From The Constitution, Wednesday, April 29, 1863 (volume 26, number 1322)
The most important news of the week is the announcement of the passage of the Vicksburg batteries by six of our gunboats and three transports. One of the transports was set on fire and destroyed. There are now eleven gunboats below Vicksburg, including three under Farragut.
The rebels acknowledge the loss of the steamers Queen of the West and Diana. The former was blown up by a shell from the federal gunboat Calhoun. The Diana was burned by the rebels. One hundred and six prisoners and several commissioned officers were captured from the Queen of the West.
The news received yesterday from New Orleans is important and very encouraging. On the 17th Gen. Banks had reached Vermillionville, after a hard fight at Vermillion Bayou, where the rebels had posted batteries and infantry. The enemy were driven back after hard fighting with considerable loss on both sides. It was expected that Gen. Banks would capture Opelousas on the 18th, and occupy it. Prior to Thursday night, the 16th, about a thousand prisoners had been brought into Franklin, captures of whole companies of rebels being made at a time. Large stores of arms and ammunition were taken. There had been a battle at Irish Bend, in which the 13th Connecticut charged the rebel lines and batteries supported by four other regiments including the 25th Connecticut, and defeated them. The rebel force at Bethel and Irish Bend amounted to 10,000. Over 1,500 prisoners are in our hands. Our wounded, numbering 179, have been removed to New Orleans.
A dispatch from Memphis states that six more transports have succeeded in running the blockade at Vicksburg.
The rebels, 8,000 strong, attacked Cape Girardeau, Mo., on Sunday, and were repulsed after a three hours fight.
Treason in the Army.—It has been a mystery how the plans of the commanding General of the Army of the Potomac have always appeared to be made known to the rebels as soon as they were divulged to any portion of our own army. There was known to be treason somewhere within our lines ; but hitherto it has baffled all investigation. A few days since a discovery was made. A sentinel in Falmouth, stationed outside a building on the river bank, heard a suspicious noise inside the building. He made due report, and search was instituted. A party of four or five persons was discovered, one of whom was working a telegraph instrument, and sending messages by a submarine wire across the Rappahannock. The villains were arrested. Such men are traitors of the deepest dye. The punishment for such an offence, according to the laws of war, is death.
The Negro Troops in Florida.—L. D. Stickney, United States Tax Collector of Florida and South Carolina, reported to the Government the absolute success of the experiment of arming and organizing the slaves. He says that the late expedition, which took and held Jacksonville, Fla., was composed entirely of black troops. They held the post two weeks, were engaged almost every day with superior numbers of the rebels, and in every instance drove them. Afterward, these black troops were reinforced by a white regiment—the Sixth Connecticut Volunteers—by no means favorable to negro soldiers. In an engagement with the rebel cavalry and artillery, the Sixth Connecticut supported the First and Second South Carolina (colored.) After a severe engagement, in which the blacks were victorious, this white regiment declared it had no further prejudices against negroes who showed such pluck.
While our troops occupied Jacksonville, the rebel camp was eight miles distant. The commander of the United States forces, before making an attack, wished to destroy a railroad bridge three miles in the rear of the enemy. A negro volunteered to perform this perilous feat. Taking three days’ rations in his knapsack, a bottle of turpentine, a box of matches and a pair of Colt’s revolvers, he disappeared at night. The third day after he returned, having burned the bridge and reconnoitered the enemy’s camp, so as to furnish much valuable information.
A former expedition up St. Mary’s River by five companies of the first regiment South Carolina Volunteers, furnished equally conclusive evidence of the bravery of the negro troops. Marching at night through a thick wood, they were attacked by rebel cavalry. At the first discharge one man was killed and four wounded ; but instead of a panic, the blacks promptly returned the fire, emptying twelve rebel saddles at the first discharge. The uniform testimony of all the officers is that the colored troops, when brought under fire, need check more than spur.
Opportunities are now offered for black soldiers to show whether they have any fighting qualities or not. The popular opinion has been that they have not, and that they never could be made good soldiers. If received into the army at all, the impression was that they should be armed with nothing more formidable than shovels and spades, and should be employed in digging trenches. But men like Generals Hunter and Butler proposed that black men should fight as well as dig. They succeeded in having arms put into their hands, and having them drilled in to a knowledge of all the duties of a soldier. Popular sentiment was against it, and the Administration doubted the expediency of the plan. But the movement was under the direction of men who were not easily turned aside. The negroes were enrolled and put through the manual precisely as if their cuticle had been of a different color. They became United States soldiers, and were instructed in the use of the weapons of a soldier. Would they fight and could they be relied on? A class of our politicians said they would run at the first sight of their old masters. Conservative men shook their heads. But the question has been answered, and in a manner to satisfy the most obstinate doubters. They can fight, and have shown the characteristics of good soldiers. On more than one occasion they have been in action, and their officers testify without hesitation to their good fighting qualities.
This result is particularly gratifying at this time, for it assures the Government of a plenty of material at hand for fighting purposes. It will probably obviate the necessity of making much of a draft upon white men, and relieve our people of all fears of a forced service in the army.
Pay of the Soldiers.
At the beginning of this year Government was largely in arrears in the payment of its dues to soldiers. Such a fact was much to its discredit, and operated unfavorably in the army and through the country. But whatever may have been wanting then has been atoned for by the activity and energy which has since been displayed. Within the last few weeks many millions of dollars have found their way from the U. S. Treasury into the pockets of the soldiers, and a few days since it was announced that the Treasury Department had just delivered to the Paymaster General the sum of seven millions which pays off all back accounts with the soldiers. No complaints can now be made that the Government has not fully performed its part of the contract with the men who have nobly gone forth to fight the battles of their country. Justice and honor and policy all require that the soldiers should be paid promptly. By this course thousands of families will be saved from anxiety and suffering, and the men will perform their duties with more alacrity and courage. The Government will probably keep accounts square hereafter with the brave men in the field.
Camp of the 14th C. V., near Falmouth, Va.
April 9th, 1863.
To the Editor of the Constitution :
Dear Sir—I cannot describe to you the thrill of delight experienced by the loyal men of this regiment when intelligence of the result of the recent election in Connecticut reached us. None at home had watched more anxiously for the hour when the result should be known than had we here.
Now we are ready for the campaign which we presume is only just before us. We will meet and endure all the toils and dangers of the fierce and bloody campaign for the sake of our beloved country, feeling confident that God’s favor is with us, and remembering that loyalists are in power at home.
The 14th is in good condition now. Although much reduced in number from our original status, the men who remain are generally in excellent condition of health and spirits.
We do not know Gen. Hooker’s plans, (who does?) but we have always believed he would move us whenever the weather and the roads would permit. Hitherto during the spring the weather and the condition of the roads have made it impossible for the army of the Potomac to move for any important undertaking. Only last Sabbath, the 5th, we were favored with a snow storm, the snow making nearly a foot in depth. The weather was so chilly that for two or three days subsequently the snow did not melt. To day the weather has been of the April cast, more mild and pleasant than it has been this month. The roads are rapidly drying, and if this weather continues will, in a few days, afford no obstacle to a “move.” Yesterday our regiment participated in the “grand review.” Several corps of infantry were arrayed on a large field about four miles from this camp. President Lincoln, accompanied by Gen. Hooker and a large and brilliant staff, rode through all the corps to review us, himself the object of the interested gaze of tens of thousands—by none was he looked upon with more intense interest than by your correspondent. When the whole force marched “in review” past the President and Staff, the spectacle was splendid. Nearly all in the vast assemblage were armed and uniformed men. A very few ladies, richly dressed and finely mounted, graced the scene. A few men dressed in citizens garb were present. At such a place one realizes that he is in a community of soldiers, away from dear home and home society.
Enough for the present. I thought it possible you and your readers would like to hear from the 14th, which is my excuse for intruding.
H. S. S.
The Emperor of France has been remarkably successful hitherto in all his military enterprises. He has never met with a failure. These successes have made him popular with the French people, who are always pleased with military triumphs. When he entered upon his projects in Mexico, whatever they may have been, he no doubt calculated that his usual good fortune would attend him. But thus far his Mexican expedition has not prospered. It has encountered reverses and met with difficulties. The Mexicans have shown an unexpected valor, and have repulsed the veteran soldiers of France. It has been announced that the Emperor means to withdraw his forces from Mexico ; but this would be a plain acknowledgement of defeat, and might seriously damage his popularity at home. Accounts from the French army have been conflicting of late, and we are left in the dark as to the exact state of things. Enough is known, however, to make it certain that the prospect is not very encouraging of a speedy entrance into the city of Mexico.
The State Normal School.—The last legislature declined to make its usual appropriation for the Normal School through the opposition of a few individual members. The Trustees have issued a circular addressed to the people of Connecticut stating the claims of the school in a brief and forcible manner. We hope the legislature which is about to meet will refuse to be influenced by the few individuals who can always be found to decry any public institution which costs something, but which brings no immediate profits into their pockets. The State Normal School has done much to benefit the cause of common schools in this State, by giving our schools a much better class of teachers than they had formerly, by inducing the erection of better school houses, and the introduction of an improved system of instruction. The people of Connecticut will lose much, and the next generation will lose more, if public patronage is to be so withdrawn from the Normal School that it must cease to go on.
The Sentinel intimates that it was a part of Miss Anna E. Dickinson’s mission to this city to inaugurate a Woman’s Loyal League. Her visit here had no reference whatever to the formation of such a society. The Sentinel calls these organizations “disgraceful and contemptible organizations.” After the course taken by that paper in its opposition to the government, we submit that it is not in a position to decide what is “disgraceful and contemptible.” The loyal women of Middletown have done much in support of the government in this war, and by their noble and patriotic conduct have put to shame the “disgraceful and contemptible” course of disloyal men. All honor to the true hearted women who have stood by their country in the hour of need, and shame upon the men who will libel them for their self devotion !
The River.—The freshet has declined very gradually for the last few days and the lower wharves are not yet out of water. Water street is in a very moist condition, but is generally navigable for wheels. Travel has been re-established over the causeway to the Farms and over the turnpike to Cromwell. The highest rise of the water this spring has been about eighteen feet.
The Weather.—Average temperature for the week at 6 o’clock A. M. has been 38 degrees. The air has been chilly, and we have had what is called “freshet weather.” On Friday and Saturday there was a cold northeast rain storm.
Dark.—It is generally admitted to be unnecessary to light the street lamps whenever the sun or the moon shines. This rule holds good always without exception in the case of the sun. It shines if it is cloudy, and the aid of street lamps is never wanted. But last Friday night anybody who was so unfortunate as to be out of doors could see that it was a capital mistake to suppose that because there was a moon there must be light on the sidewalks. Lunar rays did not penetrate those clouds, and navigation through the city was about as difficult as on Long Island sound in a snow storm. Would it not be well to make some exceptions in cases where there is no moonlight although there is a moon?
Everything is very cheap in Japan. A first class house can be purchased for thirty dollars. Servants work for fifty cents a month. For the use of a horse and groom, one dollar and a half. A person can live comfortably in Japan for two cents a day, or fourteen cents a week.
For occasional sallies of genuine original wit, give us a country grocery, winter evenings and rainy days, and the bar-rooms of country hotels. As an instance, take the following, which occurred in a bar-room not long since. There was quite a collection, and our friend, A., who is a democrat, and friend M., who is a republican, had been earnestly but pleasantly discussing politics, and as a lull took place in conversation, A. spoke as follows :
‘M., how many public men are there who are really temperance men?’
‘O, I don’t know,’ replied M.
‘Well,’ said A., ‘I don’t know but one that I can speak positively of on our side, and that is Gen. Cass.’
‘Well,’ said M., promptly, ‘there is President Lincoln, on our side, certain.’
‘Guess not,’ said A., incredulously.
‘Guess yes,’ replied M., warmly.
‘But you don’t pretend to say that President Lincoln is a temperance man, do you?’ asked A.
‘Yes, I do,’ answered M., ‘and can maintain the statement.’
‘Well, now, I tell you that Abraham Lincoln is as fond of his tod as any man living,’ replied A., earnestly, ‘and I can prove it to you.’
‘Well, I tell you that he isn’t,’ replied M., who began to get excited ; ‘he is as pure and strict a temperance man as there is in the country.’
‘I contend,’ replied A., with provoking coolness, ‘that Abraham Lincoln is so fond of his tod that it is the last thing he thinks of when he goes to bed, and the first when he awakes in the morning.’
‘It’s a confounded locofoco lie !’ exclaimed M., springing to his feet.
‘Hold on, friend M.,’ said A., ‘what was Lincoln’s wife’s name before she married?’
‘Todd by Thunder!’ exclaimed M., jump[ing] more than a foot from the floor ; ‘boys let’s adjourn to the other room.’
No Mistake.—Generals may make sad blunders in the field ; but it does not necessarily follow in so plain a thing as the purchasing of clothes, that we should imitate their example, especially as we have but to visit the clothing warehouse of Baldwin & Co., 70 & 72 Bowery, N. Y., and make our selections from one of the largest, most fashionable and cheapest stocks of ready made goods in the city. We can say that he who wishes to replenish his wardrobe need make “no mistake” at Baldwin’s. He is certain to have there is every want in the clothing line gratified at figures that will satisfy him.