Finish This Imperative Work of War ~ December, 1864 ~ 9th to 11th

Finish This Imperative Work of War ~ New York Herald

General Sherman

General Sherman

Determined to finish the work, Sherman and his troops come within sight of Savannah, Georgia. On the way he finds an officer seriously injured by the Civil War equivalent of an IED and sees a man decapitated by a canon ball. Politics simmer in Washington, D. C. And President Lincoln appoints a special commission to investigate goings-on in the West. A conservative Northern paper blames the “satanical abolitionists” for the war and comes on Lincoln to push to a quick finish. A young woman in Nashville wonders and worries about impending battle. In Georgia a women writes to let her sweetheart know that she and her family are safe and to express hope that Sherman will be killed or captured.

December 9– Friday– Washington, D.C.– “At the Cabinet little as usual was done. Fessenden and Stanton were not present. Seward came late. No measure of any importance was introduced. Seward, Usher, and myself came out together, the other two a little in advance of me. Seward took Usher aside in the large hall just as they were coming out, and he spoke and beckoned to me also after the others had turned off to come with them. He said, as I came up, that he was remarking to Usher that Congress and the country were full of speculations about [Cabinet] appointments; that he did not care a damn about himself– if the President wanted him he would remain, and would go if he did not. He was going to take no part against any other member of the Cabinet, but should stand by them. Usher said it was important that he should know, for he had to depend on his salary for income for his support, and probably Mr. Seward could let him know what were the President’s intentions. The subject seemed to be one on which the two had been previously conversing, and Usher was evidently in some suspense or anxiety. I did not see nor apprehend the pertinency or occasion for the conversation, except that Usher may have heard, or learned, something which has disturbed him, and sought information from Seward, who chose to have me hear him utter nonsense to Usher. I remarked that I gave no thought to the rumors, manufactured by correspondents and quidnuncs; that if Members of Congress or committees attempted to dictate to the President, he would know how to appreciate them. The conversation did not exceed five minutes, perhaps not more than three. We then came out, but Usher seemed disturbed and clung to and walked off with Seward, although his carriage was waiting in the opposite direction.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles.

John Usher, Secretary of the Interior

John Usher, Secretary of the Interior

December 9– Friday– Augusta County, Virginia– “It is now nearly the middle of the day and I have had my paper, pen, & ink all morning to write to you, but we had company last night, and they have not all got away yet, and several more come in so you see I have just to slip off from them and write. I am up stairs in our room with little fire & so cold that I can’t write with a pen so you must excuse pencil. It is one of the coldest days we have had this winter. I received your kind letter several weeks ago (or rather it came here for me) as I was at Moore’s at the time I spent two weeks (wanting two days) there. . . . We know not what a day nor an hour may bring forth. We will try & send you a barrel [of food and gifts] as soon as we possibly can. I was truly glad to hear that you were so fortunate as to get in with Lieutenant H. and did not have to go the field of a action – hope you will remain there. Write soon and let us hear from you, and if you know any thing about Davis. Sarah Margaret and all send their love to you. Please excuse this horridly written letter as I am in a great hurry, and am cold. May the blessings of our Heavenly Father ever be with you.” ~ Letter from Phebe Ann McCormick to her brother-in-law Enos Ott.

December 9– Friday– approaching Savannah, Georgia– “As I rode along, I found the column turned out of the main road, marching through the fields. Close by, in the corner of a fence, was a group of men standing around a handsome young officer, whose foot had been blown to pieces by a torpedo [early type of land mine] planted in the road. He was waiting for a surgeon to amputate his leg and told me that he was riding along with the rest of his brigade-staff of the Seventeenth Corps, when a torpedo trodden on by his horse had exploded, killing the horse and literally blowing off all the flesh from one of his legs. I saw the terrible wound, and made full inquiry into the facts. There had been no resistance at that point, nothing to give warning of danger, and the rebels had planted eight-inch shells in the road, with friction-matches to explode them by being trod on. This was not war, but murder, and it made me very angry. I immediately ordered a lot of rebel prisoners to be brought from the provost-guard, armed with picks and spades, and made them march in close order along the road, so as to explode their own torpedoes, or to discover and dig them up. They begged hard, but I reiterated the order, and could hardly help laughing at their stepping so gingerly along the road, where it was supposed sunken torpedoes might explode at each step, but they found no other torpedoes till near Fort McAllister. That night we reached Pooler’s Station, eight miles from Savannah.” ~ Memoirs of William Tecumseh Sherman.

December 9– Friday– Monasterevin, Kildare, Ireland– Birth of Willoughby Hamilton, tennis player, who will become the Wimbledon Champion in 1890. [Dies September 27, 1943].

Willoughby Hamilton

Willoughby Hamilton

December 10– Saturday– New York City– “The authorities in Detroit have received positive information, that the rebels in Canada had completed all their plans for a raid on that city on Thursday night, but were deterred by the complete preparations which had been made to receive them. Another meeting of citizens of Detroit was held yesterday for the purpose of giving additional strength to their defensive arrangements. One of our correspondents in the Shenandoah valley inform us that the rebel Generals Early and Breckinridge have both received instructions from Richmond to make demonstrations on the lines of General Sheridan’s army. By the rebel newspaper extracts which we publish this morning it will be seen that on the 6th instant the rebel Senate defeated a resolution introduced in pursuance of Jeff Davis’ recommendation that various officers exempted by State laws should be forced into the rebel army. Another set of resolutions fiercely condemning the proposition to make soldiers of slaves, and give them their freedom as a reward for service, has been introduced in the South Carolina Legislature. A bill has passed the House of Representatives of that body for the conscription of all males between sixteen and sixty. The Richmond papers continue to assail Governor Brown, of Georgia. They say the reason that he refused to allow the seizure for service in the rebel armies of various persons in his State was that he desired to reserve a sufficient force to fight Jeff Davis.” ~ New York Herald .

General William F Smith

General William F Smith

December 10– Saturday– “Ordered, . . . That Major-General William F. Smith and the Honorable Henry Stanbery be, and they are hereby, appointed special commissioners to investigate and report, for the information of the President, upon the civil and military administration in the military division bordering upon and west of the Mississippi, under such instructions as shall be issued by authority of the President and the War Department. . . . Said commissioners shall have power to examine witnesses upon oath, and to take such proofs, orally or in writing, upon the subject-matters of investigation as they may deem expedient, and return the same together with their report. . . . All officers and persons in the military, naval, and revenue services, or in any branch of the public service under the authority of the United States Government, are required, upon subpoena issued by direction of the said commissioners, to appear before them at such time and place as may be designated in said subpoena and to give testimony on oath . . . . The Secretary of War shall assign to the said commissioners such aid and assistance as may be required for the performance of their duties, and make such just and reasonable allowances and compensation for the said commissioners and for the persons employed by them as he may deem proper.” ~ Executive order by President Lincoln.

December 11– Sunday– New York City– “The satanical abolitionists of the North, who fomented this war, and the ferocious and bloody-minded fire-eaters of the South, who commenced it, will be held to their terrible responsibility by the conservative masses of the country, North and South. The abolitionists, pleading the cause of humanity for the Negro, have brought upon him a state of things which threatens to end only with the destruction of his race. The fire-eaters, intent upon a Southern confederacy, resting on the corner stone of Negro slavery, have brought upon their section the horrors of a hostile invasion by numerous armies and a state of siege, which threaten not only the overthrow of slavery and their confederacy, but the extirpation of slaves and slaveholders. Thus fools, rushing in where angels fear to tread, have brought all the horrors of this dreadful war upon the land. They will not escape their day of reckoning. Meantime, in order to put an end to the scenes of lawless violence and crime attendant we again admonish the administration of its solemn and paramount duty of pushing on the war earnestly and vigorously to a speedy conclusion. Put down the rebel armies, Mr. President, and give us again the blessings of peace, before we forget, North and South, what they are. The men and the means Mr. Lincoln, are at your command. Stir yourself, put down the rebellion; stop these groans of dying men, these painful cries of women and children which come to us on every breeze. Push on and finish this imperative work of war, and give us peace.” ~ New York Herald.

radical abolitionist Frederick Douglass

radical abolitionist Frederick Douglass

December 11– Sunday– Nashville, Tennessee– “Things grow monotonous– are they to remain thus all winter I wonder! Two large armies lying here at Nashville looking at each other, and doing nothing more valorous than destroying what is left of the once beautiful regions about them! Yesterday’s paper states that the damage done in the last few days to property on the opposite side of the city amounts to between half a million to a million dollars– all those lovely homes on the Franklin pike, Mr. Putnam’s (what merry times we girls have had in that dear old house!)– Mr. Berry’s, Mr. Duncan’s, etc. are utterly ruined I am told. Mrs. A. V. Brown’s is Chatham’s headquarters. The rebels are conscripting every man and boy in their lines. It is whispered that the Nichols have Harry and Mr. More secreted in their house although the rebels are constantly there, but as the older boys are officers, there is not much trouble in hiding these two I imagine!” ~Journal of Maggie Lindsley.

December 11– Sunday– Dooly County, Georgia– “I have many times in my life wished Pa would sell out and move to middle Georgia, as we would have the benefit of better schools and better society. Now I think about how thankful we should be that we are situated just where we are. It is the most safety place of refuge I can think of in this state. A great many refugees and exiles are flocking continually to this county. I do hope Sherman’s army will not be permitted to make their escape in safety; but will all be captured or killed. I suppose they move very slowly in the direction of Savannah. I hope our force ahead is sufficient to meet them. In my last [letter] I told you Pa had to go in service as Governor Brown’s last call embraced his age. He reported at Macon, had two exemptions, his county office and mill consequently he was discharged. You haven’t the least idea how rejoiced we were when he came. We had just sat down to supper table, when he drove in the yard and everyone jumped up and ran to meet him, Negroes, too. John and Joe started to their command during Sherman’s stay near Macon and were not permitted to go through, but in a few days were sent in company with a great many more Virginia troops to Savannah by the lower rout, also the Militia went too.” ~ Letter from Maggie Cone to her fiancé Alva Benjamin Spencer.

marching toward Savannah

marching toward Savannah

December 11– Sunday– approaching Savannah, Georgia– “I rode forward by the Louisville road, into a dense wood of oak, pine, and cypress, left the horses, and walked down to the railroad-track, at a place where there was a side-track, and a cut about four feet deep. From that point the railroad was straight, leading into Savannah, and about eight hundred yards off were a rebel parapet and a battery. I could see the cannoneers preparing to fire and cautioned the officers near me to scatter, as we would likely attract a shot. Very soon I saw the white puff of smoke and, watching close, caught sight of the ball as it rose in its flight, and, finding it coming pretty straight, I stepped a short distance to one side, but noticed a Negro very near me in the act of crossing the track at right angles. Someone called to him to look out; but, before the poor fellow understood his danger, the ball (a thirty-two pound round shot) struck the ground, and rose in its first ricochet, caught the Negro under the right jaw, and literally carried away his head, scattering blood and brains about. A soldier close by spread an overcoat over the body, and we all concluded to get out of that railroad-cut.” ~ Memoirs of William Tecumseh Sherman.

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