Sorry Tales to Tell ~ December, 1864 ~ 14th and 15th

Sorry Tales to Tell ~ Wheeling newspaper

Refugees from Virginia continue to head north. The siege of Petersburg continues in cold weather, the Confederacy is short of soldiers, even to the point of seriously considering drafting slaves yet Lee’s troops remain confident. Sherman is about to capture Savannah. A major battle is developing in Tennessee. Gideon Welles laments Washington politics.

Federal supply train

Federal supply train

December 14– Wednesday– Wheeling, West Virginia– “Refugees from the Valley of Virginia continue to arrive in the city almost daily. All of these persecuted people have sorry tales to tell of their hardships on the route and their sufferings at home. We conversed yesterday with a very intelligent gentleman who left Rockbridge County [Virginia] about two weeks ago and reached Beverly [West Virginia] with a party of thirteen others a few days since. Our friend had been detailed as a miller by the rebel authorities, but, as our readers are aware all orders for details were lately revoked, and the men had either to go into the rebel army or leave. The refugees travel always over the mountains and through the woods and are in constant danger of being shot by bush whackers and conscript hunters sent out for the purpose. Out of a party of eight refugees who reached Greenbrier bridge about two weeks ago, two were killed and one or more wounded by bushwhackers. The party with whom our informant came were unlucky in the selection of a guide. The man who undertook to act as guide came very near swamping the whole party. He got lost the very first night out. Luckily, however, one of the party happened to have a small pocket compass and they were thus enabled to find their way out of the wilderness. Nearly all of the . . . men who are coming in now are mechanics and are very intelligent and well informed. Since the snow has fallen in the Allegheny  mountains it is feared that many refugees will perish from cold and hunger, for they will brave any danger rather than go into the rebel army.” ~ Wheeling Daily Intelligencer.

December 14– Wednesday– Richmond, Virginia– “Cloudy, and thawing rapidly. All quiet below. The bill to employ 40,000 Negroes, as recommended by the President, for army purposes, though not avowedly to fight, has passed one House of Congress. So the President is master yet. There ought to be 100,000 now in the field. An effort will be made by the government to put into the field the able-bodied staff and other officers on duty in the bureaus here. It will fail, probably, since all efforts have failed to put in their able-bodied clerks. If Bragg were here, and allowed his way, he would move them to the front.” ~ Diary of John Jones.

December 14– Wednesday– outside Petersburg, Virginia– “I take the opportunity this evening of in forming you that I am well at present. I received your letter on Saturday the tenth and was glad to hear from you and that you was all well. I would have answered your letter sooner but we have not been in camp since Friday evening about six o’clock only a little while on Monday morning and last night we came in to camp again about Eight o’clock but we don’t know how long we will stay. We have been out on a raid. . . . There was some of the Cavalry in front of us and they did put fire to all the buildings along the road and some of them was most splendid houses but they are paying them for burning Chambersburg [Pennsylvania]. . . . You had better believe that we slept good after we got our supper. There was some of the boys feet got that sore and some of them froze that they could not put on their shoes. My feet did get a little sore but I made it to camp.” ~ Letter from Union soldier Sylvester McElheney to Harriet, his wife, in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, where Confederate troops burned part of Chambersburg in July.

typical entrenchments at Petersburg

typical entrenchments at Petersburg

December 14– Wednesday– Charleston, South Carolina– “From General Lee’s Army. (Extract of a Private Letter.) There are a variety of opinions here as to what phase this long protracted campaign will assume. If warlike, we are ready and willing to meet it, feeling as we do our conscious ability to whip Grant and his free-booters. I believe the campaign to be virtually ended. Grant, it is true, may make demonstrations of a character sufficient to deter us from sending troops to the succor of Georgia, but that he intends any serious move upon Richmond at this late stage of the proceedings, I do not believe. He is as well aware of the fact as you, or any other person, that there is one army in the Confederate States that he cannot whip. One army, which nothing but the force of public sentiment and dire necessity can ever again make him confront; an army which looks with scorn, pity and contempt upon the vain effort made at home by croakers and fishers to weaken its strength; an army that will never submit to a dishonorable peace, no matter what the basis, with the United States, though the people clamor for it. Better, yea, better be in our graves, than bow the neck in submission to Yankee task masters. It nauseates me to hear men talk of being subjugated. Their conversation, in my mind, is always associated with swaddling clothes; I would not dignify them by saying troops. Others may doubt the final issue of the contest, now being waged, but to the Army of Virginia our freedom is as certain as the air we breathe.” ~ Charleston Mercury.

General Robert E Lee

General Robert E Lee

December 14– Wednesday– outside Savannah, Georgia– “We still had in our wagons and in camp abundance of meat, but we needed bread, sugar, and coffee, and it was all-important that a route of supply should at once be opened, for which purpose the aid and assistance of the navy were indispensable. We accordingly steamed down the Ogeechee River to Ossabaw Sound, in hopes to meet Admiral Dahlgren, but he was not there, and we continued on by the inland channel to Wassaw Sound, where we found the Harvest Moon and Admiral Dahlgren. I was not personally acquainted with him at the time, but he was so extremely kind and courteous that I was at once attracted to him. There was nothing in his power, he said, which he would not do to assist us, to make our campaign absolutely successful. He undertook at once to find vessels of light draught to carry our supplies from Port Royal to Cheeve’s Mill or to King’s Bridge, whence they could be hauled by wagons to our several camps; he offered to return with me to Fort McAllister, to superintend the removal of the torpedoes, and to relieve me of all the details of this most difficult work. General Foster then concluded to go on to Port Royal, to send back to us six hundred thousand rations, and all the rifled guns of heavy caliber and ammunition on hand with which I thought we could reach the city of Savannah from the positions already secured. Admiral Dahlgren then returned with me in the Harvest Moon to Fort McAllister. This consumed all of the 14th of December.” ~ Memoirs of William Tecumseh Sherman

General Sherman

General Sherman

December 14– Wednesday– Maury County, Tennessee– “Southern troops are all around Nashville, the scouts and pickets are fighting every day. We are trying to get straight after the visit of the Southern army, which we entertained. We are trying to haul up some wood, working the black mule in the 2 horse wagon, which is all that was left us [by the Southern army]. The [Southern] soldiers are all through our place, so it is hard work to keep even this mule. Confederates are conscripting all between 18 and 45, they having employed substitutes is no excuse. The next call will be between 16 and 50. They may get me yet.” ~ Diary of Nimrod Porter.

December 14 – Wednesday– Waterloo, Ontario, Canada– Birth of Henry Edgarton Allen, merchant and politician. [Dies December 28, 1924.]

December 15– Thursday– New York City– Eliza Wood Burhans Farnham, prison reformer, author and lecturer, dies of consumption at age 49. In her last work, Woman and Her Era, published this year, she argues that women are by nature superior to men and the discrimination suffered and limited roles forced upon women come from men’s recognition that males are inferior. She radically differs from other period feminists by demanding not equality with but superiority over men.

Eliza Farnham

Eliza Farnham

December 15– Thursday– Wheeling, West Virginia– “As most of our readers have already been advised, the Supper and Festival of the Ladies Soldiers’ Aid Society takes place at Washington Hall this evening. The ladies have left nothing undone to make the entertainment worthy of the patronage of the public, and it is only necessary to make known the noble cause to which the proceeds are to be devoted in order to secure the attendance and hearty co-operation of every loyal man and woman in the city and vicinity. The members of the Ladies Soldiers Aid Society deserve all honor and praise for their noble work in the cause of humanity. By a report which one of their number has recently made we learn that the Association has performed within the past two months an immense amount of good and have relieved many pressing wants in the homes of wives and children, in the hospital and in the field. . . . It is expected that a handsome sum will be realized for the prosecution of the work this evening, and the ladies expect and ought to receive a generous response to their appeals. Tickets may be had at the Music Store of J. B. Meilor, E. Bocking’s Drug Store and the Book Store of J. C. Orr & Co.” ~ Wheeling Daily Intelligencer.

December 15– Thursday– Augusta County, Virginia– “I made you another pair of gloves and if you do not get home we will send you some things but I hope you will get home soon I hope you will know soon what you will have to depend upon, though I think if you do not get home there is a poor chance for others getting off. We have not got the cloth home from Staunton yet but Mr Spencer is going down Thursday and will bring it for us. I think if we don’t soon get it we will not get our cloaks made before Christmas. Mag wrote to you for a pattern but I don’t think I will wait for a pattern as I heard they are the same there that they are here. There has been very bad weather here for the last week snow ever since last Friday and the appearance is very good for more. Charlotte says if you want to see her single once more you had better hurry home for if you don’t come soon she cannot wait [to marry]. Davie B sung over at the school house last Saturday night and is going to sing tomorrow night. Mag and Hannah are at a sewing today at Mr Thomas Harris helping the girls to make their cloaks I was invited too but was not able to go I did not expect to go if I had been well. I have just finished reading a statement of the treatment of Col. L. M. Lewis when a prisoner in the north and it is the most outrageous things I ever read I wish you could see it.” ~ Letter from Ginnie Ott to Enos, her husband.

December 15– Thursday– Washington, D. C.– “The Members of Congress have hardly commenced work as yet. They are feeling about. The malcontents are not in better mood than before the election. Chase’s appointment gives satisfaction to Senator Sumner and a few others; but there is general disappointment. Public sentiment had settled down under the conviction that he could not have the position. Sumner helped to secure it for him. The President told Chandler of New Hampshire, who remonstrated against such selections, that he would rather have swallowed his buckhorn chair than to have nominated Chase. Sumner declares to me that Chase will retire from the field of politics and not be a candidate for the Presidency. I questioned it, but Sumner said with emphasis it was so. He had assured the President that Chase would retire from party politics. I have no doubt Sumner believes it. What foundations he has for the belief I know not, though he speaks positively and as if he had assurance. My own convictions are that, if he lives, Chase will be a candidate and his restless and ambitious mind is already at work. . . . In his interview with me to-day, it being the first time we have met since he reached Washington, Sumner commenced by praising my report, which he complimented as a model paper– the best report he had read from a Department, etc., etc. As he is a scholar and critic, a statesman and politician capable of forming an opinion, has culture, discrimination, and good judgment, I could not but feel gratified with his praise. He says he read every word of it. Very many Members have given me similar complimentary assurances, but no one has gratified me so much as Sumner.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles.

Senator Charles Sumner, c.1860

Senator Charles Sumner, c.1860

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