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Xviii. September, 1862

  • Lee announces a victory.
  • -- crosses the Potomac. -- battle of Sharpsburg. -- McClellan pauses at the Potomac. -- Lee moves mysteriously. -- the campaign a doubtful one in its material results. -- horrible scene near Washington. -- Conscription enlarged. -- heavy loss at Sharpsburg.-10,000 in the hospitals here.

September 1

Official dispatches from Lee, announcing a “signal victory,” by the blessing of God, “over the combined forces of the enemy.” That is glory enough for a week. When Lee says “signal victory,” we know exactly what it means, and we breathe freely. Our generals never modify their reports of victories. They see and know the extent of what has been done before they speak of it, and they never mislead by exaggerated accounts of successes.

September 2

Winchester is evacuated! The enemy fled, and left enough ordnance stores for a campaign! It was one of their principal depots.

September 3

We lament the fall of Ewell-not killed, but his leg has been amputated. The enemy themselves report the loss, in killed and wounded, of eight generals! And Lee says, up to the time of writing, he had paroled 7000 prisoners, taken 10,000 stand of small arms, 50 odd cannon, and immense stores!

September 4

The enemy's loss in the series of battles, in killed, wounded, and prisoners, is estimated at 30,000. Where is the braggart Pope now? Disgraced eternally, deprived of his command [152] by his own government, and sent to Minnesota to fight the Indians! Savage in his nature, he is only fit to fight with savages!

September 5

Our army knows no rest. But I fear this incessant marching and fighting may prove too much for many of the tender boys.

September 6

We have authentic accounts of our army crossing the Potomac without opposition.

September 7

We see by the Northern papers that Pope claimed a great victory over Lee and Jackson! It was too much even for the lying editors themselves! The Federal army being hurled back on the Potomac, and then compelled to cross it, it was too transparently ridiculous for the press to contend for the victory. And now they confess to a series of defeats from the 26th June to the culminating calamity of the 30th August. They acknowledge they have been beaten-badly beaten-but they will not admit that our army has crossed into Maryland. Well, Lee's dispatch to the President is dated “Headquarters, Frederick city.” We believe him.

September 8

But the Marylanders have not risen yet. Some of our divisions have touched the soil of Pennsylvania. And I believe the whole Yankee host would leave Washington, escaping by the Potomac, if it were not for the traitors here, who go to Norfolk and Baltimore by flag of truce, and inform the Lincoln Government (for pay) that we have no troops here-none between this and Manassas, none all the way to Lee, while thousands in the army are prostrated with physical exhaustion.

September 9

Lord, what a scare they are having in the North! They are calling everybody to arms for the defense of Philadelphia, and they are removing specie, arms, etc., from Harrisburg and all the intervening towns. This is the chalice so long held by them to our lips.

September 10

On the very day that Lee gained the signal victory at Manassas, Kirby Smith gained one at Richmond, Kentucky, capturing thousands of prisoners. This is not chance-it is God, to whom all the glory is due.

September 11

And Cincinnati is trembling to its center. That abolition city, half foreign and half American, is listening for the thunder of our avenging guns.

September 12

The ranks of the enemy are broken everywhere [153] in the West. Buell is flying to Nashville as a city of refuge, but we have invincible columns interposed between him and his country.

September 13

Buell has impressed 10,000 slaves, and is fortifying Nashville.

September 14

Our army has entered the City of Lexington, and the population hail our brave soldiers as deliverers. Three regiments were organized there in twenty-four hours, and thirty thousand recruits, it is thought, will flock to our standard in Kentucky.

September 15

Our flag floats over the Capitol at Frankfort! And Gen. Marshall, lately the exile and fugitive, is encamped with his men on his own farm, near Paris.

September 16

Intelligence from Missouri states that the Union militia have rallied on the side of the South.

September 17

Everything seems to indicate the “breaking up” of the armies of our enemies, as if our prayers had been answered, and the hosts of Lincoln were really to be “brought to confusion.”

September 18

To-day, in response to the President's proclamation, we give thanks to Almighty God for the victories he has blessed us with.

September 19

And God has blessed us even more abundantly than we supposed. The rumor that our invincible Stonewall Jackson had been sent by Lee to Harper's Ferry, and had taken it, is true. Nearly 12,000 men surrendered there on the 15th inst., after the loss of two or three hundred on their side, and only three killed and a few wounded on ours. We got 90 guns, 15,000 stand of small arms, 18,000 fine horses, 200 wagons, and storesof various kinds, worth millions.

September 20

While Jackson was doing his work, Mc-Clellan, who has been restored to command, marched at the head of 100,000 men to the rescue of Harper's Ferry, but D. P. Hill, with his single division, kept him at bay for many hours, until Longstreet came to his assistance, and night fell upon the scene.

But Lee soon concentrated his weary columns at Sharpsburg, near Shepherdstown, and on the 17th inst. gave battle. We got the first news of this battle from a Northern paper---the Philadelphia Inquirer-which claimed a great victory, having killed and [154] taken 40,000 of our men, made Jackson prisoner, and wounded Longstreet! But the truth is, we lost 5000 and the enemy 20,000. At the next dawn Lee opened fire again — but, lo I the enemy had fled!

September 21

We have one day of gloom. It is said that our army has retreated back into Virginia.

September 22

There are rumors that only Jackson's corps recrossed the Potomac to look after a column of the enemy sent to recapture Harper's Ferry and take Winchester, our grand depot.

September 23

Jackson, the ubiquitous and invincible, fell upon Burnside's division and annihilated it. This intelligence has been received by the President.

We have, also, news from Kentucky. It comes this time in the New York Herald, and is true, as far as it goes. A portion of Buell's army, escaping from Nashville, marched to Mumfordsville, where Bragg cut them to pieces, taking 5000 prisoners! It cannot be possible that this is more than half the truth.

The newsboys are selling extras in the streets containing these glorious accounts.

September 24

The papers this morning are still in doubt whether Lee has returned to the Virginia side of the Potomac, or remains in Maryland. My theory is that he is perdue for the present, hoping all the enemy's forces will enter Virginia, from Washington — when he will pounce upon that city and cut off their retreat.

The Northern papers contain intimations of the existence of a conspiracy to dethrone Lincoln, and put a military Dictator at the head of the government. Gen. Fremont is named as the man. It is alleged that this movement is to be made by the Abolitionists, as if Lincoln were not sufficiently radical for them!

A call has been made by Congress for explanations of the arrest of a citizen of Virginia, by Gen. Winder, for procuring a substitute for a relative, Gen. W., supposing his powers ample, under martial law, had forbidden agents to procure substitutes. This was in contravention of an act of Congress, legalizing substitutes. If Winder be sustained, it is said we shall have inaugurated a military despotism.

I have just seen persons from the Eastern Shore of Virginia. [155] They say my farm there has not been disturbed 1 by the enemy. I think it probable they knew nothing about its ownership, or it would have been devastated. My agent sent me a little money, part of the rent of year before last. My tenant is getting rich. After peace I shall reside there myself. How I long for the independent life of a farmer!

Wood is selling at $16 per cord, and coal at $9 per load. How can we live here, unless our salaries are increased? The matter is under consideration by Congress, and we hope for favorable action.

Col. Bledsoe has resigned and gone back to his school at Charlottesville.

September 25

Blankets, that used to sell for $6, are now $25 per pair; and sheets are selling for $15 per pair, which might have been had a year ago for $4. Common 44 bleached cotton shirting is selling at $1 a yard.

Gen. Lee's locality and operations, since the battle of Sharpsburg or Shepherdstown, are still enveloped in mystery.

About one hundred of the commissioned officers of Pope's army, taken prisoners by Jackson, and confined as felons in our prisons, in conformity to the President's retaliatory order, were yesterday released on parole, in consequence of satisfactory communications from the United States Government, disavowing Pope's orders, I presume, and stating officially the fact that Pope himself has been relieved from command.

We have taken, and paroled, within the last twelve or fifteen weeks, no less than forty odd thousand prisoners! The United States must owe us some thirty thousand men. This does not look like progress in the work of subjugation.

Horrible! I have seen men just from Manassas, and the battlefield of the 30th August, where, they assure me, hundreds of dead Yankees still lie unburied! They are swollen “as large as cows,” say they, “and are as black as crows.” No one can now undertake to bury them. When the wind blows from that direction, it is said the scent of carrion is distinctly perceptible at the White [156] House in Washington. It is said the enemy are evacuating Alexandria. I do not believe this.

A gentleman (Georgian) to whom I gave a passport to visit the army, taking two substitutes, over forty-five years of age, in place of two sick young men in the hospitals, informs me that he got upon the ground just before the great battle at Sharpsburg commenced. The substitutes were mustered in, and in less than an hour after their arrival, one of them was shot through the hat and hair, but his head was untouched. He says they fought as well as veterans.

September 26

The press here have no knowledge of the present locality of Gen. Lee and his army. But a letter was received from Gen. L. at the department yesterday, dated on this side of the Potomac, about eighteen miles above Harper's Ferry.

It is stated that several hundred prisoners, taken at Sharpsburg, are paroled prisoners captured at Harper's Ferry. If this be so (and it is said they will be here to-night), I think it probable an example will be made of them. This unpleasant duty may not be avoided by our government.

After losing in killed and wounded, in the battle of Sharpsburg, ten generals, and perhaps twenty thousand men, we hear no more of the advance of the enemy; and Lee seems to be lying perdue, giving them an opportunity to ruminate on the difficulties and dangers of “subjugation.”

I pray we may soon conquer a peace with the North; but then I fear we shall have trouble among ourselves. Certainly there is danger, after the war, that Virginia, and, perhaps, a sufficient number of the States to form a new constitution, will meet in convention and form a new government.

Gen. Stark, of Mississippi, who fell at Sharpsburg, was an acquaintance of mine. His daughters were educated with mine at St. Mary's Hall, Burlington, N. J.-and were, indeed, under my care. Orphans now!

September 27

The papers this morning contain accounts of the landing of Yankees at White House, York River; and of reinforcements at Williamsburg and Suffolk. They might attempt to take Richmond, while Lee's army is away; for they know we have no large body of troops here.

A battery passed through the city this morning early, at doublequick, going eastward. [157]

Yesterday Congress passed an act, supplemental and amenda tory to the Conscription Act of last April, authorizing the President to call into the military service all residents between the ages of thirty-five and forty-five. The first act included only those between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five.

By the 1st of January there will be $300,000,000 Treasury notes in circulation. It is proposed in Congress to make a forced loan of one-fifth of the incomes of the people.

It is said Lincoln has issued a proclamation declaring the slaves of Rebels free, on and after the 1st of January, 1863. This will only intensify the war, and add largely to our numbers in the field.

A letter was received from General Lee to-day, dated at Martinsburg, giving a sad account of the army. It seems that without some additional power given the President by Congress to enforce discipline, he fears the army will melt away. He suggests that incompetent officers be reduced to the ranks, and that more stringent regulations be adopted. He is in no condition to advance now, since so many thousands of his men are permitted to wander away. We shall be afflicted with fresh invasions-and that, if nothing else, may cause the stragglers to return.

The substance of Lee's letter has been communicated to Congress, and that body, I understand, has postponed the day of adjournment until the 6th October.

In future times, I wonder if it will be said that we had great men in this Congress? Whatever may be said, the truth is, there are not a dozen with any pretensions to statesmanship.

September 29

We have Lincoln's proclamation, freeing all the slaves from and after the 1st January next. And another, declaring martial law throughout the United States! Let the Yankees ruminate on that! Now for a fresh gathering of our clans for another harvest of blood.

On Saturday the following resolutions were reported by Mr. Semmes, from the Committee of the Judiciary, in the Senate:

1st. That no officer of the Confederate Government is by law empowered to vest Provost Marshals with any authority whatever over citizens of the Confederate States not belonging to the land and naval forces thereof, or with general police powers and duties [158] for the preservation of the peace and good order of any city, town, or municipal district in any State of this Confederacy, and any such exercise of authority is illegal and void.

2d. That no officer of the Confederate Government has constitutional or other lawful authority to limit or restrict, or in any manner to control, the exercise of the jurisdiction of the civil judicial tribunals of the States of this Confederacy, vested in them by the Constitution and laws of the States respectively; and all orders of any such officer tending to restrict or control or interfere with the full and normal exercise of the jurisdiction of such civil judicial tribunals are illegal and void.

We shall see what further action will follow. This is in marked contrast to the despotic rule in the Yankee nation. Nevertheless, the Provost Marshal here keeps his establishment in full blast. He was appointed by Gen. Winder, of Maryland, who has been temporarily subordinated by Major-Gen. Smith, of New York.

Since Gen. Smith has been in command, the enemy has made raids to Leesburg, Manassas, and even Warrenton, capturing and paroling our sick and wounded men. Who is responsible?

Accounts from Nashville state that our cavalry is beleaguering that city, and that both the United States forces there, and the inhabitants of the town, are reduced nearly to starvation.

Buell, it is said, has reached Louisville. We hope to hear soon of active operations in Kentucky. Bragg, and Smith, and Price, and Marshall are there with abundant forces to be striking heavy blows.

Beauregard is assigned to the defense of South Carolina and Georgia.

Harper's Ferry is again occupied by the enemy-but we have removed everything captured there. The Northern papers now admit that the sanguinary battle of Sharpsburg was without result.

I sent my wife money to-day, and urged her to return to Richmond as soon as possible, as the enemy may cut the communications-being within forty miles of the railroad. How I should like to think they were cut to pieces! Then they would let us alone.

Hitherto 100,000 sick and wounded patients have been admitted into the army hospitals of this city. Of these, about 10,000 have [159] been furloughed, 3000 discharged from the service, and only 7600 have died. At present there are 10,000 in the hospitals. There is not so much sickness this year as there was last, nor is it near so fatal.

Many of the Northern papers seem to dissent from the policy of Lincoln's proclamation, and hope that evil consequences may not grow out of it. But how can it be possible for the people of the North to submit to martial law? The government which directs and enforces so obnoxious a tyranny cannot be sure of its stability. And when the next army of invasion marches southward, it will be likely to have enemies in its rear as well as in its front. The Tribune exclaims “God bless Abraham Lincoln.” Others, even in the North, will pray for “God to — him!”

September 30

Lincoln's proclamation was the subject of discussion in the Senate yesterday. Some of the gravest of our senators favor the raising of the black flag, asking and giving no quarter hereafter.

The yellow fever is raging at Wilmington, North Carolina.

The President, in response to a resolution of inquiry concerning Hyde, the agent who procured a substitute and was arrested for it, sent Congress a letter from the Secretary of War, stating that the action of Gen. Winder had not been approved, and that Mr. Hyde had been discharged. The Secretary closes his letter with a sarcasm, which, I think, is not his own composition. He asks, as martial law is still existing, though the writ of habeas corpus is not suspended, for instructions as to the power of the military commander, Winder, to suppress tippling shops! Sev-eral members declared that martial law existed in this city without any constitutional warrant. There is much bad feeling between many members and the Executive.

No fighting has occurred on the Peninsula, and I believe Gen. Wise has returned with his forces to Chaffin's Bluff.

1 It is held by the government now, January, 1866, and my family are homeless and destitute. Onancock, Accomac County, Va.-J. B. J. 155

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