Disturbing news of late, somehow reminiscent of the lead-up to America’s first Civil War. Whilst scrolling through the Hunterdon Gazette recently, I came across an item that caught my attention, published on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1859:
This is the last month of Benjamin H. Ellicott’s Diary. He continues to report on war news from his home in Baltimore, but, on August 18th he describes a visit to Croton, New Jersey on August 11th that leads him and wife Mary Ann Warford to decide to relocate there. But he does not explain why that decision was made. Perhaps they felt that the war was getting too close to them. Or maybe Mary Ann’s father, Elisha Warford, was asking them to come live with him.
This is a continuation of the diary of Benjamin H. Ellicott of Baltimore during the events of the Civil War in 1863. During the latter half of July, the famous draft riots broke out in New York City, and later in the month, Ellicott describes a scene of violence in Baltimore. Meanwhile, Lee and his army become elusive, and the second blockade of Charleston is begun.1
The Civil War Diary of Benjamin H. Ellicott continued
As the weather heated up in the summer of 1863, so did the Civil War, with the siege of Vicksburg finally completed, and then the momentous Battle(s) at Gettysburg. Benjamin Ellicott, writing from his home in Baltimore, struggled to make sense of what was happening, in an age when communications were still quite primitive, compared to our instant access to events. Despite telegrams and the telegraph, news was hard to get, and reliable news even harder. Ellicott’s journal shows us how different life is for civilians in a civil war compared to a war fought overseas, on someone else’s territory.1
This article is a follow-up to the Democratic Club of Delaware Township, published last spring.
The previous article described the Club’s principles and resolutions, reflecting the alarm felt by Hunterdon Democrats at the war measures taken by President Lincoln. The article was published in the Hunterdon Historical Newsletter.1 But because of length restrictions, short biographies of the club’s officers had to be postponed to a future newsletter.
June 1863. The Civil War has been going on for over two years now, with no end in sight. Benjamin H. Ellicott, watching it all from his home in Baltimore, has written an amazing diary of events.1 His skepticism about official reports and his access to both southern and northern newspapers makes him a valuable observer. And it doesn’t hurt that he was very articulate.
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.
April 1863 was another very difficult month for the country. The biggest news was “affairs at or around Vicksburg.”