May 24, 1863
Sad news from our Army in the South West. Pemberton was forced back to the R R bridge on the Big Black which being a strong position he was resolved to hold, but Grant instead of attacking crossed the River higher up & thus outflanked him. So Pemberton destroyed the bridge (a heavy work about a mile in length) & retreated to Vicksburg 12 miles off. Grant followed & now closely invests Vicksburg on the land side. Vicksburg is said to be strongly entrenched & supplied with provisions & ammunition for a five month’s seige. Gen Joe Johnson is at Jackson collecting an army with which to fall on Grant’s rear & the next news we hear may be that the place is releived by a battle and a glorious Victory! God grant it!
After James left yesterday, I went up on horseback to dine at father’s & brought Rachel back with me, she having gone up with Sue the day before. Vicksburg was in every heart & on every tongue. The President who is familiar with the localities is reported to be in good spirits about it, says that Grant is in a trap & too far from his base of supplies & that Gen Johnston in his rear can cut them off & harrass him terribly. Vicksburg will be exposed to a terrific bombardment from front & rear. Ah! that it may with stand it.
Whilst at father’s came an order from Lieut Orrel in command of the picket station at Edwards Ferry ordering the removal of all canoes from the River — a wise precaution but one which I doubt me originated with Lieut Col Edmondston, for those young inexperienced (I was almost ready to say boys) never thought of it. Lieut O’s order proved him both young & ignorant, for he “assumes the command of the River from Pollock’s to Norfleet’s Ferry” & does not vouchsafe to tell us by whose orders or by what authority! His Col or his Brigadier should teach him a lesson.
I forgot to mention in its place that the cavalry, Baker’s, about which Gen French behaved so unhandsomly to Patrick has got itself into terrible trouble. The officers, always discontented with Baker, who has proved himself ignorant & inefficient, at length in a body signed a request for him to resign, for which he very properly placed them under arrest & they are all suspended from command and are to be Court Martialed. In the mean time they have, we hear, preferred charges against him, which they should have done before, & their superior in authority, the redoubtable Gen French himself, has demanded a Court of Inquiry as to his conduct in losing a Battery before Suffolk, for which he had the pleasure of hearing himself called a — fool by Gen Longstreet, who, however, did not know that French was the responsible person when he said so. Longstreet’s expression, when he heard of the circumstances of its capture, was “Well so soon as he is exchanged I will have that Captain shot for sending away his horses & exposing his battery thus.” An Aid interposed with, “Perhaps Gen, he is not responsible. I hear he acted under orders after remonstrance.” “Well then I will Court martial the — fool who gave the orders.” French standing by! After the newspapers made an outcry as to the folly and injustice of the act the Maj Gen demanded a court of Inquiry to white wash himself with all.
A gallant thing has been done in the Chesapeake & Albemarle Canal by a company of Partizan Rangers under Capt Elliot. He captured two boats the Arrow and the [Emily] with all on board & a large mail. Steamed through the Canal past Elizabeth [City] & Edenton under the Guns of two Gunboats & brought his prizes safe up the Chowan to Franklin & delivered them and his prisoners to the officers in command there without the loss of a man — a gallant act & skillfully executed.
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