Oh This Cruel War!~April 1864~6th to 8th

Oh, This Cruel War~Confederate soldier W R Stilwell

In the midst of skirmishing and preparation for warm weather campaigns, soldiers long for the war to end. General Longstreet is ordered to return to Virginia. Food is scarce in many places of the Confederacy and hyper-inflation causes the Southern government to take drastic steps. On the same day the Confederacy observes a day of prayer and fasting the United States Senate passes a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery. Women in many places are fearful and worried. Southern forces win a victory in Louisiana. General Sherman wants “spies and guerrillas” tried and executed. Problems at the prison camp in Georgia are rapidly increasing. The New York Times updates readers on the war in northern Europe and takes note of Congress’s disapproval of French intervention in Mexico.

Benito Juarez, Mexican leader of resistance to the French

Benito Juarez, Mexican leader of resistance to the French


April 6– Wednesday– New York City– “The unanimous declaration of the popular branch of Congress that the United States will not assent to any monarchical Government in Mexico, erected under the auspices of any European Power, is but the expression of the universal feeling of the people. We are glad the resolution was couched in the simplest form – that it was kept entirely free from the high-flown rhetoric which usually overlays such Congressional manifestoes, as if there were something imposing in the mere accumulation of words. . . . The American people perfectly well understand that the real object of this new monarchy in Mexico is not the good of the Mexican nation, but the prevention of the further enlargement of their own Republic. The French Emperor, himself, in his memorable letter of instructions to General Forey, explicitly announced that one of the valuable results which would come from the success of the expedition, would be the establishment of a balance of power on this continent. That was the primary purpose of the intervention. . . . It would probably never have taken other shape than mere talk, had not the outbreak of our rebellion presented, as was thought, a peculiarly favorable opportunity for its practical establishment. . . . The very fact that no attempt has been made to get a popular vote prior to taking the scepter, is in itself conclusive evidence that Maximilian, or those who manage him, were convinced that such a vote would not be in his favor. No intelligent man in the United States will believe for an instant that the Mexicans have so speedily and so completely lost all their love for republican principles, which, through every trial, has been their ruling passion for more than a generation. If they yield to the rule of this scion of the Hapsburgs, it is only as a conquered people. Nothing could be more chimerical than the idea that the power of the United States can be balanced by a throne of this sort, set up by foreign hands in the Mexican capital. Were it not so costly, the whole performance would here be considered a farce.” ~ New York Times.

April 6– Wednesday– Nashville, Tennessee– “Spies and guerrillas, murderers under the assumed title of Confederate soldiers, deserters on leave, should be hung quick, of course after a trial, for the number of escapes made easy by the changes on guard during the long time consumed by trial and reference have made that class of men bold and dangerous, and our own scouts and detachments have so little faith in the punishment of known desperadoes that a habit is growing of ‘losing prisoners in the swamp,’ the meaning of which you know. This horrible attendant of war originated in the practice of our enemies, and I have seen it chuckled over in their public journals; but our own men are quick to learn, and unless a legal punishment can be devised you will soon be relieved of all such cases. I believe that the very demon should have a hearing and trial, but punishment should be prompt, yea speedy, or it loses its efficacy. I believe the laws I have quoted give the commander of an army in the field lawful power to try by court-martial, approve and execute the sentence, and I believe the law to be right and humane to society. If wrong I should be corrected at once. Forty or fifty-executions now would in the next twelve months save a thousand lives.” ~ Letter from Union General William Tecumseh Sherman to the Judge Advocate General’s Office in Washington, D.C.

April 6– Wednesday– Shelby County, Tennessee– “Laura awakened me this morning with the news that Beulah [Belle’s dog] was at my door– oh! it seems there is always something to trouble me. Father allowed her to be chained, and so far has not killed her. We were very much surprised this morning by the arrival of five of [General Nathan Bedford] Forrest’s men– Eddie & Elb leading the advance, while Captain Jim Barber, Captain Farrell & Mr John Kirk brought up the rear– oh! I was so happy, we have spent a delightful day, have taken it time about standing Picket, with the horses hid in the woods– George Anderson came running up, had just had a nice race with the Yankees– in a little while Joanna & Nannie came from town with the news the Yanks were camping on Horn Lake creek tonight, having heard Forrest had a good many of his men in here on leave– they will have to be right smart if they get our five, with the assistance of Edmondson’s battery for Pickets– We all sat up very late, I left them in the Parlor– tis so much happiness to see so many of our Rebel friends-oh! I am happy, yet miserable, my heart is never free from pain, have mercy upon me, oh! my savior, guide and give me happiness.” ~ Diary of Belle Edmondson.

 April 6– Wednesday– Andersonville, Georgia– At Camp Sumter (Andersonville prison) some poorly clad Union prisoners go to strip a dead prisoner of his clothing before burial, only to discover that their fellow soldier was not a fellow at all, but a woman who had posed as a Union soldier.

April 6– Wednesday– Camden County, Georgia– “We still eat our rice and corn three times a day. No meat. We are surprised to find how comfortable we can be with so little. Surely, man’s necessities are small. Mr Linn came home on ten days furlough. He says that flour is $300 per barrel. Men’s coarse boots $250.00. He bought a bottle of squills for $5.00 and a pound of soda for $5.00 for Sybil. We had letters from Julia with $70.00 for me and $50.00 for Sybil, for old clothing. Money not worth shucks. We can neither spend it nor keep it. It will be good for nothing after the first of July. This currency business is a perfect swindle. Kate sent over for Sybil to go to King’s Ferry with her tomorrow. The weather continues cool. It has been an unusually close winter– from the breathings [sic] of the northern snow hills.” ~ Diary of Julia Johnson Fisher. [Squills are the bulb of sea onion plants of the lily family, cut thin, dried and used medicinally as an expectorant. The $300 for flour would equal $4,590 today, using the Consumer Price Index. However, since the Confederate currency at this time is worth considerably less than U S dollars, the figure would be many times higher. Her concern about Confederate paper money not being able to be spent is in response to the Currency Reform Act of 1864 which the government in Richmond passed to reduce the hyper-inflation. It required citizens to turn in their paper money for newly printed bills at a rate of 3 to 2; in other words, for the $70 she would receive only $46.66 in new currency.]


map of the Danish-German conflict

map of the Danish-German conflict

April 7– Thursday– New York City– The New York Times updates its readers on the war in Europe. The Germans and Austrians claim that the Danes brought the war on themselves. The Danes complain of German and Austrian atrocities against Danish civilians. [A detailed history of this war is provided by Bismarck’s First War: The Campaign of Schleswig and Jutland, 1864 by Michael Embree (2005).]

April 7– Thursday– Richmond, Virginia– “The President directs that you move with that part of your corps proper now in the Department of East Tennessee (that is, McLaw’s and Field’s divisions, and one battalion of artillery, that lately commanded by Colonel Alexander) to Charlottesville, Virginia. Arrived there, you will report to General Robert E. Lee. The infantry should first move by rail. If the means of transportation will permit, the artillery, its carriages, harness, &c., will go in the same manner; otherwise, it will march. Should the artillery go by rail, the artillery horses will be sent on the dirt road. Only such field transportation will be taken as is allowed for a campaign in the Army of Northern Virginia. Please see General Lee’s special orders, indorsed.” ~ Orders to Confederate General James Longstreet to move his soldiers from Tennessee back to Virginia.


General James Longstreet

General James Longstreet

April 7– Thursday– Lexington, Kentucky– Lucretia Hart Clay, widow of Henry Clay, dies at age 83 at the home of her son, John M. Clay. She bore eleven children, of whom only four survive at this time.


Lucretia Hart Clay beside her husband

Lucretia Hart Clay beside her husband

April 7– Thursday– Mount Gray, Arizona Territory– A Federal force of 59 soldiers attack a force of about 250 Chiricahua Apaches at their camp. Better armed and assisted by the element of surprise, the soldiers drive off the Apaches, burn the camp and about 300 pounds of food.

April 7– Thursday– Wilson’s Plantation, Louisiana; Bushy Creek, Arkansas; Woodall’s Bridge, Alabama; the foot of Sierra Bonito, New Mexico Territory; Rhea’s Mills, Arkansas; Port Hudson, Louisiana– Altercations, encounters and frays of various types.


April 8– Friday– Washington, D.C.– “Called this evening on Admiral Dahlgren, who is inconsolable for the loss of his son. Advised him to get abroad and mingle in the world, and not yield to a blow that was irremediable.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles.

April 8– Friday– Washington, D.C.– By a vote of 38 to 6, the Senate approves a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery and sends it to the House of Representatives.

April 8– Friday– Richmond, Virginia– “Bright and warm– really a fine spring day. It is the day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer, and all the offices are closed. May God put it into the hearts of the extortioners to relent, and abolish, for a season, the insatiable greed for gain! I paid $25 for a half cord of wood to-day, new currency. I fear a nation of extortioners are unworthy of independence, and that we must be chastened and purified before success will be vouchsafed us.” ~ Diary of John Jones.

April 8– Friday– Greeneville, Tennessee– “I was sorry to hear of Mother’s sickness but glad she is better. My own health is very good, today is fast day but somehow or other I don’t feel the same solemn obligations as in days gone by. I suppose the reason is that fast days come so often with me of late that I can’t feel right. I hope it is not for a want of religious interest, nevertheless I have kept the day. I am glad you have milk plenty. I know you will drink a glass for me. Oh, this cruel war, this cruel war, how many happy homes have been made desolate and unhappy by it. I hope it will soon end and let loved ones meet again.” ~ Letter from Confederate soldier W R Stilwell to his wife.

soldiers on the move

soldiers on the move

April 8– Friday– Mansfield, Louisiana– Confederate forces stop a Federal advance toward Shreveport. Union casualties– dead, wounded, missing– total 2,235. Total Confederate losses are estimated at 1,000.

April 8– Friday– Camden County, Georgia– “Last night we were awakened by a shell and rose from our beds to see the new mills and the adjoining buildings on fire. The little schooner came again and finished its work. Now all is gone. Sybil had gone over to Kate Lang’s to pass the night to take an early start in the morning for King’s Ferry as no one was hurt she continued her journey. Mr. Fisher and Lynn saved the machinery in a small out house. Gussy secreted himself and fired five times at the invaders. The pickets ran for their lives.” ~ Diary of Julia Johnson Fisher.

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