Monday, April 14, 2014

April 13, 1864

April 13, 1864

---Sergeant Alexander G. Downing, of the 11th Iowa Infantry Regiment, is at home on furlough, helping his father put in the crops:

Wednesday, 13th—It is cloudy and very cool. I helped father put in his wheat today, harrowing all forenoon and drilling in wheat in the afternoon. James Kelley, a soldier of the neighborhood, home on a furlough, came over to help me out for a few days.


---A ghastly report from the newspaper Missouri Democrat details atrocities all too common in the internecine warfare typical for Missouri at this point in the war:

Last night the notorious bushwhacking gang of Shumate and Clark went to the house of an industrious, hard-working German farmer, named Kuntz, who lives some twenty-five to thirty miles from the mouth of Osage River, in Missouri, and demanded his money. He stoutly denied having any cash; but the fiends, not believing him, or perhaps knowing that he did have some money, deliberately took down a wood-saw which was hanging up in the cabin, and cut his left leg three times below and four times above the knee, with the saw. Loss of blood, pain, and agony made the poor fellow insensible, and he was unable to tell where the money was concealed. His mangled body was found to-day, life extinct. A boy who lived with him, succeeded in making his escape, terror-stricken, to give the alarm. After leaving Kuntz’s, the gang went to an adjoining American farmer, and not succeeding in their demands for money, they destroyed every thing in and about the place, took the man out, and literally cut his head off.—Missouri Democrat.


---Blockade runners captured:  The Mandoline, off the coast of Florida, is captures by the USS Nyanza; the Rebel sloop Rosina is captured off the Texas coast today by the USS Virginia; and the British-owned Maria Alfred, is captured at sea by the USS Rachel Seaman.


---Lt. Gen. James Longstreet and his troops, released from duty in East Tennessee, have arrived in the vicinity of Charlottesville, Virginia, and preparing to join with Lee in the coming spring campaign.

April 12, 1864

April 12, 1864

---Battle of Fort Pillow, Tennessee:  In what should have been an unremarkable minor action, Maj. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, on his raid through Kentucky and West Tennessee, strikes at Fort Pillow, a fortification on the Mississippi River just north (upstream) from Memphis.  The fort is garrisoned with white and black Tennessee Unionists, totaling 557 men.  Major Booth commands the two battalions in the fort, and as he is soon killed, Major W.F. Bradford takes over.  As Forrest places his men from Chambers’ division in positions of advantage, the guns of the fort and gunboats on the river send a heavy barrage of shell and shot toward the Rebel lines.  Forrest sends an ultimatum of surrender, but Booth refuses.  Forrest opens his attack, and the fort is taken in fairly short order, and the garrison surrenders.  After the surrender, apparently, the Confederate cavalrymen begin an unrestrained slaughter of the surrendered troops, both white and black, although the emphasis is plainly on the black troops.

Fort Pillow, Tennessee

Sergeant Achilles Clark, of the 20th Tennessee Cavalry Regiment, gives his own account of what happened:
Illustration from Harper's Weekly

 The slaughter was awful – words cannot describe the scene. The poor deluded negroes would run up to our men, fall upon their knees and with uplifted hands scream for mercy but they were ordered to their feet and then shot down. The white men fared but little better. Their fort turned out to be a great slaughter pen – blood, human blood, stood about in pools and brains could have been gathered up in any quantity. I with several others tried to stop the butchery and at one time had partially succeeded but Gen. Forrest ordered them shot like dogs and the carnage continued. Finally our men became sick of blood and the firing ceased.
Illustration from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Weekly

The numbers indicate the disparity: Federal losses are 231 killed outright, 100 wounded, and only 168 whites and 58 blacks were “captured.” Of the white troops, 31% are killed; of the blacks, 64% are killed.  An unknown number of civilians, some of them families of the garrison troops, are also massacred.  For the Rebels, only 14 are killed, and up to 86 wounded.


Gen. Forrest himself writes about this soon afterwards:

The victory was complete, and the loss of the enemy will never be known from the fact that large numbers ran into the river and were shot and drowned. The force was composed of about 500 negroes and 200 white soldiers (Tennessee Tories). The river was dyed with the blood of the slaughtered for 200 yards. There was in the fort a large number of citizens who had fled there to escape the conscript law. Most of these ran into the river and were drowned.

The approximate loss was upward of 500 killed, but few of the officers escaping.

It is hoped that these facts will demonstrate to the northern people that negro soldiers cannot cope with Southerners. We still hold the fort.

Gen. Forrest

On April 13, a Union naval officer appears on the ground as the Confederates are withdrawing, and takes a great number of wounded on board ship.  The officer’s examination of the ground confirmed the reports that most of the Federals were slaughtered after surrender.


---The steamer Alliance, of English registration, is captured in the delta of the Savannah River today, loaded with military stores for the Confederacy.


---About 85 miles east of Denver, the 1st Colorado Cavalry regiment has a spirited skirmish with a band of Cheyenne, on the north bank of the Platte River.

Friday, April 11, 2014

April 11, 1864

April 11, 1864

---Mary Boykin Chestnut writes in her diary:

Mrs. Ould gave me a luncheon on Saturday. I felt that this was my last sad farewell to Richmond and the people there I love so well. Mrs. Davis sent her carriage for me, and we went to the Oulds’ together. Such good things were served—oranges, guava jelly, etc. The Examiner says Mr. Ould, when he goes to Fortress Monroe, replenishes his larder; why not? . . .

My husband is now brigadier-general and is sent to South Carolina to organize and take command of the reserve troops. C. C. Clay and L. Q. C. Lamar are both spoken of to fill the vacancy made among Mr. Davis's aides by this promotion.

 To-day, Captain Smith Lee spent the morning here and gave a review of past Washington gossip. I am having such a busy, happy life, with so many friends, and my friends are so clever, so charming. But the change to that weary, dreary Camden! Mary Preston said: "I do think Mrs. Chesnut deserves to be canonized; she agrees to go back to Camden." The Prestons gave me a farewell dinner; my twenty-fourth wedding day, and the very pleasantest day I have spent in Richmond.


---Jenkin Lloyd Jones, Federal artilleryman, writes in his journal of a tragic episode in camp:

Huntsville, Monday, April 11. Spent the day in the usual way. Two hours’ gun drill in the morning, then game of ball; an hour company drill in the afternoon; a game or two of chess, then parade 4 P. M.; reading, writing, the remainder of the time till retreat at 8 P. M. when I made down my cot. In the quiet of alone I lay down, a few yearning thoughts of home, mother, etc. and all is oblivion till reveille calls me forth from the land of nod. A little after noon we were startled by a terrible explosion near the depot. A caisson of the Illinois Battery had exploded while returning from drill, killing six cannoneers instantly and wounding two. A very sad affair. Bodies torn to shreds.

Jenkin Lloyd Jones

---The Mobile News prints this editorial reproving loose moral conduct between the women of Mobile and the army officers:

—We can hope no good results from trivial and light conduct on the part of our women. Instead of adorning their persons for seductive purposes, and tempting our officers to a course alike disgraceful and unworthy of women, whose husbands and brothers are in our armies, they had better exhort them to well-doing, than act as instruments of destruction to both parties. The demoralization among our women is becoming fearful. Before the war, no woman dared to demean herself lightly; but now a refined and pure woman can scarcely travel without seeing some of our officers with fine-looking ladies as companions. You are forced to sit at the tables with them; you meet them wherever you go. Is it that we, too, are as wild as our enemies, scoffing at God and at all rules of social morality? For heaven’s sake, let us frown down this growing evil, unless all mothers and fathers would have their daughters grow up in a pestilential atmosphere, which but to breathe is death.


April 10, 1864

April 10, 1864

---Gen. Steele’s Federal column from Arkansas, on their way to join Banks, decides to turn and return to Little Rock, harassed by Rebel attacks along the way.


---Kate Cumming, a Confederate Army nurse at Dalton, Georgia, records the activities in the Rebel camp in the emerging springtime:

Sunday, April 10.—A real April day, cloud and sunshine. This morning Dr. A. preached a very interesting sermon. His text was, “Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you.” I think it is a pity that he is not a chaplain instead of a surgeon. I told him so, but he says his health will not permit it.

There is a religious revival here in which the citizens take very little interest, but the soldiers a great deal.

Dr. McFerrin, a Methodist preacher, is holding it. He is a chaplain, and his very soul seems to be in the work. He is one of the most earnest preachers I ever heard.

The people are very gay. Nearly every night a party is given. The gentlemen who attend them are the attachees of the hospital and the officers of the post.

April 9, 1864

April 9, 1864

---Battle of Pleasant Hill, Louisiana:  Taylor’s Confederates pursue the retreating Federals south until reaching the village of Pleasant Hill.  Taylor has been reinforced by two small divisions under Gen. Thomas Churchill.  The division of Mouton (who was killed the previous day) is put under the command of Brig. Gen. Camille J. Polignac.  At this point, Gen. Banks arrives, with A.J. Smith’s divisions, and forms a line.  Neither army does much during the day.  Finally, at about 5:00 PM, Polignac moves against the Federal right; Churchill and Walker go forward, and strike the Federal line near the center, but the Federal left is hidden from their view due to the heavy woods.  The Rebels do not realize they have been flanked by virtue of their own advance until the right end of their line passes the 58th Illinois Regiment, lined up perpendicularly to the Rebel advance.  The Illinois men strike at the Rebel flank, and then the rest of Smith’s line surges forward, and drives the Yankees back, as the fighting goes on in the dark.  Smith sent a brigade in pursuit, but late at night Banks gives orders for the entire army to withdraw back to Grand Ecore.  Smith is incredulous.  The Rebels for their part, are demoralized and in full rout.  A Union tactical victory, but a Confederate strategic victory, since Banks chooses to retreat in the face of victory.  Banks offers reasons for his retreat: the supply train has been sent south at the beginning of the battle, and has gone too far to be brought back soon enough for the Yankees, who are out of food and out of water.

Losses:          Killed    Wounded    Captured/Missing        Total

U.S.                  150               844                             375                         1,369

C.S.                         1,200                                        426                         1,626

---The CSS Squib, a David-style torpedo boat, attempts an attack on the USS Minnesota, just off Newport News, Virginia.  It explodes a torpedo against the Minnesota’s hull, but the U.S. ship survives, and the Squib escapes.


---Charles Wright Wills, a young officer in Thomas’s Army of the Cumberland, writes in his journal about his regiment re-enlisting, and how disciplinarians are voted out of the officer ranks---and of a Rebel woman who lives off of Federal rations:

The day of jubilee has come at this post; that is, we have, once more, something fit to eat. This is the first day since we’ve been here that our commissary has furnished us with aught but regular rations. We can wish for nothing now, except “marching orders.” My men are in splendid condition. Everyone of them in A1 health and spirits. All the veterans of the division are back, except the three regiments of our brigade. The 55th Illinois has at last concluded to veteran. Two hundred of them will be at home shortly. They held a new election, left Malmsberg and Chandler out in the cold, and I understand, a goodly number of their best officers besides. Men who have not been under good disciplinarians, will almost invariably, if an election is allowed, choose good fellows for officers. That is, men who allow everything to go at loose ends, who have no business whatever with commissions. Captain Milt. Hainey and Captain Augustine, I understand, are to be colonel and lieutenant colonel of the 55th. They are said to be good men and officers, and exceptions to the above, but my experience is such exceptions are rare, and I’d rather time would prove them than man’s words. I believe my company would veteran, almost unanimously, to-day. I am still on court-martial duty, and having a very easy time. We seldom sit over two hours, and never more than four hours a day. . . . I met a woman to-day who prides herself on belonging to one of the first families of Virginia and boasts that her grandsire’s plantation and George Washington’s almost joined, and showed me a negro woman 110 years old, that formerly waited upon George Washington. She claims to be chivalry, par excellence. Her husband is in the Rebel Army. She lives off of the United States Commissary Department, and begs her chewing tobacco of United States soldiers. She’s a Rebel, and talks it with her mouth full of Uncle Sam’s bread and bacon.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

April 8, 1864

April 8, 1864

---Battle of Sabine Crossroads (Mansfield), Louisiana:  As Gen. Banks’ Federal troops of the Army of the Gulf march towards Shreveport, Brig. Gen. Albert Lee is out in front with his division of cavalry: two brigades under Lee and Dudley.  Gen. Taylor, contrary to Gen. Kirby-Smith’s wishes, wants to advance, and he sends out Gen. Thomas Green’s newly-arrived Texas mounted division ahead to anticipate Banks’ arrival.  Taylor has infantry divisions under Alfred Mouton and John G. Walker.  He sends to Keachie to order Churchill and Parsons to advance with their divisions, too.  It becomes clear to Taylor, after scouting reports come in that the Federals are stretched out in a marching column 20 miles long, that attacking the head of that column would give him better odds, before the long train of Banks’ troops can come up. 

Battle of Mansfield
(maps by Civil War Trust)

As Lee’s’ blue riders move into the clearing at the crossroads, they meet Confederate infantry coming up to strengthen Green’s cavalry, which retires to the flanks, as Gen. Mouton and Gen. Walker place their brigades for action.  In the meantime, on Honeycutt Hill, Gen. Landram arrives with his infantry, and he places his troops in the center, with Lee’s cavalry on the flanks.  Around 4:00 PM, Taylor sends his troops forward, in a crescent line that overlaps both flanks of the Union salient.  Mouton’s division of Louisiana and Texas troops attacks first, and pour through the Federal defenses.  Then Taylor sends in Gen. Walker, whose Texans drive Landram and Lee from the hill.  Ransom arrives with his division of Federals, followed by Cameron’s division.  Ransom is wounded and carried from the field.   A second round of attacks at around 7:30 PM drives the Yankees back further.  Rebel losses are heavy, and Gen. Mouton is dying on the field, along with a number of ranking officers.  Gen . Cameron tries to form a second line, but he is driven, as well.  As darkness falls, the Rebels push on, eventually running into a third line formed near Pleasant Hill, with

Gen. Emory’s Federal division.  The Confederates hit this wall, and come off with losses.  Confederate Victory.


Losses:     Killed       Wounded     Captured          Total

U.S.             113             581                  1,541                  2,235

C.S.                                                                            over 1,000

The Federals also lose over 1,000 horses and mules, 20 cannon, and 156 wagons.


---Sergeant Alexander Downing, of the 11th Iowa Infantry, writes in his journal while on furlough, and expresses a hearty disgust of Copperheadism at home:

Friday, 8th—Another wet day and I stayed at home all day. It is so lonesome that I almost wish I was back in the army; although if I did not have to go back, I could enjoy myself a great deal better. May God hasten the day when this cruel war will be fought to a close, so that the soldiers may return to their homes and friends. What a cruel thing this war is! Think of the thousands of our brave men suffering in the hospitals and in the camps, and many being killed on the battlefield. And yet, think of the everlasting Copperheads in the North, how they sympathize with the South! Such men as they are not fit to be compared with the negroes of the South! I would like to see such men as they are be made to go down there and fight for the South, and be compelled to live on mule beef at that!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

April 7, 1864

April 7, 1864


---On this date, Lt. Gen. James Longstreet and his divisions in East Tennessee are ordered to move back to Virginia, after these long seven months in Tennessee and Georgia, to join again with Gen. Lee’s Army of the Northern Virginia.