XXXIII. December, 1863
- Assembling of Congress. -- President's message. -- the markets. -- no hope for the Confederate currency. -- Averill's raid. -- letter from Gov. Vance. -- Christmas. -- persons having furnished substitutes still liable to military duty.
December 1This morning the ground is frozen hard. There was no battle yesterday, only heavy skirmishing. Both armies were drawn up in line of battle, and the front lines slept on their arms. Some froze to death. This morning the enemy opened with artillery-but no battle ensued that we are aware of. At the last accounts from Bragg he was still retiring, near Dalton. His army must be nearly broken up. Bragg, it is rumored to-day, has been relieved.
December 2No battle yet, though still hourly expected on the old field near the Rappahannock. And we have nothing definite from the West. The appointment of Beauregard to succeed Bragg is not officially announced; and the programme may be changed.
December 3Meade recrossed the Rapidan last night! This is a greater relief to us than the enemy has any idea of. I hope the campaign is over for the winter. And we have authentic advices of a terrible check given the enemy at Ringgold, Ga.; their killed and wounded being estimated at 2000, which caused Grant to recoil, and retire to Chickamauga, where he is intrenching. After all, it is doubted whether Beauregard is to succeed Bragg. Lieut.-Gen. Hardee is in command, temporarily, and it may be permanently. Bragg was relieved at his own request. I know he requested the same thing many months ago. A full general should command there.
December 4The only thing new to-day is a dispatch from Gen. Longstreet, before Knoxville, stating that he had been repulsed in an assault upon the place, and calling for reinforcements, which, alas! cannot be sent him.  Hon. Mr. Henry, from Tennessee, estimates our loss in prisoners in Bragg's defeat at but little over 1000, and 30 guns. We captured 800 prisoners. We have intelligence to day of the escape of Brig.-Gen. Jno. H. Morgan from the penitentiary in Ohio, where the enemy had confined him.
December 5It has begun to rain again; and yet the clerks are kept at Chaffin's Bluff, although the roads are impracticable, and no approach of the enemy reported. There is not a word of news from the armies on the Rapidan or in Georgia. A collision between the Confederate and State authorities in Georgia is imminent, on the question of “just compensation” for sugar seized by the agents of the Commissary-General-whose estimates for the ensuing year embrace an item of $50,000,000 to be paid for sugar. The Supreme Court of Georgia has decided that if taken, it must be paid for at a fair valuation, and not at a price to suit the Commissary-General. It is the belief of many, that these seizures involve many frauds, to enrich the Commissaries.
December 6It is clear and cold again. Custis came home last evening, after a week's sojourn at Chaffin's Bluff, where, however, there were tents. Some 1500 local troops, or “National guards,” had been sent there to relieve Pickett's division, recalled by Lee; but when Meade recrossed the Rapidan, there was no longer any necessity for the “Guards” to remain on duty. A brigade of regulars goes down to-day. Custis says it was the third day before ammunition was issued! Yesterday he heard shelling down the river, by the enemy's gun-boats. I had a conversation with Col. Northrop, CommissaryGen-eral, to-day. He anticipates a Collision between the Confederate and State authorities on the impressment question. He says the law was intended to secure subsistence for both the people and the army; but there is not sufficient grain in the States. Therefore the army must have what there is, and the people must go without. I differed with him, and maintained if a proper distribution were made there would be enough for all. To-morrow Congress assembles. It is to be apprehended that a conflict with the Executive will ensue-instead of unanimity  against the common enemy-and no one living can foretell the issue, because no one knows the extent of capacity and courage on either side. The President has made his cabinet a unit.
December 7Cold and clear. Gen. Longstreet telegraphs to-day from Rutledge, Tenn., some fifty miles northeast of Knoxville, and says he will soon need railroad facilities. He is flying from superior numbers, and may be gathering up supplies. Governor Vance writes distressfully concerning the scarcity of provisions in certain counties of North Carolina, and the rudeness of impressing agents. Lieut.-Gen. Hardee telegraphs from Dalton that 5000 cavalry, besides two brigades of Buckner's command, are with Longstreet, and that other troops ought to be sent him (H.) to compensate for these detachments. Mr. L. S. White obtained another passport yesterday to go to Maryland, on the recommendation of Col. Gorgas, Chief of Ordnance. There was a quorum in Congress to-day; but the message was not sent in. A five-dollar gold piece sold at auction on Saturday for $140-$28 in Confederate notes for one of gold.
December 8The President's message was sent to Congress to-day. I was not present, but my son Custis, who heard it read, says the President dwells largely on the conduct of foreign powers. To diminish the currency, he recommends compulsory funding and large taxation, and some process of diminishing the volume of Treasury notes. In other words, a suspension of such clauses of the Constitution as stand in the way of a successful prosecution of the war. He suggests the repeal of the Substitute law, and a modification of the Exemption act, etc. To-morrow I shall read it myself.
December 9The President's message is not regarded with much favor by the croakers. The long complaint against foreign powers for not recognizing us is thought in bad taste, since all the points nearly had been made in a previous message. They say it is like abusing a society for not admitting one within its circle as well as another. The President specifies no plan to cure the redundancy of the currency. He is opposed to increasing the pay of  the soldiers, and absolutely reproaches the soldiers of the left wing of Bragg's army with not performing their whole duty in the late battle. Mr. Foote denounced the President to day. He said he had striven to keep silent, but could not restrain himself while his State was bleeding-our disasters being all attributable by him to the President, who retained incompetent or unworthy men in command, etc.
December 10No news from any of the armies, except that Longstreet has reached Bristol, Va. Yesterday, in Congress, Mr. Foote denounced the President as the author of all the calamities; and he arraigned Col. Northrop, the Commissary-General, as a monster, incompetent, etc.-and cited ... I saw Gen. Bragg's dispatch to-day, dated 29th ult., asking to be relieved, and acknowledging his defeat. He says he must still fall back, if the enemy presses vigorously. It is well the enemy did not know it, for at that moment Grant was falling back on Chattanooga! Mr. Memminger has sent to Congress an impracticable plan of remedying the currency difficulty. To-day I saw copies of orders given a year ago by Gen. Pemberton to Col. Mariquy and others, to barter cotton with the enemy for certain army and other stores. It is the opinion of many that the currency must go the way of the old Continental paper, the French assignats, etc., and that speedily. Passports are again being issued in profusion to persons going to the United States. Judge Campbell, who has been absent some weeks, returned yesterday. The following prices are quoted in to-day's papers:
The specie market has still an upward tendency. The brokers are now paying $18 for gold and selling it at $21; silver is bought at $14 and sold at $18. grain.--Wheat may be quoted at $15 to $18 per bushel, according to quality. Corn is bringing from $14 to $15 per bushel. flour.-Superfine, $100 to $105; Extra, $105 to $110. corn-meal.-From $15 to $16 per bushel. country produce and vegetables.-Bacon, hoground, $3  to $3.25 per pound; lard, $3.25 to $3.50; beef, 80 cents to $1; venison, $2 to $2.25; poultry, $1.25 to $1.50; butter, $4 to $4.50; apples, $65, to $80 per barrel; onions, $30 to $35 per bushel; Irish potatoes, $8 to $10 per bushel; sweet potatoes, $12 to $15, and scarce; turnips, $5 to $6 per bushel. These are the wholesale rates. Groceries.-Brown sugars firm at $3 to $3.25; clarified, $4.50; English crushed, $4.60 to $5; sorghum molasses, $13 to $14 per gallon; rice, 30 to 32 cents per pound; salt, 35 to 40 cents; black pepper, $8 to $10. liquors.-Whisky, $55 to $75 per gallon; apple brandy, $45 to $50; rum, proof, $55; gin, $60; French brandy, $80 to $125; old Hennessy, $180; Scotch whisky, $90; champagne (extra), $350 per dozen; claret (quarts), $90 to $100; gin, $150 per case; Alsop's ale (quarts), $110; pints, $60.
December 12There was a rumor that Chattanooga had been evacuated; but it turns out that the enemy are fortifying it, and mean to keep it, while operating in East Tennessee. It is said Gen. Grant is to bring 30,000 men to Virginia, and assume command of the Army of the Potomac, superseding Meade. He may be ordered to take Richmond next — if he can. Hardee is yet commanding Bragg's army. I saw to-day a project, in Mr. Benjamin's handwriting, for a Bureau of Export and Import. Mr. G. A. Myers got a passport to-day for a Mr. Pappenheimer, a rich Jew; it was “allowed” by the Assistant Secretary of War. And a Mr. Kerchner (another Jew, I suppose) got one on the recommendation of Col. J. Gorgas, Chief of Ordnance, to bring back stores in his saddle-bags. Orders to-day were given that no more supplies from the United States should be received by the Federal prisoners here. It seems that our men in their hands are not even allowed the visits of their friends.
December 13Rained last night-and this morning we have warm April weather and bright sunshine. It is getting to be the general belief among men capable of reflection, that no jugglery can save the Confederate States currency. As well might one lift himself from the earth by seizing his feet, as to legislate a remedy. Whatever scheme may be devised  to increase the value of the Confederate States paper money, the obligor is the same. For the redemption of the currency (now worth about five cents in specie to the dollar), every citizen, and every description of property, has been pledged; and as the same citizens and the same property must be pledged for the redemption of any newly created currency, there is no reason to suppose it would not likewise run the same career of depreciation. Nor can bonds be worth more than notes; Success in the field,, only, can appreciate either; for none will or can be paid, if we fail to achieve independence. The weather, this afternoon, is warm, calm, and clear; but the roads are too soft for military operations. I am reading the Memoirs of Bishop Doane, by his son, Rev. William Croswell Doane. He was the great bishop truly; and his son proves an admirable biographer. I knew the bishop personally, and much of his personal history; and hence this work is to me, and must be to many others, very interesting. The coming year is to be an eventful one. We shall be able (I hope) to put 400,000 effective men in the field; and these, well handled, might resist a million of assailants from without. We have the center, they the circumference; let them beware of 1864-when the United States shall find herself in the throes of an embittered Presidential contest!
December 14We have President Lincoln's message today, and his proclamation of amnesty to all who take an oath of allegiance, etc., and advocate emancipation. There are some whom he exempts, of course. It is regarded here as an electioneering document, to procure a renomination for the Presidency in the radical Abolition Convention to assemble in a few months. But it will add 100,000 men to our armies; and next year will he the bloody year. Congress spent much of the day in secret session. A Baltimorean, last week, seeing a steamer there loading with goods of various kinds for the Federal prisoners here, bought a box of merchandise for $300, and put it on board, marked as if it contained stores for the prisoners. He ran the blockade so as to meet the steamer here; and obtained his box, worth, perhaps, $15,000. But all this is forbidden hereafter.
December 15Bright, beautiful day-but, alas the news  continues dark. Two companies of cavalry were surprised and taken on the Peninsula day before yesterday; and there are rumors of disaster in Western Virginia. Foote still keeps up a fire on the President in the House; but he is not well seconded by the rest of the members, and it is probable the President will regain his control. It is thought, however, the cabinet will go by the board.
December 16The Examiner to-day discovers that if the President's project of enrolling all men, and detailing for civil pursuits such as the Executive may designate, be adopted, that he will then be constituted a Dictator — the best thing, possibly, that could happen in the opinion of many; though the Examiner don't think so. It is probable the President will have what he wants. Per contra, the proposition of Senator Johnson, of Arkansas, requiring members of the cabinet to be renominated at the expiration of every two years, if passed, would be a virtual seizure of Executive powers by that body. But it won't pass.
December 17Averill (Federal) made a raid a day or two since to Salem (Roanoke County, Va.), cutting the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, destroying the depot, bridges, court-house, etc. Gen. J. E. Johnston has been ordered to take command of Bragg's army. I saw a communication from Lieut.-Col. Ruffin (Commissary Bureau), suggesting the trade of cotton to the enemy in New Orleans for supplies, meat, etc., a Mr. Pollard, of St. Louis, having proposed to barter meat for cotton, which Col. Ruffin seems to discourage. Gen. Halleck has proposed a plan of exchange of prisoners, so far as those we hold go. We have 15,000; they, 40,000. A letter from Mr. Underwood, of Rome, Ga., says our people fly from our own cavalry, as they devastate the country as much as the enemy. We have a cold rain to-day. The bill prohibiting the employment of substitutes has passed both Houses of Congress. When the Conscription act is enlarged, all substitutes now in the army will have to serve for themselves, and their employers will also be liable.
December 18Yesterday evening the battalion of clerks  was to leave for Western Virginia to meet the raiders. After keeping them in waiting till midnight, the order was countermanded. It is said now that Gen. Lee has sent three brigades after Averill and his 3000 men, and hopes are entertained that the enemy may be captured. It is bright and cold to-day.
December 19Bright and cold. A resolution passed Congress, calling on the President to report the number of men of conscript age removed from the Quartermaster's and Commissary's Departments, in compliance with the act of last session. The Commissary-General, in response, refers only to clerks-none of whom, however, it seems have been removed. Capt. Alexander, an officer under Gen. Winder, in charge ot Castle Thunder (prison), has been relieved and arrested for malfeasance, etc. Gen. C. J. McRae, charged with the investigation of the accounts of Isaacs, Campbell & Co., London, with Major Huse, the purchasing agent of Col. J. Gorgas, Chief of Ordnance, reports irregularities, overcharges, etc., and recommends retention of gold and cotton in this country belonging to I., C. & Co. Mr.--informed me to-day that he signed a contract with the Commissary-General last night to furnish meat on the Mississippi in Tennessee, in exchange for cotton. He told me that the proposition was made by the Federal officers, and will have their connivance, if not the connivance of Federal functionaries in Washington, interested in the speculation. Lieut..Col. Ruffin prefers trading with the enemy at New Orleans. It is rumored that Mr. Seddon will resign, and be succeeded by Gov. Letcher; notwithstanding Hon. James Lyons asserted in public (and it appears in the Examiner to-day) that Gov. L. told Gen. J. R. Anderson last year, subsequent to the fall of Donelson, “he was still in favor of the Union.”
December 20We have nothing new yet from Averill's raiders; but it is said Gen. Lee has set a trap for them. From East Tennessee there is a report that a battle has taken place somewhere in that region, but with what result is not yet known. There is much consternation among the Jews and other speculators here, who have put in substitutes and made money. They fear that their substitutes will be made liable by legislative action, and  then the principals will be called for. Some have contributed money to prevent the passage of such a law, and others have spent money to get permission to leave the country. Messrs. Gilmer and Myers, lawyers, have their hands full. The Confederate States Tax act of last session of Congress is a failure, in a great measure, in Virginia. It is said only 30,000 bushels of wheat have been received! But the Governor of Alabama writes that over 5,000,000 pounds of bacon will be paid by that State.
December 21We have dispatches to-day from Western Virginia, giving hope of the capture of Averill and his raiders. Such is the scarcity of provisions, that rats and mice have mostly disappeared, and the cats can hardly be kept off the table.
December 22Averill has escaped, it is feared. But it is said one of his regiments and all his wagons will be lost. Gen. Longstreet writes (16th instant) that he must suspend active operations for the want of shoes and clothing. The Quartermaster-General says he sent him 3500 blankets a few days since. There are fifty-one quartermasters and assistant quartermasters stationed in this city! Pound cakes, size of a small Dutch oven, sell at $100. Turkeys, from $10 to $40.
December 23Nothing further from the West. But we have reliable information of the burning (accidentally, I suppose) of the enemy's magazine at Yorktown, destroying all the houses, etc. I learn to-day that the Secretary of War revoked the order confiscating blockade goods brought from the enemy's country.
December 24Another interposition of Providence in behalf of my family. The bookseller who purchased the edition of the first volume of my “Wild Western scenes-new series,” since Mr. Malsby's departure from the country, paid me $300 to-day, copyright, and promises more very soon. I immediately bought a load of coal, $31.50, and a half cord of wood for $19. I must now secure some food for next month. Among the papers sent in by the President, to-day, was one from Gen. Whiting,who, from information received by him, believes there will be an attack on Wilmington before long, and asks reinforcements. One from Gen. Beauregard, intimating that he cannot spare any  of his troops for the West, oi for North Carolina. The President notes on this, however, that the troops may be sent where they may seem to be actually needed. Also an application to permit one of Gen. Sterling Price's sons to'visit the Confederate States, which the President is not disposed to grant. The lower house of Congress yesterday passed a bill putting into the army all who have hitherto kept out of it by employing substitutes. I think the Senate will also pass it. There is great consternation among the speculators.
December 25No war news to-day. But a letter, an impassioned one, from Gov. Vance, complains of outrages perpetrated by detached bodies of Confederate States cavalry, in certain counties, as being worse than any of the plagues of Egypt: and says that if any such scourge had been sent upon the land, the children of Israel would not have been followed to the Red Sea. In short, he informs the Secretary of War, if no other remedy be applied, he will collect his militia and levy war against the Confederate States troops I placed that letter on the Secretary's table, for his Christmas dinner. As I came out, I met Mr. Hunter, President of the Senate, to whom I mentioned the subject. He said, phlegmatically, that many in North Carolina were “prone to act in opposition to the Confederate States Government.” Yesterday the President sent over a newspaper, from Alabama, containing an article marked by him, in which he was very severely castigated for hesitating to appoint Gen. J. E Johnston to the command of the western army. Why he sent this I can hardly conjecture, for I believe Johnston has been assigned to that command; but I placed the paper in the hands of the Secretary. My son Custis, yesterday, distributed proposals for a nightschool (classical), and has some applications already. He is resolved to do all he can to aid in the support of the family in these cruel times. It is a sad Christmas; cold, and threatening snow. My two youngest children, however, have decked the parlor with evergreens, crosses, stars, etc. They have a cedar Christmas-tree, but it is not burdened. Candy is held at $8 per pound. My two sons rose at 5 A. M. and repaired to the canal to meet their sister Anne, who has been teaching Latin and French in the country; but she was not  among the passengers, and this has cast a shade of disappointment over the family. A few pistols and crackers are fired by the boys in the streetsand only a few. I am alone; all the rest being at church. It would not be safe to leave the house unoccupied. Robberies and murders are daily perpetrated. I shall have no turkey to-day, and do not covet one. It is no time for feasting.
December 26No army news. No papers. No merriment this Christmas. Occasionally an exempt, who has speculated, may be seen drunk; but a somber heaviness is in the countenances of men, as well as in the sky above. Congress has adjourned over to Monday.
December 27From Charleston we learn that on Christmas night the enemy's shells destroyed a number of buildings. It is raining to-day: better than snow. To-day, Sunday, Mr. Hunter is locked up with Mr. Seddon, at the war office. No doubt he is endeavoring to persuade the Secretary not to relinquish office. Mr. S. is the only Secretary of War over whom Mr. Hunter could ever exercise a wholesome influence. Mr. Stephens, the Vice-President, is still absent; and Mr. H. is president of the Senate. Mr. Hunter is also a member of the Committee on Finance, and the protracted consultations may refer mainly to that subject-and a difficult one it is. Besides, if this revolution be doomed by Providence to failure, Mr. Hunter would be the most potent negotiator in the business of reconstruction. He has great interests at stake, and would save his property-and of course his life. Another letter from Gov. Vance demands the return of some 300 bales of cotton loaned the Confederate States. He likewise applies for the extension of a detail of a North Carolina soldier, “for satisfactory reasons.”
December 28Averill has escaped, losing a few hundred men, and his wagons, etc. The Chesapeake, that sailed out of New York, and was subsequently taken by the passengers (Confederates), was hotly followed to Canada, where it was surrendered to the British authorities by the United States officers, after being abandoned.
December 29A letter from the President, for the Secretary  of War, marked “private,” came in to-day at 2 P. M-Can it be an acceptance of his resignation? A resolution has been introduced in the House of Representatives to inquire into the fact of commissioned officers doing clerical duties in Richmond receiving “allowances,” which, with their pay, make their compensation enormous. A colonel, here, gets more compensation monthly than Gen. Lee, or even a member of the cabinet! Mr. Ould, agent of exchange, has sent down some 500 prisoners, in exchange for a like number sent up by the enemy. But he has been instructed by the President not to hold correspondence with Gen. Butler, called “the Beast,” who is in command at Fortress Monroe. My daughters have plaited and sold several hats, etc., and today they had a large cake (costing $10) from their savings. And a neighbor sent in some egg-nog to my daughter Anne, just arrived from the country. Gen. Winder reported to the Secretary, to-day, that there were no guards at the bridges, the militia refusing to act longer under his orders.
December 30A memorial from the army has been presented in both houses of Congress. The speech of Mr. Foote, relative to a Dictator, has produced some sensation in the city, and may produce more. A great many Jews and speculators are still endeavoring to get out of the country with their gains. To-day Mr. Davies paid me $350 more, the whole amount of copyright on the 5000 copies of the first volume of new “Wild Western scenes,” published by Malsby. He proposes to publish the second volume as soon as he can procure the necessary paper.
December 31Yesterday the Senate passed the following bill, it having previously passed the House:
It was preceded by discussion, yet only two votes were cast in the negative. Mr. Wigfall, it is said, was strangely indisposed; however that might be, his speech is represented as being one of the best ever delivered by him. To-morrow the President throws open his house for a public reception: his enemies allege that this is with a view to recovering popularity! It rained during the whole of this day. Nevertheless, the Jews have been fleeing to the woods with their gold, resolved to take up their abode in the United States rather than fight for the Confederate States, where they leave in the ranks the substitutes hired by them.