Say to the People That They Go Forward ~ February 1865 ~ 11th and 12th

Say to the People That They Go Forward ~ Henry Highland Garnet

Reverend Henry Highland Garnet

Reverend Henry Highland Garnet

For the first time a black man, a former slave, preaches a sermon in the U S Congress. In the South, President Davis encourages his generals to defeat Sherman who is making rapid advances through South Carolina. Others worry about the possibility of the fall of Richmond. Debate rages about using slaves in the Confederate armed forces. Concerned about supplies and safety, the Charleston Mercury suspends publication. In places, genteel social life continues and a Southern belle admires African American spirituals, noting that the slaves like them much more than traditional church hymns.


February 11– Saturday– Richmond, Virginia– “Your telegrams of the 9th and 10th received. The indications suggest Charleston as the objective point and if you have supplies inside the works and General Beauregard has the hoped-for success in concentrating the army and in raising auxiliary forces in Georgia and South Carolina, the attempt of the enemy will, I hope, be reduced to operations on the sea front and be finally defeated.” ~ Message from President Davis to General Hardee in Charleston, South Carolina.

February 11– Saturday– Richmond, Virginia– “Cloudy and cold; froze hard last night. Yesterday a bill was introduced into both houses of Congress authorizing the enlistment of 200,000 slaves, with consent of their owners, which will probably be amended. Mr. Miles, as a test vote, moved the rejection of the bill; and the vote not to reject it was more than two to one, an indication that it will pass. The failure of the peace conference seems to have been made the occasion of inspiring renewed zeal and enthusiasm for the war in the United States, as well as here. So the carnival of blood will be a ‘success.’The enemy claim an advantage in the late battle on the south side of the James River. Sherman’s movements are still shrouded in mystery, and our generals seem to be waiting for a development of his intentions. Meantime he is getting nearer to Charleston, and cutting railroad communications between that city and the interior. The city is doomed, unless Hardee or Beauregard, or both, successfully take the initiative.” ~ Diary of John Jones.

mill destroyed by Sherman's troops

mill destroyed by Sherman’s troops

February 11– Saturday– Beaufort, South Carolina– “I am perhaps less able to give a general summary, than those who have seen the whole field at a distance, and have not had their attention absorbed by particular details and occurrences; but, as nearly as I can remember, about the 2nd of January four hundred refugees arrived in Beaufort, and were distributed among the plantations on Port Royal Island– about the 5th two hundred and fifty more came, very decrepit and feeble, and were sent immediately to Saint Helena Island. During the next week, perhaps five hundred more arrived; and by that time the movement of Sherman’s army to Beaufort had begun, and transportation could not be given to the Negroes. Nevertheless a few hundred got to Hilton Head Island, and were mostly distributed among the plantations there. Since Sherman’s army moved from Beaufort, five or six hundred more have come into Hilton Head Island from Savannah and from the main land north of Savannah, and about as many more from Sherman’s rear into Beaufort. There are at present, on those of the Sea Islands occupied by our forces, about four or five thousand refugees. The rest who lingered at Savannah, being about two or three thousand more: and probably in all, at least one thousand have died of disease and exposure.” ~ Report from James P. Blake to the New England Freedmen’s Aid Society.

February 11– Saturday– Charleston, South Carolina– “The progress of military events, which has occasioned so much public and private inconvenience and suffering, has not spared the newspaper interest. The interruption of railroad communication between Charleston and the interior produces a state of affairs which compels us, temporarily, to transfer the publication office of the Mercury elsewhere; and today’s paper will be our last issue, for the present, in the city of Charleston. It is due to our readers that they should be informed of the reasons which necessitate so important a step in the management of our journal. The interruption of the mails on the South Carolina Railroad practically cuts us off from the mass of our country readers, not only in this but all the adjoining States. We consider it highly desirable that the paper should reach this large class; and by the contemplated change we trust to accomplish that end. But a far more important consideration, and one which cannot be overlooked, is the question of our paper supply. Few of our readers have any idea of the enormous quantity of paper required for the daily consumption of our establishment. The paper mill upon which we depend for our supply is situated in Western North Carolina, and as things stand, for want of transportation, there is no chance of a continuance of that supply. So that we have the alternatives presented to us, of being obliged to discontinue the Mercury, for want of the material upon which to print it, or of removing, for a time, our publication office to another more convenient point. Justice to our subscribers, no less than our own preference, impels us to the latter course. For a few days, therefore, the issue of the Mercury will be suspended; but soon, we trust, it will revisit all our readers.” ~ Charleston Mercury

campaign map-6232

February 11– Saturday– Aiken, South Carolina; near Sugar Loaf, South Carolina; near Orangeburg, South Carolina– Hard skirmishing fails to stop Federal advances.

February 11– Saturday– Albany, Georgia– “Making visits all day. It takes a long time to return calls when people live so far apart and every mile or two we have to go out of our way to avoid high waters. Stokes Walton’s creek runs underground for several miles, so that when the waters are high we leave the main road and cross where it disappears underground. There is so much water now that the subterranean channel can’t hold it all, so it flows below and overflows above ground, making a two-storied stream. It is very broad and shallow at that place, and beautifully clear. It would be a charming place for a boating excursion because the water is not deep enough to drown anybody if they should fall overboard – but if the bottom should drop out of the road, as sometimes happens in this limestone country, where in the name of heaven would we go to? Sister and I spent the evening at Mrs. Robert Bacon’s [house]. The Camps, the Edwin Bacons, Captain Wynne, and Mrs. Westmoreland were there. . . . Mrs. Westmoreland says she gave Captain Sailes a letter of introduction to me, thinking I had gone back to Washington [Georgia– her home town]. He and John Garnett, one of our far-off Virginia cousins, have been transferred there.” ~ Journal of Eliza Frances Andrews.


February 12– Sunday– Washington, D.C.– The Electoral College meets and officials re-elects President Lincoln as President of the United States in accord with the popular vote of last November. It is Lincoln’s 56th birthday.

February 12– Sunday– Washington, D.C.– “The nation has begun its exodus from worse than Egyptian bondage; and I beseech you that you say to the people that they go forward. With the assurance of God’s favor in all things done in obedience to his righteous will, and guided by day and by night by the pillars of cloud and fire, let us not pause until we have reached the other and safe side of the stormy and crimson sea. Let freemen and patriots mete out complete and equal justice to all men and thus prove to mankind the superiority of our democratic, republican government. Favored men, and honored of God as his instruments, speedily finish the work which he has given you to do. Emancipate, enfranchise, educate, and give the blessings of the gospel to every American citizen. . . . Then before us a path of prosperity will open, and upon us will descend the mercies and favors of God. Then shall the people of other countries, who are standing tiptoe on the shores of every ocean, earnestly looking to see the end of this amazing conflict, behold a Republic that is sufficiently strong to outlive the ruin and desolations of civil war, having the magnanimity to do justice to the poorest and weakest of her citizens. Thus shall we give to the world the form of a model Republic, founded on the principles of justice and humanity and Christianity, in which the burdens of war and the blessings of peace are equally borne and enjoyed by all.” ~ Sermon preached in the House of Representatives by Reverend Henry Highland Garnet, a former slave and now pastor of the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., making him the first African American to speak in the Capitol Building.

15th Street Presbyterian Church, circa 1899

15th Street Presbyterian Church, circa 1899

February 12– Sunday– Richmond, Virginia– “Bright, windy, cold, and disagreeable. There was nothing new at the department this morning. Nothing from below; nothing from South Carolina. Perhaps communications are cut between this and Charleston. All are anxious to hear the result of the anticipated battle with Sherman, for somehow all know that the order to fight him was sent from Richmond more than a week ago. People’s thoughts very naturally now dwell upon the proximate future, and the alternatives likely to be presented in the event of the abandonment of Richmond, and consequently Virginia, by Lee’s army. Most of the male population would probably (if permitted) elect to remain at their homes, braving the fate that might await them. But the women are more patriotic, and would brave all in following the fortunes of the Confederate States Government. Is this because they do not participate in the hardships and dangers of the field? But many of our men are weary and worn, and languish for repose. These would probably remain quiescent on parole, submitting to the rule of the conqueror; but hoping still for foreign intervention or Confederate victories, and ultimate independence. Doubtless Lee could protract the war, and, by concentrating farther South, embarrass the enemy by compelling him to maintain a longer line of communication by land and by sea, and at the same time be enabled to fall upon him, as occasion might offer, in heavier force. No doubt many would fall out of the ranks, if Virginia were abandoned; but Lee could have an army of 100,000 effective men for years.” ~ Diary of John Jones.

February 12– Sunday– outside Petersburg, Virginia– “No church service today near enough for me to attend so I remained in camp. Attended inspection, dress parade, etc. Last night a glee club from one of the Regiments near gave me a fine serenade. I am much favored by the musical talent of the Army. Well, it makes this life pleasant and even enjoyable and we are better men and soldiers for cultivating a taste for fine things.” ~ Diary of Elisha Hunt Rhodes.

February 12– Sunday– near the North Edisto River, South Carolina– “A severe fight took place, which ended in the rout of the foe; two pontoon bridges were thrown across and about 6 o’clock the crossing commenced . . . . I remained at the bridge until near midnight, then rode out to camp. The concentration of the army at the bridge gave me an opportunity of seeing the captured horses and mules ridden by foragers, and it was with surprise I noted the great number already captured.” ~ Diary of a staff officer serving under Union General Oliver O. Howard.

slave religious service

slave religious service

February 12– Sunday– Albany, Georgia– “Spring is already breaking in this heavenly climate, and the weather has been lovely to-day. The yellow jessamine buds begin to show their golden tips, forget-me-nots are peeping from under the wire grass, and the old cherry tree by the dairy is full of green leaves. Spring is so beautiful; I don’t wonder the spring poet breaks loose then. Our ‘piney woods’ don’t enjoy a very poetical reputation, but at this season they are the most beautiful place in the world to me. I went over to the quarter after dinner, to the ‘Praise House,’ to hear the Negroes sing, but most of them had gone to walk on the river bank, so I did not get a full choir. At their ‘praise meetings’ they go through with all sorts of motions in connection with their songs, but they won’t give way to their wildest gesticulations or engage in their sacred dances before white people, for fear of being laughed at. They didn’t get out of their seats while I was there, but whenever the ‘sperrit’ of the song moved them very much, would pat their feet and flap their arms and go through with a number of motions that reminded me of the game of ‘Old Dame Wiggins’ that we used to play when we were children. They call these native airs ‘little speritual songs,’ in contradistinction to the hymns that the preachers read to them in church, out of a book, and seem to enjoy them a great deal more. I mean to make a collection of these songs some day and keep them as a curiosity. The words are mostly endless repetitions, with a wild jumble of misfit Scriptural allusions, but the tunes are inspiring. They are mostly a sort of weird chant that makes me feel all out of myself when I hear it way in the night, too far off to catch the words. I wish I was musician enough to write down the melodies; they are worth preserving.” ~ Journal of Eliza Frances Andrews.

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