Sunday, 25th—I stayed over night at Sparks’ and attended meeting at the grove again this morning. We had a basket dinner at noon. At the afternoon service the Lord’s Supper was observed. After the meeting we started for home, a distance of eleven miles.
Wednesday, 21st.– McNairy moved his battalion from Camp Schuyler, about thirty miles north, to Huntsville, the county seat of Scott County. This was the day of the noted “Big August” freshet. It rained so much that our wagon train did not get to Huntsville until next day. We took-shelter in the court-house.
Companies A and D were detached on the 25th and sent back to Camp Schuyler.
Quincy, Sunday, August 25, 1861
In my letter I begged you to go to work and try to make the two countries understand each other, for to my eye our foreign relations look very formidable. Why, when England and France are collecting fleets in our southern waters, do we all of a sudden hear rumors of a joint Mexican protectorate? It would be a blessing to mankind, but how will it complicate our relations? This cotton question is beginning to pinch and soon, if ever, if you have any desire to be useful to your country, backed by any energy, you can be useful where you are.
In my letter I asked you to touch England through her pocket. For some time past I have been turning over in my mind an elaborate article on this cotton supply question, but necessarily to be of any good to any one it must be directed more to English eyes than to ours. I touched on it in my last letter, and now I should like to hand it over to you, to see if you can do anything with it. I would write it for the Edinburgh or some really influential review or magazine, but to have effect it should appear in November, when the cotton-shoe will begin to pinch dreadfully, and I would force it into print by laying the plan of it before Mr. Motley or the Governor, or any other person likely to have influence on editors. That done throw your soul into your work and write as if you meant what you said. You always affect in writing too much calmness and quaint philosophy. That will come to you in time, but you do it now at the price of that fresh enthusiasm which is the charm of young writers. If you write now, write as if you were pleading a cause and too much interested to be affected. Throw your soul into your work and say what you feel. If you don’t check it, your mannerism will ruin your style in less than five years.
However now for the subject. The books you ought to review, or rather hang your subject on, are Mann’s Manual of Cotton, a book of about one hundred pages; the third annual report of the Manchester Cotton Supply Association and the numbers for May and June of the Cotton Supply Reporter of Manchester, and any new book dealing of the troubles in this country. If you accept the subject I have many curious facts collected, which I will send you at once. Start at once with the paradox that, instead of desiring to break this blockade, England should pray it might last for two years and if necessary assist in enforcing it, as if enforced its inevitable result must be, after one or at most two years of high prices, to forever break down the price of cotton to a reasonable profit over the cost of its cheapest possible production. This opens the whole question of supply. Two things are necessary to the production of cotton — an abundance of labor and a cotton soil. Look into the question of soil first. A semi-tropical heat, with a distribution of rain, are the only essentials. India has not the last and will not do; but Central and South America, all Africa (which is not desert), Australia and the Fiji Islands are better than our cotton states and need only organized labor. This with all the necessary material of ships, channels of trade, custom and experience, our planters have to such a degree that while they would furnish a fair supply of cotton on moderate terms, they could kill competition. Now is England’s chance to free herself from what has been her terror for years. In India, in Egypt in Abyssinia and in South Africa, there is an unlimited amount of cotton land of the finest quality and labor is abundant, costing almost nothing, but unorganized. Two years’ competition will organize it and once organized it can sell the South. In Australia, the South Sea islands and Central America, there is no labor and here the cooley question rises. Properly regulated the trade would be a blessing, for the Chinese amalgamates and California is in point as well as Dana’s reflections on Cuba. The books I have mentioned will give you all the information necessary on these points. This would bring cotton down to the cost, with a profit, of its production in cheap labor countries, say three pence a pound. But it would also lead to immense indirect advantages. As a missionary scheme Africa would be opened up and Livingstone’s discoveries made of use; slavery in America would be killed and the slave-trade closed for ever, as the African would be more useful at home than abroad. You will find in the first few pages of a new book called Social Statics more curious facts and reflections on England’s efforts at the suppression of the slavetrade, and this leads to the amount yearly expended in its suppression in this way, and which the consequent withdrawal of the fleet would save that government, and the amount England could thus afford to pay to promote the enterprise. Finally it would open the untold tropical fertility of Africa to the commerce of the world and these advantages cannot be estimated. Thus cotton would be produced on both sides of the equator all the year round in unlimited quantities, and England would have by two years’ suffering cut the meshes which she could never have broken.
On the other hand England breaks the blockade, or the South is victorious, England may then as well hug her chains, for she must wear them. The Southern confederacy will be aggressive and more slaves and more cotton will be the cry. In spite of England the slave-trade will flourish and their system will spread over Mexico and Central America. Then with the advantages of their organization, slave labor will win the day and England may look for competition in vain. The cotton monopoly will stifle her in the end. They will pretend in Parliament that the recognition of the Confederate States will not extend the area of slavery and all that humbug. Expose this, for it will be a victory of slavery. Recognition will mean war and the prostration at the feet of slavery of free society in America. England can do this if she chooses, but let her not deceive herself and let the results of her action be patent.
Finally the importance of this struggle cannot be overestimated. On the inviolability of the blockade and the consequent cotton pressure throughout the world hangs the destruction of American slavery, the eternal suppression of the slave-trade, the emancipation of England from a thraldom under which her great industrial interest has groaned for fifty years, and finally the civilization and awakening from Barbarism of the great continent of Africa. Even America, deprived of her monopoly, would reap advantage from the result, and this I tried to show in my article in the Atlantic of last April. Are not these results worth the agony of two years of half labor in Lancashire? Are they not worth fighting for? Can England hesitate as to which side her interest favors — as to what course she will adopt?
Here is a general sketch of my idea. I think it would be of service in England and if written as a man should write who is writing for his country at such a time as this, it would surely command attention. Any assistance I can give you I gladly will; but I earnestly beg you, even if this subject does not please you, to make yourself useful in your present position in some way of this kind. You can’t tell how much effect here a sympathetic word from England has now, and you can be of the greatest use if you only will. . . .
Went to church this morning with Julia & Brownson. The day has been delightful, quite a show of soldiers up 14th St., Infantry, Cavalry & Artillery of the Regular Army with a fine Band and Drum Corps. A long train of Army wagons also passed the house. Mr B & wife [Mrs Taft] went to church in the afternoon. Walked down to Lafayette Square and was awhile at Willards with Brownson, not much of a crowd there tonight. Saw Col Clark and Col Chambers, Hon Ira Harris there. Came home 1/2 past nine.
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.
August 25th.—I visited the Navy Department, which is a small red-brick building two storeys high, very plain and even humble. The subordinate departments are conducted in rooms below stairs. The executive are lodged in the rooms which line both sides of the corridor above. The walls of the passage are lined with paintings in oil and water colours, engravings and paintings in the worst style of art. To the latter considerable interest attaches, as they are authentic likenesses of naval officers who gained celebrity in the wars with Great Britain—men like Perry, McDonough, Decatur, and Hull, who, as the Americans boast, was “the first man who compelled a British frigate of greater force than his own to strike her colours in fair fight.” Paul Jones was not to be seen, but a drawing is proudly pointed to of the attack of the American fleet on Algiers as a proof of hatred to piracy, and of the prominent part taken by the young States in putting an end to it in Europe. In one room are several swords, surrendered by English officers in the single frigate engagements, and the duplicates of medals, in gold and silver, voted by Congress to the victors. In Lieutenant Wise’s room, there are models of the projectiles, and a series of shot and shell used in the navy, or deposited by inventors. Among other relics was the flag of Captain Ward’s boat just brought in which was completely riddled by the bullet marks received in the ambuscade in which that officer was killed, with nearly all of his boat’s crew, as they incautiously approached the shore of the Potomac, to take off a small craft placed there to decoy them by the Confederates. My business was to pave the way for a passage on board a steamer, in case of any naval expedition starting before the army was ready to move, but all difficulties were at once removed by the promptitude and courtesy of Mr. Fox, the Assistant-Secretary, who promised to give me an order for a passage whenever I required it. The extreme civility and readiness to oblige of all American officials, high and low, from the gate-keepers and door porters up to the heads of departments, cannot be too highly praised, and it is ungenerous to accept the explanation offered by an English officer to whom I remarked the circumstance that it is due to the fact that each man is liable to be turned out at the end of four years, and therefore makes all the friends he can.
In the afternoon I rode out with Captain Johnson, through some charming woodland scenery on the outskirts of Washington, by a brawling stream, in a shady little ravine, that put me in mind of the Dargle. Our ride led us into the camps, formed on the west of Georgetown, to cover the city from the attacks of an enemy advancing along the left bank of the Potomac, and in support of several strong forts and earthworks placed on the heights. One regiment consists altogether of Frenchmen—another is of Germans—in a third I saw an officer with a Crimean and Indian medal on his breast, and several privates with similar decorations. Some of the regiments were on parade, and crowds of civilians from Washington were enjoying the novel scene, and partaking of the hospitality of their friends. One old lady, whom I have always seen about the camps, and who is a sort of ancient heroine of Saragossa, had an opportunity of being useful. The 15th Massachusetts, a fine-looking body of men, had broken up camp, and were marching off to the sound of their own voices chanting “Old John Brown,” when one of the enormous trains of baggage waggons attached to them was carried off by the frightened mules, which probably had belonged to Virginian farmers, and one of the soldiers, in trying to stop it, was dashed to the ground and severely injured. The old lady was by his side in a moment, and out came her flask of strong waters, bandages, and medical comforts and apparatus. “It’s well I’m here’ for this poor Union soldier; I’m sure I always have something to do in these camps.” On my return late, there was a letter on my table requesting me to visit General McClellan, but it was then too far advanced to avail myself of the invitation, which was only delivered after I left my lodgings.
August 25th, 1861.
My dear Mother:
I am seated writing my usual Sunday letter, happy to state that my spirits are good and health excellent, as Uncle Charles will confirm. I was out drilling my men yesterday, when my attention was attracted by somebody nodding to me in a familiar style — a second glance told that it was Uncle Charley, and no other. I was much pleased at his kindness in looking me up, as well as to see him again. You will find he is looking well, and will learn from him that he entertains Republican sentiments of so decided a stripe that I, who was formerly a sort of an abolitionist, am obliged to confess myself a conservative in comparison. I received from Thomas a very pretty present, through the Express office, a few days ago. It consisted of a case containing knife, fork, spoon and cup — things which I shall find highly useful when on the march. When in Virginia before, provided with no such conveniences, fingers were obliged to adapt themselves to the performance of all the varied functions of “table services.” You ask for my address! I never can give you any fixed address, as no Regiment knows where it will be twenty-four hours in advance, but anything directed to the 79th Regiment, N. Y. S. M., Washington, will be forwarded without difficulty. I was in earnest in wishing that I was connected with some New England Regiment, but not in earnest as regards any intention of deserting my present post because of any difficulty attending it. As long as my friends stick by the 79th, I shall not surely be less faithful than are they. The wish to change arose from a desire to take part in the approaching battle to be conducted by McClellan, in which, it seemed probable, the 79th would be too much crippled to take any prominent part. Our Regiment is, however, now rapidly recovering from the effects of the battle and the intrigues of the old rum-selling officers now happily resigned. I have some responsibility resting upon me, as I am detailed to take sole charge of one of the Companies. I have the duties of Captain, 1st Lieutenant, and 2d Lieutenant, all combined, at present to perform, so I have little right to think of abandoning my post. In confidence I may add that possibly five or six of us may be transferred to a new Regiment by the Secretary of War. The Regiment would be under his patronage, and be called the “Cameron Highlanders.” In this new Regiment I most likely would be assigned the post of Captain. However neither say or think anything about this, as it is by no means determined yet. The letter from Fräulein Mathilde contained the kind wishes of the family, and an invitation to be present at her wedding which is to take place on the 1st of September. I find I have grown rusty in the German language, so that I had no little difficulty in deciphering the young lady’s epistle.
Have I written you that we are now encamped on Kosciusko’s farm? It is a pleasant spot, but damp. I hear we are to be marched off somewhere to-morrow. Report names Georgetown as our probable destination.
Uncle Charles is still in town I hear, but I cannot leave camp to visit him.
I will take the photograph question into consideration when we get paid off. Tell Lilly she must accept thanks and love for her kind letter, but I do not mean to answer it until after some success occurs.
Thank Mary for her kind intentions regarding writing me. Love to the little ones. Ask Will if he wants to be a soldier. Turly shall be made a Congressman, and get appointed Chairman of the Military Committee.
Love to all.
William T. Lusk.
Beverly, August 25. Sunday.—A cold night. Clear but foggy this A. M. No orders to march yet. Good! Provisions and provender, i. e. rations and forage, scarce and poor. Captain Clark, a spirited German (Prussian) officer of the “Greys,” dined us yesterday at Widow What’s-her-name’s hotel, Got letters here from Lute, Uncle, and Mother, with a Testament from Mother. Shall read it “in course”—through I mean; begin now.
BEVERLY, VIRGINIA, August 25, 1861, Sunday A. M.
DEAREST:—Supposing I might have to go on towards Cheat Mountain this morning, I wrote you a very short note last night I now write so soon again to show you how much I love you and how much my thoughts are on the dear ones at home.
I never enjoyed any business or mode of life as much as I do this. I really feel badly when I think of several of my intimate friends who are compelled to stay at home. These marches and campaigns in the hills of western Virginia will always be among the pleasantest things I can remember. I know we are in frequent perils, that we may never return and all that, but the feeling that I am where I ought to be is a full compensation for all that is sinister, leaving me free to enjoy as if on a pleasure tour.
I am constantly reminded of our trip and happiness a year ago. I met a few days ago in the Fifth Regiment the young Moore we saw at Quebec, who went with me to see the animals at Montreal one Sunday. Do you remember the rattlesnakes?
Young Bradford goes to Cincinnati today.—We have our troubles in the Twenty-third of course, but it is happiness compared with the Guthries—fine fellows and many fine officers, but, etc., etc.
We saw nothing prettier [last year] than the view from my tent this morning. McCook’s men are half a mile to the right, McMullen’s Battery on the next hill in front of us. The Virginia Second a half mile in front, and the Guthries to the left. We on higher ground see them all; then mountains, meadow, and stream. Nothing wanting but you and the boys.
I want to say to you it will be impossible often, as we get further in the hills, to write, and when I do write it will be only a few lines. Don’t think I am getting weaned from you and home. It is merely the condition of things compels me. I saw young Culbertson, looking strong and healthy, Channing Richards, the Andersons, etc., etc., all ditto. Young Culbertson is now in a scouting party that is after guerrillas who murdered some of their men in an ambulance.
I have got a new boy—a yellow lad in Guthrie Gray uniform, aged about sixteen, named Theodore Wilson.
Sunday evening.—Just got orders to go to Huttonsville. Look on my map of Virginia and you will see it geography style, but the beautiful scenery you will not see there. We are to be for the present under General Reynolds, a good officer, and then General Benham or General Rosecrans. All good. The colonel takes our one-half and the German half of McCook and the battery of McMullen. The soldiers are singing so merrily tonight. It is a lovely sweet starlit evening. I rode over to Colonel Sandershoff (I think that is the name of McCook’s soldierly and gentlemanly lieutenant-colonel) to tell him about the march, and from his elevated camp I could see all the camps, “sparkling and bright.” I thought of the night you walked with me about Camp Chase.
Good-night. Our most advanced outpost is connected by telegraph, so that in Cincinnati you will know what happens at an early date; earlier far than any letter of mine can reach you. Kisses to all the boys. Love to Grandma and affection enough for you, dearest.
R. B. HAYES.
P.S.—It would do mother good to know that I read three chapters in the Testament she sent me. Send a quarter’s worth of postage stamps in your next.
Sanitary Commission, Washington, D. C.
Treasury Building, Aug. 17th, 1861.
Miss Woolsey: In absence of Mr. Olmsted I answer your note in regard to supplies for the 25th N. Y. We will give immediate attention to this Regiment, and will gladly furnish them any supplies we have on hand for their comfort. There are now no beds or cases to fill with straw in the store-room of the Commission (but very few have ever been sent in). Mr. Olmsted, however, has sent for two hundred to be forwarded from New York as soon as possible, and when these arrive a supply shall be furnished to the 25th.
It has been the endeavor of the Secretary to send notice of the existence and objects of the Commission to the surgeon of each regiment: it may not have reached some, but the visits of the inspectors, now in progress, will ensure this notice to all.
Mr. Olmsted wishes to make the Regimental Hospital comfortable, but not to induce the regimental surgeons to retain patients who ought to be sent to the General Hospital.
I am glad to be able to add, that there is a reasonable prospect that a new General Hospital will be immediately established in or near Alexandria for the sick of the regiments in that vicinity.
With sincere regards,
Your obedient servant,
F. N. KNAPP, for
Fred’k Law Olmsted.
AUGUST 25TH.—I believe the Secretary will resign; but “immediate” still lies on his table.
News of a battle near Springfield, Mo. McCulloch and Price defeat the Federals, killing and wounding thousands. Gen. Lyon killed.
August 25th.—Mr. Barnwell says democracies lead to untruthfulness. To be always electioneering is to be always false; so both we and the Yankees are unreliable as regards our own exploits. “How about empires? Were there ever more stupendous lies than the Emperor Napoleon’s?” Mr. Barnwell went on: “People dare not tell the truth in a canvass; they must conciliate their constituents. Now everybody in a democracy always wants an office; at least, everybody in Richmond just now seems to want one.” Never heeding interruptions, he went on: “As a nation, the English are the most truthful in the world.” “And so are our country gentlemen: they own their constituents—at least, in some of the parishes, where there are few whites; only immense estates peopled by negroes.” Thackeray speaks of the lies that were told on both sides in the British wars with France; England kept quite alongside of her rival in that fine art. England lied then as fluently as Russell lies about us now.
Went to see Agnes De Leon, my Columbia school friend. She is fresh from Egypt, and I wished to hear of the Nile, the crocodiles, the mummies, the Sphinx, and the Pyramids. But her head ran upon Washington life, such as we knew it, and her soul was here. No theme was possible but a discussion of the latest war news.
Mr. Clayton, Assistant Secretary of State, says we spend two millions a week. Where is all that money to come from? They don’t want us to plant cotton, but to make provisions. Now, cotton always means money, or did when there was an outlet for it and anybody to buy it. Where is money to come from now?
Mr. Barnwell’s new joke, I dare say, is a Joe Miller, but Mr. Barnwell laughed in telling it till he cried. A man was fined for contempt of court and then, his case coming on, the Judge talked such arrant nonsense and was so warped in his mind against the poor man, that the “fined one” walked up and handed the august Judge a five-dollar bill. “Why? What is that for?” said the Judge. “Oh, I feel such a contempt of this court coming on again!”
I came up tired to death; took down my hair; had it hanging over me in a Crazy Jane fashion; and sat still, hands over my head (half undressed, but too lazy and sleepy to move). I was sitting in a rocking-chair by an open window taking my ease and the cool night air, when suddenly the door opened and Captain walked in.
He was in the middle of the room before he saw his mistake; he stared and was transfixed, as the novels say. I dare say I looked an ancient Gorgon. Then, with a more frantic glare, he turned and fled without a word. I got up and bolted the door after him, and then looked in the glass and laughed myself into hysterics. I shall never forget to lock the door again. But it does not matter in this case. I looked totally unlike the person bearing my name, who, covered with lace cap, etc., frequents the drawing-room. I doubt if he would know me again.
August 25.—This evening, Mr. William S. Johnston, a nephew of the rebel general of that name, and grandson of Mrs. Henry Gilpin, of Philadelphia, was arrested in that city as he was about leaving for the South. Mr. Johnston made no resistance whatever, and was taken to the Central station, accompanied by some friends, among whom was Townsend Ward, of Philadelphia. A strict examination of his effects was made by the District Attorney. In his trunk was found a large number of papers addressed to prominent Southern citizens, and a map of the seat of war in Virginia. His commission, however, was not discovered. After his examination, Mr. Johnston bade farewell to his friends, and was conveyed to Moyamensing prison in charge of the officers.—N. Y. Commercial, August 26.
—All the large craft, schooners, and sloops, and small rowboats and skiffs on the Potomac River, were seized by the Government authorities.—N. Y. Herald, August 27.
—A Union man named Moore was killed, and another named Neill mortally wounded, this afternoon, by a gang of five secessionists, at Shotwell Toll-gate, Ky., seven miles from Covington. Both men were stabbed in the back. A party of Unionists gave pursuit to the murderers, who fled toward the Tennessee line.— N. Y. Times, August 27.
—”Wm. Halsey, hailing from Ithaca, N. Y., was waited upon by a party of citizens at his hotel, in Scranton, Pa., and requested to leave town in three hours, or accept the alternative of riding out on a rail. He had given provocation beyond endurance, by endeavoring to induce parties to take the New York Day Book, and by uttering the rankest treason. He left precipitately.—N. Y. Times, August 27.
—William B. Taylor, the Postmaster of New York, received orders from “Washington that no more copies of the Journal of Commerce, the News, the Freeman’s Journal, or the Brooklyn Eagle, should be sent through the mails.—N. Y. Times, August 26.
—Egbert L. Viele, late Captain of the Engineer corps of the Seventh regiment, received his commission as Brigadier-General in the regular army. General Viele is a graduate of West Point, and served through the Mexican war, but of late years has been engaged in civil life as an engineer.—N. Y. Commercial, Aug. 26.
Saturday, 24th—I reached home this morning at daylight, having left Davenport late yesterday afternoon, riding out with a farmer to “the forks” of the Hickory Grove and the Allen’s Grove roads, and from there walked the twenty-one miles home, after night, all alone.
This is a fine day. I went over to Mr. Sparks’ and accompanied him to the grove out southwest of Tipton, to a camp meeting which is being conducted by the Christian church. We got there in time for the meeting.
Saturday 24.—Doctor and I laughed at a soldier who said it was Saturday. We thought it was Thursday. The finest day’s march yet. Streams, mountain views, and invigorating air! Reached Buckhannon [Beverly] at 2 P. M.; greeted by friends in the Guthries warmly—Captain Erwin, Captain Bense, Captains Tinker, Clark. Saw Tatem, sick, Charles Richards, Tom Royse, and others. Danger here; men killed and an enemy coming or near Cheat River. Ambulance guide and men of “Guthries” killed. We camped on a pretty spot. Captain McMullen’s howitzers and one-half of McCook’s regiment with us on the march. Ours the only band here.
BEVERLY, VIRGINIA, August, Saturday, 24 or 23, 1861.
DEAREST:—Your letters are all directed right—to Clarksburg, Virginia—got one from you, one from Uncle and one from Mother with a nice Testament today.
We marched from Buckhannon as I wrote you; but the rain stopped, the air was delicious, the mountain scenery beautiful. We camped at night in the hills without tents. I looked up at the stars and moon—nothing between me and sky—and thought of you all. Today had a lovely march in the mountains, was at the camp of the enemy on Rich Mountain and on the battlefield. Reached here today. Saw Captain Erwin and friends enough. It is pleasant. We had one-half of our regiment, one-half of McCook’s German regiment and McMullen’s Field Battery. Joe and I led the column. The Guthrie Greys greeted us hospitably. Men are needed here, and we were met by men who were very glad to see us for many reasons. We go to the seat of things in Cheat Mountain perhaps tomorrow.
I love you so much. Write about the dear boys and your kindred—that’s enough. Your letter about them is so good.
P.S.—My favorite horse has come out fine again (Webby first, I mean) and Webby second is coming out. Joe and I vote these two days the happiest of the war. Such air and streams and mountains and people glad to see us.
BEVERLY, VIRGINIA, August 24, 1861.
DEAR UNCLE:—Thank you for the postage stamps. The traitors at home, you need not fear. . . We are needed here. Shall march towards the enemy tomorrow again. I am better pleased with this than with the main army at Washington. . . .
R. B. HAYES.
BEVERLY, August 24, 1861.
DEAR MOTHER:—Fifty miles further in the mountains. Most lovely streams and mountains. My tent now looks out on a finer scene than any yet. Thank you for the Testament. I see war enough. I prefer to read something else. We expect to move on soon. We are at the jumping-off place. You will not hear often now.
R. B. HAYES.
MRS. SOPHIA HAYES.
Saw the President this morning 1/2 past 8. Applied for a Pay Mastership in the Army. Too many already appointed, gave me a line to Mr Seward. Came home and found Mr Brownson of Lyons at the house. Went with him and Julia up to Camp Cameron to see the “Anderson Zuaves.” Col Riker conversed awhile with the Chaplin Rev Mr Harvey from N[ew] Y[ork] Mills, Oneida Co[unty], NY. There is one Co[mpany] of the Zuaves who are Frenchmen, some of whom served in Africa. Mr Seward was there and reviewed the Regt, 1000 strong.
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.
Letter To The Editor Of The Lexington “Gazette.”
Camp Harmon, August 24,1861.
I do not merit the compliment paid me in a paragraph contained in a recent number of your paper, which gives me the position of leading a portion of the 4th Va. and 7th Geo. in the charge upon the enemy’s batteries. The 4th Va. was led by its gallant officers, Preston, Moore and Kent, and it was by order of Col. Preston, who was the first to reach the battery, that I placed the flag upon it. The 7th Geo. was led by one whom history will place among the noblest of the brave men whose blood stained the field of Manassas—the lamented Bartow; when he fell, then by its immediate commander, Col. Gartrell, until he was carried, wounded, from the field; and then, until the close of the day, by Major Dunwoodie, the next in command.
If the paragraph means, not leading, but foremost, the compliment is equally unmerited. In the midst of the terrible shower of ball and shell to which we were subjected, and whilst our men, dead and wounded, fell thick and fast around us, my associates in the command of our company, Letcher, Edmondson and Lewis, were by my side; the dead bodies of my comrades, Fred Davidson and Asbury McClure, attest their gallantry; and the severe wounds which Bowyer, Moodie, Northern, Neff and P. Davidson carried home show where they were. I witnessed, on the part of many of our company around me, heroism equal to that of those I have named; but as others whom, in the excitement of the occasion, I do not remember to have seen, did quite as well, I may do injustice to name whom I saw. Compared with the terrible danger to which we were exposed at this time, that seems trifling when, at a later hour and in another part of the field, the flag was placed on some of the guns of the Rhode Island battery, which the enemy were then leaving in rapid retreat, the day being already won, and the glories of Manassas achieved.
Again, I did not get the flag when Bartow fell, but sometime after, from the color-sergeant of the regiment, who, wounded, was no longer able to bear it.
The work done by Jackson’s Brigade and the 7th Geo., and the credit to which they are entitled, is stated in the following extract from the official report of Gen. McDowell: “The hottest part of the contest was for the possession of this hill with a house on it.” Here Jackson and his gallant men fought. Here the work of that memorable Sabbath was finished.
Note: This particular diary entry—a document written in 1861—includes terms and topics that may be offensive to many today. No attempt will be made to censor or edit 19th century material to today’s standards.
August 24th.—My servant came in this morning, to announce a trifling accident—he was exercising my horse, and at the corner of one of those charming street crossings, the animal fell and broke its leg. A “vet” was sent for. I was sure that such a portent had never been born in those Daunian woods. A man about twenty-seven or twenty-eight stone weight, middle-aged and active, with a fine professional feeling for distressed horse-flesh; and I was right in my conjectures that he was a Briton, though the vet had become Americanised, and was full of enthusiasm about “our war for the Union,” which was yielding him a fine harvest. He complained there were a good many bad characters about Washington. The matter is proved beyond doubt by what we see, hear, and read. To-day there is an account in the papers of a brute shooting a negro boy dead, because he asked him for a chew of tobacco. Will he be hanged? Not the smallest chance of it. The idea of hanging a white man for killing a nigger! It is more preposterous here than it is in India, where our authorities have actually executed whites for the murder of natives.
Before dinner I walked down to the Washington navy yard. Captain Dahlgren was sorely perplexed with an intoxicated Senator, whose name it is not necessary to mention, and who seemed to think he paid me a great compliment by expressing his repeated desire “to have a good look at” me. “I guess you’re quite notorious now. You’ll excuse me because I’ve dined, now—and so you are the Mr. &c, &c, &c.” The Senator informed me that he was “none of your d___d blackfaced republicans. He didn’t care a d___ about niggers—his business was to do good to his fellow white men, to hold our glorious Union together, and let the niggers take care of themselves.”
I was glad when a diversion was effected by the arrival of Mr. Fox, Assistant-Secretary of the Navy, and Mr. Blair, Postmaster-General, to consult with the Captain, who is greatly looked up to by all the members of the Cabinet—in fact he is rather inconvenienced by the perpetual visits of the President, who is animated by a most extraordinary curiosity about naval matters and machinery, and is attracted by the novelty of the whole department, so that he is continually running down “to have a talk with Dahlgren” when he is not engaged in “a chat with George.” The Senator opened such a smart fire on the Minister that the latter retired, and I mounted and rode back to town. In the evening Major Clarence Brown, Lieutenant Wise, a lively, pleasant, and amusing little sailor, well-known in the States as the author of ” Los Gringos,” who is now employed in the Navy Department, and a few of the gentlemen connected with the Foreign Legations came in, and we had a great international reunion and discussion till a late hour. There is a good deal of agreeable banter reserved for myself, as to the exact form of death which I am most likely to meet. I was seriously advised by a friend not to stir out unarmed. The great use of a revolver is that it will prevent the indignity of tarring and feathering, now pretty rife, by provoking greater violence. I also received a letter from London, advising me to apply to Lord Lyons for protection, but that could only be extended to me within the walls of the Legation.
AUGUST 24TH.—We are resting on our oars after the victory at Manassas, while the enemy is drilling and equipping 500,000 or 600,000 men. I hope we may not soon be floating down stream! We know the enemy is, besides, building iron-clad steamers—and yet we are not even erecting casemate batteries! We are losing precious time, and, perhaps, the government is saving money.
August 24th.—Daniel, of The Examiner, was at the President’s. Wilmot de Saussure wondered if a fellow did not feel a little queer, paying his respects in person at the house of a man whom he abused daily in his newspaper.
A fiasco: an aide engaged to two young ladies in the same house. The ladies had been quarreling, but became friends unexpectedly when his treachery, among many other secrets, was revealed under that august roof. Fancy the row when it all came out.
Mr. Lowndes said we have already reaped one good result from the war. The orators, the spouters, the furious patriots, that could hardly be held down, and who were so wordily anxious to do or die for their country—they had been the pest of our lives. Now they either have not tried the battleield at all, or have precipitately left it at their earliest convenience: for very shame we are rid of them for a while. I doubt it. Bright’s speech¹ is dead against us. Reading this does not brighten one.
¹ The reference is to John Bright, whose advocacy of the cause of the Union in the British Parliament attracted a great deal of attention At the time.
August 24.—Depredations by soldiers on the property of citizens of Elizabeth City and County, in Virginia, occasioned an order from Gen. Wool, in which marauders were threatened with severe punishment—(Doc. 4.)
—The Cameron Rifles, N. Y. S. V., commanded by Col. Robert J. Betge, struck their tents at Hudson City, N. J., and departed for the seat of war.—N. Y. World, August 26.
—The Nashville American of this day says: We very much regret to observe that in some quarters, that are generally regarded as highly influential in moulding and controlling public opinion in the South, there is betrayed an evident willingness to create strife or dissension among the leaders of that grand revolution which is now exciting the respect and admiration of the civilized world, and is destined to eventuate in placing the South among the foremost nations of this or any other age. Whether this spirit arises from mistaken zeal of opinion, undue ambition, or envy of the prominent position of some in the revolution, we shall not stop to inquire. Whether it originates in all or either of these causes, it is alike calculated to lead to the most serious and disastrous consequences, unless checked by the patriotic unanimity of the people, in frowning down these incipient steps to party division. All the power, resources, malignity, and hostility of the enemy could not now do us a heavier injury than could be done by an angry, determined and acrimonious dissension, in which the people could be induced to enlist their feelings and array their strength on the different sides.
There is, indeed, no greater calamity that could befall the great Southern cause at this time than for a spirit of jealousy to get the ascendency in the councils of the Confederacy, or a deep-seated dissension to arise with regard to the conduct of the war, the policy of finance, or any other measure that may claim the attention of the Administration. Unity of action is so clearly necessary to the Southern cause, that we do not deem it necessary to illustrate or enforce its importance by argument. To the present time it has proven the chief strength of the Confederate States. That there will necessarily be differences of opinion, cannot be doubted. These are inevitable. They are useful. They promote sound views and healthy action. But these differences should be surrendered when decision has given place to discussion, and when the proper authorities determine on their policy.
The great mass of the people are prepared to follow those, whom they have chosen to lead in the war, in whatever direction they may designate. They are, moreover, prepared to make whatever sacrifices in fortune, in privation, or even in life, that may be necessary to maintain their rights, liberties and independence, and to secure for themselves and children the blessings of constitutional freedom. They have the highest confidence in the courage, prudence, judgment, and patriotism of those they have selected to lead them. No amount of criticism can shake their confidence, until the acts of the leaders of the revolution shall demonstrate that they are incapable of conducting our cause to success.
Their superior statesmanship thus far vindicates their wisdom. We will rally as one man, the people of the Confederate States, one and all, to sustain their policy, because it has proven to be the best, the wisest, and most successful. We will listen to no mere cavil. We will not forget that the leaders of the Revolution of ’76 had their rivals, even amid the storms of war. And we will remember that the patriotism of our ancestors sustained their chosen leaders, frowned down discord, and saved the cause.— Nashville American August 24.
—This morning James G. Berret, Esq., Mayor of the city of Washington, was arrested at his residence by a portion of the Provost-marshal’s Guard, and conveyed northward by the early railroad train. The causes of his arrest are unknown to the public. Several days ago he declined to take the oath prescribed by the act of Congress for members of the Board of Police Commissioners.—Capt. Robert Tansill and Lieut. Thos. S. Wilson of the Marine Corps, who had tendered their resignations, were also arrested and conveyed to Fort Lafayette. Mrs. Phillips, wife of Philip Phillips, Esq., ex-member of Congress from Alabama, and Mrs. Greenhow, widow of the late Robert Greenhow, were arrested on the charge of holding correspondence with the Confederates.—National Intelligencer, August 26.
—Last evening, while ex-Governor Thomas was addressing a crowd in front of a hotel at Cumberland, Va., some secessionists raised a disturbance which resulted in their being driven home and the destruction of the Alleghanian office, a secession newspaper. This morning the train bound West, which had ex-Governor Thomas aboard, when near Cumberland, came suddenly on several cross-ties thrown across the track, and at the same time a number of armed men were seen rapidly descending a neighboring hill. The engineer increased the speed of the locomotive, and succeeded in throwing the ties off the track with but little damage to the engine. Some Federal scouts then fired into the train, it is supposed by mistake, but without doing any damage. The design of the secessionists was to take ex-Governor Thomas prisoner.—(Doc. 5.)
—The True American, the Democratic organ of New Jersey, published at Trenton, suspended this morning, giving as a reason for the act that the National authorities had virtually interdicted the publication of every paper that did not support the Government and Administration.—N. Y. Times, August 26.
—Two attempts were made in Connecticut to raise peace flags—one of which failed, while the other was successful. The first was at Stepney, ten miles north of Bridgeport. According to previous announcement a meeting was to have been organized after the raising of the flag. No sooner was the flag hoisted, however, than the Union men made a rush for it, pulled it down, and tore it into shreds. A Union meeting was then organized, which passed a series of Union resolutions. Soon after the Farmer newspaper office, published in Bridgeport, was demolished, notwithstanding the efforts of prominent citizens to prevent it. The other flag-raising was at New Fairfield, where about four hundred persons were engaged in the enterprise. An attempt was made by about seventy Union men to pull the flag down, and a desperate fight ensued, in which two of the “peace” men were seriously injured.—(Doc. 6.)
—To-day a detachment of Col. Richardson’s Home Guards arrived at Jefferson City, Mo., from an expedition to Jamestown. This place is about twenty-three miles above Jefferson City. The soldiers left on Wednesday on board the steamer Iatan. They took no provisions with them, there being plenty of rebels in the vicinity they intended visiting, and were ordered to quarter themselves on the secessionists. At Sandy Hook they discovered eight mounted rebels on the bank, who, on seeing the steamer coming, fled. Ten men were immediately detached in pursuit of them, and, coming within sight of the rebels, fired. Two of them immediately dismounted and, leaving their horses, escaped into the woods— the horses and two fine double-barrel shot-guns were captured, and a lieutenant’s uniform fell also into the hands of the Nationals.
One of the horses had a sabre cut across the head, and the rider was known to have been engaged in the battle at Springfield. Meanwhile, the balance of the force were marched to Jamestown. About four miles from Sandy Hook they arrested two of the most noted secessionists in the whole State, George Jones and C. Hickox, besides seven other of lesser note. From the first-mentioned, who is a wealthy farmer, the troops took ten horses, and plenty of fodder and provisions from all the rebels in the vicinity. They returned with twenty horses and a considerable quantity of provisions and nine prisoners. One of the prisoners, put on a confession, divulged the names of all the men, eighteen in number, who fired the other day with such fatal effect upon the railroad trains. Jones was the President of the Knights of the Golden Circle. The property of the Union men was left untouched. —Dubuque Times, August 27.
—Hamilton E. Gamble, Governor of Missouri, at Jefferson City, issued a proclamation calling for forty-two thousand troops to aid the Federal Government in expelling the forces of Ben McCulloch from the State.—(Doc. 7.)
—The Memphis Argus of this day publishes the following proclamation from the Mayor of that city:
“To the Citizens of Memphis: Applications hare repeatedly been made to me, as executive officer of the city, for protection against indiscreet parties who are sent out to impress citizens into service against their will on steamboats. Many of these men have been dragged from their beds, wives, and children, but never has there been a man taken who had on a clean skirt. I hereby notify any citizen who may wish a pass within the city of Memphis to call on me, and I will furnish the same, and will see he will be protected. One poor man being shot yesterday by one of these outlaws, as they may be called, causes me to give the above notice.
“John Park, Mayor.”
Friday, 23d—There is so much delay in completing the company that the boys are beginning to think there is no hope of getting our company full. Some of the boys are joining other companies. While waiting, those who wish may leave camp on passes. I got a pass to go home for two or three days.
Boston, August 23, 1861
I did n’t get your letter of the 5th until the steamer of the 21st was gone, so I telegraphed to Mr. Motley at Halifax, as I did n’t want to have you come blundering home under the impression that I had been ordered off, and now I will at once answer your letter. If you insist upon coming home and getting a commission, of course you are of age and no one can gainsay you. I don’t favor the idea myself for reasons which I will give you presently; but still if you insist I shall be glad to aid you and will do so. In this war some things are getting clear every day and one is that volunteers won’t do, and another that haste makes waste. If you insist on going, Ritchie advises that you should get a commission in the regular army and go into that. It will be cut down at the end of the war and meanwhile you’ll escape the curse, nuisance and danger of volunteers. If your mind is made up I will apply for you and you can doubtless get your commission and be ready for a winter campaign. Meanwhile you’ll gain nothing but blunders by rushing ahead so like the devil.
So much for that; and now allow me to state some considerations which should prevent your coming home at all. I have three in my mind, and first one relates to myself. I am trying, as well as I may, to do what strikes me as my first duty at home. It is very hard for me to stay here, and no one gives me credit for doing it for any cause save fear; but the truth is the Governor is abroad in the public service, and property was never so difficult of management as it now is. . .. Under these circumstances I concluded very reluctantly I ought to stay at home if I could, and I think you ‘ll agree I was right.
Have n’t I difficulties enough without your piling up new ones? If you insist on this step, I have no election but, at any sacrifice, must go too. The reason is obvious, for while I am single and robust and John remains at home, the world cannot go into these domestic questions, and your coming home in a hurry to get a commission, while I remained in Boston, would be regarded as a most decided implication on my courage. You can’t but see this, and as for your taking a commission under me, it’s bad enough to have a hundred men you don’t care for to look after; but when it comes to looking after a brother and having your attention taken up by what may be occurring to him, it would be intolerable. Besides I expect drafting will have to begin before long and then I have made up my mind to go, and if I go, I think the family in supplying two out of four to the public service does enough, and you ought to stay at home.
In the next place I think decidedly you ought to stay abroad and remain with your father and mother. No one knows what may happen in these days—a foreign war is possible, even an English war — and difficulties you do not now see may any day spring up, and for one I think most decidedly that while times are so troubled our father and mother have got to an age when they ought not to be deserted abroad by all of their children.
Finally, the most weighty consideration to my mind I reserve for the last. Of course you make this a question of usefulness and duty. You are not particularly well fitted for the army and your object, is to be of service to your country. As for distinction and all that sort of thing, when the whole country is rushing into the army it is hardly the place to look for a chance. Where can you be most useful in this emergency? The answer is to my mind too clear to admit of discussion. The rush for commissions is tremendous and you can only get one by shoving somebody equally capable with yourself aside, and you can really do no service, if you get one, which would not be equally well done if you were away. Where you now are you are useful to the whole country and, like a coward, you want to run home because our reverses make the post abroad into which fortune has thrown you very uncomfortable. You fight our battle in England and let us alone to fight it here. There are men enough here, but there your place, if you leave it, must remain empty.
You’ll say, you can’t do anything and have no opening. What could a second lieutenant in an infantry regiment do that would be so immense? Is that a prodigious opening? Go to work at once in England with all your energy and force your way into magazines and periodicals there and in America, so that you can make yourself heard. For there is going to be difficulty about this blockade and much bad feeling, though, God grant, no blows. For heaven’s sake try to influence that and don’t throw yourself away by rushing into this mob of bruisers. Try to raise people up a little. Look into the cotton supply question and try to persuade the English that our blockade is their interest. If they raise it and transfer it to our coasts, they have the power to do so, but they ally themselves with slavery — give it the victory, give the lie to their own protestations and secure to the South for years with the advantage of their system of labor and production that monopoly of cotton under which England groans. If the blockade lasts and forces supply, England will purchase, at the price of one year’s suffering, freedom and plenty for ever. Touch England through her pocket and help your country that way.
Then write to the Atlantic of the way fighting America appears in English eyes, of her boasting and bragging, her running and terror; tell us of the pain she causes her children abroad and how foolish her angry threats sound, and help your country that way. Here is your field, right before your nose, in which you could be of real service, and you want to rush away to do what neither education nor nature fitted you for — what others could do as well or better, and get your head knocked off without doing the least good. If you have any energy use it where you are and where it can be of value. If you have n’t any keep out of the army. Talk of backing the Governor up in the Times in these days! We’ve got beyond all that, I hope. For God’s sake take a broader view and make yourself heard where a voice is wanted. Don’t talk of your connection with the legation to me; cut yourself off if necessary from it and live in London as the avowed Times correspondent and force your way into notice of the London press that way. Wake up and look about you and make yourself useful and don’t jog on in this cart horse way, or brag over your harness and wish yourself a blood-horse, with McClellan, instead of a jackass who can’t break his traces. There, I have blown my blast and have done, and you can do as you see fit. Free from the legation you could earn a living by your pen in London and be independent, busy, happy and eminently useful. If you come home you won’t be of the slightest use to any one, and you will have deserted your post. Now if you want a commission let me know and I’ll do my best for you; but have nothing to say to Horace Sargent. He is n’t the man and I know him.’
We’ve had a bad panic, but it seems to be over now and I think they were wise in refusing the battle.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 23, 1861.
A fine bright day. Went to the Presidents at 1/2 past 8. Many members of the Cabinet there to see him and officers of the Army. I was not able to see him in private. Genl McClellan was there and Col Baker and Col Duryee and Genl J.W. Denver and other distinguished characters. Rcd letter from C R Taft today. Called at Willards, officers plenty there. N P Willis there and Doct Russell, the corrispondant of the “London Times.” Went down to see the dress Parade of the “Regulars” with Julia and Chas and Sallie.
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.
August 23rd.—The torrent is swollen to-day by anonymous letters threatening me with bowie knife and revolver, or simply abusive, frantic with hate, and full of obscure warnings. Some bear the Washington post-mark, others came from New York, the greater number—for I have had nine—are from Philadelphia. Perhaps they may come from the members of that “gallant” 4th Pennsylvania Regiment.
23d.—Colonel _______ to-day complains that I have too much force employed in the hospital, and says that he will cut it down. The regulations allow ten nurses and two cooks to the regiment, besides Surgeons, and Hospital Steward. All I have, are three nurses and two cooks. Will he dare to cut that down? Should he do so I will “try conclusions” as to his authority to do it. Three nurses, for one hundred sick, and that must be cut down! Nor is this all. The Quartermaster, taking his cue from the Colonel, refuses to acknowledge our right to a hospital fund, and I therefore get but few comforts for the sick, except through charity or a fight for it. It is to be hoped that these officers will, by a little more experience, become better posted in their duties, and that the sick will not then be considered interlopers, or intruders on the comforts of the regiment. I forgot to say, in the proper place, that we are brigaded, forming a part of Gen. Rufus King’s brigade, composed of four regiments.
I have not yet donned the full uniform of my rank, and there is scarcely a day passes that I do not get a reproving hint on the subject from our Colonel. A few days ago, whilst in Baltimore, he came to me almost railing at certain army officers for appearing in citizens’ dress. “There,” said he, “is Major B., Major K., Gen. D., Doct. N. P., all of the regular army, and not one of whom can be distinguished from a private citizen.” “Colonel,” I replied, “they probably fear being mistaken for volunteer officers. He did not feel flattered, but dropped the subject. Since I came here, I think I can tell a man’s calibre by his shoulder-straps. The amount of brain is generally in inverse proportion to the size of his straps.
Friday 23.—Clear, bright day; mud and water in the road but a bracing air and blue sky overhead. Men marched with spirit. Lovely mountain views and clear mountain streams always in sight. Camped on the mountainside in the road; no tents pitched. Colonel and Dr. Joe slept in ambulance. I fixed up our cots under the blue canopy, near a roaring mountain stream, and with Adjutant Fisher watched the bright star near the Great Bear, perhaps one of that constellation, which I conjectured was Arcturus, until the moon came in sight. Slept in snatches and was refreshed.