This Week In 1865: Confederate Diary posts for March 4-5, 1865

NOTE: General Jubal Early commanded the last Confederate force in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. On March 2, 1865, in an encounter at Waynesboro with cavalry units under Union General Philip H. Sheridan, Early’s army was defeated, routed, and for all practical purposes, disbanded.

Saturday, March 4, 1865

J. B. Jones

John Beauchamp Jones (1810-1866) was a writer who worked in the Confederate War Department in Richmond during the war. His diary was published in 1866 as “A Rebel War Clerk’s Diary at the Confederate States Capital.”

“Gen. Early’s little army is scattered to the winds”

We have vague reports of Early’s defeat in the Valley by an overwhelming force; and the gloom and despondency among the people are in accordance with the hue of the constantly-occurring disasters.

Confederate General Jubal A. Early

Confederate General Jubal A. Early

Gen. Early’s little army is scattered to the winds… Sheridan advanced to Scottsville; and is no doubt still advancing. Lynchburg is rendered unsafe; and yet some of the bureaus are packing up and preparing to send the archives thither. They would probably fall into the hands of the enemy.

Brig.-Gen. J. Gorgas, Chief of Ordnance, has been rebuked by Gen. Lee for constantly striving to get mechanics out of the service. Gen. Lee says the time has arrived when the necessity of having able-bodied men in the field is paramount to all other considerations.

Brig.-Gen. Preston (Bureau of Conscription) takes issue with Gen. Lee on the best mode of sending back deserters to the field. He says there are at this time 100,000 deserters!

Two P. M. There is almost a panic among officials here who have their families with them, under the belief that the city may be suddenly evacuated, and the impossibility of getting transportation. I do not share the belief–that is, that the event is likely to occur immediately.

Gen. Lee was closeted with the Secretary of War several hours to-day. It is reported that Gen. L.’s family are preparing to leave the city.

George H. Murphy

George H. Murphy (born c. 1836 in Martinsburg, VA) was a lawyer who first joined the Confederate army in 1861. From May of 1864 he was a 2nd Lieutenant in the 23rd Virginia Cavalry. At the beginning of March, 1865, he was trying to get to Gen. Early’s army after a furlough.

“We know how badly in need of Cavalry Genl. Early is, but to get to him is impossible.”

The day spent in rolling ten pins. Cannot learn whether our Brigade has left Pendelton for the Valley.

Am in a quandary what to do. The enemy are between Staunton and Waynesboro. No possible chance of getting there. The roads miserable. Do not like the idea of laying here idle when we know how badly in need of Cavalry Genl. Early is, but to get to him is impossible.

Sunday, March 5, 1865

J. B. Jones

“Gen. Early, when last seen, was flying, and pursued by some fifteen well-mounted Federals, only fifty paces in his rear.”

I saw an officer yesterday from Early’s command. He said the enemy entered Charlottesville on Friday at half-past 2 o’clock P. M., between 2000 and 3000 strong, cavalry, and had made no advance at the latest accounts. He says Gen. Early, when last seen, was flying, and pursued by some fifteen well-mounted Federals, only fifty paces in his rear. The general being a large heavy man, and badly mounted, was undoubtedly captured. [NOTE: Early was not captured]. He intimated that Early’s army consisted of only about 1000 men! Whether he had more elsewhere, I was unable to learn. I have not heard of any destruction of property by the enemy.

There is still an accredited rumor of the defeat of Sherman. Perhaps he may have been checked, and turned toward his supplies on the coast. I learn by a paper from Gen. Gorgas, Chief of Ordnance, that the machinery of the workshops here is being moved to Danville, Salisbury, and other places in North Carolina. He recommends that transportation be given the families of the operatives; and that houses be built for them, with permission to buy subsistence at government prices, for twelve months, that the mechanics may be contented and kept from deserting. This would rid the city of some thousands of its population, and be some measure of relief to those that remain. But how long will we be allowed to remain? All depends upon the operations in the field during the next few weeks-and these may depend upon the wisdom of those in possession of the government, which is now at a discount.

The Secretary of the Treasury is selling gold for Confederate States notes for reissue to meet pressing demands; the machinery for manufacturing paper money having just at present no certain abiding place. The government gives $1 of gold for sixty of its own paper; but were it to cease selling gold, it would command $100 for $1.

Ron Franklin

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About RonElFran

Ron Franklin is pastor of Covenant Community Church in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
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