Narrow and Prejudiced Partisans ~ January 1865 ~ 16th to 17th

Narrow and Prejudiced Partisans ~ Gideon Welles

House of Representatives, 1866

House of Representatives, 1866

The Secretary of the Navy complains about Congress in language that could easily describe today’s Congress. A Southern woman describes two slaves in typical language of slave owners. Sherman issues orders enabling freed slaves to become land owners. A survivor of the Fort Pillow massacre submits a report to the War Department.


January 16– Monday– Washington, D.C.– “Edward Everett died suddenly yesterday morning, the 15th. It seems a national loss, although he has reached a ripe age. His last four years have been useful and displayed more manly vigor and wholesome, intellectual, energetic action than he has ever before exhibited. Heretofore, with high mental culture and great scholastic attainments, his policy has been artificial and conventional, but latterly his course has been natural. At no moment of his life did he stand better with his countrymen than when stricken down. I am indebted to him for many encouraging words and kind support in my administration of the Navy Department. Our party associations ran in different channels until the advent of Lincoln, but from the commencement of the War he frankly, earnestly, and efficiently aided me in many ways. He has written much, and with success, for the Navy in this great struggle. General Butler called on me this p.m. He has come to testify before the Committee on the Conduct of the War– called probably on his own suggestion– greatly preferring Washington, for the present at least, to Lowell [Massachusetts]. I am sorry he has come here. It is for no good or patriotic purpose, I apprehend. As for the ‘Committee on the Conduct of the War,’ who have brought him here, they are most of them narrow and prejudiced partisans, mischievous busybodies, and a discredit to Congress. Mean and contemptible partisanship colors all their acts. Secretly opposed to the President, they hope to make something of Butler, who has ability and is a good deal indignant.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles. [Everett, a popular figure, gave the lengthy but now forgotten oration at the dedication of the Gettysburg military cemetery in November, 1863.]

Edward Everett

Edward Everett

January 16– Monday– outside Petersburg, Virginia– “Hurrah! I have been promoted [to] Brevet Major U. S. Volunteers by the President for gallant conduct at the Battle of Winchester [in] September . . . . It is all for the Union. . . . We have just received the news of the capture of Fort Fisher, North Carolina.” ~ Diary of Elisha Hunt Rhodes.

January 16– Monday– Fort Fisher, North Carolina– The main magazine of the captured facility explodes, killing 25 Union soldiers and wounding 66 others.

January 16– Monday– near Albany, Georgia– “Sister has come back, bringing dear little Mrs. Sims with her. Metta and I are to spend next week in Albany with Mrs. Sims, if we are not all water-bound in the meantime, at Pine Bluff. The floods are subsiding up the country, but the waters are raging down here. Flint River is out of its banks, the low grounds are overflowed, and the backwater has formed a lake between the Negro quarter and the house, that reaches to within a few yards of the door. So much the better for us, as [Union General] Kilpatrick and his raiders can never make their way through all these floods. Sister is greatly troubled about a difficulty two of her Negroes, Jim-boy and Alfred, have gotten into. They are implicated with some others who are accused of stealing leather and attacking a white man. Alfred is a great, big, horrid-looking creature, more like an orangutang than a man, though they say he is one of the most peaceable and humble Negroes on the plantation, and Jim-boy has never been known to get into any mischief before. I hope there is some mistake, though the Negroes are getting very unruly since the Yankees are so near.” ~ Journal of Eliza Frances Andrews.

Southern slave auction

Southern slave auction

January 16– Monday– Savannah, Georgia– “Whenever three respectable Negroes, heads of families, shall desire to settle on land, and shall have selected for that purpose an island or a locality clearly defined within the limits above designated, the Inspector of Settlements and Plantations will himself, or by such subordinate officer as he may appoint, give them a license to settle such island or district and afford them such assistance as he can to enable them to establish a peaceable agricultural settlement. The three parties named will subdivide the land, under the supervision of the inspector, among themselves, and such others as may choose to settle near them, so that each family shall have a plot of not more than forty acres of tillable ground, and, when it borders on some water-channel, with not more than eight hundred feet water front, in the possession of which land the military authorities will afford them protection until such time as they can protect themselves, or until Congress shall regulate their title. The quartermaster may, on the requisition of the Inspector of Settlements and Plantations, place at the disposal of the inspector one or more of the captured steamers to ply between the settlements and one or more of the commercial points heretofore named, in order to afford the settlers the opportunity to supply their necessary wants, and to sell the products of their land and labor. Whenever a Negro has enlisted in the military service of the United States, he may locate his family in any one of the settlements at pleasure, and acquire a homestead, and all other rights and privileges of a settler, as though present in person. In like manner, Negroes may settle their families and engage on board the gunboats, or in fishing, or in the navigation of the inland waters, without losing any claim to land or other advantages derived from this system.” ~ Orders from union General William Tecumseh Sherman regarding the settlement of freed slaves in the Savannah area.

January 16 – Monday– Liverpool, England– Joseph Cunard, Canadian merchant, shipbuilder and politician, dies at 65 years of age.

January 17– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– “The glorious news of the capture of Fort Fisher came this morning. We had two or three telegrams from Porter and officers of the Navy and Generals Terry and Comstock of the army. Fort Fisher was taken Sunday evening by assault, after five hours’ hard fighting. The sailors and marines participated in the assault. We lose Preston and Porter, two of the very best young officers of our navy. Have not yet particulars. . . . Wrote Admiral Porter a hasty private note, while the messenger was waiting, congratulating him. It is a great triumph for Porter . . . . At the Cabinet-meeting there was a very pleasant feeling. Seward thought there was little now for the Navy to to do. Dennison thought he would like a few fast steamers for mail service. The President was happy. Says he is amused with the manners and views of some who address him, who tell him that he is now reelected and can do just as he has a mind to, which means that he can do some unworthy thing that the person who addresses him has a mind to. There is very much of this. Had an interview with Caleb Cushing, who called at my house, on the subject of retaining him in the cases of the Navy agencies.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles.

January 17– Tuesday– Richmond, Virginia– “Cloudy, and spitting snow. . . . The news of the fall of Wilmington, and the cessation of importations at that port, falls upon the ears of the community with stunning effect. . . . There are more rumors of revolution, and even of displacement of the President by Congress, and investiture of General Lee. It is said the President has done something, recently, which Congress will not tolerate. Idle talk!” ~ Diary of John Jones.

President Jeff Davis, Confederate States of America

President Jeff Davis, Confederate States of America

January 17– Tuesday– Nashville, Tennessee– “Seeing that through a gross violation of the rules of civilized warfare the enemy had now gained possession of our works, and in consequence that it would be useless to offer further resistance, our men threw down their arms and surrendered. For a moment the fire seemed to slacken. The scene which followed, however, beggars all description. The enemy carried our works at about 4 p.m., and from that time until dark, and at intervals throughout the night, our men were shot down without mercy and almost without regard to color. This horrid work of butchery did not cease even with the night of murder, but was renewed again the next morning, when numbers of our wounded were basely murdered after a long night of pain and suffering on the field where they had fought so bravely. Of this display of Southern chivalry, of this wholesale butchery of brave men, white as well as black, after they had surrendered, and of the innumerable barbarities committed by the rebels on our sick in hospitals and the bodies of our dead, I do not deem it necessary further to speak, inasmuch as the Committee on the Conduct of the War has made a full and accurate report of the same, in which the barbarities practiced by the rebels at Fort Pillow are shown to have been horrid in the extreme, and fully confirming even the most seemingly exaggerated statements. . . . The rebels were very bitter against these loyal Tennesseeans, terming them ‘home-made Yankees,’ and declaring they would give them no better treatment than they dealt out to the Negro troops with whom they were fighting. . . . Of the number, white and black, actually murdered after the surrender I cannot say positively; however, from my own observation, as well as from prisoners who were captured at Fort Pillow and afterward made their escape, I cannot estimate that number at anything less than 300. From what I could learn at the time of the fight, as well as from escaped prisoners since then, relative to the Confederate loss in the attack and capture of Fort Pillow, I am confident that 500 men in killed and wounded would not be an overestimate. The Confederate forces engaged, as nearly as I could ascertain, numbered some 7,000 men, under command of Generals Forrest, Chalmers, and McCulloch. The bravery of our troops in the defense of Fort Pillow, I think, cannot be questioned. Many of the men, and particularly the colored soldiers, had never before been under fire; yet every man did his duty with a courage and determined resolution, seldom if ever surpassed in similar engagements. Had Forrest not violated the rules of civilized warfare in taking advantage of the flag of truce in the manner I have mentioned in another part of this report, I am confident we could have held the fort against all his assaults during: the day, when, if we had been properly supported during the night by the major-general commanding at Memphis, a glorious victory to the Union cause would have been the result of the next day’s operations. In conclusion, it may not be altogether improper to state that I was one of the number wounded, at first considered mortally, after the surrender; and but for the aid soon afterward extended to me by a Confederate captain, who was a member of an order to which I belong (Free Masonry), I would in all probability have shared the fate of many of my comrades who were murdered after having been wounded. This captain had me carried into a small shanty, where he gave me some brandy and water. He was soon ordered to his company, and I was carried by the rebels into the barracks which they had occupied during the most of the engagement. Here had been collected a great number of our wounded, some of whom had already died. Early the next morning these barracks were set on fire by order of a rebel officer, who had been informed that they contained Federal wounded. I was rendered entirely helpless from the nature of my wound, the ball having entered my right side, and ranging downward, grazed my lung. and deeply imbedded itself in my hip (where it still remains) out of easy reach of surgical instruments. In this condition I had almost given up every hope of being saved from a horrible death, when one of my own men, who was less severely wounded than myself, succeeded m drawing me out of the building, which the flames were then rapidly consuming. As to the course our Government should pursue in regard to the outrages perpetrated by the rebels on this as well as on a number of occasions during the existing rebellion, I have only to express my belief that some sort of retaliation should be adopted as the surest method of preventing a recurrence of the fiendish barbarities practiced on the defenders of our flag at Fort Pillow.” ~ Report from Union Lieutenant Mack Leaming to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, regarding the battle and massacre at Fort Pillow on April 12-13, 1864.

Fort Pillow massacre

Fort Pillow massacre

January 17– Tuesday– near Albany, Georgia– “The river still rising and all the water-courses so high that I am afraid the stage won’t be able to pass between Albany and Thomasville, and we shan’t get our mail. There is always something the matter to keep us from getting the mail at that little Gum Pond post office. Mrs. Sims is water-bound with us, and it is funny to hear her and Mrs. Meals, one a red-hot Episcopalian, the other a red-hot Baptist, trying to convert each other. If the weather is any sign, Providence would seem to favor the Baptists just now. Mrs. Sims almost made me cry with her account of poor Mary Millen – her brother dead, their property destroyed; it is the same sad story over again that we hear so much of. This dreadful war is bringing ruin upon so many happy homes.” ~ Journal of Eliza Frances Andrews.

January 17– Tuesday– London, England– Charles Cavendish Fulke Greville, diarist who served as Clerk of Privy Council from 1821 to 1859 under three British monarchs, dies at 70 years of age.

Charles Greville

Charles Greville

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