Tuesday, September 30, 2014

June 3, 1864


June 3, 1864

 

Battle of Cold Harbor

Virginia

May 31-June 12, 1864

 

Day 3:  General Ulysses S. Grant orders the grand attack to be made at 4:30 in the morning.  After an artillery barrage, the corps of Hancock and Wright went forward.  Smith’s XVIII Corps was not yet engaged.  Gen. Barlow’s division had the most success: even with heavy losses, they captured the first line of Confederate works.  Gen. Gibbon’s division, on his flank, was broken up by a patch of swampy ground that had to be skirted.  Two of Gibbon’s brigade commanders were killed, and his advance stalled.  Wright’s VI Corps made an attack that was tepid at best.  The incredible rate of rifle and cannon fire from the Confederate works was deadly.  By some reports, most of the 7,000 Federal casualties this day fell during the first 30 minutes of the attack. 
 
 
 
 
As Smith’s corps goes forward, their advance is broken up by several ravines which forced the lines into two or more vulnerable columns, which Rebel artillery fire cuts up rather badly.  One New Hampshire sergeant writes: "The men bent down as they pushed forward, as if trying, as they were, to breast a tempest, and the files of men went down like rows of blocks or bricks pushed over by striking against one another."  True to form, Gen. Warren’s V Corps does not go forward, and so Rebel artillery from his front also shreds Baldy Smith’s advancing columns.  Finally, Grant calls off the attacks. 
 

 
---The Richmond Daily Dispatch does an article on the famed American actor Edwin Booth, whose brothers Junius Booth, Jr., and John Wilkes Booth, were also well-known actors:
Edwin Boot[h] at the North.
–This young actor, a native of the State of Maryland, and whose engagements in the South previous to the war were attended with so much success, has lately been performing at the North for the benefits of the Sanitary Committee, When [t]old in Washington by a Southern lady a short time since that the people of the South would surely remember him in this matter, he repeated: “He did not care what they remembered? He knew no country but the Union.–no flag but the stars and stripes.” So much for Edwin Booth!
The Southern papers regularly excoriate people from the border states who show Northern loyalty.
 
 

---In Wilmington, North Carolina, now the South’s most productive port in feeding the Confederate war effort, the Daily Journal publishes this brief editorial which reflects the lack of news getting there from the confused and desperate fighting on the Overland Campaign, and the Federal army’s attempts to invest Richmond:
 

FOR some reason we are for two days without mails from Richmond, our latest letter or newspaper dates from that city not coming down later than Monday, the 30th ult.

 
The Road is not in possession of the enemy, for the telegraph line is working through, and the difficulty does not seem to be with the Wilmington and Weldon Road, the trains on which Road arrived both yesterday and the day before at their accustomed hour, although strangely enough, yesterday’s train brought no papers from Raleigh, a circumstance which can hardly be looked upon as a positive loss, since all our people turn anxiously for news from the battle-field and few take much interest in the political squabbles which seem to occupy so much of the attention of our cotemporaries at the State capital.
 
 
As the majority of Butler’s forces, having accomplished “one grand failure” on the south side of Richmond, are understood to have gone round to the York River, and to have joined Grant by that route, we may take it for granted that the body of Beauregard’s forces either have joined or will soon join Lee.  Some of the telegraphs mention Breckinridge in connection with the contests near Richmond.  This rather puzzles us, since we thought that Breckinridge was in the valley—he certainly was there at the last previous accounts.

 

(Source: The Civil War Day by Day, Wilson Library Special Collections, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill -- http://blogs.lib.unc.edu/civilwar/index.php/2014/06/03/3-june-1964-a-circumstance-which-can-hardly-be-looked-upon-as-a-positive-loss/)

 

June 2, 1864


June 2, 1864

 

Battle of Cold Harbor

Virginia

May 31-June 12, 1864

 

Day 2:  Things begin badly today for the Union army, once again bedeviled by poor communications on the field and ambiguous command structure.  Grant ordered Meade to follow a now-common pattern: to hold with the V Corps (Warren) and move the II (Hancock) and the VI (Wright) to steal a flanking march on the Rebels.  The problem: they had never caught Lee flat-footed.  Hancock and Wright are ordered to march to Cold Harbor to participate in a morning attack.  In theory, the Union left, by then the strongest flank for the Army of the Potomac, would be ready for Meade to make an attack with 3 corps, numbering well over 30,000 men.  However, poor roads and disjointed staff work means that the march is slow and plagued with misdirection and the results of exhausted troops in constant contact with the enemy for nearly a month.  As Hancock withdraws from the line, Burnside—whose IX Corps’ right flank was covered by Hancock—is not even informed of the move. 


Lee is not fooled by the move, and sends Breckinridge’s fairly fresh division over to the Confederate left to reinforce Anderson’s First Corps.  Lee also detaches Mahone’s and Wilcox’s divisions from A.P. Hill (whose ill health still plagues him) to send over to join Breckinridge.  Lee’s new line is anchored on the two rivers, and therefore no longer has any vulnerable flank.  There is skirmishing all along the line throughout the evening, as the Confederates put the finishing touches on an amazingly intricate line, with converging fields of fire, flanking trenches, and enfilading lines. 

 

Hancock’s men, having marched all night, are in no condition or position to make a morning attack.  Gen. Grant agrees to delay the attack until 5:00 PM., and begins shifting his lines to prepare for this assault: Burnside and Warren form a new line to withstand increasing pressure from Early’s Second Corps.  Several Rebel attacks on Burnside’s and Warren’s lines yield several hundred Yankee prisoners for the attackers.  Finally, Grant agrees to a general attack the next morning, June 3.  A number of brigade and division commanders protest, having seen the ground in front of them, and the Southerners in their positions.  Several observers take notice of infantrymen who, being advised of the attack on the Confederate works in the morning, are writing their names and hometowns on slips of paper and sewing them to their jackets; they do not expect to survive the attack. 


 

June 1, 1984


June 1, 1864

 

Battle of Cold Harbor

Virginia

May 31-June 12, 1864

 

Day 1:  Fearful of Maj. Gen. William “Baldy” Smith and the Federal XVIII Corps being brought in to strike the Confederate right flank, Gen. Robert E. Lee has ordered Maj. Gen. Richard H. Anderson (commanding Longstreet’s First Corps) to send reinforcements to the right.  But due to confusion in the orders, Smith’s arrival is delayed.  The Old Cold Harbor crossroads is still being contested by cavalry from both sides, however, and as Anderson arrives, reinforced by Hoke’s fresh division, he is ordered to drive off the 6,000 or so blue cavalry under Sheridan and secure the crossroads.  Anderson makes a half-hearted affair out of it, sending only one brigade forward.  Hoke begins digging earthworks---and does not support the advance.  Anderson sends forward another advance, but it too falls back, as Federal infantry begins to arrive and file into line of battle.  Horatio G. Wright’s VI Corps arrives, and finally Baldy Smith’s XVIII Corps, and the Federals have amassed a menacing force.  (On the Federal right, Gen. G.K. Warren struggles to launch an ordered assault, but it never gains momentum.) 
 
 
June 1, afternoon
As Smith deploys on the Federal right, he launches an attack with two divisions at around 5:00PM.  The Yankees blast through the first line of Rebel fortifications, and push on, shattering and disorganizing the Southern troops fleeing.  Much of the fighting takes place on the old Mechanicsville and Gaines Mill battlefields.  Brigades led by Truex and Emory Upton (of Spotsylvania Mule Shoe fame) lead the breakthrough, but Gen. Russell, commanding Upton’s division, is slow to follow up, mostly due to the fact of Russell himself having  been wounded early in the attack.  But when Baldy Smith’s troops hit the second Rebel line, heavy rifle fire drives them back.  Soon after, Gen. Wright deploys two of his divisions, who also attack, and also shatter the Rebel first line.  But at the second line, a complex series of trenches, berms, abatis, and other obstructions to break up the attacking formations, and the Federal attack slows.  The attack nevertheless surges ahead, but is bedeviled by flanking fire of Confederates who are not engaged, and who begin to take interest in what is happening on the oblique of their front.  The attack slows, falters, and finally falls back.

 
The Federal attack, June 1, evening
 

---Atlanta Campaign: In a nick-of-time maneuver, Gen. George Stoneman, with most of Sherman’s cavalry, arrives at Allatoona Pass to secure it from multiple threats by Southern cavalry. 


Federal cavalry skirmishing, dismounted
 
---John Hunt Morgan, back in action in Kentucky, is one again raiding the Federal supply line there, and Nathan Bedford Forrest, in Tupelo, Mississippi as his base, prepares to strike north into Tennessee to disrupt that same supply line.  Gen. Samuel D. Sturgis is given a division of infantry, another of cavalry, and a battalion of artillery to use Memphis as a home base and advance against Forrest and Forrest’s base. 

 

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.

Wolfshield

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.