December 11th.—The unanimity of the people in the South is forced on the conviction of the statesmen and people of the North, by the very success of their expeditions in Secession. They find the planters at Beaufort and elsewhere burning their cotton and crops, villages and towns deserted at their approach, hatred in every eye, and curses on women’s tongues. They meet this by a corresponding change in their own programme. The war which was made to develop and maintain Union sentiment in the South, and to enable the people to rise against a desperate faction which had enthralled them, is now to be made a crusade against slaveholders, and a war of subjugation—if need be, of extermination—against the whole of the Southern States. The Democrats will, of course, resist this barbarous and hopeless policy. There is a deputation of Irish Democrats here now, to effect a general exchange of prisoners, which is an operation calculated to give a legitimate character to the war, and is pro tanto a recognition of the Confederacy as a belligerent power.


Bird’s Point, Mo., December 11, 1861.

Our cavalry brought in 16 prisoners to-night, about 10 last night; a band of Thompson’s men took a couple of boys from our regiment prisoners, out 10 miles from here at the water tank on the railroad. The owner of the house happened to be outside when they surrounded the house and he scooted down here with the news, and by 2 o’clock we had a lot of cavalry and infantry en route for the scene of action. The cavalry started them out of the brush and captured this 16. The Rebels killed one of Colonel Oglesby’s men. They did not recover our men but started up and lost another gang that probably has them.

We will be in our quarters next week although we don’t need them. It is rather pleasant here now. I took a swim yesterday. ‘Twas confounded cold, but I wanted to bathe so I took the river for it. We haven’t had a man complaining in the company for a week. We buried one poor fellow last week, but he would have died at home. When I was home last I weighed 142, now I weigh 160. Can you imagine me.


December 11.—Two companies of infantry, under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Rhodes, and two companies of cavalry, under command of Major J. J. Mudd, had a skirmish with the rebels near Bertrand, Missouri, to-day, losing one man. They took sixteen prisoners and a number of horses and fire-arms.—Missouri Democrat, December 12.

—In the Legislature of Western Virginia, in session at Wheeling, to-day, Mr. Carksadon, of Hampshire, introduced a resolution to prohibit any person engaged in the rebellion from ever holding office in the State. Mr. Snider, of Monongahela, introduced a resolution modifying these parts of the code which prohibit writing or speaking against slavery, so as to make them conform to the spirit and genius of the National institutions.

—The Eleventh Michigan infantry, twelve hundred strong, commanded by Col. Win. J. May, arrived at Jeffersonville, and were at once despatched to Bardstown, Ky. They are a fine body of men, and will doubtless do good service in the Union cause. Michigan has done nobly thus far, and the Eleventh is considered as good as, if not better than, any regiment yet sent to the war from that State.—Louisville Journal, December 12.

—Reliable news reached Fort Smith, Arkansas, to-day, from the Indian country, from which it is learned that a large number of Creeks, Cherokees, and Seminoles have joined Opothleyholo. The Cherokee regiment, under Colonel Drew, has disbanded, a part have joined the Nationals, a portion have returned home, and a part remain with Colonel Cooper. Opothleyholo is encamped about the Big Bend of Arkansas, with a force variously estimated at from two to four thousand men, well armed, and all naked to the waist, and painted.

Colonel Cooper is encamped within five miles of the Nationals, with a small force, consisting of Colonel Simms’ Texas regiment, Colonel McIntosh’s Creek regiment, and the Chocktaw and Chickasaw regiment.—Fort Smith (Ark.) News, Dec. 12.

—Five vessels of the stone fleet, and the ships George Green and Bullion, of Gen. Butler’s expedition, sailed to-day from Boston, Mass.

—An expedition, under Commander Rodgers, U. S. N., left Port Royal harbor, S. C., and explored Ossabaw Sound, Ga. It passed up the Vernon River, Ga., and was fired on by a fort on the eastern end of Green Island, without damage. Returning to the Sound, the expedition sailed up the Great Ogeechee River, and landed at Ossabaw Island, but found it abandoned. No batteries, except the one on Green Island, were discovered.—(Doc. 224.)

—This morning a party of rebels commenced firing on some National pickets in the vicinity of Dam No. 4, on the Potomac, near Sharpsburg, Md., but were forced to retreat to the woods, more than a mile from the river, after losing seven killed and many wounded. When the rebels disappeared, a party of National troops crossed the river to reconnoitre, but were forced to retreat by a company of rebel infantry. Before reaching the river, however, their escape was cut off by a troop of eighty cavalry, and the whole party, after a slight skirmish, captured. No assistance could be sent them by the National troops on the Maryland side of the river, and it was afterward ascertained that the prisoners had been taken to Martinsburg, Va.—(Doc. 225.)


For the last two weeks I, with four militiamen, have been on detached duty guarding a siege gun in position at the Smithfield house, on the eastern outskirts of Winchester. But to-day, December 11, 1861, in the Smithfield house I volunteered to join Chew’s Battery, an artillery company that was organized in Jefferson County about the first of November, for the express purpose of operating with Colonel Ashby’s regiment of cavalry.


Friday, January 10. — Heard rumors from Fayetteville of a great battle and victory at Bowling Green. Three thousand of our men killed and wounded. Enemy driven into the river — camp taken. One adds thirteen thousand taken prisoners. Floyd captured, says another. Fort Sumter retaken, says a third, and so on. Rode to Raleigh [slip of the pen for Fayetteville] with Avery, — very muddy — twenty-five miles in five to six hours. Rumors of the battle varied and conflicting. We ask all pickets and all we meet. As we approach Fayetteville the rumor loses strength. At Fayetteville, “Nothing of it, Colonel,” says a soldier. So we go.


Daily Times [Leavenworth, Ks],
December 10, 1861

[Correspondence of the Times]

Mound City, Dec. 4, 1861.

Editor Times: The people of Southern Kansas are growing weary with excitement. Rumors of gathering peril are flying from house to house, and from town to town, thus creating a state of chronic alarm. And, when it is remembered, that this protracted excitement commenced long anterior to the present war, that, in short, we have had no permanent peace or quiet since the Border Ruffians and Jayhawkers broils of ’58—the reader will understand what a pity-and-compassion deserving people are the citizens of Southern Kansas. On this side of the State line the jayhawker’s influence has ruled supreme since the general “amnesty” of 1858. Never, in this country at least, has a person been punished for crime by “due” process of law. The jayhawkers have been our sole “protection.”

This would have been tolerable, but for the unquenched fires of hatred between our jayhawk “guardians” and their ancient enemies in Missouri. These belligerent parties have during the last three years been almost constantly interchanging threats. Hence rumor has, during this time, been making as frequent as semi-monthly arrivals among us, proclaiming the near approach of “the Border Ruffians” prepared to sweep the country with a bloody desolation. A general excitement following this has subsided only in season for the next repetition of the terrible “report.” How many times within the last two years Mound City has prepared for a night attack “from the Missourians,” it would be difficult to estimate.

Of course, since the veritable inauguration of hostilities between the North and the South, these swift dying rumors of dangers have multiplied amazingly fast, and the resulting excitement has correspondingly increased.—There is no rest for the weary people. They live in a constant round of excitement, and now that the perils that encompass them are real—now that an army of traitors, publishing in advance its errand of bloody vengeance, is approaching our border—the long-continued “excitement,” fed at length by substantial fuel, burns and blazes throughout the community like a consuming fire! O, it will be a day of surpassing happiness with the people of Southern Kansas when all peril, and rumors of peril, shall have departed, and peace, real and permanent prevails.

I have already seen a notice in your columns of the recent jayhawking expedition from this county. The jayhawkers numbered seventy-two men, and took with them property of considerable value, in teams, wagons, cattle, &c. They did their jayhawking while departing from home, and hence started back with loaded wagons. When nine miles east of Butler they were attacked by a party of one hundred and fifty or two hundred rebels, and without waiting for a gun all but thirteen of the jayhawkers took to their heels and made quick time out of the State. The plucky thirteen fought desperately while on the retreat and thereto they succeeded in emptying ten or fifteen secesh saddles. They lost five of their own number, and left with the rebels the last article of their own, as well as their jayhawked property.

Strange as it may seem to “outsiders” the people of Mound City have had something besides “war and rumors of war” to talk about within the last week. On Saturday last By. Hildreth, a saloon keeper of Mound City, returned from Leavenworth with a new supply of “choice liquors,” and having invited some of his “best customers” to aid in unloading the cargo, was “treating the crowd” by way of compensation, when nine able bodied women of the immediate neighborhood appeared, each shouldering an axe, and marched in “singular file” into the groggery. One of the, the leader, and the daughter of one of our most distinguished citizens, mounted the counter, and swinging her axe to and fro with destructive force, soon demolished the last receptacle of the “critter” within the building. The newly arrived barrels were “stove in” and their contents left to organize themselves into miniature rivers of “Bust Head” while the crowd even to the ruddiest toper present, sent up lusty cheers for the amazonian exploit. The ladies then proceeded to the Mound City Hotel, kept by C. H. Sillwell, but after thoroughly searching the premises returned without encountering the aqua vitae to the amount of even a solitary “snifter.” – And thus ends my third chapter of Mound City events. The fourth and last shall be briefly disposed of.

A few days since, while the wind was sweeping the prairie like an army of terror, a fire originating in the immediately neighborhood of, and undoubtedly set by one of a somewhat notorious family, successors of the Staffles’, exterminated for their manifold crimes in 1850, created a general terror throughout the neighborhood and destroyed property of considerable value. The grass was tall and dry, and the flames swept in red and devastating waves with surprising and fearful velocity. The fire soon reached the premises of Samuel Osborn, Dr. W. C. Lee, and E. H. Smith, destroying a large amount of hay in stacks, fences, rails, &c., but fortunately the flames were conquered without destroying any buildings. The incendiaries are the objects of general dislike and suspicion. They are augmenting their stock of horses at a ratio that can hardly be accounted for from “natural causes.”

Yours, &c.



Daily Times [Leavenworth, Ks],
December 10, 1861

[Correspondence of the Times.]

Weston, Dec. 9.

Ed. Times: – The advent of the gallant 18th, Col. Morgan, which reached this benighted section on Saturday last, was the commencement of a new era here. Now Union men can go out o’ nights without fear of encountering any of Cy. Gordon’s respectable rascals, and go to bed with full confidence that their inalienable rights as American citizens will be respected. Dry goods are inviolate—ready-made clothing will hereafter rest quietly upon the shelves—boots and shoes will be undisturbed, except in a legitimate course of trade. Perhaps poultry coops may anon be invaded by hungry soldats, but beyond that the grand army of the Republic proceedeth not.

Our city is a parallel to the “Sweet Auburn,” as far as desertion goes, though as for loveliness this deponent saith not. Secesh never had anything but their own villainous carcasses to remove, and these, as far as practicable, they have taken out of harm’s way; but Union men being the principal property holders and merchants, have been the losers in this very interesting game of war now going on. Such goods as Capt. Gordon in his beneficence left untouched, have been removed to your side of the river, and indeed nearly every family has had its household effects packed up, to be in readiness should a storm of righteous retribution, in the shape of shot and shell, descend upon this noted city. Now, however, people are beginning to breathe easier, family affairs are resuming their old status, as the Union refugees have returned, and most of the mercantile community talk of “opening up shop” again, as soon as they are satisfied that the military occupation will be of any more permanence than the previous demonstrations.

The 18th is quartered on Main street, some in the buildings which have been vacated during the present panic, and others where silence has long reigned paramount. They are a very orderly set of men, but can’t endure secesh, and will not tolerate any expression of sentiment adverse to the flag under which they have enlisted, as was exemplified yesterday. A rampant and bigotted old rebel, bearing the nick name of “Dixie,” tightually slight, having expressed his surprise than an old acquaintance of his had enlisted in the “Lincoln army,” and added thereto some expression of his contempt for Black Republicans and the Government generally, after having taken the oath at least three times, the old acquaintance aforesaid very unceremoniously knocked him into the middle of, not next week, but the street, where he lay for some time, probably ruminating upon the fortunes of war, and the comparative effect of Lincoln and Davis blows. Few expressions of sympathy were heard, and the verdict appeared to be, “Served him right.”

Gen. Prentiss, with his command, is somewhere in the county, having been, on Saturday morning, at Smith’s fork of the Platte, near Ridgley. There is some anticipation that he will get a fight out of John T. Hughes’ division, scattering squads of which are reported as concentrating at Liberty. Of Cy. Gordon nothing is known. It is thought that he is still skulking near Platte City, while a number of his followers have hidden themselves on an island in Bean’s Lake, above Iatan. Some of the most ultra of the rebels are yet at large, though they must be brought to bay soon. The Court of Inquiry, at the Fort, still continues, and the impression seems to be that all prisoners held will be remanded to Weston for trial. If such men as are now in custody cannot be convicted, all proceedings against traitors may as well be stopped at once, for the C. S. A. never harbored more hardened or meaner rebels than some who now inhabit the guard house.

On dit, that one of the most prominent secession citizens of Weston has voluntarily offered to take the required oath, if allowed to return home. His name has been a Burning light to secessia over here since the revolt broke out.

Truly yours,



A Walk into the Country.

Dec. 10. The weather holds warm and springlike. We have no need of overcoats, unless doing guard duty nights. The people here tell us it is an unusually mild fall, but that we shall get right smart lots of cold and snow before many days. I took a walk of a few miles into the country yesterday, on a tour of observation. I noticed what appeared to me a great extent of good land, but very badly improved. Occasionally I saw a farm where things seemed to be kept up snug and showed some evidences of thrift, but more of them looked as though the owners studied to see how shiftless they could be and still manage to live. Buildings and fences are going to decay; fields of corn are yet unharvested, the cattle and hogs running through and destroying them. I asked one man why he didn’t harvest his corn. “Oh,” he said, “there is no hurry about that, I have got all winter to do it in, and the corn is just as well off in the field as anywhere.” I came to the conclusion that his plan of harvesting was about as fast as he wanted it to eat. I said to another man I met, “You have good land about here, sir; easy of cultivation and close to a market. I suppose you make a pile of money?” “Oh, no,” he said, “you are mistaken; right poor land about yere, one can hardly make a living on it, but you go over yere a few miles to some creek [the name of which I have forgotten], and you will find right good land; make as much again corn on it as you can on this.” I asked, “What do you value this land at?” “Well,” he replied, “we reckon the land around yere worth about $10 an acre; reckon some of it mought be bought for a little less, but the land around Annapolis is worth from $25 to $50 an acre.” I made up my mind that a man with an ordinary degree of enterprise, with our improved implements for farming and with hired labor, might take this land and make money on it. I am unable to see any profits from slave labor in Maryland; it is poor help at the best; besides they have to be clothed and fed several months in a year during which time they are not earning much, and there is always on a farm employing a dozen or more field hands, a lot of old men and women and small children who are not earning anything, but still have to be supported.



Too warm today for comfort. The Sun was quite oppressive in the middle of the day. Nothing new has taken place that I am aware of worth mentioning. I have spent the evening at home. Miss Mary Middleton called and at 9 o’clock I went over on to NY Ave for Julia, she being at Mr Hartlys. Julia and Martha H seem to be inseparable companions. Willie is quite unwell tonight, complains of his head. All the family except myself were up to the Presidents today. “Bud” brot home a water Lilly for the Aquarium. There were Indians from the west at the Presidents last night.


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.


December 10th.—Paid a visit to Colonel Seaton, of the National Intelligencer, a man deservedly respected and esteemed for his private character, which has given its impress to the journal he has so long conducted. The New York papers ridicule the Washington organ, because it does not spread false reports daily in the form of telegraphic “sensation” news, and indeed one may be pretty sure that a fact is a fact when it is found in the Intelligencer; but the man, nevertheless, who is content with the information he gets from it, will have no reason to regret, in the accuracy of his knowledge or the soundness of his views, that he has not gone to its noisy and mendacious rivals. In the minds of all the very old men in the States, there is a feeling of great sadness and despondency respecting the present troubles, and though they cling to the idea of a restoration of the glorious Union of their youth, it is hoping against hope. “Our game is played out. It was the most wonderful and magnificent career of success the world ever saw, but rogues and gamblers took up the cards at last; they quarrelled, and are found out.”

In the evening, supped at Mr. Forney’s, where there was a very large gathering of gentlemen connected with the press; Mr. Cameron, Secretary of War; Colonel Mulligan, a tall young man, with dark hair falling on his shoulders, round a Celtic impulsive face, and a hazy enthusiastic-looking eye; and other celebrities.


Headquarters 2d Brigade,

Port Royal District, Dec. 10th, 1861.

My dear Mother:

I am still much busied — still find it difficult to cull even a few moments from multifarious duties, even to write my dear mother. I would like much to have a chance to write you a good long letter, yet must wait until more leisure shall fall to my share. We have the last few days been more than ever busy, owing to our formal occupation of Beaufort, where we are now pleasantly living. All sorts of comforts are at our disposal. The house occupied by the General is one belonging to Rev. (I think) Mr. Smith, an extremely elegant one. The portrait of Bishop Eliot looks down benignantly from over the mantel while I write.

I wish the owners were back in their old homes, notwithstanding they have relinquished all their old home luxuries to us. I do not, I think, possess quite enough of the Vandal spirit for anything like predative warfare. I have spoken of the extreme pressure of duties, and this you will understand when I tell you I often ride thirty miles, visiting posts, arranging pickets, and in the examination of doubtful points, during the day, besides performing many other duties, such as may fall to my share. I must say night generally finds me weary and after evening work is done, disinclined even to write you.

All things seem to thrive with us so far. What we still need is a sufficiently efficient organization to enable us to strike with rapidity. Here we are, nearly five weeks in possession of this point, and as yet we have hardly been able to get the stores ashore which we originally brought with us. And all this time too we read in the newspapers of the great zeal and activity displayed by Captain _____ who has charge of these things. By this time we ought, considering the great fear that filled the inhabitants on our first landing, to have been able to follow up our first successes by a series of determined blows, placing the entire State at our disposal. Still we are young at war, and cannot hope to learn all these things at once. We have however done something. Immense quantities of cattle, corn, and provisions have been gathered into the commissary stores, Hilton Head has been securely fortified, and some cotton saved, though much of the latter has been burned by the South Carolinians to prevent its falling into our hands. I think Cousin Louisa’s favorite, Sam Lord, is in the Army awaiting us on the mainland. At least I heard such to be the case from a negro driver on one of the plantations, who seemed to know him. The Pringles lived somewhere in this neighborhood too, so I am brought almost face to face with old friends.

Believe me,

Very Affec’y.,

W. T. Lusk.


Tuesday, December 10. — A little warm rain last night: cloudy and threatening rain in morning; turned off bright and clear. Had a good drill after evening parade. Moved into a good room in a pretty cottage house owned by J. H. Phillips, a drygoods dealer, who has left with the Rebels. His store was burned by McCook’s men because he was a persecutor of Union men. Captain Sperry and Lieutenant Kennedy are my co-tenants. We shall take good care of the premises and try to leave them in as good condition as we find them.


Unger’s Store, December 10, 1861.

I made application yesterday for leave of absence, but was informed that I could not get it until Col. Echols returned, who has leave for twenty-five days and starts home this morning. It is to me a sad disappointment, but I must bear it as cheerfully as I can. You must do the same. You must make up your mind, too, Love, to stay at home. In the present state of our finances we must save all we can, and this, I feel sure, will be best done by your staying on the farm. I think, too, you will be as happy there as you could be elsewhere.


Boston, December 10, 1861

Yours of the 23d of last month reached me yesterday… If we are going to have such a storm as you intimate, I should have to go, so anyhow, and if indeed “all that remains is to drop gracefully,” it will not do me or any one else any good for me to anxiously hang on here a few days longer. Yet it does make me feel terribly. We have blundered all summer long and now we have capstoned our blunders by blundering into a war with England. So be it. While there’s life there’s hope; but I go into the army with a bitter feeling against those under whose lead we have come to this pass, and amid all the shattered idols of my whole life I don’t feel as if I cared much when my turn came. I suppose now I shall go into the field against a foreign enemy and I ought to rejoice at that. Still, I don’t. Against the rebels I could fight with a will and in earnest. They are traitors, they war for a lie, they are the enemies of morals, of government, and of man. In them we fight against a great wrong — but against England, we shall have forced her into war when she only asked for peace; we shall have made that a cause of quarrel which a few soft words might have turned away. It will be a wicked and causeless war wantonly brought about by us and one in which I most unwillingly would go to my death.


As for Seward I cannot comprehend his policy and so I cannot judge of it, and most slowly and reluctantly will I surrender my faith in him. His policy has been to keep a firm front, and in this it was wise; but I think he might have made himself less offensive to foreign powers in doing it, and I somewhat doubt the expediency of bragging yourself out of the game, as you tell me he has done. Still we have made our bed and now we must lie on it.

I shall probably have joined my regiment this week or early next. You will be surprised to hear that I shall probably regularly enlist and make my debut as a simple sergeant in Caspar Crowninshield’s company. The truth is they have so backed and filled, and hesitated and delayed, that, having determined to go, I have lost my patience, and have signified to them that I am ready to wait in the ranks until they are ready to give me a commission. Caspar got his company as a promotion for his behavior at Balls Bluff, and I shall get mine, I suppose, at some indefinite future period, when Sargent ceases to be a gas-bag and Williams feels the regiment under his thumb. Meanwhile I shall rough and fight it out with the rest, sleep fifteen in a tent with stable-boys, groom horses, feed like a hog and never wash, and such is my future! Well, it is better than my present, for I shall at least, by going into the army, get rid of the war.

Your last letter, and your statement that there was nothing left but a suspension of relations with England, came peculiarly unpleasantly just now. I had again begun to hope. Our blockade has become so effective and we are developing such enormous strength, that in spite of blunders, the confederates seemed likely to be crushed by brute force and starved to death, while we are really more prosperous than we have been for a year, and our poor more comfortable than they have been for four years. The confederates already, before winter begins, are regulating by law the profit on “articles of prime necessity,” and what would it have been before spring? I had begun to hope yet to see this rebellion collapse. Of course a war with England exactly reverses positions. It will be short and desperate, and end in the establishment of a confederate government, I suppose. However, a glorious indifference is coming over me. I can live on my pay, the world will not come to an end this time, and if I do, I shall doubtless be very comfortable in my grave. But I do hate to be blundered out of existence and, before a foreign war just as we were getting the whip-hand. Even Balls Bluff will hide a diminished head; it will stand forth in all history as the Koh-i-noor of blunders. . . .


December 10.—Resolutions expressive of the opinion of the Legislature of Tennessee in regard to their future policy, and determination to maintain their Declaration of Independence of the old Government of the United States, were introduced to the Tennessee Legislature by Mr. Cardwell, of Weakley County.—(Doc. 220.)

—The court-martial of Col. Kerrigan was convened at Washington, D. C, to-day, and a large amount of evidence was taken. His counsel was E. L. Hearne, of New York, and Reverdy Johnson. J. W. Coombs was the judge-advocate.—N. Y. World, December 11.

—The question of the exchange of prisoners seems to be fairly settled. The New York Executive Committee, consisting of Messrs. Savage, O’Gorman, and Daly, have had several lengthy and interesting interviews with the President, Gen. McClellan, and senators and members of the House, all of whom favor it. The committee’s interview with Gen. McClellan was especially gratifying. He spoke of the subject briefly, but warmly. The Military Committee in both houses have reported favorably on the subject, and a joint resolution which has passed the House, requesting the President to make an exchange, will pass the Senate tomorrow. In point of fact, an exchange has been practically going on, thirty prisoners having been sent from here yesterday to Fortress Monroe, while large numbers have been likewise released from Fort Warren. Richard O’Gorman, John Savage, Judge Daly, and Collector Barney were before the cabinet to-day, with reference to a general exchange of prisoners, and particularly with reference to Colonel Corcoran.—N. Y. Herald, December 11.


Monday, 9th—We left the cars and marched up through town, where we were met by the Forty-seventh Illinois Infantry, who turned out to receive us, presenting arms. They took us into camp about a mile southwest of town. Here we pitched our tents and for the first time went into camp.[1] I went on guard.

[1] We had left our train standing on a siding east of the city alongside a fine piece of timber, the ground covered with a heavy sward of blue grass. Some of the boys thought the grass would be just the place upon which to lay the ponchos and sleep on them for the night, and they did so. But it was a mistake, for the ground was cold and damp and a number of the boys caught hard colds from which several of them never recovered. My bunkmate, James Fossett, was one of those, and with the cold taken that night and later, he was sent to the hospital suffering from inflammatory rheumatism. He never again returned to the company, being finally discharged for disability, on October 17, 1862. —A. O. D.


Winchester, December 9.—Mr. _____ and myself have been here for three weeks, with Dr. S. and our dear niece. Jackson’s Brigade still near, which gives these warm-hearted people a good opportunity of working for them, and supplying their wants. We see a great deal of out nephews, and never sit at the table without a large addition to the family circle. This is always prepared for, morning, noon, and night, as it is a matter of course that soldiers will be brought in just at the right time, and so cordially received that they feel that they have a perfect right to come again when it is convenient to them.

A regiment or two have been sent to protect the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal near Honeywood. Affairs in the army are very quiet. I hope that the calm does not portend a storm; I pray that it may be averted.



The day has been warm and soft as May. No fires necessary in the house. The northern soldiers are highly delighted with this kind of winter. Nothing new in the City. The immence Army near the City keep so quiet that we hard[ly] realize that 250,000 Soldiers are within a few miles of us. There is a great deal of practicing with the guns at the Forts. Some days it is a constant Cannonade. I did a little glazeing tonight, then called with Julia at Mr Fenwicks and spent an hour or two. Mr Munson, owner of “Munsons Hill,” was there. He is the Fatherinlaw of Mr Fenwick. Very inteligent man.


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.


Martinsburg, December 9, 1861.

I did not write my accustomed Sunday letter to you on yesterday. I was otherwise busy until 9.30 o’clock last night, when I reached here. Then I was so sleepy and tired, I could hardly stand upon my feet, having been awake all the night before, and hard at work most of it . Yesterday I spent on the bank of the Potomac, not as decent people generally spend the Sabbath, in peace and rest, but listening to the music of cannon and musket, and witnessing their work of destruction. There was much firing, but little damage on either side, as the river intervened, and the men of the enemy, as well as our own, were well sheltered from fire. Our loss, I learn, is one mortally wounded and two very seriously; one of the latter is the son of Shanklin McClure of our county, and a member of the Rockbridge Artillery. The purpose of the expedition was to destroy a dam across the Potomac which feeds the canal now used by the enemy in shipping coal. I was appointed to superintend and direct the execution of the work, with some men detailed to do it. We reached the ground about sunset on Saturday evening, when a few shots from our artillery drove off the force of the enemy stationed on the opposite side. I then took down my force and put it to work and continued until about eleven o’clock, when we were surprised by a fire from the enemy on the opposite side again, which made it impossible to proceed until they could be driven away. At daybreak Sunday morning our cannon opened fire upon them again, but they were so sheltered in the canal—from which in the meantime they had drawn off the water—that it was found impossible to dislodge them. As my workmen could not be protected against the enemy’s fire, I found it necessary to abandon the enterprise. So you see, Love, entrusted with an important work, I have made a failure. If I had succeeded, the Yankees would have suffered much in Washington for want of coal. But they must get it as usual, for which they may thank their riflemen, who drove my party from the work of destruction upon which they were engaged.

I begin to think, Love, there is no amount of fatigue, exposure and starvation which I cannot stand. I got notice on Thursday about three o’clock that I was wanted at Jackson’s headquarters; there I got my directions, and rode here in a hard trot of about six miles to the hour. The next afternoon I rode up and took a view of the work which I had in contemplation and returned here. On Saturday’morning we left here with our forces to accomplish it. On Sunday at twelve o ‘clock I could not help but remark that I felt fresh, although I had not slept the night before, and had nothing to eat since Saturday morning at breakfast, with the exception of a small piece of bread, and had been upon my feet, or my horse, nearly the whole time. I think this war will give me a stock of good health which will last a good while. And now, Love, whilst I have been in the perils of minie-balls, I expect, when I get to Winchester, to receive a letter from somebody saying that you have been in worse perils, and that we have an addition to our small stock of children. The only special message I have is that its name may be yours or mine, just as you like. Whilst, Love, I have just been expressing my gratification at my good health, and my capacity for fatigue and exposure, I cannot help feeling this war is an uncertain life, and there is no telling that you and I may never see much of each other again. I shall try and get a leave of absence to go home this winter; but I suppose it will not be possible until after Christmas, as I think Col. Echols has the promise of a leave at that time, and it would not be proper for us both to be away at the same time.

How much I wish that I was with you, that I could stay at home! But to turn my back upon our cause, to leave the fatigue, patriotism and risk of life which it requires to be borne by others, when duty and patriotism require that I should share it, I cannot do.


December 9.—The Charleston Courier of this day has the following: “The news from Port Royal continues to be of the most gratifying character. The unanimity of our planters in the destruction of the cotton crops, the laying waste and burning every thing that would afford shelter or subsistence to the enemy where it cannot be otherwise defended, deprives them of the extensive spoils with which they have feasted their imagination, and the obtainment of which was one of their chief objects. Their mission in this respect will prove a most disastrous failure. They have gained little or nothing to satisfy them, and should they advance further, every inch of ground will be disputed with fire and sword, and the arms of a brave people. Some of these same thieving adventurers have lately made several visits to Port Royal, with the hope of securing rich plunder, but they were foiled and disappointed in their object by the timely steps taken to thwart them in their purposes. The prospects of paying the cost of their grand expedition by the sale of our cotton has been nipped in the bud. Our planters in that neighborhood have vindicated most patriotically our cause. Scattered as they were in every direction, it was found impossible to act in combination. But an opportunity has now been offered, and they have cheerfully consigned to the flames the labors of the year.

—Gen. Halleck; issued orders stating that the Mayor of St. Louis, Mo., would require all municipal officers immediately to subscribe to the oath of allegiance prescribed by the Missouri State Convention in October last, and would direct the provost marshal to arrest all State officers who had failed to subscribe to such oath within the time fixed by the Convention, and had attempted to exercise civil authority in violation of the ordinance.

—The U. S. flotilla on the Lower Potomac was actively engaged to-day in shelling the woods and burning the buildings of the rebels at Freestone Point, Va. The Harriet Lane, Anacostia and Jacob Bell, supported by the Reliance, Stepping Stones, and Herbert, poured a heavy fire for an hour and a half upon the enemy’s position. The rebel batteries at Shipping Point kept up a brisk fire, which was responded to by the Union battery at Budd’s Ferry with a few shells. Lieut. McCrea, with a boat’s crew from the Jacob Bell, and another boat from the Anacostia, went ashore and burned down the rebel buildings at Freestone Point, containing stores.—(Doc. 218.)

—Adjutant S. K. Hall, of Colonel Eads’ Twenty-seventh Missouri regiment, came in to Sedalia, Mo., this evening from Dunksburg, twenty miles distant, with fourteen rebel prisoners and an escort of twelve mounted scouts. The prisoners were captured by Capt. McGuire’s command, Company A, while on their way North. Eight of them were members of a cornet band from Price’s army, and had their instruments, drums, and trumpets along. They were well provided with transportation, having a large band wagon drawn with four horses, all of which were taken to Sedalia, The names of the band are as follows: Joseph Rosenthrall, leader; Charles Prentice, “E flat;” A. J. Cunningham, tenor; W. B. Lydick, cornet, B flat; George W. Wise, alto; W. H. Stephens, bass; Wm. H. Cunningham, drummer; Jacob Gains, driver; Robt. Fathing, baggage teamster. The Twenty-seventh regiment were sadly in want of music to cheer their drooping spirits, for every paymaster who had been detailed to pay off troops since the 1st July, had invariably ignored their claim for pay, and this band acquisition was a perfect god-send.—Missouri Democrat, December 12.

—The Twenty-fourth Massachusetts regiment, Col. Thomas G. Stevenson, which had been encamped at Readville, left Boston, on its way to Annapolis, at which place it was attached to Gen. Burnside’s Division. The regiment numbered one thousand and twenty men, all of whom were thoroughly uniformed and equipped, and armed with the Enfield rifle.

—Col. Willits, of the Kansas Brigade, arrived at Leavenworth, Kansas, this evening, and reported the following facts: Gen. Price was at Osceola on the 1st December, with about eighteen thousand men; he made a speech, and told them he was going to Kansas to avenge the burning of Osceola.

On Friday last, December 6th, thirteen persons started from near Olathe, in company with a Union man who had been driven out of Missouri, to get some hogs belonging to the refugee. They were attacked from the border in Missouri by about thirty or forty rebels, when they retired back into Kansas, and soon raised near two hundred men, with whom they returned. They soon met the enemy, who also had been reinforced by a considerable body, and a skirmish commenced, which lasted all day Saturday, resulting in a drawn battle, with two Nationals wounded, three rebels killed, and five mortally wounded.—Leavenworth (Kansas) Times, December 10.

—F. W. Pickens, Governor of South Carolina, issued a proclamation, stating that the “State is invaded, and Charleston is threatened, by land and by sea, with large forces,” and calling for twelve thousand volunteers, to be furnished for a term of service, not less than twelve months, unless sooner discharged.—(Doc. 219.)

—Rev. A. A. Von Puttkammer, pastor of a German Baptist Church, Albany, N. Y., assumed command of the Havelock Flying Artillery, one hundred and sixty men and six guns, nearly ready to take the field. Mr. P. is a graduate of the Berlin Military Academy, and was twenty-three years in the Prussian service, where he obtained the rank of Captain of Artillery. He admits none but men of Christian character into his command, and proposes to observe worship three times a day when practicable.— Cincinnati Gazette, December 11.

—A Flag of truce went from Fortress Monroe to Norfolk, Va., this morning, carrying thirty-two rebel prisoners discharged by the United States on their parole. A rebel flag of truce met the boat and transferred thereto some ladies coming from Richmond, Va.—National Intelligencer, December 11.

—A battle took place to-day on Bushy Creek, near the Verdigris River, about one hundred and eighty miles from Fort Smith, Arkansas, between the forces of Col. Cooper and the Yankees, under Opothleyholo, estimated at four thousand or five thousand: Colonel Cooper had only about one thousand three hundred men.

The Yankees attacked Col. Cooper about eleven o’clock, and the fight continued all day until sundown. Col. Simms’ Texas regiment fought with great bravery, and the Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Creeks fought like tigers.

The Yankees followed Col. Cooper several miles, and attacked him with great fury. Col. Cooper drove them back to the woods, a distance of two miles. A large number of Cherokees were with Opothleyholo; likewise about one hundred and fifty Seminoles. Col. Drew, with his men, who remained with him, fought well and did good service. The Choctaws took about one hundred and fifty scalps, and the Chickasaws nearly fifty. The Creeks did not scalp any, because the enemy was their own people.

A white man, by the name of Eli Smith, was taken who had gone over to the Yankees. He was tried by a court-martial and shot. He was a deserter from a Texas regiment. Other deserters were taken and dealt with in the same manner. Col. Cooper behaved with the greatest coolness and bravery.—Fort Smith (Ark.) Times, December 15.

—Major Lyons’ Rocket Battalion, one hundred and fifty men, from Albany, left New York this afternoon for Washington. Their side arras will be sabres and carbines, and their battery is to be constructed on a new plan, so as to throw rockets as well as balls and shells. This arm is expected to be useful in burning towns or fighting cavalry. The battalion consists of two companies, that from Niagara commanded by Capt. Alfred Ransom, and that from Wyoming and Morris counties by Captain J. A. Lee.—N. Y. World, December 10.

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