Hon. James A. Seddon (Va.) has been appointed Secretary of War. He is an able man (purely a civilian), and was member of our Revolutionary Convention, at Metropolitan Hall, l6th April, 1861. But some thought him then rather inclined to restrain than to urge decisive action. He is an orator, rich, and frail in health. He will not remain long in office if he attempts to perform all the duties.
Two letters were received from Gen. Lee to-day. Both came unsealed and open, an omission of his adjutant-general, Mason. The first inclines to the belief that Burnside intends to embark his army for the south side of James River, to operate probably in Eastern North Carolina.
The second, dated 17th inst. P.M., says the scouts report large masses advancing on Fredericksburg, and it may be Burnside's purpose to make that town his base of operations. (Perhaps for a pleasant excursion to Richmond.) Three brigades of the enemy had certainly marched to Fredericksburg. A division of Longstreet's corps were marched thither yesterday, 18th, at early dawn. Lee says if the reports of the scouts be confirmed, the entire corps will follow immediately. And he adds: “Before the enemy's trains can leave Fredericksburg (for Richmond) this whole army will be in position.” These letters were sent immediately to the President.
A letter from Gen. Holmes' calls for an immediate supply of funds ($24,000,000) for the trans-Mississippi Department. A letter from Gen. Pike says if Gen. Hindman (Ark.) is to control there, the Indian Country will be lost.
We shall soon have a solution of Burnside's intentions. Lee is in spirits. He knows Burnside can be easily beaten with greatly inferior numbers.
We hear of sanguinary acts in Missouri — ten men (civilians) being shot in retaliation for one killed by our rangers. These acts exasperate our people, and will stimulate them to a heroic defense.
The cars this afternoon from the vicinity of Fredericksburg were crowded with negroes, having bundles of clothing, etc., their owners sending them hither to escape the enemy. A frightened Jew, who came in the train, said there was an army of 100,000 near Fredericksburg, and we should hear more in a few days. I doubt it not.
Salt sold yesterday at auction for $1.10 per pound. Boots are now bringing $50 per pair; candles (tallow) 75 cts. per pound; butter $2.00 per pound. Clothing is almost unattainable. We are all looking shabby enough.
Mr. K., the young Chief of the Bureau, who came in with Mr. Randolph, declines the honor of going out with him, to the great chagrin of several anxious applicants. It is an office “for life.”
I shall despair of success unless the President puts a stop to Gen. Winder's passport operations, for, if the enemy be kept advised of our destitute condition, there will be no relaxation of efforts to subjugate us. And Europe, too, will refuse to recognize us. I believe there are traitors in high places here who encourage the belief in the North and in Europe that we must soon succumb. And some few of our influential great men might be disposed to favor reconstruction of the Union on the basis of the Democratic party which has just carried the elections in the North.
Everything depends upon the result of approaching military operations. If the enemy be defeated, and the Democrats of the North should call for a National Convention — but why anticipate?
SOURCE: John Beauchamp Jones, A Rebel War Clerk's Diary at the Confederate States Capital, Volume 1, p. 191-3