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.

 

Losses:

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.

May 25, 1864


May 25, 1864

 

Battle of the North Anna River

 
May 23-26, 1864

 

Day 3:  Gen. Gouverneur K. Warren pushes his V Corps into line to test A.P. Hill’s Third Corps lines, but finds them substantial, and chooses not to escalate his probing attacks.  Then, Gen. Wright brings up his VI Corps on Warren’s right, in order to try to flank the Confederate lines.  But Wright finds that Hill’s left is anchored on the Little River, and in order to flank him, the Federals need to cross it.  But the fords are heavily guarded by the Southern cavalry in force, and Wright can find no opportunities to cross.  The fighting on this day devolves into light skirmishing.

 


---Atlanta Campaign---Battle of New Hope Church:  Gen. Johnston’s Army of Tennessee halts at New Hope Church, forming a line with Hood in the center, Polk on the left, and Hardee on the right.  Gen. Hooker’s bluecoats (XX Corps) strike the Confederate line in the center, and loses heavily against well-positioned artillery and the Rebel infantry who have an unobstructed field of fire.  Hooker disengages and pull back.  Some Union soldiers describe it as some of the most intense musketry of the war.

Sherman tries to turn Johnston's left flank.
 

May 24, 1864


May 24, 1864

 

Battle of the North Anna River

 
May 23-26, 1864

 

Day 2:  After working feverishly overnight, Gen. Lee’s engineers have fortified his inverted V-shape line (called a “hog’s snout” line), in order to necessarily cause the Federal forces to split itself to one side of the apex and the other.  This morning, Gen . Grant orders more troops to cross the river and deploy.  Hancock’s II Corps crosses to the east, at Chesterfield Bridge, in large numbers, not realizing that he faces two of the Confederate corps (Ewell and Anderson).  On the west leg, Warren and Wright cross their two corps over the river.  Grant, not yet understanding what Lee is doing, finds the ease of crossing the North Anna to be a sign that Lee is retreating.  He order Burnside down to cross the river at Ox Ford, and the Yankees encounter opposition there, which the Federals assume to be a rear guard.  Burnside sends Crittenden’s division to cross at Ox Ford, and sends Samuel Crawford’s division upstream to cross at Quarles Mills.  As soon as Crittenden crosses, he sends his lead brigade of new Massachusetts regiments, under Brig. Gen. James Ledlie, to attack the Rebel lines.  Ledlie is drunk, and in spite of the fortifications and the Rebel artillery, orders an attack anyway.  His men are moved down in large numbers, two of his regimental commanders (Weld and Chandler) are wounded, and Ledlie finally withdraws.  (Despite the botched attack, Ledlie is cited for bravery and given division command later.)

 
North Anna, May 24
map by Wikipedia


Hancock’s troops go forward, and strike the right flank of the Confederate line.  Gibbon’s division strikes the Southern earthworks, and a hot firefight engulfs and engages his entire division.  About this time, a torrential thunderstorm breaks, and both armies slack off their rate of fire.  A bit later, Gen. Birney’s Federal division moves in alongside Gibbon, and both divisions push, but are unable to make any headway.  Gen. Lee had planned to make a push that would trap Hancock against the river and destroy his corps piecemeal, but Lee is debilitated by intestinal illness, and cannot stir from his cot.  He has no other commanders that he can rely on (Anderson being new, Hill also being ill, and Ewell still shaken from the Spotsylvania disaster), and so nothing happens.  Lee’s intended counter-blow at Hancock never materializes.  When Grant hears about the disposition of Lee’s lines, he realizes Hancock’s peril, and orders more pontoon bridges built, in order to better reinforce either wing of his divided army.  Gen. Hancock advises that the Rebel lines are as strong or stronger than at Spotsylvania.

 

---Atlanta Campaign:  Gen. Joseph Johnston realizes that Sherman is attempting to flank him again, and so he abandons Allatoona and speeds south to Dallas in order to keep in front of Sherman.  Northern and Southern cavalry skirmish all along the way.

 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

May 23, 1864


May 23, 1864

 

Battle of the North Anna River 

May 23-26, 1864

 

Day 1:  In another race, Grant and Lee force-march their troops to the North Anna River, where they hope to beat the other to the crossings.  But the Rebels already have possession of the crossings, so Lee’s troops cross to the south bank of the river.  Lee is convinced that the thrust to the North Anna is a feint by Grant.  But Grant is headed for the North Anna for sure.  The west column is Warren and Wright, intending to cross at Jericho Mills.  The east column is Hancock and Burnside, intending to cross at Ox Ford or Chesterfield Bridge near Hanover Junction.  Hancock is able to overwhelm a Rebel brigade and take the bridge.  Warren crosses at Jericho Mills nearly uncontested.  A.P. Hill only places one division there, Cadmus Wilcox’s.  Warren’s troops push across, and Wilcox’s division holds them and then makes a direct attack, but Warren’s troops push them back and keep the beachhead. 

Battle of the North Anna, May 23, 1864
maps by Wikipedia
 


This night, Lee decides to arrange his lines in a V-shaped wedge, with the apex anchored on the river at Ox Ford, in between the two main crossing points.  Lee’s plan is to split the Union wings, and attack either one wing or the other, and reinforce from the other. 

  

---In a letter to his wife penned this day, Gen. George G. Meade writes about the prospects of success:

We expected [this day] to have another battle, but the enemy refuses to fight unless attacked in strong entrenchments; hence, when we moved on his flank, instead of coming out of his works and attacking us, he has fallen back from Spottsylvania Court House, and taken up a new position behind the North Anna River; in other words, performed the same operation which I did last fall, when I fell back from Culpeper, and for which I was ridiculed; that is to say, refusing to fight on my adversary’s terms. I suppose now we will have to repeat this turning operation, and continue to do so, till Lee gets into Richmond.

 

---The New York Times publishes an editorial that is passionate on the question of Robert E. Lee’s personal honor, despite the genealogical errors:

The Chivalry of the Rebel Gen. Lee.

“When monkeys are gods, what must the people be?” ROBERT E. LEE, Commander of the rebel army, is deemed the paragon of Southern chivalry. The rebels have always been vain of being led by one of such pure blood, such stainless honor. Justly enough by their standard. But let us put him to a civilized test.

What is his blood? His grandfather, R.H. LEE, had the taint of treason in him. Writing in 1790, on the Federal Constitution, he said, “When we [the South] attain our natural degree of population, I flatter myself that we shall have the power to do ourselves justice, with dissolving the bond which binds us together.” His great uncle, “Light-Horse HARRY,” was stigmatized by JEFFERSON, who knew him well, as “an intriguer,” “an informer,” a “miserable tergiversator.” Maj.-Gen. CHAS. LEE, of Revolutionary memory, and a kinsman, was, as one may see by IRVING’s Washington, not only a calumniator of WASHINGTON, but was a plotter to supersede him; he was tried by court-martial, after the battle of Monmouth, was found guilty of disobedience of orders, misbehavior before the enemy, and disrespect to the Commander-in-Chief; was subsequently dismissed from the service in disgrace. . . . The great uncle, ARTHUR LEE, was the libeler of FRANKLIN and JAY and JEFFERSON, and is described by TUCKER, in his life of the latter, to have been “singularly impracticable in his temper and disposition.” The uncle, HENRY LEE, was in Congress at the time of the Presidential struggle between JEFFERSON and BURR, and, according to TUCKER, advised “desperate measures” to defeat the former; . . . It would be difficult to name an old family in this country, of any historical mark, whose “blood” has been shown to be of worse quality than that of the LEES of Virginia.

But it is not family that makes the gentleman, or the reverse. It is personal honor. Has ROBERT E. LEE this? We say emphatically that he has it not. He is deficient in its very first and most essential element — truth. He is as mendacious as BEAUREGARD himself. This can be proved incontestably, and that too without going back of the history of the last fortnight. . . . LEE deliberately and flagitiously lied. . . . No Commander of the Army of the Potomac has been guilty of anything of the kind. GRANT or MEADE would die on the spot before they would degrade their own manhood, and insult the manhood of their soldiers, by such deception.

The simple truth is that the very fact of a soldier’s abandoning his flag involves an abandonment of character. LEE received his military education from the Government, had been constantly honored and trusted by the Government, and it was the extreme of perfidy in him to turn traitor against the Government. . . . It is not morally possible to perpetrate this supreme crime without wrenching and in fact breaking down the whole moral nature. Treason cannot be committed on any scale without its malignity extending to every part of the moral constitution. Fidelity lies at the very core of sound character, and when that rots, all rots.