Friday, June 9, 2017

Diary of John Beauchamp Jones: May 5, 1863

To-day the excitement was quite as great as ever, for bodies of the enemy are still in the vicinity. They are like frightened quails when the hawks are after them, skurrying about the country in battalions and regiments. Fitzhugh Lee defeated one of their parties, and reports that the entire calvary force of Hooker, in anticipation of certain victory, had been detached in the rear of Lee's army. This force comprises twenty-eight regiments, or 15,000 mounted men! Now that Hooker is defeated— our operator at Guiney's station dispatches to-day that it is reported there, and believed, that Hooker and his staff are prisoners — it may be reasonably doubted whether one-half of this wild cavalry will escape. It was the mad pranks of a desperate commander. Hooker cast all upon the hazard of the die — and lost.

Among the mad pranks of the enemy, they sent a message over the wires to-day from Louisa County, I believe, to this purport: “For Heaven's sake, come and take us. We are broken down, and will surrender.”

They captured an engine sent out yesterday to repair the road. The white men escaped, leaving two free negroes. The Yankees made the negroes put on a full head of steam, and run the locomotive into the river.

One of the enemy was taken sleeping at one of our city batteries near the river.

My friend, Dr. Powell, on the Brooke Turnpike, sent his little son, mounted on his finest horse, on an errand to a neighbor. The lad fell in with, as he called them, “some Yankee Dutchmen,” who presented their pistols and made him dismount. They took his horse and allowed him to return.

At the hour we were dining yesterday, the enemy were within two and a half miles of us on the Brooke road, and might have thrown shell into this part of the city.

Col. D. J. Godwin writes a long letter to the Secretary of War, from King and Queen Counties, concerning the great number of suspicious persons continually passing our lines into those of the enemy, with passports from this city; and the great injury done by the information they give. Unquestionably they have not only given information, but have furnished guides to the many regiments of cavalry now skurrying through the country. But the Baltimore Plug Uglies, under the protection of Gen. Winder, are the masters, now Mr. Secretary Seddon has yielded again.

A letter was received from Gen. J. E. Johnston to-day. He is too unwell to take the field, and suggests, if it be desirable to be in regular communication with Gen. Bragg, that the President send out a confidential officer. He says the army is suffering for meat, and if it retires into East Tennessee, supplies must be obtained from its flanks instead of from its rear, which would be dangerous. The letter was dated a week ago, and gives no indications of a battle. The general says he is exchanging sugar for bacon; but condemns the practice of allowing our people to sell cotton to the enemy for supplies. In my opinion none but government cotton should be exchanged for subsistence. He says the people are subjugated by trade. He suggests that our men when paroled, and not exchanged, may do duty otherwise than in arms — as is practiced by the enemy.

H. D. Bird, general superintendent of the railroad, writes from Petersburg that the movements of cars with ammunition, etc. are thrown into confusion by the neglect of telegraph agents in giving timely notice. This is an unfortunate time for confusion. I sent the letter to the Secretary, and know that it was not “filed” on the way to him.

A communication came in to-day from the Committee of Safety at Mobile, Ala., charging that J. S. Clark, Win. G. Ford, and Hurt, have been shipping cotton to New Orleans, after pretending to clear it for Nassau. It says Mr. Clarke was an intimate crony of Gen. Butler's speculating brother. It also intimates that the people believe the government here winks at these violations of the act of Congress of April, 1862.

Very curiously, a letter came from the Assistant Secretary's room to-day for “file,” which was written April 22d, 1861, by R. H. Smith to Judge Campbell — a private letter — warning him not to come to Mobile, as nothing was thought of but secession, and it was believed Judge C. had used his influence with Mr. Seward to prevent secession. The writer deprecates civil war. And quite as curiously, the Examiner to-day contains what purports to be Admiral Buchanan's correspondence with the Lincoln government, two letters, the first in April, 1861, tendering his resignation, and the last on May 4th, begging, if it had not been done already, that the government would not accept his resignation.

SOURCE: John Beauchamp Jones, A Rebel War Clerk's Diary at the Confederate States Capital, Volume 1, p. 308-10

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