Saturday, June 25, 2016

Diary of Sir Arthur James Lyon Fremantle: Sunday, May 31, 1863

The Bishop of Georgia preached to-day to a very large congregation in the Presbyterian church. He is a most eloquent preacher; and he afterwards confirmed about twenty people, — amongst others, Colonel Gale (over forty years old), and young Polk. After church, I called again on General Bragg, who talked to me a long time about the battle of Murfreesborough (in which he commanded). He said that he retained possession of the ground he had won for three days and a half, and only retired on account of the exhaustion of his troops, and after carrying off over 6000 prisoners, much cannon, and other trophies. He allowed that Rosecrans had displayed much firmness, and was “the only man in the Yankee army who was not badly beaten. He showed me, on a plan, the exact position of the two armies, and also the field of operations of the renowned guerillas, Morgan and Forrest.

Colonel Grenfell called again, and I arranged to visit the outposts with him on Tuesday. He spoke to me in high terms of Bragg, Polk, Hardee, and Cleburne; but he described some of the others as “political” generals, and others as good fighters, but illiterate and somewhat addicted to liquor. He deplored the effect of politics upon military affairs as very injurious in the Confederate army, though not so bad as it is in the Northern.

At 2 P.M. I travelled in the cars to Wartrace in company with General Bragg and the Bishop of Georgia. We were put into a baggage-car, and the General and the Bishop were the only persons provided with seats. Although the distance from Shelbyville to Wartrace is only eight miles, we were one hour and ten minutes in effecting the trajet, in such a miserable and dangerous state were the rails. On arriving at Wartrace we were entertained by Major-General Cleburne. This officer gave me his history. He is the son of a doctor at or near Ballincolig. At the age of seventeen he ran away from home, and enlisted in Her Majesty's 41st Regiment of foot, in which he served three years as private and corporal. He then bought his discharge, and emigrated to Arkansas, where he studied law, and, eschewing politics, he got a good practice as a lawyer. At the outbreak of the war he was elected captain of his company, then colonel of his regiment, and has since, by his distinguished services in all the western campaigns, been appointed to the command of a division (10,000 men) — the highest military rank which has been attained by a foreigner in the Confederate service. He told me that he ascribed his advancement mainly to the useful lessons which he had learnt in the ranks of the British army, and he pointed with a laugh to his general's white facings, which he said his 41st experience enabled him to keep cleaner than any other Confederate general.* He is now thirty-five years of age; but, his hair having turned grey, he looks older. Generals Bragg and Hardee both spoke to me of him in terms of the highest praise, and said that he had risen entirely by his own personal merit.

At 5 P.M. I was present at a great open-air preaching at General Wood's camp. Bishop Elliott preached most admirably to a congregation composed of nearly 3000 soldiers, who listened to him with the most profound attention. Generals Bragg, Polk, Hardee, Withers, Cleburne, and endless brigadiers, were also present. It is impossible to exaggerate the respect paid by all ranks of this army to Bishop Elliott; and although most of the officers are Episcopalians, the majority of the soldiers are Methodists, Baptists, &c. Bishop Elliott afterwards explained to me that the reason most of the people had become dissenters was because there had been no bishops in America during the “British dominion;” and all the clergy having been appointed from England, had almost without exception stuck by the King in the Revolution, and had had their livings forfeited.

I dined and slept at General Hardee's, but spent the evening at Mrs –––'s, where I heard renewed
philippics directed by the ladies against the Yankees.

I find that it is a great mistake to suppose that the Press is gagged in the South, as I constantly see the most violent attacks upon the President — upon the different generals and their measures. To-day I heard the officers complaining bitterly of the “Chattanooga Rebel,” for publishing an account of Breckenridge's departure from this army to reinforce Johnston in Mississippi, and thus giving early intelligence to the enemy.

* The 41st Regiment wears white facings; so do the generals in the Confederate army. M. de Polignac has recently been appointed a brigadier: he and Cleburne are the only two generals amongst the Confederates who are foreigners.

SOURCE: Sir Arthur James Lyon Fremantle, Three Months in the Southern States: April-June, 1863, p. 152-5

No comments: