1865 March 18: The Battle of Wyse Fork and Other News
Following is the weekly summary of the national news from The Polk County Press, and, mostly, from The Prescott Journal of March 18, 1865. The Battle of Wyse Fork—also known as the Second Battle of Kinston and the Second Battle of Southwest Creek—took place March 7-10, 1865, near Kinston, North Carolina.
From The Polk County Press:
The news still continues glorious. Our armies are everywhere victorious. SHERIDAN [Philip H. Sheridan] is in the saddle with his invincibles is marching like a giant through the land of treason.—GRANT [Ulysses S. Grant] holds their heel at Richmond and is gallantly piloting the Union armies to victory. SCOFFIELD [sic: John M. Schofield], with his “bully boys” has trashed the brag and insolence out of the rebel BRAGG [Braxton Bragg], and the ball is rolling onward towards the harbor of Peace and Union. See particulars elsewhere.
From The Prescott Journal:
—The war news of the week is favorable ; the following dispatch tells part of the story.
WASHINGTON, March 14.
Major Gen. Dix [John A. Dix] :
Dispatches from Sherman and Schofield have been received this morning. [William T. Sherman]
Sherman’s dispatch is dated March 8, at Laurel Hill, North Carolina. He says : We are all well, and have done finely. Details are omitted for obvious reasons.
Gen. Schofield in a dispatch dated Newbern [sic], N. C., March 12, states that on the night of the 10th near Southwest Creek, Bragg was fairly beaten. During that night he retreated across the Neuse at Kingston, and now holds the bank of the river at that place.
E. M. STANTON [Edwin M. Stanton],
Secretary of War.
It is also reported that Lynchburg is captured by Sheridan. If so, Richmond is insulated, and Lee must run or be captured. [Robert E. Lee]
— Private dispatches report Gold down to $1.74.
— The Conscription Law is now so amended that volunteers must be credited to the place where they are enrolled.
— HUGH MCCULLOCH¹ has been confirmed Secretary of the Treasury.
— Senator HARLAN² of Iowa, is to be Secretary of the Interior, Secretary USHER³ having resigned to take effect on the first of May. JOHN P. HALE4 has been appointed Minister to Spain.
—The serious decline in Gold during the past week, consequent upon the brilliant victories of the army, has made a panicky market, and materially affected prices of commodities generally. The farmer’s consolation is that while the products of his labor are gradually declining, so are the necessaries which he is compelled to purchase.
It is the opinion of sound business men that the present excitement in relation to paper money, is, at this time, entirely speculative in its origin, there being no cause for casting distrust upon the great body of currency now afloat.—There is no doubt but it must be gradually retired, yet our advice is not to act hastily in disposing of it.
— Nothing seems to stop 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.
The Tribune’s Washington special says it is to be the policy to contract rather than expand the currency.
Judge Edmonds5 is recommended for the Interior Department by the Governors of nine States.
Notwithstanding the refusal of the Senate at the late session, to recognize Arkansas by the admission of her Senators, they confirmed the nomination of U. S. attorneys and marshall [sic] for the judicial districts of that State.
The Herald’s correspondent shows there are no less than 300 blockade runners lying in the port of Nassau, whose occupation is gone. They represent capital to the amount of fifteen million dollars.
The Richmond Examiner of the 4th denounces the execution of Beall,6 the guerrilla and spy, and says threats were made in the streets of Richmond to hang any Yankee officers on parole and who might be found at large.
The Richmond Sentinel says the rebel Secretary of the Treasury would be glad to receive donations of money, bonds, plate, or other valuables, to enable him to pay the soldiers.
The Wilmington Journal, in it issue just previous to the occupation of the town by the National forces, admitted that Sherman’s movements, if he was not checked, might have the effect of compelling Lee to abandon Richmond and Petersburg.
The Richmond Enquirer pronounces the whole financial system of the Confederacy defective, and proposes an equation of the public debt to the specie value, saying that it involves no repudiation. The rebel House of Representatives adopted a resolution to adjourn March 8th.
The act of Congress creating the office of Chief of Staff to Lt. Gen. Grant, confers that appointment upon Brig. Gen. Rawlings, who has shared in the hardships and dangers of Gen. Grant’s campaign from Belmont to the present time, serving from Vicksburg as Chief of Staff.
The bill to repeal the section of the act which provides for the appointment of agents to purchase cotton and other products of insurrectionary States, was not vetoed by the President, but it was said failed to receive his signature, which amounts to about the same thing, viz.: its failure to become a law.
The packet James Watson, laden with government freight, a large number of passengers and 86 soldiers, was sunk 12 miles below Napoleon on the morning of the 2d. Over 30 lives were lost, including Adams Express messenger and 20 soldiers, and several ladies and children. The officers and crew of the boat were mostly saved. The steamer and cargo is a total loss.
The Herald’s Shenandoah Valley correspondent says : “A few days ago three families by the names of Sherrard, Lee and Buelnel, were sent over our lines on the charge of disloyalty. It was discovered that they had conspired together to get up a social ball, to which Gen. Sheridan was to be an invited guest, and that during its progress a detachment of Mosby’s guerrillas was to seize the General, take him captive and convey him to Richmond, along with Kelly and Crook. The plan was frustrated, and the leaders who concocted it are now in full communion with those for whom they have expressed sympathy.”
1. Hugh McCulloch (1808-1895) served two non-consecutive terms as the Secretary of the Treasury (1865-69 and 1884-85), and was the first Comptroller of the Currency (1863-64). During his tenure, McCulloch maintained a policy of reducing the federal war debt and the careful reintroduction of federal taxation in the South, and he worked during his career to bring back the gold standard.
2. President Lincoln had nominated his close friend James Harlan (1820-1899) to replace John P. Usher as Secretary of the Interior; Harlan had been confirmed by the Senate when Lincoln died, and took over as the 8th Secretary under President Andrew Johnson, serving from May 1865-August 1866. While Secretary, Harlan fired Walt Whitman for writing what he deemed was a morally offensive book, Leaves of Grass. Harlan was also a U. S. senator from Iowa (1855-65 and 1867-1873), and during his Senate tenure, Harlan was chairman of the committees of Public Lands, District of Columbia, Education, and Indian Affairs.
3. John Palmer Usher (1816-1889) was the 7th U. S. Secretary of the Interior, serving from 1863-65. He was known as a genial, courteous, and unobtrusive secretary. In November 1863, he accompanied President Lincoln to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, for the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery.
4. John P. Hale (1806-1873) was a member of the U. S. House of Representatives (1843-45) and U. S. Senate (1847-65), both from New Hampshire, and U. S. Spain Minister to Spain (1865-69). Hale was one of the first senators to make a stand against slavery. He was a leading member of the Free Soil Party and was its presidential nominee in 1852.
5. John Worth Edmonds (1799-1874) was Judge of the First Judicial District (New York) from 1845 to 1847, and a justice of the New York Supreme Court (1st D.) from 1847 to 1853. He had been an Indian agent for two years for the U.S. government.
6. John Yates Beall (1835-1865) was a Confederate privateer who was arrested as a spy in New York and executed on February 24, 1865, at Fort Columbus, Governors Island, New York. At the start of the war, he joined “Bott’s Grays,” Company G of the 2nd Virginia Infantry, he received a wound in the lungs, which left him incapable of active service. Inspired by John Hunt Morgan, he decided to try to free some captured Confederate officers by derailing a passenger train, but instead he and a companion, George S. Anderson, were arrested in Niagara, New York, on December 16, 1864.