Civil War Daily Gazette

A Day-By-Day Accounting of the Conflict, 150 Years Later

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House Passes Thirteenth Amendment – Slavery to Be Abolished!

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January 31, 1865 (Tuesday) The Constitutional amendment outlawing slavery had been introduced into the US congress in late 1863. Over the ensuing year, the item was debated, rebuffed, and further debated by both houses. It was in April that the Senate approved the amendment, but it had languished then in the House since June, when it was defeated. Though it had won the simple majority, it had failed to gain the two-thirds majority needed. And though it would be further debated, it seemed as if it would have to wait for the new session of Congress. That it did, and it was brought up again until January 6th. And so once more came the rhetoric, tired and chewed. “When the sky shall again be clear over our heads, a peaceful sun illuminating the land, and our great household of states all at home in harmony once more,” spoke one opposed to the amendment, “then will be the time to consider what changes, if any, this generation desire to make in the work of Washington, Madison,… Read More

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Peace Conference

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January 30, 1865 (Monday) Before the Peace Commissioners selected by Jefferson Davis and his Cabinet – Vice President Alexander Stephens, Assistant Secretary of War John Campbell, and Senator Robert Hunter – could leave Richmond, a letter containing their credentials, their mission, had to be drafted. This was the duty of Secretary of State Judah Benjamin. His letter was based upon the wording in Lincoln’s January 18th letter. That letter, much to Davis’ chagrin, contained the phrase “our one common country.” Benjamin’s draft read: “In compliance with the letter of Mr. Lincoln, of which the foregoing is a copy, you are hereby requested to proceed to Washington City for conference with him upon the subject to which it relates.” This was really the only thing that Benjamin could do. The “subject,” of course, was to send commissioners “with a view of securing peace to the people of our one common country.” Though Benjamin did not directly address the differing opinions of one country or two, he allowed the commissioners simply to discuss this matter without actually… Read More

‘But the White Officers Were Not Superintending Them’ – Black Troops Okay On Their Own?

Reunion of the 1st North Carolina, aka, 35th USCT.

January 29, 1865 (Sunday) William Tecumseh Sherman’s headquarters yet remained near Pocotaligo, waiting for the weather to improve. Through the storms and cold of the past week, his four corps had moved, though slightly. This gave Henry Hitchcock, Sherman’s aide-de-camp, time to both write home and in his diary about the happenings in camp. Today marked the third month and third day since he left home, and the experience of life on the march was still a novelty for him. “I can and do enjoy or plain fare,” he wrote to his wife, “all except the heavy biscuits which Manuel makes now and then, and which I rate him soundly for, apparently to his amusement – as heartily as anybody, or as I do the choices meats, etc.; indeed with the air and exercise, etc. comes a relish that nothing else gives.” When they first arrived at Pocotaligo, they did so ahead of their supply wagons and had “to make the best of it with one blanket apiece on the floor.” Since then, they had… Read More

Davis and His Cabinet Select Peace Commissioners to Send North

Stephens says his two bits.

January 28, 1865 (Saturday) Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his Vice-President, Alexander Stephens, hadn’t been on the greatest of terms for quite some time now. But this was too large a matter to settle without him. Frances Blair, Sr. had twice been to Richmond in an attempt to find some sort of peace between the two belligerents. Lincoln had agreed to some kind of informal peace conferences, but each sides wanted something different, something quite opposite, from this coming peace. Davis wanted to “secure peace to the two countries,” while Lincoln wanted to secure “peace to the people of our one common country.” The lack of bloodshed was really the only thing these two ideas of peace shared. Vice-President Stephens had known that Blair was in Richmond, and assumed that he had come to bring Davis to the table – something Stephens didn’t think was likely to happen. And so it was to his surprise that the President now suddenly wished to see him. The idea of peace wouldn’t simply wander in out of the… Read More

General Lee Begs for More Table Scraps from Richmond

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January 27, 1865 (Friday) “I have the honor,” began Lee to the Confederate Secretary of War, “to call your attention to the alarming frequency of desertions from this army.” It had become an epidemic. Over the course of three days, fifty-six men had deserted A.P. Hill’s Corps alone. Lee had called together his generals and together they tried to figure out why their army was hemorrhaging soldiers. Lee came to the conclusion that “the insufficiency of food and non-payment of the troops have more to do with the dissatisfaction among the troops more than anything else.” Lack of food most certainly played the biggest role, and other officers agreed. “These desertions are becoming amazingly numerous,” reported Lt. Col. J.H. Duncan of the 16th Mississippi. He submitted that it was “the insufficiency of rations” that caused the men to leave. “Our men do not get enough to eat.” He was certain that “unless something is done soon to remove this evil… the number of desertions will be greatly increased during the winter.” This was hardly the… Read More

Confederates in Georgia Being Starved from Within

January 26, 1865 (Thursday) With William Tecumseh Sherman’s massive army still lumbering north from Savannah, the Confederates were trying to pull troops from anywhere they could. Local militias had been consolidated in Charleston and Augusta, and reserves from other states had been fed into the lines. The regular troops, however, were few and far between. Though there certainly weren’t men enough to go around, many who were in Sherman’s path were unwilling to join with the main army. D.H. Hill, commanding at Augusta, complained to Hardee about a curious problem now developing. “Major Macon, of the tithe department, reports that stragglers from the cavalry, local cavalry companies, and recruiting came for broken-down horses are absorbing very largely the tithes of the State,” Hill began. This tithing was actually a tax which had previously yielded the Confederates much in food and supplies. Major Macon was basically a tax collector for the Quartermaster of the Confederate army. Hill knew that he could not fight Sherman, but entrusted his cavalry to play upon lines of supply and generally… Read More

Lee Orders the Confiscation of Citizen’s Arms

Take your pick!

January 25, 1865 (Wednesday) General Robert E. Lee would have done almost anything to aid his army, and he expected the public to do just the same. He wished to field more cavalry, and while horses seemed to be in supply enough, arms and tack were not. He knew that the people of Virginia had them, and Lee expected them to be given over willingly or simply taken. To arm and equip an additional force of cavalry there is need of carbines, revolvers, pistols, saddles, and other accouterments of mounted men. Arms and equipments of the kind desired are believed to be held by citizens in sufficient numbers to supply our wants. Many keep them as trophies, and some with the expectation of using them in their own defense. But it should be remembered that arms are now required for use, and that they cannot be made so effectual for the defense of the country in any way as in the hands of organized troops. They are needed to enable our cavalry to cope with… Read More

The Prisoner Exchange Restarted – Black Prisoners Now Included

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January 24, 1865 (Tuesday) The exchange of prisoners had broken down in late 1863 for several reasons. First, it more greatly aided the South than the North, as far as percentages were concerned. Second, the South refused to treat black prisoners as equal to white prisoners. Instead, they often sold them back into slavery or returned them to their owners. But now things were changing. The Confederacy was kicking around the idea of forcing their own slaves into the army, dangling the promise of emancipation over them should they win the war. While the details were still in the development stage, this very idea cast a new light on exchanges. Originally, the South refused to exchange captured black soldiers because they didn’t believe black people were in fact soldiers. But now that they were in the process of making them so, some saw this as an opportunity to restart the prisoner exchange. And so on this date, Robert Ould, the Confederacy’s exchange commissioner, proposed that “all of them [prisoners] be delivered to you in exchange,… Read More

‘On the Eve of an Internal Revolution’ – Davis to Send Peace Commissioners

Francis Preston Blair, Sr.

January 23, 1865 (Monday) Francis P. Blair, Sr. was back in Richmond, visiting again with old friends and personally delivering a message to Jefferson Davis, himself a comrade, from President Lincoln. Writing to Blair, but looking directly at Davis, Lincoln had scrawled on the back of a letter: “You having shown me Mr. Davis’s letter to you of the 12th instant, you may say to him that I have constantly been, am now, and shall continue, ready to receive any agent whom he, or any influential person now resisting the national authority, may informally send to me with a view of securing peace to the people of our one common country.” His return sparked interest and suspicion, especially from Confederate Vice-President Alexander Stephens. “Blair is back again,” he said to a friend. “What he is doing I do not know but presume the President is endeavoring to negotiate with him for negotiation – that same thing which on 17 Nov. seemed to him so absurd.” The 17th of November stuck in Stephens mind as it… Read More

‘We Have the Same Genius to Guide Us’ – Sherman’s Headquarters Leaves Savannah

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January 22, 1865 (Sunday) “But for bad weather we should have left Savannah at least two days ago, by land,” wrote General Sherman’s Judge Advocate, Henry Hitchcock, in a letter home. “As it is, a steady and heavy rain compelled delay, and today the General and his staff embarked on this steamer, en route for Beaufort, S.C., and thence – ?” Henry Hitchcock had been a lawyer before the war. Graduating from Yale in 1848, he soon settled in St. Louis, where he also was the editor of the St. Louis Intelligencer. By the mid 50s, Hitchcock had established himself firmly within the ranks of the city’s finest young lawyers. When the war came, he did not immediately join. Rather, he supported Lincoln through the 1860 election, and even joined the Missouri Secession Convention as a Unionist in the hopes of keeping his adopted state true. When he wound up on the losing end, he was appointed to the provisional state government, where he rallied against slavery. By September of 1864, however, he decided to… Read More

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