Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Diary of John Beauchamp Jones: January 18, 1863

It was bitter cold last night, and everything is frozen this morning; there will be abundance of ice next summer, if we keep our ice-houses.

In these times of privation and destitution, I see many men, who were never prominent secessionists, enjoying comfortable positions, and seeking investments for their surplus funds. Surely there must be some compensation in this world or the next for the true patriots who have sacrificed everything, and still labor in subordinate positions, with faith and patient suffering. These men and their families go in rags, and upon half-rations, while the others fare most sumptuously.

We are now, in effect, in a state of siege, and none but the opulent, often those who have defrauded the government, can obtain a sufficiency of food and raiment. Calico, which could once be bought for 12 cts. per yard, is now selling at $2.25, and a lady's dress of calico costs her about $30.00. Bonnets are not to be had. Common bleached cotton shirting brings $1.50 per yard. All other dry goods are held in the same proportion. Common tallow candles are $1.25 per pound; soap, $1.00; hams, $1.00; oppossum $3.00; turkeys $4 to $11.00; sugar, brown, $1.00; molasses $8.00 per gallon; potatoes $6.00 per bushel, etc.

These evils might be remedied by the government, for there is no great scarcity of any of the substantial and necessities of life in the country, if they were only equally distributed. The difficulty is in procuring transportation, and the government monopolizes the railroads and canals.

Our military men apprehend no serious consequences from the army of negroes in process of organization by the Abolitionists at Washington. Gen. Rains says the negro cannot fight, and will always run away. He told me an anecdote yesterday which happened under his own observation. An officer, when going into battle, charged his servant to stay at his tent and take care of his property. In the fluctuations of the battle, some of the enemy's shot full in the vicinity of the tent, and the negro, with great white eyes, fled away with all his might. After the fight, and when the officer returned to his tent, he was vexed to learn that his slave had run away, but the boy soon returned, confronting his indignant master, who threatened to chastise him for disobedience of orders. Caesar said: “Massa, you told me to take care of your property, and dis property” (placing his hand on his breast) “is worf fifteen hundred dollars.” He escaped punishment.

Some 200,000 of the Abolition army will be disbanded in May by the expiration of their terms of enlistment, and we have every reason to believe that their places cannot be filled by new recruits. If we hold out until then, we shall be able to resist at all vital points.

SOURCE: John Beauchamp Jones, A Rebel War Clerk's Diary at the Confederate States Capital, Volume 1, p. 240-1

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