Item description: Entry, 17 January 1862, from the diary of Thomas Bragg (Attorney General of the Confederate States of America, 1861-1863), written in Richmond, Va. Bragg comments on political gossip, pending legislation, the growing tension between the Confederate Government and its States, and Jefferson Davis’ temperament.
[Transcription available below images.]
Friday, January 17, 1862
The weather is yet mild – fair in the morning, but this evening damp and threatening rain. We have no military news today. The morning papers say that Cameron, Sec’y of War to the Yankee Gov’t has resigned and that Ed. Stanton of Pittsburg, but late a resident of Washington and Atto. Gen’l to Buchanan for the last few days of his administration has succeeded him. I doubt its truth. We hear nothing of the Burnside fleet. Another Cabinet meeting today. Several Acts of Congress laid before us for consideration – One to encourage the manufacture of arms, powder and salt petre, was laid before us a few days since, and the President endeavored to get Congress (privately) to reconsider & modify – The author of it, Smith of Alabama it seems was not willing to do it, after an interview with the President. The act is unnecessary, as all that is useful in the law can now be done under previous acts, and there are objectionable features. One makes it obligatory on the Sec’y of War to advance 50 per cent of the capital to be employed in any such enterprise when the applicant has expended 25 per cent of same, unless the Sec’y should deem the project impracticable or visionary – and there is no limit as to the time for which this is done. I think that the President will Veto the Bill. It is evident that there is not entire harmony between Congress and the President & Sec’y of War. He complains a good deal. Nor is there the best feeling between Mr. Stephens and the same – that was apparent today.
The President read a letter from Gen’l Polk saying Pillow resigned, as he said, because his claims to promotion had been disregarded. Polk was uneasy about his position, which he thought was about to be attacked. He has not more than 10,000 men & some gun boats &c whilst the enemy have three or four times that force, according to his best accounts. He also read letters from an officer in Gen’l Johnson’s command who gives a not very flattering picture of things in that part of Kentucky. The force of the enemy is greatly superior to ours, while the people of that State stand aloof and seem ready to take sides with the enemy should they prove stronger, or meet with success. Upon the whole, we have much to apprehend – not only that State but everywhere out of Va. Our great want is arms & ammunition – Mr. Benjamin thought that in a day or two some one of our vessels would get in with powder – It seems the cargo of the Gladiator at Nassau is to be broken up & transferred to small, fast steamers. But the Yankees have a virtual blockade of the port. In the midst of all this the Governors of the States, alarmed at their condition, are demanding a return of all arms sent with their troops to this State & not now in the hands of such troops – some have died and the Regiments are reduced in various ways – and when the time of the troops is up they claim to have the arms returned, though mostly seized in U.S. Arsenals. A long letter was read from Gov. Pickens on the subject. Brown of Geo. Has given much trouble and the Florida Gov. has not been behind them. Our own Gov. C. was not very favorably spoken of by the Sec’y of War.
Upon the whole the President was much irritated and declared if such was to be the course of the States towards the Gov’t the carrying on the war was an impossibility – that we had better make terms as soon as we could, and those of us who had halters around our necks had better get out of the Country as speedily as possible – I have not seen him so gloomy – I wish he was a dictator. He is an able and honorable man – somewhat irritable when opposed – wants to have his own way, but left to himself he would conduct things more wisely, safely and energetically than he can now. He and the Secretary both complain of the commanding Gen’l on the Potomac. They know not what has become of the arms which were captured in our battles and those which ought to be on hand owing to the great reduction of the numbers in our Regiments. Gen’l Cooper has gone to inspect the Army and he is instructed to report about the arms. Large numbers have been carried off by private persons.
I hear nothing of home today. Shall go over again tomorrow, unless detained by another Cabinet meeting.
Two men at Mrs. R’s tonight, of the Arkansas Regiment, and just from Jackson’s command, at Winchester. One is a Cap’n the other a private, but intelligent men. The Expedition effected but little. A small Rail Road Bridge was burnt – and some tents, military stores &c were left by the enemy in Romney and taken by our troops. They seem to have a poor opinion of Jackson’s military skill, and say such is the general opinion in his command. The troops were greatly exposed in a mountain country covered with snow and suffered severely-
I omitted to say in its proper connection above, that it was determined to hold on to the arms and Mr. Hunter, who is a member of the provisional Congress was requested to sound the delegations from the several States about the importance of the Government retaining arms sent here by the States, and if they responded favorably to get some action by that body to sustain the Executive. I fear it will not meet with favor, yet I do not see what else can be done. The most the arms ought by rights to belong to the Gov’t, as they were taken by the States from the U.S. Arsenals.