Wainwright’s Diary, April 7, 1864: “… we at last have [a day] of warm sunshine…”

Colonel Charles S. Wainwright opened his diary entry of April 7, 1864 providing, with no surprise, a weather report:

April 7, Thursday. After ten days of most disagreeable, wet, snowy, cold weather, we at last have one of warm sunshine; more like what one expects in this latitude for the month of April. But I have not found, and I have been here now at the opening of three springs in succession, that there is so vast a difference between Virginia and New York during the first half of April. On Monday I went up to Bealton Station to look at the batteries there; it was so very muddy, however, that I did not go about much….

Reenlistment entered Wainwright’s thoughts again.  But this time the issue was an option granted to the Army troops to join the Navy:

There are now quite a large number of men in this army applying for transfer to the navy under orders allowing all such to do so whose former calling in life fits them for that service; seven men in Phillips’s battery “E,” Massachusetts, have applied for such transfer….

In the spring of 1864, the US Navy was the largest it would be, in measure of ships and men, than anytime before World War II.  Maintaining the blockade meant putting a large number of hulls in southern waters.  And those ships didn’t sail themselves.  The Navy faced a manpower shortage, and one resolution was to recruit from the Army’s ranks.  Around this same time, the Department of the South received a suggestion to simply transfer those willing to reenlist to the Navy directly to the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron.  Perhaps a good study waiting to be written is a comparison of Civil War and World War II personnel management in this respect.  And along those lines, we should also debunk the Lost Cause notion that “the Yankees just showed up with a bunch of men…” explanation for 1864-5.

Judging from the newspapers, New York must have run wild on Monday at the opening of their great Sanitary Fair.  It was made a general holiday; all the troops and what-not turned out, and the flags flaunted in every direction. Mary displayed all my regimental colours in the window in Fourteenth Street.

Harper’s Weekly ran an illustration of Fourteenth Street on its front page for April 9, but didn’t show Wainwright’s colors… excuse me… colours:


The paper called the event “The Metropolitan Fair.”  These “fairs” were, in my opinion, the logical predecessors of the War Bond Rallies seen in later wars.

(Citations from Charles S. Wainwright, A Diary of Battle: The Personal Journals of Colonel Charles S. Wainwright, 1861-1865, edited by Allan Nevins, New York: Da Capo Press, 1998, page 340.)


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