April 27th.

What a day! Last night came a dispatch that New Orleans was under British protection, and could not be bombarded; consequently, the enemy’s gunboats would probably be here this morning, such few as had succeeded in passing the Forts; from nine to fifteen, it was said. And the Forts, they said, had not surrendered. I went to church; but I grew very anxious before it was over, feeling that I was needed at home. When I returned, I found Lilly wild with excitement, picking up hastily whatever came to hand, preparing for instant flight, she knew not where. The Yankees were in sight; the town was to be burned; we were to run to the woods, etc. If the house had to be burned, I had to make up my mind to run, too. So my treasure-bag tied around my waist as a bustle, a sack with a few necessary articles hanging on my arm, some few quite unnecessary ones, too, as I had not the heart to leave the old and new prayer books father had given me, and Miriam’s, too; — pistol and carving-knife ready, I stood awaiting the exodus. I heaped on the bed the treasures I wanted to burn, matches lying ready to fire the whole at the last minute. I may here say that, when all was over, I found I had omitted many things from the holocaust. This very diary was not included. It would have afforded vast amusement to the Yankees. There may yet be occasion to burn them, and the house also. People fortunately changed their minds about the auto-da-fé just then; and the Yankees have not yet arrived, at sundown. So, when the excitement calmed down, poor Lilly tumbled in bed in a high fever in consequence of terror and exertion.


Sunday, April 27.—Mr. Johnson and my brother called on me this morning, and we took a walk round Corinth. The day is very beautiful. Nature is putting forth her glories, and smiling, as if in mockery of the passions which are raging in the heart of man, whom God has made a “little lower than the angels,” and who would be so if sin did not deface him. Here are two immense armies, ready at any moment to rush upon each other, and deal death and destruction around them.

We visited one of the hospitals, in a church. Dr. Capers was the surgeon in charge; he is from Mississippi. He was very kind, and took us all through it, and showed us some of the most emaciated human beings that I ever beheld. He informed us that they were thus reduced by drinking poisoned whisky, a sad commentary on the maker and vendor. But what will man not do for the god, Mammon? Ruin his fellow-mortals, soul and body!

The hospital was in good order, and the patients looked cheerful. An Irish lady is in it. She is from Louisiana, and, from all I hear, has done much good in the service. She is a woman of strong nerve. She told me that, on the night following the battle of Shiloh, she visited the battle-field in search of her son, who she thought was killed or wounded, but he was neither.

As we have no chaplain, we have no service. I read the Bible and other books to the men, and they are much pleased to have me do it. I have met with none who have not respect for religion. They are mainly Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians, and some few Roman Catholics. A young man by the name of Love is here, badly wounded. He is from Texas, and informed me that he was one of nine brothers in the service. Three, I think, were killed in the battle of Manassas. He wishes that he were better, so that he could go into the army again.


Near Yorktown, Va.,

Sunday, April 27, 1862.

Dear Sister L.:—

I have nothing more to do to-day, but it is not so with all the regiment. I can hear them calling the roll in some of the other companies, and one company just passed armed with “Irish spoons,” going out to work in the trenches. Six of our companies, including K, went out at daylight yesterday and worked all day in the rain. It was a very disagreeable day and we came back at night soaked through, cold and hungry, but as merry a lot of fellows as you ever saw. You won’t understand the thing very well unless I describe it particularly. I think I told you about there being a large field in front of the forts. A trench four feet deep and twelve feet wide and over a mile long is to be dug on this side of the field just in front of the woods. We followed a road up one of the ravines till we came to our pickets and then one by one crept cautiously up into the ditch. A ditch two or three feet deep and wide enough to walk in had been dug during the night and dirt thrown up in front so that by stooping down we were concealed. One thousand men filed in there the whole length of the ditch and then each one laying his gun on the bank within reach, commenced picking or shoveling the dirt up on to the bank. The rebel forts were in plain sight and their sharpshooters were within thirty rods of us, hidden in rifle pits, so that, if a fellow got his head above the bank, he might get a bullet in his cap. We soon got a bank high enough to stand up behind and then it would have done you good to see the dirt go out of that ditch. Many hands make light work, and I tell you our regiment and the Sixty-second handled a pile of dirt. We had two reliefs—I went in at 6 o’clock and worked till noon and then the other relief worked till night. Last night there were 10,000 men at work all night and as many more to-day, so you may guess there is something going on here. George says that when he gets ready, he will throw one hundred and thirty shells per minute into each of those forts. I think there will be lively dodging there if nobody is hurt. Oh, we are gaining on them slowly but surely.

When I was out on picket 1 cut a hickory stick that grew on Washington’s old breastwork. I picked up a sccesh bullet there too and brought them into camp. I thought I would make something out of them to remember Yorktown by, so I whittled out a tatting needle and made a rivet of the bullet and I send it to you. It is a poor thing I know, but the stick was green and I had nothing but a knife to make it with. After it gets seasoned you can get C. to smooth and polish it up, but I can’t get anything here to do it with.

There is not much firing lately and some deserters say that the rebels begin to think they will have to surrender at last. I guess they will think so when George gets ready to make them.

Harriet Roosevelt Woolsey to Georgeanna.

Ebbitt House, April 27.

Everybody was delighted with what you left in Washington for the hospitals. Some of the jellies and wine (I found a whole box of it left without orders), and some shoes, I took over to Georgetown to Mrs. Russell, who was just out of all. Mother is going about the room indignant still at the Bank, and “expects to have every policeman in the city tapping her on the shoulder to know the facts of the case.” We try not to miss you, but yesterday was very like Sunday, much more quiet and Sabbath-like than when you were here; to-day we have had the bank excitement to keep us busy.

The “bank excitement” is the little incident recounted in the Evening Star as follows:

A Cool Operation.—This morning, Mrs. C. W. Woolsey went to the Bank of the Metropolis to draw the money for two checks of a hundred dollars each. Unacquainted, apparently, with business of the sort, she stepped into the bank, and instead of applying at the counter, presented them to a person who was standing at a desk outside, and returned to her coach. This person presented the checks to the paying teller, who refused to pay because they lacked Mrs. Woolsey’s endorsement. He took a pen and went out to the coach and returned with the checks properly endorsed. They were paid, and the fellow made off with the money, leaving the lady minus.

The man had just the right business manner, not too polite—stepped out without his hat as if he had left his desk to oblige a lady. He was thanked for his courtesy, and left “right sudden” with the funds.

It was hardly fair in us to run Mother on this winding up of her triumphant career in Washington, which city, as she indignantly said, she “left, under the full recognition of several of the Metropolitan police!”

Newport, R. I, April 27,1862.

Dear A., — I am thinking of going to Yorktown. How should you view it? The Sanitary Commission has to-day sent off from Washington a large steamship to be fitted up as a hospital transport. Mrs. Griffin has gone down in her with Mr. Olmsted, and by his request. I have great confidence in her. She is a lady, whose presence is guarantee enough that I, or any other woman, may go there with propriety. She is very efficient, and I should be satisfied in working under her. In short, I have written to her to send for me if they want me; the letter went yesterday. I suppose this will rather startle you. But why should it not be done? My work here is closing. Colonel Vinton (Quartermaster-General in New York) sends me to-day the flannel for the last ten thousand shirts which close my present contract; I have just drained the community dry as to hospital supplies, and the churches have lately sent in $1,800 (making $5,500 which I have received since we began in April, 1861). A drawing together of circumstances seems to point to this thing, and I enter upon it as if it were obviously the next thing to be done.

I have said nothing about it to any one, nor shall I till I hear from the Commission. You must stand by me if the plan meets with disapproval here.


April 27th.—New Orleans gone¹ and with it the Confederacy. That Mississippi ruins us if lost. The Confederacy has been done to death by the politicians. What wonder we are lost.

The soldiers have done their duty. All honor to the army. Statesmen as busy as bees about their own places, or their personal honor, too busy to see the enemy at a distance. With a microscope they were examining their own interests, or their own wrongs, forgetting the interests of the people they represented. They were concocting newspaper paragraphs to injure the government. No matter how vital it may be, nothing can be kept from the enemy. They must publish themselves, night and day, what they are doing, or the omniscient Buncombe will forget them.

This fall of New Orleans means utter ruin to the private fortunes of the Prestons. Mr. Preston came from New Orleans so satisfied with Mansfield Lovell and the tremendous steam-rams he saw there. While in New Orleans Burnside offered Mr. Preston five hundred thousand dollars, a debt due to him from Burnside, and he refused to take it. He said the money was safer in Burnside’s hands than his. And so it may prove, so ugly is the outlook now. Burnside is wide awake; he is not a man to be caught napping.

Mary Preston was saying she had asked the Hamptons how they relished the idea of being paupers. If the country is saved none of us will care for that sort of thing. Philosophical and patriotic, Mr. Chesnut came in, saying: “Conrad has been telegraphed from New Orleans that the great iron-clad Louisiana went down at the first shot.” Mr. Chesnut and Mary Preston walked off, first to the bulletin-board and then to the Prestons’.


¹ New Orleans had been seized by the Confederates at the outbreak of the war. Steps to capture it were soon taken by the Federals and on April 18, 1862, the mortar flotilla, under Farragut, opened fire on its protecting forts. Making little impression on them, Farragut ran boldly past the forts and destroyed the Confederate fleet, comprising 13 gunboats and two ironclads. On April 27th he took formal possession of the city.


April 27.—The people of Franklin County, Mo., met and passed resolutions in support of the Emancipation Message of President Lincoln, and sustaining the measures of the National Government adopted for the prosecution of the war.—(Doc. 152.)

Mansfield Lovell, General late in command of the rebel forces at New-Orleans, La., telegraphed to Richmond as follows from Camp Moore, La.: — “Forts Jackson and St Philip are still in good condition, and in our hands. The steamers Louisiana and McRae are safe. The enemy’s fleet are at the city, (New-Orleans), but they have not forces enough to occupy it. The inhabitants are stanchly loyal.”

—Fort Livingston, La., was this day evacuated by the rebel forces.—National Intelligencer, May 10.

—Gen. Beauregard, at Memphis, Tennessee, issued the following address to the planters of the South:—”The casualties of war have opened the Mississippi to our enemies. The time has therefore come to test the earnestness of all classes, and I call upon all patriotic planters owning cotton in the possible reach of our enemies to apply the torch to it without delay or hesitation.”—Missouri Democrat.

—Purdy, Tennessee, was evacuated by the confederates.—Memphis Argus, April 29.


View of Confederate works near Yorktown

(click on image to view larger version)

Enemy’s works as viewed from a Federal position

Morgan collection of Civil War drawings (Library of Congress)

  • Published as: The enemy’s works near Yorktown in Harper’s Weekly, May 3, 1862, pp. 280-1.
  • Inscribed above image: Rebel camp and earthworks; Men at work in the trenches; Camp among trees; House burnt by the rebels; Rifle pits behind fence. Inscribed below image: signal officer on duty.

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Catalog

This envelope and additional information may be found here at the Library of Congress


April 26— To-day a party of Yanks almost succeeded in capturing a train of forage wagons that was gathering supplies in the neighborhood of McGaheysville, seven miles from Conrad’s Store, in the direction of Harrisonburg. But as usual some of Ashby’s ubiquitous watchdog cavalrymen were there, fought and drove the Yanks away and saved all the wagons, to the great delight of some scared teamsters.


Camp Number 2, near Raleigh, Virginia, Saturday, April 26, 1862. — The sky is still overcast. We shall move on five miles today if it clears up.

At General Beckley’s residence are the females of three families. Mrs. Beckley and all cried when we left. One young lady, Miss Duncan, has a lover in Company F; Miss Kieffer, in hospital staff, and all the other damsels in the like category. They all speak of our regiment as such fine men! We burned all their rails! Will pay for them if General Beckley is discharged.

At 10 o’clock marched to Shady Spring; camped on a fine sandy piece of ground belonging to Dr. McNutt. The Secesh burned the dwelling, the doctor being a Union man. Floyd camped here also. A large spring gives the name to the place. The water gushes out copiously, runs on the surface a few rods and runs again into the earth. The grass is starting. The horses of the cavalry were turned loose on it and played their liveliest antics. The sun came out bright, a clear, bracing breeze blowing. Altogether a fine afternoon and a happy time.


APRIL 26TH.—Gen. Lee is doing good service in bringing forward reinforcements from the South against the day of trial—and an awful day awaits us. It is understood that he made fully known to the President his appreciation of the desperate condition of affairs, and demanded carté blanche as a condition of his acceptance of the position of commanding general. The President wisely agreed to the terms.


Saturday, 26th—Our regiment is now brigaded with Iowa soldiers, the brigade being completed today. Our brigade is composed of the Eleventh, Thirteenth, Fifteenth and Sixteenth Iowa Infantries, with Colonel Crocker in command.[1] We were inspected today by the general inspector of the army, and had all our accouterments on.

[1] ‘The brigade dating from April 27, 1862, became known as “Crocker’s Iowa Brigade.” It remained together throughout the war and maintains an organization to this day.—A. G. D.


April 26th. The Mayor of the city has surrendered it to Flag-officer Farragut, and a battalion of marines, under Capt. J. L. Broome, went ashore to raise the Stars and Stripes, but were opposed by the citizens and returned to the ship. In the afternoon we went up to Carrollton and captured sixty or eighty guns without firing a shot, they having been deserted and the gun carriages destroyed.


April 26th, 1862.

There is no word in the English language that can express the state in which we are, and have been, these last three days. Day before yesterday, news came early in the morning of three of the enemy’s boats passing the Forts, and then the excitement began. It increased rapidly on hearing of the sinking of eight of our gunboats in the engagement, the capture of the Forts, and last night, of the burning of the wharves and cotton in the city while the Yankees were taking possession. To-day, the excitement has reached the point of delirium. I believe I am one of the most self-possessed in my small circle; and yet I feel such a craving for news of Miriam, and mother, and Jimmy, who are in the city, that I suppose I am as wild as the rest. It is nonsense to tell me I am cool, with all these patriotic and enthusiastic sentiments. Nothing can be positively ascertained, save that our gunboats are sunk, and theirs are coming up to the city. Everything else has been contradicted until we really do not know whether the city has been taken or not. We only know we had best be prepared for anything. So day before yesterday, Lilly and I sewed up our jewelry, which may be of use if we have to fly. I vow I will not move one step, unless carried away. Come what will, here I remain.

We went this morning to see the cotton burning —a sight never before witnessed, and probably never again to be seen. Wagons, drays, — everything that can be driven or rolled, — were loaded with the bales and taken a few squares back to burn on the commons. Negroes were running around, cutting them open, piling them up, and setting them afire. All were as busy as though their salvation depended on disappointing the Yankees. Later, Charlie sent for us to come to the river and see him fire a flatboat loaded with the precious material for which the Yankees are risking their bodies and souls. Up and down the levee, as far as we could see, negroes were rolling it down to the brink of the river where they would set them afire and push the bales in to float burning down the tide. Each sent up its wreath of smoke and looked like a tiny steamer puffing away. Only I doubt that from the source to the mouth of the river there are as many boats afloat on the Mississippi. The flatboat was piled with as many bales as it could hold without sinking. Most of them were cut open, while negroes staved in the heads of barrels of alcohol, whiskey, etc., and dashed bucketsful over the cotton. Others built up little chimneys of pine every few feet, lined with pine knots and loose cotton, to burn more quickly. There, piled the length of the whole levee, or burning in the river, lay the work of thousands of negroes for more than a year past. It had come from every side. Men stood by who owned the cotton that was burning or waiting to burn. They either helped, or looked on cheerfully. Charlie owned but sixteen bales — a matter of some fifteen hundred dollars; but he was the head man of the whole affair, and burned his own, as well as the property of others. A single barrel of whiskey that was thrown on the cotton, cost the man who gave it one hundred and twenty-five dollars. (It shows what a nation in earnest is capable of doing.) Only two men got on the flatboat with Charlie when it was ready. It was towed to the middle of the river, set afire in every place, and then they jumped into a little skiff fastened in front, and rowed to land. The cotton floated down the Mississippi one sheet of living flame, even in the sunlight. It would have been grand at night. But then we will have fun watching it this evening anyway; for they cannot get through to-day, though no time is to be lost. Hundreds of bales remained untouched. An incredible amount of property has been destroyed to-day; but no one begrudges it. Every grog-shop has been emptied, and gutters and pavements are floating with liquors of all kinds. So that if the Yankees are fond of strong drink, they will fare ill.

Yesterday, Mr. Hutchinson and a Dr. Moffat called to ask for me, with a message about Jimmy. I was absent, but they saw Lilly. Jimmy, they said, was safe. Though sick in bed, he had sprung up and had rushed to the wharf at the first tap of the alarm bell in New Orleans. But as nothing could be done, he would probably be with us to-day, bringing mother and Miriam. I have neither heard nor seen more. The McRae, they said, went to the bottom with the others. They did not know whether any one aboard had escaped. God be praised that Jimmy was not on her then! The new boat to which he was appointed is not yet finished. So he is saved! I am distressed about Captain Huger, and could not refrain from crying, he was so good to Jimmy. But I remembered Miss Cammack might think it rather tender and obtrusive, so I dried my eyes and began to hope he had escaped. Oh! how glad I should be to know he has suffered no harm. Mr. Hutchinson was on his way above, going to join others where the final battle is to be fought on the Mississippi. He had not even time to sit down; so I was doubly grateful to him for his kindness. I wish I could have thanked him for being so considerate of me in my distress now. In her agitation, Lilly gave him a letter I had been writing to George when I was called away; and begged him to address it and mail it at Vicksburg, or somewhere; for no mail will leave here for Norfolk for a long while to come. The odd part is, that he does not know George. But he said he would gladly take charge of it and remember the address, which Lilly told him was Richmond. Well! if the Yankees get it they will take it for an insane scrawl. I wanted to calm his anxiety about us, though I was so wildly excited that I could only say, “Don’t mind us! We are safe. But fight, George! Fight for us!” The repetition was ludicrous. I meant so much, too! I only wanted him to understand he could best defend us there. Ah! Mr. Yankee! if you had but your brothers in this world, and their lives hanging by a thread, you too might write wild letters! And if you want to know what an excited girl can do, just call and let me show you the use of a small seven-shooter and a large carving-knife which vibrate between my belt and my pocket, always ready for emergencies.


26th. Sunday. In the morning separated and went by companies. Nettleton and staff went with Co. “G” to “Turkey Creek,” stopped at nearly every house. Took what arms, horses and cattle we could find. The guides deceived several families making them think we were secesh to capture Carthage. All people here are rebels, loud in their praises of the rebel soldiery and in their imprecations against the Union boys. The girls sang the “Army Wagon.” Was much amused. Had a good visit with them—”Challes” by name, said I was the only gentleman in the lot—asked my name and said possibly they could some time do me some good. Our men brought into camp cattle and horses. Eight prisoners were brought in, including John Dale, State Senator from Jasper County. Lots of interesting incidents.


April 26.—The day has cleared off beautifully. The news of the fall of New Orleans is confirmed. There was no fighting in the city. The forts were taken, and the gunboats came directly up, and threatened to shell it unless it was immediately surrendered. There were so many women and children in it that the authorities were compelled to surrender without striking a blow in its defense. Its loss is a severe one to us, as it commanded the passage of the Mississippi River, and the gunboats can ascend the river and capture any place they wish. I have been told that our forces destroyed all the sugar in the city at the time of the surrender. I do hope that this is true, as I had rather refrain from its use all my life than that the enemy should have it.

Three men have just had limbs amputated. This is so common that it is scarcely noticed. How my heart sickens in contemplating the horrors with which I am surrounded! Our sins must have been great to have deserved such punishment.


26th.—News reaches us to-night of a pretty severe skirmish two or three miles off, in which it is said about fifty of the enemy were killed. I have very little confidence in these “it is saids.” We lost four men killed. I went to Ship Point to-day, and made the acquaintance of Doctor McClellan, (brother to General,) and Surgeon General Smith, of Pennsylvania—both agreeable men. Our army have done a wonderful work here, in the last few days. They have built a “corduroy road” all the way to Ship Point, eight miles, through a most dismal swamp. Over this road we are now transporting all our supplies and munitions (having got possession of York River, up to the neighborhood of Yorktown.)


Abby Howland Woolsey to Mother.

New York, April 26th.

My Dear Mother: We are all bright and well this fine morning. Jane and Charley have gone to the Philharmonic rehearsal and Carry is practicing some of her old music on the piano, in a way to make you, who love to hear it, happy. Mr. Prentiss came in last night to see us, looking well, but queer, as he always does in a black stock. He had been hard at work moving his books, and did not intend to go to prayer meeting, and evidently didn’t suppose we had gone, or he wouldn’t have come to spend the evening with us. He told us much that was pleasant and funny about his visit in Washington, which, short as it was, paid him well, he thought, for going. . . . He hopes E. and G. will get their wishes and go to Fort Monroe, as they are in a state of mind to be fretted and troubled if they don’t. . . .

Very few of the wounded brought by the Cossack from Newbern were landed here. . . . All were crazy to get home, all full of spirits and fun. The five or six who were carried to the N. E. Relief only fretted at having to spend a night longer on the road. The man with both legs gone smoked his pipe and read his newspaper. His chief anxiety was to go into New Jersey by a certain train. . . . Five or six ladies were at the rooms, Jane among them, yesterday, a lady apiece and several men to each volunteer. . . . No wonder it dazed an Irishman just released from four months imprisonment in Richmond. “Begor,” he said, “I can’t pay for all this!” . . . Jane says there is nothing much for the present set of ladies to do, except to rearrange the piles of shirts, etc., on the closet shelves—changing them about from the way she had fixed them! They immediately proceeded to that work, and each new set of ladies will have that, at least, to occupy them. As for the Park Barracks, a portion of them have been scrubbed and whitewashed, the bunks taken down, neat iron beds all made and put up. Mrs. Mack is to live there as Matron, and, for the purpose of a mere halting place and infirmary, it is as good an one as they could have, though too many ladies were on hand, switching things over with their hoops, giving unlimited oranges to men with the dysentery, and making the surgeons mad. There were, beside, half the medical students in the city, all staring and eager for jobs;—no difficulty in the men’s having all, and more than all, the attention they want. One good thing Mrs. Woodruff did, at Mrs. Buck’s suggestion,—sent over to the Astor House for a steward, and through him ordered a good dinner brought in of tender beef, fresh eggs, etc., for the twenty or thirty New York and New Jersey men who were resting there. It will be charged to New York State, which supports the Barracks. . . . We have Lloyd’s map of Virginia hung under the front parlor picture of the Virgin, along the back of the sofa, and we sit there and read the papers and study it.


Civil War envelope showing an eagle carrying an American flag in its claw and a serpent in its beak with motto The early bird catches the worm below

Civil War envelope showing an eagle carrying an American flag in its claw and a serpent in its beak with motto “The early bird catches the worm” below.

Addressed to Mrs. Sarah Ann Prall, Christianna, Lancaster County, Pa.; hand-canceled; bears 3 cent stamp..

Collection: Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs (Library of Congress)

This envelope and additional information may be found here at the Library of Congress

Eliza to Joe Howland.

Washington, April 26.

Mr. Knapp, of the Sanitary Commission, has just been over and offers to take a note for me when he goes to Yorktown to morrow. We like him so much, and shall be in communication with him all summer if we succeed in going down, and we are very likely to go! Mr. Knapp said the Commission had been speaking of us and hoping we might be able to go, and that, if they found women would be allowed, they themselves would be very glad to have us under their charge, and would manage to get us there. We mustn’t call it “our luck.” It is something far better, and I for one shall be truly grateful to God—and the Commission. Mr. Knapp asks as a special favor that we will keep him informed of our movements.