None But Splendid Soldiers~July 1863~the 17th to the 20th

None but Splendid Soldiers~a reporter describes the attack by the 54th Massachusetts

the 54th Massachusetts attacks Fort Wagner

the 54th Massachusetts attacks Fort Wagner

In a terrible battle the soldiers of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment prove their courage and make an enduring name for themselves. In New York City thousands of black people have been left homeless by the rioters. In Memphis Federal authorities impose regulations on black people. Federal forces win a fight in Indian Territory. Soldiers, rebels and Yankees, write of love and their religious faith. Gideon Welles ruminates on current events and the future. John Sherman praises the success of his brother William Tecumseh Sherman. Unlike his bother Walt, Jeff Whitman shows no sympathy for the rioters. Colonel Chamberlin writes to his wife about the fight of the 20th Maine on July 2nd at Gettysburg.

July 17– Friday– Washington, D.C.– Navy Secretary Gideon Wells evaluates foreign and domestic news. “At the Cabinet council Seward expressed great apprehension of a break-up of the British Ministry. I see in the papers an intimation that should Roebuck’s motion for a recognition of the Confederacy prevail, Earl Russell would resign. I have no fears that the motion will prevail. The English, though mischievously inclined, are not demented. I wish the policy of our Secretary of State, who assumes to be wise, was as discreet as theirs. . . . . The surrender of Port Hudson is undoubtedly a fact. It could not hold out after the fall of Vicksburg. We have information also that Sherman has caught up with and beaten Johnston.”

July 17– Friday– Bunker Hill, West Virginia– Confederate soldier Jedediah Hotchkiss sends a letter to Sara, his wife, in which he gives her a long list of things which he is sending to her as the army attempts to reduce the considerable size of its wagon train. He concludes by saying, “Our wagon train is so large as to impede greatly the movements of the army & by reducing it we promote the efficiency of the army & we are all ready to do any thing to promote that – I hope you are all getting along comfortably, pleasantly I cannot expect, in the gloom of the present – the seemingly thick darkness that envelopes us but I do not despair in the least & only look upon it as the darkness before the dawn – looking for the Republic to come brightly out of all its tribulations – it is no time to think of coming home, else I would apply for permission & try & come – Wait in patience my Love, for the days of peace must come – write to me often & tell me if there is anything I can do to lighten the burden of your cares & add to the comfort of my loved ones at home – O! had I the wings of a dove, how soon would I fly away & come to you – I have no news to write – so be of good cheer — heartily thank God for his many mercies & implore the continuance of his favor – My kisses for my dear children – and love & prayers for you all.”

July 17– Friday– Memphis, Tennessee– Federal authorities issue a general order regarding escaped slaves as well as all free black and mixed race persons in the city.”Every free Negro or mulatto, and every contraband within the District must, with[in] twenty days enter into the employment of some responsible white person,who will be required to report names, age, and description of such from Negroes or contrabands and nature of contract, to the Provost Marshal of theDistrict. All Negroes and mulattos failing to find service or employment with someresponsible white person, will immediately remove to the contraband camp,under charge of Chaplain Fiske, Superintendent of contrabands.”

July 17– Friday– Honey Springs, Indian Territory [now Oklahoma]– A combined Union force of blacks, whites and Native Americans defeats a Confederate force. Federal losses total 79 while Confederate losses total 637 dead, wounded and missing.

Battle of Honey Springs

Battle of Honey Springs

July 18– Saturday– Mansfield, Ohio– Senator John Sherman writes to his brother General William Tecumseh Sherman. “I supposed when Vicksburg fell that you would have a period of rest, and perhaps might return to Ohio to find yourself popular and famous. But the fortune of war carries you into new dangers and I hope new successes. We have been very anxious for news from your movements, but as yet we have only had uncertain reports, and can only live in the hope that you will whip Johnston and win new laurels. I have just returned from Cincinnati, where I was during the whole of Morgan’s raid. How completely the tone of the press has changed in regard to you. Even the Gazette, which has been malignant to the last degree, published quite a number of letters in which your share of the movements about Vicksburg was highly praised. I notice, however, that the editor has said nothing. All other papers, and indeed all officers and citizens with whom I converse, gave you great credit. So that now in the Northern States, and especially here in Ohio, your popularity is second only to that of Grant. You need care but little for this, as you passed through a storm of obloquy which would have submerged many an officer. Popular opinion is so changeable that it is worthless. It is founded upon rumor, and is as explosive as gas.”

July 18– Saturday– New Albany, Indiana– Federal authorities arrest George W Bickley, one of the leaders of the Knights of the Golden Circle.

July 18– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– Gideon Welles forecasts the future as he sees it. “There is some talk, and with a few, a conviction, that we are to have a speedy termination of the war. Blair is confident the Rebellion is about closed. I am not so sanguine. As long as there is ability to resist, we may expect it from Davis and the more desperate leaders, and when they quit, as they will if not captured, the seeds of discontent and controversy which they have sown will remain, and the social and political system of the insurrectionary States is so deranged that small bodies may be expected to carry on for a time, perhaps for years, a bushwhacking warfare. It will likely be a long period before peace and contentment will be fully restored. Davis, who strove to be, and is, the successor of Calhoun, without his ability, but with worse intentions, is ambitious and has deliberately plunged into this war as the leader, and, to win power and fame, has jeopardized all else.”

Little Round Top where the 2oth Maine fought

Little Round Top where the 2oth Maine fought

July 18– Saturday– Blue Mountain, Virginia– Union Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlin writes to his wife Fanny, reflecting about the battle at Gettysburg two weeks ago. . “We have been living a savage and desert life for a month at least. Still I have continued to send you now and then a slip written in pencil on my knee on a saddle . . . . How sad about poor [Colonel Strong] Vincent– nobele fellow– He sent for me a little time before the battle and we sat till midnight talking of our dearest things. I saw in him a noble ambition just balancing with the tenderest love for his wife, which made him doubt whether to stay in the army or resign. He felt he had done his share of duty, so far as patriotism went. He lingered a day or two after his wound but was most of the time unconscious. His wife was too feeble to go to him, and so he died alone except one or two of his staff were with him. My own poor fellows went down like rain– it seemed to me the very best men of all. What heroes they were! Some of them with big gashes in their head, tied their handkerchief about it, and were in the foremost line again, in ten minutes, fighting like tigers.” [Colonel Vincent’s wife Elizabeth is pregnant with their first child.]

July 18– Saturday– Morris Island, Charleston harbor, South Carolina– Union artillery and gunboats bombard the Confederate Fort Wagner for eight hours during the day. At 7:45 in the evening Federal forces begin an infantry assault across the narrow access to the fort. Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts lead the charge. When the soldiers of the 54th Massachusetts reach a point about 150 yards from the fort, the defenders open fire with cannon and small arms, tearing through the Union ranks. The 51st North Carolina shoot directly into them, as the Charleston Battalion fire into the Union left. The determined soldiers of the 54th manage to reach the parapet, but after a fierce struggle, including hand-to-hand combat, they are forced back. Among the 54th Massachusetts, 30 are killed outright, including Colonel Shaw; another 24 will die of their wounds; 52 are missing in action and later presumed dead; 15 are captured; 149 suffer wounds of varying degrees. Additionally, 1245 other Union soldiers are killed, wounded or missing. Confederate casualties total 274.

the fight at Fort Wagner

the fight at Fort Wagner

July 19– Sunday– Brooklyn, New York– Jeff Whitman writes to his brother Walt about the draft riots. “In the flashy, sensation style the papers were all far from the truth, ahead, but when it comes to the killed, they are farther from the truth, behind. Undoubtedly we shall never know the full number but I have it from the very best authority– an eye witness of most of the fights, that there are now more than 400 rioters that have paid their lives for their plunder The papers are not allowed to publish this. I suppose it is much better not to let it be known, but the lesson was fearful and thorough to these men. Yesterday I saw them taking coffins out of the shanties on 2nd Avenue piling them on carts and driving right to the cemetery. I understand they have been doing this ever since Monday night. The police covered themselves with glory. They certainly made a splendid fight. They deserve great credit . . . . They did well also in Brooklyn. The scoundrels thought to commence operations in Brooklyn, and did set fire to a couple of grain elevators, but the thing has gone no further. I think that rioting in these parts has received its quietus mostly from that Regiment of Michigan boys that the War Department were kind enough to send us. I hear that they made fearful havoc with the Irish ranks.”

July 19– Sunday– near Buffington Island, Meigs County, Ohio–Union cavalry attack John Hunt Morgan’s raiders. During the night, General Morgan and about 400 soldiers escape by following a narrow path through the woods. The rest of his force, about 900 troopers, surrender.

July 19– Sunday– Darkesville, West Virginia– Confederate officer Jedediah Hotchkiss sends a letter to Sara, his wife. “We are quiet – in camp and the voices of prayer & praise again goes peacefully up instead of the sounds of strife that have so much of late disturbed our Sabbaths. Mr. Lacy preached at our Hd. Qrs. at 9 A.M. & now he has gone to preach near Gen. Johnson’s Qrs — his text was ‘Seek the Lord & ye shall find him’ &c – a very good short practical lecture. . . . We regret the loss of Vicksburg, but consider that no vital blow was struck by its capture & we feel that upon the very heels of reverses our most brilliant victories have always hung & therefore, trusting in God, we look confidently to the future . . . . I sent you a few candles – abolish night work – for candles are not to be had – it’s a fact & facts are stubborn things – I write on my knees sitting on the ground & expect to eat off & sleep on the ground &c &c – so go the times & like reasonable philosophers we must adapt ourselves to them – enjoy what we have & not think of what we have not.”

July 19– Sunday– Morris Island, South Carolina– Samuel Mason, correspondent for the New York Herald, describes the assault made by the 54th Massachusetts. “I saw them fight at Wagner as none but splendid soldiers, splendidly officered, could fight, dashing through shot and shell, grape, canister, and shrapnel, and showers of bullets, and when they got close enough, fighting with clubbed muskets, and retreating when they did retreat, by command and with choice white troops for company.”

the 54th attacks Fort Wagner

the 54th attacks Fort Wagner

July 20– Monday– Bew York City– A group of businessmen make a public appeal to aid the more than 3,000 black people left homeless and destitute by the actions of “the brutal and fiendish mob.”

July 20– Monday– Harpers Ferry, West Virginia– Union soldier Samuel Potter writes to his wife Cynthia, explaining that he has been sick since the battle at Gettysburg and praying for better times. “I suppose you have a good garden. I hope to be able to help you eat some of it this summer, if my furlough comes all right. I will still leave you in the hands of our Great Preserver who has kept us all so long in the midst of dangers & preserve us from harm. Oh how I would like to be sitting beside you in the old church on the hill listening to Mr. McKee. Those were among the most pleasant hours of my life there to have them with the children & me there & oh how I would like to enjoy them again. I hope God will preserve & protect us & permit us to meet again to enjoy the service of his sanctuary again on earth. Pray for me dear Cynthia that I may grow in grace maybe more sanctified & that I may be more acceptable to my Creator & I will still pray for my dear wife that she may be kept in the hollow of God’s hand, that no harm may befall her that she may be made holy & righteous that we all parents & children may be accepted by the Almighty.”

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: