So Many of My Friends Falling ~ February 1865 ~ the 9th and 10th

So Many of My Friends Falling ~ Alva Benjamin Spencer


Hard times in the Confederacy. Sherman is cutting his way through South Carolina. Supplies running short. The size of the army so reduced that General Lee goes on record supporting the enlistment of black slaves in large numbers. Southern newspapers call out for resistance. There is discussion– North and South– about the failed peace initiative.

Sherman marching through South Carolina

Sherman marching through South Carolina

February 9– Thursday– Richmond, Virginia– “Sherman has not neglected, in his military march, to ‘garrison the press.’ The Savannah Republican, an old and long established journal of that city, has been manned and officered by an Abolition detachment. . . . We are glad to learn that the new organ of Sherman is compelled to rely wholly on the Yankee soldiers and sailors for patronage, the sales to citizens being, at present, very small. This shows that, in spite of representations to the contrary, the great mass of the people of Savannah . . . have no sympathy with the invaders. The Republican indeed, admits as much, but it is by no means despondent. It will ‘require time to teach the rabid rebels of Savannah their fatal error.’ The manner of conveying this instruction is not clearly indicated, but, from the example of New Orleans and other Confederate cities in Yankee possession, we can readily imagine the process of enlightening darkened understandings. Insult, degradation, stoning and plunder, will open their eyes to the beauties of abolition philanthropy; or, if they still continue incredulous, banish them by wholesale and seize their houses and effects. The ‘fatal error’ of the Confederate people is to imagine that they have any right to exist on the planet. When they are converted from that mortal heresy, and renounce it with their dying breath, they may expect to escape from Yankee persecution.” ~ Richmond Times Dispatch.

February 9– Thursday– Richmond, Virginia– “We have nothing from Charleston for several days. No doubt preparations are being made for its evacuation. The stores will be brought here for Lee’s army. What will be the price of gold then?” ~ Diary of John Jones.

February 9– Thursday– Charleston, South Carolina– “When the Yankee nation elected Abraham Lincoln on the avowed basis of abolition, they proclaimed their future intentions with regard to us and our institutions. They made up the issue between the sections and severed the Union. When they seized Fort Sumter and returned to give it up to us, to whom it rightly belonged, they closed the issue for war and shut the book of peace. The contest engaged in was on either sides for Union or for disunion – for one General Government, or two separate General Governments, over the two separate sections. For four years this war was waged with fierce endeavor on both sides. But now, just at this point, and just at this time, the 1st chapter of the war has closed its red pages. . . . For the second time the issues have all been made up – and for the second time the books have been closed. The United States Government have just abolished slavery, by an act of Congress, throughout the entire length and breadth of the land now under their authority, or hereafter to come under their authority. . . . Everybody knows now where we stand – utter and complete subjugation and abolition; or fight on to the death, or to glorious independence, with the preservation of our rights and individual liberties.” ~ Charleston Mercury.


February 9– Thursday– Walker’s Plantation, South Carolina– “Marched to Walker’s plantation; distance, ten miles. Here we remained . . . while the troops were completing the destruction of the railroad.” ~ Diary of a staff officer under Union General Oliver O. Howard.

February 9– Thursday– Albany Georgia– “We are in Albany – Mett, Mrs. Meals, and I – on our way to Americus, where I am going to consult Cousin Bolling Pope about my eyes. They have been troubling me ever since I had measles. We had hardly got our hats off when Jim Chiles came panting up the steps. He had seen the carriage pass through town and must run round at once to see if a sudden notion had struck us to go home. After tea came Captain Hobbs, the Welshes, and a Mr. Green, of Columbus, to spend the evening. Mrs. Welsh gives a large party next Thursday night, to which we are invited, and she also wants me to stay over and take part in some theatricals for the benefit of the hospitals, but I have had enough of worrying with amateur theatricals for the present.” ~ Journal of Eliza Frances Andrews.

February 9– Thursday– London, England– Birth of Beatrice Stella Tanner who will become a famous actress known as Mrs Patrick Campbell. [Dies April 9, 1940.]

Beatrice Tanner a/k/a Mrs Patrick Campbell

Beatrice Tanner a/k/a Mrs Patrick Campbell

February 10– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– Today’s issue of The Liberator reprints the text of the Thirteenth Amendment and lists every member of the House of Representatives by name, state and political party, indicating whether he voted for or against the amendment. The issue also reports the following: “Another Marked Event in American History! The admission of John S. Rock, Esq., a talented and much respected lawyer of Boston, to practice in the Supreme Court of the United States.” [Rock, 1825 – 1866, a free-born black man was an educator, physician and abolitionist activist as well as a lawyer. Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts moved for Rock’s admission to practice before the Supreme Court on February 1st thus making Rock the first African American lawyer to be admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court. For a biography, see The Supreme Court Bar’s First Black Member by Clarence G. Contee (1975), in the electronic archives of the Supreme Court Historical Society.]

John S Rock

John S Rock

February 10– Friday– Washington, D.C.– “On Wednesday evening Mrs. Welles held a levee, which always disarranges. The season has thus far been one of gaiety. Parties have been numerous. Late hours I do not like, but I have a greater dislike to late dinners. The dinner parties of Washington are to be deprecated always by those who regard health. The President has communicated his movements tending to peace. Jeff Davis has published the letter of Stephens, Hunter, and Campbell. They do not materially differ. The prospect of peace does not seem nearer than before the interview took place, yet I trust we are approximating the much desired result. There are ultras among us who do not favor the cessation of hostilities except on terms and conditions which make that event remote. A few leading radicals are inimical to the Administration, and oppose all measures of the Administration which are likely to effect an immediate peace. They are determined that the States in rebellion shall not resume their position in the Union except on new terms and conditions independent of those in the proposed Constitutional Amendment. Wade in the Senate and Winter Davis in the House are leading spirits in this disturbing movement. It is the positive element, violent without much regard to Constitutional or State rights, or any other rights indeed, except such as they may themselves define or dictate. Not much was done to-day at the Cabinet. Some discussion of general matters.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles.

February 10– Friday– outside Petersburg, Virginia– “The weather is fine today and as warm as spring. We are enjoying it after the snow and ice of a few days ago. I am very well and happy as a man ought to be.” ~ Diary of Elisha Hunt Rhodes.

February 10– Friday– Petersburg, Virginia– “It does indeed make me feel sad to see so many of my friends falling around me. Oh for something to stop this destructive conflict. The ‘Peace Commissioners’ have returned, telling us ‘the argument is exhausted, let us stand by our arms.’ They were permitted to go no nearer Washington than Fortress Monroe, at which place they were met by inhuman Lincoln, and the subtle intriguer Seward. Nothing was accomplished, save our Commissioners being told they were rebel traitors. Thus endeth the Peace question, ‘peace to its ashes.’I hope no sensationist will again revive it. I think we all can now see what is the character of our enemies. We can do nothing but await the time when we shall be more powerful than they. To insure such an event, we have to put forth every energy, in the field and at home. The people must encourage the army and all will be well. We have virtually commenced a new war. It does look gloomy; but contrast independence with submission or subjugation. Let every man’s motto be ‘Liberty or death,’ and independence is ours. None are more desirous to obtain peace than I. I have an object to attain to, which would make me forget all the many, many hardships I’ve undergone and render me the happiest among men. If we could gain anything by reconstruction, I would willingly give my consent; but we all know that instead of gaining, we would lose everything.” ~ Letter from Confederate soldier Alva Benjamin Spencer to his fiancee Maggie Cone.

Alva Benjamin Spencer

Alva Benjamin Spencer

February 10– Friday– Richmond, Virginia– “Bright and cold. . . . Sherman has got to the railroad near Branchville, and cut communications with Augusta. At the meeting [of Congress], yesterday, Mr. Hunter presided, sure enough; and made a carefully prepared patriotic speech. There was no other alternative. And Mr. Benjamin, being a member of the cabinet, made a significant and most extraordinary speech. He said the white fighting men were exhausted, and that black men must recruit the army– and it must be done at once; that General Lee had informed him he must abandon Richmond, if not soon reinforced, and that Negroes would answer. The States must send them, Congress having no authority. Virginia must lead, and send 20,000 to the trenches in twenty days. Let the Negroes volunteer, and be emancipated. It was the only way to save the slaves– the women and children. He also said all [planters and farmers] who had cotton, tobacco, corn, meat, etc. must give them to the government, not sell them.” ~ Diary of John Jones.

February 10– Friday– Charleston, South Carolina– “We desire to call the attention of our readers in all parts of the State to the important mission of Captain Julian Mitchel, under the authority of the Governor of the State. His mission is to save food from the hands of the enemy, for the use of the State. It is a matter of the greatest importance in two aspects. First, it is essential, in order to delay, or to check altogether, Sherman’s march into the interior, that all food should be moved from in front of him. He must march across a waste. Not a pound of corn, rice or peas, or a bushel of potatoes must be left on his line of march, or anywhere, that he can get it, beyond the absolute necessities of those who cannot move. This fact all property owners in the State should understand at once. And this order every military man should be required strictly to enforce to the letter. Secondly, it is important that whilst cutting off all supplies from Sherman, so far as the produce of this State is concerned, we should not starve ourselves. This is Captain Mitchel’s mission. In all regions of the country threatened by the enemy, he is to gather up for the use of the State all the provisions except those absolutely requisite for the sustenance of those who are compelled by necessity to remain at home – old men, and cripples, women and children. It is a mission of incalculable importance, if properly enforced and thoroughly carried out.” ~ Charleston Mercury.

February 10– Friday– Albany Georgia– “We had to get up very early to catch the seven o’clock train to Americus. Jim met us at the depot, though there were so many of our acquaintances on board that we had no special need of an escort. Mr. George Lawton sat by me all the way from Smithville to Americus, and insisted on our paying his family a visit before leaving South-West Georgia. I wish I could go, for he lives near father’s old Tallassee plantation where I had such happy times in my childhood; but if we were to accept all the invitations that come to us, we would never get back home again. We reached Americus at ten and went straight to Cousin Bolling’s hospital. He was not there, but Dr. Howard, his assistant, told us he was in the village and would be at the office in a few minutes. All along the streets, as we were making our way from the depot to the hospital, we could recognize his patients going about with patches and shades and blue spectacles over their eyes, and some of them had blue or green veils on. We didn’t care to wait at the hospital in all that crowd of men, so we started out to visit the shops, intending to return later and meet Cousin Bolling. We had gone only a few steps when we saw him coming toward us. His first words were the announcement that he was married! I couldn’t believe him at first, and thought he was joking. Then he insisted that we should go home with him and see our new cousin. We felt doubtful about displaying our patched up Confederate traveling suits before a brand new bride from beyond the blockade, with trunk loads of new things, but curiosity got the better of us, and so we agreed to go home with him. He is occupying Colonel Maxwell’s house while the family are on the plantation in Lee county. When we reached the house with Cousin Bolling, Mrs. Pope – or ‘Cousin Bessie,’ as she says we must call her now– made us feel easy by sending for us to come to her bedroom, as there was no fire in the parlor, and she would not make company of us. She was a Mrs. Ayres, before her marriage to Cousin Bolling, a young widow from Memphis, Tennessee, and very prominent in society there. She is quite handsome, and, having just come from beyond the lines, her beautiful dresses were a revelation to us dowdy Confederates, and made me feel like a plucked peacock. Her hair was arranged in three rolls over the top of the head, on each side of the part, in the style called ‘cats, rats, and mice,’ on account of the different size of the rolls, the top one being the largest. It was very stylish. I wish my hair was long enough to dress that way, for I am getting very tired of frizzes; they are so much trouble, and always will come out in wet weather. We were so much interested that we stayed at Cousin Bolling’s too long and had to run nearly all the way back to the depot in order to catch our train. On the cars I met the very last man I would have expected to see in this part of the world – my Boston friend, Mr. Adams. He said he was on his way to take charge of a Presbyterian church in Eufaula, Alabama. He had on a broadcloth coat and a stovepipe hat, which are so unlike anything worn by our Confederate men that I felt uncomfortably conspicuous while he was with me. I am almost ashamed, nowadays, to be seen with any man not in uniform, though Mr. Adams, being a Northern man and a minister, could not, of course, be expected to go into the army. I believe he is sincere in his Southern sympathies, but his Yankee manners and lingo ‘sorter riles’ me, as the darkies say, in spite of reason and common sense. He talked religion all the way to Smithville, and parted with some pretty sentiment about the ‘sunbeam I had thrown across his path.’ I don’t enjoy that sort of talk from men; I like dash and flash and fire in talk, as in action. We reached Albany at four o’clock, and after a little visit to Mrs. Sims, started home, where we arrived soon after dark, without any adventure except being nearly drowned in the ford at Wright’s Creek.” ~ Journal of Eliza Frances Andrews.

coatee dress, 1865

coatee dress, 1865

February 10–Friday– Columbus, Ohio– The legislature ratifies the Thirteenth Amendment.

February 10– Friday– Jefferson City, Missouri– The legislature ratifies the Thirteenth Amendment.

February 10– Friday– Lombardy, Ontario, Canada– Birth of Richard Gardiner Willis, politician and leader of the Conservative Party. [Dies February 24, 1929.]

Richard Gardiner Willis

Richard Gardiner Willis

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