His Own Portion Much Improved ~ December 1864~ 3rd to 5th

His Own Portion Much Improved ~ Gideon Welles.

Lincoln with his secretaries

Lincoln with his secretaries

President Lincoln has several busy, finishing his State of the Union message (which the Secretary of Navy finds much improved over the initial draft), dealing with the sale of a warship to Japan, meeting with women begging for the release of their husbands and recommending commendations for several heroic officers. A major battle looms in Tennessee. Sherman’s troops continue creating chaos in Georgia. Whitman writes to friends in Washington. As throughout much of the nineteenth century, reformers call for restraints on the consumption of alcohol. A West Virginia man calls for the development of the petroleum industry.

December 3– Saturday– Philadelphia, Pennsylvania– “It is often said that intemperance destroys more than the sword, and even pestilence and famine with it. The army of the United States, (which is now the largest known in active service,) has within less than four years, destroyed more than 500,000 brave men, a fact which causes the ears to tingle and the heart of every individual who hears it to throb, yet intemperance, a lurking foe, a guest perhaps at some of our firesides, is annually sinking more than 300,000 victims into a drunkard’s grave, leaving out the various disasters, such as shipwreck, loss of military power, and a thousand other blunders occasioned in every department by the use of strong drink. If we calculate the vast amount of loss and suffering communities sustain, occasioned by the work of the fell destroyer, the facts surpass that of the most extravagant conception. Yes, intemperance has caused more widows’ tears to flow, more orphans to cry for bread, has sent more criminals to the public prisons, and drawn more funds from the revenue of the county than all the wars, and pestilence, and famine, that ever cursed the earth.” ~ The Christian Recorder.

signing a temperance pledge

signing a temperance pledge

December 3– Saturday– Staunton, Virginia– “Freddy & I are both quite well. Whilst I sit here this Saturday night alone writing Freddie is laying in bed near me sleeping sweetly. The more I think of the life I am now living the more I hate it to think of me having a sweet & interesting family & be forced to be separated from them for more than 3 years– it is too hard. But I hope for a speedy change for the better. I am still conducting the hotel, but think strong of changing quite soon. I have been trying long to get out of it but have not yet succeeded – it don’t pay me well for my labor as the money is of so little value, but I don’t intend to sell the property as it is a good investment. I heard that little Jinnie was sick I am so much concerned about her. Do try & let me know soon how she is getting. I have some money I want to send you whenever I can get a good chance. Mr Herring & Cliff are here & well. Robert Hunter is here tonight & well. Able is also well– little David was killed I have not much that I can write you now but take good care of yourselves.” ~ Letter from John Quincy Nadenbousch to Hester, his wife.

December 3– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– “A war steamer, called the Funayma Solace, having been built in this country for the Japanese Government and at the instance of that Government, it is deemed to comport with the public interest, in view of the unsettled condition of the relations of the United States with that Empire, that the steamer should not be allowed to proceed to Japan. If, however, the Secretary of the Navy should ascertain that the steamer is adapted to our service, he is authorized to purchase her, but the purchase money will be held in trust toward satisfying any valid claims which may be presented by the Japanese on account of the construction of the steamer and the failure to deliver the same, as above set forth.” ~ Executive order by President Lincoln.

December 3– Saturday– Washington, D. C.– For the third day in a row President Lincoln meets with two women from Tennessee who come seeking the release of their husbands, Confederate soldiers held at the prison camp at Johnson’s Island, Ohio. Today Lincoln grants their request, telling one of the women, “You say your husband is a religious man; tell him when you meet him, that I say I am not much of a judge of religion, but that, in my opinion, the religion that sets men to rebel and fight against their own government, because, as they think, that government does not sufficiently help some men to eat their bread in the sweat of other men’s faces, is not the sort of religion upon which people can get to heaven.”

Lincoln with his family

Lincoln with his family

December 3– Saturday– Washington, D. C.– “The President read his message [State of the Union] at a special Cabinet-meeting to-day and general criticism took place. His own portion has been much improved. The briefs submitted by the several members were incorporated pretty much in their own words. One paragraph proposing an Amendment to the Constitution recognizing the Deity in that instrument met with no favorable response from any one member of the Cabinet. The President, before reading it, expressed his own doubts in regard to it, but it had been urged by certain religionists. I should have been glad, and so stated, had there been a more earnest appeal to the Southern people and to the States respectively to return to duty.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles.

December 3– Saturday– Millen, Georgia– “I entered Millen with the Seventeenth Corps and therepaused one day, to communicate with all parts of the army. General Howard was south of the Ogechee River, with the Fifteenth Corps, opposite Scarboro. General Slocum was at Buckhead Church, four miles north of Millen, with the Twentieth Corps. The Fourteenth was at Lumpkin’s Station, on the Augusta Road, about ten miles north of Millen, and the cavalry division was within easy support of this wing. Thus the whole army was in good position and in good condition. We had largely subsisted on the country; our wagons were full of forage and provisions; but, as we approached the sea-coast, the country became more sandy and barren, and food became more scarce; still, with little or no loss, we had traveled two-thirds of our distance, and I concluded to push on for Savannah.” ~ Memoirs of General William Tecumseh Sherman.

living off the land of Georgia

living off the land of Georgia

December 3– Saturday– Thomas’ Station, Georgia; Perry County, Arkansas; near New Madrid, Missouri; near Tampa Bay, Florida– Raids and firefights.

December 3– Saturday– Rotterdam, The Netherlands– Birth of Herman Heijermans, writer. [Dies November 22, 1924.]

Herman Heijermans

Herman Heijermans

December 4– Sunday– Brooklyn, New York– “Your letter of November 30 came safe, & was truly welcome– if you have seen Mrs Howells she has told you that I intend returning to Washington this winter. I do not know how soon, but I shall come, almost certainly. . . . We are all well as usual. Mother remains well, & in pretty good spirits, better than I would have expected. My brother George still remains a prisoner– as near as we can judge he is at Columbia, South Carolina– we have had no word from him. About my book nothing particular to tell. I shall print it myself– also my new edition of Leaves of Grass. Most likely shall do it in the way we have talked of, namely by subscription. I feel that it is best for me to print my books myself, (notwithstanding some very good objections to that course, but the reasons in favor are far stronger). Dear Nelly, you & William have neither of you any idea how I daily & nightly bear you in mind & in love too. I did not know myself that you both had taken such deep root in my heart– few attachments wear & last through life, but ours must.” ~ Letter from Walt Whitman to Ellen M. O’Connor.

December 4– Sunday– before Petersburg, Virginia– “I was sorry to leave the Shenandoah for we have had a fine campaign, but duty is duty, and I do not complain. If it will end the war I am satisfied to go to any point they choose to send me. Here we are again in the trenches before Petersburg after our five month’s absence in Maryland and the Valley of the Shenandoah. . . . The change from the Valley is great, and it will take some time to get accustomed to siege work, which we dropped so suddenly in July last. Little progress has been made since we left here but we know the war will end in our favor sometime. ” ~ Diary of Elisha Hunt Rhodes.

December 4– Sunday– Waynesborough, Georgia– Federal cavalry inflicts a severe loss on Confederate troops. Total Union casualties– killed, wounded, missing– reaches 190; Confederate losses total 250.

December 4– Sunday– in the field, near Millen, Georgia– “Abundance of forage– chiefly fodder– hardly ever twenty minutes together out of sight of cornfields, though land is sandy and unpromising. No cotton today, as usual. That monarch [referring to King Cotton] is evidently an exile from the present from where he once reigned. We stopped for lunch today in a rice-field by the road . . . the first [such field] we have seen.” ~ Diary of Henry Hitchcock.

December 5– Monday– Wheeling, West Virginia– “If this be the correct theory, (and I believe it to be so,) beneath this substance there must still exist an enormous deposit of petroleum yet in a liquid state, and such being granted, it would not be unreasonable to conjecture that the petroleum found in the neighborhood of the Burning Springs, on the Little Kanawha river, which lies south, together with those on Bull and Cow creeks, so near the Ohio river, lying north of this lode, vast and extensive as they are, will be found to sink into insignificance with those of this county . . . . There is now almost ready for opening a branch railroad from the Ohio station to the mine, and as the mineral has been found to contain one hundred and sixty gallons of oil to the ton, even should the lode be no longer or deeper than at present proved (which is highly improbable,) there is still enough of the bitumen to yield a million barrels of petroleum. . . . I could mention in detail the magnificent timber and valuable deposits of iron ore that exists in this region, as also a famous saltpeter cave, from which in days gone by, large quantities of that material was collected, and which I should think in these gunpowder times could now be worked to advantage, but enough I think has been said to prove that in no portion of this favored continent, can capital or industry be brought to bear better than in this hitherto neglected part of what was once a portion of the ‘Old Dominion.’” ~ Letter from a Mr C E of Cairo, Ritchie County, West Virginia to the editor of the Wheeling Daily Intelligencer.


December 5– Monday– Washington, D.C.– President Lincoln sends three special messages to Congress requesting that “Captain John A. Winslow, United States Navy, receive a vote of thanks from Congress for the skill and gallantry exhibited by him in the brilliant action, while in command of the United States steamer Kearsarge“; that “Lieutenant-Commander James S. Thornton, United States Navy, the executive officer of the United States steamer Kearsarge” receive advancement in his rank, both of these men for their good conduct and faithful discharge of duties “in the brilliant action with the rebel steamer Alabama which led to the destruction of that vessel” on the 19th of June, 1864; and “that Lieutenant William B. Cushing, United States Navy, receive a vote of thanks from Congress for his important, gallant, and perilous achievement in destroying the rebel ironclad steamer Albemarle on the night of the 27th of October, 1864, at Plymouth, North Carolina.”

December 5– Monday– Overall Creek, Tennessee; Hillsborough, Tennessee; near Murfreesborough, Tennessee; near Nashville, Tennessee– Forays and skirmishes as Confederate forces prepare for a major assault against the Federal forces at Nashville.

December 5– Monday– Ogeechee Church, Georgia– “I reached Ogeechee Church, about fifty miles from Savannah, and found there fresh earthworks, which had been thrown up by Mc Law’s division; but he must have seen that both his flanks were being turned and prudently retreated to Savannah without a fight. All the columns then pursued leisurely their march toward Savannah, corn and forage becoming more and more scarce, but rice-fields beginning to occur along the Savannah and Ogeechee Rivers, which provided a good substitute, both as food and forage. The weather was fine, the roads good, and every thing seemed to favor us.” ~ Memoirs of William Tecumseh Sherman.

marching through Georgia

marching through Georgia

December 5– Monday– Ogeechee Church, Georgia– “We rode on to Ogeechee Church but presently learning of good house nearby we went there. Found that the house was a Mr. Loughborough, a former New Jersey man. Evidently, L. was man of wealth. Inside house everything in dire confusion– bureau drawers pulled out, furniture upset, books piled and tossed about, house evidently ‘ransacked’ as Aleck calls it. Glad to learn from L.’s servants [slaves]– all I asked telling the same story– that the rebels did this. L., it seems, left here yesterday (Sunday) after dinner; the main body of rebs staid, camped in his fields, till daylight this morning– they left, but their pickets remained, some few at work near creek, others at the house, and these did the mischief at the house.” Diary of Henry Hitchcock.

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