Friday, August 8, 2014

May 31, 1864

May 31, 1864

---In Cleveland, the new Radical Democracy party nominates Maj. Gen. John C. Fremont for President, and John Cochrane as his running mate.

---Prelude to Cold Harbor:  Grant sends troops towards Cold Harbor, to seize the vital crossroads there.  His plan involves moving in a flanking maneuver to the left, Wright’s VI Corps taking the lead, followed by Baldy Smith’s newly arrived XVIII Corps.  Cavalry from both sides still hold the lines near Old Cold Harbor, as the infantry comes up and takes firm possession of Beulah Church and the Old Cold Harbor crossroads.  Skirmishing along this line intensifies.

---Sherman puts troops on the road to re-gain his supply line on the railroad.  He assigns this move to Gen. Stoneman and his cavalry.  He desires also to gain Allatoona Pass itself.  Sherman orders McPherson to pull his Army of the Tennessee out of line and to move east.

May 30, 1864

May 30, 1864

---Battle of Bethesda Church, Virginia:  Fighting continues along the Totopotomoy River.  Grant begins to look for ways to break the deadlock.  Gen. Lee is also looking for a break, and sends Jubal Early (now commanding Ewell’s Second Corps), in an assault on the Union left flank, where Gen. Warren’s V Corps has just taken up position on the south bank of the Totopotomoy.  Gen. Rodes’ division of graybacks plows into Crawford’s Federals, and a few new regiments panic and retreat before the onslaught.  Early’s choices are limited at this point, as Rodes’ column is disorganized from the attack, and reinforcements have not come up yet.  Maj. Gen. Stephen D. Ramseur, a new division commander, urges Early to let him attack—to which Early reluctantly agrees--but he does so without supports on either flank.  In the lull, Warren has strengthened his line.  As Ramseur advances at 6:30 PM, Toon’s brigade finds itself pinned down by flanking fire from the bluecoats, and so only Pegram’s brigade is in the advance.  As they dashed forward, the Federals open fire.  One Confederate officer writes, “Our line melted away as if by magic: every brigade, staff and field officer was cut down, mostly killed outright in an incredibly short time.”  Point-blank range rifle fire and artillery canister cut down the advancing Rebels.  The slaughter is so severe that a Union officer begs the survivors to surrender—and they do so in large numbers.  This disastrous attack results in 90% killed, wounded, and captured to Pegram’s brigade. 
Losses:          U.S. 731
                         C.S. 1,593

In the evening, orders to Gen. Butler’s Army of the James detach Maj. Gen. William “Baldy” Smith and two corps to move by boat to join Grant’s army.  Lee learns of this, and demands reinforcements from Beauregard’s tiny force at Richmond.

---Captain Augustus C. Brown, of the 4th New York Heavy Artillery Regiment, writes in his journal of the fighting along the Topopotomoy that day as his regiment is sent in to fortify a line, and of this tragicomical incident:

Between our works and the house, which stood with its rear towards us, was a semi-circle of negro quarters, and in front of these little frame and log houses the artillerymen had backed up their caissons and ammunition wagons to conceal them as much as possible from the enemy. At the door of one of these cabins was a large pile of ashes, where the old “mammy” who lived there had emptied the contents of her stove for years, and as the men took out the ammunition from the chest on a limber, considerable powder was sprinkled on this dumping ground. Not long after the rebels had commenced firing, and after they had sent several rifled projectiles through the main house and its roof, and had split some of the great trees standing close by, the old darkey woman came to her door, cool as a cucumber, and apparently oblivious of the danger of her act, threw a shovel full of hot ashes and coals just out of her stove squarely under the limber, and instantly the front of that shanty was taken off as cleanly as if cut down by a monster hay-knife. Two men were killed and several wounded, but the negress is said to have escaped unhurt. A tremendous cheer at once rang out from the rebel line, the occupants of which no doubt supposed that the explosion of the limber chest had been caused by one of their shells.

---Kate Cummings, a Southern woman serving as a nurse in a Confederate Army hospital with the Army of Tennessee, writes in her journal of the lackluster service of the Georgia Militia (state troops) in guarding the hospital areas,, and thus addressing the hardcore States Rights politics of Gov. Joe Brown of Georgia, and his tendency to hold back men and material from the Confederacy:

There are many tales related of the Georgia militia. It seems that there was but one man in the whole place who could be prevailed on to go out as a scout. But the poor militia are constantly having some tales told on them. I think the governor is to blame for the contempt in which the Georgia militia are held. He holds to the doctrine of state rights with a greater tenacity than is at all needed at present. According to his views, Georgia had not only a right to secede in the beginning, but she can secede from the Confederacy any time she pleases. Many of the Georgians fairly worship both him and Stephens. I think that both have done our cause a vast deal of harm, at home and abroad. They have denounced the administration time and again, because it has not done exactly as they thought right. Whatever may be their views on that subject, I think they had better, for the present, keep them to themselves, as they will be productive of nothing but harm. If the present administration can not guide our affairs, why no one else can, and it is the duty of every man to give it his hearty support. “My country right, my country wrong, but still my country.”

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Never Fear! We Shall Renew the Fight!

My apologies to the folks who follow this blog.  It has been a hairy and busy summer for me, and I sort of fell out of practice and time.  However----

I hereby pledge that this blog will have caught up with the 150th Sesquicentennial calendar by the end of August---or sooner.  So bear with us.

I intend to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

May 29, 1864

May 29, 1864

---In Virginia, Grant’s Federals begin to deploy on the north bank of the Totopotomoy River, facing Lee’s lines.  Skirmishing escalates to general fighting all along the lines, as both armies extend their lines southeasterly.  Gen. Early leads his division in a direct assault, but is driven back with heavy casualties.



May 28, 1864

May 28, 1864

---Virginia:  Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, in a forced march, moves eastward in an effort to get in front of Grant’s army at Cold Harbor, where Lee correctly divines that Grant wants to go.  Cold Harbor is a crossroads important to Grant for approaching Richmond.  Lee decides to keep the Chickahominy River at his back, in order to deny to the Northern forces access to the crossings.


---Battle of Enon Church:  In an effort to learn of Grant’s intentions, Lee orders two cavalry brigades under his son Fitzhugh Lee and Wade Hampton to probe the Federal positions.  As they do so, Federal cavalry discover them, and organie a charge.  The Rebels dismount and form a line, repelling the charges, again and again.  Finally, an additional division in blue is brought up, and Brig. Gen. George Armstrong Custer and his brigade of Michigan regiments makes an attack dismounted, and they overrun the Rebel lines.  The graycoats withdraw and mount up, leaving the Federals exhausted, but victorious.


---Battle of Dallas:  In northern Georgia, sporadic fighting continues all along the lines.  Gen. Hood is ordered to attack the Yankees’ left flank, which is reaching farther to the east—but Hood finds the Yankee fortifications there too firm for an assault.


---George Templeton Strong, of New York City, notes with alarm the impact of the war news on trade and the market:

. . . Gold reached 189 today!  We are in a bad way, unless Grant or Sherman soon win a decisive victory.  But I see no symptoms yet of debility in the backbones of loyal and patriotic men, or, in other words, of the community minus Peace Democrats, McClellan-maniacs, mere traders and capitalists, and the brutal herd of ignorant Celts and profligate bullies and gamblers and “sporting men” that have so large a share in the government of our cities. 

May 27, 1864

May 27, 1864


---The Army of the Potomac moves swiftly south to the crossings over the Pamunkey near Hanovertown.  Sheridan’s cavalry arrive first, and pontoon bridges are laid down over the Pamunkey River is short order.  They occupy Hanovertown on the south bank, and later in the day, the infantry formation of the Army of the Potomac file across the bridges. 


---In Cleveland, the Radical Republicans, those opposed to Lincoln, begin a convention to nominate another team to oppose Lincoln for the elections.  The convention decides to label this movement The Radical Democracy.


---Atlanta Campaign: Battle of Picketts Mill – Sherman orders Gen. Thomas of the Army of the Cumberland to send Gen. Oliver O. Howard’s IV Corps forward to strike the Rebels at the right flank of their line at Pickett’s Mill.  Brig. Gen. William B. Hazen’s brigade bears the brunt of the attack, as they sweep forward to find that the position is already strongly fortified.  Also, the promised reinforcements do not show, and 1,500 Federals are shot down in a very short amount of time.  Many officers blame Howard for poor planning.  Confederate Victory.

May 26, 1864

May 26, 1864


Battle of the North Anna River


May 23-26, 1864


Day 4:  Seeing that there are no opportunities to turn Lee’s line, Gen. Grant decides to keep up the skirmishing, and then move his army by night to the east and south, around Lee’s right flank.  To deceive the enemy, Grant sends Brig. Gen. James Wilson and his cavalry off heading straight west, to make Lee think that the flanking movement will be in the opposite direction.  Wilson destroys large portions of the Virginia Central railroad, and key supply link for Richmond, but fails to draw Lee after him.  After dark, the units of the Army of the Potomac begin to pull out of line, and head east and south to the crossings over the Pamunkey River near Hanovertown.  Warren and Wright pull out first, while Hancock and Burnside hold.  Confederate Victory.



Union                 2,623

Confederate    1,552


---Battle of New Hope Church, Georgia (cont.):  The fighting along Johnston’s hastily-constructed line continues, but degrades into mere skirmishing as the Federals begin to entrench to protect their own lines.