The Soldiers Are Noble~January 1864~29th to 31st

The Soldiers Are Noble ~ Walt Whitman

Whitman writes home about soldiers, Congress and the war’s prospects. Senator Sherman gives his opinions to his brother. General Sherman gives his opinion to a subordinate officer. Harpers Weekly writes about the abuse of slaves. Soldiers write home about love, furloughs or the lack thereof, and what fighting may come next. The Confederacy tries to provide financial relief to the families of soldiers while desertion increases. The rebel governor of Louisiana tries to rally the citizens of New Orleans. 

January 29– Friday– Washington, D.C.– “I find so many noble men in the ranks, I have ceased to wonder at it. I think the soldiers from the New England States & the Western states are splendid, & the country parts of N Y & Pennsylvania too. I think less of the great cities than I used to– I know there are black sheep enough, even in the ranks, but the general rule is the soldiers are noble, very. . . . . Congress is in session . . . . I don’t go much to the debates this session yet. Congress will probably keep in session till well into the summer– as to what course things will take, political or military, there’s no telling. I think though the secesh military power is getting more & more shaky– how they can make any headway against our new, large & fresh armies next season passes my wit to see.” ~ Letter from Walt Whitman to his mother Louisa.

Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman

January 29– Friday– Washington, D.C.– “I have met several from Cincinnati who saw you there, and all concur in saying you bear the storms of life well, and appear in better health and spirits than before the war. Your official report is very interesting, and I wish to see it published. . . . . We are all looking to the operation on the Mississippi and at Knoxville. The latter seems to me the point of danger. If Longstreet should be reinforced, why could he not pounce upon Foster, or his successor, and make another march necessary for his relief. The movement of recruiting is going on well enough. . . . . The general prosperity of the country is so marked that I am afraid of a reaction or a collapse. The currency is awfully inflated, and our ability to borrow and to pay interest has a limit. If the war continues two years longer, we shall be terribly embarrassed. Still we have the sure foundation of public credit, a great country, and a large and active population. Let me hear from you as often as possible.” ~ Letter from Senator John Sherman to his brother, Union General William Tecumseh Sherman.

January 29– Friday– Washington, D.C.– “I would like more than I can tell to have you with me and do not you think of the expense for I am sure I can afford to have my own darling with me. And you know I have now over $100 a month extra pay. At all events do let me hear from you. If you come the sooner the better. The weather is marvelous. How you would enjoy it.” ~ Letter from Union officer Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain to his wife Fanny.

January 29– Friday– Hampstead, England– Lucy Aikin, translator, historian and author of children’s books, dies at 82 years of age.

Lucy Aikin

Lucy Aikin

January 30– Saturday– New York City– “Rebecca Huger is eleven years old, and was a slave in her father’s house, the special attendant of a girl a little older than herself. To all appearance she is perfectly white. Her complexion, hair, and features show not the slightest trace of Negro blood. . . . . Rosina Downs is not quite seven years old. She is a fair child, with blonde complexion and silky hair. Her father is in the rebel army. She has one sister as white as herself, and three brothers who are darker. Her mother, . . . mulatto, lives in New Orleans . . . . Charles Taylor is eight years old. His complexion is very fair, his hair light and silky. Three out of five boys in any school in New York are darker than he. Yet this white boy, with his mother, as he declares, has been twice sold as a slave. First by his father and owner, Alexander Wethers, of Lewis County, Virginia, to a slave-trader named Harrison, who sold them to Mr. Thornhill of New Orleans. This man fled at the approach of our army, and his slaves were liberated by General Butler. . . . . His mother is a mulatto; she had one daughter sold into Texas before she herself left Virginia, and one son who, she supposes, is with his father in Virginia. These three children, to all appearance of unmixed white race, came to Philadelphia last December, and were taken by their protector, Mr. Bacon, to the St. Lawrence Hotel on Chestnut Street. Within a few hours, Mr. Bacon informed me, he was notified by the landlord that they must leave. The children, he said, had been slaves, and must therefore be colored persons, and he kept a hotel for white people. From this hospitable establishment the children were taken to the Continental, where they were received without hesitation. Wilson Chinn is about 60 years old . . . . [at] 21 years old he was taken down the river and sold to Volsey B. Marmillion, a sugar planter about 45 miles above New Orleans. This man was accustomed to brand his negroes, and Wilson has on his forehead the letters ‘V. B. M.’ Of the 210 slaves on this plantation 105 left at one time and came into the Union camp. Thirty of them had been branded like cattle with a hot iron, four of them on the forehead, and the others on the breast or arm. . . . Mary Johnson was cook in her master’s family in New Orleans. On her left arm are scars of three cuts given to her by her mistress with a rawhide. On her back are scars of more than fifty cuts given by her master. . . . Robert Whitehead . . . a regularly-ordained preacher, was born in Baltimore. He was taken to Norfolk, Virginia, . . . and sold for $1525; from Norfolk he was taken to New Orleans where he was bought for $1775 . . . . . The reverend gentleman can read and write well, and is a very stirring speaker. Just now he belongs to the church militant, having enlisted in the United States army.” ~ Letter, submitted with a group picture to Harper’s Weekly, by Mr C C Leigh.

illustration accompanying the article in Harpers Weekly

illustration accompanying the article in Harpers Weekly

January 30– Saturday– Washington, D. C.– President Lincoln receives a proposal to aid the Sanitary Fairs run by the Sanitary Commission, by letting Bell & Brothers, photographers at 480 Pennsylvania Avenue, make and sell his photograph.

January 30– Saturday– Richmond, Virginia– “On Thursday last a bill was passed by the House of Delegates of Virginia, appropriating the sum of $1,000,000 for the relief of the families of soldiers within the lines of the lines of the enemy. We have not had an opportunity of examining the bill, but understand that it contemplates the distribution of this fund to the counties overrun by the enemy, through agents to be appointed to represent the county in the matter. A proposition was made to prevent the exchange of Confederate money appropriated under this bill for other currency at less than specie value, which was properly, in our judgment, opposed by Mr. Monroe, of Hampshire, upon the ground that it would render the appropriation entirely useless in the very portions of country where it was designed to be operative and effective. The passage of this bill will doubtless exert a sanitary influence upon those gallant men who have left their homes and families within the enemy’s lines. Even if the objects of the bill are not attained to the extent contemplated, its passage will go to show that the State of Virginia is not unmindful of the welfare of those who have sacrificed all for the accomplishment of Southern independence.” ~ Richmond Dispatch.

January 30– Saturday– General Longstreet’s headquarters, Tennessee– “Nearly a hundred men, part of the First Alabama, the remnant of a North Alabama battalion, consolidated with the First Alabama,left, officers and all, for home night of the 27th.” ~ Report to Richmond from Confederate General James Longstreet.

January 30– Saturday– Shreveport, Louisiana– “To the Citizens of New Orleans! . . . . Do not despair ; but rather let the fires of patriotism burn brightly at every fire-side; for in a few short months you shall be free. You have been despoiled and robbed, and basely insulted. Every indignity that a brutal, unprincipled and a vindictive foe could invent, has been heaped upon you. Bear your persecutions, as did your fathers before you, and nerve your hearts for the coming hour. Our people are flocking to the army in every direction, and when the spring campaign opens, half a million of gallant Confederate soldiers will strike for Liberty and Independence. Citizens of New Orleans! Be true to yourselves, and your State will be true to you. . . . Ladies of New Orleans, God Almighty bless you, and sustain you in all your trials ! May Heaven guard you and protect you! When spring time comes, gentle ladies, you will see the ‘Grey Coats’ again, and then you shall welcome back to New Orleans the sons aud daughters of Louisiana. You are the treasures of the caste. Oh! be not weary in well doing. Cheer up the desponding. Be kind to our prisoners who are languishing in the wretched cells of the enemy. You will receive the undying gratitude of your country, and in Heaven above, you will be crowned among the Angels of the Living God.” ~ Address to the citizens of New Orleans from Henry Watkins Allen, newly installed Confederate governor of Louisiana. Allen, 43 years old, a lawyer, politician and wounded Confederate officer, was inaugurated five days ago. [He will die in poor health in Mexico on April 22, 1866.]

Henry Watkins Allen

Henry Watkins Allen

January 30– Saturday– Dublin, Ireland– National Gallery of Ireland opens to the public in a building designed by Francis Fowke.

January 31– Sunday– General Lee’s winter quarters, Virginia– “The quiet of our encampment has been somewhat disturbed for the last day or two, by reports that the enemy was moving his forces seemingly, preparatory to an advance; but I believe the excitement has all subsided and we again once more at rest.. . . . I do sincerely hope that the weather may grow worse and worse until we get furloughs; for with pleasant weather all our hopes are blasted. We know too well what the spring campaign will be. Still we doubt not our success. . . . . The prospect of the war lasting two years longer is truly a sad thought; but we all know that Submission is death, consequently we are all resolved, if fall we must, to fall nobly when duty calls us.” ~ Letter from Confederate soldier Alva Benjamin Spencer to his sweetheart.

January 31– Sunday– Jefferson City, Missouri– Hamilton R Gamble, the loyal governor of the state, dies from an infection at age 65. Gamble, a lawyer, judge and politician, had been chief justice of the state supreme court in 1852 and written a dissenting opinion in the case of the slave Dred Scott, declaring that “a master who takes his slave to reside in a State or Territory where slavery is prohibited, thereby emancipates his slave.” From 1861 to the day of his death he has served as the pro-Union governor of the state, denounced by the secessionists for his loyalty and supported by Federal troops and the Lincoln Administration. [For his role in the famous litigation, see The Dred Scott Case: Its Significance in American Law and Politics by Don Fehrenbacher (paperback edition, 2001) at pp 262-265, 287, 570.]

Hamilton Gamble

Hamilton Gamble

January 31– Sunday– Vicksburg, Mississippi– “In my former letters I have answered all your questions save one, and that relates to the treatment of inhabitants known or suspected to be hostile or ‘Secesh.’ This is in truth the most difficult business of our army as it advances and occupies the Southern country. It is almost impossible to lay down rules, and I invariably leave the whole subject to the local commanders, but am willing to give them the benefit of my acquired knowledge and experience. . . . . We of the North are beyond all question right in our cause, but we are not bound to ignore the fact that the people of the South have prejudices which form a part of their nature, and which they cannot throw off without an effort of reason or the slower process of natural change. . . . . I know the slave owners, finding themselves in possession of a species of property in opposition to the growing sentiment of the whole civilized world, conceived their property to be in danger and foolishly appealed to war, and that by skillful political handling they involved with themselves the whole South on this result of error and prejudice. I believe that some of the rich and slave-holding are prejudiced to an extent that nothing but death and ruin will ever extinguish . . . . Three years ago, by a little reflection and patience, they could have had a hundred years of peace and prosperity, but they preferred war. Last year they could have saved their slaves, but now it is too late, all the powers of earth cannot restore to them their slaves any more than their dead grandfathers.” ~ Letter from Union General William Tecumseh Sherman to Major E M Sawyer.

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