Yesterday there was some little skirmishing below Fredericksburg. But it rained last night, and still rains. Lee has only 30,000 or 40,000 effective men.
We have the Federal President's Message to-day. It is moderate in tone, and is surprising for its argument on a new proposition that Congress pass resolutions proposing amendments to the Constitution, allowing compensation for all slaves emancipated between this and the year 1900! He argues that slaves are property, and that the South is no more responsible for the existence of slavery than the North! The very argument I have been using for twenty years. He thinks if his proposition be adopted that “several of the border States will embrace its terms, and that the Union will be reconstructed.” He says the money expended in this way will not amount to so much as the cost of a war of subjugation. He is getting sick of the war, and therein I see the “beginning of the end” of it. It is a good sign for us, perhaps. I should not be surprised if his proposition had advocates in the South.
Lt.-Col. T. C. Johnson sent in a communication to-day. He alludes to an interview with the Secretary, in which the latter informed him that the government intended to exchange cotton for supplies for the army, and Lt.-Col. J. suggests that it be extended to embrace all kinds of merchandise for the people, and informs him that New York merchants are willing to send merchandise to our ports if we will permit their ships to return laden with cotton, at 50 cts. per pound, and pledging themselves to furnish goods at 50 per cent, advance on cost. He advocates a trade of this nature to the extent of $100,000,000, our government (and not individuals) to sell the cotton. The goods to be sold by the government to the merchants here. I know not what answer the Secretary will make. But I know our people are greedy for the merchandise.
The enemy have shelled Port Royal, below Fredericksburg, in retaliation for some damage done their gun-boats in the river by one of our land batteries. And we have news of the evacuation of Winchester by the enemy. The Northern papers say Burnside (who is not yet removed) will beat Lee on the Rappahannock, and that their army on the James River will occupy Richmond. When Lee is beaten, perhaps Richmond will fall.
A large number of our troops, recruited in Kentucky, have returned to their homes. It is said, however, that they will fight the enemy there as guerrillas.
The President has appointed his nephew, J. R. Davis, a brigadier-general. I suppose no president could escape denunciation, nevertheless, it is to be regretted that men of mind, men who wrought up the Southern people, with their pens, to the point of striking for national independence, are hurled into the background by the men who arranged the programme of our government. De Bow was offered a lower clerkship by Mr. Secretary Memminger, which he spurned; Fitzhugh accepted the lower class clerkship Mr. M. offered him after a prolonged hesitation; and others, who did more to produce the revolution than any one of the high functionaries now enjoying its emoluments, are to be found in the lowest subordinate positions; while Tom, Dick, and Harry, never heard of before, young, and capable of performing military service, rich, and able to live without office, are heads of bureaus, chief clerks of departments, and staff-officers flourishing their stars! Even this is known in the North, and they exult over it as a just retribution on those who were chiefly instrumental in fomenting revolution. But they forget that it was ever thus, and that our true patriots and bold thinkers who furnish our lesser men, in greater positions, with ideas, are still true and steadfast in the cause they have advocated so long.
SOURCE: John Beauchamp Jones, A Rebel War Clerk's Diary at the Confederate States Capital, Volume 1, p. 204-5