I have previously published excerpts from the diary of Benjamin H. Ellicott, describing how he and wife Mary Ann Warford traveled from their home in Baltimore to Flemington, and then Locktown, to escape the difficulties of the Civil War, and how they decided to return to Baltimore after a few months.
The Ellicott Diary continues through the year 1863, describing the events of the War as seen through the eyes of a southerner who supported the Union cause, but disagreed heartily with the Lincoln administration. He was very much in sympathy with the Locktown Copperheads and members of the Delaware Township Democratic Club.
Ellicott’s Diary is so interesting, I have decided to publish it in installments, beginning with January 1863. Almost every day, Ellicott first wrote about the weather. For the most part, I will omit those observations here, but give you an example of the charming way he described it. On January 29th, he wrote:
“The Snow of last evening turned to Hail, early in the night & with a high wind from some quarter bid fair to produce a great storm but this morning we found but Two or Three inches of Snow upon the Ground upon a wet foundation, and it has disappeared rapidly to-day before a warm & clear Sun.”
But it is the war that is most important. Ellicott relied heavily on “the War News,” which was whatever information he could get from newspapers. I have tried to keep the spelling and grammar as Ellicott wrote them; there are a few words that I simply could not read, but for the most part his handwriting is very legible.
On January 1, 1863, President Lincoln issued the final Emancipation Proclamation freeing all slaves in territories held by Confederates. He also urged that efforts be made to enlist black soldiers in the Union Army. Ellicott made no entries in his diary until January 5th, when he commented on this development.1
January 5th 1863 – The New Year has opened under a bright sky and a cool but clear and moderate Temperature with but slight interruption until the present time – President Lincoln’s negro Emancipation Proclamation was issued on the 1st Inst. – Giving and assuring Freedom by the power of the Army and the Navy of the United States, to all slaves in those States or parts of States in Rebellion where his authority is naught, and at the same time confirming Slavery in the States and parts of the Slave States where his authority is recognised and in force – No movements of importance have been reported from the Army of the Potomac besides occasional and successful Raids made by the Rebel Cavalry on the lines of the Federals – but we have had confused and contradictory Accounts of a great fight or Series of Battles which commenced on the 30th or 31st Ulto. near to Murfreesboro in Tennessee – in which there has been an immense loss of life but we cannot learn to what numbers on each side – The same contradictory accounts of a fight at or near to Vicksburg on the 28th & 29th Ulto. also reach us, where the Victory is claimed by both sides – But we have full reports, by the survivors, of the loss of the Monitor which foundered at sea on the __[left blank] Inst. off the Coast of N. Carolina when about 30 of her Crew were drowned in site of the efforts made for their rescue by the Crew of the Steamer Rhode Island which had her in tow, and which brought the Survivors into Fortress Munroe –
January 8th Since the receipt of later accounts from the S. W. both of the great battle at Mumfressboro and the attack upon Vicksburg; We are led to believe from the most trustworthy and reliable of these that there was but little fighting at the first named Battle after the great contest on Tuesday 30th Ulto, when the Federal accounts, both Official and private, agree and admit that the day was with the Rebs. in all parts of the field except on their right wing – and as near as we can ascertain, the Feds were driven back several miles from their position taken on the morning of that day with the loss of 4000 Prisoners, 32 __?, also a large amount of Stores and ammunition, captured or destroyed, and an admitted loss of 8 or 9 Thousand Killed and wounded besides some slight Skirmishing an desultory attacks, there appears to have been no renewal of the Battle, and the Rebs to have retreated at their leisure, or their rear Guard did not leave until Monday the 5th Inst. The Feds pursuing on the next day. As nothing was left behind there in Murfreesboro by the Rebs this Victory appears to have been a barren one indeed to the Feds – even if the Army of Genl Rosecranz is not in a bad condition. The attack made upon the rear of Vicksburg by Genl Sherman resulted in a severe battle which continued for several hours on the 29th Ulto when he succeeded in carrying the Reb works to within Two miles of the Town when reinforcements Came to the Rebs, and the Feds were driven back some three or four miles, with the loss of several Thousand men – and, it is said that they have taken refuge on board of the transports that brought them under the protection of Gunboats in the Yazoo River.
January 9th In addition to the confirmation of the affairs after the fights at Murfreesboro and at Vicksburg, we have, to day, the reported attack made upon Springfield, Missouri, by a body of Rebs. 6000 strong on the __[left blank] As it has been announced, some time ago, that no Rebel force was to be found in that State, having been driven into Arkansas by the Fed. Troops, this movement appears to be rather curious, [“as we have been led to believe” was crossed out.]
Jan’y 10th The Reb attack upon Springfield, Mo. is confirmed by Despatches from St. Louis where it was generally believed, from the cessation of Telegraphic communication therewith after the announcement that Genl Brown who commanded there, had been very severely wounded. Large quantities of Government Stores are deposited at that place defended by 2000 Feds. This morning opened and dull changing to Rain about Noon with a prospect of continuance during the Night. Financial difficulties are pressing hard upon the Administration, and providing the Ways and Means to the fabulous extent required for the purposes of the War taxes the ingenuity of the Financiers about as much as the People will to be taxed to pay the Interest on the overwhelming debt to be created or all ready due.2
Jany 13th We have accounts by way of N. Orleans and of Richmond, both Fed. & Reb., that the Rebs, made an attack upon the Fed forces that occupied Galveston, Texas about 2 O’clock on the morning of the 1st Jany. At that hour 4 Steamers protected by Cotton bales entered the harbor from Buffalo Bayou and two of them were ranged alongside of the Fed Steamer Harriet Lane there at Anchor. These steamers appear to have been manned entirely by Rifle__nce? and by these nearly all of the Officers and Crew of the Harriett Lane were Killed & wounded in a short time when she was captured by bording [sic] – To prevent the capture of the Fed flag ship Westfield, which was aground at the time, she was blown up by the crew together with her commander who appears to have [been] wounded – Two or Three Fed Gunboats stationed there appear to have made their escape without any fight with the Rebs – The Land force, on shore were also attacked and either Killed or captured by the Rebs. Besides 600 Prisoners they took much Fed. Property and Arms & the Steamer Harriett Lane — The reported flight of the Feds from Vicksburg and their escape to their fleet has been confirmed and also the damage of several of their Gunboats by the Reb. Batteries.
Jany 14th 1863 Genl Magruder, who commanded the Rebs at Galveston has reported to Richmond confirming the account of the affair as stated above with the addition that the Federal Gunboats escaped, ignominiously under a flag of truce – The advance in the Premium on Gold has increased regularly for several days past, and was sold to day at 46 3/4 pr. ct. premium – 49 asked –
Jany 15th Cloudy with a S. West wind and so warm as to abstract what little Frost remained in the Ground. Fresh Herrings taken near Hawkins Point were in the City Market yesterday for Sale. Besides the continuance of successful Raids by the Rebs the War News is meagre. Congress has passed an Act authorizing the President to issue 100 Millions of Treasury Notes to pay the Land & Naval forces of the U. States – Gold sold to-day at 49 pr ct. Premium. The French forces invading Mexico have taken possession of Matamoras & Guyamas, both on the borders of the U. States Territories one on the Gulf of Mexico and the other on the Gulf of California – and admirably well calculated as the base of any operation that may be disjoined against the U. States by the Emperor—without any remonstrance or any inquiry as to her intentions by the Government at Washington.
Jany 17th Besides some considerable Federal Success at ArKansas Post, where they are reported to have taken many Prisoners, Arms &c &c there is but little of War News – The financial difficulty of the Government has not been solved as yet – Secretary Chase has not succeeded in his mission to N. York i.e. raising the wind, and the temporary expedient of the 100 Million “Greenbacks” authorized by Congress will be a very temporary relief-
Jany 20th — Besides reported movements of the Army of the Potomac – some further captures of Vessels by the Rebel steamer Alabama and the Schooner Retribution in the West Indies and some recent Raids of the Rebel Cavalry there seems to be but little War News to day – A strong revolutionary spirit has been manifested in the recent proceedings of the Legislatures of New York, and of other States, now in Session – To what extent of action this Spirit may lead it is now quite impossible to say. The Radicals are sorely puzzled, apparently, by the financial as well the military exigencies of the Government, and, are said to demand from Lincoln an entire change of his Cabinet – and he is said to have refused this in a peremptory manner, but the pressure upon him is very urgent.
Jany 22nd – No war news in the papers of to day worth recording – The Correspondent of the Cincinnati Commercial writing from Murfreesboro says that the “Federal loss, in the late battle fought there, was of Enlisted men Killed 1600 – wounded 7400 – missing a little short of 4000 – Total 13000. (These figures are deduced from summing up the losses of the different divisions).
Jany 23rd Altho we are without any official accounts of movements of the Army of the Potomac further than the intended advance of it across the Rappahanoc we have information of the crossing of two Divisions at different points on 21st Inst. from individuals directly from[?] Aq__ Creek – The recent Storm may have prevented further operations. A serious battle between the forces in North Carolina is said to be impending. – Major Genl Fitz John Porter having been found Guilty upon all the charges preferred against him before the Court Martial, the finding has been approved by the President, and Porter has been cashiered and dismissed from the service. The Steamer Alabama continues her depredations on Federal Shipping. —
Jany 24th From the best accounts that we have the movements of the Army of the Potomac have been brought to a stand either by the mud or by the reported disaffection of the Federal Soldiers causing them to refuse to cross the Rappahannoc – The recent address of Genl Bragg to his Army thanks them for their achievements & bravery and states that within a month they have defeated the enemy in a pitched Battle (Rosencranz to Murfreesboro) captured 10000 Prisoners – brought off 7000 stand of Arms besides destroying many more – secured 30 pieces of Cannon & taken 800 waggons, and destroyed them with the stores loaded on them; and that the enemy were not only made to molest his movements towards the more defensible position they occupied but they even only hope for their attack from the harassment of their rear and flank by the Confederate Cavalry
On January 25, 1863, Abraham Lincoln appointed Gen. Joseph Hooker Commander of the Army of the Potomac, replacing Gen. Burnside.
Jany 26th The reports of the Army of the Potomac being brought to a stand still and then a retrograde to their cantonments, by the Storm, had [?] been fully confirmed, with the information of its disorganized condition – and, to day, we have the official announcement of Genl Burnside dismissed from the command thereof being superseded by Genl Joe Hooker Major Genls Summer? and Franklin have both been deprived of their command of their Divisions but their successors have not been reported as yet – Military operations seem to be at a stand all around – Genl Wool having ordered the N. Y. Militia to report to him, a portion of them only have done so – many Regiments refusing protest against his order because the Governor of the State is the Commander until they shall be called into the service of the United States. The renegade Callicott has been elected Speaker of the N. York Assembly by the Republicans after more than 100 Ballots.
On January 29, 1863 Gen. Ulysses S. Grant was put in command of the Army of the West, with orders to capture Vicksburg.
Jany 30th  Military operations appear to have been at a stand all around excepting the operations of the Federal forces in Arkansas which are said to have resulted in the capture of some Towns & plunder – But the movements of the Radicals in Congress are rabidly persistent and active – in their financial schemes – the enrollment of Negroes in the Military Service of the States – formation of a National Guard, the formation of an independent military Department &c and above, or below, all, the “Bill of Indemnity” to clear the President, and all of his subordinates from all responsibility, virtually for any arbitrary arrests of citizens made or to be made by them –
End of January 1863.
- The diary entries are taken from Ellicott’s second volume, beginning with page 71. The four volumes of the diary are at the Hunterdon County Historical Society, Ms. Collection 110, box 2. ↩
- For information on how the war taxes affected Hunterdon County, click on the topic Civil War to the right, and scroll down to Civil War Taxes and Assessments. ↩