Near Winchester (Kernstown), March 23, 1862.
We have had a severe fight to-day and are pretty badly whipped. I am uninjured.
Near Winchester (Kernstown), March 23, 1862.
We have had a severe fight to-day and are pretty badly whipped. I am uninjured.
March 23rd, 1862.—This is Eddie’s birthday, Adeline made him a cake, (no white sugar to ice it) and by great good luck I found in my doll things, which have been packed away, two toy candles which delighted his heart.
Though the weather is still cold in Virginia the army seems to be on the move and I am afraid we will hear of more battles soon. If I, who have only brothers and cousins in the army, dread this so, what must it be to the poor wives and mothers and fathers? Uncle Richard has never been the same since Cousin Rich was killed.
March 23.—The battle of Winchester, Va., was fought this day. Yesterday afternoon the rebels, consisting of five hundred of Ashby’s cavalry and two guns, drove in the National pickets, and then skirmished with the Michigan cavalry and a portion of the Maryland First. Gen. Shields then brought up his forces and fired rounds of shell, drove them back, and took several prisoners. He was wounded in the arm by the first fire of the enemy. The Nationals slept on their arms at night. This morning, at sunrise, Jackson, being reenforced, attacked Gen. Shields near Kearnstown. The enemy’s force consisted of five hundred cavalry, five thousand infantry, and nine pieces of artillery, with a reserve of eighteen pieces. The fight was continued until noon, when a charge, made by one regiment of infantry and two of cavalry, on their right, drove them back half a mile, when they got their guns in position again in a dense wood, flanked by infantry, and drove the Union forces back. A short artillery duel ensued, when Gen. Shields ordered Col. Tyler to turn their left flank, which was executed with great loss, the enemy being protected by a stone-ledge. The Eighty-fourth Pennsylvania and Thirteenth Indiana charged their centre and the fight became general, with great massacre on both sides. Col. Murray, of the Eighty-fourth Pennsylvania, was killed. The enemy retired slowly, bringing their guns to bear at every opportunity. The Nationals rushed forward with yells, when a panic occurred among the enemy, and troops followed and drove them till dark, capturing three guns, three caissons, muskets, equipments, etc., innumerable, and bivouacked on the field. Gen. Williams, First brigade, Col. Donnelly, of the Twenty-eighth New-York, commanding, reenforced Gen. Shields’s forces. Gen. Banks, who was on the way to Washington when the battle occurred, returned and assumed command. In the mean time, Gen. Shields’s division, commanded by Col. Kimball, pursued the enemy beyond Newton, shelling them the whole distance. Jackson’s men were perfectly demoralized and could not be rallied. They threw overboard the dead and wounded to lighten the wagons. They confessed a loss of eight hundred and sixty-nine killed, wounded and missing. The National forces lost one hundred and fifteen killed and four hundred and fifty wounded.—(Doc. 103.)
—This morning the schooner Cora, prize to the United States gunboat Pinola, Lieut. Crosby commanding, arrived at Key West, Fla. The Cora was captured on the sixth inst, about one hundred miles south of Apalachicola, from which port she had escaped two days before, and is loaded with two hundred and eight bales of cotton. There was a most exciting chose before she was taken. Several shells were fired at her, and not until they burst between her masts did she condescend to heave to. She was commanded by Robert May, an Apalachicola pilot, and was brought here by Acting Master’s Mate D. C. Kells, of the United States brig Bohio, who was prizemaster of the schooner Eugenia Smith, and on his way as passenger on board the Pinola to rejoin his vessel when the Cora was captured.—National Intelligencer.
—The bodies of Col. Slocum, Major Ballou, and Capt. Tower, all of Pawtucket, R. I., recovered from the battle-field near Manassas, were placed on the cars this afternoon for transportation to Rhode Island.— (Doc. 104)
—The new Cabinet of President Davis was confirmed by the rebel Senate this morning, as follows:
Secretary of State, J. P. Benjamin, La.
Secretary of War, Geo. W. Randolph, Va.
Secretary of the Navy, S. R. Mallory, Fla.
Secretary of the Treatury, C. G. Memminger, S. C.
Attorney-General, Thomas H. Watts.
Pottmatter-General, Mr. Reagan, Texas.
—President Davis declared martial law over the counties of Elizabeth City, York, Warwick, Gloucester, and Matthews.—Norfolk Day-Book, March 24.
—Three hundred privates and fifty-eight officers, the first detachment of prisoners taken at Pea Ridge, arrived at St Louis, Mo.
—This day Gen. Parke’s brigade of Gen. Burnside’s division, took possession of Morehead City, N. C., finding it evacuated by the inhabitants. Lieut. Flagler, ordnance officer, and a member of Gen. Parke’s staff, crossed over to Fort Macon, a distance of two miles across Rogue’s Sound, with a flag of truce, and demanded a surrender. A considerable parley took place, in which the folly of the rebels attempting to hold out was set before them. The Fort was occupied by some five hundred secession troops, which were in command of Lieut. Smith. Lieut. Flagler assured them of the ample means at the disposal of the Nationals to reduce the Fort and deprecated the sacrifice of life which it would occasion. Lieut. Smith persisting in his refusal to surrender, Gen. Burnside at once commenced the operations of investment— N. Y. Commercial, April 3.
—A National force was sent to Nicholas Landing, sixty miles south of Savannah, Tenn., which seized fifteen hundred pounds of fresh pork and forty-five thousand pounds of cured hams and shoulders. For a long time this had been the mart for the pork business for the rebels.—N. Y. Commercial, March 29.
March 22 — Yesterday evening we heard that the Yanks had nearly all left Winchester. This morning we started early en route down the Valley. Some of our boys were light-hearted and even merry, as they fully anticipated with the utmost confidence of entering Winchester this evening without any serious opposition or difficulty.
Between Middletown and Newtown we met a boy from Winchester, who told us that the Yanks all left town this morning; but that boy evidently lied, for we had very strong proof, and plenty of it, to that effect before night. About the middle of afternoon we sighted the southern end of Winchester. We saw a few tents and some few infantrymen strolling about, but apparently the town seemed to be evacuated by the enemy, sure enough. We advanced to within about a mile of town and put our guns in position, and fired a few rounds at the infantry that was scattered around the fields near town. After we fired a shell or two we saw a carriage or ambulance surrounded by a few horsemen come from town and drive on the field. Captain Chew said, “Give that carriage a shot; it may be carrying some important game.” We turned one gun on it, and our shell exploded near the vehicle, and it soon after disappeared from the field. Even after our firing, from all appearances, there were no forcible indications that there were many fighting Yanks close around, and we were almost certain that they had no artillery. But in war things are not as they seem, for at this juncture of affairs a few companies of Ashby’s Cavalry charged down the pike with the expectation and intention of going into Winchester. But just before they got to the edge of the town a regiment of Yankee infantry rose from behind a fence and fired a volley at them at close range; but fortunately the Yanks were excited to the buck fever heat, consequently too hasty with their aim and fire, and our cavalry came out without sustaining the least damage or injury.
After the cavalry came back we fired at the infantry, but in about twenty minutes after their infantry fired from behind the fence the Yanks put an eight-gun battery in position on a hill west of town, which thoroughly commanded our position and the pike.
They opened on us with their eight guns from the hill, and we had but two, and down on a level field much lower than their position, and exposed to their direct fire, which rendered our situation untenable, consequently we left forthwith and immediately.
Up to this time I never heard such thunder as those guns on that hill kept up until we passed out of range. The shell came thick and fast, exploding all around us, every fragment shrieking, “Hark from the tomb.” It was now about sunset, and we started back to Newtown, where we arrived about an hour after dark, and quartered in a church.
March 22nd.—Ordered this morning to Washington to look up hospital stores and boxes, which are scattered “to the four winds.” This is the first time since the organization of the Regiment that it has moved without my personally superintending the packing and forwarding of the hospital stores, and the first time they have got scattered. “What you would have well done, do yourself.” I fear many of them will be lost.
In passing, I here note two circumstances, that I may not forget them. In addition to the poisoning of three men at Flint Hill by a mistake in medicine, yesterday I discovered that the dispenser, imposed on me by Gen. H_____, was himself taking pills of Unguentum—blue mercurial ointment— instead of blue pill, which had been prescribed for him, and was giving another man saltpetre instead of the sulphate of cinchona—innocent mistakes, to be sure, but indicative of the fatherly care which our General is manifesting towards the soldiers under his command. He refuses to restore my druggist, though he is made aware of these repeated and dangerous mistakes. The other circumstance: During all winter, when no fighting was to be done, our Brigade held the advance of the whole army. All the hard and dirty work fell on us—picketing, chopping, ditching; but we held the advance, the post of honor, were to have the first chance in the fight, and we grumbled not at the hardship and exposure. The time came for attacking Centreville and Manassas. We were ordered forward, when, to our exceeding mortification, we found that 40,000 troops had been thrown in advance of us. Our Brigade has not been permitted even to see Centreville and Manassas. They were occupied by our army before we were started. What means this? Has our Brigade commander lost the confidence of his superior officers, and as a consequence been thus disgraced? We are now near Alexandria, but not in advance. There are from 40,000 to 60,000 troops in advance of us.
MARCH 22D.—Capt. Godwin, the Provost Marshal, was swearing furiously this morning at the policemen about their iniquitous forgeries.
Saturday, 22d—It is disagreeable weather—a cold rain from the north. The Thirteenth Iowa started to Pittsburg Landing, about ten miles up the river. The Eleventh Iowa is expecting marching orders any time.
22nd. A report circulated that we are to be among the regiments disbanded. Hope not true—prefer to see the thing through without re-enlisting. After all would like a short furlough. Dealt out the bacon. Got a good piece of beef for myself. Heard the wolves howl during the night.
Raleigh, Virginia, March 22, 1862.
Dear Mother:—. . . We are in the midst of one of the storms so common in this mountain region. We hope it is the equinoctial and will be followed by good weather. It is a driving snow-storm. The pine trees are crusted with it giving a peculiarly wintry appearance to the hills. Fortunately we are all comfortably housed, except two companies who are on a scout in the mountains after bushwhackers. I hope they will find some sort of shelter these stormy nights.
We all feel more hopeful than ever about an early close of the war. It looks to us as if General McClellan must succeed in forcing a battle that will decide the fate of the Rebellion. I do not expect we shall be released from duty for months, perhaps years, but it seems almost certain that a victory in eastern Virginia will decide the war.
I hope you will be able to see the little folks all gathered at Fremont as you anticipate. The boys look forward to it impatiently. Webb was six years old the day before yesterday. He is now to go at his books. His mind runs on horses more than on books. Birch is a very sincere believer in the efficacy of prayer in our common affairs and is finishing the war in that way, famously, as he thinks.
Love to all. — As Fremont is commander of this division, we expect prompt and rapid movements. I shall write to you rarely when we once set out. All important events occurring to me or this army you will know by telegraph. The wires still follow us wherever we go.
Affectionately, your son,
Mrs. Sophia Hayes.
Camp Hayes, Raleigh, Virginia, March 22, 1862.
Dear Webby : — You are six years old — a big boy. I want you to be a very good boy; tell the truth, and don’t be afraid. Learn to read and write, and you shall have horses to ride and a gun when you get a little bigger. You must learn to spell well, too. A man is ashamed if he can’t spell.
Tell Birch that the tall fifer that took Spencer is now playing the bugle, and plays well. His name is Firman. Good-bye.
R. B. Hayes.
Master Webb Hayes.
Raleigh, Virginia, March 22, 1862.
Dearest : — Your letters, 13th and 15th, reached me yesterday. Also the gloves and [percussion] caps. They suit perfectly.
You don’t know how I enjoy reading your accounts of the boys. Webb is six years old. Dear little fellow, how he will hate books. Don’t be too hard with him. Birch’s praying is really beautiful.
We are in the midst of one of the storms so frequent in these mountains. We call it the equinoctial and hope when it is over we shall have settled weather. It is snowing in great flakes which stick to the foliage of the pine and other evergreen trees on the hills, giving the scene in front of the window near me a strangely wintry appearance.
To kill time, I have been reading “Lucile” again, and you may know I think of you constantly and oh, so lovingly as I read. When I read it first we were on the steamer in the St. Lawrence River below Quebec. What a happy trip that was! It increased my affection for you almost as much as my late visit home. Well, well, you know all this. You know “I love you so much.”
We are all feeling very hopeful. We expect to move soon and rapidly, merely because Fremont is commander. I do not see but this war must be soon decided. McClellan seems determined, and I think he is able to force the retreating Manassas army to a battle or to an equally disastrous retreat. A victory there ends the contest. I think we shall be months, perhaps even years, getting all the small parties reduced, but the Rebellion as a great peril menacing the Union will be ended.
General Beckley, whose sword-belt Webby wears, came in and surrendered to me a few days ago. Mrs. Beckley brought me his note. She is a lady of good qualities. Of course, there were tears, etc., etc., which I was glad to relieve. The old general is an educated military gentleman of the old Virginia ways — weak, well-intentioned, and gentlemanly; reminds one of the characters about Chillicothe, from Virginia — probably of less strength of character than most of them. A citizen here described him to Dr. McCurdy as “light of talent but well educated.”
Gray, “the blind soldier” you saw at Camp Chase, is, I notice, on duty and apparently perfectly well. Gray, the orderly, you saw drunk is in good condition again, professing contrition, etc. McKinley is bright and clean, looking his best. Inquires if you see his wife.
So, you go to Fremont. You will once in a while see our men there, too. Some five or six Twenty-third men belong in that region.
You ought to see what a snow-storm is blowing. Whew! I had a tent put up a few days ago for an office. Before I got it occupied the storm came on and now it is split in twain.
Our regiment was never so fine-looking as now. It is fun to see them. No deaths, I believe, for two months and no sickness worth mentioning. Chiefly engaged hunting bushwhackers. Our living is hard, the grub I mean, and likely not to improve. Salt pork and crackers. The armies have swept off all fresh meats and vegetables. A few eggs once in a great while. Love to Grandma and all the boys.
Affectionately, as ever,
Saturday, 22.— Still snowing. I write home and to Mother this morning.
Captain R. B. Foley, of Mercer County signs himself Captain of Confederate Company; Captain Michael Hale, Raleigh, ditto; Joel F. Wood, James N. Wood, Wm. A. Walker, Geo. A. Walker, [and] Charles Walker (Rev.), all of Raleigh.
The foregoing people agree to remain peaceably at home if we will not molest them. I wrote as follows: “No citizen who remains peaceably at home and who neither directly nor indirectly gives aid or comfort to the enemies of the United States will be molested in person or property by the troops under my command.”
Saturday March 22nd 1862
We have been listening all day to the booming of Cannon and beating of Drums. Troops are constantly embarking at the Arsenal and marching through and about the City. But the tents on the hills back of the City do not seem to diminish in number, but most of the Regts are under marching orders to be ready in a few minutes when called upon to go. I[t] rained nearly all last night and rains tonight and the mud is almost as bad as ever in the streets, and the boys are again levying toll upon passengers at the crossings. — Doct David called this morning with another Surgeon. I think the Dr is a little homesick (very little). Comodore Foot is still throwing shells among the rebels at Island No 10. Yesterday the land forces were to arrive and act in concert with him. Went down to the Ave after dinner. Visited the “Ariated Bread” Bakery foot of 10th st. Went into some Machine Shops. Penn Ave was crowded to excess, Carriages, Hacks, Govt Wagons, stubborn mules refusing to go, drivers swearing, Soldiers marching, Drums beating, Bands playing, Dragoons and “orderlies” rushing through at great speed. Officers and Privates, Citizens & Congressmen, Negros & Newsboys, all hurrying to and fro on the broad Side walk without any order or regularity as regards turning “to the right.” All put together made a lively time of it, and I was not sorry to get away from the uproar and confusion of the Ave to a more quiet part of the City. The two elder boys have been up to the camp of the 98th today. They have gone to bed tired. Julia is reading her Spanish lesson. Wife has prepared a cup of tea & some ariated Bread & buter, and placed it invitingly near me on the table. We rarely get a regular “Tea” at night, dining past 4 renders it hardly necessary. It is usualy done in a sort of fugitive way about 8 or 9 o’clock, sometimes later. We cannot contrive to get to bed before about 11 o’clock, that is, myself and wife. Julia goes before 10 usualy, and the boys about 8.
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.
March 22, 1862.—H., Mr. R., and Mike have been very busy the last few days getting the acre of kitchen-garden plowed and planted. The stay-law has stopped all legal business, and they have welcomed this work. But to-day a thunderbolt fell in our household. Mr. R. came in and announced that he has agreed to join the company of volunteers. Annie’s Confederate principles would not permit her to make much resistance, and she has been sewing and mending as fast as possible to get his clothes ready, stopping now and then to wipe her eyes. Poor Annie! She and Max have been married only a few months longer than we have; but a noble sense of duty animates and sustains her.
Note: To protect Mrs. Miller’s job as a teacher in New Orleans, the diary was published anonymously, edited by G. W. Cable, names were changed and initials were often used instead of full names — and even the initials differed from the real person’s initials.
Headquarters of Vincent Collyer, Superintendent of the Poor at New Berne, N. C.—Distribution of Captured Confederate Clothing to the Contrabands.
Never has Shakespeare’s lines, “To what base uses may we not return,” had a more fitting illustration than the picture we give of the distribution of the clothes of the captured Confederates among the contrabands. As one of the Southern chivalry said, “This is adding insult to injury. You first entice our property to run away, and then you clothe them in the glorious uniform of the South.” It is needless to add that no insult was intended; it was simply the inevitable result of war.
March 22.—At Nashville, Tenn., Andrew Johnson delivered an eloquent and impressive address, on political affairs. There was nothing new in the remarks of the Governor, he merely dwelling upon the Northern views of the war, its origin and purposes; but he was listened to by many men, secessionists in sentiment, but former political friends of the Governor, who cannot fail to be influenced by his honesty.
—Yesterday a National reconnoissance in force was made from Camp Cumberland Ford to Cumberland Gap by infantry, cavalry and artillery. On arriving within one and a half miles of the Gap, an advance guard was thrown out, which came in contact with the rebel pickets and drove them in. A few shots were exchanged without loss. The forces encamped last night, building the fires out of range of the enemy’s guns. Considerable snow fell during the night.
Shortly after day this morning, firing commenced with skirmishes from the Unionists, to which the enemy responded from rifle-pits, now and then throwing a shell. The artillery was then brought into the field, some timber cut, and firing began in earnest. During tho day the battery, Capt Wetmore’s, fired about one hundred and fifty shots, while the rebels fired some two hundred, very few of that number reaching the position of the Union forces. No one was injured on the National side, nor was it known that any injury was done to the rebels, the distance being so great.— Louisville Democrat, March 29.
—A Union meeting was held in Fairfax Court-House, Va., this day. Speeches were made by Charles H. Upton, J. C. Underwood, and others. Resolutions were adopted expressing thanks to President Lincoln and Secretary Seward for their sagacity and wisdom in managing our domestic and foreign affairs, and appealing to Gov. Pierpont to order an early election for county officers.
—The Senate of Massachusetts to-day unanimously passed resolutions eulogizing Lieut.-Col. Merritt, Adjutant Stearns, and other lamented men of Massachusetts, who fell at the battle of Newborn.
—A Skirmish occurred between a detachment of the Sixth Kansas regiment and Quantrell’s band, near Independence, Mo. The latter were routed with seven killed. The Unionists lost one killed, and captured eleven prisoners and twenty horses. The rebels killed two of the Unionists, and burned the bridge over the Little Blue River.
—A Scouting party from the New-York Sixty-first regiment, while passing down the railroad from Manassas toward Warrenton, Va., were fired upon by a party of cavalry, supposed to belong to Stuart’s regiment Upon making a demonstration toward the assailants, the rebels fled in great haste. It was undoubtedly their intention to pick off a man or two; but they were fortunately beyond range, and thus failed in their object— N. Y. Herald, March 26.
—The Newbern (N. C.) Progress made its appearance to-day under new auspices, and altogether new management, with the following salutatory:
“We come before the people of North-Carolina an earnest advocate of that glorious Union which her patriotic ancestry so nobly aided to cement and establish.
“The Progress has been heretofore one of the most virulent and bitter opposers to the Government in the South, and its former proprietor, not satiated with treason already committed, has filled his cup of bitterness by openly taking up arms against the Union which so long fostered and nourished him.”
The Progress is edited by George Mills Joy, and is published by E. L. Davenport & Co.
London, March 21,1862
Nowhere has the condition of the western campaign been productive of better effects than in this country. The change produced in the tone towards the United States is very striking. There will be no overt acts tending to recognition whilst there is a doubt of the issue. It is nevertheless equally true that whatever ability remains to continue the contest is materially aided by the supplies constantly and industriously furnished from here. Every effort to run the blockade is made under British protection. Every manifestation of sympathy with the rebel success springs from British sources. This feeling is not the popular feeling, but it is that of the governing classes. With many honorable exceptions the aristocracy entertain it as well as the commercial interest. So did they in 1774. So did they in 1812. So will they ever, when their narrow views of British interests predominate. . . .
Steamer Daniel Webster, March 21, 1862.
Dear Hannah, — We are at anchor off Alexandria, having embarked on this fast steamer this afternoon.
We shall go to the dock to-morrow morning to take General Porter and horse on board, and I intend taking that opportunity to send this letter. I am forced to use red ink, as my inkstand is packed up. I feel pretty well used up, as I have been walking around carrying dispatches, my horse being on board ship. My foot has troubled me to-day, the first time for a long while. You know my toes have an unfortunate habit of getting out of joint and paining me excessively. I had it down at Port Royal. The next pair of boots I have made I shall have fixed in some peculiar way so as to remedy this if I can.
We shall probably start to-morrow morning, and reach our destination in 24 hours.
I am very tired and cannot write you a long letter. I am very sorry indeed to hear that Bill Horton is probably mortally wounded. How dreadfully his family must feel.
Please write the same as before and let me hear from you often. I don’t know how soon you will hear from me again. It may be some time before I have a chance to send you another letter. . . .
Friday March 21st
No definite news from Foot yet, the 19th he was still bombarding Island No 10 — people are now waiting again to hear from Genl Burnside — an immense force is moveing down the River. Norfolk & Richmond now. Stirring times these. Our arms are successful everywhere. The great “Anaconda” is closing its coils and wo[e] to those who do not escape in time. It is said that the traitor W L Yancy has been taken prisoner, he ought to be hung.
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.
MARCH 21ST.—Gen. Winder’s detectives are very busy. They have been forging prescriptions to catch the poor Richmond apothecaries. When the brandy is thus obtained it is confiscated, and the money withheld. They drink the brandy, and imprison the apothecaries.
Friday, 21st—It is cloudy and cold. Captain Chambers’ battery of six guns arrived today. Orders came for us to embark at once, and we struck our tents and got ready to start. After waiting six hours for the order to fall in, the order was countermanded and we had to pitch our tents again.
21st. Went out with a detail of twenty privates and two sergeants to cut wood for the regiment. Had twelve mule teams. Drew twenty-two loads. Saw a long overland train bound for Humboldt with crackers. Another train coming loaded with nine yoke of oxen. One wagon had 17 yokes stuck fast in the mire of the creek. California Overland Route.
Friday, 21. — Storm not over yet; snows P. M. . . . News of retreat of enemy after leaving Manassas. If McClellan pursues vigorously he will thrash or destroy them. A victory that crushes the Rebellion as a power. It may be a great annoyance afterwards but nothing more. Vigor, energy now for a few weeks and the thing is done. He (McClellan) ought not to have allowed them to steal away from him, but if he now crushes them he redeems it all and becomes the Nation’s idol. I hope he will do it. I do not quite like his views of slavery if I understand them; but his cautious policy if now followed by energy will be vindicated by the event.
March 21. Passing along Pollock, above Middle street, today, I was accosted by a man who was sitting on the veranda of his house and invited to come in, as he wished a talk with me. Noticing that he was a smart-looking, well-dressed, gentlemanly appearing man, and withal an M. D., according to his sign, I was nothing loth to gratify his whim. As I stepped up on the veranda, he invited me to be seated. After a little commonplace talk, he began to inquire about our troops, their number and where they were from. I told him only a few of our troops had landed, that the river and sound were black with them in case they should be needed, and nearly all of them were from New England. He said our capture of the city was wholly unexpected, and at the last moment nearly all the better class of citizens left, leaving their houses and property as we found them. He said in that he thought they had made a great mistake, as he regarded Gen. Burnside as an honorable, high-toned gentleman, who would have dealt fairly with them, if they had remained and taken their chances, and would have allowed them to go whenever they wished. I replied I didn’t know how that would have been, but I thought they had made another mistake in burning the railroad bridge and trying to burn the town. In doing as they have, they have shown that they had no regard for their property and they certainly cannot expect us to have much for it, although we have shown some in putting out the fires and saving it.
“Yes, I know,” he said, “but perhaps they thought they would show your people that they were willing to sacrifice their property and make a Moscow of it rather than let it fall into your hauds.”
“Well, sir,” said I, “in that they made another mistake, for if they had succeeded in burning it, it would have been no Moscow; we should have staid here just the same. Unlike Napoleon, we do not need the town; we care nothing for it; it is the position we want.”
“But you seem to occupy it?”
“Certainly we do, there is no one else to occupy it, and we may as well use it as not.”
“Do you propose to have us vacate our premises for your use?”
“Really, sir, I am not in the secrets of the general, but I presume that you and all others will be protected in your persons and property, so long as you remain loyal and show no opposition to the government.”
“Yes, sir, I supposed it would be something that way. What do you propose doing with that cotton down on the wharf.”
“That cotton belonged to the Confederate government, or at least they were using it against the Federal government, and like other government property it becomes the spoils of war, and some fine morning you will see it going down the river bound for some northern manufacturing city. After a few weeks it will be back here again in the form of tents for the use of the army.”
“Then you intend making this a permanent garrison?”
“We intend to hold this position just as long as it is of any use to us.”
“How long do you think this war will continue?”
“As things look now, I don’t think it can possibly hold more than a year longer, if it does so long.”
“Then you think in that time you can subjugate our people?”
“Well, sir, my opinion is that in less than eighteen months, every armed Confederate, unless he sooner surrenders, will be driven into the Gulf of Mexico.”
“You seem to be very sanguine in your opinion, sir; but then we all have our opinions, and I think after a year you will find you have made but little progress. I would like to ask for how long you have enlisted?”
“I have enlisted for three years, unless the job is sooner finished.”
“Well, sir, if nothing serious happens to you (which I really hope there will not), you will serve your three years, and then, unless your people give it up, you can again enlist, for I can assure you that our people will never give it up.”
“You think then, that with all the odds against you, you will finally succeed?”
“I certainly do; you see you Yankees are going to tire of this thing after a spell; you are not used to roughing it, and will soon weary of the hardships and privations of a soldier’s life. You Yankees had much rather be spinning cotton, making shoes, trading, speculating and trying to make money, than following the occupation of a soldier.”
“For a choice, there are probably very few of us who would select the occupation of a soldier, but you mistake the Yankee character entirely, if you think, having undertaken anything, they tire of it very easily. That was not the class of men they sprung from. They were an enterprising, untiring class of men; if they had not been, they would never have settled down among the rocks and hills of bleak New England and made of it the richest most intelligent and powerful little piece of territory the sun shines on. But, my friend, as all things earthly have an end, this will probably prove no exception, and in the end, your people will find that they have got the least value received for the money paid out of any speculation they ever engaged in, and will still find themselves a part and parcel of the United States, subject to all the rules and conditions of the government, in common with the rest of the states.”
After some further talk about state rights and state sovereignty, in which we could not agree, he invited me into his house. Here, like a true Southern gentleman, he entertained and extended hospitalities right royally, and I think we must have sampled his best bottle. He told me it was six years old, and from a silver goblet, I sipped the best native wine I ever tasted; it was rich, mellow and fruity. He said it was made from a choice variety of grape called the Scuppernong. It was really a splendid native wine, as so it appeared to me. After some more small talk, I bade my new found friend good day, and took my leave.
A damp, drizzly day, but I wanted to see Joe in camp once more, and we went down to Alexandria, where Mother and Hatty distributed a lot of sweet flowers to the poor fingerless, one-armed and broken-legged fellows in the hospital, while I went on.
Joe has only had command of the regiment these few days and I found him extremely busy reorganizing and getting it into condition for the advance. Each man has been thoroughly inspected and all deficiencies in clothing, etc., are being filled. He keeps the officers busy, has an informal class of instruction for some of them, and has been issuing orders for arrangements on the transports, precautions against fire, etc. I only stayed a very little while. On our return boat from Alexandria we had a chance to see eleven of the transports start down the river crowded with troops, the men cheering and tossing their hats. It was a fine and striking sight as the boats, densely packed with volunteers, moved out from the docks, the sun lighting up the sails and colors of the schooners and steamboats, the signal flags nodding and bobbing, and the bands playing lively tunes, while the crowds on shore cheered in response.
We met the Berdan sharpshooters marching down to embark, and shook hands with Will Winthrop and Capt. Hastings. As we drove into town, McClellan (looking old and careworn) and Franklin passed us, going out to the army.