Such Will Be Our Fate~January, 1864~the 2nd to 5th

Such Will Be Our Fate~Julia Johnson Fisher

In this third winter of war, the conflict has altered in character. Since the Federal victories of the summer and fall at Gettysburg, Vicksburg and Chattanooga, Northern hope is slowly increasing as is Southern fear. It is increasingly clear that emancipation and total military conquest of the Confederacy have become Northern war aims. Southern hopes for foreign support, an end to the blockade, dwindling Northern popular support of the war effort and Confederate military victory are slowly, steadily diminishing. Perhaps Lincoln’s bid for re-election may fail and the South can negotiate peace and recognition from a new U S president. Or perhaps French success in Mexico may yet help the Confederate cause. Folks north and south worry, pray, wonder and fret.

The year begins with bad weather and hard times for many, particularly in the South. The Union army is strengthened by more black soldiers and veterans, who began in 1861, re-enlisting. George Templeton Strong criticizes New York’s governor and the recently-deceased Roman Catholic bishop. Harper’s Weekly criticizes Nova Scotia residents who helped rebels escape capture by Federal forces. Gideon Welles provides interesting political analysis, only the beginning in an important election year.

January 2– Saturday– New York City– “Governor Seymour has undertaken to remove our efficient Police Commissioners for making a ‘partisan’ report about the July rioters, his particular ‘friends.’ he is an unprincipled politician, and I believe he deserves the infamous place he will occupy in our history. The validity of this official act will be questioned.” ~ Diary of George Templeton Strong. [Horatio Seymour (1810–1886), a Democrat, is opposed to abolitionists, the Lincoln Administration, the Emancipation Proclamation and is viewed as having encouraged the rioters in July, 1863. The report does lay some of the blame on him and his efforts to remove the two Commissioners will be frustrated by the state legislature.]

George Templeton Strong

George Templeton Strong

January 2– Saturday– New York City– “Halifax Heroes. Our blue-nosed neighbors in Halifax have been enjoying high sport. A party of pirates, having gone upon an American steamer secretly armed, rose against the defenseless passengers, seized the ship, and murdered the engineer, and having put into a British port, were captured and brought to Halifax. Thereupon the inhabitants can not conceal their admiration for such gallant heroes, and mobbing the officers, release these brave men, and carry them off in triumph. Really, upon a fair view there seems to be nothing very heroic in an armed band of desperadoes overpowering unarmed passengers and killing an engineer. But there is no accounting for tastes. If these mere pirates who had killed only one man and stolen a ship are so honored by the Blue Noses, what an ovation they would have given Hunt, who lately murdered his wife and two children in a cab in London! Hunt’s murder was much the more heroic of the two, for he did it in the midst of a crowded street at evening.” ~ Harpers Weekly, criticizing Canadian conduct in the recent incident with the vessel Chesapeake. [The term “blue-nosed” can refer to inhabitants of Nova Scotia but can also mean a puritanical person. The newspaper seems to be deliberately playing with the term.]

January 2– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– “Senator Sumner called on Saturday as usual. After disposing of some little matters of business, he spoke of the President and the election. He says the President is moving for a reelection, and has, he knows, spoken to several persons on the subject very explicitly. I told him the President had exchanged no word with me on the subject, but that I had taken for granted he would be a candidate, that I thought all Presidents had entertained dreams of that nature, and that my impressions are that a pretty strong current is setting in his favor. . . . . Towards the slaveholders he [Senator Sumner] is implacable, and is ready to go to extremes to break up not only the system of bondage, but the political, industrial, and social system in all the rebellious States. His theorizing propensities and the resentments that follow from deep personal injuries work together in his warfare against that domineering oligarchy which has inflicted great calamities on our country and wrongs on himself. . . . . As Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations, his services at this time are invaluable. He is, fortunately, in many respects the opposite of Seward, has higher culture and, on international law and the science of government, is vastly better informed and greatly the superior of the Secretary of State. But the latter has greater tact, more practicality, and better knowledge of parties and men, greater versatility of genius and unsurpassed pliability, so that he can more readily adapt himself to whatever may seem expedient. Sumner acts not always from fixed principles but earnest though prejudiced convictions, investigating questions in which he is interested elaborately, and brings learning and authorities to his support. Seward is earnest for his party, but has no great deference for political principles of any kind; his convictions or opinions are weak and change without hesitation if deemed expedient or if his party can be benefitted.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles.


Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles

Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles

January 2– Saturday– Richmond, Virginia– “From 12 until 3 o’clock yesterday, the streets leading to the Executive Mansion were thronged with ladies and gentlemen – officers and civilians – who were going to or returning from the annual reception of the public by the President of the Confederate States. During the whole time, but, especially between 12 and 1 o’clock, the hall and parlors of the President’s House were crowded to overflowing with persons seeking an opportunity to pay their respects to our Chief Magistrate and his estimable consort. They were admitted as rapidly as practicable into the west parlor, and severally introduced to Mr. and Mrs. Davis by Colonel Ives and Colonel Brown, of the President’s staff. After a salutation and a shake of the hand, the visitors passed on, through the centre parlor, and thence into the hall again. Many of them took occasion to express their most cordial wishes for the welfare and happiness of the President and his wife – all such expression eliciting reciprocal responses. – the reception was conducted in the approved Republican style, and passed off in a manner satisfactory to all.” ~ Richmond Whig


January 3– Sunday— outside of Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee– “Another day has passed, and not one word from Bettie or Uncle Elum– no communication with Memphis today, too cold to go out side of the doors. Still sleeting– house still full, if not a little fuller. . . . . God bless the Rebels. I would risk my life a dozen times a day to serve them– think what they suffer for us– Henny Furgeson and Lieutenant Spotswood left for Dixie. Henny bought Helen’s pony, gave $200 for it, he rode it off. It does not seem like the Sabbath, though this is the first one of ’64. We spent the day as usual, laughing, talking, and trying to keep warm. Julien Simmons and Dashiell Perkins came over from Colonel Perkins. Dashiell staid [and] we sat up very late, and Poor old– looks like the noise will run him crazy.” ~ Diary of Belle Edmondson.


January 3– Sunday– Camden County, Georgia– “The children in the village are now old enough to begin to learn. A few weeks since we commenced having a Sabbath School. There are five in the class. Only one knew the alphabet, they seem very anxious to learn and learn readily, but Mr. Brazil is so frightened at the coming of the enemy that he has resolved to move away and that takes away the three little girls. I am sorry to lose them and they seem equally sorry to go. The Sabbaths are so quiet and lonely they weary us. The children now know all their letters and seem to have received their first idea of their maker. The oldest is scarcely ten years of age and very sickly. She told me today that although she could not read and write she can iron and scrub. It is said that she and the next, aged eight, cook, wash, etc. If this war continues long I fear that such will be our fate, the Negroes are becoming so scarce.” ~ Diary of Julia Johnson Fisher.

January 4– Monday– Washington, D.C.– “We have a snowstorm to-day, the first of the season. Mails are irregular and have been for some days past. Ice in the Susquehanna obstructs crossing, and the ferry-boat, frozen in when crossing, remained in the stream sixteen hours with passengers on board. Ten years ago, on my way from Washington North, I was some six hours crossing the river at the same place on a severe winter’s night. Chase, Charles Francis Adams, and Henry S. Foote– just elected Governor of Mississippi– were fellow-passengers.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles.

January 4– Monday– Richmond, Virginia– “Thomas Garland was fined $20 for permitting his slave George to go at large. George was also accused of aiding and abetting Mary, a slave belonging to Dr. F. W. Hancock, to escape from this city.” ~ Richmond Sentinel.

January 4– Monday– near Stephensville, Virginia– “As I have not much time to write I will hurry and scribble a few lines to you. I am well. Hoping that these few lines may find you enjoying the same blessing of health. It is snowing today. I expect that we must move our camp tomorrow General Hancock thinks that this is an unhealthy place. . . . . On Monday Morning about 8 o’clock the rebs opened their pieces of Artillery on us. Soon we got orders to lay down. Then we could hear the canons thunder. Their shells flew over us. . . . . Shelling did not last long. But I tell you that I hated the sharp shooters bullets the worst. They would come zip-zip-zip. So sneaking and they came pretty close. If ever I felt like hugging the ground, I felt that way when I could hear a shell sailing over me. I felt as though they were determined to kill if they could.” ~ Letter from Union soldier Franklin Rosenbery to his father John.

January 4– Monday– Cleveland, Tennessee– “A cloudy and rainy day. I finished my chemise this evening. About 100 more Yanks came in this eve. One here for milk and another for butter. How I long for peace or even to see our army back here again. This is the darkest hour our Confederacy has ever seen. About two thirds of Georgia has given it up, they are putting every man from the age of 15 to 65 in the army. A great many of our soldiers are deserting, how disgraceful. Wonder if the yoke of bondage will be on our necks this time next year. I feel so impatient to see the end of all this strife and bloodshed. If I could only see into the future 6 months, but I presume I will be jogging along the even tenor of my way anticipating yet never realizing my wishes.” ~ Diary of Myra Adelaide Inman.

 January 5– Tuesday– New York City– “Archbishop [John] Hughes is dead. Pity he survived last June and committed the imbecility of his address to the rioters last July. That speech blotted and spoiled a record which the Vatican must have held respectable, and against which Protestants had nothing to say, except, of course, “Babylon,’ ‘Scarlet Woman,’ and ‘anti-christ.’ Governor Seymour’s . . . manifestations of his malignity are those of a boor and not of a subtle politician.” ~ Diary of George Templeton Strong. [Irish-born John Hughes had died on January 3rd at age 66, having been bishop of New York since December of 1842. He openly opposed the abolitionists and the Free Soil Party as well as declaring his intent to “convert” all Protestants, including Congress and the President.]

 January 5– Tuesday– Wheeling, West Virginia– “About thirty Negro soldiers arrived in the city yesterday morning from Washington, Pennsylvania, on their way to the general rendezvous at New Brighton. They represented all shades of color but they were a fine able bodied squad.” ~ Wheeling Daily Intelligencer.


January 5– Tuesday– Brandy Station, Virginia– “This is the last day for re-enlisting men, and we find we have nearly one hundred of the original men who are willing to stay and fight the war out. . . . . I shall stay . . . and see the end of the war if God spares my life.” ~ Diary of Elisha Hunt Rhodes.

Elisha Hunt Rhodes

Elisha Hunt Rhodes


January 5– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– “Congress reassembled after a fortnight’s vacation, or rather were to have assembled but there was not a quorum in either house. At the Cabinet council only a portion were present. The President in discussion narrated some stories, very apt, exhibiting wisdom and sense. He requested me to read an article [by James Russell Lowell] in the North American Review just received, on the policy of the Administration, which he thought very excellent, except that it gave him over-much credit.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles.

January 5– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– “By a joint resolution of your honorable bodies approved December 23, 1863, the paying of bounties to veteran volunteers, as now practiced by the War Department, is, to the extent of $300 in each case, prohibited after this 5th day of the present month. I transmit for your consideration a communication from the Secretary of War, accompanied by one from the Provost-Marshal-General to him, both relating to the subject above mentioned. I earnestly recommend that the law be so modified as to allow bounties to be paid as they now are, at least until the ensuing 1st day of February. I am not without anxiety lest I appear to be importunate in thus recalling your attention to a subject upon which you have so recently acted, and nothing but a deep conviction that the public interest demands it could induce me to incur the hazard of being misunderstood on this point. The Executive approval was given by me to the resolution mentioned, and it is now by a closer attention and a fuller knowledge of facts that I feel constrained to recommend a reconsideration of the subject.” ~ Message to Congress from President Lincoln on the issue of bonuses for veterans.


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