previous next

VI. September, 1861

  • Four hundred thousand troops to be raised.
  • -- want of arms. -- Yankees offer to sell them to us. -- Walker resigns. -- Benjamin succeeds. -- Col. J. A. Washington killed. -- assigned, temporarily, to the head of the passport office.

September 1

The press and congressional critics are opening their batteries on the Secretary of War, for incompetency. He is not to blame. A month ago, Capt. Lee, son of the general, and a good engineer, was sent to the coast of North Carolina to inspect the defenses. His report was well executed; and the recommendations therein attended to with all possible expedition. It is now asserted that the garrison was deficient in ammunition. This was not the case. The position was simply not tenable under the fire of the U. S. ships of war.

September 2

I voluntarily hunted up Capt. Lee's report, and prepared an article for the press based on its statements.

September 3

My article on the defenses of North Carolina seems to have silenced the censures of the cavilers.

September 4

J. R. Anderson, proprietor of the iron-works here, has been appointed brigadier-general by the President. He, too, was a West Pointer; but does not look like a military genius. He is assigned to duty on the coast of North Carolina.

September 5

Our Congress has authorized the raising and organizing of four hundred regiments. The Yankee Congress, 500,000 men. The enemy will get their's first; and it is said that between 600,000 and 700,000, for three years or the war, have already been accepted by the U. S. Government. Their papers boast that nearly a million volunteers were tendered. This means mischief. How many will rush forward a year hence to volunteer their services on the plains of the South? Full many ensanguined plains will greet the horrific vision before this time next year; and many a venal wretch coming to possess our land, will occupy till the day of final doom a tract of six feet by two in some desolate [78] and unfrequented swamp. The toad will croak his requiem, and the viper will coil beneath the thistle growing over his head.

September 6

We are not increasing our forces as rapidly as might be desired, for the want of arms. We had some 150,000 stand of small arms, at the beginning of the war, taken from the arsenals; and the States owned probably 100,000 more. Half of these were flint-locks, which are being altered. None have been imported yet. Occasionally a letter reaches the department from Nashville, offering improved arms at a high price, for gold. These are Yankees. I am instructed by the Secretary to say they will be paid for in gold on delivery to an agent in Nashville. The number likely to be obtained in this manner, however, must be small; for the Yankee Government is exercising much vigilance. Is not this a fair specimen of Yankee cupidity and character? The New England manufacturers are furnishing us, with whom they are at war, with arms to fight with, provided we agree to pay them a higher price than is offered by their own Government! The philosophical conclusion is, that this war will end when it ceases to be a pecuniary speculation.

September 7

The Jews are at work. Having no nationality, all wars are harvests for them. It has been so from the day of their dispersion. Now they are scouring the country in all directions, buying all the goods they can find in the distant cities, and even from the country stores. These they will keep, until the process of consumption shall raise a greedy demand for all descriptions of merchandise.

Col. Bledsoe has resigned, but says nothing now about getting me appointed in his place. That matter rests with the President, and I shall not be an applicant.

September 8

Major Tyler has been appointed acting Chief of the Bureau of War.

September 9

Matters in statu quo, and Major Tyler still acting chief of the bureau.

September 10

Col. Bledsoe is back again! He says the President refuses to accept his resignation; and tells me in confidence, not to be revealed for a few days, that Mr. Walker has tendered his resignation, and that it will be accepted.

September 11

The colonel enjoys a joke. He whispered me to-day, as he beheld Major Tyler doing the honors of his office, [79] that I might just hint at the possibility of his resumption soon of the functions of chief of the bureau. But he said he wanted a few days holiday.

September 12

Gen. Pillow has advanced, and occupied Columbus, Ky. He was ordered, by telegraph, to abandon the town and return to his former position. Then the order was countermanded, and he remains. The authorities have learned that the enemy occupies Paducah.

September 13

The Secretary, after writing and tendering his resignation, appointed my young friend Jaques a special clerk with $2000 salary. This was allowed by a recent act.

September 14

Some of Mr. Walker's clerks must know that he intends giving up the seals of office soon, for they are engaged day and night, and all night, copying the entire letter-book, which is itself but a copy of the letters I and others have written, with Mr. Walker's name appended to them. Long may they be a monument of his epistolary administrative ability, and profound statesmanship!

September 15

And, just as I expected, Mr. Benjamin is to be Mr. Walker's successor. Col. Bledsoe is back again; and it devolved on me to inform Major Tyler that the old chief of the bureau was now the new chief. Of course he resigned the seals of office with the grace and courtesy of which he is so capable. And then he informed me (in confidence) that the Secretary had resigned, and would be appointed a brigadier-general in the army of the Southwest; and that he would accompany him as his adjutantgeneral.

September 16

Mr. Benjamin's hitherto perennial smile faded almost away as he realized the fact that he was now the most important member of the cabinet. He well knew how arduous the duties were; but then he was robust in health, and capable of any amount of labor.

It seems, after all, that Mr. Benjamin is only acting Secretary of War, until the President can fix upon another. Can that be the reason his smile has faded almost away? But the President will appoint him. Mr. Benjamin will please him; he knows how to do it.

September 17

A man from Washington came into my office to-day, saying he had important information from Washington. [80] I went into the Secretary's room, and found Mr. Benjamin surrounded by a large circle of visitors, all standing hat in hand, and quite silent. I asked him if he would see the gentleman from Washington. He said he “didn't know who to see.” This produced a smile. He seemed to be standing there waiting for some one to speak, and they seemed to be waiting an invitation from him to speak. I withdrew from the embarrassing scene, remarking that my gentleman would call some other time. Meanwhile I wrote down the information, and sent it to the President.

September 18

Gen. Floyd has been attacked at Gauley, by greatly superior numbers. But he was intrenched, and slew hundreds of the enemy before he retreated, which was effected without loss.

September 19

We hear of several splendid dashes of cavalry near Manassas, under Col. Stuart; and Wise's cavalry in the West are doing good service.

September 20

Col. J. A. Washington has been killed in a skirmish. He inherited Mount Vernon. This reminds me that Edward Everett is urging on the war against us. The universal education, so much boasted of in New England, like their religion, is merely a humbug, or worse than a humbug, the fruitful source of crime. I shall doubt hereafter whether superior intelligence is promotive of superior virtue. The serpent is wiser than the dove, but never so harmless. Ignorance is bliss in comparison with Yankee wisdom.

September 21

The Secretary has authorized me to sign passports “for the Secretary of War.” My son attends to his letters. I have now an opportunity of seeing more. I have authority to order transportation for the parents of soldiers, and for goods and provisions taken to the camps.

September 22

Harris and Magraw, who were taken on the field of Manassas, looking for the remains of Col. Cameron, have been liberated by Gen. Winder, on the order of the acting Secretary of War. This is startling; for Mr. Benjamin was the most decided man, at the time of their capture, against their liberation. Per contra, a Mr. G., a rich New York merchant, and Mr. R., a wealthy railroad contractor, whom I feared would break through the meshes of the law, with the large sums realized by them here, have been arrested by the Secretary's order, on the ground that [81] they have no right to transfer the sinews of war to the North, to be used against us.

September 23

Thousands of dollars worth of clothing and provisions, voluntary and patriotic contributions to the army, are arriving daily.

September 24

The time is up for the departure of alien enemies. This is the last day, according to the President's proclamation. We have had no success lately, and never can have success, while the enemy know all our plans and dispositions. Keep them in total ignorance of our condition and movements, and they will no more invade us than they would explore a vast cave, in which thousands of rattlesnakes can be heard, without lights. Their spies and emissaries here are so many torch-bearers for them.

September 25

Mr. Benjamin and Gen. Winder, after granting a special interview to Messrs. G. and R., have concluded to let them depart for Pennsylvania and New York! Nor is this all. I have an order from Mr. Benjamin to give passports, until further orders, to leave the country to all persons who avow themselves alien enemies, whether in person or by letter, provided they take no wealth with them. This may be a fatal policy, or it may be a trap.

September 26

Had a conversation with the Secretary today, on the policy of sending Union men out of the Confederacy. I told him we had 15,000 sick in the hospitals at Manassas, and this intelligence might embolden the enemy to advance, capture the hospitals, and make our sick men prisoners. He said such prisoners would be a burden to them, and a relief to us. I remarked that they would count as prisoners in making exchanges; and to abandon them in that manner, would have a discouraging effect on our troops. He said that sending unfriendly persons out of the country was in conformity with the spirit of the act of Congress, and recommended me to reperuse it and make explanations to the people, who were becoming clamorous for some restriction on the egress of spies.

September 27

To-day I prepared a leading editorial article for the Enquirer, taking ground directly opposite to that advocated by Mr. Benjamin. It was written with the law before me, which gave no warrant, as I could perceive, for the assumption of the Secretary.


September 28

I sent the paper containing my article to J. R. Davis, Esq., nephew of the President, avowing its authorship, and requesting him to ask the President's attention to the subject.

September 29

To-day Mr. Benjamin issued several passports himself, and sent several others to me with peremptory orders for granting them.

September 30

A pretty general jail delivery is now taking place. Gen. Winder, acting I suppose, of course, under the instructions of the Secretary of War--and Mr. Benjamin is now Secretary indeed — is discharging from the prisons the disloyal prisoners sent hither during the last month by Gens. Johnston, Floyd, and Wise. Not only liberating them, but giving them transportation to their homes, mostly within the enemy's lines. Surely if the enemy reciprocates such magnanimous courtesy, the war will be merely child's play, and we shall be spared the usual horrors of civil war. We shall see how the Yankees will appreciate this kindness.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: