From the Northern papers we learn that the defeat at Charleston is called by the enemy a Reconnoissance. This causes us much merriment here; McClellan's defeat was called a “strategical movement,” and “change of base.”
We have some rumors to-day, to the effect that Gen. Hill is likely to take Washington and Newbern, N. C; Gen. Longstreet, Suffolk; and Gen. Wise, Fort Magruder, and the Peninsula — he has not troops enough.
Gold advanced 7 per cent, in New York when the news of the “reconnoissance” reached that city.
We are planting almost every acre in grain, to the exclusion of cotton and tobacco — resolved never to be starved, nor even feel a scarcity of provisions in future. We shall be cutting wheat in another month in Alabama and other States.
Among the other rumors, it is said Hooker is falling back toward Washington, but these are merely rumors.
The President is in a very feeble and nervous condition, and is really threatened with the loss of sight altogether. But he works on; and few or no visitors are admitted. He remains at his dwelling, and has not been in the executive office these ten days.
Col. Lay was merry again to-day. He ordered in another foreign substitute (in North Carolina).
Pins are so scarce and costly, that it is now a pretty general practice to stoop down and pick up any found in the street. The boarding-houses are breaking up, and rooms, furnished and unfurnished, are rented out to messes. One dollar and fifty cents for beef, leaves no margin for profit, even at $100 per month, which is charged for board, and most of the boarders cannot afford to pay that price. Therefore they take rooms, and buy their own scanty food. I am inclined to think provisions would not be deficient, to an alarming extent, if they were equally distributed. Wood is no scarcer than before the war, and yet $30 per load (less than a cord) is demanded for it, and obtained.
The other day Wilmington might have been taken, for the troops were sent to Beauregard. Their places have since been filled by a brigade from Longstreet. It is a monstrous undertaking to attempt to subjugate so vast a country as this, even with its disparity of population. We have superior facilities for concentration, while the invader must occupy, or penetrate the outer lines of the circumference. Our danger is from within, not from without. We are distressed more by the extortioners than by the enemy. Eternal infamy on the heads of speculators in articles of prime necessity! After the war, let them be known by the fortunes they have amassed from the sufferings of the patriots and heroes! —the widows and orphans!
This day is the anniversary of the secession of Virginia. The government at Washington did not believe the separation would last two years! Nor do they believe now, perhaps, that it will continue two years longer.
SOURCE: John Beauchamp Jones, A Rebel War Clerk's Diary at the Confederate States Capital, Volume 1, p. 293-5