Diabolical Designs of the Enemy~March 1864~4th to 7th

The Diabolical Designs of the Enemy ~ Richmond Examiner

Not only did the Federal raid fail and the dashing young Dahlgren die but papers found on his body indicate his orders were to assassinate President Jeff Davis and members of the Confederate Cabinet. The failed raid will stir controversy, debate and hard feelings for weeks. [The debate about the authenticity has continued. While it appears that Dahlgren did have such papers on his person, there is no certainty as to the authorship. Also, there is nothing that links these documents to President Lincoln or to Secretary of War Stanton. And if the intent was such an assassination, why a large scale cavalry raid instead of a secret mission entrusted to a small elite team? The truth may never be known.]

A prominent clergyman dies. The New York City fair to benefit the Sanitary Commission advances in preparation. A Union officer seeks to equip his cavalry soldiers with more fire power. More black soldiers enter the Federal ranks. The French will finally receive the Southern tobacco ordered before the war. Plenty of skirmishing takes place, ominous signs of things to come in the spring and summer.

March 4– Friday– San Francisco, California– Reverend Thomas Starr King, prominent Unitarian clergyman, author and lecturer, dies at age 39 of pneumonia. Eloquent and popular, he has raised over $1.2 million for the Sanitary Commission. John Greenleaf Whittier and Bret Harte will write poems to commemorate him.

Thomas Starr King

Thomas Starr King

March 5– Saturday– New York City– “The donations to the Metropolitan Fair are increasing daily. As the time for the exhibition lessens, the entire success of the enterprise becomes more apparent. The contribution of staples are exceedingly large. New Hampshire has donated a flock of sheep, and Connecticut all sorts of Yankee notions. The Fair grounds, covering an area equal to thirty-three City lots, nearly two acres in extent, will hardly be sufficient to accommodate the different States and Societies desiring to be separately represented. . . . . The contributions from Americans abroad, arriving by almost every ocean steamer, will probably be the most attractive feature of the exhibition. From Rome, Miss Charlotte Cushman sends a book of very valuable engravings of Canova’s statues. Mr Ives, of the same City, contributes a bust of Secretary Seward. Messrs. Castellani and D’estrada, two celebrated Roman jewelers, have sent splendid specimens of gold cloth and cameos.” ~ New York Times on the upcoming Sanitary Commission Fair in the city.

seal of Sanitary commission

March 5– Saturday– Wheeling, West Virginia– “On Thursday night some thief entered the room of Joseph Heckley, an old soldier, at the Monroe House and robbed him of $40 in money. The thief is unknown.” ~ Wheeling Daily Intelligencer. [The amount would equal about $603 today, using the Consumer Price Index so it was quite a loss for this soldier.]

March 5– Saturday– near Washington, D.C.– “I have not had time to do much myself about the Spencers, but meeting Lieutenant Pinkham, I sent him to the Ordnance office to make the necessary inquiries– they say they have none to spare us, but that any arrangement we can make with the State of Massachusetts will be favorably endorsed at the Bureau. I shall be very glad if the Governor can see his way to let us have a supply; enough for the whole Regiment if possible– if not, at least enough for two squadrons. Perhaps it might be a good thing in other ways to have Massachusetts furnish the California Battalion with these arms; it would convince the men that there were some advantages in belonging to a Massachusetts regiment, however revolting it might be to their pride.” ~ Letter from Union Colonel Charles Russell Lowell to John Murray Forbes. [The Spencers to which he makes reference are the Spencer repeating rifle, first made available in 1860. A magazine-fed rifle, it can fire 20 rounds per minute as opposed to the standard issue muzzle-loader which can fire a maximum of 3 rounds per minute in the hands of a skilled soldier.]

Spencer rifle

Spencer rifle

March 5– Saturday– Richmond, Virginia– “News was brought in during the morning of the brilliant affair of a small body of Confederate cavalry under the command of Lieutenant Pollard, who had attacked a body of Yankee cavalry under the command of Colonel Dahlgren, killing their commander, taking 90 prisoners and 35 Negroes and 150 horses. . . . . The body of cavalry under Dahlgren’s command numbered some 300 or 400 . . . . The wretch who commanded them was the son of Commodore Dahlgren, of ordnance notoriety. It would have been well if the body of the land pirate had been gibbeted in chains on the spot where he fell. . . . . papers and memoranda were found on Dahlgren’s person, and contain the indisputable evidence of the diabolical designs of the enemy.” ~ Richmond Examiner.

March 5– Saturday– Richmond, Virginia– “Clear and pleasant, after a slight shower in the morning. The raid is considered at an end, and it has ended disastrously for the invaders. Some extraordinary memoranda were captured from the raiders, showing a diabolical purpose, and creating a profound sensation here. The cabinet have been in consultation many hours in regard to it, and I have reason to believe it is the present purpose to deal summarily with the captives taken with Dahlgren, but the ‘sober second thought’ will prevail, and they will not be executed, notwithstanding the thunders of the press. Retaliation for such outrages committed on others having been declined, the President and cabinet can hardly be expected to begin with such sanguinary punishments when their own lives are threatened. It would be an act liable to grave criticism. Nevertheless, Mr Secretary [of War, James] Seddon has written a letter to-day to General Lee, asking his views on a matter of such importance as the execution of some ninety men of Dahlgren’s immediate followers, not, as he says, to divide the responsibility, nor to effect a purpose, which has the sanction of the President, the cabinet, and General Bragg, but to have his views, and information as to what would probably be its effect on the army under his command. We shall soon know, I hope, what General Lee will have to say on the subject, and I am mistaken if he does not oppose it. If these men had been put to death in the heat of passion, on the field, it would have been justified, but it is too late now. Besides, General Lee’s son is a captive in the hands of the enemy, designated for retaliation whenever we shall execute any of their prisoners in our hands. It is cruelty to General Lee!” ~ Diary of John Jones.

Ulric Dahlgren

Ulric Dahlgren

March 5– Saturday– Richmond, Virginia– “The Libby. Up to a late hour yesterday, twenty-five more . . . [of Dahlgren’s] raiders were received at this prison. They had been picked up in different directions in straggling bodies of three or four.” ~ Richmond Sentinel

March 5– Saturday– Shelby County, Tennessee– “Nonconnah [creek] has fallen at last, and crowds of wagons are passing, loaded with provisions, in exchange for their cotton. Joanna and Cousin S. went to townthis morning. Mr. Wilson came early and staid until after dinner with us. Tate, Helen, Nannie & Decatur all spent the day sewing in my room, Decatur excepted of course from the sewing-we had a pleasant time. Only this morning I did wish I was a man. I never read a more insulting note in my life than Father received from Dr. Malone. I will not stain the page of my book writing of such a dog, and hope God will give me strength to forgive it– Cold Water and all streams below so high that we have no communication with Dixie-therefore have heard no news today. I would give anything if I could send the things I have for the poor soldiers-poor fellows, I know they need them-would to heaven I had money to get all I could bring through the lines. I finished my dress today, and made Laura a beautiful apron. 12 o’clock, no Beulah yet. Laura, Tippie Dora & I alone, they asleep.” ~ Diary of Belle Edmondson.

March 5– Saturday– Leet’s Tanyard, Georgia; Panther Springs, Tennessee; Yazoo City, Mississippi; Cherrystone Point, Virginia– Raids and fire fights.

March 6– Sunday– New York City– “Yesterday . . . . made my way with difficulty through the dense crowd that filled Union Square, for the first New York Negro Regiment was receiving its colors at the Union League Club House. It has been organized by aid of subscriptions got up in this club. A second regiment of black New Yorkers will soon be sent off under the same auspices. Our labors of a year ago have borne fruit. . . . . There were hearty cheering and clapping and waving of handkerchiefs, and I neither heard nor heard of any expression of sound, constitutional, conservative disapproval.” ~ Diary of George Templeton Strong.

March 6– Sunday– below Charlottesville, Virginia– “The morning we started from the valley it was raining. In the evening it sleeted awhile and then commenced snowing and continued snowing till after dark. We marched about 22 miles that day and camped on the Blue Ridge Mountains near the top. It was an awful time. The next day was a pretty day and we stopped before night in a good place. The next day we marched 25 miles and stopped after night on a steep hillside. That day we came through Charlottesville. A short time ago the Yanks made a raid above Charlottesville and burnt a bridge across the Rivana River, and we had it to wade. . . . . There was considerable excitement in the Brigade . . . in consequence of two young girls that were with some soldiers in the 49th Georgia. They were dressed in men’s clothes or rather in a soldier’s garb and were following the Brigade on foot. It was soon rumored all through the Brigade that they were of the fair sex and their face and hair also betrayed them, and everybody wanted to get a look at them. . . . . The yanks seem to be determined to trouble us all they can. We could have come a much shorter route from the Valley here if it had not been for them, as it was we had to wind all about and march much further and harder. When on their raid above Charlottesville they done much mischief. I am anxious to hear from you and my boy again. You must answer this as soon as you receive it, and give me all the news.” ~ Letter from Confederate soldier Marion Hill Fitzpatrick to his wife, Amanda.

March 6– Sunday– Chattonooga, Tennessee– “One [R. V.] Richardson, claiming to have authority of the War Department to raise partisan rangers in Mississippi and West Tennessee, is accused of great oppression. If he has any authority, I respectfully recommend that it be withdrawn.” ~ Letter from Confederate General Joseph E Johnston to the War Department in Richmond, Virginia.

March 6– Sunday– North Edisto River, South Carolina; Columbus, Kentucky; Island #10, Mississippi River; Flint Creek, Arkansas; Snickersville, Virginia– Sorties, incursions and forays.

March 7– Monday– New York City– “Our latest ‘on to Richmond’ attempt has at least this cheerful feature – that our forces got nearer to the rebel Capital than any Union force has yet done in any of the numerous attempts upon it. . . . This purpose . . . it did not achieve. What it did accomplish will be found fully set forth. There can be no doubt that all the railroads that connect Lee’s army with the rebel capital have been rendered unserviceable for some time, and it would seem that an excellent opportunity was furnished General Meade to attack the army of Lee had the former felt himself strong enough for the work. We suppose he did not. Whether the expedition effected its main object or not, it effected a good deal, and it certainly furnished an excellent exercise for our daring troopers.” ~ New York Times on the Dahlgren raid.

March 7– Monday– Washington, D.C.– “Whereas by an Executive order of the 10th of November last, permission was given to export certain tobacco belonging to the French Government from insurgent territory, which tobacco was supposed to have been purchased and paid for prior to the 4th day of March, 1861; but whereas it was subsequently ascertained that a part at least of the said tobacco had been purchased subsequently to that date, which fact made it necessary to suspend the carrying into effect of the said order; but whereas, pursuant to mutual explanations, a satisfactory understanding upon the subject has now been reached, it is directed that the order aforesaid may be carried into effect, it being understood that the quantity of French tobacco so to be exported shall not exceed 7,000 hogsheads, and that it is the same tobacco respecting the exportation of which application was originally made by the French Government.” ~ Executive order issued by President Lincoln.

March 7– Monday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln sends a letter of congratulations to Queen Victoria on birth of her grandson, Prince Albert Victor, born January 8th in London.

United States Colored Troops on parade

United States Colored Troops on parade


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