As General Grant tightened his grip on Richmond, and Sherman was coming up from behind, residents of the city looked forward fearfully to its evacuation by General Lee’s army.
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. Lee’s family, it is rumored, are packing up to leave [Richmond].”
It is now reported that Gen. Early made his escape, and that most of his men have straggled into this city.
The President and his wife were at church yesterday; so they have not left the city; but Gen. Lee’s family, it is rumored, are packing up to leave.
Twelve M. They are bringing boxes to the War Office, to pack up the archives. This certainly indicates a sudden removal in an emergency. It is not understood whether they go to Danville or to Lynchburg; that may depend upon Grant’s movements. It may, however, be Lee’s purpose to attack Grant; meantime preparing to fall back in the event of losing the day.
Four days hence we have a day of fasting, etc., appointed by the President; and I understand there are but three day’s rations for the army–a nice calculation.
Gen. Johnston telegraphs the Secretary that his army must suffer, if not allowed to get commissary stores in the North Carolina depots. The Secretary replies that of course his army must be fed, but hopes he can buy enough, etc., leaving the stores already collected for Lee’s army, which is in great straits.
Tuesday, March 7, 1865
J. B. Jones
“Preparations to evacuate the city are still being made with due diligence. “
Preparations to evacuate the city are still being made with due diligence. If these indications do not suffice to bring the speculators into the ranks to defend their own property (they have no honor, of course), the city and the State are lost; and the property owners will deserve their fate. The extortioners ought to be hung, besides losing their property. This would be a very popular act on the part of the conquerors.
The packing up of the archives goes on, with directions to be as quiet as possible, so as “not to alarm the people.” A large per cent. of the population would behold the exodus with pleasure!
Emma Florence LeConte (1847-1932) lived in Columbia, SC and witnessed Sherman’s burning of the city.
“We live in absolute ignorance while our fate is being decided”
We can hear nothing from our army. For the first time we are without the excitement of daily telegraphic news and I miss the breakfast-table discussions of the war news and the movements of the forces. We live in absolute ignorance while our fate is being decided, and speedy peace and long-continued war are trembling in the balance. At all events we miss perhaps a thousand unfounded and conflicting rumors. We are hoping for intervention, but that may mean humiliating concessions. If recognition meant the opening of our ports only that would be all we would ask. Once freely supplied with materials for war we would soon be independent. That is all we need.
Wednesday, March 8, 1865
J. B. Jones
“It may be feared the war is about to assume a more sanguinary aspect and a more cruel nature than ever before”
President Lincoln’s short inaugural message, or homily, or sermon, has been received. It is filled with texts from the Bible. He says both sides pray to the same God for aid – one upholding and the other destroying African slavery. If slavery be an offense, and woe shall fall upon those by whom offenses come, perhaps not only all the slaves will be lost, but all the accumulated products of their labor be swept away. In short, he “quotes Scripture for the deed” quite as fluently as our President; and since both Presidents resort to religious justification, it may be feared the war is about to assume a more sanguinary aspect and a more cruel nature than ever before. God help us! The history of man, even in the Bible, is but a series of bloody wars. It must be thus to make us appreciate the blessings of peace, and to bow in humble adoration of the great Father of all. The Garden of Eden could not yield contentment to man, nor heaven satisfy all the angels.
Another report of the defeat of Sherman is current to-day, and believed by many.