The Time Appointed by God for Deliverance~May, 1863~the 4th to the 7th

Attitudes harden and casualties mount. General Lee wins an important victory at Chacellorsville but at a terrible cost. The after-shocks ripple to Washington and New York City. Union General Hunter praises the enthusiasm of black soldiers and the those of the 54th Massachusetts are ready to go to war. Senator Sherman writes that the South does not want peace and compares the Confederacy to the French Revolution of 1789. Southern officials complain of the arrest by Union soldiers of two “very excellent young ladies belonging to the best families.” In Ohio a former Congressman is arrested and speedily brought to trial on charges of treason. A friend warns Whitman that some important people are prejudiced against him because he is doing nursing.

In the midst of bloodshed and unrest soldiers of both sides enjoy romance. Confederate General Pickett writes to his sweetheart with a soldier’s fantasy of glory, designed to make her swoon. Union Colonel Shaw enjoys his time with his new wife.

May 4– Monday– Readville, Massachusetts– James Gooding, one of the African American soldiers in the 54th Massachusetts, sends a description to the Mercury newspaper. “The past week has been one of encouragement and interest to the 54th ; our muster is now 868 men, and this week I hope to chronicle the pleasing intelligence, ‘the 54th is full.’ We have sufficient reason to warrant us in saying that such will be the case. Fast Day [April 30th as requested by President Lincoln] was observed here by a respite from drilling in the forenoon, and a grand review in the afternoon. Indeed it looked like anything but a day of humiliation and prayer– it seemed more like a grand gala day, if judged by the number of visitors on the ground.” He comments upon the number of healthy, young males who visit but have not enlisted. “I could not but put the question to myself, when I saw so many strong, able-bodied looking young men, why are you not here? why come as spectators when there is ample chance for you to become actors? I felt a mingled feeling of joy and sorrow– joy, because I felt the men who stood as actors in the scene were superior, in the eyes of all patriotic men, to those who came to see the show; sorrow, because these men had the effrontery to come here and look patronizingly upon those who are on the eve of going to secure them a home hereafter. . . . The regiment will be full; but it would be more credit to the State if it were filled by her own colored citizens.”

May 4– Monday– New York City– George Templeton Strong receives news. “Telegram at No 823 [New York office of the Sanitary Commission] this afternoon from Sanitary Commission, Washington office, calling for large supplies of hospital stores. . . . My anticipations are gradually settling downward. I now expect Hooker to fail, though perhaps after punishing the enemy severely. The obstinate silence of the War Department, the absence of official reports, is uncomfortable, and if the rebels be in the right place in which we suppose them, they will assuredly fight like cornered rats.”

fighting at Chancellorsville, Virginia

fighting at Chancellorsville, Virginia

May 4– Monday– Chancellorsville, Virginia–On the fourth and final day of the battle, the Confederate forces finalize their victory as Union forces retreat. Union casualties–dead, wounded-missing– total 17, 287 since May 1st; Confederate casualties amount to 12,764. However, the victory is costly for General Lee. His casualties total about 21% of his total force whereas General Hooker’s casualties are less than 13% of his total force.

May 4– Monday– Port Royal, South Carolina– Union General David Hunter writes to Governor Andrew of Massachusetts to express his satisfaction with the black soldiers under his command. “They have never disgraced their uniform by pillage or cruelty, but have so conducted themselves, upon the whole, that even our enemies, though more anxious to find fault with these than with any other portion of our troops, have not yet been able to allege against them a single violation of any of the rules of civilized warfare. These regiments are hardy, generous, temperate, patient, strictly obedient, possessing great natural aptitude for arms, and deeply imbued with that religious sentiment – call it fanaticism, such as like – which made the soldiers of Cromwell invincible. They believe that now is the time appointed by God for their deliverance; and under the heroic incitement of this faith, I believe them capable of showing a courage and persistency of purpose which must in the end extort both victory and admiration.”

Union General David Hunter

Union General David Hunter

May 4– Monday– Tullahoma, Tennessee– Isham Harris, governor of the state when Tennessee voted to secede, writes to Confederate Secretary of War James A. Seddon about the arrest of two young women by Union soldiers back on April 7th. “I send you herewith a note which I have just received from Colonel Joel A. Battle upon the subject of the arrest and imprisonment at Camp Chase [Ohio] of his daughter Miss Fannie Battle and Miss Booker. They are refined and very excellent young ladies belonging to the best families in the county, and were arrested alone upon the ground of their strong and openly avowed sympathies with the Confederate cause. Miss Battle has had two brothers killed in battle and her father dangerously wounded at the head of his regiment (the Twentieth Tennessee) at the battle of Shiloh. General Bragg tells me that he can do nothing here in the premises and advises me to address you upon the subject. I trust that the peculiar character of this case will be held to justify the most speedy and decided action. If these ladies are not liberated is it not legitimate to retaliate by placing in close confinement a number of Federal officers?” [Nine days from now the two young women will be released to Confederate authorities under a flag of truce at City Point, Virginia.]

May 5– Tuesday– Boston, Massachusetts– James Redpath to Walt Whitman: “I did not answer your last letter because I could not reply to the questions it put. I have heard since that Emerson tried to have something done about you, but failed. Believing that he would write to you, I didn’t. There is a prejudice against you here among the ‘fine’ ladies & gentlemen of the transcendental School. It is believed that you are not ashamed of your reproductive organs, and, somehow, it would seem to be the result of their logic that eunuchs only are fit for nurses. If you are ready to qualify yourself for their sympathy & support, that you may not unnecessarily suffer therefrom is the sincere wish of your friend.”

James Redpath

James Redpath

May 5– Tuesday– Dayton, Ohio– Acting on orders from General Burnside, Union soldiers arrest former Ohio Congressman Clement Vallandigham, age 42, the leader of the Peace Democrats known as “Copperheads.”

May 5– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– Gideon Welles in his diary: “It is strange . . . that no reliable intelligence reaches us from the army of what it is doing, or not doing. This fact itself forebodes no good.”

May 5– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– Walt Whitman to his mother: “The condition of things here in the Hospitals is getting pretty bad– the wounded from the battles around Fredericksburg are coming up in large numbers. It is very sad to see them.”

May 5– Tuesday– Suffolk, Virginia– General George Pickett to his sweetheart, Salle Corbell: “I am ordered instead to proceed at once with three of my brigades to Petersburg, via the ‘Jerusalem-Plank-Road,’ to intercept a cavalry raid. Perhaps, my darling, I shall have met these raiders ere this reaches you. Who knows how many of us may then hear the roll-call from the other side and be sorry? . . . . my darling, there is no death, and you must feel, must know now and always, that whether here or there, at the roll-call your Soldier answers, ‘Here!’ Now, adieu, my beloved. Close your brown eyes and feel my arms around you, for I am holding you close oh, so close!”

May 5– Tuesday– Thompsom’s Crossroads, Virginia; King’s Creek, Mississippi; Peletier’s Mill, North Carolina; Rover, Tennessee; Fort Scott, Kansas– Skirmishing, raids and cavalry clashes add to the death toll.

May 6– Wednesday– Lennox, Massachusetts– While spending time away with his new bride, Robert Gould Shaw writes to his sister, Effie. “Annie and I shall be in Boston on Monday. . . . . what a pity the weather is so bad; it has been beautiful up here until now. I have been in quite an angelic mood ever since we got here— as is becoming — and haven’t felt envious of any one. Excuse this short note, for I am dreadfully busy. Annie sends love to you and Charley. We haven’t seen a single soul until today, and we’ve only been off the place twice. We began to read The Mill on the Floss, but have only finished three or four chapters. We read it three years ago together, when I was here on a visit. Our own ideas are more interesting to us just now, than Miss Evans.” [Mary Ann Evans, 1819 – 1880, wrote under the pen name of George Eliot.]

Robert Gould Shaw~"Blue-eyed Child of Fortune"

Robert Gould Shaw~”Blue-eyed Child of Fortune”

May 6– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– Secretary Welles records that after a night filled with an ominous and violent rainstorm Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts came into Welles’ office “and raising both hands exclaimed, ‘Lost, lost, all is lost!’ I asked what he meant. He said Hooker and his army had been defeated and driven back to this side of the Rappahannock. Sumner came direct from the President, who, he said, was extremely dejected.” Later Welles observed President Lincoln to be “uneasy, uncomfortable and dissatisfied.”

May 6– Wednesday– Bank’s Ford, Virginia– Union soldier Elisha Hunt Rhodes to his diary: “Thank God I am alive and well. I shall be glad when the war is over and I can be civilized again. I do not like so much death and destruction.”

May 6– Wednesday– London, England– Irish-born Sir Robert Arbuthnot, British military officer who served with great distinction on the Iberian Peninsula during the Napoleonic wars, winning the Army Gold Cross, dies at age 79.

General Sir Robert Arbuthnot

General Sir Robert Arbuthnot

May 7– Thursday– New York City– George Templeton Strong to his diary: “Storm continues, but grows less savage. It is cloudy and cold and northeasterly but rain has ceased. Moral coloring of the day livid blue. Failure and repulse again! Hooker has retired across the Rappahannock and is where he was a month ago, but no doubt sorely shattered.”

May 7– Thursday– Mansfield, Ohio– Senator John Sherman to his brother, General William Tecumseh Sherman: “If only the people will be patient so long, all will be well. The best of it is, they can’t help themselves. The rebels won’t let us have peace even if we wanted it. . . . This war has always seemed to me a tragic necessity. I have watched its progress, and hope to see its termination. It may, like the French Revolution, travel in a large circle, destroying all that have taken part in it ; still there is no way but to go ahead. We may slowly learn wisdom in its prosecution, for we certainly have not shown it thus far.”

Senator John Sherman, Republican from Ohio

Senator John Sherman, Republican from Ohio

May 7– Thursday– Dayton, Ohio– At the conclusion of a two-day trial by a military commission, Clement Vallandigham is found guilty of expressing treasonable sympathies.

Clement Vallandigham

Clement Vallandigham

May 7– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– Secretary Welles reports, “Our people, though shocked and very much disappointed, are in better tone and temper than I feared they would be.” Yet he suggests that the President wants an explanation of the serious Union defeat. “There are, indeed, many matters which require explanation.”

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