Illinois, if possible. The colonel further directs that you ascertain definitely whether the State courts acknowledge allegiance to the United States. If they do, you will protect them fully in the discharge of their legitimate duties; if not, you will forbid and prevent their sessions. You will give the new Federal appointments your full support and countenance.

In no case must any other flag than our national one be permitted to fly over any public building, or any body of men doing or organized to do, anything belonging to the duties of the Federal Government. Should the necessity arise, you will be directed in your course by the letter of instructions to the colonel, and be firm and decided in executing your orders. You will go to Mr. Patterson, and having shown the authority of the colonel, will request him to furnish steamers in government employ with coal in cases of necessity. The colonel will address him personally on the subject.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Assistant Adjutant-General.

[Inclosure E.]

Fort Pickens, Fla., May 1, 1861.

Bvt. Maj. W. H. FRENCH, Commanding Fort Taylor:

MAJOR: The colonel commanding directs that if a vessel shall arrive at Key West with troops bound for a northern post, if the commander does not rank the colonel commanding this department, you direct him to land two companies, filled to the maximum organization from others which may be on board, to form a part of the garrison of the fort or barracks, as you may deem most advisable, and, if necessary, to be transferred to this post for its defense. If the officer in command should be superior in rank, you will then show him a copy of the order of the President, giving the colonel commanding authority to call on all officers of the Army and Navy for assistance, and in his name call upon him for the two companies. You will show the authority named to the officer, whether he does or does not rank the colonel commanding.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Assistant Adjutant-General.

MAY 2d. —There are vague rumors of lawless outrages committed on Southern men in Philadelphia and New York; but they are not well authenticated, and I do not believe them. The Yankees are not yet ready for retaliation. They know that game wouldn’t pay. No — they desire time to get their money out of the South; and they would be perfectly willing that trade should go on, even during the war, for they would be the greatest gainers by the information derived from spies and emissaries. I see, too, their papers have extravagant accounts of imprisonments and summary executions here. Not a man has yet been molested. It is true, we have taken Norfolk, without a battle; but the enemy did all the burning and sinking.

—The Sixty-ninth New York Regiment, (altogether composed of Irishmen,) under the command of Col. Corcoran, arrived at Washington, from the Annapolis Junction, Md., where, with the exception of one company which preceded them on Tuesday, they have been on duty for several days past.—National Intelligencer, May 8.

—Governor Andrew, the Mayors of Lowell and Lawrence, and others, met at the State House, in Boston, Mass., for the purpose of identifying the bodies of the Massachusetts soldiers killed in Baltimore. Several articles which were the property of the deceased were exhibited, but failing to identify the bodies by these, the company proceeded to the vault beneath King’s Chapel, where the coffins were opened. The first corpse was at once recognized as Sumner H. Needham of Lawrence, by two of his brothers. The second was recognized as that of Addison O. Whitney of the Lowell City Guards, by three of his intimate friends. He was reported as among the missing when the regiment reached Washington. He died from a shot in the left breast. He was a spinner in the Middlesex Mills, and has a sister at Lowell. The third body proved to be that of Luther C. Ladd of Lowell, also of the Lowell City Guards. He had not been heard from since the fight, but a letter was received from his brother in the regiment at Washington stating that he was missing. The body was identified by a brother-in-law of Ladd. He was about eighteen years of age, a machinist, and was born at Alexandria, N. H. Ho was shot in the thigh, and probably bled to death at once. His face was somewhat swollen, and gave evidence of rough usage.—Boston Traveller, May 8.

—The mouth of James River, and Hampton roads are under strict blockade. The blockading vessels are the frigate Cumberland, steamships Monticello and Yankee, and three or four steam tugs.—The World, May 4.

—Ellsworth’s Regiment of Fire Zouaves arrived at Washington. Their march through the city was a complete ovation. They were greeted with great cheering and other demonstrations of enthusiasm. The splendid appearance of the regiment, both as to numbers and equipments, caused great surprise, and elicited universal praise.—N. Y. Tribune, May 8.

—The adjourned meeting of merchants to take into consideration the action necessary in regard to the state license, was held at Wheeling, Va. The Committee made a report setting forth the law in reference to the matter, submitted a resolve to the effect that we are good citizens of the State of Virginia, and at the same time hold ourselves loyal citizens of the United States, and will maintain allegiance to the same as heretofore; that we are willing to pay a license tax so long as Virginia is in the United States, but we are not willing to pay revenue to the present usurped government at Richmond, which, without the consent of the people of Virginia, has assumed to absolve us from allegiance to the United States, recommending the merchants of Wheeling and Ohio county to withhold the payment of taxes for the present. The resolutions were unanimously adopted. A German announced that the commissioner of the revenue resigned to forward the patriotic undertaking.—The World, May 3.

—Judge Campbell of the United States Supreme Court, who resides in Alabama, sent in his resignation. He is a Unionist, but feels bound to adhere to the fortunes of his State.— N. Y. Tribune, May 8.

The Marine Artillery of Rhode Island (flying artillery) arrived in Washington having a battery of six pieces, apparently perfect, like all we have thus far seen from that gallant little State, in every appointment of military art that can give efficiency to this most effective arm of modern warfare. The battery is served by about one hundred and sixty men, who are experienced cannoneers, and who, we learn, have left behind them an equal number, ready at a moment’s notice to tender their services to the Government. The Rhode Island regiment of infantry, twelve hundred strong, appeared also in the streets on parade, attracting universal admiration for the military precision of their movements and the fine soldiery bearing of both officers and men.

The Artillery made a visit to the President of the United States about five o’clock in the afternoon. He received them in front of the mansion, and was complimented in return by three hearty cheers as they passed in review. —National Intelligencer, May 8.

—The New Orleans Picayune, of to-day, says: “We heard but recently of a united North to defend and preserve the Union—now we hear of a united North to subjugate the South. The change is rapid. It shows the increasing strength of those whose permanent success would be destructive of liberty. These are the enemies the South has to combat. A Southern victory at Washington would not only strike terror into their ranks, but go far towards releasing the good and estimable people of the North from a thralldom which has become as terrible as it is degrading. We hope to have the pleasure, ere many days, of chronicling the glorious achievement.”

—The national flag was hoisted over the Interior Department at Washington. It was enthusiastically greeted by the dense mass of spectators and by the Rhode Island regiment, whose appearance and drill, together with their music, elicited general praise. They were accompanied by Governor Sprague and suite in full uniform.

The President and Secretaries Seward and Smith were near the staff when the flag was raised, and having saluted it, they were in turn cheered.

The regiment, having re-entered the building where they are quartered, sung “Our Flag still Waves.”—N. Y. Evening Post, May 8.

—The religious press presents a singular and varied view of the political affairs of the United States.—(Doc. 128.)

May Day.—Not unworthy of the best effort of English fine weather before the change in the calendar robbed the poets of twelve days, but still a little warm for choice. The young American artist Moses, who was to have called our party to meet the officers who were going to Fort Pulaski, for some reason known to himself remained on board the Camilla, and when at last we got down to the river-side I found Commodore Tatnall and Brigadier Lawton in full uniform waiting for me.

The river is about the width of the Thames below Gravesend, very muddy, with a strong current, and rather fetid. That effect might have been produced from the rice-swamps at the other side of it, where the land is quite low, and stretches away as far as the sea in one level green, smooth as a billiard-cloth. The bank at the city side is higher, so that the houses stand on a little eminence over the stream, affording convenient wharfage and slips for merchant vessels.

Of these there were few indeed visible—nearly all had cleared out for fear of the blockade; some coasting vessels were lying idle at the quay side, and in the middle of the stream near a floating dock the Camilla was moored, with her club ensign flying. These are the times for bold ventures, and if Uncle Sam is not very quick with his blockades, there will be plenty of privateers and the like under C. S. A. colors looking out for his fat merchantmen all over the world.

I have been trying to persuade my friends here they will find very few Englishmen willing to take letters of marque and reprisal.

The steamer which was waiting to receive us had the Confederate flag flying, and Commodore Tatnall, pointing to a young officer in a naval uniform, told me he had just “come over from the other side,” and that he had pressed hard to be allowed to hoist a Commodore or flag-officer’s ensign in honor of the visit, and of the occasion. I was much interested in the fine white-headed, blue-eyed, ruddy-cheeked old man—who suddenly found himself blown into the air by a great political explosion, and in doubt and wonderment was floating to shore, under a strange flag in unknown waters. He was full of anecdote too, as to strange flags in distant waters and well-known names. The gentry of Savannah had a sort of Celtic feeling towards him in regard of his old name, and seemed determined to support him.

He has served the Stars and Stripes for three fourths of a long life—his friends are in the North, his wife’s kindred are there, and so are all his best associations — but his State has gone out. How could he fight against the country that gave him birth! The United States is no country, in the sense we understand the words. It is a corporation or a body corporate for certain purposes, and a man might as well call himself a native of the common council of the city of London, or a native of the Swiss Diet, in the estimation of our Americans, as say he is a citizen of the United States; though it answers very well to say so when he is abroad, or for purposes of a legal character.

Of Fort Pulaski itself I wrote on my return a long account to the “Times.”

When I was venturing to point out to General Lawton the weakness of Fort Pulaski, placed as it is in low land, accessible to boats, and quite open enough for approaches from the city side, he said, “Oh, that is true enough. All our sea-coast works are liable to that remark, but the Commodore will take care of the Yankees at sea, and we shall manage them on land.” These people all make a mistake in referring to the events of the old war. “We beat off the British fleet at Charleston by the militia—ergo, we’ll sink the Yankees now.” They do not understand the nature of the new shell and heavy vertical fire, or the effect of projectiles from great distances falling into open works. The Commodore afterwards, smiling, remarked, “I have no fleet. Long before the Southern Confederacy has a fleet that can cope with the Stars and Stripes my bones will be white in the grave.”

We got back by eight o’clock P.M., after a pleasant day. What I saw did not satisfy me that Pulaski was strong, or Savannah very safe. At Bonaventure yesterday I saw a poor fort called “Thunderbolt,” on an inlet from which the city was quite accessible. It could be easily menaced from that point, while attempts at landing were made elsewhere as soon as Pulaski was reduced. At dinner met a very strong and very well informed Southerner—there are some who are neither — or either — whose name was spelled Gourdin and pronounced Go-dine—just as Huger is called Hugeë— and Tagliaferro, Telfer in these parts.

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