Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Diary of John Beauchamp Jones: December 3, 1862

One of the President's Aids, Mr. Johnston, has asked the Secretary's permission for Mrs E. B. Hoge, Mrs. M. Anderson, Miss Judith Venable, and Mrs. R. J. Breckinridge, with children and servants, to leave Richmond by flag of truce, and proceed to their homes in Kentucky. Of course it will be granted — the President sanctions it, but does not commit himself by ordering it.

There was no fighting on the Rappahannock yesterday, and no rumors to-day.

Letters were received from Gen. Lee to-day. He says several thousand of his men are barefoot! He suggests that shoes be taken from the extortioners at a fair price. That is right. He also recommends a rule of the department putting cavalry on foot when they cannot furnish good horses, and mounting infantry that can and will procure them. This would cause better care to be taken of horses. Gen. Lee also writes for more arms — which may indicate a battle. But the weather is getting bad again, and the roads will not admit of marching.

Mr. Gastrell, M. C, writes to the Secretary of War for permission for Messrs. Frank and Gemot, a Jew firm of Augusta, Ga., to bring through the lines a stock of goods they have just purchased of the Yankees in Memphis. Being a member of Congress, I think his request will be granted. And if all such applications be granted, I think money-making will soon absorb the war, and bring down the prices of goods.

We are a confident people. There are no symptoms of trepidation, although a hostile army of 150,000 men is now within two day's march of our capital. A few of guilty consciences, the extortioners, may feel alarm — but not the women and children. They reflect that over one hundred thousand of the enemy were within four miles of the city last spring and summer—and were repulsed.

The negroes are the best-clad people in the South. They have their Sunday clothing, and the half-worn garments of their masters and mistresses; and having worn these but once a week, they have a decidedly fresher aspect than the dresses of their owners. They are well fed, too, at any cost, and present a happy-appearance. And they are happy. It is a great mistake of the Abolitionists, in supposing the slaves hail their coming with delight; on the contrary, nearly all the negroes regard their approach with horror.

It might be well for the South if 500,000 of the slaves were suddenly emancipated. The loss would not be felt — and the North would soon be conscious of having gained nothing! My friend, Dr. Powell, near the city, abandoned his farm last summer, when it was partly in possession of the enemy, leaving fifty negroes on it — which he could have sold for $50,000. They promised not to leave him, and they kept their word. Judge Donnell, in North Carolina, has left his plantation with several hundred thousand dollars worth on it — rather risking their loss than to sell them.

SOURCE: John Beauchamp Jones, A Rebel War Clerk's Diary at the Confederate States Capital, Volume 1, p. 201-3

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