July 21, 1864
The anniversary of the battle of Manassas. In what mercy is the gift of fore knowledge denied us. What a check would have been put upon our joy on that occasion could we have foreseen that three years hence we should still be engaged in the same bitter life & death struggle! The attack on Charleston is over. The enemy have been repulsed at all points, driven to their original lines, & now content themselves with their usual shelling of Fort Sumter & the city. One year has now elapsed since the city was first beseiged, during which time the “Swamp Angel” has thrown seven thousand nine hundred shells into a place occupied only by women & children. Amo writes his Uncle that in the night attack on Fort Johnston there were but fourteen men on duty in the fort. They held [ — ] hundred at bay & on being hastily reinforced by [ — ] that handful repulsed [ — ] Yankees and took [ — ] prisoners. It seems almost incredible that the Key to the City of Charleston, to retain which blood has been poured out like water, should have been left thus weakly defended. Had Fort Johnson fallen, Sumter, Moultrie, & the city itself must have followed. Think of the fate of Charleston resting on fourteen men only! Criminal carelessness somewhere!
We were electrified yesterday by the announcement that Gen Joe Johnston had been releived of the command of the Army in Northern Geo & that Gen Hood had been assigned to duty there. We cannot understand it. To us who are not born Brigadiers Gen it has appeared that Johnston with comparatively but a handful of men has been keeping a host at bay, retiring so slowly as to exhaust and weary Sherman out, & we confidently expect that he will wait combinations in Sherman’s rear, combinations which we do not understand but in which Kirby Smith plays a distinguished part, & then turn like a Lion at bay, deliver battle in front of Atlanta, & rescue the prize from the very grasp of his antagonist. But we must be in the dark as to something in his plans or conduct, for Mr Davis would not be guilty of the injustice of thus snatching his Laurels from him at the moment of Victory unless something serious had occurred! A wild rumour runs through the country that he is insane, but we cannot credit it. There has been too much method in his madness. We must wait ‘ere we decide for further developments & have no right even to form an opinion. Despite partizan newspapers & their wholesale & rash denunciation, the whole country knows that Mr Davis has the welfare & honour of the country as much at heart as any one in it & the assertion that he would do aught to embarras & perplex one of his generals is so monstrous as to be unworthy of the slightest credence. He has his faults but, God knows, a want of patriotism is not amongst them, & tho he makes mistakes, they are honest ones. Joe Johnston has possessed our confidence, a confidence that will not lightly be withdrawn, but when two such men as Mr Davis & himself are at issue, for the sake of Justice and sweet Truth let us withhold our condemnation of either party until the facts are known.
Preparations for the abandonment of Atlanta are already made, stores, pontoon bridges, etc., all removed. Should such a step be taken it would indeed be a heavy blow to us, as four R R centre there & we have immense work shops & foundries, the loss of which we cannot supply.
Our Army is retreating from Maryland, bringing off with them vast quantities of provisions & forage. Washington has been so heavily reinforced that we could not hope to effect anything there. The ‘morale’ of throwing shells into the city is all we have reaped. Canby’s corps which left New Orleans to reinforce Grant arrived at Fortress Monroe just in time to respond to Mr Lincoln’s frantic appeals for help & without disembarking steamed up the Potomac & saved Washington. Two other Army Corps have followed, so Gen’s Early & Breckenridge “return over the border.” Gen B exhibited his fine feelings at national expence by sparing Mr Frank Blair’s house & effects. He had no right to do so. He was sent to retaliate for the outrages committed in Va & to those unfortunate people who may hereafter be exposed to Yankee barbarity, barbarity from which a different line of conduct on the part of our troops may protect them. It matters little that “Gen Breckenridge was once hospitaly entertained for some days at Silver Spring” & therefore spared the mansion of his entertainer. Justice before generosity!
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