Benjamin H. Ellicott’s diary, continued.1 See Ellicott’s Diary, January 1863 and Ellicott’s Diary, February 1863. The diary ends in August 1863. For the next five weeks, I will publish a month from the diary.
March 5th  With the exception of some squalls of wind, Rain and Snow we have had a very favorable specimen of March weather for Some days past. – To-day is quite cold, clear and bright – We have written to E. Warford in reply to his letter of the 19th Ulto.2
Since the 2nd Inst. we have had full confirmation of the capture of the Fed. Iron Clad Gunboat “Indianola” by the Ram “Queen of the West,” previously captured, and one or more Reb. Gunboats or Rams about 30 Miles or so below Vicksburg, after the Indianola had ran the blockade at that point for the purpose of retaking the “Queen of the West,” her illustrious predecessor in that behalf- By those captives the Rebels squadron of Rams and Ironclad Boats will consist of the “Doubloon” – “Grand Duke” – “Webb” – “Grand Rea” – “Whitman” – Queen of the West” – and “infianola” all of which are now lying between Vicksburg & Port Hudson The Reb. Steamer Florida has destroyed by Fire the Ship Jacob Bell of N. York with her valuable cargo of Teas Silks &c. valued at over One Million of Dollars, and a large number of other vessels have undoubtedly shared the same fate, at the hands of “The Florida,” The Alabama” or some of the other Rebel Cruisers – and it is now stated that there are Fifty more such vessels fitting out or building in England for the Confed. service – The Reb forces, especially in Virginia and Tennessee, have not been inactive during the almost impassable condition of the Roads, and have succeeded in capturing quite a number of Prisoners, Horses & other property, besides Killing and wounding a many men – which the Fed Army has been either unable or unwilling to be moved.
The Army of the Potomac has been sent off, in great part, to the neighborhood of Fortress Munroe, as is supposed by some, for the purpose of protecting the continued desertion of the Men from its ranks – The Rebs are making a flank movement towards, and are said to be now in, the valley of Virginia ; awaiting the drying up of the mud sufficiently when they will not only occupy that District, but will also bisect the Balto. and Ohio Rail Road –
Here follows a rant about the outrageous behavior of the U. S. Congress in passing laws to help the North prosecute the war on the secessionists. They were indeed pretty dramatic laws. Many of the Copperhead Democrats of the North that Ellicott refers to could be found in Hunterdon County.
The adjournment of Congress after having passed the most iniquitous Bills for the consideration of the Central Government, and the consequent destruction of the Rights of the States, as well as of the Liberty and Rights of the People, is still hailed as some relief ; for, although the Indemnity Bill,” “The Finance Bill” and “The Conscription Bill” have been passed, conferring upon the President all most unlimited and despotic Powers over the Rights, Lives & property and Liberty of the People yet these other Bills were proposed to be passed all most as flagitious? as these which were not reached for want of time amongst these were the Bill allowing Senators and Representatives to be returned to Congress from the portions of the States of Tennessee and Louisiana now in the possession of the U. States Also appropriating 13 Millions Dolls for the payment to Missouri and 10 Millions to Maryland for the payment of the Slaves to be liberated by those States – also Millions of Dollars for the construction of the Pacific Railway – the enlargement of the canals of Illinois and N. York States so as to allow the passage of Gunboats from the Mississippi and the Hudson Rivers to the Lakes – besides many others. It remains now to be seen whether the “Copperhead” Democrats of the Northern & Western States will quietly permit their State Rights, and their own personal Liberty and rights of all Kinds, to be thus abrogated by these unjust, illegal, & unconstitutional Laws-
March 7th For the last two days the weather has been variable from Hail and Snow to clear & pleasant and now with a dull, foggy rain. This week has been marked by the excessive fluctuation of the price of Gold, originating in a Panic in New York said to be caused in great part by the supplements to the Revenue Law first passed by the Congress at the close of its Session, laying an onerous Tax upon all transactions in the Sale or dealing in Gold and forbidding the Banks, likewise, to loan more than the Par upon any deposit of Gold &c. At the Commencement of this week the Premium was 72 per cent and it so remained until the 4th Inst. when it fell to 67 pr ct. on the 5th if fell to 53 pr. ct. and after considerable fluctuations during yesterday it closed at the same rate Sales were made at the First Board here this morning at 56 1/2 pr. ct. and the closing rate today (Saturday) was 56 pr. ct. It has touched the bottom most probably. We have accounts from Tennessee that 4 or 5 regiments of Fed. infantry have been captured by the Rebels under Genl Van Doon at Springville – 25 or 30 miles South of Nashville. As this is the Fed statement of this affair, which took place on the 5th Inst. there may be another version by the Reb. account. The Reb. Steamer Nashville in changing her position in the Oceghee River ran aground near to Fort McAlister where she was assailed [?] by the Fed Gun Boats & Iron clads and after a sharp fight she was set on fire by an incendiary shell and burned. By account from Washington we learn that the Reb Cavalry continue to harass the Fed lines and to take Prisoners and Property therefrom. They captured 200 Negroes recently who were employed in chopping wood for Government Contractors within the Fed. Pickets. We seem to be unable to retaliate in any way. The Reb Privateer Retribution was at Nassau recently to fitting [?] she reports for __? in a __destroyed several Vessels belonging to Yankees – a whale Ship that took [?] flight on being ordered to lay to was fired upon and Sunk. [too faint to read]
March 10th The weather continues to be very changeable with a few hours of bright and clear sunshine followed by falling weather of some kind – But little of War News has transpired besides the destruction of the Reb Steamer Nashville by the Fed. Fleet in the Oceghee River when she had ran aground. Also the capture of Brig. Genl Stoughton with his staff officers, Pickets, horses, besides Genl Wyndham’s Staff Officers &c on Sunday night last at Fairfax Court House. The Premium on Gold advanced to 57 pr ct yesterday and rose to 62 pr ct. to-day – tendency upwards. Major Genl Schenck has ordered the Publishers and Sellers of Music to cease their sales of Secession Music and to deliver to the Provost Marshall all their stock of the same.
March 12th On yesterday morning the Ground was covered with Hail & Snow that fell about Daybreak but it was soon carried off by the clear Sun which appeared for a part of the day when it became cloudy again, and the air is quite cold and wintry today. After the seizure of the “Secession” Music, as stated above, Messrs McCaffrey, Willig, & Miller, the Publishers thereof, were arrested by the Prevost Marshall, and required to surrender their Copperplates to fire [fine?] After which a Parole, under Oath, was tendered [inserted between the lines] (I hereby make solemn Oath to give my parole of honor that I will in every respect demean? myself as a true &c.) to them, binding them to demean themselves as true, loyal, and law abiding Citizens of the U. States should, neigh doing myself or aiding, abetting or countenancing any act prejudicial to the good of the U. States and the civil and Military Laws, or speak insultingly or contemptuously of the same. Furthermore, that I will not correspond with any Parties in the States now in rebellion, neither by words, letter or sign, or be interested in any commercial transaction, directly or indirectly, in which goods, wares, or merchandise are sent or carried into any of the States above mentioned ; nor will I attempt to go into any of the States now in rebellion, binding myself under no less penalty than the confiscation of all my Property, real and personal, and imprisonment for the time the rebellion lasts.” They all declined to sign the above Parole but they subscribed to the follow[ing]. “We hereby make solemn Oath and give our Parole of honor that we will in every respect demean ourselves as true loyal and law-abiding Citizens of the United States, neither doing ourselves, aiding or abetting or countenancing any Act prejudicial to the good of the U. States, and its civil and military Laws. Furthermore that we will not correspond with any Parties in the States now in rebellion, neither by word, letter, or sign unless under the property military supervision; That we will not attempt to trade ourselves, or be interested in any commercial transactions, directly or indirectly, in which goods, wares or merchandise are sent or carried into or designed to be carried into any of the States above mentioned, or attempt to go into any of those now in Rebellion.”
Maj. Genl Schenck has also ordered Detective Poutier? to proceed to any Photographer or Dealer in pictures in this City, and seize all pictures of Rebel Generals and Statesmen which they are publicly or privately exposing for sale, as they have been repeatedly requested not to display such pictures for sale, and furthermore ordered by Marshall Vanostrand not to sell such pictures ; and the sale of such pictures is hereby forbidden hereafter, unless by special permission of the military authorities” which order has been carried into Effect accordingly. Two Hundred (200) Feb. Troops with Two pieces of Cannon have been captured at Franklin, Tenn. and it is now stated that the captures made at Fairfax Court on Sunday last was much more serious than represented by the first accounts. The Premium on Gold to-day has fallen again to 57 3/4 pr. ct.
March 13th The weather to day has been very variable indeed, with constantly recurring falls of Snow showers – No news of Army movements that are reliable or interesting – The Premium on Gold was 61 pr cent to-day.
March 15th Yesterday was cold, but clear, for the greater portion of the day without either Rain or Snow. Today has commenced cold; and clouding over before Midday. Snow began to fall about 3 O’clock. We have no reliable War News, but plenty of reported operations – A number of Soldiers & Citizens dressed as such have destroyed the Office of one Democratic Newspaper and commenced to assault another at Columbus, Ohio. Whereas the Citizens rallied and threw them away, and back to their encampment nearby. Specie is going to Europe in large amounts by Every Steamer. Since the destruction of the Reb. Steamer Nashville near Fort McAlister Fed Iron clad Gunboats attacked and shelled that place for 30 Hours with the utmost vigor, but they were unable to damage the Fort? and were compelled to abandon the fight & to [left blank]
March 16th Hail and Snow covered the Ground this morning to the depth of about 2 inches with a cold & freezing temperature and it has been cloudy all day – Nothing reliable as to War News has transpired – many rumors of military and naval, as well as of financial operations, are afloat, but they require authentication – Considerable excitement seems to have arisen in Ohio from the actions of the Mob in Columbus on the 5th and Genl Wright on Saturday 14th issued his order that no Arms or ammunition should be sold in Cincinnati under penalty of confiscation of the property of those dealing them. Under the reported negotiations for a Loan of 100 Millions of Dollars by the Secretary, Chase, Gold has sold to-day at 54 1/2 pr. cent Premium.
March 17th The bright Sun of to-day has taken away most part of the Snow & Hail from the Streets – and the Temperature is pleasant. Robin red breast has made his appearance in the Yard yesterday. We are still without War News from any quarter excepting some reports of operations and doubtful Successes of the Feds at the Yazoo pass in Mississippi. The return of Secretary Chase to Washington from New York without perfecting any of the financial schemes which were supposed to be his erred there, has had an effect upon Gold, and the Premium upon it was 56 1/2 pr. ct. to day The long expected movements to be made by the Fed Armies before Savannah, Charleston, Vicksburg – in Tennessee, and Virginia, are delayed so unaccountably that much surmise is caused thereby. Quarrels amongst the Generals – Disaffection among the men – Incapacity of Officers – High Water in the Rivers – Muddy Roads &c &c are the causes alleged for this delay – In the meantime the Rebs. are not inactive, and are said to be concentrating their fleet of Steamers at Nassau? from England.
March 18th Clear and pleasantly cool to-day ; But little news stirring as to the operations of the Army and Navy besides the unsatisfactory reports from the Yazoo and of a fight near to Suffolk Va. wherein the Feds are said to have been beaten. Further difficulties having occurred between Genl Naglee of Foster’s expeditionary Corps and Major Genl Hunter, at Hilton Head S.C. who relieved Naglee of his command & ordered him to N. York. It is now stated that Hunter has been superseded by Maj. Genl Burnside who has all ready arrived at Hilton Head and assumed the command there of all the forces – Gold 54 1/2 P.
March 19th Somewhat cloudy, with an Easterly wind to-day – The Telegraphic Reports of the Capture of Yazoo City – 26 Reb. Transports & destruction of 18 of them with the defeat of Rebs. forces in that vicinity by the Feds. is now presumed to be premature It is now supposed that these tales? have been fabricated for the purpose of aiding, or bolstering up, the operations of Secretary Chase during his late financing expedition to New York – Through Reb. sources we learn that the Fed. fleet, under command of Gen. Farragut, made an attack upon and? attempt to run past Port Hudson , recently and was driven off with the loss of the Ship Mississippi, burned, and the Flag Ship Hartford materially injured – The Feds. claim that One of their Gunboats succeeded in passing up this River despite the Reb. Batteries there – The Feds. are said to have repulsed an attack of the Rebs. upon Newbern N.C. and to have made a Cavalry raid across the Rappahannoe – when they were attacked by an equal number of Reb. Cavalry and a fight continued between them for several hours – the Rebs. being driven 5 miles from the River when the Feds. returned to their Camp with some prisoners, Horses & having accomplished all that they designed – Genl Thomas has disarmed the Police force of Cincinnati – The Negro Troops – Two Regiments, under Cols Higginson and Montgomery—which were sent from Hilton Head, recently, into Florida & Georgia for the purpose of inciting insurrection amongst the Negroes there, and inducing them to join the Federal Standard, are said to have been captured by the Rebs— Gold 56 q/w pr ct today.
March 20th Quite cold with a N East wind this morning – clearing off this afternoon with a change of the Wind to the Westward – But little of News to-day other than confirmation of the Engagement at Port Hudson. Gold selling at 55 3/4 Premium over Paper.-
March 21st (Equinox) Snow falling this morning N. East wind – moderating so much that it has all melted by Midday. No further War News of any moment. The repulse at Fort Pemberton, situated at the confluence of the Tallahachee and the Yalobusha Rivers of the Fed. expedition of Gunboats, Transports, &c. which had succeeded in passing through the Yazoo Pass from Moon Lake to the Goldwater River, thence into the Oallahatchee [? – does not look like Tallahatchee] the main Branch of the Yazoo, seems to be confirmed, as the Iron clad Gun Boat Chillicothe was crippled and compelled to withdraw from the conflict with that Fort, and as this was, by far, the strongest, and therefore, the “Lead” boat of that Expeditionary Fleet, this repulse may prove to be disastrous to the whole scheme of assailing Vicksburg from that quarter, Especially as Fort Pemberton is 125 miles N. East from that place, and, should that point be passed, eventually, the course of the Yazoo thence to Vicksburg is fortified at so many intermediate points, the Fed Fleet will have much difficulty in reaching the Mississippi near Vicksburg as it cannot return by the route whence it came through the Lake, Pass and the other waters from above that Point –
The Fed. Governor of Tennessee And’w Johnson addressed a Large meeting at the Maryland Institute by the invitation of the City Authorities – His views are ultra subm_?_ist and for the entire abolition of all Constitutional restraints upon the Administration. Peace Resolutions have passed the N. Jersey Legislature. Serious difficulties are said to be impending in Ohio, between the People, or the Democratic portion of them, and the States Authorities, and a collision is by no means improbably at an early day.
March 23rd Yesterday was a genial, bright, Spring like, day throughout – but the wind changing to Eastward during the night it has so continued to-day, with a clouded air but no rain or snow – We learn that a severe N. East Storm visited Fortress Munroe & that vicinity on the night of the 20th Inst. when & where Snow fell to the depths of a foot or more. The reported capture of the Negro Troops that went from Hilton Head to invade Florida &c. is said to have been incorrect, and, on the contrary, that they succeeded in taking Jacksonville &c. Active movements, if not severe fighting, is supposed to be doing on in Tennessee as well as in Kentucky, and Mississippi – Several Thousand (said to be 18,000) men have been brought from Fortress Munroe, & sent Westward by Rail Road, supposed for some of those points of operations. Major Genl E. V. Sunmer? died at Syracuse N.Y. on the 14th Inst.; he had just been ordered to supersede Maj. General Curtis in command of the Federal forces in Missouri – Gold has fallen to-day to 53 pr. ct. Premium. And’w Johnson, Federal Governor of Tennessee, said in his speech deliv’d at the Maryland Institute on last Thursday night, that he doubted not there were many men in this City who ought to be arrested, and he would warn the audience whenever they heard any man talk about his constitutional right he should be well looked after &c.
March 24th Easterly Wind & cloudy to-day We have the Fed. report by Telegraph to N. Orleans of the engagement at Port Hudson on 14th Inst. which conflicts with the first, or Reb. report – thence, in all excepting the destruction of the Ship Mississippi – & instead of the Fed. fleet being driven down the River it is now stated that all the Vessels passed by the Forts up the River save the Mississippi – a Reb. cavalry Raid into Kent’y Captured 200 Feds. at Mount Stirling – The Premium on Gold has still further declined to-day selling at 48 1/2 and – 49 per cent, owing as it si supposed to the likelihood of the passage of the stringent Law now before the N. York Legislature which not only forbids all Banks, Trusts & Insurance Companies &c from loaning money upon deposits of Gold over its Par but also invalidates all Contracts by which any Premium therefor may be realized by commutation into Bills of Exchange &c on Pain of forfeiture of their Charters &c.
March 25th Rain fell nearly all last night & the clouds remained overhead this morning with a moderate Temperature, clearing after Middy with a Westerly Wind – The meagre summary of War News today reveals only some Reb. successes, on a small scale in Kentucky Tennessee & Virginia Premium on Gold has fallen to 42 pr.ct. today. Wrote to Holcomb Warford yesterday and Sent News Papers to E. Warford, and to B. Chamberlain to-day.
March 26th Wind Westerly since last evening & Temperature so cold this morning as indicates Snow, and some has fallen with rain. The latest Federal report thence confirms the first or Reb. statement of the recent engagement at Port Hudson, with the addition that Admiral Farragut’s Flag Ship, Hartford, alone passed the Batteries, and was lying at that time near to Warrantor – the residue of his Fleet being driven back down the River with the loss of one Ship, burned – Various reports come from the Fed forces, both Naval and land, advancing on Vicksburg, but they are too vague to be reliable. Three Hundred Fed. Cavalry, with the loss of but One man Killed and Four wounded, surrendered together with a large amount of Government Property, at Brentwood Nine miles from Nashville, to Reb. Cavalry under Forrest, on 24th Inst. Sales of Gold opened this morning at 38 per cent and closed 40 percent Premium at the first Board, which is the closing rate there.
March 27th Clear and pleasantly cool today. The Fed. reports from the Yazoo are still variant, but the most reliable indicate a serious check, if not a decided disaster, to the forces attacking Fort Pemberton; and it would appear as if Banks forces had engaged with the Rebs at Port Gibson or in that vicinity – Ex Mayor Jess Hunt and his Three Daughters were arrested by City Policemen on the charge of recognizing the salutation of some Confed. paroled Prisoners of War, and taken before Col. Fish [Fisk?] Military Provost Marshall – who required them to subscribe to the Oaths and Parole similar to that offered by him to the Music Dealers – The Residence of Andw. Flanagan was searched and his Wife and Daughters were arrested and searched on suspicion of assisting young men to leave the City for the South. Bruce Price and Douglass Thomas having been previously arrested after leaving Flanigan’s as averred [?] by a Police Officer. Gold brought 41 p.ct. Premium at first Board to day –
End of March 1863.
- Beginning with page 87, vol. 2 of Ellicott’s four volumes of diaries, on file at the Hunterdon County Historical Society, Collection 110, Box 2. Note that I have tried to preserve both Ellicott’s spelling and his somewhat haphazard punctuation. ↩
- E. Warford was Benjamin Ellicott’s father-in-law, father of his wife Mary Ann Warford. They had spent some time living in Locktown before returning to their home in Baltimore. For some background, see Elisha Warford and Benjamin Ellicott’s Diary. ↩