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V. August, 1861

  • My son Custis appointed clerk in the War Department.
  • -- N. Y. Herald contains a pretty correct army list of the C. S. -- appearance of “Plug Uglies.” -- President's rupture with Beauregard. -- President sick. -- alien enemies ordered away. -- brief interview with the President. -- “immediate.” -- large numbers of cavalry offering. -- great preparations in the North.

August 1

Col. Bledsoe again threatens to resign, and again declares he will get the President to appoint me to his place. It would not suit me.

August 2

After some brilliant and successful fights, we have a dispatch to-day stating that Gen. Wise has fallen back in Western Virginia, obeying peremptory orders.

August 3

Conversed with some Yankees to-day who are to be released to-morrow. It appears that when young Lamar lost his horse on the plains of Manassas, the 4th Alabama Regiment had to fall back a few hundred yards, and it was impossible to bear Col. Jones, wounded, from the field, as he was large and unwieldy. When the enemy came up, some half dozen of their men volunteered to convey him to a house in the vicinity. They were permitted to do this, and to remain with him as a guard. Soon after our line advanced, and with such impetuosity as to sweep everything before it. Col. Jones was rescued, and his guard made prisoners. But, for their attention to him, he asked their release, which was granted. They say their curiosity to see a battle-field has been gratified, and they shall be contented to remain at home in safety hereafter. They regarded us as rebels, and believed us divided among ourselves. If this should be true, the rebellion would yet be crushed; but if we were unanimous and continued to fight as we did at Manassas, it would be revolution, and our independence must some day be acknowledged by the United States. But, they say, a great many Northern men remain to be gratified as they had been; and the war will be a terrible [70] one before they can be convinced that a reduction of the rebellion is not a practicable thing.

August 4

To-day Mr. Walker inquired where my son Custis was. I told him he was with his mother at Newbern, N. C. He authorized me to telegraph him to return, and he should be appointed to a clerkship.

August 5

Col. Bledsoe has a job directly from the President: which is to adapt the volume of U. S. Army Regulations to the service of the Confederate States. It is only to strike out U. S. and insert C. S., and yet the colonel groans over it.

August 6

Custis arrived and entered upon the discharge of his duties.

August 7

Saw Col. Pendleton to-day, but it was not the first time. I have seen him in the pulpit, and heard him preach good sermons. He is an Episcopal minister. He it was that plowed such destruction through the ranks of the invaders at Manassas. At first the battery did no execution; perceiving this, he sighted the guns himself and fixed the range. Then exclaiming, “Fire, boys! and may God have mercy on their guilty souls!” he beheld the lanes made through the regiments of the enemy. Since then he has been made a colonel, and will some day be a general; for he was a fellow-cadet at West Point with the President and Bishop Polk.

A tremendous excitement! The New York Herald has been received, containing a pretty accurate list of our military forces in the different camps of the Confederate States, with names and grades of the general officers. The Secretary told me that if he had required such a list, a more correct one could not have been furnished him. Who is the traitor? Is he in the AdjutantGen-eral's office? Many suppose so; and some accuse Gen. Cooper, simply because he is a Northern man by birth. But the same information might be supplied by the Quartermaster's or Commissary-General's office; and perhaps by the Ordnance Bureau; for all these must necessarily be in communication with the different organizations in the field. Congress was about to order an investigation; but it is understood the department suggested that the matter could be best searched into by the Executive. For my part, I have no doubt there are many Federal spies in the departments. Too many clerks were imported from Washington. And [71] yet I doubt if any one in a subordinate position, without assistance from higher authority, could have prepared the list published in the Herald

August 8

For some time past (but since the battle at Manassas) quite a number of Northern and Baltimore policemen have made their appearance in Richmond. Some of these, if not indeed all of them, have been employed by Gen. Winder. These men, by their own confessions, have been heretofore in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York, merely petty larceny detectives, dwelling in bar-rooms, ten-pin alleys, and such places. How can they detect political offenders, when they are too ignorant to comprehend what constitutes a political offense? They are illiterate men, of low instincts and desperate characters. But their low cunning will serve them here among unsuspecting men. They will, if necessary, give information to the enemy themselves, for the purpose of convincing the authorities that a detective police is indispensable; and it is probable a number of them will be, all the time, on the pay-rolls of Lincoln.

August 9

Gen. Magruder commands on the Peninsula. President Tyler had a villa near Hampton, which the Yankees despoiled in a barbarous manner. They cut his carpets, defaced the pictures, broke the statues, and made kindling wood of the piano, sofas, etc.

August 10

Mr. Benjamin is a frequent visitor at the department, and is very sociable: some intimations have been thrown out that he aspires to become, some day, Secretary of War. Mr. Benjamin, unquestionably, will have great influence with the President, for he has studied his character most carefully. He will be familiar not only with his “likes,” but especially with his “dislikes.” It is said the means used by Mr. Blair to hold Gen. Jackson, consisted not so much in a facility of attaching strong men to him as his friends, but in aiming fatal blows at the great. leaders who had incurred the enmity of the President. Thus Calhoun was incessantly pursued.

August 11

There is a whisper that something like a rupture has occurred between the President and Gen. Beauregard; and I am amazed to learn that Mr. Benjamin is inimical to Gen. B. I know nothing of the foundation for the report; but it is said that Beauregard was eager to pass with his army into Maryland, [72] immediately after the battle, and was prevented. It is now quite apparent, from developments, that a small force would have sufficed to take Washington, a few days or weeks after the battle. But was Beauregard aware of the fact, before the opportunity ceased to exist? It is too late now!

August 12

There is trouble with Mr. Tochman, who was authorized to raise a regiment or so of foreigners in Louisiana. These troops were called (by whom?) the Polish Brigade, though, perhaps, not one hundred Polanders were on the muster-rolls; Major Tochman being styled General Tochman by “everybody,” he has intimated to the President his expectation of being commissioned a brigadier. The President, on his part, has promptly and emphatically, as is sometimes his wont, declared his purpose to give him no such commission. He never, for a moment, thought of making him more than a colonel. To this the major demurs, and furnishes a voluminous correspondence to prove that his claims for the position of brigadier-general had been recognized by the Secretary of War.

August 13

The President sent to the department an interesting letter from Mr. Zollicoffer, in Tennessee, relating to the exposed condition of the country, and its capacities for defense.

August 14

Zollicoffer has been appointed a brigadiergen-eral; and although not a military man by education, I think he will make a good officer.

August 15

No clew yet to the spies in office who furnish the Northern press with information. The matter will pass uninvestigated. Such is our indifference to everything but desperate fighting. The enemy will make good use of this species of information.

August 16

The President is sick, and goes to the country. I did not know until to-day that he is blind of an eye. I think an operation was performed once in Washington.

August 17

Some apprehension is felt concerning the President's health. If he were to die, what would be the consequences? I should stand by the Vice-President, of course, because “it is so nominated in the bond,” and because I think he would make as efficient an Executive as any other man in the Confederacy. But others think differently; and there might be trouble.

The President has issued a proclamation, in pursuance of the [73] act of Congress passed on the 8th instant, commanding all alien enemies to leave in forty days; and the Secretary of War has in dicated Nashville as the place of exit. This produces but little excitement, except among the Jews, some of whom are converting their effects into gold and departing.

Col. Bledsoe's ankles are much too weak for his weighty body, but he can shuffle along quite briskly when in pursuit of a refractory clerk; and when he catches him, if he resists, the colonel is sure to leave him.

August 18

Nothing worthy of note.

August 19

The Secretary has gone to Orange C. H., to see Col. Jones, of the 4th Alabama, wounded at Manassas, and now in a dying condition.

Meeting with Mr. Benjamin this morning, near the Secretary's door, I asked him if he did not think some one should act as Secretary during Mr. Walker's absence. He replied quickly, and with interest, in the affirmative. There was much pressing business every hour; and it was uncertain when the Secretary would return. I asked him if he would not speak to the President on the subject. He assented; but, hesitating a moment, said he thought it would be better for me to see him. I reminded him of my uniform reluctance to approach the Chief Executive, and he smiled. He then urged me to go to the presidential mansion, and in his, Mr. B.'s name, request the President to appoint a Secretary ad interim. I did so, for the President was in the city that day, and fast recovering from his recent attack of ague.

Arrived at the mansion in Clay Street, I asked the servant if I could see the President. He did not know me, and asked my name, saying the President had not yet left his chamber. I wrote my business on a card with a pencil, not omitting to use the name of Mr. Benjamin, and sent it up. A moment after the President came down, shook hands with me, and, in his quick and rather pettish manner, said “send me the order.” I retired immediately, and finding Mr. Benjamin still in the hall of the department, informed him of my success. Then, in conformity with his suggestion, I repaired to Adjutant-General Cooper, who wrote the order that A. T. Bledsoe discharge the duties of Secretary of War during the absence of Mr. Walker. This I sent by a messenger to the President, who signed it. [74]

Then I informed Col. Bledsoe of what had been done, and he proceeded without delay to the Secretary's office. It was not long before I perceived the part Mr. Benjamin and I had acted was likely to breed a storm; for several of the employees, supposed to be in the confidence of Mr. Walker, designated the proceeding as an “outrage;” and some went so far as to intimate that Mr. Benjamin's motive was to have some of his partisans appointed to lucrative places in the army during the absence of the Secretary. I know not how that was; but I am sure I had no thought but for the public service. The Secretary ad in. made but few appointments this time, and performed the functions quietly and with all the dignity of which he was capable.

August 20

Secretary Walker returned last night, having heard of the death of Col. Jones before reaching his destination. I doubt whether the Secretary would have thought a second time of what had been done in his absence, if some of his friends had not fixed his attention upon it. He shut himself up pretty closely, and none of us could see or hear whether he was angry. But calling me into his room in the afternoon to write a dispatch which he dictated, I saw, lying on his table, an envelope directed in his own hand to the President. Hints had been circulated by some that it was his purpose to resign. Could this communication be his resignation? It was placed so conspicuously before me where I sat that it was impossible not to see it. It was marked, too, “immediate.”

August 21

Called in again by the Secretary to-day, I find the ominous communication to the President still there, although marked “immediate.” And there are no indications of Mr. Walker's quitting office that I can see.

August 22

Immediate” is still there; but the Secretary has not yet been to the council board, though yesterday was cabinet day. Yet the President sends Capt. Josselyn regularly with the papers referred to the Secretary. These are always given to me, and after they are “briefed,” delivered to the Secretary. Among these I see some pretty sharp pencil marks. Among the rest, the whole batch of Tochman papers being returned unread, with the injunction that “when papers of such volume are sent to him for perusal, it is the business of the Secretary to see that a brief abstract of their contents accompany them.”


August 23

No arms yet of any amount from Europe; though our agent writes that he has a number of manufactories at work. The U. S. agent has engaged the rest. All the world seems to be in the market buying arms. Mr. Dayton, U. S. Minister in Paris, has bought 30,000 flint-locks in France; and our agent wants authority to buy some too. He says the French statisticians allege that no greater mortality in battle occurs from the use of the percussion and the rifled musket than from the old smooth-bore flint-lock musket. This may be owing to the fact that a shorter range is sought with the latter.

August 24

We are resting on our oars after the victory at Manassas, while the enemy is drilling and equipping 500,000 or 600,000 men. I hope we may not soon be floating down stream! We know the enemy is, besides, building iron-clad steamers-and yet we are not even erecting casemate batteries! We are losing precious time, and, perhaps, the government is saving money!

August 25

I believe the Secretary will resign; but “immediate” still lies on his table.

News of a battle near Springfield, Mo. McCulloch and Price defeat the Federals, killing and wounding thousands. Gen. Lyon killed.

August 26

What a number of cavalry companies are daily tendered in the letters received at this department. Almost invariably they are refused; and really it is painful to me to write these letters. This government must be aware, from the statistics of the census, that the South has quite as many horses as the North, and twice as many good riders. But for infantry, the North can put three men in the field to our one. Ten thousand mounted men, on the border of the enemy's country, would be equal to 30,000 of the enemy's infantry; not in combat: but that number would be required to watch and guard against the inroads of 10,000 cavalry. It seems to me that we are declining the only proper means of equalizing the war. But it is my duty to obey, and not to deliberate.

August 27

We have news of a fight at Hawk's Nest, Western Virginia. Wise whipped the Yankees there quite handsomely.

August 28

Beauregard offers battle again on the plains of Manassas; but it is declined by the enemy, who retire behind their [76] fortifications. Our banners are advanced to Munson's Hill, in sight of Washington. The Northern President and his cabinet may see our army, with good glasses, from the roof of the White House. It is said they sleep in their boots; and that some of them leave the city every night, for fear of being captured before morning.

Generals Johnston, Wise, and Floyd are sending here, daily, the Union traitors they discover to be in communication with the enemy. We have a Yankee member of Congress, Ely, taken at Manassas; he rode out to witness the sport of killing rebels as terriers kill rats, but was caught in the trap himself. He says his people were badly whipped; and he hopes they will give up the job of subjugation as a speculation that won't pay. Most of the prisoners speak thus while in confinement.

August 29

We have intelligence from the North that immense preparations are being made for our destruction; and some of our people begin to say, that inasmuch as we did not follow up the victory at Manassas, it was worse than a barren one, having only exasperated the enemy, and stimulated the Abolitionists to renewed efforts. I suppose these critics would have us forbear to injure the invader, for fear of maddening him. They are making this war; we must make it terrible. With them war is a new thing, and they will not cease from it till the novelty wears off, and all their fighting men are sated with blood and bullets. It must run its course, like the measles. We must both bleed them and deplete their pockets.

August 30

Gen. Floyd has had a fight in the West, and defeated an Ohio regiment. I trust they were of the Puritan stock, and not the descendants of Virginians.

August 31

We have bad news to-day. My wife and children are the bearers of it. They returned to the city with the tidings that all the women and children were ordered to leave Newbern. The enemy have attacked and taken Fort Hatteras, making many prisoners, and threaten Newbern next. This is the second time my family have been compelled to fly. But they are well.

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