This is the day of fate — and, without a cloud in the sky, the red sun, dimly seen through the mist (at noonday), casts a baleful light on the earth. It has been so for several days.
Early this morning a dispatch was received from Gen. Beauregard that the enemy attacked the forts in Charleston harbor, and, subsequently, that they were landing troops on Morris Island. Up to 3 o’clock we have no tidings of the result. But if Charleston falls, the government will be blamed for it — since, notwithstanding the remonstrances of Gen. [Beauregard], the government, members of Congress, and prominent citizens, some 10,000 of his troops were away to save Vicksburg.
About one o’clock to-day the President sent over to the Secretary of War a dispatch from an officer at Martinsburg, stating that Gen. Lee was still at Hagerstown awaiting his ammunition — (has not Col. Gorgas, Chief of Ordnance, been sufficiently vigilant?) — which, however, had arrived at the Potomac. That all the prisoners (number not stated), except those paroled, were at the river. That nothing was known of the enemy — but that cavalry fighting occurred every day. He concluded by saying he did not know whether Lee would advance or recross the river. If he does the latter, in my opinion there will be a great revulsion of feeling in the Confederate States and in the United States.
Another dispatch, from Gen. J. E. Johnston, dated yesterday, at Jackson, Miss., stated that Grant’s army was then within four miles of him, with numbers double his own. But that he would hold the city as long as possible, for its fall would be the loss of the State. I learn a subsequent dispatch announced that fighting had begun. I believe Johnston is intrenched.
To-day Mr. Secretary Seddon requested Attorney-General Watts, if he could do so consistent with duty, to order a nolle prosequi in the District Court of Alabama in the case of Ford, Kurd & Co. for trading with the enemy. Gen. Pemberton had made a contract with them, allowing them to ship cotton to New Orleans, and to bring back certain supplies for the army. But Mr. Attorney-General Watts replied that it was not consistent with his duty to comply, and therefore he demurred to it, as the act they were charged with was in violation of the act of Congress of April 19th, 1862.
We lost twelve general officers in the fall of Vicksburg — one lieutenant-general, four major-generals, and seven brigadiers.
Dispatches from Jackson, Miss., say the battle began yesterday, but up to the time of the latest accounts it had not become general. Johnston had destroyed the wells and cisterns, and as there are no running streams in the vicinity, no doubt Grant's army will suffer for water, if the defense be protracted.
From Charleston we learn that we lost in yesterday’s combat some 300 men, killed and wounded — the enemy quite as many. This morning the Yankees assaulted the battery on Morris Island, and were repulsed in two minutes, with a loss of 95 killed and 130 wounded, besides prisoners. Our loss was five, killed and wounded. Nothing further was heard up to 7 o'clock P.M.
From Lee we have no news whatever.
A letter from Governor Vance, of North Carolina, complains of an insult offered by Col. Thorburn (of Virginia), and asking that he be removed from the State, and if retained in service, not to be permitted to command North Carolinians. The Governor, by permission of Gen. Whiting, proceeded down the river to a steamer which had just got in (and was aground) from Europe, laden with supplies for the State; but when attempting to return was stopped by Col. [Thorburn], who said it was against the rules for any one to pass from the steamer to the city until the expiration of the time prescribed for quarantine. The Governor informed him of his special permission from Gen. Whiting and the Board of Navigation — and yet the colonel said he should not pass for fifteen days, “if he was Governor Vance or Governor Jesus Christ.” The President indorsed on this letter, as one requiring the Secretary’s attention, “if the case be as stated.”
Again the blockade-runners are at their dirty work, and Judge Campbell is “allowing” them. To-day Col. J. Gorgas, who is daily in receipt of immense amounts of ordnance stores from Europe by government steamers, recommends that passports be given N. H. Rogers and L. S. White to proceed North for supplies. This is a small business. It is no time to apply for passports, and no time to grant them.
We now know all about the mission of Vice-President Stephens under flag of truce. It was ill-timed for success. At Washington news had been received of the defeat of Gen. Lee — which may yet prove not to have been “all a defeat.”
SOURCE: John Beauchamp Jones, A Rebel War Clerk's Diary at the Confederate States Capital, Volume 1, p. 375-7