19th. Detailed to take charge of twenty men to chop and draw wood for Second Battalion. Went out about two miles west by the creek. Sawed, chopped and helped load eleven or twelve loads. Had a good detail and first-rate time.
19th. Detailed to take charge of twenty men to chop and draw wood for Second Battalion. Went out about two miles west by the creek. Sawed, chopped and helped load eleven or twelve loads. Had a good detail and first-rate time.
Camp Hayes, Raleigh, Virginia, March 19, 1862. — Before breakfast. A lovely day. Captain Haven returned last night after an extensive scout; burned seven empty houses — occupants gone bushwhacking. Burned none with women in them.
About noon a gentleman rode up and inquired for the colonel commanding. He turned out to be Clifton W. Tayleure, a local editor, formerly of Baltimore American, lately of Richmond Enquirer. Left Richmond a week ago to avoid the draft. All between eighteen and forty-five to be drafted to fill up the old regiments; all between sixteen and eighteen and forty-five and fifty-five to be enrolled as home guards to protect the homes and guard the slaves. He is a South Carolinian by birth; lived there until he was fifteen; came North; has been a “local” in various cities since; has a family in Baltimore; went to Richmond to look after property in August last; couldn’t get away before; got off by passes procured by good luck, etc., etc.; is a Union man by preference, principle, etc., etc. This is his story. He is about thirty-three years of age, of prepossessing appearance, intelligent and agreeable. Gives us interesting accounts of things in the Capital of Secession. Says the trades-people are anxious for peace — ready for the restoration of the old Union. He seems to be truthful. I shall give him a pass to General Cox there to be dealt with as the general sees fit. — Will he visit them (Colonel Jones and General Cox) and report himself, or will he hurry by?
March 19, 1862 (Ship Island)
None of our vessels have yet arrived. I sent over to Biloxi yesterday, and robbed the post-office of a few papers. They speak volumes of discontent. It is no use—the cord is pulling tighter, and I hope I shall be able to tie it. God alone decides the contest; but we must put our shoulders to the wheel.
I see that Yancey has made a speech in New Orleans, the substance of which was that ‘all Europe wished to see was, the total destruction of this country.’ That was the truth, and what a comfort it must have been to him to think that he had been one of the greatest instruments in the consummation of their designs! He has returned home disgusted with England. His whole speech went to show the desperation of ‘the cause.’
You can better imagine my feelings at entering Hampton Roads as an enemy of Norfolk than I can. But, thank God, I had nothing to do with making it so.
March 19th. We hear to-night that the army is embarking at Alexandria for Yorktown, on the peninsula, and that operations against Richmond are to be carried on from that direction. Our command is to remain here until the rest of the army get out of the way. We are told that the change of base was decided upon on the 13th, at Fairfax Station, at a council of war, composed of corps commanders, and that the advance to Manassas was only made in response to the President’s urgent demands that the army open the campaign.
March 19th.—He who runs may read. Conscription means that we are in a tight place. This war was a volunteer business. To-morrow conscription begins—the dernier ressort. The President has remodeled his Cabinet, leaving Bragg for North Carolina. His War Minister is Randolph, of Virginia. A Union man par excellence, Watts, of Alabama, is Attorney-General. And now, too late by one year, when all the mechanics are in the army, Mallory begins to telegraph Captain Ingraham to build ships at any expense. We are locked in and can not get “the requisites for naval architecture,” says a magniloquent person.
Henry Frost says all hands wink at cotton going out. Why not send it out and buy ships ? “Every now and then there is a holocaust of cotton burning,” says the magniloquent. Conscription has waked the Rip Van Winkles. The streets of Columbia were never so crowded with men. To fight and to be made to fight are different things.
To my small wits, whenever people were persistent, united, and rose in their might, no general, however great, succeeded in subjugating them. Have we not swamps, forests, rivers, mountains—every natural barrier? The Carthaginians begged for peace because they were a luxurious people and could not endure the hardship of war, though the enemy suffered as sharply as they did! “Factions among themselves” is the rock on which we split. Now for the great soul who is to rise up and lead us. Why tarry his footsteps ?
March 19.—The bridge-builders captured by Morgan’s party, on the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, having been released, returned this evening to Louisville, Ky.
—At New-Orleans, Gen. Lovell, C.S.A., issued the following order:
“Hereafter no exemptions from military duty will be allowed permanently, except in the case of minors or persons physically unable to do service. Applications for the release of those engaged upon work for the government must be made to this department in the form of certificates from the owners or foremen of the shops, when an order will be issued to the commanding officer of the camp to which the applicant belongs to grant a furlough of a certain number of days, which can only be renewed by a subsequent certificate and order from these headquarters.”— Neva-Orleans Delta, April 4.
—The Ninety-seventh regiment of New-York Volunteers, under the command of Col. Charles Wheelock, passed through New-York City for the seat of war. Col. Wheelock, a wealthy and influential resident of Oneida County, who undertook the task of organizing the regiment, expended upward of nine thousand dollars out of his own pocket towards the support of the families of the men and for the advancement of the organization.—N. Y. Tribune, March 22.
March 18 — Everything was quiet in front until the middle of the afternoon. Then a report reached camp that the Yanks were advancing. We were ordered to pack up as quickly as possible and get ready for action. The enemy advanced rapidly, and we were ordered to Cedar Creek to oppose their onward march. We put our guns in position about half a mile from the creek on the west side of the pike, on a hill which commanded the bridge and its approaches.
The enemy advanced with artillery, cavalry, and infantry. When they came within a mile of our position we opened fire on them with our rifled guns. Their artillery wheeled four guns into battery immediately after we opened and returned our fire. Both sides thundered with a lively exchange for about twenty-five minutes. Then the battery ceased, either to change position or seek a more sheltered one, as the one they occupied was on the exposed face of the hill, and we had the range of their position, and perhaps we hurt somebody on their side of the creek.
When they ceased firing we held our position a few moments, when, in consequence of approaching night, we fell back to Strasburg, which is four miles from Cedar Creek and eighteen from Winchester. We quartered in a house on Main Street till midnight, when a report from the front reached us that the Yanks were advancing. We rolled up our blankets and had everything ready to march at the word “Forward.” We left the house and moved about two hundred yards south of town, and lay there on the roadside until day.
Our men burnt the Cedar Creek bridge to-day before we turned the creek over to the Yanks. The bridge was burning when we were firing on their battery.
The illness which had prostrated some of the strongest men in Washington, including General McClellan himself, developed itself as soon as I ceased to be sustained by the excitement, such as it was, of daily events at the capital, and by expectations of a move; and for some time an attack of typhoid fever confined me to my room, and left me so weak that I was advised not to return to Washington till I had tried change of air. I remained in New York till the end of January, when I proceeded to make a tour in Canada, as it was quite impossible for any operation to take place on the Potomac, where deep mud, alternating with snow and frost, bound the contending armies in winter quarters. On my return to New York, at the end of February, the North was cheered by some signal successes achieved in the West principally by gunboats, operating on the lines of the great rivers. The greatest results have been obtained in the capture of Fort Donaldson and Fort Henry, by Commodore Foote’s flotilla co-operating with the land forces. The possession of an absolute naval supremacy, of course, gives the North United States powerful means of annoyance and inflicting injury and destruction on the enemy; it also secures for them the means of seizing upon bases of operations wherever they please, of breaking up the enemy’s lines, and maintaining communications; but the example of Great Britain in the revolutionary war should prove to the United States that such advantages do not, by any means, enable a belligerent to subjugate a determined people resolved on resistance to the last. The long-threatened encounter between Bragg and Browne has taken place at Pensacola, without effect, and the attempts of the Federals to advance from Port Royal have been successfully resisted. Sporadic skirmishes have sprung up over every border State; but, on the whole, success has inclined to the Federals in Kentucky and Tennessee.
On the 1st March, I arrived in Washington once more, and found things very much as I had left them: the army recovering the effect of the winter’s sickness and losses, animated by the victories of their comrades in Western fields, and by the hope that the ever-coming to-morrow would see them in the field at last. In place of Mr. Cameron, an Ohio lawyer named Stanton has been appointed Secretary of War. He came to Washington, a few years ago, to conduct some legal proceedings for Mr. Daniel Sickles, and by his energy, activity, and a rapid conversion from democratic to republican principles, as well as by his Union sentiments, recommended himself to the President and his Cabinet.
The month of March passed over without any remarkable event in the field. When the army started at last to attack the enemy—a movement which was precipitated by hearing that they were moving away— they went out only to find the Confederates had fallen back by interior lines towards Richmond, and General McClellan was obliged to transport his army from Alexandria to the peninsula of York Town, where his reverses, his sufferings, and his disastrous retreat, are so well known and so recent, that I need only mention them as among the most remarkable events which have yet occurred in this war.
I had looked forward for many weary months to participating in the movement and describing its results. Immediately on my arrival in Washington, I was introduced to Mr. Stanton by Mr. Ashman, formerly member of Congress and Secretary to Mr. Daniel Webster, and the Secretary, without making any positive pledge, used words, in Mr. Ashman’s presence, which led me to believe he would give rne permission to draw rations, and undoubtedly promised to afford me every facility in his power. Subsequently he sent me a private pass to the War Department to enable me to get through the crowd of contractors and jobbers; but on going there to keep my appointment, the Assistant-Secretary of War told me Mr. Stanton had been summoned to a Cabinet Council by the President.
We had some conversation respecting the subject matter of my application, which the Assistant-Secretary seemed to think would be attended with many difficulties, in consequence of the number of correspondents to the American papers who might demand the same privileges, and he intimated to me that Mr. Stanton was little disposed to encourage them in any way whatever. Now this is undoubtedly honest on Mr. Stanton’s part, for he knows he might render himself popular by granting what they ask; but he is excessively vain, and aspires to be considered a rude, rough, vigorous Oliver Cromwell sort of man, mistaking some of the disagreeable attributes and the accidents of the external husk of the Great Protector for the brain and head of a statesman and a soldier.
The American officers with whom I was intimate gave me to understand that I could accompany them, in case I received permission from the Government; but they were obviously unwilling to encounter the abuse and calumny which would be heaped upon their heads by American papers, unless they could show the authorities did not disapprove of my presence in their camp. Several invitations sent to me were accompanied by the phrase, “You will of course get a written permission from the War Department, and then there will be no difficulty.'” On the evening of the private theatricals by which Lord Lyons enlivened the ineffable dullness of Washington, I saw Mr. Stanton at the Legation, and he conversed with me for some time. I mentioned the difficulty connected with passes. He asked me what I wanted. I said, “An order to go with the army to Manassas.” At his request I procured a sheet of paper, and he wrote me a pass, took a copy of it, which he put in his pocket, and then handed the other to me. On looking at it, I perceived that it was a permission for me to go to Manassas and back, and that all officers, soldiers, and others, in the United States service, were to give me every assistance and show me every courtesy; but the hasty return of the army to Alexandria rendered it useless.
The Merrimac and Monitor encounter produced the profoundest impression in Washington, and unusual strictness was observed respecting passes to Fortress Monroe.
Cloud’s Mills, March 18, 1862.
Dear Father, — I think we are going up Pocosin [Poquoson?] River, a small river just behind Fort Monroe. This is confidential.
Tuesday March 18th
News from Genl Burnside today. He has taken Newbern N.C. after a severe battle, 100 killed & 400 wounded, rebel loss not known, the Victory decisive. No news today from Comd Foot, only that he was bombarding Island No 10. Julia is selling tickets for the Church Festival, Pres[byteria]n 4th (Doct Smiths). I gave the Ladies committee $2.00 to assist in getting it up, the church is in debt.
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 18th.—All quiet yet; no embarkation; no move
MARCH 18TH.—A Mr. MacCubbin, of Maryland, has been appointed by Gen. Winder the Chief of Police. He is wholly illiterate, like the rest of the policemen under his command.
Tuesday, 18th—We left the boats and marched out about two miles from Savannah. We pitched our tents near a big orchard. Details of men went to the timber with teams to get firewood for our camp.
To Mrs. Lyon
Cairo, March 18, 1862.—They are fighting like fun at Island No. 10. No infantry engaged. It is a naval battle.
18th. Ruled the blank abstract provision return book—nineteen pages. Wrote to Ella Clark.
Tuesday, March 18. — A. M., very cold but looks as if the storm was at an end and bright weather come again. P. M., a lovely day. Rode with Avery on the Logan Road three miles to Evans’ and Cook’s. Drilled the regiment. Adjutant Avery drilled skirmish drill. P. M., drilled sergeants in bayonet exercise, and regiment in marching and squares. Spent the evening jollying with the doctors and reading Scott.
A queer prisoner brought in from New River by Richmond. Richmond, a resolute Union citizen was taken a prisoner at his house by three Rebels — two dragoons and a bushwhacker. One of the dragoons took Richmond up behind him and off they went. On the way they told Richmond that he would have to ––– ––– –––. Thereupon Richmond on the first opportunity drew his pocket-knife slyly from his pocket, caught the dragoon before him by his hair behind and cut his throat and stabbed him. Both fell from the horse together. Richmond cut the strap holding the dragoon’s rifle; took it and killed a second. The third escaped, and Richmond ran to our camp.
Jesse Reese brought in as a spy by Richmond, says he is a tailor; was going to Greenbrier to collect money due him. Says he married when he was about fifty; they got married because they were both orphans and alone in the world!
[Dr. J. T. Webb, in a letter, of March 12, to his sister (Mrs. Hayes), tells the story of Richmond’s feat in the following graphic recital:
“About thirty miles from here, on New River, lives an old man (Richmond) and several sons. His boys are all grown and living to themselves, some four and five miles from the old man. They have lived out there many years and for this country are all rich. Besides being wealthy they are all very powerful (physically) and are the leaders, as it were, of society. They have the best horses, cattle, etc. of any one out here. They are noted for their fine horses. They are all strong Union men, and have been very much angered by the Rebels taking their cattle, sheep, etc. — stealing them. A few days since some Rebel cavalry concluded they would arrest the squire and take his horses. Accordingly day before yesterday, just at daybreak, three Rebel cavalry called at the squire’s and took him prisoner. They also took three of his fine horses. They put the squire on a horse behind one of the cavalrymen, and started off with him. After they had gone some ten miles, they came to a noted Rebel’s house, and all cheered at the capture of the squire. This was too much for him, and he determined to make his escape. They had gone but a short distance when the Rebel behind whom he was riding fell back behind the other two some distance. Now was the time for the squire. So drawing a long knife from his pocket, he caught the Rebel by his hair, drew him back, and cut his throat. Both fell off the horse together. As they fell he plunged the knife into the Rebel’s bowels. Then he took the Rebel’s gun, and got behind a tree when one of the others returned, and the squire shot him dead. The third took to his heels and left the squire victor of the field. There is no mistake about this; he came to camp with their two guns. His knife and coat-sleeve is covered with blood. Richmond is a trump and two hundred such men would clean out this country of Rebels.”]
Near Point Pleasant, Mo., March 18, ’62.
You see we are creeping along down the river surely if the motions are a little slow. This is about 12 miles below Madrid and said to be 75 or 80 below Cairo. It is said that the Rebels have between a dozen and 20 steamboats above here, and I think the object in occupying this point and planting artillery here is to make the assurances we have of catching them, doubly sure, for the river is considerably less in width here than where our guns are at and near Madrid. We received orders to march about sunset last night and started at tattoo. ‘Twas a beautiful ride. The road lay for nearly the whole distance right along the river bank. ‘Twas warm enough without overcoat or gloves and Commander Foote added to the interest of the ride by his sleep-disturbing music up at Island 10. The river makes a horseshoe bend here and Island 10 lays almost directly east of here across the peninsula. The neck is very flat, and we could plainly see the flash of every gun and see the bombs burst in the air when more than 20 or 30 yards from the ground. The roar of the 13 and 16-inch mortars is truly terrific. There was no difficulty in distinguishing their reports from the cannons. The evidences of an earthquake having performed in this country are visible when pointed out. The natives will show you a swamp and say that was once inhabitable, and then they’ll point out a sand ridge about four feet nearer heaven (the surface of course)! and say that was a swamp. Well, we arrived here: at 2 o’clock last night and moved nearly two miles back from the river to be out of range of a battery the enemy have planted on the opposite shore. This two miles, after deducting about 300 yards where the road runs through the little town, was a swamp of mud and water to the horses’ bellies. I noticed our flag flying on the river bank over an inverted Rebel rag. The flag staff was in front of a store that had received three cannon shots from the Rebels in their efforts to cut down our flag. Nearly every house in town has had one or more doses of heavy iron and several have been burned by shells: General Palmer is five miles below here with his brigade. He was lucky enough yesterday to disable two Rebel gunboats out of three that attacked him. I am very anxious to get out of this country and into Tennessee if possible, or if we have to stay on this side, enough below the swamps to make it a little more pleasant. That ride of last night was delicious. The order was to march without any unnecessary noise, and after 10:30 (it was 2 when we got here), the boys were all perfectly quiet, many of them asleep, and I believe I enjoyed myself better than I ever did before m my life. Can’t begin to tell you precisely why, except there might have been some air-castle building, but ’twas very pleasant. I hear to-night that Island 10 was evacuated last night. Think maybe Foote has his hands full up there, and doubt the evacuation idea some. Gracious how it rained last night, commenced just after we got here, with some awful heavy thunder and don’t know how long it lasted. ‘Twas raining to kill when I went to sleep. We had no tents with us and every fellow provided for himself. I went to bed with a lot of bacon and a barrel under a tent fly and slept a la log. To-day it has been real warm. Shirt sleeves and shade were in requisition. Well, I’ll write you a little every day until I can send kittens.
March 18, 1862.—There has been unusual gayety in this little village the past few days. The ladies from the surrounding plantations went to work to get up a festival to equip the new company. As Annie and myself are both brides recently from the city, requisition was made upon us for engravings, costumes, music, garlands, and so forth. Annie’s heart was in the work; not so with me. Nevertheless, my pretty things were captured, and shone with just as good a grace last evening as if willingly lent. The ball was a merry one. One of the songs sung was “Nellie Gray,” in which the most distressing feature of slavery is bewailed so pitifully. To sing this at a festival for raising money to clothe soldiers fighting to perpetuate that very thing was strange.
______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.
Manassas Junction, March 18, 1862.
Lieutenant J. M. Favill, A. A. A. General,
Sir: On the 14th instant, about 9:30 A. M., this regiment marched with a brigade of cavalry, all under the command of Brigadier-General George Stoneman, via the Orange and Alexandria railroad to Cedar Run. The march was rendered somewhat tedious and difficult by having nothing better than the ruins of burnt bridges upon which to cross, at Broad and Kettle runs.
At 6:30 P.M., we arrived at a point about a mile and a half east of Cedar Run, where the enemy had driven back a small force of the Sixth cavalry. General Stoneman, here ordered me to send two companies to drive in their pickets. I ordered out Company A, Captain Chapman, on the south side of the road, and H., Captain Horner, on the north, under the command of Major Parisen. Advancing as skirmishers, they drove the enemy before them in the dark to the west end of the run. Here a portion of Captain Chapman’s company, becoming exposed by the light of some burning cars on the road, received a few shots from the enemy, which were promptly returned, but with what effect is not known, further than that the enemy retreated beyond the hills.
About midnight Lieutenant Reid, of Company F, with twenty men, returned to the regiment. He had been sent forward with Lieutenant Brower, from the vicinity of Bristoe Station, in the morning. He reported having seen the enemy’s scouts, at a distance, several times during the day. In the morning General Stoneman ordered the whole regiment forward to Catlett’s Station. Two Companies, B, and I, under Throop and Lieutenant Mott, being deployed in advance as skirmishers, continued their march to the run. Shortly after Major Parisen was sent to asume command of them; they had arrived but a short time, when small parties of the enemy appeared on the opposite bank.
The orders of the general prohibited firing except in reply to fire, but little time, however, was lost in consequence, for they soon commenced firing upon both companies. Their fire was promptly returned, two or three of their saddles being emptied. The general’s object having been accomplished, the regiment retired, the skirmishers were drawn in as a rear guard, and the whole command marched to camp. The return march was severe on account of incessant rain and bad condition of the roads. The difficulty in recrossing Broad and Kettle Runs was increased by the rapid rise of the water. At the former the ruins were swept away whilst two men yet remained to cross. There was no alternative but to leave them behind, but both have since come in.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
S. K. Zook,
Colonel Commanding Fifty-seventh N. Y.
I occupied the rebel adjutant general’s office, which was a large, long, log house, with a good fireplace in one end of it, shingle roof, and board door. The roof leaked a good deal, but otherwise the place was very comfortable. We found it strewn with reports, letters, and returns, and picked up a good deal of information from them. When General Stoneman arrived, he had with him two of McClellan’s aides, the Count de Paris and Duke de Chartres; upon his return to camp, general French quartered the Count de Paris and General Stoneman with him, and turned over the Duke de Chartres to me, but before describing our guest I must mention my ride over the plains. Stoneman sent an orderly in advance to General French, asking him to provide a drove of beeves, for the supply of his brigade, upon their arrival in camp. The general directed me to take an orderly and ride over to the commissary station some three or four miles in the rear, and direct him to provide the cattle. It was about four o’clock, and the rain poured down in torrents, flooding the level ground so that it took on more the appearance of a sea than dry land; there being no road nor anything whatever to indicate the route, we pointed in the proper direction at starting, and wrapped in rubber coats and leggings put spurs to our horses, and dashed into the sea of mud and water at the top of our horses’ speed, and only drew rein at the hospitable tent of the commissary. Here we gave the necessary orders, fortified the inner man with copious libations of commissary, and buttoned up to the chin, headed back for the camp. It was nearly dark by this time, the wind dead ahead, and the rain coming down in perfect sheets. Nothing more melancholy or depressing than the appearance of things here can possibly be imagined. Near the commissary’s quarters were the blackened remains of the burnt rebel stores, the guant skeleton chimneys, and the vast expanse of space now overshadowed by night. We started at a full gallop, but the wind and rain beat so dreadfully in our faces our coats were torn open, the horses swerved from their course, and we lost our bearings, so we gave our horses their heads, and at 7 P.M. they carried us into camp soaked to the skin, and pretty well used up. When I dismounted and went into the office, I found most of the brigade staff officers there, and sitting in front of the fire place, his feet up on the rounds of a camp chair, a small, delicate looking man, holding in front of him the daintiest little embroidered handkerchief, making a desperate effort to dry it. The size and style of the handkerchief, the uncomfortable looking position, and general wretchedness of the man, made me laugh outright, in which the rest of the crowd immediately joined. The duke, for it was he, did not catch on at first, and looked much astonished; but finally laughed too, and it ended in a regular fit of laughter; he certainly cut a ridiculous figure, the water running down his breeches, his hair bedraggled, the very picture of despair. After a good supper, we all became hilarious and had a jolly time, in which the duke joined. When we turned in, we took the large office table, pulled it in the centre of the room, where the roof was the tightest, and giving the duke the center, as many others piled on to it as it would hold, and all were soon asleep.
The morning after the return of the cavalry, the weather cleared up and became magnificent, and the fields were soon fit for manœuvering. Nobody seemed to know what was going to happen, but from the fact that most of the army is far in rear of us, we concluded the enemy was retreating, and, it is suspected, towards Fredericksburg. General French, the second day after the storm, ordered a brigade drill with batteries, and the two squadrons of cavalry, and it proved a great and brilliant success, and was continued every day until we withdrew. We found a great deal of amusement wandering over the deserted rebel huts. Several dead bodies were found unburied, and many curious and interesting mementos. They were very comfortable here, but from the number of graves around what were the hospitals, think it must have been an unhealthy spot.
On the 18th, the brigade was ordered to fall back two miles, but the following morning advanced again to its old position. We hear the army is falling back to Alexandria, and being sent to some other part of the country, so expect shortly to retire ourselves. General McClellan seems to have been very much surprised by the enemy’s falling back from this point, and apparently has not yet determined what to do. To-day we received orders from headquarters announcing the remodeling of the organization of the Army of the Potomac. Up to this time the division has been the tactical unit, now it is to be a corps. The order is dated March 13, 1862, and divides the army into four corps; our corps is the second, and General Sumner is promoted to the command of it, and General Richardson to the division which is composed of three brigades: Brigadier-General O. O. Howard the first brigade, General Meagher the Irish brigade, and General French the third brigade. With our division are batteries B, First New York, Captain Pettit, G, First New York, Captain Frank, A, Captain Hogan, and batteries A and C, 4th United States artillery, Captain Hazzard, and Lieutenant Thomas. The present for duty in the division is said to be about eight thousand men.
March 18th.—My war archon is beset for commissions, and somebody says for every one given, you make one ingrate and a thousand enemies.
As I entered Miss Mary Stark’s I whispered: “He has promised to vote for Louis.” What radiant faces. To my friend, Miss Mary said, “Your son-in-law, what is he doing for his country?” “He is a tax collector.” Then spoke up the stout old girl: “Look at my cheek; it is red with blushing for you. A great, hale, hearty young man! Fie on him! fie on him! for shame! Tell his wife; run him out of the house with a broomstick; send him down to the coast at least.” Fancy my cheeks. I could not raise my eyes to the poor lady, so mercilessly assaulted. My face was as hot with compassion as the outspoken Miss Mary pretended hers to be with vicarious mortification.
Went to see sweet and saintly Mrs. Bartow. She read us a letter from Mississippi—not so bad: “More men there than the enemy suspected, and torpedoes to blow up the wretches when they came.” Next to see Mrs. Izard. She had with her a relative just from the North. This lady had asked Seward for passports, and he told her to “hold on a while; the road to South Carolina will soon be open to all, open and safe.” To-day Mrs. Arthur Hayne heard from her daughter that Richmond is to be given up. Mrs. Buell is her daughter.
Met Mr. Chesnut, who said: “New Madrid¹ has been given up. I do not know any more than the dead where New Madrid is. It is bad, all the same, this giving up. I can’t stand it. The hemming-in process is nearly complete. The ring of fire is almost unbroken.”
Mr. Chesnut’s negroes offered to fight for him if he would arm them. He pretended to believe them. He says one man can not do it. The whole country must agree to it. He would trust such as he would select, and he would give so many acres of land and his freedom to each one as he enlisted.
Mrs. Albert Rhett came for an office for her son John. I told her Mr. Chesnut would never propose a kinsman for office, but if any one else would bring him forward he would vote for him certainly, as he is so eminently fit for position. Now he is a private.
¹ New Madrid, Missouri, had been under siege since March 3, 1862.
March 18.—Jefferson Davis sent a message into the rebel Congress, recommending that all the rebel prisoners who had been put on parole by the United States Government, be released from the obligation of their parole, so as to bear arms in defence of the rebel government.
Of this message the Richmond Examiner said:
“The recommendation was urged as a retaliation for the infamous and reckless breach of good faith on the part of the Northern Government, with regard to the exchange of prisoners, and was accompanied by the exposure of this perfidy in a lengthy correspondence conducted by the War Department We have been enabled to extract the points of this interesting correspondence.
It appears from the correspondence that, at the time permission was asked by the Northern Government for Messrs. Fish and Ames to visit their prisoners within the jurisdiction of the South, our government, while denying this permission, sought to improve the opportunity by concerting a settled plan for the exchange of prisoners. For the execution of this purpose, Messrs. Conrad and Seddon were deputed by our government as Commissioners to meet those of the Northern Government under a flag of truce at Norfolk.
Subsequently, a letter from Gen. Wool was addressed to Gen. Huger, informing him that he (Gen. Wool) had full authority to settle any terms for the exchange of prisoners, and asking an interview on the subject Gen. Howell Cobb was then appointed by the government to mediate with Gen. Wool, and to settle a permanent plan for the exchange of prisoners during the war. The adjustment was considered to have been satisfactorily made.
It was agreed that the prisoners of war in the hands of each government should be exchanged, man for man, the officers being assimilated as to rank, etc., that our privateersmen should be exchanged on the footing of prisoners of war; that any surplus remaining on either side, after these exchanges, should be released, and that hereafter, during the whole continuance of the war, prisoners taken on either side should be paroled.
In carrying out this agreement, our government has released some three hundred prisoners above those exchanged by the North, the balance in the competing numbers of prisoners in the hands of the two governments being so much in our favor. At the time, however, of sending North the hostages we had retained for our privateersmen, Gen. Cobb had reason to suspect the good faith of the Northern Government, and telegraphed in time to intercept the release of a portion of these hostages, (among them Col. Corcoran,) who were en route from points further South than Richmond to go North under a flag of truce to Norfolk. A number of these hostages, however, had already been exchanged.
It now appears that, in contravention of the solemn agreement of the Northern Government, not one of our privateermen have been released, and the Fort Donelson prisoners, instead of being paroled, have been taken into the interior, where they are still confined.
As a judgment upon this open and shameless perfidy of the North, it is proposed that our prisoners, who have been paroled by the Yankees, shall be released from their obligations. There is as little doubt of the honor of such a proposition as there is of its justice and meetness as a retaliatory measure for an act of flagrant perfidy. —Richmond Examiner, March 19.
—The rebel steamer Nashville escaped from the harbor of Beaufort, N. C, this night, evading the National blockading vessels by superior speed.—(Doc. 97.)
—A short time since, anticipating rebel movements in Texas County, Missouri, Gen. Halleck ordered five companies of troops and two light steel six-pounders, mounted on two wheels amd drawn by two horses, under Col. Wood, to repair to that vicinity. Finding no enemy there, Col. Wood pushed on to Salem, Fulton County, Arkansas, where he encountered a largely superior force of rebels, and after a sharp fight routed them, killing about one hundred and taking many prisoners, among whom were three colonels. The National loss was about twenty-five.—(Doc. 98.)
—The ship Emily St Pierre, was this day captured off Charleston, S. C, by the vessels of the United States blockading fleet She had a full cargo of gunnies, and was ostensibly bound to St. John’s, New-Brunswick. She showed no colors, nor was any national ensign found on board. A few moments before she was boarded they were observed to throw over the stern a small package, which immediately sunk.
—To-day Gen. Sickles ordered a portion of the First regiment, Excelsior brigade, under the command of Col. Dwight, to reconnoitre the position of the enemy’s forces between Dumfries and Fredericksburgh, Va. His skirmishers, after marching to a place four miles in the interior, suddenly came upon a force of rebel cavalry, who were put to flight
When within a short distance of Fredericksburgh, a camp of the enemy was discovered, said to number one thousand three hundred infantry and artillery. The force of Col. Dwight being inadequate to make an assault upon them, fearing he might be cut off, he marched toward Dumfries. On the way the force examined a barn where some rebel cavalry were seen to emerge, and found it filled with choice commissary stores, to which the soldiers helped themselves.
On the march from Dumfries to Shipping Point, within five miles of the latter place, a large camp was discovered, containing many good log houses and tents. Articles of furniture were also found, such as sofas, bedsteads, mirrors, cushioned arm-chairs, officers’ trunks, mess chests, and a variety of articles for camp use, which lay scattered in every direction.
The soldiers of Col. Dwight’s force came in at Shipping Point loaded down with commissary stores or articles in the shape of trinkets. One prisoner was captured, who said he belonged to a North-Carolina regiment stationed at Aquia Creek.—N. Y. Times, March 20.
—Aquia Creek, Va., was evacuated by the rebels to-night Previous to their retreat they burned the wharves and buildings of the town. —A New military department, to be called the Middle Department, and to consist of the States of New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia, and the counties of Cecil, Hartford, Baltimore, and Anne Arundel, in Maryland, was created. Major-Gen. Dix, was assigned the command, his headquarters at Baltimore.
—Near New-Madrid, Mo., Gen. Pope allowed a rebel gunboat to approach within fifty yards of a masked battery, and then sunk her, killing fifteen of those on board. He had previously allowed five rebel steamers to pass on toward the town, and they are now between his batteries, unable to escape.—N. Y. Tribune, March 22.
Monday Night.—This morning I was at the funeral, at St. Paul’s Church; the service was read by the Rev. J. P. McGuire and Rev. C. J. Gibson. Bishop Johns made a most solemn address. The procession, long and sad, then wended its way to Hollywood Cemetery.
Monday March 17th 1862
Nothing new has transpired today that we know of. The Telegraph announces that a Battle is in progress on the Miss. Com Foote is Bombarding the Rebels at Island No 10 with his gun boats. Troops are embarking on the Steam Boats to go down the River. The long trains of Govt Wagons which used to obstruct our Streets have nearly all left, and are over the River having followed the Army. I called down to Mr Morrisons on D st this evening for Julia. It is now 101/2 o’clock, the children are all in bed since 1/2 past 8. A fine Band of music is playing in the street, some Seranade I presume.
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 17th.—To-day our sick, instead of being put into General Hospital, are marched from depot to the camp. McDowell’s Division is ordered back to Arlington Heights. We are sending to Washington for our tents. Our General Smith is building stables, and it looks as if we were again settling down. What does it mean? Is there another change of programme? and are we not to embark after all? Have we discovered the muzzle of another wooden gun, which we must besiege for nine months? Many of the troops begin to question McClellan’s claim to infallibility. I have to regret that I have again failed to prevail on the Governor to interest himself in getting me transferred to another Regiment, where I could be much more useful. The opposition which I meet here from some of my superior officers, is rapidly destroying the interest which I have felt in the Regiment. (At night) a great hurrah and rejoicing in camp, in consequence of an order to prepare, immediately, five days’ rations, and to be ready. This may mean, embark, but our Gen. McC. has so often cried “wolf” of late, that when the wolf does come, we may not be ready. Shall we embark tomorrow?