Thursday, October 9, 2014

June 9, 1864


June 9, 1864

 

---A force of Federals under Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler try a half-hearted attack on Petersburg, Virginia, in an attempt to undermine Lee’s position around Richmond.  His 4,500 men are beaten off by Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard’s 2,500 men.  Butler decides not to try again.

 

---Gen. Sherman issues orders to his three columns---McPherson, Thomas, and Schofield---to take three parallel routes south with the aim of converging upon Marietta, where Joseph Johnston and Army of Tennessee await them.

 

---A Union force strikes back at Mount Sterling, Kentucky, and drives Morgan and his raiders out in a rout.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

June 8, 1864


June 8, 1864

 

---The National Union Party, a coalition party of Republicans and pro-war Democrats, convened in Balitmore yesterday.  Today, by a large majority, they nominate Abraham Lincoln for President.  In an unusual move, however, they do not re-nominate Vice President Hannibal Hamlin, but Andrew Johnson of Tennessee (currently governor of Tennessee) for Vice President.

 

--Gen. Sherman strengthens his position on the Western and Atlantic railroad, but feels restrained by the vast resources he must expend to guard his ever-lengthening supply line.  Still smarting from large losses at the battles of Dallas, Ezra Church, and Pickett’s Mill, the Federals use maneuver and the weight of numbers to outflank the Rebels; in nearly every case, it has failed.

 

---Meanwhile, at Mount Sterling, Kentucky, far behind Union lines, Gen. John Hunt Morgan and his Confederate raiders captures the Union garrison there, and appropriate $18,000.00 from the local bank.



---Charles H. Lynch, of the 18th Connecticut Vol. Infantry, writes in his diary of the campaign in the Valley with Gen. Hunter, after the Battle of Piedmont:

 
June 8th. Again routed out early. Into line on the march through town to continue our work of destruction. Piling up ties, place the rails on top, set fire to the ties. When the rails become hot in the center, they warp or bend, making them useless. The march out of town, along the railroad, destroying it, makes very hard work for us, as we put in a long day, and not very much food. We manage to pick up some corn meal and a little flour, which we make into pan-cakes, called by the boys, ToeJam. Some of the boys received bruises and jams in the work on the railroad. There is much kicking over the hard work.

 
In camp tonight, talking over the events of the day, wondering what the morrow has in store for us. Many buildings and much property in town have been destroyed by fire, by order of General Hunter. Many of the women look sad and do much weeping over the destruction that is going on. We feel that the South brought on the war and the State of Virginia is paying dear for her part. The loss of our good boys brings us many sad hours. We cannot help think, and wonder who will be the next one to give his life for our country.

 

---In Georgia, as part of Sherman’s campaign to take Marietta on the way to Atlanta, Sergeant Alexander Downing, of the 11th Iowa Infantry, writes in his journal:

Wednesday, 8th—We moved forward early this morning, marching twelve miles to the little town of Ackworth, where we went into camp. We are now with Sherman’s army, our corps being placed on the left in front of Atlanta. Our front is about twenty-five miles north of the city, while my division is back about ten miles farther. Sherman’s forces now number about one hundred and fifty thousand men and it is thought that the rebels under Johnston have seventy-five thousand. Our army, in the main, is lying still today, though there is some skirmishing in the front. The rebels have fallen back about ten miles. The health of our men is excellent; they are in fine spirits and anxious for a fight.

 
 
 

Friday, October 3, 2014

June 7, 1864


June 7, 1864

 

Battle of Cold Harbor

Virginia

May 31-June 12, 1864

 

Day 7:  At last, a truce is called between the two armies in order that burial teams may go out to bury the stench-ridden corpses from the last several days of fighting.  By this time, of course, most of the wounded who had lain there for four days were dead.  Northern newspapers will criticize Grant heavily for not making the truce sooner, but they are unaware that it was mostly Lee’s reticence that prevented an earlier truce.

 
Burying the dead at Cold Harbor, a year later

William P. Derby, of the 27th Massachusetts Infantry, describes part of what he saw:

Four days of sun and rain, with the severe heat of summer, had passed over our slain, and the air was laden with insufferable putrescence. We breathed it in every breath, tasted it in the food we ate and water we drank. What seemed intolerable to us, was doubly so to the enemy, from their nearness to the dead, and from the fact that the prevailing winds, wafting over the field, carried the fumes directly to them. The granting of the truce was a necessity rather than a virtue.
 

The ground was strewn with bloated and discolored forms, every feature so distorted that recognition from this source was impossible. . . . Now and then some poor wounded one was found, in all the horrors of a living death. For four long days and nights they had remained upon that field, with ghastly wounds, without food, water or care, and surrounded by remains exuding a stifling stench. Who can depict the terrible sufferings of those long, long hours of horror . . . ? Nature gave but few the endurance to bridge such an awful chasm, so that the work was chiefly with the dead.
 

Long trenches were dug, in which they were laid, side by side, with such winding-sheets as their blankets afforded. . . . The utmost haste failed to entomb the immense mass of our slain, before a signal-gun gave notice that the “truce had expired.” At the next gun the dogs of war would be let loose upon any remaining on the field, and hence our burial party hastily retired. A few moments later we were again engaged in the deadly fray. Those comrades participating in the burial were so overcome by the stench as to be unfit for duty for several days.


---Of the unauthorized meetings between soldiers of the two sides, Major Theodore Lyman, a staff officer serving with Gen. Meade, recounts this incident:

Some extraordinary scenes occurred during the armistice. Round one grave, where ten men were laid, there was a great crowd of both sides. The Rebels were anxious to know who would be next President. “Wall,” said one of our men, “I am in favor of Old Abe.” “He’s a damned Abolitionist!” promptly exclaimed a grey-back. Upon which our man hit his adversary between the eyes, and a general fisticuff ensued, only stopped by officers rushing in.

 


---Gen. Grant, seeing that Gen. Hunter and Crook, now combined in the Shenandoah Valley, has the potential to cross the Blue Ridge and capture Charlottesville, thus threatening Lee’s rear, decides on a comprehensive strategic shift.  He send Sheridan with two divisions of cavalry westward to strike at Charlottesville and the railroads that supply Lee’s army.  He also plans to shift the Army of the Potomac southward, from his left flank, to end run Lee’s men.  Lee’s response is predictable: first, he pulls Breckinridge’s division off the lines and sends him post-haste to the Valley to stem the Union tide there; he also sends two divisions of cavalry to chase Sheridan and keep him busy. 

 

June 6, 1864


June 6, 1864

 

Battle of Cold Harbor

Virginia

May 31-June 12, 1864

 

Day 6: Sporadic fighting continues along the lines, in spite of Meade having sent Maj. Theo. Lyman, of his staff, forward with a white flag to discuss a truce in order to bury the dead.  Both Meade and Lee are suspicious of the motives of the other.  Lee delays sending an answer for most of the day.  He and Grant both dither, fearful of the implications of the tradition that whoever asks for any kind of truce is conceding the field as the loser.  The only significant combat is when Jubal Early probes forward toward the Union lines, but is unable to deploy his troops in impassable swamps. 

June 5, 1864


June 5, 1864

 

Battle of Cold Harbor

Virginia

May 31-June 12, 1864

 

Day 5:  The stalemate continues, as both sides extend and strengthen their fortifications.  All day, messages are passed back and forth over the lines as the commanders of each army dickers with the other over the question of a truce to care for the wounded.

 
Union Army camps at Cold Harbor

---Shenandoah Valley:  Battle of Piedmont, Virginia---As Maj. Gen. David Hunter (replacing the hapless Franz Sigel) pushes south, up the Shenandoah Valley, he is opposed by very few Confederate troops.  There are only a small force of mostly cavalry under Brig. Gen. John Imboden and assorted odds and ends.  Gen. Lee orders Gen. Willliam “Grumble” Jones, near Lynchburg, to march to Imboden’s aid.  Grumble Jones was coming up from Lynchburg with over 4,000 men, assuming command of the aggregate (about 5,500 men), and decides to make a stand near Piedmont, as Hunter turns south from Port Republic and heads toward Staunton.  The Southerners are in good positions on a ridge, with Imboden’s dismounted cavalry holding the right flank at right angles to the main line, thus enabling crossfire against any advancing force.  Hunter sends forth Sullivan’s division of infantry against the Rebel left flank, and the attack falters.  The Rebels counterattack, and a realignment of their lines leaves a gap on the line.  Col. William Ely of the 18th Vermont spots the gap and acquires two howitzers to fire into it.  The Union line goes forward and the Confederates break.  At a crucial moment, while rallying his troops, Grumble Jones is shot through the head, dying instantly.  Brig. Gen. Vaughn takes command of the Rebels, and Imboden holds a line for a while to prevent the total destruction of the Rebel force.  As it is, Maj. Gen. Julius Stahel’s Union cavalry scoop up nearly 1,000 Confederates as prisoners.  The way to Staunton is now open.  Union Victory.   Losses:  Union, 780;  Confederate, 1,600.

 

June 4, 1864


June 4, 1864

 

Battle of Cold Harbor

Virginia

May 31-June 12, 1864

 

Day 4:  The fighting dies down into trench warfare, as it had at Spotsylvania, except that the soldiers on both sides had become much better at designing and building trench systems built to last.  Union troops are far forward of their supply trains, and so resort to using their hands and their bayonets to dig and build up earthworks. 

Because the attacks by snipers are deadly and constant on both sides, supplies have trouble moving up to the front lines.  The soldiers suffer terribly from thirst and hunger, and no relief from the filth of mud and dismembered bodies rotting in the sun.  The wounded suffer the most, since the armies cannot go forward to retrieve them. 
 
A highly idealized rendering of Cold Harbor

 

---Georgia:  From poor calculations, Gen. Mansfield Lovell tells his commander, Joseph Johnston, that the Federals under Sherman’s command have lost as many as 45,000 casualties since they launched the campaign into northern Georgia.  In fact, the figures come closer to only 10,000 Union casualties, but Johnston nevertheless becomes convinced that he is prevailing, and that he need only follow the same resist-and-fall-back delaying strategy to eventually stop Sherman.  As the Federals regain control of Allatoona and the railroad, thus securing their line of supply, the Confederates warily pull back about ten miles, with their backs up against Kennesaw Mountain, the most dominant eminence in the area, from whose peak one could easily see Atlanta.  Kennesaw is the key to everything: most of the roads of any consequence meet there, and the railroad curves around the mountain’s eastern shoulder.  Sherman sets his sights on Marietta, which lies beyond Kennesaw.  In the maneuvering of the two armies, small fights erupt at Big Shanty and Acworth.

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/)