Interesting Though Not Sensational~May 1864~29th to 31st

Interesting Though Not Sensational~Gideon Welles

The month finishes with much hard fighting, particularly in Virginia and Georgia. Some Republicans seek an alternative Lincoln.

General Grant

General Grant

May 29– Sunday– approaching Cold Harbor, Virginia– “You will see that our army is now near Richmond and no doubt here is where the great battle of the war will be fought, and whatever the country or people think, I know not but I can speak for the army. We feel perfectly confident of success. We have whipped them every time we have fought for the last month and with the blessing of God we can do it again. I am somewhat uneasy about our army under General Johnston at Atlanta, still hope he will give a good account of himself. Oh, how I long for rest and for the presence of my dearest Molly. I trust in God that if I never get to see my own dear wife that we will meet in heaven where parting and wars are no more.” ~ Letter from Confederate soldier W A Stilwell to his wife Molly.

May 29– Sunday– Salem, Arkansas; Winchester, Tennessee; along the Yazoo River, Mississippi; Moulton, Alabama; Newtown, Virginia; Hamlin, West Virginia; Bayou Fordoche Road, Louisiana; Middleburg, Virginia– Raids, skirmishes, ambushes and firefights.

May 29– Sunday– Amsterdam, Netherlands– Birth of A H Borgesius, educator and amateur astronomer. [Dies May 27, 1941.]

May 30– Monday– Washington, D.C.– “I have no news at all to write this time. . . . Grant is gradually getting nearer & nearer to Richmond. Many [here] anticipate that should Grant go into Richmond, Lee will make a side movement & march up west, into the north, either to attempt to strike Washington, or to go again into Pennsylvania. I only say if that should happen, I for one shall not be dissatisfied so very much. . . . I have been in one of the worst hospitals all the forenoon, it contains about 1600 [patients]. I have given the men pipes & tobacco, (I am the only one that gives them tobacco). O how much good it does some of them– the chaplains & most of the doctors are down upon it but I give them & let them smoke– to others I have given oranges, fed them.” ~ Letter from Walt Whitman to his mother, Louisa.

Louisa Whitman

Louisa Whitman

May 30– Monday– Washington, D.C.– “The army movements have been interesting for the last few days, though not sensational. Grant has not obtained a victory but performed another remarkably successful flank movement. Sherman is progressing in Georgia.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles.

May 30– Monday– approaching Cold Harbor, Virginia– “The slaughter of the enemy in the Wilderness was immense. The battle was fought in a wilderness indeed no artillery being used except on the left of our line. Grant finding he could do nothing in the Wilderness, commenced moving his army towards our right in the direction of Fredericksburg, hoping I’ve no doubt to flank General Lee; but he was handsomely foiled by General R.H. Anderson, our former division commander, at that time commanding Longstreet’s Corps, whom, I forgot to mention, as being among the wounded at the Wilderness. As Grant is considerably nearer Richmond now . . . I’m afraid some of the people at home will think that General Lee is outflanked, out-generaled, whipped. Let me tell you that is all entirely a mistake. Our troops were never in better spirits or more confident of success. There only awaits the advancement of the enemy. . . . I do hope . . . the whole Confederate army may be successful in the approaching struggles, and that God will crown our efforts with a speedy, happy lasting peace.” ~ Letter from Confederate soldier Alva Benjamin Spencer to his fiancee.

May 30– Monday– near Dallas, Georgia– “My health is good but we are all about tired out. The Cavalry has never had such hard work or so much fighting. Our horses have not had a feed of grain in four days. They cannot go much further. The whole rebel army is in front of us. They are determined to drive us back or die. Night before last they made an assault upon our lines but were repulsed with a loss of 800. Last night there was the most terrific fighting I ever heard. The whole rebel army I should judge was charging upon our lines. I have had no report of the result yet. Only that we held our line firmly. Their loss must be terrible. Such firing and crashing and moaning was never heard. Our Cavalry fell back to the left and we were four miles in the rear when the assault was made. The whole sky was lit up as if the world was on fire. A sullen and continuous roar was heard. The sound would rise and fall like the waves of ocean. The earth fairly trembled and shrunk from the shock of hundreds of cannon. I am confident of success. We cannot fail. Our Army is large, larger than you imagine and our cause is just.” ~ Letter from Union soldier Henry Albert Potter to his father.

May 31–Tuesday– Cleveland, Ohio–A convention of 350 Radical Republicans nominates John C Fremont for president and John Cochran of New York for vice-president. Their platform calls for a constitutional amendment abolishing slavery, no compromise with the Confederacy, a one term limit for the office of president, direct election of president and vice-president, a policy of reconstruction for the defeated South to be set by Congress and not the president, the plantations of Southern rebels to be given to Union veterans and no toleration of “the establishment of any anti-republican government on this continent by any foreign power.”

John C. Fremont

John C. Fremont

May 31–Tuesday– Washington, D.C.–“Mr. Seward sent me on Saturday a correspondence between himself and Lord Lyons and the Treasury Department relative to a large amount of cotton which was purchased a few months since in Georgia by one John Mulholland, an Englishman, who desires to bring it out, or, if he could not do that, to have it protected. . . . I decline giving any such instructions, and so have written Mr. Seward, considering it illegal as well as inexpedient, telling him it would be a precedent for transferring all the products of the South into foreign hands to pay for munitions of war which we should be bound to protect. None but Englishmen would have the presumption to make such a request. It is entitled to no respect or consideration. Not unlikely it is cotton of the Rebel government covered up.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles.

May 31–Tuesday– Washington, D.C.–The House of Representatives defeats a resolution for a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery [which will eventually become the Thirteenth Amendment] by a vote of 55 in favor but 75 opposed.

May 31– Tuesday– approaching Mechanicsville, Virginia– In his diary Union officer Elisha Hunt Rhodes notes that since leaving winter quarters his regiment has lost 2 officers killed, 8 officers wounded and “nearly one hundred enlisted men killed and wounded. Surely war is a cruel business, and what sorrow will be felt in Rhode Island when the sad news reaches our friends.”


May 31– Tuesday– Richmond, Virginia– “About eleven hundred Yankee prisoners of war, officers and privates, held at the Libby, and elsewhere in Richmond, will be started southward to day, via Danville, for Andersonville, Georgia. The lot will probably be divided, part going to day, and the balance tomorrow.” ~ Richmond Examiner

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