We Must Serve Our Country & Be Contented~May 1864~2nd to 4th

We Must Serve Our Country and Be Contented ~ a Union soldier

General Grant starts his vast army in motion and will keep moving, fighting, besieging, fighting, moving and fighting until April, 1865. The road to Appomattox begins. Soldiers remember good days and write about duty and hard fighting. Lincoln asks his Cabinet for recommendations about dealing with the Fort Pillow atrocity. More fugitive slaves steam into Union lines. A report comes from London about British-American relations.

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May 2– Monday– Greenbrier County, Virginia– “Oh the bright sunshine of one’s school days. How well do I remember the many happy hours, I have spent on just such mornings as this – when soft, balmy breath of this youth of the year, was calling the little flowers, & the green grass from out the earth again. How I longed for school hour to come in the morning, when I could hasten away, to the sound of familiar voices, & the sight of familiar faces from whom one night seemed long to be separated. But those days are gone. The kind voices, & bright smiles, that once greeted me, I no longer see or hear. When I was free & happy but now I am living that life which I once looked forward to with pleasure. I see & feel the coldness and selfishness of the world, & in the solitude of my heart I look round, & in the vast concourse of human beings, I can see not one to whom I can pour out my sorrows or receive the answering sigh of sympathy. . . . [This evening] I found about a dozen ladies in camp, they were such hard looking cases, though, that I was afraid to go close to them. I think from the way they crowded around the band when it began to play, that some of them never had been from home before. When we shall leave this camp, I am not able to say, we hear a thousand different rumors about going, but so far they have all turned out to be false.” ~ Letter from Confederate soldier James R. McCutchan to his cousin Rachel Ann McCutchan.

May 2– Monday– Orange County, Virginia– “I was at Montpelier, rather noted as being the burial place of President Madison. Like most places in Virginia, it has felt the influence of this ravaging war; but still it is a most beautiful place. I enjoyed myself finely in going over its extensive grounds. The mansion is situated upon a pretty high place, and the view in front is most enchanting. Far away to the North may be seen the Blue Ridge Mountains rising in majestic beauty. When we look in other directions, the scenery is indeed beautiful, varied by hill and vale seasoning, with cattle and the beauties of spring. I think it by far, the most beautiful place I have seen in Virginia. On our return a terrible storm arose, giving us all a good ducking, which by the way, was not very well for me. When I arrived in camp, what was my surprise to find my tent blown down, and my blankets perfectly saturation with rain.” ~ Letter from Confederate soldier Alva Benjamin Spencer to his fiancee, Maggie Cone.

Montpelier~home of James Madison

Montpelier~home of James Madison

May 2– Monday– Richmond, Virginia– “Dr. Mary E. Walker. This disgusting production of Yankee land was marched from Castle Thunder to Dr. Winder’s office Saturday morning, to the very great amusement of crowds of Negroes, male and female, and many white boys. We did not hear the object of her visit to headquarters, but presume it had something to do with her being sent North. She is still dressed in male attire, which begins to look the worse for wear.” ~ Richmond Whig.

Dr Mary E Walker wearing her Medal of Honor

Dr Mary E Walker wearing her Medal of Honor

May 2– Monday– St Louis, Missouri– Birth of Alice Bertha Kroeger [dies October 31, 1909], first daughter and second child of Adolph and Eliza Curren Kroeger. She will become a librarian, author, lecturerer, advocate for suffrage, organizer and first director of the school of library science at Drexel in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

May 2– Monday– Well’s Plantation, Louisiana; Bolivar, Tennessee; Wilson’s Landing, Louisiana; Bee Creek, Missouri; Tunnel Hill, Georgia; Newport, Virginia; Bayou Pierre, Louisiana; Ringgold Gap, Georgia– Brawls, armed scraps and firefights.

May 3– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– “At the Cabinet-meeting the President requested each member to give him an opinion as to what course the Government should pursue in relation to the recent massacre at Fort Pillow. The committee from Congress who have visited the scene returned yesterday and will soon report. All the reported horrors are said to be verified. The President wishes to be prepared to act as soon as the subject is brought to his notice officially, and hence Cabinet advice in advance. The subject is one of great responsibility and great embarrassment, especially before we are in possession of the facts and evidence of the committee. There must be something in these terrible reports, but I distrust Congressional committees. They exaggerate.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles.

May 3– Tuesday– Wheeling, West Virginia– “We learn that Captain A. V. Barringer, Chief Commissary of Subsistence for this Department, was captured by the rebels on the road between Martinsburg and Winchester last Friday. The Captain was riding along alone in a buggy, going to Winchester to see General Sigel, when a small scouting party of rebels pounced upon him and made him a prisoner. They robbed him of $300 in greenbacks, stole his valuable gold watch, and were making off with his body, when the rebels were overtaken by a squad of Union soldiers. A skirmish took place, during which Captain Barringer made his escape, and reached Cumberland in safety on Sunday morning.” ~ Wheeling Daily Intelligencer. [The $300 would equal $4590 in today’s dollars, using the Consumer Price Index.]

May 3– Tuesday– Fortress Monroe, Hampton, Virginia– “Look where you will over the wide field of battle, there stands prominently in the foreground one object which not all the pomps and pageantries of war, or the thousand evils which follow in its train, can more than temporarily shut from view. That object is the Negro. Streaming into our lines wherever the armies of the Union have tapped the Southern seaboard or occupied inland places, the enfranchised blacks present themselves to the military Commander as facts demanding immediate recognition. These people must be dealt with, and probably to Generals in the field there has been no source of such infinite perplexity as the precise and best method of disposing of them. How to make their labor most available to the Government; how to shelter the homeless and provide for the destitute; in short, how best, in the disturbed condition of affairs immediately surrounding them, to give them a fair start in the direction of that self-dependence which is imposed, by their new relations and rights, are questions of serious importance which are constantly recurring.” ~ correspondent for the New York Times.

slaves fleeing to Union lines

slaves fleeing to Union lines

May 3– Tuesday– near Nashville, Tennessee– “We must serve our Country and be Contented although it is hard to be Contented. Pa, I wish that I was at home to help you to farm this summer then next fall I would not mind leaving in the army. John Ambrister and I are together he is like some near relation he is the best fellow to be out with in the world he is studier than he was at home. It is getting late and I must bring my few line to a close by saying write soon & nothing more.” ~ Letter from Union soldier R. L. Houston to his parents in Michigan.

May 3– Tuesday– Chickamauga, Georgia– “We are on Chickamauga Creek, about twelve miles south of Chattanooga, part of the Battle of Chickamauga was fought here. A portion of the road we passed over yesterday is covered with skeletons of horses, and every tree bears the mark of the battle, many strong trunks were broken down by artillery fire, many graves too attest the deadliness of the conflict.” ~ Letter from Union officer Fredrick C Winkler to his wife.

May 3– Tuesday– Bulltown, West Virginia; Olive Branch, Louisiana; Red Clay, Georgia; Richland Creek, Arkansas; Bayous Redwood, Louisiana; Catoosa Springs, Georgia– Encounters, brawls and scuffles.

May 4– Wednesday– New York City– The New York Times reports on a dinner meeting in London, England, on April 15th to promote telegraph communication between Great Britain and the United States. Charles Francis Adams, American Minister to the Court of St James, said, “I think that the best way to keep England and the United States in harmony, is to establish the Atlantic Telegraph, which will be one of the most memorable events in history, for everything that tends to bring the two nations closer together will have the effect, I am sure, of perpetuating harmony between them. From the little observation I have made since I came here, one thing has struck me more than anything else, and that is the existence of prejudices on both sides of the Atlantic which require for their removal only a little more familiarity between the two peoples.” In response, John Bright, a member of Parliament friendly to the United States and the Union cause as well as a fervent opponent of slavery, replied, “What can be more contemptible than a feeling of jealousy of the great nation we ourselves have planted on the other side of the Atlantic, in the face of all we are taught in history to value as great and glorious? We have achieved whatever glory is involved in carrying that which is good in this country to a higher point than any other country in history ever attained. We have lately heard a great deal of the advantages of an universal language; but when I look upon the United States, with a population of thirty millions of people, with peace restored, with Government reestablished, with schools and classes enough for the general and religious education of the people, I feel that in the short space of ten years that population will grow to such a degree that even in the lifetime of our children we shall have the English language spoken by one hundred millions of free people.” [Charles Francis Adams, age 56, grandson of John & Abigail Adams, son of John Quincy & Louisa Adams, has served as United States minister to Britain, a post held previously by both his father and grandfather, since the beginning of the Lincoln Administration. His good personal relationship with Lord John Russell, Her Majesty’s Foreign Minister, has tempered English resentment against anti-British sentiment in some of Lincoln’s Cabinet and in some members of the U S Congress, such as Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner. Yet he skillfully upholds American policy, successfully counter-balancing English aristocratic and commercial support for the Confederacy. John Bright, age 52, a liberal Quaker and out-spoken opponent of slavery, has served in the House of Commons since 1843 and will continue to hold a seat there until his death in 1889.]

John Bright, Quaker member of Parliament

John Bright, Quaker member of Parliament

May 4– Wednesday– Philadelphia, Pennsylvania– At the Methodist General Convention one church leader advocates inclusion of African American believers in the same regional conferences as white believers. His speech is received in luke-warm fashion. More enthusiasm is given to the church leader who suggests that the United States take over Mexico and give the land to black people.

May 4– Wednesday– Morgantown, West Virginia– A group of Confederate soldiers break into the jail and free a rebel sympathizer accused of horse stealing.

May 4– Wednesday– north of the Rapidan River, Virginia– General Grant’s Federal forces move out, thus beginning the road to Appomattox.

General Grant

General Grant

May 4– Wednesday– somewhere near Chancellorsville, Virginia– “I was in a pretty hard fight yesterday morning, but I did not get hurt. We are away up here above Fredericksburg somewhere, I do not know where. We have whipped the Yankees badly so far. We are expecting to fight again every minute. They moved our Brigade this morning about three miles. We came, throwed up breastworks and are waiting the approach of the enemy. We drove the Yanks from their breastworks yesterday, and run them a mile.” ~ Letter from Confederate soldier Marion Hill Fitzpatrick to his wife Amanda.

May 4– Wednesday– Carroll County, Tennessee– “I am quite unwell, pain in my breast and head, bad cough, considerable matter from my lungs. I am confident over half the people of this section are thieves and robbers—that is the males. I have been robbed heavily, especially in the way of work horses and mules. I am sorry to have to say it, but it is so. . . . I don’t mean the robbers are all on one side. There are robbers on both sides as pretext. This section has suffered much the worst from the Federal Robbers, Dr. Smith’s gang, Captain Holt’s company and Harris’ men. I learn that Captain Parkersons, Colonel Hezzers, Captain Pens and Captain Gooch’s Rebel Companies have done considerable damage to the citizens in some sections,” ~ Diary of Williamson Younger.

May 4– Wednesday– Andersonville, Georgia– Howell Cobb, in command of the Georgia Reserves, conducts an inspection of the prison-camp and recommends that the stockade be enlarged and fortified.


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