March 7, 1862
Letter from a McDonough Volunteer.
Bird’s Point, Mo., Feb. 23.
Messrs. Editors: Did I not regard it as a task almost impossible I would endeavor to give you an adequate idea of the intense delight and gratification manifested by the soldiers of the command, upon receiving the news of the unconditional surrender of Fort Donelson, and its occupation by the forces under Gen. Grant, on the 16th inst. The first news received by us on Monday morning after the fight, was anything but cheering; in fact rather favoring the success of our enemies. It came through the medium of the Cairo City Gazette, (extra) and was to the effect that a desperate struggle was going on between the contending parties at that place, and that our forces had sustained a heavy and unprecedented loss in their repeated attempts to take the fort. The next intimation we had of anything decisive from the scenes of action was the firing of the large siege guns at Cairo. We knew not at first what it meant. Anxiously and impatiently did we await the return of the ferry boat, then lying on the opposite side of the river, to bring us tidings of the true state of affairs at the seige of Donelson. At length she moored safe at the landing and from her deck was heralded to the boys the glad tidings that the victory was ours – that Fort Donelson had unconditionally surrendered – that 15,000 prisoners, 20,000 stand of arms, 17 large guns, Generals Buckner and Johnson, with a host of minor officers, were ours – irrevocably ours. Instantly the news spread through the camp like wildfire. It was upon the end of every person’s tongue. The wildest excitement ensued. Hats were tossed in the air, and every person was hallowing, screaming and staggering as though in a state of beastly intoxication. All the flags in camp were soon flung to the breeze, and a smile of intense delight played upon the countenance of each “soger boy” as the news of our success was related to him. Our large seige guns soon began to wring forth peals of joy. Every available drum, fife, or horn was brought into requisition. It was indeed a season of great rejoicing. The loss of our own men in the conflict was entirely lost sight of. We had gained the victory, no matter at what cost of blood and treasure. The back bone of secession was truly broken – we were soon to be sent home – and a regular jollification could not easily be avoided. Undoubtedly we had lost a number of great and good men, but:
“On the field of proud honor, their swords in their hands,
Their friends and their country to save;
While liberty gleams on life’s last ebbing-sands,
Oh! who would not rest with the brave.”
The next day at noon the news of the previous day was confirmed [?], by the arrival at Cairo, [?] boat loads of the prisoners. Again our camp was in a wild state of excitement. Every body wanted to see them. But they were moored at the landing and it was folly for us to attempt getting a glimpse of them, for the reason that according to custom, but three out of each company were allowed to cross the river at once. I happened, however, to be one of the lucky ones, and had the pleasure of seeing and conversing with them in person. I conversed for a considerable length of time with a captain belonging to a Tennessee regiment, who informed me that had our forces attacked them on the night after the capture of Fort Henry, we could have taken it without the firing of a gun. He stated that at that time the fort was garrisoned by one Tennessee regiment only, and that between the fight at Fort Henry and that of Fort Donelson they had been armed and equipped. But in this I think he struck wide of the truth. He expressed himself fairly relative to the conduct of Generals Floyd and Pillow, avowing that he had never placed any confidence in the latter officer, and that since his disgraceful action at the Fort, he would undoubtedly be deprived of his position in the Confederate army. To my query as to how much more confidence he had in Floyd than Pillow, he remarked that previous to the fight he had thought well of him, but that he now regarded him on a par with Pillow. Thus it is plain to be seen that the men are deserting the officers as well as the officers deserting the men.
Among the prisoners was found a number of relatives, friends, and acquaintances of those belonging to our own regiment. Mr. Henry Hart, of Spring Creek, in your county, and a member of our company, informs me that he found among them five cousins, and a number of old acquaintances, all from Fleet Creek, Bedford county, Tennessee. He being on duty at the wharf, was first recognized by them, to whom his attention was soon called, and upon his exchanging questions with them, tears of sorrow and regret were seen to trickle down their care-worn cheeks. They conversed with him freely and candidly as to the issue of their enlistment in the Southern Confederacy – said they had been led to believe that the Northern people contemplated freeing among them the negroes, and driving away and taking from them their farms. From them Mr. Hart learned that his father was also in the Southern army, and fighting against his son. They believed their cause to be utterly hopeless – that the North would eventually succeed in quelling the rebellion, and that in the course of time they would be compelled to submit. But enough of this.
The movements of troops to and from Cairo, Bird’s Point, and Fort Holt during the latter part of the week have been both extensive and mysterious. At times it would seem to indicate that a “forward movement” would be made upon Columbus immediately, and more than likely before this reaches you such will be the case. A number of our gunboats accompanied by some three or four transports, went down the river in the direction of Columbus this morning. The transports returned this evening, but nothing has been heard as yet from the gunboats. It is reported however, that they succeeded in running the blockade and that they are now below Columbus. Some say that the place has been evacuated, but it is pretty well authenticated that neither of the reports are true.
The weather at present is unsettled. Yesterday a hard and steady rain poured down upon us all day. Our camp is in a most wretched condition, being almost submerged with water and mud. To-day it has been warm and spring-like, but to-morrow, according to “previous order” we will have it cold, wet and disagreeable. If it is not as I predict we will all be fooled – that’s all.
We have had a great deal of sickness in our Regiment since coming here, none of which has yet proved fatal. – Mr. Henry Bailey of your city, has for some time past been in a very critical state of illness, but I believe he is now considered out of danger and still on the mend. His father, Mr. Wm. W. Bailey, is now here attending him, and so soon as he is able to be moved, will be taken by him to McDonough, for recuperation in health.
In the last issue of your paper I notice that under the head of “A Seceshers Wish” our regiment is paid quite a compliment from “A certain Democratic Alderman of the 4th Ward.” This compliment, so unexpected by the Regiment, will certainly never be forgotten by us, and the debt repaid at an early day.
The letter in your last issue from Chas. E. Waters, of Fort Henry, was perused by us with great pleasure and profit. Say to Charley that the boys of Co. A. 16th Ill. Would be glad to hear from him again. I have probably written more than will interest your readers so I close.
March 8, 1862
Abolition is Treason.
Abolitionists have been the primary cause of the rebellion, and they are now using every effort which their devilish ingenuity can suggest to make that rebellion successful. They have for years insisted that slavery must be destroyed – “it must be put in course of ultimate extinction,” is the honeyed phrase with which they obtained control of the government. Having got thus far, and having seconded the efforts of the secessionists to plunge the country into a war, they now attempt to drive every slaveholder into the ranks of the rebellion, and if possible, render it successful. The abolitionists we allude to are represented by such men as Sumner, Trumbull, Lovejoy, Stevens, Wade, Chandler, and about nine-tenths of the republican journals in the land. The shameful diatribes, the frantic ravings, the treasonable plots of these men are rendering almost nugatory all the efforts of the Unionists at the South. Their bills to wipe out State lines, to blend loyal and disloyal men in a common crime, to abolish slavery by act of Congress, and their persistent refusal to adopt any resolution declaring the sole purpose of the government to be to maintain the Constitution and the rights of the States and the people inviolate; all these are gladly heralded by the secession journals as evidence of the design of oppression, and that therefore the South is justified in resorting to arms to free themselves from the tyranny that abolitionism would impose upon them. If the South regard these things as the official designs of the party in power, who among them can successfully deny it? Is it any wonder that Union men find it an up-hill work to answer the secessionists – that every week finds their numbers growing less, and that of the rebels growing larger? These abolitionists are thus strengthening the rebel army, and are rendering necessary the fighting of more battles, the shedding of more blood, the expenditure of more treasure, the imposition of heavier taxes, and the continued impoverishment of the country. What is this but covert treason to their own government?
Answers to Correspondents.
LICENSE – Yes, the city could raise a fine sum of money by licensing gossips and scandal mongers. We know of several persons who would pay a high sum rather than be deprived of the privilege of lying about their betters.
PLUG. – To ridicule the boys for discussing a subject, and then to volunteer his own services in discussing the same question, is certainly evidence of a “large mind” and a “brilliant consistency.”
M.C. – In camp morals are “various.” It is estimated that out of twenty-five “wives of officers,” one will be able to show a marriage certificate. The other twenty-four do not deem such old-fashioned documents necessary. The privates, however, are not allowed such privileges.
BILL. – It is by no means certain that Gen. Buckner will be tried for treason. If he is, however, and the trial should result in his conviction, the sentence of the court would be death. The President, however, might condemn him to a severer punishment by compelling him to read the editorials of he Macomb Journal. Buckner would probably prefer to hang.