After Eighty Years of Wandering ~ February 1865~ 4th to 6th

After Eighty Years of Wandering ~ William Lloyd Garrison


As the constitutional amendment begins to be ratified, Garrison, the radical abolitionist, speaks publicly about the long struggle. Some Southerners see the amendment only fueling the flames of on-going war. Lincoln reports, sadly, to his cabinet about the failed peace effort. Whitman is back in Washington, visiting wounded soldiers and working for his brother’s release. Fighting in South Carolina escalates.

February 4– Saturday– Boston, Massachusetts– “At last, after eighty years of wandering and darkness, of cruelty and oppression, on a colossal scale, towards a helpless and on unoffending race, of necromancy to all the Heaven-attested principles enunciated by our revolutionary sires in justification of their course; through righteous judgment and fiery retribution; through national dismemberment and civil war; through suffering, bereavement and lamentation, extending to every city, town, village and hamlet, almost every household in the land; through a whole generation of Anti-Slavery warning, expostulation and rebuke, resulting in wide spread contrition and repentance; the nation, rising in the majesty of its moral power and political sovereignty, has decreed that liberty shall be ‘Proclaimed throughout all the land, to all the Inhabitants thereof,’ and that henceforth no such anomalous being as slaveholder or slave shall exist beneath the stars and stripes, within the domains of the republic . . . . friends and strangers stop me in the streets, daily, to congratulate me on having been permitted to live to witness the almost miraculous change which has taken place in the feelings and sentiments of the people on the subject of slavery, and in favor of the long rejected but ever just and humane doctrine of immediate and universal emancipation. Ah, sir, no man living better understands or more joyfully recognizes the vastness of that change than I do. But most truly can I say that it causes within me no feeling of personal pride or exultation. God forbid! But I am unspeakably happy to believe, not only that this vast assembly, but that the great mass of my countrymen are now heartily disposed to admit that, in disinterestedly seeking, by all righteous instrumentalities, for more than thirty years, the utter abolition of slavery, I have not acted the part of a madman, fanatic, incendiary, or traitor, but have at all times been of sound mind, a true friend of liberty and humanity, animated by the highest patriotism, and devoted to the welfare, peace, unity, and ever increasing prosperity and glory of my native land!” ~ Speech by William Lloyd Garrison.

William Lloyd Garrison

William Lloyd Garrison

February 4– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– “There was yesterday no meeting of the Cabinet. This morning the members were notified to meet at twelve meridian. All were punctually on hand. The President with Mr. Seward got home this morning. Both speak of the interview with the Rebel commissioners as having been pleasant and without acrimony. Seward did not meet or have interview with them until the President arrived. No results were obtained, but the discussion will be likely to tend to peace. In going the President acted from honest sincerity and without pretension. Perhaps this may have a good effect, and perhaps other-wise. He thinks he better than any agent can negotiate and arrange. Seward wants to do this.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles.

February 4– Saturday– Wheeling, West Virginia– “Resolved by the Legislature of West Virginia, That our senators and representatives in congress be requested to procure, if possible, an amendment to the act of congress, approved June 3rd, 1864, entitled ‘An act to provide a national currency, secured by a pledge of United States bonds, and to provide for the circulation and redemption thereof,’ so as to allow state banks having branches to become national banking associations under the said act, and still use a portion of their capital for banking purposes and keep offices of discount and deposit at the several places where such branches are now located. Resolved further, That the president of the senate and speaker of the house of delegates be directed to certify and forward a copy of these resolutions to each of our senators and representatives in congress.” ~ Adopted by the state legislature.

February 4– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– “As you see by the date of this, I am again back in Washington. I spend a portion of my time around among the Hospitals as formerly. I find quite a good many bad old lingering wounds, & also a good many down with sickness of one sort or another & the latter are receiving accessions every day– especially as they appear to be breaking up the Corps Hospitals in front, down in Grant’s army– a good many of the men have been sent up here– day before yesterday I saw a string of over a hundred ambulances, bringing up the men from the depot, to distribute them around to the different Hospitals. My health is pretty good, & I remain in good spirits considering. I have a little employment here, of three or four hours every day. It is regular, & sufficiently remunerative. Sundays I spend most of the day in the Hospitals– during the week a few hours from time to time, & occasionally in the evening.” ~ Letter from Walt Whitman to his friend Abby H. Price.

Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman

February 4– Saturday– Petersburg, Virginia– “I am once more safely in camp, after having undergone the most disagreeable hardship I ever experienced. Just think of my being on the road since the morning of the 26th. I missed connection at the first depot, and at every other junction between Georgia and Virginia. I found my brigade just returned from another raid in the direction of Weldon. They were very much fatigued, and represented the trip as having been much more severe than the former. I was fortunate in missing it, don’t you think so? above all they are not whipped. While the people (a part of them) are ready for reconstruction. The soldiers are very much displeased with the situation of affairs in Georgia, and I expect some of them, will receive some raking documents.” ~ Letter from Confederate soldier Alva Benjamin Spencer to his fiancee Maggie Cone.

February 4– Saturday– Charleston, South Carolina– “We have heretofore stated that the entire industry and property of the Cotton States rested upon their great products– cotton, rice and sugar. It is not to be supposed that any man who sells a cake of soap, or drives a ten-penny nail, is a political economist. We all know that grog-shop keepers are, by right of possession, and prima facie, statesmen. It is the privilege of their profession to talk as much nonsense as bad liquor and a maudlin state of brains can induce them to utter. We shall not, therefore, attempt to enlighten upon an abstruse question, those who have not laid the foundations of knowledge upon which we might hope to build our argument comprehensible to them. But for men who desire to think who are in earnest to arrive at the bottom of the truths which now press upon us, and upon our posterity after us, we will illustrate the truth of the political aphorism, with which we have headed our article this morning – that all property comes out of the ground – and the industry, labor and property of the Cotton States is based upon its products – cotton, rice and sugar.” ~ Charleston Mercury.

February 4– Friday– southern South Carolina– “Marched to the Salkehatchie; camped near Buford’s Bridge. General Howard having fought his way across at Binnaker’s Bridge, this strong point was abandoned without a struggle. We had, however, to rebuild the causeway across the marsh that borders the river. This causeway, two miles in length and containing twenty-seven small bridges over the little rivers of the marsh.” ~ Diary of a staff officer under Union General Oliver O. Howard.

Union General Oliver O Howard

Union General Oliver O Howard

February 5– Sunday– New York City– “I most cheerfully write the note you request to General Grant, though I do not know that it will be of any service. I enclose it to you, for the reason that in the new aspect of the Exchange question you may not think it worth mailing. Since your letter was written, the statement has been published (and you have doubtless seen it) that Grant has made the arrangements for a general exchange which is to be begun immediately, and carried on with all possible promptitude. It may be, and I trust will be, that under these circumstances your brother will be at once exchanged in the general mode. However, I leave this for you to decide by what you may have heard when you get this. Hoping you are now in health and that your lost brother may soon be restored to you and his mother.” ~ Letter from John Swinton to Walt Whitman.

John Swinton

John Swinton

February 5– Sunday– Albany, Georgia– “Went to church at Mt. Enon, and did my best to listen to Dr. Hillyer, but there were so many troops passing along the road that I could keep neither thoughts nor my eyes from wandering. Jim Chiles came home to dinner with us. He always has so much news to tell that he is as good as the county paper, and much more reliable. I have a letter from Lily Legriel asking me to make her a visit before I go home. She is refugeeing in Macon, and I think I will stop a few days as I pass through.” ~ Journal of Eliza Frances Andrews.

February 6– Monday– Augusta County, Virginia– “We have little or nothing to do. How do you like your berth by this time. Have they done anything with you for staying at home over your time? I am anxious to hear about this and you must write immediately. I have not heard from home since you left. Expect a letter daily. What do you think of Peace by this time? I think that before bright Spring shall unfold her sunny wings the loud toxin of war will have peaked her clamor and peace and harmony will reign once more in our beloved land. At least this is my hope. Oh! would it not be delightful for us all to be gathered at home once more and pursue the peaceful avocations of life. You and I would again devote ourselves to our books and attempt to make ourselves men. You must write soon I will be anxious to hear from you.” ~ Letter from Confederate soldier A.M. Chacky to his brother Ed.

February 6– Monday– Washington, D.C.– “There was a Cabinet-meeting last evening. The President had matured a scheme which he hoped would be successful in promoting peace. It was a proposition for paying the expenses of the war for two hundred days, or four hundred millions, to the Rebel States, to be for the extinguishment of slavery, or for such purpose as the States were disposed. This in few words was the scheme. It did not meet with favor, but was dropped. The earnest desire of the President to conciliate and effect peace was manifest, but there may be such a thing as so overdoing as to cause a distrust or adverse feeling. In the present temper of Congress the proposed measure, if a wise one, could not be carried through successfully.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles.

Gideon Welles

Gideon Welles

February 6– Monday– Washington, D.C.– “As you see by the date of this, I am back again in Washington, moving around regularly, but not to excess, among the hospitals. . . . My health is pretty good, but since I was prostrated last July, I have not had that unconscious and perfect health I formerly had. The physician says my system has been penetrated by the malaria– it is tenacious, peculiar and somewhat baffling– but tells it will go over in due time. It is my first appearance in the character of a man not entirely well. The talk here is about the late Peace Conference– the general statement accepted is that it has been a failure and a bubble– even the war is to go on worse than ever– but I find a few shrewd persons whose theory is that it is not at all sure of its being a failure– they say that the President and Mr. Seward are willing to avoid at present the tempest of rage which would beat about their heads, if it were known among the Radicals that Peace, Amnesty, every thing, were given up to the Rebels on the single price of re-assuming their place in the Union– so the said shrewd ones say the thing is an open question yet. For my part I see no light or knowledge in any direction on the matter of the conference, or what it amounted to, or where it left off. I say nothing, and have no decided opinion about it– not even a guess (but rather leaning to the generally accepted statement above). My dear friend, I haven’t your last letter at hand to see whether there is anything that needs special answer. I hope to hear from you often.” ~ Letter from Walt Whitman to his friend John Townsend Trowbridge.

John Townsend Trowbridge

John Townsend Trowbridge

February 6– Monday– Richmond, Virginia– “Bright and frosty. As I supposed, the peace commissioners have returned from their fruitless errand. President Lincoln and Mr. Seward, it appears, had nothing to propose, and would listen to nothing but unconditional submission. The Congress of the United States has just passed, by a two-thirds vote, an amendment to the Constitution abolishing slavery. Now the South will soon be fired up again, perhaps with a new impulse– and WAR will rage with greater fury than ever.~ Diary of John Jones.

February 6– Monday– Charleston, South Carolina– “The recent movements of the enemy have been much delayed by the recent rains. On Thursday last the hostile forces were on opposite banks of the Salkahatchie, our own troops having fortified the bridges and principal fords. Too much reliance, it seems, was placed upon the effectiveness of the river and the swamps which skirt it, as a bar to the enemy progress. On Friday afternoon, the Yankees plunged, waist deep, into the stream, between Broxton and Rivers’ Bridges, and also above Rivers’ Bridge, thus flanking our defensive positions with a heavy column on either side, and compelling our troops to fall back to Branchville, behind the Edisto. Previous, however, to our retreat, the fighting at Rivers’ Bridge was quite sharp, and lasted several hours. It was rumored yesterday that the 47th Georgia Regiment had suffered severely at this point. During Thursday Wheeler did good service, holding the enemy in check and inflicting severe damage upon him. The Augusta train came through last evening, but the train from Charleston did not go farther than Branchville. Our readers need not be surprised to hear today that Sherman has struck the main stem of the South Carolina Railroad, at some point above Branchville.” ~ Charleston Mercury.

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