December 11, 1863
A fortunate thing it is for us in this Confederacy that it is not ‘de rigueur’ to testify greif on the receipt of bad news by rending one’s clothes! Did that ancient custom prevail the frequency with which one misfortune follows another would tell sadly upon our slender wardrobes! Perhaps, however, the ancients mingled economy in their sorrow and rent their clothes at the seams only. Even that, with thread at 1.75 cts per spool, which I this day paid for one in Clarksville, would be rather hard on us. But to go back to the bad news which has metaphorically rent all the clothes in the country within the past few days. Official dispatches have been received from Gen Longstreet from a point thirty miles from Knoxville in full retreat from that place to Virginia. What he has accomplished the Examiner says may be summed up in a few words – nothing. Gild the pill as ye may, Mr Davis, it is a bitter one to swallow. I say Mr Davis for he is, we are told, who detached Longstreet from Bragg’s command before the late battle. By his orders, too, was the army of Northern Geo reorganized in the face of the foe & to this cause is the late disaster at Lookout ascribed. Brigades were recast, divisions remoddled, & when the shock of battle came men were led into action by generals who had never led them before. Regiments had lost their old & tried supporters, their fellow regiments in their Brigades, & had to rely on men whom they had never seen before & upon whose support they could not with confidence, which experience gives, rely. Hence our defeat & hence the small loss we endured, for some Regiments gave way without waiting to see how their new comrades fought. A want of sense it appears to us to reorganize thus in the face of the foe. Mr Davis Message came last night, an able document especially in reference to our foreign relations. Lord John Russel, her Majesty’s Secretary for foreign affairs, is shown in his true light, petty & deceitful, under the mask of neutrality, claiming credit with the U S. for favouring it. Faugh! If he be a diplomat — I’ll none of them! His lies have not the merit of plausibility!
The President’s summary of Home affairs is rather gloomy. The currency & the soldiers whose term of enlistment is to expire in the spring are knotty points, but God has led us heretofore & He will lead us still. It is sad to myself to realize how my admiration has lessened for Mr Davis, lessened since the loss of Vicksburg, a calamity brought on us by his obstinacy in retaining Pemberton in command, & now still further diminished by his indomitable pride of opinion in upholding Bragg.
The Examiner says, “It is some comfort we grant to have a President who does not disgrace us by Hoosier English but it is a comfort which is dearly bought at the price of a Memminger & a Bragg.” His favourites have cost us much: Mallory, a Navy; Memminger has flooded the land with useless Treasury notes, sapped the fountain head of our prosperity; Huger cost us Roanoke Island & in consequence Norfolk. (He also let McClellan escape at [ -- ]; Lovel, New Orleans; Pemberton, Vicksburg and the two together the greater part of the Mississippi Valley. Bragg lost us first Kentucky and then Tennessee. His obstinacy in refusing to give Price the command lost Missouri & now the incapable Holmes, also his favourite, is clinching the loss and letting Arkansas slip away likewise. Truly I fear that to him is not given the first element of a ruler — “the discerning of Spirits.” He upheld Sidney Johnston when unjustly assailed, however. “No general have I, if indeed great Johnston be not one.” Here let us do him justice, but to give such a man as [ -- ] a Lieut Gen’ship for “auld acquaintance sake” only seems trifling with the interests of the country. But let me “not speak” too much “evil of dignities.” Mr Davis whilst he has made many mistakes has presided over our fortunes with dignity & Christian forbearance. Toward a man so harrassed with care as he is, & with such heavy responsibilities resting upon him as he has, requires that we should judge him kindly. Who would have done better if placed in his seat?
Sue, Rachel, & Col Clark dined with us today. Col C gives a melancholly picture of the country late in his command — below Hamilton. The Yankees have destroyed everything & burnt upon a large scale, many plantations being left without a house upon them. They misinterpret our forbearance in Penn last summer, think we abstained from devastating the country through fear, & this is the return they make us. Have been riding on horse back every afternoon latterly & enjoy my rides with Mr E greatly.
Source: Edmondston, Catherine Ann Devereux, 1823-1875, Journal of a Secesh Lady: The Diary of Catherine Ann Devereux Edmondston 1860-1866. Crabtree, Beth G and Patton, James W., (Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Division of Archives and History, 1979). http://nc-historical-publications.stores.yahoo.net/478.html
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