Xxxviii. May, 1864
- Dispatch from Gen. J. E. Jobnston. -- dispatch from Gen. Lee. -- Mr. Saulsbury's resolution in the U. S. Senate. -- progress of the enemy -- rumored preparations for the flight of the President. -- wrangling of high officials. -- position of the armies.
May 1Cloudy and showery, but warm, and fine for vegetation. My lettuce, cabbage, beans, etc. are growing finely. But the Yankee corn and lima beans, imported by Col. Gorgas, Chief of Ordnance, have rotted in the ground. No war news. Yesterday a paper was sent to the President by Gen. Pickett, recommending Gen. Roger A. Pryor for a cavalry command in North Carolina. But the President sent it to the Secretary of War with the curt remark that the command had already been disposed of to Col. Dearing, on Gen. Hoke's recommendation. Thus Gen. P. is again whistled down the wind, in spite of the efforts of even Mr. Hunter, and many other leading politicians. It is possible Gen. P. may have on some occasion criticised Lee.
May 2A cool day, sunshine and showers. To-day Congress assembled, and the President's message was delivered, although he buried his youngest son yesterday, who lost his life by an accidental fall from the porch on Saturday.  We have abundance of good news to-day. First, the Florida has captured one, and destroyed another of the enemy's vessels of war in the West Indies. Second, we have authentic intelligence of the evacuation of Washington, N. C. by the enemy, pursued by our forces toward Newbern. Third, four steamers have arrived at Wilmington laden with quartermaster and ordnance stores. Col. Gorgas, Chief of Ordnance, says we now have arms and ammunition enough. A letter from Gen. Lee indicates the propriety of Gen. Imboden retaining his recruits (which the Secretary wanted to take from him, because they were liable to conscription) in the Shenandoah Valley. This does not look like a purpose of an advance on Lee's part. He will probably await the attack. The President, in an indorsement, intimates to the Secretary of War that Gen. Pryor might be assigned to a brigade of the Reserve class. About 5 o'clock this afternoon we had a tornado from the southwest which I fear has done mischief in the country. It blew off half a dozen planks from my garden fence, and I had difficulty in nailing them on again with such rusty nails as I could find. Nails are worth almost their weight in silver. The gardeners sell tomato-plants for $10 per dozen, and cabbage-plants for 50 cts. each! But I am independent, having my own little hot-beds.
May 3A cold, windy day, with sunshine and clouds. It is rumored that Grant's army is in motion, and the great battle is eagerly looked for. The collision of mighty armies, upon the issue of which the fate of empire depends, is now imminent. The following dispatch was received to-day from Gen. Johnston:
May 4Bright, beautiful, and warmer; but fire in the morning. The following dispatch from Gen. Lee was received by Gen. Bragg to-day and sent to the Secretary.
There is a rumor of fighting at Chancellorville, and this is the anniversary, I believe, of the battle there. May we be as successful this time! But the report is not authentic. Firing is heard now in the direction of York River.
May 5We have many rumors to-day, and nothing authentic, except that some of the enemy's transports are in the James River, and landing some troops, a puerile demonstration, perhaps. The number landed at West Point, it seems, was insignificant. It may be the armies of the United States are demoralized, and if so, if Grant be beaten, I shall look for a speedy end of the invasion. It is said some of the advanced forces of Grant were at Spottsylvania C. H. last night, and the great battle may occur any hour. Gov. Smith is calling for more exemptions (firemen, etc.) than all the governors together. Col. Preston asks authority to organize a company of conscripts, Reserve classes, in each congressional district, the President having assigned a general officer to each State to command these classes. The colonel wants to command something. The Commissary-General, Col. Northrop, being called on, reports that he can feed the army until fall with the means on hand and attainable. So, troops didn't starve in thirty days several months ago! A Mr. Pond has made a proposition which Mr. Memminger is in favor of accepting, viz.: the government to give him a bill of sale of 10,000 bales of cotton lying in the most exposed places in the West, he to take it away and to take all risks, except destruction by our troops, to ship it from New Orleans to Antwerp, and he will pay, upon receiving said bill of sale, 10 pence sterling per  pound. The whole operation will be consummated by the Belgian Consul in New Orleans, and the Danish Vice-Consul in Mobile. It is probable the United States Government, or some members of it, are interested in the speculation. But it will be advantageous to us.
April 6Bright, warm, beautiful. We have a sensation to-day, but really no excitement. A dispatch from Gen. Lee (dated last night) says the enemy opened the battle yesterday, and the conflict continued until night put an end to the carnage. He says we have many prisoners, captured four guns, etc., losing two generals killed, one, Gen. J. M. Jones. But our position was maintained, and the enemy repulsed. Doubtless the battle was renewed this morning. Some fifty-nine transports and several iron-clad gun-boats, monitors, etc., came up the James River yesterday and last night. A heavy force was landed at Bermuda Hundred, within a few miles of the railroad between Richmond and Petersburg. And the enemy likewise came up the Peninsula, and there was fighting this morning on the Chickahominy. Thus the plan of the enemy is distinctly pronounced, and the assaults were designed to be made simultaneously. Yet there is no undue excitement. A dispatch from Gen. Pickett at Petersburg, this morning, to Gen. Bragg, asked if he (Bragg) intended to defend the railroad between Richmond and Petersburg. He said, “the enemy will attack the road to-day, marching from Bermuda Hundred, I think.” At 3 P. M. we are waiting with anxiety for news from all quarters.  Both my sons marched out in the Department Battalion. Two Tennessee regiments marched down to Drewry's Bluff yesterday, and Hunton's brigade, that left there yesterday, were ordered back again last night. It is said troops were passing south through the city all night. And I know heavy forces are on the way from North Carolina. Gen. Pickett likewise has the greater part of his division in supporting distance. So, if the enemy have not cut the road by this time, it is probably safe, and the expedition will be a failure. If Lee defeats Grant, the city will certainly be saved. All the local troops are out. Gen. Beauregard is expected to-day, but it is reported he is sick at Weldon. On the 3d inst. the following dispatch was received from him:
On this the Commissary-General indorsed that the matter had been attended to-had, indeed, been anticipated. The best indication of the day (to me) was the smiling face of Mr. Hunter as he came from the Secretary's office. He said to me, “The ball is opening well.” The President and his aids rode over the river to-day: what direction they took I know not; but this I know, he has no idea of being taken by the enemy. And he cannot think the city will be taken, for in that event it would be difficult for him to escape.
May 7Bright and warm. The following is Gen. Lee's dispatch, received yesterday morning — the italics not his.
A dispatch from Gen. Lee this morning says Hill's corps was thrown into confusions yesterday by an attack of the enemy when some of the divisions were being relieved. But afterward we recovered the ground, strewn with the dead and wounded of the enemy. Then we attacked their whole line, driving them behind their breastworks. He concludes by thanks for our ability still to withstand all assaults. No doubt Grant has overwhelming numbers, and Lee is under the necessity of sparing his men as much as possible, while his adversary leads into action a succession of fresh troops. Gen. Longstreet is wounded. Gen. Beauregard is at Petersburg, charged with the defense of this city and the railroad. Troops have been marching toward Drewry's Bluff during the day. If the attack be delayed 24 hours more, we shall be strong enough to repel even the then greatly superior numbers of the invader. But there is more anxiety manifested to-day. Senator Hunter and Mr. Ould, the agent of exchange, have been in the office next to mine once or twice, to drink some of the good whisky kept by Mr. Chapman, the disbursing clerk of the department. Mr. H.'s face is quite red. 5 P. M. The tocsin is sounding, for the militia, I suppose, all others being in the field. It is reported that the attack on Drewry's Bluff, or rather on our forces posted there for its defense, has begun. Barton's brigade marched thither to-day. It is said  the enemy have 40,000 men on the south side of James Riverwe, 20,000. There is now some excitement and trepidation among the shopkeepers and extortioners, who are compelled by State law to shoulder the musket for the defense of the city, and there is some running to and fro preliminary to the rendezvous in front of the City Hall. The alarm, however, I learnt at the department, is caused by reports brought in by countrymen, that the enemy is approaching the city from the northeast, as if from Gloucester Point. It may be so — a small body; but Gen. Ransom, Gen. Elzey's successor here, doubts it, for his scouts give no intelligence of the enemy in that quarter. But the 19th Militia Regiment and the Foreign Battalion will have the pleasure of sleeping in the open air to-night, and of dreaming of their past gains, etc.
May 8Bright and hot. The tocsin sounded again this morning. I learned upon inquiry that it was merely for the militia again (they were dismissed yesterday after being called together), perhaps to relieve the local battalions near the city. The Secretary of War received a dispatch to-day from Gen. Lee, stating that there was no fighting yesterday, only slight skirmishing. Grant remained where he had been driven, in the “Wilderness,” behind his breastworks, completely checked in his “On to Richmond.” He may be badly hurt, and perhaps his men object to being led to the slaughter again. There has been no fighting below, between this and Petersburg, and we breathe freer, for Beauregard, we know, has made the best use of time. It is said another of the enemy's gun-boats has been destroyed by boarding and burning. We have three iron-clads and rams here above the obstructions, which will probably be of no use at this trying time. A few days more will tell the story of this combined and most formidable attempt to take Richmond; and if it be the old song of failure, we may look for a speedy termination of the war. So mote it be! Meantime my vegetables are growing finely, except the corn and lima beans (Yankee), Col. Gorgas's importation, which have not come up. A cow and calf now sells for $2500. My friend, Dr. Powell,  has just sold one for a great price, he would not tell me what. But I told him that the greed for gain was the worst feature in our people, and made me sometimes tremble for the cause. I fear a just retribution may entail ruin on the farmers, who seem to think more of their cattle than of their sons in the field.
May 19Bright and sultry. A dispatch from Gen. Lee says the enemy is moving down toward Fredericksburg, and yesterday the advance of our army encountered his right wing at Spottsylvania Court House, and repulsed it “with great slaughter.” Strong language for Lee. A dispatch received this morning said the enemy was advancing on the railroad. Subsequently cannon could be heard in the direction of Drewry's Bluff. The tocsin has been sounding all day, for the militia, which come slowly, after being summoned and dismissed so often. I fear, when they are sent over the river, if all the men at the defenses on the north side are sent over also, that a cavalry raid from the north may dash into the city and burn the bridges on the James; then our army would be in a “fix.” I have expressed this apprehension to the Secretary, and asked him to arm the old men, for the defense of the bridges, public buildings, etc. He awaits events. Mr. Hunter and other public characters are looking very grave. The following dispatch was received to-day from Weldon, via Raleigh and Greensborough, N. C.:
Col. Preston, Superintendent of Bureau of Conscription, has written another letter to the Secretary, urging the promotion of Captain C. B. Duffield, who threatens to leave him for a position with Gen. Kumper, at Lynchburg, where he can live cheaper. IIe says he has urged the President, to no avail. The Secretary has roused himself. Since 3 P. M. he has issued a call “To arms!” All men capable of bearing arms are requested to report to Gen. Kemper, Franklin Street, to be armed  and organized “temporarily” for the defense of the city. Gen. Rapsom had previously issued a placard, calling on officers and men on furlough to meet in Capitol Square for temporary organization. This may involve some etiquette, or question of jurisdiction between the generals. Gen. Winder is utterly ignored. I have just heard that the Departmental Battalion has been marched across Mayo's Bridge to the fortifications of Manchester, on the south side of the river. The militia regiment will go to the place on the north side heretofore occupied by them. Another dispatch from Gen. Lee, received since 3 P. M. to-day, says Grant attacked him again yesterday, after the slaughter by our Gen. Anderson, and was handsomely repulsed. Grant's tactics seem to be to receive his stripes by installments.
May 10Bright, but windy and dusty. There is an excitement at last; but it is sullen rather than despairing. No one seems to doubt our final success, although the enemy have now some 200,000 in Virginia, and we but little over half that number. We have nothing from Lee to-day, but it is believed he is busy in battle. A portion of Grant's right wing, cut off at Spottsylvania Court House, endeavored to march across the country to the Peninsula. They cut the railroad at Beaver Dam, and destroyed some of our commissary stores. But it is likely they will be captured. The enemy beat us yesterday at Dublin Depot, wounding Gen. Jenkins. On the other hand, Gen. McNeal (C. S.) has cut the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, destroying millions of property. Thus the work goes on! There was no general engagement down the river. At 12 o'clock last night a column of infantry passed our house, going down Clay Street. Many thought it was the enemy. I saw a letter to-day from Gen. Beauregard to Gen. Bragg, dated Weldon, April 29th, giving the names of the Federal generals commanding forces on the Southern coast, so that the arrival of any of these officers in Virginia would indicate the transfer of their troops thither. He concluded by saying that if it were desired he should operate on the north side of James River, maps ought to be prepared for him, and timbers, etc. for bridges; and  that he would serve with pleasure under the immediate command of Gen. Lee, “aiding him to crush our enemies, and to achieve the independence of our country.” Gen. Bragg, May 2d, sent this to Gen. Cooper, who referred it to the Secretary of War. Gen. Bragg indorsed on it that several of the Federal generals named had arrived at Fortress Monroe. The Secretary sent it to the President on the 7th of May. To-day the President sent it back indorsed as follows:
May 11Bright and pleasant-breezy. This has been a day of excitement. At midnight the Departmental Battalion were marched from the south side of the river back to the city, and rested the remainder of the night at Camp Lee. But at 9 A. M. they were marched hurriedly to Meadow Bridge. They came past our house. Custis and his brother Thomas ran in-remaining but a moment. Custis exclaimed: “Let me have some money, mother (I had to go to the office), or we will starve. The government don't feed us, and we are almost famished. Cook something, and get Captain Warner to bring it in his buggy-do, if possible.” He got $20. They looked worn, and were black with dust, etc. My daughter said “they looked like negroes.” The Secretary issued this morning a new edition of his handbills, calling the people “to arms.” Mr. Mallory's usual red face turned purple. He has not yet got out the iron-clad Richmond, etc., which might have sunk Gen. Butler's transports. Lieut.-Col. Lay was exhibiting a map of our defenses, and predieting  something,--whether good or evil, I did not stay to learn. But I thought such maps ought not to be shown in the public hall of the department. The armory was open to-day, and all who desired them were furnished with arms. The Governor, I hear, issued a notification that the enemy would be here to day, etc. I did not see it. All classes not in the army were gathered up and marched to the defenses. 2 P. M. Respectable men just from the vicinity report a great victory for Lee, yesterday, though we have nothing from him. The Secretary believes these concurring reports, which state that the battle, beginning near Spottsylvania Court House, ended at Fredericksburg, indicating a Waterloo. And a dispatch from Gen. Ransom from the south side of the river, states that Butler's army is retreating to the transports. This is regarded as confirmation of Lee's victory. Several dispatches from Gen. Stuart state that the raiders have been severely beaten in several combats this morning, and are flying toward Dover Mills. They may come back, for they have not heard of Grant's defeat. Mr. Memminger is said to have been frightened terribly, and arrangements were made for flight.
May 12Thunder, lightning, and rain all day. The report of Gen. Lee's victory was premature, and Butler has not gone, nor the raiders vanished. On the contrary, the latter were engaged in battle with Stuart's division late in the afternoon, and recommenced it this morning at 3 o'clock, the enemy remaining on the ground, and still remain, some five miles from where I write. Major-Gen. J. E. B. Stuart was wounded last evening, through the kidney, and now lies in the city, in a dying condition! Our best generals thus fall around us. The battle raged furiously; every gun distinctly heard at our house until P. M.--the enemy being intrenched between our middle and outer line of works. Meantime our ambulances are arriving every hour with the wounded, coming in by the Brooke Turnpike. The battalion my sons are in lost none of its men, though shelled by the enemy early in the morning; nor do we know that our battery did any execution. Capt. Warner delivered the provisions  their mother cooked for them yesterday. He saw only Custis, who gladly received the bread, and meat, and eggs; but he and Tom were both drenched with rain, as they had no shelter yesterday. But a comrade, and one of Custis's Latin pupils, whom I saw, returned on sick leave, says Thomas stands the fatigue and exposure better than Custis, who was complaining. About 11 A. M. to-day there was very heavy reports of cannon heard in the direction of Drewry's Bluff, supposed to be our battery shelling the country below, for some purpose. I understand one or more of our iron-clads will certainly go out this evening, or to-night; we shall know it when it occurs, for the firing will soon follow. Worked in my garden; set out corn and (yellow) tomatoes; the former given me by my neighbor, to whom I had given lettuce and beet plants. My wife spent a miserable day, some one having reported that the Departmental Battalion was cut to pieces in the battle. When I came in, she asked me if Custis and Thomas were alive, and was exceedingly glad to know not a man in the company had been even wounded. I shall never forget the conformation of the clouds this morning as the storm arose. There were different strata running in various directions. They came in heaviest volume from the southeast in parallel lines, like lines of battle swooping over the city. There were at the same time shorter and fuller lines from the southwest, and others from the north. The meeting of these was followed by tremendous clashes of lightning and thunder; and between the pauses of the artillery of the elements above, the thunder of artillery on earth could be distinctly heard. Oh that the strife were ended! But Richmond is to be defended at all hazards. It is said, however, that preparations have been made for the flight of the President, cabinet, etc. up the Danville Road, in the event of the fall of the city. Yet no one fears that the present forces environing it could take it. If Lee withstands Grant another week, all will be safe. My greatest fear is the want of provisions. My wife bought a half bushel of meal; so we have a week's supply on hand, as we were not quite out. I hope Beauregard will soon restore communication with the South.
May 13Cloudy and showery all day.  Last night my youngest son Thomas came in, furloughed (unsolicited) by his officers, who perceived his exhaustion. The enemy disappeared in the night. We suffered most in the several engagements with him near the city. I suppose some sympathizer had furnished him with a copy of our photograph map of the fortifications and country in the vicinity. But the joy of many, and chagrin of some at his escape so easily, was soon followed by the startling intelligence that a raid from Gen. Butler's army had cut the Danville Road! All communication with the country from which provisions are derived is now completely at an end! And if supplies are withheld that long, this community, as well as the army, must be without food in ten days Col. Northrop told me to-day that unless the railroads were retaken and repaired, he could not feed the troops ten days longer. And he blamed Gen. Lee for the loss of over 200,000 pounds of bacon at Beaver Dam. He says Gen. Lee ordered it there, instead of keeping it at Charlottesville or Gordonsville. Could Lee make such a blunder? Most of the members of Congress, when not in session, hang about the door and hall of the War Department, eager for news, Mr. Hunter being the most prominent, if not the most anxious among them. But the wires are cut in all directions, and we must rely on couriers. The wildest rumors float through the air. Every successive hour gives birth to some new tidings, and one must be near the Secretary's table indeed to escape being misled by false reports. For two days no dispatch has been received from Gen. Lee, although one hears of a dispatch just received from him at every corner of the streets. A courier arrived to-day from the vicinity of our army. He saw a gentleman who saw Gen. Lee's son Robert yesterday, and was informed by him that our army was five miles nearer Fredericksburg, having driven the enemy farther down the river. Our iron-clads-Virginia, Richmond, and Fredericksburg — I understood from Lieut. Minor, this morning, will not go out until in readiness to cope successfully with the enemy's fleet of gun-boats and monitors. How long that will be he did not say. It may be to-day. And while I write (41 P. M.) I can distinctly hear the roar of artillery down the river. It may be an engagement by land or  by water, or by both; and it may be only the customary shelling of the woods by the enemy's gun-boats. But it is very rapid sometimes. A courier reports the raid on the Danville Road as not formidable. They are said, however, to have blown up the coal-pits. They cannot blow coal higher than our own extortionate people have done. I directed my wife to lay out all the money about the house in provisions. She got a bushel of meal and five pounds of bacon for about $100. If we must endure another turn of the screw of famine, it is well to provide for it as well as possible. We cannot starve now, in a month; and by that time, Gens. Lee and Beauregard may come to our relief. Few others are looked to hopefully. The functionaries here might have had a six-months' supply, by wise and energetic measures. The President has had the Secretary of War closeted with him nearly all day. It is too late now for the evacuation of Richmond, and a desperate defense will be made. If the city falls, the consequences will be ruinous to the present government. And how could any of its members escape? Only in disguise. This is the time to try the nerves of the President and his counselors! Gen. Bragg is very distasteful to many officers of the army; and the croakers and politicians would almost be willing to see the government go to pieces, to get rid of the President and his cabinet. Some of the members of Congress are anxious to get away, and the Examiner twits them for their cowardice. They will stay, probably.
May 14Warm, with alternate sunshine and showers. With the dawn recommenced the heavy boom of cannon down the river. It was rumored this morning that our right wing at Drewry's Bluff had been flanked, but no official information has been received of the progress of the fight. I saw a long line of ambulances going in that direction. To-day it is understood that the battle of Petersburg will be fought by Beauregard, if he be not withheld from attacking the enemy by orders from Richmond. We have been beaten, or rather badly foiled here, by orders from high authority; and it is said Gen. Ransom finds himself  merely an instrument in the hands of those who do not know how to use him skillfully. The enemy is said to have made a bridge across the James River, either to come on the north side, or to enable the raiders to reach them. They are also planting torpedoes, for our iron rams. They are not yet ready. Gen. Lee is prosecuting the defensive policy effectively. Couriers to the press, considered quite reliable, give some details of a most terrific battle in Spottsylvania County day before yesterday, 12th inst. Our men (with extra muskets) fought behind their breastworks. The host of assailants came on, stimulated by whisky rations, ten deep, and fearful was the slaughter. Their loss is estimated at 20,000; ours, 2000. The enemy were still in front. Grant says he will not recross the Rappahannock as long as he has a man left. Lee seems determined to kill his last man. A great deal of time is said to have been consumed in cabinet council, making selections for appointments. It is a harvest for hunters after brigadier and major-generalships. The President is very busy in this business, and Secretary Seddon is sickneu-ralgia. Last night Custis came home on a furlough of twelve hours. He got a clean shirt, and washed himself — not having had his shoes or clothes off for more than a week. He has not taken cold, though sleeping in the water, and not having dry clothes on him for several days. And his appetite is excellent. He departed again for camp, four miles off, at 5J A. M., bringing and taking out his gun, his heavy cartridge-box, and well-filled haversack (on his return). Half-past 4 o'clock P. M. A tremendous cannonade is now distinctly heard down the river, the intonations resembling thunder. No doubt the monitors are engaged with the battery at Drewry's Bluff. It may be a combined attack. Gen. Pemberton has resigned his commission; but the President has conferred on him a lieutenant-colonelcy of artillery. Thus the feelings of all the armies and most of the people are outraged; for, whether justly or not, both Pemberton and Bragg, to whom the President clings with tenacity, are especially obnoxious both to the people and the army. May Heaven shield usl Yet the President may be right.
May 15Clouds, sunshine, and showers. The tremendous cannonading all day yesterday at Drewry's Bluff was merely an artillery duel-brought on by the heavy skirmishing of pickets. The batteries filled the air with discordant sounds, and shook the earth with grating vibration. Perhaps 100 on each side were killed and wounded-“not worth the ammunition,” as a member of the government said. Gen. Lee's dispatches to the President have been withheld from publication during the last four days. The loss of two trains of commissary stores affords the opportunity to censure Lee; but some think his popularity and power both with the people and the army have inspired the motive. I saw to-day some of our slightly wounded men from Lee's army, who were in the fight of Thursday (12th inst.), and they confirm the reports of the heavy loss of the enemy. They say there is no suffering yet for food, and the men are still in good spirits. Both the Central and the Fredericksburg Roads are repaired, and trains of provisions are now daily sent to Gen. Lee. The Danville Road was not materially injured; the raiders being repulsed before they could destroy the important bridges. Supplies can come to Petersburg, and may be forwarded by wagons to the Danville Road, and thence to Lynchburg, etc. Fresh troops are arriving from the South for Beauregard; but he is still withheld from decisive operations. The Departmental Battalion is still out; the enemy still menacing us from the Chickahominy. During the last four days correspondence has ceased almost entirely, and the heads of bureaus, captains, majors, lieutenantcolonels, adjutants, quartermasters, and commissaries, have nothing to do. They wander about with hanging heads, ashamed to be safely out of the field — I mean all under 50 years of age-and look like sheep-stealing dogs. Many sought their positions, and still retain them, to keep out of danger. Such cravens are found in all countries, and are perhaps fewer in this than any other. However, most of the population of the city between 17 and 50 are absent from the streets; some few shopkeeping Jews and Italians are imprisoned for refusing to aid in the defense, and some no doubt are hidden.  Most of the able-bodied negro men, both free and slave, have been taken away — in the field as teamsters, or digging on the fortifications. Yet those that remain may sometimes be seen at the street corners looking, some wistfully, some in dread, in the direction of the enemy. There is but little fear of an insurrection, though no doubt the enemy would be welcomed by many of the negroes, both free and slave. At 1 P. M. to-day a train arrived from Guinea's Station with 800 of our wounded, in Sunday's and Thursday's battles. The following prices are now paid in this city: boots, $200; coats, $350; pants, $100; shoes, $125; flour, $275 per barrel; meal, $60 to $80 per bushel; bacon, $9 per pound; no beef in market; chickens, $30 per pair; shad, $20; potatoes, $25 per bushel; turnip greens, $4 per peck; white beans, $4 per quart, or $120 per bushel; butter, $15 per pound; lard, same; wood, $50 per cord. What a change a decisive victory-or defeatwould make!
May 16Warm-sunshine and light showers. Memorable day — not yet decided at 2 P. M. Early this morning Gen. Beauregard attacked the enemy on the south side of the river, and by 9 A. M. he had sent over to the city Gen. Heckman and 840 prisoners, the entire 27th Massachusetts Regiment. Subsequently it is said 400 were sent over. By 12 M. the firing had receded out of hearing from the city, and messengers report that the enemy were being driven back rapidly. Hon. Geo. Davis, Attorney-General (from North Carolina), told me that Gen. Whiting was coming up from Petersburg, in the enemy's rear, with 13,000 men. So, at this hour, the prospects are glorious. Gen. Pickett has been relieved-indisposition. Brig.-Gen. Barton has also been relieved, for some cause arising out of the failure to capture the raiders on this side the river. Gens. Bragg and Pemberton made an inspection of the position of the enemy, down the river, yesterday, and made rather a cheerless report to the President. They are both supposed to be inimical to Gen. Beauregard, who seems to be achieving such brilliant success. The President rode over to Beauregard's headquarters this morning. Some fear he will embarrass the general; others say he is near the field, prepared to fly, if it be lost. In truth, if  we were defeated, it might be difficult for him to return to the city. Gen. Breckenridge has defeated Sigel in the Shenandoah Valley. Gen. Lee dispatches that he had no fighting Saturday and Sunday. To-day Grant is retiring his right wing, but advancing his left east of Spottsylvania Court House, where Lee's headquarters are still established.
May 17Sunshine and showers. The battle yesterday decided nothing, that I am aware of. We captured 1000 prisoners, stormed some of their intrenchments; losing altogether probably as many as the enemy. But we drove them back to Bermuda Hundred, behind their fortifications, and near their ships. Gen. Johnston was attacked at Dalton by 80,000 men last week; accounts, some five days old, say he repulsed the assaults of the enemy. The Departmental Battalion is out yet; the city being still in danger. The government is almost suspended in its functions. The Secretary of the Treasury cannot get money from Columbia, S. C., whither he foolishly sent the girls that sign the notes. Some of the idle military officers, always found about the departments, look grave, and do not hesitate to express some apprehension of the success of Grant in forcing Lee back, and spreading over all Northern and Northwestern Virginia. The Secretary of War is much secluded, and I see by a correspondence between him and the Secretary of the Treasury, relating to the million and three-quarters in coin, belonging to the New Orleans banks, that the Secretary of the Treasury can make no “valid objection to the proposition of the Secretary of War.” I do not understand what disposition they propose to make of it. A list is being prepared at the War Department (by Mr. Assistant Secretary Campbell) for Congress to pass, authorizing the seizure of all the railroads in the Confederacy. Also one establishing and reorganizing the Bureau of Conscription. If Butler remains between Richmond and Petersburg, and is reinforced, and Grant is strong enough (two to Lee's one) to push on toward Richmond, our perils and trials will be greater than ever.  Vice-President Stephens has not yet arrived. I do not understand that he is ill.
May 18Showers and sunshine, the first preponderating. Our killed and wounded in Beauregard's battle amount to some 1500. The enemy lost 1000 prisoners, and perhaps 1500 killed and wounded. Railroad men report heavy firing this morning near Fredericksburg, and it is believed another battle is in progress. From the West we have a report, derived from the enemy at Natchez, that Gen. Banks has surrendered to Lieut.-Gen. Smith. It is rumored likewise that President Lincoln has called for 60,000 militia, to defend Washington. A fortnight ago, Mr. Benjamin procured passports for one or two of his agents “to pass the lines at will.” They may have procured information, but it did not prevent the enemy from coming. Attended a funeral (next door to us) ceremony this afternoon at 5 P. M. over the body of Abner Stanfield, a nephew of Mrs. Smith, our next door neighbor, who fell in battle day before yesterday, near Drewry's Bluff. By the merest accident his relatives here learned of his fall (by the paper we loaned them), and Mr. S. had his body brought to his house, and decently prepared for the grave. His bloody garments were replaced by a fine suit of clothes he had kept with Mr. S.; his mother, etc. live in Northern Virginia, and his cousins, the Misses S., decorated the coffin beautifully with laurels, flowers, etc. He was a handsome young hero, six feet tall, and died bravely in his country's defense. He was slain by a shell. The ceremony was impressive, and caused many tears to flow. But his glorious death and funeral honor will inspire others with greater resolution to do and to dare, and to die, if necessary, for their country. The minister did him justice, for the hallowed cause in which he fell.
May 19Sunshine and showers, the former predominating. Gen. Lee sends a dispatch saying the enemy's attack yesterday was repulsed easily — our loss very light. It is said, however, that the enemy have Guinea's Station, 12 miles this side of Fredericksburg. Gen. Beauregard intends shelling Butler in his fortifications to-morrow.  From the West, in Georgia, and beyond the Mississippi, all seem bright enough. Congress has passed a resolution to adjourn on the 31st inst., in obedience to the wish of the President. He has a majority in both Houses, it seems; and even the bills they pass are generally dictated by the Executive, and written in the departments. Judge Campbell is much used for this purpose. Gen. Bragg sent in a manuscript, derived from a deserter, stating that of Gen. Butler's two corps, one, the 10th, is from the Southern coast, no negroes in it, leaving only negroes in the Southern garrisons. We learned Butler was in command, and dismissed all apprehensions-and one day we had but 5000 opposed to his 40,000!
May 20Fog; then sunshine all day, but cool. Troops have been marching through the city all day from the south side. I presume others take their places arriving from the South. Barton's brigade had but 700 out of 2000 that went into battle last Monday. Our wounded amount to 2000; perhaps the enemy's loss was not so large. Col. Northrop is vehement in his condemnation of Beauregard; says his blunders are ruining us; that he is a charlatan, and that he never has been of any value to the Confederate States; and he censures Gen. Lee, whom he considers a general, and the only one we have, and the Secretary of War, for not providing transportation for supplies, now so fearfully scarce. I read an indorsement to-day, in the President's writing, as follows: “Gen. Longstreet has seriously offended against good order and military discipline in rearresting an officer (Gen. Law) who had been released by the War Department, without any new offense having been alleged.-J. D.” Mr. Mallory, Secretary of the Navy, wrote a pungent letter to the Secretary of War to-day, on the failure of the latter to have the obstructions removed from the river, so that the iron-clads might go out and fight. He says the enemy has captured our lower battery of torpedoes, etc., and declares the failure to remove the obstructions “prejudicial to the interests of the country, and especially to the naval service, which has thus been prevented from rendering important service.” Gen. Bragg writes a pretty tart letter to the Secretary of War  to-day, desiring that his reports of the Army of Tennessee, called for by Congress, be furnished for publication, or else that the reasons be given for withholding them. We have no war news to-day. Mrs. Minor, of Cumberland County, with whom my daughter Anne resides, is here, in great affliction. Her brother, Col. Rudolph, was killed in the battle with Sheridan, near Richmond; shot through the head, and buried on the field. Now she learns that another brother, a cadet, just 18 years old, was killed in the battle of Gen. Breckinridge, in the valley, shot through the head; and she resolves to set out for Staunton at once, to recover his body. Her father and sister died a few months ago, and she has just heard of her aunt's death. A lady living next door to us had two brothers wounded on Monday, and they are both here, and will recover. Gen. Breckinridge is now marching to reinforce Lee. It is said Butler will set sail to join Grant. If so, we can send Lee 20,000 more men, and Beauregard's victory will yield substantial fruits.
May 21Sun all day, but a little hazy; perhaps a battle. There was quite a battle yesterday on the south side. The accounts in the morning's paper fall short of the whole of our success. The enemy, it is said to-day, did not regain the works from which they were driven, but are now cooped up at Bermuda Hundred. Nothing is feared from Butler. Nothing from Lee, but troops are constantly going to him. I saw some 10,000 rusty rifles, brought down yesterday from Lee's battle-field. Many bore marks of balls, deeply indenting or perforating the barrels. The ordnance officer says in his report that he has collected many thousands more than were dropped by our killed and wounded. This does not look like a Federal victory!
May 22Clear and warm, but the atmosphere is charged with the smoke and dust of contending armies. The sun shines but dimly. Custis was with us last night, and returned to camp at 5 A. M. to-day. He gets from government only a small loaf of corn bread and a herring a day. We send him something, however, every other morning. His appetite is voracious, and he has not taken  cold. He loathes the camp life, and some of the associates he meets in his mess, but is sustained by the vicissitudes and excitements of the hour, and the conviction that the crisis must be over soon. Last night there was furious shelling down the river, supposed to be a night attack by Butler, which, no doubt, Beauregard anticipated. Result not heard. The enemy's cavalry were at Milford yesterday, but did no mischief, as our stores had been moved back to Chesterfield depot, and a raid on Hanover C. H. was repulsed. Lee was also attacked yesterday evening, and repulsed the enemy. It is said Ewell is now engaged in a flank movement, and the great final battle may be looked for immediately. Breckinridge is at Hanover Junction, with other troops. So the war rolls on toward this capital, and yet Lee's headquarters remain in Spottsylvania. A few days more must tell the story. If he cuts Grant's communications, I should not be surprised if that desperate general attempted a bold dash on toward Richmond. I don't think he could take the city-and he would be between two fires I saw some of the enemy's wounded this morning, brought down in the cars, dreadfully mutilated. Some had lost a leg and armbesides sustaining other injuries. But they were cheerful, and uttered not a groan in the removal to the hospital. Flour is selling as high as $400 per barrel, and meal at $125 per bushel. The roads have been cut in so many places, and so frequently, that no provisions have come in, except for the army. But the hoarding speculators have abundance hidden. The Piedmont Road, from Danville, Va., to Greensborough. is completed, and now that we have two lines of communication with the South, it may be hoped that this famine will be of only short duration. They are cutting wheat in Georgia and Alabama, and new flour will be ground from the growing grain in Virginia in little more than a month. God help us, if relief come not speedily! A great victory would be the speediest way. My garden looks well, but affords nothing yet except salad.
May 23Fair and warm, with pleasant breezes. Gen. Johnston, without a defeat, has fallen back to Calhoun, Ga. Gen. Lee, without a defeat, has fallen back to Hanover Junction,  his headquarters at Ashland. Grant is said to be worming his way eastward to the Peninsula, the field occupied by McClellan in 1862. Why, he might have attained that position without the loss of a man at the outset! On Saturday night Gen. Butler made the following exploit:
On Saturday night the enemy renewed his assault, assailing that portion of our line held principally by Wise's brigade. In some manner our men had become apprised of the intention of the enemy to make a night attack, and were fully prepared for it. The enemy were allowed to advance, our men deliberately reserving their fire until they were within 20 or 30 yards of them, when they poured into their ranks a most terrific volley, driving them back with great slaughter. The repulse is said to have been a most decided success; the enemy were thrown into great confusion and retreated rapidly. The enemy's loss is said to have been very severe, and is estimated at hardly less than four or five hundred in killed alone, while we are said to have lost none in killed, and some thirty or forty wounded.There was an immense mail to-day, and yet with my sore eyes I had no aid from my son, still at the intrenchments. I hinted my desire to have him, but young Mr. Kean opposed it.