O Distressing Times Here Now! ~ Anna Mellinger
Confederate soldiers destroy much of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. A costly disaster takes place at Petersburg as Federal troops fail to exploit a breech in the Confederate defenses. The Stoneman rail in Georgia fails. Conditions worsen at Andersonville prison.
July 30– Saturday– New York City– “A rebel cavalry raid, possibly on a large scale, has crossed the Potomac and occupied Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. Will these feeble, fat, Pennsylvanians ever learn to establish a militia system and do a little to protect themselves? I almost hope Harrisburg may be harried– the lesson would be useful. At Atlanta, the rebel general Hood claims a victory. I rather think he lies. Untruthfulness is characteristic of his tribe. Southerners seem unable to perceive any virtue or value in veracity.” ~ Diary of George Templeton Strong.
July 30– Saturday– Chambersburg, Pennsylvania– Confederate cavalry burns the town, destroying 75% of the business district, leaving 3,000 people homeless and causing $1,628,431 in damages. [This would equal $24.9 million in today’s dollars, using the Consumer Price Index.]
July 30– Saturday– Franklin County, Pennsylvania– “O distressing times here now! Chambersburg is burned to ashes. Over two hundred houses burned. O Lord Strengthen thy children in whatever may befall them and [may they] submit to thy will.” ~ Diary of Anna Mellinger.
July 30– Saturday– McConnellsburg, Pennsylvania– “The burning of Chambersburg was generally condemned by our Regiment at first when all the sympathies were all aroused, but when reason had time to regain her seat I believe that they all thought as I thought at first; that it was Justice & Justice tempered with Mercy. That burning per se is wrong no one can deny; and the bare idea of turning out of doors upon the cold charities of the world unprotected women & unoffending children is sufficient to cause the feelings to rebel. But there may be circumstances under which it is not only justifiable but becomes a duty– stern it is true but nevertheless binding. . . . Instead of snatching from the hands of the ladies what they had saved from their burning houses & throwing it back into the flames as the Yankees did in K____ Valley, or stealing & destroying it as they did Mrs Anderson in the Valley of Virginia our men could be seen all over the city checking the fire or carrying trunks, bundles &c. for the ladies. How beautiful the contrast! It must be acknowledged that there were some who having become drunk seemed to glory in spreading destruction but it must also be remembered that many of them have had strong provocation.” ~ Diary of Confederate soldier J. Kelly Bennette.
July 30– Saturday– Petersburg, Virginia– An underground tunnel dug by Union soldiers who are coal miners from Pennsylvania and filled with explosives, goes off as planned early in the morning, killing about 278 Confederate soldiers and making a crater 170 feet long, 30 feet deep and 70 feet wide. However, poor planning and ineptitude by some Federal officers results in failure to exploit the explosion. In the ensuing fight, known as the Battle of the Crater, 3798 Union soldiers are killed, wounded or missing while the Confederate defenders sustain a total of 1491 casualties. [General Grant will relieve General Burnside of his command. A court of inquiry will hold Burnside responsible for the fiasco.]
July 30– Saturday– Macon, Georgia– Union General Stoneman and his cavalry reach the city but find the Union officers that had been kept prisoner there had been moved, so they begin firing artillery into the city. Local militia drive them off.
July 30– Saturday– near Augusta, Georgia– “The war is nearing our own door. Passengers from Macon say that it was rumored that our forces and the Yankee Raiders were drawn up in line of battle eight miles from that place where the train left. . . . A large party of raiders was seen in the vicinity of Covington last night. I fired off two pistol shots tonight to keep my courage up. I don’t know how I feel! A strange kind of apathy comes stealing over me as if I knew that it must come – that which we had so often talked of– so often jested upon, would soon be a fact that the Yankees would be in our midst and then what? I don’t know. Let the future decide.” ~ Journal of Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas.
July 31– Sunday– Hancock, Maryland– Federal cavalry clash with the Confederate horsemen who burned Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. The rebels retreat toward Cumberland, Maryland.
July 31– Sunday– Petersville, Maryland– “Yesterday we made a long and hard march . . . . The poor old Sixth Corps has been on its feet for a long time and we are very weary. But it is all for the Union and I trust we are doing good work that will help the boys we left at Petersburg, Virginia.” ~ Diary of Union officer Elisha Hunt Rhodes.
July 31– Sunday– Petersburg, Virginia– “This is to inform you that I am again permitted to write you a few lines through the mercy of God to let you know that I am yet alive and in the enjoyment of a reasonable portion of health at present, After the bloody day’s work of yesterday. The yankees blew up about 75 yards of our works and then made a charge on a portion of our works and taken possession of about 300 or 400 yards of our works and we had to charge them and retake them. Our loss was very heavy in hour regiment in both officers and men. Colonel Evans was killed dead on the field. . . . Honey I have not received a word from you since I was at home which is one month today. I hope I will hear from you soon. . . . I hear the yankees are invading Georgia with their raiding parties. I fear they will over run the state before this cruel war closes. But they ever do come to where you are they will not trouble you I don’t think. Write me all the news you can. . . . I am afraid I hear bad news as there been so much hard fighting about Atlanta. Oh when will this cruel war close? Give my love to all. Kiss the children for me. I remain yours as ever until death.” ~ Letter from Confederate soldier Edmond Hardy Jones to his wife.
July 31– Sunday– near Clarksville, Tennessee– Three Union soldiers are murdered in cold blood after surrendering to Confederate raiders.
July 31– Sunday– McMinnville, Tennessee– “Everything is pleasant, if we could only now be assured that we would be allowed to remain in peace in our home. Of that we have no kind of assurance however, and the recent house burning which have taken place in White and Van Buren counties, warn us that our turn may come next. I should not be surprised at any time [to] have our house burned over our heads, and if it were to happen, I think I could bear it resolutely. I feel that we are doing right to be at home, and if misfortune finds us in the path of duty, why we must strive to bear it with all the fortitude we can summon to our support. On last Monday we leftBersheba . . . . We rumbled and tumbled, (and grumbled some,) over the rocks and stocks and blocks in that ‘Dry Wash,’ and finally came out into thevalley road, where all mounted into the buggies. . . We jogged on in this way thro’ the hot sun until it began to tell on me in the shape of a headache—which continued until it became 4 P. M., when we stopped at a fine spring and opened out well-filled lunch basket—dealing about buttered biscuit. Broiled chicken, ham, crackers, and June apples. After the lunch, and the afternoon beginning to grow cooler my head was much relieved. We were in a hurry from this time on, to get to the river before dark, because of the pickets were out and would not let us pass after dark. . . We reached the river just at dusk—found no pickets—drove on up into town—found nobody on guard anywhere, it was quite dark as we passed thro’ town and I could not tell how the old place looked except that I had [the] general impression that it had a peeled and scaly appearance. We came in by the bluff road, and I recognized no place, although I knew where we were, until we reached the steps. It was the first place that reminded me I had reached home. There was a light at the front of the house, but no one knew we were in the yard until we knocked at the door. Mammy and Puss were here and Miss Mollie had come out expecting us to get in before dark but gave us up when night set in, because they thought we would not know there were no pickets out, and would stay somewhere on the other side of the river. They were just preparing for bed when we came in—and I need not say there was joy on all hands at our reaching home once more.” ~ Diary of Lucy Virginia French, recounting her return to her home from Beersheba Springs.
July 31– Sunday– outside Atlanta, Georgia– “Our brigade is on the extreme right flank of the army now and has turned to the rear, facing west, so as to prevent the turning of the flank. There is no enemy in our front, except some cavalry patrolling, and there is no prospect of a fight here. The enemy has fared so ill in all his attacks that he won’t venture another. We would like to have him try it here, nothing would afford the 26th [Wisconsin Infantry Volunteer Regiment– his unit] more pleasure than to see the enemy attack them in their breastworks. We have built miles of breastworks, but have never yet fought in any of them. I have not seen an honest blade of grass in Georgia; our horses look poor; the heat and flies are hard on them, and feed so poor and scanty. . . . there are thousands of little flies which are the greatest annoyance. They are everywhere, swarming in clouds in the air, settling like locusts on our sugar, mixing like spice with our apple sauce, and floating like ducks in our coffee and tea.” ~ Letter from Union officer Fredrick C. Winkler to his wife.
July 31– Sunday– Sunshine Church, Georgia– Federal cavalry under General Stoneman run into three cavalry brigades under Confederate General Joseph Wheeler. The Confederates prevail in a running fight, capturing Stoneman with some of his officers and men while the others make a hard dash back to the safety of the Union lines.
July 31– Sunday– Andersonville, Georgia– The inmate hospital at the prison camp is enlarged to accommodate 1400 patients, but this does little to improve conditions. Of the 30,000 prisoners, 6315 are sick with scurvy, gangrene, or dysentery, along with 517 of the 2700 Confederates soldiers on post.
July 31– Sunday– Paris, France– Louis Hachette, publisher of educational materials and numerous types of books and journals, advocate for the poor and for the establishment of international copyright, dies at age 64.