The Full Weight of the Responsibilities~March 1864~7th to 9th

The Full Weight of the Responsibilities ~General Ulysses S Grant

The war undergoes a major shift as Grant takes overall command of all Federal forces. The extent of the change will soon become manifest. The fuss about the failed mission of Ulric Dahlgren continues to make news. A dedicated rebel, a Southern woman saves Confederate soldiers from a brush with 150 Yankees. Hard times and food shortages in the Confederacy. Lots of political talk here and there.


March 7– Monday– Washington, D.C.– “I am very anxious for emancipation to be effected . . . I think it probable that my expressions of a preference for gradual over immediate emancipation, are misunderstood. . . . My wish is that all who are for emancipation in any form, shall co-operate, all treating all respectfully . . . What I have dreaded is the danger that by jealousies, rivalries, and consequent ill-blood . . . the friends of emancipation themselves may divide, and lose the measure altogether.” ~ Letter from President Lincoln to Congressman John A. J. Creswell of Maryland.

March 7– Monday– City Point, Virginia– “Friend Walt there is nothing of importance or interest going on here and camp. Life is pretty lazy at this time we are rejoicing at the timely arrival of sweet spring once more. Winter has come & gone, and solders begin to feel happy. The weather is tolerable fine at this present time and the trees begin to bud and the Bird to sing. It will be a beautiful place down here in a few weeks. There is a large dance house and pleasure garden about 1/ 4 from here [which] they are fixing it up for the summer. So you must com down when it gets in full blast a boat will play between here & Washington so it will be handy and I shall expect many of the Boys to come.” ~ Letter from Union soldier Alonzo Bush to Walt Whitman.

March 7– Monday– Richmond, Virginia– “It is needless to point out to you the value of a successful movement in Tennessee and Kentucky, and the importance– I may say necessity– of our taking the initiative.” ~ Letter from President Jeff Davis to Confederate General James Longstreet.

March 7– Monday– Shelby County, Tennessee– “The quiet of our life was disturbed today by the arrival of 150 Yankees– only two came to the house. We gave them their dinner. Mr. Wilson and Decatur were down in the Orchard. Helen sent for them to come and capture the Yanks, we saw the rest coming, & Tate and I ran to tell them it was too great a risk. Mr. W. and D. were nearly to the gate, I was never so excited– we turned them in time, the two Yanks passed while we were standing there. Mr. W. and D. came to the house and spent some time with us, when Mr. W. followed the Yankees. They returned about 9 o’clock on their way to Memphis. D. and Cousin F. had a run again, with the horses, but fortunately none of them came in. I have not done any work today, have suffered death with my spine. Tate and Helen at work in my room all day-I sat in Tate’s room until bed time. Beulah, Laura, and Tip all in time– I amused myself reading Artemus Ward’s book. We did not hear what the Yanks went for, we heard from Eddie and the boys, all safe.” ~ Diary of Belle Edmondson

March 8– Tuesday– New York City– “Stopped at . . . Metropolitan Fair office . . . . [the women] all very charming and all as busy as bees; Mrs Ellie [his wife] among the busiest of the whole hive. The ladies have failed to convince their inert and stupid masculine colleagues that the Fair will be a disastrous failure and a disgrace to New York without at least four times the area yet secured for it.” ~ Diary of George Templeton Strong.

March 8– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– At the White House President Lincoln meets General Ulysses S Grant face-to-face for the first time. The two confer about the next day’s ceremony.

General Grant

General Grant

March 8– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– “Received a telegram from [Union] Admiral [Samuel Phillips] Lee [a cousin to Confederate General Robert E Lee] this p.m., confirming a rumor that was whispered yesterday of the death of young Dahlgren. He was surrounded, it seems, by superior forces near King and Queen Court-House, and fell attempting to cut his way through. Most of his command was captured. A few escaped and got on board of the gunboat which had been sent for their relief. A more gallant and brave-hearted fellow was not to be found in the service. His death will be a terrible blow to his father, who doted upon him and not without reason. I apprehend this raid was not a wise and well-planned scheme. Tested by results, it was not. Whether the War Department advised it I do not know. I heard it spoken of indefinitely and vaguely, but with no certainty till the expedition had started.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles.

March 8– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– “Not having an opportunity of answering your kind and very welcome letter after its reception, I now take the opportunity of replying in a short epistle, although I fear it will not prove very interesting, owing to circumstances over which I have no control. I have been quite well since my arrival at this place, with the exception of a slight cold. The rest of the boys are generally well.” ~ Letter from Confederate soldier Tony Pastor, now a prisoner of war, to Annie Harris.

March 8– Tuesday– Richmond, Virginia– “The body of Colonel Ulric Dahlgren, killed in the swamps of King and Queen [County], by the 9th Virginia Cavalry, was brought to the city Sunday night and laid at the York River depot during the greater part of the day yesterday, where large numbers of persons went to see it. It was in a pine box, clothed in Confederate shirt and pants, and shrouded in a Confederate blanket. The wooden leg had been removed by one of the soldiers. It was also noticeable that the little finger of the left hand had been cut off. Dahlgren was a small man, thin, pale, and with red hair and a goatee of the same color. His face wore an expression of agony. About two o’clock, P. M., the corpse was removed from the depot and buried– no one knows, or is to know, where.” ~ Richmond Whig. [Dahlgren had lost part of his right leg in a skirmish with retreating Confederates after the battle of Gettysburg. He insisted on returning to active service as soon as he was able. Elizabeth Van Lew, age 45, daughter of an extremely wealthy Richmond family and educated in the North, is running a successful spy network for the Union cause right in the Confederate capital. A rich “spinster” who dresses to suit herself and freed her family’s slaves, the neighbors just call her “crazy” and ignore her strange comings and goings. She and several of her agents, several of them her freed slaves, will locate Dahlgren’s body and respectfully rebury it in another secret location.]

Ulric Dahlgren

Ulric Dahlgren

March 8– Tuesday– Richmond, Virginia– “Four Yankee Negro soldiers, captured in James City county, were brought to this city yesterday, and delivered at the Libby, where they were distributed, as far as they would go, into the solitary cells of the Yankee officers captured during the recent raid. This is a taste of Negro equality, we fancy, the said Yankee officers will not fancy overmuch. The Negroes represent themselves as James W. Corn, company C, 5th U. S. Vols.; P. F. Lewis, company I, 5th U. S. Vols.; R. P. Armistead, company H, 6th U. S. Vols.; Jno. Thomas, ditto.” ~ Richmond Whig.

March 8– Tuesday– Culpepper, Virginia– “I am aware that Ephia is no more, but it can’t be helped. I dreamed last Saturday night that I was home, and that Ephia was dying. There is an astrologer in our company and he told me that Ephia was dying when I was dreaming, and he also told me that you wrote a letter to me, and it got lost on the road coming. He also said that I would get a letter from you to night stating that Ephia was dead, and also that she got buried on Monday the 7th instant. Dear Sister, it is over two weeks since I had a letter from you but the astrologer told me that I would get a letter from you to night. I knew that there was something the wrong because I did not get no letter. Dear Sister if Ephia is dead, then the astrologer is a true man, I believe that, he told me the truth. if Ephia is dead let me know immediately. For I dreamed that I seen you, all weeping and mourning, and I also was home in the house when she was dying. If my dream is true let me know it. I am well and in good health and I hope this will find you the same.” ~ Letter from Union soldier Josiah Bloss to his sister at home in Franklin County, Pennsylvania.

March 8– Tuesday– Milledgeville, Georgia– An editorial in the Milledgeville Confederate Union encourages readers to use their Confederate money to buy Confederate bonds, and use those bonds to pay their taxes.

March 8– Tuesday– near Jacksonville, Florida– “All is quiet to day at the front. We are daily, yes hourly, expecting an engagement. We have the enemy now inside of the Three Mile Branch. They occupy from there to Jacksonville. Their forces are variously estimated at from 15,000 to 25,000. General Gillmore is in command. In the several engagements we have driven them from every position they have taken up to their present strong hold. We have not yet attacked them there.” ~ Letter from a Confederate soldier to the Savannah [Georgia] Republican.

March 9– Wednesday– New York City– The Federal gunboat “Morse picked up five men who had been attracted by her signal guns, and were guided to the river by friendly Negroes, who provided them with a boat. Four of these were Colonel Dahlgren’s white soldiers, and one was his colored servant. They represent that Colonel Dahlgren’s party were surrounded by cavalry and infantry; that Dahlgren was killed, and that they saw more than one-half of his men afterward give themselves up as prisoners. Colonel Dahlgren’s servant says that he saw the Colonel’s naked body, which had been stripped, with the ring finger cut off.” ~ New York Times.

March 9– Wednesday– Franklin County, Pennsylvania– “I fear we cannot carry Lincoln, especially if the Democracy [Democrats] take Grant. Can they get Grant? What do you know about it? . . . . Lincoln is very strong, but will his personal strength compensate for the errors which will be charged to him? . . . if Lincoln should be deemed unavailable by intelligent & disinterested men, could his nomination be defeated? As matters now stand, Grant . . . could do it.” ~ Alexander K. McClure to Congressman Thaddeus Stevens.

Thaddeus Stevens

Thaddeus Stevens

March 9– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– In the White House, with the full Cabinet present, President Lincoln officially promotes Ulysses S Grant to the rank of Lieutenant General and gives him command of all active United States forces. President Lincoln says, “The nation’s appreciation of what you have done, and it’s reliance upon you for what remains to do, in the existing great struggle, are now presented with this commission, constituting you Lieutenant General in the Army of the United States.” A bit stiffly and softly, General Grant replies, “I feel the full weight of the responsibilities now devolving on me and know that if they are met it will be due to those armies, and above all to the favor of that Providence which leads both Nations and men.” After the brief official ceremony the two men meet privately for 30 minutes to talk about the next steps for dealing with the Confederacy.

March 9– Wednesday– Richmond, Virginia– “A frosty morning, with dense fog; subsequently a pretty day. This is the famine month. Prices of every commodity in the market– up, up, up. Bacon, $10 to $15 per pound; meal, $50 per bushel. But the market-houses are deserted, the meat stalls all closed, only here and there a cart, offering turnips, cabbages, parsnips, carrots, etc., at outrageous prices. However, the super-abundant paper money is beginning to flow into the Treasury, and that reflex of the financial tide may produce salutary results a few weeks hence.” ~ Diary of John Jones.

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