Monday, 24th—Nothing of importance. Our company now has a company cook. He cooks the beans and salt beef for all, but each man draws his rations every five days, makes his own coffee and cooks his salt bacon to suit himself.
February 24 — This morning we renewed our march. The weather was calm, warm, and bright, with not a speck of cloud staining the sky, but we had not proceeded very far on our way before dark and threatening thunder clouds came rolling from the west, and soon broke over us in a drenching rain storm, with thunder and lightning in a regular midsummer style. But as our movement was not urgently important, the benignant humanity of our captain allowed us to stop, until the storm passed over and the rain ceased, and shelter ourselves in an old deserted house on the roadside.
We reached the Winchester and Pughtown road before night and quartered in a vacant house on the Pughtown road about six miles from Winchester, and near a little winding stream wearing the euphonious appellation of Hog Creek. The weather is beginning to grow warm, mild, and sunny. The boys are in good spirits and lively, and seem to be utterly unmindful of the hardships and dangers, deadly encounters and bloody conflicts, that are the attending concomitants of an active and vigorous campaign, which from all ominous appearances is ripe and nearly ready to open, for the breezes that sweep from the north already bear on their bosom the sounding echoes of the approaching footsteps and measured tread of a formidable and determined invading foe. Soon, ah, too soon, the demons of war will be brandishing their glittering blades and fiendishly slashing for human blood, and the dead and dying be scattered over the fields that are now ready to don the blooming livery of spring.
But hie away, ye gloomy reveries, distracting thoughts, and perplexing fears, and let the soothing touch of hope revive my drooping spirits. The war cloud may burst with all its fury and the red fiery eye of battle may glow in all its fiercest wrath, yet I may withstand all its destructive ravages, pass through all its fiery ordeals unscathed and untouched, and live to see the last fragment of war cloud drift away and dissolve in the radiant glow of freedom’s peaceful light.
February 24th.— Congress and the newspapers render one desperate, ready to cut one’s own throat. They represent everything in our country as deplorable. Then comes some one back from our gay and gallant army at the front. The spirit of our army keeps us up after all. Letters from the army revive one. They come as welcome as the flowers in May. Hopeful and bright, utterly unconscious of our weak despondency.
February 24.—A slight skirmish took place at Mason’s Neck, in the neighborhood of Occoquan, Va., between a body of Texan rangers and a party of National troops. The rangers fired from a house in which they took refuge. Two of the Nationals, belonging to the New-York Thirty-seventh regiment, were killed, and another man was wounded. The loss of the rebels was not ascertained.—-N. Y. Herald, February 26.
—The Twelfth regiment of Connecticut volunteers, under the command of Colonel Henry C. Deming, left New-Haven for the seat of war at Ship Island, Gulf of Mexico.
—Cols. Wood, of the Fourteenth New-York, Lee, of the Twentieth Massachusetts, and Cogswell, of the Tammany regiment, (N. Y. S. V.,) arrived at Baltimore from Fortress Monroe, having been released by the rebels. Colonel Wood, who was present at the inauguration of Jeff. Davis, states that there was no enthusiasm manifested on the occasion.
—Bishop Thomas F. Davis, of the Diocesan Convention of the Episcopal Church of South Carolina, now in session at Charleston, has pronounced an address, in which he states that prior Conventions of the Church in the Confederate States had declared that “we were no longer, as a Church, in administrative union with the Church in the United States.”—N. Y. Times, February 23.
—An expedition, composed of four iron-clad gunboats and two mortar-boats, with the Twenty-seventh Illinois and a battalion of the Eighth Wisconsin Regiments, made a reconnoisance from Cairo, Illinois, down the Mississippi river this morning, and discovered that the rebels had seized all the flatboats and skiffs as far up as they dared to come; also that there had been a movement among the troops at Columbus. The gunboats and mortar-boats getting into position on the Missouri side of the river when a rebel steamer, with a white flag, made its appearance, some rebel officers came on board the Cincinnati, and a consultation took place.—Cincinnati Gazette.
— Harper’s Ferry, Va., was occupied by the National forces, under the command of General Banks. The troops were unopposed, and found all the necessaries for a permanent occupation.
—Lieut. A. C. Rhind, U. S. N., went, with Lieut. Prentiss and three men, on an expedition to Bear Bluff, opposite White Point, on North-Edisto River, S. C, where the rebels were erecting a battery. Two men were found, as picket guards, in the magazine of the unfinished battery, asleep. In attempting to secure them, one was shot by the accidental discharge of a pistol in the hands of Lieutenant Rhind. The other was captured.— (Doc. 62.)
Feb. 23. The boys are amusing themselves making pipes from briar roots and fixing long stems of cane to them. Some of them are carved very handsomely and show much artistic skill. Washington’s birthday was celebrated by salutes from the forts and a holiday in the camp. There is some very interesting history connected with this island, but not having books to refer to, I can give but a very indifferent account of it. Sometime in the latter part of the 16th century, Sir Walter Raleigh, an English nobleman, sent out an American exploring expedition. They visited the Pamlico and Albemarle sounds, discovering this island. After trading with the Indians, and learning what they could of the country, they returned to England. They gave such glowing accounts of the country and what they had seen that Raleigh, the next year, sent out a colony under one Lane. They occupied this island, but after about a year, during which time they suffered many hardships, returned to England. A year or two later, another expedition was sent out. They also settled here, but after a while the leader of it returned to England for supplies. After an absence of a year or two, he again returned here, but on landing, not a trace of it could be found, and it was never after heard from. A later historian, however, says the Indians who lived on the island claimed that some of their ancestors were white people and could talk out of a book.
Sunday, February 23. — Day cloudy and misty as usual. This morning I found that my horse had the scratches. I am sorry for it, as I shall not be able to use him for some days. Captain Allen and Lieutenant Phillips 1 were here this evening to visit me. I bet a box of cigars with Martindale that we should not leave here within a week from to-day.
February 23 — This morning we left Martinsburg with all our household and camping utensils, and from all noticeable indications we have said our last farewell to winter quarters for this season, and who can tell where we shall dwell to be merry another winter?
This evening we are quartered in a church at White Hall in Frederick County, about seven miles north of Winchester.
Sunday 23d —
This has been a misty damp day. I have not been to church. Young Field came up from his quarters and went with my wife & the boys. Prof Sparks called in the evening and staid an hour. I went down to the National and called upon Mr [S Seelye?] of NY. Called upon Chas on my return. Home at 9 o’clock.
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.
Sunday, 23d—We attended church today at the different churches in town, some of the boys going to the Catholic church. We had prayer meeting in camp in the evening.
23rd. Sunday. Felt half sick all day, sore throat, hard cough. Lay still and did nothing all day.
FEBRUARY 23D.—At last we have the astounding tidings that Donelson has fallen, and Buckner, and 9000 men, arms, stores, everything are in possession of the enemy! Did the President know it yesterday? Or did the Secretary keep it back till the new government (permanent) was launched into existence? Wherefore? The Southern people cannot be daunted by calamity!
Last night it was still raining—and it rained all night. It was a lugubrious reception at the President’s mansion. But the President himself was calm, and Mrs. Davis seemed in spirits. For a long time I feared the bad weather would keep the people away; and the thought struck me when I entered, that if there were a Lincoln spy present, we should have more ridicule in the Yankee presses on the paucity of numbers attending the reception. But the crowd came at last, and filled the ample rooms. The permanent government had its birth in storm, but it may yet flourish in sunshine. For my own part, however, I think a provisional government of few men, should have been adopted “for the war.”
February 23d.—While Mr. Chesnut was in town I was at the Prestons. John Cochran and some other prisoners had asked to walk over the grounds, visit the Hampton Gardens, and some friends in Columbia. After the dreadful state of the public mind at the escape of one of the prisoners, General Preston was obliged to refuse his request. Mrs. Preston and the rest of us wanted him to say “Yes,” and so find out who in Columbia were his treacherous friends. Pretty bold people they must be, to receive Yankee invaders in the midst of the row over one enemy already turned loose amid us.
General Preston said: “We are about to sacrifice life and fortune for a fickle multitude who will not stand up to us at last.” The harsh comments made as to his lenient conduct to prisoners have embittered him. I told him what I had heard Captain Trenholm say in his speech. He said he would listen to no criticism except from a man with a musket on his shoulder, and who had beside enlisted for the war, had given up all, and had no choice but to succeed or die.
Sunday, February 23.—Everybody came out to church this morning, expecting to hear Madame Anna Bishop sing. She was not there, and an “agent” made a “statement.” The audience did not appear particularly edified.
23d.—Notwithstanding the violence of the rain yesterday, the Capitol Square, the streets around it, and the adjacent houses, were crowded. The President stood at the base of that noble equestrian statue of Washington, and took the oath which was taken by the “Father of his Country” more than seventy years ago—just after the “great rebellion,” in the success of which we all, from Massachusetts to Georgia, so heartily gloried. No wonder that he spoke as if he were inspired. Was it not enough to inspire him to have the drawn sword of Washington, unsheathed in defence of his invaded country, immediately over his head, while the other hand of his great prototype points encouragingly to the South? Had he not the life-like representations of Jefferson, George Mason, and, above all, of Patrick Henry, by his side? The latter with his scroll in his outstretched hand, his countenance beaming, his lips almost parted, and seeming on the point of bursting into one blaze of eloquence in defence of his native South. How could Southern tongues remain quiet, or Southern hearts but burn within us, when we beheld our heroes, living and dead, surrounding and holding up the hands of our great chief? By him stood his cabinet, composed of the talent and the patriotism of the land; then was heard the voice of our beloved Assistant Bishop, in tones of fervid eloquence, beseeching the blessings of Heaven on our great undertaking. I would that every young man, from the Potomac to the Rio Grande, could have witnessed the scene.
Last night was the first levee. The rooms were crowded. The President looked weary and grave, but was all suavity and cordiality, and Mrs. Davis won all hearts by her usual unpretending kindness. I feel proud to have those dear old rooms, arousing as they do so many associations of my childhood and youth, filled with the great, the noble, the fair of our land, every heart beating in unison, with one great object in view, and no wish beyond its accomplishment, as far as this world is concerned. But to-day is Saturday, and I must go to the hospital to take care of our sick— particularly to nurse our little soldier-boy. Poor child, he is very ill!
February 23.—Gen. Buell, with three hundred mounted men and a battery of artillery, took possession of Gallatin, Tenn.—New-York Herald, March 3.
—This day Fayetteville, Arkansas, (a town on White River, one hundred and ninety-six miles northwest of Little Rock,) was captured by Gen. Curtis. The rebels fled in great confusion across the Boston Mountains. They burnt a portion of the town before they retired, besides perpetrating an act of cowardly vandalism, which it is almost difficult to believe, had it not been too fatally verified. The rebels left a quantity of poisoned meat behind them, which unhappily was partaken of by the National troops, and resulted in poisoning forty officers and men of the Fifth Missouri cavalry, among them one or two valuable commanding officers. Such deeds entitle the perpetrators to no mercy.—(Doc. 60.)
—The Eighty-first regiment of New-York volunteers, under the command of Col. Edwin Rose, arrived in New-York from Albany.
—Gen. Halleck issued an order, to be read to all the troops under his command, defining the policy to be pursued by the forces as they advance. Private property is to be strictly respected, and all non-combatants are to be regarded as neutrals in the existing war; these, however, who give any aid to the secessionists are to be regarded as belligerents, and treated as such. Regarding the slavery question as a matter in which the civil and not the military authorities have jurisdiction, he prohibits the admission of fugitive slaves within the lines of the army, except by special order of the generals commanding.—(Doc. 61.)
—Nashville, Tenn., was evacuated by the rebel troops this day.
Feb. 22nd. Started at 2 A. M. Went to and surrounded Independence. After search found none, so started to return at seven A. M. Stopped a little distance out of town, down a hill, and got feed for our horses. Ordered to be ready to go on at ten A. M. All ready at the time. Three or four fellows up town, fired upon, bring the report that rebel troops are in town. Forthwith all the companies, all ready, start at full gallop, Company L leading. The enemy after one volley, wheel and run down into the gully east, our troops following closely, and firing as they go. At the forks in the road they scatter, some going straight forward and some getting into lots behind buildings and stumps and then firing. The boys charged upon them, killing two and taking five prisoners. Brownell was shot. After passing him to see if there was a chance to shoot and finding none, I returned to him. Helped him up hill to barber shop. Citizens assisted zealously. Three wounded. Stayed by them until ready to return. In the meantime Nettleton and the command went up the road in search of the rebels. Found none. One of our men killed. Co. L. Saw two rebels dead—awful sight—all over dirt and such an expression upon their countenances. Reached camp at Kansas City at 4 P. M. All pleased with the expedition. Issued rations.
Saturday, February 22. — Washington’s Birthday was appropriately celebrated by firing salutes, and by the parade of the different regiments, and the reading of Washington’s Farewell Address before them. The day was not favorable for any extensive preparations, it being rainy most of the time. I walked out into the woods about half a mile from the camps, and practised with my pistol, making some pretty fair shots considering the little practice I have had. I am reviewing Hardee and last night got as far as “School of the Battalion.” I find, however, that reading The Cloister and the Hearth is much more entertaining.
Saturday Feb 22nd 1862
This has been kept as a Holy day in the City. The public offices have all been closed. Salutes have been fired from almost every direction. We all went to the Capitol to see and hear. The Hall of the House of Representatives was more than crowded. It was expected that the Rebel flags which have been taken would be presented to Congress, it was so published in the programme, but after organizeing, the House very properly refused by resolution to receive them or recognize them. John W Forney, clerk of the Senate, read Washingtons farewell address after a prayer by the Chaplin Rev Mr Stockton. The Floor was filled by the two Houses, the Diplomatic corps, the high officers of the Army & Navy, and other notables. I counted forty two Generals & Comodores on the floor. The Cabinet was there. The President was not there. The illumination of the public buildings did not take place. A few Stores & private buildings were illuminated. More rain this evening. I went down to the Ave.
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.
FEBRUARY 22D.—Such a day! The heavens weep incessantly. Capitol Square is black with umbrellas; and a shelter has been erected for the President to stand under.
I walked up to the monument and heard the Inaugural read by the President. He read it well, and seemed self-poised in the midst of disasters, which he acknowledged had befallen us. And he admitted that there had been errors in our war policy. We had attempted operations on too extensive a scale, thus diffusing our powers which should have been concentrated. I like these candid confessions. They augur a different policy hereafter, and we may hope for better results in the future. We must all stand up for our country.
Mr. Hunter has resigned, and taken his place in the Senate.
Saturday, 22d—This is Washington’s birthday. We packed our knapsacks early this morning and left Lookout for California, arriving at 2 p. m. The roads were quite muddy. In camp again at California, Missouri. We pitched our tents on the commons south of town.
Cincinnati, February 22, 1862.
Dear Mother: — I am ready to start back to Virginia on the first steamer for the Kanawha River. I expect to get off tomorrow or next day.
I found Uncle in good health for him. The other friends were as usual. … I returned home Monday finding all here as 1 left them.
The recent victories convince everybody that the Rebellion can be conquered. Most people anticipate a speedy end of the war. I am not so sanguine of a sudden wind-up, but do not doubt that the Confederacy is fatally wounded. We are having a gaudy celebration of the 22nd here with the usual accompaniments which delight the children.
Affectionately, your son,
Mrs. Sophia Hayes.
January 28 to February 22, 1862
On the 28th of January, we sailed for Fortress Monroe, and proceeded down the Delaware, amid a quantity of ice, which was daily increasing. The weather had been stormy for several days, and the men working in the cold rains had in many instances contracted severe lung diseases, so that at the time of sailing there were some fifteen patients in bed and a large number of others under treatment; besides, the ship was in a disordered state, which is always the case with a ship just in commission under such circumstances.
Our ship is a first class steam sloop-of-war, carrying twenty nine-inch Dahlgren guns, besides two twenty-lb. rifled pivots, and a supply of howitzers.
We arrived at Fortress Monroe on the 29th, where we found five men-of-war, three of them American and two French; among them was the U. S. Frigates Minnesota and Roanoke. We lay there four days, during which time Surgeon Wood was detached and ordered on board the Minnesota, with the understanding that we were to find an experienced surgeon on board the frigate Niagara, which then lay off Ship Island. We left here on Sunday, February 2d, and stood for Port Royal, and had a middling kind of passage, the weather being somewhat stormy and the ship rolling considerably.
On Tuesday at 3:10 P. M., a man died of measles, and an hour afterwards we reached Port Royal and cast anchor among a fleet of naval vessels. The land here is low and sandy, and covered with trees which to all appearances were the Palmetto. As I looked inland from our anchorage I could see one of the captured forts on our left; but few buildings of any kind were visible; quite a number of Commodore Dupont’s fleet were still here, a prominent one being the flag-ship Wabash, which had been somewhat damaged in the recent taking of the place.
We left the place on the 6th for Key West, and having a head wind all the way made slight progress, though the weather was pleasant, having lost much of the chilliness of the Delaware region. We arrived at Key West on the 11th February, where we met and were saluted by the U. S. steam sloop of war Pensacola; the U. S. steamer Connecticut was also here, and the famous yacht Wanderer, and several mortar boats of Captain Porter’s fleet.
Fort Taylor at this place is quite a formidable looking structure, mounting fifty to seventy-five guns, I should judge, and situated near it is the U. S. Hospital, surrounded with evergreens and quite inviting. The inhabitants are said to number about five thousand. After being at sea this place looks pleasant; cocoa trees spring up here spontaneously, and for a few cents each I obtained a small supply of oranges. We coaled ship here, and sent our letters home by the U. S. steamer Connecticut; here we buried another man, an aged fireman; the weather strongly reminded me of hats, and several of the officers laid in a supply for future use.
We left Key West on the 15th for Havana, and had a pleasant passage, arriving there after dark on the same day, a Spanish pilot coming off and taking us into the harbor. The bay in the evening was beautiful in the extreme; there were several large men-of-war in port, of different nations; also a large number of merchantmen. The evening sky was clear as day, and locomotives snorting so naturally reminded one forcibly of home, sweet home.
The day following was Sunday, and it was nearly all spent in exchanging salutes with the English, French and Spanish men-of-war, receiving the U. S. Consul on board with a salute, saluting the Governor, &c. Our war feelings were much excited by seeing two or three Confederate State flags, “the very articles that we were destined to suppress,” floating high in the air from the masts of three Confederate merchantmen that were enjoying the protection of this neutral port.
Havana is a pleasant city, situated mostly on a sort of peninsula formed by a pretty bay setting into the land, making a beautiful harbor, with only one narrow and deep outlet which is guarded by the renowned Moro Castle. It is well lighted with gas and supplied with evergreen shade trees, causing a comfortable appearance night or day. Bumboats, so-called, swarm around the ships at anchor, selling oranges, guava jelly, pies and fruit, and articles peculiar to the place and climate.
On the night of the 17th we left this place for Ship Island, to relieve the flag-ship Niagara, then stationed there. The weather was pleasant and wind favorable, and we had an agreeable trip. We fell in with schools of the little flying fish which abound in these waters. On the second day out we overhauled and boarded a schooner with the British flag protecting it, though circumstances caused the belief that she was American born at least; on the same afternoon we met and spoke the beautiful new steamship Constitution, from Ship Island.
We arrived at Ship Island on the evening of the 20th, received and returned a salute from the frigate Niagara, which hauled down her blue pennant on our coming to anchor, thereby transferring her importance to the Hartford, and gave us a salute of thirteen guns in honor of our flag-officer, which was duly returned. The Niagara had in tow the Confederate steamer Magnolia, loaded with eleven hundred bales of cotton, which had been captured on the day previous by the U. S. sloop-of-war Brooklyn and the U. S. steamer South Carolina, while attempting to run the blockade off the Mississippi.
We here found several U. S. gunboats; among them the New London and Water Witch, which were scouring the adjacent waters in search of prizes. There were also a few thousand troops on the island, belonging to Brig. Gen. Butler’s command. The island is merely a low sand bank, nearly destitute of vegetation, with a little extemporized fort mounting two or three guns, erected, I believe, simply for the present exigencies.
The 21st was signalized by the capture of eleven oyster sloops by the New London, which afforded us a taste of the bivalves, which we much enjoyed. On the 22d more prizes arrived, and in the evening the U. S. steam transport Rhode Island, loaded with provisions, letters, &c., to gladden the hearts of the sailors and cause a reaction in their monotonous life.
Washington’s birth-day was commemorated by salutes from the Hartford and Niagara and dressing the ships in flags.
Washington’s Birthday.—Patriotic services were held in the Congregational Church this morning. Madame Anna Bishop sang, and National songs were sung. Hon. James C. Smith read Washington’s Farewell Address. In the afternoon a party of twenty-two, young and old, took a ride in the Seminary boat and went to Mr Paton’s on the lake shore road. We carried flags and made it a patriotic occasion. I sat next to Spencer F. Lincoln, a young man from Naples who is studying law in Mr Henry Chesebro’s office. I never met him before but he told me he had made up his mind to go to the war. It is wonderful that young men who have brilliant prospects before them at home, will offer themselves upon the altar of their country. I have some new patriotic stationery. There is a picture of the flag on the envelope and underneath, “If any one attempts to haul down the American Flag shoot him on the spot.— John A. Dix.”
February 22.—To-day I had hoped to see our President inaugurated, but the rain falls in torrents, and I cannot go. So many persons are disappointed, but we are comforted by knowing that the inauguration will take place, and that the reins of our government will continue to be in strong hands. His term of six years must be eventful, and to him, and all others, so full of anxiety! What may we not experience during those six years? Oh, that all hearts may this day be raised to Almighty God for his guidance! Has there been a day since the Fourth of July, 1776, so full of interest, so fraught with danger, so encompassed by anxiety, so sorrowful, and yet so hopeful, as this 22d of February, 1862? Our wrongs then were great, and our enemy powerful, but neither can the one nor the other compare with all that we have endured from the oppression, and must meet in the gigantic efforts of the Federal Government. Our people are depressed by our recent disasters, but our soldiers are encouraged by the bravery and endurance of the troops at Donelson. It fell, but not until human nature yielded from exhaustion. The Greeks were overcome at Thermopylae, but were the Persians encouraged by their success? Did they still cherish contempt for their weak foe? And will the conquerors of Donelson meet our little army again with the same self-confidence? Has not our Spartan band inspired them with great respect for their valour, to say nothing of awe?
Our neighbour in the next room had two sons in that dreadful fight. Do they survive? Poor old lady! she can hear nothing from them; the telegraphic wires in Tennessee are cut, and mail communication very uncertain. It is so sad to see the mother and sister quietly pursuing their avocations, not knowing, the former says, whether she is not the second time widowed; for on those sons depend not only her comfort, but her means of subsistence, and that fair young girl, always accustomed to perfect ease, is now, with her old mother, boarding—confined to one room, using her taste and ingenuity, making and altering bonnets for her many acquaintances, that her mother may be supplied with the little luxuries to which she has always been accustomed, and which, her child says, “mother must have.” “Our property,” she says, “is not available, and, of course, ‘the boys’ had to give up their business to go into the army.”
February 22d.—What a beautiful day for our Confederate President to be inaugurated! God speed him; God keep him; God save him!
John Chesnut’s letter was quite what we needed. In spirit it is all that one could ask. He says, “Our late reverses are acting finely with the army of the Potomac. A few more thrashings and every man will enlist for the war. Victories made us too sanguine and easy, not to say vainglorious. Now for the rub, and let them have it!”
A lady wrote to Mrs. Bunch: “Dear Emma: When shall I call for you to go and see Madame de St. Andre?” She was answered: “Dear Lou: I can not go with you to see Madame de St. Andre, but will always retain the kindest feeling toward you on account of our past relations,” etc. The astounded friend wrote to ask what all this meant. No answer came, and then she sent her husband to ask and demand an explanation. He was answered thus: “My dear fellow, there can be no explanation possible. Hereafter there will be no intercourse between my wife and yours; simply that, nothing more.” So the men meet at the club as before, and there is no further trouble between them. The lady upon whom the slur is cast says, “and I am a woman and can’t fight!”