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A Mission To The South

In April of 1865 a young man from Pennsylvania was sent south. I am grateful to my grandson for sharing his report of those historic days. My excerpts follow.

“Warren, Warren County, Pa. April 7th 1865. I write you hastily now as it is already past ten o’clock, and I expect to leave for Washington and the front, if possible to reach there, tomorrow A.M. James has been wounded in the thigh, severely though perhaps not dangerously, and I go on to reach him if I can and afford him all aid in my power.

“Monday Eve, Apr 10th. I left Warren last Saturday noon, rode all night, ferrying the river Susquehanna in flat boats twice during the night and changing cars at Harrisburg again in the morning. Reached Washington at about half past five P.M. Hunted the city thoroughly but found no wounded here from our County. Today I was engaged getting a pass &c. The man that came on with me, an elder in the church, failed to get a pass and hence stops in Washington till he hears from me at least. Washington is in a regular ferment today over the news of Lee’s surrender. After leaving the Medical Directors office this A.M. I joined the crowd and went to the White House, but Old Abe, just back from Richmond, declined to come out till P.M. Gov. Yates of Ill spoke briefly from the door. I spent some time in the capitol and it is truly a magnificent building.

“While at breakfast this morning a detachment of rebel prisoners marched through here, under guard of black soldiers, rather humbling to them. They were a rough looking set, and many apparently were very young. Few were very old. Yesterday we saw a detachment of some five or six hundred rebel officers come into Baltimore. They were physically a fine looking set of men and many of them still seemed proud and haughty in their bearing.

“Tuesday, A.M. On James River. There are many ducks in Hampton Roads. The country along the shores all the way down and especially about the James appeared very beautiful, apple trees being in bloom and other trees fully leaved out and the prospect would be fine if it was not drizzling dreary, wet day. We passed the site of Jamestown but now all that remains is a dilapidated house and part of one end of an old church.

“I searched in Baltimore, Washington, City Point, Va, Point of Rocks, Petersburg and beyond and Philadelphia and got no satisfaction. Had rather a hard time but saw some thing of the world. Walked from City Point to Point of Rocks and thence to Petersburg without a pass alone, and in spite of the guerrillas that infest the region. Started from Petersburg after dark in a hard rain and rode on top of the hind freight car of a train. The cars were filled inside with wounded men and on top with those sick and probably slightly wounded. It was a rough ride and I had one or two narrow escapes from slipping or being knocked off the train. I got well wet but was rejoiced to get back alive and uninjured. I was out over the ground where the battles were fought, in the hospital, through the camps and I saw enough of war and its devastating effects. The country is a fine one but desolate.

“On Thursday morning I searched the 9th Corps hospital once more. Started North on the boat James T. Brady at about ten o’clock A.M. There were also several confederate prisoners who had taken the oath of allegiance, one of whom told me that Lee’s army had not had enough to eat for eighteen months, their allowance being a pint of meal (mead?) and a little pork per day.

“In Petersburg flour was some time ago only $925 per barrel. When I was there confederate money was plenty and no takers at three cents per dollar. Our men had taken possession and were starting the stores again. The prices were not exorbitant (sic) under the circumstances. Tell my brother his $60. came from a confederate prisoner.

“Warren April 20th 1865. I reached home last Monday night, having got trace of all the Warren boys except James and none of him since he was carried into the Field Hospital. I am back here now safe and sound though much troubled at not finding James.

“Warren Apr 30th ’65. You before this must have rec’d my letter written soon after my return from the front. I left Washington a few hours before Lincoln was murdered. The man who went to Washington with me was buried last Thursday. He started back to New York to see his brother, was taken sick on the way and died before his wife or friends could reach him. . . The order discharging drafted men returns a portion of our bounty money subscribed to us … We had quite a successful demonstration here in commemoration of Pres’t Lincoln. I worked part of two days in arranging and draping the church for the occasion. My picture of Lincoln was suspended over the pulpit and draped with crape … We hear nothing from James. It is strange. I have written to several about him but get no information.

“May 11 ’65. I wrote you on a slip of paper that James was dead. We have few particulars. He died before I reached the front, probably before I left Warren. I think he is buried at Mead’s Station. [His mother] received James revolver &c a few days ago but no particulars of his death, which was entire unexpected by his comrades. He was very much liked and respected by his company, and is sincerely grieved by his many friends. It is sad, it is terrible. We at home don’t realize what war is until it is brought home to us in this way.”

Susan Crossett has lived outside Cassadaga for more than 20 years. A lifetime of writing led to these columns as well as two novels. “Her Reason for Being” was published in 2008 with “Love in Three Acts” following in 2014. Both novels are now available at Lakewood’s Off the Beaten Path bookstore. Information on all the Musings, her books and the author may be found at Susancrossett.com.

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