bureaucrats’ nightmare

Wages in DC for lower level federal clerks weren’t keeping up with prices. The civil servants were heading home.

From The New-York Times July 24, 1864:


Special Dispatches to the New-York Times.

WASHINGTON, Saturday, July 23.

Before the adjournment of Congress a movement was started by Government employes in Washington, to secure an increase of pay commensurate with the rapid and unprecedented advance in the cost of living. The project, though largely supported in departments, was not favorably received in Congress, and no legislation was had on the subject. Many of the lower grade clerkships are now in consequence vacant. Clerks with families, finding their salaries inadequate to their comfortable support, are leaving for their homes in different sections of the country. …

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“undermining Petersburg”

Rich-Pete 1864 (Boston, [Mass.] : J.H. Bufford, [1864] ; LOC: http://www.loc.gov/item/001-ocm19089315/)

“all is quiet along the lines”

A Southern correspondent reported that Grant was going to be leaving Petersburg any time soon; if he dug tunnels for mines at Vicksburg, you could expect the same in his latest siege. Price controls were making it impossible for First Lieutenants in the Army of Northern Virginia to keep a (paid) servant.

From the Richmond Daily Dispatch July 23, 1864:

The War news.

Yesterday passed unrippled by a rumor. At Petersburg, also, all was quiet, though there had been some shelling Thursday night, which did no damage. A letter from our army correspondent shows that all is quiet along the lines:

[from our own correspondent.]

Petersburg, July 21, 1864.

I have not written you for upwards of a week, simply because I had nothing worth recording. There is no change in the situation, the conformation of the lines of the two armies being identically in every respect as they were on the first day of this month. The question very naturally arises as to what Grant it doing. This is more than I can tell you. My impression, however, is that Grant is just now without any plan or definite ideas in regard to the future. The presence of a “Confederate force” in front of Washington has doubtless, to a large degree, interfered with his original designs, and for the present he is without any definite plan of campaign. The impression in unofficial circles is that he is busy with the shovel and the pick with a view of undermining Petersburg, as he was about to do at Vicksburg. This, however, is purely speculative. It is, however, by no means impossible, but on the contrary is quite probable.

Siege of Petersburg (by Alfred R. Waud, July 1864; LOC: LC-DIG-ppmsca-21048 )

Petersburg’s besiegers July 1864

One fact, however, is quite well established, and that is, that Grant does not mean to “give it up so.” He has no idea, none the most distant, of abandoning this line until forced to do so by inexorable necessity. At present he is busily strengthening his works and mounting new (and some of them very heavy) guns. The shelling of the city meantime continues — sometimes very slightly, and then again with considerable fury. It is, however, consoling to know that thus far but little comparative damage has been done to life, limb or property.

The new schedule of prices adopted by the Virginia Commissioners is generally — indeed, I might say universally — regarded by the army as ruinous to the cause. On all hands there is a demand that it shall be rescinded. It is not believed that the good people of this State, who have given so many and repeated proofs of patriotism and self-sacrifice, will make necessary a scheme for their own aggrandizement which must result in the utter and entire depreciation and repudiation of the currency of the country. High prices swell the volume of the currency, which in the ratio of inflation is the measure of its depreciation. It is objected to in the army because many first lieutenants find it necessary to keep a servant. Their pay is $90 per month; whilst the east [cost?] of a ration to feed the servant on is just $95 by the new schedule, or $4 more per month than his pay.

The news of the removal of Gen. Johnston and the appointment of Gen. Hood to the command of the Western army created great surprise and considerable comment. There is great contrariety of opinion on the question.

The refreshing shower of Tuesday refreshed both animal and vegetable life, and made everything wear a new aspect.

The soldiers are being well fed, and the animals are still getting bountiful supplies of forage. In a word, the situation in this army never was more hopeful, and I can truly sound the sentinel’s “All well.” X. …

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halt the juggernaut

crushing the rebellion crushing the Union?

A publication in upstate New York called for the end of the war and its great costs in terms of the dead and maimed, the public debt, and the loss of Constitutional liberty.

From a Seneca County, New York newspaper in July 1864:

What War has Accomplished.

More than three years of incessant war have elapsed. More than two millions of men have been called out to swell the ranks of our armies – thirty times the number of men which was at first deemed to be an extravagant force have entered the service; thirteen times three months have elapsed and where are we to-day, and what have we done? At least half a million of the strongest, healthiest, ablest producers of the North have been slain – needlessly and wickedly slain – making widows, orphans and mourning in every neighborhood in the North.


three serfs and a reeve

We have incurred a debt of four thousand millions. If any man can demonstrate how at the end of the war the current expenses and interest can be paid without crushing the industry of the country and reducing every laboring man and his family to the condition of serfs, we should rejoice to see the figures. But supposing this to be done, we still have the principal debt larger than the monstrous debt of Great Britain resting upon us for all time. Owned by the rich, it will be the foundation of a monied aristocracy, who will keep the masses forever toiling to pay the interest – the poor continually growing poorer, and the richer, richer.

We have imperilled our liberties. The great bulwarks of liberty, habeas corpus, freedom from arrest except upon due process of law; the right of trial by jury; freedom of speech and the press – rights which our ancestors fought hundreds of years to secure, and which we thought were firmly established, have all been repeatedly violated. This is due to the war, for its only attempted justification is – military necessity. Reflecting men of all parties are becoming justly alarmed at the fearful encroachments upon Constitutional liberty. They were first tolerated because we were assured that they were only temporary, and not to grow into precedents; they have already lasted for years.

In view of all the sad lessons of the past and all our hopes for the future, let us demand in thunder tones a stoppage of this most wicked war. Why sacrifice another 500,000 men to the juggernaut of this unholy strife?

You can see a graphical representation of U.S. war debt at The Atlantic and read one take on the economic costs of the Civil War at the Freeman

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foolish federalism

From the Richmond Daily Dispatch July 21, 1864:

An inevitable fate.

One of the favorite bugbears kept by the United States press before the people, to stimulate their energies in support of the invasion, is the dread of future internal convulsions and civil wars if this revolution is successful. It is an appeal to the fears of the masses, as well as to all the interests involved in law and order, and has no doubt exerted great influence in keeping the whole North resolute and persevering at its work.

But there never was a more shallow fallacy. War is the inevitable lot of humanity — civil as well as foreign war. Both have been the fate of every country of the world, and of democracies more than by other forms of government. Probably Prussia enjoys more internal stability than any other nation; because Prussia possesses the remarkable combination of a despotism controlled by public opinion, which public opinion is sustained by a citizen soldiery, who, in organization and military efficiency, are fully equal to her regular army, and vastly superior to it in numbers. If the North can adopt such a government, it may enjoy its immunities from civil convulsions; but, to do this, it must wade, for this generation, through a sea of blood which we hardly expect such a self-indulgent generation to encounter for the benefit of posterity. A wild democracy cannot be converted into a despotism, and the State Rights peculiarity of the United States Constitution exchanged for a formal consolidation, without scenes of strife and carnage, compared with which the horrors of this contest are mere child’s play.

The Constitution of the old United States, which theoretically was the essence of human wisdom, has proved practically the climax of human absurdity. Never before was there a Constitution which left the citizens in doubt to whom supreme allegiance was due.–This Constitution calls upon its people to serve two masters, the General Government and the States, and to serve two masters is as impossible for a nation as an individual. In addition to this seed of civil convulsions, sown in the very heart of the organic law, the democratic institutions of every State contain in themselves the prolific germs of everlasting faction and blood. The experience of universal history is uniform to that effect. No Democracy was ever permanent, and the United States, as it has fully proved during this war, are no wiser and no better than those who have before tried the same experiment. …

Their only hope, indeed, is to accept the separation of the old Union as an accomplished fact, to withdraw their invading armies, to moderate their inordinate ambition and vanity, and to consent event to a peaceful division of the Northwest and New England, rather than seek to compel the adhesion of such incongruous elements. Such a gigantic territory as that they seek to control, and such a dissimilar population, cannot be held together by anything but a gigantic despotism, and even that will not ensure permanent order and quiet. Three Republics are not too many for the area and numbers of the old United States. The balance of power could be preserved, and internal affairs more harmoniously directed by three than by two. That result will have to come some day, and it offers the only mitigation of the evils that are in store for the United States.

Alas, the Confederate Constitution also divvied up power between the central government and the states.

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raise ya 200,000

I kinda felt like I was at a card table with the most vigorous prosecutors of the war.

From The Papers And Writings Of Abraham Lincoln, Volume Seven:

EXECUTIVE MANSION, WASHINGTON, July 20, 1864. 4.30 p.m.


Yours of yesterday, about a call for three hundred thousand, is received. I suppose you had not seen the call for five hundred thousand, made the day before, and which, I suppose, covers the case. Always glad to have your suggestions.


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strength and peace

The twin sisters liberty and union (Entered . . . 1863 by C.S. Allen & Co. Segar Manrs.; LOC: LC-USZ62-90679)

A. Lincoln: for all

150 years ago today President Lincoln called for 500,000 more troops – volunteers to be supplemented by a draft to fill quotas. He also seemed to be encouraging peace missions – as long as the terms were restoration of the Union and the extermination of slavery:

From The Papers And Writings Of Abraham Lincoln, Volume Seven:


WASHINGTON, July 18, 1864.


Any proposition which embraces the restoration of peace, the integrity of the whole Union, and the abandonment of slavery, and which comes by and with an authority that can control the armies now at war against the United States, will be received and considered by the Executive Government of the United States, and will be met by liberal terms on other substantial and collateral points; and the bearer or bearers thereof shall have safe conduct both ways.


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A ward in hospital at convalescent camp near Alexandria, Va. (photographed July, 1864, printed between 1880 and 1889; LOC: LC-DIG-ppmsca-33646)

“A ward in hospital at convalescent camp near Alexandria, Va.” (July 1864)

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Little Mac’s chances

[Civil War envelope showing portrait of Major General George B. McClellan inset in medallion decorated with eagle and American flags] (between 1861 and 1865; LOC: LC-DIG-ppmsca-34635)

wrapping himself in “our grand old flag”?

A Southern publication succinctly rated the odds of George B. McClellan winning the 1864 presidential election.

From the Richmond Daily Dispatch July 16, 1864:

McClellan on the old flag.

–McClellan, who stands about as much chance for succeeding Lincoln in the Presidential chair as he did of taking Richmond, is playing the “old flag” dodge to further his prospects. In his address at West Point he said:

Battle monument, U.S. Military Academy (c.1901; LOC: LC-DIG-ppmsca-18158)

“Battle monument, U.S. Military Academy” (c.1901)

Rebellion against a Government like ours, which contains the means of self-adjustment, and a pacific remedy for evils, should never be confounded with a revolution against despotic power which refuses redress of wrongs. Such a rebellion cannot be justified upon ethical grounds, and the only alternatives for our choice are its suppression or the destruction of our nationality. At such a time as this, and in such a struggle, political partisanship should be merged into a pure and brave patriotism, which thinks only of the good of the whole country. It was in this cause and with these motives that so many of our comrades have given up their lives and in this we are all personally pledged in all honor and fidelity. Shall such devotion as that of our dead comrades be of no avail. Shall it be said in after ages that we lacked the vigor to complete the work thus begun? That after all these noble lives freely given, we hesitated and failed to keep straight on until our land was saved? Forbid it, Heaven! and give us firmer, truce [truer] hearts than that. Oh, spirits of the valiant dead, souls of our slain heroes, lend us year [your] own indomitable will, and if it be permitted you to commune with those still chained by the trammels of mortality, hover around us in the midst of danger and tribulation — cheer the firm, strengthen the weak, that none may doubt the salvation of the Republic and the triumph of our grand old flag.

This excerpt is from a much longer speech General McClellan delivered at West Point on June 15, 1864 at the dedication of the ground chosen for a Civil War battle monument to commemorate the regular army soldiers who were killed during the war. You can read all about it at The New-York Times. The monument itself was not dedicated until 1897.

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invasion digest

NY Times 7-11-1864

Stanton to Dix on Monocacy: “our troops behaved well, but suffered severe loss.”

A Democrat paper recapped Jubal Early’s July invasion. Lee had Grant stymied at Petersburg, so the Confederate force could drive north and achieve some well-defined objectives. By the time this article was published the rebels had already recrossed the Potomac.

From a Seneca County, New York newspaper in July 1864:

The Rebel Invasion.

For the past ten days the news has been of a very exciting character. A most formidable rebel invasion has created no little alarm for the safety of the Federal Capital. The force that entered Maryland have apparently succeeded in obtaining what they were in pursuit of, and returned in good order. The telegraph now assures us that Washington is safe! This is most encouraging news.

The retreat of Gen. HUNTER from Lynchburg into Western Virginia, was a most fortunate circumstance for the Confederate forces. LEE no longer considering Richmond in danger of GRANT’s army, sent a force of from 15,000 to 20,000 up the Shenandoah Valley, for a threefold object. In the first place, to secure crops in the Valley, now reaped and stacked; in the second place, to capture all the cattle and supplies he could in Maryland, as well as to destroy the railroads; and in the third place, to alarm the Federal Government so as to compel the withdrawal of forces from Gen. GRANT to protect Washington and Baltimore. In these several objects he has been eminently successful. Over three millions of dollars worth of stores, it is stated, were captured at Martinsburg. On Saturday last a severe engagement took place at Monocacy, Md., lasting nearly all day, and ending in the repulse of our forces. The Secretary of War says we lost “heavily.” Our men falling back to Baltimore, gave the enemy full sway, and he certainly improved it. For several days all railroad and telegraphic communications was cut with Baltimore and Washington, and but for the timely aid rendered by the forces from Grant’s army, Washington would, undoubtedly, have fallen into rebel hands. It is stated that the 2d, 5th and 18 Army Corps were sent from Grant to Washington.

The news this morning is that the enemy after capturing all the horses, cattle and supplies in the vicinity of Baltimore and Washington, have safely re-crossed the Potomac, and are now encamped at Silver Springs, some 20,000 to 30,000 strong. – Thus ends the great rebel raid, which has so alarmed the country for the past few days.

[Memorial] "Lincoln under fire at Fort Stevens" (by Harris & Ewing, between 1915 and 1923; LOC: LC-DIG-hec-30172)

memorializing “Lincoln under fire at Fort Stevens” (photo between 1920 and 1923)

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“natal day” blues

SENECA reported that the Union army got pushed out of the Shenandoah Valley again. On July 4th his New York 1st Veteran Cavalry was crossing the Potomac – in retreat, pursued by the rebels.

From a Seneca County, New York newspaper in 1864:

From the Veteran Cavalry.

HEIGHT, July 8th, 1864.

FRIEND STOWELL: – Once more the Union Army is driven from the Shenandoah and again the rebel hordes trample the soil of “my Maryland.” A long and hitherto remarkably successful campaign is suddenly brought to an unhappy close and the victories and glories of the Army of the Shenandoah are obscured by disaster and defeat.

After long and weary marches, skirmishing by night and fighting by day, we are at last at the famous Maryland Heights, pretty nearly surrounded to be sure, but confident of being able to hold out until reinforcements can arrive, hoping soon to hurl back the invader and drive these saucy rebels into Virginia again.

Somebody is responsible for all this, but without saying who, let me state a few facts concerning their unfortunate termination of the campaign in Western Virginia, and give some account of the part the Veterans have taken in it.

On the 25th of June an an immense wagon train with ammunition and supplies for Gen. Hunter, left Martinsburg accompanied by a strong escort of Cavalry, Infantry and Artillery. The 1st Cavalry Brigade consisting of the 1st N.Y. Veterans, the 21st N.Y. Cavalry and detachments from the 15th N.Y. [,] 1st Md. and 22nd Pa., all under command of Col. J.S. Platner, took the advance.

We had not gone far, however, before strange rumors concerning Hunter, reports of disaster and defeat, began to come in, together with stories of rebel armies moving down the Valley. Consequently the train was halted and Col. Platner sent with his Brigade to Winchester, but no enemy could be found [,] although the reports of a rebel advance in force grew thicker and more reliable every day.

Ere long news of Hunter’s whereabout [sic], was received and the expedition being thus rendered unnecessary, the train returned while the cavalry and a small part of the Infantry was left to check any advance the enemy might make down the Valley. The Veterans were ordered to a small place on our left called Smithfield, while the rest of the Brigade held the Winchester Pike at Bunker Hill, ten miles from Martinsburg.

On the 29th ult., Mosby made a raid upon the Baltimore and Ohio R.R. to the left of Smithfield, and of course the whole cavalry force was ordered out after him, and of course didn’t catch him.

Next day our whole line fell back and took up a new position three miles nearer Martinsburg.

On Friday, July 1st, our scouts reported the rebels in force at Winchester, but this did not seem to be believed at Martinsburg [,] where Gen’s. Sigel and Stahl both had their Headquarters. On Saturday our scouting parties had a skirmish with the rebel advance, one mile this side of Winchester, yet on Sunday morning, strange as it may seem, Col. Platner received orders to march to Winchester and attack the enemy. Ten minutes after this order was received, the enemy opened on our pickets.

We had been expecting an attack all night, our horses were saddled and ready to mount, so in a few moments the 1st Brigade was at work. The fight commenced at six o’clock and at eight A.M., Col. P. had driven the enemy back three miles. While this was going on immediately in front, an attack was also made upon our left at Leetown, where Col. Mulligan of Lexington notoriety was posted with two regiments of Infantry and one section of Artillery with the 1st Veterans thrown out in his front. After a very short fight Mulligan retreated to Shepardstown, where the Cavalry made another stand and repulsed the enemy.

At 10 A.M., the rebels having been largely reinforced, made an attack upon us with at least two thousand cavalry and Infantry and a Battery of Artillery. We had bu[t] six hundred fighting men left in the Brigade, including 100 men sent up to reinforce us, but Col. Platner fought them until noon, when we fell back to Martinsburg in obedience to an order received from Gen. Stahl. The enemy closely pursued us, skirmishing all the way and we even had a cavalry charge in the streets of Martinsburg. There were many splendid Cavalry charges made while we were falling back, but the boldest dash of all was made by Capt. McNulty of the 21st N.Y., who charged the rebel advance and drove them clear back upon their Artillery.

upperpotomac by Robert knox Sneden (LOC: http://www.loc.gov/item/gvhs01.vhs00045/)

crossed the Potomac at Shepardstown on the 4th

When we reached Martinsburg, we found the whole army had gone, Generals and all, and we were ordered to cover their retreat to the Potomac at Shepardstown, which we did, crossing the river at sunrise on the morning of the Fourth of July. – And as the bells in many a northern village were ringing forth a joyous welcome to our country’s natal day, and you all at home were beginning to “celebrate,” we were slowly retreating before a victorious foe stopping now and then to check his advance and then falling suddenly back again. On we marched, passing through Sharpsburg, a place well remembered well remembered by many a Veteran of the “Old 33d,” falling back through Pleasant Valley until we again struck the Potomac, this time on the eastern side of Maryland heights, where we rested for the night, lying down in the road, holding our horses by the bridle as we slept.

The enemy now attacked Maryland Heights from the western side, captured Bolivar Heights, a very strong position, and occupied Harper’s Ferry almost without resistance, advanced their Infantry but were unable to get their Artillery in position to do much harm.

On Tuesday the Brigade went to Knoxville, up the Pike toward Frederick City, and then down toward Point of Rocks, but finding the country clear returned to Pleasant Valley. Next day we crossed Maryland Heights at Solomon’s Gap and attacked the left flank of the enemy, had a “right smart skirmish” and returned to our original position.

By this time our Brigade had become well nigh exhausted. Ten days of incessant marching and skirmishing, with only now and then an hour’s rest, without sleep and all this in the midst of a drought unprecedented in this section, began to tell upon the horses and men of the command. On Wednesday night however, we rested, the first rest since we left Bunker Hill, Va. But on Thursday morning the rebels advanced down Pleasant Valley and at them we went again. Two days more of fighting and we have driven them out and to-night all is quiet.


Harper’s Ferry from Maryland Heights 146 years later

The rebels are now burning the Quartermasters and commissary stores at Harper’s Ferry and are said to be retreating.

SATURDAY, July 9, 1864.

All is quiet this morning. The enemy has gone but which way is not yet certainly known. Gens. Sigel and Stahl are off too, having been superseded in command here by Gen. Howe. We expect to leave to day in pursuit of the foe. It is impossible to tell yet what our losses have been during the past week, put [sic] they are pretty heavy. All that I have heard of from Seneca Falls are Corporal Luther Waldo and private Nicholas Christy, both shot in the thigh. – Christy is wounded severely. Lt. Bacon is in command of company K just now, the 1st Lieut. being Adjutant General of the brigade. Many of the officers and men are completely worn out. I will send you a list of casualties in our regiment as soon as I can obtain one. Yours ever,


Mark Fickett’s 2010 photo of harper’s Ferry is licensed by Creative Commons

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