Thursday, May 31, 2012

May 31, 1862

May 31, 1862: Gen. Joseph Johnston, in command of the Confederate army (that will soon be known as the Army of Northern Virginia) in defense of Richmond, plans a surprise attack on the isolated Union troops in the corps of Keyes and Heintzelman (about 33,000), south of the Chickahominy River, due east of the city of Richmond. The Chickahominy as risen due to heavy rains, so that many of the bridges are impassable, making it nearly impossible for McClellan to send reinforcements. Porter, Franklin, and Sumner with their corps are trapped north of the river. Johnston plans an attack at dawn, and the participating divisions are assigned specific roads that converge near Fair Oaks and Seven Pines. But things do not go according to plan. For one thing, there has been scattered skirmishing, some of it severe, in the Seven Pines area, in preceding days.
Situation on the Peninsula at the outset of the Battle of Seven Pines
(map courtesy of USMA Dept. of History)
Battle of Seven Pines
(or Fair Oaks)

Eastern Theater, Peninsula Campaign

U.S.      Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan      Army of the Potomac             110,000
C.S.     Gen. Joseph E. Johnston                  Army of Northern Virginia     74,000

Day 1: Johnston’s transmission of orders was inconsistent: Gen. James Longstreet was given orders verbally, and the rest of the Southern commanders received written orders that were contradictory. Also–the division commanders were not told that Longstreet was in command south of the river: a problem, since two of them outranked him. A.P. Hill and Magruder were to launch a diversionary assault north of the Chickahominy. South of the river, Longstreet was to take his six brigades and the division of D.H. Hill (4 brigades), supported by Whiting’s division, and strike the Union line in three places. Huger’’s division was to support Hill on the right flank, and Whiting to support Longstreet on the left. Things were confused in the beginning: Longstreet took the wrong road, going the opposite direction, and thus held up the advance of Huger’s troops, who had gotten a late start. (Johnston was too far to the rear to know what was happening tactically at the front.) Longstreet’s men took most of the morning to build a narrow bridge over a swollen creek so they could cross it. The resulting traffic jam in the heavily-wooded area meant that the attack did not begin until 1:00 PM, when D.H. Hill launched his attack without waiting for Longstreet. Hill struck the Union division of Gen. Silas Casey, whose troops were all green and very new. Casey’s line breaks, but only after heavy casualties on both sides. Hill organizes another attack on the Yankee line, with Casey, and troops from the divisions of Couch and Kearney. A flanking maneuver by Jenkins’ brigade causes this line to give way before the Rebel onslaught also. Longstreet’s brigades are backed up on the Nine-Mile Road, and he is able to get just a few troops into the fight.
Gen. D. H. Hill's attacks on Union positions at Fair Oaks, May 31, 1862
(map courtesy of Civil War Trust)
Late in the day, Johnston is finally convinced that the battle actually requires his attention, and so he takes Whiting’s division and personally leads it to the battelines. As he watches the battle from a rise, within musket shot, Johnston is struck in the thigh with a bullet, followed by another in the shoulder–and fragments from a shell pepper him in the chest and legs. He is taken from the field severely wounded, as Gen. Robert E. Lee and Pres. Davis, present on the battlefield, watch him being carried off. Command is turned over to Gen. Gustavus W. Smith, the second-in-command. Failing light at dusk brings the fighting to a halt. The Rebels hope to renew the attacks in the morning and pin the Federals against the swamp of the swollen Chickahominy.
Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, CSA

On the Union side, Prof. Thaddeus Lowe and his scouts in his reconnaissance balloon see that the Confederate left flank is not in action, and send a message to McClellan that the opportunity is ripe to attack the Rebels, who are weak on that flank. The suggestion is ignored.

—With Federal armies about the close in on all sides, Stonewall Jackson pushes his troops southward to safety in the upper Shenandoah Valley. To the east, Gen Shields is only 10 miles from Straburg, where the Valley Pike goes through, but he is waiting for some of his troops in Front Royal to join them, and Turner Ashby’s cavalry is contesting the Yankees’ every step. Fremont is only 4 miles west of Strasburg, but for no apparent reason at all, he stops his march, and camps. When Jackson’s "foot cavalry" come rushing through, they find no Yankees in Strasburg. Jackson calls a halt, builds a semi-circle line of defense, and waits for the Stonewall Brigade (covering their retreat) to rejoin them from Winchester. Jackson had pried open the jaws of death and, in the morning, will escape through the opening.
Shenandoah Valley Campaign, Part 2, showing Fremont and Shields trying to trap Jackson
---The Philanthropic Society of the University of North Carolina on this date votes to impose a law that "fifteen lashes be inflicted upon any colored man or woman, who, for the sake of convenience, and unaccompanied by any white person, may walk on forbidden ground after being admonished of the punishment which such a violation of our laws produces." Forbidden ground was identified as certain areas of campus, such as McCorkle Place. Perhaps "philanthropic" meant something different than it does now.

—The Richmond Daily Dispatch, still fuming over the infamous "woman order" in New Orleans, threatens Gen. Butler with this denouncement:

No Quarter to Picayune Butler!
Let this be the sworn resolve of every Southern man. The debased wretch and it human tyrant who has published his proclamation consigning to the horrid embraces of a bestial soldiery the mothers and daughters of a Southern city, which, for the time, is at his mercy, deserves not to be treated according to the laws of honorable warfare. If he is caught, hang him! If he keeps out of harm’s reach, and ventures not upon the field of battle, let poison or the knife do its secret but deadly work. He has forfeited his life, in any manner by which it can be taken, to every man, woman and child, in the Confederacy. As God is our judge, says the Missippian, we believe that the day of retribution is coming for the monster, and for the Government which sustains him in his crimes.

—John Beauchamp Jones, a clerk in the Confederate War Department, describes the scenes in Richmond that night as the wounded come pouring in:
At night. The ambulances are coming in with our wounded. They report that all the enemy’s strong defenses were stormed, just as we could perceive from the sounds. They say that our brave men suffered much in advancing against the intrenchments, exposed to the fire of cannon and small arms, without being able to see the foe under their shelter; but when they leaped over the breastworks and turned the enemy’s guns on them, our loss was more than compensated. Our men were shot in front; the enemy in the back—and terrible was the slaughter. . . . We got a large amount of stores and refreshments, so much needed by our poor braves! There were boxes of lemons, oranges, brandies and wines, and all the luxuries of distant lands which enter the unrestricted ports of the United States. These things were narrated by the pale and bleeding soldiers, who smiled in triumph at their achievement. Not one in the long procession of ambulances uttered a complaint. . . . Every house is offered for a hospital, and every matron and gentle daughter, a tender nurse.

May 30, 1862

May 30, 1862: Eastern Theater, Shenandoah Valley Campaign - Col. Connor and the 12th Georgia awake to find Gen. Shields and his 11,000-man division advancing into Front Royal from the east.  The Rebels set fire to $300,000.00 worth of captured Federal supplies, and withdraw to the west.  Connor send word to Jackson (who already knows) that the Federals are closing in on his escape route.  Jackson begins his withdrawal from Harper’s Ferry and begins marching south.  Jackson’s challenge: to reach Strasburg, where the Valley Pike passes, before Fremont or Shields do---and both of them are closer to it than Jackson is.

---Near Richmond, Gen. McClellan has positioned his army slowly so that they lay along the northern bank of the Chickahominy River, the main barrier between them and Richmond.  He leaves two corps—Heintzelman’s and Keyes’—south of the river, somewhat isolated.  Gen. Joseph Johnston plans to strike at these two isolated corps. 

The Peninsula Campaign, up to May 30, 1862

—At Corinth, Mississippi, where Gen. Halleck has taken over a month to approach the town and maneuver into position, the Federal troops waited with anticipation for the attack that the Confederates were sure to launch at dawn: all night, Gen. Pope had been hearing trains arrive, and gales of cheering sweeping through the Southern camps.  AT 6:00 AM, Halleck orders a cautious advance, and the Yankees find empty entrenchments.  Beauregard and his army push southward across the Tuscumbia Rver, and assume a defensive position.  Halleck pursues, but without conviction.  Meanwhile, Gen. Pope send cavalry raiding behind the Confederate lines down to Boonville, where Col. Philip Sheridan and the 2nd Michigan Cavalry destroy Beauregard’s rear supply base.  Halleck hails his anti-climax as a great victory.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

May 29, 1862

May 29, 1862: Since it is clear that Jackson’s campaign is drawing off Union troops from McClellan, Gen. Joseph Johnston sends Jackson orders to advance north in force to threaten Harper’s Ferry. Leaving some troops in Winchester to handle the prisoners, Jackson marches north To Charles Town with 14,000 men, and then on to Harper’s Ferry. In command of about 7,000 Union troops at Harper’s Ferry is Gen. Rufus Saxton, who puts his troops into defensive position at Harper’s Ferry. Jackson receives two messages, one that places Gen. Shields’ 11,000 Federal troops only a day’s march east of Front Royal, and another reporting Fremont poised a day’s march west of Strasburg with 15,000. Both locations lay on Jackson’s supply route and line of retreat. McDowell is also forwarding divisions under Rufus King and Ord to bring the aggregate to a total of 52,000 Union troops closing in on Jackson.

Virginia, May 29, 1862, showing both fronts: Jackson threatening Harper's Ferry and McClellan pressing the Rebel lines near Richmond.

---Gen. Irvin McDowell has arrived in Manassas with 21,000 men, and one of his divisions under Gen. Shields is approaching Front Royal. Pres. Lincoln again orders Gen. Fremont to close in on Jackson’s supply line and retreat route. The Federal trap for Jackson is starting to close. McDowell writes in a letter to Shields with some confidence: "General Fremont is at Moorefield, and is ordered, as we are, by the President to push after the enemy with all speed. The question now seems to be one of legs - whether we can get to Jackson and Ewell before they can get away."

---Mary Boykin Chestnut of South Carolina writes in her diary of the debate on the home front about the situation at the battle front—especially Jackson in the Valley:
Mrs. Gibson is a Philadelphia woman. She is true to her husband and children, but she does not believe in us— the Confederacy, I mean. She is despondent and hopeless; as wanting in faith of our ultimate success as is Sally Baxter Hampton. I make allowances for those people. If I had married North, they would have a heavy handful in me just now up there.

Mrs. Chesnut, my mother-in-law, has been sixty years in the South, and she has not changed in feeling or in taste one iota. She can not like hominy for breakfast, or rice for dinner, without a relish to give it some flavor. She can not eat watermelons and sweet potatoes sans discrétion, as we do. She will not eat hot corn bread à discrétion, and hot buttered biscuit without any.

"Richmond is obliged to fall," sighed Mrs. Gibson. "You would say so, too, if you had seen our poor soldiers."

"Poor soldiers?" said I. "Are you talking of Stonewall Jackson’s men? Poor soldiers, indeed! " I flared up.

She said her mind was fixed on one point, and had ever been, though she married and came South: she never would own slaves. "Who would that was not born to it?" I cried, more excited than ever. She is very handsome, very clever, and has very agreeable manners.

"Dear madam," she says, with tears in her beautiful eyes, "they have three armies."

"But Stonewall has routed one of them already. Heath another." She only answered by an unbelieving moan.

"Nothing seemed to suit her," I said, as we went away.

"You did not certainly," said some one to me; "you contradicted every word she said, with a sort of indignant protest."

---Troops from the 15th Pennsylvania Vol. Infantry engage in heavy skirmishing with Rebel troops near Pocotaglio, South Carolina, and drive off the Southerners with heavy losses.

—At Corinth, all three of Halleck’s armies–under Thomas, Buell, and Pope–are preparing for a heavy artillery assault against Beauregard’s entrenchments, followed by infantry attacks. Pope, on the extreme right, is convinced that he is about to be attacked by the Rebels, however, since he sees the enemy’s works emptied of men—obviously being pulled back and organized into assault columns. He also sees the Confederate artillery out of position, limbered up. What the Yankees do not know is that Beauregard is pulling out. Sterling Price’s troops are already gone, and headed south.

—In Missouri, Brig. Gen. John M. Schofield, USA, issues orders that all guerillas and marauders operating against U.S. troops shall be shot on sight, if they are caught bearing arms, and that any citizens who give aid or shelter to them shall be considered "aiders and abettors" of said criminals.

—George Templeton Strong, of New York City, writes in his journal, fuming over Edwin Stanton and the War Department and its inefficiency, in his efforts to get more medical officers in the army, as per the bill the United States Sanitary Commission has sponsored through Congress:
We [USSC] incline to an open rupture with the Secretary of War, in which we should find many backers. Unless the strange movements of the last five days lead to a decisive victory in Virginia, he can hardly keep his place. There is a good deal of evidence that his brain is diseased. His delay in appointing officers under the Medical Bill is paralyzing Hammond and costs the country scores of lives every day. It is a great crime.

May 28, 1862

May 28, 1862:  Heavy skirmishing continues between the lines of the two armies near Corinth, with some artillery dueling.

---Pres. Lincoln, astute enough to see the exaggeration in McClellan’s claims over the battle at Hanover Court House—and to have a better grasp of the strategic situation--sends this message to the general:

Washington City, D.C.
Maj. Gen. McClellan May 28, 1862. 8.40 P.M.

I am very glad of Gen. F. J. Porter's victory. Still, if it was a total rout of the enemy, I am puzzled to know why the Richmond and Fredericksburg Railroad was not seized. Again, as you say you have all the Railroads but the Richmond and Fredericksburg, I am puzzled to see how, lacking that, you can have any, except the scrap from Richmond to West-Point. The scrap of the Virginia Central from Richmond to Hanover Junction, without more, is simply nothing.

That the whole force of the enemy is concentrating in Richmond, I think can not be certainly known to you or me. Saxton, at Harper's Ferry, informs us that a large force (supposed to be Jackson's and Ewells) forced his advance from Charlestown to-day. Gen. King telegraphs us from Fredericksburg that contrabands give certain information that fifteen thousand left Hanover Junction Monday morning to re-inforce Jackson. I am painfully impressed with the importance of the struggle before you; and I shall aid you all I can consistently with my view of due regard to all points.

---William C. Holton, serving in the U.S. Navy on board the USS Hartford, on the Mississippi River, records this incident at Baton Rouge, as the flotilla is descending the river back to New Orleans:

Everything looked quiet, and the dingey was sent ashore with Chief Engineer Kimball, manned by four boys. On landing at the levee, they were attacked by a body of guerilla cavalry, and immediately shoved off; but the guerillas poured a volley of slugs and shot into the boat, wounding the Chief Engineer and two of the boys. They then scampered off on horseback as fast as they could go, while our boat was picked up by a gunboat which was anchored below us. We immediately opened our battery on them, raking the streets and firing some twenty shots, when the men were with difficulty compelled to cease firing. The excitement on board our ship was intense, and each man desired to see the city in ashes. During the afternoon, several Northern ladies came off for protection, and the Mayor of the city, with those of secesh proclivities, had already skedaddled, leaving the place nearly desolate.

---Charles Wright Wills, an officer of the 8th Illinois Infantry, currently serving with a headquarters staff, writes of the progress of the operations against Corinth in his journal:
We moved up here this morning under the hottest sun and over the dustiest roads, and I then helped the major lay off the camp, and pitched our tents ourselves. Gracious, how hot it was! I worked and sweated and blessed General Pope for ordering us forward on such a day. I’ll wager we are the only field and staff that pitch and strike our head quarter’s tents without the aid of the men. But I can’t bear the idea of making men who are our equals at home do our work here. Soldiering in the ranks spoils a man for acting officer “a-la-regular.” . . . There has been the liveliest kind of cannonading along the whole lines to-day. Our whole army advanced about a mile. I think that at almost any point on the line we can throw shot into their works. Distances vary from one and one half miles to two and a quarter or two and one-half. Many of the generals think that to-morrow there will be a general fight. . . . Many think that Halleck has commenced a regular siege. He has left a line of splendid defences to-day, and if he forms new works on the position taken up to-day, we will know that we are in for a long fight, a-la-Yorktown. . . .

---Four companies of the 9th Illinois Cavalry skirmish with Rebel mounted troops near Cache River Bridge in Arkansas, defeating the Rebels and capturing some.

---Kate Cumming, a nurse at the Confederate Army hospital in Corinth, writes in her diary about the famous Rebel cavalry raider John Hunt Morgan, and the common hero-worship and celebrity culture of the South in the 18th Century:
The weather is oppressively warm, and I do not feel very well; but hearing that John Morgan was to pass, I could not resist the temptation of seeing so great a lion; for he is one of the greatest of the age.  I was introduced to him by Mrs. Jarboe. . . . I then stated that I hoped to hear much of him, and the good that he would do our cause.  He replied that he wished that he might hear of himself twenty years hence.  I answered that if prayer would save him, he would be preserved, as I knew that many were offered up for him, along with those for the rest of our brave defenders.  He is extremely modest.  I paid him one or two compliments—deserved ones—and he blushed like a schoolgirl.  He has a fine, expressive countenance; his eye reminded me of a description of Burns by Walter Scott. . . . He told us about a train of cars which he had captured in Tennessee, and that the ladies on the train were as frightened as if he intended to eat them.  He said, “You know that I would not do that.”  He related a very amusing adventure he had had lately at Corinth.  He made a call on General Buell in disguise.  In the course of conversation with General B., he informed him that John Morgan was in Corinth.  General B. answered that he knew better; that he knew where he was; he was in Kentucky.  Morgan has great command over his features; can disguise himself, and go where he pleases without being discovered.
When the train left, the men gave him three cheers.  He looked abashed, and blushed again.  Mrs. Thornton said that she had rather see him than any of our great men.

Monday, May 28, 2012

May 27, 1862

May 27, 1862:  Battle of Hanover Court House.  At Hanover Court House, Virginia, just beyond McClellan’s right flank north of Richmond, Gen. FitzJohn Porter, commanding the Federal V Corps, sends troops---in fact, a rather large division of 12,000 men---to probe what is feared to be a Confederate attempt to lap the Federal flank.  Facing the Federals is Gen. Lawrence O’Bryan Branch of North Carolina with a brigade of infantry, which has been marching toward Richmond from Charlottesville.  Branch’s men attack a Union regiment and drive them back, but then spy a much larger force coming in on their right, with artillery.  Branch cagily retreats from Hanover.  Porter marches his division onward, unknowingly passing Branch’s camp.  Seeing an advantage, the Confederates advance and strike Porter’s column after the bulk of his troops have passed by, and there is a stiff firefight for over an hour, until the rest of Porter’s force doubles back to join the battle, and Branch then realizes that he is facing a much larger force.  As he withdraws, he loses some men to capture, but stings Federal attempts to strike at his column retreating.  Union Victory.

Losses:  U.S.           62 killed      233 wounded        70 captured.

                C.S.            unknown                                         700 captured

Unaccountably, Gen. McClellan claims the victory to be “one of the handsomest things of the war, both in itself and in its results . . . a glorious victory over superior numbers.”

---Gen. Halleck, still outside Corinth, Mississippi, reports that his armies are making progress towards the Rebel fortifications.  There has been sharp skirmishing on the front lines.

---Gen Stonewall Jackson has sent Gen. Winder and the Stonewall Brigade to Charles Town, Virginia.  The rest of his force is at Winchester still, but he contemplates pushing to Harper’s Ferry, which is lightly defended.
Print of Zouave uniforms inspired by French-Algerian regiments in the French Army--all the rage in military fashion in the 1860s
---Katherine Prescott Wormeley, a Sanitary Commission nurse on board a hospital vessel in the York River near the Richmond front, complains about the troops detailed to assist with the sick and wounded, based upon their wardrobe:  “This vessel (‘Knickerbocker’) is full of Zouaves, detailed to the Commission for nurses. I can’t endure them. It might be all very well, and in keeping, to get up a regiment of negroes en Turcos; but for an American citizen to rig himself as an Arab is demoralizing.”
Modern Zouave Reenactors, in Algerian/Turkish inspired uniforms

Saturday, May 26, 2012

May 26, 1862

May 26, 1862:  As Stonewall Jackson speeds northward toward Charles Town and Harper’s Ferry, Pres. Lincoln issues orders to Gen. Fremont (whose army is operating in the mountains west of the Shenandoah Valley) to begin an immediate and rapid movement westward on the highway to Harrisonburg, south of Winchester, in order to  cut off the Rebels from their base of supply.  But Fremont interprets his orders broadly, and ignores the presidential instruction.  Fremont heads north instead, staying parallel to—but outside of—the Shenandoah.  Lincoln also orders Gen. McDowell in Fredericksburg to detach at least 20,000 of his troops and send them west to try and trap Jackson.  The President also directs McDowell to move his headquarters north to Manassas, and to take operational command of the whole Valley plan.

Situation: Virginia, May 26, 1862, from the Shenandoah to McClellan's Siege of Richmond.

---Gen. Nathaniel Banks hastens his retreat northward, and crosses his armies into Maryland, abandoning even Harper’s Ferry.  A young soldier in Banks’ division writes a complaint about being “utterly exhausted . . . every joint, muscle, and tendon in [my] body as a sore as a blood boil . . . [a] sickening craving for food . . . on the point of freezing to death . . . what could add to one’s misery?”

---As Gen. McClellan closes in slowly around Richmond, some of the tension inside of the city subsides a little.  C.S. War Department clerk John Beauchamp Jones writes in his journal, noting the atmosphere amongst the citizens and the chagrin of the tobacco traders who are hoping to sell their store at a huge profit to the Yankee invaders:

MAY 26TH.—Gen. Lee is still strengthening the army. Every day additional regiments are coming. We are now so strong that no one fears the result when the great battle takes place. McClellan has delayed too long, and he is doomed to defeat. The tobacco savers know it well, and their faces exhibit chagrin and disappointment. Their fortunes will not be made this year, and so their reputations may be saved.

---Near Vicksburg, Mississippi, Farragut decides that an assault on the city would be impractical and that he does not have enough troops to hold the city even if it falls.  Farragut leaves behind 8 vessels to watch the city, and with the rest of his flotilla, begins to drop back down the river to New Orleans.

---Surgeon Alfred L. Castleman, serving with the Union’s Army of the Potomac, just outside of Richmond, notes in his journal the ghastly (and all too common) neglect of the sick by the Medical Corps of the U.S. Army, and the often insurmountable task that the medical officers face:

26th.—To-day, was so far recovered that I reported myself for duty at the Liberty Hall Hospital.[1] I found there about four hundred sick, about one hundred of whom were crowded into the house. The rest were lying about in stables, alive with vermin—chicken houses, the stench of which would sicken a well man, on the ground, exposed alternately to beating rain and the rays of the scorching sun. There were no beds, no blankets, no straw, no cooking utensils and nothing to cook. The sick were lying on the bare floor, or on the bare ground, without covering, and this was the third day they had been in this situation without food, or without any one to look after them, except as they could mutually aid each other. All kinds of diseases prevail, from simple intermittent to the lowest camp typhus, complicated with scurvey; from simple diarrhœa to the severest of dysentery. My first effort has been to separate the simple from the infectious diseases. To pitch what few tents I have, and to get as many as I can under shelter, I have before me, in the organization of this hospital, a Herculean task for a man not quite recovered from a spell of sickness. But what I can, I will do.

[1]  Liberty Hall, a plantation house which had been the  home of Patrick Henry.

---Katherine Prescott Wormeley, a nurse serving with the United States Sanitary Commission, in company with Frederick Law Olmstead, writes in her journal about trying to evacuate a large number of sick soldiers by steamboat from West Point, Virginia, near the front lines on the James Peninsula.  She has particular trouble with the steamboat captain, who does not want to carry sick men:

It was night before the last man was got on board. There were fifty-six of them, — ten very sick ones.  The boat had a little shelter-cabin. As we were laying mattresses on the floor, while the doctors were finding the men, the captain stopped us, refusing to let us put typhoid fever cases below the deck, — on account of the crew, he said, — and threatening to push off at once from the shore. Mrs. Howland and I looked at him.  I did the terrible, and she the pathetic; and he abandoned the contest.

Friday, May 25, 2012

May 25, 1862

May 25, 1862:

First Battle of Winchester

Eastern Theater, Shenandoah Valley Campaign

Through morning fog, Confederate troops advance to feel out the Union lines. Jackson has Ewell with several brigades on the right, and his own division of mostly Virginia regiments on the left. The artillery of both sides engage in a duel for an hour, but the Union guns fall back closer to town. Ewell’s troops, consisting mostly of Trimble’s brigade of North Carolinians, Georgians, Marylanders, Mississippians, and Alabamans, move forward to strike Donelly’s New York, Pennsylvania, and Connnecticut troops. Jackson moves Ewell’s brigade of Louisianans, under Gen. Richard Taylor, around to the left, to strike the Union right flank. Led by Wheat’s Louisiana Tigers, Taylor hits the Federals on the flank. At the same time, Winder’s Stonewall Brigade advance and his the front of the Union line, and both flanks cave in. Feeling that they are nearly surrounded, the Northern troops panic, and all organization dissolves into confused mob. The Union troops flee the city in a rout, with no semblance of organization or order. Jackson tries to give pursuit, but his men are still entirely spent from the previous four days’ march and no rest, and Ashby’s cavalry is nowhere to be found to give pursuit. As the Yankees retreat in disorder northward, Jackson cannot pursue them very far, and thus misses his chance to completely destroy Banks’ force.

Louisiana Tiger Battalion charges
Confederate Victory.

U.S. 2,769
C.S. 400

May 24, 1862

May 24, 1862: Eastern Theater, Shenandoah Valley Campaign - Gen. Banks, in retreating from Strasburg, has truly taken alarm at the still-unknown size of the Confederate force dogging his steps, as he puts his troops on two parallel roads pell-mell for Winchester, where there is a major supply base, and good ground to rally his troops for a defense.  In doing so, he even abandons half of his supply wagons.  Jackson and Ewell are chasing him and trying to get to Winchester first, also on several parallel roads.  When Jackson and some of his troops, along with Ashby’s cavalry, shift over to the Valley Pike, which is also being used by the Union retreat. Ashby and other Confederate troops strike the tail of Banks’ remaining supply train, and chaos immediately clogs the Pike with skirmishing cavalry, overturned wagons, wounded and dead teamsters and draft animals, and looting Confederate troops, delighted with the gift of fully-loaded supply wagons. Jackson is appalled at this, and also frustrated with lack of information.  By nightfall, he has his army on the road again, pressing Banks hard.  His troops continue to drive forward in the night, and in the wee hours of the morning, are making only 6 miles in 6 hours, so exhausted and spent they are.  One brigade commander begs Gen. Jackson for permission to rest his brigade, and Stonewall replies, “Colonel, I yield to no man in sympathy for the gallant men under my command; but I am obliged to sweat them tonight, that I may save their blood tomorrow. The line of hills southwest of Winchester must not be occupied by the enemy's artillery. My own must be there and in position by daylight. You shall, however, have two hours' rest.”  True to his word, before Banks can fortify the hills south of town, Jackson has his guns on them, and unfurling his brigades into line of battle at first light. 

—Rebel artilleryman George Michael Neese of Virginia, writes in his journal his view of the Yankee retreat:

Then we were ordered to Middletown, on the Valley pike, at which place we arrived about two o’clock this afternoon. Before we got in sight of the pike we saw a line of Yankee skirmishers. We fired on them, and at the first fire they ran away like wild men. When we came in sight of the pike we saw heavy clouds of dust rising all along the road, which we soon learned was caused by a hastily retreating army — with cavalry, artillery, infantry, wagons, ambulances, and sutler shops all in one mixed-up caravan—fleeing toward Winchester like clouds scudding before a driving storm. At a half mile range we opened on the flying mixture with all four of our guns, and as our shells plowed gap after gap through the serried column it caused consternation confounded, and vastly increased the speed of the hurrying mixed fugitive mass. . . . In the pursuit I saw abandoned baggage wagons, commissary wagons, wagons laden with medical stores, sutler goods, and all sorts of army equipments strewn along the track of the hastily retiring enemy. . . . After Jackson’s infantry came up and passed to the front and while our battery was awaiting orders, a few of us got permission from the proper authority to go on a twenty-minute pilfering raid among the debris and spoils scattered all along the road of Banks’ routed army.

—True to his expectations, Gen. Robert E. Lee, chief military advisor to Pres. Davis, and a sort of de facto Chief of Staff, sees his plans bear fruit.  He has surmised that Jackson’s vigorous campaigning in the Shenandoah, amongst three Union armies with timid leaders, would lead to the Union cancelling any reinforcements headed for McClellan’s army, which is on the verge of attacking Richmond.  Unbeknownst to him, on this date, Pres. Lincoln (prompted by the troubling disaster at Front Royal of yesterday) pens an order which summarily cancels the planned transfers of troops clockwise along the arc of Union forces in Virginia, and sends McDowell and the detached troops from Banks back to where they were.


May 24, 1862-5 p. m.

Major-General McDOWELL, Fredericksburg:

General Fremont has been ordered by telegraph to move from Franklin on Harrisonburg to relieve General Banks, and capture or destroy Jackson's and Ewell's forces.

You are instructed, laying aside for the present the movement on Richmond, to put 20,000 men in motion at once for the Shenandoah, moving on the line or in advance of the line of the Manassas Gap Railroad. Your object will be to capture the forces of Jackson and Ewell, either in co-operation with General Fremont or, in case want of supplies or of transportation interferes with his movements, it is believed that the force with which you move will be sufficient to accomplish this object alone. The information thus far received here makes it probable that if the enemy operate actively against General Banks you will not be able to count upon much assistance from him, but may even have to release him.

Reports received this moment are that Banks is fighting with Ewell 8 miles from Winchester.


—Corinth, Mississippi: Sergeant Alexander G. Downing, of the 11th Iowa Infantry in the Army of the Tennessee, veterans of Shiloh, records this in his diary:

Saturday, 24th—The Eleventh Iowa went out on picket at 5 o’clock this evening. It was reported in camp that General Beauregard is moving all of his heavy ordnance and his entire army to the south with a view of evacuating Corinth. The report says that teams loaded with munitions of war are leaving Corinth every day.

---Mary Boykin Chestnut, in Columbia, So. Carolina, records in her diary the fear and misgivings about the Rebel cause, while at the same time revealing one tactic for dealing with such anxieties:

May 24th.—The enemy are landing at Georgetown. With a little more audacity where could they not land? But we have given them such a scare, they are cautious. If it be true, I hope some cool-headed white men will make the negroes save the rice for us. It is so much needed. They say it might have been done at Port Royal with a little more energy. South Carolinians have pluck enough, but they only work by fits and starts; there is no continuous effort; they can’t be counted on for steady work. They will stop to play—or enjoy life in some shape.

Without let or hindrance Halleck is being reenforced. Beauregard, unmolested, was making some fine speeches— and issuing proclamations, while we were fatuously looking for him to make a tiger’s spring on Huntsville. Why not? Hope springs eternal in the Southern breast. . . .

Columbia is the place for good living, pleasant people, pleasant dinners, pleasant drives. I feel that I have put the dinners in the wrong place. They are the climax of the good things here. This is the most hospitable place in the world, and the dinners are worthy of it.

In Washington, there was an endless succession of state dinners. I was kindly used. I do not remember ever being condemned to two dull neighbors: on one side or the other was a clever man; so I liked Washington dinners. . . .

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

May 23, 1862

May 23, 1862: Eastern Theater, Shenandoah Valley Campaign - BATTLE OF FRONT ROYAL, Virginia: Early this morning, Jackson and Ewell put their men on the road in a swift march north to a crossroads town called Front Royal, where the two forks of the Shenandoah River join, and where the Luray Valley opens out into the Shenandoah Valley proper. Union troops there consist of the 1st Maryland Infantry, supported by detachments from other units, including a battery of artillery—about 975 men, all under command of Col. Kenly of Maryland. Jackson, learning this, sends for the CSA 1st Maryland Regiment, under Col. Bradley Johnson, to march to the front and engage their rivals from the same state.  At first, the Rebel Marylanders have trouble advancing, since Jackson has provided no supports, and no artillery. 
Jackson maneuvers to trap Union troops at Front Royal
Soon, Jackson sends in Brig. Gen. Richard Taylor’s Louisiana Brigade to support the Marylanders’ attack. Kenly finds himself backed up against the river. Meanwhile, Turner Ashby’s cavalry steals a march around to the west side of the town, cuts communication with Strasburg (where Gen. Banks and the main Federal force are) and bottles up the Yankees in their position. Kenly withdraws across the bridges to the north, and sets them on fire, but the Rebels are able to put the fires out, and cross over as well. Kenly retreats his troops a few miles north to Cedarville. Jackson orders Maj. Flournoy and the 6th Virginia Cavalry Regiment (only 250 strong) to harass and pursue, and he rides with them. As the Rebel infantry moves up the road to the still-forming Federal line, Flournoy comes riding in at a full charge, shattering the Yankee formation and inciting panic. Col. Kenly is wounded, and all 700 remaining Federal soldiers throw down their weapons and surrender. Confederate Victory.
Battle of Front Royal

Losses:   Killed & Wounded     Captured
U.S.           83                                      691

C.S.            36
During the battle, Captain William Goldsborough of the 1st Maryland Infantry, CSA, captures his brother Charles Goldsborough of the 1st Maryland Infantry, USA, and takes him prisoner.

Banks, in nearby Strasburg, hesitates and then takes his 6,000 remaining troops on a forced march north toward Winchester, since he sees that Jackson has a larger force, and now flanks him. The Federals cancel their plans to reinforce McClellan, and begin shifting troops eastward toward the Valley again.

The Federal retreat to Winchester and Jackson's pursuit

—Battle of Lewisburg, Virginia: Gen. Jacob Cox, having advanced one of his brigades under Col. George Crook toward Princeton in the mountains of western Virginia, awaits further orders from Gen. Fremont. A Confederate brigade under Col. Henry Heth, 2,200 strong, attacks Crook, who is greatly outnumbered. Yet Crook fights off the Rebel attack, inflicting over 200 killed, wounded, and captured on the Rebels, while only losing 13 men. Union Victory.

—John Beauchamp Jones, a clerk in the Confederate War Department in Richmond, bemoans the rising costs of living, and its attendant evils, in his journal:

MAY 23D.—Oh, the extortioners! Meats of all kinds are selling at 50 cts. per pound ; butter, 75 cts.; coffee, $1.50; tea, $10; boots, $30 per pair; shoes, $18; ladies’ shoes, $15; shirts, $6 each. Houses that rented for $500 last year, are $1000 now. Boarding, from $30 to $40 per month. Gen. Winder has issued an order fixing the maximum prices of certain articles of marketing, which has only the effect of keeping a great many things out of market. The farmers have to pay the merchants and Jews their extortionate prices, and complain very justly of the partiality of the general. It does more harm than good.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

May 22, 1862

May 22, 1862: Gen. McClellan, with 110,000 men, has pinned Gen. Johnston and the Confederates up against Richmond with 72,000 men. But McClellan is convinced that the Rebels have 160,000, and remonstrates for reinforcements with Washington.

—There is heavy skirmishing near the Rebel earthworks around Corinth, Mississippi, with a number of casualties on both sides. There is fighting nearly every day now as both armies probe the others’ works.

—Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn, attempting to get into position for the attack Beauregard has planned, finds obstacles:

May 22, 1862-8 a.m.

General BRAGG,
Commanding, Front: GENERAL: I am now on the cross-roads leading to Dickey's Mill and about the intersection of the Burnsville road. I have been delayed by bad management and stupidity of officers, unexpected defiles, &c., and I am sick with disappointment and chagrin, but will push the enemy when I do reach our position. I feel like a wolf and will fight Pope like one. Have patience with me; you will hear my guns soon.
Yours, &c.,


—Henry Adams, in London with his father the U.S. Ambassador, writes to his brother Charles, who is an officer in a Union cavalry regiment:

I dread the continuance of this war and its demoralizing effects more than anything else, and happy would be the day when we could see the first sign of returning peace. It’s likely to be hard enough work to keep our people educated and honest anyway, and the accounts that reach us of the wholesale demoralization in the army of the west from camp-life, and of their dirt, and whiskey and general repulsiveness, are not encouraging to one who wants to see them taught to give up that blackguard habit of drinking liquor in bar-rooms, to brush their teeth and hands and wear clean clothes, and to believe that they have a duty in life besides that of getting ahead, and a responsibility for other people’s acts as well as their own. The little weaknesses I speak of are faults of youth; but what will they become if America in its youth takes a permanent course towards every kind of idleness, vice and ignorance?

. . . We must have peace for many years if we are to heal our wounds and put the country on the right track. We must bring back or create a respect for law and order and the Constitution and the civil and judicial authorities. The nation has been dragged by this infernal cotton that had better have been burning in Hell, far away from its true course, and its worst passions and tastes have been developed by a forced and bloated growth. It will depend on the generation to which you and I belong, whether the country is to be brought back to its true course and the New England element is to carry the victory, or whether we are to be carried on from war to war and debt to debt and one military leader to another, till we lose all our landmarks and go ahead like France with a mere blind necessity to get on, without a reason or a principle. No more wars. Let’s have peace, for the love of God.

—Lavinia Morrison Dabney, at home in Farmville, Virginia, writes to her husband Robert Lewis Dabney, who is in the Rebel army with Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley. Among other information about the weather, crops, and livestock, she tells of the sense of impending doom over the region:

. . . Although I have a houseful of company now all of the time. I do not enjoy the house. it is desolate to me. & I miss you every where but feel better out of doors. Bessy & Mary Hoge are here with Aunt Lizzie. I think you had just as well let me take boarders at once: Bacon is 40cts now in Farmville & mine is going too fast. We have Refugees from Fredericksburg at Mr. Andersons. Farmville is literally full & many boarding in the country.

No one writes to me from Louisa. I suppose it is useless to ask them to write.

The children are as well as you ever saw them. so I am but I am getting very much sun burnt. . . . Good bye my dearest I am ever praying for you. Write often

You own Lavinia

3 o clock

Mrs Hage children & servants have just arrived Richmond in great danger. Mrs Hage says our troops are nearly starving on the Peninsula I received a kind letter from Mr Vaughan saying he would come down himself if Richmond fell into the Enimys hands & help to move me Mrs Hage says she is only going to stay two or 3 days.

I feel perfectly calm but do so miss you my dear husband. Mrs Hage says that Jackson Army was in Woodstock Tuesday. Where are you going? Some say to take Washington. . .

I forgot to tell you that Dr. Willson has been very sick & is now. we have not much hope of his recovery some disease of the stomach constant neausia.. The darkies are running from Richmond in great numbers Mrs Hage says.

I have just hurd that Mr Guthries son is not going till Monday. So I will send this miserable letter by mail. I have been so much interrupted I could not half write.

May God bless you my dear

I hope you destroy my letters.

Ever your own


Monday, May 21, 2012

May 20, 1862

May 20, 1862: Shenandoah Valley, Virginia: Stonewall Jackson sets his troops in motion. Since Banks has pulled back up north from Harrisonburg, Stonewall marches his brigades north to Harrisonburg, while Gen. Ewell marches his division up the Luray Valley, which is hidden from the valley proper by Massanutten Mountain, and they continue on these parallel courses.

Northern Virginia, showing the relative positions of the armies in May 1862

—Arizona: The advance contingent (under Lt. Col. Joseph West) of the "California Column," an 1,800-man brigade made up of Regular companies gathered from California posts, and a few California volunteer units, marches into the town of Tucson, Arizona on this date, only to find that the small squadron of Confederate cavalry that had occupied the town since February has disappeared, and most of the secessionists of Tucson have also fled to Mexico. Arizona is once again in Union hands.

—Commander John Rodgers, USN, of the James River squadron, reports to his commanding officer that the USS Galena, which had been badly mauled in the abortive attack on Drewry’s Bluff, is unfit for duty. The Confederate cannon had pierced Galena’s thin armor so many times, that her pumps had to keep going much of the day to keep her afloat.

—At Corinth, Mississippi, Gen. Pierre G.T. Beauregard, in command of his own Army of the Mississippi and Van Dorn’s Army of the West, decides to attempt an attack against the combined Federal armies commanded by Henry W. Halleck, who has been spending a month getting ponderously into position to attack Beauregard. Beauregard comes up with a complex and sophisticated plan to hit the Yankees at several points simultaneously, and gives orders to start moving his divisions into position.

—President Lincoln, on this date, signs into law the Homestead Act, enabling anyone for a nominal fee to claim 160 acres if he can add improvements within five years. This act is considered the key to the settlement of the West.

–From the diary of Lt. Col. Rutherford B. Hayes of the 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry:

Camp on Flat Top Mountain, May 20, 1862. — Monday, 19th, marched from camp on Bluestone River to this point (yesterday) — a hot dry march — with knapsacks. I supposed we were to go only five miles; was disappointed to find we were retreating so far as this point. Being out of humor with that, I was out of sorts with all things; scolded "some" because the column was halted to rest on the wrong side of a stream which had to be crossed single file; viz., the near instead of the opposite side; mad because Colonel Scammon halted us in the sun half an hour — no water — without telling us how long we were to halt, etc., etc. But got good-humored again soon. Must swear off from swearing. Bad habit. Met Dr. Jim Webb, assistant surgeon of [the] Twelfth, yesterday as we approached here. March fourteen miles.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

May 19, 2012

May 19, 1862:  President Lincoln rescinds Gen. David Hunter’s Order No. 11, freeing of the slaves in his district in coastal South Carolina, along with Hunter’s military draft provision.  It seems that the freed slaves did not want to join the army, and they were being hauled off from their homes to be put in the regiment.  So Hunter found himself in the embarrassing position of sending Union troops out into the countryside to hunt down slaves to force them to be free by drafting them into the army.  An interesting side-effect from this comedy of errors: when Sec. of War Stanton requested more regiments from Massachusetts, Gov. John Andrew answered that since Gen. Hunter was forming black regiments, then a precedent was set.  Andrew secured Stanton’s begrudging assent (even though Hunter’s move was being revoked), and Andrew began to form the famous 54th and 55th Mass. Inf regiments, made up of black troops.

---In the Valley, Gen. Stonewall Jackson takes Gen. Ewell’s division formally under his command, and plans to continue his campaign north down the Valley, to attack Gen. Banks and his Federal troops, recently weakened by his sending part of his force to reinforce McClellan.

Friday, May 18, 2012

May 18, 1862

May 18, 2012: At Vicksburg, Mississippi, Flag Officer David Farragut demands the surrender of the city and its fortifications. Maj. Gen. Smith, in command, sends back the reply that Mississippians do not know how to surrender. Farragut does not have any choice, since the heavy guns at Vicksburg are two hundered feet high on the bluffs, and can fire down on them, whereas the naval guns cannot elevate to shoot that high. Vicksburg is garrisoned with 8,000 troops, and Farragut has only about 1,000 with him.

—Gen. Halleck’s Grand Army (actually being commanded in the field by Gen. Pope) has moved 3 miles in ten days, toward Corinth. Halleck sends a dispatch in hopeful tones to the effect that his "whole line moved up yesterday to within 2 miles of enemy’s works, driving back their advance guards, which made strong resistance. . . ."

—Surgeon Castleman records an incident similar to yesterdays, but much worse, of Gen. McClellan’s timidity about advancing:
18th.—Last night, after we had retired, the aids-de-camp of the several brigades, rode through the camp, and calling up the company commanders, read aloud: "Orders from Headquarters. Roll will beat at 5 in the morning. Army will move at half-past six, precisely." All was bustle. The chests and boxes which had yesterday been packed for a move, in the morning, Unpacked in the afternoon, were again packed at night, which showed how eager our soldiers are to get to work. The roll, at 5 this morning, instead of calling them from their beds, summoned them to breakfast. They were ready, but had not finished their hurriedly prepared meal, when it was announced through the camp, "Order of last night, to move this morning, is countermanded." If the oaths then perpetrated were recorded in heaven, the recording angel would certainly have been justified had he have "dropped a tear upon the page and blotted them out forever." Our army swore terribly, but their ruffled feelings are now being calmed by the beautiful notes of Old Hundred, exquisitely performed by our band, and recalling, oh! how many sweet recollections of homes where many of us have, for the last time, had the warring elements of our souls soothed into quiet submission by the "peace, be still," of this master piece of sacred music.

—Mary Boykin Chestnut of South Carolina writes in her diary:
May 18th.—Norfolk has been burned and the Merrimac sunk without striking a blow since her coup d’état in Hampton Roads. Read Milton. See the speech of Adam to Eve in a new light. Women will not stay at home; will go out to see and be seen, even if it be by the devil himself.

Very encouraging letters from Hon. Mr. Memminger and from L. Q. Washington. They tell the same story in very different words. It amounts to this: "Not one foot of Virginia soil is to be given up without a bitter fight for it. We have one hundred and five thousand men in all, McClellan one hundred and ninety thousand. We can stand that disparity." . . .

There is said to be an order from Butler turning over the women of New Orleans to his soldiers. Thus is the measure of his iniquities filled. We thought that generals always restrained, by shot or sword if need be, the brutality of soldiers. This hideous, cross-eyed beast orders his men to treat the ladies of New Orleans as women of the town—to punish them, he says, for their insolence.

Footprints on the boundaries of another world once more. Willie Taylor, before he left home for the army, fancied one day—day, remember—that he saw Albert Rhett standing by his side. He recoiled from the ghostly presence. "You need not do that, Willie. You will soon be as I am." Willie rushed into the next room to tell them what had happened, and fainted. It had a very depressing effect upon him. And now the other day he died in Virginia.