Monday, November 28, 2016

Diary of John Beauchamp Jones: December 23, 1862

The battle of Fredericksburg is still the topic, or the wonder, and it transpired more than nine days ago. It will have its page in history, and be read by school-boys a thousand years hence. The New York Times exclaims, “God help us — for man cannot.” This is another war sheet. The Tribune is bewildered, and knows not what to say. The Herald says “everything by turns, and nothing long.” Its sympathies are ever with the winning party. But it is positively asserted that both Seward and his son have resigned, to be followed by the rest of the cabinet. That example might be followed here without detriment to our cause. And it is said Burnside has resigned. I doubt that — but no doubt he will be removed. It is said Fremont has been appointed his successor. That would be good news. I think Halleck will be removed, and MeCIellan will be recalled. No matter.

It is said our President will command in Mississippi himself — the army having no confidence in Pemberton, because he is a Yankee.

We have a letter to-day from Gen. Pike (another Yankee), saying the Indian country is lost — lost, because Gens. Holmes and Hindman — Southern men — won't let him have his own way! The news from North Carolina is still cloudy. Gen. G. W. Smith is there (another Northern man).

Gen. Elzey has been appointed to command this department during Gen. L.'s abseuce. Gen. E. is a Marylander. In the President's absence, it is said this appointment was made by Gen. S. Cooper (another Yankee) to insult Virginia by preventing the capital from being in the hands of a Virginian. The Richmond papers occasionally allude to the fact that the general highest in rank in the Confederacy is a Yankee — Gen. S. Cooper.

Gen. Lee says his ammunition is bad in quality, and that his new guns burst in the late battle — all under charge of the chief of the Bureau of Ordnance — another Yankee. Gen. D. H. Hill writes a scathing letter to the department in response to a rebuke from the new Secretary, occasioned by some complaints of Major Palfrey in Gen. Cooper's (A. and I. General) office. I do not know where Major P. came from; but the fact that he was not in the field, gave the general occasion to rasp him severely. It must have been caused by an order transferring, furloughing, or discharging some soldier in Gen. H.'s division — and his patience vanished at the idea of having his men taken out of the ranks without consulting him, by carpet knights and civilian lawyers. He says 8000 are now absent from his command — and that Gen. Johnston's army, last spring, was reduced from the same cause to 40,000 men, where he had to oppose 138,000 of the “rascally Yankees.” He concludes, however, by saying it is the duty of subordinate generals in the field to submit in all humility to the behests of their superiors comfortably quartered in Richmond. But if justice were done, and the opinions of the generals in the field were regarded in the matter of discharges, etc., the lawyers, who have grown fat on fees by thinning our ranks, would be compelled to resort to some more laudable means of making a living.

A letter from Gov. Shorter, of Alabama, introduces Judge Rice, agent for P. S. Gerald and J. R. Powell, who propose to bring goods into the Confederate States through Mexico, to be paid for in cotton, etc. This was referred by the Secretary to the Quartermaster-General — who protests against it on the ground that it might interfere with his agents already engaged in the business.

The President publishes a retaliatory proclamation to-day against Gen. Butler, for hanging Mr. Munford, of New Orleans, who took down the United States flag before the city had surrendered. He declares Butler to be out of the pale of civilization; and orders any commander who may capture him, to hang him as an outlaw. And all commissioned officers serving under Butler, and in arms with negroes, to be reserved for execution.

There is a rumor that an agent of the Federal Government has arrived in the city, to propose an armistice. No armistice, unless on the basis of uli possidetis ante bellum!

Bethel, Leesburg, and Fredericksburg are victories memorable for our great success when fighting in advantageous positions. They teach a lesson to generals; and it will be apparent that no necessity exists for so great an expenditure of life in the prosecution of this war. The disparity of numbers should be considered by our generals. I fear the flower of our chivalry mostly perished in storming batteries. It is true a prestige was gained.

SOURCE: John Beauchamp Jones, A Rebel War Clerk's Diary at the Confederate States Capital, Volume 1, p. 221-3

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