Spirit is Wanting Amongst Our Leaders ~ January 1865 ~ 18th and 19th

Spirit Is Wanting Amongst Our Leaders ~ Charleston Mercury

Union soldiers celebrate the news of Sherman's march to the sea

Union soldiers celebrate the news of Sherman’s march to the sea

Increasingly worried by General Sherman’s moves into South Carolina, the leading Charleston newspaper adopts an hysterical tone, calling for resistance and denouncing the government in Richmond. The Davis government makes a quiet overture to the Lincoln administration about peace, a move which some in the Confederate Congress vehemently deny. Lincoln writes quietly to General Grant. Sherman reports to the War Department. Walt Whitman is returning to Washington and his friends are excited.


January 18– Wednesday– Washington, D.C.– “You having shown me Mr. Davis’s letter to you of the twelfth instant, you may say to him that I have constantly been, am now, and shall continue, ready to receive any agent whom he or any other influential person now resisting the national authority may informally send to me with the view of securing peace to the people of our one common country.” ~ Letter from President Lincoln to Francis P Blair, authorizing Blair to pursue behind the scenes negotiations for peace.

Francis P Blair

Francis P Blair

January 18– Wednesday– Richmond, Virginia– “Mr. Lester, of Georgia, moved to suspend the rules to allow him to introduce the following: ‘Whereas, On the 14th day of this month there appeared in the columns of the Richmond Sentinel a correspondence over the signature of Q, and headed with the words, Treason, Treason, Treason printed in conspicuous capitals, and marked with points of exclamation, in which the writer announces that it is rumored on the street that there was a resolution before Congress in secret session to open irregular intercourse, through commissioners, with Lincoln, for peace; and asserted that such a proceeding was not only treason, but, under the circumstances, treachery of the most infamous character, and avowing that the people of Virginia certainly, and, in the opinion of the writer, of the Confederate States generally, would not allow themselves to be sold by traitorous Congressman after this fashion; and whereas, said correspondence was accompanied by a brief editorial, characterized by the same tone and spirit as the correspondence; and whereas, said correspondence and editorial comment as aforesaid are calculated to mislead the public judgment, and in their temper and spirit impute to Congress folly, disloyalty, treason and treachery. Be it therefore resolved, That so far as the statement and imputation contained in the said correspondence and editorial are intended to apply to this branch of Congress, they are false in fact and inference, and an infringement on the privileges of its members, and merit the emphatic rebuke of this House.’” ~ Richmond Times Dispatch.

January 18– Wednesday– Richmond, Virginia– “Cloudy and cool. Cannon heard down the river. No war news. But blockade-running at Wilmington has ceased; and common calico, now at $25 per yard, will soon be $50. The stupor in official circles continues, and seems likely to continue. . . . Flour is $1250 per barrel, to-day. General Lee writes that he thinks the crisis (starvation in the army) past. Good. In South Carolina we hear of public meetings of submission, etc.” ~ Diary of John Jones.

January 18– Wednesday– Memphis, Tennessee– “T. B. Johnson, a recent Confederate deserter, found himself at the Recorder’s Court. Maggie Montgomery ‘a lady of easy virtue’ testified that Johnson had called at her house on a recent occasion, drank wine, and shared her bed, and departed without paying her claim for services rendered. She claimed that in as much as houses of the stamp kept by her are licensed by the city, it is the duty of the city to prevent and punish imposition on the keepers of said housed, as practiced by the defendant, and she therefore looked for redress. . . . His honor, however, failed to see the case in that light, and informed the exasperated nymph that it was not within his jurisdiction. That being the case Ms. Montgomery preferred charges of drunkenness and disorderly conduct against Johnson. The judge fined him $18.00, and he was happy to have an end to the affair. It was rumored also that Johnson had not paid the hack who took him to and from Montgomery’s bordello.” ~ Memphis Bulletin. [The $18 fine would equal $266 in current dollars, using the Consumer Price Index.

January 18– Wednesday– Charleston, South Carolina– “‘He that hath not a stomach for the fight – let him depart; Let crowns of carrols be put into his purse.’ – Shakespeare. In God’s name let him depart – and that quickly. It is a grievous and most melancholy reflection to every man here who has stood up upon this line of defense from Savannah to Charleston for now four years, against all comers, who have defended the State and the cause, against all odds in numbers, never fighting less than four to one, and whipping the enemy almost invariably, and under all circumstances – withstanding all the force of mechanical science – unappalled by their then new iron monsters, their three hundred pounder rifle shot, and their fifteen inch guns first tried here; undaunted in the midst of temporary disaster; three times at Pocotaligo, and once there with odds of 26 to 1; once at Secessionville, with odds of 10 to 1; at Batteries Gregg and Wagner, against their whole fleet, their land batteries right in front, and their infantry four to one, whilst every shot fired by us had to be carried in a row boat by night to the beach, and from thence singly by the hand a half mile to the gun – every drop of water transported by night in a row boat to Morris Island, and carried from the beach in like manner, and all under fire, at Sumter amidst its crumbling walls, with every shot from the fleet on our side, and the land batteries of the enemy on the other, ploughing straight through the fort as through a pasteboard – whilst their mortar shell fell from above – standing up to their post amidst all ruin and peril, and disaster – standing there unmoved, unyielding; it is most melancholy, most grievous, most disheartening, most utterly disgusting to us, now to look upon the present aspect of our affairs within our own lines. Here we have stood and held the enemy by the throat, and tramples him under our feet, and kept him there crouching upon the belt of the sea for four years. And here we are today, under a new regime of men – to abandon all without one fair blow – all our efforts here to be vain – all skill and science expended here to be flung away – all heroism displayed here in vain – all to be abandoned, and no leader to have made a forlorn hope at the point of fight! Paralyzed, our lines are allowed to be broken. The new regime has succeeded, where to fight means to calculate how not to get killed. The game cock spirit that has so long sustained us here, is wanting amongst our leaders.” ~ Charleston Mercury .

January 19– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– “Please read and answer this letter as though I was not President, but only a friend. My son, now in his twenty-second year, having graduated at Harvard, wishes to see something of the war before it ends. I do not wish to put him in the ranks, nor yet to give him a commission, to which those who have already served long are better entitled and better qualified to hold. Could he, without embarrassment to you, or detriment to the service, go into your military family with some nominal rank, I, and not the public, furnishing his necessary means? If no, say so without the least hesitation, because I am as anxious and as deeply interested that you shall not be encumbered as you can be yourself.” ~ Private letter from President Lincoln to Union General Ulysses S. Grant.

General Grant

General Grant

January 19– Thursday– Washington, D. C.– “I am rejoiced at the prospect of your being in Washington once more, & it seems that at last there really is a good chance of it. I saw your letter to Mr. Ashton which he got yesterday, telling him that you should probably be here about the 24th. William got your letter last week, and we were all glad that you felt like coming to try the position in the Interior. It will be so good to see you once more. . . . Dear Walt I cannot tell you how deeply I sympathize with you all in your anxiety about your brother George. I have hoped that you would get some good news from him, and I pray that you may soon. It must be very wearing to your good mother. My heart is torn and my sympathies roused as never by anything before at the way our prisoners are treated. I am very sorry to hear that you have been sick, what was it? any return of the old trouble? I hoped that you were really well now, but you will have to keep away from [visiting] the hospitals for some time I think. . . . Your letter to William about your books interested us deeply, be sure to bring your perfect copy of “Drum-taps” won’t you? You know that I never had the reading of any of those poems, though you meant that I should. I long to see you, & we shall be very glad to have you here once more. We are all very well, I am much better than I was last winter, my summer at the sea-shore & the sea-bathing has done wonders for me. It was a good investment every way. . . . Remember me to your mother. I hope that she & all are well at home, the babies too.” ~ Letter from Ellen M. O’Connor to her friend Walt Whitman.

January 19– Thursday– Richmond, Virginia– “When the proposal of separate State action was first mooted, it appeared to me so impracticable, so void of any promise of good, that I gave no heed to the proposal; but upon its adoption by citizens whose position and ability give weight to the expression of their opinions, I was led to a serious consideration of the subject. My first impressions have not been changed by reflection. If all the States of the two hostile federations are to meet in convention, it is plain that such a meeting can only take place after an agreement as to the time, place and terms on which they are to meet. . . . Various other considerations suggest themselves, but enough has been said to justify my conclusion that the proposal of separate State action is unwise, impracticable, and offers no prospect of good to counterbalance its manifold injurious consequences to the cause of our country.” ~ Letter from President Davis to the members of the Georgia delegation regarding state peace efforts, printed in today’s Richmond Times Dispatch.

marching soldiers-images

January 19– Thursday– Richmond, Virginia– “Clear and frosty. Among the rumors, it would appear that the Senate in secret session has passed a resolution making [Robert E.] Lee generalissimo. . . . We have nothing further from Wilmington. Bad enough. Sherman is said to be marching on Charleston. Bad enough, too! Our papers have glowing accounts of the good treatment the citizens of Savannah received from the enemy.” ~ Diary of John Jones.

General Lee

General Lee

January 19– Thursday– Charleston, South Carolina– “The cause of South Carolina, and the cause of the Confederacy, as involved in the fight here needs now of all things two essentials – courage and tenacity, – courage to dare, to risk, to brave – tenacity to hold, to fight, to dispute every inch. There is a great cause, and a grand fight can be made here. But men and leaders must summon up every energy, must rouse themselves to great thoughts and aspirations. Let them shake off past lethargy, and despondency. Let our leaders brace themselves for great and desperate undertakings. Let them fling from their hearts the pail of apprehension as to the future. Let that thing take care of itself. Let them put it behind them. Let them take care of the present. The same tenacity and daring which has held Charleston and the Savannah line for four years, can hold Charleston now, if brought to bear upon the emergency. The same tenacity, had it been need, could have held the line at Pocotaligo four weeks ago, when the Yankees were permitted, through mere want of nerve, to erect their batteries and break the road. The same tenacity could have held for many days the line at Coosawhatchie, but lately so ingloriously abandoned. To be whipped, is to be whipped. No one can always prevent it. There is no ignominy in being fairly whipped, after a manly struggle. A man, or a body of men can but do their best. But this thing of being whipped without a fight worthy of the name, upon a metaphysical or mathematical calculation that you may, or can, or should be whipped, Providence permitting, and all other circumstances favoring, is a sort of fighting that never saved a brave man honor yet, and can never save the liberties of a people. Let those men and those officers who do not want to fight, who are disheartened or cowed, let them go to the rear, and be promptly ordered, to the rear. Let men who are unwhipped, and who have an interest and a pride in the cause here, go to the front. Strip the front line of every cowed man. Give a chance to men who will fight for the old State – to strike a blow for her.” ~ Charleston Mercury.

January 19– Thursday– near Albany, Georgia– “I suffered a great disappointment to-day. Mrs. Stokes Walton gave a big dining – everybody in the neighborhood, almost everybody in the county that is anybody was invited. I expected to wear that beautiful new dress that ran the blockade and I have had so few opportunities of showing. All my preparations were made, even the bows of ribbon pinned on my under-sleeves, but I was awakened at daylight by the pattering of rain on the roof, and knew that the fun was up for me. It was out of the question for one just up from an attack of measles to risk a ride of twelve miles in such a pouring rain, so I had to content myself to stay at home with the two old ladies and be edified with disquisitions on the Apostolic Succession and Baptism by Immersion. They are both good enough to be translated, and I can’t see why the dear little souls should be so disturbed about each other’s belief. Once, when Mrs. Meals left the room for some purpose, Mrs. Sims whispered to me confidentially: ‘There is so little gentility among these dissenters – that is one reason why I hate to see her among them.’ I could hardly keep from laughing out, but that is what a good deal of our religious differences amount to. I confess to a strong prejudice myself, in favor of the old church in which I was brought up; still I don’t think there ought to be any distinction of classes or races in religion. We all have too little ‘gentility’ in the sight of God for that. I only wish I stood as well in the recording Angel’s book as many a poor Negro that I know. About noon a cavalryman stopped at the door and asked for dinner. As we eat late, and the man was in too big a hurry to wait, sister sent him a cold lunch out in the entry. It was raining very hard, and the poor fellow was thoroughly drenched, so after he had eaten, sister invited him to come into the parlor and dry himself. It came out, in the course of conversation, that he was from our own part of Georgia, and knew a number of good old Wilkes County families. He was on his way to the Altamaha, he said, and promised to do his best to keep the raiders from getting to us.” ~ Journal of Eliza Frances Andrews.

fashionable dresses, 1865

fashionable dresses, 1865

January 19– Thursday– Savannah, Georgia– “I avail myself of the opportunity also to enclose [for] you copies of all my official orders touching trade and intercourse with the people of Georgia, as well as for the establishment of the Negro settlements. Delegations of the people of Georgia continue to come in and I am satisfied that, with a little judicious handling and by the little respect being paid to their prejudices we can create a schism in Jeff Davis’ dominions. All that I have conversed with realize the truth that slavery as an institution is defunct, and the only question that remains is, what disposition shall be made of the Negroes themselves. I confess myself unable to offer a complete solution of this question, and prefer to leave it to the slower operations of time. We have given an initiative and can afford to await the working of the experiment.” ~ Letter from Union General William Tecumseh Sherman to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton.

Sherman entertained by loyalist in Savannah

Sherman entertained by loyalist in Savannah

January 19– Thursday– Paris, France– Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, philosopher, political activist and anarchist, dies at age 56.

January 19– Thursday– St Petersburg, Russia– Birth of Valentin Serov, painter. [Dies Descember 5, 1911.]

Pierre Joseph Proudhon

Pierre Joseph Proudhon

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