150 Years Ago: Thursday, November 20, 1862

C.S.A. Lieutenant General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson provides written instructions to division commander Major General D.H. Hill for him to proceed immediately to Fredericksburg, Virginia. Hill is to take his 9,000 troops and march 200 miles south; the 120 men that are still sick/wounded (most from the battle of Antietam in September) will be allowed to go with them via ambulance. There are several routes Hill can take, but Jackson informs him to take the one that is the quickest, not the one that will better mask their movements. Obviously Jackson feels it’s more important that the men get to the meeting point quickly, even if it’s not the most discreet route.

U.S. Brigadier General John F. Reynolds has gained an additional 6,000 men over the last month, bringing the total troops under his command to 20,000. He is advancing with Franklin’s Grand Left Division of General Ambrose Burnside’s army. Always the firm disciplinarian, today he holds a court martial for six men who had stolen a cow, killed it and divided the meat between them. He makes each man stand on a barrel with the word “thief” and the stolen meat on their back. A soldier correspondent writes of Reynolds “He uses few words but with a look he could crush an offender. He never neglects his duty and never overlooks neglect in others.” Reynolds has the reputation of a man with a generous heart, strong affections and constant zeal for the welfare of his men. He runs a tight command, old army style. He also had the reputation of being a good provider throughout the army; he knew none of the men who stole the cows lacked rations. The punishment was fitting and no doubt sent a message to the rest of his men.

Carl Schurz, 1860'sSource: Library of Congress

Carl Schurz, 1860’s
Source: Library of Congress

U.S. Brigadier General Carl Schurz, a German who immigrated to the U.S. in 1852, has known Lincoln for several years. When Lincoln ran for the Senate in 1858, it was Schurz who campaigned for Lincoln, often giving speeches in German and enhancing Lincoln’s reputation among German immigrants. Even though Schurz was part of the Wisconsin delegation that voted for William Seward to be the 1860 Republican Presidential candidate, he was the one who had the honor of going to Springfield and personally telling Lincoln that he had won the nomination. Lincoln values Schurz and has been corresponding with him about the recent election where the Republicans lost many seats in the House and Senate. Schurz is keen to outline what he feels is going wrong in the war and how Lincoln’s public perception is being unfairly tainted. One key point is that he feels Lincoln’s support of Democrat Generals such as George B. McClellan and Henry Halleck, not to mention Lincoln’s support of other Democrats that he has put in powerful positions (including his Cabinet), have weakened Lincoln and the Republican party. To have dissenters so close to him makes Lincoln an easy target not only in the media but also in the public eye. And to continue the war effort to a successful conclusion, public perception and opinion is very important. As Schurz brings the letter to a close, he writes:

No, sir, let us indulge in no delusions as to the true causes of our defeat in the elections. The people, so enthusiastic at the beginning of the war, had made enormous sacrifices. Hundreds of millions were spent, thousands of lives were lost apparently for nothing. The people had sown confidence and reaped disaster and disappointment. They wanted a change, and as an unfortunate situation like ours is apt to confuse the minds of men, they sought it in the wrong direction. I entreat you, do not attribute to small incidents, the enlisting of Republican voters in the Army, the attacks of the press etc., what is a great historical event. It is best that you, you more than anybody else in this Republic, should see the fact in its true light and acknowledge its significance: the result of the elections was a most serious and severe reproof administered to the Administration. Do not refuse to listen to the voice of the people. Let it not become true, what I have heard said: that of all places in this country it is Washington where public opinion is least heard, and of all places in Washington, the White House.

The result of the elections has complicated the crisis. Energy and success, by which you would and ought to have commanded public opinion, now form the prestige of your enemies. It is a great and powerful weapon, and, unless things take a favorable turn, troubles may soon involve not only the moral power but the physical existence of the Government. Only relentless determination, heroic efforts on your part can turn the tide. You must reconquer the confidence of the people at any price.

As armies are on the move in the east and south, thousands of men find themselves in camps around the country waiting to be called into active service. From Camp Kellogg in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Edwin R. Havens (7th Michigan Cavalry) writes to his brother Nell back home:

Brother Nell,

I received your most welcome letter this morning and now lay down to answer it. I have been anxiously waiting for it all this week and began to fear that there was something wrong about it. I am usually well, as are all of the boys from our way. We are doing very well but I must say that we are living pretty hard at present. But we hope that there will be a change for the better soon, as we are going to cook for ourselves, I think next week. The talk about our going to Detroit is “played out” and we are now calculating to stay in Camp Kellogg this winter. Col. Mann went down to Detroit last week and is expected back in a day or two. For the present Capt. Walker is commandant of the camp, which is not much as our company represents the 7th regt. at present. We drill every day nearly,  but this afternoon we are to have no drill instead of which we are going to help make a road to haul lumber over to make our new barracks of. The new barracks are to be built about 20 rods north of our present ones to extend 360 feet east and west across the ground but I do not know the plan on which they are to be built. Our present ones are quite comfortable in warm weather but I am afraid that they will be most too much so for real biting cold weather. Last Monday evening our Captain took the entire regiment consisting of about 35 men to the theater, which although the first time many of us had ever attended it was not very entertaining to me at least. Tuesday morning we went down to the railroad and unloaded several car loads of horse equipment consisting of saddles and bridles. Besides the guns, carriages and ammunition wagons for two guns together with more than a ton of shot shell cartridges, three kegs of powder and one box of sabres. The guns belong to the battery to be attached to our regiment and are of steel three inch bore and rifled. They have not yet been mounted and we have not seen the guns, but I should judge by the boxes that they were about nine feet long, and weigh [950?] lbs. apiece. The 6th regt. has been drilling on horseback this week and are doing very well. They begin to think a little more of “the ten cent regiment” than they used to. They hope to leave here soon and I hope they will. I should like to be at home and visit with our visitors, but must postpone it until the future. Give them my best respects and tell them that I wish they had come a few days earlier. I hope that Isom will give up the notion of going to war for I do not fancy the appearance of Capt. Miller myself, and besides I think his proper place is at home. I received two letters from Carlisle the other day one from Keokuk Iowa, the other from Buchanan. Tell George Lee that I have no forgotten him, but will write him soon. He need not be afraid to write us I shall not be home again very soon. I may send for my fiddle bye and bye after we get settled, and I wish you could come with it. I can not imagine what that fellow meant by saying we had been set up a little, for we remain as we were with the exception of one private being promoted to 8th corporal. But I will now stop as you must be weary. Give my best respects to all of the friends, and my love to our folks and visitors, and write soon.

Your Brother

Edwin R. Havens

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Like many others, I have a passion for the Civil War era, and for decades have chosen to spend my much of free time researching this topic - particularly the people, as the human component is what I find most fascinating. The site is not a source of revenue for me, nor is it tied in with a company or individual behind the scenes. It is my own personal venture. It is because of this genuine bond of respect and affection I feel towards this period in our history that I created "The Civil War Project." If this is your first time visiting the site, I welcome you and thank you for your interest. If you have any feedback or questions, please feel free to contact me at thecivilwarproject@yahoo.com.


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