The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Stephen Greenleaf Bulfinch, Post 6

The following excerpt is from the diary of Stephen Greenleaf Bulfinch.

Monday, June 10th, 1861

The public were in great fear for the city of Washington for a few days after the Baltimore fracas; but the energy & good judgment of our officers, especially Gen. B. T. Butler; the rapid pouring in of troops, even if but half equipped, - the delay or want of preparation of the rebels, & above all the Divine Blessing, saved our capital. The accounts have been and still are watched with feverish anxiety; but nothing decisive has yet transpired. The events of most note are, the occupation of Alexandria & death of the brave young Col. Ellsworth; - the establishment of a strong force at Fortress Monroe, - of another at Cairo, Ill; - the advance of troops into Western Virginia from Ohio; - the advance, commencing at last accounts, from Penna towards Harper’s Ferry, & slight actions at Fairfax C.H., Acquia Creek, & Philippa. The North is thoroughly aroused. Business is paralyzed, - the payment of all debts from the South is stopped; & while we are blockading the Southern ports, the Secessionists are privateering against our commerce. We receive, it is said, appearances of sympathy from abroad, but less from England than other powers.

The Anniversary meeting this Spring were affected by the times. The Collation was dispensed with, & the discussions and arrangements affected by the prevailing state of feeling. The meeting of the Peace Society was commenced by observations savoring of peace, and closed by those savoring of war. The A. U. A. contracted its operations by choosing only a lay secretary with a salary of $1000. At the ‘Conference,’ after an ineffectual attempt to interest the brethren in a theological subject, the duty of ministers in relation to the war was taken up, and after peace speeches from Drs Gaunett, Peabody, & Stebbins, some remarks more in harmony with the general feeling from Dr. Hall and another speaker were greeted with unlawful applause. Nine tenths of the community feel that the only way out of our troubles is the way right through them, with fixed bayonets. "Justice were cruel, weakly to relent; from Mercy’s self she got the sacred glaives"

I received a letter from Maria yesterday. Her health is still but indifferent; & she is much saddened by the civil war, which separates her nearest relatives.... My nephew C. F. B, - our young friend Edw. Huntington, - the two young Blakes of my parish, & others whom we know, are on service at the forts; & may be ordered off.

 Tuesday, June 18th, 1861

The trials of the country continue. The armies are approaching each other in Virginia; - or rather the Union troops advancing, and the secession troops retiring to concentrate and make a stand, as we suppose. Skirmishes take place frequently, and valuable lives are lost. Hope rises over fear, but the future is dark. O my God, if thou sparest me to see another birth-day, may I be so blessed as to see my country re-united! But the future in regard to this and all things is in thine hands; and whatever comes, may I have grace to say, Thy will be done!

Return to the Beehive next week to read Bulfinch's entries for August and September 1861.  He offers comments on the Battle of Bull Run, events in Missouri, and two Dorchester natives returning from the front "out of health."

permalink | Published: Wednesday, 21 September, 2011, 8:00 AM


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