“A soldier is a mere machine and has no business to know anything except his duty.”–Army letters of Oliver Willcox Norton.

Army letters of Oliver Willcox Norton (Eighty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers)

Camp Wright, Hulton, Penn.,
Saturday. June 22, 1861.

Dear Mother:—

None of the boys have had any letters for a week. At last they begin to come and all bring news, “we heard you were coming home.” Well, the origin of that story was this: Colonel McLane received orders to start for Harrisburg, where his regiment would be sworn in for three years. A vote was taken and not over half the men would enlist for that time, and it was reported that the remainder would be sent home, and the regiment filled from other companies in camp. As usual, the order was countermanded, and we are here yet.

Yesterday a dispatch was received saying we were to be armed and

Sunday morning, 23d.

I had got as far as that yesterday when I was stopped by the cry, “Fall in, marching orders are received, we’re off by the first train,” etc. I put away my writing, seized my gun, and was in the ranks in a short time. The cannon was booming out our joy, and amid the wildest cheers we marched to the guard house and reported to the “Officer of the day,” who said the orders were to have everything packed and ready to leave by 2 o’clock. We returned to our quarters and commenced packing, when, as usual, the orders were countermanded. General McCall telegraphed, “Hold on, don’t start till further orders.” The further orders have not come yet. Here we are at 11 a. m., to-day, and three companies are detailed for guards, Companies E, F and K, showing that we will not leave to-day.

We are ordered to Harrisburg to receive uniforms and equipments, and we expect to go from there to Western Virginia.

That is the fourth time we have had marching orders countermanded. Colonel McLane telegraphed to Harrisburg that he should start for Harrisburg or Erie on Monday. If his regiment was not ordered off he would take them home. The arms were distributed to the regiment a few days ago, and we are having the most severe drill. The thermometer stands in the neighborhood of 100 most of the time and they take us out about two hours at a time and keep us marching till the sweat pours off in streams.

I think this severe drilling shows that we are to see service soon, though when or where, we cannot tell. A soldier is a mere machine and has no business to know anything except his duty. His officers take care that he does not.


A Diary of American Events – June 23, 1861

The Rebellion Record—A Diary of American Events; by Frank Moore

—To-day Professor Lowe went into the rebels’ country as far as Fall’s Church with his balloon, from which place he made several ascensions. He was so far towards Fairfax Court House that his appearance in the air created a report here that the rebels had an opposition balloon. He was escorted into the interior by one company of the Eighth New York regiment. Major Colburn, of the Connecticut regiment, accompanied Professor Lowe in his voyage, and made a sketch of the enemy’s country that was so correct, that Virginians who were familiar with the vicinity of Fairfax Court House, at once recognized it, and named the roads, lanes, streams, and dwellings. A small encampment of rebels was discovered near Fairfax Court House. Maps of the whole country occupied by the enemy will be taken by these balloon ascensions, under the superintendence of Professor Lowe.—N. Y. Herald, June 26.

—The Thirty-seventh regiment N. Y. S. V., commanded by Col. John H. McCunn, left New York for Washington.—(Doc. 33.)

—Major-general McClellan issued from his head-quarters at Grafton, Va., a proclamation “to the inhabitants of Western Virginia” and another “to the soldiers of the army of the West.” He has now taken command of the Western Virginia forces in person, and intends to prosecute the war vigorously.—(Doc. 34.)


William Howard Russell’s Diary: American country-walks.—Recklessness of life.—Want of cavalry.—Émeute in the camp.—Defects of army medical department.—Horrors of war.—Bad discipline.

My Diary North and South – William Howard Russell

June 22nd. An active man would soon go mad if he were confined in Cairo. A mudbank stretching along the course of a muddy river is not attractive to a pedestrian; and, as is the case in most of the Southern cities, there is no place round Cairo where a man can stretch his legs, or take an honest walk in the country. A walk in the country! The Americans have not an idea of what the thing means. I speak now only of the inhabitants of the towns of the States through which I have passed, as far as I have seen of them. The roads are either impassible in mud or knee-deep in dust. There are no green shady lanes, no sheltering groves, no quiet paths through green meadows beneath umbrageous trees. Off the rail there is a morass—or, at best, a clearing—full of stumps. No temptations to take a stroll. Down away South the planters ride or drive; indeed in many places the saunterer by the way-side would probably encounter an alligator, or disturb a society of rattle-snakes.

To-day I managed to struggle along the levee in a kind of sirocco, and visited the works at the extremity, which were constructed by an Hungarian named Waagner, one of the emigrés who came with Kossuth to the United States. I found him in a hut full of flies, suffering from camp diarrhœa, and waited on by Mr. O’Leary, who was formerly petty officer in our navy, served in the Furious in the Black Sea, and in the Shannon Brigade in India, now a lieutenant in the United States’ army, where I should say he feels himself very much out of place. The Hungarian and the Milesian were, however, quite agreed about the utter incompetence of their military friends around them, and the great merits of heavy artillery. “When I tell them here the way poor Sir William made us rattle about them 68-pounder guns, the poor ignorant creatures laugh at me—not one of them believes it.” “It is most astonishing,” says the colonel, “how ignorant they are; there is not one of these men who can trace a regular work. Of West-point men I speak not, but of the people about here, and they will not learn of me—from me who knows.” However, the works were well enough, strongly covered, commanded both rivers, and not to be reduced without trouble.

The heat drove me in among the flies of the crowded hotel, where Brigadier Prentiss is planning one of those absurd expeditions against a Secessionist camp at Commerce, in the State of Missouri, about two hours steaming up the river, and some twelve or fourteen miles inland. Cairo abounds in Secessionists and spies, and it is needful to take great precautions lest the expedition be known; but, after all, stores must be got ready, and put on board the steamers, and preparations must be made which cannot be concealed from the world. At dusk 700 men, supported by a six-pounder field-piece, were put on board the “City of Alton,” on which they clustered like bees in a swarm, and as the huge engine laboured up and down against the stream, and the boat swayed from side to side, I felt a considerable desire to see General Prentiss chucked into the stream for his utter recklessness in cramming on board one huge tinder-box, all fire and touchwood, so many human beings, who, in event of an explosion, or a shot in the boiler, or of a heavy musketry fire on the banks, would have been converted into a great slaughter-house. One small boat hung from her stern, and although there were plenty of river flats and numerous steamers, even the horses belonging to the field piece were crammed in among the men along the deck.

In my letter to Europe I made, at the time, some remarks by which the belligerents might have profited, and which at the time these pages are reproduced may strike them as possessing some value, illustrated as they have been by many events in the war. “A handful of horsemen would have been admirable to move in advance, feel the covers, and make prisoners for political or other purposes in case of flight; but the Americans persist in ignoring the use of horsemen, or at least in depreciating it, though they will at last find that they may shed much blood, and lose much more, before they can gain a victory without the aid of artillery and charges after the retreating enemy. From the want of cavalry, I suppose it is, the unmilitary practice of ‘scouting,’ as it is called here, has arisen. It is all very well in the days of Indian wars for footmen to creep about in the bushes, and shoot or be shot by sentries and pickets; but no civilised war recognises such means of annoyance as firing upon sentinels, unless in case of an actual advance or feigned attack on the line. No camp can be safe without cavalry videttes and pickets; for the enemy can pour in impetuously after the alarm has been given, as fast as the outlying footmen can run in. In feeling the way for a column, cavalry are invaluable, and there can be little chance of ambuscades or surprises where they are judiciously employed; but ‘scouting’ on foot, or adventurous private expeditions on horseback, to have a look at the enemy, can do, and will do, nothing but harm. Every day the papers contain accounts of scouts’ being killed, and sentries being picked off. The latter is a very barbarous and savage practice; and the Russian, in his most angry moments, abstained from it. If any officer wishes to obtain information as to his enemy, he has two ways of doing it. He can employ spies, who carry their lives in their hands, or he can beat up their quarters by a proper reconnaissance on his own responsibility, in which, however, it would be advisable not to trust his force to a railway train.”

At night there was a kind of émeute in camp. The day, as I have said, was excessively hot, and on returning to their tents and huts from evening parade the men found the contractor who supplies them with water had not filled the barrels; so they forced the sentries, broke barracks after hours, mobbed their officers, and streamed up to the hotel, which they surrounded, calling out, “Water, water,” in chorus. The General came out, and got up on a rail: “Gentlemen,” said he, it is not my fault you are without water. It’s your officers who are to blame; not me.” (“Groans for the Quartermaster,” from the men.) “If it is the fault of the contractor, I’ll see that he is punished. I’ll take steps at once to see that the matter is remedied. And now, gentlemen, I hope you’ll go back to your quarters;” and the gentlemen took it into their heads very good-humouredly to obey the suggestion, fell in, and marched back two deep to their huts.

As the General was smoking his cigar before going to bed, I asked him why the officers had not more control over the men. “Well,” said he, “the officers are to blame for all this. The truth is, the term for which these volunteers enlisted is drawing to a close; and they have not as yet enrolled themselves in the United States’ army. They are merely volunteer regiments of the State of Illinois. If they were displeased with anything, therefore, they might refuse to enter the service or to take fresh engagements: and the officers would find themselves suddenly left without any men; they therefore curry favour with the privates, many of them, too, having an eye to the votes of the men when the elections of officers in the new regiments are to take place.”

The contractors have commenced plunder on a gigantic scale; and their influence with the authorities of the State is so powerful, there is little chance of punishing them. Besides, it is not considered expedient to deter contractors, by too scrupulous an exactitude, in coming forward at such a trying period; and the Quartermaster’s department, which ought to be the most perfect, considering the number of persons connected with transport and carriage is in a most disgraceful and inefficient condition. I told the General that one of the Southern leaders proposed to hang any contractor who was found out in cheating the men, and that the press cordially approved of the suggestion. “I am afraid,” said he, “if any such proposal was carried out here, there would scarcely be a contractor left throughout the States.” Equal ignorance is shown by the medical authorities of the requirements of an army. There is not an ambulance or cacolet of any kind attached to this camp; and, as far as I could see, not even a litter was sent on board the steamer which has started with the expedition.

Although there has scarcely been a fought field or anything more serious than the miserable skirmishes of Shenck and Butler, the pressure of war has already told upon the people. The Cairo paper makes an urgent appeal to the authorities to relieve the distress and pauperism which the sudden interruption of trade has brought upon so many respectable citizens. And when I was at Memphis the other day, I observed a public notice in the journals, that the magistrates of the city would issue orders for money to families left in distress by the enrolment of the male members for military service. When General Scott, sorely against his will, was urged to make preparations for an armed invasion of the seceded states in case it became necessary, he said it would need some hundreds of thousands of men and many millions of money to effect that object. Mr. Seward, Mr Chase, and Mr. Lincoln laughed pleasantly at this exaggeration, but they have begun to find by this time the old general was not quite so much in the wrong.

In reference to the discipline maintained in the camp, I must admit that proper precautions are used to prevent spies entering the lines. The sentries are posted closely and permit no one to go in without a pass in the day and a countersign at night. A conversation with General Prentiss in the front of the hotel was interrupted this evening by an Irishman, who ran past us towards the camp, hotly pursued by two policemen. The sentry on duty at the point of the lines close to us brought him up by the point of the bayonet. “Who goes tere?” “A friend, shure your honour; I’m a friend.” “Advance three paces and give the countersign.” “I don’t know it, I tell you. Let me in, let me in.” But the German was resolute, and the policemen now coming up in hot pursuit, seized the culprit, who resisted violently, till General Prentiss rose from his chair and ordered the guard, who had turned out, to make a prisoner of the soldier and hand him over to the civil power, for which the man seemed to be most deeply grateful. As the policemen were walking him off, he exclaimed, “Be quiet wid ye, till I spake a word to the Giniral,” and then bowing and chuckling with drunken gravity, he said, “an’ indeed, Giniral, I’m much obleeged to ye altogither for this kindness. Long life to ye. We’ve got the better of that dirty German. Hoora’ for Giniral Prentiss.” He preferred a chance of more whisky in the police office and a light punishment to the work in camp and a heavy drill in the morning. An officer who was challenged by a sentry the other evening, asked him, “do you know the countersign yourself?” “No, sir, it’s not nine o’clock and they have not given it out yet.” Another sentry who stopped a man because he did not know the countersign. The fellow said, “I dare say you don’t know it yourself.” “That’s a lie,” he exclaimed, “it’s Plattsburgh.” “Plattsburgh it is, sure enough,” said the other, and walked on without further parley.

The Americans, Irish, and Germans, do not always coincide in the phonetic value of each letter in the passwords, and several difficulties have occurred in consequence. An incautious approach towards the posts at night is attended with risk; for the raw sentries are very quick on the trigger. More fatal and serious injuries have been inflicted on the Federals by themselves than by the enemy. “I declare to you, sir, the way the boys touched off their irons at me going home to my camp last night, was just like a running fight with the Ingins. I was a little ‘tight,’ and didn’t mind it a cuss.”


It has realy been the most quiet day that we have had for some time.—Horatio Nelson Taft

Diary of US patent clerk Horatio Nelson Taft.


This is the day which was set for the capture of Washington by the “Secessionists.” But the day has passed off quietly and that thing has not been attempted. The Fifty thousand Bayonets here were a slight obsticle in the way. It has realy been the most quiet day that we have had for some time. Three or four Regts have arrived. The 2nd R.I., 1240 men and “Scott Life Guard,” are two of them. Gov Sprague came back with the RI Regt. I went to market, read the papers & Retired.


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.


“We do not know the future, and economy is a duty.”—Rutherford B. Hayes

Diary and Letters of Rutherford Birchard Hayes

CAMP CHASE, June 22, 1861.

DEAREST LU:—I start for Fremont this morning. . . . As to surgeons, four only are to be appointed; it will not be possible to get two of them from Cincinnati. Either Clendenin or Dr. Joe will not get appointed. I mention this merely to show the facts. I want the doctor to do nothing at all about it, nor to say anything about it. Dr. Clendenin can probably get an appointment from Washington as brigade surgeon. It will be some days before the appointments will be made. There is a good disposition to accommodate us at headquarters, and I think the prospect fair for his [Dr. Joe’s] appointment.

I shall want towels, sheets, and three table-cloths, one and one-half dozen napkins, two comforts. Don’t buy them, or any of them, but if you have them to spare, I will take them. I would advise the spending of as little as possible. We do not know the future, and economy is a duty. These things are merely luxuries. Love to all.



P. S.—You will enjoy looking at us here, and I shall be glad to have you come up. You can hardly live out at camp; but possibly, we can keep you a night or two, and you can stay here through the day. It is pleasant living here. Colonel Scammon is our colonel. This will do. It has advantages which I need not explain which would not occur to an outside looker-on.



A Diary of American Events – June 22, 1861

The Rebellion Record—A Diary of American Events; by Frank Moore

—The Louisville, Ky., papers this morning contain letters from Gov. Magoffin and General Buckner, stating that an agreement has been made between General McClellan and the Kentucky authorities, that the territory of Kentucky will be respected by the Federal authorities, even though it should be occupied by the Confederates. But if Kentucky does not remove them the Federal troops will interfere. The Governor of Tennessee agrees to respect the neutrality of Kentucky until occupied by Federal troops.—(Doc. 30.)

—This evening as Col. Sturges’s battery was practising at a target on a low piece of ground, about a mile from Grafton, Va., five or six shots were fired upon the men by rebels, from a concealed position, without effect. A scouting party was sent out, and some five or six rebels, with arms in their hands, were captured and brought into camp. Among the rest were three of the Poe family, father and two sons, most notorious desperadoes.—National Intelligencer, June 26.

—The proclamation of Henry M. McGill, acting governor of Washington Territory, in response to the call of President Lincoln for troops, is published.—(Doc. 31.)

—Charles Henry Foster, in an address to the “freemen” of the First Congressional District of North Carolina, announced himself as a Union candidate for the United States Congress as follows:

“Fellow-Citizens: I hereby announce myself as an unconditional Union candidate for the Congress of the United States from this District. The usurpations of your Governor, and the revolutionary acts of your Convention, cannot command the acquiescence of loyal citizens. They are utterly without authority; they have no validity in law or public exigency, and impose no binding obligation upon the people. Your allegiance to the Federal Union remains first and highest, and there is no fealty that can conflict with or override it.

“A law of North Carolina fixes the first Thursday of August as the day of election for your Representatives in Congress. The default or malfeasance of no seditious Governor or other public functionary can defeat or impair your right of representation in the councils of the nation. It is your privilege to go to the polls, on the day designated by the statute of the State, and cast your ballots without fear or intimidation. You will be protected in the exercise of the sacred right of franchise to the full extent of the power of the Government.”

—Francis H. Pierpont, Governor of Virginia, issued his first proclamation calling together the members of that State to meet in Wheeling on the first day of July.—(Doc. 32.)


“At length I turned my head, and beheld the President not three feet from me.”—A Rebel War Clerk’s Diary at the Confederate States Capital

A Rebel War Clerk’s Diary at the Confederate States Capital, By John Beauchamp Jones

JUNE 22D.—The Convention has appointed ten additional members to the Provisional Congress—President Tyler among them. It will be observed that my Diary goes on, including every day. Fighting for our homes and holy altars, there is no intermission on Sunday. It is true, Mr. Memminger came in the other day with a proposition to cease from labor on Sunday, but our Secretary made war on it. The President, however, goes to church very regularly—St. Paul’s.

On last Sunday the President surprised me. It was before church time, and I was working alone. No one else was in the large room, and the Secretary himself had gone home, quite ill. I thought I heard some one approaching lightly from behind, but wrote on without looking up; even when he had been standing some time at the back of my chair. At length I turned my head, and beheld the President not three feet from me. He smiled, and said he was looking for a certain letter referred by him to the Secretary. I asked the name of the writer, which he told me. I said I had a distinct recollection of it, and had taken it into the Secretary with other papers that morning. But the Secretary was gone. We then proceeded into the Secretary’s office in search of it. The Secretary’s habit was to take the papers from his table, and after marking on them with his pencil the disposition he wished made of them—, he threw them helter-skelter into a large arm-chair. This chair now contained half a bushel; and the President and I set to work in quest of the letter. We removed them one by one; and as we progressed, he said with an impatient smile, “it is always sure to be the last one.” And so it was. Having found it, he departed immediately; and soon after I saw him on his way to church.


William Howard Russell’s Diary: Camp at Cairo.—The North and the South in respect to Europe.—Political reflections.—Mr. Colonel Oglesby.—My speech.—Northern and Southern soldiers compared.

My Diary North and South – William Howard Russell

June 21st. Verily I would be sooner in the Coptic Cairo, narrow streeted, dark bazaared, many flied, much vexed by donkeys and by overland route passengers, than the horrid tongue of land which licks the muddy margin of the Ohio and the Mississippi. The thermometer at 100° in the shade before noon indicates nowhere else such an amount of heat and suffering, and yet prostrate as I was, it was my fate to argue that England was justified in conceding belligerent rights to the South, and that the attitude of neutrality we had assumed in this terrible quarrel is not in effect an aggression on the United States; and here is a difference to be perceived between the North and the South.

The people of the seceding States, aware in their consciences that they have been most active in their hostility to Great Britain, and whilst they were in power were mainly responsible for the defiant, irritating, and insulting tone commonly used to us by American statesmen, are anxious at the present moment, when so much depends on the action of foreign countries, to remove all unfavourable impressions from our minds by declarations of good will, respect, and admiration, not quite compatible with the language of their leaders in times not long gone by. The North, as yet unconscious of the loss of power, and reared in a school of menace and violent assertion of their rights regarding themselves as the whole of the United States, and animated by their own feeling of commercial and political opposition to Great Britain, maintain the high tone of a people who have never known let or hindrance in their passions, and consider it an outrage that the whole world does not join in active sympathy for a government which in its brief career has contrived to affront every nation in Europe with which it had any dealings.

If the United States have astonished France by their ingratitude, they have certainly accustomed England to their petulance, and one can fancy the satisfaction with which the Austrian Statesmen who remember Mr. Webster’s despatch to Mr. Hulsemann, contemplate the present condition of the United States in the face of an insurrection of these sovereign and independent States which the Cabinet at Washington stigmatises as an outbreak of rebels and traitors to the royalty of the Union.

During my short sojourn in this country I have never yet met any person who could show me where the sovereignty of the Union resides. General Prentiss, however, and his Illinois volunteers, are quite ready to fight for it.

In the afternoon the General drove me round the camps in company with Mr. Washburne, Member of Congress, from Illinois, his staff and a party of officers, among whom was Mr. Oglesby, colonel of a regiment of State Volunteers, who struck me by his shrewdness, simple honesty, and zeal. (Since died of wounds received in action.) He told me that he had begun life in the utmost obscurity, but that somehow or other he got into a lawyer’s office, and there, by hard drudgery, by mother wit, and industry, notwithstanding a defective education, he had raised himself not only to independence but to such a position that 1000 men had gathered at his call and selected one who had never led a company in his life to be their colonel; in fact, he is an excellent orator of the western school, and made good homely, telling speeches to his men.

“I’m not as good as your Frenchmen of the schools of Paris, nor am I equal to the Russian colonels I met at St. Petersburg, who sketched me out how they had beaten you Britishers at Sebastopol,” said he; “but I know I can do good straight fighting with my boys when I get a chance. There is a good deal in training, to be sure, but nature tells too. Why I believe I would make a good artillery officer if I was put to it. General, you heard how I laid one of them guns the other day and touched her off with my own hand and sent the ball right into a tree half-a-mile away.” The Colonel evidently thought he had by that feat proved his fitness for the command of a field battery. One of the German officers who was listening to the lively old man’s talk, whispered to me, “Dere is a good many of tese colonels in dis camp.”

At each station the officers came out of their tents, shook hands all round, and gave an unfailing invitation to get down and take a drink, and the guns on the General’s approach fired salutes, as though it was a time of profoundest peace. Powder was certainly more plentiful than in the Confederate camps, where salutes are not permitted unless by special order on great occasions.

The General remained for some time in the camp of the Chicago light artillery, which was commanded by a fine young Scotchman of the Saxon genus Smith, who told me that the privates of his company represented a million and a half of dollars in property. Their guns, horses, carriages, and accoutrements were all in the most creditable order, and there was an air about the men and about their camp which showed they did not belong to the same class as the better disciplined Hungarians of Milotzky close at hand.

Whilst we were seated in Captain Smith’s tent, a number of the privates came forward, and sang the “Star-spangled banner” and a patriotic song, to the air of “God save the Queen,” and the rest of the artillerymen, and a number of stragglers from the other camps, assembled and then formed line behind the singers. When the chorus was over there arose a great shout for Washburne, and the honourable Congress man was fain to come forward and make a speech, in which he assured his hearers of a very speedy victory and the advent of liberty all over the land. Then “General Prentiss” was called for; and as citizen soldiers command their Generals on such occasions, he too was obliged to speak, and to tell his audience “the world had never seen any men more devoted, gallant, or patriotic than themselves.” “Oglesby” was next summoned, and the tall, portly, good-humoured old man stepped to the front, and with excellent tact and good sense, dished up in the Buncombe style, told them the time for making speeches had passed, indeed it had lasted too long; and although it was said there was very little fighting when there was much talking, he believed too much talking was likely to lead to a great deal more fighting than any one desired to see between citizens of the United States of America, except their enemies, who, no doubt, were much better pleased to see Americans fighting each other than to find them engaged in any other employment. Great as the mischief of too much talking had been, too much writing had far more of the mischief to answer for. The pen was keener than the tongue, hit harder, and left a more incurable wound; but the pen was better than the tongue, because it was able to cure the mischief it had inflicted.” And so by a series of sentences the Colonel got round to me, and to my consternation, remembering how I had fared with my speech at the little private dinner on St. Patrick’s Day in New York, I was called upon by stentorian lungs, and hustled to the stump by a friendly circle, till I escaped by uttering a few sentences as to “mighty struggle,” “Europe gazing,” “the world anxious,” “the virtues of discipline,” “the admirable lessons of a soldier’s life,” and the “aspiration that in a quarrel wherein a British subject was ordered, by an authority he was bound to respect, to remain neutral, God might preserve the right.”

Colonel, General, and all addressed the soldiers as “gentlemen,” and their auditory did not on their part refrain from expressing their sentiments in the most unmistakeable manner. “Bully for you, General!” “Bravo, Washburne!” “That’s so, Colonel!” and the like, interrupted the harangues and when the oratorical exercises were over the men crowded round the staff, cheered and hurrahed, and tossed up their caps in the greatest delight.

With the exception of the foreign officers, and some of the Staff, there are very few of the colonels, majors, captains, or lieutenants who know anything of their business. The men do not care for them, and never think of saluting them. A regiment of Germans was sent across from Bird’s Point this evening for plundering and robbing the houses in the district in which they were quartered.

It may be readily imagined that the scoundrels who had to fly from every city in Europe before the face of the police will not stay their hands when they find themselves masters of the situation in the so-called country of an enemy. In such matters the officers have little or no control, and discipline is exceedingly lax, and punishments but sparingly inflicted, the use of the lash being forbidden altogether. Fine as the men are, incomparably better armed, clad— and doubtless better fed—than the Southern troops, they will scarcely meet them man to man in the field with any chance of success. Among the officers are bar-room keepers, persons little above the position of potmen in England, grocers’ apprentices, and such like—often inferior socially, and in every other respect, to the men whom they are supposed to command. General Prentiss has seen service, I believe, in Mexico; but he appears to me to be rather an ardent politician, embittered against slaveholders and the South, than a judicious or skilful military leader.

The principles on which these isolated commanders carry on the war are eminently defective. They apply their whole minds to petty expeditions, which go out from the camps, attack some Secessionist gathering, and then return, plundering as they go and come, exasperating enemies, converting neutrals into opponents, disgusting friends, and leaving it to the Secessionists to boast that they have repulsed them. Instead of encouraging the men and improving their discipline these ill-conducted expeditions have an opposite result.


“Many are frightened and are looking round for some place to flee to.”—Horatio Nelson Taft

Diary of US patent clerk Horatio Nelson Taft.

FRIDAY, JUNE 21, 1861.

This has been a hot day. At the dress Parade of the “12th” this evening about twenty of the soldiers droped down, overcome with heat. All sorts of reports have been in circulation today. “Genl Beauregard” has been on the march for the City with one hundred thousand men. Many are frightened and are looking round for some place to flee to. Genl Lyon of Missouri is making his mark in puting down rebellion there. So hot that I could not go down to the Ave.


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.


“…It was Bishop Polk… He had just been appointed a major-general, and assigned to duty in the West, where he would rank Gen. Pillow…,”—A Rebel War Clerk’s Diary at the Confederate States Capital, By John Beauchamp Jones

A Rebel War Clerk’s Diary at the Confederate States Capital, By John Beauchamp Jones

JUNE 21ST.—A large, well-proportioned gentleman with florid complexion and intellectual face, who has been whispering with Col. Bledsoe several times during the last week, attracted my attention to-day. And when he retired, Colonel B. informed me it was Bishop Polk, a classmate of his and the President’s at West Point. He had just been appointed a major-general, and assigned to duty in the West, where he would rank Gen. Pillow, who was exceedingly unpopular in Adjutant-Gen. Cooper’s office. I presume this arose solely from mistrust of his military abilities; for he had certainly manifested much enthusiasm in the cause, and was constantly urging the propriety of aggressive movements with his command. All his purposed advances were countermanded. The policy of the government is to be economical of the men. We have but a limited, the enemy an inexhaustible number.


“The slaveholding politicians must go down or there will be no permanent peace.”–Adams Family Letters, Charles Francis Adams, Sr., U.S. Minister to England.

Adams Family Civil War letters; US Minister to the UK and his sons.

Charles Francis Adams To His Son

London, June 21,1861

With respect to his [Sumner’s] language about Governor Seward I very much regret it for the sake of the public interest. He is sowing the seeds of discord where we ought to have a more perfect union. He is disseminating distrust in our Government when it depends upon confidence. I am surprised to find how very general the dislike of the Governor is in society here. The English express fear of his intentions towards them and intimate suspicions of his duplicity, whilst among Americans he finds only here and there a defender. In one or two cases I have already traced these impressions to their source in America, and I think I see the channels through which they are conducted. How much harm they may be doing cannot yet be appreciated. But if by means of them we should be plunged into a war solely from misunderstandings of our reciprocal intentions, we might come to conceive an idea of it. I believe that events are gradually working us out of this danger. But I suspect that the mischief has been considerable, and that we shall feel the effect of it in our future relations with this country for a good while to come. So far as I can, I have done my best to counteract it.


The general impression here is that there will be no war, and a little apprehension is expressed lest the reunion may be the signal for a common crusade against Great Britain. People do not quite understand Americans or their politics. They think this a hasty quarrel, the mere result of passion, which will be arranged as soon as the cause of it shall pass off. They do not comprehend the connection which slavery has with it, because we do not at once preach emancipation. Hence they go to the other extreme and argue that it is not an element of the struggle. With the commercial men the wish is father to the thought. They look with some uneasiness to the condition of the operatives at Manchester, to the downfall of Southern State stocks, to the falling off of the exports of goods and the drain of specie, to the exclusion from the seaports by the blockade, and to the bad debts of their former customers, for all which their sole panacea is settlement, somehow, no matter how. If it be by a recognition of two governments, that is as good a way as any other. On the other hand I now look to something of a war. We are in it and cannot get out. The slaveholding politicians must go down or there will be no permanent peace. I confess that in this sense I look with some anxiety to the meeting of Congress. I know not who there is now to give a right tone to its proceedings. Possibly some of the new men may come in and contribute to help on the work. Judge Thomas has a reputation as a lawyer, and he has also been a little of a legislator as long ago as when I was with him, but this is a new field. I hope and trust he may do well. . . .


The Letters of Samuel Ryan Curtis

The Letters of Samuel Ryan Curtis

Camp Lyon, Near the City of St. Joseph1
June 21, 1861.

Messrs. Austin A. King, and others—

Gentlemen: Your note of the 18th has been received, and I embrace the very first leisure moment to reply thereto. In regard to my mission here, I have to say that I am sent here by my Government and your Government to support and sustain the supremacy of the constitution and laws of our common Government, the United States of America. Extraordinary efforts have been made to induce our people to embark in a foolish and wicked assault on the Government and laws that protect them. Men are enrolled, mustered, and in arms against their own country, and therefore against the peace of society, and my orders and purpose are to suppress these unnatural belligerents by military force. So far from disturbing peaceable law abiding citizens, it is my desire to protect and shield them from insult, anarchy and oppression. But those who are in arms or hiding, directing and encouraging “secession” and civil war I regard as enemies of our country, and they will be pursued with all calamities of civilized warfare.

It is difficult to distinguish between those who enrolled under former laws with no view of rebellion and those who are recently enrolled with the avowed purpose of cooperating with secession armies, but I will of course endeavor to guard the innocent men when found associated with rebels if they promptly take oath of allegiance, and immediately and publicly withdraw from such associations. While it is my painful duty to carry forward the aims and emblems of National power against persons we have before regarded as citizens and friends, I will rejoice to see them surrender their arms, return to their allegiance and unite with us in sustaining a flag that our fathers unfurled, our country maintains, and the world continues to respect and honor.

I hope we of this generation may be equal to the occasion and transmit the blessings of liberty to succeeding generations.

Uniting with you in sympathy with those who innocently suffer from the accidents and havoc of war, I am, very truly and respectfully

Your ob’t Servant,
Sam’I R. Curtis
Colonel Commanding

1. Ibid. A Confederate flag had been raised in St. Joseph, a Union flag hauled down and torn to shreds; a railroad bridge was discovered on fire, and the suspected parties arrested, found to be secessionists: two men were arrested and charged with membership in a military drill company marching under the Confederate banner, using swords taken from the government arsenal at Liberty. Missouri. The Secessionist friends in St. Joseph had also secured a hasty Common Council ordinance against the raising of flags in the city, apparently designed to prevent a federal flag from being flown.


A Diary of American Events – June 21, 1861

The Rebellion Record—A Diary of American Events; by Frank Moore

—A correspondent at Washington says: Surprise has been expressed in some quarters at the failure of Gen. Scott to prevent the erection of batteries at various points on the right bank of the Potomac. The impending advance of the Union army toward Richmond, however, will either compel the Rebels to remove their batteries or render them an easy prey to the Union forces. Gen. Scott is simply indisposed to take at a great sacrifice of life what will be had in due time without bloodshed.—Ohio Statesman, June 22.

—The Twenty-ninth Regiment N. Y. S. V., under the command of Colonel Von Steinwehr, and the Seventeenth Regiment, Colonel H. C. Lansing, left New York for Washington. The Twenty-sixth Regiment N. Y. S. V., Colonel Christian, left Elmira, N. Y., for Washington.— (Doc. 27.)

—Two free negroes, belonging to Frederick, Md., who concealed themselves in the cars which conveyed the Rhode Island Regiment to Washington from that city, were returned this morning by command of Colonel Burnside, who supposed them to be slaves. The negros were accompanied by a sergeant of the regiment, who lodged them in gaol.—Baltimore American, June 22.

—The Third and Fourth Regiments of Ohio troops, under the commands of Colonels Morrow and Anderson, left camp Dennison for Virginia—Philadelphia Ledger, June 24.

—The Eastern Tennessee Union Convention, assembled at Greenville, adopted a declaration, of grievances and resolutions, expressing their preference for the Union and Constitution, and ignoring in a most emphatic manner the idea that they had been oppressed by the General Government.—It is the fixed determination of the Federal Government to sustain and protect in their constitutional and legal rights all those citizens of Tennessee who, in their devotion to the Union, are struggling to wrest their State Government from the hands of its unconstitutional rulers, and it will defend all loyal States against parts thereof claiming to have seceded, and thus will afford them every protection “against domestic violence, insurrection, invasion, and rebellion.”—(Doc. 28.)


William Howard Russell’s Diary: The Slavery Question—Prospects of the War—Coarse Journalism.

My Diary North and South – William Howard Russell

“Never did a people enter on a war so utterly destitute of any reason for waging it, or of the means of bringing it to a successful termination against internal enemies.”

June 20th.—When I awoke this morning and, gazing out of my little window on the regiments parading on the level below me, after an arduous struggle to obtain cold water for a bath, sat down to consider what I had seen within the last two months, and to arrive at some general results from the retrospect, I own that after much thought, my mind was reduced to a hazy analysis of the abstract principles of right and wrong, in which it failed to come to any very definite conclusion: the space of a very few miles has completely altered the phases of thought and the forms of language.

I am living among “abolitionists, cut-throats, Lincolnite mercenaries, foreign invaders, assassins, and plundering Dutchmen.” Such, at least, the men of Columbus tell me the garrison at Cairo consists of. Down below me are “rebels, conspirators, robbers, slave breeders, wretches bent upon destroying the most perfect government on the face of the earth, in order to perpetuate an accursed system, by which, however, beings are held in bondage and immortal souls consigned to perdition.”

On the whole, the impression left upon my mind by what I had seen in slave states is unfavourable to the institution of slavery, both as regards its effects on the slave and its influence on the master. But my examination was necessarily superficial and hasty. I have reason to believe that the more deeply the institution is probed, the more clearly will its unsoundness and its radical evils be discerned. The constant appeals made to the physical comforts of the slaves, and their supposed contentment, have little or no effect on any person who acts up to a higher standard of human happiness than that which is applied to swine or the beasts of the fields “See how fat my pigs are.”

The arguments founded on a comparison of the condition of the slave population with the pauperised inhabitants of European states are utterly fallacious, inasmuch as in one point, which is the most important by far, there can be no comparison at all. In effect slavery can only be justified in the abstract on the grounds which slavery advocates decline to take boldly, though they insinuate it now and then, that is, the inferiority of the negro in respect to white men, which removes them from the upper class of human beings and places them in a condition which is as much below the Caucasian standard as the quadrumanous creatures are beneath the negro. Slavery is a curse, with its time of accomplishment not quite at hand—it is a cancer, the ravages of which are covered by fair outward show, and by the apparent health of the sufferer.

The slave states, of course, would not support the Northern for a year if cotton, sugar, and tobacco became suddenly worthless. But, nevertheless, the slave owners would have strong grounds to stand upon if they were content to point to the difficulties in the way of emancipation, and the circumstances under which they received their damnosa hereditas from England, which fostered, nay forced, slavery in legislative hotbeds throughout the colonies. The Englishman may say “We abolished slavery when we saw its evils.” The slave owner replies, “Yes, with you it was possible to decree the extinction—not with us.”

Never did a people enter on a war so utterly destitute of any reason for waging it, or of the means of bringing it to a successful termination against internal enemies. The thirteen colonies had a large population of sea-faring and soldiering men, constantly engaged in military expeditions. There was a large infusion, compared with the numbers of men capable of commanding in the field, and their great enemy was separated by a space far greater than the whole circumference of the globe would be in the present time from the scene of operations. Most American officers who took part in the war of 1812-14 are now too old for service, or retired into private life soon after the campaign. The same remark applies to the senior officers who served in Mexico, and the experiences of that campaign could not be of much use to those now in the service, of whom the majority were subalterns, or at most, officers in command of volunteers.

A love of military display is very different indeed from a true soldierly spirit, and at the base of the volunteer system there lies a radical difficulty, which must be overcome before real military efficiency can be expected. In the South the foreign element has contributed largely to swell the ranks with many docile and a few experienced soldiers, the number of the latter predominating in the German levies, and the same remark is, I hear, true of the Northern armies.

The most active member of the staff here is a young Englishman named Binmore, who was a stenographic writer in London, but has now sharpened his pencil into a sword, and when I went into the guard-room this morning I found that three-fourths of the officers, including all who had seen actual service, were foreigners. One, Milotzky, was an Hungarian; another, Waagner, was of the same nationality; a third, Schuttner, was a German; another, Mac something, was a Scotchman; another, was an Englishman. One only (Colonel Morgan), who had served in Mexico, was an American. The foreigners, of course, serve in this war as mercenaries; that is, they enter into the conflict to gain something by it, either in pay, in position, or in securing a status for themselves.

The utter absence of any fixed principle determining the side which the foreign nationalities adopt is proved by their going North or South with the state in which they live. On the other hand, the effects of discipline and of the principles of military life on rank and file are shown by the fact that the soldiers of the regular regiments of the United States and the sailors in the navy have to a man adhered to their colours, notwithstanding the examples and inducements of their officers.

After breakfast I went down about the works, which fortify the bank of mud, in the shape of a V, formed by the two rivers—a flêche with a ditch, scarp, and counter-scarp. Some heavy pieces cover the end of the spit at the other side of the Mississippi, at Bird’s Point. On the side of Missouri there is a field entrenchment, held by a regiment of Germans, Poles, and Hungarians, about 1000 strong, with two field batteries. The sacred soil of Kentucky, on the other side of the Ohio, is tabooed by Beriah Magoffin, but it is not possible for the belligerents to stand so close face to face without occupying either Columbus or Hickman. The thermometer was at 100° soon after breakfast, and it was not wonderful to find that the men in Camp Defiance, which is the name of the cantonment on the mud between the levees of the Ohio and Mississippi, were suffering from diarrhœa and fever.

In the evening there was a review of three regiments, forming a brigade of some 2800 men, who went through their drill, advancing in columns of company, moving en echelon, changing front, deploying into line on the centre company, very creditably. It was curious to see what a start ran through the men during the parade when a gun was fired from the battery close at hand, and how their heads turned towards the river; but the steamer which had appeared round the bend hoisted the private signs, by which she was known as a friend, and tranquillity was restored.

I am not sure that most of these troops desire anything but a long residence at a tolerably comfortable station, with plenty of pay and no marching. Cairo, indeed, is not comfortable; the worst barrack that ever asphixiated the British soldier would be better than the best shed here, and the flies and the mosquitoes are beyond all conception virulent and pestiferous. I would give much to see Cairo in its normal state, but it is my fate to witness the most interesting scenes in the world through a glaze of gunpowder. It would be unfair to say that any marked superiority in dwelling, clothing, or comfort was visible between the mean white of Cairo or the black chattel a few miles down the river. Brawling, rioting, and a good deal of drunkenness prevailed in the miserable sheds which line the stream, although there was nothing to justify the libels on the garrison of the Columbus Crescent, edited by one Colonel L. G. Faxon, of the Tennessee Tigers, with whose writings I was made acquainted by General Prentiss, to whom they appeared to give more annoyance than he was quite wise in showing.

This is a style of journalism which may have its merits, and which certainly is peculiar; I give a few small pieces. “The Irish are for us, and they will knock Bologna sausages out of the Dutch, and we will knock wooden nutmegs out of the Yankees.” “The mosquitoes of Cairo have been sucking the lager-bier out of the dirty soldiers there so long, they are bloated and swelled up as large as spring ‘possums. An assortment of Columbus mosquitoes went up there the other day to suck some, but as they have not returned, the probability is they went off with delirium tremens; in fact, the blood of these Hessians would poison the most degraded tumble bug in creation.”

Our editor is particularly angry about the recent seizure of a Confederate flag at Columbus by Colonel Oglesby and a party of Federals from Cairo. Speaking of a flag intended for himself he says, “Would that its folds had contained 1000 asps to sting 1000 Dutchmen to eternity unshriven.” Our friend is certainly a genius. His paper of June the 19th opens with an apology for the non-appearance of the journal for several weeks. “Before leaving,” he says, “we engaged the services of a competent editor, and left a printer here to issue the paper regularly. We were detained several weeks beyond our time, the aforesaid printer promised faithfully to perform his duties, but he left the same day we did, and consequently there was no one to get out the paper. We have the charity to suppose that fear and bad whisky had nothing to do with his evacuation of Columbus.” Another elegant extract about the flag commences, “When the bowlegged, wooden shoed, sour craut stinking, Bologna sausage eating, hen roost robbing Dutch sons of _____ had accomplished the brilliant feat of taking down the Secession flag on the river bank, they were pointed to another flag of the same sort which their guns did not cover, flying gloriously and defiantly, and dared yea! double big black dog—dared, as we used to say at school, to take that flag down—the cowardly pups, the thieving sheep dogs, the sneaking skunks, dare not do so, because their twelve pieces of artillery were not bearing on it.” As to the Federal commander at Cairo, Colonel Faxon’s sentiments are unambiguous. “The qualifications of this man, Prentiss,” he says, “for the command of such a squad of villains and cut-throats are, that he is a miserable hound, a dirty dog, a sociable fellow, a treacherous villain, a notorious thief, a lying blackguard, who has served his regular five years in the Penitentiary and keeps his hide continually full of Cincinnati whisky, which he buys by the barrel in order to save his money—in him are embodied the leprous rascalities of the world, and in this living score, the gallows is cheated of its own. Prentiss wants our scalp; we propose a plan by which he may get that valuable article. Let him select 150 of his best fighting men, or 250 of his lager-bier Dutchmen, we will select 100, then let both parties meet where there will be no interruption at the scalping business, and the longest pole will knock the persimmon. If he does not accept this proposal, he is a coward. We think this a gentlemanly proposition and quite fair and equal to both parties.”


“The Boys have been spending the day at the Prests with the Lincoln boys.”—Horatio Nelson Taft

Diary of US patent clerk Horatio Nelson Taft.


Hot day and everybody wondering what will happen next. Troops here under marching orders. The 12th expect to go tonight. Some 4000 new troops have arrived today. The Boys have been spending the day at the Prests with the Lincoln boys. Willie has been with me all [sic] the office all day. Was at the Dress Parade with wife and daughter, did not go on to the Ave, got “Herald” and read it, bed 10 1/2.


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.


“We have been in camp almost two weeks, and were getting on finely when we lost our colonel.”—Rutherford B. Hayes

Diary and Letters of Rutherford Birchard Hayes

CAMP CHASE, June 20, 1861.

DEAR UNCLE:—I now expect to leave here on Saturday and come to Fremont to stay over Sunday with you. On Monday I will go down to Cincinnati to stay one or two days, and then I return to devote myself to the instruction and exercises of my post. Matthews returned yesterday, having finished his home preparations.

We have been in camp almost two weeks, and were getting on finely when we lost our colonel. Rosecrans has been promoted to a brigadier-generalship, and left us night before last to command the Virginia expedition to the Kanawha. We are helping the governor find some competent military man to take his place. If Matthews had had two months’ teaching and experience, he would be willing to take the place, and I should have perfect confidence in him, but as it is, he prefers not to take the responsibility.

Mother has returned. She was out here a few days ago, in good health for her and spirits. I shall see you so soon, that I need not write further. I enjoy this life, and it is going to be healthy for me. I shall hardly be more exposed to cold than in a very open tent the two cold nights a few days ago; but I am gaining in strength and spirits.





“Yes, the loss of our colonel did trouble us.”—Rutherford B. Hayes

Diary and Letters of Rutherford Birchard Hayes

CAMP CHASE, June 20, 1861.

DEAREST L—:—Your letter filled me with joy—as your letters will always do. I write to say that my present purpose is to go to Fremont Saturday, to remain over Sunday, and Monday, to go down home and stay one or two days only. You will find it so pleasant up here that I do not go down except for business. Make little mem.’s of all things you want me to attend to. Recollect about any thin duds I have, especially coats. I am now well provided with most things.

Yes, the loss of our colonel did trouble us. Matthews does not yet wish the responsibility of command. With a few weeks’ experience I would prefer his appointment; in fact, I would anyhow, but we are casting about and the governor will consult our wishes. Our present preference is either Colonel [Eliakim Parker] Scammon or Colonel George W. McCook, the latter if he would take it. It will probably be satisfactory. If the new man is competent, he will be a very mean man if he does not get on well with us.





“We go together.” Woolsey family letters; Eliza, who had by this time definitely abandoned the idea of trying to stay behind, alone, writes to Georgeanna.

Woolsey family letters during the War for the Union

from Tioronda, June 20:

We will go together, as you say, and will keep as near Joe as possible, though where it may be is entirely uncertain. They will march like others, with sealed orders. I go to Albany on Friday to see them in camp again before they leave. Will you go too? Joe has ordered a mess-chest and camp-table, and wants a cookery-book. I think I have seen one for army use advertised. Will you get me a simple one of any kind, civil or military, and send or bring it up? Simple directions for soups, gruels, stews, etc., are all he wants. His advice to me is to close up my affairs here and go to Mother for a while, till he can reach Washington and spy out the land. He wants us to be all ready to move but not to move hastily, and he says we must take Moritz with us as body-servant wherever we go. If any of you are near Tiffany’s the next few days you might hurry the flags up.


Civilians appointed as generals “are the aversion of the West Pointers at the heads of bureaus.”—A Rebel War Clerk’s Diary at the Confederate States Capital, By John Beauchamp Jones

A Rebel War Clerk’s Diary at the Confederate States Capital, By John Beauchamp Jones

JUNE 20TH.—Gov. Wise has been appointed brigadier-general, of a subsequent date to General Floyd’s commission. He goes to the West, where laurels grow; but I think it will be difficult to win them by any one acting in a subordinate capacity, and especially by generals appointed from civil life. They are the aversion of the West Pointers at the heads of bureaus.


A Diary of American Events – June 20, 1861

The Rebellion Record—A Diary of American Events; by Frank Moore

To-day Telegraph Engineer Henry I. Rogers, of New York, put in operation, on the western side of the Potomac, his newly invented telegraphic cordage or insulated line, for field operations, and it proved eminently successful, giving entire satisfaction in the manner in which it operated. It is run off reels upon the ground with great rapidity, (as required for instant use,) across streams, through woods, or over any localities. Lines were in extraordinarily short time laid between the head-quarters of General McDowell and two or three of his most advanced camps, and were worked in immediate connection with the telegraph station in the War Depatment. It is worthy of note that the heaviest artillery may run over the Rogers’ cordage without damaging its effectiveness in the least. It differs in many respects from the field telegraph used by Louis Napoleon in the Italian war, and embraces many advantages of convenient and certain operation under any possible circumstances over that (Louis Napoleon’s) which contributed so signally to the success of the French arms. —Baltimore American, June 22.

—The Second Rhode Island Regiment, Col. Slocum, accompanied by the Providence Marine Artillery Corps, with a full battery (six pieces) of James’s rifled cannon, arrived at New York, on their way to Washington. Governor Sprague and a portion of his staff, including Colonels Goddard and Gardner, and two others, accompanied them.—(Doc. 23.)

—This evening while the United States steamer Colorado was at sea, a break occurred in the after standard supporting the reversing shaft to the propeller. It had broken midway, and at a point where a triangular shaped piece had been sawed out of the rib, and a nicely fitted piece of soft wrought iron inserted and fastened by a small tap bolt. The surfaces had then been filed smoothly and painted over as before. But for the breakage it would have escaped the most critical examination. A strict inspection was made of the other parts, resulting in the discovery of a similar work upon the forward standard of the reversing shaft. Several other flaws were discovered, and the conclusion was irresistible that some villain had wrought all this mischief for the purpose of disabling the ship. A delay was caused before the repairs could be made, and the vessel again proceed on its course.—N. Y. Herald, June 27.

—At Willet’s Point, N. Y., interesting ceremonies took place on the occasion of blessing the standards of Col. McLeod Murphy’s regiment, and the presentation of colors by Col. Bradford, of Gov. Morgan’s staff. A large number of visitors attended, and interesting speeches were made by D. Thompson, Judge Charles P. Daly, Orestes A. Brownson, and others.—N Y. Times, June 21,

—Thirteen rebels were captured at Clarksburg, Va., this morning by the 3d Virginia Regiment. A secession flag and arms were also captured.—Louisville Journal, June 22.

—Gov. Harris, in a message to the legislature of Tennessee, recommends the passage of a law requiring payment to be made of all sums due from the State to all persons or the Government on terms of peace, and advises such a policy toward the citizens of the belligerent States as the rules of war justify. He recommends the issue of Treasury notes to pay the expenses of the Provisional Government, to be receivable as currency.

Major-General McClellan to-day assumed command in person of the Western Virginia forces. He expects to have 16,000 men in the field before Saturday night.—N. Y. Commercial, June 21.

—Cornelius Vanderbilt offered all the steamships of the Atlantic and Pacific Steamship Company to the Government, including the Vanderbilt, Ocean Queen, Ariel, Champion, and Daniel Webster, to be paid for at such rate as any two commodores of the United States Navy and ex-Commodore Stockton might decide upon as a proper valuation.—(Doc. 24.)

—In the Wheeling (Va.) Convention, Frank H. Pierpont, of Marion county, was unanimously elected Governor; Daniel Paisley, of Mason county, Lieutenant Governor, and Messrs. Lamb, Paxhaw, Van Winkle, Harrison, and Lazar to form the Governor’s Council. The election of an attorney-general was postponed till Saturday. The Governor was formally inaugurated in the afternoon, taking in addition to the usual oath, one of stringent opposition to the usurpers at Richmond. He then delivered an address to the members of the convention, urging a rigorous prosecution of the work of redeeming the State from the hands of the rebels. After the inauguration, the bells were rung, cannon were fired, and the whole town was wild with delight—(Doc. 25.)

—The Second New Hampshire Regiment left Portsmouth, for the seat of war. Previous to their departure, the Goodwin Riflemen, attached to the regiment, were presented with a banner. It had on one side the coat of arms of the State, with an inscription showing that the flag was given by the ladies of Concord, and on the other side was a representation of the Goddess of Liberty, with the inscription in gold letters, “Goodwin Rifles.” At Boston, Mass., on the arrival of the troops, they were entertained by the sons of New Hampshire resident in that city. —(Doc. 26.)

—Gov. Robinson of Kansas issued a proclamation calling on all good citizens to organize military companies for the purpose of repelling attacks from the rebels in Missouri.


Rosecrans lost to promotion…, already—Diary of Rutherford B. Hayes

Diary and Letters of Rutherford Birchard Hayes

June—, 1861.—Early in the second week of our camping out in service, Colonel Rosecrans returned and set vigorously to work organizing the regiment. The evening of the day he returned we were closing up matters in our tent preparatory to going to bed, when two gentlemen rode up with a dispatch which announced the appointment of Colonel Rosecrans to the post of brigadier-general, and ordering him to repair to western Virginia to take command of Ohio troops moving in that direction. We rode into Columbus and saw the colonel now general, off about midnight. Good-bye to our good colonel. A sorry thing for us. May it prove all he hopes to him. I shall never forget how his face shone with delight as he read the dispatch.


“Everybody excited and enquiring for news. Came home with the NY papers…”—Horatio Nelson Taft

Diary of US patent clerk Horatio Nelson Taft.


Fine weather yet. Every one on tiptoe to hear news. Troops are passing over the River and an advance to Fairfax C.H. is expected. Exciting news expected from Old Point from the West as well as from the opposite side of the River. Attended the “Parade” this evening and went down to Willards for an hour or so. Everybody excited and enquiring for news. Came home with the NY papers and retired 1/2 past 10.


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.


“Messrs. B. and R. M. called this morning, and report that the location of the Federals is very uncertain; it is supposed that they have retreated from Martinsburg.”—Diary of a Southern Refugee, Judith White McGuire.

Diary of a Southern Refugee During the War by Judith White McGuire

June 19.—Yesterday evening we heard rumours of the Federal troops having crossed the Potomac, and marching to Martinsburg and Shepherdstown in large force. General Johnston immediately drew up his army at a place called “Carter’s,” on the Charlestown road, about four miles beyond Winchester. Messrs. B. and R. M. called this morning, and report that the location of the Federals is very uncertain; it is supposed that they have retreated from Martinsburg. Oh, that our Almighty Father, who rules all things, would interpose and give us peace, even now when all seem ready for war! He alone can do it.


Ordered South.

Woolsey family letters during the War for the Union

The middle of June, 1861, J. H.’s regiment, the Sixteenth New York, suddenly received orders to be ready to march, and after some little further delay it left Albany for Washington and the front. The family were now fairly in the war.


Rev. G. L. Prentiss to Joseph Howland

Joseph Howland

Joseph Howland

New York, June 19, 1861.

Abby has just told my wife that you are ordered South. Is it so? If I were not strong in faith about you, I don’t know what I should say. But the path of duty is the path of safety and of honor, and if you were my own brother (you seem to me more like a younger brother than anything else) I could not lift a finger against your going — assuming always that your health and strength hold out. God bless you and have you ever, dearest friend, in His holy keeping.

Most affectionately yours,

George L. Prentiss.


Mary Chesnut’s Diary: “Mr. Chesnut is accused of firing the first shot, and his cousin, an ex-West Pointer, writes in a martial fury.”

A Diary From Dixie by Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut.

June 19th.—In England Mr. Gregory and Mr. Lyndsey rise to say a good word for us. Heaven reward them; shower down its choicest blessings on their devoted heads, as the fiction folks say.

Barnwell Heyward telegraphed me to meet him at Kingsville, but I was at Cool Spring, Johnny’s plantation, and all my clothes were at Sandy Hill, our home in the Sand Hills; so I lost that good opportunity of the very nicest escort to Richmond. Tried to rise above the agonies of every-day life. Read Emerson; too restless—Manassas on the brain.

Russell’s letters are filled with rubbish about our wanting an English prince to reign over us. He actually intimates that the noisy arming, drumming, marching, proclaiming at the North, scares us. Yes, as the making of faces and turning of somersaults by the Chinese scared the English.

Mr. Binney¹ has written a letter. It is in the Intelligencer of Philadelphia. He offers Lincoln his life and fortune; all that he has put at Lincoln’s disposal to conquer us. Queer; we only want to separate from them, and they put such an inordinate value on us. They are willing to risk all, life and limb, and all their money to keep us, they love us so.

Mr. Chesnut is accused of firing the first shot, and his cousin, an ex-West Pointer, writes in a martial fury. They confounded the best shot made on the Island the day of the picnic with the first shot at Fort Sumter. This last is claimed by Captain James. Others say it was one of the Gibbeses who first fired. But it was Anderson who fired the train which blew up the Union. He slipped into Fort Sumter that night, when we expected to talk it all over. A letter from my husband dated, “Headquarters, Manassas Junction, June 16, 1861:”

My Dear Mary: I wrote you a short letter from Richmond last Wednesday, and came here next day. Found the camp all busy and preparing for a vigorous defense. We have here at this camp seven regiments, and in the same command, at posts in the neighborhood, six others—say, ten thousand good men. The General and the men feel confident that they can whip twice that number of the enemy, at least.

I have been in the saddle for two days, all day, with the General, to become familiar with the topography of the country, and the posts he intends to assume, and the communications between them.

We learned General Johnston has evacuated Harper’s Ferry, and taken up his position at Winchester, to meet the advancing column of McClellan, and to avoid being cut off by the three columns which were advancing upon him. Neither Johnston nor Beauregard considers Harper’s Ferry as very important in a strategic point of view.

I think it most probable that the next battle you will hear of will be between the forces of Johnston and McClellan.

I think what we particularly need is a head in the field—a Major-General to combine and conduct all the forces as well as plan a general and energetic campaign. Still, we have all confidence that we will defeat the enemy whenever and wherever we meet in general engagement. Although the majority of the peopie just around here are with us, still there are many who are against us.

God bless you.          Yours,

James Chesnut, Jr.

Mary Hammy and myself are off for Richmond. Rev. Mr. Meynardie, of the Methodist persuasion, goes with us. We are to be under his care. War-cloud lowering.

Isaac Hayne, the man who fought a duel with Ben Alston across the dinner-table and yet lives, is the bravest of the brave. He attacks Russell in the Mercury—in the public prints—for saying we wanted an English prince to the fore. Not we, indeed! Every man wants to be at the head of affairs himself. If he can not be king himself, then a republic, of course. It was hardly necessary to do more than laugh at Russell’s absurd idea. There was a great deal of the wildest kind of talk at the Mills House. Russell writes candidly enough of the British in India. We can hardly expect him to suppress what is to our detriment.


¹ Horace Binney, one of the foremost lawyers of Philadelphia, who was closely associated with the literary, scientific, and philanthropic interests of his time. His wife was a sister of Mrs. Chesnut, the author’s mother-in-law.