Leap Year Melancholy

1864 was the Civil War’s leap year. I have not found too many references to leap day. The most notable campaign event on February 29, 1864 involved the Kirkpatrick-Dahlgren raiders travelling from Spotsylvania to Hanover on their route to the outskirts of Richmond. Later in the year, after what may have seemed as the longest summer of the war, a North Carolina newspaper editor commented on the extra day.

Yesterday forenoon we picked up accidentally, in a store, an almanac for 1864. It was but an advertising affair sent out to proclaim the virtues of Hostetter’s Bitters, or some such thing, and it was in German at that; which was pretty much the same as Greek to us, only a little more so.

We found, with the assistance of a friend, that it was for the year of our Lord 1864, which year has 366 days. Evidently a long year. The extra day comes to it as being leap year. Who has thought of leap year? Who has laughed over leap year? Nobody that we know of.

But the year has been a long one–longer than the single extra day could make it–than twenty, thirty, sixty, ninety, one hundred days could make it. The eye–the thought–the mind has been fixed upon matters of the deepest and most painful importance. We have seemed to see the bloody battlefields of Virginia and Georgia. We have seemed to hear the groans and shrieks of the wounded and the dying. We have seemed to stand by the heroic Lee, and could imagine him, in moments of intolerable pressure, exclaiming, like Wellington, Oh, for winter or reinforcements!

Watching the whole current of the fight, day by day, and almost hour by hour, we are free to confess that this year of our Lord, 1864, has been the longest year in our whole life. It seems as if the three years of the war had put a space between our present and our past life that memory itself can hardly span. We cannot tell whether it is so with others, but we suppose it is “When this cruel war is over,” and we have achieved our independence, as, with God’s help we shall, the next generation will owe a deep debt to this, which surely has sacrificed and is daily sacrificing itself to the cause in which it is engaged. The speculator or the adventurer may fatten and feel good in the midst of public suffering and uncertitude, but every true citizen must suffer deeply, and realize in months the effect of years.

“A Long Year,” The Daily Journal, Wilmington, North Carolina, October 25, 1864.

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4 Responses to Leap Year Melancholy

  1. bfswartz says:

    A sad a sad view of Leap Year from the Confederate point of view!

    • Lyle Smith says:

      I864 feels like the most depressing year of the war, for both sides. Confederates are heading for their demise and the Union has to continue to brutally suffer to achieve that demise.

  2. Henry Flemming says:

    Thank you for bringing this to light. “…the year has been a long one–longer than the single extra day could make it–than twenty, thirty, sixty, ninety, one hundred days could make it…” That sentiment could have been uttered by any soldier who fought steady and daily from May 5 to fight it out all summer.

  3. Great find on such an obscure subject. A very powerful passage and great little read. I like that it was from a Wilmington paper too. My wife and I eloped there in 2008 on my 4th of July 96 when I was in the Marines. What a weekend. If I could write an article on it it’d be a good read too, ha, ha. Love that city…

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