Guarding the Potomac Line
Guarding the Potomac Line
Letters 16 through 27
2 January through 26 February 1862
Abstract and Keywords
This chapter presents Griffin's wartime letters to his wife Leila and son Willie dated from January 2 to February 1862. There letters are about Griffin's brush with death after his arm was almost paralyzed, his troops guarding of the Potomac line and his cavalry's move to Dumfries to join the Texas Brigade. Griffin rejoined his command in November 1861 and by December 1 the infantry and artillery reunited and went into winter quarters near the mouth of the Occoquan River. He also expressed his homesickness and related the improvement in his health.
The Hampton Legion spent the fall and winter along the Potomac, erecting batteries between the Occoquan River and Aquia Creek. Griffin, not fully recovered from his lightning strike, went home on a medical furlough. Major Conner wrote on 15 October, “The Lieutenant Colonel has gone home, sick. His arm is almost paralyzed by that lightning stroke.” 1 The Edgefield Advertiser reported that Griffin was home “for a couple of weeks” and would be receiving recruits for the Hampton Legion during that time. Butler and Gary also went home to visit their families during this hiatus.2
Griffin's brush with death attracted the attention of the newspaper correspondents, who had little to report in the way of military action during the quiet autumn on the Virginia front. Accurate accounts were published in the South Carolina papers from the Richmond Dispatch and Examiner correspondents; the Charleston Daily Courier's own correspondent submitted a garbled version.3 The Courier's report was part of a longer article, filed on 28 September, (p.125) describing the troops in Virginia and the Hampton Legion. It included a description of Griffin's tent in the officers' quarters that is worth quoting in full:
Take a peep into one of the tents. Here for instance is that of Lieutenant-Colonel Griffin. The floor is of straw, the bed is a cot, the washstand is the body of a tree with a board nailed across the top, the dining table is a camp chest, the chairs are stools, valises turned on end, or anything you like. A camp table, with a pair of folding legs, is in one comer and just now upholds a field glass, one or two military works, a writing case, and a flask. The latter is an indespensable “article of war,” and go where you may you will find them as plentiful as prayer books on your family tables at home 4 From end to end of the tent is a strong line, which acts in the capacity of a wardrobe, sustaining everything from a clean shirt to a soiled napkin. A peg or two in the posts supports sword and pistols, perhaps a dress coat and pants, while the trunk, which stands in the comer, contains the remainder of the catalogue of a soldiers fit out. You will smile when I tell you that Lieutenant-Colonel Griffin has a “pet” in the shape of a veritable Yankee chicken, which, morning, noon and night, is as much an occupant of the tent as the master himself. When the latter is present, ten chances to one that she is either on his table or roosting on his shoulder. As the bantling neither lays nor crows, the height of Miss Chicken's ambition is to do her setting on the head board of the Lieutenant-Colonel's bed, whither she retires with as much regularity and punctuality as he does himself. The animal's bones are not to be picked this side of Washington city.
While Griffin was home in South Carolina, the Hampton artillery in Virginia manned batteries earlier constructed below the mouth of the Occoquan at Freestone Point and Evansport and fired on Federal ships attempting to pass up the Potomac to Washington.5 The infantry (p.126)
Griffin rejoined his command in November 1861. A lengthy poem on the front page of the Edgefield Advertiser (6 Nov. 1861), written “To Our Soldiers,” included best wishes for Griffin and the Legion as he departed Edgefield after his medical furlough.
- … COL. GRIFFIN leaves tomorrow
- For his Legion on the border.
- Some recruits are going with him,
- And he carries num'rous boxes—
- Boxes, trunks, and bundles various
- For his brave and trusty Legion,—
- … With him go the warmest wishes
- Of a thousand glowing bosoms,
- For his safety and the Legion's
- For the weal of every soldier
- Edgefield claims along the border.
About 1 December, the infantry and artillery reunited and went into winter quarters near the mouth of the Occoquan River, two miles below the village of the same name. Camp Wigfall lay opposite Colchester, which overlooked the Potomac some twenty miles below Washington, and five miles above the batteries at Freestone Point. The cavalry remained at Bacon Race Church until 11 December, when Butler moved it to Camp Wigfall.7
Camp life settled into a routine “so monotonous, so much of a sameness, that it is really quite trying to one's patience at times.” Griffin devoured the local newspapers and passed the blustery days with chess games and conversation with his fellow officers. Skirmishing between (p.128) cavalry pickets provided occasional drama. The most notable occurred one night in late January, when a group of scouts from Texas shot their way out of an ambush, deeply impressing Griffin with their cool bravado.
Hampton's absences as acting brigadier general left Griffin frequently in command of the Legion. He enjoyed the authority but was desperately homesick. In February 1862, as the companies debated whether to reenlist under the Furlough and Bounty Act, Griffin pondered his military future. He was strongly inclined to go home at the end of his tour of duty in June, he wrote to Leila; by then the war would probably be nearly over, or else it would “grow to be a monster.”
Letter 16 JBG to Leila Griffin
Head Qrs Legion Camp Wigfall
Thursday night 2nd Jany 1862
My Darling Leila
Another mail, and no letter for me. My Darling I am getting quite uneasy. I havent received a letter from you in eight or ten days, and in the mean time I have written you three besides this one.1 I hope it does not arise from indifference on your part. Is it possible that you are becoming tired of writing to your Husband so soon. I hope not—Nor will I believe it. I suppose you had a good deal of company about Christmass, which occupied all your time, and that I will hear from you soon. I wrote night before last to Sue, and last night to Willie—and to night I will write again to you notwithstanding I am quite tired. I have been riding all day—and notwithstanding it has been the coldest day we have had this winter, I rode all day without an overcoat. I rode with Col Hampton up towards our old Camp near Bacon Race Church, where he has stationed one of his regiments and a section of (p.129) Artillery—With a view to guard Wolf run, and Davis' fords across the Occoquan.2 He was informed to day that Genl Beauregard had ordered six more artillery guns to report to him. They seem, at last, to have awakened to the importance of properly guarding this section of country. They have sent some engineers down to lay off some works, and positions for the guns to guard these places. Strange to say they still expect an advance of the Enemy this week or next. Col Hampton had a little skirmish with the enemy yesterday,3 a full account of which I gave in my letter to Willie. I am very sorry I didnt go with him, I would have gone, had I anticipated any thing of the kind—But he only went over to see about posting some pickets—and concluded after he had finished, to try this little project. I am closely tied down with my command drilling them every day. We have now a fine drilled Regiment. I am sorry to inform you that Maj Butler is sick—I fear he has the camp fever,4 and if he has he will be sick a good while. (p.130) Some of the cases are in bed from six to eight weeks. You had better not tell this unless, you hear it from another source, as I dont know whether or not he has informed his wife of it. My Darling you have never said any thing about recieving my trunk which I sent by John Nicholson.5 I presume however you must have recieved it. In it I sent all my thin socks home. I wish you to [send] some of them back to me, as I wish to wear them next to my feet, and the woolen ones over them—I am sure my feet will keep much warmer, as the wool socks, cause my feet to perspire and then when I am exposed to the cold my feet get very cold. Please send my boot hooks also. Darling do write me some long letters and give me all the news. Tell me how Spradley6 gets along with his business—How do you like him—Tell him to [take] good care of every thing, the Stock especially. I want him to pay especial attention to the hogs, and raise all he can. Tell me ever thing. I was greatly surprised at what you informed me about Mrs L—I know who gave her the book you alluded to—but maybe I better not tell it. Dr McKie—her brother in law gave her the book, I was in Augusta at the time and saw it.7 But you had better not say any thing (p.131) about it—Let every body attend to their own difficulties. I would be slow to believe such a slanderous report, unless there was better evidence than that given. My Darling I can scarcely hope to be able to go home more than once more between this and the end of my term of enlistment.8 And as I couldnt be with you Christmass, I think I will try to divide the time, and although it is a long time I hope to see you about March. Dont say any thing about when I expect to go home for I really cant tell when. And you had better not let the negroes know when to expect me, or rather let them expect me at any time. I do hope they will behave themselves and give you all no trouble.
Tell Willie and Bobbie they must take good care of Jeff, and not let him run about. He must be kept in the yard. Tell them that Joe has got fat and has grown to be a large dog—Col Hampton says he is a very fine dog. He has hunted with him a little—I havent had time to hunt any yet. We occasionally get some ducks, though not so many as I expected. There are plenty of them on the river but we have no chance to kill them. We had some very fine Canvass backs to day, they are the finest ducks I ever eat[;] the flesh is exceedingly rich and well flavoured. I believe I have given you about all the news of any interest—And now after begging you to give my love to each one of our dear Children, as well as to your Father and all his family and all our relatives and friends I will wish you a happy new year and bid you an affectionate good night from your
Head Qrs. Legion Camp Wigfall
Sunday night January 5th 1862
My Darling Wife
My great anxiety and suspense was relieved yesterday evening, by recieving a kind and cheerful letter from you. I had really become quite uneasy, it having been nine or ten days since I had recieved one before. Your excuse, My Darling, was a perfectly good one. But I do sincerely hope that you may not again, during my absence, be surrounded by circumstances, which will conflict with your correspondence with me. O my Darling if you could only realize the real pleasure which it gives me, to receive, and the great disappointment it gives me not to receive, letters regularly—I know you would write often. Dont understand me as complaining or fault finding—Such is not my intention. For I really give you great credit, for writing as much as you do. I know the difficulties under which you labour, in the first place your great antipathy to writing at all, and then secondly, the vast amount of business, that is daily on your hands. I say, considering these things, I get letters from you even more frequently than one might expect. And then My Darling, I get very few letters from any person except yourself. If I were to estimate my friends by the letters I recieve—I wouldnt have many—I have been back in camps two long months, and let me tell you—I have recieved two letters from Sis, one from Sue, one from Maria,1 and one yesterday from Doctr Muse. Those are the only letters I have had, from all my many good Friends, except yourself and one from Willie. My Darling, situated as I am here in one place for a long time, never seeing any person except the Soldiers of our command, and occasionally some Officers, who call here on business I cannot manufacture material to write you interesting letters. Camp life is so monotonous, so much of a sameness, that it is really trying to one's patience at times. This frequently accounts for the fact that Soldiers grow extremely eager for a fight. They want something to relieve the dull monotony of the camp life. This is the case, at this time with our troops. I believe they would, (p.133) almost to a man, be delighted if the Enemy would come along. They have been told so many times, and for so long, that the enemy would move in a short time, that they have become perfectly incredulous. You cant convince them that the Enemy will not [sic] advance this winter. Notwithstanding our Generals are evidently of the opinion that they will advance, and that very soon. Col Hampton had another regiment sent to him to day, he now has under his command, besides the Legion, three Regiments and a field battery.2 He will now be able to give the Yanks a warm reception, wherever they may choose to try to cross the Occoquan. It looked a little squally day before yesterday evening. There was a succession of fires apparently signal fires, from away up the lines near Alexandria, down the Potomac. I dont know what was the meaning of them—It may have been their signal for an advance, but if so they were deterred by a sleet which fell that night. The sleet was not heavy, but enough to make it dangerous to travel yesterday. To day has been a fair, still sunny day—but so cold, that the ice has not melted scarcely at all. This evening it clouded up again, and is now sleeting again. I fear we have got to the end of the good weather for this winter. It is now exceedingly cold, but I dont suffer from the cold. A good many of our men have been skating for the last day or two. One poor fellow from the Ga Regiment, was drowned yesterday. Two men were skating when the ice broke and they both went down. This Georgian jumped in and saved them— And afterwards went back to show how he saved them, when the ice broke with him, he went down and drowned before they could get him out.3 I wrote to you in my last that Maj'r Butler was sick. I am happy to inform you that he is convalescent—I saw him to day—I hope soon to see him again in the saddle. We have a good many (p.134) Commissioned Officers now sick—On that account we are in bad condition for a fight—So far as the men are concerned we are in very good fighting condition. I am satisfied that the condition of our army would not be improved, by going into winter quarters, without an engagement. I feel the army would be a good deal demoralized, by such an event. I dont know what to think, whether they will attack us or not. I am fully confident if they do come that we will lick them. And if we give them a thorough licking, in their present shattered condition, I think they will begin to think about giving it up. I wish they would quit their foolishness[.] For I tell you, I would much prefer being at home with my Wife and Children—I am delighted to hear that the citizens of old South Carolina, and old Edgefield especially, have come up to the mark—without being drafted. It would have been an everlasting disgrace to have drafted the men when the Enemy were on our own soil.4 My Darling, do make Willie ask Mr G. L. Penn (if Ed has gone)5 whether or not Ed ever sent me some medicine which I wrote to him to send me, for my horse's feet. It has never come and I am very much in need of it—And now my Darling, after sending (p.135) my love to my children, and begging you to remember me to all my friends I will bid you an affectionate
Monday morning 6th. The snow is two or three inches deep—this morning. All well. Good Bye
Letter 18 JBG to Leila Griffin
Head Qrs Legion
Camp Near Occoquan Jany 10th
My Darling Leila
Many thanks to you My Darling for another kind letter, dated the 3rd inst. received this evening. Also one from Willie in the same envellope. I am delighted to hear from you under any circumstances, and I am made doubly happy, when your letters bring me such cheerful and pleasant news. I feel truly thankful that kind Providence, has so far, answered my daily prayers, in caring for my Dear Wife and Children. Oh, My Darling what a comfort to me it is, to know that you and the dear Children although separated from me, are well, and appear to be getting along so well. I am also delighted to hear that the Negroes are behaving so well—Do say to them that I hear with pleasure of their good behaviour, and hope they will continue to behave well—tell them they shall not loose anything by keeping it up. I hope also from what you and Willie both write, that our new overseer may do well. Tell him, I have entire confidence in him although a Stranger, from what I have heard of him, and he must do his best. Do ask him if he has a good stand of wheat and oats, and how they look. Has he fed away all the pea vines yet, and how does he get along with his business generally. Tell him to be economical with the corn, I think there is no doubt but he will have plenty, but still it is safest to be economical. Do tell him to see himself to measuring the corn when they go to the mill, and see that no more is sent than is necessary, and that it all comes back. Dont forget sometimes to have the wheat sunned. My Darling I do think you are getting to be a first rate manager. And whilst I hope that the time is not near at hand for you, (p.136) Still, I believe you would make a right managing Widdow. But excuse me—My Darling that is too serious a subject to joke about just now. I am pleased to hear that you have your garden in such fine order. I hope to enjoy some of your nice vegetables this year. Dont forget the Watermelon patch when the proper time arrives. Tell your man Peter,1 that he knows my plan for planting, and he must pursue it just as if I were there to attend to it. Tell him to make some hills next month, dig the holes deep and put the manure low down, that is the secret of success. If you have an early Spring he might plant a few hills as early as the 10th of March and then keep on planting all the time after that, every week or two. By the way you have never written me how much cotton you and Peter made last year. How has Laura2 got—is she no better? Did she ever try the walnut root tea—if not do make her try it—drink it freely, and continue it for a long time. My Darling we have had very disagreeable weather for some days past—The first we have had with a slight exception this winter. We had a sleet and snow about a week ago, and the weather was quite cold. The Occoquan River froze entirely over, and the ice was so thick that men walked over it with impunity. We began to think that all our labour was lost, that the Enemy could walk across any where and of course would not be apt to cross under our rifle pits. Had they attempted, they could have thrown a heavy column across, at any point we were not guarding (for we can only guard the regular crossings) and they might have been quite troublesome. But fortunately for us, night before last we had a pretty heavy rain, and the weather moderated considerably. And now although the river is still frozen over, no one would dare to risque his weight on it. I really am at a loss to conjecture what is the programme of the Enemy. It was said when the weather was so fine that they were waiting for hard weather. Now we have had that and they still tarry. I am thoroughly satisfied, that McClelland [sic] doesnt want to come at all. It has been said by some that he has feigned sickness to give him an excuse for not advancing.3 (p.137) It seems that Public opinion would force him to move, as they are already speaking of one who is to supercede him. My opinion is that his reputation now hangs upon a rather slender thread. If he advances, and gets whipped, his reputation is gone—and if he does not advance, it appears as if they will call in another. I hear that he has pledged to advance by the 15th of this month. And I dont believe now he can do so if he wishes. The rains have made the roads so soft, that I dont believe Artillery can be carried over them. But as the Frenchman said, “we shall see what we shall see”. My Darling I am really afraid that my letters are not very interesting to you but you must bear in mind that I have nothing else to write about. Tell Willie I am obliged to him for his letter, tell him he doesnt improve as much in writing as I would wish, but to keep trying, he will learn after awhile. Tell him to write to me every week. Give my love to all the Children and kiss them for me. Also remember me to all my friends and relatives. Abram and Ned4 beg to be remembered to all. Good night, My Love—
You asked me if I would like to have a pair of pants. Why, certainly I would be proud to wear them—spun[,] wove and made by your own direction.
Camp of the Legion
Saturday night Jany 25th 1862
My Darling Leila
I am quietly seated in my tent. Maj Connor and Adjt Barker are silently sitting on the other side of our comfortable fire, closely engaged in a game of drafts.1 And by the way My Darling let me tell you, that yesterday, whilst we were all closely confined to our little cloth houses, Col Hampton remembered for the first time that he had in his trunk a board on which we can play backgammon, drafts and chess. Yes tell Dr Muse I now have an opportunity to practice in playing chess and if he doesnt look sharp I will be able to beat him when I go home. I assure you we were delighted, when the Col produced the board[;] it will serve to while away many a tedious hour. We have nothing in the wide world to do, when the weather is so bad that we cant go out, as it has been most of the time lately. We have only a few books in camp and those few we have all read. We have plenty of tactics, but I think we are pretty well versed in them, at least they have lost their novelty to us. Then we have nothing to do but talk, talk, talk—until we are about run out of that article. True we get the papers2 every day, but we devour every thing in (p.139) them in a short time. So that you can readily understand what a relief it affords to have something new to divert our attention. It is really very trying to one's mind to be for a long time cooped up in camps. We have had a continuation of very disagreeable weather, through the most of this month. Night before last it rained[,] sleeted and snowed and yesterday—no—I am mistaken it was last night—(I declare I sometimes forget the day of the week)[.] This morning the ground was all covered with snow. About nine oclock the sun came out and the day overhead looked almost like a spring day. Most of the snow has melted and such a slosh and sloppy roads. To night the wind has sprung up from the North West and it is now turning very cold. I suppose there will be a good freeze by morning. I hope it will freeze hard for it would be far preferable to the mud. The cold I dont mind, but the mud is intolerable.
I am happy, My Darling, to inform you that our prospect for subsistence has very much brightened since I wrote you last. The Col represented our condition to Head Quarters and they very kindly and promptly, have come to our assistance[.] The Col wrote to Genl Johns[ t]on,3 that we must be removed our [sic] have additional transportation.4 And asked for a number of mules and pack Saddles. Said that if he would furnish these we could stick it out—And indeed if any troops were to remain here we wished to do it. We have fortified, and are still fortifying this place, and desire to fight here, if any where.5 (p.140) The General and Qr Master Genl both wrote very handsome letters in reply.6 The Genl said he did not want this post abandoned & that we should have all the transportation we wished[.] He turned the Col's letter over to the Qr Master Genl who wrote to the Col that he would give him a hundred mules and pack saddles if he wished them. We will now move the Cavalry near the rail road, and the ballance of the command will remain here, I suppose, the ballance of the winter. We will abandon the waggons and bring all our supplies on mules. I will really be glad when we get rid of the poor wagon horses. I am tired of seeing them. One old mule strayed up near my tent last night—and this morning he was reported dead—I ordered the Qr Master to have him hauled off. Soon the wagon came to take the old fellow away, when lo and behold they found he wasnt quite dead. Some of them told the wagoner to nock him in the head—but he said no—he had as soon kill a man. I told him to go and haul a load of wood and by that time he would be dead—I havent heard from him since.
Ned has been laid up a few days with a bad cold. I hope he will be up soon—Abram has a cold but is still up—He is a very fine boy, a general favourite with all the Staff. My darling I have just thought that here I have written you a great long letter and nothing much in it. But I know you will excuse it. You neednt mind about the cotton socks—I have got used to the woolen. Col Hampton left to day for Richmond to spend a few days with Mrs Hampton. Of course I am left in command of the Legion. But we are not doing much now except building more batteries for our canons. I will have a hundred men at work tomorrow Sunday as it is. Do give my love to every body and especially is sent to My Darling Wife and Children[.]
Col Hampton and all the Staff, say, I write the longest letters they ever saw a man write, who writes so often. Maj Butler is better. I am quite well. I thank you.
Head Qrs of the Legion
Jany 30th 1862
My Dear Leila
I hope to get a letter from you this evening. I have not had one in a whole week. I hope you are not sick My Darling—you wrote me in your last about being unwell from a cold. Previous to the reception of your last letter I had received a letter almost every mail for several days in succession, which keeps up the average very well. I have just heard that Lt Tompkins1 has arrived at Manassas, he will be here tomorrow. I understand he has a trunk for me, and I hope a letter. My Darling this is another gloomy day, been raining all day. Yesterday was a very pretty day, it seems as if we cant have more than one pretty day, and then pay for it by having three or four rainy ones. The sun hasnt shone, I dont think more than three or four days this whole month. I have been closely engaged to day, My Darling, examining the Commissary's quarterly report. It was an exceedingly tedious job. And consequently I feel rather tired. I should have written you last night, but for the fact that I didnt sleep much the night before, and was quite sleepy. I said, I didnt sleep much, night before last—It was quite an eventful night. Let me give you an account of it. In the first place a lot of young men from the “Washington Light Infantry” (Citizens of Charleston) took it into their heads to give a concert. They accordingly went to the village of Occoquan, distant from the camp about two miles, and about four from the camp of the Enemy. Just think of that, the idea of having an entertainment of that kind almost within gun shot of the Enemy's lines. But then we had the river Occoquan (p.142) between us. I knew nothing of the affair until the arrangement was all completed. In the morning before the night of the concert—they asked through their Capt, permission to have it. I consented on condition that they would preserve good order, conduct themselves properly, and not report anything about it in the newspapers. They invited our Field and Staff and said it was gotten up for our express benefit. So that we all concluded to go. Col Hampton being in Richmond. I left the camp in charge of Capt Gary and went down. When I arrived, I found the audience already in attendance. The room was a very nice one, small, and pretty well filled. The crowd consisted mostly of Officers and about a dozen Ladies. I assure you I was surprised to see, in this country, such a collection of the “Fair Sex.” True they were not so pretty but they were so dignified and Lady like. The Boys had erected a stage in one end of the house, and had one corner canvassed off for the performers to retire in. This canvass consisted of a very large and handsome quilt, which I suppose they had borrowed for the occasion, and a couple of Soldiers blankets. The curtain which was used to expose the Stage was made of the fly of a tent. They didnt have gas light, but good old tallow candles, with a wick about the size of your little finger. So you may imagine that the light wasnt very brilliant. The Performers were all blacked, and sung various songs, and performed beautifully on several instruments. They had the piano, two violins, a tamborine and one fellow played the banjo and another beat the bones. The music was really exquisite, and the whole affair passed off very pleasantly indeed. They closed about eleven oclock and we set out for camp—We had ridden about a mile when my ear caught the sound of a rifle, in the direction of Colchester. The very place we are guarding and where we always keep a picket.2 In a few seconds I heard another, and then another, and then a volley. I was riding my fine mare “Belle Tucker”. I gave her the spur and she soon carried me to the ferry where our Picket was stationed. I was accompanied by Adjt Barker. I found after seeing the Picket that the (p.143) firing was over the river, in an old house just across the ferry. It had by this time all ceased. But I could distinctly hear the moaning and groaning of some one who was undoubtedly wounded. I immediately suspected the cause. We have for a long time had eight or ten Texians over the river who have been acting as scouts for us. They have harrassed the Enemy a great deal and they the Enemy have made many fruitless attempts to catch them.3 It turned out as I suspected[.] The Texians were all in this old house (there were eight of them in all[)], and had all gone to bed, leaving no watch at all. The Enemy were doubtless piloted to the house, and the first thing the Texians knew, the Enemy were trying to break the door down. The house was a two story one with several rooms in it—they separated some in each room, and the firing commenced. The night was exceedingly dark—and the Texians couldnt tell how many they were fighting. Certainly a pretty large crowd. The firing lasted only a few minutes, and the Cowardly rascals ran off—leaving two of their men dead and one badly wounded (died that night) in the yard. One of the Texians was wounded but not seriously.4 I ordered more men down to the river, and awaited to (p.144) see what would turn up—It wasnt long before I heard a whistle across the river—I answered, and the Texians asked for a boat—I sent over and had them brought over and the wounded man attended to—He is now doing very well. Those Texians are number one men, and their conduct on that occasion was as gallant and brave as any thing that has occurred in this war. Just think of their cool courage, to be suddenly surprised by an Enemy, from whom they had no reason to expect any quarter—Surrounded in the night by these rascals, in an old house, which was but a shell—and see them separating themselves each man with his rifle in hand slipping to a window and firing at their opponents—who were also pouring the bullets into the old House. Just think, I say of this conduct and compare it to the dastardly cowardice of the Enemy who had at last found the very men whom of all others they wanted to find—they had them completely surrounded and one would suppose just where they would like to have them. They also from the sign, next day, had a large force—And (p.145) notwithstanding all this as soon as their men began to fall they actually ran off—The Texians say they carried off several wounded, they could distinctly hear them complaining and groaning as they went off. But they left one wounded man on the ground who hallooed and begged them to come back after him. I suppose he was the one I heard crying after I got down. The Texians came out after the Enemy were gone, and found this wounded man and two dead ones—They carried the wounded man in the house—built up a fire for him, gave him some water—took the arms of the three men, and then brought their own wounded man down to the river—When I sent for them as I have already told you. The next morning they went over and decently buried them. I didnt get back to camp that night until near three O Clock—and that is the reason I was so sleepy last night. Dont you think it was quite an adventerous night? My Darling I have had to write you a pretty long letter to give you the history of the affair—and now as I have nothing more of interest to write—I will beg you to remember me to all my friends and accept for your own dear Self and each one of the Darling Children, the entire love of a Husband and a Father.
Sure enough the mail has come and brought me three letters—one from you[,] one from Doctr Muse and one from Maria. Many thanks to you all for your kind consideration. You say Mrs Thompson writes for three or four hundred dollars—Well I dont know where it is to come from. However I will write her a letter and send her what I have—I wrote you the other day that Ned was sick. He has got up again—My health is still very good—I dont think Willie would learn much at Mrs McClintocks5—I think he had better go to plowing—he is large enough to begin, and it would do him good—He must either go to school or go to work—And I prefer the work under the circumstances. If he works he must work steady—
Head Quarters of the Legion
Camp near Occoquan Feby 2nd
My Dearest Wife
I recieved a short note from you this evening, from Lt Tompkins. He has had a very long and tedious trip. Been nearly two weeks on the road. He was four or five days in getting to camp from Manassas— on account of the quantity of baggage in his charge, and the awful condition of the roads.1 He had finally to leave the trunks. So that I havent yet recieved mine. I will send for it tomorrow, and hope to enjoy the good things put up for me, by your own dear hands, in a day or two more. This is the rainiest—snowiest—muddiest and with all, the most disagreeable country I ever met up with. This has been a clear sunny day—and now, (ten O Clock at night) it is raining— Night before last it snowed—Yesterday it thawed, and it seems that every thing combines to keep the earth saturated with water. The roads, being traveled over every day by wagons, of course continue to grow worse. I havent travelled over them but from accounts, and from what I see around here, I know they are awful. I have been trying for the last two weeks—to have some new batteries built—but owing to the dreadful weather, get along very slowly. We never have two days in succession in which we can work. I never was so heartily tired of mud and water in my life. Col Hampton has not yet returned from Richmond—He has been gone a week—I am expecting him every day.
(p.147) My Darling, you have no idea how proud I felt, yesterday while reading one of your very dear letters to find that you felt that you had reason (as you thought) to be proud of your Husband. It done me a power of good. For while I dont expect much from the cold Charity of the world—And indeed ask for little, It is really charming and enspiriting to feel that you are appreciated by one who loves you and one who is prompted by no deceitful motives, to bestow praise on you. But My Darling, let me say, while I thank you for the compliment, I have so far done nothing to merit it—Except perhaps, in showing a willingness to do, whenever an opportunity may offer. I have so far, never had the fortune (whether good or bad) to be engaged with the Enemy—I hope however, if it shall ever be my fortune to be engaged with them, that my conduct will be such, that if I do not merit your praise, will not cause you to feel ashamed—I, like every man, of course would not like the idea of being even wounded in battle—But I would dislike very much to go out of this Campaign without going through at least one battle—More especially as most of the officers of the Legion have had that good fortune. I assure you that the dangers of a battle, are not near so great as one, who is unacquainted, would suppose. I do not expect any fighting of consequence, in this army before Spring—But I think it will come then pretty heavy, if there is no change.
I honestly believe that the battle itself is about the least of dangers, to which the Soldier is exposed. Sickness is much more dangerous, caused from necessary exposure.2 The health of our Command is very good, at this time considering the quantity of bad weather we have had. My own health continues very good— I wouldnt have believed that I could have gone through what I have. But it doesnt hurt me at all. I have entire command of the Legion, during the Col's absence (p.148) and flatter myself that we get along very well. I cant tell whether the men like me or not—they are very respectful to me, but that they are obliged to be—Military authority is the most powerful known to man. But doesnt do harm unless abused—I think the officers generally like me and most of the men two [sic] but some of them I reckon do not—An Officer, as a general rule, who does his duty is apt to make some Enemies.
My Darling I have written to Mrs Thom[p]son and sent her one hundred dollars, which I told her must do, for awhile. I will send her more as soon as I can. Have you money enough to get along with—Have you heard yet from the Molasses—Where is Bob Sullivan?3 Do remember me to your Father and family and all Friends—Please say to Dr Muse I will answer his letter soon—Give my love to each one of the children—Bless their hearts how I do want to see them—I am so anxious to hear Claude & Callie talk—Tell Willie I will write to him in a few days—I think he had better go to ploughing—Good night—My Darling
from your Husband
Letter 22 JBG to Leila Griffin
Head Qrs of the Legion
Feby 5th 1862
My Darling Wife
Again I seat myself by my little table to write a few lines to you. I am happy to inform you that my health is still very good. We have at last had two consecutive days of sun shine, with a prospect at present of at least one more. But this climate is the most changeable of any, I ever experienced. I have seen here the sun set perfectly clear and in three or four hours it would be raining or snowing. This is the first time that I have seen the sun shine two days in succession this year. On sunday night and monday last a pretty heavy snow fell, about six inches deep—Most of it is still on the ground. The weather is quite cold, and although the sun shines in the day, the snow refuses to melt, except in places. Enough of it however has melted to keep the earth thoroughly drenched—And the roads you have no conception of (p.149) them, it is really difficult to get over them on horseback. I saw, to day one of our wagons coming entirely empty and the driver said he had stalled several times. So far, we have made out to supply our men with provisions, but our horses have fared badly. We get no hay or fodder at all and often no corn from the Qr Master, owing to want of transportation. We have made out so far to buy and press enough in this country to keep our Staff horses—But the Cavalry and Artillery horses, (especially the cavalry) look badly. We have been trying for a week to get the Cavalry back to the rail road, but have not yet succeeded on account of the bad weather and roads. We have a lot of mules to pack with, but they are useless without pack saddles, and they havent yet arrived. Our prospects are pretty gloomy, but I hope we will get through some way. That we are ocupying [a] very responsible position is evident, by the manifestation of the Enemy. They continue to approach occasionally a little nearer to us, and then fall back again to their camp. I doubt not they would attempt to cross over and give us a fight if they thought they could succeed—but the fate of those who attacked our forces at Leesburg,1 is still fresh in their minds, and they dont like the idea of crossing a river to fight. They came down, on monday, whilst the snow was falling, opposite the Village of Occoquan and fired into the houses, taking the chances of killing men women or children. We had two companies on picket there—they returned the fire and the rascals left. No damage was done to either side that we know of—certainly none, to our side. As soon as it was reported, I sent a party over to reconnoitre—they returned a little after dark and reported that they were about a mile [away] and coming (p.150) down towards Colchester, where we also have a picket—This news was reported to me about eight O Clock at night. I immediately ordered an additional company (Gary's) down to support the Picket, in case of an attack. I ordered my horse and went down myself, it was then Sleeting rapidly—I staid with the Picket until near midnight and returned—hearing nothing more of them. I suppose they concluded to go back. I am getting awfully tired of this defensive position—You are uncertain at what hour of the day or night you may be called up by their appearance. I have no idea that they will attempt to cross over to us, nor have I any idea that they could if they would. There only object is to come in pretty large parties to the river and harrass us as much as they can knowing that we have no means of crossing the river in force, and consequently, they are in but little danger. They are also all the time in search of the Texas Scouts. I am sorry to inform you that the poor Texian whom I wrote you was wounded, is dead.2 He died yesterday. He was more seriously wounded than the Doctr thought—I am very sorry he died—he was a gallant, noble and brave man. By the way have you seen the Enemy's report of their fight with the Texians? They claim to have killed every one, but one, and took him prisoner.3 Such a lie. My Darling I havent yet recieved my trunk, but have sent a wagon for it. Hope to get it soon. I also have an overcoat at Manassas, I will also get that—Would you believe it—I have gone through so much of this winter without an overcoat. And what is (p.151) more remarkable, I havent suffered for the want of one[.] I borrowed one the other night when I went out in the Sleet—and I think once or twice before. With those exceptions I have worn none this winter. I ordered one immediately after mine was burned, from Charleston, and it has just come—I have come to the conclusion that they are humbugs any how. Do My Darling remember me kindly to all my friends—and give my unchanging love to all our relatives and particularly to my Darling Children. Tell Duck she had better send my boot hooks. I dreamed a few nights ago I saw poor little unfortunate Claude4 running about with Callie—Lord Send I could see him as I saw him then. It is now within a few minutes of 12 o clock at night, which is about my time for retiring— What think you of that? Good night
Your devoted Husband
Letter 23 JBG to Willie Griffin
Head Qrs of the Legion
Camp near Occoquan Feby 10th
My Dear Willie
I have received two letters from you recently, for which I am much obliged to you. I wish you to write to me every week—It will be the means of improving you as well as be a great comfort to me. I am delighted to hear that Sue is going to teach you and the other Children. I hope you will be diligent and studious—Do my son practice a great deal in writing—You do not improve as much in that as I would like to see you. Your letters are pretty well composed, considering, you have never written many—but your writing is not good, and I discover several mistakes in your spelling. Both of these difficulties you can overcome, only by perseverance and attention—I wish you to study closely until the beginning of Spring, and then I wish you to get Mr. Spradley to fix up a light plough for you, and try your hand at that. It will do you good, devellope your muscles and give you strength. And will also learn you some fundamental principles of farming, which will be of great service to you when you grow older. Do give my love to your Sis Sue and tell her she must be very strict (p.152) with her schollars—and if they do wrong, I would recommend a guard house as a corrective. It has a very happy effect on men, and I presume would have on children. Say to Sue that I received “Bill Arp's” production and had a good laugh over it, I am obliged to her for it.1 I recieved this evening the first number of the Advertizer I have had since my return, and enjoyed Squigg's letter.2 I hope I will recieve it, (p.153) regularly from this time out. It is almost equal to a letter from home. By the way, speaking of papers—Do say to your Ma—that I had really forgotten, my promise to send her a Richmond paper, but hope she will excuse me. I have ordered the Richmond Examiner to be sent to my adress at home[;] she will get it soon—and then she will have plenty of news, as it is a daily paper. It is the best and most popular paper published in the City. Tell Mr Spradley to plant cotton in that field by his house, if he hears no more from me. I will now close and write a few lines to Bobbie—Good night my son[.] Give my love to all
Letter 24 JBG to Leila Griffin
Head Qrs of the Legion
Feby 12th 1862
My Dearest Leila
This is the night of the week that I generally write to you— But will onlly write you a very short note, for I have a whitlow or what is called a bone fellon1 on one of my fingers and I am suffering a great deal of pain from it. I know you will excuse me under the circumstances. It has been forming about three days—The Doctr says it will have to be opened tomorrow. It is very painful indeed, and as you may guess I am in no very pleasant mood. Except that my health is very good. I walked yesterday about ten miles on a stretch—Maj Connor and myself took a stroll up the Occoquan to take a little exercise, and we made about ten miles before we returned to camp.
We had a fine Dress Parrade this evening & the Legion made a better appearance than it has in a long time. Col Hampton made them a speech upon the subject of reenlisting.2 His speech was very (p.154) appropriate and well recieved, and I think will have a very happy effect on the command. I am inclined to think, now, that a majority of the Legion will reenlist for the war—that feeling seems to be increasing rapidly—More so since our recent defeats at Fort Henry3 and Roanoke island.4 Our People have no alternative but to fight the war through. I received a letter this evening from Sue, do present to her my thanks for it. Do present to your Uncle Billy and Aunt Helen5 my congratulations on their new born.6 Oh my Darling, how I wish you were here just at this time, to hear some splendid vocal music. A party of the men have just formed themselves quietly in rear of our quarters and are now serenading us. They sing beautifully, and I know you would enjoy it—for I really enjoy it myself although my finger is giving me (p.155) [illegible]. They frequently give us a serenade. But My Darling you must really excuse me for my finger pains me so that I can write no more. They are now singing “They stole my child away”—Do give my love to all[.]
Letter 25 JBG to Leila Griffin
Head Qrs of the Legion
February 16th 1862
I recieved another one of your dear, kind, and affectionate letters, by yesterday's mail. I am happy to hear that you and the dear Children are well. And is it possible that our dear little Claude can walk all alone. I would be so delighted to see him. I dreamed one night, some time ago, before you wrote me he had commenced walking by a chair, that I saw him and Cally running about the house, and thought Claude could outrun Cally. I scarcely thought he would be able to walk so soon. I wish very much his feet could be operated on this Spring.1 But I suspect you will not be willing to have it done during my absence. If it isnt done this spring, it must be done next fall. I was surprised my Darling, to find that you had been eight days without a letter from me. I assure you My Darling I average at least two letters a week, generally, I write on Sunday and Wednesday nights. I have lately recieved your letters very regularly. My Darling, I am exceedingly anxious to see you and my Dear Children, and hope to do so next month, if possible. But I wont set my heart on it too much for fear I may be disappointed. It is hard to tell what will be the condition (p.156) of affairs, a month ahead. There is a great stir now among the Soldiers on the subject of reenlisting. Congress some time ago passed an act calling for the revolunteering of the twelve months troops, offering to give all who would revolunteer, fifty dollars bounty, and a furlough, so that each man might spend thirty days at home.2 I understand that a great many are accepting the terms. And a good many have already gone home. I think all the companies in the Legion, except, perhaps one, will reorganize, and that one may too perhaps. The thing was working beautifully, until yesterday, when we recieved an order saying no more furloughs would be granted until further orders.3 They had proposed to let twenty per cent of the whole force go home at a time, and when they returned, let others go. The order stopping the furloughs has somewhat stopped the volunteering, but I think it will be right again in a few days. One company in the Legion has already the number requisite for a reorganization, and several others are nearly full. I have no doubt that Gary's company will reenlist.4 I think Gary (p.157) will be elected to a field office in the new organization. I believe I wrote you that Col Hampton is empowered by the President to organize a “Brigade Legion.”5 It will consist of four regiments of Infantry, of ten companies each, with one company of Artillery, and one of Cavalry attached to each regiment. The present Legion will doubtless be increased and form one of the four regiments. I know My Darling, you are very anxious to know what I, am going to do—And I'll tell you as well as I can. Of course, as I have said before, no one can see far enough in the future to tell what he will do four months hence. But I have looked at it from every side, and think now that, if I am alive, when my present term of enlistment expires I will go home, at least for a while. I feel that it is a duty I owe my wife and Children. I may be so situated that I cant go. But think now that I will. I may not be able to stay at home if I do go, but still my intention is to go and stay at least awhile. This you need not make public, but if you are asked what I am going to do—you may say that I want to go home if I can. I intend to do as I have always tried to do. Do what I conceive to be my duty, and care not for the consequences. My opinion is that by the time our term of enlistment is out, that the war will nearly if not quite be at an end. It will be either so, or it will by that time grow to be a monster. I wouldnt be surprised if we have some hard fighting to do before then. We have had several reverses lately—the last was (p.158) the worst. But they are all except one, victories, which the Enemy cannot take much credit for, as they have been the result of their navy—and we have none.6 Whenever they get out of reach of their gun boats we will thrash them again. My Darling, keep up your spirits—do the best you can, and be certain that I will go home to see you as soon as I can. Carry on every thing as best you can, and when I go home I will praise you a heap, or get Dr Muse to do it for me.
When I wrote you last I was suffering dreadfully with a bone felon. The next day the Doctr laid it open to the bone. And you ought to have seen what a Soldier I was. I laid my finger down on a table, and held it perfectly still—didnt move a muscle, until he had finished—Think you could have done that?7 Do remember me to your Father, (p.159) tell him I will write to him before long. Remember me to all our relatives and friends. Did your Uncle Billy ever recieve my letter? You ask me what was in the trunk that I sent home. I really dont remember what—not a great deal I think—All my summer socks, and those overshirts you made for me, and your little brush that I brought by mistake, and perhaps other little things—It is no great loss. Do give my love to all the Children and accept the same for yourself
from your Husband
Letter 26 JBG to Leila Griffin
Head Qrs of the Legion
February 19th 1862
My Dear Leila
Well, my Darling, I have at last recieved my trunk, it came to day—Just four weeks from the time you started it. My Darling you just tried yourself to see how many nice things you could send. I opened the trunk to day (it came about twelve O Clock) and had a regular party. Invited the whole mess and Capt Gary, Lieut Tompkins and Ball from Laurens,1 a member of Gary's company. I cut one of the cakes, which was beautiful and very nice, and opened the apple cordial. All agreed in pronouncing it splendid. You were very highly complimented, while the cake & cordial was rapidly consumed. Every thing came perfectly safe and sound, notwithstanding the length of time it had been coming. The sausages were somewhat moulded, but I dont think are at all damaged, at least I hope not, for I am really longing for some. We also sampled the nice brandy peaches, I told the party that they were put up by your own fair hands, and four years ago at that. They were really very nice. Col Hampton is laid up in his (p.160) tent with the mumps.2 (I tell him he is the largest case of mumps, I ever saw) So that he could not participate in the feast. I, sent him, however, a share of the good things. My darling every thing you sent is really a treat, but I believe I appreciate more than any thing else, the nice butter. I can eat it with a relish, and have the satisfaction of knowing it is clean and nice. We had such a nice lunch and enjoyed it so much, that we didnt have dinner until five O Clock, and it being a dark evening we had to have a candle lit. I suppose you will think that we are quite aristocratic. And so we are. Our usual meal hours are as follows, Breakfast from nine to ten (Dark rainy mornings from ten to eleven. [)] Dinner from three to four, tea from eight to nine. Dont you think that is rather aristocratic. We sampled, at dinner, your catsup—it is splendid. Every thing is nice very nice, ham[,] biscuit and all. For all of which my Darling will please accept the sincere thanks of her husband, and also of the whole mess. I am also obliged to you for the clothing you sent. I didnt need any thing except the towels and handkerchiefs, I have lost some that I had. The shirts you sent are very pretty, I will wear them after the cold weather is gone. I wear nothing now but the calicoe. The comfort is very fine but so far we have had plenty of cover, it will however be no drudge unless we have to retreat from the Yanks. In that case it might be in the way. The Majr. and I now have quite an extensive wardrobe, If the Yanks were to take our camp they would make money out of us. The Maj'r recieved a box, from home a few days ago, and in it came our overcoats, at last—now that the winter is nearly over. But they are stunners I tell you, made of English cloth, Confederat grey—but such a price[—]how much do you suppose—Seventy dollars in cash, and then two dollars and a half, freight—So much for the fire. Do my Darling, give my love to Minnie and tell her I am greatly obliged to her for the nett cap—but see here, it looks to me like a baby's bonnet, hasnt she made some mistake, or does she suppose I have a baby out here to wear it. Whilst I am speaking of presents do let me tell you of one I recieved from Miss Carrie Connor, sister of the Maj'r. She sent me a very pretty, (I dont know what the name is) but I call it a dressing (p.161) case—It is a linen sack, to hang up in the tent, with pockets to hold a comb and brush, tooth brush, soap, &c—There was a nice cake of soap in one pocket and a box of tooth powder in an other. I acknowledged the reciept of it in a very pretty little note. My Darling, I would be pleased if you would reciprocate the favour, by making a little present to Maj'r C—This is a very pretty as well as a very useful present. She sent it in the Majr's box, and directed it to me with Miss Carrie Connor's compliments. My Darling the Mail has just come and the papers bring the unwelcome news of the capture of Fort Donnelson [sic] by the Federals.3 Our reverses have been frequent of late—It seems that we fought gallantly at the Fort—but the full particulars I havent seen. Our defeat at Roanoke was really disgraceful.4 Well, I (p.162) hope the day of triumph is not far distant. I have no other news to write—It has been raining all day as usual.
Do remember me kindly to your Father and family, also to all friends. Give my love to all the Children, and accept for yourself the warmest love of your devoted
Letter 27 JBG to Leila Griffin
Camp of the Legion
February 26th 1862
My Darling Leila
I am delighted, my Darling to learn by your last letter that Minnie has at last “Come through”. And I am also pleased, and tender my congratulations that she has another Boy.1 Notwithstanding you all were anxious for her to have a daughter. I really think she should be proud that she has another Boy. This is the time, above all others, that men should be raised. And this too, is the time above all others when females deserve sympathy. I assure you, I feel, far more anxiety about my dear little daughters, than I do about my Boys. For while men can manage to work for themselves, and can fight the battles of their Country if necessary, Females are very dependent. True, they too can do a great deal, and, ’tis true that our Southern Ladies have done and are still acting a conspicuous part in this war[.] In many instances (to the shame of our Sex be it said) a much bolder and more (p.163) manly part than many men. But still, when it comes to the physical test, of course, they are helpless. It is on this account, that I think the Parents should congratulate themselves on the birth of a son rather than a daughter. We cannot see, My Darling, into the future, but I trust & have confidance in our people to believe, that if the unprincipled North shall persist in her policy of Subjugating the South, that we, who are able to resist them, will continue to do so, until we grow old and worn out in the service, and that then, our Sons will take the arms from our hands, and spend their lives, if necessary, in battling for Liberty and independence. As for my part, If this trouble should not be settled satisfactorily to us sooner—I would be proud of the thought that our youngest Boy—Yes Darling little Jimmie, will after awhile be able and I trust willing to take his Father's place in the field, and fight until he dies, rather than, be a Slave, Yea worse than a Slave to Yankee Masters—Have you ever anticipated, My Darling, what would be our probable condition, if we should be conquered in this war? The picture is really too horrible to contemplate. In the first place, the tremendous war tax, which will have accumulated, on the northern Government, would be paid entirely and exclusively by the property belonging to the Southerners. And more than this we would be an humbled, down trodden and disgraced, people. Not entitled to the respect of any body, and have no respect for ourselves. In fact we would be the most wretched and abject people on the face of the Earth. Just be what our Northern Masters say we may be. Would you, My Darling, desire to live, if this was the case? would you be willing to leave your Children under such a government? No—I know you would sacrifice every comfort on earth, rather than submit to it. Excuse me, My Darling, I didnt intend to, run off in this strain. You might think, from my painting this horrid picture to you, that I had some doubts as to whether we might not have to experience it. But No, I havent the most remote idea that we will. I think our people will arouse themselves, shake off the lethargy, which seems now to have possession of them, and will meet the issue like men. We must see that we have all—Yes our all—staked upon the result—And we are obliged to succeed and we will do it. Just at this time the Enemy appears to have advantage of us. But this is no more than we have, all along, had of him, until lately. He did not succombe and give up for it—and shall we, Who have so much more to fight for than he has, (p.164) do so? I am completely surprised and mortified at the feeling manifested by our people at this time. But they will soon rally and come with redoubled energy. Our Soldiers too, or rather our Generals have got to learn to fight better. The idea, of a Genl surrendering with 12000 men under his command, is a species of bravery and Generalship, which I do not understand.2 I wish Congress would pass a law breaking an officer of his commission who surrenders. I recieved a letter last night from your Uncle Billy—was very glad to hear from him. If you havent sent my holsters and boot legs—you neednt send them as I dont now need them. I also recieved a letter last night from Sue, will write to her soon. My Darling tell Spradley, not to commence planting corn early[.] My land will not admit of early planting, of either corn or cotton. I generally, commence planting corn from the 15th to the 20th of March, and cotton about the same time in april. I see that Congress is about passing a bill, to impose a heavy tax on cotton raised this year[.]3 If they pass it—I wish no land planted in cotton except the new ground, and the field next to the overseers house, all the ballance planted in corn. I will write you, however in time. My Darling, Now is the time to bring out all your courage— Do not become despondent—Dont matter what alarmists and Croakers (p.165) may say—take advice from him whom you know will advise you for the best. Keep up your spirits and your courage, and the clouds will soon pass away, and sun shine will return—My sheet is full—and I will close by begging to be remembered to all—My love to My Children and my Darling Leila
from your Husband
I enclose a few Virginia Cabbage seed—and a sprig of spruce pine. It grows here beautifully. G—Tell Willie to write often
(1.) Columbia Tri Weekly Southern Guardian, 24 Sept. 1861 (Richmond Examiner); Charleston Daily Courier, 26 Sept. 1861 (Richmond Dispatch); Charleston Daily Courier, 3 Oct. 1861. Thanks to O. Lee Sturkey for sharing these items from his files.
(2.) Edgefield Advertiser, 23 Oct. and 13 Nov. 1861.
(3.) Moffett, Letters of General James Conner, 61.
(4.) The substitution of the liquor flask for the Bible suggests a gendered comparison: the military as an all-male sphere contrasted with home as refined through the influence of women.
(5.) Curry Diary, CAH-UT; Hampton to Thomas Jordan, Ass't Adjt. Gen., First Corps, Army of the Potomac, 24 Sept. 1861, Hampton Papers, SCL; Lily Logan Morrill, A Builder of the New South: Notes on the Career of Thomas M. Logan (Boston: Christopher Publishing, 1940), 41–44.
(6.) Mays, Reminiscences of the War Between the States, 41.
(7.) Morrill, A Builder of the New South, 43; Butler to Wife, 7 and 10 Dec. 1861, Butler Family Papers, DU.
LETTER 16 (1.) The irregularity of the mails was partly to blame for the lack of letters from home. Hampton expressed similar concern to his sister during this period. See Charles E. Cauthen, ed., Family Letters of the Three Wade Hamptons, 1782–1901 (Columbia: Univ. of South Carolina Press, 1953), 80–81, 84. If Griffin's three previous letters reached Edgefield, they have not been located. See letter of 25 June 1861, note 4, on the Confederate postal service.
(2.) That winter Hampton commanded a provisional brigade consisting of the Legion, the Fourteenth and Nineteenth Georgia Infantry regiments, and the Sixteenth North Carolina Infantry. These forces were guarding the Potomac line between the Occoquan River and Aquia Creek. The Sixteenth North Carolina and Fourteenth Georgia regiments were posted at Wolf Run and Davis's Ford, respectively, three miles in front of Bacon Race Church. The Nineteenth Georgia was at the village of Occoquan, seven miles from the church, and the Legion was two miles farther down at Colchester. OR, ser. 1, 5:533, 1030, 1106.
(3.) This action does not appear in the OR, but Major Conner, who was with Hampton, described it in a letter to his mother, and Hampton himself recounted it to his sister. After checking the pickets near Pohick Church, where George Washington and his family had once worshipped, Conner and Hampton divided the cavalry. Conner and 20 men hid in a thicket and ambushed a party of 70 or 80 Union cavalrymen, and Hampton and the remainder of the force charged them as they rode up the hill. The Yankees broke and fled, carrying off three horses with empty saddles and an unknown number of wounded. Moffett, Letters of General James Conner, 74; Cauthen, Family Letters of the Three Wade Hamptons, 80. A full account appears in a letter from a member of the Legion printed in the Charleston Daily Courier, 30 Jan. 1862.
(4.) Camp fever is probably typhoid fever (see letter of 3 Aug. 1861, note 2). According to the unpublished research of O. Lee Sturkey on the Legion infantry, 45 men in the seven infantry companies died of disease between August and December 1861; nine more perished in the first three months of 1862. Sturkey to Judith McArthur, 11 Dec. 1989.
(5.) There were two men named John Nicholson in the Legion and both went home to Edgefield during the fall because of illness. John Lake Nicholson was originally a member of Gary's Watson Guards but shortly transferred to Butler's Edgefield Hussars, with whom he enrolled for Confederate service on 6 June 1861. The newspaper reported his cavalry rank as fifth corporal, but his service record shows no rank other than private. He spent most of the summer on sick furlough in Richmond, and his record shows two hospital discharges: one in September and another in October or November. His cousin John Threewits Nicholson, fourth sergeant of the Watson Guards (Company B of the infantry), enlisted in Columbia on 12 June and was discharged on a surgeon's certificate on 22 November. It is probably this Nicholson to whom Griffin refers. The Nicholson and Griffin families were distantly linked through the branches of each that had intermarried with the Butlers. CSR, M267, roll 364; Edgefield Advertiser, 29 May and 5 June 1861; Edgefield County Historical Society, Genealogy of Nicholson and Allied Families (Edgefield: Society, 1944), 39, 41.
(6.) The plantation overseer, B.F. Spradley, was listed in the 1860 census as being 25 years old, with an 18-year-old wife, Missouri. He had $500 in personal property and no land.
(7.) Mrs. L. is Mrs. Lanham (see letters of 14 June 1861, note 4, and 25 and 29 June 1861). The McKies were an important Edgefield family with relatives in nearby Abbeville. McKie lived near Hamburg across the river from Augusta, Georgia. Family correspondence is in the Thomas Jefferson McKie Papers, DU. There is no way of knowing, of course, what book is referred to here, but the reaction it provoked suggests Hinton R. Helper's inflammatory The Impending Crisis of the South (1857). A descendant of North Carolina yeoman farmers, Helper urged the non-slaveholding majority to use their votes to liberate the region from the “oligarchial despotism” of the slaveholding elite; his book was banned in several southern states. Another possibility is Harriet Beecher Stowe's A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin, in which she published documentation for her controversial novel. David M. Potter, The Impending Crisis, 1848–1861 (New York: Harper and Row, 1976), 386–87; James Mc-Pherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1988), 199–201; John Hammond Moore to Vernon Burton, 22 Jan. 1993.
(8.) Griffin's twelve-month enlistment would expire on 12 June.
LETTER 17 (1.) Maria Burt, Leila's cousin, was the daughter of Dr. William Miles Burt.
(2.) See previous letter, note 1. The newly arrived regiment was the Fourteenth Georgia, which had marched from Manassas.
(3.) Richard Habersham recounted the same incident, but only mentioned one skater: “A young man from the W.L. Infantry came very near being drowned while skating on a mill-pond yesterday & was saved only by one of the Georgia Rgt throwing a plank to him. A short time after he was taken out, the young man who saved his life was drowned within a few steps of the same place. He was taken out with grappling-irons, but his breath was entirely gone.” Habersham to Sister, 5 Jan. 1862, Habersham Family Papers, LC.
(4.) On 7 November 1861 the Union had won an important strategic victory at Port Royal, South Carolina. After a Federal naval squadron under Flag Officer Samuel F. DuPont invaded the sound and captured Forts Walker and Beauregard, a force of 12,000 commanded by Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Sherman occupied the area around Hilton Head and Port Royal. Port Royal remained under Federal control until the end of the war. It gave the Union a base between Savannah and Charleston from which to fuel and supply its blockade ships, and later became an important shelter for African American refugees. B&L, 1:671–91; Willie Lee Rose, Rehearsal for Reconstruction: The Port Royal Experiment (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1964).
(5.) George L. Penn was the founder of a drug and dry goods emporium operated by his son, Edmund M. Penn. Ed Penn had been a member of the Edgefield Riflemen (subsequently part of Gregg's First South Carolina Volunteers) and later was first lieutenant of the Confederate Light Guards, which became Company A of the Twenty-Second South Carolina Volunteers. He was mortally wounded at Boonesboro, Maryland, on 14 Sept. 1862. Chapman, History of Edgefield, 374; Edgefield Advertiser, 24 March, 11 April, and 25 July 1860, 15 May 1861; Mamie Norris Tillman and Hortense Woodson, Inscriptions from the Edgefield Baptist Cemetery for the Edgefield County Historical Society (Edgefield: The Society, 1958), 29.
LETTER 18 (1.) A slave mentioned in Griffin's plantation journal.
(2.) No family members or relatives were named Laura; the reference may be to a house slave.
(3.) Maj. Gen. George Brinton McClellan (1826–1885), general-in-chief of the Union army and commander of the Division of the Potomac, was an exceptional organizer and administrator but conspiciously reluctant to take his well-drilled troops into action. With the help of detective Allen Pinkerton, he consistently estimated the strength of Confederate troops at far above their actual numbers and claimed the need to build up his own forces (actually three times the size of Johnston's army) as an excuse for repeatedly delaying an advance. In January he was in fact ill with typhoid fever. James M. Mc-Pherson, Ordeal by Fire: The Civil War and Reconstruction (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1982), 211–12; T. Harry Williams, Lincoln and His Generals (New York: Knopf, 1952), 49–57; Stephen W. Sears, George B. McClellan, the Young Napoleon (New York: Ticknor and Fields, 1988), 107–9, 135–49.
(4.) Ned was Griffin's second camp slave.
LETTER 19 (1.) Checkers.
(2.) According to Winifred Gregory ed., American Newspapers 1821–1936 (1937; rpt, New York: Kraus, 1967), 694–715, many towns in which Griffin was stationed in the first half of 1862 had local newspapers. In Petersburg, Virginia, he would have had access to the Daily Express. At Ashland, about 15 miles north of Richmond, there was no local publication; however, the Richmond Examiner and Enquirer were no doubt available, and Griffin could have easily sent his slave to run this type of errand. When stationed near Frederickburg, Griffin would have had his choice of four local newspapers. The Democratic Recorder was a weekly publication; the News had both a daily and a semi-weekly edition. There was also the Weekly Recorder and the Virginia Herald, which had a weekly and semi-weekly edition. Although there were no local papers at Manassas Junction or Dumfries, he probably had access to papers from Fredericksburg, only about 20 miles away. Richmond papers could have reached him during the Peninsula Campaign. While at Williamsburg, he could have purchased the Cavalier, which had just begun publication in June 1862; he may also have read it while at nearby Yorktown, which did not yet have its own paper.
(3.) Maj. Gen. Joseph Eggleston Johnston (1807–1891) was commanding general of the Department of the Potomac.
(4.) Hampton's letter does not appear in the OR. A private in the First Texas infantry, however, described the barely passable roads: “One can see hundreds of dead horses, broken hacks, etc, lying along the roads in the mud holes.” Robert W. Glover, ed., Tyler to Sharpsburg: Robert H. and William H. Gaston, Their War Letters (Waco, Tex.: W.M. Morrison, 1960), 13.
(5.) Hampton wrote to Johnston in December that he was “very busy” constructing defenses, but was so hampered by lack of tools that only a few rifle pits had yet been completed. He advised Johnston that his forces would be primarily dependent upon rifle power, since the heavy guns could not expect to hold out long against the superior Federal artillery; his plan nevertheless was to “make this place as strong as possible and to hold it as long as I possibly can.” OR, ser. 1, 5:987.
(6.) Neither letter appears in the OR.
LETTER 20 (1.) Twenty-six-year-old Robert William Pinckney Tompkins was the son of James S. Tompkins, one of Edgefield District's large planters and a signer of the ordinance of secession. Tompkins was first lieutenant of the Watson Guards, Company B of the infantry battalion. He was slightly wounded at Seven Pines on 31 May 1862, and elected captain of the company on 12 June. Tompkins was killed at Sharpsburg on 17 September 1862. O. Lee Sturkey, Watson Guard Rolls, ms. in possession of Mr. Sturkey, McCormick, South Carolina; Sheila Fitsimmons Heath, “The James S. Tompkins Family of Edgefield, S.C.,” ms. in possession of Ms. Heath, Warrenton, Virginia.
(2.) The infantry was guarding the south bank of the Occoquan River from the town of Occoquan to the junction with the Potomac, about a mile below it. The nearly deserted town of Colchester was on the north bank, just below Occoquan. The Federals maintained outposts at Pohick Church, just north of Colchester.
(3.) East of Colchester and Pohick Church a fork of the Occoquan and Potomac Rivers created a neck of neutral land where Union and Confederate cavalry scouted and skirmished. The “Texian” scouts were attached to the Texas Brigade, made up of the First, Fourth, and Fifth Texas Infantry regiments and the Eighteenth Georgia; it was still under the command of political brigadier Louis Wigfall but soon to be led by John Bell Hood. The spirited resistance that Griffin admires later in the letter foretold the fame that the entire unit would soon acquire in combat as “Hood's Texas Brigade.” See Col. Harold B. Simpson's four-volume history, Hood's Texas Brigade (Hillsboro, Tex.: Hill Junior College Press, 1968–1972).
(4.) The chronology of events in OR, ser. 1, 5:4, refers to this incident as the affair at Lee's House, Virginia, on the Occoquan, but there are no reports. In the numerous unofficial accounts, details vary considerably, with the number of embattled Texans reported at various figures between five and a dozen and the Federal attackers at between 50 and 100. The most reliable versions agree that the fighting was brief, one Texan was mortally wounded, and a man upstairs helped put the attackers to flight by the stratagem of shouting to his comrades that Hampton was coming. The Federal force consisted of a detachment of the Thirty-Seventh New York Infantry and First New Jersey Cavalry led by Lt. Col. John Burke, who may have had the assistance of one or more Virginia spies in locating the Texans. Accounts of the incident that approximate Griffin's are Richmond Examiner, 3 Feb. 1862; C.W. Hutson to Father, 29 Jan. 1862, Charles Woodward Hutson Papers, SHC; Donald E. Everett, ed., Chaplain Davis and Hood's Texas Brigade (San Antonio, Tex.: Principia Press of Trinity Univ., 1962), 51; Mrs. A.V. Winkler, The Confederate Capital and Hood's Texas Brigade (Austin: Von Boeckmann, 1894), 42–43; and Morrill, A Builder of the New South, 44. Samuel Mays in Reminiscences of the War Between the States, 48, and J.B. Polley, a member of the Texas Brigade but not one of the ambushed party, wrote that the Texans were being pursued by the Federals when they took refuge in the house. Polley's A Soldier's Letters to Charming Nellie (New York: Neale Publishing, 1908), 23, claims that the fight lasted several hours, and in Hood's Texas Brigade (1910; rpt., Dayton, Ohio: Morningside Bookshop, 1976), 17, he lengthens it to an all-day battle, with the Texans finally taking cover in the surrounding timber. John Coxe, a picket who had come off his first watch an hour or so before the incident, wrote the longest account in “Bloody Night Affair at Colchester, Va.,” in Confederate Veteran 23 (April 1915): 168–69. He dates the fight several days too early and says it was nearly dawn when the boat brought the Texans across, while the rescue must have taken place several hours earlier in order for Griffin to have gotten to bed by 3 a.m. Coxe also wrote that the next morning “Lieutenant Colonel Griffin arrived in charge of an armed squad on its way to cross over to Colchester, and we joined it, the well scouts leading the way”; Griffin's letter suggests that the scouts alone went back and buried the Yankees. For the Union version of events see 5 February 1862, note 3.
(5.) Mrs. J. McClintock, 50 years old, was listed as a teacher in the 1860 census. See Rachel Bryan Stillman, “Education in the Confederate States of America, 1861–1865” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Illinois, 1972), which argues that war distracted both students and teachers from the seriousness of studies (301–3). Enrollment dropped in all educational institutions, even those which were attended by males under the age of military service, because of the obvious effect of conscription and volunteering on colleges, the fear of some parents that Yankee victories might prevent children sent away to school from returning home, and the need to keep sons at home to help run the family farms as military volunteering created manpower shortages (304–6). Northern teachers left the South with the advent of war; southern ones were exempt from conscription, but many chose to serve in the army anyway, partially in response to public criticism of this exemption (308–12).
LETTER 21 (1.) The camp was 21 miles from Manassas (see letter of 2 January 1862, note 2).
(2.) Griffin's observation was true both for soldiers suffering in Virginia from the wet, cold winter of 1861–62 (J.B. Polley of the Texas Brigade claimed that the Fifth Texas at one point had only 25 men fit for duty out of 800) and for the war as a whole. For every Civil War soldier killed in battle, two more died of disease. The Confederates suffered a disease mortality rate of 20 percent, twice that of the Union army. Poor sanitary practices were responsible for the two leading fatal diseases, diarrhea/dysentery and typhoid, but the third most common killer, pneumonia, preyed on men living in tents and exposed to changeable weather. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, 487–88.
(3.) Sullivan was a merchant and trader.
LETTER 22 (1.) The battle of Leesburg (Ball's Bluff) had been fought on 21 October at Ball's Bluff on the south bank of the Potomac. Although the battle was of little strategic importance, the Confederates acquitted themselves well and the Federals, trapped on the steep brushy slopes, were routed as badly as at Manassas. As they attempted to flee back across the river to safety, their overloaded boats overturned and many Federals were drowned. The Confederates lost only 155 men, while Federal casualties reached 921, many of them missing men presumed drowned. Brig. Gen. Charles P. Stone, who had directed the battle from farther downstream at Edwards's Ferry, was pilloried in the press, accused of ineptitude and collusion with the enemy, and briefly imprisoned. Long, The Civil War Day by Day, 129–30.
(2.) The Richmond Examiner, 3 Feb. 1862, reported the wounded Texan as James Spaulding. Everett, Chaplain Davis and Hood's Texas Brigade, 51, identifies him as J.S. Spratling of the First Texas Infantry. Apparently, he was Pvt. J.B. Spratting of Company E, First Texas Infantry, who was reported killed in action on the Occoquan, 5 February 1862. Harold B. Simpson, Hood's Texas Brigade: A Compendium (Hillsboro, Tex.: Hill Junior College Press, 1977), 43.
(3.) According to the Union's account of the Affair at Lee's House, Burke and his men surrounded the house at I a.m. while a stag dance was in progress. They claim to have killed ten Texans—nine privates and a major—and one civilian. Another civilian, identified as the fiddler for the dance, supposedly surrendered. Burke's casualties were reported as one man killed and four wounded. Frank Moore, ed., The Rebellion Record: A Documentary of American Events, with Documents, Narratives, Illustrative Incidents, Poetry, etc., 11 vols. (New York: G.P. Putman, 1861–68), 4:19–20.
(4.) Claude had clubbed feet.
LETTER 23 (1.) “Bill Arp” was the pseudonym of Charles Henry Smith (1826–1903), a Georgia humorist whose satirical letters to President Abraham “Linkhorn” were popular features in southern newspapers. An attorney who served with the commissary department of the Army of Northern Virginia, Smith was a southern partisan who articulated the pride and disgruntlement of the ordinary citizen through the ironic humor of a sharp-witted rustic. The Civil War letters were collected and published in 1866 as Bill Arp, So Called. The letter to which Griffin refers was published in the Edgefield Advertiser on 29 January 1862, and mocks the inability of the Federals to put down the “rebellion” and their ignominious flight at Manassas. In it he describes an unsuccessful attempt to get to Washington to ask “Mr. Abe Linkhorn” for an extension of the twenty days stipulated for the rebels to “dispurs.” En route, “we got on a bust in old Virginia, about the 21st of July, and like to have got run over by a passel of fellers running a foot race from Bull run to your sity.” Arp invited Lincoln and Secretary of State “Bill Suard” to a first anniversary celebration of Georgia's secession in order to “partake of our horswhipalities.” On Arp, see David P. Parker, Alias Bill Arp: Charles Henry Smith and the South's “Goodly Heritage” (Athens: Univ. of Georgia Press, 1991), and James C. Austin, Bill Arp (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1969).
(2.) The letter was reprinted from the Huntsville, Alabama, Advocate on 5 Feb. 1862. “Elihu Squiggs,” a private in camp on the Dog River below Mobile, described army life in the style of a southwestern humorist. All of the officers, he reported, have cocked hats and swords, and each one has six assistants and seven clerks. Some of the enlisted men are afflicted with “camp disease” characterized by a horror of the smell of gunpowder; the patient develops “a whiteness about the liver, and feels a strong inclination to advance backwards.” In Alabama, “the trees are as green as any officer; and the weather is like summer; … The people down here are so used to being baked, no wonder they took to eating fire and got us all into hot water.” Squiggs claimed that it was even hot enough to wash in the river on New Year's Day, “notwithstanding the Alligators are thick as gnats. Fact is, it is so sandy and smoky here we are obliged to do it. Why, one of our fellows, after scrubbing himself about an hour, found a shirt he had missed about three weeks before—washed down to it.”
LETTER 24 (1.) A whitlow or felon (called paronychia) is a small but bothersome abscess of the quick of a finger or toenail.
(2.) On 2 February 1862 Jefferson Davis had asked South Carolina to furnish an additional 12,000 enlistees to join the 6000 already in the Confederate army for the duration of the war. In order to meet this quota, the state needed to raise five new regiments and reenlist most of the twelve-month troops in Virginia, whose terms would expire in June. Hampton had also been authorized to increase the Legion to a brigade and had issued a call in South Carolina for enough men to fill two to four new regiments of infantry, each to have an artillery company and at least one cavalry company. Cauthen, South Carolina Goes to War, 144, and Cauthen, Family Letters of the Three Wade Hamptons, 83; OR, ser. 4, 1:902. Charleston Daily Courier, 10 Feb. 1862.
(3.) Fort Henry, poorly situated on the Tennessee River, was shelled by Federal ironclads and gunboats led by Flag Officer Andrew Foote on 6 February 1862 and forced to surrender while Ulysses S. Grant's infantry was still toiling through the mud to support the attack from the rear. Brig. Gen. Lloyd Tilghman temporarily saved the main garrison by dispatching it to the more defensible Fort Donelson on the Cumberland, but the fall of Fort Henry gave the Union forces an important water highway into Tennessee and opened the way for an advance southward. B&L, 1:368–72; Benjamin Franklin Cooling, Forts Henry and Donelson: The Key to the Confederate Heartland (Knoxville: Univ. of Tennessee Press, 1987), 101–21.
(4.) On 8 February 1862 Brig. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside's 7500 men and an accompanying naval flotilla easily overcame the fewer than 2000 Confederates defending poorly fortified Roanoke Island, North Carolina. The Union thus gained control of the channels between Albermarle and Pamlico sounds and a strategic base from which to assault North Carolina. Even more important, the loss of Roanoke made a rear attack on Norfolk or Richmond a distinct and worrisome possibility. B&L, 1:660–70.
(5.) Dr. William M. Burt, Leila's uncle, had married Helen M. Eichelberger, his second wife, in 1858. According to the 1860 census, Helen was 22 years younger than William Burt and nine years younger than her new “niece,” Leila. McClendon, Edgefield Marriage Records, 25.
(6.) Helen Harwood Burt was born in February and died ten months later on 5 December. McClendon, Edgefield Death Notices, 201.
LETTER 25 (1.) Claude's affliction, clubfoot, is a congenital malformation of unknown cause; some experts think it has something to do with abnormal position of the fetus in the womb. About half of affected children have only one deformed foot and about half have the condition in both feet. Many children experience significant straightening of the foot with splinting and casting and are eventually able to walk. There are many surgical procedures based on the individual deformity.
(2.) The Furlough and Bounty Act was passed on 11 December 1861, to take effect on 1 June 1862, and the reenlistment period was for three years or the duration of the war. In addition to the bounty and furlough, the act permitted companies to reorganize and elect their own company and field officers. After the reorganization, all vacated commissions were to be filled by promotion. James M. Matthews, ed., Statutes at Large of the Provisional Government of the Confederate States of America from the Institution of the Government, February 8, 1861, to its Termination, February 18, 1862, Inclusive ( Richmond: S.M. Smith, 1864).
(3.) Johnston believed that granting enough leaves to stimulate heavy reenlistment would leave the army dangerously weakened just as the Federals would be launching a spring offensive, and he resented Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin for sending recruiters among the troops and authorizing furloughs without consulting him. In order to keep the ranks from being depleted, Johnson instructed his generals to limit the number of furloughs granted in each command. On 12 February he told Brig. Gen. W.H.C. Whiting, who commanded the Occoquan Division in which Hampton's Legion was serving, to keep furloughs “as much below 20 percent as you please.” Craig L. Symonds, Joseph E. Johnston: A Civil War Biography (New York: W.W. Norton, 1992), 136–37; OR, ser. 1, 5: 1057 (quotation), 1069.
(4.) Jack Tompkins, a member of Gary's company, wrote two days later that following the appeal of reenlistments, about 35 members of the Watson Guards had signed up for the duration of the war “if they could get the furloughs forthwith.” When the furloughs were cancelled, “a good many” of the signees said that they would not stay without the promised leave. Tompkins speculated that probably a third of the original company would reenlist and that the rest would be made up from new men. Lt. Benjamin Nicholson (see letter of 2 April 1862, note 1) was planning a trip to Edgefield during which he would sign up new recruits. Nearly all of Tompkins's fellow soldiers from the “Dark Corner” area of Edgefield District had so far declined to reenlist, even though they intended to stay in the army “for the war.” They planned to serve out their twelve months and then return to Edgefield to reorganize and raise a Dark Corner company. The “Dark Corner” of Edgefield District was in the far northwest, bordering Georgia on the west and Abbeville District on the north. It began just above Scott's Ferry Road on the Savannah River and covered the area between the river and Stevens' Creek, extending on into Abbeville District to the Little River. J.W. Tompkins to Lizzie Tompkins, 18 Feb. 1862, Tompkins Family Papers, SCL. Chapman, History of Edgefield, 114–15.
(5.) The authorization appear in OR, ser 4, 1:902, 907.
(6.) Beginning in the middle of January 1862, the Confederates had suffered a series of setbacks in the West and off the North Carolina coast. On 19 January they lost a strategic battle at Logan's Cross Roads, Kentucky, the first Federal breakthrough across the line of defense for Kentucky. Fort Henry fell on 6 February and Roanoke Island on 8 February. On 10 February the Confederates lost another naval engagement at Elizabeth City, North Carolina, and the following day Union forces took control of Edisto Island, South Carolina. As Griffin was writing, Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River, the last defense against a full-fledged Federal invasion of Tennessee, was surrendering to Grant after a four-day siege. The Confederacy did have a small navy and an able secretary, Stephen R. Mallory. But of the ten existing naval yards in 1861, only two—Norfolk and Pensacola—were in the South, and the Confederacy could claim only ten ships, with a total of fifteen guns, when it organized in February 1861. Mallory initiated an innovative program of building ironclads, of which the Merrimack/Virginia was the celebrated prototype. However, the lack of raw materials, especially iron, compounded by the South's inadequate transportation system and a shortage of skilled labor, severely handicapped the shipbuilding program. Although the Confederacy managed to appropriate, build, and buy more than 130 ships during the course of the war, the Union amassed a fleet of 671 by 1865, and its superior naval strength contributed decisively to the outcome of the war. William N. Still, Jr., Confederate Shipbuilding (Athens: Univ. of Georgia Press, 1969), and Iron Afloat: The Story of the Confederate Armorclads (Nashville: Vanderbilt Univ. Press, 1971); McPherson, Ordeal by Fire, 173–75.
(7.) The longitudinal incision made to drain such an abscess is excruciatingly painful and today is performed under local anesthesia. This form of pain relief was not available in Griffin's time, and it is surprising that he was not given general anesthesia. See A.H. Crenshaw, ed., Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics, 4 vols. (St. Louis: C.V. Mosby, 1987), 496 (with drawings of the operation).
LETTER 26 (1.) Pvt. Beaufort Watts Ball, who came from a wealthy family in Laurens District, adjoining Edgefield on the east, enlisted at Richmond on 10 July 1861. He was on the sick list in August and discharged for rheumatism on 28 August 1862. He later became adjutant for the Legion. Sturkey, Watson Guard Rolls.
(2.) Hampton's illness in February was considered serious enough that Johnston briefly considered transferring command of the Occoquan temporarily to John Bell Hood. OR, ser. 1, 5:1082.
(3.) Although the defenders inflicted serious damage on Federal gunboats and Nathan Bedford Forrest's dismounted cavalry fought with distinction, Fort Donelson, on the Cumberland River in Tennessee, surrendered on 16 February, after a four-day amphibious siege directed by Ulysses S. Grant and Flag Officer Andrew Foote. Fort Donelson was only twelve miles from Fort Henry, which had been forced to capitulate ten days earlier; the combined loss was a serious blow to the Confederacy. Federal control of the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers left the entire state of Tennessee vulnerable to a Federal drive southward and made the defense of Nashville impossible. On 23 February 1862, Nashville became the first Confederate capital to be occupied by the Yankees. (See also following letter, note 1.) B&L, 1:389–429; Cooling, Forts Henry and Donelson, 122–223.
(4.) Ambrose Burnside's troops had easily overrun hastily fortified Roanoke Island, overwhelming the small defending force and capturing most of it. (See letter of 12 February.) Brig. Gen. Henry A. Wise, a former Virginia governor who had been sent to secure the island, had repeatedly petitioned Maj. Gen. Benjamin Huger, district commander at Norfolk, for reinforcements and supplies; after his requests were denied, he appealed directly to Secretary of War Benjamin, who also failed to act. The shortage of munitions was not widely known outside the government, which feared the effect that such a disclosure would have on morale, so when Roanoke fell it appeared that the Confederates had lost because of War Department incompetence. Wise, whose dashing young son was among the casualties, was especially bitter; he and the press castigated Huger and Benjamin. A motion was introduced in the Confederate House of Representatives requesting Benjamin's resignation, and a congressional committee was formed to investigate the Roanoke fiasco. President Davis reluctantly removed Benjamin from the War Department on 17 March, and made him secretary of state. The committee's report concluded that Huger and Benjamin were negligent in handling operations at Roanoke; they should have reinforced Wise or ordered him to abandon the position in order to save his command. Craig M. Simpson, A Good Southerner: The Life of Henry A. Wise of Virginia (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1985), 265–68, 270; Robert Douthat Meade, Judah P. Benjamin, Confederate Statesman (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1943), 219–29; Eli N. Evans, Judah P. Benjamin: The Jewish Confederate (New York: Free Press, 1988). Wise's report, with his correspondence to Huger and Benjamin, appears in OR, ser. 1, 9:122–70, followed by “Report of the Investigating Committee, Confederate House of Representatives,” 183–90.
LETTER 27 (1.) J. Clarence Muse was Minnie and Julius Muse's second child.
(2.) At Fort Donelson Brig. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner surrendered the entire garrison of approximately 12,000 men to Ulysses S. Grant, who had refused him any terms except unconditional and immediate surrender. Delighted to have a military hero at last, northerners boasted that the Federal commander's initials stood for “Unconditional Surrender” Grant.
(3.) On 28 February of the preceding year, the Confederate Congress had passed an act levying a tax of ⅛ of a cent per pound export duty on all cotton shipped after 1 August 1861. The revenue was intended to pay the interest on a $15 million loan funded by an issue of 8 percent bonds. The Confederate government hoped to raise $20 million through the export tax, but the tightening Federal blockade so restricted shipments to Europe that only about $30,000 was ever raised. Although treasury secretaries lobbied to have this miniscule tax raised, opposition from the planter class kept Congress from increasing it, even when the Confederacy's finances were desperate. Richard Cecil Todd, Confederate Finance (Athens: Univ. of Georgia Press, 1954), 25–30, 125; Stanley Lebergott, “Why the South Lost: Commercial Purpose in the Confederacy, 1861–1865,” Journal of American History 70 (June 1983): 58–74. Lebergott argues that the Confederacy contributed to its own defeat by refusing to disturb the interest of the planter class.