Young American Men of Decent Breeding~April 1864~26th to 28th

Young American Men of Decent Breeding~Walt Whitman

In letters to his mother and his friends, Whitman describes the young soldiers coming to serve under General Grant and those whom he nurses in hospitals. The investigation into the Fort Pillow atrocity continues. Conditions worsen at Andersonville, Georgia. Soldiers on both sides prepare for hard fighting which will be worse than they realize.

Officers raise a glass to salute fallen comrades

Officers raise a glass to salute fallen comrades

April 26– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– “Burnside’s army passed through here yesterday. I saw [my brother] George & walked with him in the regiment for some distance & had quite a talk– he is very well, he is very much tanned & looks hardy, I told him all the latest news from home. George stands it very well, & looks & behaves the same good & noble fellow he always was & always will be. . . . there were I should think five very full regiments of new black troops under General Ferrero, they looked & marched very well . . . . I . . . don’t know what news, only that there is without doubt to be a terrible campaign here in Virginia this summer, & that all who know deepest about it, are very serious about it. Mother, it is serious times. I do not feel to fret or whimper, but in my heart & soul about our country, the army, the forthcoming campaign with all its vicissitudes & the wounded & slain– I dare say, Mother, I feel the reality more than some because I [am] in the midst of its saddest results so much. Others may say what they like, I believe in Grant & in Lincoln too. I think Grant deserves to be trusted, he is working continually– no one knows his plans, we will only know them when he puts them in operation. Our Army is very large here in Virginia this spring & they are still pouring in from east & west– you don’t see about it in the papers, but we have very large army here.” ~ Letter from Walt Whitman to his mother Louisa.

April 26– Tuesday– Camp Sedgwick, Virginia– “We are getting ready to move and fighting will begin soon. I hope General Grant will be as successful in the East as in the West. . . . I want to see the end of the war as I saw the beginning.” ~ Diary of Elisha Hunt Rhodes.

April 26– Tuesday– near Alexandria, Virginia– “The weather was very warm which made marching rather disagreeable. Especially when a person has a heavy load to carry. Our recruits started out with knapsack packed to their utmost capacity but soon found that to get along it would be necessary to dispense with everything but what they could not possibly do without. So the consequence was the roadside for many miles was strewn with coats, blankets, pants, shirts and every article of clothing and many time the whole knapsack was thrown aside and left men preferring to lose everything rather than be left laying behind.Yesterday we came through Washington City and was reviewed by President Lincoln, General Burnside, with many more of the distinguished men of the city. The corps numbered not far from forty thousand men. They made quite a grand display. It appeared that everybody was in the sidewalks and many times as we would pass crowds they would cheer our ‘old battle-scarred banner’ and showed in many ways their respect for the men that was defending their countries [sic] honor.” ~ Letter from Union officer Joseph W Allen to his father.


Federal gunboats prepare for operations

Federal gunboats prepare for operations

April 26– Tuesday– Orange County, Virginia– “We are now having fine weather & expect to have active operations in a few days. Grant still employs himself in reviews & changing his camps – he has also been digging some entrenchments this side of Culpeper Court House on Mrs Green’s land. The grass here is quite green & our horses are doing very well – picking up after the hard winter they have passed through most of them are quite thin & look badly. I have been much pleased listening to the songs of a mocking bird that sings every morning at my window & calls around him all the varieties of birds that frequent the place by imitating their notes & ‘calls’ – it is quite amusing to see a bird come flying up to answer the love call of its mate & as suddenly turn & dart off at a note of alarm seeming to come from an enemy. The bird is a very plain looking one, but certainly quite wonderful. . . . How cheeringly every thing goes on this Spring – we seem to be favored in everything and if we can only whip the Army of the Potomac I think we shall be in a fair way to secure peace by the close of the year. . . . we are enjoying the butter & pickles very much. How comes on the garden – the stock &c & & especially how comes on my dear little wife & my two babies? Heaven bless them. It almost made me homesick last Sunday to think that I was so far from home. . . . Be sure & write to me often & tell me if there is anything you want & how you get along. I am so sorry I have to leave you thus all alone – but our God will protect.” ~ Letter from Confederate officer Jedediah Hotchkiss to his wife Sara.

April 26– Tuesday– Memphis, Tennessee– “I wish to state that one section of Company D, Second U. S. Light Artillery (colored), 1 commissioned officer and 40 men, were sent to Fort Pillow about February 15, as part of the garrison. The garrison at Fort Pillow, by last reports received, consisted of the First Battalion, Sixth U.S. Heavy Artillery (colored), 8 commissioned officers and 213 enlisted men; one section Company D, Second U.S. Light Artillery (colored). I commissioned officer and 40 men; First Battalion, Thirteenth Tennessee Cavalry, Maj. W. F. Bradford, 10 commissioned officers and 285 enlisted men. Total white troops, 295; total colored troops, 262; grand total, 557. Six field pieces– two 6-pounders, two 12-pounder howitzers, and two 10-pounder Parrotts.” ~ Report of Colonel Thomas H. Harris.


Fort Pillow as it looks today

Fort Pillow as it looks today

April 26– Tuesday– Jackson, Tennessee– In his official report Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest says not a word about atrocities at Fort Pillow, neither confirming nor denying the events. He concludes his report by saying, “In closing my report I desire to acknowledge the prompt and energetic action of Brigadier-General Chalmers, commanding the forces around Fort Pillow. His faithful execution of all movements necessary to the successful accomplishment of the object of the expedition entitles him to special mention. He has reason to be proud of the conduct of the officers and men of his command for their gallantry and courage in assaulting and carrying the enemy’s work without the assistance of artillery or bayonets. To my staff, as heretofore, my acknowledgments are due for their prompt and faithful delivery of all orders.”

April 26– Tuesday– Andersonville, Georgia– The Chief Surgeon at Camp Sumter (Andersonville prison) notifies the Confederate Surgeon General in Richmond that 718 of the 2,697 patients in the prison hospital have died, primarily because of poor natural resources and a lack of supplies.

April 26– Tuesday– Alexandria, Louisiana; Winchester, Virginia; near McNutt’s Hill, Louisiana; Wayne County, Missouri; Berwick, Louisiana; Little Rock, Arkansas; along the Watauga River, Tennessee; Deloach’s Bluff, Louisiana– Run-ins, showdowns and general ruckus. In addition, Federal troops are probing from Jacksonville toward Lake Monroe, Florida.

soldiers at a signal station

soldiers at a signal station

April 27– Wednesday– New York City– “J. J. Post duly married at Trinity Chapel to a Miss [Lucrie F] Mahony, only child of a rich retired merchant . . . . a remarkably pretty little blonde girl of twenty. This is an age of signs and wonders. He is much more than a quarter of a century her senior and among the most peculiar of human beings. I wish them both all health and felicity , but unless the young lady possess uncommon tact and be among the best and most unselfish of women, she will have a troublesome time.” ~ Diary of George Templeton Strong.

April 27– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln confers with former Congressman Albert Gallatin Riddle of Ohio, who is preparing to assume his duties as United States consul at Mantazas, Cuba. [Riddle, age 48, lawyer, author, orator, congressman, gained fame in abolitionist circles for representing the students and faculty involved in snatching away a captured fugitive slave in the famous Oberlin-Wellington rescue. He will later argue that the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution empowered women to vote. See, The Town That Started the Civil War by Nat Brandt (1990), pp 151-156, and Riddle’s own Recollections of War Times (1895).]

April 27– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– “I forget whether I wrote to you acknowledging the receipt of the $10 sent for the wounded & sick, 1st February. It came safe– also the $5 you sent some ten days since. My dear sir, your contributions are very, very welcome– they go to the direct sustenance, cheer, & comfort of special cases of wounded & sick. I have now been over a year among the wounded. I find that personal application, tact, & insight, with entire sympathy, are the only means effectual in hospitals– every case wants some peculiar adaptation– to some, some little article purchased– many the tender hand & word, oft repeated, never slacking up, till danger is past. Some, while prostrated, are out of money, & too proud to speak of it, to these a little gift of two or three cents to some a little tobacco is a great treasure. Any thing like beggars or deceivers, are very rare– indeed I don’t meet one a fortnight. The soldiers are nearly altogether young American men of decent breeding, farmers’ sons ordinarily educated, but well behaved & their young hearts full of manliness & candor. Their condition makes deepest attachments under their sufferings & wounds often brought right to the bitterness of death. Some, indeed, one feels to love deeply, & they return it with interest.” ~ Letter from Walt Whitman to James P Kirkwood.

April 27– Wednesday– Sumner County, Tennessee– “Sis has just come from Mrs. Lane’s: while there she visited the grave of the stranger soldier who was shot Friday. The Yankees took his coat and boots off and put him in the grave without coffin or wrappings of any kind.” ~ Diary of Alice Williamson.

April 27– Wednesday– Dalton, Georgia– “I am tolerable well at this time, hoping those few lines may come safe to your hands in due time and find you all well. . . . I don’t see any chance for me to get to come home. You must do the best you can and take good care of yourself. I don’t want you to work any at all. The children can do all that is to do. I think my children is too smart to let their mother do the work. . . . I do want to see you all mighty bad.” ~ Letter from a Confederate soldier to his wife.


April 27– Wednesday– Camden County, Georgia– “We went over to Kate’s for the mail. Found her sitting on the front steps, dressed in her new calico and knitting. She looked very smiling and soon told us that she and the Major were married on the previous evening. There was not time to send to us or we should have been summoned. Mr. Bullock, the minister, came at night while she was milking. The Major had been off all day cow hunting– after supper the Major brushed his hair, Kate put on her new calico, the Negroes all gathered about the doors and the knot was tied. . . . Kate loaded us down with flowers and radishes and we trotted home full of curious emotions, hardly describable.” ~ Diary of Julia Johnson Fisher

April 27– Wednesday– Decatur, Alabama; Taylor’s Ridge, Georgia; Troublesome Creek, Kentucky; Dayton, Missouri; Masonborough Inlet, North Carolina– Raids, skirmishes and general to-dos.


newspaper reporters in the field

newspaper reporters in the field

April 28– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– “I have the honor to transmit herewith an address to the President of the United States, and through him to both Houses of Congress, on the condition and wants of the people of east Tennessee, and asking their attention to the necessity of some action on the part of the Government for their relief, and which address is presented by a committee of an organization called ‘The East Tennessee Relief Association.’ Deeply commiserating the condition of these most loyal and suffering people, I am unprepared to make any specific recommendation for their relief. The military is doing and will continue to do the best for them within its power. Their address represents that the construction of direct railroad communication between Knoxville and Cincinnati by way of central Kentucky would be of great consequence in the present emergency. It may be remembered that in the annual message of December, 1861, such railroad construction was recommended. I now add that, with the hearty concurrence of Congress, I would yet be pleased to construct a road, both for the relief of these people and for its continuing military importance.” ~ Message from President Lincoln to Congress.

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