A Superb Little Fellow ~ January 1865 ~ 6th to 8th

A Superb Little Fellow ~ John Townsend Trowbridge

A New England writer and a Georgia soldier find hope and comfort in their little boys. A reader hopes for the quick end to slavery as debate on a constitutional amendment begins afresh in Congress. Siege continues at Petersburg. A Yankee general issues harsh orders to deal with raiders. A prominent Southern newspaper holds out hope for railroad development and criticizes the failures of the army and the government at Richmond.


January 6– Friday– Somerville, Massachusetts– “I have been thinking much of you lately & wondering where you were (for I heard some time since that you had left Washington), when the N.Y. Times came, with your long & interesting communication. I do not yet, from reading that, understand very well where you are, & I send this at a venture. If this reaches you, please let me know your address, & I will try to send you something to help along your good work. I sent you, some time last summer, by private hands, a copy of Great Expectations & two dollars in money, but could never learn that they reached you: did they? How are you now? A great change has taken place in my life since I saw you. My dearest friend has left me, leaving in her place a little boy, now eleven months old. A superb little fellow (although I say it); & in him I have great comfort. I went three times to find Dr. LeBarren Russell, with your note in my hand, but failing each time, I gave him up. I am not trying to withdraw from the arena of popular literature; only the necessity of coining a livelihood has kept me in it so long. I feel that, if I live frugally sincerely, and do not use up my mental energies in rapid writing I may be able to do something excellent. I am about getting out a volume of poems, or, as you would say, prettinesses.” ~ Letter from John Townsend Trowbridge to his friend Walt Whitman. [Trowbridge, 1827 – 1916, became a popular author. His wife Cornelia, to whom he had been married less than four years, died in March, 1864, shortly after birthing their son.]

John Townsend Trowbridge

John Townsend Trowbridge

January 6– Friday– New York City– “The land it [Sherman’s march to the sea] traversed was flourishing with milk and honey and all manner of good things. Hence, I deduced . . . a doubt whether the farmers and planters of Georgia, whose barnyards, pigpens, and storerooms unwillingly issued all these delicacies, are likely to feel much love for national soldiers, or for the Union, in the name whereof their homesteads have thus been harried. But the grip of Richmond officials may have been bad or even worse.” ~ Diary of George Templeton Strong.

January 6– Friday– Brooklyn, New York– “I see I have said I consider Drum-Taps superior to Leaves of Grass. I probably mean as a piece of wit, & from the more simple & winning nature of the subject, & also because I have in it only succeeded to my satisfaction in removing all superfluity from it, verbal superfluity I mean. I delight to make a poem where I feel clear that not a word but is indispensable part thereof & of my meaning. Still Leaves of Grass is dear to me, always dearest to me, as my first born, as daughter of my life’s first hopes, doubts, & the putting in form of those days’ efforts & aspirations– true, I see now, with some things in it I should not put in if I were to write now, but yet I shall certainly let them stand, even if but for proofs of phases passed away. Mother & all home are well as usual. Not a word for over three months from my brother George– the probabilities are most gloomy. I see the Howells now & then. I am well, but need to leave here– need a change.” ~ Letter from Walt Whitman to his friend William D. O’Connor.

Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman

January 6– Friday– Washington, D.C.– In the House of Representatives, Congressman James Ashley, Republican from Ohio, introduces the proposed Thirteenth Amendment to abolish slavery. It had previously passed the Senate but had been defeated in the House. In his speech he declares that it is Christian duty to abolish slavery. James Brooks, Democrat from New York, speaks against the measure, saying that abolition of slavery is not the only object of the war and the proposed amendment is unnecessary.

Congressman James Ashley

Congressman James Ashley

January 6– Friday– Richmond, Virginia– “Cloudy and thawing. No war news – but it is known Sherman’s army is not quiet, and must soon be heard from in spite of the interdict of the government.” ~ Diary of John Jones.

January 6– Friday– Charleston, South Carolina– “The railroad, which is now in progress of construction, bids fair to become of more importance to the Confederate States than any other since the completion of the Piedmont road, which has, beyond all question, saved Richmond from capture by the enemy, as it would have been almost entirely isolated from the balance of the Confederacy by an interruption of the communication of the Petersburg and Weldon Railroad by Grant’s army. . . . Two thousand hands could complete the road in six months, or four thousand in three months; and when the vast importance of the road is taken into consideration, we do not think the authorities should hesitate for a moment to place at the command of the Company every resource requisite for its earliest possible completion. There are slaves in the country whose services can be had, and, we learn, an ample supply of provisions in the counties lying between here and Columbia. The South Carolina Legislature should at once adopt such measures as will insure the Company provisions and other necessaries for as many employers as may be required to complete the road in as short a period as possible.” ~ Charleston Mercury.

seal of Sanitary commission

January 6– Friday– Memphis, Tennessee– “M. H. Way of the U. S. Christian Commission in Memphis reported that in 1864 it issued to U. S. troops:15 blankets, 350 bed ticks, 12,849 shirts, 943 quilts, 3,459 pillows, 6,000 pairs of drawers, 2,600 pillow cases, 1,353 sheets, 402 dressing gowns, 219 coats and vests, 4,303 towels and 683 pairs of socks, 156 pairs of slippers, 632 fans, 298 mosquito bars, 7,665 lbs of bandages, 1,829 cans fruit, 1,240 lbs. concentrated beef, 833 lbs dried beef, 245 ½ lbs dried fruit, 1,856 lbs. butter, 954 dozen eggs,1,856 bottles wine and spirits, 3,319 cases concentrated milk, 30,179 gallons pickles, 7,051 gallons sauerkraut, 3,312 bushels potatoes, 4,203 bushels onions, 563 gallons of ale, 355 bush green apples, 3,605 lbs. farinaceous articles, 34,190 lbs. soda crackers, 1,993 lbs. crushed sugar, 2,243 lbs. corn meal, 613 lbs green tea, 88 ½ lbs. cod fish, 400 bottles relishes, 40 reams writing paper, 20,000 envelopes. At northern prices this amounted to over $100,000. Additionally, at ‘[the] Soldiers’ Lodge on the bluffs. . . during. . . November and December1864,’ 8,865 meals were served to disabled, furloughed and discharged soldiers going home.”~ Memphis Bulletin.

January 7– Saturday– East Westmoreland, New Hampshire– “Enclosed, please find $4.00 for the Liberator for one year more, hoping there will be no necessity for the Liberator after the progress, its mission will have been well and faithfully fulfilled. Then they its worthy, and indefatigable, and venerated Editor, after so many years of unceasing warfare in vindication of human rights, be enabled to say with good old Simeon, ‘Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.’ I wish to be kept on your list of subscribers until the Liberator and Slavery shall both cease to be. I owe too much to the old pioneer sheet to abandon it now, just as it is nearly ready to publish the victory won. I do not share with those who seem some what alienated, because of the expression of your honest convictions in regard to the reelection of Abraham Lincoln. I am sorry to see that any should be thus influenced. God bless the Editor of the Liberator! as millions, yet in the future, will rise up to bless his memory.” ~ Letter from Jehiel Claflin to William Lloyd Garrison.


January 7– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– “I transmit to Congress a copy of two treaties between the United States and Belgium, for the extinguishment of the Scheldt dues, etc., . . . and I recommend an appropriation to carry into effect the provision thereof relative to the payment of the proportion of the United States toward the capitalization of the said dues.” ~ Message from President Lincoln.

January 7– Saturday– Petersburg, Virginia– “Our boy must be of considerable size by this time. He is nearly four years old now. I want to see him with his jeans suit on with pockets in his britches, and a hat on, and see him run and jump. The later part of next year he will be old enough to start school– I want you to start him as soon as you can when he gets old enough and keep him going whether there is any chance to pay for it or not. There seems to be a general despondency, at this time throughout the Confederacy. I am truly sorry to see this and sometimes I wish I could instill my feelings on this subject in every man, woman and child in the Southern Confederacy. It is natural for some to grumble all the time while many others hearing so much grumbling and despondent chatter have not the spirit to rise above this, but fall under the influence and conclude that we are gone up. And we have had some reverses and bad Generalship, with a prospect of a continuance of the war which makes some good men croak and have the blues, and study over it till they conclude that we are about gone up, and they have their influence. But a large number are yet left who have resolved to die rather than submit to Yankee Rule, and never; never give it up. If croakers would but consider a moment the consequence of subjugation they would certainly talk different. Pen cannot describe nor tongue tell the degradation and suffering of our people if we ever submit.” ~ Letters from Confederate soldier Marion Hill Fitzpatrick to his wife Amanda

Confederate soldiers says good-bye to his wife & children

Confederate soldiers says good-bye to his wife & children

January 7– Saturday– Charleston, South Carolina– “The dispirited condition of some of our armies; the disorganization that prevails in more than one of its corps; the thinness of the ranks produced by these causes; the dissatisfaction which reigns in certain sections among the people, produced by the almost invariable mismanagement of our arms and the maladministration of affairs by the Executive, are causes which have clouded the hopes of the most steadfast men in the country. No thinking man can do otherwise than look with apprehension upon the present aspect of our affairs. In the midst of this condition of things, nothing is so essentially important on the part of our legislators, and indeed, on the part of all thinking influential men, that a steadfast self collection and the use of a calm, unshaken scrutiny into the causes of our disasters, and a stern application of the remedies necessary to their eradication. . . . Because inefficiency is allowed to pervade every branch of the service; because favoritism dictates who shall command our armies; because tools are sought, and not competency; because hatreds rule, and the best and bravest are proscribed; because laxity prevails everywhere; because discipline is not required, and, where it is attempted to be enforced, the effort is checked by Executive weakness and egotism and love of popularity, whilst the service is disgraced and the cause brought to the brink of ruin by officers who cannot be shot, and cannot be cashiered.” ~ Charleston Mercury.

January 7– Saturday– Nashville, Tennessee– “Eighth. You will burn the houses of the following named persons, take any of the articles named above that they may have, together with all forage grains belonging to them that you can bring away which may be useful to the U. S. government for military purposes or otherwise and will give no receipt of any kind whatsoever.[Seven names are included in this section] Ninth. The following person will be shot in addition to suffering in the manner prescribed in Paragraph # 8. [Four names appear in this section of the order.]Tenth. The following named persons have committed murder and if caught will be hung to the first tree in front of their door and be allowed to hang there for an indefinite period. You will assure yourself that they are dead before leaving them also if their residence they will be stripped of everything as per the above instructions and then burned [Four names appear in this section of the order].” ~ Orders from Union General Robert H Milroy to deal with a number of alleged Confederate bushwhackers and guerrillas.

Confederate guerrilas

Confederate guerrilas

January 8– Sunday– Johnson’s Island, Ohio– “It seems that communication with the South by Flags of Truce has been resumed. We are anxiously awaiting the first mail after a deprivation for months. May I not hope that your dear handwriting will greet my eye? More than half a year has elapsed since I have heard directly from you. Do not be uneasy about my health and comfort. Providence has dealt kindly by me. I will not suffer more than I can cheerfully and patiently endure. I have been quite uneasy about you and yours. May God bless and preserve you!” ~ Letter from Confederate officer Henry McDaniel to his sweetheart Hester Felker.

January 8– Sunday– Petersburg, Virginia– “I forgot to tell you about our New Year’s dinner. We got it on the 4th instant, I believe. It was nearly a failure. I got a little piece of turkey and two small pieces of meat and about four good mouthfuls of light bread. It was too large an undertaking to try to give the whole army such a dinner. I am sorry you are making me a coat and heartily wish you had used the cloth for Henry [their son] and yourself. Do not make me anymore. I want you to have it for I can draw here and you have a hard task to cloth yourself and family without me. I am so sorry.” ~ Letters from Confederate soldier Marion Hill Fitzpatrick to his wife Amanda.

January 8– Sunday– outside Petersburg, Virginia– “The Brigade band are now in front of my quarters giving me a serenade. We have had a splendid day but not much of a Sabbath. After inspecting the troops I took a long ride. The Rebels in our front are quiet, and we enjoy life after a fashion.” ~ Diary of Elisha Hunt Rhodes.

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