July 14, 1864 [cont’d]
Our prisoners have all been removed from Pt Lookout to Elmira in the State of N Y. Fort Delware, that seat of misery & oppression, is also being rapidly depopulated. Mr Dunlop gave us the Key to this movement in the information that two ships were being fitted out at Wilmington well officered & manned & carry 20,000 stand of arms whose destination was Pt Lookout with the mission to release the prisoners there confined. Unhappily for us, someone betrayed the secret — a traitor — and the Yankee government put an end to the expedition by removing the prize. He tells us that day & night the shelling of Petersburg goes on with, however, comparatively little damage. The inhabitants have almost all left & those that remain are hopeful & cheerful. Mrs D and two of her daughters have returned to the city despite the fury of the fire, & we are in daily expectation of seeing the rest of the children here, having written for them so soon as we heard of their unpleasant situation in Chapel Hill. They will be with us until it is safe to return to their father’s roof.
He gave us many interesting incidents of the seige of Petersburg & of the state of unpreparedness in which we were when Butler made his first advance. A Lady living near Bermuda Hundred, having sure information of the approach of the enemy, sent a verbal message (being afraid to trust it to paper) by her confidential servant to the Commandant at Petersburg, telling him that Fort Clifton was menaced & that there were not troops enough there to defend it. This message the boy, recreant to his trust, carried to the Yankees who advanced confident of success thinking to obtain an easy victory; but, thanks to a Kind Providence, in the mean time a detachment of S C troops had arrived and but a short time before Butler’s attack manned the works and gave him that terrible repulse which saved both Richmond and Petersburg. Beleiving themselves to have been deceived by the negro, they gave him what he deserved for his treachery to us — viz — a hanging.
The poor market men captured by them on their attack on Petersburg itself were asked “what troops were then in the town?” They answered in good faith, “none,” & accordingly on came Kautz — was held at bay by the militia men & on their being flanked & forced to retire was, as I related, entering the town when they were met by a shell from Graham’s Battery & retired precipitately on sight of Dearing’s Cavalry.
One of the market men seeing how matters had turned out said to the other, “Come we had better get out of the way. The soldiers are there — tho we did not know it, & these Yankees will think we deceived them.” “No,” said the other. “I told the truth & I shall go home — there is nothing to fear,” & accordingly did so: but short shrift had he! for a party of the Cavalry followed his little cart & hung him at his own door whilst his more crafty companion made his escape. Had they been as wise as serpents they would have refused to answer the questions & would thus have done their duty to their country & escaped the fury of the irate Yankees.
Grant has detached more than an Army Corps for the defence of Washington, which makes us uneasy on Early’s account. Would that he could knock the White House about Mr Lincoln’s ears & retreat safely into Va again.
There has been considerable activity before Charleston — a renewal of the shelling & an advance on James Island. Gen Sam Jones, Patrick’s old friend is now in command of our forces there. He has repulsed the enemy in several slight skirmishes with heavy loss both in killed & prisoners. A night attack on Fort Johnson was signally driven back by us with the loss of several barges. The shelling of Sumter has been again resumed but without effect. Fighting both on John’s & James’ Island & from papers captured in one of the engagements we learn that the whole of the available Yankee force on the Atlantic coast is there engaged.
We were terribly startled by a rumour brought by our mail boy from Halifax a few days since to the effect that Gen Bragg with 1500 men had gone South. We feared Charleston was doomed, but as we have not yet heard of a disaster there & there is no intimation of a “falling back.” We hope that “Murad the Unlucky” has carried his ill omened visage elsewhere. Mr Davis ought not thus to trifle with even the prejudices of a people who have so much at stake & who have reposed such implicit confidence in him, who have done all that lay in their power to strengthen his hands with such self denying alacrity, & who have borne the miseries inflicted on them with the most uncomplaining fortitude.
Mr Dunlop told us that he had been applied to by the Confederate Generals for guides for a night attack which they proposed making on a portion of the enemies lines some distance from Petersburg. The Rev Mr Miller & Dr Osborne came to him & recommended some men for whom they could answer as “steady, upright, pious, men, religious and trustworthy.” “No! No!” was his answer. “Those are not the sort! your steady, pious, religious men do not go ‘possum hunting!’ I want some hearty frolicksome fellows who spend half the night in the woods.” An odd way of putting it, but there is much practical good sense in it.
Prices are higher than ever in spite of Mr Meminger’s sagacious schemes of finance. I last week pd $3 per doz for some as inferior horn buttons as I ever saw. Flour with the new crop coming in sells by retail at our County mills at $150 per lb! Mr E last week paid $50 for a half ream of paper & Tea is 35 per lb in Charleston! Famine prices and in the teeth of New Issues & New Crops! What is to become of us? Sister B & R were charged $25 a peice for a night’s lodging in Halifax!
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