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"So Ends The Great Rebel Army…”
To Union Colonel Charles S. Wainwright, Lincoln was a weak President, Grant an uninspired commander, Lee a slippery foe. His outspoken diary, never published before, memorably describes the Civil War’s final year
October 1962 | Volume 13, Issue 6
From full reports received from Sheridan and the newspaper accounts, it is now evident that his victory is even more complete than it at first appeared to be. He now claims thirty guns captured and sixteen hundred prisoners. Early’s army, they say, is entirely broken up.
Another move is on foot; we start at daylight tomorrow. Our whole corps is to go, with four days rations on the men and sixty rounds of ammunition. I am to take but ten rifled and twelve smooth-bore guns with us while the remainder hold the closed forts here.
Last night I sent off my proxy to Mr. Gillender to cast my vote for McClcllan. I was at last induced to vote from sheer distrust of those in power now, and the belief that any change must be for the better. As to the radical newspaper charges that McClellan would acknowledge secession if elected, they arc absurd nonsense. Major Duane has just returned from home, where he saw McClellan a number of times. General Hunt told me yesterday that Duane related to him a conversation he had had with McClellan, in which the general stated that should he be elected, he expected to be very unpopular the first year, as he should use every power possible to close the war at once, should enforce the draft strictly, and listen to no remonstrance until the rebellion was effectually quashed.
I have just now (ten P.M. ) got an order to be ready at four A.M. tomorrow instead of at daylight. We are to make another trial at turning Lee’s right so as to get possession of the South Side Road. O CTOBER 28, F RIDAY Back at the old spot again, and nothing accomplished! Nothing save a few hundred more men laid under the sod, and a thousand or two carried off with a ball in their body or minus a leg or arm. Two years ago such a failure would have raised a hornets’ nest about the ears of the commanding general, but now the country is accustomed to it, and the whole thing will be glossed over in some way.
The newspapers try to make the best of our failure last week, taking their cue from Grant’s dispatch to Washington, in which he calls the move a “reconnoissance.” This affords a vast deal of amusement in the army, considering there were greater exertions and preparations made for this expedition than any previous one. There must have been near 40,000 men on the trip, but not more than a quarter of them were really in the fight. I was told at army headquarters that the official reports put our entire loss at 1,904.
The newspapers we received today, and telegrams, we know enough of the election yesterday to show that the democratic hopes of a great change in public sentiment has not been realized; at least the change has not become great enough to induce people to swallow the Chicago pill. The result among those troops who cast their vote in the field in this corps was as follows:
For my own part, I am delighted that the election is over, and trust that having entire power secured to them now for another term of four years, the Republican party will prove itself more conservative than has been feared.
NOVEMBER 24, THURSDAY
This is “Thanksgiving Day” all over the country. Great preparations were made in New York City to supply all the soldiers with a turkey dinner, and the papers this week have been full of accounts of the cooking and packing. Unfortunately it did not get down in time for distribution this morning, though the cargoes arrived at City Point last night. Captain Steele tells me that the proportion to this corps will be 14,000 pounds of turkey, one hundred barrels of apples, with cranberry sauce and pies in like quantity. As the officers are to get some as well as the men, teamsters, hospitals, and all, the above amount will have to be divided among about 24,000, giving rather over a half-a-pound of turkey, one apple, and a bit of pie to each.
We, that is the Fifth Corps, are to move tomorrow morning at daylight. It is a mere raiding expedition for the purpose of destroying the Wcldon Railroad so far south from Stoney Creek as will prevent Lee from drawing any supplies from that direction. General Warren will have command, and in addition to all the infantry of his own corps, he is to have Mott’s division of the Second, and Gregg’s division of cavalry. DECEMBER 6, TUESDAY The batch of brevets for this corps arrived this evening. I get all those which I recommended for officers who are still present with me; also one for myself. That is an official notice of the appointment from Secretary Stanton, the actual commission depending on the confirmation of the appointment by the Senate. I shall therefore wait until I am confirmed before I assume the title, as I should not at all like to have to fall back to colonel after having once signed myself general.