Poor Suffering Young Men, Great Swarms of Them~May 1864~22nd to 26th

Poor Suffering Young Men, Great Swarms of Them ~ Walt Whitman.

Whitman ponders death and describes the number of casualties coming into the Washington hospitals. Secretary of the Navy Welles evaluates the after-effects of the fake proclamation. Congress and the Lincoln Cabinet consider the French intervention in Mexico. In a small but significant fight black Union soldiers face the troops of Lee’s Army of Northen Virginia and win. Drunken soldiers are a problem on northern railroads. In Georgia, conditions worsen at the Andersonville prison camp and the mayor of Atlanta summons all the men of the city to prepare to defend it against Sherman’s advance.

General Sherman's troops destroying a southern railroad

General Sherman’s troops destroying a southern railroad

May 22– Sunday– Andersonville, Georgia– At Camp Sumter, the inmate hospital, previously located inside of the disease ridden and filthy stockade, is relocated southeast of the prison in an oak grove. While this provides a healthier environment for the patients, it does little to lessen the high death rate caused by a lack of food and medicine.

May 23– Monday– New York City– “The martyred newspapers, the World and Journal of Commerce, have been ungagged, and the former vomits acid bile most copiously.” ~ Diary of George Templeton Strong.

May 23– Monday– Washington, D.C.– “Sometimes I think that should it come, when it must be, to fall in battle, one’s anguish over a son or brother killed, would be tempered with much to take the edge off. I can honestly say it has no terrors for me, if I had to be hit in battle, as far as I myself am concerned– it would be a noble & manly death, & in the best cause– then one finds, as I have the past year, that our feelings & imaginations make a thousand times too much of the whole matter. Of the many I have seen die, or known of, the past year, I have not seen or heard of one who met death with any terror.” ~ Letter from Walt Whitman to his brother Jeff.

Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman

May 23– Monday– Washington, D.C.– “The author of the forged proclamation has been detected. His name is Howard, and he has been long connected with the New York press, but especially with the Times. If I am not mistaken, he has been one of my assailants and a defamer of the [Navy] Department. He is of a pestiferous class of reckless sensation-writers for an unscrupulous set of journalists who misinform the public mind. Scarcely one of them has regard for truth, and nearly all make use of their positions to subserve selfish, mercenary ends. This forger and falsifier Howard is a specimen of the miserable tribe. The seizure of the office of the World and Journal of Commerce for publishing this forgery was hasty, rash, inconsiderate, and wrong, and cannot be defended. They are mischievous and pernicious, working assiduously against the Union and the Government and giving countenance and encouragement to the Rebellion, but were in this instance the dupes, perhaps the willing dupes, of a knave and wretch. The act of suspending these journals, and the whole arbitrary and oppressive proceedings, had its origin with the Secretary of State. Stanton, I have no doubt, was willing to act on Seward’s promptings, and the President, in deference to Seward, yielded to it. These things are to be regretted. They weaken the Administration and strengthen its enemies. Yet the Administration ought not to be condemned for the misdeeds of one, or at most two, of its members. They would not be if the President was less influenced by them.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles.

Gideon Welles

Gideon Welles

May 23– Monday– Augusta County, Virginia– “I am once more permitted by my kind redeemer to write you a short Epistle, in Compliance With yours which finds me in good health. And truly hope when those few lines Come to hand they will find you enjoying a happier Condition of life than I am at present; Cousin, I will have to relate the sad event To you as it is more than I can bury within my own heart, although it is what we are all Destined to some day sooner or later, Cousin John Houser received a wound in the recent Battle which has Called him home to rest, & I truly hope although he gave no satisfactory evidence of his rest or assurance in Christ that he may Be numbered with the blest. His only request was to see his Pa but he died & was buried Before his Pa arrived at the hospital he died in the hospital at Charlottesville & was buried there.” ~ Letter from Mollie Houser to her cousin James Houser.

May 23– Monday– near Spotsylvania, Virginia– “We advanced to find out if the Yankees were gone. We soon came in contact with their skirmishers and a brisk engagement ensued. We drove them a good long ways till we came up with too strong a force for us, who were well fortified. We then retreated and that night commenced our march down to this place. My feet stood the march pretty well but I am poor and thin and am tired down. I wish old Grant had fought us up there but he knew we would whip him there, and he wants to try another place.” ~ Letter from Confederate soldier Marion Hill Fitzpatrick to his wife Amanda.

May 23– Monday– Atlanta, Georgia– “In view of the dangers which threaten us, and in pursuance of a call made by General Wright and General Wayne, I require all the male citizens of Atlanta, capable of bearing arms, without regard to occupation, who are not in the Confederate or State service, to report by 12 M. [noon], on Thursday, the 26th instant to O. H. Jones, marshal of the city, to be organized into companies and armed, and to report to General Wright when organized. And all male citizens who are not willing to defend their homes and families are requested to leave the city at their earliest convenience, as their presence only embarrasses the authorities and tends to the demoralization of others.” ~ Proclamation by Mayor James M Calhoun.

James Calhoun, Mayor of Atlanta

James Calhoun, Mayor of Atlanta

May 23– Monday– Copenhagen, Denmark– Birth of Louis Christian Glass, composer. [Dies January 22, 1936.]

May 24– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– “In answer to the resolution of the House of Representatives of yesterday on the subject of the joint resolution of the 4th of last month relative to Mexico, I transmit a report from the Secretary of State, to whom the resolution was referred.” ~ Message from President Lincoln updating the House of Representatives on the situation in Mexico.

May 24– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– “Nothing especial at the Cabinet. The condition and position of the armies canvassed. Chase was not present. He seldom attends of late. . . . Seward sent to my house on Saturday evening a bundle of dispatches from Mr. Dayton [U. S. Minister to France], and also from Mr. Bigelow, our consul at Paris, relative to the conduct and feelings of the French Government. That breaking through the blockade for tobacco looks mischievous, and one or more vessels ought doubtless to appear in European waters. Bigelow, in his confidential dispatch, tells Seward that it was not judicious to have explained to the French Government in regard to the resolution of our House of Representatives that they would maintain the Monroe Doctrine.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles.

May 24– Tuesday– Wilson’s Wharf, Virginia–Black units of Federal forces repulse a Confederate attack. Casualties are relatively light on both sides– 46 total for the Federals, 200 total for the Confederates– and the action has little long term military effect, but the North scores a propaganda victory. It is the first significant combat encounter between the Army of Northern Virginia and black soldiers, who fight well in a defensive battle against a larger attacking force. Southerners, unwilling to acknowledge their defeat against a predominantly African-American force, claim that six gunboats and substantial numbers of white Union soldiers were involved in the action. In actuality, only one Union gunboat gave artillery support to the black soldiers.


May 24– Tuesday– somewhere along the North Anna River, Virginia– “We went back a short distance on the same road we came and we sharpshooters deployed and forwarded ahead of the Brigade through a thick woods. We soon ran up with the Yankee skirmish line, and fought them hot and heavy, drove them in and fought the line of battle for awhile. But they got too strong for us and we fell back, expecting to find the Brigade in our rear ready to go on and whip them out. But we had inclined to the right and the Brigade to the left, so where I was I found no support at all in my rear. Several of us fell back to the railroad where started from. The fight then opened in earnest. They drove the Yanks a good ways but fell back about a mile last night. I am now on the skirmish line and our forces building breastworks. We are looking for another fight at any time. I slept but little last night. It is useless to talk about how tired and sore I am. I have not changed clothes or shaved since the fighting commenced. Pray for me. May God bless you and my noble boy.” ~ Letter from Confederate soldier Marion Hill Fitzpatrick to his wife Amanda.

May 24– Tuesday– Cass Station, Georgia; Nashville, Tennessee; Huntsville, Georgia; Holly Springs, Mississippi; Dallas, Georgia; Little Rock, Arkansas; Cassville, Georgia; Morganza, Louisiana; Charles Town, West Virginia; Wilson’s Wharf, Virginia; Lewisburg, West Virginia– Skirmishes, fire fights, contests and tussles.

May 25– Wednesday– Wheeling, West Virginia– “Mr. W. P. Smith, Master of Transportation on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, has sent a circular letter to all officers in command of troops stationed along the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, stating that frequent depredations have occurred of late by unruliness on the part of the troops, while being carried over the road in detachments or larger commands. . . . In other instances, a number of soldiers, under the influence of liquor, have risked the lives of their fellow passengers on the train and others, by disorderly conduct. . . . This is a most serious and a growing evil, involving great losses to a company, and to many individuals. Mr. Smith says, that, independent of the general propriety and duty, which calls for efforts at preventing these irregularities and abuses, the fact that the passenger trains contain many officers and soldiers and their families, moving over the road . . . he hopes it is not amiss for him to invoke vigilant attention to the subject, so that a careful supervision on the part of the officers, and a prompt alacrity to prevent danger and possibly loss of life or personal injury to passengers, in arresting the offenders and interposing their authority these grave difficulties may be remedied.” ~ Wheeling Daily Intelligencer.

MilitaryRailroad Engine

May 25– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– “Mother, it is just the same old story, poor suffering young men, great swarms of them come up here, now, every day, all battered & bloody– there have 4000 arrived here this morning, & 1500 yesterday– they appear to be bringing them all up here from Fredericksburg– the journey from the field till they get aboard the boats at Bell Plain is horrible . . . . But, Mother, I shall make you gloomy enough if I go on with these kind of particulars. Only I know you like to hear about the poor young men, after I have once begun to mention them. Mother, I have changed my quarters– am at 502 Pennsylvania avenue near 3rd street, only a little way from the Capitol– where I was, the house was sold & the old lady I hired the room from had to move out & give the owner possession. I like my new quarters pretty well. I have a room to myself, 3rd story hall bedroom, I have my meals in the house.” ~ Letter from Walt Whitman to his mother Louisa.

May 25– Wednesday– New Hope Church, Georgia– A pitched battle to stop General Sherman’s advance toward Atlanta begins today and will last for the next eleven days.

May 25– Wednesday– Andersonville, Georgia– At the Andersonville prison-camp, Commander Henry Wirz, having heard that a group of inmates plan a mass escape, posts a sign inside the stockade that if prisoners attempted to escape, he will order the artillery to open fire into the compound.

May 26– Thursday– Washington, D. C.– President Lincoln meets with Attorney General Bates and Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts to discuss the pay of African American clergy who serve as chaplains.

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