Hard Times Since Leaving Our Winter Quarters~May 1864~9th to 13th

Hard Time since Leaving Our Winter Quarters ~ Elisha Hunt Rhodes

The fighting rages on numerous fronts as Grant with 125,000 troops aims for Richmond and Sherman with 110,000 soldiers aims for Atlanta. Elisha Hunt Rhodes, Walt Whitman and Gideon Welles take sorrowful note of the increasing number of casualties. The South mourns the loss of the dashing General Stuart. Other wars rage– one in northern Europe, another in China.

May 9– Monday– Buzzard Roost, Georgia; Davenport, Virginia; Pound Gap, Kentucky; Eudora Church, Arkansas; Beaver Dam Station, Virginia; Varnell’s Station, Georgia; along the St John’s River, Florida; Davenport Ford, Virginia; Rocky Face Gap, Georgia; North Anna, Virginia; Sugar Valley, Georgia; Cloyd’s Mountain, Virginia; Boyd’s Trail, Georgia– Raids, firefights, serious clashes and intense skirmishes.

Battle of Heligoland

Battle of Heligoland

May 9–Monday– near the island of Heligoland– The navy of Denmark engages the allied navies of Austria and Prussia, resulting in a tactical victory for Denmark. It is the last recorded significant naval battle fought by squadrons of wooden ships.

May 10– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– “At the Cabinet, the President read dispatches from General Grant, General Butler, General Sherman, and some others. I had previously seen some of these dispatches. They were all in good and encouraging tone. There have been some conflicting doubts in regard to General Wadsworth, who is undoubtedly slain, and his body is, I think, in the hands of the Rebels. Few nobler spirits have fallen in this war. He should, by good right and fair-dealing, have been at this moment Governor of New York, but the perfidy of Thurlow Weed and others defeated him. I have always believed that Seward was, if not implicated, a sympathizer in that business. No purer or more single-minded patriot than Wadsworth has shown himself in this war. He left home and comforts and wealth to fight the battles of the Union. A scout came in this p.m. with dispatches from General Grant. He brings information that General Sedgwick was killed yesterday by a sharpshooter. He was among the good and brave generals, though not of the class of dashing officers, and was ever reliable and persistent. The death of no general officer during the war could be more depressing, I apprehend, than this, and his loss at this juncture will be felt by the army and country.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles.

Gideon Welles

Gideon Welles

May 10– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– “I have seen 300 wounded, they came in last night, I asked for men of 9th corps, but could not find any at all– these 300 men were not badly wounded, mostly in arms, hands, trunk of body, &c. They could all walk, though some had an awful time of it– they had to fight their way, with the worst in the middle, out of the region of Fredericksburg, & so on where they could get across the Rappahannock & get where they found transportation to Washington– the government has decided (or rather General Meade has) to occupy Fredericksburg for depot & hospitals (I think that a first rate decision) so the wounded men will receive quick attention & surgery, instead of being racked through the long journey up here.” ~ Letter from Walt Whitman to his mother

Louisa. May 10– Tuesday– Spotsylvania, Virginia– “Thank God I am still living. Our poor old Regiment has had a hard time since leaving our winter quarters and we have lost seven officers and nearly one hundred men killed and wounded. We are still in our entrenchments facing the enemy.”~ Diary of Union officer Elisha Hunt Rhodes.

May 10– Tuesday– Spotsylvania, Virginia– “I would just say to you your Brother is pretty badly wounded, and I think life with him is quite uncertain, although we can’t tell. We are all in the hands of God. I am a Northerner but I always sympathize with affliction. I am sitting by him, have been trying to do what little I can for him. He seems quite resigned and composed. He takes it very patient, and we do all we can for him under the circumstances. Now he don’t tell me anything more to write, so I must close by saying farewell for him to you.” ~ Letter written by Union soldier James E. Smith on behalf of a dying Confederate soldier to the man’s sisters in Georgia.

May 10– Tuesday– Andersonville, Georgia– At Andersonville prison camp Confederate Sergeant Edward C Turner takes charge of the bloodhounds, one of the most controversial duties on post. [Accusations will later made by some of the prisoners that the dogs not only tracked down, but also attacked and injured escapees, under the orders of Commander Henry Wirz.]

May 10– Tuesday– Semblancay, France– Birth of Leon Gaumont, inventor, engineer, industrialist and pioneer of the motion picture industry. [Dies August 9, 1946.]

Leon Gaumont

Leon Gaumont

May 11– Wednesday– Wheeling, West Virginia– “When the war first broke out, a young married man of Steubenville [Ohio] volunteered in the service of his country, left his young wife and child, and went forth to fight his country’s battles. . . . . he was reported among the killed. Indeed there seemed to be no doubt as to the fact of his death, several of his comrades declaring that they had seen him fall, and knew where he was buried. The sad news of his death was brought home to his wife, and after the first waves of bitter sorrow had subsided she determined to have his remains brought home. She was assisted in her undertaking by kind friends, and two months or more after, a metallic coffin, containing what purported to be the remains of the supposed deceased, was brought to Steubenville, and with the accustomed burial rites, was deposited in the cemetery. . . . . the young wife, after mourning his demise for over a year, received and accepted a second offer of marriage. Her present husband is a worthy man . . . they have been living in undisturbed happiness. But at last a shadow has eclipsed their sunshine. A few days since an exchanged prisoner, just from the South, passed through Steubenville, and left a message from the supposed deceased husband for his wife, stating that he was a prisoner in the hands of the rebels, alive and well, and as he was in daily expectation of being exchanged, she might expect him home in a very short time. The situation of the lady and husband can better be imagined than described, under the circumstances. Though this is rather a remarkable case, it is one which, during the present state of the country, might be of more frequent occurrence.” ~ Wheeling Daily Intelligencer.

May 11– Wednesday– Yellow Tavern, Virginia– In an effort to prevent a Federal cavalry attack upon Richmond, General Jeb Stuart’s troopers tangle with better armed cavalry under Union General Phil Sheridan. Total Union loss–dead, wounded and missing– amounts to 625; Confederate losses are unknown. However, the Federal troopers free almost 400 of their captured friends and Jeb Stuart is mortally wounded.

Battle of Yellow Tavern

Battle of Yellow Tavern

May 11– Wednesday– Spotsylvania, Virginia– “Constant skirmishing going on in our front and both Armies are evidently preparing for another death grapple. Shot and shell are constantly passing over us and we are fast adding to the roll of dead and wounded. Will it never end? I hope for the best.” ~ Diary of Union officer Elisha Hunt Rhodes.

May 11– Wednesday– Cleveland, Tennessee– “A sad, gloomy and cloudy day. It is disagreeably cold this eve. They have been fighting ever since Saturday. It is still undecided. Oh! Our poor soldiers, how many are suffering. Give us the victory, our Father, if it is Thy will. Captain Hending and his clerk dined here. Captain took breakfast and remained all night last night. We head this eve that yesterday the Federals drove our forces back a great deal from them and General Johnston drove their left wing back four miles. But with our suffering soldiers . . . . If I could only be there to wait on them. I feel unusually sad this eve, and you, old journal, are the friend that I will confide in.” ~ Diary of Myra Adelaide Inman.

May 11– Wednesday– Snake Creek Gap, Georgia– “Now Wednesday afternoon. It rains slightly; I am under a shelter tent, sitting on the ground, and will use this cigar box for my writing desk. A victory of General Grant over Lee on the very field of Chancellorsville has been finally communicated to the army and causes universal rejoicing. To the order announcing it, General Sherman adds ‘Let us do the same.’ This morning we started at daylight and marched towards the south to Snake Creek Gap, which leads to the south of Dalton. . . . We were halted in the Gap, and the whole division is hard at work making a road, or at least in improving it with double wagon tracks and a sidetrack for infantry. Something highly Important may be looked for In these parts. Concentration of forces, about which so many have theorized, has been most admirably put into practice by General Grant.” ~ Letter from Union officer Fredrick C. Winkler to his wife in Wisconsin.

May 11– Wednesday– County Cork, Ireland– Birth of Ethel Lilian Bolle Voynich, novelist and musician. [Dies July 27, 1960.]

Ethel Lillian Bolle Voynich

Ethel Lillian Bolle Voynich

May 11– Wednesday– Changzhou and towns outside Jintan, China– As a result of intense fighting which began on the 25th of April, imperial forces win decisively over rebels.

May 12– Thursday– Richmond, Virginia– Confederate General Jeb Stuart, age 31, dies of his wound.

General Stuart

General Stuart

May 12– Thursday– Strasburg, Virginia; Jackson’s Ferry, Alabama; Brown’s Ferry, Virginia; Smith’s Station, Nebraska; Salt Ponds, Virginia; Bayou Lamourie, Louisiana; Newport, Virginia; Gap Mountain, Virginia– Raids, skirmishes and firefights.

May 13– Friday– Washington, D.C.– “I hope you & all are well– you must keep a good heart– still the fighting is very mixed, but it seems steadily turning into real successes for Grant– the news to-day here is very good– you will see it in N Y papers. I steadily believe Grant is going to succeed, & that we shall have Richmond but O what a price to pay for it. We have had a good rain here & it is pleasanter & cooler. I shall write very soon again.” ~ Letter from Walt Whitman to his mother Louisa.

May 13– Friday– Washington, D.C.– “The army news is interesting and as well received as the great loss of life will permit. Hancock has made a successful onset and captured Edward Johnson and two other generals, with about fifty other officers and four thousand prisoners, thirty pieces of cannon, etc. General Sheridan, with his cavalry, has got in rear of Lee and destroyed about ten miles of railroad, captured two trains, and destroyed the depot of Rebel supplies at Beaver Dam. Our troops are in good heart and everything looks auspicious for the republic. Many valuable lives have been offered up for the Union, and many a Rebel has fallen. I dwell not on particulars. The public press and documents will give them. The tidings have caused joy to the patriotic everywhere, but among the intense partisans, known as Copperheads, it is obvious there is no gratification in the success of the Union arms. It is painful to witness this factious and traitorous spirit, but it plainly shows itself.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles.

May 13– Friday– Richmond, Virginia– “General Stuart was reported as improving last evening. The rumor of his death at noon, which caused so deep a sensation among the resident and transient population of Richmond, was speedily dissipated by an announcement from his surgeon that he was getting on well, and that his symptoms were hopeful. We trust that he may live to meet and repel many a Yankee raid. We learned with the saddest regret, since the above was in type, that General Stuart died at 8 o’clock last night. We must defer any notice of his services, owing to the lateness of the hour at which we write, until tomorrow’s issue.” ~ Richmond Whig.

May 13– Friday– near Spotsylvania Court House, Virginia– “The fight went on and continued until nearly 2 A.M. this morning. We took many prisoners during the day, men who in charges that the enemy made could not get away. I never saw even at Gettysburg so many dead rebels in front of our lines.” ~ Diary of Union officer Elisha Hunt Rhodes.

Battle of Spotsylvania

Battle of Spotsylvania

May 13– Friday– Morris Island, South Carolina– “We have been fighting as brave as ever there was any soldiers fought. I know if every regiment that are out and have been out would have done as well as we have the war would be over. I do really think that it’s God’s will that this war Shall not end till the Colored people get their rights. It goes very hard for the White people to think of it But by God’s will and power they will have their rights. Us that are living now may not live to see it. I shall die a trying for our rights so that other that are born hereafter may live and enjoy a happy life.” ~ Letter from Union soldier Jacob Christy to his sister Mary Jane Demus.

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