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III. June, 1861

June 1

In the absence of the Secretary, I arranged the furniture as well as I could, and took possession of the five offices I had selected. But no business, of course, could be done before his arrival. Yet an immense mass of business was accumulatingletters by the hundreds were demanding attention.

And I soon found, as the other Secretaries came in, that some dissatisfaction was likely to grow out of thee appropriation by the Secretary of War of the best offices. Mr. Toombs said the war office might do in any ordinary building; but that the Treasury should appropriately occupy the custom-house, which was fireproof. For his own department, he said he should be satisfied with a room or two anywhere. But my arrangement was not countermanded by the President, to whom I referred all objectors. His decision was to be final-and he did not decide against it. I had given him excellent quarters; and I knew he was in the habit of having frequent interviews both with the Secretary of War and the Adjutant-General, and this would be inconvenient if they were in different buildings.

June 2

My wife had a little gold among her straightened finances; and having occasion to purchase some article of dress, she obtained seven and a half per cent. premium. The goods began to go up in price, as paper money fell in value. At Montgomery I bought a pair of fine French boots for $10 in gold-but packed my old ones in the top of my trunk. I was under the necessity, likewise, of buying a linen coat, which cost only $3.50. What will be the price of such commodities a year hence if the blockade continues? It is fearful to contemplate! And yet it ought to be considered. Boarding is rising rapidly, and so are the bloodthirsty insects at the Carleton House.


June 3

The Secretary arrived to-day, sick; and was accompanied by Major Tyler, himself unwell. And troops are beginning to arrive in considerable numbers. The precincts of the city will soon be a series of encampments. The regiments are drilled here, and these mostly forwarded to Manassas, where a battle must soon occur, if the enemy, now in overwhelming numbers, should advance. The Northern papers say the Yankee army will celebrate the 4th of July in Richmond. Nous verrons. But no doubt hostilities have commenced. We have accounts of frightful massacres in Missouri, by German mercenaries. Hampton has been occupied by the enemy, a detachment having been sent from Fortress Monroe for that purpose. They also hold Newport News on the Peninsula! There are rumors of a fight at Philippi. One Col. Potterfield was surprised. If this be so, there is no excuse for him. I think the President will make short work of incompetent commanders. Now a blunder is worse than a crime.

June 4

The Secretary is still sick. Having nothing better to do, and seeing that eight-tenths of the letters received are merely applications for commissions in the regular army — an organization without men-and none being granted from civil life, I employed myself writing certain articles for the press, hoping by this means to relieve the Secretary of the useless and painful labor of dictating negative replies to numberless communications. This had the sanction of both the President and the Secretary, and produced, in some measure, the desired relief.

June 5

There are rumors of a fight down at Pig's Point to-day; and it is said our battery has torn the farthingale of the Harriet Lane pretty extensively. The cannon was heard by persons not many miles east of the city. These are the mutterings of the storm. It will burst some of these days.

June 6

We have hard work at the War Department, and some confusion owing to the loss of a box of papers in transit from Montgomery. I am not a betting man, but I would wager a trifle that the contents of the box are in the hands of some correspondent of the New York Herald or Tribune. Our careless people think that valor alone will win the day. The Yankees desire, above all things, information of our condition and movements, of which they will take advantage. We must learn by dear-bought experience.


June 7

We have a Chief of the Bureau of War, a special favorite, it is said, of Mr. Davis. I went into the Secretary's room (I now occupy one adjoining), and found a portly gentleman in a white vest sitting alone. The Secretary was out, and had not instructed the new officer what to do. He introduced himself to me, and admitted that the Secretary had not assigned him to duty. I saw at a glance how the land lay. It was Col. A. T. Bledsoe, lately of the University of Virginia; and he had been appointed by the President, not upon the recommendation of the Secretary. Here was a muss not larger than a mustard-seed; but it might grow, for I knew well how sensitive was the nature of the Secretary; and he had not been consulted. And so I took it upon myself to be cicerone to the stranger. He was very grateful,--for a long time. Col. B. had graduated at West Point in the same class with the President and Bishop Polk, and subsequently, after following various pursuits, being once, I believe, a preacher, became settled as a teacher of mathematics at the University of Virginia. The colonel stayed near me, aiding in the work of answering letters; but after sitting an hour, and groaning repeatedly when gazing at the mass of papers constantly accumulating before us, he said he believed he would take a number of them to his lodging and answer them there. I saw nothing more of him during the day. And once or twice, when the Secretary came in, he looked around for him, but said nothing. Finally I informed him what I had done; and, without signifying an assent, he merely remarked that there was no room in his office for him.

June 8

This morning Col. Bledsoe came in with his letters, some fifty in number, looking haggard and worn. It was, indeed, a vast number. But with one of his humorous smiles, he said they were short. He asked me to look over them, and I found them mainly appropriate responses to the letters marked for answer, and pretty closely in accordance with the Secretary's dictation. In one or two instances, however, he had been unable to decipher the Secretary's most difficult chirography — for he had no idea of punctuation. In these instances he had wholly misconcieved the meaning, and the replies were exactly the reverse of what they were intended to be. These he tore up, and wrote others before submitting any to the Secretary. [50]

I had only written some thirty letters; but mine were longerlonger than there was any necessity for. I told the colonel that the Secretary had a partiality for “full” letters, especially when addressing any of his friends; and that Major Tyler, who had returned, and was then sitting with the Secretary, rarely dismissed one from his pen under less than three pages. The colonel smiled, and said when there was nothing further to say, it was economy to say nothing. He then carried his letters into the Secretary's office, clearing his throat according to custom on passing a door. I trembled for him; for I knew Mr. Walker had an aversion to signing his name to letters of merely two or three lines. He returned again immediately, saying the Secretary was busy. He left the letters, however.

Presently Major Tyler came out of the Secretary's room with several voluminous letters in his own handwriting, duly signed. The major greeted the colonel most cordially; and in truth his manners of a gentleman are so innate that I believe it would be utterly impossible for him to be clownish or rude in his address, if he were to make a serious effort to be so.

The major soon left us and re-entered the Secretary's office; but returned immediately bearing the colonel's fifty letters, which he placed before him and then retired. The very first one the colonel's eye rested upon, brought the color to his face. Every line in it had been effaced, and quite a different answer substituted in pencil marks between the lines! “I wrote that,” said the colonel, “according to his own dictation.” And as every letter carried in its fold the one to which it was a reply, he exhibited the Secretary's words in pencil marks. The colonel was right. The Secretary had omitted the little word “not” ; and hence the colonel had written to the Georgian: “Your company of cavalry is accepted.” The Secretary refused almost uniformly to accept cavalry, and particularly Georgia cavalry. I took blame to myself for not discovering this blunder previously. But the colonel, with his rapid pen, soon wrote another answer. About one-half the letters had to be written over again; and the colonel, smiling, and groaning, and perspiring so extravagantly that he threw off his coat, and occupied himself several hours in preparing the answers in accordance with the Secretary's corrections. And when they were done, Mr. S. S. Scott, who was to copy them in the letter-book, [51] complimented the colonel on their brevity. In response to this, the colonel said, unfortunately, he wished he, Scott, were the secretary. Scott abused every one who wrote a long letter.

June 9

To-day the Secretary refused to sign the colonel's letters, telling him to sign them himself-“by order of the Secretary of War.”

June 10

Yesterday the colonel did not take so many letters to answer; and to-day he looked about him for other duties more congenial to his nature.

June 11

It is coming in earnest! The supposed thunder, heard down the river yesterday, turns out to have been artillery. A fight has occurred at Bethel, and blood.-Yankee blood-has flowed pretty freely. Magruder was assailed by some five thousand Yankees at Bethel, on the Peninsula. His force was about nine hundred; but he was behind intrenchments. We lost but one man killed and five wounded. The enemy's loss is several hundred. That road to Richmond is a hard one to travel! But I learn there is a panic about Williamsburg. Several young men from that vicinity have shouldered their pens and are applying for clerkships in the departments. But most of the men of proper age in the literary institutions are volunteering in defense of their native land.

June 12

Gen. Lee has been or is to be created a full general in the Confederate army, and will be assigned to duty here. He is third on the list, Sydney Johnston being second. From all I can see and infer, we shall make no attempt this year to invade the enemy's country. Our policy is to be defensive, and it will be severely criticised, for a vast majority of our people are for “carrying the war into Africa” without a moment's delay. The sequel will show which is right, the government or the people. At all events, the government will rule.

June 13

Only one of the Williamsburg volunteers came into the department proper; and he will make his way, for he is a flatterer. He told me he had read my “Wild Western scenes” twice, and never was so much entertained by any other book. He went to work with hearty good-will.

June 14

Col. Bledsoe has given up writing almost entirely, but he groans as much as ever. He is like a fish out of water, and unfit for office.


June 15

Another clerk has been appointed; a sedate one, by the name of Shepherd, and a former pupil of the colonel's.

I received several hints that the Chief of the Bureau was not at all a favorite with the Secretary, who considered him utterly unfit for the position; and that it could hardly be good policy for me to be on terms of such intimacy with him. Policy! A word I never appreciated, a thing I never knew. All I know is that Col. Bledsoe has been appointed by the President to fill an important position; and the same power appoints the secretaries, and can unmake them. Under these circumstances I find him permitted to sit for hours and days in the department with no one to inform him of the condition of the business or to facilitate him in the performance of his official duties. Not for any partiality in his behalf, or prejudice against the Secretary, I step forward and endeavor to discharge my own duty. I strive to serve the cause, whatsoever may be the consequences to my personal interests.

June 16

To-day, receiving dispatches from General Floyd, in Western Virginia, that ten thousand Yankees were advancing through Fayette County, and might intercept railroad communication between Richmond and Chattanooga — the Secretary got me to send a telegraphic dispatch to his family to repair hither without delay, for military reasons. About this time the Secretary's health gave way again, and Major Tyler had another fit of indisposition totally disqualifying him for business. Hence I have nearly all the correspondence of the department on my hands, since Col. Bledsoe has ceased to write.

June 17

To-day there was a rumor in the streets that Harper's Ferry had been evacuated by Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, and, for the first time, I heard murmurs against the government. So far, perhaps, no Executive had ever such cordial and unanimous support of the people as President Davis. I knew the motive of the evacuation, and prepared a short editorial for one of the papers, suggesting good reasons for the retrograde movement; and instancing the fact that when Napoleon's capital was surrounded and taken, he had nearly 200,000 men in garrison in the countries he had conquered, which would have been ample for the defense of France. This I carried to the Secretary at his lodgings, and he was so well pleased with it he wanted me to accompany him to the lodgings of the President, in the same hotel, and show it to him. [53] This I declined, alleging it might be too late for the press. He laughed at my diffidence, and disinclination on such occasions to approach the President. I told him my desire was to serve the cause, and not myself. I suppose he was incredulous.

June 18

The city is content at the evacuation. The people have unbounded confidence in the wisdom of the administration, and the ability of our generals. Beauregard is the especial favorite. The soldiers, now arming daily, are eager for the fray; and it is understood a great battle must come off before many weeks; as it is the determination of the enemy to advance from the vicinity of Washington, where they are rapidly concentrating. But our people must curb their impatience. And yet we dare not make known the condition of the army,--the awful fact which may be stated here-and will not be known until after-years,--that we have not enough ammunition at Manassas to fight a battle. There are not percussion caps enough in our army for a serious skirmish. It will be obviated in a few weeks; and until then I pray there may be no battle. But if the enemy advance, our brave men will give them the cold steel. We must win the first battle at all hazards, and at any cost; and, after that,--how long after? --we must win the last!

June 19

Yesterday I saw Colonel Bartow, still accompanied by young Lamar, his aid. I wish all our officers were inspired by the same zeal and determination that they are. And are they not?

June 20

Gov. Wise has been appointed brigadier-general, of a subsequent date to General Floyd's commission. He goes to the West, where laurels grow; but I think it will be difficult to win them by any one acting in a subordinate capacity, and especially by generals appointed from civil life. They are the aversion of the West Pointers at the heads of bureaus.

June 21

A large, well-proportioned gentleman with florid complexion and intellectual face, who has been whispering with Col. Bledsoe several times during the last week, attracted my attention to-day. And when he retired, Colonel B. informed me it was Bishop Polk, a classmate of his and the President's at West Point. He had just been appointed a major-general, and assigned to duty in the West, where he would rank Gen. Pillow, who was exceedingly unpopular in Adjutant-Gen. Cooper's office. I presume [54] this arose solely from mistrust of his military abilities; for he had certainly manifested much enthusiasm in the cause, and was constantly urging the propriety of aggressive movements with his command. All his purposed advances were countermanded. The policy of the government is to be economical of the men. We have but a limited, the enemy an inexhaustible number.

June 22

The Convention has appointed ten additional members to the Provisional Congress-President Tyler among them. It will be observed that my Diary goes on, including every day. Fighting for our homes and holy altars, there is no intermission on Sunday. It is true, Mr. Memminger came in the other day with a proposition to cease from labor on Sunday, but our Secretary made war on it. The President, however, goes to church very regularly-St. Paul's.

On last Sunday the President surprised me. It was before church time, and I was working alone. No one else was in the large room, and the Secretary himself had gone home, quite ill. I thought I heard some one approaching lightly from behind, but wrote on without looking up; even when he had been standing some time at the back of my chair. At length I turned my head, and beheld the President not three feet from me. He smiled, and said he was looking for a certain letter referred by him to the Secretary. I asked the name of the writer, which he told me. I said I had a distinct recollection of it, and had taken it into the Secretary with other papers that morning. But the Secretary was gone. We then proceeded into the Secretary's office in search of it. The Secretary's habit was to take the papers from his table, and after marking on them with his pencil the disposition he wished made of them, he threw them helter-skelter into a large arm-chair. This chair now contained half a bushel; and the President and I set to work in quest of the letter. We removed them one by one; and as we progressed, he said with an impatient smile, “it is always sure to be the last one.” And so it was. Having found it, he departed immediately; and soon after I saw him on his way to church.

June 23

Every day as soon as the first press of business is over, the Secretary comes out of his office and taps me on the shoulder, and invites me to ride with him in quest of a house. We go to those offered for rent; but he cannot be suited.


June 24

To-day I was startled by the announcement from Col. Bledsoe that he would resign soon, and that it was his purpose to ask the President to appoint me chief of the bureau in his place. I said I preferred a less conspicuous position-and less labor-but thanked him. He said he had no influence with the Secretary — an incontrovertible fact; and that he thought he should return to the University. While we were speaking, the President's messenger came in with a note to the colonel; I did not learn the purport of it, but it put the colonel in a good humor. He showed me the two first words: “Dear Bledsoe.” He said nothing more about resigning.

I must get more lucrative employment, or find something for my son to do. The boarding of my family, alone, comes to more than my salary; and the cost of everything is increasing.

June 25

More accounts of battles and massacres in Missouri and Kansas. I never thought the Yankees would be permitted to ascend the Missouri River. What has become of the marksmen and deer hunters of Missouri? There has been also a fight at Leesburg, and one near Romney, Va. Blood has been shed in all of them. These are the pattering drops that must inevitably be succeeded by a torrent of blood!

June 26

The President revised one of my articles for the press to-day, suggesting some slight modifications, which, perhaps, improved it. It was not a political article; but designed exclusively to advance the cause by inciting the people of Virginia and elsewhere to volunteer for the war. Such volunteers are accepted, and ordered into active service at once; whereas six and twelve months men, unless they furnish their own arms, are not accepted.

It is certain the United States intend to raise a grand army, to serve for three years or the war. Short enlistments constituted the bane of Washington's army; and this fact is reiterated a thousand times in his extant letters.

There are a great many applications for clerkships in the departments by teachers who have not followed their pupils to the army. Army and naval officers, coming over at this late day, are commissioned in our service. In regard to this matter, the President is supposed to know best.

June 27

We have, I think, some 40,000 pretty well armed [56] men in Virginia, sent hither from other States. Virginia has-I know not how many; but she should have at least 40,000 in the field. This will enable us to cope with the Federal army of 70,000 volunteers, and the regular forces they may hurl against us. But so far as this department is aware, Virginia has not yet two regiments in the service for three years, or the war. And here the war will be sure to rage till the end!

June 28

We have a flaming comet in the sky. It comes unannounced, and takes a northwestern course. I dreamed last night that I saw a great black ball moving in the heavens, and it obscured the moon. The stars were in motion, visibly, and for a time afforded the only light. Then a brilliant halo illuminated the zenith like the quick-shooting irradiations of the aurora borealis. And men ran in different directions, uttering cries of agony. These cries, I remember distinctly, came from men. As I gazed upon the fading and dissolving moon, I thought of the war brought upon us, and the end of the United States Government. My family were near, all of them, and none seemed alarmed or distressed. I experienced no perturbation; but I awoke. I felt curious to prolong the vision, but sleep had fled. I was gratified, however, to be conscious of the fact that in this illusory view of the end of all things sublunary, I endured no pangs of remorse or misgivings of the new existence it seemed we were about to enter upon.

June 29

I cannot support my family here, on the salary I receive from the government; and so they leave me in a few days to accept the tendered hospitality of Dr. Custis, of Newbern, N. C., my wife's cousin.

June 30

My family engaged packing trunks. They leave immediately.

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