Showing posts with label Burning Towns. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Burning Towns. Show all posts

Monday, November 16, 2020

Dr. Seth Rogers to his daughter Dolly, January 27, 1863

January 27, 1863.

I appropriated the mess-room for operations and the officer's berths to receive the wounded. Fortunately we had thought to bring candles along, no others on board. . . . It was not more than one hour before we were busy dressing gun-shot wounds. One man was killed instantly by a ball through the heart and seven were wounded, one of whom will die. Braver men never lived. One man with two bullet holes through the large muscles of the shoulder and neck, brought off from the scene of action, two miles distant, two muskets and not a murmur escaped his lips. Another, Robert Sutton, with three wounds, one on the skull, which may cost him his life, would not report himself till compelled to do so by his officers. While dressing his wounds he quietly talked of what they had done and what they yet can do. Today I have had the Colonel order him to obey me. He is perfectly quiet and cool but takes this whole affair with the religious bravery of a man who realizes that freedom is sweeter than life. Yet another did not report at all, but kept all night on guard and perhaps I should not have known of his having a buck-shot in his shoulder, if some duty requiring a sound shoulder had not been required of him today. The object of our raid was to surprise and capture a company of rebel cavalry pickets, but, as is usual in this war, the enemy seemed to know the secret plan, and we only succeeded in making them skedaddle after a few rounds, and in bringing off five contrabands, a fine piano [for the Beaufort schoolhouse] and divers other things. We also had the satisfaction of burning the plantation house and out-buildings, in accordance with general orders, so they will not screen any more pickets. We steadily send shot and shell over the bluffs to prevent their picking off men from our boat, which is their habit. All this is very exciting and I enjoy it much. I just now volunteered to go up on a bluff and burn a picket house of rendezvous, but I believe the Colonel thinks it is unsafe for his friends to do what he himself is ever ready to do.

We reached St. Mary's before noon. I believe I have before stated that the town was partially burned by the Neptune, yet there were fifty or more houses remaining, including two large churches, a bank, etc. As we approached, the waving of white handkerchiefs began again, by the two maiden ladies (!!) residing in sight of the wharf. All the other houses were uninhabited. The women informed us that they were living entirely alone with their aged mother, that they were “Domingo ladies,” but had not owned slaves since England abolished slavery there.

Their antecedents have been so doubtful that the Colonel thought it best to search their house very carefully in spite of their protestations, and entreaties and talk of honor, etc. etc. permitted to join him and one of the captains in the search and found it very interesting though we discovered no rebels. Of course we had a guard around the house, a guard of such color as greatly to annoy the inmates. They told me that they had not seen pickets at all, and many other things which I knew to be false. But we politely left them, they avowing that they were ladies and thanking us for being gentlemen. As we were about to leave the wharf, bang, bang, bang, went secesh rifles from behind the houses and whistling went the balls over our heads. We were not long in sending shot and shell enough to protect our skirmishers and then the Colonel did what I begged him to do this morning — put nearly all the town in flames, save the house of these women and two or three at the windward of it. I wanted to take the women down to Fernandina and burn every house, but the Colonel thought it best to leave them, so there will still be a screen and sympathy left there for the rebels. But we left an immense fire and I trust the pickets will have to rescue the women from it.

SOURCE: Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Volume 43, October, 1909—June, 1910: February 1910. p. 350-1

Dr. Seth Rogers to his daughter Dolly, January 28, 1863

STEAMER Ben Deford, FERNANDINA, FLA.,
January 28, 1863.

 While superintending the transfer of the wounded from the John Adams last night, I sent ashore for mattrasses, but without success. This morning I have been ashore and procured a bale of fine hay from Quartermaster Seward, a gentleman who was my partner at euchre on the Delaware and who is now very prompt in doing what he can for us, so that now our men are about as comfortably placed as if they were in a hospital. Yesterday I saw how difficult it is to keep down vandalism when a town is to be burned. In this respect the blacks are much more easily controlled than the whites. Of course we have a right to appropriate what we need in the service of Uncle Sam, but I would be as severe as the Colonel is on individual appropriations. My only regret about burning the town is that we did not give those “unprotected ladies” the protection of our flag and then burn every house. I find the same feeling among officers here in Fernandina. If we are ever to put down this ungodly rebellion, we must act on the broadest principles of justice. If I offer my life in the defence of my country I shall not be slow nor economical in my demands upon my enemies. This is true justice and wise humanity. Just now two companies were sent to St. Mary's on the Planter to load brick; I let Dr. Minor go with them. That I did not go myself instead was the bravest thing I have done since I came to Dixie.

SOURCE: Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Volume 43, October, 1909—June, 1910: February 1910. p. 351-2

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Captain Charles Wright Wills: (A duplicate of dates.) October 12, 1864

October 12, 1864.

Last night while our train was passing through Cassville, a town four miles south of Kingston, an ambulance gave out and the driver unhitched and concluded to stay all night. That was some three miles from where we stayed. Nine stragglers also laid down beside the ambulance for the night. The 17th Corps came through there to-day and found the driver dead, with a bayonet thrust through him, and the traps of the nine men laying around. The horses and nine men are missing. I heard to-night that the bodies of the nine men had been found altogether. Our men burned the town. I expect we will lie here tomorrow, and if Hood's army is in this vicinity go for it next day. Nobody thinks he will dare to fight us. We have parts of five corps here.

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 310

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Diary of Laura M. Towne: Tuesday, June 24, 1862


We had a serenade last night. It was given by Holbrook, Fuller, and others. They spoke about it at breakfast and General Hunter laughed heartily as they wanted to know why it was not appreciated by the household. We had a very cosy, sociable, pleasant meal. Mrs. Dibble, or Dibbil, the wife of an officer on Morris Island, who stays with Mrs. Hunter, shared her room with me, and after the serenade we slept well. I had another long talk with General and Mrs. Hunter. I told him of the assault upon Mr. Pierce, and the cotton agents' evil doings generally. He says he shall burn Charleston if he ever has a chance to take it, but that he has no chance now, for all his troops are withdrawn except barely enough for defence. He is a generous but too impulsive man, kind to a fault to his soldiers, and more anti-slavery than I expected. He wore a loose undress coat made of white cassimir and a straw hat, when walking on the piazza. His manner is very quick and decided, and to his wife, attentive and as if he were much attached to her. He told me how she went with him on all his campaigns and how impossible it was for him to do without her; and she told me how he had suffered with the cut across the cheek and wound in the ankle which he received at Ball's Bluff, I think, or Bull Run. I spoke of Fremont admiringly, and he blazed up. “I admire his anti-slavery,” I said, “and his proclamation.” “That was well,” he replied, “but his military operations were ridiculous and he came near losing Missouri;” and he said, I think, that he was not trustworthy.

“There's that guard asleep again,” he said once. “Let him sleep, David,” urged his wife. “How would you like to stand and walk about so long uselessly with a heavy gun on your shoulder in the hot sun? Let him sleep, David.” “Oh, you would keep pretty order in my camp,” he said, laughingly, and let the man sleep.

Mr. French took me back, in the Locust Point, to Beaufort.

SOURCE: Rupert Sargent Holland, Editor, Letters and Diary of Laura M. Towne: Written from the Sea Islands of South Carolina 1862-1864, p. 71-2

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Diary of John Beauchamp Jones: June 21, 1863

To-day we have an account of the burning of Darien, Ga. The temptation is strong for our army to retaliate on the soil of Pennsylvania.

SOURCE: John Beauchamp Jones, A Rebel War Clerk's Diary at the Confederate States Capital, Volume 1, p. 357

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Diary of 1st Lieutenant Lemuel A. Abbott: Monday, August 1, 1864

Marched for Frederick at 5 o'clock a. m.; dusty and hot; arrived at 9 o'clock a. m.; camped in a shady grove; Chambersburg reported burnt by the enemy because it couldn't or wouldn't meet a levy by McCausland of $500,000 in currency; also that Grant has blown up a sixteen-gun battery and taken one complete line of works; have been mustered today; took command of Company E as First Lieutenant of that Company.

SOURCE: Lemuel Abijah Abbott, Personal Recollections and Civil War Diary, 1864, p. 129

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Diary of 2nd Lieutenant Lemuel A. Abbott: Thursday, July 21, 1864

Marched hard all night and daylight found us nearly through the gap; have marched hard — fairly raced —all day; brought up on the east side of Goose Creek again, where we are in camp for the night tired and worn out. We marched through Leesburg with stars and stripes waving and bands playing national airs, something unusual for us to do without it's a large place. Rumor says that our rear guard burned the place, but I don't believe it, although it has the reputation of being strongly rebel — a regular hotbed.

SOURCE: Lemuel Abijah Abbott, Personal Recollections and Civil War Diary, 1864, p. 125-6

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Lieutenant-Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes to Colonel Eliakim P. Scammon, Monday, May 5, 1862

Camp Number 5, Princeton, May 5, 1862.

Sir: — This whole region is completely conquered. Rapid movement is all that is needed to take possession of the railroad and several good counties without opposition. Militiamen are coming in glad to take the oath and get home "to work crops." A part of Jenifer's force retreated through Tazewell, abandoning Jeffersonville and it is reported burning it. Humphrey Marshall is reported on the railroad and near or at Wytheville. The Forty-fifth retreated on to Giles abandoning the Narrows, leaving the position deserted. These are the reports. Not perfectly reliable, but I am inclined to credit them. At the Rocky Gap many muskets even were burned, the militiamen thinking it safer to return home unarmed. There is a report from Tazewell that a battalion of cavalry is approaching through Logan and McDowell, the other part of the Second Virginia. If so they will meet with no opposition worth naming. It is about certain that the enemy had but one cannon at the Narrows. All I give you is rumor, or the nature of rumor, except the conduct and disposition of the new militia. I hear that from their own lips. An active command can push to the railroad, taking coffee, salt, and sugar, and subsist itself long enough to get the railroad from Newbern a hundred miles west. I speak of the future in the way of suggestion that your thoughts may turn towards planning enterprises before the scare subsides. The rations I speak of because we ought to have a larger supply of some things, counting upon the country for the others. Colonel Little will send in reports perfectly reliable as to the Narrows tomorrow. I hear a report that the enemy — the Forty-fifth — didn't stop at Giles but kept on towards Newbern! I give these reports as showing the drift of feeling in this country, and [as] hints at truth rather than truth itself.

Monday night. — I now have reliable information of the enemy, I think. It differs in many respects from rumors mentioned in the foregoing. The Forty-fifth Regiment during Friday and Saturday straggled back to its camp at the mouth of Wolf Creek, a short distance above the Narrows. About four-fifths of the force got back foot-sore, without hats, coats, knapsacks, and arms in many cases. In the course of Friday and Saturday a considerable part (perhaps half) of the cavalry we drove from here reached the same point (mouth of Wolf Creek) having passed through Rocky Gap and thence taken the Wolf Creek and Tazewell Road easterly. On Saturday evening they were preparing to leave camp; the Forty-fifth to go to Richmond whither they had just been ordered, and the cavalry and the few militia were to go with them as far as Dublin. The militia were uncertain whether they were to remain at Dublin or go west to the Salt Works in Washington and Wythe Counties. They all expected to be gone from Wolf Creek and the Narrows during Sunday. There would be no fighting the Yankees this side of Dublin — possibly at Dublin a fight. The militia of Wythe, Grayson, and Carroll, seven hundred strong, are the force [at] Wytheville. At Abbington, one thousand [of] Floyd's men. In Russell County Humphrey Marshall is still reported with three thousand men badly armed and worse disciplined. The great Salt Works (King's) work four hundred [men], ten furnaces, and turn out seventeen hundred bushels every twenty-four hours. No armed force there. All this from contrabands and substantially correct.

Later. — Seven more contrabands just in. They report that on Sunday the Forty-fifth and other forces, except about thirty guards of baggage, left the vicinity of the Narrows arriving at Giles Court-house Sunday afternoon on their way to Dublin Depot; that from there they expected to go west to Abbington. The contrabands passed the Narrows; only a small guard was there with a few tents and wagons. No cannon were left there. I do not doubt the general truthfulness of the story. It confirms the former. The enclosed letters perhaps contain something that ought to be known to General Fremont; if so you can extract a fact or two to telegraph. They were got from the last mail sent here by the Rebels. The carrier stopped seven miles south of here and the mail [was] picked up there.

I wish to send three companies or so to the Narrows immediately to see if we can catch the guard and baggage left behind. If you approve send me word back immediately and I will start the expedition in the morning.

Latest. — Two more contrabands!! We can surely get the baggage in six hours (eighteen miles) without difficulty. Do send the order.

Respectfully,
R. B. Hayes,
Lieutenant-colonel 23D Regiment O. V. I.,
Commanding Detachment.
[colonel Scammon.]

SOURCE: Charles Richard Williams, editor, Diary and Letters of Rutherford Birchard Hayes, Volume 2, p. 251-3

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Lieutenant-Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes to Lucy Webb Hayes, May 2, 1862

Camp No. 5, Princeton, Mercer County, Virginia,
May 2, 1862.

Dearest: — I reached yesterday this town after a hard day's march of twenty-two miles through deep, slippery mud and a heavy rain, crossing many streams which had to be waded — one, waist-deep. The men stood it bravely and good-humoredly. Today, only twelve are reported as excused from duty. Our advance company (C), Lieutenant Bottsford in command, had a severe battle. Seventy-five of them were attacked by two hundred and forty of Jenkins' Cavalry, now Jenifer's, with seventy-seven of Foley's guerrillas. The battle lasted twenty minutes, when the Rebels fled, leaving their killed and wounded on the ground. One of our men was killed outright, three mortally wounded, and seventeen others more or less severely injured. The whole regiment came up in a few moments, hearing the firing. Didn't they cheer us? As I rode up, they saluted with a “present arms.” Several were bloody with wounds as they stood in their places; one boy limped to his post who had been hit three times. As I looked at the glow of pride in their faces, my heart choked me, I could not speak, but a boy said: “All right, Colonel, we know what you mean.” The enemy's loss was much severer than ours.

We pushed on rapidly, hearing extravagent stories of the force waiting for us at Princeton. Prisoners, apparently candid, said we would catch it there. We would have caught Lieutenant-Colonel Fitzhugh and his men, if our cavalry had had experience. I don't report to their prejudice publicly, for they are fine fellows — gentlemen, splendidly mounted and equipped. In three months they will be capital, but their caution in the face of ambuscades is entirely too great. After trying to get them ahead, I put the Twenty-third in advance and [the] cavalry in the rear, making certainly double the speed with our footmen trudging in the mud, as was made by the horsemen on their fine steeds. We caught a few and killed a few. At the houses, the wounded Rebels would be left. As we came up, the men would rush in, when the women would beg us not to kill the prisoners or the wounded. I talked with several who were badly wounded. They all seemed grateful for kind words, which I always gave them. One fine fellow, a Captain Ward, was especially grateful.

This work continued all day; I, pushing on; they, trying to keep us back. The fact being, that General Heth had sent word that he would be in Princeton by night with a force able to hold it. As we came on to a mountain a couple of miles from Princeton, we saw that the Rebels were too late. The great clouds were rolling to the sky — they were burning the town. We hurried on, saved enough for our purposes, I think, although the best buildings were gone. The women wringing their hands and crying and begging us to protect them with the fine town in flames around us, made a scene to be remembered. This was my May-day. General Heth's forces got within four miles; he might as well have been forty [miles away]. We are in possession, and I think can hold it.

Joe and Dr. McCurdy had a busy day. They had Secesh wounded as well as our own to look after. Dr. Neal of the Second Virginia Cavalry (five companies of which are now here in my command), a friend of Joe's, assisted them.

SOURCE: Charles Richard Williams, editor, Diary and Letters of Rutherford Birchard Hayes, Volume 2, p. 245-7

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Diary of Lieutenant-Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes: Thursday, May 1, 1862

Camp 5, Princeton. — Marched at 6 A. M. Heard firing in advance. Turned out to be Company C on Camp Creek, attacked by Lieutenant-Colonel Fitzhugh with four companies, dismounted, Jenkins' Cavalry and Foley's bushwhackers. The company was in line ready to move off to return to camp when they saw a party of bushwhackers coming down the road who called out (Captain Foley called): “Don't fire; we are Richmond's men.” Immediately after, a volley was fired into our men from all sides. They were surrounded by three hundred Secesh. Finding the attack so heavy, Company C was ordered by Lieutenant Bottsford to take shelter in the log house where they had quartered. They kept up such a spirited fire that the enemy retreated, leaving four dead, four mortally [wounded], four more dangerously. All these we got. Captain Foley had his shoulder broken. The enemy fled in confusion leaving their dead and wounded on the field. This was a splendid victory for Lieutenant Bottsford and Sergeant Ritter, of Company C, and Sergeant Abbott, Company I. They were the prominent officers. Our loss was a German, Pfeffer, killed; Lenox and another mortally wounded, three severely wounded, and fifteen others slightly. Sergeant Ritter had a bullet shot into his head lodging between the scalp and skull. He fell, but instantly jumped up saying, “You must shoot lower if you want to kill me.” It was a gallant fight. Company C wears the honors.

I came up to the scene of the conflict soon after the enemy fled. They say our coming drove them away. I couldn't speak when I came up to the gallant little company and they presented arms to me. I went around shaking hands with the wounded. They all spoke cheerfully. We immediately pushed on in mud and rain after the retreating foe. Captain McIlrath's company (A) [led]. At a house where three cavalrymen were leaving two of the enemy's wounded, they killed one and captured his horse and shotgun, etc. I then sent the cavalry under Lieutenant-Colonel Paxton in advance. They soon were fired on by a gang of bushwhackers from a hill and their horses badly stampeded. One horse threw his forelegs over Colonel Paxton's horse's neck. The cavalry dismounted, charged up the hill, and caught one dragoon.

Finding the cavalry would dismount and skirmish all the bad hillsides (and they were abundant — being twelve miles of defiles), I again put the Twenty-third in advance. At Ferguson's we saw Captain Ward, quartermaster Rebel army, badly wounded and another young soldier.

We pushed on rapidly, crossing Wolf Creek, Camp Creek, and wading Bluestone waist-deep — rain falling, mud deep and slippery. We came in sight of the wagons of the retreating foe, but for want of cavalry familiarized to the business, we were unable to overtake them. We were told of great reinforcements at Princeton or soon to be at Princeton. The Forty-fifth [Virginia] there or coming. Captain Ward, a pleasant gentleman, said we would probably “get thunder at Princeton.” We kept ahead. On approaching town we saw great clouds. Some thought it smoke, some supposed it was clouds. Within two miles we knew the Rebels were burning the town. We hurried forward; soon reached an elevated ground overlooking the place. All the brick buildings, court-house, churches, etc., were burning. I ordered up the howitzers to scatter out the few Rebel cavalry who were doing it; deployed the regiment by a file right into a field and marched forward by battalion front. The town was soon overrun. Some fires were put out; four or five tolerably fine dwellings were saved; a number of small buildings and some good stables were also saved.

And so ended the first of May — twenty-two miles in mud and rain. An exciting day. Five enemy killed, nine badly wounded that we got; three unwounded prisoners, and about a dozen Rebels wounded. Total five killed, three prisoners, twenty-one wounded. A good day's work.

SOURCE: Charles Richard Williams, editor, Diary and Letters of Rutherford Birchard Hayes, Volume 2, p. 238-40

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Diary of Sergeant George G. Smith: Sunday, October 26, 1862

The remainder of the brigade continued the march down the Bayov Lafourche, toward Brashear City. I took a stroll through the town. This had been a notorious place for Guerrillas and steamboats had been fired upon here several times. Admiral Farragut had warned them that if the practice was not discontinued he would burn the town. But they disregarded his warning: so sometime in July last three gunboats came up the river and laid two-thirds of the town in ashes. But the houses left standing might as well have been burned, for the soldiers Saturday and Sunday morning made wasteful havoc with the furniture and windows of those that were standing; and then too the piles of bones, heads and feet of chickens and turkeys lying upon marble top tables and scattered about in confusion told what fearful raids had been made in the poultry yards. Many contrabands came in and occupied the deserted houses. Information was received that one B. Molare was in command of a band of guerillas, and was in the habit of coming home to his plantation and staying all night. Colonel Holcomb ordered Company E under the command of Lieutenants Krause and Mayne to go down and arrest him. We started about 9 p. m. with the negroes who gave the information accompanying as guides. An hour's walk brought us to the house. The men were stationed so as to allow no one to escape, and the two lieutenants and myself went in. We found three ladies and a boy occupying the house. They were well dressed and the furniture indicated considerable wealth. One of the ladies, a buxom widow of about 25, seemed to be spokesman for all hands. Lieutenant Krause informed her of our errand, and asked her if Mr. Molare was at home. He was not, and in answer to questions she made the following statement: Mr.Molare was not her husband, but her cousin. Her husband was dead. Mr. Molare was not a captain, and was in command of no military organization. He lived there because his house was burned in Donaldsonville, but had not been there for two or three days. As to firearms she said there were none about the place except two small pistols, which she produced in a wooden case. She said they kept them for personal protection. She then said we might search the house and she would show us every place where firearms could be secreted. During the search some Confederate bank bills turned up, and she said, “I suppose you have no faith in them?” I replied that I had none in the least. We were not there to rob or plunder, but were there for persons and things contraband of war. Not finding any arms Lieutenant Krause sent for the overseer and told him he might consider himself a prisoner and must go with us. He then said to Mrs. C: “I have been informed by pretty good authority that Mr. Molare is at the head of a band of guerillas secreted somewhere about here in the woods, and is in the habit of firing on boats as they pass up and down the river. Now you may say to him if he does not come and deliver himself up as a prisoner of war we will come here and burn this place to the ground.” Then we left for camp. The next day Mr. Molare came and took the oath of allegiance to the United States. On Saturday when rations were issued to citizens, the widow and the rest of the family were regular customers.

SOURCE: Abstracted from George G. Smith, Leaves from a Soldier's Diary, p. 30-4

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Diary of 4th Sergeant John S. Morgan: Sunday May 24, 1863

Unwell. Marine Brig. go up river burn a town after some fighting fireing heard below.

SOURCE: “Diary of John S. Morgan, Company G, 33rd Iowa Infantry,” Annals of Iowa, 3rd Series, Vol. 13, No. 7, January 1923, p. 490

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Diary of 5th Sergeant Alexander G. Downing: Saturday, March 4, 1865

We remained in bivouac all day. The Fifteenth Corps just came in on a road to our left and is to cross the Pedee ahead of the Seventeenth. The rebel skirmishers are just across the river and our skirmishers are keeping up a lively fusillade. Our engineers cannot lay the pontoons so long as the rebels are on the opposite bank of the river and the plan is to send a detachment above or below and cross the river after dark, and flank them. The foragers of the Seventeenth Corps were put in command of the colonel of the Ninth Illinois today and sent out on a raid to Society Hill, fifteen miles south of Cheraw on the railroad. They captured and destroyed two trains of cars loaded with ammunition and provisions, and then tore up the tracks for some miles and burned everything in town that would burn.

Source: Alexander G. Downing, Edited by Olynthus B., Clark, Downing’s Civil War Diary, p. 258

Diary of 5th Sergeant Alexander G. Downing: Sunday, March 5, 1865

The First Division of the Seventeenth Corps crossed the river last evening after dark and drove the rebels back. Our engineers then laid the pontoons and the troops began crossing at once. Our brigade passed through the town and crossed the river at noon and then continued our march for seven miles, when we went into bivouac for the night. Cheraw was nearly all burned to the ground before our men left it. The rebels burned the bridge across the river and upon evacuating the town set fire to it, and our men burned what remained. We are in a rich country again and forage is plentiful.

Source: Alexander G. Downing, Edited by Olynthus B., Clark, Downing’s Civil War Diary, p. 259

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Diary of 5th Sergeant Alexander G. Downing: Wednesday, February 22, 1865

We started at 6 o'clock this morning and marched about fifteen miles. Our brigade tore up two miles of railroad. We passed through Winnsboro at 10 a. m. The Twentieth Corps camped here last night and this morning moved north along the railroad. About half of the town is burned. We left the railroad at this place and marched eastward, going into camp within six miles of the Wateree river. There are large numbers of refugees at Winnsboro, well-to-do citizens having come from all parts of the South — from Vicksburg, Atlanta, and other places too numerous to mention. They came into this state, to this secluded town, thinking that the Yankees would never be able to set foot on the sacred soil of South Carolina. They declare now that they will go no farther, as it would be of no use, and we agree with them in this case.

Source: Alexander G. Downing, Edited by Olynthus B., Clark, Downing’s Civil War Diary, p. 255-6

Friday, December 25, 2015

Diary of 5th Sergeant Alexander G. Downing: Sunday, February 12, 1865

Our division relieved the Third Division on the skirmish line at the bridge this morning, while they went down the river about a mile, laid the pontoons and crossed over. The skirmishing was commenced at an early hour all along the line for a distance of fifteen miles. Our men threw shells across the river into Orangeburg, and the rebels left the bridge about 1 o'clock. Our division crossed the bridge two hours later and took possession of the town.1

Orangeburg is nicely situated on the north bank of the Edisto river, and on the railroad running from Charleston to Columbia. The town is almost deserted, but before the war it had a population of three thousand. We destroyed the railroad and went into camp for the night.
_______________

1 The town was on fire when we arrived. The report was that the town was set on fire by a Jew, in revenge for the enemy's setting fire to his cotton, about fifty bales, when they evacuated the place. The high winds which prevailed rapidly spread the fire in spite of the efforts of the soldiers to extinguish it.

Source: Alexander G. Downing, Edited by Olynthus B., Clark, Downing’s Civil War Diary, p. 252

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Diary of 5th Sergeant Alexander G. Downing: Sunday, February 12, 1865

Our division relieved the Third Division on the skirmish line at the bridge this morning, while they went down the river about a mile, laid the pontoons and crossed over. The skirmishing was commenced at an early hour all along the line for a distance of fifteen miles. Our men threw shells across the river into Orangeburg, and the rebels left the bridge about 1 o'clock. Our division crossed the bridge two hours later and took possession of the town.1

Orangeburg is nicely situated on the north bank of the Edisto river, and on the railroad running from Charleston to Columbia. The town is almost deserted, but before the war it had a population of three thousand. We destroyed the railroad and went into camp for the night.
_______________

1 The town was on fire when we arrived. The report was that the town was set on fire by a Jew, in revenge for the enemy's setting fire to his cotton, about fifty bales, when they evacuated the place. The high winds which prevailed rapidly spread the fire in spite of the efforts of the soldiers to extinguish it.

Source: Alexander G. Downing, Edited by Olynthus B., Clark, Downing’s Civil War Diary, p. 252

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Brigadier-General James Chesnut Jr., to Mary Boykin Chesnut, February 28, 1865

Camp Near Charlotte, February 28.

I thank you a thousand, thousand times for your kind letters. They are now my only earthly comfort, except the hope that all is not yet lost. We have been driven like a wild herd from our country. And it is not from a want of spirit in the people or soldiers, nor from want of energy and competency in our commanders. The restoration of Joe Johnston, it is hoped, will redound to the advantage of our cause and the reestablishment of our fortunes! I am still in not very agreeable circumstances. For the last four days completely water-bound.

I am informed that a detachment of Yankees were sent from Liberty Hill to Camden with a view to destroying all the houses, mills, and provisions about that place. No particulars have reached me. You know I expected the worst that could be done, and am fully prepared for any report which may be made.

It would be a happiness beyond expression to see you even for an hour. I have heard nothing from my poor old father. I fear I shall never see him again. Such is the fate of war. I do not complain. I have deliberately chosen my lot, and am prepared for any fate that awaits me. My care is for you, and I trust still in the good cause of my country and the justice and mercy of God.

SOURCES: Mary Boykin Chesnut, Edited by Isabella D. Martin and Myrta Lockett Avary, A Diary From Dixie, p. 355-6

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Diary of Sarah Morgan: September 10, 1862

Yesterday I was interrupted to undertake a very important task. The evening before, mother and Lilly happened to be in a store where two officers were buying materials for making shirts, and volunteered to make them for them, which offer they gladly accepted, though neither party knew the other. They saw that they were friends of Charlie, so had no scruples about offering their services; the gentlemen saw that they were ladies, and very kind ones, besides, so made no difficulty about accepting. Lilly undertook one of purple merino, and I took a dark blue one. Miriam nominally helped her; but her very sore finger did not allow her to do much. Mother slightly assisted me; but I think Lilly and I had the best of the task. All day we worked, and when evening came, continued sewing by the light of these miserable home-made candles. Even then we could not finish, but had to get up early this morning, as the gentlemen were to leave for Port Hudson at nine o'clock. We finished in good time, and their appearance recompensed us for our trouble. Lilly's was trimmed with folds of blue from mine, around collar, cuffs, pockets, and down the front band; while mine was pronounced a chef d'oeuvre, trimmed with bias folds of tiny red and black plaid. With their fresh colors and shining pearl buttons, they were really very pretty. We sent word that we would be happy to make as many as they chose for themselves or their friends, and the eldest, with many fears that it was an “imposition” and we were “too good,” and much more of the same kind, left another one with Charlie for us. We cannot do too much, or even enough, for our soldiers. I believe that is the universal sentiment of the women of the South.

Well, but how did we get back here? I hardly know. It seems to me we are being swayed by some kind of destiny which impels us here or there, with neither rhyme nor reason, and whether we will or no. Such homeless, aimless, purposeless, wandering individuals are rarely seen. From one hour to another, we do not know what is to become of us. We talk vaguely of going home “when the Yankees go away.” When will that be? One day there is not a boat in sight; the next, two or three stand off from shore to see what is being done, ready, at the first sight of warlike preparation, to burn the town down. It is particularly unsafe since the news from Virginia, when the gunboats started from Bayou Goula, shelling the coast at random, and destroying everything that was within reach, report says. Of course, we cannot return to our homes when commissioned officers are playing the part of pirates, burning, plundering, and destroying at will, with neither law nor reason. Donaldsonville they burned before I left Baton Rouge, because some fool fired a shotgun at a gunboat some miles above; Bayou Sara they burned while we were at General Carter's, for some equally reasonable excuse. The fate of Baton Rouge hangs on a still more slender thread. I would give worlds if it were all over.

At Mrs. Haynes's we remained all night, as she sent the carriage back without consulting us. Monday we came to town and spent the day with Lilly. How it was, I can't say; but we came to the conclusion that it was best to quit our then residence, and either go back to Linwood or to a Mrs. Somebody who offered to take us as boarders. We went back to Mrs. McCay's, to tell her of our determination, and in the morning took leave of her and came back home.

We hear so much news, piece by piece, that one would imagine some definite result would follow, and bring us Peace before long. The Virginia news, after being so great and cheering, has suddenly ceased to come. No one knows the final result. The last report was that we held Arlington Heights. Why not Washington, consequently? Cincinnati (at last accounts) lay at our mercy. From Covington, Kirby Smith had sent over a demand for its surrender in two hours. Would it not be glorious to avenge New Orleans by such a blow? But since last night the telegraph is silent.

News has just come of some nice little affair between our militia in Opelousas and the Yankees from New Orleans, in which we gave them a good thrashing, besides capturing arms, prisoners, and ammunition. “It never rains but it pours” is George's favorite proverb. With it comes the “rumor” that the Yankees are preparing to evacuate the city. If it could be! Oh, if God would only send them back to their own country, and leave ours in peace! I wish them no greater punishment than that they may be returned to their own homes, with the disgrace of their outrages here ever before their eyes. That would kill an honest man, I am sure.

SOURCE: Sarah Morgan Dawson, A Confederate Girl's Diary, p. 219-22

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Diary of Mary Boykin Chesnut: February 22, 1865

Isabella has been reading my diaries. How we laugh because my sage divinations all come to naught. My famous “insight into character” is utter folly. The diaries were lying on the hearth ready to be burned, but she told me to hold on to them; think of them a while and don't be rash. Afterward when Isabella and I were taking a walk, General Joseph E. Johnston joined us. He explained to us all of Lee's and Stonewall Jackson's mistakes. We had nothing to say — how could we say anything? He said he was very angry when he was ordered to take command again. He might well have been in a genuine rage. This on and off procedure would be enough to bewilder the coolest head. Mrs. Johnston knows how to be a partizan of Joe Johnston and still not make his enemies uncomfortable. She can be pleasant and agreeable, as she was to my face.

A letter from my husband who is at Charlotte. He came near being taken a prisoner in Columbia, for he was asleep the morning of the 17th, when the Yankees blew up the railroad depot. That woke him, of course, and he found everybody had left Columbia, and the town was surrendered by the mayor, Colonel Goodwyn. Hampton and his command had been gone several hours. Isaac Hayne came away with General Chesnut. There was no fire in the town when they left. They overtook Hampton's command at Meek's Mill. That night, from the hills where they encamped, they saw the fire, and knew the Yankees were burning the town, as we had every reason to expect they would. Molly was left in charge of everything of mine, including Mrs. Preston's cow, which I was keeping, and Sally Goodwyn's furniture.

Charleston and Wilmington have surrendered. I have no further use for a newspaper. I never want to see another one as long as I live. Wade Hampton has been made a lieutenant-general, too late. If he had been made one and given command in South Carolina six months ago I believe he would have saved us. Shame, disgrace, beggary, all have come at once, and are hard to bear — the grand smash! Rain, rain, outside, and naught but drowning floods of tears inside. I could not bear it; so I rushed down in that rainstorm to the Martins’. Rev. Mr. Martin met me at the door. “Madam,” said he, “Columbia is burned to the ground.” I bowed my head and sobbed aloud. “Stop that!” he said, trying to speak cheerfully. “Come here, wife,” said he to Mrs. Martin. “This woman cries with her whole heart, just as she laughs.” But in spite of his words, his voice broke down, and he was hardly calmer than myself.

SOURCES: Mary Boykin Chesnut, Edited by Isabella D. Martin and Myrta Lockett Avary, A Diary From Dixie, p. 350-1