Southern Army Approaching the City of Washington, July 10-14, 1864

Mary Henry Diary, Southern Army - July, 1864 - Page 1

July 10th Sunday. Several persons were called out of church this morning exciting our curiosity and on coming out after service we were startled by the intelligence that a large body of Southern troops 40 or 50,000 in number were marching on Wash[ington] They had thrown the city of Baltimore into a state of intense excitement by their near approach---had cut the northern central railroad & burned Hagerstown. These reports have all been confirmed but there are various conflicting opinions entertained in regard to the supposed object of the enemy whether a raid, merely for purposes of plunder or a demonstration on Wash. to call off Gen. Grants troops from the vacinity of Petersburg is still a matter of conjecture. The quartermaster's clerks have all been ordered to report themselves for service in the defence of the city.
[July] 11th Mon[day]. The city in a state of intense excitement. Southerners said to be at Rockville & skirmishing with our pickets. After cutting the Northern central R.R. yesterday, they proceeded across the country cutting the telegraph wired on the Phil & Harford turnpike & burning the residence of Gov. Bradford about 5 miles from Baltimore--this was in retaliation 

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for the burning of Gov. Fletchers  (of Vir.) house by Gen Hunter. At Magnolia Station about 18 miles from Baltimore the bridge over Gunpowder Creek has been destroyed. 2 P.M. Mother just in from a shopping expedition. Says we are surrounded by rebels - city filled with refugees from the country, coming in with wagons filled with household effects. Rebels fighting at Tenally Town.

4 P.M. Mr. Gill brings news of the closer approach of the enemy. Mr. Shaw has come to offer his services in case they may be needed in defence of the Inst--Says the rebels are attacking Fort Mass. on Seventh St. We are going to the top of the high tower. (Top of the Lower) The city lies before us peaceful & beautiful in the rays of the setting sun. The broad river lost in the distance by a cloud of mist hanging low on the horizon is dotted here & there with boats two of which have moved with stelthy eager motion into the port of the Arsenal. We are told they are laden with troops. Dr. Hamlein & others have joined us. A jet of smoke rises curling off into the 

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rose colored clouds, disappearing & appearing again marks the scene of the conflict if there is any. Mr. De Bust who is looking through the glass reports signals from the top of the soldier's Home. We look & see the signal maker with his flag. A body of colored troops are moving down 12th we watch them as they move slowly along, their wives & little ones crowding the pavements. The sun is sinking lower now & sheding its last beams over a scene of such quiet beauty it seems to mock our excitement. The shadows of the towers strech longer & longer over green pasture below us. Gen Hamlin tells now if to night will the attack be made. Our hearts beat quicker. We look towards the distant Capitol the white house & wonder if it possible they can be in danger. But the little jets of smoke curl up lazily as before. The sun has gone down. Gen Hamlin rises to go, we follow one by one.
10 P.M. Have been in the city every thing quiet & orderly. The rebel force estimated at 45,000. Gen Blair's house 

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burned.
12th [July] Tuesday. Firing at 5 o'clock in the morning communication with Baltimore cut off. Firing again at 1 o'clock. nothing known. Went to drive in the afternoon with Mr. Gill went to terminus of 14th & 7th Sts. Driving first out Seventh we came to Campbell Hospital where at the top of a hill we were stopped by a man on horseback who forbade our going further. A number of people had collected here to see if anything could be seen or hear if any news was afloat. We retraced our steps & crossing over to Seventh street encountered the President coming into the city from the soldier home in an open barouch surrounded by a body guard of horsemen. Just beyond the college we were stopped as before & obliged to return.
[July] 13th Wed[nesday]. 11 A.M. No certain news--Rebels said to be retreating.

2 P.M. News of the retreat of the enemy confirmed. (Evening) went to drive with Father. Passing the railway yard near the Inst. saw it filled with engines. All 

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rolling railway stock had been sent to Alexandria by order of the President when the city was supposed to be in danger but had been sent back as rebels are said to be at Falls Church. Driving out 14th st we encountered about 75 prisoners escorted by mounted Officers. Their butternut dresses were soiled & torn but they seemed brave & undaunted & many of them were exceedingly fine looking. The tall Virginian amused me he moved sturdily alone in dignified disdain without one look of the curiousity indulged in by his companions. We encountered no other war indications, until we came to the hospital surrounding Columbia College. The poor invalids were enjoying the cool evening air lining the banks on each side of the road. One or two pale sad young faces excited my warm sympathy, they looked so much in need of home kindness & affection. Father nor we encountered the vedettes & were obliged to return. There were about 10 soldiers placed at the side of the road with two stand of arms stacked in front of them. One of the men came forward to speak 

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to us. He told us it was certain the rebels had retreated. Father said he was surprised to learn there had been quite a severe battle in the neighborhood. Oh no said the man only a skirmish."But we lost 300 men," said Father. "Oh, that is nothing," replied the man, "we don't consider that anything of a battle these days." Life has grown sadly cheap within the last few years. Turning down a side road, we found a soldiers station to guard a foot path across the fields further on another station upon a cross road. We were not molested again however until we came to the toll gate on Seventh St. Here we were told by a fine looking young Officer that the rebels had retreated toward the Potomac & our troops had gone to Tenally Town to endeavor to intercept them. The vedettes on Seventh St. road were much further out than last evening. On our return Mr. Bates called said the Southerners had greatly enriched themselves by the raid. [They] had carried off not only cattle & money but men & impressed them in the Southern army. 

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They certainly managed the affair well. Hagerstown was compelled to pay $20,000 to purchase her safety. The town was not burnt as reported. Some fears are entertained that the force of Southerners which alarmed us will unite with those at Falls Church & attack us from the South. Our fortifications are too strong in that direction to be taken.

[July] 14th Thurs[day]. The Blagdens here this morning. They live so near the scene of conflict we had felt very anxious about them. The first they knew of the state of affairs was the news which startled us all on coming out of church on Sunday. On riding home they saw an ambulance & some riders coming down the avenue & supposed the family were leaving but on a near approach found the party consisted of Col. McCook & staff in search of a place to establish headquarters. Numbers of our Union soldiers came to them during Mondy & Tuesday for food & drink but they suffered no especial inconvenience except from the fear 

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of losing their horses. They visited the scene of action & gave us a great desire to do so. Mary picked up a diary of one of the rebels who was interred while they were present. One poor fellow had been buried so hasitly his feet protruded from his grave. The nurse of her little brother whose husband was in the employ of Mr. Blair & now a Capt in the Army told them the rebels had entered her house burnt & torn her clothes before her face in retaliation they said for what her husband had probably done in the South. Took all the food she had for her children & then told her they would fire the house. She was leaving it when Breckenridge rode up & exclaiming indignantly at the brutality of the men ordered them from the premises & placed a guard there so that she should not suffer further molestation. Her little sons were much attached to a small donkey owned by Mr. Blair & left in their charge which had been seized by the rebels this they asked Mr. Breckenridge to restore to them. He did so but it was 

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afterwards seized again by, the rebels declaring it was old Blair's donkey & they must have it. Much of Mr. Blair's furniture was destroyed before Breckenridge could prevent but he succeeded in saving private papers & silver which were carefully packed & sent to a place of safety with a card saying "for the sake of old friendship." Breckenridge had enjoyed Mr. Blair's hospitality while planning a duel in the vacinity & had been treated with great kindness. At the house of Mr. the[y] found devastating traces of the rebels. The furniture was entirely destroyed and the yard strewn with letters of the most private & affectionate nature.

At 2 P.M. we started to view for ourselves. The first mark of the recent troubles we encounter near Fort Mass. A woman stood disconsolately by the side of the road near the remains of a house which had been burned. We asked her if she had suffered by the raid. She pointed to the ruins and told us that had been her home. A Union Officer came to her & asked her for some Kerosine oil. Suppose it was needed for the Fort she went 

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with alacrity for it. He then asked for lamp wick & cotton cloth which she also gave him. What do yo want to do with these things she asked, "Burn your house madame," was the cool reply. The poor woman was obliged to remove her property as best she could, losing most of it. Ruins of other burned houses, felled trees, & abatties fortifying the road next met our view until we came to a barricade completely across the road which compelled us to turn to the right & go through a field where we encountered rifle pits dug by our men. Beyond this we passed several houses burned or sacked before we came to M[ontgomery] B[lair]'s beautiful residence. The fence was torn down the gateway only remaining. As we drove through the grounds, we found various traces of the presence of the Southerners. The smouldering ashes of their camp fires, broken boxes, canteens &c., while innumberable poultry feathers testified to the havoc which had been made among the fowls. I doubt which a cock crow will be heard there for months. 

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The house we found guarded. It is delightfully situated, the avenue leading to it winding through rows a grove of magnificant forest trees, which completely hid it until a turn in the road brought it to view. Some of the servants were folding up a carpet & packing some articles at the side of the house. A number of carriages containing visitors were at the front. We went round to the back entrance picked up some hard tack, a song book, a pack of playing cards & some other trifles left by the rebels. We drove through the grounds to a lovely spring & then passed out into the highway again by a different road from that we came. Every where we found signs of the rebels, tin cups, ashes &c. As we came on to the turnpike we saw some persons in a grove opposite to us. We joined them & found some of the rebel graves. Several large square pits filled with straw had been prepared for the burial of others but were left unfilled in the hurry of departure. Further up the road we found some of the rebel wounded under three or four 

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miserable tents. In the first of these we found the Surgeon. A fine looking Off[icer] who had been left in charge of them. His frank, noble undaunted bearing interested us greatly. We asked if he was a prisoner. He said he thought he ought not to be considered such as had volunteered to remain with the wounded. His dress was rough & worn but he proved an exception to the rule that a taylor makes a gentleman. We asked if they had food. He answered proudly enough had been left to supply their wants up to that time. In the next tent two poor fellows lay shot through the head. One seem to be dying. He lay with his eyes closed breathing heavily. His features were delicate & regular & his forehead where the Sun had not reached it as fair as a girls. They both lay on the ground with only a little hay under them. A bright looking little fellow was switching off the flys. We asked him if he had enough to eat. Yes he answered merrily we always have that aren't you most tired of the war up here. 

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We left the two poor unconcious fellows with heavy hearts. There were 8 or ten in the next tent- one badly wounded in the leg but looking happy & contented as he lay on the grass switching away the flys with a spray of leaves. Outside the tent was a merry little Officer, one of those who had volunteered to take charge of the wounded. He cut off his rebel buttons for us & when we objected said with a laugh he would capture some union ones. "How long do you think it will take to make me a good union man," he asked of a bystander. A great while I should think said the person addressed as you say you would shoot your own Father were he on this side. Near the next tent a poor fellow was pouring water over a wound in his head; by him another of the volunteer nurse. He said he had remained because he could not leave his Lieut. & asked us to go into the tent to see him. He was lying on a blanket with clean linen & shaved a strong contast to the his appearance in strong contrast 

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with his surroundings.
His companions were dirty enough. Their uniforms were all dirt color then whatever they might have been originally. On our way home we visited a house which had been riddled with balls from the Fort. Some rebel Sharp shooters had been stationed here & protected by a pile of stones at the corner of the house one of them had picked off an Officer. It was afterwards occupied by our troops. Our rifle pits extended from the house to the road a distance of about 40 ft. They consisted of holes dug in the ground with a slight embankment of earth in front.
An Englishman called in the evening had also been at the scene of conflict. Had found upon the walls of one of the houses he visited numerous rebel inscriptions. On a marble top table the only article of furniture left in the parlor was inscribed, "This house is sacked in retaliation for the many homes made desolate in Virginia." On one of [the] bedroom walls "our complements to the ladies Sorry not to find them 

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at Home." A note picked up on the stairs contained an apology & regrets of the Officer in charge to the young lady of the house for the destruction of her wardrobe. A music book lay uninjured & beneath some lines addressed to my Mother in Heaven was written "Sacred to an abser orphaned rebel. The following is the purport of a letter addressed to the President found in the yard.

Dear Uncle Abraham--
We like the way you fight-- we hope you will be reelected.
We have come this time to show you what we can do we will return & give you another lesson. We have inlisted for 40 years or the war. Yours
The biggest rebel in the T country