Xlvii. February, 1865
- Gen. Lee appointed General-in-chief. -- progress of Sherman. -- the markets. -- letter from Gen. Butler. -- return of the peace commissioners. -- the situation. -- from Gen. Lee. -- use of negroes as soldiers. -- patriotism of the women. -- pardon of deserters. -- the passport system. -- oh for peace! -- Gen. Lee on negro soldiers. -- Conventions in Georgia and Mississippi.
February 1Clear and pleasant; subsequently thawing and foggy. Gen. R. E. Lee has been appointed General-in-Chief by the President, in response to the recent action of Congress and the clamorous demands of the people. It is to be hoped he will, nevertheless, remain in person at the head of the Army of Virginia, else the change may be fraught with disaster, and then his popularity will vanish! He has not been fortunate when not present with the troops under his command, as evidenced by Early's defeat and Jones's disaster in the Valley last year. A general must continue to reap successes if he retains his popularity. Gen. Lee has called upon the people everywhere to send in any  cavalry arms and equipments in their possession — the importation being stopped. The report of a raid yesterday, grew out of the return to the city of a small body of our own cavalry that had been on detached service. Quite an alarm was raised! The President was better yesterday; it is neuralgia in the right shoulder, disabling his arm. Our “commissioners” were delayed until yesterday morning at Petersburg; during which there was a sort of truce, and the troops of the opposing fortifications ventured out, both sides cheering vociferously. Gen. Lee writes that his army is suffering for want of soap. The Secretary sends the letter to Commissary-General Northrop (neither of their successors being inducted yet) for “prompt attention.” The Commissary-General sends it back, saying 800 barrels of soap are now, and have been for months, lying at Charlotte, N. C., awaiting transportation! The speculators get from Charlotte that much freight every week. The Commissary-General says 800 barrels of soap ought to last Gen. Lee's army one month. It must be a large army to consume that amount of soap in a month. Yesterday Congress passed another bill over the President's veto, to allow soldiers to receive letters, etc. free. Thus the war progresses between the executive and the legislative branches of the government. In future revolutions, never let a “permanent government” be established until independence is achieved!
February 2-Bright and beautiful, and pleasantly frosty. Gen. Sherman is advancing as usual in such dubiety as to distract Gen. Hardee, who knows not whether Branchville or Augusta is his objective point. I suppose Sherman will be successful in cutting our communications with the South-and in depreciating Confederate States Treasury notes still more, in spite of Mr. Trenholm's spasmodic efforts to depreciate gold. Yesterday the Senate passed a bill dropping all commissaries and quartermasters not in the field, and not in the bureaus in Richmond, and appointing agents instead, over 45 years of age. This will make a great fluttering, but the Richmond rascals will probably escape.  Military men here consider Augusta in danger; of course it is! How could it be otherwise? Information from the United States shows that an effort to obtain “peace” will certainly be made. President Lincoln has appointed ex-Presidents Fillmore and Pierce and Hon. S. P. Chase, commissioners, to treat with ours. The two first are avowed “peace men;” and may God grant that their endeavors may prove successful! Such is the newspaper information. A kind Providence watches over my family. The disbursing clerk is paying us “half salaries” to-day, as suggested in a note I wrote the Secretary yesterday. And Mr. Price informs me that the flour (Capt. Warner's) so long held at Greensborough has arrived! I shall get my barrel. It cost originally $150; but subsequent expenses may make it cost me, perhaps, $300. The market price is from $800 to $1000. I bought also of Mr. Price one-half bushel of red or “cow-peas” for $30; the market price being $80 per bushel. And Major Maynard says I shall have a load of government wood in a few days!
February 3The report that the United States Government had appointed commissioners to meet ours is contradicted. On the contrary, if is believed that Gen. Grant has been reinforced by 30,000 men from Tennessee; and that we shall soon hear thunder in Richmond. Gen. Lee writes urgently in behalf of Major Tannahill's traffic for supplies, in Northeastern North Carolina and Southeastern Virginia, for the army. Large amounts of commissary stores are obtained in exchange for cotton, tobacco, etc ; but the traffic is in danger of being broken up by the efforts of bureau officials and civilian speculators to participate in it — among them he mentions Major. Brower (Commissary-General's office, and formerly a clerk)-and asks such orders as will be likely to avert the danger. The traffic is with the enemy; but if conducted under the exclusive control of Gen. Lee, it would be of vast benefit to the army. The House of Representatives yesterday passed a singular compensation bill, benefiting two disbursing clerks and others already rich enough. I have written a note to Senator Johnson, of Missouri, hoping to head it off there, or to so amend it as to make it equable and just. All the paths of error lead to destruction; and every one seems inclined to be pressing therein.  The freezing of the canal has put up the price of wood to about $500 per cord-judging from the little one-horse loads for which they ask $50. One o'clock P. M. Dark and dismal; more rain or snow looked for. Certainly we are in a dark period of the war-encompassed by augmenting armies, almost starving in the midst of plenty (hoarded by the speculators), our men deserting-and others skulking duty, while Congress and the Executive seem paralyzed or incapable of thought or action. The President was better yesterday; but not out. They say it is neuralgia in the shoulder, disabling his right arm. Yet he orders appointments, etc., or forbids others. Major Noland, Commissary General, has refused to impress the coffee in the hands of speculators; saying there is no law authorizing it. The speculators rule the hour — for all, nearly, are speculators! God save us! we seem incapable of saving ourselves. No news to-day from Georgia and South Carolina-which means there is no good news. If it be true that Gen. Thomas has reinforced Grant with 30,000 men, we shall soon hear news without seeking it! The enemy will not rest content with their recent series of successes; for system of easy communication will enable them to learn all they want to know about our weak points, and our childish dependence on the speculators for subsistence. After leaving thirty days supplies in Charleston for 20,000 men --all the rest have been ordered to Richmond.
February 4Clear, but rained last night. From the South we learn that Sherman is marching on Branchville, and that Beauregard is at Augusta. The great struggle will be in Virginia, south of Richmond, and both sides will gather up their forces for that event. We can probably get men enough, if we can feed them. The City Council is having green “old field pine” wood brought in on the Fredericksburg railroad, to sell to citizens at $80 per cord — a speculation. The Quartermaster's Department is also bringing in large quantities of wood, costing the government about $40 per cord. Prior to the 1st inst., the Quartermaster's Department commuted offi-cer's (themselves) allowance of wood at $130 per cord! The President still suffers, but is said to be “better.”  Yesterday much of the day was consumed by Congress in displaying a new flag for the Confederacy-before the old one is worn out Idiots! I have just seen on file a characteristic letter from Major-Gen. Butler, of which this is a literal copy:
The ladies were Virginians. I got my barrel (2 bags) flour to-day; 1 bushel meal, 1 bushel peas, 1 bushel potatoes ($50 per bushel); and feel pretty well. Major Maynard, Quartermaster, has promised a load of wood. Will these last until--? I believe I would make a go-od commissary.
February 5Clear and cold. Our commissioners are back again! It is said Lincoln and Seward met them at Fortress Monroe, and they proceeded no further. No basis of negotiation but reconstruction could be listened to by the Federal authorities. How could it be otherwise, when their armies are marching without resistance from one triumph to another-while the government “allows” as many emissaries as choose to pass into the enemy's country, with the most solemn assurances that the Union cause is  spreading throughout the South with great rapidity-while the President is incapacitated both mentally and physically by disease, disaster, and an inflexible defiance of his opponents-and while Congress wastes its time in discussions on the adoption of a flag for future generations! This fruitless mission, I apprehend, will be fraught with evil, unless the career of Sherman be checked; and in that event the battle for Richmond, and Virginia, and the Confederacy, will occur within a few months-perhaps weeks. The sooner the better for us, as delay will only serve to organize the Union party sure to spring up; for many of the people are not only weary of the war, but they have no longer any faith in the President, his cabinet, Congress, the commissaries, quartermasters, enrolling officers, and most of the generals. Judge Campbell was closeted for hours last night with Mr. Secretary Seddon at the department. I have not recently seen Mr. Hunter. We have news from the Eastern Shore of Virginia. My wife's aunt, Miss Sally Parsons, is dead-over 90 years of age. The slaves are free, but remain with their owners — on wages. The people are prosperous, getting fine prices for abundant crops. Only a few hundred Federal troops are in the two counties; but these, under the despotic orders of Butler, levy heavy “war contributions” from the unoffending farmers.
February 6Bright and frosty. As I supposed, the peace commissioners have returned from their fruitless errand. President Lincoln and Mr. Seward, it appears, had nothing to propose, and would listen to nothing but unconditional submission. The Congress of the United States has just passed, by a twothirds vote, an amendment to the Constitution abolishing slavery. Now the South will soon be fired up again, perhaps with a new impulse-and War will rage with greater fury than ever. Mr. Stephens will go into Georgia, and reanimate his people. Gen. Wise spoke at length for independence at the Capitol on Saturday night amidst applauding listeners, and Governor Smith speaks to-night. Gen. Breckinridge is here and will take his seat to-morrow. Every effort will be made to popularize the cause again. Hon. Mr. Foote is at Washington, in prison.  Gen. Wise's brigade has sent up resolutions consenting to gradual emancipation-but never to reunion with the North. There is a more cheerful aspect on the countenances of the people in the streets. All hope of peace with independence is extinct-and valor alone is relied upon now for our salvation. Every one thinks the Confederacy will at once gather up its military strength and strike such blows as will astonish the world. There will be desperate conflicts! Vice-President Stephens is in his seat to-day, and seems determined. Mr. Hunter is rolling about industriously. Gen.Lee writes that desertions are caused by the bad management of the Commissary Department, and that there are supplies enough in the country, if the proper means were used to procure them. Gen. Taylor sends a telegram from Meridian, Miss., stating that he had ordered Stewart's corps to Augusta, Ga., as Sherman's movement rendered a victory necessary at once. The dispatch was to the President, and seems to be in response to one from him. So we may expect a battle immediately near Augusta, Ga. Beauregard should have some 20,000 men, besides Hardee's 15,000-which ought to be enough for victory; and then good-by to Sherman!
February 7A snow four inches in depth on the ground, and snowing. Last night Governor Smith, President Davis, Senator Oldham (Texas), Rev. Mr. Duncan, Methodist preacher, and a Yankee Baptist preacher, named Doggell, or Burroughs, I believe, addressed a large meeting in the African Church, on the subject of the Peace Mission, and the ultimatum of the United States authorities. The speakers were very patriotic and much applauded. President-Davis (whose health is so feeble he should have remained away) denounced President Lincoln as “His Majesty Abraham the first” --in the language of the press-and said before the campaign was over he and Seward might find “they had been speaking to their masters,” when demanding unconditional submission. He promised the people great successes, after our destined reverses had run out, provided they kept from despondency and speculation, and filled the ranks of the army. He denounced the speculators, and intimated that they might yet be called upon to “disgorge their earnings.”  A grand assemblage is called for next Thursday, to meet in the Capitol Square. Congress will soon be likely to vote a negro army, and their emancipation after the war — as Lee favors it. There was some fighting near Petersburg yesterday and the day before; but the press is reticent — a bad sign. There is a rumor that Charleston has been evacuated! Gen. Lee again writes that desertions occur to an alarming extent, for want of sufficient food. And he says there is enough subsistence in the country, but that the Commissary Department is inefficiently administered. Gen. Breckinridge is in his office to-day. A scramble is going on by the young politicians for the position of Assistant Secretary of War, and Mr. Kean is supposed to be ahead in the race. When a ship is thought to be sinking, even the cook may be appointed captain! Anything, now, to keep out of the field — such is the word among the mere politicians. It is rumored that Gen. Pegram (since confirmed) was killed in the enemy's attack on our right near Petersburg, and that seven brigades were engaged and repulsed the enemy. Still, there is no official confirmation — and the silence of Gen. Lee is interpreted adversely. Senator Haynes, of Tennessee, and Senator Wigfall, of Texas, denounced the President yesterday as mediocre and maliciousand that his blunders had caused all our disasters. Our commissioners were not permitted to land at Fortress Monroe, but Lincoln and Seward came on board. Judge Campbell is still acting as Assistant Secretary; but he looks very despondent. If Beauregard gains a victory--.
February 8Rained all day yesterday-slush-bright this morning and cool — ground still covered with snow. It is reported by Gen. Lee that the losses on both sides on Monday were light, but the enemy have established themselves on Hatcher's Run, and intrenched; still menacing the South Side Railroad. It is also said fighting was going on yesterday afternoon, when the dreadful snow and sleet were enough to subdue an army! We have nothing from Charleston or Branchville, but the wires are said to be working to Augusta. A deficiency of between $300,000,000 and $400,000,000 has been  discovered in the amount of our indebtedness! the present Secretary being led into the error by the estimates of his predecessor, Memminger. Congress is elaborating a bill, increasing taxation 100 per cent.! An acquaintance, who has 16 acres near the city, says he will sell, to escape a tax of $5000. Senator Brown, of Mississippi, has introduced a resolution for the employment of 200,000 negroes, giving them their freedom. Gen. Kemper is strongly recommended as Assistant Secretary of War. The wounded are still coming in from the fight beyond Petersburg. Horrible weather, yesterday, for fighting-and yet it is said much of it was done. Vice-President Stephens was in the department to-day. He has a ghostly appearance. He is announced to speak in Richmond to-morrow; but I believe he starts for Georgia to-day. He may publish a letter. He had a long interview with Judge Campbell--with locked doors. Twelve M. The sun is melting the snow rapidly. The Legislature of Virginia has passed resolutions in favor of the restoration of Gen. J. E. Johnston to a command. What will the President do, after saying he should never have another command? Intelligence was received to-day of the sudden death of Brig.- Gen. Winder, in Georgia; from apoplexy, it is supposed. He was in command of the prisons, with his staff of “Plug Uglies” around him, and Cashmeyer, their sutler.
February 9Bright, frosty, beautiful, after a cold night. We have nothing more specific from the fight of Tuesday, when we learn another general was killed. It seems that most of Grant's army was in the movement, and they have a lodgment several miles nearer the South Side Railroad--the objective point. Their superior numbers must ultimately prevail in maintaining the longest line. There is to be public speaking in the African Church to-day, or in the Square, to reanimate the people for another carnival of blood. Mr. Hunter, it is said, has been chosen to preside, and no man living has a greater abhorrence of blood! But, perhaps, he cannot decline. Papers from the United States indicate that the peace epidemic prevails in that country also to an alarming extent: for the day (15th instant) of drafting is near at hand; and even the Republican papers hope and pray for peace, and reconstruction without slavery. Senator Brown's resolution to put 200,000 slaves in the army was voted down in secret session. Now the slaveowners must go in themselves, or all is lost. One of the President's pages says the President will make a speech at the meeting to-day. He is a good political speaker, and will leave no stone unturned to disconcert his political enemies in Congress and elsewhere-and their name is legion. The President has ordered the nomination of ex-Gov. Bon-ham as brigadier-general of a brigade of South Carolina cavalry, in opposition to Gen. Cooper's opinion: a rare occurrence, showing  that Mr. Davis can be flexible when necessity urges. Gen. Hampton recommended Bonham. The day is bright, but the snow is not quite all gone: else the meeting would be very large, and in the Capitol Square. There will be much cheering; but the rich men will be still resolved to keep out of the army themselves. We have nothing from Charleston for several days. No doubt preparations are being made for its evacuation. The stores will be brought here for Lee's army. What will be the price of gold then? Mr. Seddon has published a correspondence with the President, showing why he resigned which was a declaration on the part of Congress of a want of confidence in the cabinet. The President says such a declaration on the part of Congress is extra-official, and subversive of the constitutional jurisdiction of the Executive; and, in short, he would not accept the resignation, if Mr. S. would agree to withdraw it. So, I suppose the other members will hold on, in spite of Congress.
February 10Bright and cold. It is estimated that the enemy lost 1500 men in the fight near Petersburg, and we 500. Sherman has got to the railroad near Branchville, and cut communications with Augusta. At the meeting, yesterday, Mr. Hunter presided, sure enough; and made a carefully prepared patriotic speech. There was no other alternative. And Mr. Benjamin, being a member of the cabinet, made a significant and most extraordinary speech. He said the white fighting men were exhausted, and that black men must recruit the army-and it must be done at once; that Gen. Lee had informed him he must abandon Richmond, if not soon reinforced, and that negroes would answer. The States must send them, Congress having no authority. Virginia must lead, and send 20,000 to the trenches in twenty days. Let the negroes volunteer, and be emancipated. It was the only way to save the slaves-the women and children. He also said all who had cotton, tobacco, corn, meat, etc. must give them to the government, not sell them. These remarks were not literally reported in the Dispatch, but they were uttered. He read resolutions, adopted in certain regiments, indorsing the President and his cabinet — of which Mr. B. said, playfully, he was one.  Yesterday, in the House, upon the passage of a bill revising the Commissary Department, Mr. Miles said the object was to remove Col. Northrop. [His removal has been determined.] Mr. Baldwin said the department had been well conducted. Mr. Miles said in these times the test of merit must be success. The bill passed. Senator Hunter is at the department this morning, calling for the statistics, prepared by my son Custis, of the fighting men in the Southern States. Doubtless Mr. Hunter is averse to using the slaves. The new Secretary of War is calling for reports of “means and resources” from all the bureaus. This has been done by no other Secretary. The government allowed Lee's army to suffer for months with the. itch, without knowing there were eight hundred barrels of soap within a few hours' run of it. From the ordnance report, I see we shall have plenty of powder --making 7000 pounds per day; and 55,000 rifles per ahnum, besides importations. So, if there must be another carnival of blood, the defense can be maintained at least another year, provided the right men have the management. A violent opposition is likely to spring up against Mr. Benjamin's suggestions. No doubt he is for a desperate stroke for independence,. being out of the pale of mercy; but his moral integrity is impugned by the representatives from Louisiana, who believe he has taken bribes for passports, etc., to the injury of the cause. He feels strong, however, in the strength of the President, who still adheres to him. There is much excitement among the slaveowners, caused by Mr. Benjamin's speech. They must either fight themselves or let the slaves fight. Many would prefer submission to Lincoln; but that would not save their slaves! The Proclamation of Emancipation in the United States may yet free the South of Northern domination.
February 11Cloudy and cold; froze hard last night. Yesterday a bill was introduced into both houses of Congress authorizing the enlistment of 200,000 slaves, with consent of their owners, which will probably be amended. Mr. Miles, as a test vote, moved the rejection of the bill; and the vote not to reject it was more than two to one, an indication that it will pass. The failure of the peace conference seems to have been made the  occasion of inspiring renewed zeal and enthusiasm for the war in the United States, as well as here. So the carnival of blood will be a “success.” The enemy claim an advantage in the late battle on the south side of the James River. Sherman's movements are still shrouded in mystery, and our generals seem to be waiting for a development of his intentions. Meantime he is getting nearer to Charleston, and cutting railroad communications between that city and the interior. The city is doomed, unless Hardee or Beauregard, or both, successfully take the initiative. Here the price of slaves, men, is about $5000 Confederate States notes, or $100 in specie. A great depreciation. Before the war, they commanded ten times that price. It is rumored that hundreds of the enemy's transports have come into the James River. If it be Thomas's army reinforcing Grant, Richmond is in immediate perilI Information of our numbers, condition, etc. has been, doubtless, communicated to the enemyand our slumbering government could not be awakened! Wigfall, of Texas, Graham, of North Carolina, Orr and Miles, of South Carolina, oppose the employment of negro troops, and Gen. Wickham, of this department, openly proclaims such a measure as the end of the Confederacy! We are upon stirring times! Senator Wigfall demands a new cabinet, etc. Two P. M. The sun has come out; warmer. But it does not disperse the prevailing gloom. It is feared Richmond must be abandoned, and our forces concentrated farther South, where supplies may be more easily had, and where it will be a greater labor and expense for the enemy to subsist his armies. Assistant Secretary of War, Judge Campbell, is still furloughing, detailing, and discharging men from the army; and yet he thinks the country is pretty nearly exhausted of its fighting population! His successor is not yet appointed; the sooner the better, perhaps.
February 12Bright, windy, cold, and disagreeable. There was nothing new at the department this morning. Nothing from below; nothing from South Carolina. Perhaps communications are cut between this and Charleston. All are anxious to hear the result of the anticipated battle with Sherman, for somehow  all know that the order to fight him was sent from Richmond more than a week ago. People's thoughts very naturally now dwell upon the proximate future, and the alternatives likely to be presented in the event of the abandonment of Richmond, and consequently Virginia, by Lee's army. Most of the male population would probably (if permitted) elect to remain at their homes, braving the fate that might await them. But the women are more patriotic, and would brave all in following the fortunes of the Confederate States Government. Is this because they do not participate in the hardships and dangers of the field? But many of our men are weary and worn, and languish for repose. These would probably remain quiescent on parole, submitting to the rule of the conqueror; but hoping still for foreign intervention or Confederate victories, and ultimate independence. Doubtless Lee could protract the war, and, by concentrating farther South, embarrass the enemy by compelling him to maintain a longer line of communication by land and by sea, and at the same time be enabled to fall upon him, as occasion might offer, in heavier force. No doubt many would fall out of the ranks, if Virginia were abandoned; but Lee could have an army of 100,000 effective men for years. Still, these dire necessities may not come. The slaveowners, speculators, etc., hitherto contriving to evade the service, may take the alarm at the present aspect of affairs, and both recruit and subsist the army sufficiently for victory over both Grant and Sherman; and then Richmond will be held by us, and Virginia and the Cotton States remain in our possession; and we shall have peace, for exhaustion will manifest itself in the United States. We have dangerous discussions among our leaders, it is true; and there may be convulsions, and possibly expulsion of the men at the head of civil affairs: but the war will not be affected. Such things occurred in France at a time when the armies achieved their greatest triumphs. One of the greatest blunders of the war was the abandonment of Norfolk; and the then Secretary of War (Randolph) is now safely in Europe. That blunder brought the enemy to the gates of the capital, and relinquished a fertile source of supplies; however, at this moment Lee is deriving some subsistence from that source by connivance with the enemy, who get our cotton and tobacco.  Another blunder was Hood's campaign into Tennessee, allowing Sherman to raid through Georgia.
February 13Coldest morning of the winter. My exposure to the cold wind yesterday, when returning from the department, caused an attack of indigestion, and I have sufferred much this morning from disordered stomach and bowels. From Northern papers we learn that Gen. Grant's demonstration last week was a very formidable effort to reach the South Side Railroad, and was, as yet, a decided failure. It seems that his spies informed him that Gen. Lee was evacuating Richmond, and under the supposition of Lee's great weakness, and of great consequent demoralization in the army, the Federal general was induced to make an attempt to intercept what he supposed might be a retreat of the Confederate army. There will be more fighting yet before Richmond is abandoned, probably such a carnival of blood as will make the world start in horror. The New York Tribune still affects to believe that good results may come from the recent peace conference, on the basis of reunion, other basis being out of the question. The new amnesty which it was said President Lincoln intended to proclaim has not appeared, at least our papers make no mention of it. Gen. Lee has proclaimed a pardon for all soldiers, now absent without leave, who report for duty within 20 days, and he appeals to their patriotism. I copy it.
 The Senate did nothing on Saturday but discuss the policy of abolishing the Bureau of Conscription, the office of provost marshal outside of our military lines. Gov. Smith's salary is to be increased to $20,000, and he is still exempting young justices, deputy sheriffs, deputy clerks, constables, etc.
February 14Bright and cold. Very cold, and fuel unattainable. The papers speak of heavy raids in process of organization: one from Newbern, N. C., against Raleigh, and one from East Tennessee against Salisbury and our communications. The news from South Carolina is vague, only that the armies are in active motion. So long as Sherman keeps the initiative, of course he will succeed, but if Beauregard should attack, it may be different. Yesterday some progress was made with the measure of 200,000 negroes for the army. Something must be done-and soon. Gen. Wise sent me a letter of introduction to Gen. Breckinridge yesterday. I sent it in to-day. I want the system of passports changed, and speculation annihilated, else the cause is lost. I expect no action, for impediments will be interposed by others. But my duty is done. I have as little to lose as any of them. The generals all say the system of passports in use has inflicted great detriment to the service, a fact none can deny, and if it be continued, it will be indeed “idiotic suicide,” as Gen. Preston says. The weather is moderating, but it is the most wintry 14th of February I remember to have seen. Yet, as soon as the weather will admit of it, the carnival of blood must begin. At Washington they demand unconditional submission or extermination, the language once applied to the Florida Indians, a few hundred of whom maintained a war of seven years. Our cities may fall into the hands of the enemy, but then the populations will cease to subsist on the Confederacy. There is no prospect of peace on terms of “unconditional submission,” and most of the veteran troops of the enemy will return to their homes upon the expiration of their terms of enlistment, leaving mostly raw recruits to prosecute the work of “extermination.” Meantime the war of the factions proceeds with activity, the cabinet and the majority in both Houses of Congress. The President  remains immovable in his determination not to yield to the demand for new men in the government, and the country seems to have lost confidence in the old. God help us, or we are lost! The feeble health of the President is supposed to have enfeebled his intellect, and if this be so, of course he would not be likely to discover and admit it. Mr. Speaker Bocock signs a communication in behalf of the Virginia delegation in Congress asking the dismissal of the cabinet. The Northern papers mention a gigantic raid in motion from Tennessee to Selma, Montgomery, and Mobile, Ala., consisting of 40,000 cavalry and mounted infantry, à la Sherman. They are resolved to give us no rest, while we are distracted among ourselves, and the President refuses to change his cabinet, etc. Gen. Grant telegraphed the Secretary of War at Washington, when our commissioners were in his camp, that he understood both Messrs. Stephens and Hunter to say that peace might be restored on the basis of reunion.
February 15Moderated last night; this morning sleety and dangerous. Gen. Lee was in the city yesterday, walking about briskly, as if some great event was imminent. His gray locks and beard have become white, but his countenance is cheerful, and his health vigorous. The papers say Wheeler has beaten Kilpatrick (Federal cavalry general) back five miles, somewhere between Branchville and Augusta. So he did once or twice when Sherman was marching on Savannah, and he took it while Bragg remained at Augusta. The news of a victory by Beauregard over Sherman would change the face of affairs in that quarter, and nothing less will suffice. It is surprising that the Federal authorities do not seem to perceive that in the event of a forced reconstruction of the Union, and a war with any European power, the South would rise again and join the latter. Better recognize a separate nationality, secure commercial advantages, and have guarantees of neutrality, etc. Scouts report Gen. Thomas (Federal), with 30,000 men, encamped in the vicinity of Alexandria, Va., awaiting fair weather to march upon Richmond from that direction. The number is exaggerated no doubt, but that Richmond is to be subjected to renewed perils, while Congress is wasting its time in idle debate, is pretty certain.  The Senate passed a bill yesterday abolishing the Bureau of Conscription, and I think it will pass the House. The President ought to have abolished it months ago-years ago. It may be too late. Col. St. John, Chief Mining and Niter Bureau, has been nominated as the new Commissary-General.
February 16Cloudy; rained yesterday and last night. We have no important news from South Carolina, except the falling back toward Columbia of our troops; I suppose before superior numbers. Branchville is evacuated. The roads will not admit of much movement in the field for some days. But pretty heavy cannonading is heard down the river. Congress did nothing yesterday; it is supposed, however, that the bill recruiting negro troops will pass — I fear when it is too late. Meantime the President is as busy as a bee making appointments and promotions, and many meritorious men are offended, supposing themselves to be overslaughed or neglected. The published letter taking leave of Mr. Secretary Seddon rasps Congress severely, and is full of professions of esteem, etc. for the retiring Secretary. The members of Congress reply with acrimony. The quartermaster at Charlotte, N. C., dispatches the Secretary of War that he has there some millions in specie, government funds, besides specie of the banks for safe keeping. He also desires the removal of the “Foreign legion” there, paroled prisoners taken from the enemy and enlisting in our service. They are committing robberies, etc. I saw Gen. Lee at the department again this morning. He seems vigorous, his face quite red, and very cheerful. He was in gray uniform, with a blue cloth cape over his shoulders. Exchange of prisoners has been resumed, and many of our men are returning from captivity. Gen. Grant has the matter under his control. Gen. Pillow has been appointed commander of prisons in place of Gen. Winder, deceased. Only 4| pounds bacon were issued as meat ration to detailed men this month.  I learn that some 2000 of our men, confined at Point Lookout, Md., as prisoners of war, during the last two months, offered to take the oath of allegiance, which was refused, because it would reduce the number to exchange. By the last flag of truce boat a negro slave returned. His master took the oath, the slave refused. He says “Massa had no principles.”
February 17Frosty morning, after a rain last night. We have no authentic war news this morning, from any quarter. Congress is at work in both Houses on the Negro bill. It will pass, of course, without some unforeseen obstacle is interposed. A letter from Gen. Lee to Gen. Wise is published, thanking the latter's brigade for resolutions recently adopted, declaring that they would consent to gradual emancipation for the sake of independence and peace. This is a strong indication (confirmatory) that Gen. Lee is an emancipationist. From all the signs slavery is doomed! But if 200,000 negro recruits can be made to fight, and can be enlisted, Gen. Lee may maintain the war very easily and successfully; and the powers at Washington may soon become disposed to abate the hard terms of peace now exacted. How our fancies paint the scenes of peace now which were never appreciated before! Sitting by our cheerless fires, we summon up countless blessings that we could enjoy, if this war were only over. We plan and imagine many things that would be bliss to us in comparison with the privations we suffer. Oh, what fine eating and comfortable clothes we shall have when we enjoy another season of repose! We will hunt, we will “go fishing,” we will cultivate nice gardens, etc. Oh for peace once more! Will this generation, with their eyes open, and their memories fresh, ever, ever go to war again? There is a dark rumor that Columbia, S. C., has been taken possession of by the enemy; but I hardly believe it, for Gen. Beauregard would fight for it. Gen. Beauregard telegraphs from Columbia, S. C., yesterday, that Gen. Pillow proposes to gather troops west of that point, and Gen. B. approves it. The President hesitates, and refers to Gen. Cooper, etc. Eleven o'clock A. M. Raining again; wind east. Mr. Hunter looks rather cadaverous to-day; he does not call  on the new Secretary often. Gen. B. is a formidable rival for the succession-if there should be such a thing. To-day my son Thomas drew his rations. I have also had another load of coal from Lieut. Parker, C. S. N., out of his contract, at $30, a saving of nearly $100! that will take us through the winter and spring. We also bought another bushel of black beans at $65. Alas! we have news now of the capture of Columbia, S. C., the capital of the State. A dark day, truly! And only this morning — not three short hours ago — the President hesitated to second Beauregard's desire that Gen. Pillow-although not a “red tapist” --should rouse the people to the rescue; but Gen. Cooper must be consulted to throw obstacles in the way! This will be a terrible blow; and its consequences may be calamitous beyond calculation. Poor South Carolina! her day of agony has come!
February 18Rained last night; but this is as lovely a morning as ever dawned on earth. A gentle southern breeze, a cloudless sky, and a glorious morning sun, whose genial warmth dispels the moisture of the late showers in smoky vapors. But how dark and dismal the aspect of our military affairs! Columbia fallen and Charleston (of course) evacuated. My wife wept, my daughter prayed, upon hearing the news. South Carolina was superior to all the States in the estimation of my wife, and she regarded it as the last stronghold. Now she despairs, and seems reckless of whatever else may happen in Sherman's career of conquest. A dispatch to Gen. Bragg states that Thomas's army (the ubiquitous) is landing at Newbern, N. C.! This is to cut Lee's communications and strike at Raleigh perhaps. The people are stunned and sullen; sometimes execrating the President for retaining a cabinet in which the country has no confidence, etc. One hundred for one is asked for gold. The President was at work very early this morning making appointments in the army. But that does no good to the cause, I fear. A sufficient number of men must be placed in the ranks, or there will be no military success. The Senate has passed a bill abolishing the “Bureau of Conscription,” and it is now before the House. That is one step in  the right direction. Hon. J. Goode yesterday made a speech in favor of its abolition, in which he said 150,000 men had been “handled” by the bureau during the last twelve months, and only 13,000 had been sent to the army! But it did not pass — no vote was taken; it is to be hoped it will pass to-day. It is rumored that the “money-printing machine” was lost at Columbia, including a large amount of “treasure” --if Confederate Treasury notes be worthy that appellation.
February 19Another bright and glorious morning. I hear of no news whatever from the South-although I know that important events are transpiring-and the reticence of the government is construed very unfavorably. Hence if Beauregard has fought a battle, it is to be apprehended that he did not gain the day; and if this be so, South Carolina lies at the conqueror's feet. I thought I heard brisk cannonading in the distance (down the river) this morning, but am not certain. I saw Mr. Hunter going briskly toward the Executive department. He does not come often now to the War Office. The new Secretary has a large audience of members of Congress every morning. The President and three of his aids rode out this afternoon (past our house), seemingly as cheerful as if each day did not have its calamity! No one who beheld them would have seen anything to suppose that the capital itself was in almost immediate danger of falling into the hands of the enemy; much less that the President himself meditated its abandonment at an early day, and the concentration of all the armies in the Cotton States!
February 20Another morning of blue skies and glorious sunshine. Sherman is reported to be marching northward, and to have progressed one-third of the way between Columbia and Charlotte, N. C.; where we had “millions of specie” a few days ago. Some of the lady employees, sent by Mr. Memminger to Columbia last year, have returned to this city, having left and lost their beds, etc. Grant's campaign seems developed at last. Sherman and Thomas will concentrate on his left, massing 200,000 men between Lee and his supplies, effectually cutting his communications by flanking with superior numbers. It is probable Charleston, Wilmington,  and Richmond will fall without a battle; for how can they be held when the enemy stops supplies? and how could the garrisons escape when once cut off from the interior? And yet Congress has done nothing, and does nothing, but waste the precious time. I fear it is too late now It is certainly too late to raise recruits for service in the campaign now in active operation, a fact which our politician leaders seem to be unconscious of. Even our furloughed troops cannot now rejoin their regiments from their distant homes. Then, if Lee must evacuate Richmond, where can he go? No one knows! My belief is that the only chance for Lee — and a desperate one --is to beat Grant immediately, before the grand junction can be formed. Letters are beginning to come in from the South, advocating the abandonment of Richmond, and the march of Lee's army into East Tennessee and Northern Georgia, and so on down to Montgomery, Ala., etc. etc.; concentrating in the Cotton States. What an ugly programme! How many would then follow the fortunes of this government? How many heads of bureaus, etc. would abandon it? How would it be possible for those with families on their hands to get transportation? A great many other questions might be asked, that few could answer at this time. Charleston was evacuated on Tuesday last — nearly a week ago --so says the Examiner, and no one doubts it. Mr. Hunter seems more depressed to-day than I have ever seen him. He walks with his head down, looking neither to the right nor the left. I shall expect soon to hear of a battle. Beauregard must have nearly 50,000 men-such as they are, poor fellows! The rich have generally bribed themselves out of the service through the complicated machinery of the “Bureau of Conscription.” Senator Brown, of Mississippi, I am sorry to see, often retards legislation by motions to postpone; and the Senate listens to him, not knowing what to do. Hours now are worth weeks hereafter. The President has made Wm. M. Browne-one of his aids, an Englishman and a Northern newspaper reporter — a brigadiergen-eral. This does not help the cause. Mr. B. knows no more about  war than a cat; while many a scarred colonel, native-born, and participants in a hundred fights, sue in vain for promotion. Governor Clarke (Mississippi) telegraphs the President that nothing keeps the negroes from going to the enemy but the fear of being put in the Federal army; and that if it be attempted to put them in ours, all will run away, etc.
February 21Another bright and glorious morning. Charleston fell on Thursday night last. A large number of heavy guns fell into the hands of the enemy. The confidential telegraph operators remained with the enemy. They were Northern men; but it is the policy of those in possession of this government to trust their enemies and neglect their friends. Congress passed yesterday a bill abolishing the “Bureau of Conscription” in name-nothing more, if I understand it. The bill was manipulated by Judge Campbell, who has really directed the operations of the bureau from the beginning. The negro bill also passed one House, and will pass the other to-day. Also a bill (in one House) abolishing provost marshals, except in camps of the army. These measures may come too late. The enemy is inclosing us on all sides with great vigor and rapidity. A victory by Beauregard would lift up the hearts of the people, now prone in the dust. Mr. D. H. London (on the street) is smiling this morning. He says there is no doubt but that we shall be speedily recognized by France, and that Gen. Lee has gone South to checkmate Sherman. I fear some one has been deceiving Mr. London, knowing how eager he is for a few grains of comfort. He is a rich man. A dispatch was sent from the department to Gen. Lee this morning, at his headquarters, supposed to be near Petersburg. Gold was selling at $60 for $1 yesterday. This may be a “dodge” of the brokers, who want to purchase; or it may be the government selling specie. A gentleman from South Carolina reports that the Georgians (militia and reserves, I suppose) refused to enter South Carolina in obedience to Gen. Beauregard's orders, and that Gen. B. has not exceeding 10,000 reliable men. If this be so, Sherman may march whither he chooses! This is very bad, if it be true, and more and more endangers the capital.  Surgeon-General S. P. Moore's estimates for the year's expenses of his bureau are $46,000,000.
February 22Bright and frosty. A fine February for fruit. Yesterday the Senate postponed action on the Negro bill. What this means! cannot conjecture, unless there are dispatches from abroad, with assurances of recognition based upon stipulations of emancipation, which cannot be carried into effect without the consent of the States, and a majority of these seem in a fair way of falling into the hands of the Federal generals. The House passed the bill to abolish quartermasters and commissaries in a modified form, excepting those collecting tax in kind; and this morning those officers in this city under forty-five years of age advertise the location of their places of business as collectors of tax in kind, Capt. Wellford, a kinsman of Mr. Seddon, among the rest, the very men the bill was intended to remove! Alas for Breckinridge and independence 1 The following dispatch has just been received from Gen. R. E. Lee:
This looks like the speedy fall of Wilmington, but not of Richmond. To-day is the anniversary of the birth of Washington, and of the inauguration of Davis; but I hear of no holiday. Not much is doing, however, in the departments; simply a waiting for calamities, which come with stunning rapidity. The next news, I suppose, will be the evacuation of Wilmington! Then Raleigh may tremble. Unless there is a speedy turn in the tide of affairs, confusion will reign supreme and universally. We have here now some 4000 or 5000 paroled prisoners returned by the Federal authorities, without sufficient food for them, and soon there may be 10,000 Federal prisoners from Wilmington,  which it seems cannot be exchanged there. Is it the policy of their own government to starve them? Mr. Burgwyn, of North Carolina, writes to the President (11th inst.) that some 15,000 bales of cotton are locked up in Wilmington, belonging to speculators, awaiting the coming of the enemy, when the city will certainly fall into their hands. He says Gen. Bragg's orders regarding its removal are wholly disregarded; and he implores the President to prevent its falling into the enemy's hands, and disgracing his State as Georgia was disgraced by the cotton taken at Savannah. He says these speculators have an understanding with the enemy. The President indorses, simply, “For attention.-J. D.” I bought quarter ounce early York cabbage-seed to day at $10 per ounce.