Diary of Thomas McClelland January-March 1862
January 1st 1862
All Hail happy New Year! This besides being the proper place for recording incidents of the day is the most proper place for a casual review of the year 1861. The incidents connected with my own life have not been remarkable. In Science and Letters I have advanced one year in time and in the estimation of my friends and instructors. As to whether the time has been spent to the best advantage, and whether I have made the most of the bountiful opportunities afforded me I can conscientiously record two facts: I have spent but little idle time, second: A more vigorous application to my studies would have exhibited more plausible results. Through the mercies of an Omnipotent Providence soundness of body has been preserved to me, through which only can the mind be free to act with saneness.
By a prudent retrenching of my little means I have been compelled to contract but few debts. By engaging in manual labor of various kinds, by attending to the duties of Librarian, and assisting Professor Kelsey in taking Meteorological Observations for the Smithsonian Institution at Washington, and making the reductions of the same, I have been able to pay all my general expenses including tuition, incidentals, room rent, boarding, fuel, lights, books, stationery, and the necessary expenses of the college year excepting clothing.
Although my lot is one of comparative poverty, and that only by the strictest economy can I retain my position as a student, yet I thank God that I am permitted to live under a free and Republican government and to enjoy so many blessings that millions of my fellow mortals are denied.
There has been many epochs in the world's history. The pages of Sacred history emblazon the rise and fall of governments the advance and waning of civilization. Grecian and Roman history record the numberless wars, civil and foreign and the various causes thereof. The inauguration of the Christian era and circumstances consequent on that great event finds place in both sacred and secular writings. The wars and tumults of the Medieval ages pass in turn and yield their fruitful fields to the acts of modern times. The French Revolution, the establishing of freedom in the German states, the reforms in the British parliament, and most of all, the overthrow of the false idea of the divine right of kings, and the establishing on the new continent a free and Republican form of government are all eternal landmarks in the book of time.
But the year 1861 has a tale to record, unknown in the annals of history. A portion of the people of the United States have had control of the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial departments of the government, but in the popular election of this year lost the Executive, declared the circumstance sufficient cause for rebellion, and by every fraud through perjury and treason have instituted a new system of government-the basis of which is human slavery.
Shortly after the inauguration of Mr. Lincoln, on the 4th of March seventy-five thousand militia were called for to serve for three months. The rebellion becoming formidable, when the Extraordinary Session of Congress met on the 4th of July a note was taken and passed to permit the president to call for six hundred thousand men and six hundred millions of dollars, was voted to carry out the plans of subduing the Rebels. By the first of December the quota of men with an extra forty thousand men were in camp at the call of the nation. Various gains and losses have marked the so far course of the campaign. The cause is one of law, order, justice and humanity on the one side, and disorder, tyranny, slavery, on the other. Believing that the interests of the nation, of posterity, and of liberty depend on the issue North is sending forth men and treasure to subdue the instigators of the Rebellion and restore peace once more to our happy and glorious country.
Although threatened by foreign powers the government at Washington have eluded engaging in any foreign war. The tone of the English press, and of many English statesmen indicate that there is much rejoicing at our reverses, and are ready when policy will permit to recognize the new Confederacy.
The forcible seizure of Mason and Slidell on board an English vessel offered a good pretext but the nation disavowing the act of Captain Wilkes and delivering up the prisoners will doubtless settle the matter.
My hopes are that the first of January 1863, may find us enjoying peace and prosperity and good will not only on and throughout our own continent, but also throughout the entire world.
Thursday 2nd-- Prayers this evening very slimly attended. Many of the boys who have returned omitted to attend. The indications are that the school will be pretty full when the school teachers return.
Saturday 4th-- Professor Kelsey notified me today that the college was unable to pay me for my services as observer for Smithsonian Institution, and consequently he would have to do the work himself. My own private opinion is that Kelsey did not like to pay anything out of his own pocket at all. He said to me frankly that my charges two dollars per month for the job of taking the observations was little enough. I would be unjust to say that he took any secret action on the matter.
Sunday 5th-- Attended Mr. Grave's church. Text from the Old Testament "Watchman what of the night." The sermon was good. President Chapin delivered his first address of the Term this afternoon.
There seems to be some difficulty about forming a College Choir. Messrs, Mears, Rood, Bascom, and Brainard, have got the pouts about nothing or something and will not sing.
Monday 6th-- A letter from Aunt Lize came to me this evening. It was a failure to excuse herself for delaying to answer my letter written of the 15th of July 1861. I must cease my corespondence. I see plainly that is wearisome. I answered the letter immediately on account of an expectation on her part to send me some apples and chestnuts. I instructed her not to send any.
No letters from home. I cannot imagine what is up with Bob.
Tuesday 7th-- I am at a loss to know why the "Post" is not more regular in coming to the office. It either fails to come at the proper time or else does not come at all ounce a week. No tidings of our books yet. Mr. Burnham is certainly very indolent about acknowledging my order if he has received it.
Wednesday 8th-- The Delian Society was not very largely attended to-night, yet the debate was good. "Post" came this evening, also a letter from Dock, long and patriotic so far as mottoes on the sheets of paper and envelope, are concerned.
I have rather dissipated to-night. 12 o'clock and no Trigonometry lesson prepared for morning.
Thawed some to-day. Weather exceedingly warm for the season.
Friday 10th-- Received a letter from Mother and Maria to-night. Mother is in a world of trouble. Four has gone to the war, and Till has a sore neck and everything goes wrong generally.[the first word appears to be "four", but is more likely someone's name.] Professor Blaisdell gave me back my composition to-day. I fear I cannot copy it to commit in one week. Recited our first lesson in Shakespeare this morning, I think I shall like Shakespeare much better than Chaucer or Spencer. Quite a change in the atmosphere. Cold, cold, cold.
Monday 13th-- The coldest of the season. Thermometers at different times in the day and in different places range from 15 degrees to 26 degrees below zero. Mailed letters to Mother, Maria, and Dock. Received one from Bob.
Tuesday 21st-- Was fool enough to go and see Tom Thumb99 alias Charley Stratton to-night.
Wednesday 22nd-- Bayard Taylor delivered a lecture this evening on the "American People, socially and politically." The lecture was not first class. Elisha Morgan stays with me to-night.
The Archaen Union proposes having a course of lectures. Osborue, Hastings, and McClelland, were appointed a committee to make the necessary arrangements. Profs. Fisk and Havens of Chicago, Rev. Mr. Helmer of Milwaukee, Rev. Mr. Beecher of Dalesburgh, Rev. Mr. Humphrey of Chicago, and Prof. Blaisdell of Beloit College are the contemplated lecturers.
The papers contain cheering news. A great battle in Kentucky. The many defeated. Zollicoffer100 killed.
Monday 27th-- Mailed a letter to H.P. Burnham, Boston Mass containing a draft on New York for twenty three dollars and 60/100, the balance on a case of books fowarded on the 4th instant.
It has been storming like blazes all day. Snow and wind by the wholesale make up the weather.
Wrote letters, to the Cor. Secs. of Washington College, Penn. and State University, Bloomington, Ind.
Thursday 30th-- When I have the leisure and desire to rehearse all my silly acts, last night's operations will hold a prominent place among the innumerable host of foolish things. The long and short of the story is, I was fool enough to pay five dollars and fifteen cents for a sleigh ride to Janesville, and a supper and dance after we got there. The Sophomore class, except Wright, with some Mr. Mark Sherwood from town and some invited guests in Janesville constituted the party. We returned at 6 o'clock this morning.
Friday 7th-- The first of a course of five lectures before the Archaean Union Society and delivered by the Rev. Prof. Haven of Chicago Theological Seminary. Subject "Switzerland." The lecture was not so good as his lecture on "Italy," delivered two years ago, although it was a very good lecture. The audience was very slim. I am at a loss to know why it is that the people in town do not turn out better since they get the lectures so cheap. It seems that the citizens have but little regard for their own interest saying nothing of their obligations to the college. Every little nigger face or monkey shows that comes along the very best class (shame on the corruption of the term!) will pay out their quarters and attend. [An entire paragraph is blacked out.]
Wednesday 12th-- To-night closed my term of office as President of the Delian Society. The debate on the question, "Resolved, That the demand of England for the persons of Mason and Slidell was unjust" was quite spirited. Messrs, Tayor and Hill, aff. Messrs Hayden and McClelland Neg. The aff. gained the question.
Received a letter from Dock and Catalogue of Ohio University from Mr. E.H. Guthrie, Athens, Ohio.
Monday 17th-- Went to a "penny grab" society to-night. Now, a "penny grab" society holds the same position in the line up of parties that "penny grab" segars do along side of good Havanas worth a quarter a piece. As I always smoke the best segars, I shall adopt the same policy in relation to going to parties. Hereafter I shall refrain from "penny grabs" or as designated by some "mite societies" or "sociables,"-----names too dignified for the assemblies. I certainly got out of my element when I entered the threshold of Dear Rufus Clark's. Better would it have been for me to be in my study attending to my own business.
Received a letter from Bob, with 5 dollars a welcome guest.
Tuesday 18th-- Met Rev. Mr. Helmer at the cars and attended him to the Bushnell House. When he got off the train he was sufffering with a head-ache but thought after he had eaten some supper he would be able to deliver his address. At 7 o'clock I called to take him to church. His head ache had turned into a sick headache. We went on to the church and he commenced his oration, but after speaking about ten minutes he was oblidged to give up. President Chapin, volunteered to read his manuscript and so the people were not entirely disappointed. After the lecture Messrs Osborne and Hastings and I called on Mr. Helmer at his room in the Bushnell House, but were not permitted to see him.
Mr. Helmer's lecture was the second of the Course.
His subject "eyes" was spoken of as being a master-piece. I was so disappointed that I paid no attention to the reading, although the President read the manuscript with the greatest credit to himself. We had a very respectable audience. Some seventy single tickets were sold.
Hastings and Editor Lathrop Smith went to Rockford this afternoon to procure the services of Colonel Mulligan. The attempt was a failure. The Col was ordered to St. Louis and can deliver no more lectures. Lathrop and I went on a similar expedition on Thursday night 13th inst. and met with the same luck------procured no lecturer.
Wednesday 19th-- Called with Hastings this morning on Mr. Helmer and found him quite recovered. Had a pleasant chat with him and settled our bill. He refused to receive anything because of his failure to speak, but we insisted on his receiving Ten Dollars, which he did after some time.
Society to-night rather dry. No debate. Old questions thrown up and new ones adopted.
Snowing as usual.
Saturday 22nd-- Celebrated as the birth day of George Washington. This day one hundred and thirty years ago the greatest man the world ever saw was born. In obedience to a proclamation of the President of the U States, the citizens of Beloit assembled at the Presbyterian church and after prayer by Dr. Brimsmade, Reading of Washington's farewell address by Pres. Chapin, several impromptu speeches, and some good music, the meeting was adjourned.
Thursday 27th-- Appointed as the day for fast and prayer for Colleges. Meeting was held in the Chapel this morning and in the Presbyterian Church this afternoon. Professor Emerson, Professor Kelsey, Dr.Brimsmade, and President Chapin spoke in the chapel. I did not go to the church this afternoon.
Friday 28th-- To-night Professor Emerson gave us a firstrate lecture. His subject "Our Country". Time of speaking about one and three quarter hours. During some passages in his address a pin could have been heard fall so quiet was the house. At the close the Professor was greeted with a hearty cheer. This is the Third Lecture of the Course of Five.
The last lecture was little appreciated by some, on account of one Sidney Shepard, and one Julius Danner with some girls of the Bundy breed, who got into the gallery and spent the evening in rude acting. This evening it was determined to keep them out. Accordingly Mr. O.L. Moor [sic: Moore] was posted at the stairs to keep them from going into the gallery. Shepard and Danner made their appearance and attempted to go up stairs but were repulsed. They took seats in the body of the church for a few moments, but soon returned Danner advancing to the ticket stand and asking Hastings to let them go into the gallery. The request was refused. Danner lied. He told Moor that leave was granted them to go into the gallery and accordingly obtained his ends. This Danner professes to be a Christian. Truly Christianity is made a mockery of.
Received a letter from Mr. G. R. Gill, Washington, Kentucky. Gill is a good Unionist, but he hates Abolitionists. Post of 25" in to-night.
Saturday 1st-- A real winter's day. To-night it snows. My old stove smokes like a steamboat and keeps me from having on a fire. I carried in some wood to Dale's room and spent the evening with him.
Sunday 2nd-- Professor Kelsey preached in the chapel this afternoon. The Professor is a better preacher than teacher. He certainly mistakes his calling.
Monday 3rd-- I must record a few facts concerning the big livered students of Beloit College. These specimens are to be found in nearly every community. They have a very small heart, but little conscience and no soul. Having lost all sense of manliness they take every opportunity to render themselves more disgusting to decent people. They belong to that class which is jealous of others who excell them, or who are regarded with more respect. They oppose every undertaking which their own diseased brain does not concoct. These fellows opposed the proposition of getting up a course of Lectures. They were much chagrined. To-day the Lecture committee drafted a resolution complimenting Prof. Emerson's address delivered last Friday evening, and requesting a copy for publication, and presented the same to the Archaean Union for acceptation. Our specimens were on hand ready to oppose the Resolution. Their attempt failed. The Resolution passed in spite of their prating. Posterity should know the names of these bright stars. The two most prominent are J.M. Brainard of the Senior Class and H.P. Merriman of the Juniors. Mears and Martin Seniors voted with them, also the pliable Hayden of the Sophs. I think I look forward to the time when I shall see these specimens the pride of their village---their popularity and ableness not being able to carry their reputation a day's walk from their own door.
Received a letter and five dollars from Dock by this evening's mail.
Friday 7th-- Prof. Geo F. Root, is putting a cap to his convention in the shape of a big concert. I do not feel either in purse or disposition like going. I am glad the convention is over. We will probably have a more general attendance at the recitations hereafter. The singing tendency in this school does more injury than any other one thing. Boys will be out until one or two o'clock singing and then lie in bed half of the next day under pretence of sickness.
LARGE FLYER OF THE ARCHAEAN MEETING FOR MARCH 12, 1862 IS ENCLOSED.
Saturday 15th-- Since last Saturday my chief occupation has been to take medicine and lie in bed. A disease commonly known as the Measels began to manifest itself in a form not to be mistaken, about noon. In the evening I went to bed from which I did not rise until yesterday evening.
On Wednesday evening after much trouble and quarrelling the society selected Mr. F.B. Hunt of the Junior Class to preside at the Public Meeting. The gentlemanly Seniors are accused of having made all kind of efforts to get one of their number selected, but they unfortunately failed. The class has injured itself through its small, insignificant manner
of trying to get all the positions of honor and trust in the Societies. The class generally is made up of the most selfish sett of fellows I ever saw. They will receive no more favors from the lower classes.
I must not forget to mention here those who have been so kind to me during my little sick spell. First and foremost Dr. Taggart who was in constant attendance when needed. His charity in giving me but little medicines and permitting me to drink all the cold water I wanted. Then Mrs. Taggart who twice sent me up nice victuals which I could not eat because of my sickness. Mrs. Prof. Blaisdell who sent me a bowl of beef tea which I ate four days after it was sent in. Mrs. Prof. Emerson and Prof. Emerson for their devotion to my welfare. The Professor called in once or twice a day, several times bringing gruel, jelly, chicken and other good things from Mrs. Emerson, Mrs. Dr. Morgan for a glass of currant jelly at one time and a fine basket of sundries at another. Mrs. Durham for plate of pudding and chicken. Mrs. Tambling for her good offers to send me from her store of jellies, preserves + c. Prof. Porter and President Chapin for their kindness in wanting to send me victuals, which I had to refuse. Prof. Kelsey for his calls and interest in my recovery.
Among the students everybody---most---offered their services. Mr. Alley and Mr. Rice were untiring in their devotion. Mr. Alley was the first to call and administer comfort and consolation. He brought a couple of Lemons and made me some drink the first thing. He also laid a big apple on my table which I persuaded McVean to eat in two or three days after he brought it in. Mr. Rice staid with me one night---the only night I had anyone for the purpose.
Mr. G.P. Davis my classmate was in my room a good deal and at one time left a couple of nice oranges which I relished very much. Mr. May, Mr. Bascom, Mr. Durham, and many others were free to do me any service. In fine if it was not for the disagreeable feel and the expence, I would have no particular dread of sickness, providing my nurses were all as good as those I have tried at this time.
Saturday 22nd-- In the War Department some interesting action has taken place during the week. The Burnside Expedition has taken possession of Newburn N. Carolina. The Federal Army now has possession of the Rail Road leading to Raleigh. When they get up a hundred miles from Newburn on the R.R. to Raleigh they will seize the R.R. connecting all the Gulf States with the main Confederate Army and the capital in Virginia.101
Island No 10102 on the Mississippi in posession of the Rebels has been beseiged nearly all the week. The Federal Troops still continue to bombard the island. I heard a report this evening that a large body of United States troops were in the vicinity of Memphis, having moved on immediately after the capture of Fort Donelson103.
I have tried hard to study this week but almost failed to do anything. I would have been better off to have continued in my room and not tried to do anything this week.
Our Lecturer Mr. E. G. Ryan104 of Milwaukee, who was advertised to Lecture last night, got as far as Racine on his way, but owing to the R.R. to Beloit being blocked up with snow he was oblidged to return. We had a telegraphic communication with him. He will be on hand on Tuesday evening 25 instant "wind and weather permitting" said the telegram.
Morgan lodged with me last night.
The weather for the past week could not have been much more disagreeable. Day before yesterday it blew and snowed a perfect terror. Yesterday and to-day it has melted just enough to make plenty of mud and slush.
Tuesday 25th-- This evening finished our course of Lecturers. Mr. Ryan came in town on the Racine R.R. at 5 o'clock. Mr. Ryan is a very inferior looking man but a man of good judgement, fine power of expression, and very passable delivery. We had a larger audience to-night than any night yet. Besides course Tickets, there was sold one hundred and two single tickets for the evening. The letters begin to come in quite respectable. One from Bob, one from Dock, and one from Till came in this evening. There is a good deal of mud yet on the sidewalks. There is appearance of rain. When shall we have good weather?
on to April-June 1862