Friday, October 21, 2016

Diary of John Beauchamp Jones: Monday, December 1, 1862

There is a rumor to-day that we are upon the eve of a great battle on the Rappahannock. I doubt it not.

I am sorry to see that Col. McRae, a gallant officer, has resigned his commission, charging the President with partiality in appointing junior officers, and even his subordinates, brigadiers over his head. Nevertheless, he tenders his services to the Governor of his State, and will be made a general. But where will this end? I fear in an issue between the State and Confederate authorities.

The news from Europe is not encouraging. France is willing to interfere, and Russia is ready to participate in friendly mediation to stay the effusion of blood — but England seems afraid of giving offense to the United States. They refer to the then approaching elections in the North, and lay some stress on the anticipated change in public opinion. Popular opinion! What is it worth in the eyes of European powers? If it be of any value, and if the voice of the people should be allowed to determine such contests, why not leave it to a vote of the Southern people to decide under which government they will live? But why make such an appeal to monarchies, while the Republican or Democratic government of the North refuses to permit 8,000,000 of people to have the government they unanimously prefer? Can it be possible that the United States are ignorant of popular sentiment here? I fear so; I fear a few traitors in our midst contrive to deceive even the Government at Washington. Else why a prolongation of the war? They ought to know that, under almost any conceivable adverse circumstances, we can maintain the war twenty years. And if our lines should be everywhere broken, and our country overrun — it would require a half million soldiers to hold us down, and this would cost the United States $500,000,000 per annum.

God speed the day of peace! Our patriotism is mainly in the army and among the ladies of the South. The avarice and cupidity of the men at home, could only be excelled by ravenous wolves; and most of our sufferings are fully deserved. Where a people will not have mercy on one another, how can they expect mercy? They depreciate the Confederate notes by charging from $20 to $40 per bbl. for flour; $3.50 per bushel for meal; $2 per lb. for butter; $20 per cord for wood, etc. When we shall have peace, let the extortionists be remembered! let an indelible stigma be branded upon them.

A portion of the people look like vagabonds. We see men and women and children in the streets in dingy and dilapidated clothes; and some seem gaunt and pale with hunger — the speculators, and thieving quartermasters and commissaries only, looking sleek and comfortable. If this state of things continue a year or so longer, they will have their reward. There will be governmental bankruptcy, and all their gains will turn to dust and ashes, dust and ashes!

And I learn they are without shirts in the North — cotton being unattainable. A universal madness rules the hour! Why not throw aside the instruments of death, and exchange commodities with each other? Subjugation is an impossibility. Then why not strive for the possible and the good in the paths of peace? The Quakers are the wisest people, after all. I shall turn Quaker after this war, in one sense, and strive to convince the world that war is the worst remedy for evils ever invented — and Man the most dangerous animal ever created.

SOURCE: John Beauchamp Jones, A Rebel War Clerk's Diary at the Confederate States Capital, Volume 1, p. 199-201

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