All Kinds of Reports Are Flying About~June, 1863~the 17th to the 20th

All Kinds of Reports Are Flying About~Rachel Cormany, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania residents worry about the advancing rebels. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, begins filling up with refugees. Baltimore prepares to defend itself. The mayor of Boston worries as well. Georget Templeton Strong sees an advantage to the invasion.

Robert Gould Shaw remembers happy times and reassures his mother. Some Northerners begin planning care for the orphaned children of soldiers.. Gideon Welles laments Hooker’s incompetence. More cavalry battles take place as Lee advances. Slave auctions, including the sale of children, still occur in Confederate territory.

A charming and politically savvy widow prepares for foreign travel on behalf of the Confederacy. The King of Prussia deals with Russia. Vallandigham arrives in British territory on his way to make new trouble for the Lincoln Administration. President Lincoln deals with a Central American republic, reassures the people of Louisiana and offers an olive branch to the Chicago newspaper which General Burnside tried to suppress.

June 17– Wednesday– New York City– George Templeton Strong takes a rather detached view. “This move of Lee’s is likely to do good by bothering and silencing our nasty peace-democracy. It seems now as if Harrisburg might be defended with success. If we do but carry Vicksburg and Port Hudson, we can well afford to let rebeldom have full swing to burn and plunder for a week or two.”


George Templeton Strong whose diaries provide much information about Northern life during the Civil War

George Templeton Strong whose diaries provide much information about Northern life during the Civil War

June 17– Wednesday– Harrisburg, Pennsylvania– William Heyser, a native of Chambersburg who fled from there omn the night of the 14th, describes events in the state capital. “Very warm. The city is filling with volunteers and delegates to the Democratic Convention. Rumors from Chambersburg that our ships and stores have all been plundered and that the public building may be burned that houses army stores. Appeals made to the Governor for troops to protect the state, but unheeded. My son-in-law, J. A. Eyster, came this afternoon from Philadelphia. Reports my daughter, Elizabeth and the children well. News that the Rebels have left for Hagerstown, after having done a minimum of damage to the town.”

Union camp at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Union camp at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

 June 17– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln receives the new minister to the United States from San Salvador, who expresses “sympathy felt by the President of Salvador for the cause of the American Union.” According to reporters, President Lincoln replies by saying “he hoped the Minister’s residence here would be agreeable, and his mission satisfactory, and said he was not uninformed of the devotion of Salvador to the principles of republicanism and the interests of civilization.”

June 17– Wednesday– Aldie, Virginia– In an inconclusive fight, units of General Jeb Stuart’s cavalry, screening the Confederate infantry as it marches north behind the shelter of the Blue Ridge Mountains, are attacked by a brigade of Federal cavalry near this village. During the four hours of hard fighting, the Union troopers suffer about 300 total casualties while the Confederate horsemen suffer approximately 120 casualties. When Union reinforcements arrive, the Southerners withdraw toward Middleburg, Virginia.

cavalry fight

cavalry fight

June 17– Wednesday– St Simon Island, Georgia– Colonel Robert Gould Shaw to his sister-in-law, Clemence Haggerty: “It is such a short time since you and I have been so nearly related, that I hardly realize it as yet; and now I am back in the old track, and routine of camp-life again, the three months at home, with their great pleasures and little troubles, seem to have been passed in dream-land. I don’t believe I think much more of Annie than I used to, but the great difference in our relation to each other seems very strange. . . . You can’t imagine what a spooney, home-sick set we are here, after our pleasant times at Readville. Major Hallowell lies on his back singing, ‘No one to love, none to caress /// None to respond to this heart’s wretchedness’ and we all feel just so. It is very demoralizing to be at home for so long a time. I felt quite sorry to deprive you of my old sword, but I wanted my Mother to have it, as I hadn’t given her any of my discarded shoulder-straps, sashes, &c, &c. I think of you every morning and evening when I put on my slippers; they are a great comfort. When you see your father, please give him my regards. I was sorry not to see him before I came away.”

June 17– Wednesday– Hamilton, Bermuda– By tacit agreement with Confederate authorities, Clement Vallandigham arrives here from Wilmington, North Carolina. Vallandigham immediately sets to work to try to arrange transport to Canada.

June 17– Wednesday– Berlin, Germany– King William responds to Tsar Alexander’s letter of June 1st by writing that if France attacks Russia William must maintain “a benevolent neutrality” to avoid a French invasion. He concludes by suggesting that his people would be more sympathetic if the Russian Empire granted some favors to German merchants seeking to do business in Russia.


Wilhelm I, King of Prussia

Wilhelm I, King of Prussia

June 18– Thursday– New York City– In the annual meeting of the Institute of Reward the corresponding secretary reports on the activities since the last annual meeting. “During the year past the exertions of the Institute have been mainly directed to urging upon the State Legislatures their acceptance of the Congressional grant of land for agricultural and educational purposes, and toward securing provisions, by which, in the selection of students for the colleges and experimental farms endowed by the grant, preference shall be given to the orphans of those dying in the defense of their country; and also, toward procuring a supplemental fund for the support of a preparatory department for a younger class of orphans on the said farms. Governors, Congressmen, Assemblymen, and others, have been seen and consulted, and the objects of the Institute have been made known to large numbers of the people, in meetings held for this purpose, in various parts of the country, and have everywhere been received with cordiality. Especially has this been the case in the camps, where our troops have found in this movement new encouragement for their devotion to the country’s service.”

June 18– Thursday– St Simon’s Island, Georgia– Colonel Robert Gould Shaw to his mother: “I am very glad you feel so happy and contented about my course in taking the black regiment and besides that cause for satisfaction– I have never had to regret it, for material reasons.There is no doubt that all the black troops in the country should be gathered into one or two armies– as in small bodies they can never make themselves felt much. It was quite astonishing to be received as we were at Beaufort. The Commander of the Post, there, Colonel Davis, is almost a Copperhead– as well as a good many of his subordinates and I was told, at Hilton Head, that they might not be very cordial. But, on the contrary, they treated me with the greatest consideration and there was no end to the offers of services from all the Colonels, Quartermasters & Commissaries of the place. Some, who had been very violent in their opposition to the enlistment of Negroes, seemed glad of this chance to back out, by degrees, and say there was a vast difference between contrabands & free Negroes.”

June 18– Thursday– Fayetteville, Tennessee– Mr Daniel Whittington, an official of Lincoln County, posts the following public notice: “I will on Saturday, the 1st day of August nextsell to the highest bidder, in the town of Fayetteville, Lincoln county, Tennessee, the following SLAVES, viz: Amanda, aged about 35 years; Martha, about 6 years; and Gordy, about one year, (these will be sold in one lot,) Ann, about 19 years; Tom, about 16 years; Andrew, about 14 years; Josephine, about 10 years; Nancy, about 8 years. The above slaves will be sold on a credit of twelve months, except the sum of 5 per cent on the amount of sale, which will be required in cash. Notes with two or more approved securities will be required of the purchaser, and a lien retained upon said Slaves until the purchase money is paid.” [Note that four of these slaves are children under twelve years of age.]


typical slave auction

typical slave auction

June 19– Friday– Guilford Township, Franklin County, Pennsylvania– Amos Stouffer describes his day. “A fine day. Still a great deal of excitement about the Rebs, who are scouring the country in every direction about Waynesboro, Greencastle, Mercersburg [and] Finkstown for horses and cattle and Negroes. The excitement is very great . . . towards Harrisburg. Worse than here. No [Union] troops have come as yet.”

June 19– Friday– Chambersburg, Pennsylvania– Rachel Cormany describes her day, writing of her husband as “Mr Cormany.” “The excitement is still high. I have slept well every night so far knowing that my Heavenly Parent watches over me at all times. Ironed this morning & baked a loaf of brown bread. feel a little blue. I feel troubled about Mr. Cormany– we are penned up so here that we can hear nothing. All kinds of reports are flying about– still the excitement has abated considerably. Mended all my clothes & put every thing away. Read about the great revivals of ‘56 & ‘57. felt much happier than in the forenoon, enjoyed a sweet season of prayer.”


Rachel Cormany

Rachel Cormany

June 19– Friday– Washington, D.C.– In response to requests from Federal authorities in Louisiana, President Lincoln writes, “The people of Louisiana shall not lack an opportunity for a fair election for both Federal and State officers by want of anything within my power to give them.” Also, President Lincoln meets with Frederick W. Lincoln, the Mayor of Boston, Massachusetts, who represents a committee of Bostonians who came to consult the President regarding the defenses of their city.


President Lincoln

President Lincoln

June 19– Friday– Richomond, Virginia– Rose O’Neal Greenhow, a wealthy, charming and attractive widow and Washington socialite, age 46, who had been arrested as a spy and sent South last summer, writes to a friend. “I saw the President this morning and he affords me every facility and and in carrying out my mischief. I shall leave here on Tuesday or Wednesday. Tuesday certainly as the [ship] upon which I will go will sail the latter part of the week on Friday from Wilmington to Bermuda. Once I shall take out as much cotton as I can. I shall be very much engaged for the remainder of my sojourn here in getting ready.” President Davis is sending her to England to promote the cause of the Confederacy and gather information. The cotton to which she makes reference will be sold on European markets to raise money for the Confederacy.


Rose O'Neal Greenhow with her daughter

Rose O’Neal Greenhow with her daughter

June 19– Friday– Loudoun County, Virginia– Confederate cavalry under General Jeb Stuart finishes three days of on-and-off fighting with Federal cavalry. Neither side gains any advantage but Union losses total 349 dead, wounded, and missing while Stuart claims to have suffered only 40 total casualties.

June 19– Friday– St. Simon’s Island, Georgia– Union soldier Samuel Christy to his sister Mary Jane. “There was three guns boats what went before us and at last we Came to a little town and before we got to it we sent two or three shells into it and all the people run and left it and we came and got off the ship and went into it and took every thing that was good we got some sheep and some cattle and hogs and chickens and many others things and then we set the town on fire and burnt it down and then we came about two miles toward Camp and then stop and stayed on the ship all night and the next morning we came back to Camp “

June 20– Saturday– Chambersburg, Pennsylvania– Rachel Cormany describes her day. “Went to bed early & slept well all night. This morning there is great excitement again. The report came last night that 40,000 or 50,000 infantry & some artillery have taken possession of Hagerstown–that the camps extend nearly to Greencastle–things surely look a little dubious. If we could only have regular mails. A mail came last night–but was not opened until this morning–Got a letter from My Samuel. it is but short. He is still safe–but were under marching orders again. it has been over a week on the way–I almost feel like getting out of this to some place where the mail is uninterrupted, but then I fear, My Samuel might chance to come here & I would not see him so I shall stay.”

June 20– Saturday– Baltimore, Maryland– Anticipating a Confederate attack, soldiers and laborers busily construct breastworks north and west of the city as a defensive measure.

June 20– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– West Virginia officially joins the Union as a free state with provision for the gradual emancipation of slaves in the state. John Nicolay, President Lincoln’s secretary, writes at the President’s request to the Chicago Tribune, an anti-administration newspaper now back in publication at the President’s order which revoked General Burnside’s order of suppression, that President Lincoln will be pleased to receive copies “so long as in your kindness you may please to send it.”

Chicago Tribune ad, 1870

Chicago Tribune ad, 1870

June 20– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– Gideon Welles updates his diary. “Tidings from New York to-day are sad respecting Admiral Foote. I fear he cannot recover and that his hours upon earth are few. His death will be a great loss to the country, a greater one in this emergency to me than to any other out of his own family. . . . Sumner’s opinion and estimate of men does not agree with Chase.s. Sumner expresses an absolute want of confidence in Hooker; says he knows him to be a blasphemous wretch; that after crossing the Rappahannock and reaching Genterville, Hooker exultingly exclaimed, ‘The enemy is in my power, and God Almighty cannot deprive me of them.’ I have heard before of this, but not so direct and positive. The sudden paralysis that followed, when the army in the midst of a successful career was suddenly checked and commenced its retreat, has never been explained. Whiskey is said by Sumner to have done the work. The President said if Hooker had been killed by the shot which knocked over the pillar that stunned him, we should have been successful.”



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