“Grant Can Not Continue as He Has Been Doing Much Longer”

On this day 150 years ago Captain John Christopher Winsmith of the 1st South Carolina Infantry penned the following letter to his mother back in Spartanburg, South Carolina. It reflects a good deal of pessimism about the state of the Union army, Grant’s leadership, and morale on the Northern home front. Winsmith, like many Confederates at this time, continued to believe that victory was possible through the summer of 1864 if each man performed his duty. Interesting to note that Winsmith shares that the men in his unit were “well supplied with rations” at this late stage in the war in contrast with the popular image of starving Confederates. After the loss of Winsmith’s body servant, Spencer, in the summer of 1862 he was replaced by Miles, who remained with him until the end of his military career in October 1864.

Near Pamunkey River, Va.1
12 miles from Richmond, June 8, 1864

My Dear Mother: I have received your letter of the 30th ult, and yesterday Kate’s of the 2d inst came to hand, from both of which I was delighted to learn that all the dear ones at home were quite well.

My last letter was of the 5th to Janie, since which time we have had rather a quiet time. The enemy seems to be moving down to our right, and has nearly gone from our front. Grant, in case he fails to cross the Chickahominy, may move to James River and endeavor to operate on the South side; but his efforts, I think, will be as disastrous there as they have been here. The Yankees I have seen recently seem to be worn out and tired of the fighting. Grant can not continue as he has been doing much longer: he will have to pause to recruit and organize his army. Delay will be bad for Grant, but cannot affect Lee to disadvantage. The people of the North must surely now begin to think seriously of what they are doing, and a pause in the fighting may give the peace men an ascendancy. Altogether, therefore, I think hopes that the —- war will end this year are not entirely unfounded. But it is our duty to put forth our whole strength in order to be prepared for any emergency.

Our Corps is now commanded by Lt Gen. R. H. Anderson. It is reported that Col Bratton has been appointed our Brigadier, and I hope it may be so: he has not yet received his commission. My appointment, I think, will not be deferred much longer. As soon as Bratton receives his appointment, I will urge hi to make mine at once.

I am quite well and getting on well. Jim Moore is in command of the Co. Bearden is back at the Division Hosp. a little sick and “broke down.” He will probably return in a few days. Several of the Co are off with measels, Elias Harrison, Jim Smith, Sanford Smith, Bob Taylor, and Yarbrough’s son, but I hope they will soon be well enough to return. Abel Wofford, I hear, has been quite sick, and I think he is pretty well used up. He seems to have but little energy and spirit of the slightly wounded. O. P. Bearden, Edgar West and J. K. Taylor are now with the co doing duty. We are very well supplied with rations and the men are in good condition. I have sent another list of casualties to the Guardian” and hope it may be received. Of the killed, Corpl. Prather was from Laurens, and O’Daniel from York.

Miles is quite well and getting on well. He sends howdye to all.

I have a pr of pretty good Yankee boots which will do me till Father can send the shoes.

I hope the girls have reached home safely and that all are well. My love to all at home, and howdye to all the negroes.

I am your affect [and] obt Son,


1 Winsmith letters are located at the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia.

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1 comment… add one
  • Bryce Hartranft Jun 8, 2014 @ 6:10

    Southern hopes for a copperhead victory in the 1864 election should not be under-appreciated for they were both widespread and well-founded. War weariness over Grant and Sherman’s growing casualty lists was a great fear for the Lincoln administration. Gideon Welles on June 20 wrote “Our troops have suffered much and accomplished but little. The immense slaughter of our brave men chills and sickens us all,” and Thurlow Weed said “The people are wild for peace.”

    It is not as if the Confederates gave up. Even as late as July 1864 the Rebels were able to send a sizable force north through the Shenandoah Valley, rout a federal army at Monocacy and threaten Washington D.C.. With stalemate in Virginia and Georgia and rebel armies marching on the capital, how were people to know in June that Atlanta would be captured in September.

    In addition, many Republicans were scared by Lincoln’s uncompromising stance on no peace without the end of slavery. Doris Kearns Goodwin writes how Thurlow Weed complained, the people “are told that the President will only listen to terms of Peace on condition Slavery be ‘abandoned.'” She goes on to say “Deeply disheartened, Weed and other leading Republicans became convinced that their party would be defeated in November. Weed journeyed to Washington during the first week in August and told Lincoln ‘that his re-election was an impossibility.'”

    Lincoln himself even gave in to doubtful thinking. In August he wrote a memorandum stating “This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probably that this Administration will not be re-elected.” On election day itself Lincoln despairingly admitted “…about this thing I am very far from being certain. I wish I were certain.”

    The end of the war was far from decided in the summer of 1864 and this source is a refreshing reminder of that. More credence to the importance of your Battle of the Crater.

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