Benjamin H. Ellicott’s Diary for May 1863 is full of very dramatic War News: Confederate incursions into western Pennsylvania and West Virginia, the assault on Fredericksburg and the failures of General Hooker and the Army of the Potomac, the battles of Chancellorsville and Spotsylvania, the death of Stonewall Jackson, capture of British vessels by Federal gunboats enforcing the blockade of Charleston, and Grant’s continued assault on Vicksburg.
Also, Ellicott had much to say about the arrest of Ohio Copperhead Clement Vallandigham.1 It was a very dramatic month.
May 3rd 1863 – Sunday – The Balmy Temperature and bright Sky of Spring has prevailed for some days past, and the blossoms of the Fruit trees as well as the bright verdure of the Grass & Grains shows its vivyfying effect upon all vegetation.
The rumors of the advance of the Army of the Potomac – of its crossing the Rappahannock at the various points named – of the various fights consequent thereupon &&c. have been verified in some measure by the accounts therefrom now published in the Newspapers – from which it appears that Gen’l Hooker had crossed that River both above and below Fredericksburg with but little resistance from the Rebs, as it is said, their Pickets having been captured, besides numbers of other Prisoners and a severe battle was imminent at the last accounts between the Two Grand Divisions of Hookers Army and the Reb. Forces –
the Reb. Raid on the Western Division of the B. and Ohio R. Road appears to be of such formidable proportions as to have taken full possession of the Western portion of that Road, and all the Section of Country adjacent thereto – All the Bridges, Stations, Workshops, Viaducts and much of the Track upon the Main Stem and the Parkersburg Branch appear to have been destroyed to within Miles of Wheeling – inflicting Millions worth of Loss upon the Rail Road Company. How far the Rebs may have proceeded towards, or into Pennsylvania, we cannot ascertain as yet from the reticence of intelligence by the Fed. Authorities –
Our Latest advices from England report a great excitement there because of a Passport given by U. S. Minister Adams to a vessel bound to Matamoros, and loaded with Arms & Munitions for the Mexican Government, now warring with the French forces invading that Country, asking or directing Admiral Dupont to allow said Vessel to pass the U. S. Cruisers blockading that Port &c. The Ground of offense seems to be, in the assumption by a Minister accredited to the British Government of authority to grant to such vessels as he may deem proper permission to trade unmolested by U. S. Cruisers, to the Port of a Neutral Nation, and the vessel in question being loaded with a large cargo of goods contraband of War for one of the Belligerents – with both of whom Great Britain is at peace and in amity &c
The minister to Great Britain was Charles Francis Adams (1807-1886), grandson of John Adams. Adams is credited with keeping Britain neutral during the war.
Several expeditions of the Fed. forces in the S. West are reported – indicating important advances in some portions of Louisiana and Mississippi and the destruction of much Reb. Property, as well as the capture of a large number of Prisoners &c by the Feds. –
the attack upon Charleston has not been renewed- Newbern N.C. is said to be invested again by the Rebs and fighting had taken place between that point and Washington N. C. The large Reb. forces that were in front of Suffolk Va. had not advanced upon that place but they had driven all the Feds from the line of the Blackwater into[?] that place in spite of the Gunboats in the Nausaumond River ; so say the last accounts that we have published ; but rumors here give a different complexion – The Premium on Gold remains at 50 pr ct about – Letters dated Apr. 26th to Holcomb Warford. Apr 28th to E. Warford. April 30th to A. B. C. May 4th to Amanda A. Warford have been sent by us to sd Parties.2
May 5th The warm weather of yesterday has been [word illegible] forward to day by a cloudy atmosphere and the Wind from the Eastward with occasional drizzles of Rain. All very good for the progress of vegetation but not so pleasant as we might desire –
Such reports of the movements and the actions of the Army of the Potomac as are permitted by the Authorities, to be published to day, confirm the advance thereof across the Rappahanock at the several points herein before mentioned, as having been made on Tuesday and Wednesday last, and severe contests with the Rebs on Thursday Friday and Saturday last – viz 30 April – and the 1st and 2nd May – wherein success appears to have attended the Army of the Feds in their operation upon their right wing indicating by their advance and the number of Rebs captured that they were outflanking the Reb position and claiming that Genl Lee had been taken by surprise and that his Army and his position at or near to Fredericksburg was no longer tenable – In proof of the Fed. successes a large number, say 2000, prisoners, are stated as having been captured, who have been sent to Washington City – at the same time this fighting for 3 days is said to have resulted in a terrific slaughter upon both sides – but these reports are too vague as yet to be recorded in advance of the true accounts thereof which must come to us in a few days.
Various military accounts of movements of minor importance are reported to have occurred in the Southwestern Department of the War – viz – Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas &c- Latest advices from Europe are per S. Ship Aetna to the 22nd Ulto showing an increased irritation in England growing out of the passport to Matamoras issued by Mr. Adams and the capture of British Vessels by Com Wilkes, bound to that Port.
The Premium on Gold is 50 1/2 pr ct to day.
May 6th The North East Wind and drizzle of yesterday ended in quite a heavy fall of rain which continued during the whole of last night, and the greater portion of to day. With a cold Temperature sufficient to require a return to Winter Overcoats & fire.
By this mornings newspapers we have more detailed accounts of the bloody contest that has been going on between the Fed and Reb forces around Fredericksburg for several days past, and up to last Monday, but although the carnage and damage to both parties had evidently been very large [“to both parties” crossed out here] in the absence of any official statements and the undecided condition of the matter at that time it seems most proper to defer any record thereof until facts can be stated definitely –
The Premium on Gold opened this morning at 54 per cent but fell back again to 52 pr ct as it was understood, under the pressure of the action of the Treasury Department.
May 7th The inclement weather with strong N. East wind of yesterday brought up a renewal of the rain on last evening which continued to fall quite rapidly nearly all night, causing a cloudy and inclement atmosphere this morning. After a week of anxious suspense we at length have some authentic and definite intelli. of the movements of the Army of the Potomac and the announcement of its recrossing the Rappahannoc to its former position on this side by Wednesday morning the 6th of May. Genl Hooker’s sojourn of about one week on the South side of that River during which he was compelled to defend himself constantly from the vigorous assaults of Rebs.
Rebel forces under Lee, Jackson, Hill, Longstreet &c with little or no supplies beyond what he carried over with him, as his communications with his base at Falmouth was interrupted or cut off and he was subjected at the same time to very heavy losses through a series of desperately contested engagements during Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday last. On Tuesday ^ Sunday Genl Sedgewick endeavoured to bring up his reserves of Two Divisions of fresh Troops [“from Fredericksburg” crossed out] to his assistance, ^ and they succeeded in taking Frederick’g where these were attacked by an overwhelming force under command of Gen’l Early and so cut to pieces that he was obliged not only to abandon Fredericksburg but to recross the River precipitately – Wherefor Hooker was forced to retreat, being impelled thereto moreover by the Rains of that and the preceding day – It is stated that He [“had recrossed the” crossed out] succeeded in his retreat and crossing over the River in the face of the enemy, and in bringing with him all his Stores, Guns, Wounded and Equipage in safety – so that this grand movement is denominated at Washington as “a repulse” and not “a disaster.” Hooker’s estimate of his Killed and wounded is 10,000 men & a loss of 1700 Prisoners – having captured 2640 Rebs and Killed and wounded a much larger number than his own loss. His Cavalry does appear to have made a successful Raid in the rear of Reb Army, as the brake up their R. Road communication with Richmond to within a few miles of that City with but little if any interruption to their movements by Reb forces which were altogether intent upon the great contest around Fredericksburg. Large reinforcements are said to have been added to both Armies and active hostilities may be renewed at an early day. The list of Officers Killed and wounded is large on both sides – but we must hear from the Reb. statements before we Know the extent of their loss in Killed and wounded – the actual number of Fed. Prisoners taken by them, and the number of Guns – the materiel, arms, &c. left in their hands by this “repulse” of the Feds.
Haines Blugg on the Yazoo was attacked by the Feds. under Genl Grant on the 30th Ulto. and was repulsed as before – Several Gunboats ^ 5 and morter ^ 3 boats participated in the bombardment, but they were considerably damaged by the Reb. Batteries and compelled to withdraw to Youngs Point An attack was made, simultaneously, by Porters Fleet upon the Reb. Batteries at Grand Gulf below Vicksburg and after a bombardment of eight hours during that day (30th) the Gunboats and Transports succeeded in passing them during the night – a subsequent dispatch states that the Fed forces returned and captured the batteries and 500 men with all the stores &c in them – (These were found to have been deserted and the Guns taken away or spiked by the Rebels
Advices from Europe by the steamer of 25 April report that the excitement consequent upon the captures made by Federal Cruisers of British Vessels & other Neutrals, also upon the Permit granted recently by Minister Adams, has become more intense, and this is shown by the Debates in the Parliament.
The Premium on Gold was 54 3/4 pr ct. at Second Board to-day.
May 8th Cloudy, with N. East Wind and with cold Temperature prevailed to-day. Some rain has fallen during the day but rain is falling quite heavily again this evening.
The Newspapers are filled with further details and many comments upon Hooker’s defeat, retreat &c His admitted loss of 15,000 men killed and wounded and 1700 Prisoners to the Rebs. is believed to be too small by the N. York Journals, these place his total loss at 30,000 men. In face of this however the following Telegram is published from the Government at Washington –
“To the Governor of Pennsylvania
“The principle operation of Genl Hooker failed, but there has been no serious disaster to the organization and efficient of the army.”
“It is now occupying its former position on the Rappahamock, having recrossed the River without any loss in the movement. Not more than one third of Generl Hooker’s force was engaged -”
“Gener’l Stoneman’s operations have been a brilliant success. Part of his forces advance to within Two Miles of Richmond, and the enemy communications have been cut in every direction.”
“The Army of the Potomac will speedily resume offensive operations” –
Singed Edwin M. Stanton / Secretary of War
The Premium on Gold was 53 1/2 to 54 pr. ct. to-day.
May 9th Rain continued to fall for a considerable portion of last night, but this morning opened bright and beautiful and to-day has been delightfully pleasant after so long a spell of rain & storm –
Under date of yesterday The President has issued a Proclamation to the effect that the Congress had, at its last Session passed an Act – approved 3rd March – enacting that all able bodied male Citizens of the United States, and persons of foreign birth who shall have declared on oath their intention to become citizens under and in pursuance of the Laws thereof, between the ages of 20 and 45 years, and it is claimed by and in behalf of said persons of foreign birth who have not exercised the right of suffrage or any other political franchise under the Law of The United States, or any of the States – have not absolutely concluded thereby from renouncing their purpose to become Citizens – It ordered and proclaimed that no plea of alienage will be received or allowed to exempt any person from the obligation of said Act who shall be found within the United States after the expiration of 65 days from the date of this Proclamation &c &c
Nearly, if not quite all of the Feds wounded in the 3 or 4 days conflict on the other side of the Rappahannock were left in the hands of the Rebs, as was their dead also – Over 210 of these wounded on this side of the River have arrived at the Hospitals in Washington & there are many others in the Hospitals in the vicinity of Falmouth, Aquia Creek &c These are supposed to have been the victims of the first fights at and about the Fords at the crossing and recrossing of the River – As it is stated that for the Fed wounded left on the Battle fields, necessarily, due arrangements had been made with the Rebs to permit the Feds to succor and bring them off promptly – after they had lain upon the ground for 2 or 3 days of Rain and Storm, exposed to its violence –
On the night of Monday 4th Inst. Genl Burnside despatched a company of the 13th U. S. Infantry from Cincinnati by special Train for Dayton – Ohio – where they arrived at 2 1/2 O’clk. A. M. when they proceeded immediately to the House of Hon. C. L. Vallandigham and after surrounding & guarding all approach thereto by his men the Officers in Command of the Company around him by ringing the door bell, when M. V. demanded to Know what was wanting [?] Being told that he was to be arrested V. shouted for Police &c The soldiers attempted to force the front door but it resisted their efforts, but a side was broken open and the squad finding all the doors in the House fastened up, they broke open four of them before reaching him when he was taken and escorted to the Train which was in waiting – But few persons appeared in answer to Vallandigham’s outcries and these gave no trouble to his Captors, but great excitement was the consequence next day and the Mob of Citizens set fire to the Journal Office, burning it down with several other Buildings. Vallandigham is charged with an infringement of Genl Burnside’s order No. 38 in his Speeches at Columbus, Mount Vernon &c upon which he, it is said was put upon his trial at Cincinnati and has been sentenced.3
See the endnote for an explanation of this incident.
This arrest of Vallandingham, the stringent order removal of “secesh” from St. Louis, Cincinnati, Washington City, Newbern N. C. being almost simultaneous with the reported successes of Genl Hooker may be relaxed now or modified –
The Premium on Gold was 50 pr ct to-day-
May 14th Since the 9th Inst. the weather has continued to be clear, and became warmer and [h_?] warmer until the 12th Inst. when the heat was oppressive – On the evening of that day a very severe Thunder Storm arose which seems to have extended over Phila and New York where the heat had been at 90 degrees in the shade on that day – Since then Rain has been falling occasionally and it has been raining this morning with Wind from the South East.
Further accounts from Southern Papers give us more information about the great Battles at Chancellorsville &c From these, and other sources, we learn That Hooker’s Army of the Potomac was composed of 12 Army Corps, or 150 Thousand men – Strong — That his Plan of advance was to pass Two or Three Army Corps across the Rappahammock 10 or 12 Miles below Fredericksburg, which were to make a first attack upon the Reb. defense on that side of the Town – Whilst He himself with 6 or 7 Army Corps was to proceed, by the Fords several miles above the Town, to cross the River in the rear and to take the enemy by surprise – To guard the store &c at Falmouth and to threaten the Town in front – Genl Sedgwick with Two or Three Army Corps was left on this side of the River to make an attack upon the Town, and Reb. fortifications in front, so soon as they should leave them or weaken them by moving away in any direction – A vigorous attack was made by the Feds. on the East side or below the Town but this was summarily repulsed by Stonewall Jackson Meanwhile Hooker had crossed at the upper Fords, with but slight opposition, capturing Pickets and other Prisoners – severe skirmishing ensued but the Rebs were compelled to fall back before this impetuous [?] attack. By Thursday 30th April Hooker and reached a position about 12 miles S. West from Frederick and near to Spotsylvania Court House and Chancellorsville where he had determined to await the attack of the enemy, as he here announced by a General Order to his Army, that they had succeeded, by their brilliant successes in cutting off the enemy’s line of retreat and then they would be compelled to leave their entrenchment at Fredericksburg, and come to attack them in fair open fight – To strengthen this position, which was protected on “The Wilderness” on one side, Hooker employed his force assiduously in throwing up Entrenchments & rifle pits – Whilst awaiting the attack of the enemy from the front He was completely surprised about 6 O’clk. on Friday evening by an attack on his right wing and rear, which was made with such irresistible impetuosity that the One or more Army Corps under Genl Howard were completely routed and driven off in the utmost disorder, throwing away their Arms and every thing else, as their Officers were unable to control them or allay the Panic which is said to have fully rivaled Bull Run. These Army Corps are said to have been composed mainly of German Regiments and this attack was made by Stonewall Jackson, who had come, by a forced march of 13 or 15 Miles, on that day from below Fredericksburg and committed all this havoc in Hooker’s lines and deranged all of his plans so that he was compelled to abandon his entrenchments, and change his position – Under these discouraging circumstances the fight was renewed on Saturday 2nd May during which Hooker was driven back some distance – and for the purpose of extricating himself if possible, on Saturday about Midnight he made a very furious attack upon the Rebs. – but this was unsuccessful and the fight was maintained until about 10 O’clock on Sunday morning — It was during this night fight that Genl Jackson was severely wounded, accidentally by some of his own men, in the left arm and through the right hand – The result of this latter fight was that Hooker was driven back several miles towards, and was in full retreat, by Sunday evening, to the Forks of the Rappahannock
On Saturday Sedgwick appears to have ascertained the departure of Jackson and the main forces of the Rebs from Fredksg [sic] when he attacked the Fortifications there. These he succeeded in taking from the small force left to guard them, but not without a heavy loss of his men – and he hurried on Sunday morning to succor Hooker – which may have retarded Lee’s pursuit for he sent back a sufficient force to beat Sedgwick and drive him not only back again to Fredericksburg but entirely across the River with prodigious loss – From this cause, if for no other, Hooker would have been compelled to recross the river – his rear and all his communications being threatened if not seriously endangered – and this he affected on [Tuesday crossed out] Monday 4th day of May – From the Reb. Reports of this fight we learn that their loss has been about 900 Killed 7000 wounded and 1500 or 2000 missing that have lost 14 pieces of Artillery and captured 53 pieces they have also secured 40 to 50 Thousand stand of small arms immense Stacks of Overcoats Knapsacks &c and 10,000 Prisoners and they believe that the Fed. loss of Killed & wounded cannot be less than 15 to 20 Thousand — This has ended one of the bloodiest fights of this War — Since its termination we had the statement that Genl Jackson’s arm has been amputated above the elbow, and that his wounds were recovering as fast as could reasonably expected . A day or two ago an unfavorable change in his condition has been reported, and his death has been announced since – but from a questionable source – viz “Head quarters Army of the Potomac” Other War News is unimportant – The Premium on Gold has been 48 to 57 pr. ct. for several days past –
May 15th The heat of yesterday after the rain of the morning indicated a speedy change – and about 4 O’clk in the afternoon, a heavy gust from the North came over us – and so changed the air as to indicate a hail storm at no great distance. This morning is delightfully cool and fresh –
The most prominent topic is the confirmation of General Stonewall Jackson’s death at 3:15 P.M. of the 19th Inst.4 and Genl Lee’s general order announcing the event to his Army – His death appears to evoke the most poignant and heartfelt sorrow of his friends – and the expression of the highest encomiums from his enemies for his high and noble qualities as a Christian, Soldier, Gentleman, and Scholar, and published in the most influential Journals of the North – mixed however with some congratulation for the loss of such an enemy to the Fed. cause – The New York Post observes that “Jackson on the Rebel side, like Butler on ours, has made more reputation than any other person engaged in the War-”
After his arrest in the night at Dayton Ohio, Hon. Clement L. Vallandigham was taken to Cincinnati by order of Genl Burnside, and there tried before a Court Martial upon charges preferred against him, virtually, for the infringement of Burnside’s famous order No 38 – The verdict of this Court was Two years imprisonment at Fort Tortugas – Florida – which was approved by Burnside, but the President commuted the sentence to banishment to the Southern Confederacy during the continuance of the War —
It is reported from Cairo that Genl Grant with his forces had a severe Engagement with the Rebs at Clinton 10 Miles from Jackson Mississippi on the 6th when he defeated them – but he had fallen back to the Big Black River to await for reinforcements – The Rebs having been reinforced. Reb. Reports confirm the above, as to the fight, but they claim to have gained a Victory and driven Grant back with loss-
May 16th We are favored with another bright and pleasant day with fresh breeze from the Southwest – But little if any War News seems to be in circulation to-day. The Confederate forces that have been engaged in destroying the Rail Road, and levying contributions on Western Virginia, have retired thence with a very large number of Horses, Cattle, and other Plunder all of which they have succeeded in carrying off to the Valley and Eastern Virginia without loss or any interference apparently, from the large Federal force sent against them – The operations of General Longstreet against the Fed. Position at Suffolk ceased about the commencement of Hooker’s recent advance, and the Rebs. are said to have made it a most successful foraging expedition as they brought off a large number of Horses and Cattle and an immense quantity of Hogs, Bacon and Pork – The amount of Provisions and Supplies obtained by these Two expeditions must be opportune and quite sufficient to supply the necessities of the Reb Army in Virginia with ample Stores for Some time to come-
From the Richmond Papers we have full particulars about Genl Thomas J. (Stonewall) Jackson Having gone some distance in front of skirmishes, on Saturday evening 2nd May, he was retiring about 8 O’clk. attended by his staff and part of his couriers ; The cavalcade was, in the darkness of the night, mistaken for a body of the enemy’s cavalry, and fired upon by a regiment of his own corps. He was struck by Three balls, one through the left arm Two inches below the shoulder joint shattering the bone, and severing the chief artery, another between elbow and wrist, making its exit through the palm of the hand ; a third ball entered palm of the right hand, about its middle and passing through broke two bones. He was wounded on the plank road, about 50 yards in advance of the enemy. He fell from his horse and was caught by Capt Worsley to whom he remarked “all my wounds are by my own men” – He had given orders to fire at anything coming up the road, before he left the lines. The enemy’s skirmishes appeared ahead of him and he turned to ride back. Just then some one cried out — “Cavalry – charge!” – and immediately the regiment fired. The whole party broke forward, to ride through our line to escape the fire. – Captain Boswell was Killed and carried through line by his horse, and fell amid our own men. Col. Crutchfailer[?] was wounded by his side. Two couriers were Killed. Mayor Pendleton. Lts Morreson and Smith escaped uninjured.
Genl Jackson was immediately placed on a litter and started for the rear ; the firing attracted the attention of the enemy, and was resumed by the Two lines, one of the litter bearers was shot down, and the General fell from the shoulders of the men, receiving a severe contusion and adding to the injury of the arm and injuring the side severely. The enemy’s fire of artillery on this point was terrible. Genl Jackson was left for five minutes until the fire slackened, then placed in an ambulance and carried to a field hospital at Wilderness Run –
He lost a large amount of blood, and at one time told Dr. McGuire he thought he was dying and would have bled to death had not the tourniquet been applied immediately. For Two hours he was nearly pulseless from the shock. As he was being carried from the field, frequent inquiries were made by the soldiers “who have you there.” He told the Doctor “do not tell the troops I am wounded.”
After reaction a consultation was held between Drs. Black, Coleman, Wells and McGuire and amputation was decided upon. He was asked “If we find amputation necessary, it be done at once”? He replied “Yes certainly. Dr. McGuire, do for me whatever you think right.” The operation was performed under the influence of chloroform, and was born well. He slept Sunday morning, was cheerful, and in every way was doing well. He sent for Mrs. Jackson, and inquired minutely about the battle, spoke cheerfully of the result and Said “If I had not been wounded or had had one more hour of daylight, I would cut off the enemy from the route to M. S. Ford, and we would have had them entirely surrounded, and they would have been obliged to surrender or cut their way out ; that was their only alternative “My troops sometimes may fail in driving the enemy from his position.” This he said smilingly. He complained this day of the fall from the litter, although no contusion or abrasion was perceptible as the result of the fall ‘ He did not complain of his wounds, and never spoke of them unless asked. Sunday evening he sleep well.
On Monday he was carried to Chancellors house, near Guinea’s depot ; He was cheerful, talked about the battle, and spoke about the bravery of Genl Rhodes, and said that his Major Generl’s commission should date from Saturday, of the grand charge of his old Stonewall Brigade of which he had heard ; asked after all his officers ‘ during the day talked more than usual, and said “the men who live through this war will be proud to say, I was one of Stonewall’s Brigade to their children.” – He insisted that the term “Stonewall” belonged to them and not to him.
During the ride to Guinea’s he complained greatly of the heat, and besides wet applications to the wounds, begged that a wet application be applied to his stomach, which was done, greatly to his relief as he expressed it. He slept well on Monday night, and ate with relish next morning.
On Tuesday his wounds were doing very well, He asked – “Can you tell me from the appearance of my wounds how long I will be Kept from the field?” He was greatly satisfied when they told him they were doing remarkably well. Did not complain of any pain in the side and wanted to see the members of his Staff but was advised not.
On Wednesday wounds look remarkably well. He expected to go to Richmond this day but was prevented by the rain. This night whilst his Surgeon, who had slept none for Three nights, was asleep, he complained of nausea, and ordered his boy Jim to place a wet towel on his stomach. This was done. About daylight the Surgeon was awakened by the boy saying, “The General is suffering great pain.” The pain was in the right side, and due to incipient pneumonia ; and some nervousness, which he himself attributed to the fall from the litter.
On Thursday, Mrs. Jackson arrived, and to his joy and satisfaction, and she faithfully nursed him to the end. By Thursday night all pain had ceased, he suffered greatly from prostration.
On Friday he suffered no pain, but the prostration increased. Drs Tucker and Smith had been consulted on Thursday.
On Sunday morning, when it was apparent that he was rapidly sinking, Mrs. Jackson was informed of his condition. – She then had free and full converse with him, and told him he was going to die. He said, “Very good, very good, it is all right” – He previously expressed “I consider these wounds a blessing they are given me for some wise __ [word cut off from my copy] purpose, and I would not part with them if I could” – He asked of Major Pendleton “who is preaching at Headquarters to day?” He sent messengers to all the Generals. He expressed a wish to be buried at Lexington in the Valley of Virginia. During the deliverance his mind reverted to the field of battle, and sent orders to A. P. Hill to prepare for action, and to Major Hawks, his commissary, and to the Surgeons.
He frequently expressed his wish to his Aids that Major General Ewell should be ordered to the command of his Corps. His confidence in Genl Ewell was very great, and he showed by the manner which he spoke of him, that he had duly considered the matter. –
The messenger who carried to General Lee the intelligence of General Jackson being wounded, found Lee on a bed of Straw, and when told of what had happened, about 4 O’clock in the morning, he said – “Thank God it is no worse – “God be praised that he is still alive, any Victory is a dear one that deprives us of the service of Jackson even for a short time.” When General Jackson received the letter which General Lee sent to him on Sunday morning, bursting into tears he said “Far better for the Confederacy that Ten Jacksons should have fallen, than one Lee.
The Premium on Gold to day was 50 pr. cent –
May 11th The weather has been very pleasant for several days past. The Temperature became quite warm yesterday, but changed suddenly last evening – There is but little War news of a reliable character – We have reports of the operations of the Feds in Mississippi & Louisiana showing the successful capture of Alexandria Port Hudson, Grand Gulf &c together with the destruction of Rail Roads, and large amounts of other Property – Also that a bloody battle has been fought near Clinton – Miss – in which the Rebs. had been driven back – All of this “wants confirmation – Secretary Stanton is reported ‘to have decided that the clause in the Conscription Law as to substitution is permissive and not mandatory and that it will be ignored – with the Presidents ‘assent.
The Richmond Sentinel of 13th Inst. says ; “Yesterday 1475 Yankee Prisoners were received here from Guinneys, and 1550 from Genl Forrest, captured near Rome, George ; These and some from the Prisons were all sent over to Belle Island. The number previously received in the last few days is 3796 making the number now on hand 6721 – There are others behind at Guinneys who are yet to come besides the wounded who fell into our hands. The surplus of Prisoners in our hands before these captures were about twelve (12) Thousand” – Premium on Gold 50 pr. ct.
May 19th Beautiful and brightly pleasant weather to-day – The War News appears to be limited to a reiteration of the Reports from Mississippi and Lousina [sic] of Fed succeed there in the capture of Alexandria, Grand Gulph, Port Hudson, Jackson & the defeat of the Reb. forces, with considerable loss, near the latter place — The recent arrest, trial and condemnation of C. L. Vallandigham of Ohio has excited much indignation amongst the Copperhead Democrats of New York and a Meeting was held at Albany sympathizing – at which the following letter from Gov. Seymour was read
Executive department May 16th 1863
I cannot attend the meeting at the Capitol this evening, but I wish to state my opinions in regard to the arrest of Mr. Vallandigham. It is an act which has brought dishonor upon our country. It is full of danger to our persons and our homes. It bears upon its front a conscious violation of Law and Justice. – Acting upon the evidence of detailed informers, shrinking from the light of day in the darkness of night armed men, violated the home of an American Citizen, and furtively took him away to military trial, conducted without those safeguards Known[?] in the proceedings of our judicial tribunals. The transaction involved a series of offense against our most sacred rights. It interfered with the freedom of speech ; it violated our rights to be secure in our homes against unreasonable seizures and searches ; it pronounced sentence without trial, save one which was a mockery which insulted as well as wronged. The perpetrators now seek to impose punishment, not for an offense against Law, but for the disregard of an invalid order, put forth in the utter disregard of the principle of civil liberty.
If this proceeding is approved by the Government, and sanctioned by the People, it is not merely a step towards revolution ; it is revolution ; it will not only lead to military despotism, it established despotism. In this respect it must be accepted or[?] in this respect rejected. If it is upheld, our liberties are overthrown, the safety of our persons, security of our Property, will hereafter depend upon the arbitrary will of such military rulers as may be placed over us, while our constitutional guarantees will be broken down. Even now the Governors and Courts of some of the great Western States have sunk into insignificance before the despotic powers claimed and exercised by military men who have been sent into their borders. It is a fearful thing to increase the danger which now overhands us by treating the Law, the Judiciary and the State Authorities with contempt. The People of this country now wait with deepest anxiety the decisions of the Executive upon these Acts. Having given it a generous support in the War, we pause to see what Kind of Government it is for which we are asked to pour out our blood and treasures. The action of the administration will determine in the minds of more than one half of the People of the loyal States whether this war is waged to put down rebellion at the South or to destroy free institutions at the North. We look for its decision with solemn solicitude. / Signed Horatio Seymour—
I must observe here that Ellicott’s willingness to write in full the remarks of Horatio Seymour suggests his was fully in sympathy with Seymour’s concerns.
May 21st The weather for several days has been clear and pleasant. The War News is uninteresting unless we could rely on the reports of the operations of the Federal Army in Mississippi, but these seem to want confirmation –
For some weeks past, our legal Counsellor and Friend, Grafton L. Dalany, has been suffering from a Liver complaint resulting in an attack of Jaundice, from which he seemed to be convalescing until within a day or two past, when he met with a relapse. The recurrence of chills warned his family and friends that his condition was very precarious, and the weakened condition of his system could not withstand the violence of the reaction – under which he gradually sunk until his demise about one O’clock on yesterday morning. He died unexpectedly, almost as his recovery seems to be progressing so favor[ably] although slowly, that he was considered out of danger from his disease. He was in the Sixty Eighth (68) year of his age at at [sic] the time of his death, and his funeral is to take place from his late residence at 6 O’clock this afternoon – This event may complicate the result of the Colvin Case which has been in and under his charge, for the Plaintiffs, since its initiation in the year 18505 — He is mourned by a large circle of Friends, who respect him even more for the sterling qualities of his heart, and his character as a Christian gentleman, and a good Citizen, than for his Professional and Legal attainments which are admitted to have been of the highest order – An acquaintance with him for Twenty Six years past [since 1837] warrants me in bearing testimony to these characteristics in every respect, and I do not expect to meet with another Friend or Counsellor who can fill the void caused by his departure to that rest which I have every reason to believe that he has attained by his probity and the truthfulness of his Religious sentiments, and deportment.
Saturday May 23rd 1863 – With a clear sky the Sun has had such influence upon the Temperature for several days past that it has become very warm – and the Thermometer has indicated above 80 degrees in the shade – both here and in the Cities North –
The War News is of but little importance excepting from the Armies in Mississippi – By reports thence we are told that General Grants forces, or a portion of them had occupied Jackson, Miss. for a short time, and abandoned that place on Friday 15th Inst. after taking a great deal of Property, and destroying the State House and other Public buildings and Property, as well as much private Property there – retiring towards the North West – on Saturday morning Genl Pemberton with a force of about 12000 men was attacked by Grant, whose forces amounted to 24000 men – and after a fight of 8 or 9 hours Pemberton was compelled to fall back across the Big Black River and upon the advance of the Feds they found Genl Joe Johnson there in line of Battle. The battle between Pemberton and Grant is said to have been a bloody one to both Parties. The Feds are said to have committed depredations and to have destroyed a large amount of private as well as of Public Property during their operations in Mississippi — We are also informed that Admiral Farrigut has destroyed the Sloop of War Hartford his Flagship after she was stripped, and that the lower Batteries at Port Hudson had been attacked by a portion of his Fleet assisted by all the Monitors &c. As the Evacuation of Port Hudson by the Reb.s about month ago, was stated by the Fed Authorities to have taken place after its bombardment by Com. Porter with so much positiveness and circumstatiality [sic] as to be generally believed, it is difficult to reconcile this attack on the 8th Inst. with any reliance upon any statements made of matters in that section.
It is now stated that Vallandigham’s sentence of imprisonment in some Fort has been commuted by the President to transportation beyond the Fed lines into Dixie which seems to have been done in defiance of the remonstrance made by the Democrats of New York – against his arrest, detention &c The excitement upon this subject in that state is said to be intense, and may result in some serious action before long –
The Premium on Gold has varied but a fraction from 50 pr cent for some days past.
Monday May 25th Up to yesterday evening the heat was excessive, when it attained nearly to 90 degrees in the shade – during the afternoon the sky became overcast with clouds, but without any rain the wind came out quite violently from the North East and changed the Temperature very suddenly – so that doors and windows had to be closed and a blanket at night was requisite for comfort instead of the sweltering heat of the past few days, and the air this morning is so cool as to render Winter clothing more comfortable than any other – Hail fell yesterday in Phila and on the Eastern Shore of Md
The reports that we have from Mississippi continue to be most favorable to the Feds. Indeed they indicate the defeat of the Confeds in several engagements, and the close investment, if not the occupation of Vicksburg by Genl Grants forces – and that Rebs had suffered severe losses of men, artillery, stores, &c in the Several battles on May 1st at Port Hudson – on the 14th near Jackson on the 16th at Bakers Creek and on Sunday the 17th at the Bridge over the Big Black River —after which Haines Bluff was captured, and Vicksburg invested on the 19th inst. The losses on both side must have been large but the statements thereof is so vague as to leave us in doubt about the reality of the whole account –
Wednesday May 27th The sky has been overcast [illegible word written between the lines] with clouds, and the Wind North East since Monday last, with a cool Temperature. To day is clear and bright and very pleasant.
Up to this time there has been no Official report or communication from Genl U. S. Grant made public, or any other official account confirmatory of the Battles recently reported to have taken place in the vicinity, and near to Vicksburg ; and the accounts we have now indicate some mistake or exaggeration of the Federal successes in those engagement – The reports of military operations from other points are unimportant, unless the capture of Helena by the Rebs. shall be confirmed. – The Premium on Gold went down to 43 pr. ct. yesterday but it has advanced again to 45 or 46 pr. ct. to day –
Thursday May 28th The weather remains clear and very pleasant to-day – Many vague reports are still in circulation about the affairs at Vicksburg, which want confirmation from some reliable quarter – Official or otherwise It is presumed that the authorities at Washington must have information which they are not willing to make public – As Telegraphic communications thence to Vicksburg may be made in a few Hours – Sent NewsPapers to A. B. C by yesterday’s Mail.
Friday May 29th Clear and pleasant to-day. The Temperature is becoming warmer but the heat has not, as yet, reached the point of 12 days ago — and there appears no symptom of a rain coming — The intelligence from Vicksburg, which is the great point of attraction just now from the number of hostile forces in array against each other and the momentous consequences dependent thereupon, comes to us so tardy and in such an obscure form as to be very unsatisfactory – The latest report being only up to Sunday morning 24th Inst. The Feds had made several desperate assaults upon the Reb Fortifications and had been repulsed with heavy losses.
The Premium on Gold was 43 1/2 pr. ct. yesterday and has advanced to 45 1/2 to-day.
End of May, 1863.
Endnote: Charles Vallandigham
As so often happens, a side story turns out to be nearly as interesting as the main event. Here is a brief history of a man with a most unusual name: 6
Clement Vallandigham (1820-1871), born in Ohio to a Presbyterian minister, was the leader of the Ohio Copperheads, and a U. S. Congressman from 1858 to 1862, so by May 1863, he was back home in Ohio. In Congress he opposed every bill that supported the military and was accused of wanting the Confederates to win. When Gen. Burnside issued General Order Number 38, he warned that the “habit of declaring sympathies for the enemy” would not be tolerated in the Military District of Ohio. In response, Vallandigham gave a speech claiming that the war was being fought to free the slaves, not to save the Union, and that it was all for the benefit of “King Lincoln.” When Lincoln suspended habeas corpus in 1862, he made “disloyal practices subject to martial law and trial by military commissions.”
Lincoln considered Vallandigham a “wily agitator”, and on May 19, 1863, ordered him sent through the enemy lines to the Confederacy, where he declared himself to be a prisoner of war.
As Ellicott wrote, Gov. Seymour of New York spoke against the arrest. Resolutions from that meeting were drafted by John V. L. Pruyin and sent to President Lincoln by Erastus Corning. Lincoln responded with a “Letter to Erastus Corning et al.” dated June 12, 1863, explaining his support of the Vallandigham conviction. This became Lincoln’s strongest justification for his actions regarding civil rights during a time of war, especially during a time of “insurrection.”
New Jersey Democrats held a meeting on May 30, 1863 in Newark, where a letter from Governor Joel Parker was read. He declared that the arrest, trial and deportation of Vallandigham “were arbitrary and illegal acts. The whole proceeding was wrong in principle and dangerous in its tendency.”
After being declared an “alien enemy” by Jefferson Davis, Vallandigham travelled to Richmond, and from there by blockade-runner to Bermuda and then to Canada, where he declared himself a candidate for Governor of Ohio. He won the Democratic nomination in absentia, but lost the election in a landslide to pro-Union War Democrat John Brough.
Vallandigham died in 1871, by shooting himself accidentally. Here is the Wikipedia version of the event:
“Vallandigham died in 1871 in Lebanon, Ohio, at the age of 50, after accidentally shooting himself in the abdomen with a pistol. He was representing a defendant (Thomas McGehan) in a murder case for killing a man in a barroom brawl at the Golden Lamb Inn. Vallandigham attempted to prove the victim, Tom Myers, had in fact accidentally shot himself while drawing his pistol from a pocket while rising from a kneeling position. As Vallandigham conferred with fellow defense attorneys in his hotel room at the Golden Lamb, he showed them how he would demonstrate this to the jury. Selecting a pistol he believed to be unloaded, he put it in his pocket and enacted the events as they might have happened, snagging the loaded gun on his clothing and unintentionally causing it to discharge into his belly. Although he was fatally wounded, Vallandigham’s demonstration proved his point, and the defendant, Thomas McGehan, was acquitted and released from custody (to be shot to death four years later in his saloon). Surgeons probed for the pistol ball, thought to have lodged in the vicinity of his bladder, but were unable to locate it, and Vallandigham died the next day of peritonitis. His last words expressed his faith in “that good old Presbyterian doctrine of predestination.”
At his funeral, Vallandigham was eulogized by James W. Wall, one of New Jersey’s most out-spoken Copperheads.7
Addendum, 10/20/15: After publishing this post I found on Wikipedia a good photograph of Gov. Seymour of New York.
- The month of May begins on page 112 of the third volume of Ellicott’s diary. For previous articles on the Civil War Diary of Benjamin H. Ellicott, click on the tag in the right column for “Civil War.” These entries come from the four volumes of diaries, in 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. There are several illegible words in this volume. ↩
- E. Warford was Ellicott’s father-in-law, Elisha Warford; Holcomb Warford was the nephew of Elisha Warford. I have not yet identified A. B. C. (sounds like a code name), and do not yet know how Amada is related to the other Warfords. She married Moses M. Bateman in 1864. ↩
- Note that Ellicott consistently spells the name “Vallandingham,” which may be the way it was pronounced, but the actual spelling is Vallandigham. ↩
- Jackson died on May 10th. ↩
- The Colvin Case is a fascinating episode that I hope to write about in the future; it involved a dispute over the estate of his wife’s relative, Rachel Colvin. ↩
- Adapted from an article in Wikipedia. ↩
- See The Democratic Club of Delaware Township. ↩