Improve the Condition of Our Men~August 1863~the 28th to the 31st

Improve the Condition of Our Men ~ Robert E Lee

Soldiers think about food and wine. Gideon Welles expresses concern about party politics. Senator Sherman thinks about post-war reconstruction. Rumors abound. As the bloody summer moves toward its close many wonder what will happen next. Both sides wonder if Lee or Meade will mount a new offensive. What will happen in Tennessee? At Charleston, South Carolina? Will Britain or France enter the war? How much longer can the Confederacy survive the blockade? Will the great bloodshed of July be repeated?

54th Massachusetts Memorial

54th Massachusetts Memorial

August 28– Friday– Washington, D.C.– Gideon Welles evaluates the state of American politics. “The Rebels are demoralized and discouraged, yet have not the manly resolution to confess it. Great is the tyranny of public opinion in all this land of ours, and little is the individual independence that is exercised. Men surrender their honest convictions to the dictates of others, often of less sense and ability than themselves. The discipline and mandates of party are omnipotent, North as well as South.”

August 28– Friday– Orange Courthouse, Virginia– Confederate soldier Marion Fitzpatrick writes to his wife Amanda. “It makes my mouth water to read of your having so many peaches. I never see one, and only a few inferior apples, which sell from one to two dollars per dozen. I see a watermelon occasionally. They sell for from five to ten dollars a piece. . . . We are doing better in the eating line than usual. We draw about equal quantities of flour and meal, beef and bacon which is much better than altogether of either.”

August 29– Saturday– Mansfield, Ohio– Senator John Sherman responds to his brother, General William Tecumseh Sherman, who has invited the senator to visit the army campaigning in the South. “I propose . . . to arrange all my business so that I may leave soon after the election, say about the 20th of October, and will then go down the river and spend all the time until the meeting of Congress. I hope to be able to go via Vicksburg, New Orleans, Charleston, to Washington. If a favorable opportunity offers at Vicksburg and New Orleans, I wish to develop my ideas as to a reconstruction of the Union. I know these will suit you a good deal better than they will the administration, but I feel quite independent of the latter and am disposed to follow my own course.”

Senator John Sherman, Republican from Ohio

Senator John Sherman, Republican from Ohio

August 30– Beverly Ford, Virginia– Union Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlin writes to his wife Fanny. “I have not been well today just a temporary derangement brought on possibly after an unquiet night in consequence of having taken my brigade out (yesterday) to assist in the execution of 5 deserters. Anxiety to handle the Brigade well in the presence of so many spectators, and the painful strains on my nerves at being obliged to assist at so awful a spectacle no doubt overtaxed my not yet restored powers. . . . [William] Donnell [Chamberlin’s adjutant] came today and didn’t bring me any port wine! Now you must get two bottles of that for me and two of Madeira if you can and send by the ladies boxes or barrels: they will come straight to me in that way.”

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlin

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlin

August 30– Sunday– Charleston, South Carolina– Federal artillery resumes bombardment of Fort Sumter and again inflicts heavy damage.

August 31– Monday– New York City– George Templeton Strong notes a dinner conversation. “[Surgeon General William] Hammond says that the regular regiments now in the city are destined for Texas . . . that Mexico means to recognize the Confederacy, and will be thereupon invaded and that prophets of Washington predict war with France. Not at all unlikely.”

August 31– Monday– Richmond, Virginia– General Robert E Lee sends orders to General James Longstreet. “I have wished for several days past to return to the army, but have been detained by the President. He will not listen to my proposition to leave to-morrow. I hope you will use every exertion to prepare the army for offensive operations, and improve the condition of our men and animals. I can see nothing better to be done than to endeavor to bring General Meade out and use our efforts to crush his army while in its present condition.”

General Robert E Lee, 1863

General Robert E Lee, 1863

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