Feel So Wholly Blue~July 1864~the 5th to 7th

Felt So Wholly Blue ~ Ellen M O’Connor

Whitman’s friends miss him and express concern for his health. Citizens in Georgia feel sad as Union troops surround them and sabotage the South’s industrial base. Soldiers worry. President Lincoln calls for a day of prayer and fasting. Navy Secretary Welles expresses great relief at the sinking of the Alabama. An elderly freed slave declares her gratitude for the Union army.

Harpers Weekly cartoon about the Fourth of July

Harpers Weekly cartoon about the Fourth of July

July 5– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– “It will be two weeks to-morrow since you left us,1 and I have missed you terribly every minute of the time. I think I never in my life felt so wholly blue and unhappy about any one’s going away as I did and have since, about your going. I began to be really superstitious I felt so badly. I did not think that you were going to die, but I could not possibly overcome the feeling that our dear and pleasant circle was broken, and it seemed to me that we four should not be together any more as we have been. But now since you are so much better, I hope you will come back to Washington in the autumn to stay all winter, and I hope we shall spend a part of every day together, as we have so many days. Ah! Walt, I don’t believe other people need you as much as we do. I am sure they don’t need you as much as I do. . . . What news from your brother George? I think our army affairs are looking rather dismal, don’t you? And when gold went up so last week, I thought we were going to have a crash in the finance at once, & now what a terrible rise there is in prices, sugar 38 cents a pound here. Is it so bad with you? What about your book? Have you been able yet to give a thought even? And just how are you? Tell me won’t you? I hope you are very, very much better. That Wednesday evening after you left I felt so badly at your leaving so suddenly. For it was sudden at last, & I wished I had persuaded you to stay just one day longer, but the very next day was intensely hot, & so for four days, & then I was glad for your sake that you were safe home.” ~ Letter from Ellen M. O’Connor to Walt Whitman.

July 5– Tuesday– Union headquarters outside of Petersburg, Virginia– “I forgot to tell you that yesterday there appeared a wagon of the Sanitary Commission bearing a gift for the comfort of Headquarters. With it came the agent, Mr. Johnson, a dried-up Philadelphian, of a serious countenance. He brought some ice, mutton, canned fruit, etc., for the behoof of the suffering officers, and was received with sweet smiles. This morning we made up a quartet . . . and made a journey to City Point, distant some twelve or thirteen miles. It was not unpleasant, though the sun was extremely hot; for we took back roads in the woods and escaped a good share of dust. Before getting to the City Point road . . . we stopped at one Epps’s house. . . . Among other [slaves] a venerable ‘Aunty,’ of whom I asked her age. ‘Dunno,’ replied the Venerable, ‘but I know I’se mighty old: got double granchildren.’ She then began to chuckle much, and said: ‘Massa allers made me work, cause he was ugly; but since you uns is come, I don’t have to do nothin. Oh! I’se powerful glad you uns is come. I didn’t know thar was so many folks in the whole world as I seen round here.’ . . . At City Point I delivered some despatches at General Grant’s, and after went down and saw the Sanitary boats. They have three of them, large ones, moored permanently side by side, and full of all sorts of things, and especially a host of boxes, no two alike. The upper deck, to render it attractive, was ornamented with a pile of two or three hundred pairs of crutches. For myself I got some iced lemonade on board, and retired much refreshed and highly patriotic.” ~ Letter from Union officer Theodore Lyman to his wife Elizabeth.

July 5– Tuesday– Roswell, Georgia– Federal cavalry under the command of General Kenner Garrard arrives to find the bridge across the Chattahoochee River had been burned by withdrawing Confederate soldiers. Garrard orders his troopers to commence burning all the mills and industrial buildings in town. According to his report, one of the cotton mills destroyed today contained over one million dollars worth of machinery and employed four-hundred workers. [The one million would equal $15,300,000 today using the Consumer Price Index and $1.76 billion today in terms of economic power as a share of the Gross Domestic Product. Roswell served as a key provider of industrial products for the Confederacy.]

Union General Kenner Garrard

Union General Kenner Garrard

July 5– Tuesday– Cobb County, Georgia– “As the preceding day, I went to town, saw a few friends, enquired into their suffering; nearly all of whom in common with myself, had suffered more or less from the robbers on Sunday & Monday. Some had lost everything The Negroes had fared no better, old Mamie, the servant of Mrs. Duncan, who staid in her yard, was in great distress and . . . sadly, she informed me that the Robbers had broken open her Mistress’ house and destroyed everything left and had robbed her of all of her provisions and her clothing, even her needles & thread, leaving her nothing but the clothing she had on, she asked them to have mercy an a poor Negro, they cursed her and said if she did not close her mouth they would kill her. Into what demons does War transform men. During the day a Regiment of [Federal] Cavalry under Colonel C, an intelligent & gentlemanly officer, encamped on the premises to remain until the next day, but during the afternoon he received orders to proceed toward Power’s Ferry. He informed me the paper mill had been burnt. I visited some of my neighbors.” ~ Diary of William King.

July 6– Wednesday– Washington, D. C.– “Received dispatches to-day from Captain Winslow of the Kearsarge relative to sinking the Alabama. Wrote congratulatory letter. There is great rejoicing throughout the country over this success, which is universally and justly conceded a triumph over England as well as over the Rebels. In my first draft, I made a point or two, rather too strong perhaps, against England and the mercenary, piratical spirit of Semmes [Confederate captain of the Alabama], who had accumulated chronometers. . . . Violent attacks have been made upon the Department and myself for the reason that our naval vessels were not efficient, had no speed ; but in the account of the battle, the Kearsarge is said, by way of lessening the calamity, to have had greater steaming power than the Alabama, and to have controlled the movement. Our large smooth-bore guns, the Dahlgrens, have been ridiculed and denounced by the enemies of the Navy Department, but the swift destruction of the Alabama is now imputed to the great guns which tore her in pieces.”~ Diary of Gideon Welles. [The powerful Dahlgren guns were designed by Admiral John Dahlgren (1809-1870). His son Ulric was killed back in March while leading an abortive Union cavalry raid against Richmond.]

a Dahlgren gun on the USS Kearsarge

a Dahlgren gun on the USS Kearsarge

July 6– Wednesday– Washington, D. C.– “I have not heard from you for some time the last time I heard from you Jo Harris was telling me that you [weren’t] well & that you were on the Avenue & had a room there. I am still here & will stay until August I get out now most every day until six o’clock but I never see you. I have got my Artificial leg but can’t walk very well on it but I think that practice will make me more perfect. I would like very much to see you come in here & spend the evening as you used to do at the old Armory but alas I never see your familiar [face] in the threshold of my old tent. The boys feels sadly at a loss not to have some one to come in and set awhile with them for there is no one here to do so, as you used to at Armory Square. There is a great many wounded in the Hospital here.” ~ Letter from Union soldier Lewis K Brown to Walt Whitman.

July 6– Wednesday– outside Petersburg, Virginia– “The Army presents a rather motley appearance now, as little regard is paid to dress, and all are dirty and ragged. Still I am happy and probably the best contented man in the Army of the Potomac.” ~ Diary of Union officer Elisha Hunt Rhodes.

July 6– Wednesday– Petersburg, Virginia– “We have all written you repeatedly about the Yankees here & their conduct – I pray daily I may never be with them again – Oh! it was horrible past all descriptions! Dear Mother it is so hard on you & father, to be driven away from your sweet home, & to leave it all the dear old church, the graves of your loved children, & all that is so hard & grievous– We have heard nothing later than 31st of May from you– & have been very much worried by a rumor, that the factory has been burned.” ~ Letter from Confederate officer Thomas Edward King to his parents in Roswell, Georgia.

July 6– Wednesday– Cobb County, Georgia– “I felt dull today, too much so to go to town. I visited some of the neighbors, heard their complaints and indulged in sad reflections on the consequences of this sad war, and thanked God that I had no agency in involving our happy country in it. How desolate do I feel in witnessing and hearing of so much distress & heartlessness for the safety of my two sons in the Armies of Virginia and Georgia and my wife and other members of my family [sent to Savannah, Georgia for their safety], so separated from me that I can neither hear of them nor partake of their counsel nor sympathy. How cheering is the hope of Heaven under such circumstances and the knowledge that God overrules all things.” ~ Diary of William King.

July 6– Wednesday– Roswell, Georgia– Union General Kenner Garrard continues burning mills and factories in the town. He sends word of what he had found and destroyed to General Sherman, who replies by telling Garrard to stay there and await further orders.

Federal troops destroying railroads & buildings in Georgia

Federal troops destroying railroads & buildings in Georgia

July 6– Wednesday– somewhere north of Atlanta, Georgia– “The Yankees don’t seem too want to fight us. They say they intend to flank us and drive us to South Carolina. They say there is no use to fight. General Johnston has tried to bring them to a fight, but there is so many of them they flank him and he is compelled to fall back. Some think they can’t flank us from the river, where we are now, but that is all a mistake. They will do it if they try. It was said they never would drive us from Dalton Gap, the best position we ever had, but they did. If we could not hold them there, we can’t hold them no where. They have drove us over 100 miles over the best farming country I ever saw. They have laid waste everything. Great God! what a destruction! All this has been done in two months! My dear, this is a distressing time. We are a gone people without help. Soon I fear they will be upon you all in less than three months. I hope this will not alarm you, but you may begin to prepare for it. I can’t think otherwise. My dear Wife, I cannot express myself to you what a world of trouble this is. It seems like the Lord has turned His face from us and left us to work out our own destruction.” ~ Letter from a Confederate soldier to his wife.

July 7– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– “Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, cordially concurring with the Congress of the United States in the penitential and pious sentiments expressed in the aforesaid resolution and heartily approving of the devotional design and purpose thereof, do hereby appoint the first Thursday of August next to be observed by the people of the United States as a day of national humiliation and prayer. I do hereby further invite and request the heads of the Executive Departments of this Government, together with all legislators, all judges and magistrates, and all other persons exercising authority in the land, whether civil, military, or naval, and all soldiers, seamen, and marines in the national service, and all the other loyal and law-abiding people of the United States, to assemble in their preferred places of public worship on that day, and there and then to render to the almighty and merciful Ruler of the Universe such homages and such confessions and to offer to Him such supplications as the Congress of the United States have in their aforesaid resolution so solemnly, so earnestly, and so reverently recommended.” ~ Proclamation by President Lincoln

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