The New Year, 1863 and 1865

“A new year dawns…” wrote John Haley, a private in the 17th Maine, on January 1, 1865:

Hope and fear mingle—hope the war will soon end; fear that however soon it ends, I might not live to see it. These fears are reduced to an absolute certainty as I consider that the confounded Rebels are as defiant as ever. Though I know that much of this is bluster, I also know that the battles still to be fought will be like worrying a wounded tiger in his death struggles, determined to injure many of us before the finale.

The blows dealt by Sherman, Sheridan, Thomas, and Farragut are staggering, but Jeff Davis and his minions still seem to be defiant, though there is an undercurrent of ‘peace by negotiation’ now manifest. We expect peace shortly after the opening of the spring campaign.

This was quite a change from Haley’s January 1 diary entry from 1863, when the Army of the Potomac was still nursing its wounds following its demoralizing drubbing at Fredericksburg:

The first day of the new year has been spent clearing up and readying for a review announced for the next day. Such reviews generally indicate forward movements in the near future. General Burnside, smarting under a severe castigation and the criticism of his enemies, naturally has a strong desire to retrieve his late disaster. So, such a forward movement might occur at any moment.

Haley’s memoir is colorfully written—one of my favorites. I highly recommend it: The Rebel Yell & The Yankee Hurrah: The Civil War Journal of a Maine Volunteer, edited by Ruth L. Silliker (Down East Books, 1985).

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