22nd. Drew rations. Archie grazed both horses. We washed our clothes.
22nd.—A quiet day in military matters. No movement of the army. Ballooning all day; discovered large force in front of us. Unless the fear of McDowell or Banks, in the rear, should induce an evacuation, we must expect hard fighting here. Heavy thunder storm this P. M.
London, May 22, 1862
We are still in great anxiety to know the results of the Yorktown business, having as yet arrived only as far as Williamsburg and West Point. On McClellan’s success in dispersing the Southern army and capturing all the means for carrying on a war will depend more than I like to think of. If we can disperse them, too, we can immediately reduce our army one-half, and all our expenses on the same scale. I dread the continuance of this war and its demoralizing effects more than anything else, and happy would be the day when we could see the first sign of returning peace. It’s likely to be hard enough work to keep our people educated and honest anyway, and the accounts that reach us of the wholesale demoralization in the army of the west from camp-life, and of their dirt, and whiskey and general repulsiveness, are not encouraging to one who wants to see them taught to give up that blackguard habit of drinking liquor in bar-rooms, to brush their teeth and hands and wear clean clothes, and to believe that they have a duty in life besides that of getting ahead, and a responsibility for other people’s acts as well as their own. The little weaknesses I speak of are faults of youth; but what will they become if America in its youth takes a permanent course towards every kind of idleness, vice and ignorance?
As for our position here, it is all that could be wished. Everyone congratulates us on the success of our arms and there is no longer any hint at even a remonstrance, though there are questions between the Governments which in our bitter state of feeling may bring difficulty. I am very anxious to avoid anything of this sort. We must have peace for many years if we are to heal our wounds and put the country on the right track. We must bring back or create a respect for law and order and the Constitution and the civil and judicial authorities. The nation has been dragged by this infernal cotton that had better have been burning in Hell, far away from its true course, and its worst passions and tastes have been developed by a forced and bloated growth. It will depend on the generation to which you and I belong, whether the country is to be brought back to its true course and the New England element is to carry the victory, or whether we are to be carried on from war to war and debt to debt and one military leader to another, till we lose all our landmarks and go ahead like France with a mere blind necessity to get on, without a reason or a principle. No more wars. Let’s have peace, for the love of God.
England will truckle to us low enough when we regain our power, and we can easily revenge ourselves on the classes of English who have been most venemous, without fighting them all. It is but to shut out their trade and encourage our own development. I am now a protectionist of the most rabid description. I want to see us developing our mines, manufactures and communications, with the most success possible. There is England’s vulnerable point; but we shall have committed a blunder of the worst sort if we allow our personal prejudices to affect our national policy to the extent of a war….
The last week we have had that whited sepulchre General Cameron here, and as we were to have our first large dinner on Wednesday, he was invited to it. Then last night I took him to Monckton Milnes, where he was the object of considerable interest. I can’t say that I was proud of my charge, nor that I like his style. Thurlow Weed is quite as American, and un-English, but is very popular and altogether infinitely preferable. We all like Mr.Weed very much, and are sorry that he is going home this week. As for Cameron, I hope he will vanish into the steppes of Russia and wander there for eternity. He is of all my countrymen one of the class that I most conspicuously and sincerely despise and detest….
Cumberland Landing, Virginia.
Title is from Civil War caption books. A letter by Robert Pinkerton in the LOC collections file has additional information:
In the back row, left to right: H.B. Seybolt, Paul H. Dennis, (unidentified provost guard), Allan Pinkerton, (provost guard), George H. Bangs, (provost guard), John Babcock, Robert Pinkerton. In the front row, left to right: Paul Dennis, D.G. McCaulvey, William Pinkerton, Sam Bridgman. Lying down in front on the left is William B. Watts, chief wagon-master, and on the right is Sam Washingtin, cook.
Photograph from the main eastern theater of war, the Peninsular Campaign
Photographed by James F. Gibson
Part of Civil War glass negative collection. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
Record pages for this image:
- negative http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/cwp2003005949/PP/
- stereo card http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2011661152/ – misidentifies location as Cumberland, Maryland. The photographer was with the Peninsula campaign in May 1862 and took a good number of photos at Cumberland Landing on the York River.
May 22.—No battle occurred yesterday. Every one is confident that if the enemy would only fight, we would whip them soundly. They are digging intrenchments eloser and closer, and could shell Corinth at any hour. Some are not more than two and a half miles from us. We are beginning to feel a little nervous at the prospect of a shell waking us up some morning; certainly not a pleasant one to contemplate.
A prisoner is here, who eats at the table with us. He is a Presbyterian minister. He makes some very provoking remarks. Dr. Smith has advised us to take no notice of them, and say as little as possible. This appears hard, as nearly every one at the table has suffered some wrong at the hands of him and his people; nearly all their homes are in the hands of the enemy.
Dr. Sizemore has just received word of a young brother who has died in a northern prison, and of the ill treatment of the chaplain of his regiment, an inoffensive old man of more than seventy years, who had gone with the regiment more as a father than any thing else. This old man was imprisoned as if he were a common felon. Dr. S., knowing all this, has to endure the presence of this man, and see him treated as if he were one of our best friends. I must say that we are carrying out the commands of our blessed Savior; and how proud I am of it! May we be enabled to do the same to the end; and, above all things, not to retaliate upon the innocent, for God has said, “Vengeance is mine, and I will repay.” I was seated next to the prisoner to-day. He says that he is an Englishman. I would like to think that he is telling an untruth, as few Englishmen side with tyranny. But I expect that he has been long enough with the Yankees to imbibe some of their barbarous notions. He expressed the opinion that the southern people were not united. I remarked that if he would go through the state of Mississippi alone, he would change his mind, as I believed that if the men did not fight, the women would. But there will be no need of the latter, as the men will not fail to do their duty.
We requested Dr. Smith to permit us to pay him back for the impertinent remarks he had made to us. He granted permission, and stated that he would reprimand us in his presence. As soon as the foe made his appearance, some of the ladies commenced on him. Dr. S. said, “The ladies are very hard on you.” He replied with a very submissive air, “If it pleases them, I have no objection.” Mrs. Glassburn, who was at the head of the table, observed, “It does not please us; but I will tell you what will: when we know that every Yankee is laid low in the ground, then we will be pleased indeed.” He made no reply, and must have felt the force of the remark. At any other time it would have been a barbarous one; but at the present it was charitable, and one that we all felt, if realized, would not only be a blessing to us, but to humanity.
Eliza Woolsey Howland to her husband, Joe.
Floating Hospital, Spaulding,
Off White House, May 22.
We are to go on shore presently to see what we can do for the large field hospital there. Two of our doctors, Ware and Draper of New York, spent the day yesterday trying to organize it and make the men tolerably comfortable. They furnished from the Commission nearly a thousand mattresses, secured them fresh water in hogsheads (which they were entirely without) and saw that all who needed medicine got it. System and food seem to be the great wants, and to-day we ladies will attend to the latter, take them supplies and show the hospital cooks how to prepare them. There are 1,200 or more sick men there, and until the Commission took hold they were in a most wretched plight, lying on the damp ground without beds, without food or water, and with little or no care. … I hope you take all necessary precautions in this wretched climate. Don’t give up your quinine. . . .
Later. — Directly after I wrote you this morning Georgy and I went to the shore to breakfast the men we had dinnered and teaed yesterday, and there we had a little house nearby, which Dr. Ware had found, nicely cleaned out for a hospital or resting-place for the sick when the other overflows. The floor of one of the rooms up stairs is six inches deep in beans. That makes a good bed for them. . . . Meantime Mrs. Griffin and the others got this boat in order for sick, and this afternoon fifty odd have been brought on board. To-morrow it will fill up and leave for New York.
May 22.—An enthusiastic meeting was held at Portsmouth, Va., at which resolutions were adopted expressive of devotion to the cause of the Union, and condemnatory of the heresy of secession. Johannes Watson was elected President and R. S. Staples, Secretary.—(Doc. 101.)
—This morning while the Seventy-sixth New York regiment was marching through the city of Washington a number of civil officers provided with judicial papers, seized two negroes and soon placed them beyond the possibility of rescue.
An effort was made to arrest six or eight other alleged fugitive slaves, when many of the soldiers interposed, pointing their muskets at the police and warning them of the danger of persistence. They therefore retired — the negroes departing under the protection of their military friends.
—The foreign consuls at Galveston, Texas, in view of an expected attack upon that place by the United States forces, communicated with Captain Eagle of the Santee, with a purpose of fixing upon some point that might be respected in the bombardment, as a point of refuge for foreign subjects; when Captain Eagle replied:
“Let me assure you, gentlemen, that no person can deplore more than myself the misery that would result from the bombardment of the town of Galveston, and its fortifications, yet it is a duty that will become necessary to enforce its surrender. It is not in my power to give you any assurance of security during the bombardment, for it is impossible to tell what direction the shot and shell will take.”—Houston Telegraph, May 23.
—General Prentiss’s troops, captured at the battle of Pittsburgh Landing, Tenn., were paroled by the rebels at Montgomery, Alabama.—Mobile Register, May 27.
—This day company I, of the Seventeenth Massachusetts, left Newbern, N. C., on a scouting party to seize a quantity of cotton which the rebels were reported to have stored near Pollocksville, for the purpose of burning or carrying off as opportunity favored them. The party had proceeded but a few miles beyond the Union outposts, when, at the fork of the roads leading to Trenton and Pollocksville, they were suddenly met with a brisk discharge of musketry from every side. The woods all round suddenly became brilliant with the flashing of the pieces, and the party, deeming it probable that the rebels were too numerous and strongly posted to hazard any thing like a determined resistance, withdrew after firing a few rounds. The loss of the Nationals was three killed and eight wounded.— N. Y. Herald, May 30.
—The Court of Impeachment for the purpose of trying West H. Humphreys, late District Judge of the United States for the second district of Tennessee, on charges of treason presented by the House of Representatives, was organized in the Senate Chamber at Washington, D. C., this day.
—Six rebel pickets were captured near Battery Island, on the Stono River, S. C., by a small reconnoitring party from the United States coast survey steamer Bibb.
Camp Flat Top, May 21, 1862. Wednesday.—A warm, windy, threatening day. Drilled the regiment this morning; marched to the summit of Flat Top, thence along the summit to the Raleigh Road, and so back to camp. Men looked well. Companies A, E, and K, under Major Comly, with a howitzer, marched to Packs Ferry to hold it, build boats, and the like. They take about twenty carpenters from the Twenty-third, also six cavalrymen and a howitzer.
May 21 — Jackson’s army came down the Valley today, turned east at New Market and crossed the Massanutten Mountain, marching rather rapidly toward Luray. This is the first time I have seen any of Jackson’s troops since they left Conrad’s Store on the 30th of April. Old Stonewall has been in the West Virginia mountains, teaching General Milroy how magnificently Jack can be turned up in the laurel bushes on the mountain side and burst the neatest game and calculations of the shrewdest Yank that attempts to sneak through the mountains trying to catch a Rebel army asleep.
General Ewell’s division recently — to-day, I think — joined Jackson’s army. The troops are all in light marching order, having left all their surplus baggage, even their knapsacks at New Market, and as the Romans of old used to say of their gladiators, they are stripped for fight.
The opportunities of a private to obtain information, either in the rear or front rank of Jackson’s army, are very meager, and few indeed even to try to surmise or guess at where and what next. However, from all appearances and indications old Stonewall is going down the Luray Valley to give General Banks, who is at Strasburg, his first object lesson in flanking. As Jackson’s army passed our camp to-day I for the first time saw some of the much talked about Mississippi Tigers. They were in the Eighth Louisiana Infantry. They looked courageous and daringly fearless.
Wednesday, 21st—The right wing moved up closer upon the fortifications of the rebels and although they tried to drive our men back, they failed in the attempt. There is very heavy cannonading and skirmishing. The left wing of our army is under command of General Pope. The earthworks between the two armies are getting very close to each other.
May 21st. We got under way early, leaving the Iroquois aground, and ran up to Grand Gulf, where we are to wait for orders from the Flag Officer who has gone to Vicksburg. We saw much cotton afloat to-day, and the country nearly all overflowed by the turbid waters of the Mississippi.
I have had such a search for shoes this week that I am disgusted with shopping. I am triumphant now, for after traversing the town in every direction and finding nothing, I finally discovered a pair of boots just made for a little negro to go fishing with, and only an inch and a half too long for me, besides being unbendable; but I seized them with avidity, and the little negro would have been outbid if I had not soon after discovered a pair more seemly, if not more serviceable, which I took without further difficulty. Behold my tender feet cased in crocodile skin, patent-leather tipped, low-quarter boy’s shoes, No. 2! “What a fall was there, my country,” from my pretty English glove-kid, to sabots made of some animal closely connected with the hippopotamus! A dernier ressort, vraiment! for my choice was that, or cooling my feet on the burning pavement au naturel; I who have such a terror of any one seeing my naked foot! And this is thanks to war and blockade! Not a decent shoe in the whole community! N’importe! “Better days are coming, we’ll all” — have shoes — after a while — perhaps! Why did not Mark Tapley leave me a song calculated to keep the spirits up, under depressing circumstances? I need one very much, and have nothing more suggestive than the old Methodist hymn, “Better days are coming, we’ll all go right,” which I shout so constantly, as our prospects darken, that it begins to sound stale.
21st. Wednesday. Archie and I went out and grazed our horses. Good time. Saw George Ashman. Bathed.
21st.—From White House, returned to camp to-day. I really believe I am becoming attached to this kind of life, though I did not feel it till to-day. When I reached the spot where I left the army encamped yesterday, and found it deserted, with the camp poles still standing, (although I had staid there but one night,) the desolateness of feeling was strongly akin to that experienced on returning to an old and loved home, and finding it emptied of all that had made it dear. The army had left, I followed, and am now with it, encamped within ten miles of Richmond, near the Chickahominy. We have had some firing in the distance, towards Richmond, this P. M.
“Spaulding,” May 21.
Dear Friend, — We are just where we were, — swinging at anchor under the elm-tree, and doing nothing. This galls us a little; but, after all, we women are but a drop in the bucket of relief, every one on board, except us, being worked to his very utmost,—Mr. Olmsted in organizing the work and endeavoring to get the medical authorities to fall into some kind of system; Mr. Knapp in getting up and issuing supplies; Dr. Ware and our young men in putting a receiving-hospital ashore in something like decent order. It started last night with one hundred tents, twenty-five men in each; ambulances coming in every hour, and nothing for the men hut the bare tents, unfloored. Our gentlemen have been there all day; and Mr. Knapp has sent up straw, bed-sacks, bedding, food, and clothing. Mr. Olmsted declines to let us women go there; I don’t know why. A few wounded men came down to-day, and were taken on board the “Elm City,” where Mrs. Strong, Miss Whetten, and Miss Gardiner take care of them.
Mr. Olmsted gave me to-day a draft of the “Rules” which he has drawn up for the regulation of the service on board our ships. I inclose a copy, as it will give you a fair idea of our interior system after the men come on board, and until they are landed at their destination. It reads very well on paper, and you may be sure that it is carried out, with Mr. Olmsted at the head of affairs: his are no paper orders. But there are hidden rocks and snags under that smooth surface which make, in fact, the anxiety of our female lives. For instance: our boats belong to the Quartermaster’s Department; the captains and crews object, as a general thing, to being used in hospital service, and have to be forever coaxed and conciliated. The kitchen arrangements are a never-ending plague. The cooks and the galleys are not looked upon as being for the use of the hospital, and yet there is no way of getting others; so they must be persuaded to do the work which we have no absolute power to make them do. The twenty or thirty bucketsful of soup daily for the “house diet” (the sick food we prepare ourselves) are an achievement if they are forthcoming at the right moment. We order, make ready, prepare; and then it is hard to find that the instant our backs were turned everything came to a standstill, and that dinner for the sick men can’t be ready at the right moment without some superhuman exertion on our parts. As for hot water (about which you may observe a delicate reference in the “Rules”), our lives are made a burden to us on that subject, and we might as well be in it at once, — if it could be got. You will see from my letters that we women do more than is set down for us in the programme; for, in fact, we do a little of everything. We of the “staff” are specially subordinate to Mr. Olmsted; and though we are not his right hand — Mr. Knapp and Dr. Ware are that — we are the fingers of it, and help to carry out his ideas. The duties of the men and women of the staff are chiefly as follows: to superintend the shipping of the sick or wounded on board the boats which return from the North for fresh loads; to fit up those boats, or others coming into the Commission’s hands; to receive at the landing, to sort and distribute according to orders, the patients who are sent down from the front; to feed, cleanse, give medical aid and nursing to all these men, and otherwise take care of them, until the ships sail again for the North; and, finally, to be ready for all emergencies.
I think I have not yet described our “Chief” to you. He is small, and lame (for the time being only) from a terrible accident which happened to him a few months ago; but though the lameness is decided, it is scarcely observable, for he gives you a sense that he triumphs over it by doing as if it did not exist. His face is generally very placid, with all the expressive delicacy of a woman’s, and would be beautiful were it not for an expression which I cannot fathom, — something which is, perhaps, a little too severe about it. I think his mouth and smile and the expression of his eyes at times very beautiful. He has great variety of expression: sometimes stern, thoughtful, and haggard; at other times observing and slightly satirical (I believe he sees out of the back of his head occasionally); and then again, and not seldom, his face wears an inspired look, full of goodness and power. I think he is a man of the most resolute self-will, — generally a very wise will, I should think; born an autocrat, however, and, as such, very satisfactory to be under. His reticence is one of his strong points: he directs everything in the fewest possible words; there is a deep, calm thoughtfulness about him which is always attractive and sometimes—provoking. He is managing the present enterprise (which is full of responsibility, without having any rights) with the largest views of what is best for the army, and compelling the acquiescence of the Military authority in his plans, while he scrupulously keeps within the understood position of the Sanitary Commission as subordinate to it. You may also see how carefully he attends to details by the sketch of them which he has given in the “Rules.” He is a great organizer— as the past history of the Central Park and the Sanitary Commission will show — and he is a great administrator, because he comprehends details, but trusts his subordinates: if they are good, he relies on them; if they are weak, there’s an end of them.
As for Mr. Knapp, he is our delight. A thin, bald-headed man, with a flowing brown beard and a very fine, sweet, energetic face; always overwhelmed with work; caught at here,, there, and everywhere by some one who has important business, yet able to give and take any saucy drollery that comes up between us. It is not easy to say positively what he is, for he is never still, and he has certainly not been for five consecutive minutes under my observation; but there’s one thing which my mind is clear about: it shines out from every point of him, —he is a philanthropist without the hateful aspects of that calling. He is in charge of the supply department, — the commissariat of the Commission, as it may be called. The entire business of ordering and receiving supplies from the North, and issuing them, when on hand, either to our own vessels or upon the requisition of brigade and regimental surgeons for camp and field hospitals, is an outline of his work. He is always in a hurry; he forgets our names, and calls us everything that we are not, but says it is “a system;” he is lain in wait for at all corners by some one with, a tale of distress and a prayer for stimulants, beefstock, straw, sheets, bandages, or what not, all of which is duly given if the proper requisition from a United States surgeon is forthcoming. He is in a chronic state of worry about “transportation,” — I declare I think I hear that word oftener than any other, except “brandy” and “beef-tea.”
The railroad is open to-day to within ten miles of Richmond: so says Colonel Ingalls. The cars and locomotives came up the river yesterday. This enables them to send forward supplies with great ease. Hitherto, everything has depended on wagon-trains, half of which stick in the mud and clay of Virginia roads. The one question asked by everybody is: “Where’s McDowell?”
Wednesday, 21st.—Marched to the Gap this morning by eleven o’clock; very near worn out when we got here; but towering cliffs soon made me forget being so tired, and after short rest began climbing up to satisfy my curiosity by viewing the surrounding country from the top of Cumberland mountain. Went up with Lieutenants Evans and Greene. While up there, J. W. Smith came up! On north side of the gap is perpendicular bluff, several hundred feet high, and on top of the bluff a large rock; stands probably fifty feet higher. Now came the test to see who could climb to the top of that rock. Part of the way up was rugged, and formed pretty good steps; nearer the top it was smoother and very difficult to ascend. J. W. Smith was the first to go up, and actually got on top, but found the top was a loose rock which swayed slightly when he got on top of it. Seeing his critical position, he descended at once, and remarked that $500.00 would not induce him to go up there again. Lieutenant Greene was determined not to be out done by Smith, and so climbed very nearly to the same spot, but was glad to get down again and remarked: “Man by nature is a coward.” I desired very much to go as high as Smith and Greene had gone; but, after going about half way up, the chances for a broken neck were so good that I climbed down again, and allowed them the honor of excelling, and we went down to camp.
(Note: picture is of an unidentified Confederate soldier.)
“Front Royal, Va. Occupied by the Union Army commanded by Genl. N.P. Banks” on mount.
artist: Edwin Forbes.
Part of Morgan collection of Civil War drawings.. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
Record page for this image: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2004661888/
May 21st. The regiment drilled to-day for the first time since we left Yorktown; the colonel put us through many movements, completely tiring the men out. Towards evening while enjoying our otium cum dig, after the fatigue of the drill, and laying out plans for the evening sport, orders came to strike tents and march at once. By five o’clock we were en route, and to our surprise and disgust, marched till twelve o’clock, over circuitous, poor wood roads, mostly running through dark pine woods. At midnight we debouched into an opening, at the junction of two railroads and bivouacked for the rest of the night. Just as we were preparing our bivouac, an order came for the regiment to go out on picket duty, in front of the division, so we fell in again, and marched out about a mile in front, and established a line of pickets just inside the cavalry videttes; reserves were posted at convenient distances, and then selecting an immense tree, on the side of a hill, near a house, for headquarters, we posted a sentry, wrapped ourselves in our blankets, and went to sleep. At daylight our people built a fire, and the cook served a good breakfast. The colonel and I rode out immediately afterwards, inspected the whole line, and made a sketch of the country, dotting down the picket line upon it. At the foot of the tree, our headquarters, there is the finest spring I ever saw; the water is as clear as crystal, and cold as ice, so cold in fact, one cannot wash in it; it bubbles out in great volumes; rushing down the hill, emptying into a fine brook, in which I counted six trout. When the colonel and I came in from the inspection of the lines, he proposed we go down to the spring and take a bath, I got undressed first, and jumped in and was almost frozen, so the colonel concluded not to try it, contenting himself with a good sponging. In the course of the day the colonel, McKim and I called at the house and looked over it, and also the garden, which is a very fine one. All the white people were gone, leaving the place in charge of negroes; they told us the cavalrymen had been there and carried off almost everything of value, but we thought the house had been very little disturbed. It belongs to a doctor, and is luxuriously furnished throughout. There is an excellent library, containing many standard works, and lots of Latin and Greek books. The beds in some of the rooms were covered with silk and satin covers, and hung with silk curtains. Many of the cabinets had been broken open, but perhaps the niggers had been at them themselves. In the garden, were beds of asparagus, onions, lettuce and peas; plenty of currant and gooseberry bushes, and delightful beds of flowers. We stationed a guard at the house, to keep the men away. One of the colored women gave us some fresh milk, and on our return home, the doctor made it into a punch. At two P. M. a terrific thunder shower came up, soaking us to the skin before we could find shelter. It lightened terrifically, making it mighty dangerous to be near the lines of stacked muskets. It soon cleared off, however, and was very hot afterwards. Just before turning in for a little sleep, we received orders to be ready to march at eight o’clock in the morning. There is a mile stone at the railroad junction, which says fourteen miles to Richmond, so we cannot make many more marches without coming in front of the forts.
May 21.—News has just reached us that the battle has commenced in earnest. A number of our surgeons have been ordered to the battle-field. May God give us the victory! I feel confident that if we could gain one here the war would soon be over, and that we would be recognized by foreign nations. I can not see why they do not now recognize us. We certainly can and will be free. My only wish for them to do so is to stop bloodshed, as I think, if they would do it, the North would be compelled to let us alone.
I have just been informed that the Yankee gunboats have passed Fort Morgan. I hope, if true, that Mobile will be laid in ashes before the foot of the vandal foe is permitted to desecrate it. They have not the same excuse that the people of New Orleans had—a large population of women and children; and then we have an outlet which they did not have.
Miss Marks is still very low. I feel very sorry to see her die in this terrible place; but it matters little where we die, so that we are prepared.
From Dr. Hugh Lenox Hodge.
On Board Hospital Ship “Whilldin,”
Chesapeake Bay, May 21, 1862.
Dear Georgy: We are again on the Bay on our way to join the army. I was very sorry that we moved up to Queen’s Creek for the wounded of Williamsburgh before Eliza and yourself examined the Commodore. For a few days we were very busy. Some 1,500 wounded men passed under our charge.
I was home for a day or two and saw Hatty. Mother enjoyed her visit very much. I send this to you, though I do not know where you are, simply to announce that I hope soon to see you. As we both have the same object in view, may we arrive at the same spot again, no matter where that may be.
May 21.—To-day the battle of Philips’s Creek, Mississippi, was fought by the second division of General Halleck’s army, commanded by Brig. Gen. Thomas A. Davies. The rebels were routed, leaving a good many prisoners, guns, haversacks, blankets, etc., in the hands of the Unionists.—(Doc. 113.)
—Commodore Prentiss, with the United States steamer Albatross, penetrated the interior waters of South-Carolina as far as Georgetown, and up the Waccamaw River ten miles above the city, but having an insufficient force, he did not make an attack.
—General Stoneman, in company with Prof. Lowe, made a balloon reconnoissance this morning, from Gaines’s Mills, Va., and reaching«n altitude of five hundred feet, obtained a complete view of Richmond with the aid of a glass. Very few rebel troops were visible within the limits of the city, but at the left of it, on the line of the road leading to Bottom’s Bridge, a large number were seen.
—At one o’clock, to-day, two mortars opened on Fort Pillow, and the firing was kept up at intervals of five minutes, until six in the evening. It was returned three or four times by guns from the rebels, either from the fortifications or from their mortar-boats, their shells bursting wide of the mark, and doing no damage.
Deserters from Fort Pillow state that one hundred and eighty dead bodies were removed from the rebel rams and gunboats on their return from the late naval engagement On the Mexico, whose boilers were exploded by a well-directed shot from the Benton, every man was either killed or so badly scalded as to render recovery doubtful. None of the rebel vessels, according to this story, were entirely sunk, but three of them were so badly disabled as to be rendered almost useless. The impression at the fort was that they had been badly whipped.
—Three regiments, consisting of the First, Second and Twentieth Kentucky, under command of Col. Sedgewick, made a reconnoissance near Corinth, Mississippi, for the purpose of ascertaining the position of the enemy. After some sharp fighting, which lasted for about two hours, in which he had some thirty men wounded, Col. Sedgewick, being completely successful, returned to camp.—(Doc. 114.)
—Recruiting offices which had been previously closed were reopened by order of the United States Government.
—Brigadier-General I. P. Hatch, commanding the cavalry in Gen. Banks’s division, on his retreat, with a detachment of one hundred and fifty of the Fifth New-York cavalry, attacked a large body of Ashby’s cavalry near Strasburgh, Ya,, killed six, captured the same number, and “drove the remainder before them several miles at a full gallop, without the loss of a man.”
—General McClellan sent the following despatch to the Secretary of War:
“I have just returned from Bottom’s Bridge. Have examined the country on the other side, and made a reconnoissance on the heels of the enemy, who probably did not like the skirmish of yesterday. The bridge will be repaired by to-morrow, and others built as the camps have advanced to-day.”
Camp On Flat Top Mountain,
May 20, (Tuesday), 1862.
Dearest : — Here we are “back again” — fifty or sixty miles in rear of the advanced position we had taken. The short of it is, since the Rebel disasters in eastern Virginia they have thrown by the railroad a heavy force into this region, forcing us back day by day, until we have gained a strong position which they are not likely, I think, to approach. I do not think there is any blame on the part of our leaders. We were strong enough to go ahead until recent events changed the plans of the enemy, and made it impossible [for us] to reinforce sufficiently. I was much vexed at first, but I suspect it is all right. We have had a great deal of severe fighting—fragmentary — in small detachments, but very severe. We have had narrow escapes. My whole command was nearly caught once; the Twenty-eighth barely escaped. General Cox and staff got off by the merest chance. Colonel Scammon’s brigade was in close quarters, etc., etc. And yet by good luck, we have had no serious disaster. We have lost tents and some small quartermaster stores, but nothing important. In the fighting we have had the best of it usually. The total loss of General Cox’s command is perhaps two hundred to three hundred, including killed, wounded, prisoners, and missing. The enemy has suffered far more. In my fight at Giles, the enemy had thirty-one killed and many wounded; our total casualties and missing, about fifteen. We shall remain here until reinforced or new events make it possible to move.
I see the Thirty-third, not the Twenty-third, gets the credit of taking Giles. Such is fame. No Thirty-third in this country. [The papers also said] Major Cowley not Comly, and so on. Well, all right. General Fremont complimented me for “energy and courage” and the Twenty-third for “gallantry” to this division. So it is all right.
Jim is here in our brigade (the Twelfth Regiment) looking very well. Dr. Joe well. Adjutant Avery is to take this to Raleigh only twenty miles off. We are connected by telegraph with you too, so we are near again for a season.
Show this to Steve [Stephenson].
Camp On Flat Top Mountain On Line Between
Mercer And Raleigh Counties, May 20, 1862.
Dear Uncle: — The last three weeks has been a period of great activity with us — severe marching, sharp fighting, and all sorts of strategy and manoeuvring. I had command of the advance southward and marched to within ten miles of the railroad, seventy miles south of this. This was ten days ago. On the morning of the 10th the enemy attacked us in greatly superior numbers and with artillery. In obedience to orders we have been falling back ever since. I was much vexed that we were not reinforced. Perhaps I was wrong. It is now believed that the enemy, since their reverses in eastern Virginia, have been sending heavy bodies of troops this way; that our force is wholly inadequate to its task, and must wait here until largely strengthened. I am not sure about this, but accept it without much grumbling. As I had command of the advance, I also had command of the rear-guard during the two most perilous days of the retreat. I am glad to know that nobody blames me with anything. Perhaps nobody ought to be blamed, certainly not if the force of the enemy is correctly reported. We have got off very well, having the best of all the fighting, and losing very little property in the retreat, and conducting it in good order.
General Cox and staff narrowly escaped capture. My command had a narrow escape. With any common precautions we should have been captured or destroyed, but luckily I had mounted pickets two miles further out than usual and got notice of the trap in time. The total loss of my command up to yesterday since May 1 inclusive is seven killed, six missing, and thirty-five wounded. We have killed forty to fifty of the enemy, captured about fifty, and wounded a large number. We have captured and destroyed many arms, and lived on the enemy’s grub a week. We also took several teams and waggons. We have lost our tents (except headquarters) and part of our mess furniture.
We shall remain here and hereabouts some time to get reinforced and to get supplies. We are in telegraphic communication with the world and only sixty miles from navigation.
Dr. James Webb is now in this brigade, assistant surgeon of the Twelfth Regiment O. V. I. Dr. Joe is brigade surgeon. We shall enjoy a few days’ rest here. The Twenty-third is a capital set. They always stood up squarely to the work and enjoyed it. A vast difference between raw troops and those who have tried it enough to be at home.
Love to all. Good-bye.
R. B. Hayes.
Camp on Flat Top Mountain, May 20, 1862. — Monday, 19th, marched from camp on Bluestone River to this point (yesterday) — a hot dry march — with knapsacks. I supposed we were to go only five miles; was disappointed to find we were retreating so far as this point. Being out of humor with that, I was out of sorts with all things; scolded “some” because the column was halted to rest on the wrong side of a stream which had to be crossed single file; viz., the near instead of the opposite side; mad because Colonel Scammon halted us in the sun half an hour — no water — without telling us how long we were to halt, etc., etc. But got good-humored again soon. Must swear off from swearing. Bad habit. Met Dr. Jim Webb, assistant surgeon of [the] Twelfth, yesterday as we approached here. March fourteen miles.
[Today], Tuesday, 20th, rains occasionally — a cold rain. No tents, some trouble, but men are patient and hardy. Heard of Ike Nelson’s wounds, four to six in number and twenty bullet holes in his clothing. Left for dead but got well.
Avery and Captain Drake go to Raleigh this morning. We are holding on, waiting for supplies in the place of the tents, etc., we have lost. No news yet of Richmond’s having been taken, but it is likely soon to fall unless we are defeated.
London, May 20, 1862
It has rained every day at some time in the day for eight or ten days. People begin to look dismal and croak about the crops. To Great Britain every day of sunshine lost is equal to an expense of just so many thousand pounds. The islands never produce bread-stuffs sufficient for the consumption of the people annually. They must beg some millions of quarters of wheat at any rate. In bad years they buy just so much more. Hence it is that at this season every bad day sensibly affects the price of stocks. No country ever had a more sensitive thermometer of the weather. But if this be true in ordinary times, how much more so in this season. The supply of cotton is rapidly and steadily declining. And the poor operatives of Lancashire are coming nearer and nearer to the time of starvation for want of work. If upon the top of this there should come a dearth of bread, it is not difficult to understand the extent of the social distress that may ensue. So there are miseries quite as acute as those of war which now afflict us.
In the meanwhile things are looking better rather than worse with us. The game of secession looks as if it might be nearly played out. The country is just putting forth its power whilst the rebel armies are gasping for breath. I have been here now more than a year, during which time I have gone through nearly every variety of emotion in connection with this war. The time is approaching, I trust, when this anxiety will disappear, and with it the uncertainty of my own situation. Doubtless others may succeed, of an equally serious nature. We shall have upon us the dangerous and critical task of restoration of the civil and a diminution of the military power. All this is very likely. But at any rate that condition presents a different face to external nations. It does not materially impair the entireness of the national position. I shall therefore accept the transition with cheerfulness and accommodate myself to the new state with more cheerfulness than to the old….