Rebel War Clerk

OCTOBER 1ST.—They are still striking at martial law in the Senate, as administered by Gen. Winder. A communication from the Secretary of War admits that Gen. W. was authorized to suppress substitute agencies—“but this did not justify impressment and confiscation.” It appears that Gen Winder ordered the agents to be impressed into the service, and the money paid for substitutes to be confiscated! Notwithstanding his blundering ignorance is disavowed, he is still retained in command.

The enemy are at Warrenton; and McClellan’s army has crossed the Upper Potomac. Another battle is imminent—and fearful will be the slaughter this time. Lee had but little if any more than 40,000 in the battle of Sharpsburg; the Northern papers said McClellan had 200,000! a fearful odds. But Lee now has 70,000—and, besides, he will be defending Virginia. McClellan, with his immense army, must advance, or else relinquish command. The Abolitionists of the North have never liked him, and they wield the power at present. A defeat of Lee near Winchester would produce consternation here.

There are, as usual, thousands of able-bodied men still in our streets. It is probable every man, able to march, will be required on the field of battle. If we can get out all, we shall certainly gain the day, and establish our independence.

How shall we subsist this winter? There is not a supply of wood or coal in the city—and it is said there are not adequate means of transporting it hither. Flour at $16 per barrel, and bacon at 75 cts. per pound, threaten a famine. And yet there are no beggars in the streets. We must get a million of men in arms and drive the invader from our soil. We are capable of it, and we must do it. Better die in battle than die of starvation produced by the enemy.

The newspapers are printed on half sheets—and I think the publishers make money; the extras (published almost every day) are sold to the newsboys for ten cents, and often sold by them for twenty-five cents. These are mere slips of paper, seldom containing more than a column—which is reproduced in the next issue. The matter of the extras is mostly made up from the Northern papers, brought hither by persons running the blockade. The supply is pretty regular, and dates are rarely more than three or four days behind the time of reception. We often get the first accounts of battles at a distance in this way, as our generals and our government are famed for a prudential reticence. When the Northern papers simply say they have gained a victory, we rejoice, knowing their Cretan habits. The other day they announced, for European credulity, the capture and killing of 40,000 of our men: this staggered us; but it turned out that they did capture 700 of our stragglers and 2000 wounded men in field hospitals. Now they are under the necessity of admitting the truth. Truth, like honesty, is always the best policy.

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

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