Saturday, January 7, 2017

John Hay to John G. Nicolay, April 8, 1863

Stone River, S. C,
Wednesday, April 8, 1863.

I arrived here to-night at the General's headquarters and was very pleasantly received by both him and Halpine. They are both in fine health and spirits. Halpine is looking better than I ever saw him before. They asked after you. On the way down I had for compagnons de voyage Generals Vogdes and Gordon; Gordon on sick leave and Vogdes to report for duty.

I hear nothing but encouraging accounts of the fight of yesterday in Charleston harbor. General Seymour, chief of staff, says we are sure to whip them; much surer than we were before the attack. The monitors behaved splendidly. The Keokuk was sunk and the Patapsco somewhat damaged, but as a whole they encountered the furious and concentrated fire of the enemy in a style for which even our own officers had scarcely dared to hope. The attack will soon be resumed with greater confidence and greater certainty of what they are able to do than before. An expedition is on for the army from which they hope important results. The force of the enemy is much larger than ours, but not so well posted, and as they are entirely ignorant of our plans they are forced to scatter and distribute their strength so as greatly to diminish its efficiency. Our troops are in good order and fine spirits apparently. I think highly of Seymour from the way he talks; like a firm, quick and cool-headed man. On the whole, things look well, if not very brilliant.

The General says he is going to announce me to-morrow as a volunteer Aide without rank. I am glad of it as the thing stands. If I had not been published as having accepted, hesitated and rejected such an appointment, I would not now have it. But I want my abolition record clearly defined, and that will do it better than anything else in my mind and the minds of the few dozen people who know me. . . .

I wish you could be down here. You would enjoy it beyond measure. The air is like June at noon and like May at morning and evening. The scenery is tropical. The sunsets unlike anything I ever saw before. They are not gorgeous like ours, but singularly quiet and solemn. The sun goes down over the pines through a sky like ashes-of-roses, and hangs for an instant on the horizon like a bubble of blood. Then there is twilight such as you dream about. . . .

SOURCES: Clara B. Hay, Letters of John Hay and Extracts from Diary, Volume 1, p. 72-4;  Michael Burlingame, Editor, At Lincoln’s Side: John Hay’s Civil War Correspondence and Selected Writings, p. 32-3 where the entire letter appears.

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