One’s Heart Grows Sick of War~July 1863~the 7th to 10th

One’s Heart Grows Sick of War~Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman mourns the slaughter. Local citizens visit the Gettysburg battlefield for a close look. President Lincoln speaks of the nature of the Fourth of July. Internal feuds ripple through Lincoln’s cabinet. President Davis loses his plantation. The 54th Massachusetts heads into battle. Boston celebrates. Southerners such as John Jones and Mary Chesnut worry. In what is turning into a hard month for the Confederacy, Port Hudson surrenders to Federal attackers.

dead soldiers at Gettysburg

dead soldiers at Gettysburg

July 7– Tuesday– Chambersburg, Pennsylvania– William Heyser writes: “My sons, Jacob and William, just returned from the [Gettysburg] battlefield. It is a fearful sight. The fields full of dead, by all the roadsides dead are hardly covered by a thin layer of mud. Wreckage everywhere, the implements of war fast disappearing by souvenir seekers. Soon the cultivators plow will cover it all and put an end to military glory. If Lee is allowed to escape this struggle will be prolonged. We hear of only skirmishes all along his route to the Potomac.”

July 7– Tuesday– Franklin County, Pennsylvania– Amos Stouffer describes his visi to the battlefield at Gettysburg. “A fine warm cloudy day. Self, B. Losch & J. Warner started out for the battle field this morning. Got there about 11 o’clock. Saw a great many rebels and some ew Union soldiers that were not buried. . . . Horses are lying in all directions. It is one of the most terrible sights one can look upon. Arms and equipment strew the ground. Our men had decidedly the best position. Our artillery was posted on high ground and commanded the field for miles around. Our infantry was posted behind stone walls &c. Long lines of rifle pits and entrenchments were thrown up by the men. It was the greatest battle of modern times. The rebel army was routed completely.”

monument marking Union General John Buford's position July 1st

monument marking Union General John Buford’s position July 1st

July 7– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– Walt Whitman writes to his mother. “Mother, it seems to be certain that Meade has gained the day, & that the battles there in Pennsylvania have been about as terrible as any in the war. O what a sight must have been presented by the field of action– I think the killed & wounded there on both sides were as many as eighteen or twenty thousand– in one place, four or five acres, there were a thousand dead, at daybreak on Saturday morning. Mother, one’s heart grows sick of war, after all, when you see what it really is– every once in a while I feel so horrified & disgusted– it seems to me like a great slaughter-house & the men mutually butchering each other– then I feel how impossible it appears, again, to retire from this contest, until we have carried our points! (it is cruel to be so tossed from pillar to post in one’s judgment).”

July 7– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– In the evening, upon learning of the victory by Federal forces at Vicksburg, a large group of people and a band march to the White House. President Lincoln appears at an upper window and addresses the crowd. “I am very glad indeed to see you to-night, and yet I will not say I thank you for this call; but I do most sincerely thank Almighty God for the occasion on which you have called. How long ago is it Eighty-odd years since, on the Fourth of July, for the first time in the history of the world, a nation, by its representatives, assembled and declared as a self-evident truth ‘that all men are created equal.’ That was the birthday of the United States of America. Since then the Fourth of July has had several very peculiar recognitions.” He metions for example the deaths of Jefferson and John Adams on the same holiday. He continues, “now on this last Fourth of July just passed, when we have a gigantic rebellion, at the bottom of which is an effort to overthrow the principle that all men were created equal, we have the surrender of a most powerful position and army on that very day. And not only so, but in the succession of battles in Pennsylvania, near to us, through three days, so rapidly fought that they might be called one great battle, on the first, second, and third of the month of July; and on the fourth the cohorts of those who opposed the Declaration that all men are created equal, ‘turned tail’ and run.”

July 7– Tuesday– Davis Bend, Mississippi–Federal troops sack Brierfield, the plantation home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

July 8– Wednesday– Brooklyn, New York– Jeff Whitman writes to his brother Walt. “The rejoicing in New York is sincere and almost universal and yet a few, (and yet only a few when compared with the immense city) who try to find some reason why Lee should have been whipped. Copperheads are getting out of circulation being laid up for a future contingency.”

July 8– Wednesday– Chambersburg, Pennsylvania– The Franklin Repository summarizes the recent battle. “At length the two great opposing armies have met in an open field with the firm resolve to conquer or be destroyed, and the God of battles has given victory to the Union arms. It was no drawn struggle–no doubtful triumph. After three days of the most deadly strife, marked by a heroism on both sides before which Roman story pales, the rebel columns reeled back upon their mountain base defeated, routed, decimated, without heart or hope. Under cover of the night their shattered legions commenced their retreat, hugging the mountains closely for protection, and leaving their thousands of dead to find hospitable graves at the hands of their foe, while other thousands of wounded were left to the humanity of those by whose hands they had fallen.”

July 8– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– Navy Secretary Gideon Welles: “There was a serenade last night in honor of the success of our arms at Gettysburg and Vicksburg. The last has excited a degree of enthusiasm not excelled during the war. The serenade was got up for a purpose. As a matter of course the first music was at the President’s. Mr. Seward’s friend. General Martindale, arranged matters, and a speech of Mr. Seward duly prepared was loudly delivered, but the music did not do him the honors. . . . . The rejoicing in regard to Vicksburg is immense. Admiral Porter’s brief dispatch to me was promptly transmitted over the whole country, and led, everywhere, to spontaneous gatherings, firing of guns, ringing of bells, and general gratification and gladness. The price of gold, to use the perverted method of speech, fell ten or fifteen cents and the whole country is joyous. I am told, however, that Stanton is excessively angry because Admiral Porter heralded the news to me in advance of General Grant to the War Department.”

July 8– Wednesday– Richmond, Virginia– Clerk John Jones worries. “The absence of dispatches from General Lee himself is beginning to create distrust, and doubts of decisive success at Gettysburg. His couriers may have been captured, or he may be delaying to announce something else he has in contemplation.. . . . One of our exchanged officers says he heard a Northern officer say, at Fortress Monroe, that Meade’s loss was, altogether, 60,000 men; but this is not, of course, reliable. Another officer said Lee was retiring, which is simply impossible, now, for the flood. But, alas! we have sad tidings from the West. General Johnston telegraphs from Jackson, Mississippi, that Vicksburg capitulated on the 4th instant. This is a terrible blow, and has produced much despondency.The President, sick as he is, has directed the Secretary of War to send him copies of all the correspondence with Johnston and Bragg, etc., on the subject of the relief of Pemberton.”

July 8– Wednesday– St Helena Island, South Carolina– Charlotte Forten Grimke writes of the departure of the 54th Massachusetts for battle. “The regiment is gone. Left this morning. My heart-felt prayers go with them– for the men and for their noble, noble young Colonel. God bless him! God keep him in His care, and grant that his men may do nobly and prove themselves worthy of him.”

July 8– Wednesday– Portland, Alabama– Mary Chesnut updates her diary. “My mother ill at her home on the plantation near here where I have come to see her. But to go back first to my trip home from Flat Rock to Camden. At the station, I saw men sitting on a row of coffins smoking, talking, and laughing, with their feet drawn up tailor-fashion to keep them out of the wet. Thus does war harden people’s hearts. Met James Chesnut [her husband] at Wilmington. He only crossed the river with me and then went back to Richmond. He was violently opposed to sending our troops into Pennsylvania– wanted all we could spare sent West to make an end there of our enemies. He kept dark about Vallandigham. I am sure we could not trust him to do us any good, or to do the Yankees any harm. The Coriolanus business is played out.”


July 9– Thursday– Boston, Massachusetts– About 1500 people gather at Faneuil Hall for a service of prayer and thanksgiving for the victories at Vicksburg and Gettysburg.

July 9– Thursday– Hanover, Pennsylvania– Union railroad specialist Herman Haupt reports to quartermaster general Montgomery C. Meigs about transportation problems in the aftermath of Gettysburg. “I am on my way to Gettysburg again. Find things in great confusion. Road blocked; [freight] cars not unloaded; stores ordered to Gettysburg, where they stand for a long time, completely preventing all movement there; ordered back without unloading; wounded lying for hours, without ability to carry them off; all because the simple rule of promptly unloading and returning cars is violated. I have ordered my track gangs from Alexandria to Gettysburg, to be sent to Chambersburg by wagon, to repair Hagerstown [rail]road.”

July 9– Thursday– Middletown, Maryland– Elisha Hunt Rhodes writes: “Again I thank God that the Army of the Potomac has at last gained a victory. I wonder what the South thinks of us Yankees now. I think Gettysburg will cure the Rebels of any desire to invade the North again.”

July 9– Thursday– near Corydon, Indiana– Several elements of Confederate General John Hunt Morgan’s force encounter about 400 militia and Home Guards and capture most of them. As Morgan continues eastward toward Ohio, destroying bridges, railroads, and government stores, Federal troop columns are converging behind him to prevent Morgan from recrossing into Kentucky.

July 9– Thursday– Port Hudson, Louisiana– After six weeks of siege and leaning of Vicksburg’s surrender, the Confederate garrison surrenders unconditionally as agreed on the preceding day. During the siege 5,000 Union soldiers were killed or wounded, almost another 5,000 dying of disease. The Confederate defenders lost 1,000 soldiers, one quarter of whom died of disease; today 6500 Confederate soldiers surrender to the almost 30,000 attackers.

Federal troops enter Port Hudson

Federal troops enter Port Hudson

July 10– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– The Liberator carries a letter from the feminist and abolitionist Frances D Gage. She appeals for people who will go South to engage in teaching newly freed people. “Our forefathers said, ‘in time of peace let us prepare for war.’ Let us reverse the order, and in these times of war, prepare for peace, by teaching the colored men and women to know their rights, that knowing, they may dare maintain them.” Her letter indicates that she herself now in her 55th year, will soon return to Port Royal to resume teaching duties.

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