Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Diary of John Hay: Monday, April 23, 1861

This morning Doug. Wallack came rushing into the office, looking for Seward with what he called important news. He said that the two ships at the Navy Yard were the Pawnee and the Kingston. They brought marines and naval stores from Norfolk, which place they left after carrying what government property they could not remove. The Premier cursed quietly because the Baltic had not come; told Wallach not to contradict the report that the Baltic had come; said the treason of Hicks would not surprise him; that  the Seventh could cut their way through three thousand rioters; that Baltimore delenda est; and other things, — and strolled back into the audience chamber.

At dinner we sat opposite old Gen. Spinner, who was fierce and jubilant. No frenzied poet ever predicted the ruin of a hostile house with more energy and fervor than he issued the rescript of destiny against Baltimore. “We've got ’em,” he said. “It is our turn now. We keep steadily one week ahead of them, as 8 says. We have burned their hospital and poor-house, Harper's Ferry and the Norfolk Navy Yard. Now let them fight or starve.” He was peculiarly disgusted with the impertinence of Delaware. “The contemptible little neighborhood without population enough for a decent country village, gets upon her hind legs and talks about armed neutrality. The only good use for traitors is to hang them. They are worth more, dead than alive.” — Thus the old liberty-loving Teuton raged.

A gaunt, tattered, uncombed and unshorn figure appeared at the door and marched solemnly up to the table. He wore a rough, rusty overcoat, a torn shirt, and suspenderless breeches. His thin hair stood fretful-porcupine-quill-wise upon his crown. He sat down and gloomily charged upon his dinner. A couple of young exquisites were eating and chatting opposite him. They were guessing when the road would be open through Baltimore. “Thursday!” growled the grim apparition; “or Baltimore will be laid in ashes.”

It was Jim Lane.

To-night there seems to be reliable news at the State Department that the Seventh Regiment and the Massachusetts troops would start from Annapolis to-night, and through the favoring moonlight march to the Junction, where the Government has possession of the Road. The hostile peasantry can harass them fearfully on the way, from fence-corners and hill-sides, if they are ready and brave. . . .

A large and disappointed throng gathered at the Depot this morning hoping to get deliverance. But the hope was futile. They seem doomed to see the rising of the curtain. . . .

SOURCES: Clara B. Hay, Letters of John Hay and Extracts from Diary, Volume 1, p. 21; Michael Burlingame, Inside Lincoln's White House: The Complete Civil War Diary of John Hay, p. 8-9

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