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Viii. November, 1861

November 1

There is an outcry against the appointment of two major-generals, recommended, perhaps, by Mr. Benjamin, Gustavus W. Smith and Gen. Lovell, both recently from New York. They came over since the battle of Manassas. Mr. Benjamin is [90] perfectly indifferent to the criticisms and censures of the people and the press. He knows his own ground; and since he is sustained by the President, we must suppose he knows his own footing in the government. If defeated in the legislature, he may have a six years tenure in the cabinet.

November 2

It has culminated. Mr. Benjamin's quarrel with Beauregard is openly avowed. Mr. Benjamin spoke to me about it to-day, and convinced me at the time that Gen. B. was really in the wrong. He said the general had sent in his report of the battle of Manassas, in which he stated that he had submitted a plan to the department for the invasion of Maryland; and no such plan having been received, as Mr. B. says, and the matter being foreign to the business in hand, the department had seen proper to withhold the report from publication. But this did not concern him, Mr. B., because he was not the Secretary of War when the alleged plan had been sent to Richmond. But his difference with the general grew out of an attempt of the latter to organize troops and confer commands without the sanction of the department. He had rebuked the general, he said; and then the general had appealed to the President, who sustained the Secretary. Mr. B. said that Gen. B. had ascertained who was strongest with the President.

November 3

From this day forth, I hope Mr. Benjamin and I will be of better accord. I have an official order, directed by him and written by Col. Bledsoe, to the effect that no more alien enemies are to have passports. On the contrary, when any one avows himself an alien enemy, and applies for permission to leave the country, Gen. Winder is to take him in charge.

November 4

Several were arrested yesterday. Still I doubt whether we are dealing fairly, even with enemies. They have been encouraged to come into and go out of the country by the facilities afforded them; and now, without any sort of notification whatever, they are to be arrested when they present themselves. I hate all traps and stratagems for the purpose of stimulating one to commit a wrong; and hence this business, although it seems to afford employment, if not delight, to Gen. Winder and his Baltimore detectives, is rather distasteful to me. And when I reflect upon it, I cannot imagine how Mr. Benjamin may adjust the matter with his conscience. It will soon cure itself, however; a few arrests will alarm them all.


November 5

To my amazement, a man came to me to-day for a passport to Norfolk, saying he had one from the Secretary to pass by flag of truce to Fortress Monroe, etc. He wished me to give him one to show at the cars, not desiring to exhibit the other, as it might subject him to annoying looks and remarks.

November 6

All accounts from the North indicate that great preparations are being made to crush us on the coast this winter. I see no corresponding preparations on our side.

November 7

We hear of the resignation of Gen. Scott, as Commander-in-Chief of the U. S. forces.

November 8

There are many applications for passports to leave the country. I have declared my purpose to sign no more for the Secretary without his official order. But he is signing them himself, as I find out by the parties desiring the usual passports from me to leave the city. They, like guilty men, dislike to exhibit their permits to leave the country at the depots. And the Northern press bears testimony of the fact that the spies in our midst are still at work, and from this I apprehend the worst consequences. Why did Mr. Benjamin send the order for every man to be arrested who applied for permission to leave the country? Was it merely to deceive me, knowing that I had some influence with certain leading journals? I am told he says, “no one leaves the country now.”

November 9

Gen. Winder and all his police and Plug Ugly gang have their friends or agents, whom they continually desire to send to Maryland. And often there comes a request from Gen. Huger, at Norfolk, for passports to be granted certain parties to go out under flag of truce. I suppose he can send whom he pleases.

We have news of a bloody battle in the West, at Belmont. Gen. Pillow and Bishop Polk defeated the enemy, it is said, killing and wounding 1000. Our loss, some 500.

Port Royal, on the coast of South Carolina, has been taken by the enemy's fleet. We had no casemated batteries. Here the Yankees will intrench themselves, and cannot be dislodged. They will take negroes and cotton, and menace both Savannah and Charleston.

November 10

A gentleman from Urbana, on the Rappahannock, informs me that he witnessed the shelling of that village [92] a few days ago. There are so few houses that the enemy did not strike any of them. The only blood shed was that of an old hare, that had taken refuge in a hollow stump.

November 11

Bad news. The Unionists in East Tennessee have burnt several of the railroad bridges between this and Chattanooga. This is one of the effects of the discharge of spies captured in Western Virginia and East Tennessee. A military police, if properly directed, composed of honest men, true Southern men, might do much good, or prevent much evil; but I must not criticise Gen. Winder's inefficiency, for he acts under the instructions of Mr. Benjamin.

The burning of these bridges not only prevents the arrival of an immense amount of clothing and provisions for the army, contributed by the patriotic people, but it will embarrass the government in the transmission of men and muniments of war, which an emergency may demand at any moment. Until the avenues by which the enemy derives information from our country are closed, I shall look for a series of disasters.

November 12

We have news of the enemy's gun-boats penetrating the rivers of South Carolina. It is said they got some cotton. Why was it not burnt?

November 13

Dry goods have risen more than a hundred per cent. since spring, and rents and boarding are advancing in the same ratio.

November 14

The enemy, knowing our destitution of gunboats, and well apprised of the paucity of our garrisons, are sending expeditions southward to devastate the coast. They say New Orleans will be taken before spring, and communication be opened with Cairo, at the mouth of the Ohio. They will not succeed so soon; but success is certain ultimately, if Mr. Benjamin, Gen. Winder, and Gen. Huger do not cease to pass Federal spies out of the country.

November 15

We have intelligence that Missouri has joined the Confederacy. She will be scourged by the vengeful enemy; but will rise some day and put her foot on the neck of the oppressor. Missouri is a giant.

November 16

It is sickening to behold the corruption of the commercial men, which so much wounds our afflicted country. There are large merchants here who come over from Baltimore [93] breathing vengeance against the Northern “despots,” and to make a show of patriotism they subscribed liberally to equip some volunteer companies in the city; but now they are sending their agents North and importing large amounts of merchandise, which they sell to the government and the people at most fabulous prices. I am informed that some of them realize $50,000 per month profit! And this after paying officials on both sides bonuses to wink at their operations.

After the order of Mr. Benjamin for applicants for passports to leave the country to be arrested, some of these men applied to me, and I reported the facts to Gen. Winder; but they were not molested. Indeed, they came to me subsequently and exhibited passports they had obtained from the Secretary himself.

November 17

There are also quite a number of lettercar-riers obtaining special passports to leave the Confederacy. They charge $1.50 postage to Washington and Maryland, and as much coming hither. They take on the average three hundred letters, and bring as many, besides diverse articles they sell at enormously high prices. Thus they realize $1000 per trip, and make two each month. They furnish the press with Northern journals; but they give no valuable information: at least I have not conversed with any who could furnish it. They seem particularly ignorant of the plans and forces of the enemy. It is my belief that they render as much service to the enemy as to us; and they certainly do obtain passports on the other side.

Gen. Winder and his alien detectives seem to be on peculiar terms of intimacy with some of these men; for they tell me they convey letters for them to Maryland, and deliver them to their families. This is an equivocal business. Why did they not bring their families away before the storm burst upon them?

November 18

To-day the Secretary told me, in reply to my question, that he had authentic information of the seizure of Messrs. Slidell and Mason, our commissioners to Europe, by Capt. Wilkes, of the U. S. Navy, and while on board the steamer Trent, a British vessel, at sea. I said I was glad of it. He asked why, in surprise. I remarked that it would bring the Eagle cowering to the feet of the Lion. He smiled, and said it was, perhaps, the best thing that could have happened. And he cautions me against giving passports to French subjects even to visit Norfolk [94] or any of our fortified cities, for it was understood that foreigners at Norfolk were contriving somehow to get on board the ships of their respective nations.

November 19

To-day Monsieur Paul, French Consul, applied in person for passports on behalf, I believe, of some French players (Zouaves) to Norfolk. Of course I declined granting them. He grew enthusiastic, and alleged that British subjects had enjoyed the privilege. He said he cared nothing for the parties applying in this instance; but he argued vehemently against British subjects being favored over French subjects. I sent a note concerning our interview to the Secretary; and while Monsieur Paul still sat in the office, the following reply came in from the Secretary: “All you need do is to say to the French Consul, when he calls, that you obey your instructions, and have no authority to discuss with him the rights of French subjects. J. P. B.” Monsieur Paul departed with “a flea in his ear.” But he received an invitation to dine with the Secretary to-day.

November 20

I had a protracted and interesting interview to-day with a gaudily dressed and rather diminutive lieutenant, who applied for a passport to the Mississippi River, via Chattanooga, and insisted upon my giving him transportation also. This demand led to interrogatories, and it appeared that he was not going under special orders of the adjutant-general. It was unusual for officers, on leave, to apply for transportation, and my curiosity was excited. I asked to see his furlough. This was refused; but he told me to what company he belonged, and I knew there was such a company in Bishop or Gen. Polk's command. Finally he escaped further interrogatories by snatching up the passport I had signed and departing hastily. But instead of the usual military salute at parting, he courtesied. This, when I reflected on the fineness of his speech, the fullness of his breast, his attitudes and his short steps, led me to believe the person was a woman instead of a lieutenant. Gen. Winder coming in shortly after, upon hearing my description of the stranger, said he would ascertain all about the sex.

November 21

My mysterious lieutenant was arrested this morning, on the western route, and proved, as I suspected, to be a woman. But Gen. Winder was ordered by the Secretary to have her released.


November 22

We have information that the enemy have invaded and taken possession of the Eastern Shore of Virginia, Accomac and Northampton Counties. They invaded the two counties with a force of 8000 men, and we had only 800 to oppose them. Of course there could be no contest against such odds. They carried my tenant to Drummondtown, the county seat, and made him (I suppose) assist in raising the United States flag over the court-house.

November 23

J. C. Breckinridge and Humphrey Marshall, of Kentucky, have been here; and both have been made brigadiergenerals, and assigned to duty in the West. Although the former retained his seat in the Senate of the United States for many months after the war began, no one doubts that he is now with us, and will do good service.

November 24

Gen. Floyd has retreated from Cotton Hill, and the enemy threatens our western communications. Gen. Lee has been sent to Western Virginia, but it is not an adequate field for him. He should have command of the largest army in the service, for his is one of the most capacious minds we have.

November 25

Yesterday Fort Pickens opened fire on our batteries at Pensacola, but without effect. One of their ships was badly crippled.

November 26

The enemy occupy Tybee Island, and threaten Savannah. Vice-President Stephens was in my office to-day, and he too deprecates the passage of so many people to the North, who, from the admission of the journals there, give them information of the condition of our defenses. He thinks our affairs are not now in a prosperous condition, and has serious apprehensions for the fate of Savannah.

November 27

Saw President Tyler to-day. He augurs the worst effects from the policy of permitting almost unrestricted intercourse with the enemy's country in time of war.

November 28

Nothing of importance to-day. There will be no such quiet time after this year.

November 29

Gen. Sydney Johnston has command of the army in Tennessee and Kentucky. I wish it were only as strong as the wily enemy is in the habit of representing it!

November 30

Mr. Benjamin has been defeated for the C. S. Senate. Mr. Hunter has been named as a candidate for the [96] C. S. Senate from Virginia. I thought he would not remain in the cabinet, after his relative was arrested (with no reason assigned) by order of Mr. Benjamin. Besides, the office is a sinecure, and may remain so for a long time, if the powers at Washington should “stint, and say aye” to the demands of England.

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