Thursday, July 27, 2017

Diary of John Beauchamp Jones: June 17, 1863

The city has been gladdened by the reception of this dispatch from Gen. Lee:

june 15th, 1863.
“His Excellency, Jefferson Davis.

“God has again crowned the valor of our troops with success. Early's division stormed the enemy's intrenchments at Winchester, capturing their artillery, etc.

“(Signed) R. E. Lee, General.

Subsequent reports to the press state that we captured some 6000 prisoners, Gen. Milroy among them, 50 guns, and a large amount of stores. If we caught Milroy, the impression prevails that he was hung immediately, in accordance with the President's order some time since, as a just punishment for the outrages inflicted by him on our helpless old men, women, and children.

A sealed envelope came in to-day, addressed by the President to the Secretary of War, marked “Highly important and confidential,” which, of course, I sent to the Secretary immediately without breaking the seal, as it is my duty to do to all letters not private or confidential. I can as yet only conjecture what it referred to. It may be of good, and it may be of bad import. It may relate to affairs in the West; or it may be a communication from abroad, several steamers having just arrived. Can it be from the Government at Washington? I care not what it is, if we hold Vicksburg.

The Commissary-General reports that he has some 8,000,000 pounds of bacon, and quite as much salt and fresh beef at the various depots, besides some 11,000 head of cattle. This is not a large amount for such armies as we have in the field; but in the fall we shall have 10 per cent. of all the products in the Confederate States as tax in kind. The Commissary-General, however, recommends the following reduction of rations: for men in garrison or batteries, a quarter pound of bacon per day; in camp, one-third of a pound; and marching, half a pound.

Mr. James Spence, our financial agent in England, gives a somewhat cheering account of money matters. He recommends the shipping of $1,000,000 worth of cotton per week, which appears to be practicable. He also advises the shipment of the few millions of gold the government holds in this country to England; and Mr. Memminger approves it — in boxes weekly, containing $75,000. If this were known, it could hardly be accomplished, for such is the distrust of several members of the cabinet that the people would revolt. They would believe the cabinet meant soon to follow the gold. And some of our military commanders have no better opinion of them than the people. Beauregard once stopped some bullion ordered away by Mr. Memminger.

There is a rumor that Gen. Wise had a combat yesterday on the Peninsula. But the operations beyond the Rappahannock, and approaching the capital of the United States, must relieve Richmond of all immediate danger.

Mr. Lincoln says he is “making history;” forgetful of the execrable figure he is likely to be in it. Our papers to-day contain the following:

Yankee Cruelty; Forly-three Negroes Drowned. — One of the most atrocious incidents of the whole war was yesterday related to us by a gentleman of this city, who obtained the facts from Capt. Jas. G. White, of King William County, who vouches for the accuracy of the statement. Some days ago, when the Yankees made their raid to Aylett's, they visited the place of Dr. Gregg, living in the neighborhood, and took from their comfortable homes forty-three negroes, who were hurried off to York River and placed on board a vessel bound Northward. Along with these negroes, as a prisoner, was a gentleman named Lee, a resident and highly respectable citizen of King William, who has since been released and allowed to return to his home. He states that when the vessel arrived in Chesapeake Bay, the small-pox made its appearance among the negroes, that disease having existed to some extent among the same family before they were dragged from their homes in King William. The captain of the Yankee vessel and his crew were greatly alarmed at the appearance of the disease on board, and very soon determined to rid the vessel of the presence of the negroes. Without attempting to make the shore, and not considering for an instant the inhumanity of the cruel deed, the whole negro cargo was thrown into the bay, and every one left to perish by drowning. Not one, perhaps, escaped the cruel fate visited upon them by those who profess to be their earnest friends and warmest sympathizers.”

SOURCE: John Beauchamp Jones, A Rebel War Clerk's Diary at the Confederate States Capital, Volume 1, p. 350-2

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