A Son Burried Beneath the Sod of Tennessee~December 1863~11th to 15th

A Son Buried Beneath the Sod of Tennessee ~ James Vascoy

Soldiers write of the deaths of comrades, winter conditions, suffer privations, deal with wounds and sickness, long for leave to visit home and continue fighting, particularly in Tennessee. President Lincoln seeks peace with a number of Native American nations while a Southerner speculates on next year’s upcoming presidential election in the North. Americans abroad observe Thanksgiving while Europe seethes with rumors of war. Navy Secretary Welles appreciates the international advantages of the visit by the Russian navy. The family of Walt Whitman has a serious problem. And the world continues to turn, babies born and the promise of change.


December 11– Friday– Athens, Tennessee– “He took from his pocket a Testament and gave it to me and told me to read it and meet him in Glory. He also told me to tell his wife to train up his children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and met him in Heaven. . . . . I thank God he has gone to Heaven oh my Dear parents you have a son buried beneath the sod of Tennessee but He rests in Jesus. And will rise at the last day to meet us in Glory if we but prove faithful. The next morning Aaron and I Buried him. Nicely to what all soldiers that fell there was although we had no coffin we dug a Vault and lined it with boards and then enscribed [sic] his named on the tree that we buried him under. And by this time the Regiment had passed and gone and I had to start in a hurrah to overtake them which I did that night.” ~ Letter from Union soldier James Vascoy to his parents in Indiana, describing the battlefield death of his brother Jacob.

December 11– Friday– near Rogersville, Tennessee– A reporter for the Richmond Whig writes that 3500 of General Longstreet’s soldiers are without shoes and coats.

December 11– Friday– Atlanta, Georgia– “Resolved by the General Assembly of Georgia, That the Committee on the State of the Republic, are hereby instructed to consider what action it may be prudent and proper for the authorities of Georgia to take, for the encouragement of the organization of a Volunteer Navy, for the service of the Confederacy, and to increase the number of vessels and seamen engaged in the Naval service; and to report by bill or otherwise, as early as practicable upon the subject.” ~ Resolution adopted today.

December 12– Saturday– New York City– The New York Times updates it readers on events in Europe. “In pursuance of President Lincoln’s Proclamation, the Americans in London observed the 26th of November as a day of Thanksgiving. Business was suspended at the American Legation and Consulates, and a grand banquet was given at St. James Hall, under the Presidency of Robert J. Walker. The banquet was attended by Mr. [Charles Francis] Adams, the secretaries of the Legation, and many prominent Americans. Mr. Lincoln’s Proclamation was read, and Mr. Walker delivered an address on the rebellion and the prospects of its speedy suppression. A prayer was offered up by Mr. Stella Martin, a fugitive slave, and a hymn was snug by the guests. A toast to the President was received with great enthusiasm . . . . The French deficit, owing to the Mexican and Cochin China [Vietnam] wars is reported at £10,000,000. . . . . Two divisions of the Prussian army are under orders to be ready to take the field. They number 35,000 men. A resolution was pending in the Prussian Chamber to place all means at the disposal of the Government for the energetic guardianship of German rights. The Wurtemburg Government urges the immediate occupation of Holstein [claimed by Denmark] by the Federal troops. . . . . Two hundred public functionaries had been arrested at Warsaw [by Russian soldiers], and condemned to deportation to Siberia.”

December 12– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– “To-day the Members of Congress very generally visited the Russian fleet. I did not go down, but detailed two steamers which were at the yard to convey the members. Our Russian friends are rendering us a great service. Senator Sumner called, and we had half an hour’s interesting conversation on the topics of the day and times. He compliments my Report.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles.

Russian naval officers

Russian naval officers

December 12– Saturday– near Greeneville, Tennessee– “I knew you must be very uneasy. I was, dear Molly, in great danger but God delivered me out of all and brought me out without being hurt. I wrote you all the particulars. After our engagement, we learned that Bragg had fallen back from Chattanooga, that the enemy were marching on our rear in heavy force and that in a short time would be upon us front and rear, so there was nothing left us but to retreat as fast as possible. We left at dark on the night of the 4th and marched all night, one of the coldest times I ever saw. . . . . I cannot tell how much I want to see you and the children although I confess that I have lost many of the sweet remembrances of home and friends. I confess that I can hardly realize that I have a sweet wife and two little children. This may seem very strange to you who [are] at and home and [with] those little blessings of heaven around you, but it is nevertheless a fact. This truly is a world of forgetfulness. I often stray off to some sweet place and sit down to think of days that is past and gone, yes, the day when my work was done and come home to meet your smiling face at the door, yes the happiest days of my life. I try to call them to memory but it seems almost like a dream.” ~ Letter from Confederate soldier William R Stilwell to his wife Molly.

December 12– Saturday– Adalsbruk, Norway– Birth of Edvard Munch, painter and printmaker whose work will focus on a strongly emotional treatment of psychological themes. His 1893 painting entitled The Scream will become his most famous work.

Edvard Munch, c1921

Edvard Munch, c1921

December 13– Sunday– Franklin County, Pennsylvania– “A warm foggy day. . . . . A good deal of fuss about the rebs to day. Think it is all Bosh.” ~ Diary of Amos Stouffer.

December 13– Sunday– Richmond, Virginia– “The coming year is to be an eventful one. We shall be able (I hope) to put 400,000 effective men in the field; and these, well handled, might resist a million of assailants from without. We have the center, they the circumference; let them beware of 1864– when the United States shall find herself in the throes of an embittered Presidential contest!” ~ Diary of John Jones.

December 13– Sunday– Atlanta, Georgia– “I forgot to say that yesterday I had to whip our woman Caroline for insubordination and impudence to her mistress. I am disgusted with Negroes and feel inclined to sell what I have. I wish they were all back in Africa, or Yankee Land. To think too that this cruel war should be waged for them!” ~ Diary entry of an Atlanta businessman.

December 13– Sunday– Hurricane Bridge, West Virginia; Dandridge, Tennessee; Strasburg, Virginia; Farley’s Mill, Tennessee; Ringgold, Georgia; Meriwether’s Ferry, Arkansas; Germantown, Virginia; La Grange, Tennessee– Skirmishes and raids.

December 14– Monday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln submits to the Senate and urges ratification of treaties made with various Native American nations: one with the Osage in Kansas; one with the Tabegauche band of the Utah; one with the Sac and Fox; and one with the Comanche, Kiowa and Apache. He declines to see Congressman Fernando Wood (Democrat of New York), who seeks amnesty for Northern sympathizers with rebellion. In the evening the President and his family attend Ford’s Theatre to see James H. Hackett play Falstaff in Henry IV. [Fernando Wood, age 51, was mayor of New York City in 1861 and tried to have the city join the Confederacy. During the election of 1860 he had provided substantial financial backing to the campaign of Stephen A Douglas. At this time he serves in the House of Representatives, having won a seat in the fall of 1862. He has been extremely critical of the Lincoln Administration. His strongest opponent in the House of Representatives is Congressman Thaddeus Stevens, Republican of Pennsylvania. Wood is married to his third wife and has fathered sixteen children.]

December 14– Monday– Washington, D.C.– “I told my surgeon this morning that I was going to start for home Thursday night so as to get home Saturday p.m. He shook his head, but I told him I had the strength of a magnet . . . to draw me and strengthen me for the journey. . . . . Bless you I am so happy at the thought of seeing you that weak as I am I feel as well as ever while I write.” ~ Letter from Union Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain to his wife Fanny.

Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

December 14– Monday– Richmond, Virginia– “We have President Lincoln’s message to-day, and his proclamation of amnesty to all who take an oath of allegiance, etc., and advocate emancipation. There are some whom he exempts, of course. It is regarded here as an electioneering document, to procure a renomination for the Presidency in the radical Abolition Convention to assemble in a few months. But it will add 100,000 men to our armies; and next year will be the bloody year.” ~ Diary of John Jones.

December 14– Monday– Tazewell, Tennessee– “At the crossing of the Clinch River (Evans Ford) I found a sufficient guard, under the command of Colonel Kise. The river was rising quite rapidly, but the guard had raised and repaired the ferry-boat, which was crossing successfully, being pulled back and forth by hand upon a cable stretched from one shore to another. I think that it would be well, as a matter of security, to have another boat built there, and will so notify Colonel Babcock. I found the road from Bean’s Station to Tazewell much better than I expected, and I think that it will prove a passable winter road. When I arrived here this evening it was too dark to see, but I will go over the ground early in the morning. I find that considerable [work] has been done here, and that fortunately there is an officer here with his regiment . . . who is perfectly competent to do whatever may be required in the way of construction.” ~ Report of Union Captain and Chief Engineer O M Poe.

December 14– Monday– Bean’s Station, Tennessee– In a day long see-saw battle, Confederate forces compel the Federals to retreat but are unable to gain any further advantage. Total Confederate losses– dead, wounded and missing– are approximately 900 and approximately 700 for the Union forces.

Bean's Station, 1938

Bean’s Station, 1938

December 14– Monday– Boons Hill, Tennessee; Caddo Mill, Arkansas; Granger’s Mill, Tennessee; Meadow Bluff, West Virginia; Morristown, Tennessee; Catlett’s Station, Virginia; Clinch Mountain Gap, Tennessee– Raids, skirmishes, fire fights and vigorous gun battles.

December 15– Tuesday– Boston, Massachusetts– Birth of Arthur Dehon Little, the eldest of the for sons of Thomas and Amelia Hixon Little. He will become a chemical engineer and pioneer in industrial research, as well as a respected author of scientific writing. He will obtain a number of patents for processes in tanned leather, artificial silk, various petroleum products as well as paper and wood products. Also, he will conceive of the scientific education plan which will become the School of Chemical Engineering Practice at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, his alma mater.

Arthur Dehon Little

Arthur Dehon Little

December 15– Tuesday– Springfield Massachusetts– “I came up here to make some surveys and run some levels for a Mr Worthen who has been appointed to make an examination and report on supplying the city with water. . . . . Since that [incident] we don’t allow Jess to come in our rooms, or rather we only allow him to come when he has some errand for Mother. He seems to have quieted down, but I still fear to trust him. He is a treacherous cuss any way. Probably had I been home he would not have done anything of the kind but if he had, so help me God I would have shot him dead on the spot. And I must confess I felt considerably like it as it was. . . . . All this occurred some 10 or 12 days ago and you see how I feel about the matter now. I haven’t written you before because I was afraid to think about it. . . . . Now Walt ain’t there some way in which we can take this immense load from the life of Mother It certainly is telling on her every hour– she is I think failing rapidly– and I am quite sure unless something is done [will] not live but a few years. There are three of us, You, George and I and it seems as if we ought to be able to relieve Mother in a measure of this thing– if Jess is sick why we ought to put him in some hospital or place where he would be doctored There certainly must be plenty of such places and it couldn’t cost much.” ~ Letter from Jeff Whitman to his brother Walt. [Jeff writes about an incident of almost two weeks before when Jess Whitman, the oldest of the brothers, had acted in a rather bizarre and unstable manner, verbally threatening their mother, Jeff’s wife and Jeff’s children. Eventually the brothers will place Jess in an asylum in December of 1864 where he will remain until his death in March, 1870.]


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