We Are Generally Anticipating a Lively Time~June 1863~the 20th to 22nd

We Are Generally Anticipating a Lively Time~Walt Whitman

Significant fighting takes place in Mississippi, Louisiana, Virginia and Pennsylvania as Confederate troops enter the Keystone State. More and more people, North and South, soldiers and officers as well as civilians anticipate major battles. The burning of Darien, Georgia, bothers many. Vicksburg is under heavy bombardment but the Times of London predicts a Union repulse there. A black man is lynched in New York. President Lincoln gets a Supreme Court justice with whom he is satisfied. Polish immigrants in the United States work to help the revolution in Poland. France begins parliamentary elections.

June 20– Saturday– Camp Brightwood, near Washington, D.C.– Union Colonel Charles Russell Lowell writes to Effie Shaw, the sister of his friend, Robert Gould Shaw. “I look for a general action soon, and shall not be surprised if Lee has Washington by August 1st. Don’t think me gloomy, I should regard the loss of Washington as the greatest gain of the war. I don’t wonder Rob feels badly about this burning and plundering [of Darien, Georgia], it is too bad. . . . Such a gentle fellow as Rob must be peculiarly disturbed about it.”

Effie Shaw & Charles Russell Loweel who marry in October, 1863

Effie Shaw & Charles Russell Loweel who marry in October, 1863

June 20– Saturday– Fairfax Courthouse, Virginia– Union soldier Christian Geisel writes a quick letter to his sister Louisa. “We expect to have heavy fight shortly again. By all accounts some of the rebel cavalry is in Pennsylvania again. and I expect that there is great excitement up there now, but I don’t think they will stay there long. I can write no more at present.”

June 20– Saturday– Staunton, Virginia– Confederate soldier M. G. Harman writes to his uncle, Albert Garber. “I have just Heard Major T.P. Eskridge told Mr. B. Evans that Tom was killed & his body left on the Field. I have been down to see Colonel Davidson & Bill but can hear nothing. I Hope it is untrue. Come in before you say anything to Aunt or the Family about it.”

June 20– Saturday– St Simon Island, Georgia– Colonel Robert Gould Shaw to his friend Charles Russell Lowell: “I am totally in the dark as to what has been going on in other parts of the country for two weeks past. The last paper I saw, was of June 6. I should like to ask your opinion on a subject, which has troubled me a little lately. On a late expedition we made with Montgomery– he burnt the town of Darien about 20 miles from here. We had met with no resistance there & the only men to be seen were some horsemen at a great distance. There were a few women & darkeys in the place and a great many more had gone off in vehicles on our approach. It was never known to be a refuge for guerillas, and our gunboats have been in the habit of running by it at will & without opposition. Don’t you think that unless it is a settled policy of the Government to destroy all the property in rebeldom, the destruction of a defenseless town, containing only a few non-combatants, is unjustifiable, and contrary to all rules of warfare? Harry writes me that you have been transferred to Heintzelman, so I suppose there is a good chance of your remaining for some time, near Washington. Good, for Effie. . . . I hope this war will not finish one or both of us, and that we shall live to know each other well. I had a note from Effie a week ago. I remember, at Susie’s, just after you were engaged you said to me: ‘Am not I a lucky fellow?’ And I must say, I think you are. There are not many girls like Effie; though she is my sister, I may say it.” [Within the next 16 months both Shaw and Lowell will be killed in battle.]

June 20– Saturday– London, England– The Times of London reviews the Union siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi, suggesting that General Grant’s position becomes more precarious each day “The fortunes of the Federal arms at the last date were balancing between a temporary check and total failure. All the details leave an impression that unusual energy had secured very slight results.” The paper goes on to say that private sources claim that Vicksburg has been relieved, and that the Federal army is now surrounded by Confederate forces.

John Walter, owner of The Times of London

John Walter, owner of The Times of London

June 21– Sunday– Newburgh, New York– In the city, 60 miles north of New York City, a black man, accused of the rape of an Irish serving girl, is snatched from the jail by a mob, mostly of Irish immigrant men, beaten savagely and lynched. The New York Times says of the incident, “The crime of which the Negro stood charged with was of a revolting character, but he was amenable to the law, and still had the right of a fair trial. Those who were instrumental in destroying his life, however, in their misguided frenzy, committed the higher crime of murder.”

June 21– Sunday– New York City– The New York Times reports that “Almost every people of Europe has a newspaper organ in this country, and indeed in this city. The deep interest taken in the affairs of Poland has led to the establishment of an organ in the language of that country. It is called Echo z Polski, or Polish Echo, and contains full details concerning the present Polish war for independence. It is published under the auspices of the Central Polish Committee.”

June 21– Sunday– Chambersburg, Pennsylvania– Rachel Cormany writes of her day. “All was pretty quiet until near noon The news came that the rebels are near here–which caused great excitement again. Soon after a regiment of the N. Y. Greys came (militia) so all excitement died away– Wrote a letter (or finished it rather) to My Samuel. Read such a pretty Sunday School book.”

June 21– Sunday– Upperville, Loudoun County, Virginia– Protecting General Lee’s main body of infantry, General Jeb Stuart’s cavalry tangles with a combined Union force of cavalry and infantry, While successfully preventing discovery of Lee’s main body, Stuart for the first time in the war, losses an artillery piece to capture by the Yankees. Combined total casualties are approximately 400. Shortly after this event, Stuart will fatefully decide to strike north and east to draw Federal attention away from Lee but as a result will lose his lines of communication with the rest of the Army of Northern Virginia.

cavalry battle

cavalry battle

June 21– Sunday– Richmond, Virginia– Government Clerk John Jones reports that, “To-day we have an account of the burning of Darien, Georgia. The temptation is strong for our army to retaliate on the soil of Pennsylvania.”

June 21– Sunday– Vicksburg, Mississippi– Confederate soldiers detect the sound of digging and recognize that Union “sappers” are trying to undermine a key defensive position. In response six volunteers from a Mississippi regiment begin to dig a countermine. A Confederate officer writes that “all you can hear is the rattle of the Enemy’s guns, with the sharp crack of the rifles of their sharp-shooters going from early dawn to dark and then at night the roaring of the terrible mortars [on Union gunboats on the Mississippi] is kept up.” A Union soldier from Indiana writes, “Friday morning, while on duty in the pits, we had a splendid view. Just as the town clock in Vicksburg struck six, all the batteries along the line opened with a full blast, for the first time since the siege commenced, and the first heavy artillery firing since the assault. We were in front of our batteries and between them and the rebel works. The fire was principally directed on the town and on the camps behind the first line, of works. From our pits we could see sixty pieces on our lines all busily at work. That same evening the batteries gave them another touch, and this (Sunday) morning, about 3 o’clock, another still, but the regular bombardment has not yet commenced. The mortars are at work very night, and generally through part of the day.”

shelling Vicksburg

shelling Vicksburg

June 21– Sunday– LaFourche Crossing, Louisiana– Attempting to draw off Federal forces from the siege of Port Hudson, a large Confederate raiding party runs into Union troops here. In several hours of sharp fighting yesterday and today, the Confederates lose a total of 219 dead, wounded and missing. Union losses amount to 48 in total.

June 21– Sunday– Paris, France– Across the country the first round of elections for members of Parliament begins today.

June 22– Monday– Greencastle, Pennsylvania– The first units of General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia begin crossing into Pennsylvania. In a skirmish, Confederate infantry drive off a patrol of Union cavalry, killing Corporal William Rihl, the first Pennsylvanian and first Union soldier to die in the Gettysburg Campaign.

June 22– Monday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln appoints Associate Supreme Court Justice, Stephen J. Field, age 46, to the newly created tenth circuit court which consists of California and Oregon.

Justice Stephen J Field

Justice Stephen J Field

June 22– Monday– Washington, D.C.– Gideon Welles updates his diary. “The rumors yesterday of a fight near Aldie are fully confirmed, but as yet no definite information. It is not always pleasant to go to the War Department to have news verified, even if they have the facts. . . . Generally I have found Stanton affable and communicative when alone, but not always, especially if there has been disaster or unpleasant news.”

June 22– Monday– Washington, D.C.– Walt Whitman to his mother: “Well, mother, we are generally anticipating a lively time here or in the neighborhood, as it is probable Lee is feeling about to strike a blow on Washington, or perhaps right into it & as Lee is no fool, it is perhaps possible he may give us a good shake– he is not very far off– yesterday was a fight to the southwest of here all day, we heard the cannons nearly all day– the wounded are arriving in small squads every day, mostly cavalry, a great many Ohio men– they send off to-day from the Washington hospitals a great many to New York, Philadelphia, &c. all who are able, to make room, which looks ominous– indeed it is pretty certain that there is to be some severe fighting, may be a great battle again, the pending week– I am getting so callous that it hardly arouses me at all– I fancy I should take it very quietly if I found myself in the midst of a desperate conflict here in Washington.”

June 22– Monday– Leesburg, Virginia– On the move northward, Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlin and some of his officers buy a good dinner from a local family. While these people do not like the Yankees they are nonetheless willing to feed them in return for sound Northern money.

June 22– Monday– Richmond, Virginia– John Jones updates his diary. “To-day I saw the memorandum of Mr. Ould, of the conversation held with Mr. Vallandigham, for file in the archives. He says if we ‘can only hold out’ this year that the peace party of the North would sweep the Lincoln dynasty out of political existence. He seems to have thought that our cause was sinking, and feared we would submit, which would, of course, be ruinous to his party! But he advises strongly against any invasion of Pennsylvania, for that would unite all parties at the North, and so strengthen Lincoln’s hands that he would be able to crush all opposition, and trample upon the constitutional rights of the people. Mr. Vallandigham said nothing to indicate that either he or the party had any other idea than that the Union would be reconstructed under Democratic rule.”

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