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Xli. August, 1864

  • From the Northern papers.
  • -- letter from J. Thompson, Canada. -- from Mr. McRae, our foreign agent. -- dispatch from Major -- Gen. Maury. -- “General order no. 65.” -- battle of Reams's Station.

August 1

Hot and clear; but it rained yesterday threequarters of an hour in the afternoon.

Our loss in the affair at Petersburg is about 800, the enemy's 3500. We captured 2000 small arms. [259]

We have nothing yet from Atlanta, but no doubt there has been another battle. I hope no disaster has befallen us there. No doubt the wires have been cut by the raiders, and roads also. It is a critical time in Georgia. But if Virginia triumphs over the assaults of Grant, all will go well.

August 2

Bright and hot. At 4 P. M. a cloud rising. Fear my wife, and daughter Fannie, and Custis (who has a days' furlough), who went this morning per Fredericksburg Railroad into Hanover County to gather blackberries, will be caught in a rain. Nevertheless, the rain is wanted.

Assistant Secretary Campbell is again “allowing” doubtful characters to pass out of the Confederate States to the United States; among these is Dr. McClure, “the embalmer,” who, too, carried others out for bribes.

The Signal Bureau gives information to-day of Grant's purpose to spring the mine already sprung, also of a raid, that was abandoned, north and west of Richmond. They say Grant has now but 70,000 men, there being only a few men left at Washington. Can the agents paid by the Signal Bureau be relied on?

Gen. Bragg telegraphs from Columbus, Ga., that Gen. Roddy has been ordered to reassemble his forces in North Alabama, to cut Sherman's communications.

The news from Georgia is more cheering.

The commissioners (of prices) have reduced the schedule: it was denounced universally. It is said by the Examiner that the extravagant rates, $30 per bushel for wheat, and $50 for bacon, were suggested by a farmer in office.

Gen. Lee writes that he had directed Morgan to co-operate with Early, but he was sick.

The enemy's account of our loss in the battle before Atlanta is exaggerated greatly. Sherman's army is doomed, I think.

Seven P. M. No rain here, but my family were drenched in a hard shower at Hanover Junction, and what was worse, they got no blackberries, the hot sun having dried the sap in the bushes.

August 3

Cloudy, but no rain.

The press dispatches last night assert that still another raiding party, besides Stoneman's, was dispersed or captured.

It is rumored to-day that Beauregard has sprung a mine under Grant's fortifications. This may be so. Later. It was not so.


August 4

Clear and hot.

All quiet at Petersburg. President Lincoln was at Fortress Monroe on Sunday last, after the explosion and its failure.

The Northern papers acknowledge that Grant sustained a terrible disaster at Petersburg, losing in killed, wounded, and missing 5000. They say the negro troops caused the failure, by running back and breaking the lines of the whites. The blacks were pushed forward in front, and suffered most.

From the same source we learn that our troops have penetrated Pennsylvania, and laid the city of Chambersburg in ashes. This may be so, as they have burned some half dozen of our towns, and are now daily throwing shell into Charleston, Atlanta, and Petersburg.

A letter to the Secretary from J. Thompson, in Canada (per Capt. Hines), was received to-day. He says the work will not probably begin before the middle of August., I know not what sort of work. But he says much caution is necessary. I suppose it to be the destruction of the Federal army depots, etc. in the United States.

Public meetings and the public press continue to denounce in unmeasured terms the high schedule of prices recently sanctioned by the Commissary and Quartermaster's bureaus. And, although the schedule has been modified, much odium will attach to all concerned in it. A large farmer, at the rates fixed for his products, would realize, perhaps, $200,000 per annum.

August 5

Hot and dry. I hope there will be a rain-cloud this evening.

No war news, except a letter from Gen. Lee, indicating that Gen. Morgan is probably on a raid in Northwest Virginia and in Pennsylvania. Morgan proposed going into Georgia (rear of Sherman), but the Secretary indorsed that perhaps the matter had as well be left to Gen. Lee. The President quietly indorsed that he “concurred in the conclusion that all the movements of troops in Virginia had best be left to the discretion of Gen Lee.”

Gen. Hood telegraphs that no important change has occurred in front of Atlanta. There was some skirmishing yesterday, and shell thrown into Atlanta.

My daughter Anne, after ten months residence in the country, returned to-day (with Miss Randolph, of Loudon Co.) in perfect health. She brought apples, eggs, a watermelon, cucumbers, etc. [261]

Mr. Davies sold my reel (German silver) to-day for $75, or about $3.20 in gold-enough to buy a cord of wood. I parted with it reluctantly, as I hope to catch fish yet.

August 6

Hot and dry.

The booming of cannon heard yesterday evening was from one of our batteries below Drewry's Bluff. The enemy answered from their batteries, the existence of which we had no knowledge of before. No one was hurt.

About the same time Gen. Beauregard sprung a mine under the enemy's mine, and blew it up, no doubt destroying many lives. This was succeeded by heavy, but, perhaps, harmless shelling along the lines.

Another raiding party has been defeated and dispersed at Madison, Ga.

But we have been unfortunate in a naval engagement in the lower bay, at Mobile. We have lost Admiral Buchanan's ram “Tennessee,” and several other steamers. One of the enemy's monitors was sunk. They had five vessels to our one.

Battles are momentarily expected at Atlanta and Winchester. We have nothing Additional from the North.

August 7

Hot and dry; but heavy rains in other parts of the State.

The 1st Army Corps moved through the city last night, via the Central and Fredericksburg Railroads, and this morning Fitzhugh Lee's cavalry corps is passing in the same direction-9 A. M.

All this indicates a transferrence of the scene of operations nearer the enemy's country — the relief of Richmond — the failure of Grant's mad Bull campaign, prompted by President Lincoln, who is no general.

Honor to Lee!-the savior of his country! and the noble band of heroes whom he has led to victory!-but first to God.

August 8

Hot and dry.

There are rumors of battles near Winchester and in Georgia.

Mr. Benjamin writes the Secretary of War for a passport for --, who is going to New York, “for our service.”

In the assault on the fortifications near Petersburg last week, it is said Hancock's (enemy's) corps lost half its men.

Watermelons have sold at $20 each; corn, $10 per dozen ears; and everything else in the markets in proportion. [262]

My yellow tomatoes are just maturing. The dry weather has ruined nearly everything else in the garden.

August 9

Very hot; very dry; very dusty.

The President has directed the late Gen. (now Lieut.--Col.) Pemberton to organize a mortar and cavalry force to dislodge the enemy from Deep Bottom, on this side of the river, and to select three or four batteries to render the navigation of the James River difficult and dangerous. Col. P. says he must have some 1500 cavalry, etc.

Letters from Mr. McRae, our agent abroad, show that our finances and credit are improving wonderfully, and that the government will soon have a great many fine steamers running the blockade. Mr. McR. has contracted for eight steel-clad steamers with a single firm, Frazer, Trenholm & Co.-the latter now our Secretary of the Treasury.

The President indorsed a cutting rebuke to both the Secretary of War and--Mr. (now Lieut.-Col.) Melton, A. A. General's office, to day. It was on an order for a quartermaster at Atlanta to report here and settle his accounts. Mr. M. had written on the order that it was issued “by order of the President.” The President said he was responsible for all orders issued by the War Department, but it was a great presumption of any officer in that department to assume to indorse on any paper that it was by his special order, and that, too, “by command of the Secretary of War,” the usual form.

August 10

Hot and dry until 4 P. M. Gust, and 15 minutes rain. Good for turnips.

Forts Gaines and Powell are lost — the latter blown up. Gen. Maury telegraphs for infantry, has some 4000 men for the defense of Mobile, etc.

Our raiders, under McCausland and Bradley Johnson, it is said were surprised and defeated last Sunday, with loss of 400 men, 500 horses, and 4 pieces of artillery. A rumor prevails that Early has gained another victory near Winchester.

No news yet from our agent sent to North Carolina to purchase supplies, but we learn flour and bacon are not held one quarter as high there as here. I do sincerely hope Grant's raiders will keep quiet until I can get something to eat!

August 11

Hot and dry. [263]

Dispatches from secret agents at Washington state that Grant and his staff have arrived, that half his army preceded him, and the remainder will soon follow. The campaign is considered a disastrous failure, and it is anticipated that henceforth the scene of operations is to be transferred from Richmond to Washington. They say President Lincoln's face expresses “great terror,” and affairs there are in a critical condition.

A dispatch from Gen. Lee states that Gen. Bradley Johnson's brigade of cavalry was surprised and routed on the 7th inst. by Averill. He has directed that Gen. J. be relieved.

A dispatch from Gen. Hood (Atlanta, Ga.) says no important change in affair has occurred since yesterday, except that Major- Gen..Bates is wounded. There are 5000 militia in the trenches.

August 12

Hot and dry. At 3 P. M. rained about three minutes. We are burning up.

There is no war news. A rumor in the street says Atlanta has fallen. I don't believe it. Yesterday Gen. Hood said no important change had occurred, etc.

I saw a soldier to-day from Gen. Early's army near Martinsburg, and the indications were that it was on the eve of crossing the Potomac. He left it day before yesterday, 10th inst. He says Kershaw's division was at Culpepper C. H., 50 miles from Early.

Detachments of troops are daily passing through the city, northward. All is quiet below on the James River. Grant's campaign against Richmond is confessedly a failure.

August 13

Hot and dry. Large green worms have attacked my tomatoes, and from the leaves are proceeding to the fruit. But not many of them will escape! I am warring on them.

No war news, except the continuation of the movement of troops northward. Hampton's division of cavalry, at least three brigades, passed this morning.

From Mobile and Atlanta we have nothing of interest.

Flour is falling: it is now $200 per barrel-$500 a few weeks ago; and bacon is falling in price also, from $11 to $6 per pound. A commission merchant said to me, yesterday, that there was at least eighteen months supply (for the people) of breadstuffs and meats in the city; and pointing to the upper windows at the corner of Thirteenth and Cary Streets, he revealed the ends of many barrels piled above the windows. He said that flour had been [264] there two years, held for “still higher prices.” Such is the avarice of man. Such is war. And such the greed of extortioners, even in the midst of famine-and famine in the midst of plenty!

August 14

Hot and dry.

Rumors of a fight down the river yesterday, driving the enemy from Deep Bottom, and grounding of the Richmond. Guns were heard, and I suppose we made a demonstration both by land and water.

Cavalry (Hampton's) still pass northward. They ride as if they grew to the horses. As they trot past, they can be seen cutting and dividing large round watermelons, and none are permitted to fall. Occasionally a staring negro in the street is astonished by the crushing of a rind on his head.

I never saw melons and other fruit so abundant; but they are held so high I cannot indulge.

Mr. Seddon draws 75 pounds rice per month, his family being fifty; and gets 12 pads cotton yarn from the State distribution. I shall get 10 pounds rice, at 50 cents-retail price, $2; and perhaps 1 pad-5 pounds-yarn for $45; my family being seven.

August 15

Cloudy, damp, and pleasant. A rain fell last night, wetting the earth to a considerable depth; and the wind being southeast, we look for copious showers — a fine season for turnips, etc.

Cannon was distinctly heard from my garden yesterday evening, and considerable fighting has been going on down the river for several days; the result (if the end is yet) has not been officially stated. It is rumored that Pemberton lost more batteries; but it is only rumor, so far. Nor have we anything definite from Early or Hood.

Bacon has fallen to $5 and $6 per pound, flour to $175 per barrel. I hope we shall get some provisions from the South this week.

Sowed turnip-seed in every available spot of my garden to-day. My tomatoes are beginning to mature-better late than never.

The following official dispatch was received on Saturday:

Mobile, August 11th.
Nothing later from Fort Morgan. The wires are broken. Gen. Forrest drove the enemy's advance out of Oxford last night. [265]

All the particulars of the Fort Gaines surrender known, are that the commanding officer communicated with the enemy, and made terms, without authority. His fort was in good condition, the garrison having suffered little.

He made no reply to repeated orders and signals from Gen. Page to hold his fort, and surrendered upon conditions not known here.

D. H. Maury, Major-General.

Gen. Taylor will cross the Mississippi with 4000 on the 18th of this month. Sherman must get Atlanta quickly, or not at all.

August 16

Warm and cloudy.

There are movements of interest of the armies below, from the fact that we have as yet no authentic account of the fighting during the last few days. I fear we have not been so successful as usual.

The enemy is reported to be in force on this side (north) of the river, and marching toward this city. The local (clerks) troops have been called out to man the fortifications. But the blow (if one really be meditated) may fall on the other (south) side of the river.

Col. Moseby has taken 200 of the enemy near Berryville, burning 75 wagons, and capturing 600 horses and mules. His loss trifling.

August 17

Cloudy, and slight showers. In the afternoon dark clouds going round.

We have nothing from below but vague rumors, except that we repulsed the enemy yesterday, slaughtering the negro troops thrust in front.

From Atlanta, it is said the enemy have measurably ceased artillery firing, and it is inferred that their ammunition is low, and perhaps their communications cut.

The President and Secretary of War were in council all the morning, it is said, on appointments and promotions in the army.

The President rode out toward the battle-field at ~12 1/2 P. M. There have been no guns heard to-day.

August 18

Cloudy and pleasant.

Still we have no authentic account of the details of the fights on the north side of the James River. We know we lost two brigadier-generals, and that we captured some 600 prisoners. Of the [266] number killed and wounded on either side is all conjecture, although a semi-official statement makes our loss but “light.”

Nevertheless, I happen to know that the President rode out yesterday, and remained until late in the night: for Mr. Craddock, his special detective (and formerly his messenger), whom he sent for to accompany him, assures me while on the field there was a flag of truce to bury the dead, and that the slaughter had been large. Our cavalry had suffered; but he thinks the enemy's infantry lost many more men than all our slain together. He says, moreover, that only one negro prisoner reached the city. The rest, thrust forward, being killed on the field in action, I suppose.

At 2 P. M. a rumor began to be expanded that a terrific and probably a decisive battle was going on at Petersburg. One report says the enemy assaulted our lines, the operations on this side of the river having been more a feint to draw our forces away; another that Gen. Beauregard attacked the enemy, finding their troops in large force had crossed over to this side, and this in the absence of Gen. Lee, he taking the responsibility. Be this as it may, some stir was in the cabinet: and the Secretary of War was with the President from 11 A. M. till 3 P. M. This might be on “appointments and promotions,” and it might be on Beauregard.

About 5 P. M. brisk artillery firing was heard in a southeast direction, which increased in rapidity, and apparently became nearer the city, until musketry could be distinctly heard from all parts of the city. My daughter Anne and her younger brother, Thomas, had walked out to Hollywood Cemetery, where they could not only hear the firing, but could see the lines of smoke below the city, on the left or north bank. Between 6 and 7 P. M. the sound seemed to recede, indicating that the assault had been repulsed; and finally all was silent again. It is probable the bat. tlo raged likewise on the south side of the river, and it may be hoped the assault on Petersburg was similarly repulsed. We shall know to-morrow.

August 19

Damp and cloudy.

There was no serious battle. The wind was in a quarter which brought the sounds to us, even from the skirmishers, ten miles distant. But our gun-boats shelled the enemy out of their position on Signal Hill, and there was heavy cannonading along the line on [267] the south side of the river. And, as appears by the papers, there was severe fighting at different points of the line.

We have now some further details of the battle of Tuesday. Our loss was 1000; the enemy's, it is said, 5000 to 8000.

It is now, 5 P. M., raining gently, thank Heaven!

To-day we had a distribution of meats, etc. brought from North Carolina by our agent. Custis and I invested $200: we have received 26 pounds bacon and 24 smoked herrings — worth here about $200. Half the money remains in the agent's hands, for which we expect to get 300 pounds of flour — if the enemy will let the railroads alone.

It is believed another raid has crossed the Weldon Road, and is sweeping in the direction of the Lynchburg and Danville Road. The speculators are on the qui vive already, and no flour can be had. I fear our flour will be intercepted, delayed, and perhaps lost The meat we got to-day will supply but two ounces for each member of my family daily for two months. This is war, terrible war! But if Grant is not rapidly reinforced, at the present rate of his losses his army will be consumed in two months. There is some consolation in that prospect!

August 20

Rained hard all night, and a good deal to-day. Between 10 and 11 P. M. last evening, as we were retiring, a musket was fired somewhere in the rear of the building, and fragments of lime and brick were heard rattling against the window-shutters. This morning I perceived where the ball struck, a few inches below the window-sill of the chamber on the second floor, where Custis and Tom were lying. Some one, I suppose, had heedlessly fired his gun, after returning from the fortifications.

Well, the papers to-day fall below the official announcement of the work of yesterday afternoon. Gen. Lee's dispatch says we captured 2700 prisoners near Petersburg on the Weldon Road. No other particulars are given, and the affair is still in mystery, for some purpose, perhaps.

It is rumored that Gen. Hampton captured 4000 men last night or this morning; but I doubt. Without that, the week's work is good-Grant losing from 10,000 to 15,000 men. A few more weeks, at that rate, will consume his army, and then---peace?

Gen. Bragg complains, in a letter to the Secretary of War, that the orders of the department, and of the Adjutant-General, are [268] not furnished him, which must diminish, if persisted in, his usefulness in the important position to which the President has called him. They, are all inimical to Bragg-all but the President, who is bound in honor to sustain him.

The price of flour has fallen again; Lee's victory frightening the dealers.

Robert Hill, commission merchant, Bank Street, gave me two pounds of coffee to-day when I told him of Lee's dispatch. It was accepted, of course, and is worth some $20 per pound.

Guns are heard down the river again this evening, and all are wondering what Lee is doing now.

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