Xlv. December, 1864
- Desertions. -- Bragg and Kilpatrick. -- rents. -- Gen. Winder's management of prisoners. -- rumored disasters in Tennessee. -- prices. -- progress of Sherman. -- around Richmond. -- capture of Fort McAlister. -- rumored death of the President. -- Yankee line of spies. -- from Wilmington and Charleston. -- evacuation of Savannah.
December 1Bright and warm. It is said there is a movement of the enemy menacing our works on the north side of the river. There was shelling down the river yesterday and day before, officially announced by Gen. Lee-two of the enemy's monitors retired. Gen. Longstreet says “over 100 of Gen. Pickett's men are in the guard-house for desertion, and that the cause of it may be attributed to the numerous reprieves, no one being executed for two months.” Gen. Lee indorses on the paper: “Desertion is increasing in the army, notwithstanding all my efforts to stop it. I think a rigid execution of the law is mercy in the end. The great want  in our army is firm discipline.” The Secretary of War sent it to the President “for his information.” The President sent it back with the following biting indorsement: “When deserters are arrested they should be tried, and if the sentences are reviewed and remitted, that is not a proper subject for the criticism of a military commander.-Jeff. Davis. November 29th, 1864.” Another dispatch from Gen. Bragg:
Another dispatch of the same date: “To establish our communications west, I have ordered the immediate repair of the Georgia Railroad to Atlanta. With the exception of bridges, the damage is reported as slight. We should also have a line of telegraph on that route.-B. B.” I succeeded to-day in buying of Government Quartermaster (Major Ferguson) four yards of dark-gray cloth, at $12 per yard, for a full suit. The merchants ask $125 per yard — a saving of $450. I hope to have it cut and made by one of the government tailors, for about $50, trimmings included. A citizen tailor asks $350! The Senate passed a bill, yesterday, increasing my salary and Custis's $500, which we don't thank them for unless we can buy rations, etc. at schedule prices. The money is worthless when we go into the open market. My landlord, Mr. King, has gone into the grocery business; and, although he did not raise the rent for the present year, still asked more upon my offer to pay the amount of the first quarter to-day-$500, six months ago, were really worth more than $1000 to-day. At that time I acknowledged the house would bring more than $500. To-day it would rent for more than $1000. He left  it to me to do what was right. I think it right to pay $800 or $1000, and will do so. This evening our servant stepped into the yard just in time to save some clothes drying on the line. A thief was in the act of stealing them, and made his escape, springing over the fence into the alley.
December 2Warm, and raining moderately. My landlord gets $400 of the $500 increase of my salary. Dispatches from Gen. Bragg:
During the last month, 100 passports were given to leave the Confederate States by Provost Marshal Carrington and War Department. Mr. G. B. Lamar, Savannah, Ga., tenders his services to go to New York and purchase supplies for our prisoners in the hands of the enemy, and to negotiate the sale of 1000 bales of cotton, etc. Twelve M. Heavy and pretty rapid shelling is heard down the river. Col. Chandler, Inspecting Officer, makes an ugly report of Gen. Winder's management of the prisons in Georgia: Brig.-Gen. Chilton appends a rebuking indorsement on Gen. W.'s conduct. The inspector characterizes Gen. W.'s treatment of the prisoners as barbarous, and their condition as a “hell on earth.” And Gen. W. says his statements are “false.”
December 3Very warm-clouds and sunshine, like April. Roger A. Pryor, who resigned his brigadiership, and has been acting as a scout (private), fell into the hands of the enemy the other day while exchanging newspapers with their pickets. They have him at Washington, and the United States newspapers say he makes revelations of a sad state of affairs in Georgia, etc. This is doubtless erroneous. A “peace resolution” has been introduced in the North Carolina Legislature. Hon. Mr. Foote yesterday introduced a resolution in Congress, calling for a convention of the States-or appointment of commissioners from the States. Voted down by a large majority. Gen. Rosser (two brigades) made a descent, a few days ago, on the Battimore and Ohio Railroad, capturing some nine guns altogether, including four siege, which he spiked. The others he brought off, with 800 prisoners. He destroyed 200 wagons and a large amount of quartermaster and ordnance stores. Per contra. Grant has pounced upon one of our depots at Stony Creek, Weldon Railroad, getting some 80 prisoners, and destroying a few stores. It is said he still holds the position — of some importance. Gen. Ewell still thinks the aspect here is “threatening.” Brig.-Gen. Chilton, Inspector-General, has ordered investigations of the fortunes of bonded officers, who have become rich during the war. A strong effort has been made to have Gen. Ripley removed from Charleston. He is a Northern man, and said to be dissipated. Senator Orr opposes the change; the Secretary recommends his retention, and the President indorses: “I prefer that Gen. Ripley should remain.-J. D.”
Sunday, December 4Bright, clear, and warm. A dispatch from Gen. Bragg.
The Northern papers say our army under Hood in Tennessee  has met with a great disaster. We are still incredulous — although it may be true. If so, the President will suffer, and Johnston and Beauregard will escape censure-both being supplanted in the command by a subordinate. Brig.-Gen. Preston is still directing orders to Col. Shields, who is under the command of Major-Gen. Kemper, and the conflict of conscription authorities goes on, while the country perishes. Preston is a South Carolina politician-Kemper a Virginian. Mr. Secretary Seddon leans to the former. The law allowing exemptions to owners of a certain number of slaves is creating an antislavery party. The non-slaveholders will not long fight for the benefit of such a “privileged class.” There is madness in our counsels! We are still favored by Providence in our family. We have, at the market prices, some $800 worth of provisions, fuel, etc., at the beginning of winter, and my son Thomas is well clad and has his order for a month's rations of beef, etc., which we get as we want it at the government shop near at hand in Broad Street. His pay and allowances are worth some $4500 per annum. Major Ferguson having got permission of the Quartermaster- General to sell me a suit of cloth — there being a piece too dark for the army, I got four yards, enough for coat, pants, and vest, at $12 per yard — the price in the-stores is $125; and I have the promise of the government tailor to make it up for some $30 or $40, the ordinary price being $350; the trimmings my family will furnish — if bought, they would cost $100. Tom has bought a new black coat, made before the war, for $175, the peace price $15, in specie, equivalent to $600. And my daughter Anne has made three fine bonnets (for her mother, sister, and herself), from the debris of old ones; the price of these would be $700. So I fear not but we shall be fed and clad by the providence of God.
December 5Bright and beautiful. Anne Samuels and many other ladies, Harrisonburg, Virginia, have petitioned the government for authority to organize themselves into a regiment for local defense. Great excitement was produced in the House of Representatives (Congress) this morning by the entrance of a lady who proceeded vigorously to cowhide the Hon. Mr. V-, from Mis. souri.  Congress has passed a resolution declaring that it was not meant, in calling for the ages of the clerks in the departments, to include the ladies. Vice-President Stephens has arrived in the city. Our people think, in the Federal accounts of a victory over Gen. Hood, at Franklin, Tenn., they perceive a Confederate victory. It is understood that the enemy fell back upon Nashville after the battle, pursued by Hood. We are also hopeful of the defeat of Sherman — a little delay on his part will render it pretty certain. If it should occur, will it give us peace? The Tribune says President Lincoln is more determined than ever to restore the Union. But disaster will surely dishearten either side — that is, the people. The following dispatch has been received from Gen. Bragg:
At night-mended broken china and glassware again with white lead, very successfully. Such ware can hardly be bought at allexcept by the rich.
December 6Bright and beautiful. Indian summer apparently. All quiet below — but it is anticipated by some that a battle will occur to-day, or in a day or so. The enemy's negro troops have been brought to this side of the river, and are in full view on picket duty. The Signal Bureau reports a large number of transports descending  the Potomac a few days ago; probably Sheridan's army, to reinforce Grant. And yet our conscription superintendents, under orders, are busily engaged furloughing and detailing the rich slaveowners! It is developing a rapidly growing Emancipation party, for it is the establishment of a privileged class, and may speedily prove fatal to our cause. Our leaders are mad, and will be destroyed, if they persist in this policy.
December 7Raining, and warm. It is said several hundred of the prisoners taken by Rosser in the Valley escaped, on the way to Richmond. A relaxation of vigilance always follows success. How long can this war last? Hon. Mr. Staples procured four and two months details yesterday for two rich farmers, Messrs. McGehee and Heard, both rosyfaced, robust men, and yet found for “light duty” by a medical board. Thus we go. The poor and weakly are kept in the trenches, to desert the first opportunity. It is said a dispatch came from Bragg yesterday (I saw it not) stating that Wheeler and some infantry had a sharp battle with Sherman's advance, near Millen, in which the latter suffered greatly. But reinforcements coming up, our forces fell back in order, disputing the way. Tea is held at $100 per pound! Wood still $100 per cord. I saw Gen. Rains to-day. He says he has over 2000 shell torpedoes planted along our lines around Richmond and Petersburg. Col. Bayne reports the importation of 6400 packages salted meats, fish, coffee, preserved vegetables, from Nassau, Bermuda, and Halifax, since October 1st, 1864, in fourteen different steamers.
December 8Rained hard in the night; clear and pleasant in the morning. A letter from John T. Bourne, St. Georges, Bermuda, says he has some 1800 barrels government gunpowder under his care, of which he desires to be relieved. Gen. Lee sent to the Secretary the following dispatch this morning:
There are rumors of the enemy having effected a lodgment on the south side of the river, between Howell and Drewry's Bluff. This may be serious. I do not learn (yet) that the Dutch Gap Canal is finished; but the enemy landed from barges in the fog. Gen. Lee, some weeks ago, designated such a movement and lodgment as important and embarrassing, probably involving the holding of Petersburg. Nothing from Bragg. One of Gen. Early's divisions is passing through the city toward Petersburg.
December 9Cold and cloudy; surface of the ground frozen. Cannon heard below. More of Gen. Early's corps arriving. The papers contradict the report that Howlett's Battery has been taken. The opinion prevails that a battle will occur to-day. It appears that but few of the enemy's forces were engaged in the demonstration on the south side, below Drewry's Bluff, and no uneasiness is felt on account of it. We have nothing so far to-day from the enemy's column marching toward Weldon. Gov. Smith, in his message to the Legislature now in session, recommends the employment of negro troops, even if it results in their emancipation. He also suggests an act, putting into the army civil officers of the State under forty-five years of age. At the same time he is exempting officers (State) under forty-five, and there is no compulsion on him. A dispatch from Gen. Lee last night states that from the great number of wagons taken by the enemy on the Weldon Road, the movement is formidable, and indicates a purpose of prolonged operations. At night-and snowing — a terrible night for the poor soldiers in the field!
December 10Snowed two inches last night. Cloudy and damp this morning.  Guns were heard down the river last night at a late hour. Perhaps it was nothing more than shelling the enemy's canal. We have nothing yet authentic from Georgia; but many rumors of much fighting. It is said Gen. Hampton has got in front of the enemy's column at the Weldon Railroad, and is driving them back. Gen. Hill, it is presumed, is this side of them. It is also reported that Gen. Longstreet is now (12 M.) attacking the enemy on this side of the river, and driving them. Distant guns can be heard southeast of us, and it may be true. Major Cummings, Confederate States, Georgia, dispatches that the railroad between Atlanta and Chattanooga should be repaired immediately, to bring off supplies from Middle Tennessee. Gen. Bragg concurs. The following was received from Gen. Bragg to-day, 11 A. M.:
Sunday, December 11Cloudy and melting-snow vanishing rapidly. The thousand and one rumors of great achievements of Gen. Longstreet on the north side of the river seem to have been premature. Nothing official of any advantage gained over the enemy near the city has been received so far as I can learn. Gen. Lee, no doubt, directed Longstreet to make demonstrations on the enemy's lines near the city, to ascertain their strength, and to prevent more reinforcements being sent on the south side, where the struggle will occur, if it has not already occurred. There is no doubt that the enemy's column sent toward Weldon has been checked, and great things are reported of Gen. Hampton's cavalry. A battle must certainly occur near Savannah, Ga. Sherman must assail our lines, or perish between two fires.  President Lincoln's message to the Congress of the United States, republished in our papers, produces no marked effect. His adherence to a purpose of emancipation of the slaves, and his employment of them in his armies, will suffice for an indefinite prolongation of the war, and perhaps result in the employment of hundreds of thousands of slaves in our armies. The intimation, however, that all applications for “pardon,” etc. have been and are still favorably entertained, will certainly cause many of our croakers who fall into the lines of the United States forces to submit. Others, though so disposed, have not an opportunity to signify their submission. But everything depends upon events in the field.
December 12Clear and cold. Ice half an inch thick. Gen. Longstreet is again in the old lines on this side of the river. The reconnoissance, however, is said to have been successful. Only a few were killed and wounded on either side. And Grant's column was turned back from Meherrin bridge. Results of the movement unimportant, and the supposition is that both armies will now go into winter quarters, after a taste of this rigorous weather. It is rumored and believed (though I have seen no dispatch to that effect) that Sherman has beaten and out-manceuvred our generals, and got into communication with the Federal fleet. I read President Lincoln's message carefully last night. By its commissions and omissions on Mexican affairs, I think he means to menace Louis Napoleon, who may speak out January 1st, 1865. Lincoln says:
Mexico continues to be a theater of civil war. While our political relations with that country have undergone no change, we have at the same time strictly maintained neutrality between the belligerents.And his reference to England is so equivocal, and his grouping of the Central and South American Republics so prominent, and the boastful allusion to the “inexhaustible” resources of the United States, may be considered as a premeditated threat to Great Britain. A “confidential” letter came in to-day from Mr. Benjamin to the Secretary of War. Dr. Powell has sent us a dozen ruta baga turnips, and a couple  of quarts of excellent persimmons, which the family enjoys most thankfully. Dispatches from Lee:
December 13Cloudy and cold, but wind southeast. The sullen sound of cannon heard this morning as usual down the river. I hear of no active operations there, although the ground is sufficiently frozen to bear horses and artillery. Rumors of successes on the part of Sherman near Savannah are still in circulation. The rich men are generally indignant at the President and Gov. Smith for proposing to bring a portion of the negroes into the army. They have not yet awakened to a consciousness that there is danger of losing all, and of their being made to fight against us. They do not even remove them beyond the reach of the enemy, and hundreds are daily lost, but still they slumber on. They abuse  the government for its impressments, and yet repose in fancied security, holding the President responsible for the defense of the country, without sufficient men and adequate means. The following dispatch from Gen. Bragg was received to-day at 10 P. M.:
I have at length succeeded in getting a suit of clothes; it was made at the government shop for $50, the trimmings having been found (in the house) by my wife. The suit, if bought of a merchant and made by the city tailors, would cost some $1000. A Yankee prisoner (deserter) made the coat at a low price. The government means to employ them, if they desire it, in this manner. I am very thankful for my good fortune.
December 4Cloudy, and thawing rapidly. All quiet below. The bill to employ 40,000 negroes, as recommended by the President, for army purposes, though not avowedly to fight, has passed one House of Congress. So the President is master yet. There ought to be 100,000 now in the field. An effort will be made by the government to put into the field the able-bodied staff and other officers on duty in the bureaus here. It will fail, probably, since all efforts have failed to put in their able-bodied clerks. If Bragg were here, and allowed his way, he would move them to the front. The following dispatch was received from Gen. Bragg to-day:
Augusta, Ga., Dec. 13th, 1864.-I go to Charleston tomor-row to see Gen. Beauregard, at his request. He has assigned me to duty.-B. B.I got to-day from Major Cross, A. Q. M. Gen., an order to buy a pair of government shoes (British) for $10. They are most excellent in quality, heavy, with iron heels, etc., and would cost, if made here, $150, This good fortune is worthy of being thankful for.  The military officers in the bureaus, responsive to a resolution of the House of Representatives, are reporting their ages, and most of them admit they are able-bodied and fit for service in the field. They have no fear of being transferred to the front, supposing themselves indispensable as bureau officers.
December 15Cloudy and cool. A dispatch from the West states that the enemy have made a heavy raid from Bean's Station, Ky., cutting the railroad between Abingdon and Bristol, destroying government stores, engines, etc. Breckinridge and Vaughan, I suppose, have been ordered away. Dr. Morris, Telegraph Superintendent, wants to know of the Secretary if this news shall be allowed to go to the press. The President is ill, some say very ill, but I saw indorsements with his own hand on the 13th (day before yesterday). Our affairs seem in a bad train. But many have unlimited confidence in Gen. Beauregard, who commands in South Carolina and Georgia, and all repose implicit trust in Lee. A writer in the Sentinel suggests that if we should be hard pressed, the States ought to repeal the old Declaration of Independence, and voluntarily revert to their original proprietors-England, France, and Spain, and by them be protected from the North, etc. Ill-timed and injurious publication! A letter from G. N. Sanders, Montreal, Canada E., asks copies of orders (to be certified by Secretary of War) commanding the raid into Vermont, the burning, pillaging, etc., to save Lieut. Young's life. I doubt if such written orders are in existence-but no matter. It is said the enemy have captured Fort McAlister, Savannah Harbor. Mr. Hunter is very solicitous about the President's health-said to be an affection of the head; but the Vice-President has taken his seat in the Senate. It was rumored yesterday that the President would surely die,an idle rumor, perhaps. I hope it is not a disease of the brain, and incurable.
December 16Clear and pleasant; subsequently cloudy and chilly. All quiet below, save the occasional booming of our guns from the iron-clads. The capture of Fort McAlister, Savannah, has caused a painful  sensation. It is believed we have as many men on the Georgia coast as the enemy; but they are not the men of property-men of 1861-62; and those without property (many of them) are reluctant to fight for the benefit of the wealthy class, remaining at home. The following dispatch from Gen. Bragg was received this morning:
So ends Gen. Bragg's campaign against Sherman! I have not heard about the President's health to-day. But no papers have come in from his office. Lieut.-Col. Ruffin, Commissary Department, certifies (or Col. Northrop for him) that he is “not fit for duty in the field.”
December 17Warm and cloudy. Quiet below. The President was reported better, yesterday, to my wife, who called. It is said Gen. Cooper, R. Ould, etc. etc. have never taken their compensation in Confederate States Treasury notes, hoping at a future day (which may not come) to draw specie or its equivalent! It was reported on the streets, to-day, that the President was dead. He is much better; and will probably be at his office today. The following telegram was sent over by the President this morning:
Savannah, Ga., December 16th, 1864.-Sherman has secured a water base, and Foster, who is already nearly on my communications, can be safely and expeditiously reinforced. Unless assured that force sufficient to keep open my communications can be sent me, I shall be compelled to evacuate Savannah.-W. J. Hardee, Lieut.-Gen.Alas for President Davis's government! It is now in a painful strait. If reinforcements be sent from here, both Savannah and  Richmond may fall. Gen. Bragg will be crucified by the enemies of the President, for staying at Augusta while Sherman made his triumphant march through Georgia; and the President's party will make Beauregard the scape-goat, for staying at Charlestonfor sending Hood North--which I am inclined to think he did not do, but the government itself. Capt. Weiniger (government clothing warehouse) employs about 4000 females on soldiers' clothes. Some people still believe the President is dead, and that it is attempted to conceal his death by saying he is better, etc. I saw his indorsements on papers, to-day, dated the 15th, day before yesterday, and it was a bold hand. I am inclined almost to believe he has not been sick at all! His death would excite sympathy: and now his enemies are assailing him bitterly, attributing all our misfortunes to his incompetence, etc. etc.
Sunday, December 18Raining. The old dull sound of bombs down the river. Nothing further from Savannah. It is now believed that the raiders in Western Virginia did not attack Saltville, and that the works are safe. For two days the speculators have been buying salt, and have put up the price to $1.50 per pound. I hope they will be losers. The State distributes salt to-morrow: ten pounds to each member of a family, at 20 cents per pound. The President's malady is said to be neuralgia in the head-an evanescent affliction, and by no means considered dangerous. At least such is the experience in my family. It was amusing, however, to observe the change of manner of the Secretaries and of heads of bureaus toward Vice-President Stephens, when it was feared the President was in extremis. Mr. Hunter, fat as he is, flew about right briskly. If Savannah falls, our currency will experience another depreciation, and the croaking reconstructionists will be bolder. The members of the Virginia Assembly propose paying themselves $50 per day! Congress has not yet passed the act increasing the compensation of members.
December 19The darkest and most dismal day that ever dawned upon the earth, except one. There was no light when the usual hour came round, and later the sun refused to shine. There was fog, and afterward rain.  Northern papers say Hood has been utterly routed, losing all his guns! A letter from Mr. -- to-- , dated Richmond, December 17th, 1864, says:
I have the honor to report my success as most remarkable and satisfactory. I have ascertained the whole Yankee mail line, from the gun-boats to your city, with all the agents save one. You will be surprised when informed, from the lowest to the highest class. The agent in your city, and most likely in your department, has yet to be discovered. This is as certain as what we have learned (his arrest, I mean), for the party in whose bands the mail is put coming from your city is known to us; and we have only to learn who gives him the mail, which can be done upon arrest, if not sooner, to know everything. What shall be done with the parties (spies, of course) when we are ready to act? If you ever intimate that trials are tedious, etc., the enemy seize citizens from some neighborhood as hostages, when their emissaries are disturbed. I will dispatch, if it be authorized, and that will end the matter. The lady I spoke to you of is the fountain-head. What to do with females troubles me, for I dislike to be identified with their arrest. I request that a good boat, with three torpedoes, and a man who understands working them, be sent to Milford to report to me at Edge Hill. Let the man be mum on all questions. I would meet him at Milford, if I knew the day (distance is twenty-five miles), with a wagon, to take him, torpedoes, and boat to the point required. I must be sure of the day. Have the following advertisement published in Monday's papers: “Yankees escaped! $1000 reward I-A Yankee officer and three privates escaped from prison on Thursday night, with important matter upon their persons. The above reward will be given for their detection.” Let me hear from you through Cawood's Line, upon receipt of this. Respectfully, etc. -- .We have the spectacle now of three full generals-Johnston, Beauregard, and Bragg-without armies to command; and the armies in the field apparently melting away under the lead of subordinate, if not incompetent leaders. So much for the administration of the Adjutant-General's office.  Governor Smith is still exempting deputy sheriffs, constables, etc.-all able-bodied. It is rumored on the street that we intend evacuating Savannah. How did that get out-if, indeed, such is the determination? There are traitors in high places-or near them. It is also rumored that the Danville Railroad has been cut. I don't believe it-yet. There is deep vexation in the city — a general apprehension that our affairs are rapidly approaching a crisis such as has not been experienced before. There is also much denunciation of the President for the removal of Gen. Johnston from the command of the Army of Tennessee. Hon. Mr. Foote declared, Saturday, that he would resign his seat if the bill to suspend the writ of habeas corpus, now pending, became a law. There is much consternation-but it is of a sullen character, without excitement. The United States Congress has ordered that notice be given Great Britain of an intention on the part of the Federal Government to increase the naval force on the lakes; also a proposition has been introduced to terminate the Reciprocity Treaty. And Gen. Dix orders his military subordinates to pursue any rebel raiders even into Canada and bring them over. So, light may come from that quarter. A war with England would be our peace. At 2 P. M. it was rumored that Charleston is taken and Beauregard a prisoner. Also that Gen. Jos. E. Johnston (in the city) says Richmond will be evacuated in ten days. I do not learn what gold sells at to-day! I suspect some coup d'etat is meditated.
December 20A brighter morning, cool and clear. The President was at work yesterday. He and the Secretary and Gen. Cooper put their heads together to make up a regiment for Col. Miller in Mississippi, and designate the two field officers to be under him — from two battalions and two unattached companies. If the Northern (purporting to be official) accounts be true, Gen. Hood has sustained an irretrievable disaster, which may involve the loss of Tennessee, Georgia, etc. Hon. Mr. Foote declared last night his purpose to leave the city in a few days, never to resume his seat in Congress, if martial law should be allowed. He said he had information that when  Charleston fell, South Carolina would conclude a treaty of peace (submission?) with the United States; and that North Carolina was prepared to follow the example! I have observed that these two States do not often incline to go together. The great disaster would be the loss of Richmond and retreat of Lee's army southward. This would probably be followed by the downfall of slavery in Virginia. The Secretary of War has sent an agent to the Governor of North Carolina, to ask for special aid in supplying Lee's army with meat — which is deficient here-or else it cannot be maintained in the field in Virginia! Very bad, and perhaps worse coming. There is a rumor that Gen. Breckinridge has beaten Gen. Burbridge in Tennessee or Western Virginia. Gen. R. E. Lee is in town, looking robust, though weatherworn. He complains that the department is depleting his army by details, often for private and speculative purposes, to the benefit of private individuals-speculators. I drew my (State) salt to-day, 70 pounds, for 7 in family-20 cents per pound. It retails at a $1 per pound! Mr. Secretary--has sent (per Lieut.-Col. Bayne) some gold to Wilmington, to buy (in Nassau) loaf sugar for his family, to be brought in government steamers. My son Thomas could get no beef ration to-day-too scarce.
December 21Raining; rained all night. The following dispatch was received this morning:
It may be hoped that Gen. Bragg will do something more than chronicle the successes of the enemy this time. He is nearer to him than when he remained at Augusta; and yet the press could be made reticent on arrivals, etc. Lieut.-Col. Sims, Assistant Quartermaster General, has contracted with the Southern Express Company to transport all the funds of the Quartermaster's Department--hundreds of millions! Mr. Hunter was with the Secretary this morning, when I laid before the latter Bragg's dispatch. I doubt not it failed to contribute to a mollification of their painful forebodings.  By Northern papers I see President Lincoln disapproves Gen. Dix's order to troops to cross the Canada line in pursuit of raiders. Gold is $45 for one to-day. The army has no meat this day, the commissaries, etc. have it all, and are speculating with it — it is said. So many high officials are interested, there is no remedy. We are at the mercy of the quartermasters, commissaries, railroad companies, and the Southern Express Company. The President and Secretary either cannot or will not break our shackles. An official account states the number of houses burnt by the enemy in Atlanta to be 5000! There is a rumor of another and a formidable raid on Gordonsville. The railroad is now exclusively occupied with the transportation of troops-perhaps for Wilmington. The raid may be a ruse to prevent reinforcements being sent thither. The Andersonville Report belongs to the Adjutant-General's Office, and therefore has not come back to me.
December 22Clear and cold. We have nothing from below. From Wilmington, we learn. there is much commotion to resist the armada launched against that port. Gen. Lee is sending troops via the Danville Road in that direction. The wire has been cut between this and Gordonsville, by the scouts of the raiders launched in that direction. We breakfast, dine, and sup on horrors now, and digest them all quite sullenly. I am invited to a turkey dinner to-day (at Mr. Waterhouse's), and have some hesitation in accepting it at a time like this. Ought I to go? He is a skilled artisan and has made money, and no doubt the turkey is destined to be eaten by somebody. At an auction this morning, a Jew bid off an old set of tablespoons, weighing twelve ounces and much worn, at $575. He will next buy his way out of the Confederacy. Mr. Benjamin and Judge Campbell have much to answer for in allowing such men to deplete the South of its specie, plate, etc. There were some commissaries and quartermasters present, who are supposed to have stolen much from the government, and desire to exchange the currency they have ruined for imperishable wealth. They, too, will run away the first opportunity. The sun shines brightly this beautiful cold day; but all is dark in Congress. The Tennessee members say Hood's army is destroyed,  that he will not get 1000 men out of the State, for the Tennesseeans, Kentuckians, etc. refuse to retire farther south, but straggle and scatter to their homes, where they will remain. I am told we have but a thin curtain of pickets on the north side of the James River, between us and 15,000 negro troops. The President is at work at his residence, not having yet come down to his office; and I learn it is difficult to get his attention to any business just now but appointments; had to get him to sign a bill passed by Congress to pay the civil officers of the government. No doubt he is anxious and very unhappy. Hon. Mr. Foote's wife has just got a passport to return home to Nashville, Tennessee!
December 23Bright and very cold. A storm has driven off a portion of the enemy's fleet before Wilmington. The raid toward Gordonsville and Charlottesville is not progressing rapidly. We shall have a force to meet it. Besides the demonstration against Savannah (from which place we have no recent tidings), it appears that an attempt on Mobile is in progress. Too many attempts — some of them must fail, I hope. From the last accounts, I doubted whether Hood's army has been so badly shattered as was apprehended yesterday. Gen. Price (trans-Mississippi) has brought out a large number of recruits from Missouri. I dined out yesterday, and sumptuously; the first time for two years. Congress has done but little, so far. They are at work on the Currency bill! Mr. Enders, broker, and exempted as one of the Ambulance Committee, I am informed paid some $8000 yesterday to Mitchell & Tyler for a few articles of jewelry for his daughter. And R. Hill, who has a provision shop near the President's office, I understand expended some $30,000 on the wedding of his daughter. He was poor, I believe, before the war. I got an order from Lieut. Parker, Confederate States Navy, for a load of coal to-day. Good! I hope it will be received before the last on hand is gone. The enemy's raiders camped within seven miles of Gordonsville,  last night; and it will be ten o'clock to-day before our reinforcements can reach there. I hope our stores (commissary) will not be lost — as usual. Mr. S. Norris, Signal Bureau, has just (1 P. M.) sent the following: “I am just informed that Mr. Smithers, telegraph operator at Gordonsville, is again in his office. He says fighting is going oh in sight — that troops from Richmond have arrived, and arriving --and it is expected that Gen. Lomax will be able to drive the enemy back.” Just before 3 P. M. to-day a dispatch came from Mr. Smithers, telegraph operator at Gordonsville, dated 1 o'clock, saying the enemy have been repulsed and severely punished, and are retreating the way they came, toward Sperryville. He adds that many of the enemy's dead now lie in sight of the town. So much for this gleam of good fortune, for I believe the military authorities here Were meditating an evacuation of the city. Gen. Custis Lee was at the department to-day, after the clerks detailed from his command. All, all are to be dragged out in this bitter cold weather for defense, except the speculators, the extortioners, the land and slave owners, who really have something tangible to defend, and these have exemptions or “soft places.”
December 24Christmas eve! Clear and cold. A dispatch from Hon. J. L. Orr and H. V. Johnson (on their way home) informs the Secretary that from the delay in the transportation of troops over the Piedmont Railroad, there must be either criminal neglect or treachery concerned in it. Again it is rumored that Savannah has been evacuated. There is something in the air that causes agitation in official circles. Mr. Secretary Seddon's room was locked nearly all day yesterday. If troops cannot be transported expeditiously over the Piedmont Road, fears may be entertained for Wilmington, when, the gale subsiding, the enemy's fleet has reappeared. There is a rumor on the street that the government is to be removed to Lynchburg. Gen. Lee has induced the President and Secretary of War to call for the clerks (detailed ones) to repair to the trenches againthis weather. The emergency must be great, as these soldiers get, as clerks, $4000 per annum, and rations, etc. A dispatch from Gen. Bragg. 
The clerks are drawing lots; one-half being ordered to the trenches. Of two drawn in this bureau (out of five) one is peremptorily ordered by the Secretary to remain, being sickly, and the other has an order to go before a medical board “to determine whether he is fit for service in the trenches for a few days.” Great commotion naturally prevails in the departments, and it is whispered that Gen. Lee was governed in the matter by the family of the President, fearing a Christmas visit from the negro troops on this side the river. The following note was received to-day from the VicePresi-dent:
The President is hard at work making majors, etc.
Sunday, December 25Christmas!--Clear and pleasantwhite frost. All quiet below. But it is believed on the street that Savannah has been evacuated, some days ago. I have not yet seen any official admission of the fact. We have quite a merry Christmas in the family; and a compact that no unpleasant word shall be uttered, and no scramble for anything. The family were baking cakes and pies until late last night, and to-day we shall have full rations. I have found enough celery in the little garden for dinner. Last night and this morning the boys have been firing Christmas guns incessantly — no doubt pilfering from their fathers' cartridgeboxes. There is much jollity and some drunkenness in the streets, notwithstanding the enemy's pickets are within an hour's march of the city. A large number of the croaking inhabitants censure the President for our many misfortunes, and openly declare in favor of Lee  as Dictator. Another month, and he may be unfortunate or unpopular. His son, Gen. Custis Lee, has mortally offended the clerks by putting them in the trenches yesterday, and some of them may desert. Many members of Congress have gone home. But it is still said they invested the President with extraordinary powers, in secret session. I am not quite sure this is so. I append the following dispatches:
“(our Indian troops.-Gen. Stand Watie, commanding our Indian troops in the trans-Mississippi Department, has fully  clothed and armed all his men, and is in the vicinity of Fort Smith, attacking and destroying Yankee wagon trains.”
December 26Raining — rained all night. The dark and dismal weather, together with our sad reverses, have made the countenances of croakers in the streets and in the offices more gloomy and somber than ever, foreboding evil in the future. No one doubts the evacuation of Savannah, and I suppose it must be so. Hardee had but 8000 reliable men. The Georgians in Lee's army are more or less demoralized, and a reward of a sixty days furlough is given for shooting any deserter from our ranks. An old black chest, containing mostly scraps and odds and ends of housekeeping, yet brought on by my family from Burlington, has remained four years unopened, the key being lost. We have felt an irrepressible anxiety to see its contents, for even rubbish is now valuable. I got a locksmith to send a man to pick the lock, last week, but he failed to find the house, and subsequently was sent to the trenches. I borrowed twenty-five keys, and none of them would fit. I got wire, and tried to pick the lock, but failed. Yesterday, however, when all were at church, I made another effort, prizing at the same time with the poker, when the screws of the hasp came out and the top flew up, revealing only “odds and ends” so far as I could see. I closed it, replaced the striped cover, and put the cage with the parrot on it, where it usually remains. The day, and the expressed objection of my wife to have the lock broken or injured, have, until to-day, restrained me from revealing to the family what I had done. But now I shall assemble them, and by a sort of Christmas story, endeavor to mollify my wife's anticipated displeasure. The examination of the contents will be a delightful diversion for the children, old and young. My impromptu Christmas tale of the old Black Chest interested the family, and my wife was not angry. Immediately after its conclusion, the old chest was surrounded and opened, and among an infinite variety of rubbish were some articles of value, viz., of chemises (greatly needed), several pairs of stockings, 1 Marseilles petticoat, lace collars, several pretty baskets, 4 pair ladies' slippers (nearly new), and several books-one from my library, an octavo volume on Midwifery, 500 pages, placed there to prevent the children from seeing the illustrations, given me by the publisher for a notice in my paper, The Madisonian, more than twenty  years ago. There were also many toys and keepsakes presented Mrs. J. when she was an infant, forty years ago, and many given our children when they were infants, besides various articles of infants' clothing, etc. etc., both of intrinsic value, and prized as reminiscences. The available articles, though once considered rubbish, would sell, and could not be bought here for less than $500. This examination occupied the family the remainder of the day and night-all content with this Christmas diversion-and oblivious of the calamities which have befallen the country. It was a providential distraction.
December 27A night of rain-morning of fog and gloom. At last we have an account of the evacuation of Savannah. Also of the beginning of the assault on Fort Fisher and Caswell below Wilmington, with painful apprehensions of the result; for the enemy have landed troops above the former fort, and found no adequate force to meet them, thanks to the policy of the government in allowing the property holders to escape the toils and dangers of the field, while the poor, who have nothing tangible to fight for, are thrust to the front, where many desert. Our condition is also largely attributable to the management of the Bureau of Conscription-really the Bureau of Exemption. I saw to-day a letter from Gen. Beauregard to Gen. Cooper, wherein it was indicated that Gen. Hood's plan of penetrating Tennessee was adopted before he (Gen. B.) was ordered to that section. The enemy did occupy Saltville last week, and damaged the works. No doubt salt will “go up” now. The enemy, however, have retired from the place, and the works can be repaired. Luckily I drew 70 pounds last week, and have six months supply. I have two months supply of coal and wood-long enough, perhaps, for our residence in Richmond, unless the property owners be required to defend their property. I almost despair of a change of policy. It is reported that Sherman is marching south of Savannah, on some new enterprise; probably a detachment merely to destroy the railroad. An expedition is attacking, or about to attack, Mobile. All our possessions on the coast seem to be the special objects  of attack this winter. If Wilmington falls, “Richmond next,” is the prevalent supposition. The brokers are offering $50 Confederate States notes for $1 of gold. Men are silent, and some dejected. It is unquestionably the darkest period we have yet experienced. Intervention on the part of European powers is the only hope of many. Failing that, no doubt a negro army will be organized-and it might be too late! And yet, with such a preponderance of numbers and material against us, the wonder is that we have not lost all the sea-board before this. I long since supposed the country would be penetrated and overrun in most of its ports, during the second or third year of the war. If the government would foster a spirit of patriotism, the country would always rise again, after these invasions, like the water of the sea plowed by ships of war. But the government must not crush the spirit of the people relied upon for defense, and the rich must fight side by side with the poor, or the poor will abandon the rich, and that will be an abandonment of the cause. It is said Gen. Lee is to be invested with dictatorial powers, so far as our armies are concerned. This will inspire new confidence. He is represented as being in favor of employing negro troops. A dispatch from Lieut.-Gen. Hardee (to the President), December 24th, 1864, at Charleston, S. C., says he may have to take the field any moment (against Sherman), and asks a chief quartermaster and chief commissary. The President invokes the special scrupulosity of the Secretary in the names of these staff officers.
December 28Rained all night; warm. A large stable burned down within sixty yards of our dwelling, last night, and not one of the family heard the uproar attending it. Gen. Bragg telegraphs the President that the enemy failed to reduce Fort Fisher, and that the troops landed above the fort have re-embarked. But he says the enemy's designs are not yet developed; and he is such an unlucky general. We found a caricature in the old black chest, of 1844, in which I am engaged in fight with the elder Blair. Calhoun, Buchanan, etc. are in the picture. It is still believed that Gen. Lee is to be generalissimo, and most people rejoice at it. It is said the President and Gen. Jos. E. Johnston have become friends again.