The Late Great Unpleasantness

A Day by Day account of the American Civil War

September 7, 1862

The war continues to rage in the deep South, and General Pierre G. T. Beauregard has been engaged with the forces of Union General William Rosecrans. Rosecrans objective has been to wrench control of the Mississippi River from the Rebels, and in order to do this he needs to capture the vital port city of Vicksburg, Mississippi. The following letter, written to Beauregard from Rebel General Thomas Jordan. Beauregard’s career was tainted by constant friction with the President, and Jordan offers encouragement and advice on how to handle Jefferson Davis and Congress.



Sept 7th 1862

My Dear General

Of course I shall wish to go with you, wheresoever you may be ordered—Charleston, or elsewhere; and shall anxiously await the time when I may be with you again—Call me by telegraph.

Let me keep the papers about Vicksburg all together until a week when I will present a brief statement which you can sign officially and transmit to the War Department—it can then be called for by Congress and in that way best come before the public in an official shape that will place definitively the credit for the fortification of Vicksburg where it rightfully belongs.

The fact is—the Mississippi party including the President wish to claim credit for fortifying and making the stand at Vicksburg, but the truth is that you, of your volition & without suggestion determined to fortify it—and anticipated in your first instructions—the Yankee attempt to cut a canal—the record is complete—and I am strongly in favor of the official report rather than any other publications.

I have been suffering a good deal lately from Rheumatism but shall be able to do what work you will have at first at Charleston.

The [illeg.] to Charleston is transparent to purpose but it should always be remembered: “Man proposes but God disposes”—and you can go to your assignment post satisfied that in the end all will work out rightly—This inst. Genl Joe Johnston has been ordered to “a new field”—Whither? We shall see. I am impatient to hear the details of the last Manassa battle—I hope we have not exaggerated the results.

Buell appears to have blundered in Tennessee—surely he and& Rozencranz might have effected a sudden junction somewhere in the quarter of Columbia and with these united & largely superior force [illeg.] to overwhelm Genl. Braggs forces—It was certainly in the power of Rozencrantz to have thrown his forces quietly across the Tennessee at Pittsburg Landing & to have made the March & junction without our knowledge until too late—but they have not tried it– & I feel now Buell is in retreat to Kentucky.

Kirby [illeg.] successes are important as they must weaken the enemy so as to make it possible to strike him in detail.

I write in haste

Yours sincerely

Thomas Jordan




September 6, 1862

Following the victory at Second Manassas, Robert E. Lee began moving his army North. He hoped to, among other things, lure the Federal forces out of the Confederacy and turn the tide by forcing them to defend their home soil. By September 6th he had begun his first invasion of the North, the Union army scrambles to pursue. The message below is a Northern intelligence missive, reporting on Lee’s movements.


September 6, 1862 – 9.30 p. m.
Brigadier General R. B. MARCY, Chief of Staff:

The pickets have just sent in a man, who left Leesburg this a.m. and crossed the river at Point of Rocks. He says there are no troops at Leesburg, and at Barnesville only two regiments of cavalry. That the army (some 60,000 strong, so the soldiers told him) was under Jackson, and are going to Baltimore. That the enemy has left Barnesville for Baltimore has been reported from another source. The man from Leesburg states that the rebel soldiers are running over the country, hunting something to eat, and are a hard-looking set, with a large number of stragglers. I can hardly think they are pushing for Baltimore yet. This man is an Irishman, and has been exempt from conscription before, this, but the rebels declare they will take everybody.




September 5, 1862

Major General John Pope was replaced today by General Joseph “Fightin’ Joe” Hooker after his retreat back to Washington following Second Manassas. The telegram below contains McClellan’s orders for the reorganization of his Corps.


Major-General McCLELLAN, Commanding, &c.:
GENERAL: The President has directed that General Pope be relieved and report to War Department; that Hooker be assigned to command of Porter’s corps, and that Franklin’s corps be temporarily attached to Heintzelman’s. The orders will be issued this afternoon. Generals Porter and Franklin are to be relieved from duty till the charges against them are examined. I give you this memorandum in advance of the orders, so that you may act accordingly in putting forces in the field.

Very respectfully,



September 4, 1862

William Francis Brand writes to his fiancee from the ranks of the 5th Virginia.


Camp Stonewall
September 4th / 62

My dear friend
I received your
letter yesterday, & as we are laying
still this morning I will try and
write a few lines in answer I know
not when this will reach you as
it is reported that a large Cav
alry force has gone up the Val
ley in our rear. The enemy have
a large Cavalry force in the Valley
& our cavalry being afraid of them
buts[sic] us to a good deal of trouble
We had to march last night un
till twelve O clock through mud
& rain on to meet an antisapated
raid on Winchester. We are camped
this morning near Winchester & every
thing seems perfectly quiet
but will hardly remain so untill night

[page 2]
I suppose you are aware before
this of the fate of your Cousin M.R.
again our camp is called to mourn
the loss of one of our bravest youths
He like a young flower was cut
down in early manhood. We greatly
mis him. all his comrads sympathise
with his grief stricken parents &
relatives. I have been under the
fire of the enemy twist since I
wrote: at Sheperdstown & Smithfield.
But by the mercies of a great & good
God I have been spared yet awhile
There has been no regular engagement
since I came down, only heavy skirmi
shing there may be a fight most
any day as both armies are get
ting near each other. But I will
try & live in hopes there will be no
more hard fighting in the Valley
I am glad to hear that your Cousin L is getting
well, but sorry to hear that your health is
still declining hope ear this reaches you

[page 3]
you may be enjoying the best of health.
There has been a great many deaths
in old Augusta since I left I belie
ve disease cuts of as many as the
sword. I received a letter from sister
some time ago. she said the Yanks
ware in thirty miles of Uncles & was
fearfull thay ware going to make a raid
through thare neighborhood. she wanted
to know wether she ought to go a
refugeaing or gird on the armor
& go forth to meet the foe. I give
her the advise I would to all women
stay at home, I got a letter yesterday
from my friend John [?] he says if I
ware at home now I would not but help
having the blues as evry thing is
so dull. I think differently I am sure
there is one whose company I could
always enjoy let times be as they
please. Dear Kate you must have im
agined me to have been musing or
my mind wandering on some imaginary

[page 4]
reflections. I was writing with two
of three by my side & entended [?] head
ing after finishing- but never thought
of it until I had sealed it . but
never thought you wold be so strict
as to follow my example. This is a beau
tifull day but our camp is not pleasant
we have no shelter to keep the rays of
the burning sun from our heads. I
did not know that it was sunday until
I was informed this morning. we have
been moving nearly every day last
week & the days slipt by unnumbered
by me. I hope before the cold blasts of
winter sets in we may all be where
we can enjoy the blest of all days
at home. My health is very good. I have
no reasonable right at present to com
plain of anything. My kindest regar
ds to all enquiring friends excuse this
spoild paper it got wet in my knap
sack & there is none to be got hear-
Your brother is enjoyng fine health also the
company I have not hurd from eather of [?]
since I came down. Remember me as one
that loves you dearly & wishes you nothing but
your happiness write soon to your W.


September 3, 1862

Samuel Atwill concludes the letter to his father.

September 3, 1862.

How much better I feel now than I did this time yesterday! This evening when I was on one side of the Parade Ground, I saw someone come out of Old Spex house with Old Spex, and Oh Pa! I though it was you until I saw his watch chain, and then I knew it was Mr. Mayo. But really he looked so much like you that I could not drill any more for looking at him, and as soon as I was dismissed Claybrook and myself went out on the hill to see him, but we had only five minutes to stay so he could not tell us any news, only that you were all well, and that the Yankees had not troubled you yet. He is going away tomorrow on the eleven o’clock stage, and I am going uptown to see him tomorrow before he goes. I was certainly glad to hear from you all, as it has been upwards of a month since I heard from you, and especially to hear that you were all well. I would have written you some time ago but I could not get any stamps or money to get stamps with.

It is not at all strange to see a Cadet faint in the ranks; this evening one of the fellows let his gun fall on his foot at dress parade and it hurt him so badly that he fainted. Two of the fellows picked him up and instead of bringing him to barracks which was just as near as Major Williamson’s, they were very cunning and took him to the latter place as “Old Tom” (Maj. W.) has two very prettie daughters. As soon as they entered the house the young ladies put water in his face and bathed his temples with cologne &c; in about two minutes he came to and came over to Barracks. Just now a servant came in with a waiter in his hand with a white cloth over it and a note to Cadet_____ with the compliments of the Misses Williamsons. Now you can imagine what was under that cloth, besides having the compliments of two beautiful young ladies that you never knew before. Well, if this is the way one gets paid for fainting at dress parade I will certainly try to break my foot tomorrow evening and then fall down; but before I do this I will make a bargain with two fellows to have some chalk prepared for the occasion and as soon as I fall to rub it on my face and hands and then take me to Major Williamson’s, or Col. Gilham’s; it makes no difference which as both of them have prettie daughters and are equally distant from the Parade Ground; neither of them is over fiftenn yards.

If you have an opportunity to do do, please send me, together with the thing I have written for before, some flannel shirts and yarn gloves. I must now close as my iddeas are getting beautifully less. Give my love to Ma and tell her when she is eating peachesthat she must think of me and eat enough for us both. I got as many as I wanted today but had to pay .25 per dozen for them so you see our monthly allowance ($2.00) does not last long when apples are 20 cts and peaches 25 per doz., and watermelon $1.25 cts. and very scarce at that price. Write very soon and by every opportunity. Your devoted son, S.F. Atwill.



September 2, 1862

Samuel Atwill, studying at the Virginia Military Institute started this letter to his father 150 years ago.


V.M. Institute
Sept 2nd 1862

My dear Father-

As I have holiday today I will dedicate a portion of it, at least, in writing to you although I scarcely know what to write about as I have written several letters since I received one from you. It has been upward of a month since I received a letter from you, and I am afraid the Yankees have hemmed you entirely in.

You ought to have seen me yesterday when I went in to be examined; about twenty Subs and professors were sitting in a row; in the centre there sat “Old Spex” as big as life, resembling an old owl with a standing collar, and a pair of spex on; but I will not say any thing about the looks of this venerable gentleman for he certainly is as goodlooking as any monkey you ever saw; with a mouth sharp enough to pick peas out of a porter bottle. But enough of this; for you know how badly scared I was when I was in his presence, and while he was examining me. The examination is over now, and we have holiday until next Monday. I must now close for the present as the drum is beating for dress parade.



September 1, 1862

The final battle of the Northern Virginia Campaign was fought on this day in 1862 at Chantilly, Virginia. The engraving below depicts a dramatic charge led by General Philip Kearny. Kearny was killed in the action.

August 31, 1862

General Thomas Hillhouse telegraphed Secretary of War Edwin Stanton today. The War Department was badly in need of more troops, and New York furnished more than any other state.


ALBANY, August 31, 1862.




The One hundred and twenty-second Regiment left Syracuse for Washington, via

Albany, at 10 a.m. to-day. We hope to give you at least ten additional regiments this








Washington City, D.C., August 31, 1862.




Albany, N. Y.:


Your telegram received, and I am glad of the promise of ten regiments during the week.

They are much needed, for the exigency is pressing.



Secretary of War.



August 30, 1862

Today marked the end of the Second Battle of Manassas. The excerpt below is once again from Thomas J. Jackson’s after action report, and chronicles the events surrounding the Rebel victory, 150 years ago today.

…On the following day (30th) my command occupied the ground and the divisions the same relative position to each other and to the field which they held the day before, forming the left wing of the army, General Longstreet’s command forming the right, wing. A large quantity of artillery was posted upon a commanding eminence in the center. After some desultory skirmishing and heavy cannonading during the day the Federal infantry, about 4 o’clock in the evening, moved from under cover of the wood and advanced in several lines, first engaging the right, but soon extending its attack to the center and left. In a few moments our entire line was engaged in a fierce and sanguinary struggle with the enemy. As one line was repulsed another took its place and pressed forward as if determined by force of numbers and fury of assault to drive us from our positions. So impetuous and well sustained were these onsets as to induce me to send to the commanding general for re-enforcements, but the timely and gallant advance of General Longstreet on the right relieved my troops from the pressure of overwhelming numbers and gave to those brave men the chances of a more equal conflict. As Longstreet pressed upon the right the Federal advance was checked, and soon a general advance of my whole line was ordered. Eagerly and fiercely did each brigade press forward, exhibiting in parts of the field scenes of close encounter and murderous strife not witnessed often in the turmoil of battle. The Federals gave way before our troops, fell back in disorder, and fled precipitately, leaving their dead and wounded on the field. During their retreat the artillery opened with destructive power upon the fugitive masses. The infantry followed until darkness put an end to the pursuit.

Our loss was heavy; that of the enemy, as shown by the battle-field, of which we were in possession, much heavier. Among the losses was Colonel Baylor, commanding Winder’s brigade, who fell in front of his brigade while nobly leading and cheering it on to the charge.

We captured eight pieces of artillery, with their caissons, and 6,520 small-arms were collected from the battle-field.

It being ascertained next morning that the Federal Army had retreated in the direction of Centreville, I was ordered by the commanding general to turn that position. crossing Bull Run at Sudley Ford thence pursuing a country road until we reached the Little River turnpike, which we followed in the direction of Fairfax Court-House until the troops halted for the night…



August 29, 1862

Below is a continuation of Jackson’s after action report on the Battle of Second Manassas. This excerpt details the activities of the 29th of August.

…The next morning (29th) I found that he had abandoned the ground occupied as the battle-field the evening before and had moved farther to the east and to my left, placing himself between my command and the Federal capital. My troops on this day were distributed along and in the vicinity of the cut of an unfinished railroad (intended as a part of the track to connect directly with Alexandria), stretching from the Warrenton turnpike in the direction of Sudley’s Mill. It was mainly along the excavation of this unfinished road that my line of battle was formed on the 29th– Jackson’s division, under Brigadier-General Starke, on the right, Ewell’s division, under Brigadier-General Lawton, in the center, and Hill’s division on the left.
In the morning, about 10 o’clock, the Federal artillery opened with spirit and animation up on our right, which was soon replied to by the batteries of Poague, Carpenter, Dement, Brockenbrough, and Latimer, under Major [L. M.] Shumaker. This lasted for some time, when the enemy moved around more to our left to another point of attack. His next effort was directed against our left. This was vigorously repulsed by the batteries of Braxton, Crenshaw, and Pegram. About 2 p.m. the Federal infantry in large force advanced to the attack of our left, occupied by the division of General Hill. It pressed forward, in defiance of our fatal and destructive fire, with great determination, a portion of it crossing a deep cut in the railroad track and penetrating in heavy force an interval or’ nearly 175 yards, which separated the right of Gregg’s from the left of Thomas’ brigade. For a short time Gregg’s brigade, on the extreme left, was isolated from the main body of the command; but the Fourteenth South Carolina Regiment, then in reserve, with the Forty-ninth Georgia, left of Colonel Thomas, attacked the exultant enemy with vigor, and drove them back across the railroad track with great slaughter. General McGowan reports that the opposing forces at one time delivered their volleys into each other at the distance of 10 paces. Assault after assault was made on the left, exhibiting on the part of the enemy great pertinacity and determination, but every advance was most successfully and gallantly driven back.

General Hill reports that six separate and distinct assaults were thus met and repulsed by Iris division, assisted by Hays’ brigade, Colonel Forno commanding.

By this time the brigade of General Gregg, which from its position on the extreme left was most exposed to the enemy’s attack, had nearly expended its ammunition. It had suffered severely in its men, and all its field officers except two were killed or wounded. About 4 o’clock it had been assisted by Hays’ brigade (Colonel Forno). It was now retired to the rear to take some repose after seven hours of severe service, and General Early’s brigade, of Ewell’s division, with the Eighth Louisiana Regiment, took its place. On reaching his position General Early found that the enemy had obtained possession of the railroad and a piece of wood in front, there being at this point a deep cut, which furnished a strong defense. Moving through a field he advanced upon the enemy, drove them from the wood and railroad cut with great slaughter, and followed in pursuit some 200 yards; the Thirteenth Georgia at the same time advanced to the railroad and crossed with Early’s brigade. As it was not desirable to bring on a general engagement that evening General Early was recalled to the railroad, where Thomas, Pender, and Archer had firmly maintained their positions during the day. Early kept Iris position there until the following morning.

Brigadier-General Field and Colonel Forno (commanding Hays’ brigade) were severely wounded. Brigadier-General Trimble was also seriously wounded.

During the day a force of the enemy penetrated the wood in my rear, endangering the safety of my ambulances and train. Upon being advised of this by General Stuart I sent a body of infantry to drive them from the wood; but in the mean time the vigilant Pelham had unlimbered his battery and dispersed that portion of them which had reached the wood. At a later period Major [William] Patrick, of the cavalry, who was by General Stuart intrusted with guarding the train, was attacked, and although it was promptly and effectually repulsed, it was not without the loss of that intrepid officer, who fell in the attack while setting an example of gallantry to his men well worthy of imitation. During the day the commanding general arrived and also General Longstreet with his command…



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