Friday, May 29, 2015

May 28, 1861 - W.H. Russell in New Orleans

William Howard Russell, the first great war correspondent, became an important contact for British Consul Robert Bunch and figures prominently in Our Man in Charleston: Britain's Secret Agent in the Civil War South.

Bunch writing privately to Lord Lyons, the British minister to Washington:

May 28, Charleston - … I heard from Russell this morning through his fidus Achates “Sam” Ward.  They reached New Orleans on the 23rd, having visited Pensacola, Pickens and the Fleet. R. says that [unclear] Pickens, “it is the toss up of a copper which wins.”*

Russell in his diary:

May 28, New Orleans — I observed in New York that every man had his own solution of the cause of the present difficulty, and contradicted plumply his neighbor the moment he attempted to propound his own theory. Here I found every one agreed as to the righteousness of the quarrel, but all differed as to the best mode of action for the South to pursue. Nor was there any approach to unanimity as the evening waxed older. Incidentally we had wild tales of Southern life, some good songs curiously intermingled with political discussions, and what the Northerners call hyphileutin talk.


* In the early days of the conflict, two important Federal forts were in need of resupply. Fort Sumter was fired on to prevent that from happening, and eventually surrendered on April 13, 1861. But Fort Pickens, near Pensacola, Florida, managed to hold out for the duration of the war.

Fidus Achates was a common 19th century term for a faithful friend, referring in Latin to the companion of Aeneas.

Sam Ward was a very well connected financier and lobbyist who made and lost several fortunes. His sister, the poet Julia Ward Howe, is most famous for writing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

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