Item description: Entry, 31 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 the Burnside Expedition, troop levies, military commanders, and Northern politics.
[Transcription available below images.]
Friday, January 31, 1862
The weather was clear & mild this morning – but in the course of the forenoon it clouded up and this evening it is damp and chilly. James Cuthbert called to see me this morning, from Petersburg. He came over on business connected with the Bank of Petersburg of which he is Cashier. My family were pretty well, but tells me that one of the servants, Frances, had had a chill. This is the fourth case and I fear there is some local cause. Probably the basement of the House, which is damp and cold.
I was called to a Cabinet meeting while he was at my office. The principal matter was to determine in advance what course was to be pursued by the Government towards Hamilton Fish of N. York, and Bishop Ames of the Methodist Church North, who we see from an Order of the War Department of the Gov’t at Washington published in the Northern papers, are appointed Commissioners to proceed to Richmond and with the assent of the authorities look into the condition of their prisoners in the Confederate States and provide for their wants & comforts. This order has been probably published to allay the clamor at the North on the subject of exchanges, which their Gov’t has not been inclined to make regularly. The President stated that Vice President Stephens had been to him & urged their reception, notwithstanding the outdoor opposition to the same, he being of the opinion that there was more in it than appeared, and that they had other propositions, perhaps looking to peace, to submit. This is not probable. The matter was freely discussed, and it was proposed to instruct Gen’l Huger on the subject, supposing they would come under a flag from Old Point. The difficulty was how to give instructions to answer, when we did not know in what shape the matter might be presented. The President said he did not wish to stand upon any formality so far as he was individually concerned in addressing the Gov’t here – and that we might want the same privilege extended to us. The opinion of each member was called for. My own was that they should be required to communicate with the Gov’t by meeting their flag – they could transmit what they had to offer or to say to Gen’l Huger – that they should be informed that he would return an answer the same day or next – and that Gen’l Huger should be instructed to answer them, that any communication they might desire to be sent to the Government here, would be forwarded here and an answer returned to them without delay. By this means the whole matter could be managed here and they could be allowed to come here or not as might seem advisable. My opinion is they will balk at the outset. They will not be willing to address the Government here, as a Government, but will probably ask Gen’l Huger for permission to come direct to Richmond. But I don’t see how we can insist upon less or that there is any impropriety in requiring it. This suggestion was adopted.
Among other things the President spoke of Gen’l Jackson lately commanding expedition to Northwest as utterly incompetent, and in reply to a question of the Sec’ y of War what was to be done with the Army, said he supposed it must be ordered to Winchester.
He said the place where troops were most needed now was East Tennessee. Nothing had been heard from there lately, or from the enemy since the battle of Somerset. Pillow had withdrawn his resignation and it was determined to send him back to Columbus. I fear he & Polk will never get along together. Beauregard had also been ordered to the same point. The President spoke of his engineering talent as good, but did not seem to entertain a high opinion of his talents as a General.
Mr. Benjamin produced a list of the troops furnished by each State since the War – amounting in all to about 320,000 men. Of course the number is reduced much below that amount now. About 90 Regiments, considerably less than one third, were for the War – No. Ca. had supplied some 47 or 48,000 men. A call is to be made upon the States for more troops in proportion to their white population.
The papers this morning contain Northern accounts from the Burnside fleet, substantially as I have given before – they suffered a good deal from the storm, more no doubt than appears, losing a good many of their vessels &c., but they were engaged in getting others into the Sound. Doubtless the force is greatly demoralized – We shall however hear from them I apprehend ere long, and much will depend upon the result of the first onset. If that fails, the whole will fail.
The Danville & Greensboro Rail Road bill failed for lack of one vote – the vote was by States & some States were equally divided – N. Ca. was one of them – there was a motion to reconsider which Mr. Memminger thought would carry.