Not Patriots but Party Demagogues~February, 1864~10th to 14th

Not Patriots but Party Demagogues~Gideon Welles

In language that could well be written today, Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles comments upon the political situation. The president has a birthday. Famous actor John Wilkes Booth performs Shakespeare in Nashville. The New York Times objects to a constitutional amendment banning slavery. Many in the Confederacy experience hard times.

February 10– Wednesday– in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia– “I am glad you made some money. I think six dollars is a big pile for you to make in one month and do your other business too. I have made a little money lately. I had $6.50 when I got back to New Market on our tramp here, and now I have $15.50 cents and two plugs of tobacco some paper and envelopes extra. I made it buying tobacco and apples and selling them again. It is my first speculation. I do not like the business and should not have done it if I had not been scarce of cash. I also made a dollar today, sewing. I made a haversack for a fellow. It was his own proposition to give me a dollar for it. I have some sewing of my own to do. I want to patch my old pants and wear them while we stay here and save my new ones. I give away my old shirts and drawers. They were almost gone under sure. I am highly pleased with all you sent me. I will sell about half my soap for fear of having to march and it is too much to pack. I can get $3.00 or half of it. It is pretty cold now but is clear.” ~ Letter from Confederate soldier Marion Hill Fitzpatrick to his wife Amanda.

Fitzpatrick memorial

Fitzpatrick memorial

February 10– Wednesday– Cleveland, Tennessee– “The Federals hoisted their flag this morning. It now floats over Cleveland. Sad emblem of what once was. Once happy and beloved United States, never will liberty and freedom be perched on the banner as it was when thousands of patriots poured out their life’s blood under the sacred folds. Grant how soon, God, that our gallant stars and bars supplant that now deserted flag.” ~ Diary of Myra Adelaide Inman.

February 10– Wednesday– Nashville, Tennessee– Union General Thomas orders the recruitment of black soldiers to form a regiment of heavy artillery.

February 11– Thursday– New York City– “Look back at July, 1861, and then look where Maryland, Mississippi, and Arkansas stand in 1864; at West Virginia, and at the Mississippi relieved from rebel strangulation. Our progress has been beyond what we had any right to hope for three years ago, in spite of the blunders . . . [of] McClellan, Scott, Halleck, and others.” ~ Diary of George Templeton Strong.

February 11– Thursday– Wheeling, West Virginia– “Resolved, That this meeting of Legislators and citizens of West Virginia, endorse the principles and plans of the U. S. Sanitary Commission, and hereby recommend it to the hearty co-operation of the people of our State and country. Resolved, That we regard the great Federal idea of the Commission by which all soldiers of the loyal States, without reference to the States in which they may have been enlisted, are proper subjects for the equal sympathy and support of the people of the country. Resolved, That all soldiers fighting, and falling by disease or wounds in defense of Constitutional liberty, are United States soldiers, and that all donations and supplies furnished to them either in field or in hospital should be given as U. S. supplies for U. S. soldiers fighting for the prosperity of the U. S. Government. The Sanitary Commission came into existence soon after the commencement of the war. It was asked for by the Medical Bureau, approved by the Secretary of War and the President, and has acted in co-operation with them since that time. Its agents visit the whole army, and supplement the country in its various distributions, to sick and disabled soldiers in every branch of the service.” ~ Resolutions passed by West Virginia legislature this evening.

February 11– Thursday– Virginia– “I delayed writing to you on last Sunday contrary to my previous determination, on account of circumstances wholly beyond my control. The enemy crossed the Rapid Ann at Moreton’s ford, on our extreme right, and at Barnett’s ford on our extreme left, at both of which places there was a short but spirited engagement; our brigade, for a wonder, was not engaged. About twelve o’clock Saturday night, we received orders to be ready to march at daylight. Accordingly at the first appearance of dawn, we started off in the rain to go somewhere, we knew not where. After marching nearly all day we arrived in camp, completely broken down. I was never in my life so tired. I could hardly sleep for pain. we are now once more quietly ensconced in our cosy little shanty, and hope to remain so, for some time yet to come. I think it was the intention of the enemy to make a raid on Gordonsville; but I’m happy to say they were handsomely foiled at every point.” ~ Letter from Confederate soldier Alva Benjamin Spencer to his fiancee.

February 12– Friday– Wheeling, West Virginia– “The Board of Directors for the Western Virginia Hospital for the Insane, situated at Weston, Lewis county, which has been in session in this city for the past two or three days, has decided to call upon the Legislature for an appropriation to place the hospital in a condition to receive patients.” ~ Wheeling Daily Register.

February 12– Friday– Washington, D.C.– President Abraham Lincoln turns 55 years of age.


February 12– Friday– Culpepper, Virginia– “I am still stopping down in this region. I am a good deal of the time down within half a mile of our picket lines, so that you see I can indeed call myself in the front. . . . . I have no difficulty at all in making myself at home among the soldiers, teamsters, or any. I most always find they like to have me very much, it seems to do them good, no doubt they soon feel that my heart & sympathies are truly with them, & it is both a novelty & pleases them & touches their feelings, & so doubtless does them good & I am sure it does that to me. There is more fun around here than you would think– I told you about the theatre the 14th Brooklyn has got up, they have songs & burlesques &c, some of the performers real good. As I write this I have heard in one direction or another two or three good bands playing & hear one tooting away some gay tunes now, though it is quite late at night.” ~ Letter from Walt Whitman to his mother Louisa.

February 12– Friday– Nashville, Tennessee– The distinguished tragedian, J. Wilkes Booth, takes his farewell benefit tonight, his engagement closing the following evening. The entertainment will commence with Shakespeare’s tragedy, ‘the Merchant of Venice,’ and close with ‘Catherine and Petruchio’ [Taming of the Shrew] a Shakespearean comedy. In the former, Mr.Booth appears as Shylock; in the latter as Petruchio. . . . . Mr. Booth came amongst us a stranger, his reputation as a rising star having preceded him, creating a general desire amongst our playgoers to get a taste of his quality. . . . . Nobly did he fulfill expectations, and establish himself as a favorite. . . . . We expect to see the house literally overflowing to-night. Gentlemen with ladies should make it a point to go early to be sure of seats.” ~ Nashville Daily Union.

John Wilkes Booth

John Wilkes Booth

February 13– Saturday– New York City– “Attempts are vigorously kept up in some quarters to force upon the public mind Mr Sumner’s project of amending the Constitution so as to bury Slavery forever. . . . . We say that not only true loyalty, but consistent Anti-Slavery itself, forbids this unseasonable introduction of a new political Anti-Slavery issue. It is absolutely certain that the anxiety of Northern abolitionists to kill Slavery can never be gratified unless this war against the rebellion succeeds. If the ‘Confederacy’ acquires its independence, Slavery there will be as secure from their hostility as Slavery in Cuba or in Brazil. They, of all men, are the most bound in consistency to devote themselves with the most absolute concentration of purpose to the reinforcement of our armies and the most effective prosecution of the war. And yet Mr Sumner, ever since this war began, has had ten thoughts and ten thousand words against Slavery, while he has had one for the war. This is not true patriotism. It is not true Anti-Slaveryism. The war should be the all-engrossing thought. Without it the country cannot live. Without it, Slavery will not die. The Union cannot be resolved into new life, nor constitutionalized into new life; it has got to be conquered into new life. So, too, Slavery cannot be resolved to death, nor constitutionalized to death; fighting only can reach it, and through victory alone will it perish.” ~ New York Times.

February 13– Saturday– Franklin County, Pennsylvania– “Still pleasant and warm to-day. We hung our pork up to Smoke. Ben brought their pork up to Smoke. We baked Sponge cakes and ginger pies– Becca went to John Fickes to Stay all night.” ~ Diary of Anna Mellinger.

February 13– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– Congress appropriates $12,000 to replace the White House stable. [The appropriation would equal $181,000 today, using the Consumer Price Index.]

February 13– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– “This pitiful Senator [Senator Hale] is devoting his time and that of his committee in a miserable attempt to bring reproach upon the Navy Department, to make points against it, to pervert facts, and to defame men of the strictest integrity. A viler prostitution of Senatorial position and place I have never witnessed. The primary object is to secure a re-election for himself, and a love of defamation attends it. Had a pleasant half-hour with Preston King, who made a special call to see me. Few men in Congress are his equal for sagacity, comprehensiveness, sound judgment, and fearlessness of purpose. Such statesmen do honor to their State and country. . . . . Speaking of Fernando Wood, we each expressed a common and general sentiment of surprise and disgust that any district could elect such a Representative. But the whole city of New York is alike leprous and rotten. . . . . if men of property and character will prostitute themselves to vote for them and consent to have their city misgoverned and themselves misrepresented, let them take the consequences. The evil will correct itself. . . . . men like Wood and Brooks, who are not patriots but party demagogues, who have no fixed purpose or principle, should not by their votes, control and overpower the virtuous and good. Yet they do. Some permanent element is wanting in our system. We need more stability and character. In our municipalities there needs some modification for good government.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles.

February 13– Saturday– Rathfarnham, County Dublin, Ireland– Birth of Stephen Gwynn, journalist, author, poet, soldier and politician. [He dies June 11, 1950.]

February 14– Sunday– Harveyville, Pennsylvania– Birth of Robert Ezra Park, the elder of two surviving sons of Hiram and Theodosia Warner Park. [He will become a journalist and prominent sociologist and will teach at the University of Chicago, at Tuskegee Institute and at Fisk University. He will author significant articles, monographs and books about race relations, immigration, social movements and assimilation and will serve as president of the American Sociological Association from 1925 to 1926. He will die February 7, 1944.]


Robert Ezra Park

Robert Ezra Park

February 14– Sunday– Beaufort, South Carolina– “May I venture to call your attention to the great and cruel injustice which is impending over the brave men of this regiment? They have been in military service for more than a year, having volunteered, every man, without a cent of bounty, on the written pledge of the War Department, that they should receive the same pay and rations with white soldiers. . . . . Among my black soldiers, with half pay and no bounty, not a family receives any aid. Is there to be no limit, no end, to the injustice we heap upon this unfortunate people? Cannot even the fact of their being in arms for the nation, liable to die any day in its defense, secure them ordinary justice? Is the nation so poor, and to utterly demoralized by its pauperism, that after it has had the lives of these men, it must turn round to filch six dollars of the monthly pay which the Secretary of War promised to their widows?” ~ Letter to the editor of the New York Times from Union Colonel Thomas Wentworth Higginson, commanding the 1st South Carolina Volunteers, calling on Congress to equalize the pay and benefits of black soldiers.


1st South Carolina Volunteers on parade

1st South Carolina Volunteers on parade

February 14– Sunday– Meridian, Mississippi–Federal troops occupy the town.


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