as seen through Benjamin H. Ellicott’s eyes
This post provides transcriptions of Benjamin H. Ellicott’s notes on the Civil War from March to December 1862. (I have kept Ellicott’s spelling, and inserted questions marks for words I can’t read.) For most of this time, Ellicott and his family were living in Locktown, New Jersey. Baltimore was their home, but they left it in 1861 after the attack on Fort Sumter. The family returned to Baltimore on September 24, 1862, and remained there until 1863, when they resettled in Hunterdon County.
In July 1862, Mary Ann Ellicott, daughter of Elisha Warford, suffered from a throat ailment, diagnosed as diphtheria. She was anxious to consult her old Baltimore doctor, since the Hunterdon doctors she saw were not able to provide her with a cure. Perhaps she was also homesick, since she had been living in Baltimore since 1824, when she was 9 years old.1
Ellicott’s information on the war came from whatever newspapers he could get, usually 3 or 4 a day. But he did not identify what those newspapers were. The news often seemed very favorable to the South.
The first of his war-related notes for 1862 was made on March 24th. Previous to that date, General Grant had captured two forts in Tennessee. And in early March the ironclad “Merrimac” sank two Union ships and fought the Union ironclad “Monitor” to a stalemate. Also in March, after a long delay, Gen. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac finally began moving south toward Richmond.
March 24th The battle at Newbern N.C. was fought on the 13th Inst. Federals under Burnside the Rebels commanded by Genl [left blank] after 4 Hours hard fighting the Rebels were routed from their position and retreating carrying off their dead and wounded – Federal loss about 600 Killed and wounded reported.2
In early April, the Battle of Shiloh took place on the Tennessee River. 13,000 Union troops under Gen. U. S. Grant and 10,000 Confederate soldiers were killed. This led to demands for Grant’s recall, but President Lincoln resisted, saying: “I can’t spare this man; he fights.” As seen in Ellicott’s note, his source of information about how many troops were involved is way off the mark.
April 10th To-day we have the intelligence that a terrible Battle was fought upon the 6th & 7th Inst. near the Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River, between the Federal Troops under Genls Grant, Buell &c. numbering 38 to 80 thousand men and the Rebel forces under Genls Johnston, Beauregard &c said to be 50- to 60 Thousand men. The fight on Sunday 6th was desperately contested and resulted in the defeat of the Federals so far that they lost their Camps and 38 pieces of Cannon – during that night large reinforcements came to their relief and the fight was renewed early on Monday morning with increased vigor on both sides : The Federals regaining their Camp and the Carillons Taken the day before with it is state, 40 Cannon of the Rebels compelling them to retreat back to their fortifications at Corinth, distant 15 or 20 miles, pursued by the Federal Cavalry. The losses on both sides are said to be very heavy. The most reliable accounts state that the Federal Killed were 2000 wounded 3500 and missing 5,500 – The Rebel loss was 2500 Killed 2000 wounded 2500 about missing – all doubtful however – The capture of Island No. 10 on the Mississippi River is announced by Comm’r Foote’s official despatch to the War Department stating that he had taken possession of the Island, also of the works by Genl Buford, after they had been evacuated by the Rebels, who had patrolled therefrom on the night of the 6th Inst. leaving there 17 Officers 368 privates 100 Sick & 100 men with the transports & Gun boats captured prisoners besides 80 siege Guns, several batteries of light cannon, and large quantities of munitions, Arms &c Later reports give 5000 Prisoners – 100 Guns &c
Ellicott frequently mentions the number of newspapers that are delivered with the mail, sometime 3, sometimes 4. The “War News” seems to have a slight slant toward the Confederates, in that the “Rebs” always seem to be besting the “Federals.” So, I presume that those newspapers being delivered to him came from Baltimore, and perhaps from Philadelphia. He made no further comments on the war until May 17th.
May 17th She [a visitor from Baltimore] brings much Joy to the children & pleasure to us, with some of the particulars of the fight at & flight of the Federals from Strasburg to Williamsport M.d. and the riotous commotion in Balto. on Thursday the 25th Inst.
May 31 Clear and pleasantly cool to-day. The Locktown Volunteers 13 or 14 strong paraded here to-day. E. Warford also visited us. The Mail brought 3 Newspapers only.
On June 17, 1862, Ellicott left Locktown for Baltimore, to seek employment and to take care of the family belongings. He stayed for 12 days.
June 19th [in Baltimore]. . . The opinion of all seems to be that there is no improvement in affairs outside of Army or Navy Contracts by which a few are making money, and that, from the number of idle people seeking employment, they think it almost impossible to get a situation at a Salary now
June 25th Had quite a long talk with him [G. L. Dulaney] & with Mrs. D. for a part of the time. He says that the Court of Appeals will not hear the Arguments in the Colvin Case before October next unless they hold a special Term which he deems to be unlikely – We chatted for an hour or more upon various subjects found that he was strong for the Union and Mrs. D as strong the other way – She, like many others I have met, does not hesitate to speak her mind right out. Secesh [secession?] is so bold here that it commands respect from opponents.
G. L. Dulaney was one of the attorneys hired by Elisha Warford in the case of the heirs of Rachel Colvin deceased v. Richard W. Colvin.
Ellicott returned to Locktown on June 30th. During the period of his wife’s illness, Ellicott had little interest in anything else, although he continued to make observations on the weather, probably because he felt it had some bearing on the state of his family’s health.
August 21st The weather is still clear and warm by dry, without any rain, or the appearance of it, so that serious apprehensions are felt for the crops of Corn & Buckwheat least they shall fail like the Oats. Several arrests have been made under recent orders of the War Department within a few days past three more [inserted text: Kugle, Mrs Stout and another] citizens of this County have been taken to Trenton on unknown political charges.
“Kugle” was Joseph Kugler, whose story I outlined in the first episode of Ellicott’s diary.
27th Aug It has become very warm again – Went to Flemington. The Town is filled with Volunteers, and invalid Citizens claiming exemption of military duty from the Surgeon appointed to examine men in view of the Draft. Upon which there is the utmost solicitude & excitement
Sept. 2d . . . The accounts that we have from the Battles fought in Virginia within the past 10 days are of the most important and exciting character. They show that McClean, Pope, McDowell, Banks, Fitz John Porter, Sumner[?], Hientzelman, Franklin, Sl[?], Siegel, and various other Federal Generals, with the greater portion of the Federal forces, are there and that Generals Lee, Hill, Longstreet, Ewell, Jackson & other Confederates were there with a very great majority of the Confeds – That the Battles have been continuous between them for many days past resulting so far in the success of the Confeds; but the contest has not been decided as yet.
Sept 4th . . . The News of the day shows the continued & decisive successes of the Rebels in their recent operations before Washington City – Insomuch that after 10 days continuous fighting the Federal Armies have been driven into the Fortification there & the Rebels are sad to be crossing the Potomac into Maryland between Harper’s Ferry and Washington City.
From the relapsing condition of Mary’s throat we fear another attack of Diphtheria in full, and she has determined, therefore, to Endeavor to reach Baltimore again to be under the care of her old Physician Dr Buckler – for which purpose she is now making preparations-
From September 4th through 9th, Gen. Lee and an army of 50,000 moved towards Harpers Ferry, which was 50 miles northwest of Washington. McClellan with an army of 90,000 pursued him, but the nearness of Lee to the Capital City was nerve-wracking.
Sept 11th The Rebels have not only succeeded in the crossing over into Maryland but are said to have invaded Pennsylvania in considerable force, leaving a larger force at Poolesville in Montgomery County, M.d. for the protection of their rear – That Genl McClellan has marched out from Washington with a large force to attack them there or to prevent their further advance towards Washington or Baltimore. The Rebels are said to have occupied Frederick City on Saturday the 6th Inst. & 15 or 20 thousand of their forces passed through on their way towards Hanover, Gettysburg and Harrisburg – They had collected or seized large numbers of Hogs, Cattle, Horses &c paying for them as well as the supplies they got at Frederick in Virginia, Carolina, Confederate and U. States Treasury Notes – Great excitement of course prevailed in Maryland as well as in Pennsylvania, and besides, a Provost Marshall [sic] at Frederick a Provisional Governor for the State of Maryland and been appointed under the Confederate States.
Sept 12th The Rebel forces invading Maryland had not up to [sic] entered Pennsylvania on the 10th Inst. and were said to be going in the direction of Hagerstown from Frederick, through their Cavalry Pickets or scouts said to be extended over a large portion of that part of Md. and even into Penna. A large force of Rebels are said to be within a few miles of Covington Ky. intending to attack Covington [?] and several parties of Guerrillas had crossed the Ohio River at different points from Virginia and Kentucky. The number that have crossed over into M.d. is not known with any accuracy – but the Federal forces are said to be pursuing them.
Sept 17th Yesterdays statements announced a great Union Victory over the Rebels at South Mountain near to Middletown M.d. which proves to have been an artillery affair between McClellan’s advance and the Rebel rear guard and by the Papers of today we learn that the Rebels have captured Harpers Ferry . . . with the Garrison of 8000 Federal troops and the common munitions there. The Commandant there, Col. Miles, is reported as wounded and since dead. McClellan is said to be fighting the Rebels near to Sharpsburg at the last accounts.
S[unday] 20th Sept. Our last accounts from the seat of War in Maryland represent that the Two armies had, as if by mutual consent ceased fighting on Thursday last with the expectation of reviving the contest, near to Sharpsburg on the next day but a change in the position of the Rebels had prevented it and we are not advised any further thereupon. Up to last Friday the Federals claimed the Victory but with an admitted loss of 10 Thousand killed and wounded the loss of the Rebels being smaller – and an unusually large number of Federal Officers either Killed or wounded. They also claimed the capture of some of the chief Rebel Generals and a large number of their men as Prisoners (doubtful) and that the balance of the Rebel forces in Maryland will be compelled to surrender or be driven into the Potomac. The Rebel Army operating in Kentucky have captured the Town of Mumfordsville, and the Federal force of 5000 men stationed there. A great Battle between the Federals under Genl Buell and the Rebel Genls Bragg and Kirby Smith is expected daily to be fought in that State. So that we are on the tiptoe of expectation for these events – In the meanwhile the Radical Politicians are hatching up schemes tending to disturb still more, if not to subvert entirely the Federal Government.
News of the Emancipation Proclamation made on September 22nd must have been all over the newspapers, but Ellicott was distracted by his wife’s health and her decision to return to Baltimore.
Sept. 23rd Although the Diphtheric sore throat with which Mary has been afflicted ever since 2d July last, has so far abated as to indicate no dangerous symptoms, still they have returned several times, showing that the disease is still there and may at any time or sudden change of the weather be developed in spite of the best medical advice that can be procured here – Wherefore, she is so desirous of seeing Dr. Buckler; as well as to have the advantage of the climate of Baltimore to facilitate her recovery, that we have determined to go thither tomorrow morning – with the reluctant consent of our only Parent E. Warford. The weather is cool and pleasant now and we wish to make our journey before a change may make it too cold or too wet for us to travel. We have settled off every bill owing and will leave a clean record behind us at LockTown and in New Jersey. Sent our Baggage to Centre Bridge.
Oct 6 – For the past week the Temperature has been quite as oppressive and warm as in August, and peculiarly so to us after the cool air of N. Jersey and wearing the heavy clothing which we fear to change least we might increase the colds with which we have all been attacked since we arrived in the City. We have found matters here in a most quiescent condition – very little excitement appearing to exist upon the subject of the War, and the passage of Thousands of Troops through the City daily causing but little attention from the People not directly concerned in their movements – The Railways are constantly engaged both by day and night and on Sundays in the conveyance of the Troops, munitions and army Stores to the seat of War What with the demand for the subsistence of the Army, the increased rates of transportation, the depreciation of the Currency, Gold selling at 22 1/2 pr ct Premium & Exchange being at 136 pr ct and the Enormous Duties imposed by the Tariff as well as by Taxes on Every thing under the new Revenue Tax Bill, the prices of Every thing have appreciated very much
Oct 20th The accounts from Kentucky, indicating that considerable Battles have been fought there, and so variant that it is impossible to say whether the Feds or the Confeds are victorious. The great Army of the Potomac has not been engaged in anything more than reconnoitering skirmishes since the Battle of Antietam, but is expected to move upon the Rebels in the Valley very soon.
The Premium on Gold went up to 37 pr ct. during the past week, but has fallen to 29 or 30 pr ct. today. Speculations have been running up the prices of many other articles besides Gold & Silver so that Contractors for Government supplies will now loose some of their previous profits, and everyone will feel still more the effects of the depreciated Currency. The taxes and the other concomitants of the War besides the slaughter and the missing of the Battle fields, and of the Hospitals.
The Draft for 300 Thousand men for 9 months service has been filled up, in some of the States, by Volunteers who have been received ___[?] by the War Department, but Maryland, as well as some other States, was obliged to draft in several Counties, & in this City, to fill up their respective quotas – The large Bounty paid by the City induced many men of the Counties to Enlist here, and it was so managed that all such were credited to the City whereby her quota was filled all to 46 men who were all that had to be drafted therefrom – But in some of the Counties nearly the whole male population fit for military duty have been drafted to fill their quotas – This has caused an urgent requirement [?] for substitutes from those Counties especially and these have to obtained, mainly from this City. Wherefore the demand for these is very brisk indeed at this time to meet the rendezvous[?] of those drafted and who have to meet their enrolling Officers on Saturday next the 25th Instant. Prices for substitutes, therefore, have advanced from 200 to 8 or 10 Hundred Dollars and even higher rates are said to have been paid by some parties.
This is the end of volume one of Ellicott’s four-volume diary. Volume Two begins with October 22, 1862 and ends with April 9, 1863.
October 23 The Premium on Gold has again advanced to 35 pr ct after falling to 28 pr ct. Rumors are afloat of changes to be made in some of the higher Officers of the Government. No Army movements of much importance have been announced for several days past.
Oct 24th In conversation with James W. Harvey to-day informs me that he was on a visit in Penna near Millersville at the time of the great Battle at Antietam. They could hear the cannonading during the Fight and he accompanied Three of the Citizens who were Republicans on a visit to the Battle Field on the day after the Contest. The Picket Guard was very strict and they found much difficulty in gaining admission within the Federal lines until they sent in word to one of the Commanding Officers that they had brought Hospital Stores for the wounded when they were passed through; they soon came to a large Farm House with extensive Grounds, Barns, & outbuildings. All of these were filled and the Grounds also were covered with the wounded men under temporary shelter formed by Rails set up and covered with Straw. He was told that Two Thousand, at least, were then lying in and around these Buildings, and that for 5 miles around every Farm House, and other Buildings were similarly occupied by the Wounded, nearly all of whom were Federals — Some of the Federal Officers who there on duty and some other whom he saw in command of Soldiers who were burying the dead, said that the Rebel loss was not one in Five compared to the Federals, and altho’ the Rebels had left all their dead on the Field, he saw but very few indeed where there were a great number of Federals— He showed to me also a letter from Geo. Gelbach [?] who was at a little Town in Penna called Fairfield when it was visited by Genl Stuart’s Cavalry in their recent Raid. The conduct of the Rebels on this occasion was most orderly and gentlemanly; molesting none of the Citizens further than seizing all the Horses that they could find. They entered the Post Office and took what they wanted from the Stores paying therefor in Confederate Notes. When at Fair field they had 2000 captured Horses, at least, of the best stock that could be found in that country.
There is a brisk demand for Substitutes by the men drafted from the Counties of this State, as they are compelled to [word crossed out and written over, so it is illegible] them from this City mostly and from 300 to 1000 Dollars has been paid for proper men.
Oct 30th The War News indicate an early movement of The Army of the Potomac which has been laying in inactivity, but reorganizing and being enormously reinforced by the new Levies of Volunteers & Conscripts, since the great Battles of Antietam and South Mountain – Several of the attempts made by detachments therefrom to cross the River into Virginia have been repulsed by the Rebels since their Cavalry Raid into Pennsylvania – The Rebels also claim that they obtained a Victory at Perryville Ky under Bragg over the Federal Army under Buell who suffered heavy losses in men & officers especially besides many prisoners artillery and munitions Camps &c and that Bragg only retreated after the fight to secure the immense amount of Plunder of Every Kind sufficient to load his wagon Train of 4000 wagons, which he had acquired by his invasion of Kentucky besides 8000 mules & as many Horses.
Much excitement has been caused in this City, within a day or two, by the Arrest of several men who claim to belong and to represent the Union Party as a Committee appointed at a Union Meeting held in Monument Square a short time since for the purpose of ascertaining who were Secessionists (alias Rebels) as all are termed who do not succumb their sentiments to those of the Union or Republican Party, and to report the names of such to the Authorities to be dealt with accordingly – It is said that this Committee has made their Report to General Jno. E. Wool the Commandant of this military Department, but that he had left it unnoticed, or enacted upon, for so long a period that he was deemed to be derelict in executing the behests of their Party or incompetent to fulfill the duties of his office – Whereupon a Petition to the President asking for his removal from his Office, on these grounds, and charging him also with undue favoritism to Secessionists &c. This Petition was circulated & Signed by many of the Union Party – where the General, having discovered the preceeding, sent the Military Provost Marshall to the place of meeting, where the Promotors of this scheme were to assemble with orders to arrest their Parties on the evening of the 28th Inst. This was done accordingly & Gardner, Rich, Evans and Sewell were taken into custody; and after being confined in the Station House during the night they were put on board of a Steamer and taken to parts unknown by order of Genl Wool – who is said to have laid the whole matter before the Authorities at Washington by whom his action in the matter has been approved.
Nov 1st The Parties named above as having been arrested were sent to Fort Delaware, but they have been released by Genl Wool to-day whether of his own motion through the representation made to him by their friends, or by orders from Washington, it is impossible to say from the contrariety of Statements upon the subject.
Nov. 5th Besides the great gains to the Democratic Party in the recent Elections held in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana &c, we have the returns from Elections held yesterday in N York, N. Jersey and Delaware showing a like result, all together showing a mighty Revolution in the Political Parties denoting the entire downfall of the Republicans, and making it evident that President Lincoln does not even represent the sentiments of the Northern States.
Nov 6th From the best accounts that we can get the Army of the Potomac has advanced against the Confed. in the Valley of Virginia but not without some show of opposition and it is said about Town that the Federals have sustained considerable losses that are not allow’d to be made known to the Public. The depredations of the Confed. Steamer Alabama, alias “290,” upon the American Marine[?] still continues – and it is Known that 10 [or 19?] Vessels have been already taken and burned by her – The effect of their operation has been so great in N York that American Vessels cannot obtain cargoes on freight thence to Europe at all, and there appears to be quite a Panic amongst the Shipowners of the North who have vessels outside of Harbour.
On November 7th, Lincoln, having lost confidence in McClellan’s ability to prosecute the war, replaced him with Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside.
Nov 8th No News from the Army of the Potomac or Elsewhere except the Reports of the Capture of 3000 Rebels in N. Carolina but of what sort is not stated.
Nov 10th The Newspapers of this morning have announced the suspension of Maj. Genl McClellan from his command of the Army of the Potomac with an order to report himself at Trenton N.J. and that Maj Genl Burnside shall assume the command thus vacated – This order was deliv’d to McClellan at Midnight on Friday last 7th Inst. and on Saturday he left the Army now in the Valley of Virginia. Since then the Confeds are said to have made an attack upon the rear of the Federals, and captured a large number of wagons with Stores of all Kinds. The capture of 3000 Rebels in N. Carolina as was reported is not confirmed.
Nov 11th The supercedure [sic] of Genl McClellan seems not to have caused the intense excitement of the public mind that was anticipated but we look for disastrous results to the Federal cause from it – both in its effect upon the Army and the revelations of mismanagement that are said to have forced this course upon the Administration.
Nov 20th Since the supersedance of Genl McClellan the Army of the Potomac has not showed much activity under the command of Maj Genl Burnside and the only accounts that we have of its movements are that the base of its operations have been changed from the advance upon the Rebel position at Gorduonsville to the occupation of Fredericksburg and an advance upon Richmond from that direction – Whether the change of Base has been voluntary or caused by the successful maneuvers of the Rebel forces in the recent attacks as rumored upon the rear and flanks of the Federals is not known as yet – for the real movements and operations are necessarily concealed from the Public or are not allowed to be divulged through the Newspapers-
Nov 22nd The reports from the Army of the Potomac indicate that the main body of it was before Fredericksburg when the Rebels disputed its passage, and that a strong Rebel force had followed up the different Divisions of it in their recent change of Base –
Nov. 25th It is reported that at daylight this morning a force of Rebel Cavalry – 60 strong – entered Poolesville Montgomery County M.d. at 15 or 20 miles from Washington City. Seizing the Two Telegraph Operators stationed there, who were in their Beds and after paroling [?] them permitted them to report their situation to the War Department at Washington City. It was not ascertained where they crossed the Potomac or whether any larger force or other Parties of Rebels had come into Maryland at the same time. We have no intelligence of further movements of the Army of the Potomac since its stoppage at Fredericksburg.
Nov 28th An order having been issued by the State Department for the release of all the political Prisoners confined in Fort Warren [Ellicott gave the names of three men, but I had trouble reading them; one was the ex-Mayor] and others seized and taken from this City more than a year ago, and expected to return to their houses to-day.
Dec. 1st All the Political Prisoners released from Fort Warren have now returned to this City in good health, and met with the warmest greetings from their numerous Friends without any formal Public reception. Their Release is deemed to have been forced upon the Administration by the strong arm of the Democrats as shown by the results of the recent Election. The Army of the Potomac still remains before Fredericksburg where it seems to be in a quandary or stuck fast in the mud, stirred up occasionally by the dashes and Raids of the rebel Cavalry by which they have acquired a number of Prisoners both Cavalry and Infantry – Another large force is said to be collecting at Fortress Munroe or in Hampton Roads, for an attack upon Richmond from another quarter By the Presidents Message We are informed that 800000 men are in the Military service of the U. States where they all are nobody [sic] and the rebels seem not to care much as they appear to be ready to meet them at all points where they approach.
Ellicott’s statement that the soldiers of the “U. States” are “nobody” is one that he probably would have rewritten had he thought people would be reading his diary. I suppose he meant that life was not valued highly in war.
Dec 2nd The Message of President Lincoln is so Revolutionary upon the subject of the Currency and the Negro that it affords much more aid and comfort to those in opposition to His Government than to the cause of the Union or to his Aidors abettors and Supporters – His rehatching of exploded schemes of Finance meets with no favor amongst any class of business men, any more than the amendments of the Constitution that he suggests for the purpose of permitting the U. S. Government to enter into the wholesale Negro trade – under the Guise of a pseudo Abolition Emancipation scheme can get the support of any sane American Citizen. The idea of bringing the Treasury issue of “Green backs” now worth but 69 pr ct on the Dollar, up to par, by any Act of Congress is just as preposterous as to suppose that negro equality with the White race can be brought about by the same means –
Dec 5th No movements of any importance by the Army of the Potomac have been reported from its position before Fredericksburg. Its inactivity is said to be caused by want of supplies. The Rebels, however, appear to be on the alert, availing themselves, as several occasions, to make dashes and Raids upon the lines of the Federals, capturing Prisoners and Property therefrom. There are Rumors as to the removal of Genl’s Wool and Burnside from their respective Commands.
Dec 7th The Snow of the 5th Inst. ceased to fall soon after Sunset of that day, and was followed by a Northwest wind and cold Temperature so that the small quantity of the Snow that had refused to melt has frozen hard and fast with the Earth – and so continues to this evening with every prospect of its further duration, as it is both clear & cold The very high price for fuel, say 8 or 10 Dolls pr Ton for Coal and 6 to 9 Dolls pr Cord for Wood, offers a dreary prospect to the suffering Poor, of whom there are numbers in this City. Such a severely cold spell must be peculiarly severe on the soldiers of both the great Armies now in the field.
Dec 11th The inactive position of the Army of the Potomac before the ancient City of Fredericksburg has been changed into the utmost activity and conflict by their attempt to cross the Rappahannock this morning when the Rebels made an attack, by their Sharpshooters who were concealed by them the Houses of the Town, upon the Federals engaged in the construction of Pontoon Bridges – Several of those Engaged upon this work were Killed & wounded so that they were forced to desist & Burnside directed the fire of 140 pieces of Cannon to be opened on the Town when another attempt was made to place the Pontoons – The Sharp shooters were found to be still in their hiding places, and it was found to be necessary for the purpose of dislodging them to make an attack by Infantry. This could be accomplished only by throwing a sufficient force across the River in boats to dislodge them under the protection of the Federal Artillery. This movement is said to have been made in a brilliant manner, with but little opposition from the Rebel Batteries, and to have resulted not only in the dispersion of the body of their Sharpshooters but in the capture of 101 of them; When the Town was occupied by the Feds without further opposition to their bridge building. The Confeds retiring within their breastworks or fortified position in the Rear of the City – A large portion of the Federal Troops having crossed the River, it is supposed that a great battle must be fought tomorrow – Besides the Revolutionary schemes propounded in the Presidents Message on the subject of the finances of the Government, and of transforming the Government into a Negro trafficking Concern, which are the main burden thereof to the exclusion of other matters of great interest ; The Congress evidence by their proceedings the most Radical and Revolutionary designs. They have passed a Law all ready dismembering the State of Virginia, by the formation of a New State from the N. Western portion of her Territory. An ex post facto Law to exonerate the President & all officials acting under him, from any liability by reason of Arrests or Imprisonment of any Citizens by them or any of them has been proposed and will be passed – and motions of inquiry upon subjects of the most vital interest to the People have been voted down by the Republican majorities so that much excitement must be aroused amongst the People of the North – Especialy [sic] where the Democrats hold the sway.
On December 13th, the Army of the Potomac under Gen’l Burnside suffered a terrible defeat at Fredericksburg. Once again, Ellicott’s figures for casualties are wildly inaccurate. Actual losses were 12,653 Union troops and 5,309 Confederates.
Dec 16th The reports we have from Fredericksbg and the Army of the Potomac state that after Feds had crossed the River & occupied the Town the Rebs retired to their Entrenchments on the Hills in the rear thereof awaiting the attack. This was made on Saturday the 13th Inst. with all the force, and with the utmost determination that could be brought to the assault by the Fed. army after – Two desperate attempts they were repulsed by the Rebs with terrible slaughter and compelled to retire to the Town where they were crowded in great numbers, and there shelled and otherwise harassed by the Reb. Besides this assault, made by the Feds in their front, other serious engagements were fought on their left flank, and at other points of the line which extended for several miles both love and below the Town. In all these the result appears to have been equally disastrous to the Feds, so that on the night of the 15th inst. they retreated across to the north bank of the Rappahannoc [k crossed out]. This movement is said to have ben accomplished without the Knowledge of the Rebs, and without further losses – In all these conflicts the Rebs were protected, more or less, by cover, and their loss has been small comparatively. The estimated loss of the Feds, as no official reports are published, is placed at from 25 to 40 Thousand men Killed and wounded – a very large number of Generals & other Officers being amongst this number – whose bodies are passing through this City & will form [?] a sorry Christmas guest in many families.
Dec 19th The more circumstantial and recent accounts from the Rappahannock[k crossed out] reveal the most awful scenes of destruction during the attack of the Feds, on the position of the Rebs. at Fredericksburg. No official Reports of the losses, there have been made by Burnside excepting his first Despatch – which gave it at 5000 men – but if that is no more reliable than his second Despatch stating that he had recrossed the River “without the loss of any men or Property of any Kind” there can be but little reliance placed on it, for we are told by the Tribune and other Correspondents that the Camp Equipage & all the Baggage, of a whole Brigade – a great portion of the Officers Baggage of the Division in Fredericksbg and a number of Straggling Soldiers, were captured by the confederates – at the time of Burnsides’ retreat – and it is reported that some Artillery was also left behind in the hands of the Rebs Moreover the estimates of the Federal losses now made by the Tribune correspondents seem up at least 20 Thousand Killed & wounded – Great difficulty seems to incurred at Washington to ascertain who may be responsible for this terrible disaster to the Federal Army. Burnside it is said states that he acted under orders from Washington in making the assault, against his own judgment. The President, although he visited the Army but a few days prior to the fight, disclaims all responsibility therefor & says that Genl Burnside has the whole movement at his now discretion. &c so that there has been a Committee app’ed by the Senate to visit the Army as to investigate the causes of the defeat, and there appears to be as much difficulty in the situation of the affairs in Washington as in the Army of the Potomac.
Dec 20th Clear and very cold this morning and freezing hard all day long, which must cause much suffering amongst the numerous Armies in the field and will compel a cessation of hostilities. The announcement of the resignation of Wm H Seward has vacated the Office of the Secretary of State, and together with the reported resignation of all of Lincoln’s Cabinet, as well as of Genl Burnside, has not excited more surprise to some than it has afforded gratification to many persons; and much speculation is afloat as to who shall be their successors – It is supposed that Mr. Lincoln will be forced to select them from the Radical Abolition faction by which he is surrounded, as the conservatives will not uphold or Second the Ultra & Revolutionary measures soon to be inaugurated. The cause of Mr. Seward’s resignation is said to be his opposition to the Emancipation Proclamation, but that is deemed to be a shallow pretext as he has not only defended that measure in his Correspondence, as published, with the Foreign Ministers, but would lead them in his advocacy thereof, to the belief that he has been mainly instrumental in the promulgation, if not the initiation, of that Document, that the sentiment of the European Powers in that behalf should be reconciled or in consonance with the Administration of the Northern Government. The only intelligence we have from the great Expedition that left N. York some weeks ago under Genl Banks, and which was supposed by many persons to be bound for some point of cooperation with Genl Burnside’s advance upon Richmond, has been by the arrival of 4 or 5 of his transport ships in various Ports from Hilton Head to Phila where they have put in thro stress of weather or the p__or [?] thinness of those vessels –
Dec 22nd The cold spell of the last Two or Three days has moderated so much that a fall of Snow was apprehended last night but to day has passed without it. General J. E. Wool having been superseded by The Presidents appointment of Major General R. C. Schenck He has taken command of the this [sic] Military Department and the Eighth Army Corps today. And by his Order #1 announces his “leading principle and rule of conduct by which I consider it my duty to regulate my official connection with them” (the citizens) — “To the Government we all, individually, as good Citizens owe our first allegiance” — Nobody who loves our free institutions will pretend that thoughts of opinions, if that were possible, should be suppressed, or would desire to invade or disturb the sacredness of private life, or conversation ; but in this view of civil obligation it must not be complained of if any public or open demonstration, or declarations of sympathy with treason, should provoke a strict and heedful observation of the Conduct of the offending party, and lead even to punishment and restraint[?] if accompanied by acts of complicity or any thing tending to danger or disorder ”— This being my view of what might become the course of my duty. I frankly declare it that all may be notified in advance.”
Dec. 25th For several days past the sky has been overcast by clouds, but without any falling weather, and it so continues to-day somewhat marring the lively indications of a more joyous observance of this day than has occurred for the Two last years. The Army news is of but little importance no important movements having been or indicated by the published accounts of several days past – Genl Burnside has testified before the Committee of Congress sent to Fredericksbg to investigate the cause of the defeat of the Army of the Potomac &c and states amongst other things That when he received the Presidents order to take the command of that Army he was astounded and surprised in the extreme, as he had refused the command of that Army where it had been offered to him on Two previous occasions, and on occasions of the last offer made to him at the time of the evacuation of the Peninsular, he had told the President that he felt himself to be incompetent to assume the command of so large a body of men and that Genl McClellan was, in his opinion, the most competent and the proper man to fill that station – Moreover that he had been stationed with his Division upon the extreme right wing of the very extended position of The Army and he was therefore unacquainted with the positions of the various Corps composing it and he was in consultation with the Officers of his Staff as to the acceptance of the Command, when Genl McClellan arrived at his Head Quarters to hand it over to him stating that it was his duty, as a Soldier, to obey the order of the President and accept as it was his own duty also to resign or hand over the Command. His testimony shows dereliction on the part of the Departments at Washington in their part of the operation of the Army, and that a further advance of the Army was made after the Fight before Fredksg because all the Generals of Divisions declined to do so from the condition of their several commands. After the resignation of Seward and Chase as well as the apparent breaking up of the Cabinet from the action of the Senatorial Caucus the President has recalled them back to their former positions, either because it was found to be impossible to form another from the men of his Party, or because it was supposed that the assumption by Burnside of all the responsibility of the disaster at Fredkg had removed the pressure thereof from the Administration. It is supposed by many, however, that this whole arrangement will be but a temporary affair, as the Public confidence is too much shaken by the incapacity and the radicals are as bitter as before against the Persons, or some of those composing the Cabinet – The debate in Congress had become interesting upon some of the questions before it prior to its adjournment over for the Holidays altho’ the Radical majority voted down all inquiries.
December 29th The Papers of this morning publish President Jeff Davis’ Proclamation retaliatory of the Acts of Genl Butler as well as of the Proclamation Abolishing Slavery &c which President Abe Lincoln has declared it to be his purpose to publish on 1st Jany proxo. By which Butler is denounced as a Felon, his Officers accomplices; and that they as well as all Federal Officers captured with Slaves under their command or as their possession, shall be hung. that all Federal Soldiers hereafter captured shall be paroled as irresponsible Agents, but that Negores made Prisoners with avery [?] in their hands shall be handed over to the Authorities of the States where they may be so captured to be dealt with according to the Laws thereof – We have accounts also of the Captured of the U. S. Mail Steamer Ariel, piling [?] between Aspinwall and New York by the Confederate Ship Alabama, after a short chase on the 7th Inst. in which the latter showed a speed exceeding the former. As the Ariel was on her voyage from N. York to Aspinwall there was no Specie or Treasure on board, but all the Armies Munitions and Government Property on board was taken — 140 Marines on board were paroled – and after considerable negotiation between the Captain of the Ariel and the Rebel Commander – Se__es [?], he agreed to take a Bond for the release of the Ariel payable 30 days after the recognition [?] of the Southern Confederacy when that ship proceeded to Aspinwall – Her Passengers, who had arrived at San Fransisco [sic], state that the conduct of Alabama was most gentlemanly and courteous to the Passengers whilst in their power without any redeeming Acts on the part of the Feds we have accounts of successful Raids made by the Rebs Cavalry in the rear of the Army of the Potomac and the capture both at Occog__? & Dumfries of Wagon, Cavalry Canno &c &c & Prisoners —
December 31st 1862 – The last day of this year is overcast by heavy clouds with fitful and unpleasant easterly gusts of wind portending storms, and with a strong indication of a fall of Snow – It may be a fitting type of the very gloomy and darkly promising condition of our National affairs without any redeeming or hopeful feature save in the assurance that is a glorious Sun behind those clouds that will shine forth in its own good time to enliven and reanimate all Nature – as there is also a wise and beneficent God who ruleth and reigneth forever above the efforts of men, and who will yet bring forth joy and gladness from the blood and turmoil of the dreadful War now raging, as well as command the direful elements of discord in his own good time “Peace be still –
Although we have had but meagre intelligence as to the operations of the Armies for several days past, enough is known to show that the Army of the Potomac, so far from being in a condition to act offensively, or to make any demonstration towards Richmond is scarcely competent to defend itself against the Cavalry Raids of the Rebs. A recent reconnaissance made by a body of Stuarts Cavalry started recently from their lines near the Rappahannock & after scouring along the front of the Federal position made their appearance along their right flank, passing around their rear by way of Dunfries, Occoquam [?], and Bull Run at Wolf Run Shoals, these board Troopers, after taking about 2000 Feds prisoners and capturing & destroying a large quantity of Government wagons sutlers waggons & Stores of various Kinds, and closely reconnoitering the whole of the position of Burnside’s Army, quietly encamped on Monday night 29th Inst. within 12 miles of Alexandria. Although pursued by large forces of Fed Cavalry &c sent after them – Numerous & successful Raids have also been made by the Rebs in Tenn Ky &c &c
End of 1862.