Mary Lincoln

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155 Years Ago: Sunday, February 17, 1861

1855 to 1865 Source: Library of Congress

1855 to 1865
Source: Library of Congress

In Montgomery, Alabama, the Provisional President-elect arrives at the new capital of the Confederacy by train. Jefferson Davis had been appointed into the position by the Confederate Congress, and has an impressive resume: A West Point graduate, a veteran of the Black Hawk and Mexican-American Wars, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, former U.S. Secretary of War, and a former U.S. Senator from Mississippi. He will be sworn in tomorrow.

In Baltimore, detective Allan Pinkerton is finally seeing the pieces coming together. The city, with it’s population over more than 200,000, is the country’s fourth largest city and a major port. Maryland has a large amount of anti-Northern sentiment; the Maryland legislature is still debating whether to join the Confederacy.

Pinkerton, a Scottish immigrant who had been the first official detective for the city of Chicago, had started his own detective agency in Chicago. At the request of Samuel Morse Felton, president of the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad, Pinkerton had come to Baltimore the first week of February to uncover any potential threats against U.S. President-elect Abraham Lincoln, who is to arrive in the city on February 23. He and his operatives take rooms at a boarding house near the Camden Street train station. Pinkerton creates a cover identify: John H. Hutchinson, a Southern stockbroker who is new to town. He even secures offices in a large building at 44 South Street, where he befriends businessman James Luckett. During a discussion about Lincoln’s journey, Luckett states that “He may pass through quietly, but I doubt it.” Taking advantage of the opportunity, Pinkerton pulls out his wallet and gives him $25 towards the “patriotic cause.” He also warns Luckett to “be cautious in talking with outsiders.”

Pinkerton’s ploy worked, and Luckett soon tells him about a handful of “Southern patriots,” led by Captain Cypriano Ferrandini. Ferrandini is an immigrant from Corsica, and is a barber whose shop is is the basement of Barnum’s Hotel. Luckett informs him that Ferrandini has a plan: That he will see to it that Lincoln never reaches Washington, and never becomes President. “Every Southern Rights man has confidence in Ferrandini,” he told a stunned Pinkerton.

Pinkerton has been working to piece together reports and rumors. So far, he has determined that a vast crowd will meet Lincoln at the Calvert Street depot. Only a small force of police will be stationed, and when the President-elect arrives someone will create a disturbance; while the police are dealing with that, it will be an easy task for someone to shoot the President and even escape. There is a man by the name of Otis Hillard, who is one of Ferrandini’s followers. Pinkerton believes that Hillard knows the key details that he is missing. It is Pinkerton’s good fortune that one of his detectives, Harry Davies, has already become good friends with Hillard during their short time in the city. It is time for Davies to take his friendship even further with Hillard, and attempt to join Ferrandini’s group.

In Buffalo, New York, it is a day of rest for Lincoln. He attends a local Unitarian church with former (13th) President Millard Fillmore. After going back to the American Hotel for Mrs. Lincoln, Fillmore takes them to his home to dine. That afternoon, Lincoln returns and receives friends; he does not give any speeches. After supper with his family, he attends a service by an Indian preacher, Father John Beason.

155 Years Ago: Saturday, February 16, 1861

twiggs-surrenders

The Surrender, Source: Library of Congress

U.S. Brigadier General David E. Twiggs wakes up to the screams of slaves who are coming home from market. “We’re all going to be killed!”, they scream. It is 4am in San Antonio, Texas. Texas Rangers appear, two by two, on muleback and horseback, mounted and on foot, carrying the Lone Star flag. By daylight, more than a 1,000 Rangers move into San Antonio. There is much enthusiasm from fellow Texans; even two women dressed in male attire, with pistols in their belts, mount their horses to meet up with their friends.

Twiggs eventually rides down to the main plaza, where he is instantly surrounded by secessionists demanding U.S. government property. He refuses their requests.

While many in the town are surprised by this development, Twiggs is not. While Twiggs wears a U.S. military uniform, his loyalties are not with the Union. As he wrote U.S. General Winfield Scott in December of last year, his home is Georgia. If Georgia seceded, he would follow her. Georgia had seceded on January 19. He had met with the Confederate commissioners on February 7, and had told them he would surrender. But first, there was a “show” to put on for the U.S. federal troops.

Twiggs pretends he is surprised. He meets with the leader of the Rangers, Ben McCulloch, and is given six hours to “reconsider” his public declaration that he would not hand over U.S. government property. By noon, Twiggs surrenders all of the U.S. posts and stores in Texas to the Confederacy. This includes 20 military installations, 44 cannons, 400 pistols, 1,900 muskets, 500 wagons, and 950 horses, valued at a total of $1.6 million. He insists that all U.S. troops retain personal arms and sidearms, along with all artillery, flags, etc.

Orders are sent to all of the Texas outposts to turn over the military property to the State. The officers and men are widely scattered, and many of them are taken completely by surprise. The Federal troops in town give their parole “not to take up arms” against the Confederacy, and are ordered to leave the post in the afternoon. Twiggs will leave for New Orleans, where he will be received with Confederate public honors. The Federal troops are filled with indignation.

Around 2pm, U.S. Colonel Robert E. Lee arrived from Fort Mason, Texas, on his way to Washington City. He approaches a woman, Caroline Baldwin Darrow, who is the wife of a clerk with the U.S. forces. Lee looks at the Rangers and asks “Who are those men?” Caroline answers that “They are McCulloch’s. General Twiggs surrendered everything to the State this morning, and we are all prisoners of war.”

Caroline would write in her diary about Lee’s response:

I shall never forget his look of astonishment, as with his lips trembling and his eyes full of tears, he exclaimed, “Has it come so soon as this?” In a short time I saw him crossing the plaza on his way to headquarters, and noticed particularly that he was in citizen’s dress. He returned at night and shut himself in his room, which was over mine, and I heard his footsteps through the night, and sometimes the murmur of his voice, as if he were praying.

In Ohio, U.S. President-elect Abraham Lincoln makes his way by train from Cleveland, Ohio to Buffalo, New York. He is still hoarse and fatigued, and keeps his remarks to the crowds very brief. In Ashtabula, Ohio, the crowd calls for Mrs. Lincoln. Her husband remarks that “I should hardly hope to induce her to appear, as I had always found it very difficult to make her do what she did not want to.” In the village of Conneaut, someone shouts to Lincoln “Don’t give up the ship!”. Lincoln replies “With your aid I never will as long as life lasts.”

Source: Library of Congress

Source: Library of Congress

In Westfield, New York, Lincoln asks the crowd if Grace Bedell might be present. The 12-year old girl had written him a letter in October 1860, suggesting that he grow a beard because his face was so thin. Also, because “All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husband’s to vote for you and then you would be President.” Lincoln had written her back at the time, stating:

I regret the necessity of saying I have no daughters. I have three sons — one seventeen, one nine, and one seven, years of age. They, with their mother, constitute my whole family.

As to the whiskers, having never worn any, do you not think people would call it a piece of silly affection if I were to begin it now? Your very sincere well-wisher, A. Lincoln

Now with a full beard, Lincoln leaves the train car and makes his way through the crowd, who is pointing out a young girl with black hair and black eyes. When he reaches her, he gives her several kisses on her cheek. The young girl blushes.

Upon his arrival in Buffalo, Lincoln is heartily greeted by former (13th) President Millard Fillmore. The crowds are once again very large, but they are more forceful than the previous stops. At one point the crowd makes a rush, overpowering Lincoln’s guard. There is wild confusion and cries of distress from all sides of the crowd. Lincoln, due to the desperate efforts of those immediately around him, gets out of the chaos, while his family & the rest of their party fights to get to the awaiting carriages to take them to the hotel.

The scene at The American Hotel is no better. The party of men accompanying Lincoln insist that he decline all further public receptions, as they can’t guarantee his protection. He does eventually make a few remarks outside of his hotel once the crowds calm down, once again giving similar remarks to those given in previous cities. In the crowd is a 23-year old lawyer, Stephen Grover Cleveland. This young man will eventually become the 22nd and 24th President of the United States.

155 Years Ago: Friday, February 15, 1861

Source: Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

Lincoln’s Hotel Room Preserved, Source: Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

It is the fifth day of the President-elect’s inaugural train trip to from Springfield, Illinois to Washington City. President-elect Abraham Lincoln starts his morning in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at the Monongahela House, the most luxurious hotel in the city, with it’s carpeting, fine paneling, and gold mirrors. He spends the night in their best room: The Prince of Wales room, named after the future King Edward VII who had stayed here a year earlier. From his room, Lincoln can view the iron and steel mills, as well as The Point, where where the Monongahela met the Allegheny and formed the Ohio River.

From the balcony in his room, he addresses the people of Pittsburgh, giving much of the same speech he did two days ago in Columbus. “There is no crisis, excepting such a one as may be gotten up at anytime by turbulent men, aided by designing politicians.” He also spends a considerable amount of time talking about the issue of a protective tariff, which many thought would help U.S. manufacturers and workers. The press will later express disappointment that such a long speech didn’t offer more substance when it comes to the most pressing issues of secession.

After his speech, Lincoln passes through crowds that are “almost impenetrable,” which displays enthusiasm that “exceeded anything ever before witnessed,” the local papers would report. He boards the train with the rest of his party, and they travel back west into Ohio.

In Montgomery, Alabama, the provisional Confederate government, has assumed responsibility for questions concerning forts, arsenals, and other federal property within the states of the Confederacy. Today they resolve that “Immediate steps should be taken to obtain possession of forts Sumter (South Carolina) and Pickens (Florida), either by negotiations or force.” They authorize Confederate President-elect Jefferson Davis to carry the resolution into effect.

Throughout northeast Ohio, Lincoln’s train makes a few stops in smaller cities along their route. Lincoln keeps his words to the waiting crowds very brief, explaining that he is hoarse. As they stop for a meal in Alliance, Ohio, an energetic gun salute goes off near where the Lincoln family is eating. The explosion shatters windows, and even covers Mary Lincoln’s face in pieces of glass. Mary, not always known to be calm, handles the situation gracefully. The party continues on, and reaches Cleveland, Ohio in the late afternoon, where they arrive in the midst of a rain and snow storm.

The local paper (and anti-Lincoln, Democrat newspaper), the Cleveland Plain Dealer, gives their readers a small glimpse into the scene, including some comments made by an unnamed prominent Republican politician:

Mr. Lincoln in Cleveland.

The trains yesterday brought multitudes of people to the city, and in addition the country round about poured in its crowds in wagons, on horseback and on foot, drawn by curiosity to see the “Rail Splitter.” By three o’clock in the afternoon, Euclid street was alive with teams and people, moving toward the Euclid street depot. The mud was terrible, and during a portion of the afternoon it alternately rained and snowed. A great many residences on Euclid street were handsomely decorated with flags and various devices. While riding to the depot we were generally amused by the comments of a prominent Republican politician, as his eye caught sight of the various flags. A number of aspirants for offices in the gift of the President reside on Euclid street. The comments of the Republican ran about as follows: “That big flag means something. It must be a bid for U. S. Attorneyship. Pretty well for you, old fellow. Such a long pole as that ought to knock the persimons [sic]. Just see the flags on Mr. —‘s house. That means nothing less than a Marshalship. Don’t you wish you may get it.—That’s right. Hang your banners on the outer walls. If LINCOLN can’t read ‘post-office’ there he must b [sic] eblind [sic] as a bat. There is a modest little flag. Guess that man doesn’t want anything, or perhaps he would be satisfied with a small Consulship. Band of music! A whole string of flags ! Wonder what he is after,” etc.

Source: Library of Congress

Lincoln Addresses the crowd from his balcony at The Widdell House, Source: Library of Congress

The trip from the train depot to the hotel is two miles, mostly along Euclid street (now Avenue). Thousands of people line the path to see a glimpse of the President-elect. When Lincoln arrives at his hotel, The Weddell House, he delivers a speech to approximately 10,000 people. This time, he focuses his words on the national crisis: “I think that there is no occasion for any excitement. The crisis, as it is called, is altogether an artificial crisis.”

Abraham and his wife Mary are thrown separate, grand receptions that evening, and return to their rooms at 10pm.

 

 

150 Years Ago: Thursday, April 23, 1863

John Wilkes Booth, 1863

John Wilkes Booth, 1863

Actor John Wilkes Booth is enjoying his time back on stage. After suffering from a respiratory illness during February and March, Spring has given him life and energy and he is back in Washington performing to packed theatres as he plays the title roles in both Hamlet and Richard III. The National Republican drama critic states that Booth “takes the hearts of the audience by storm” and terms his performance “a complete triumph.” Booth is earning top money and praise; with it comes his choice of women, who fight for the chance to be with the actor, even if it is for just one evening.

From a country farm in Spotsylvania, Virginia, C.S.A. Lieutenant General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson finds himself with time to catch up on battle reports. He starts by sending General Robert E. Lee details on his troops activities from September 5 – 27, 1862, which includes details on (yet another) capture of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia and the battle of Sharpsburg (known in the North as the battle of Antietam) in Maryland.

Though Jackson mostly keeps it brief and simple, giving overall battlefield movements and casualties, there are two people that stand out, one in a good way, another not. He praises Major General J.E.B. Stuart, one of the Confederacy’s most valued cavalry officers, by stating “Maj.-Gen. Stuart had the advance and acted his part well. This officer rendered valuable service throughout the day. His bold use of artillery secured for us an important position, which, had the enemy possessed, might have commanded our left.” As for Major General A.P. Hill and the movement of his troops from Harpers Ferry to Sharpsburg – which many Confederates felt saved them from possibly losing not just a battle but the war – Jackson simply writes, months later, “I have not embraced the movements of his division.” Jackson had several quarrels with Hill leading up to that moment, Jackson being the higher ranking officer and expecting his orders to be followed to the letter, which Hill did not always do. Though Lee had sent for Hill during the Sharpsburg attack for much needed reinforcements, Jackson was unaware of it and did not seem to approve; it had gone against his own orders for Hill to stay at Harpers Ferry to make sure it did not yet again fall into Union hands. To Jackson, it was another order Hill had not obeyed and it did not sit well with him, even seven months later.

U.S. Commanding General of the Army of the Potomac Joseph Hooker is still in the Fredericksburg, Virginia vicinity. It’s been over four months since the Union defeat there and the army has not yet made a significant move to destroy Lee’s army, most of which has spent the winter behind their strong defenses in Fredericksburg. Hooker has completed plans to move and surprise Lee by sweeping down to behind him and cutting off his supplies from Richmond, but first he wants to test Lee’s strength before he starts his main troop movements. Three days ago Hooker sent out troops under Major General Abner Doubleday to do reconnaissance and they have since returned. Now U.S. General John Reynolds sends the 24th Michigan and 84th New York on the same path: down the north bank to Port Conway, eighteen miles from camp. “The object of this demonstration is to draw the enemy force in that direction“, Reynolds is informed. His men should pretend to conceal their wagon train but to let enough of it show to give the impression of strength to the enemy; Hooker knows Lee’s men will be watching.

In Mississippi, as he waits for orders from U.S. Major General Ulysses S. Grant to make yet another attempt to take the geographically well-protected city of Vicksburg, Major General William T. Sherman writes his brother Senator John Sherman back in Washington as they continue to trade opinions on the important issues of the day via letters:

Dear Brother,

I have noticed in the Conscript Act the clauses which empowered the President to consolidate the ten companies of a regiment into five, when the aggregate was below one-half the maximum standard, and to reduce the officers accordingly. Had I dreamed that this was going to be made universal, I should have written you and begged you for the love of our ruined country to implore Lincoln to spare us this last and fatal blow. Two years of costly war have enabled the North to realize the fact that by organized and disciplined armies alone can she hope to restore the old and found a new empire. We had succeeded in making the skeletons of armies, eliminating out of the crude materials that first came forth the worthless material, and had just begun to have some good young colonels, captains, sergeants and corporals. And Congress had passed the Conscript Bill, which would have enabled the President to fill up these skeleton regiments full of privates who soon, from their fellows, and with experienced officers, would make an army capable of marching and being handled and directed. But to my amazement comes this order…This is a far worse defeat than Manassas. Mr. Wade, in his report to condemn McClellan, gave a positive assurance to the army that henceforth, instead of fighting with diminishing ranks, we should feel assured that the gaps made by the bullet, disease, desertion, etc., would be promptly filled, whereas only such parts of the Conscript Law as tend to weaken us are enforced, viz.: 5 per cent for furlough and 50 per cent of officers and non-commissioned officers discharged to consolidate regiments. Even Blair is amazed at this. He protests the order cannot be executed, and we should appeal to Mr. Lincoln, whom he still insists has no desire to destroy the army. But the order is positive and I don’t see how we can hesitate. Grant started today down to Carthage, and I have written to him, which may stave it off for a few days, but I tremble at the loss of so many young and good officers, who have been hard at work for two years, and now that they begin to see how to take care of soldiers, must be turned out…

If not too late, do, for mercy’s sake, exhaust your influence to stop this consolidation of regiments. Fill all the regiments with conscripts, and if the army is then too large disband the regiments that prefer to serve north of the Potomac and the Ohio. Keep the war South at all hazards. If this Consolidation Law is literally enforced, and no new draft is made, this campaign is over. And the outside world will have a perfect right to say our Government is afraid of its own people…

Affectionately yours,

W. T. Sherman

What Sherman doesn’t know is that a Union flotilla of six transports and twelve barges have passed the Confederate artillery batteries protecting Vicksburg. One transport and six barges were sunk yesterday, but the remainder carried their supplies to Grant’s troops now stationed below the city. It is has been slow going for Grant and his mission to take Vicksburg, but his plan does appear to be coming together. C.S.A. Major Generals Carter L. Stevenson and John C. Pemberton try come to an agreement on how to best use their scarce resources; they lack the number of troops that Grant has at his disposal. Stevenson is convinced that the Union army will cross the Mississippi River at Warrenton, just eight miles south of Vicksburg. He wants troops stationed on the south side of Vicksburg where they can cover roads that would lead into the city from Warrenton. Pemberton wants to send troops directly to Warrenton itself. Neither General is looking 20 miles further south to Grand Gulf, which is exactly where Grant is preparing his men for a major move.

Ever since their son Willie’s death last February, U.S. President Abraham and his wife Mary Lincoln continue to have difficulties getting over the loss. Especially given the loss of loved ones during the war, spiritualists and séances are becoming a trend across the country, whether it be a sincere attempt to make contact with a loved one, or simply a show for entertainment. Mary Lincoln has especially found comfort in them, believing that through the séances she is able to make contact with her dear deceased son. Though the President does not believe in such things and is getting over an illness which has affected his throat and eyes, he gives in to his wife and attends a séance in the White House Red Room tonight; several cabinet members also attend. There is no unusual activity until after the Lincoln’s left the room. Newspapers will report that after the Lincoln’s left, the “‘Spirits’ tweaked the nose of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and tugged on Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles beard.

150 Years Ago: Thursday, December 25, 1862

Thomas Nast illustration of a couple separated by war at Christmas

Thomas Nast illustration of a couple separated by war at Christmas

The wintry blast goes wailing by,
the snow is falling overhead;
I hear the lonely sentry’s tread,
and distant watch-fires light the sky.

Dim forms go flitting through the gloom;
The soldiers cluster round the blaze
To talk of other Christmas days,
And softly speak of home and home

My saber swinging overhead,
gleams in the watch-fire’s fitful glow,
while fiercely drives the blinding snow,
and memory leads me to the dead.

My thoughts go wandering to and fro,
vibrating ‘twixt the Now and Then;
I see the low-browed home again,
the old hall wreathed in mistletoe.

And sweetly from the far off years
comes borne the laughter faint and low,
the voices of the Long Ago!
My eyes are wet with tender tears.

I feel again the mother kiss,
I see again the glad surprise
That lighted up the tranquil eyes
And brimmed them o’er with tears of bliss

As, rushing from the old hall-door,
She fondly clasped her wayward boy –
Her face all radiant with they joy
She felt to see him home once more.

My saber swinging on the bough
Gleams in the watch-fire’s fitful glow,
while fiercely drives the blinding snow
aslant upon my saddened brow.

William McCabeSource: Library of Congress

William Gordon McCabe
Source: Library of Congress

Those cherished faces are all gone!
Asleep within the quiet graves
where lies the snow in drifting waves, –
And I am sitting here alone.

There’s not a comrade here tonight
but knows that loved ones far away
on bended knees this night will pray:
“God bring our darling from the fight.”

But there are none to wish me back,
for me no yearning prayers arise
the lips are mute and closed the eyes –
My home is in the bivouac.

— A poem written by 21-year-old Confederate Soldier William Gordon McCabe on Christmas Night outside Fredericksburg, Virginia

U.S. Corporal Elisha Hunt Rhodes, near Falmouth, Virginia, writes in his diary that “We have passed a very quiet day and except that we have been excused from drill, the day has been like others. My brother-in-law, Colville D. Brown came today from Washington and made me a call. In the evening Lt. Col. Goff of our Regiment and other officers came to my tent and we had a sing. I should like to be at home on this Christmas night.” This is his second Christmas in the army; this year he does not feel as homesick and alone. He is now a seasoned veteran, even if he is just a volunteer. This is his life.

In Washington, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and First Lady Mary spend the day visiting wounded soldiers in the nearby hospitals while their children Robert and Tad stay at home.

Out West in Vicksburg, Mississippi, Confederate President Jefferson Davis is almost 1,000 miles away from his wife Varina and their children in Richmond, Virginia. As a man who once served with high honors in the Mexican-American war, he misses his family but also feels at home surrounded by military men in the field.

In Fredericksburg, Virginia, C.S.A. General Robert E. Lee writes an emotional letter to his wife Mary. He begins by thanking God for the recent successes of the Confederate army, but laments “what a cruel thing is war; to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world!

150 Years Ago: Sunday, December 21, 1862

William "Willie" Wallace LincolnSource: Library of Congress

William “Willie” Wallace Lincoln
Source: Library of Congress

It’s Sunday and U.S. President Lincoln has spent the last week dealing with the loss at Fredericksburg and the near loss of some of his Cabinet members. He receives a brief note from friend and Illinois Senator Orville Browning reminding him of the West Virginia statehood legislation that Lincoln needs to review and preferably approve in order to admit West Virginia into the Union. It’s already been several days since the bill was passed by Congress and there is concern by many why the President has yet to address it. “A delay is a calamity to the Union cause,” Brown writes. But for Lincoln, it appears that he will not address the issue today. While his wife Mary is away in Philadelphia staying at the Continental Hotel, Abraham is at the White House with his youngest boy Tad; it would have been his son Willie’s 12th birthday today. While Mary couldn’t handle being in the house where Willie passed away ten months ago or to be near , Lincoln chose to stay, no doubt taking time to visit Willie’s preserved room as he often did to weep over the loss of his precious boy. No significant work will be accomplished today; the grief is too strong.

It seems to me now clearly developed that the enemy has two principal objects in view,” President Jefferson Davis writes to Trans-Mississippi Department commander General Theophilius H. Holmes from Vicksburg, Mississippi. “One to get control of the Mississippi River, and the other to capture the capital of the Confederate States. To prevent the enemy getting control of the Mississippi and dismembering the Confederacy, we must mainly depend upon maintaining the points already occupied by defensive works; to-wit, Vicksburg and Port Hudson.

U.S. Corporal Elisha Hunt Rhodes writes in his diary at camp near Falmouth, Virginia:

We are now in camp and trying to repair our damage. Notwithstanding our late defeat, we all have confidence in General Burnside. If his plans had been carried out we should have won a victory. We hope to do better next time we try to cross the river.

150 Years Ago: Sunday December 14, 1862

“From the battle field near Fredericksburg: We crossed the river Thursday night and have been under fire ever since. The Rebels are strongly entrenched, and we have not made much headway. Today has been very quiet with an occasional shell from the Rebels. We tried to keep the Sabbath the best we could. We lay all day in our rifle pits awaiting events. I write this on the battlefield.” — U.S. Corporal Elisha Hunt Rhodes

Yesterday 19-year-old C.S.A. Sergeant Richard Rowland Kirkland’s unit, Company G of the 2nd South Carolina, had spent the day behind the stone wall inflicting heavy casualties against Union troops. As morning came, daylight reveals over 8,000 Union soldiers still on the battlefield in front of them. Many are still alive but there are thousands that are wounded and suffering terribly from pain and a lack of water. Orders have not been given to the men to retreat and no truce has yet been reached to remove the wounded from the field, so the Union troops are stuck on the cold, open field, shielding themselves from occasional Confederate rifle fire and the cold by propping dead soldiers up around them as a “wall” of protection.

"The Angel of Marye's Heights" Memorial at Fredericksburg, VirginiaSource: TCWP

“The Angel of Marye’s Heights” Memorial at Fredericksburg
Source: TCWP

Men from both sides are forced to listen to the painful cries throughout the night and morning, with neither side daring to make a move to help anyone for fear of being shot. By mid-morning Kirkland approaches C.S.A. Brigadier General Joseph B. Kershaw and tells him that he wishes to help the wounded soldiers. At first Kershaw declines the request, but later he relents. Once given permission, Kirkland asks if he could show a white handkerchief, but white flags are used for surrender; this is not a surrender situation so Kershaw declines. Kirkland responds “All right, sir, I’ll take my chances.

Kirkland gathers all the canteens he can carry, fills them with water and then makes his way out into the battlefield. He ventures back and forth several times, giving wounded Union soldiers not only water, but warm clothing and blankets that his fellow Confederates have donated to the cause. Kershaw watches in amazement, thinking that the Union will open fire and the Confederacy will respond in return, leaving Kirkland in the crossfire; but no one fires a shot. Within a very short time it is obvious to both sides as to what Kirkland is doing, and soon cries for water erupt all over the battlefield. Kirkland does not stop until he helps every wounded soldier who asks for him – Union and Confederate – on the hill near the stone wall. He is dubbed “The Angel of Marye’s Heights.”

Despite the horrific results of yesterday’s attacks, U.S. Commanding General Ambrose Burnside wants to continue the attack and has to be talked out of it by the other generals as they refuse to continue the wave after wave of suicidal marches with their men. If his generals won’t do it, Burnside will; he still believes he can break Lee’s lines and offers to personally lead another attack. He is finally talked out of it.

This afternoon Burnside requests a truce to tend to the thousands of wounded soldiers and C.S.A. General Robert E. Lee agrees. Under the cover of darkness and a storm, the Union army starts its withdrawal that will go well into tomorrow.

Lee writes to the Confederate War Department that Fredericksburg has been a victory. So far he counts 1,800 killed or wounded on his side, with 550 Union men captured; he is unsure, however, what the full extent of Burnside’s loss is.

LaSalle "Sallie" CorbellSource: Library of Congress

LaSalle “Sallie” Corbell
Source: Library of Congress

C.S.A. Major General George Pickett writes to his love interest, Sallie Ann Corbell, who has changed her name to LaSalle Corbell but whom Pickett still calls “Sallie.” Pickett has been married twice before and rumor has it that his new girl is just that – a girl who is 14 years old compared to his 37 years of age. It turns out she is 18, but she likes being referred to “Schoolgirl Sallie.” They had first met in 1852 when she was just 9 and recovering from whopping cough, and Pickett was recovering from the loss of his first wife and child. When he can he travels to Suffolk, Virginia to see her. He now writes to her about what he has witnessed these last few days at Fredericksburg:

Here we are, my darling, at Fredericksburg, on the south side of the Rappahannock, half-way between Richmond and Washington, fortified for us by the hand of the Great Father.

I penciled you a note by old Jackerie (headquarters postmaster) on the 12th from the foot of the hills between Hazel Run and the Telegraph Road. In it I sent a hyacinth given me by a pretty lady who came out with beaten biscuit – and some unwritten and written messages from Old Peter (note: James Longstreet) and Old Jack (note: Thomas Jackson), Hood, Ewell, Stuart, and your “brothers,” to the “someone” to whom I was writing.

My division, nine thousand strong, is in fine shape. It was on the field of battle, as a division, for the first time yesterday, though only one brigade, Kemper’s, was actively engaged.

What a day it was, my darling – this ever to be remembered by many of us thirteenth of December dawning auspiciously upon us clad in deepest, darkest mourning! A fog such as would shame London lay over the valley, and through the dense mist distinctly came the uncanny commands of the unseen opposing officers. My men were eager to be in the midst of the fight, and if Hood had not been so cautious they would probably have immortalized themselves. Old Peter’s orders were that Hood and myself were to hold our ground of defense unless we should see an opportunity to attack the enemy while engaged with A.P. Hill on the right. A little after ten, when the fog had lifted and Stuart’s cannon from the plain of Massaponax were turned upon Meade and when Franklin’s advance left the enemy’s flank open, I went up to Hood and urged him to seize the opportunity; but he was afraid to assume so great a responsibility and sent for permission to Old Peter, who was with Marse Robert in a different part of the field. Before his assent and approval were received, the opportunity, alas, was lost!

If war, my darling, is a necessity – and I suppose it is – it is a very cruel one. Your Soldier’s heart almost stood still as he watched those sons of Erin fearlessly rush to their death. The brilliant assault on Marye’s Heights of their Irish Brigade was beyond description. Why, my darling, we forgot they were fighting us, and cheer after cheer at their fearlessness went up all along our lines. About fifty of my division sleep their last sleep at the foot of Marye’s Heights.

I can’t help but feel sorry for Old Burnside proud-plucky, hard-headed old dog. I always liked him, but I loved little Mac, and it was a godsend to the Confederacy that he was relieved.

Oh, my darling, war and its results did  not seem so awful till the love for you came. Now I want to love and bless and help everything, and there are no foes – no enemies – just love for you and longing for you.

Your Soldier

The Lacy HouseSource: Library of Congress

The Lacy House
Source: Library of Congress

When not carrying messages, the Union mounted orderly for Brigadier General Orlando Poe, Emma “Frank” Thompson, assists the ambulance corps with taking the wounded to the Lacy House, where Clara Barton waits to receive them. Since dawn, surgeons have been working frantically in every room, and soon an inch or more of blood covers James Lacy’s beautiful hardwood floors.

On the Western front, U.S. Major General William Tecumseh Sherman is back in Memphis, Tennessee after being charged by Major General Ulysses S. Grant to organize the forces from there and nearby Helena, Arkansas for a move towards Vicksburg, Mississippi. Grant was hoping Sherman would have 40,000 troops, but by Sherman’s count he will have 30,000 to move down the Mississippi River via steamers and should arrive by December 18. Sherman is concerned that the different leaders – himself, Grant, Major General Samuel Curtis and Admiral David Dixon Porter – are too apart from each other but has confidence that when the move comes they will all act in concert to take the difficult city fortified by both land and water.

George B. McClellan sends a quick letter to August Belmont, the leader of the National Democrat party: “I fear that Mr L is busily engaged in breaking the rest of the eggs in the basket! Is this the blackest hour which precedes the dawn?

In Washington, Mary Lincoln attends church services with Illinois Senator Orville H. Browning while her husband stays at the White House looking over maps and discussing military options after what appears to be a defeat at Fredericksburg. President Lincoln is in anguish over the results, yet is still looking for a lot of answers; he has no idea what the cost of the defeat has been.

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