Anna Moffett's Civil War - 7
Letter from James. His Legion participated in the Battle of Seven Pines near the Chickahominy River on the Richmond peninsula on May 31st. Gen. Joseph Johnston attempted to overwhelm two Federal corps that appeared isolated south of the River. The Confederate assaults, although not well coordinated, succeeded in driving our men back & inflicting heavy casualties. Reinforcements arrived & both sides fed more & more troops into the action. Gen. Johnston was seriously wounded during the action & command of the Confederate army devolved temporarily to Maj. Gen. GW Smith. Thank God James survived, as many of his friends did not.
I will tell you a bit about what is happening at Secessionville, as both George & Charles are involved.
Charles in now acting General. He said to Elizabeth in one of his letters that people commented that he had the annoying habit of dropping the 'Acting' from his title.
I gleaned this from the local newspaper.
Some of the Yankees killed in the fight by the fire of the regiment, fell in less than ten paces in front of the regimental line. The attacking force of the enemy was repulsed with considerable loss. The victory was complete for the Confederates; although the enemy at one time mounted the parapet. When this attack was made the fort was in very poor condition for defense; some of the guns were not mounted, & the fort itself was not finished. It was afterwards made much stronger, but the Yankees seemed to be quite satisfied & so far haven't repeated the attack.
The Union forces, who were attempting to capture Charleston by land, were repulsed by a much smaller Confederate force & routed. The Union suffered 683 casualties (107 dead), compared to 204 (52 dead) by our side. The papers say that although the battle was minor, it served as a powerful victory, increasing morale particularly in Charleston & offsetting recent Confederate losses.
We are pleased to see the Grimball family move to the area. They have rented quarters at St Johns College, one of the many academies here that have had to close because of the war. We knew them because they had summered in Charleston near us on Sullivan's Island. She told me she was writing
her diary or the war & I confided in her that I was attempting to do the same. Margaret is the wife of John Berkley Grimball, rice planter in the Colleton District.
Part of St. John's college also serves as a place of worship for Episcopalians.
We have heard from James that his cavalry moved to Richmond with the 17th South Carolina
Volunteers, Benbow's 23rd Regiment South Carolina Volunteers, Leake's Virginia Battery & Boyce's South Carolina Battery. A portion of the troops were sent to Charlotte, North Carolina. Now the infantry & cavalry units of Holcombe's Legion are separated. He is well, thank God.
Life is becoming so difficult for us. Summertime should be when there is an abundance of all our food, but that is not the case. I'm sure that many are even worse off than we are & I read in the Courier that thousands in the Spartanburg area are on the verge of starvation & of course, there is the inevitable looting. One of our farmer friends, Mr. Anderson told about thieves who broke into his
storehouse & took hams, sugar, salt & what little flour he had left & he could find no flour at all at sale in town.
When I last saw George, when he was on furlough, he said that his friend James Bullock, whom he had gone with to Liverpool last year, had managed to get another boat that was built for him in England through. He took the Enrica, which after trials in Anglesey, sailed quietly off to the Azores to take on armaments & ammunition,& was renamed CSS Alabama. Alabama had mainly Liverpool crew on board, as when she had left Liverpool under secrecy & after being given the choice, most of her 30 Liverpool crew signed on for the Confederate Navy.
On July 17th, Lincoln gave the authorization to use able-bodied blacks in the Union Army. Anyone who volunteered or was drafted into the army automatically will be made free. Each state had a quota. Apparently not only will they be free, but they will be paid, but as with the white soldiers, not until the war is over. But for all their talk of equality, the North is not being fair. While white soldiers
will receive $13 a month of which three dollars is for clothing & one ration, Negroes soldiers will be given $10 a month, three of which is for clothing & one ration.
In South Carolina the military governor, General Rufus Saxton, is to form five black regiments from the Sea Islands area. The regiments will be led by white officers.
Here is an update from an article sent to me by Elizabeth's good friend, Mrs. Chesnut. It shows that we Charlestonians who are now living in Spartanburg have not forgotten our own.
"Charleston Mercury, July 14, 1862
A card is published by Dr. John Bachman, acknowledging money for soldiers from Charleston from ladies & children, refugees in Spartanburg. Part of it is $88, made by tableaux. He also acknowledges fruit & mosquito nets for hospitals, sent from Charleston, Newberry, Spartanburg, & other places — 600 nets in all." Dr. Bachman has distributed the goods according to wishes of donors — in every case to those only who were manufacturing clothing for sons, husbands, or brothers, in the army. He said, "The six pairs of cotton cards for the lady in Spartanburg District who, by her own industry, clothed her four sons in the Army of Virginia, I carried to her family on the day when the mournful tidings arrived that one of these boys had fallen in battle."
Thank God that wasn't me.
I mentioned the escaped slave, Roberts Smalls before. He has now apparently met with President Lincoln & Secretary of War Stanton, seeking authorization to recruit five thousand black troops.
Permission was granted.
Our side responded with the order that basically says that captured black Union soldiers shall be subject to the death penalty.
Elizabeth, my daughter-in-law gave birth to a son today. It was a difficult birth, & he appears to be a sickly child. I hope she will recover her strength soon, but I am happy dealing with the grandchildren in the meantime. Lizzy who is 7, Andrew who is 5 & Anna who nearly 3 are a delight to me. They named the new baby after his famous uncle, Charles Simonton.
Anna, Mary & I joined the Spartenburg Relief Society. The ladies of our town meet in the basement of the Baptist Church, to sew for soldiers. Some of the ladies are so expert as to be able to knit as they walk along. An old English tailor cuts the fabric for us & assists in making fatigue suits for two companies from town. We ladies put pin-cushions, soap & handkerchiefs in the pockets of these clothes & then they are packed & sent on. We were told that the woolen socks are most acceptable to the infantry, as they are soft to their feet while marching. Many knit gloves & scarves for men of the cavalry & artillery. Most of the local churches have services several times a week & earnest prayers ascend on high for the safety of our armies & for consolation to those who have lost their dear ones. Such confidence we feel in our soldiers! No matter how many seek shelter & food at private houses while passing through town, they are invited in & entertained.
Our hats, made of palmetto & rye straw, are pretty & becoming. We even make jewelry of palmetto intermingled with hair, that we might keep even with the boys, who wear palmetto cockades. The changes we have made in the things we eat & drank are worth mentioning. Coffee is now made of rye, wheat & sweet potatoes, chipped, dried & parched - also okra seed, etc. It is sweetened, if at all, with sorghum or honey. For tea, the leaves of blackberry vines are gathered & dried. Fruit cakes are made of dried apples, cherries, pears & plums, without any spices at all. For medicines we use roots & herbs. Salt, white & pure, is obtained by digging up the earthen floors of long-used smokehouses, dripping water through this earth in hoppers, & boiling it down.
Lincoln announced that he would issue a formal emancipation of all slaves in any state of the Confederacy that did not return to Union control by January 1, 1863. We find this outrageous & it has stiffened our reserve to see this thing through to the bitter end.
Now the long winter evenings are closing in, the lights we use are simple curiosities. Our best lights are tallow candles, but they are too scarce to be used except on special occasions. The ordinary lights are knots of pine, supported on racks of iron at the back of the chimney, to let the smoke fly up. Another odd light, known as a wax taper, is made by winding thirty yards of wick, previously dipped in melted wax, round an old candlestick. A favorite night's employment is found in making envelopes. No bits of white paper suitable for writing with pen & ink should be wasted by using them for envelopes. So things like wallpaper & magazines with pictures & even pictures from unwanted books, serve to make envelopes. These we stick together with gum from peach trees. Ink is made from oak balls & green persimmons, with rusty nails to deepen the color.
In James' latest letter he said Holcombe's Legion was picketted on the Peninsula with 158 men. By October 31st they were down to 138 men. Now they are at Camp Walker near Forge Bridge about 20 miles Southeast of Richmond & they have only 127 men. Will this slaughter never stop?
My third son Alex, was very much involved in the battle of Fredrickburg, from Dec 11-15th. I will try to summarise what happened at the battle. He came through unhurt through the mercy of God. I hear from him seldom, but occasionally get a note from his wife.
The Union plan was to capture Richmond, our capital, before Lee's army could. But their leader was delayed & Lee, with 500 men, was able to block the crossing of the Rappahannock River at Fredricksburg. But eventually the Union soldiers put up pontoon bridges & crossed under fire.
Our soldiers were on a strongly fortified ridge west of the city known as Marye's Heights, a series of hills about 50 feet high.
Seven Union divisions had been sent in, generally one brigade at a time, for a total of fourteen individual charges, all of which failed, costing them from 6,000 to 8,000 casualties. Confederate losses at Marye's Heights totaled around 1,200. The falling of darkness & the pleas of Burnside's subordinates were enough to put an end to the attacks.
Much of our success was due to General Longstreet who was second in command to General
Robert E Lee, who called him his "Old War Horse." George says that while Stonewall Jackson is the one who represents the audacious offensive aspect, Longstreet is best with defensive
strategies & tactics.