Showing posts with label Germans. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Germans. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Captain Charles Wright Wills: November 30, 1864

Eight miles east of Summerville, 
November 30, 1864. 

Passed through the above named town this morning. All pine woods again to-day. Stopped at the first house I came to this morning and asked the resident, an ashcolored negress, something about the country. She said she'd had the chills and fever so long she didn't know anything, but “over dar was a house whar de folks had some sense.” Captain Smith and I walked over to the house she pointed to and found a fine old German, very anxious to know if we intended to burn his house. After he cooled down a little he grew much Union. He said he had been ordered to join the army one, two, three, twenty times, but had told them he would rather be shot than take up arms against the United States. The 12th Indiana band struck up as we passed his house, and the music touched the old fellow's heart. The tears rolled down his face and he blubbered out, “That is the first music I have heard for four years; it makes me think of home. D--n this Georgia pine wood.” He said that sugar is the staple here in peace times. The foragers brought in loads of it this evening. 

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 329

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes to Lucy Webb Hayes, Sunday, July 17, 1864

Martinsburg, July 17 (Sunday), 1864.

Dearest: — A week ago, about this time, we were enjoying our pleasant ride like young lovers on the Kingston Pike. Now we are widely separated.

I am semi-sick — that is the boil I told you I was threatened with on my hip is actively at work. The worst is over with it. I am lying on my blankets in the barroom of a German drinking saloon that was gutted by the Rebels. The man is a refugee but his excellent frau is here ready to do anything in the world for a bluecoat. She wants me to go [to] a chamber and a clean bed, but I like the more public room better.

Half my brigade went this morning to General Crook, thirty miles east. We go in a day or two. The combinations to catch the Rebels seem to me good, but I expect them to escape. Raiding parties always do escape. Morgan was foolhardy and Streight lacked enterprise. They are the only exceptions.

You will probably see some correspondence about your flag gift in the papers. Don't blush, it's all right. — “S’much.” Love to all.

Ever, darling, your
Mrs. Hayes.

SOURCE: Charles Richard Williams, editor, Diary and Letters of Rutherford Birchard Hayes, Volume 2, p. 482-3

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Diary of William Howard Russell: July 16, 1861

I baffled many curious and civil citizens by breakfasting in my room, where I remained writing till late in the day. In the afternoon I walked to the State House. The hall door was open, but the rooms were closed; and I remained in the hall, which is graced by two indifferent huge statues of Law and Justice holding gas lamps, and by an old rusty cannon, dug out of the river, and supposed to have belonged to the original British colonists, whilst an officer whom I met in the portico went to look for the porter and the keys. Whether he succeeded I cannot say, for after waiting some half hour I was warned by my watch that it was time to get ready for the train, which started at 4.15 P. M. The country through which the single line of rail passes is very hilly, much wooded, little cultivated, cut up by water-courses and ravines. At the junction with the Washington line from Baltimore there is a strong guard thrown out from the camp near at hand. The officers, who had a mess in a little wayside inn on the line, invited me to rest till the train came up, and from them I heard that an advance had been actually ordered, and that if the "rebels" stood there would soon be a tall fight close to Washington. They were very cheery, hospitable fellows, and enjoyed their new mode of life amazingly. The men of the regiment to which they belonged were Germans, almost to a man. When the train came in I found it was full of soldiers, and I learned that three more heavy trains were to follow, in addition to four which had already passed laden with troops.

On arriving at the Washington platform, the first person I saw was General McDowell alone, looking anxiously into the carriages. He asked where I came from, and when he heard from Annapolis, inquired eagerly if I had seen two batteries of artillery — Barry's and another — which he had ordered up, and was waiting for, but which had “gone astray.” I was surprised to find the General engaged on such duty, and took leave to say so. “Well, it is quite true, Mr. Russell; but I am obliged to look after them myself, as I have so small a staff, and they are all engaged out with my head-quarters. You are aware I have advanced? No! Well, you have just come in time, and I shall be happy, indeed, to take you with me. I have made arrangements for the correspondents of our papers to take the field under certain regulations, and I have suggested to them they should wear a white uniform, to indicate the purity of their character.” The General could hear nothing of his guns; his carriage was waiting, and I accepted his offer of a seat to my lodgings. Although he spoke confidently, he did not seem in good spirits. There was the greatest difficulty in finding out anything about the enemy. Beauregard was said to have advanced to Fairfax Court House, but he could not get any certain knowledge of the fact. “Can you not order a reconnoissance?” “Wait till you see the country. But even if it were as flat as Flanders, I have not an officer on whom I could depend for the work. They would fall into some trap, or bring on a general engagement when I did not seek it or desire it. I have no cavalry such as you work with in Europe.” I think he was not so much disposed to undervalue the Confederates as before, for he said they had selected a very strong position, and had made a regular levee en masse of the people of Virginia, as a proof of the energy and determination with which they were entering on the campaign.

As we parted the General gave me his photograph, and told me he expected to see me in a few days at his quarters, but that I would have plenty of time to get horses and servants, and such light equipage as I wanted, as there would be no engagement for several days. On arriving at my lodgings I sent to the livery-stables to inquire after horses. None fit for the saddle to be had at any price. The sutlers, the cavalry, the mounted officers, had been purchasing up all the droves of horses which came to the markets. McDowell had barely extra mounts for his own use. And yet horses must be had; and, even provided with them, I must take the field without tent or servant, canteen or food — a waif to fortune.

SOURCE: William Howard Russell, My Diary North and South, Vol. 1, p. 423-4

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Governor John A. Andrew to Simon Cameron, April 25, 1861

April 25.

. . . I desire . . . to say that we can send to you four thousand more troops from Massachusetts within a very short time after the receipt of a requisition for them.

Do you wish us to send men as we may be able to get them ready, without awaiting requisitions? And can we send by sea up the Potomac? Cannot the river be kept open and safe to Washington? What shall we do, or what do you wish us to do, about provisioning our men? Is Fort Monroe supplied with provisions?

Will you authorize the enlistment here and mustering into the U. S. service of Irish, Germans and other tough men, to be drilled and prepared here for service? We have men of such description, eager to be employed, sufficient to make three regiments.

Finally, will you direct some general instructions and suggestions to be sent to me as to anything — no matter what or how much — which you may wish from Massachusetts, and procure General Scott also to do so, and we will try to meet, so far as may be, every wish of the Government up to the very limit of our resources and our power.

Will you put the 6000 rifles, now at the U. S. Arsenal at Watertown at our disposal for our men, and send immediately orders for that purpose?

SOURCE: Henry Greenleaf Pearson, The Life of John A. Andrew: Governor of Massachusetts, 1861-1865, Volume 1, p. 205-6

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Diary of William Howard Russell: July 9, 1861

Late last night the President told General Scott to send Captain Taylor back to the Confederate lines, and he was accordingly escorted to Arlington in a carriage, and thence returned without any answer to Mr. Davis's letter, the nature of which has not transpired.

A swarm of newspaper correspondents has settled down upon Washington, and great are the glorifications of the high-toned paymasters, gallant doctors, and subalterns accomplished in the art of war, who furnish minute items to my American brethren, and provide the yeast which overflows in many columns; but the Government experience the inconvenience of the smallest movements being chronicled for the use of the enemy, who, by putting one thing and another together, are no doubt enabled to collect much valuable information. Every preparation is being made to put the army on & war footing, to provide them with shoes, ammunition wagons, and horses.

I had the honor of dining with General Scott, who has moved to new quarters, near the War Department, and met General Fremont, who is designated, according to rumor, to take command of an important district in the West, and to clear the right bank of the Mississippi and the course of the Missouri. “The Pathfinder” is a strong Republican and Abolitionist, whom the Germans delight to honor, — a man with a dreamy, deep blue eye, a gentlemanly address, pleasant features, and an active frame, but without the smallest external indication of extraordinary vigor, intelligence, or ability; if he has military genius, it must come by intuition, for assuredly he has no professional acquirements or experience. Two or three members of Congress, and the General's staff, and Mr. Bigelow, completed the company. The General has become visibly weaker since I first saw him. He walks down to his office, close at hand, with difficulty; returns a short time before dinner, and reposes; and when he has dismissed his guests at an early hour, or even before he does so, stretches himself on his bed, and then before midnight rouses himself to look at despatches or to transact any necessary business. In case of an action it is his intention to proceed to the field in a light carriage, which is always ready for the purpose, with horses and driver; nor is he unprepared with precedents of great military commanders who have successfully conducted engagements under similar circumstances.

Although the discussion of-military questions and of politics was eschewed, incidental allusions were made to matters going on around us, and I thought I could perceive that the General regarded the situation with much more apprehension than the politicians, and that his influence extended itself to the views of his staff. General Fremont's tone was much more confident.. Nothing has become known respecting the nature of Mr. Davis's communication to President Lincoln, but the fact of his sending it at all is looked upon as a piece of monstrous impertinence. The General is annoyed and distressed by the plundering propensities of the Federal troops, who have been committing terrible depredations on the people of Virginia. It is not to be supposed, however, that the Germans, who have entered upon this campaign as mercenaries, will desist from so profitable and interesting a pursuit as the detection of Secesh sentiments, chickens, watches, horses, and dollars. I mentioned that I had seen some farm-houses completely sacked close to the aqueduct. The General merely said, “It is deplorable!” and raised up his hands as if in disgust. General Fremont, however, said, “I suppose you are familiar with similar scenes in Europe. I hear the allies were not very particular with respect to private property in Russia”  — a remark which unfortunately could not be gainsaid. As I was leaving the General's quarters, Mr. Blair, accompanied by the President, who was looking more anxious than I had yet seen him, drove up, and passed through a crowd of soldiers, who had evidently been enjoying themselves. One of them called out, “Three cheers for General Scott!” and I am apt quite sure the President did not join him.

SOURCE: William Howard Russell, My Diary North and South, Vol. 1, p. 397-8

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

George S. Denison to Salmon P. Chase, October 27, 1862

New Orleans, October 27th, 1862.

Dear Sir: Gen. Weitzel left here three days ago, with five Regiments Infantry, four companies cavalry, and two batteries. Their destination was Donaldsonville, about seventy miles up the River, where the Rebels were posted in force. I have just learned from a Captain of a transport, who has returned from there, that the landing was effected successfully. Considerable skirmishing took place, when the Rebels retreated, leaving a few killed and wounded, and also leaving two hundred prisoners in our hands, who were paroled and released. The rebels retreated to Napoleonville — (South of Donaldsonville), where it is supposed they will make a stand. The 1st. (colored) Regiment and 8th. Vermont, left here yesterday, marching in a direction nearly due west. Two days ago, Gunboats started for Berwick's Bay, to take possession there. All these movements are parts of one and the same plan. I informed you many days ago, of the departure of a portion of the Fleet, to attack and capture Galveston. They accomplished the object without loss. Gen. Butler will soon send a Regiment to occupy the town and Island.

Seventy-three refugees from Texas have just arrived here from Matamoras, about one-third of whom are Germans — the remainder Americans. At my request Gen. Butler is organizing them into a company for Gov't military service. Judge Davis, from Texas, is now here, and will receive authority to enlist and organize a full Texas Regiment. There will be no difficulty about this, as besides the company here — three or four companies can be raised in Galveston. There are hundreds of refugees in the vicinity of Matamoras, anxious to join the army, for whom Gen. Butler will send a steamer. You saw Judge Davis in Washington. He is well and favorably known in Texas.

Everything appears to be going on well here.

Your regulations of Aug. 28th. throw upon me great labor and responsibility. I have informed you of my action and opinions, in the matter, and would like to know if I have made any mistake.

I know of but one fault to be found with Gen. Butler. He has (in my opinion) been altogether too willing to permit his friends to make fortunes.

I hope you have completely recovered from your illness, of which mention was made in the New York papers.

SOURCE: Diary and correspondence of Salmon P. ChaseAnnual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1902, Vol. 2, p. 327-8

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

George S. Denison to Salmon P. Chase, August 26, 1862

New Orleans, Aug. 26th, 1862.

Dear Sir: The troops at Baton Rouge have evacuated the place, without destroying it, and are now joined to Gen. Phelps' command at Carrolton. His effective force is now about six thousand men and many guns, and is sufficient for the defence of the place. The fortifications are strong, and Gen. Phelps has the entire confidence of his men. An attack on the City was feared, and therefore the troops were brought down from Baton Rouge. The secessionists confidently expect the city to be taken soon, and had they succeeded at Baton Rouge, an attack on the City would have followed immediately. I do not believe it will now be made, but if attempted, will certainly be unsuccessful. They expected aid in the City, but Gen. Butler has disarmed all citizens. About 25,000 arms of various kinds have been given up.

The first Louisiana Reg't. is full and ready for service, and nearly enough men enlisted to form a second Reg't. The men are generally foreigners — many Germans — and will do good service.

A free Colored Reg't. formerly in Rebel service, is being organized. Probably this Regiment will be increased to a Brigade. I urged this matter upon Gen. Butler, but he had already decided upon it favorably. The free negroes of Louisiana, are certainly superior, as a class, to the Creoles (descendants of French and Spanish settlers). They are intelligent, energetic and industrious, as is evident from the fact (as stated to me) that they own one seventh of the real estate in this city. This is their own work, for they commenced with nothing, of course.

These men will be good soldiers. Gen. Phelps has at his camp 1,500 men — escaped slaves. Enough to make a full regiment are drilled (without arms) and go through all movements well. I do not know whether Gen. Butler intends them to have arms. They are good looking men, and I believe will be good soldiers.

The health of the troops is good, except those lately at Vicksburg, among whom however, deaths have been few. The City is quite healthy, and there is no longer much danger from Yellow Fever. This is owing to Gen. Butler's severe quarantine regulations. A few more days of health will render us perfectly secure.

The Union sentiment is developing itself satisfactorily. The laboring classes are our friends. When the great Southern armies are broken up they will no longer be afraid, and all will be well.
Provisions are high, and there is much suffering in the City. It is much to be regretted that the River was not opened, so that provisions might be cheap. The condition of the people now is scarcely better than under rebel rule — as to food, I mean.

For other reasons, the opening of the River is of the utmost consequence.

Much complaint is made by Union men, and justly, that those who have been secessionists, are frequently given employment by the authorities, to the exclusion of Union men. Concerning the Custom House there have been no such complaints, I believe, for I have been particularly careful in selecting officers, but I regret to say that other departments have not exercised the same care.

Col. Butler is a brother of Gen'l. Butler and came out with the army, and immediately commenced doing business. He is not in government employ. He is here for the sole purpose of making money, and it is stated by secessionists — and by some Union men—that he has made half a million dollars, or more. I regret his being here at all, for it is not proper that the brother of the commanding General, should devote himself to such an object. It leads to the belief that the General himself is interested with him, and such is the belief of our enemies and of some of our friends. The effect is bad. General Butler seems entirely devoted to the interests of the Government. I have observed closely his brother's course. I do not believe the General is interested in his speculations. I have delayed mentioning this matter until now, hoping to be better informed. Hon. Reverdy Johnson can give you as much information as I can.1 I believe Gen. Butler is disinterested and that he is a most able officer though in a difficult position. Should I learn anything further, you will be informed.

1 Hon. Reverdy Johnson, Senator from Maryland, was “appointed by the State Department as a special agent, to proceed to New Orleans and investigate and report upon the complaints made by foreign consuls against the late military proceedings in their respective cases.” (Secretary Stanton to General Butler, June 10, 1862, Rebellion Records, Series I, Vol. XV, p. 471. Cf. Series III, Vol. II. Cf. also the appendix to these letters.)

SOURCE: Diary and correspondence of Salmon P. ChaseAnnual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1902, Vol. 2, p. 310-2

Thursday, August 23, 2018

George S. Denison to Salmon P. Chase, May 15, 1862

New York, May 1862.

Sir: You desired me to put in writing the statements made to you by me while in Washington. In compliance with that request I have the honor to submit the following. The printed portions were written by myself.


A very large portion of the population of Western Texas continue loyal. In Austin (the Capital) three-fourths of the residents are loyal, and dare express their sentiments openly. In most other places any expression of opinion favorable to the Government is not tolerated. The Germans can be relied on almost without exception.

It is important that Western Texas should be made a Free State, and it can be accomplished. It is important because, thereby, the Slave States will be surrounded by the Free, and the slave power be rendered incapable of extension. They now hope to acquire some portion of Mexico for slavery, and while they hold Western Texas, will not cease to strive for that end. Hence, from its geographical position, Western Texas, is more important (with respect to slavery) than any other portion of the United States. It is very healthy, adapted to white labor, and but few slaves are there. In most portions of that country slave labor is not profitable, and, among others, the Germans are well known to be opposed to it. Among the leading Union men areEx-Governor Pease, Judge Norton (editor of the Intelligencer) A. J. Hamilton (former member of Congress) and Judge Paschal — all of Austin. I cannot say whether they desire a Free State, but most Texas loyalists would do anything for the sake of the Union. Mr. Charles Anderson is perhaps the best man the Government could select for a high civil position. He is well known there, is popular, able, eloquent and fearless, and his recent persecution by the rebel authorities enlisted the sympathy of all Union men, and of some others.

Col. Bomford was made prisoner of war by Gen. Twigg's surrender. He has been exchanged and is assigned to the 16th regiment of Regular infantry — is a graduate of West Point — was distinguished in Mexico — has been stationed several years in Texas, and, I understand, has recently been highly recommended by Gen. Scott for an appointment of Brigadier. He is a fine officer, and thoroughly familiar with Western Texas, its resources, forts, road, etc., the character of the people and their method of fighting.

“Sibley’s Brigade” contained about Twenty seven Hundred men, and went to New Mexico. There were some respectable men in it, but most were ruffians and desperadoes, and all would fight well. Most of them were armed each with a double-barrel shot-gun and navy revolver, though some had minie muskets (stolen from U. S.) or common rifles, and four companies had nothing but unwieldy lances. For artillery they had nine mountain howitzers. These were all mounted men, and were joined in Arizona by Col. Baylor's regiment numbering seven hundred, and provided with other artillery (ordinary brass field pieces). I should think there were in February last, about 1,000 men at the various forts in the Indian country, some or all of whom, I understood were to be sent on to reinforce Sibley. The colonels of the regiments serving under Sibley are Riley (formerly of Ohio) Green (formerly of Tennessee), Steele (formerly Capt. U. S. Army), and Baylor. They were insufficiently supplied with provisions — nor did they have sufficient ammunition — for so long an expedition. I have frequently seen Sibley's Brigade, and what I say about it, is reliable.

In February last, there were about Seven Thousand men around and between Galveston and Houston. Fortifications (field works) were prepared near Galveston, and they had considerable artillery there, including a few siege guns said to have been brought from New Orleans. There had already been sent out of the State (as I was informed) Thirteen to Fifteen Thousand men besides Sibley's Brigade. I was told by a Rebel officer that Thirty Two Thousand men were then underarms in Texas, including troops at Galveston, Houston and Brownsville. I think his statement greatly exaggerated, though he included all the home-guards, organized militia, etc., most of whom are poorly armed.

There were at or near Brownsville eight or nine hundred men. Fort Brown is near the town and contains eighteen guns, as I am informed. They also have four or five mountain howitzers and at least one battery of field pieces. Matamoras is opposite Brownsville, and the Rebels have organized quite an extensive trade there. Vessels sail for Matamoras and land their cargoes at Brownsville. These two towns are twenty or twenty-five miles from the mouth of the Rio Grande. Large amounts of coffee have been imported from Mexico through Brownsville and sent to Eastern Texas and Louisiana. Many officers of the regular army have heretofore been stationed at Fort Brown and know all about it. It is said not to have been much strengthened by the rebels.

Mr. George Giddings of San Antonio was proprietor of the San Antonio and San Diego overland mail line. Early last winter he was appointed, by Jefferson Davis, agent to receive and collect all cotton contributed in the Southwest, for the Confederate government. It was said that he also received a large amount of Confederate money with which to buy cotton. It was said — and believed by all — that he was instructed to take all the cotton he could collect, through Brownsville to Matamoras or Tampico, and export it to Foreign countries, bringing back in exchange arms and munitions of war. I am unable to say whether the plan was relinquished subsequently to my leaving, but at that time he had a great number of Mexican carts in his employ, and almost all transportation there is done by these carts.

Corpus Christi is the healthiest place on the coast of Western Texas, and a majority of the inhabitants were for the Union. The harbor is not good, but troops can march from there to within thirty miles of San Antonio, and have good drinking water all the way — an important consideration in that dry country. Officers of the regular army, familiar with Texas, can tell where a landing should be made, much better than I can. It is important however, that an army once landed, should push forward rapidly so as to give protection to Union men who would otherwise be forced into the rebel army or massacred. Probably Twenty-five Thousand Federal troops could take and hold the whole State — certainly the Western portion. Col. Bomford thought fifteen Thousand could march even from Galveston to San Antonio, and garrison all important points on the road.

The Eastern part of the State, including Houston and Galveston, is Secession, though there are many Union men even there. I found Union men in all the states through which I passed, except Mississippi.

The want of arms is severely felt and this want is becoming[g] greater rapidly. I do not think they have received from abroad more than one tenth, certaintly not more than one-fifth, of the arms which are reported to have been received. I refer to reports prevalent in the South, all of which may not have been heard of in the North. I never saw but one foreign musket in the hands of a Southern soldier.

The Southern leaders do not hesitate to make any statement which will encourage their own people.

The gentleman from Memphis referred to in the printed column was a Mr. Randolph, an East Tennessee Union man, who had been to Memphis to attend the Legislature, of which he was a member. He passed through Corinth about the twentieth of March, or a little later. At that time there were between Forty and Forty-Five Thousand rebel troops there. Reinforcements came in as fast as they could be raised. The battle of Shiloh was fought about sixteen days afterward. They might have received reinforcements at the rate of 2,000 per day, but I should not think they received more than one thousand per day. According to this estimate the rebel force in that battle was not far from Sixty Thousand.

About the first of April, the number of troops in East Tennessee, as well as I could judge, was not far from ten thousand, of whom between three and four thousand were at Cumberland Gap, which is a position strong by nature and strongly fortified.

The gentleman referred to in the printed column is named McDowell, a nephew of Gen. Floyd and a relative of our Gen. McDowell. I knew him in Texas, and he is now an officer in the Rebel army. He said that immediately after Floyd ceased to be Secretary of War, a plantation with negroes in South Carolina, was purchased in Mrs. Floyd's name, and $700,000 in cash paid down for it.

The journey from N. Orleans to Richmond occupied seven days. I was told by members of the Rebel Congress in Richmond — (among others, Col. Wilcox, formerly U. S. Congressman from Mississippi) — that they now expected the war would continue six or seven years longer. I have also heard military men there say the same. Secretary Benjamin told me that the Federals arrested and put in prison every one who reached them from the South. In case their large armies are dispersed, their intention undoubtedly is, to adopt a general system of guerilla warfare, and thus wear out their enemies, and make the Government weary of the war.

In the Gulf States East of the Mississippi river, it seemed to me that nearly every able bodied man had been sent to the war. In the State of Mississippi, but few men were to be seen in any of the villages through which I passed. It is necessary, however, in estimating the number of troops they can raise, to note the following facts.

1st. In the beginning of the war thousands left the South and came North. I estimate the number at not less than fifty Thousand men, nor more than 100,000.

2nd. The mortality by sickness in the Southern army has been great. In the last part of October I learned (indirectly) from an officer of high position, that Thirty Thousand southern soldiers had already died from sickness alone. Assuming this to be true, their whole loss from sickness up to the present time cannot be less than Sixty Thousand.

3rd. Thousands have returned home invalids, and will be of no further use during the war. I cannot estimate the number well, but should think that (including those disabled by wounds) it is at least 30,000 and probably twice as many.

4th. Their loss in killed, deserters and prisoners has been large. You can estimate this number better than I can.

The above statements only approximate to the truth. Throughout the South it is impossible to obtain any accurate information. Facts are suppressed for fear of discouraging the people now in rebellion. It really seems to me that the rebels cannot raise many more men than they now have in the service. At any rate they would not be efficient, unless supplies of arms, etc. are received from abroad. It is the opinion of the Federal officers before-mentioned (Col. Bomford and others) that the United States needs more men in the field — at least 100,000 more.

The Yellow Fever generally prevails in New Orleans about one year out of three. It can be prevented by strict quarantine, though this fact is sometimes disputed. The epidemic generally commences in the last part of August (seldom before the 15th) and ends with the first frost, which usually occurs in the first week of November. The number of inhabitants remaining in the city during an epidemic is about Eighty Thousand, and the number of deaths is usually about four thousand or a little more. Sometimes (never except twice) the disease is very malignant and does not yield to former remedies, as in 1853, when it commenced in May and Thirteen Thousand died in the city during the epidemic. With proper sanitary and hospital arrangements I should estimate the number of the army who would escape the disease entirely, at ten per cent. of the whole, and the number who would die at not more than ten per cent. If there is no yellow fever, they would probably be as healthy as Southern soldiers. Probably ninety nine out of a hundred of the Southern army would suffer as much from Yellow fever as our own soldiers, and they will never undertake to occupy any place where the epidemic already prevails. This disease is prevalent along the whole Gulf coast from Key West to the Rio Grande, except the islands, the Texas Coast near Corpus Christi and a few other localities. It extends far inland where the country is slightly elevated above the sea, but never prevails in Western Texas except near the coast.

The Southern climate (near the Gulf) is far less healthy for armies than the Northern, but undoubtedly Federal armies will suffer from sickness no more and probably less, than Southern armies under the same circumstances. I am informed that this was true in the Mexican War. The second year is said to be more dangerous to Northern men than the first. They should be sent South in the Fall or Winter, and, during the hot season, sanitary precautions used, which all good physicians understand.

I think the South can be conquered without abolishing slavery in the Gulf States or elsewhere. To abolish it in the Gulf States would produce a unanimity among the people of those States which does not now exist. They all abhor the idea of the negroes being set free among them and (as they express it) made their equals. It is worth while to treat with conciliation and kindness those who are, or have been, Union men.

The original secessionists are a minority in every state except South Carolina, and perhaps Mississippi. Conciliation and kindness toward them is utterly thrown away. They expect and deserve the same treatment they have given Union men in their midst, and will fight to the last. But few of them will become good citizens again, and when subdued many of them will leave the country forever.

If Western Texas is to become a Free State, it must be before the close of this war. Eastern Texas is more populous and strongly pro-slavery, and will prevent any division of the state in time of peace.

With more time I could have made the foregoing statements more concise. I shall be gratified if they prove to be of any use.

SOURCE: Diary and correspondence of Salmon P. ChaseAnnual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1902, Vol. 2, p. 300-6

Monday, February 26, 2018

Diary of William Howard Russell: June 24, 1861

Just at dawn, I woke up and got out on the platform of the carriage, which is the favorite resort of smokers and their antithetics, those who love pure fresh air, notwithstanding the printed caution, “It is dangerous to stand on the platform;” and under the eye of early morn saw spread around a flat sealike expanse, not yet warmed into color and life by the sun. The line was no longer guarded from daring Secessionists by soldiers' outposts, and small camps had disappeared. The train sped through the centre of the great verdant circle as a ship through the sea, leaving the rigid iron wake behind it tapering to a point at the horizon and as the light spread over it, the surface of the crisping corn waved in broad undulations beneath the breeze from east to west. This is the prairie indeed. Hereabouts it is covered with the finest crops, some already cut and stacked. Looking around one could see church spires rising in the distance from the white patches of houses, and by degrees the tracks across the fertile waste became apparent, and then carts and horses were seen toiling through the rich soil.

A large species of partridge or grouse appeared very abundant, and rose in flocks from the long grass at the side of the rail or from the rich carpet of flowers on the margin of the corn-fields. They sat on the fence almost unmoved by the rushing engine, and literally swarmed along the line. These are called “prairie chickens” by the people, and afford excellent sport. Another bird about the size of a thrush, with a yellow breast and a harsh cry, I learned was “the sky-lark;” and apropos of the unmusical creature, I was very briskly attacked by a young lady patriot for finding fault with the sharp noise it made. “Oh, my! And you not to know that your Shelley loved it above all things! Didn't he write some verses — quite beautiful, too, they are — to the sky-lark?” And so “the Britisher was dried up,” as I read in a paper afterwards of a similar occurrence.

At the little stations which occur at every few miles — there are some forty of them, at each of which the train stops, in 365 miles between Cairo and Chicago — the Union flag floated in the air; but we had left all the circumstance of this inglorious war behind us, and the train rattled boldly over the bridges across the rare streams, no longer in danger from Secession hatchets. The swamp had given place to the cornfield. No black faces were turned up from the mowing and free white labor was at work, and the type of the laborers was German and Irish.

The Yorkshirenian expatiated on the fertility of the land, and on the advantages it held out to the emigrant. But I observed all the lots by the side of the rail, and apparently as far as the eye could reach, were occupied. “Some of the very best land lies beyond on each side,” said he. “Out over there in the fat places is where we put our Englishmen.” By digging deep enough good water is always to be had, and coal can be carried from the rail, where it costs only 7s. or 8s. a ton. Wood there is little or none in the prairies, and it was rarely indeed a clump of trees could be, detected, or anything higher than some scrub brushwood. Those little communities which we passed were but the growth of a few years, and as we approached the northern portion of the line we could see, as it were, the village swelling into the town, and the town spreading out to the dimensions of the city. “I dare say, Major,” says one of the passengers, “this gentleman never saw anything like these cities before. I'm told they've nothing like them in Europe?” “Bless you,” rejoined the Major, with a wink, “just leaving out London, Edinbro', Paris, and Manchester, there's nothing on earth to ekal them.” My friend, who is a shrewd fellow, by way of explanation of his military title, says, “I was a major once, a major in the Queen's Bays, but they would put troop-sergeant before it them days.” Like many Englishmen he complains that the jealousy of native-born Americans effectually bars the way to political position of any naturalized citizen, and all the places are kept by the natives.

The scene now began to change gradually as we approached Chicago, the prairie subsided into swampy land, and thick belts of trees fringed the horizon; on our right glimpses of the sea could be caught through openings in the wood — the inland sea on which stands the Queen of the Lakes. Michigan looks broad and blue as the Mediterranean. Large farmhouses stud the country, and houses which must be the retreat of merchants and citizens of means; and when the train, leaving the land altogether, dashes out on a pier and causeway built along the borders of the lake, we see lines of noble houses, a fine boulevard, a forest of masts, huge isolated piles of masonry, the famed grain elevators by which so many have been hoisted to fortune, churches and public edifices, and the apparatus of a great city; and just at nine o'clock the train gives its last steam shout and comes to a standstill in the spacious station of the Central Illinois Company, and in half-anhour more I am in comfortable quarters at the Richmond House, where I find letters waiting for me, by which it appears that the necessity for my being in Washington in all haste, no longer exists. The wary General who commands the army is aware that the advance to Richmond, for which so many journals are clamoring, would be attended with serious risk at present, and the politicians must be content to wait a little longer.

SOURCE: William Howard Russell, My Diary North and South, Vol. 1, p. 351-3

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Major-General Benjamin F. Butler to Edwin M. Stanton, November 7, 1864

Headquarters, City Of New York, Nov. 7, 1864.

Hon. E. M. Stanton, Secretary Of War:

Sir: — I beg leave to report that the troops detailed for duty here have all arrived and dispositions made which will insure quiet.

I enclose a copy of my order and I trust it will meet your approbation. I have done all I could to prevent the secessionists from voting and think have had some effect.

I think I may be able to punish some of the rascals for their crimes after election.

All will be quiet here. The State authorities are sending from the arsenal in New York arms and ammunition to Mr. John A. Green, brigadier-general at Buffalo, and I am powerless to prevent it.

This is what I mean by wanting “territorial jurisdiction.” I am in command of troops solely. It is none of my business to prevent arms and ammunition being sent to Buffalo.

This is one of the dozen cases wherein I cannot act without colliding with General Dix and the State authorities both.

I have not landed any of my men save those I have sent to Buffalo, which are two (2) regiments of regulars and one hundred (100) men at Watervliet for Albany. Now these regiments report to General Peck, but Peck does not report to me. He has some regulars besides those arriving and to arrive.

That is another instance of what is meant by wanting “territorial jurisdiction.”

I have three (3) batteries on ferry-boats all harnessed up ready to land at a moment's notice at any slip on North or East River; gunboats covering Wall Street and the worst streets in the city, and a brigade of infantry ready to land on the battery, and the other troops placed where they can be landed at once in spite of barricades or opposition. A revenue cutter is guarding the cable over the North River and a gunboat covers High Bridge on Harlem River which is the Croton aqueduct.

I have given you these details so that you may understand the nature of my preparations, and perhaps the details may be interesting and of use at some other time.

I propose, unless ordered to the contrary by you, to land all my troops on the morning of election in the city. I apprehend that, if at all, there will be trouble then. I have information of several organizations that are being got ready under General Porter, Duryea, and Hubert Ward, disaffected officers, and others who are intending, if the elections are close, to try the question of inaugurating McClellan, and will attempt it, if at all, by trying how much of an entente can be raised in New York City for that purpose. They propose to raise the price of gold so as to affect the necessaries of life and raise discontent and disturbance during the winter, declare then that they are cheated in the election by military interference and fraudulent ballots, and then inaugurate McClellan.

Now, that there is more or less truth in this information I have no doubt. One thing is certain, that the gold business is in the hands of a half dozen firms who are all foreigners or secessionists, and whose names and descriptions I will give you.

You are probably aware that the government has sold ten (10) or twelve millions (12,000,000) of gold within the past twenty days. The Secretary of the Treasury will tell you how much, it is none of my business to know; but one firm, IT. J. Lyons & Co., have bought and actually received in coin, by confession to me, more than ten millions (10,000,000) within the past fortnight, and his firm is now carrying some three millions (3,000,000) of gold. I felt bound to look up the case of Gentlemen H. J. Lyons & Co. I sent for Lyons, although I suppose I had no right to do so, wanting territorial jurisdiction, set him down before me, and examined him. His story is, as I made him correct it by appealing to my own investigations, as follows: His firm consists of himself, his brother, and the president of the Jeffersonville Railroad, Indiana. He is from Louisville; left there when Governor Morehead was arrested; went to Nashville; left there just before the city was taken by the Union troops; went to New Orleans; left there just before the city was taken; went to Liverpool; left there; went to Montreal and went into business; stayed in Montreal until last December; came here with his brother younger than himself, and set up the broker's business. He claims to have had a capital in greenbacks of eighty thousand (80,000) dollars, thirty thousand (30,000) put in by himself, ten thousand (10,000) by his brother, and forty thousand (40,000) by the other partner. This in greenbacks equal now at two forty-five (2-45) to about thirty thousand (30,000) dollars in gold. On this capital he was enabled to buy and pay for, not as balances, but actually in currency, almost twelve millions (12,000,000) of dollars in gold within the last fortnight, and now is carrying about three millions (3,000,000). This shows that there is something behind him.

He confessed that he left Louisville afraid of being arrested for his political offences. During the cross-examination, he confessed he was agent for the People's Bank of Kentucky, a secession concern which is doubtless an agent for Jeff Davis. Having no territorial jurisdiction, all I could do was to set before him the enormity of his crime, the danger he stood, having forfeited his life by rebellion to the government, and to say to him that I should be sorry if gold went up any to-day, because, as he was so large an operator, I should have cause to believe that he was operating for some political purpose, but that this was a free country and I had no right to control him. Does the Secretary of War suppose that, if I had an actual and not an emasculated command in the city of New York, such a rascal would have left my office without my knowing where to find him? He said, indeed, when he went out, that he thought he should not buy gold any more, and sell to-day all he has. It has got noised around a little that we are looking after the gold speculators, and gold has not risen any to-day up to five (5) o'clock, the time at which I am now writing, although Mr. Belmont's bet is that it would be at three hundred (300) before election, and the treasury is not selling.

Now, what I desire is to spend about a week in which I will straighten the following firms, which are all the men that are actually buying gold:

H. J. Lyons & Co., before spoken of; Vickers & Co., of Liverpool, an English house; H. G. Fant, of Washington; H. T. Suit, Washington house; Hallgarten & Heryfield, a Baltimore house of German Jews; and also to see if some of the rebels that are here cannot be punished. Substantially, none of them registered under General Dix's order.

I have stated all the reasons why I desire to be here. It is respectfully submitted to the Secretary of War, if I am desired to do anything at all, to telegraph me what I shall do, and it shall be done, or please let me return in the front. I have the honor to be, very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,
Major- General.

SOURCE: Benjamin F. Butler, Autobiography and Personal Reminiscences of Major-General Benj. F. Butler, Appendix (the pages of which are separately numbered from the text of the book), p. 56-8

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Diary of William Howard Russell: June 23, 1861

The latest information which I received today is of a nature to hasten my departure for Washington; it can no longer be doubted that a battle between the two armies assembled in the neighborhood of the capital is imminent. The vague hope which from time to time I have entertained of being able to visit Richmond before I finally take up my quarters with the only army from which I can communicate regularly with Europe has now vanished.

At four o'clock in the evening I started by the train on the famous Central Illinois line from Cairo to Chicago.

The carriages were tolerably well filled with soldiers, and in addition to them there were a few unfortunate women, undergoing deportation to some less moral neighborhood. Neither the look, language, nor manners of my fellow-passengers inspired me with an exalted notion of the intelligence, comfort, and respectability of the people which are so much vaunted by Mr. Seward and American journals, and which, though truly attributed, no doubt, to the people of the New England States, cannot be affirmed with equal justice to belong to all the other components of the Union.

As the Southerners say, their negroes are the happiest people on the earth, so the Northerners boast, “We are the most enlightened nation in the world.” The soldiers in the train were intelligent enough to think they ought not to be kept without pay, and free enough to say so. The soldiers abused Cairo roundly, and indeed it is wonderful if the people can live on any food but quinine. However, speculators, looking to its natural advantages as the point where the two great rivers join, bespeak for Cairo a magnificent and prosperous future. The present is not promising.

Leaving the shanties, which face the levees, and some poor wooden houses with a short vista of cross streets partially flooded at right angles to them, the rail suddenly plunges into an unmistakable swamp, where a forest of dead trees wave their ghastly, leafless arms over their buried trunks, like plumes over a hearse — a cheerless, miserable place, sacred to the ague and fever. This occurs close to the cleared space on which the city is to stand, — when it is finished — and the rail, which runs on the top of the embankment or levee, here takes to the trestle, and is borne over the water on the usual timber frame-work.

“Mound City,” which is the first station, is composed of a mere heap of earth, like a ruined brickkiln, which rises to some height and is covered with fine white oaks, beneath which are a few log huts and hovels, giving the place its proud name. Tents were pitched on the mound side, from which wild-looking banditti sort of men, with arms, emerged as the train stopped. “I’ve been pretty well over Europe,” said a meditative voice beside me, “and I've seen the despotic armies of the old world, but I don't think they equal that set of boys.” The question was not worth arguing — the boys were in fact very “weedy,” “splinter-shinned chaps,” as another critic insisted.

There were some settlers in the woods around Mound City, and a jolly-looking, corpulent man, who introduced himself as one of the officers of the land department of the Central Illinois railroad, described them as awful warnings to the emigrants not to stick in the south part of Illinois. It was suggestive to find that a very genuine John Bull, “located,” as they say in the States for many years, had as much aversion to the principles of the abolitionists as if he had been born a Southern planter. Another countryman of this and mine, steward on board the steamer to Cairo, eagerly asked me what I thought of the quarrel, and which side I would back. I declined to say more than I thought the North possessed very great superiority of means if the conflict were to be fought on the same terms. Whereupon my Saxon friend exclaimed, “all the Northern States and all the power of the world can't beat the South; and why? — because the South has got cotton, and cotton is king.”

The Central Illinois officer did not suggest the propriety of purchasing lots, but he did intimate I would be doing service if I informed the world at large, they could get excellent land, at sums varying from ten to twenty-five dollars an acre. In America a man's income is represented by capitalizing all that he is worth, and whereas in England we say a man has so much a year, the Americans, in representing his value, observe that he is worth so many dollars, by which they mean that all he has in the world would realize the amount.

It sounds very well to an Irish tenant farmer, an English cottier, or a cultivator in the Lothians, to hear that he can get land at the rate of from £2 to £5 per acre, to be his forever, liable only to state taxes; but when he comes to see a parallelogram marked upon the map as “good soil, of unfathomable richness,” and finds in effect that he must cut down trees, eradicate stumps, drain off water, build a house, struggle for high-priced labor, and contend with imperfect roads, the want of many things to which he has been accustomed in the old country, the land may not appear to him such a bargain. In the wooded districts he has, indeed a sufficiency of fuel as long as trees and stumps last, but they are, of course, great impediments to tillage. If he goes to the prairie he finds that fuel is scarce and water by no means wholesome.

When we left this swamp and forest, and came out after a run of many miles on the clear lands which abut upon the prairie, large fields of corn lay around us, which bore a peculiarly blighted and harassed look. These fields were suffering from the ravages of an insect called the “army worm,” almost as destructive to corn and crops as the locust-like hordes of North and South, which are vying with each other in laying waste the fields of Virginia. Night was falling as the train rattled out into the wild, flat sea of waving grass, dotted by patch-like Indian corn enclosures; but halts at such places as Jonesburgh and Cobden, enabled us to see that these settlements in Illinois were neither very flourishing nor very civilized.

There is a level modicum of comfort, which may be consistent with the greatest good of the greatest number, but which makes the standard of the highest in point of well-being very low indeed. I own, that to me, it would be more agreeable to see a flourishing community placed on a high level in all that relates to the comfort and social status of all its members than to recognize the old types of European civilization, which place the castle on the hill, surround its outer walls with the mansion of doctor and lawyer, and drive the people into obscure hovels outside. But then one must confess that there are in the castle some elevating tendencies which cannot be found in the uniform level of citizen equality. There are traditions of nobility and noble deeds in the family; there are paintings on the walls; the library is stored with valuable knowledge, and from its precincts are derived the lessons not yet unlearned in Europe, that though man may be equal, the condition of men must vary as the accidents of life or the effects of individual character, called fortune, may determine.

The towns of Jonesburgh and Cobden have their little teapot-looking churches and meeting-houses, their lager-bier saloons, their restaurants, their small libraries, institutes, and reading rooms, and no doubt they have also their political cliques, social distinctions and favoritisms; but it requires, nevertheless, little sagacity to perceive that the highest of the bourgeois who leads the mass at meeting and prayer, has but little to distinguish him from the very lowest member of the same body politic. Cobden, for example, has no less than four drinking saloons, all on the line of rail, and no doubt the highest citizen in the place frequents some one or other of them, and meets there the worst rowdy in the place. Even though they do carry a vote for each adult man, “locations” here would not appear very enviable in the eyes of the most miserable Dorsetshire small farmer ever ferreted out by “S. G. O.”

A considerable number of towns, formed by accretions of small stores and drinking places, called magazines, round the original shed wherein live the station master and his assistants, mark the course of the railway. Some are important enough to possess a bank, which is generally represented by a wooden hut, with a large board nailed in front, bearing the names of the president and cashier, and announcing the success and liberality of the management. The stores are also decorated with large signs, recommending the names of the owners to the attention of the public, and over all of them is to be seen the significant announcement, “Cash for produce.”

At Carbondale there was no coal at all to be found, but several miles farther to the north, at a place called Dugoine, a field of bituminous deposit crops out, which is sold at the pit's mouth for one dollar twenty-five cents, or about 5s. 2d. a ton. Darkness and night fell as I was noting such meagre particulars of the new district as could be learned out of the window of a railway carriage; and finally with a delicious sensation of cool night air creeping in through the windows, the first I had experienced for many a long day, we made ourselves up for repose, and were borne steadily, if not rapidly, through the great prairie, having halted for tea at the comfortable refreshment rooms of Centralia.

There were no physical signs to mark the transition from the land of the Secessionist to Union-loving soil. Until the troops were quartered there, Cairo was for Secession, and Southern Illinois is supposed to be deeply tainted with disaffection to Mr. Lincoln. Placards on which were printed the words, “Vote for Lincoln and Hamlin, for Union and Freedom,” and the old battle-cry of the last election, still cling to the wooden walls of the groceries, often accompanied by bitter words or offensive additions.

One of my friends argues that as slavery is at the base of Secession, it follows that States or portions of States will be disposed to join the Confederates or the Federalists, just as the climate may be favorable or adverse to the growth of slave produce. Thus in the mountainous parts of the Border States of Kentucky and Tennessee, in the north-western part of Virginia, vulgarly called the pan-handle, and in the pine woods of North Carolina, where white men can work at the rosin and naval store manufactories, there is a decided feeling in favor of the Union; in fact, it becomes a matter of isothermal lines. It would be very wrong to judge of the condition of a people from the windows of a railway carriage, but the external aspect of the settlements along the line, far superior to that of slave hamlets, does not equal my expectations. We all know the aspect of a wood in a gentleman's park; which is submitting to the axe, and has been partially cleared, how raw and bleak the stumps look, and how dreary is the naked land not yet turned into arable. Take such a patch, and fancy four or five houses made of pine planks, sometimes not painted, lighted by windows in which there is, or has been, glass, each guarded by a paling around a piece of vegetable garden, a pig house, and poultry box; let one be a grocery, which means a whiskey shop, another the post-office, and a third the store where “cash is given for produce.” Multiply these groups, if you desire a larger settlement, and place a wooden church with a Brobdignag spire and Lilliputian body out in a waste, to be approached only by a causeway of planks; before each grocery let there be a gathering of tall men in sombre clothing, of whom the majority have small newspapers, and all of whom are chewing tobacco; near the stores let there be some light-wheeled carts and ragged horses, around which are knots of unmistakably German women; then see the deep tracks which lead off to similar settlements in the forest or prairie, and you have a notion, if your imagination is strong enough, of one of these civilizing centres which the Americans assert to be the homes of the most cultivated and intelligent communities in the world.

SOURCE: William Howard Russell, My Diary North and South, Vol. 1, p. 346-51

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Captain Charles Wright Wills: May 7, 1863

Camp 103d Illinois Infantry, Lagrange, Tenn.,
May 7, 1863.

Isn't the Grierson "raid" glorious? Two other expeditions started from this point and were gone respectively five and ten days each. Although they made good long marches and took about 40 prisoners and 500 animals, still we forget them in looking after Grierson. We have the Rebels well scared in this country. Five thousand men could sweep everything north of Jackson, if they could only hold it. Papers to-day give us the news on the Rappahannock up to the 4th of May, which includes the route of Siegel's Dutchmen and leaves Hooker in what seems to me a close place. Well, he can at worst but fail. What a consolation. General Oglesby wrote to Hurlbut to detail me on his staff General Hurlbut referred the letter through division and brigade headquarters for the letter of my company and on its return to Hurlbut, General Smith objected to my being detailed out of his command. He thought Oglesby might find his staff in his own command. All right! I would like to have been with Old Dick though. I'm on a General Court Martial now. Confound the Court Martials.

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 174-5

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Speech of Senator Charles Sumner in the United States Senate, December 18, 1861

Some days ago I called the attention of the Senate to abuses in Missouri with reference to fugitive slaves. Since then I have received a great many communications from that State showing very great interest in the question, some of them in the nature of protest against the system which has been adopted there. One of these purports to come from a slave owner, himself educated in a slave State, and he speaks with great bitterness of the indignity that has been put upon the Army there, and of the injury that it has done to the cause of the Union. Another letter from another person contains a passage which I shall read:

“I wish to say in addition that I have lived twenty-four years in Missouri, that I know the people well, have served them in various offices, and let me assure you it is nonsense to try to save Missouri to the Union and the institution of slavery also. We must give up one or the other. Slavery ought to fall and Missouri be saved. Frémont's army struck terror into the secessionists. He made them feel it by taking their goods and chattels. Let our armies proclaim freedom to the slaves of the secessionists, and the rebellion will soon close. We can take care of the free negroes at a future day. Give General Lane ten thousand men, and he would establish peace in Missouri in thirty days.”

But, sir, my especial object now is not to call attention to this abuse in Missouri, but to call attention to this abuse here near at home. Brigadier General Stone, the well-known commander at Ball's Bluff, is now adding to his achievements there by engaging ably and actively in the work of surrendering fugitive slaves. He does this, sir, most successfully. He is victorious when the simple question is whether a fugitive slave shall be surrendered to a rebel.

Sir, besides my general interest in this question, besides my interest in the honor of the national Army, I have a special interest at this moment because Brigadier General Stone has seen fit to impose this vile and unconstitutional duty upon Massachusetts troops. The Governor of my State has charged me with a communication to the Secretary of War on this subject, complaining of this outrage, treating it as an indignity to the men, and as an act unworthy of our national flag. I agree with the Governor of Massachusetts; and when I call attention to this abuse now, I make myself his representative, as also the representative of my own opinions.

But there are others besides the Governor of Massachusetts who complain. There are two German companies in one of the Massachusetts regiments who, when they enlisted, entered into the public service with the positive understanding that they should not be put to any such discreditable and unconstitutional service. Sir, they complain, and with them their own immediate fellow-citizens at home, the German population generally throughout the country.

Nor is this all. The complaint extends to other quarters. I have here a letter from a citizen of Philadelphia, from which I shall read a short extract. The writer says:

“I have but one son, and he fought at Ball's Bluff, in the California regiment, where his bravery brought him into notice. He escaped, wounded, after dark. He protests against being made to return fugitive slaves, and if ordered to that duty will refuse obedience and take the consequences. I ask, sir, shall our sons, who are offering their lives for the preservation of our institutions, be degraded to slave-catchers for any persons, loyal or disloyal? If such is the policy of the Government, I shall urge my son to shed no more blood for its preservation.”

With these communications which I have received, some of an official character and others of a private character, I have felt that I should not do my duty if I did not call the attention of the Senate to this outrage. It must be arrested. I am glad to know that my friend and colleague, the chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs, promises us at once a bill to meet this grievance. It ought to be introduced promptly, and to be passed at once. Our troops ought to be saved from this shame.

SOURCE: John C. Rives, The Congressional Globe: Containing the Debates and Proceedings of the Second Session of the Thirty-Seventh Congress, p. 130

Friday, September 15, 2017

Diary of William Howard Russell: June 22, 1861

An active man would soon go mad if he were confined in Cairo. A mudbank stretching along the course of a muddy river is not attractive to a pedestrian; and, as is the case in most of the Southern cities, there is no place round Cairo where a man can stretch his legs, or take an honest walk in the country. A walk in the country! The Americans have not an idea of what the thing means. I speak now only of the inhabitants of the towns of the States through which I have passed, as far as I have seen of them. The roads are either impassable in mud or knee-deep in dust. There are no green shady lanes, no sheltering groves, no quiet paths through green meadows beneath umbrageous trees. Off the rail there is a morass — or, at best, a clearing — full of stumps. No temptations to take a stroll. Down away South the planters ride or drive; indeed in many places the saunterer by the wayside would probably encounter an alligator, or disturb a society of rattlesnakes. .

To-day I managed to struggle along the levee in a kind of sirocco, and visited the works at the extremity, which were constructed by an Hungarian named Waagner, one of the emigres who came with Kossuth to the United States. I found him in a hut full of flies, suffering from camp diarrhea, and waited on by Mr. O'Leary, who was formerly petty officer in our navy, served in the Furious in the Black Sea, and in the Shannon Brigade in India, now a lieutenant in the United States' army, where I should say he feels himself very much out of place. The Hungarian and the Milesian were, however, quite agreed about the utter incompetence of their military friends around them, and the great merits of heavy artillery. “When I tell them here the way poor Sir William made us rattle about them sixty-eight-pounder guns, the poor ignorant creatures laugh at me — not one of them believes it,” “It is most astonishing,” says the colonel, “how ignorant they are; there is not one of these men who can trace a regular work. Of West Point men I speak not, but of the people about here, and they will not learn of me — from me who know.” However, the works were well enough, strongly covered, commanded both rivers, and not to be reduced without trouble.

The heat drove me in among the flies of the crowded hotel, where Brigadier Prentiss is planning one of those absurd expeditions against a Secessionist camp at Commerce, in the State of Missouri, about two hours steaming up the river, and some twelve or fourteen miles inland. Cairo abounds in Secessionists and spies, and it is needful to take great precautions lest the expedition be known; but, after all, stores must be got ready, and put on board the steamers, and preparations must be made which cannot be concealed from the world. At dusk 700 men, supported by a six-pounder field-piece, were put on board the “City of Alton,” on which they clustered like bees in a swarm, and as the huge engine labored up and down against the stream, and the boat swayed from side to side, I felt a considerable desire to see General Prentiss chucked into the stream for his utter recklessness in cramming on board one huge tinder-box, all fire and touchwood, so many human beings, who, in event of an explosion, or a shot in the boiler, or of a heavy musketry fire on the banks, would have been converted into a great slaughter-house. One small boat hung from her stern, and although there were plenty of river flats and numerous steamers, even the horses belonging to the field-piece were crammed in among the men along the deck.

In my letter to Europe I made, at the time, some remarks by which the belligerents might have profited, and which at the time these pages are reproduced may strike them as possessing some value, illustrated as they have been by many events in the war. “A handful of horsemen would have been admirable to move in advance, feel the covers, and make prisoners for political or other purposes in case of flight; but the Americans persist in ignoring the use of horsemen, or at least in depreciating it, though they will at last find that they may shed much blood, and lose much more, before they can gain a victory without the aid of artillery and charges after the retreating enemy. From the want of cavalry, I suppose it is, the unmilitary practice of ‘scouting,’ as it is called here, has arisen. It is all very well in the days of Indian wars for footmen to creep about in the bushes, and shoot or be shot by sentries and pickets; but no civilized war recognizes such means of annoyance as firing upon sentinels, unless in case of an actual advance or feigned attack on the line. No camp can be safe without cavalry videttes and pickets; for the enemy can pour in impetuously after the alarm has been given, as fast as the outlying footmen can run in. In feeling the way for a column, cavalry are invaluable, and there can be little chance of ambuscades or surprises where they are judiciously employed; but ‘scouting’ on foot, or adventurous private expeditions on horseback, to have a look at the enemy, can do, and will do, nothing but harm. Every day the papers contain accounts of ‘scouts’ being killed, and sentries being picked off. The latter is a very barbarous and savage practice; and the Russian, in his most angry moments, abstained from it. If any officer wishes to obtain information as to his enemy, he has two ways of doing it. He can employ spies, who carry their lives in their hands, or he can beat up their quarters by a proper reconnoissance on his own responsibility, in which, however, it would be advisable not to trust his force to a railway train.”

At night there was a kind of émeute in camp. The day, as I have said, was excessively hot, and on returning to their tents and huts from evening parade the men found the contractor who supplies them with water had not filled the barrels; so they forced the sentries, broke barracks after hours, mobbed their officers, and streamed up to the hotel, which they surrounded, calling out, “Water, water,” in chorus. The General came out, and got up on a rail: “Gentlemen,” said he, “it is not my fault you are without water. It's your officers who are to blame; not me.” (“Groans for the Quartermaster,” from the men.) “If it is the fault of the contractor, I’ll see that he is punished. I’ll take steps at once to see that the matter is remedied. And now, gentlemen, I hope you'll go back to your quarters;” and the gentlemen took it into their heads very good-humoredly to obey the suggestion, fell in, and marched back two deep to their huts.

As the General was smoking his cigar before going to bed, I asked him why the officers had not more control over the men. “Well,” said he, “the officers are to blame for all this. The truth is, the term for which these volunteers enlisted is drawing to a close; and they have not as yet enrolled themselves in the United States army. They are merely volunteer regiments of the State of Illinois. If they were displeased with anything, therefore, they might refuse to enter the service or to take fresh engagements; and the officers would find themselves suddenly left without any men; they therefore curry favor with the privates, many of them, too, having an eye to the votes of the men when the elections of officers in the new regiments are to take place.”

The contractors have commenced plunder on a gigantic scale; and their influence with the authorities of the State is so powerful, there is little chance of punishing them. Besides, it is not considered expedient to deter contractors, by too scrupulous an exactitude, in coming forward at such a trying period; and the Quartermaster's department, which ought to be the most perfect, considering the number of persons connected with transport and carriage, is in a most disgraceful and inefficient condition. I told the General that one of the Southern leaders proposed to hang any contractor who was found out in cheating the men, and that the press cordially approved of the suggestion. “I am afraid” said he, “if any such proposal was carried out here, there would scarcely be a contractor left throughout the States.” Equal ignorance is shown by the medical authorities of the requirements of an army. There is not an ambulance or cacolet of any kind attached to this camp; and, as far as I could see, not even a litter was sent on board the steamer which has started with the expedition.

Although there has scarcely been a fought field or anything more serious than the miserable skirmishes of Shenck and Butler, the pressure of war has already told upon the people. The Cairo paper makes an urgent appeal to the authorities to relieve the distress and pauperism which the sudden interruption of trade has brought upon so many respectable citizens. And when I was at Memphis the other day, I observed a public notice in the journals, that the magistrates of the city would issue orders for money to families left in distress by the enrolment of the male members for military service. When General Scott, sorely against his will, was urged to make preparations for an armed invasion of the seceded States in case it became necessary, he said it would need some hundreds of thousands of men and many millions of money to effect that object. Mr. Seward, Mr. Chase, and Mr. Lincoln laughed pleasantly at this exaggeration, but they have begun to find by this time the old general was not quite so much in the wrong.

In reference to the discipline maintained in the camp, I must admit that proper precautions are used to prevent spies entering the lines. The sentries are posted closely and permit no one to go in without a pass in the day and a countersign at night. A conversation with General Prentiss in the front of the hotel was interrupted this evening by an Irishman, who ran past us towards the camp, hotly pursued by two policemen. The sentry on duty at the point of the lines close to us brought him up by the point of the bayonet. “Who goes tere?” “A friend, shure your honor; I'm a friend.” “Advance three paces and give the countersign.” “I don't know it, I tell you. Let me in, let me in.” But the German was resolute, and the policemen now coming up in hot pursuit, seized the culprit, who resisted violently, till General Prentiss rose from his chair and ordered the guard, who had turned out, to make a prisoner of the soldier and hand him over to the civil power, for which the man seemed to be most deeply grateful. As the policemen were walking him off, he exclaimed, “Be quiet wid ye, till I spake a word to the Giniral,” and then bowing and chuckling with drunken gravity, he said, “an’ indeed, Giniral, I'm much obleeged to ye altogither for this kindness. Long life to ye. We've got the better of that dirty German. Hoora' for Giniral Prentiss.” He preferred a chance of more whiskey in the police office and a light punishment to the work in camp and a heavy drill in the morning. An officer who was challenged by a sentry the other evening, asked him, “Do you know the countersign yourself?” “No, sir, it's not nine o'clock, and they have not given it out yet.” Another sentry stopped a man because he did not know the countersign. The fellow said, “I dare say you don't know it yourself.” “That's a lie,” he exclaimed; “it’s Plattsburgh.” “Pittsburgh it is, sure enough,” said the other, and walked on without further parley.

The Americans, Irish, and Germans, do not always coincide in the phonetic value of each letter in the passwords, and several difficulties have occurred in consequence. An incautious approach towards the posts at night is attended with risk; for the raw sentries are very quick on the trigger. More fatal and serious injuries have been inflicted on the Federals by themselves than by the enemy. “I declare to you, sir, the way the boys touched off their irons at me going home to my camp last night, was just like a running fight with the Ingins. I was a little ‘tight,’ and didn't mind it a cuss.”

SOURCE: William Howard Russell, My Diary North and South, Vol. 1, p. 341-5

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Diary of William Howard Russell: June 21, 1861

Verily I would be sooner in the Coptic Cairo, narrow streeted, dark bazaared, many flied, much vexed by donkeys and by overland route passengers, than the horrid tongue of land which licks the muddy margin of the Ohio and the Mississippi. The thermometer at 100° in the shade before noon indicates nowhere else such an amount of heat and suffering, and yet prostrate as I was, it was my fate to argue that England was justified in conceding belligerent, rights to the South, and that the attitude of neutrality we had assumed in this terrible quarrel is not in effect an aggression on the United States; and here is a difference to be perceived between the North and the South.

The people of the seceding States, aware in their consciences that they have been most active in their hostility to Great Britain, and whilst they were in power were mainly responsible for the defiant, irritating, and insulting tone commonly used to us by American statesmen, are anxious at the present moment when so much depends on the action of foreign countries, to remove all unfavorable impressions from our minds by declarations of good will, respect, and admiration, not quite compatible with the language of their leaders in times not long gone by. The North, as yet unconscious of the loss of power, and reared in a school of menace and violent assertion of their rights, regarding themselves as the whole of the United States, and animated by their own feeling of commercial and political opposition to Great Britain, maintain the high tone of a people who have never known let or hindrance in their passions, and consider it an outrage that
the whole world does not join in active sympathy for a government which in its brief career has contrived to affront every nation in Europe with which it had any dealings.

If the United States have astonished France by their ingratitude, they have certainly accustomed England to their petulance, and one can fancy the satisfaction with which the Austrian Statesmen who remember Mr. Webster's despatch to Mr. Hulsemann, contemplate the present condition of the United States in the face of an insurrection of these sovereign and independent States which the Cabinet at Washington stigmatizes as an outbreak of rebels and traitors to the royalty of the Union.

During my short sojourn in this country I have never yet met any person who could show me where the sovereignty of the Union resides. General Prentiss, however, and his Illinois volunteers, are quite ready to fight for it.

In the afternoon the General drove me round the camps in company with Mr. Washburne, Member of Congress, from Illinois, his staff and a party of officers, among whom was Mr. Oglesby, colonel of a regiment of State Volunteers, who struck me by his shrewdness, simple honesty, and zeal,* He told me that he had begun life in the utmost obscurity, but that somehow or other he got into a lawyer's office and there, by hard drudgery, by mother wit, and industry, notwithstanding a defective education, he had raised himself not only to independence, but to such a position that 1000 men had gathered at his call and selected one who had never led a company in his life to be their colonel; in fact, he is an excellent orator of the western school, and made good homely, telling speeches to his men.

“I'm not as good as your Frenchmen of the schools of Paris, nor am I equal to the Russian colonels I met at St. Petersburg, who sketched me out how they had beaten you Britishers at Sebastopol,” said he; “but I know I can do good straight fighting with my boys when I get a chance. There is a good deal in training, to be sure, but nature tells too. Why I believe I would make a good artillery officer if I was put to it. General, you heard how I laid one of them guns the other day and touched her off with my own hand and sent the ball right into a tree half-a-mile away.” The Colonel evidently thought he had by that feat proved his fitness for the command of a field battery. One of the German officers who was listening to the lively old man's talk, whispered to me, “Dere is a good many of tese colonels in dis camp.”

At each station the officers came out of their tents, shook hands all round, and gave an unfailing invitation to get down and take a drink, and the guns on the General's approach fired salutes, as though it was a time of profoundest peace. Powder was certainly more plentiful than in the Confederate camps, where salutes are not permitted unless by special order on great occasions.

The General remained for some time in the camp of the Chicago light artillery, which was commanded by a fine young Scotchman of the Saxon genus Smith, who told me that the privates of his company represented a million and a half of dollars in property. Their guns, horses, carriages, and accoutrements were all in the most creditable order, and there was an air about the men and about their camp which showed they did not belong to the same class as the better disciplined Hungarians of Milotzky close at hand.

Whilst we were seated in Captain Smith's tent, a number of the privates came forward, and sang the “Star-spangled banner,” and a patriotic song, to the air of “God save the Queen!” and the rest of the artillery-men, and a number of stragglers from the other camps, assembled and then formed line behind the singers. When the chorus was over there arose a great shout for Washburne, and the honorable congressman was fain to come forward and make a speech, in which he assured his hearers of a very speedy victory and the advent of liberty all over the land. Then “General Prentiss” was called for; and as citizen soldiers command their Generals on such occasions, he too was obliged to speak, and to tell his audience "the world had never seen any men more devoted, gallant, or patriotic than themselves.” “Oglesby” was next summoned, and the tall, portly, good-humored old man stepped to the front, and with excellent tact and good sense, dished up in the Buncombe style, told them the time for making speeches had passed, indeed it had lasted too long; and although it was said there was very little fighting when there was much talking, he believed too much talking was likely to lead to a great deal more fighting than any one desired to see between citizens of the United States of America, except their enemies, who, no doubt, were much better pleased to see Americans fighting each other than to find them engaged in any other employment. Great as the mischief of too much talking had been, too much writing had far more of the mischief to answer for. The pen was keener than the tongue, hit harder, and left a more incurable wound; but the pen was better than the tongue, because it was able to cure the mischief it had inflicted,” And so by a series of sentences the Colonel got round to me, and to my consternation, remembering how I had fared with my speech at the little private dinner on St. Patrick's Day in New York, I was called upon by stentorian lungs, and hustled to the stump by a friendly circle, till I escaped by uttering a few sentences as to “mighty struggle,” “Europe gazing,” “the world anxious,” “the virtues of discipline,” “the admirable lessons of a soldier's life,” and the “aspiration that in a quarrel wherein a British subject was ordered, by an authority he was bound to respect, to remain neutral, God might preserve the right.”

Colonel, General, and all addressed the soldiers as “gentlemen,” and their auditory did not on their part refrain from expressing their sentiments in the most unmistakable manner. “Bully for you, General!” “Bravo, Washburne!” “That's so, Colonel!” and the like, interrupted the harangues; and when the oratorical exercises were over the men crowded round the staff, cheered and hurrahed, and tossed up their caps in the greatest delight.

With the exception of the foreign officers, and some of the Staff, there are very few of the colonels, majors, captains, or lieutenants who know anything of their business. The men do not care for them, and never think of saluting them. A regiment of Germans was sent across from Bird's Point this evening for plundering and robbing the houses in the district in which they were quartered.

It may be readily imagined that the scoundrels who had to fly from every city in Europe before the face of the police will not stay their hands when they find themselves masters of the situation in the so-called country of an enemy. In such matters the officers have little or no control, and discipline is exceedingly lax, and punishments but sparingly inflicted, the use of the lash being forbidden altogether. Fine as the men are, incomparably better armed, clad — and doubtless better fed — than the Southern troops, they will scarcely meet them man to man in the field with any chance of success. Among the officers are bar-room keepers, persons little above the position of potmen in England, grocers' apprentices, and such like — often inferior socially, and in every other respect, to the men whom they are supposed to command. General Prentiss has seen service, I believe, in Mexico; but he appears to me to be rather an ardent politician, embittered against slaveholders and the South, than a judicious or skilful military leader.

The principles on which these isolated commanders carry on the war are eminently defective. They apply their whole minds to petty expeditions, which go out from the camps, attack some Secessionist gathering, and then return, plundering, as they go and come, exasperating enemies, converting neutrals into opponents, disgusting friends, and leaving it to the Secessionists to boast that they have repulsed them. Instead of encouraging the men and improving their discipline these ill-conducted expeditions have an opposite result.

* Since died of wounds received in action.

SOURCE: William Howard Russell, My Diary North and South, Vol. 1, p. 337-41