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1865 March 26: Edwin Levings Describes the Battle of Bentonville

March 26, 2015

The Battle of Bentonville took place March 19-21, 1865, in Bentonville, North Carolina.  It was the second to the last battle of the Carolinas Campaign.  William T. Sherman led the Union forces and Joseph E. Johnston led the Confederate troops.  As a result of the overwhelming Union strength and the heavy casualties his army suffered in the battle, Johnston surrendered to Sherman little more than a month later.

The original letter is in the Edwin D. Levings Papers (River Falls Mss BO), in the University Archives and Area Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.

Goldsboro   N.C.   March 26th, 1865

Ever Dear Parents;

                                   At last this campaign is ended, and there is a prospect of rest for us.  I can now write, read or do anything that pleasure dictates.  Now I must write to you, now you must write to us.  How welcome a letter from you now would be!  But we would rather get a letter to you just now than receive one, for you are doubtless longing to hear if it is still well with us.

A Kind Providence has been with us on our long march, and we are both safely through, and well and rugged as ever.

Long before this reaches you[,] you will have learned how the campaign resulted in a glorious victory of our arms over those of the rebels.  Soon after our departure from Fayetteville N. C. formidable bodies of the enemy were met & defeated by the 14th, 15th & 20th Corps; and on the 21st inst we whipped their concentrated forces under Johnson [sic] and drove them in disarray across Mill Creek near Smithfield and across the Neuse River, they burning the bridges in their retreat and leaving their dead & wounded on the field.  This battle was 20 miles west of Goldsboro.  The same day Schofield’s [John M. Schofield] army entered that place, and Gen. Terry [Alfred H. Terry] from Wilmington secured the crossings of the river & laid pontoons.  Of our loss I am not advised.  The rebels lost heavily as they played their old game of charging our breastworks before finished. Our Corps being on the flank was not generally engaged.  The 1st Div. did splendid fighting, but lost considerably.  Edward Pratt, who belongs to that Div. was just here & wishes me to state for his folks that he was unharmed & is well.  The rebels calculating that our ammunition was insufficient for a heavy battle, & that we had about wasted it, came on like a mighty billow to overwhelm and destroy us, but it did not give out, nor was it likely to do so, and they only got the more lead for their folly.  The 12th had 3 men wounded in Co. H.¹  I worked harder in on hour that day than I ever did, in throwing up works. But the rebels did not budge our skirmish line in front of the Div., so we were not engaged.

We are now encamped on the east side of this place, and are to have rest, and rations from the North, without limits I had almost said.  I suppose those magnificent granaries of which Gen. Sherman spoke in his congratulatory order the other day have got to “shell out.”

Well the mail, the first that has been made up here, goes out in an hour, & I have only time to write you but little.  We will write you often now, while opportunity is ours, & you must increase the flow of letters to us.  Since commencing a huge mail has come & we have a pile of it, 3 letters from you, one from Jack, one from J. Winchester, & papers not a few.  Yours are dated, 22nd, 29th Jan. and Feb. 2nd.  You shall have letters now often.  You must wait for another day for a detailed account of this march &c.

Has Grandmother returned?  Tell Jack he missed the fun of the service & give him my warmish regards.  We are both in our usual good health & spirits.  Let us hear from each of you, that is, from three or four of you, all of you, and two boys in blue will be made very happy.

Yours Affectionately,
.                      . Edwin

1.  Company H’s John Aspenwall, from Weyauwega (right arm amputated), and Mathias Feldhausen, from Wrightstown, are listed in the official roster as being wounded at Bentonville, N.C.

Edwin Levings letter of  March 26, 1865, from the Edwin D. Levings Papers (River Falls Mss BO) in the University Archives & Area Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls

Edwin Levings letter of March 26, 1865, from the Edwin D. Levings Papers (River Falls Mss BO) in the University Archives & Area Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls

1865 March 25: Editorial on Patriotism

March 25, 2015

The following editorial comes from the March 25, 1865, issue of The Polk County Press.


It is customary in these times for all parties to quote the sentiment that gave birth to the American revolution, and to eulogise the spirit of ’76.  The politician exults it the skies, and claims that all there is in existence left of it, it contained within the party pale that he advocating.—There is some truth in the bitter remark, “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,” but there is far more truth in the ascertion [sic] that it lives in the hearts of the people ;  and it is there, among the cottages and homesteads of the land, more than among occupants of place and station, that it lives.  While contractors are swindling the Government ;  politicians quarreling about the spoils ;  Generals are jealous of promotion, and shoddy airs itself, flaunting its ill-bred taste upon the avenues, it is among the homespun people of the country, in the rank and file of society and of the army that the Promethean fire—not stolen, but lent from Heaven—burns eternal.  From there have the sacrifices come—best loved ones have been cheerfully furnished, while death has reaped his harvests on many battle fields—and even while the mourning weeds show that hearts are sorrowing, fresh reinforcements  are constantly marching forth, even from these hearts bereaved.  There has been no limit to the sacrifices, and the rank and file, coming from the common walks of life, show not more clearly that the public pulse beats for the Union, than does the nation of many of the wealthier class.

The noblest lives of the Nation have been freely given, and such names as Sedgwick [John Sedgwick], Lyon [Nathaniel Lyon], Foot [sic: Andrew Hull Foote], Kearny [Philip Kearny], Wadsworth and hundreds of others, have fallen martyrs to a cause ;  contending for a principle, not only dear to the American people, but honored by the world.  Time shows us victorious ;  the people have never faltered, and that we are achieving success is due, not more to force of arms, than to unity of sentiment.  Today we are victorious everywhere.  War has shown us who are our Generals, and while those we expected most have failed us,—proved incapable of success, fruitless in action,—we have others that can marshal our armies in confidence and in[__]¹ them in victory.

The South have been fighting for an idea and not for a principle ;  too proud to belong to a Nation it cannot control—too hot spirited to contend within the Union for success depending upon an institution that cannot longer dominate over the public sentiment of all the States, they rashly dared to commence war.

Theirs was a revolution, led and controlled by an aristocracy, and the voice of the people has been heard.  Now they complain that deserters outnumber their armies, that the people do not willingly fight.

Our cause succeeds because the people are with it ;  theirs is failing, because their people are not earnest it, and in their failing efforts, and mutterings of discontent, we plainly read the end.  The lessons we are learning at so much expense of life and treasure must not be lost.  We may come out of the conflict but burthened with debt, and with widows and orphans claiming our remembrance, but still the experience will be worth the price, if we can indeed and in truth be in the future a free and united people ;  if our soil shall no more know the footprint of the slave, and if intelligent free labor can develope [sic] the wonderful resources of Southern as well as Northern fields.  Let this be so, and soon before the invention, wealth and enterprise of the next few generations, the national burthen of debt will melt away and be forgotten.

1.  The newspapers was creased here and the rest of the word obliterated. Want to guess what the word might be? Post a comment.

1865 March 18: “The war has learned us the lesson of giving” and Other Local News

March 24, 2015

Following are the smaller items from the March 18, 1865, issues of The Prescott Journal and The Polk County Press.

From The Prescott Journal:

Finger002 The success of the National arms seems to be secured.  The croakers in the North are silent ;  the South, which was once so exultant and defiant, now shivers in mortal fear, and her “sacred soil” trembles to the tread of our conquering legions.  No doubt now exists but the Government will come out of the struggle triumphant, and with a feeling of concious [sic] strength never before possessed.

Finger002 One of the useful lessons which this war has taught is, how much money it is possible to give away.  Before the war we prided ourselves on being a benevolent people.  The donations to religious and charitable societies were munificent.  Now those gifts seem insignificant in amount.  The operation of these societies is not checked, but new avenues are opened, where the stream of gifts rolls in[,] in bounteous and unheard of profusion.  The bounties to soldiers by tax or contributions, the sum paid to the aid of soldiers’ families and the charities of the Sanitary, Christian and Freedmen’s Commissions, taken together, form a sum so vast as to bewilder us.  Five years ago, it would not have been thought possible to raise $5,000 in Pierce County for any charitable purpose, however noble it might be.  Now we pay half of that sum every month into channels created by the war, and we are not impoverished or badly inconvenienced by it.  The war has learned us the lesson of giving.

Finger002 JOSEPH COPP¹ has been appointed Lieut. in the 52d Regiment.  JOE has had a pretty varied experience in this war, and has won his straps right fairly.

Finger002 REUBEN S. ANDREWS² of Co. A. 30th, has been promoted to Lieut. in Co. G. 30th Regiment.  Mr. ANDREWS has been a faithful and efficient soldier, and well deserved the promotion.

Finger002 Now that the quotas of the towns are known, every town which intends to fill its quota should do so at once.  Lieut. COPP or ANDREWS will enlist men.

MR. EDITOR :—Allow me through the columns of your paper to return my sincere and hearty thanks to the soldiers’ aid committee and the kind friends over the river for their liberality, and may the assurance that bread cast upon the waters returneth again after many days be verified in each and every instance.

Hastings, March 13, 1865.

— Nothing seems to stop Sherman [William T. Sherman].  The rebels may draw a check upon him, but he won’t honor it.

— Those who jump at the bounty offered for volunteers are the only right kind of bounty-jumpers.

—  We have taken Columbia, the capitol of South Carolina; and all the capital she has left is in Confederate shin-plasters.

— If the last hope of the Southern Confederacy is the negro it is a dark one.—Prentice.

— Bragg, Hardee, Beauregard and Hood are four runners of defeat.—Prentice.  [Confederate Generals Braxton Bragg, William J. Hardee, P.G.T. Beauregard, and John Bell Hood]

— DENOUNCING JEFF.—A spec[ial] __ [Vir]ginia legislature calls on Jeff [Davis] ___ sign and allow the administration of __ to pass into more successful hands.  It says the present chief characteristic of the administration is, that it has made a more vigorous and effective war on the resources of the country than it has made on the public enemy.  [an article on the other side of the newspaper was cut out, leaving a hole on “our” side of the paper]

— A GOOD MOVE.—It seems that in consequence of the inebriation of some of the U. S. Senators during the inauguration ceremonies, the famous Senatorial drinking saloon , known for the last fifteen years as the “Hole in the Wall,” has been closed, and the sign over the door, which read “exclusively for Senators,” turned the wrong side out.

ROBT. TOOMBS made a dismal speech at Augusts, Ga., on the 16th.  He was still for war, but assailed with vehemence the administration of JEFF DAVIS., declaring the Southern people were on the eve of revolution against it.

From The Polk County Press:

GONE TO THE WAR.—The volunteers raised under the last call in this county, left for La Crosse on Monday.  They are all a good class of men, who will do honor to the service and to themselves.  The following is the list :


A. Gillispie, W. H. Kent, J. H. Baker, Worthy Prentice, Andrew Fee, Joseph Corey.


D. E. Tewkesbury, Joseph Churchill, Michael Kreiner, Henry Demling, Adam Beaver, Howard Scott, Gus. La Grue, — Newman.


C. C. Fisk, Geo. Emory, —Tamset.


John Metheney.

— It appears, after all, that Davis,³ the rebel spy, whose sentence of death was commuted by the President, was the keeper of the Andersonville prison pen, or held authority there ;  but that it was in a measure owing to the uniform testimony of soldiers who were in his power there, to the fact that he did all circumstances would allow him to do for the alleviation of the sufferings of the prisoners, that executive clemency was extended to him.

— If the last hope of the Southern Confederacy is the negro, it is a dark one.—Prentice.

— A significant resolution was offered in the Senate by Mr. Sumner [Charles Sumner], which will receive the emphatic endorsement of every loyal man in the country.  It avers “that Congress hereby declares that the rebel debt or loan is simply an agency of the rebellion, which the United States can never, under any circumstances, recognize in any part or in any way.”  The resolution passed the Senate, as it doubtless will the House.

— It is stated by New York correspondents that Andrew Johnson was in a state of beastly intoxication during the inauguration ceremonies.  If the statement is true he should be handled without gloves.

— Our loss in the recent battle in North Carolina is stated at 2,000.—The rebel loss is said to be 4,000.

IMMENSE CAPTURES OF GUNS.—The New York Commercial Advertiser estimates the number of guns captured from the rebels since the 1st of August at 1,301.  This does not include the guns captured or destroyed on the Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, and other rebel crafts.  During the same time we have not lost 35 cannon.  The Commercial says that this exceeds the captures made by Napoleon during all his Russian and Austrian campaigns.

1.  Joseph M. Copp, from Prescott, enlisted September 21, 1861, in Prescott’s Lyon Light Guards, Company A of the 12th Wisconsin Infantry. He was taken prisoner at Atlanta and mustered out January 16, 1865, when his term expired. He does not seem to have actually become a lieutenant in the 52nd Wisconsin Infantry.
2.  Reuben S. Andrews, from Trimbelle, had been sergeant of Company A, 30th Wisconsin Infantry, and was promoted to 2nd lieutenant of Company G, 50th Wisconsin Infantry on February 21, 1865. He mustered out June 14, 1866.
3.  Samuel Boyer Davis (1843-1914) was wounded and captured at the Battle of Gettysburg. Lt. Davis, a distant relation of President Jefferson Davis, escaped from the USA General Hospital in Chester, Pennsylvania, and made his way back south through his native state of Delaware. In 1864, returning from a mission delivering messages to other Confederate Secret Service agents in Canada, Lt. Davis was captured by two Union soldiers who recognized him. They had been prisoners of war at Andersonville, where Lt. Davis had been second in command. He was given the death sentence and imprisoned at Fort Delaware on February 26, 1865. Just before he was to be hanged at Johnson’s Island, his death sentence was commuted by President Lincoln. Lt. Davis spent the remainder of the war as a prisoner at Fort Warren near Boston, released on December 20, 1865. After the War, he captained steamboats on the Potomac River. Davis wrote a memoir of experiences, entitled Escape of a Confederate Officer from Prison (Norfolk, Va.: Landmark Pub. Co., 1892). Davis died in Washington, D.C. on September 24, 1914, and was buried in Ivy Hill Cemetery, Alexandria, Va. This Samuel Davis was the grandson of Colonel Samuel Boyer Davis (1765-1854
), and was raised by Isaac Ridgeway Trimble, both of whom fought in the War of 1812.

1865 March 18: Lincoln’s New Cabinet, Secretary of War’s Annual Report, Lincoln’s Proclamation Offering Pardon to Deserters

March 23, 2015

Following are several short articles on various topics.  They come from the March 18, 1865, issues of The Prescott Journal and The Polk County Press.

From The Polk County Press:

The New Cabinet.

The Cabinet question seems to have been settled for the present at least.  Secretary Usher [John P. Usher], as was anticipated, tendered his resignation to take effect on the first of May.  Hon. James Harlan, of Iowa, has been appointed and confirmed in his stead.

Mr. Harlan is emphatically a self-made man.  Ten years before he entered the United States Senate he graduated at Asbury University, Indiana.  His means were inadequate to defray his collegiate expenses, but he worked his way through by occupying the position of bell-ringer, and the movements of the students in their attendance upon chapel exercises, recitations, &c., were governed by the muscle of the man whose mind now has an important influence in shaping the course of the nation.  He was first elected to the Senate in 1854 and was re-elected in 1860, so that his present term would not have expired until 1867.

The Cabinet for Mr. Lincoln’s second term [Abraham Lincoln], as now organized, is as follows :

Secretary of State.—Wm. H. Seward, of New York.
Secretary of the Treasurer.—Hugh McCulloch, of Indiana.
Postmaster-General.—Wm. Dennison, of Ohio.
Secretary of War.—Edwin M. Stanton, of Pennsylvania.
Secretary of the Interior.—James Harlam [sic], of Iowa.
Attorney-General.—James Speed, of Kentucky.

PRESIDENT LINCOLN has issued a Proclamation to the effect that all deserters who shall within sixty days from date of the proclamation, viz :  on or before the 10th of May, 1865, return to the service or report to a Provost Marshal, shall be pardoned, on condition that they return to their regiment and companies, or to such other organizations as they may be assigned to, and serve the remainder of their original term of enlistment, and in addition thereto a period equal to the time lost by desertion.

In case they fail to report, they will be subject to the penalty fixed by a recent act of Congress which is as follows :  “All persons who have deserted the military or naval service of the United States, who shall not return to such service, or report themselves to a Provost Marshal within sixty days after the proclamation hereinafter mentioned, shall be deemed and taken to have voluntarily relinquished and forfeited their rights to become citizens, and such deserters shall be forever incapable of holding any office of trust or profit under the United States Government, or of exercising any rights of citizens thereof ;  and all persons who shall hereafter desert from the military or naval service, and all persons who, being duly enrolled, shall depart from the jurisdiction of the district in which he is enrolled, or go beyond the limits of the United States, with intent to avoid any draft into the military or naval service duly ordered, shall be liable to the penalties of this section.”

The Secretary of War.

The annual report of the Secretary of War was laid before Congress on the 30th.  Mr. Stanton says it was delayed in order to give Gen. Grant [Ulysses S. Grant] an opportunity to furnish a summary of his military operations ;  but the summary has not been rec’d, as the activity of the campaign in progress, demands his unceasing attention.  The Secretary says the military events of the past year have been officially published as they occurred and are as fully known in every branch of the government as throughout the civilized world.  They constitute a series of successful marches, sieges and battles, attesting the endurance and courage of the soldiers of the United States, and the gallantry and military skill of their commanders.

“The report of Provost Marshal-General Fry [James B. Fry] says, in reference to the re-enlistment of veterans, that during the Autumn of 1863, more than one hundred and thirty-six thousand soldiers, who would otherwise have been discharged, were secured for three years longer.  Organizations which would otherwise have been lost to the service, were preserved and experienced officers were retained in command.  This force has performed an essential part in the great campaign of 1864, and its importance to the country cannot be overestimated.  The result of recruitment in the rebel States is reported as unfavorable.

“The arrest of deserters and stragglers is continued with vigor, and 39,392 were arrested between October 1, 1863, and October 1, 1864.—The total number received from the establishment of the bureau to October 1, 1864, is 60,760.  The Veteran Reserve Corps, on October 1, 1864, consisted of 764 officers and 28,738 men.  The report of the Secretary gives a summary of reports of heads of several bureaus connected with the War Department, and concluded by saying the general exchange of prisoners effected under the instructions of the department, is in course of execution, and it is to be hoped that all our prisoners who are in the hands of the rebels, will soon be returned.”

From The Prescott Journal:

Report of the Secretary of War.

The annual report of Secretary STANTON was transmitted to Congress on the 1st, having been delayed with a view to getting Gen. GRANT’S report of military operations.  The activity of the campaign, however, has occupied the whole attention of the Lieut. General, and he has not yet made his report.  Mr. STANTON’S report is not yet published, and the only details given from it are as follows :  Over 135,000 veterans re-enlisted during the autumn of 1863 and the following winter.  Organizations which would have been lost to the service were preserved and recruited, and capable and experienced officers were retained in command.  The business of arresting deserters and stragglers is progressing actively, 39,382 having been arrested between October 1, 1863, and October 1, 1864, is 67,760.  The Veteran Reserve Corps on October 1, 1864, numbered 764 officers and 28,738 men.

The general exchange of prisoners effected under the instructions of this department, under Lieutenant General GRANT, is in course of execution, and it is hoped that all of our prisoners in the hands of rebels will soon be returned.  The furlough of thirty days is extended to them as they reach Annapolis.

In the Southwest.

The indications are that the rebels propose to evacuate all West Mississippi and make no effort to hold the country between Yazoo and Big Black rivers.  The line of the Central Mississippi  railroad is to be given up, which of course yields Jackson.  The Mobile and Ohio railroad is to be the new line, which it will be their endeavor to hold, while Brandon, about 15 miles cast of Jackson, will be the point at wich [sic] they will stand against any federal advance, on the railroad connecting at Jackson with the Central and running east to the Mobile and Ohio.  The last-named road is to be their great line of communication between DICK TAYLOR [Richard Taylor] in North Alabama and the rebel forces in tha [sic] southern portion of that State, while at the same time it will afford a covering for Selina and Montgomery.

FIENDISH BARBARISM.—The New York Tribune’s Wilmington correspondent, in describing the terrible condition of Union men then just released from rebel confinement, states that there is ground for believing that our men in rebel hospitals are inoculated by rebel surgeons with gangrene, and their arms and legs taken off.  Describing the appearance of the released prisoners as they come in he says :

Imagine a procession of a thousand human beings, walking in slow funeral lines through the streets of New York ;  their bodies wasted to skin and bone by starvation and disease ;  half covered with filthy rags which swarm with vermin ;  half of them without hats or shoes, their faces, hands, and whole persons so blackened by smoke and begrimmed by dirt that they could scarcely be distinguished from black men ;  tottering in almost infantile weakness, or supporting one another as they move mechanically along, scarcely seeming to realize or to care where they are going, and you have a faint idea of the released Union prisoners received here to-day.  And these are the best cases, sent forward first, probably to make a good impression.  I saw to-day stout-hearted men weep ;  I heard earnest men curse the doubly died villainy, the studied, fiendish malignity, that could so treat humanity.”

1865 March 18: Draft Quotas for Pierce County

March 22, 2015

The following article comes from the March 18, 1865, issue of The Prescott Journal.



An Important Circular.

The following are the Quotas of Sub-Districts in the county of Pierce, 6th District, Wis., under call of Dec. 19th, 1864 :

Oak Grove, . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Trimbelle, . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Diamond Bluff, . . . . . . . . 6
Trenton, . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Hartland, . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Pleasant Valley, . . . . . . . 4
Perry, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Union, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Isabelle, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Prescott, . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Martell, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
River Falls, . . . . . . . . . . . 19
Clifton, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
El Paso, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Salem, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

All credits have been taken into account up to Dec. 10, 1864, and the present quota can only be reduced by actual enlistments since then,

B. F. COOPER [Benjamin F. Cooper],
Capt. and Provo Mar. 6th Dist., Wis.


La Crosse, March 11, 1865. }

The attention of enrolled men throughout the District is called to the following decision by Pro. Marshal General Fry [James B. Fry] regarding protective Associations :

“The 23d Section of the act of March 3d, 1865, authorises Associations to furnish recruits previous to draft, and the persons doing so be exempt.”

[Signed,]                    J. B. FRY,
.                   .Provost Marshal General.

EXAMPLE.—Say the quota of a town takes one in three.  If three men join together and furnish one recruit they will be exempt.

Capt. and Pro. Mar. 6th Dist., Wis.

1865 March 18: Letter Describing Lincoln’s Inauguration

March 21, 2015

The following letter about President Abraham Lincoln’s second inauguration comes from The Prescott Journal of March 18, 1865.


Unfavorable Weather—A Great Crowd in Attendance—
An Auspicious Omen—The Inaugural Address—
The Reception at the President’s—A Great Jam—
Mr. Lincoln careworn.

Editorial Correspondence of the State Journal.


Dear Journal :—This has been a proud day for Abraham Lincoln, and for the United States.  Since the days of Old Hickory,¹ no man has been sufficiently strong with the American people to receive a re-election to the highest position in their gift, until they found in Abraham Lincoln, all that is noble, wise and honest, and with an enthusiasm and unanimity never before known in the country, he was chosen for a second term, and today witnessed his re-inauguration, in the presence of assembled thousands and tens of thousands ;  and amid the huzzus [sic: huzzahs] of grateful and admiring people.

It is not my intention to give any extended notice of the ceremony.  This will reach you from other sources, more ably done, than I could hope to do it, and my time is too much occupied to do more than to give a few brief paragraphs.

For the past week, strangers have been pouring into the city from all parts of the country until, for several days, it was impossible to find a place more eligible than the soft side of a plank upon which to sleep.  On Thursday morning the rain began to fall, and continued through that day and the next, rendering the streets muddy to a fearful degree.  Saturday morning came, and with it every indication of a terrific storm.  At five o’clock the wind blew furiously, causing the people to shudder, as if the rebels were upon them.  At nine o’clock, while we were at breakfast, darkness came upon us, as if in a total eclipse, rendering the lighting of gas necessary.  All anticipations of pleasure during the day vanished.  All hope of witnessing the inauguration, except to such as could find place in the Senate Chamber, was at an end.  Tens of thousands who had come thousands of miles to behold the ceremony, felt that they were doomed to a sad disappointment, and gloom pervaded every locality.  At about 10 o’clock the clouds lighted up a little, and the masses were on their way to the Capitol.  The rain continued to drizzle every few moments, but it had no terror for the people.  They were all striving to find some spot where they could witness the inaugural ceremony.  It mattered not whether mud was one inch or twelve inches in depth ;  or whether ladies were dressed in calico or satin ;  regardless of all comfort, of all things, except the one great event, they made their way as fast as they could to some point as near the stand as possible.  Thus passed the time till 12 o’clock.  Once all the chairs from the platform were removed, during a shower indicating that the ceremony was to take place within the Capitol.  The hopes of the crowed again sunk.  As the important time approached, the chairs were returned to their place on the platform—all eyes brightened, and were anxiously turned to the East front of the Capitol.

The procession finally arrived.  The door of the eastern front of the Capitol were thrown open ;  the Chief Marshal appeared on the platform ;  he was followed by the Judges of the Supreme Court, headed by the majestic Chief Justice Chase [Salmon P. Chase], all wearing their full silk robes.  The tall form of the President appeared.  At this very moment the sun came out clear.  Shining brightly upon the scene below, for the first time in three days.  The clouds broke away at once, and the balance of the day was as beautiful as was ever seen here or elsewhere.  He was bullied with shout upon shout from tens of thousands of throats.  The platform was soon filled with dignitaries who had been within the Capitol, including foreign ministers, &c., &c.  The oath of office was administered by the Chief Justice in an impressive manner.  The inaugural address was then pronounced by the President, earnestly and distinctly.  At its close, the huzzas of the multitude and the booming of cannon, announced to the surrounding country that Abraham Lincoln had been duly inaugurated President of the United States for a second term of four years.

The spectacle was sublime, and the happiness of the people was unbounded.  The prayer of the nation is, that the noble head may live through his term, and that during that time, peace may be restored, and all portions of the country brought to rally under the old flag, in harmony and prosperity.

We are no believer in omen, but may we not look upon the weather preceding the inauguration, and that which followed, as ominous.  For days heavy clouds hung over us, and then the threatening storm as of a tornado, the elements gave way, and all was bright and glorious.  During the first term of the President, clouds have hung over country.  At times fearful forebodings have been witnessed, as of impending ruin.  Now, as the second term commences, all is hopeful of peace and quiet.  The sun shines upon the country, and every loyal heart boats high with assurance of an early triumph of the National force over all of its enemies, and of a  speedy restoration of the Union in all of its former unanimity and glory.  God speed today.

Prior to the ceremonies above alluded to, within the Senate Chamber, the Vice President was inaugurated.  This ceremony was witnessed by all who could gain admittance to the room.  It being so similar to what every body has seen in the opening of our State Senate, no description seems necessary.  Vice President Hamlin² delivered a brief and feeling speech on retiring, after which he introduced Mr. Johnson, administered to him the oath of office, and the new Vice President delivered a speech of some length, not in every respect specially appropriate, yet correct in sentiment.  Mr. Johnson has just recovered from severe illness, and is hardly himself as yet.  The people expect much from him, and we trust they will not deceived.  In the past, he has done nobly.  In the future, we hope he will do even better.

                                                                                          March 5, 1865.

Last evening the President held a grand reception—more correctly, a grand jam.—Everybody was there, and we should say everybody’s relations.  For about three and a half hours the President stood in one spot, shaking hands with the people as fast as they could crowd past him ;  and when the doors were closed for the night, thousands were outside, intent upon gaining admission to the Presidential mansion.  We were fortunate enough to gain admittance, but were pained to witness the care-worn appearance of Mr. Lincoln.  During the whole night previous he was at the Capitol, attending upon the last hours of Congress ;  and the labors of the day had been immense.  To crowd upon him such labors in the evening seemed almost cruel.  But the people must see him, and they did.  The noble old chief had a kind word for all, and his tall form—ungainly though it may be called—towered above all others, and was the object of special admiration to all present.  As we stood in the crowd, we witnessed one distinguished man looking intent upon the President, and after a few moments he said, audibly, “Say what they will, Old Abe is the noblest looking man in the nation.”  In this expression we felt to respond with a hearty Amen!

For the present, adieu.                       D. A.

1.  Andrew Jackson, 7th president of the United States (1767-1845).
2.  Lincoln’s first vice president was Hannibal Hamlin (1809-1891), the 26th governor of Maine (1857), a U.S. senator (1848-57, 1857-61, 1869-81) and member of the House of Representatives (1843-47) from Maine, and the United States Minister of Spain (1881-82).

1865 March 18: The Burning of Columbia, South Carolina

March 20, 2015

The following comes from the March 18, 1865, issue of The Prescott Journal.  The capture of Columbia, South Carolina, occurred on February 17-18, 1865.  For a previous post on the capture of Columbia, see “Columbia Has Fallen.”

Sherman’s Campaign—The Burning of Columbia, S. C.

The Savannah Republican contains a rebel account of Sherman’s [William T. Sherman] occupation of Columbia from the Augusta Constitutionalist of February 27th, derived from citizens of Columbia.

It appears that the rebel troops, in large numbers, left on the 17th, in the direction of Charlotte.  Gov. McGrath [sic]¹ left on the 13th for the upper section of the State ;  Beauregard [P.G.T. Beauregard] left the same day for Charlotte, and Maj. Godwin went the same day and surrendered the city to Sherman.  The public stores were thrown open and everybody helped themselves.  No stores were burned.

Sherman’s army entered Columbia in the afternoon.  They soon commenced destroying the public property.  The depots and arsenals were blown up and the buildings in the suburbs containing public stores fired late in the afternoon, a pile of cotton in the street near the Congers House took fire from sparks, and the flames spread to some wooden building which were near, when strong wind drive the flames down both sides of the street.  The scene became terrific.  Loud explosions continually filled the aim the residences and ground were shaken as by an earthquake, and vast columns of smoke and flames rose to the heaven.

Nothing of any account was saved.  Goods provision and furniture, moved to supposed places of security, were burned as the fire progressed.  The distance burned on Main street is about a mile and a half.  Dr. Reinhold’s house is the only one left standing between the sections known as Cotton Town and the State House.  The fire also extended five to ten blocks east of Main street, destroying everything.  The entire business portion of the city is in ruins.  Both hotels, the Guardian and Carolinian newspaper offices, and a number of churches, the Catholic Seminary and several other buildings, all the depots, the building at Charlotte Junction, Evans and Cogswell’s printing establishment are burned.

All the cars, engines and railroad stock which the rebels did not remove, are destroyed.  Only three churches were left standing the Catholic, Episcopal and Presbyterian.  The Female College is uninjured, and is now occupied by houseless women and children.  The old State House was blown up.  The new State House was not touched, it containing a statue of Washington.  Wade Hampton’s  house was saved by Federal officers.  Gen. Preston’s² house was also saved and given to the Catholic Seminary, whose property was accidentally destroyed.

The railroads about Columbia are all torn up, and all the bridges leading to the place destroyed.  All the foundries and machine shops were destroyed.  The country around the place is stripped of all eatables and transportation.  All the horses and carriages in the city were taken.  The citizens are said to be in a very destitute condition.  Unless some relief is soon obtained, the amount of suffering and deaths from starvation will be great.

"Ruins of Columbia, South Carolina, from the Capitol—Shelled by Sherman, February 16, 1865"

“Ruins of Columbia, South Carolina, from the Capitol—Shelled by Sherman, February 16, 1865″³

Some 25 miles of the Greenville Railroad had been previously damaged by a freshet and much damage was also done to the road by the enemy.

The Treasury Department and banks were removed to Charlotte.  Both papers removed a portion of their stock to the same place.  Many Negroes left with Sherman’s army, but none were taken by force, large numbers returning to their masters.  Sherman thought he would not visit the country west of Broad river and advised the Mayor to send the citizens there.

The federals seemed much incensed against Gov. Magrath and whould [sic] use him harshly if they got him in their power.

Few, if any, private residences were entered, and no outrages are known to have been committed on ladies.  The enemy was under strict discipline during the march through the city.  Sherman’s headquarters were in the city, at the residence of Mr. Duncan.  It is estimated that his infantry and artillery numbered 70,000.  He had no cavalry with him.  Their rear guard passed through Tuesday afternoon.

The troops were in the best condition, were well clothed and marched as if they had just started on an expedition, instead of being out for weeks.  Forts Mott, St. Mathews and Union Court House had been destroyed.  Some of Sherman’s officers said his destination was Raleigh and Salisbury.  The General himself appeared in good spirits, and confident of success.

One corps took the road to Camden and Florence, another to Winnesboro, and Sherman, with two crops, moved on the direct road to Charlotte.

1.  Andrew Gordon Magrath (1813-1893) was the last Confederate governor of South Carolina, serving from December 1864 to May 1865. Before the Civil War, he had been a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives (1838-42), a judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of S.C. (1856-60), and South Carolina Secretary of State (1860-61). Magrath resigned his judgeship the day after Abraham Lincoln was elected president. Confederate President Jefferson Davis appointed Magrath as a Confederate district judge in 1862 and as such he was noted for his opposition to the centralization of power by the Confederate government in Richmond. The South Carolina General Assembly appointed him to be the governor of South Carolina in December 1864. He served for less than a year as governor and he was critical of continuing the struggle in the face of overwhelming Union forces. The Union Army arrested him on May 25, 1865, he was released in December. After the War, Magrath resumed his law practice in Charleston.
2.  John Smith Preston (1809-1881) was a wealthy planter and attorney who became prominent in South Carolina politics. He had studied law at the University of Virginia and at Harvard. He married Wade Hampton’s daughter. An ardent secessionist, he was sent by South Carolina to convince the Virginia Secession Convention to join South Carolina in seceding from the Union. During the early part of the Civil War, Preston served as an aide to General P.G.T. Beauregard. He later accepted a commission as an officer in the Confederate Army and headed the Bureau of Conscription in Richmond. In 1864 he was promoted to brigadier general. His mansion, the Hampton-Preston House, was seized by the Union Army during the occupation of Columbia and used as the headquarters of Maj. Gen. John A. Logan. After the War, Preston went to England and did not return to the U.S. until 1868. He remained a strong defender of the Confederacy until the end of his life.
3.  Original Photographs Taken on the Battlefields During the Civil War of the United States, by Mathew B. Brady and Alexander Gardner (Hartford, Conn.: [Edward Bailey Eaton], 1907), page 105; available in the UWRF University Archives and Area Research Center (E 468.7 .E14 1907). This particular image was taken by Mathew B. Brady while the ruins were still smoking.


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