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Xxiv. March, 1863

  • Removed into Clay Street.
  • -- Gen. Toombs resigned. -- Lincoln dictator. -- he can call 3,000,000 of men. -- President is sick. -- his office is not a bed of roses. -- Col. Gorgas sends in his oath of allegiance. -- Confederate gold $5 for $1. -- explosion of a laboratory. -- bad weather everywhere. -- fighting on the Mississippi River. -- conflict of views in the Conscription Bureau. -- Confederate States currency $10 for $1. -- snow a foot deep, but melting. -- we have no negro regiments in our service. -- only 6000 conscripts from East Tennessee. -- how seven were paroled by one. -- this is to be the crisis campaign. -- Lee announces the campaign open.

March 1

To-morrow we remove to new quarters. The lady's husband, owning cottage, and who was confined for seven months among lunatics, has returned, and there is not room for two families. Besides, Mrs: G. thinks she can do better taking boarders, than by letting the house. What a mistake! Beef sold yesterday for $1.25 per pound; turkeys, $15. Corn-meal $6 per [266] bushel, and all other articles at the same rates. No salaries can board families now; and soon the expense of boarding will exceed the incomes of unmarried men. Owners and tenants, unless engaged in lucrative business, must soon vacate their houses and leave the city.

But we have found a house occupied by three widows in Clay Street. They have no children. They mean to board soon among their relatives or friends, and then we get the house; in the mean time, they have fitted up two rooms for us. We should have gone yesterday, but the weather was too bad. The terms will not exceed the rent we are now paying, and the house is larger. I espied several fruit trees in the back yard, and a space beyond, large enough for a smart vegetable garden. How delighted I shall be to cultivate it myself! Always I have visions of peas, beans, radishes, potatoes, corn, and tomatoes of my own raising! God bless the widows sent for our relief in this dire necessity!

Met Judge Reagan yesterday, just from the Council Board. I thought he seemed dejected. He said if the enemy succeeded in getting command of the Mississippi River, the Confederacy would be “cut in two;” and he intimated his preference of giving up Richmond, if it would save Texas, etc. for the Confederacy. Texas is his adopted State.

March 2

The enemy burnt the steamship Nashville on Saturday near Savannah. She was employed taking provisions to Fort McAlister. I think it was destroyed by an incendiary shell.

There is a rumor to-day of the burning of railroad bridges between this and Fredericksburg.

I signed an agreement to-day with Mr. Malsby to publish my new “Wild Western scenes.” He is to print 10,000 copies, which are to retail at $2 ; on this he pays me 124 per cent. or 25 cents for every copy sold; $2500 if the whole are sold. He will not be able to get it out before May.

We moved into the west end of Clay Street to-day, and like the change. There are no children here except our own. The house is a brick one, and more comfortable than the frame shell we abandoned.

March 3

We like our new quarters-and the three Samaritan widows, without children. They lend us many articles indispensable for our comfort. It is probable they will leave us soon [267] in the sole occupancy of the house. There is ground enough for a good many vegetables-and meat is likely to be scarce enough. Bacon is now $1.37, cts. per pound, and flour $30 per barrel. The shadow of the gaunt form of famine is upon us! But the pestilence of small-pox is abating.

We have now fine March weather; but the floods of late have damaged the railroad bridges between this and Fredericksburg. The Secretary of War requested the editors, yesterday, to say nothing of this. We have no news from the West or from the Southeast-but we shall soon have enough.

The United States Congress has passed the Conscription Act. We shall see the effect of it in the North; I predict civil war there; and that will be our “aid and comfort.”

Gen. Toombs has resigned; and it is said Pryor has been made a major-general. Thus we go up and down. The President has issued a proclamation for prayer, fasting, etc., on the twentyseventh of this month. There will certainly be fasting-and prayer also. And God has helped us, or we should have been destroyed ere this.

March 4

The enemy bombarded Fort McAlister again yesterday, several gun-boats opening fire on it. It lasted all day; during which one of the iron-clads retired, perhaps injured. We had only two men wounded and one gun (8 in. columbiad) dismounted. The fort was but little injured.

Recent Northern papers assert that their gun-boats have all passed through the canal opposite Vicksburg. This is not trueyet.

Lincoln is now Dictator, his Congress having given him power to call out all the male population between the ages of twenty and thirty-five years, and authority to declare martial law whenever he pleases. The Herald shouts for Lincoln — of course. We must fight and pray, and hope for revolution and civil war in the North, which may occur any day.

Our cavalry, under Gen. Jones, has done some brilliant skirmishing recently in the vicinity of Winchester; and as soon as the March winds dry the earth a little, I suppose Hooker will recommence the “On to Richmond.” We shall be weaker the next campaign, but our men are brave.

March 5

Yesterday the government seized the flour in the [268] mills and warehouses; and now the price has risen from $30 to $40 per barrel. I wrote to the Commissary, in view of the dissatisfaction of the people, and to prevent disturbances, advising him to seize the 5000 barrels in the hands of the small speculators, and to allow so many pounds per month to each inhabitant, at the rate paid by government. This would be beneficent and popular, confining the grumblers to the extortioners. But he will not do it, as the Constitution only provides for impressments for the public use.

Our dinner to-day (for seven, for the servant has an equal share) consisted of twelve eggs, $1.25; a little corn bread, some rice and potatoes. How long shall we have even this variety and amount? Bad beef in market, this morning, sold at $1.25 per pound.

After bombarding Fort McAlister on the 3d inst. and all night, the enemy's fire ceased. The fort was not much injured, says the dispatch. There is a rumor to-day that the fort has been reduced-but no one believes it.

Gen. Van Dorn has had a fight in Tennessee, killing and wounding 1000 and capturing 2600 prisoners. Our loss is said to have been heavy.

Gen. Lee writes that now, since Lincoln may call out 3,000,000 men, and has $900,000,000 voted him, we must put out all our strength, if we expect to keep the field. We shall certainly have an exciting time. But there may be use for some of the Federal troops in the North! If not, I apprehend that Richmond must withstand another siege and assault. It is said they have dropped the “Constitution and the Union” in the United States, and raised the cry of the “nation” and the “flag.” This alarms me. If they get up a new sensation, they will raise new armies.

Gold is selling at a premium of $4.25 in Confederate notes.

We bought a barrel of flour to-day (that is, my wife paid for one not yet delivered), from a dealer who was not an extortioner, for the moderate sum of $28.00. This, with what we have on hand, ought to suffice until the growing wheat matures.

For tea we had meal coffee, and corn cakes without butter. But we had a half-pint of molasses (for seven) which cost 75 cts. The gaunt specter is approaching nearer every day!

Every morning there is a large crowd of Irish and Germans besieging Gen. Winder's office for passports to go North. Is it [269] famine they dread, or a desire to keep out of the war? Will they not be conscripted in the North? They say they can get consular protection there.

March 6

I have meditated on this day, as the anniversary of my birth, and the shortening lapse of time between me and eternity. I am now fifty-three years of age. Hitherto I have dismissed from my mind; if not with actual indifference, yet with far more unconcern than at present, the recurring birthdays which plunged me farther in the vale of years. But now I cannot conceal from myself, if so disposed, that I am getting to be an old man. My hair is gray-but nevertheless my form is still erect, and my step is brisk enough. My fancies, tastes, and enjoyments have not changed perceptibly; and I can and often do write without glasses. I desire to live after this war is over, if it be the will of God--if not, I hope to exist in a better world.

We have no news of interest to-day. A letter says the noncombatants, even the women and children, heedless of danger, were voluntary spectators of the bombardment of Vicksburg the other day. The shells often exploded near them, and behind them, but the fascination was so great that they remained on the ground; even one had an arm carried away by a ball! Can such a people be subjugated?

Houses (furnished) are beginning to be offered more plentifully than ever before; their occupants and owners finding their ordinary incomes insufficient for subsistence. I suppose they mean to find in the country an escape from famine prices prevailing in the city.

There is a rumor this evening of the fall of Vicksburg; but that rumor has been whispered here several times during the last few months. No one believes it. When Vicksburg falls, many an invader will perish in its ruins.

March 7

The President is sick, and has not been in the Executive Office for three days. Gen. Toombs, resigned, has published a farewell address to his brigade. He does not specify of what his grievance consists; but he says he cannot longer hold his commission with honor. The President must be aware of his perilous condition. When in adversity, some of those he has trusted, discuss the bases of reconstruction; and when we are prosperous, others, in similar positions, agitate the question of reorganization — the [270] motive of both being his ruin. But I suppose he has calculated these contingencies, and never anticipated paving a bed of roses to recline upon during the terrible, and sometimes doubtful struggle for independence.

The rumor that Vicksburg had fallen is not confirmed; on the contrary, the story that the Indianola, captured from the enemy, and reported to have been blown up, was unfounded. We have Gen. Pemberton's official assurance of this.

Col. Gorgas, Chief of Ordnance, a Pennsylvanian, sent into the department to-day, with a request that it be filed, his oath of allegiance to this government, and renunciation of that of the United States, and of his native State. This would indicate that the location of his nativity has been the subject of remark. What significance is to be attributed to this step at tLis late day, I know not, and care not. An error was committed in placing Northern men in high positions to the exclusion of Southern men, quite as capable of filling them.

March 8

--Judge Meredith's opinion, that foreigners, Marylanders, and others, who have served in the army, have become domiciled, and are liable to conscription, has produced a prodigious commotion. Gen. Winder's door is beset with crowds of eager seekers of passports to leave the Confederacy; and as these people are converting their Confederate money into gold, the premium on specie has advanced.

Judge Campbell, Assistant Secretary of War, has decided that Judge Meredith's opinion is not authority; and hence his sonin-law, Lieut.-Col. Lay, who at present wields the Conscription Bureau, acts accordingly. But Gen. Rains has a contrary opinion; and he intended to see the President yesterday, who is understood to coincide with Judge Meredith. It is also alleged that Secretary Seddon concurs in this opinion; and if this be the case, an explosion is imminent — for Judge Campbell must have given instructions “by order of the Secretary,” without the Secretary's knowledge or consent.

I advised the general to see the President and Secretary once a week, and not rely upon verbal instructions received through a subordinate; he said the advice was good, and he should follow it. But he is much absorbed in his subterrene batteries.

March 9

We have no news to-day. But the next act of [271] this terrible drama is near at hand. The Northern papers have reports of the fall of Vicksburg and Charleston. Unfounded. They also say 22,000 men have deserted from the Army of the Potomac. This is probably true.

There is much denunciation of the recent seizure of flour; but this is counteracted by an appalling intimation in one of the papers that unless the army be subsisted, it will be withdrawn from the State, and Virginia must fall into the hands of the enemy. The loss of Virginia might be the loss of the Confederacy.

March 10

No war news of importance.

Just at this time there is a large number of persons passing to and from the North. They are ostensibly blockade-runners, and they do succeed in bringing from the enemy's country a large amount of goods, on which an enormous profit is realized. The Assistant Secretary of War, his son-in-law, Lt.-Col. Lay, the controlling man in the Bureau of Conscription, and, indeed, many heads of bureaus, have received commodities from Maryland, from friends running the blockade. Gen. Winder himself, and his Provost Marshal Griswold (how much that looks like a Yankee name!), and their police detectives, have reaped benefit from the same source. But this intercourse with the enemy is fraught with other matters. Communications are made by the disloyal to the enemy, and our condition-bad enough, heaven knows!-is made known, and hence the renewed efforts to subjugate us. This illicit intercourse, inaugurated under the auspices of Mr. Benjamin, and continued by subsequent Ministers of War, may be our ruin, if we are destined to destruction. Already it has unquestionably cost us thousands of lives and millions of dollars. I feel it a duty to make this record.

To-day we have a violent snow-storm — a providential armistice.

It has been ascertained that Hooker's army is still near the Rappahannock, only some 20,000 or 30,000 having been sent to the Peninsula and to Suffolk. No doubt he will advance as soon as the roads become practicable. If Hooker has 150,000 men, and advances soon, Gen. Lee cannot oppose his march; and in all probability we shall again hear the din of war, from this city, in April and May. The fortifications are strong, however, and 25,000 men may defend the city against 100,000-provided we have subsistence. [272] The great fear is famine. But hungry men will fight desperately. Let the besiegers beware of them!

We hope to have nearly 400,000 men in the field in May, and I doubt whether the enemy will have over 500,000 veterans at the end of that month. Their new men will not be in fighting condition before July. We may cross the Potomac again.

March 11

Gen. Fitzhugh Lee has made a dash into Fairfax (near Washington) a day or two ago, and captured the Federal Gen. Slaughter and other officers, in their beds.

Last night one of the government warehouses in this city was burnt. It is supposed to have been the work of an incendiary traitor; perhaps in retaliation for the recent impressment of flour. Yesterday the lower house of Congress passed a resolution restricting impressments. This has a bad aspect.

The Bureau of Conscription, to-day, under the direction of Col. Lay, decided that all clerks in the departments, appointed subsequent to the eleventh of October last, are liable to be enrolled for service. Yet the colonel himself has a clerk appointed in January last.

Gold sells at $5 in Confederate States notes for one; U. S. Treasury notes are at a premium here of $2.50. Even the notes of our State banks are at 60 per cent. premium over Confederate notes. This is bad for Mr. Memminger. An abler financier would have worked out a different result.

All the patriotism is in the army; out of it the demon avarice rages supreme. Every one seems mad With speculation ; and the extortioners prey upon every victim that falls within their power. Nearly all who sell are extortioners. We have at the same time, and in the same community, spectacles of the most exalted virtue and of the most degrading vice.

Col. Mattel, the former commandant of conscripts for North Carolina, who was wounded at Kinston, and yet was superseded by Col. Lay's friend, Col. August, is now to be restored, and Col. A. relieved. Upon this Col. L. has fallen sick.

Mr. Duffield, whom Col. Lay and Mr. Jacques had appointed A. A. G. over me, has not yet, for some cause, got his commission. The Secretary or some one else may have “intervened.”

March 12

To-day we have no army news.

Mr. Richard Smith issued the first number of The Sentinel [273] yesterday morning. Thus we have five daily morning papers, all on half sheets. The Sentinel has a biography of the President, and may aspire to be the “organ.”

John Mitchel, the Irishman, who was sentenced to a penal colony for disturbances in Ireland, some years ago, is now the leading editor of the Enquirer. He came hither from the North recently. His “compatriot,” Meagher, once lived in the South and advocated our “institutions.” He now commands a Federal brigade. What Mitchel will do finally, who knows? My friend R. Tyler, probably, had something to do with bringing him here. As a politician, however, he must know there is no Irish element in the Confederate States. I am sorry this Irish editor has been imported.

The resignation of Gen. Toombs is making some sensation il certain circles. He was among the foremost leaders of the rebellion. He was Secretary of State, and voluntarily resigned to enter the army. I know not precisely what his grievance is, unless it be the failure of the President to promote him to a higher position, which he may have deemed himself entitled to, from his genius, antecedents, wealth, etc. But it is probable he will cause some disturbance. Duff Green, who is everywhere in stormy times, told me to-day that Gen. Toombs would be elected Governor of Georgia this fall, and said there were intimations that Georgia might make peace with the United States! This would be death to the government-and destruction to Toombs. It must be a mistake. He cannot have any such design. If he had, it would be defeated by the people of Georgia, though they sighed for peace. Peace is what all most desire-but not without independence. Some there are, in all the States, who would go back into the Union, for the sake of repose and security. But a majority would not have peace on such terms.

Still, it behooves the President to be on his guard. He has enemies in the South, who hate him much.

March 13

To-day a great calamity occurred in this city. In a large room of one of the government laboratories an explosion took place, killing instantly five or six persons, and wounding, it is feared fatally, some thirty others. Most of them were little indigent girls!

March 14

Gen. Pemberton writes that he has 3000 hogsheads [274] of sugar at Vicksburg, which he retains for his soldiers to subsist on when the meat fails. Meat is scarce there as well as here. Bacon now sells for $1.50 per pound in Richmond. Butter $3. I design to cultivate a little garden 20 by 50 feet; but fear I cannot get seeds. I have sought in vain for peas, beans, corn, and tomatoes seeds. Potatoes are $12 per bushel. Ordinary chickens are worth $3 a piece. My youngest daughter put her earrings on sale to-day-price $25; and I think they will bring it, for which she can purchase a pair of shoes. The area of subsistence is contracting around us; but my children are more enthusiastic for independence than ever. Daily I hear them say they would gladly embrace death rather than the rule of the Yankee. If all our people were of the same mind, our final success would be certain.

This day the leading article in the Examineer had a striking, if not an ominous conclusion. Inveighing against the despotism of the North, the editor takes occasion likewise to denounce the measure of impressment here. He says if our Congress should follow the example of the Northern Congress, and invest our President with dictatorial powers, a reconstruction of the Union might be a practicable thing; for our people would choose to belong to a strong despotism rather than a weak one--the strong one being of course the United States with 20,000,000, rather than the Confederate States with 8,000,000. There may be something in this, but we shall be injured by it; for the crowd going North will take it thither, where it will be reproduced, and stimulate the invader to renewed exertions. It is a dark hour. But God disposes. If we deserve it, we shall triumph; if not, why should we?

But we cannot fail without more great battles; and who knows what results may be evolved by them? Gen. Lee is hopeful; and so long as we keep the field, and he commands, the foe must bleed for every acre of soil they gain.

March 15

Another cold, disagreeable day. March so far has been as cold and terrible as a winter month.

March 16

Gen. Hill is moving toward Newbern, N. C., and may attack the enemy there.

The weather continues dreadful-sleeting; and movements of armies must perforce be stayed. But the season of slaughter is approaching. [275]

There was an ominous scantiness of supply in the market this morning, and the prices beyond most persons — mine among the rest.

Col. Lay got turkeys to-day from Raleigh; on Saturday partridges, by the Express Company. Fortunate man!

March 17

On Saturday, the enemy's lower Mississippi fleet attacked our batteries at Port Hudson. The result reported is that only one of their gun-boats got past, and that in a damaged condition. The frigate Mississippi, one of the best war steamers of the United States, was burned, and the rest retired down the river, badly repulsed. We sustained no loss.

To-day, the Secretary of War sent in a paper indorsing Judge Meredith's opinion in regard to foreigners who have accepted service in our country, viz., that they are liable to conscription. This is in the teeth of the decision of the Assistant Secretary, Judge Campbell, Col. Lay's father-in-law, and upon which the bureau has been acting, although Gen. Rains, the Superintendent, permitted it with reluctance, upon the assurance of Col. L. that such was the will of the department. This business may produce an explosion.

I walked with Gen. Rains this afternoon in Capitol Square. He is annoyed at the action of Col. Lay in following the instructions of the Assistant Secretary of War in regard to foreigners. The decision had not the sanction of the Secretary of War, Mr. Seddon. He thinks several thousand men may have been permitted to escape military service by it. He intended to lay Judge Campbell's decision before the President, but it disappeared very mysteriously from his desk. And to-day it reappeard just as mysteriously. And, simultaneously, and quite as mysteriously, a paper appeared, signed by Mr. Seddon, Secretary of War, suggesting that the bureau act in conformity with Judge Meredith's opinion, directly in the teeth of Mr. Assistant Secretary Campbell's decision! And it was dated March 13th, full four days before. What delayed it, and who brought it, no one seemed to know. Col. Lay suggested that it be sent back, with an indorsement that the bureau had been already acting under the decision of Judge Campbell (just the reverse of the opinion), Assistant Secretary of War, “by order of the Secretary of War.”

To this Gen. R. demurred, and said the bureau would conform [276] its action to Mr. Seddon's suggestions; and he charged a clerk to preserve that paper. Col. L. grumbled awfully at Mr. Seddon's off-hand decision, without mature reflection.

Gen. Stewart (of Maryland) was at the office a short time before, and advocated Mr. Seddon's views; for he knew how many Marylanders would be embraced in the decision, as well as other foreigners.

Lieut.-Col. A. C. Jones, Assistant Adjutant-General, had, in the name of the bureau, notified Gen. Winder, this morning, that Marylanders, etc. were not liable to bear arms for the South after being in the service two years!

The general says he will have all the commandants of conscripts written to immediately; and that he will have an interview with the Secretary of War in relation to the matter.

Every man we can put'in the field is demanded; and many fear we shall not have a sufficient number to oppose the overwhelming tide soon to be surging over the land. At such a crisis, and in consideration of all the circumstances attending this matter, involving the loss of so many men, one is naturally startled at Judge Campbell's conduct.

March 18

I sent an extract from my Diary of yesterday to the Hon. T. H. Watts, Minister of Justice. I know not whether he will appreciate its importance; but he has professed friendship for me.

The city is in some excitement to-day, for early this morning we had intelligence of the crossing of the Rappahannock by a portion of the Federal army. During the day the division of Hood defiled through the streets, at a quick pace, marching back to Lee's army. But the march of troops and the rumbling of artillery have ceased to be novel spectacles to our community. Some aged ladies ran out as they passed, calling the bronzed Texans their “children,” and distributed loaves of bread and other food among them. I never saw a merrier set than these brave soldiers, who have been through the “fire and the flood” numberless times. Some of them had three or four loaves on their bayonets.

Gen. Lee himself left early this morning, on an extra train, having been “caught napping” here, the first time. The enemy crossed the river yesterday.

But during the day a dispatch was received from Gen. J. E. B. [277] Stuart (cavalry), stating that he had attacked the enemy on this side of the river, and beaten him back, forcing him to recross with loss. The particulars of the fight were not stated; but it is believed we lost a brigadier-general, killed.

March 19

Snowing. It is estimated that we lost 250 men, killed, wounded, and taken, in the fight on the Rappahannock; the enemy's loss is not known, but certainly was heavy, since they were defeated, and fled back, hotly pursued.

Confederate money still depreciates, in spite of the funding act. Some of the brokers are demanding ten dollars Confederate notes for one in gold! That is bad, and it may be worse.

The enemy are advancing from Corinth, and there are not sufficient troops to resist them. Gen. Johnston says if men are taken from Bragg, his army may be destroyed; and none can be ordered from Mobile, where there are only 2500 for land defense.

March 20

The snow is eight inches deep this morning, and it is still falling fast.

Not a beggar is yet to be seen in this city of 100,000 inhabitants!

Hood's division, mostly Texans, whose march to the Rappahannock was countermanded when it was ascertained that the enemy had been beaten back across the river, were all the morning defiling through Main Street, in high spirits, and merrily snowballing each other. And these men slept last night out in the snow without tents! Can such soldiers be vanquished?

Yesterday Floyd's division of State troops were turned over to the Confederacy-only about 200!

We have no further particulars of the fight on the Rappahannock; we know, however, that the enemy were beaten, and that this snow-storm must prevent further operations for many days. Several Eastern Shore families, I learn, are about to return to their homes. This is no place for women and children, who have homes elsewhere. We are all on quarter-rations of meat, and but few can afford to buy clothing at the present prices.

March 21

The snow is nearly a foot deep this morning, as it continued to fall all night, and is falling still. It grows warmer, however.

But we now learn that the Indianola was destroyed in the Mississippi by the officers, upon the appearance of a simulated gunboat [278] sent down, without a crew! This was disgraceful, and some one should answer for it.

Col. Godwin writes from King and Queen County, that many of the people there are deserting to the enemy, leaving their stock, provisions, grain, etc., and he asks permission to seize their abandoned property for the use of the government. Mr. Secretary Seddon demands more specific information before that step be taken. He intimates that they may have withdrawn to avoid conscription.

March 22

It was thawing all night, and there is a heavy fog this morning. The snow will disappear in a few days.

A very large number of slaves, said to be nearly 40,000, have been collected by the enemy on the Peninsula and at adjacent points, for the purpose, it is supposed, of co-operating with Hooker's army in the next attempt to capture Richmond.

The snow has laid an embargo on the usual slight supplies brought to market, and all who had made no provision for such a contingency are subsisting on very short-commons. Corn-meal is selling at from $6 to $8 per bushel. Chickens $5 each. Turkeys $20. Turnip greens $8 per bushel. Bad bacon $1.50 per pound. Bread 20 cts. per loaf. Flour $38 per barrel,--and other things in proportion. There are some pale faces seen in the streets from deficiency of food; but no beggars, no complaints. We are all in rags, especially our underclothes. This for liberty!

The Northern journals say we have negro regiments on the Rappahannock and in the West. This is utterly untrue. We have no armed slaves to fight for us, nor do we fear a servile insurrection. We are at no loss, however, to interpret the meaning of such demoniac misrepresentations. It is to be seen of what value the negro regiments employed against us will be to the invader.

March 23

The snow has nearly disappeared, and the roads are very bad. No food is brought to the market, and such as may be found in the city is held at famine prices.

I saw a letter to-day from Bishop Lay, in Arkansas. He says affairs in that State wear a dark and gloomy aspect. He thinks the State is lost.

Gen. Beauregard writes the Hon. Mr. Miles that he has not men enough, nor heavy guns enough, for the defense of Charleston. [279] If this were generally known, thousands would despair, being convinced that those charged with the reins of power are incompetent, unequal to the crisis, and destined to conduct them to destruction rather than independence.

March 24

Judge Lyons has granted an injunction, arresting the impressment of flour by the Secretary of War, and Congress is debating a bill which, if passed, will be a marked rebuke to the government.

Notwithstanding the wishes of the Secretary of War, the President, and Gen. Rains, Lt.-Col. Lay is still exempting Marylanders, and even foreigners who have bought real estate, and resided for years in this country, if they have “not taken the oath of domicile.”

In Eastern Tennessee, 25,500 conscripts were enrolled, and yet only 6000 were added to the army. The rest were exempted, detailed, or deserted. Such is the working of the Conscription Act, fettered as it is by the Exemption Law, and still executed under Judge Campbell's decision. Gen. Rains has the title, but does not execute the functions of Superintendent of the Bureau of Conscription. The President has been informed of everything.

March 25

We have no news to-day, excepting the falling back of Rosecrans from Murfreesborough, and a raid of Morgan and capture of a train of cars. Rosecrans means, perhaps, to aid in the occupation of the Mississippi River. It will be expensive in human life.

Although our conscription is odious, yet we are collecting a thousand per week. The enemy say they will crush the rebellion in ninety days. In sixty days half their men will return to their homes, and then we may take Washington. God knows, but man does not, what will happen.

March 26

We have dispatches (unofficial) from the West, stating that one of the enemy's gun-boats has been sunk in attempting to pass Vicksburg, and another badly injured. Also that an engagement has occurred on the Yazoo, the enemy having several gun-boats sunk, the rest being driven back.

It snowed a little this morning, and is now clear and cold.

Mr. Seddon is vexed at the unpopularity of the recent impressments by his order. It was an odious measure, because it did not [280] go far enough and take all, distributing enough among the people to crush the extortioners.

March 27

This is the day appointed by the President for fasting and prayers. Fasting in the midst of famine! May God save this people! The day will be observed throughout the Confederacy.

The news from the West, destruction of more of the enemy's gun-boats, seems authentic. So far we have sustained no disasters this spring, the usual season of success of the enemy by water.

Mr. G. W. Randolph was the counsel of the speculators whose flour was impressed, and yet this man, when Secretary of War, ordered similar impressments repeatedly. “Oh, man! Dressed in a little brief authority,” etc.

Mr. Foote has brought forward a bill to prevent trading with the enemy. Col. Lay even gets his pipes from the enemy's country. Let Mr. Foote smoke that!

A gentleman said, to-day, if the Yankees only knew it, they might derive all the benefits they seek by the impracticable scheme of subjugation, without the expenditure of human life, by simply redoubling the blockade of our ports, withdrawing their armies to the borders, and facilitating trade between the sections. We would not attack them in their own country, and in a month millions of their products would be pouring into the South, and cotton, tobacco, etc. would go to the North in vast quantities. I wonder the smart Yankee never thinks of this! Let both sides give passports freely, and an unlimited intercourse would be immediately established.

March 28

We have nothing additional or confirmatory from the West. A letter from Gen. Beauregard states that he has but 17,000 men in South Carolina, and 10,000 in Georgia, 27,000 in all. He asks more, as he will be assailed, probably, by 100,000 Federals. The President refers this important letter to the Secretary of War, simply with the indorsement, “this is an exact statement of affairs in South Carolina and Georgia.”

Col. Lay predicts that we shall be beaten in thirty days, or else we shall then be in the way of beating the enemy. A safe prediction — but what is his belief? This deponent saith not. There will be fearful odds against us, and yet our men in the field fear nothing. [281]

We are sending Napoleons up to Lee. But the weather, which has been fine for the last two days, is wet again. If Hooker makes a premature advance, he will be sure to “march back again.”

An amusing letter was received from an officer in Tennessee today. He was taken prisoner by seven Federals when straying some distance from camp, and subsequently hearing the men express some anxiety to be at home again with their families, gave them some brandy which he happened to possess. He then suggested a plan by which they might return to their homes, viz., to become his prisoners, and being paroled by him. After consultation, they agreed to it, and released him. He then paroled them, giving them the usual certificates to exhibit to their officer, and so, taking another drink, they pursued their different ways. If this disposition prevails extensively among the Western Federals, we may look for speedy results in that quarter. Rosecrans may lose his laurels in a most unexpected manner.

March 29

No news. Yet a universal expectation. What is expected is not clearly defined. Those who are making money rapidly no doubt desire a prolongation of the war, irrespective of political consequences. But the people, the majority in the United States, seem to have lost their power. And their representatives in Congress are completely subordinated by the Executive, and rendered subservient to his will. President Lincoln can have any measure adopted or any measure defeated, at pleasure. Such is the irresistible power of enormous executive patronage. He may extend the sessions or terminate them, and so, all power, for the time being, reposes in the hands of the President.

A day of reckoning will come, for the people of the United States will resume the powers of which the war has temporarily dispossessed them, or else there will be disruptions, and civil war will submerge the earth in blood. The time has not arrived, or else the right men have not arisen, for the establishment of despotisms.

Everything depends upon the issues of the present campaign, and upon them it may be bootless to speculate. No one may foretell the fortunes of war — I mean where victory will ultimately perch in this frightful struggle. We are environed and invaded by not less than 600,000 men in arms, and we have not in the field more than 250,000 to oppose them. But we have the advantage of occupying the interior position, always affording superior facilities [282] for concentration. Besides, our men must prevail in combat, or lose their property, country, freedom, everything,--at least this is their conviction. On the other hand, the enemy, in yielding the contest, may retire into their own country, and possess everything they enjoyed before the war began. Hence it may be confidently believed that in all the battles of this spring, when the numbers are nearly equal, the Confederates will be the victors, and even when the enemy have superior numbers, the armies of the South will fight with Roman desperation. The conflict will be appalling and sanguinary beyond example, provided the invader stand up to it. That much is certain. And if our armies are overthrown, we may be no nearer peace than before. The paper money would be valueless, and the large fortunes accumulated by the speculators, turning to dust and ashes on their lips, might engender a new exasperation, resulting in a regenerated patriotism and a universal determination to achieve independence or die in the attempt.

March 30

Gen. Bragg dispatches the government that Gen. Forrest has captured 800 prisoners in Tennessee, and several thousand of our men are making a successful raid in Kentucky.

Gen. Whiting makes urgent calls for reinforcements at Wilmington, and cannot be supplied with many.

Gen. Lee announces to the War Department that the spring campaign is now open, and his army may be in motion any day.

Col. Godwin (of King and Queen County) is here trying to prevail on the Secretary of War to put a stop to the blockaderunners, Jews, and spies, daily passing through his lines with passports from Gens. Elzey and Winder. He says the persons engaged in this illicit traffic are all extortioners and spies, and $50,000 worth of goods from the enemy's country pass daily.

Col. Lay still repudiates Judge Meredith's decision in his instructions to the Commandants of Camps of Instruction. Well, if we have a superabundance of fighting men in the field, the foreign-born denizens and Marylanders can remain at home and make money while the country that protects them is harried by the invader.

The gaunt form of wretched famine still approaches with rapid strides. Meal is now selling at $12 per bushel, and potatoes at $16. Meats have almost disappeared from the market, and none [283] but the opulent can afford to pay $3.50 per pound for butter. Greens, however, of various kinds, are coming in; and as the season advances, we may expect a diminution of prices. It is strange that on the 30th of March, even in the “sunny South,” the fruit-trees are as bare of blossoms and foliage as at midwin-ter. We shall have fire until the middle of May,--six months of winter!

I am spading up my little garden, and hope to raise a few vegetables to eke out a miserable subsistence for my family. My daughter Ann reads Shakspeare to me oa nights, which saves my eyes.

March 31

Another stride of the grim specter, and cornmeal is selling for $17 per bushel. Coal at $20.50 per ton, and wood at $30 per cord. And at these prices one has to wait several days to get either. Common tallow candles are selling at $1 per pound. I see that some furnished houses are now advertised for rent; and I hope that all the population that can get away, and subsist elsewhere, will leave the city.

The lower house of Congress has passed a most enormous tax bill, which I apprehend cannot be enforced, if it becomes a law. It will close half the shops-but that may be beneficial, as thousands have rushed info trade and become extortioners.

I see some batteries of light artillery going toward Petersburg. This is to be used against the enemy when he advances in that direction from Suffolk. No doubt another attempt will be made to capture Richmond. But Lee knows the programme, I doubt not.

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