One General Panorama of Grace & Beauty~November 1863~5th to 8th

One General Panorama of Grace and Beauty ~ New York Times

New York City holds a grand ball for the visiting Russian naval officers. Walt Whitman, visiting his family at home, enjoys the opera. General Lee’s rheumatism improves a bit despite chilly weather. Confederate General Bragg makes what will turn out to be a career-ending mistake, sending General Longstreet and his soldiers to attack Knoxville. Bragg under-estimates the Federal strength at Chattanooga and does not anticipate Grant’s intended attack. Soldiers write home about their experiences and concerns. And life around the world goes on.


November 5– Thursday– Confederate headquarters along the Rappahannock, Virginia– “I think my rheumatism is better to-day. I have been through a great deal with comparatively little suffering. I have been wanting to review the cavalry for some time, and appointed to-day with fear and trembling. I had not been on horseback for five days previously and feared I should not get through. The governor was here and told me Mrs Letcher had seen you recently. I saw all my nephews looking very handsome . . . . While on the ground, a man rode up to me and said he was just from Alexandria and had been requested to give me a box, which he handed me, but did not know who sent it. It contained a handsome pair of gilt spurs. Good-night. May a kind heavenly Father guard you all.” ~ Letter from General Robert E Lee to his wife Mary. [John Letcher was governor of Virginia from 1860 to 1864. His wife was Susan Holt Letcher.]

November 5– Thursday– outside Chattanooga, Tennessee– “I start to-day for Tyner’s Station, and expect to get transportation to-morrow for Sweetwater. The weather is so bad, and I find myself so much occupied, that I shall not be able to see you to say good-by. When I heard the report around camp that I was to go into East Tennessee, I set to work at once to try and plan the means for making the move with security and the hope of great results. As every other move had been proposed to the general and rejected or put off until time had made them inconvenient, I came to the conclusion, as soon as the report reached me, that it was to be the fate of our army to wait until all good opportunities had passed, and then, in desperation, seize upon the least favorable movement. . . . Have you any maps that you can give or lend me? I shall need every thing of the kind. Do you know any reliable people, living near and east of Knoxville, from whom I might get information of the condition, strength, etc., of the enemy? I have written in such hurry and confusion of packing and striking camp (in the rain and on the head of an empty flour barrel) that I doubt if I have made myself understood.” ~ Confederate General James Longstreet to General Simon Buckner. Longstreet and Bragg dislike each other.

General James Longstreet

General James Longstreet

November 5– Thursday– Bloemfontein, Orange Free State– Johannes Brand, lawyer and politician, a month away from his 40th birthday, is elected the fourth president. He will take office in February of next year.

Johannes Brand, c1864

Johannes Brand, c1864

November 6– Friday– New York City– “The imperial City of the West crowned the hospitalities it has extended to its imperial guests from the East most worthily by the charming and brilliant festival which turned last night into brightest day in Irving-place. As a triumph of social art the Russian Ball will be remembered as long as any triumph of any kind can very well be in this land of things ‘a moment bright, then gone forever.’ A palace was improvised by bridging a street, and the locale being thus provided by the managers of the ball, the world of New-York provided the rest. A throng – which only in the extremest exigencies of the evening ever became a crowd – a throng of men presumably brave, and of women visibly fair, assembled in one general panorama of grace, and beauty, and spirit, the best elements of our New-York life, to do honor to the representatives of the one great Empire which, alone among the leading Powers of the earth, has frankly and cordially maintained its old relations of amity and good will with the Republic in these days of trial and endurance. If a political significance must be sought for in so bright and evanescent a show, the very head and front of it ‘hath this extent, no more.’ America prefers no judgment of favor or disfavor upon the internal policy of Russia, nor does she ask from Russia any judgment of favor or disfavor upon her own internal policy. We simply recognize with the warmth and frankness which become us, the justice, forbearance, courtesy and respect with which Russia has borne herself toward us from the outset of a struggle the burden and responsibility of which are ours, and ours alone. If there be a lesson in this – if it be true, as we believe that true it is, that the subjects of no other great European Power would now be welcomed to these shores as the sailors of Alexander have been – if to no others would we pipe, nor ask them with us to dance, it is simply that no others have cared to mourn with us in our mourning, nor have any others practiced toward us even the poor charity of a silent indifference. Nations, like men, have their sensibilities, their emotions, their impulses of gratitude or of revenge. That such sensibilities and such emotions exist in the people of the Union is simply another proof that the people of the Union are a nation. If the Russian Ball can carry fresh conviction of this fact to a single diplomatic brain beyond the seas, we shall have no objection to see so good a sermon drawn from so gay a song. Meanwhile, for the Russians and for New-York, the ball was simply a ball, and of all the balls where of Gotham shall in her chronicles preserve the rustling, gleaming, odorous remembrance, the most orderly, the most brilliant, the most completely worthy of those who gave and of those to whom it was given.” ~ New York Times.

November 6– Friday– Wheeling, West Virginia– “Governor Boreman has issued his proclamation, in accordance with the recommendation of the President of the United States, setting apart Thursday the 26th instant as a day of Thanksgiving. He concludes with this excellent suggestion. ‘And while we are rejoicing and other praises for the abundance with which we are blest, let us not forget to remember the poor and the needy, the widow and the orphan, whom the vicissitudes of life and the casualties of war have left in our midst unprovided for and unprotected.’” ~ Wheeling Intelligencer

November 6– Friday– Droop Mountain, Pocahontas County, West Virginia– Union forces defeat the Confederates in brief but violent battle, thus ending major Confederate operations in the state. Total dead, wounded and missing are 119 Federal and 275 Confederate.

November 7– Saturday– New York City– “Election turned out as I expected. The state repudiates Seymour by about thirty thousand majority. . . . . The Russian Ball Thursday night was well managed and successful. Ellie and I joined General Dix’s party at his house and went thereto in great glory, staff and all– half a dozen captivating creatures in epaulets– with nice Mrs Blake and Miss Kitty. I like all that family very much.” ~ Diary entry of George Templeton Strong.

dancing at the Russian Ball

dancing at the Russian Ball

November 7– Saturday– Rappahannock Station, Virginia– In a surprise foray Union forces capture 1,600 Confederate soldiers.

November 7– Saturday– Richmond, Virginia– “Recent Fires. The out-houses of Mr. E. C. Pleasants, near Chimborazo Hospital, were set fire to on Thursday morning last, and destroyed. His residence caught [fire] several times, but was saved by the exertions of the neighbors. Some of the furniture which had been removed from the house was afterwards stolen, by some thief or thieves. The loss to Mr. P. will amount to $5,000. On Wednesday night, through the carelessness of a servant girl, the residence of Mr. Wm. P. Jones, on 8th street, was set on fire, but was fortunately discovered before much damage was done, although the furniture in one of the chambers was considerably charred.” ~ Richmond Sentinel.

November 7– Saturday– Memphis, Tennessee– “Our company is on camp guard and Captain Meade is in command of the camp so that I have no regular duties to perform. I have been sent out twice in command of an escort to Government [wagon] trains to get wood. We go about three miles into the country. There are some Rebs prowling around there and have on one or two occasions captured the trains, but they have never showed themselves when I was along in command, how soon they will do so remains to be seen. They can calculate on a good lively fight before they gobble us for I have a particular aversion to . . . prisons and would about as soon be shot as captured by them. About all the difference is in one case you die instantly and in the other by degrees.” ~ Letter from Union officer Frank Guernsey to his wife Fanny.

November 8– Sunday– Boston, Massachusetts– “I received the other day from a ‘Breckinridge Democrat,’ now converted, the inclosed sum of twenty dollars, after he had read your letter. I have not lately made any requests of my friends for more thinking you perhaps were well supplied for the present. I shall be happy to hear from you again, & I think I can find more friends hereafter if you should need them. I send this by a check & I presume they will cash it for you at Willards [Hotel] where they know me.” ~ Letter from Dr. Le Baron Russell to Walt Whitman.

November 8– Sunday– Brooklyn, New York– “I went to the N Y Academy of Music, to the Italian opera. I suppose you know that is a performance, a play, all in music & singing, in the Italian language, very sweet & beautiful. There is a large company of singers & a large band, altogether two or three hundred. It is in a splendid great house, four or five tiers high, & a broad parqueted on the main floor. The opera here now has some of the greatest singers in the world– the principal lady singer (her name is Medori) has a voice that would make you hold your breath with wonder & delight, it is like a miracle– no mocking bird nor the clearest flute can begin with it– besides it is [a] very rich & strong voice & besides she is a tall & handsome lady, & her actions are so graceful as she moves about the stage, playing her part. . . . . my dear comrades, I will now tell you something about my own folks home here there is quite a lot of us– my father is not living [and] my dear mother is very well indeed for her age, which is 67– she is cheerful & hearty, & still does all her light housework & cooking. She never tires of hearing about the soldiers, & I sometimes think she is the greatest patriot I ever met, one of the old stock. I believe she would cheerfully give her life for the Union, if it would avail any thing and the last mouthful in the house to any union soldier that needed it– then I have a very excellent sister-in-law– she has two fine young ones so I am very happy in the women & family arrangements.” ~ Letter from Walt Whitman to friends at the Armory Square Hospital in Washington, D.C.

November 8– Sunday– south of Tallahassee, Florida– “I was glad to hear that you was all in good health when you wrote. I was glad also to hear that your Pa had made his trip to Tennessee and back home. I was glad to hear that he found the boys enjoying a reasonable portion of health. This leaves me in good health at present we have just returned off picket duty to our camps. A good many of our men got sick while we was out but the most of them are improving at present. I fear from the tone of your letter that you are in bad health or a getting so. You don’t however write that anything serious is the matter with you. If there is, you must write to me and let me know it. While we were out in picket camp I was posted at one time at a place called Shell point on the sea beach where I could see the blockading vessel and by the help of a glass I could see the men walking about on deck of her. I saw also a large number of salt works around on the beach. I saw a grate [sic] many curiosities that I could tell you about if I could see you that time or space will not admit of here. You must write soon. Give my love to all. I remain yours as ever until death.” ~ Letter from Confederate soldier Edmond Hardy Jones to his wife.

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