Wednesday, August 15, 2012

August 15, 1862

August 15, 1862: Lee holds a conference with his commanders, where debate broils. Jackson argues that Pope now has all 50,000 of his men between the Rapidan and the Rappahannock, and has only one bridge as a line of retreat across the Rappahannock; if Stuart were to destroy that bridge, Pope could be trapped against the river and destroyed. Longstreet disagrees, pointing out that his corps do not yet have their rations, and that most of the cavalry have not yet arrived. Lee finally decides to attack two days later, settling the warming debate. Jackson marches his corps north this afternoon to Orange Court House, and then turns northeast, in a flanking maneuver.
Jackson begins to edge east of Pope's army

—Gen. Jesse Reno’s division has now joined Pope’s Army of Virginia. Burnside is enroute with the rest of his IX Corps, from Falmouth.

Of this movement, Capt. William J. Bolton of the 51st Pennsylvania Volunteers (part of Reno’s division) records in his journal:
Received marching orders early this morning, and at 2 o’clock P.M. took up our line of march ina a drenching rain that lasted all day. The marching was most wretched. After a march of five miles, at sundown we reached Raccoon Ford on the Rapidan River. We immediately took up a position on the Raccoon Ford Road. . . . The whole of Company A was sent out on picket to-night, and a dreary cheerless night it is.

—Told to re-supply from the Virginia citizens, the men of Pope’s army engage in unrestrained pillaging and looting. Morale in many regiments plummets.

—Robert Knox Sneden, on the staff of the III Corps of McClellans’ Army, writes in his journal of the army’s remove from Harrison’s Landing:
Fine day and very hot, 92 degrees. The bugles sounded to "pack up" in all the camps at 6 o’clock this morning and soon all the tents were struck, packed in wagons, and sent to the wharf where two or three vessels yet remained taking on their last loads. . . . The men carried haversacks with ten days’ rations, sixty rounds of ammunition, and their shelter tents. As the several generals rode along the moving columns they were loudly cheered, Hooker and Kearney especially.
I was met on all sides with sullen and defiant remarks by the women who complained of the loss of their slaves or servants as they call them, which now forced them to do their own work.

—The New York Post publishes this editorial, arguing that the existence of slavery will always be a matter of contention between North and South unless it is destroyed:
We of the North can no doubt whip the rebels by arms; we can drive them out of Richmond into the cotton States; we can pursue them through the thousand swamps of the cotton States into the Gulf of Mexico; it would take time and money and life to do so; but we could do it all beyond a peradventure. But the Union would not be thereby restored. The same elements of discord would still exist; the same fends would break out, and no permanent peace or permanent harmony would be possible until the respective social systems of the North and South are rendered homogeneous by the extinction of the only difference between them. We must go on fighting for ever in this kind of desultory civil war, or else we must form coterminous States of diverse civilizations, which would fight no less perpetually; or finally, looking the problem right in the heart of it, resolve to restore the Union on the only basis on which, after what has occurred, a restoration seems to be possible, namely the establishment of free institutions and a free system of society in all the component parts.

—Josiah Marshall Favill, an officer in the 57th New York Infantry Regiment, writes in his journal of the rumors flying about the Army of the Potomac as it packs up and leaves:
I have omitted any notations since the eighth, for the reason that our wagons have been packed, and everything held in readiness to march at a moment’s notice, for the past week. Of course, we expected to move, and in the interim there was nothing going on. No drills, parades, or reviews, and consequently nothing to record. The camp is filled with rumors of Lee’s disappearance, and there is much anxiety at headquarters as to his intentions. We gather little of importance about the situation from our own resources and trust almost entirely to the New York Herald for news, even of our own movements. While we know nothing positive, the general belief is entertained that the rebel army has undertaken some kind of enterprise which is worrying the commander of the Army of the Potomac a good deal. The situation ought to have been reversed, the Army of the Potomac keeping the rebel army on the anxious seat, but our general is decidedly slow, and I suppose General Lee has concluded we are afraid to undertake another aggressive campaign. The weather has been hot continuously, and the sick list greatly increased. . . . On our way out, we observed many of the camps deserted, and long trains of wagons moving down the peninsula, indicating a general movement of some kind. . . . The officer commanding the videttes told us from what he could learn the rebel army had gone, and that there was only a small cavalry force in front. . . . They report a rumor at the landing that the rebel army has gone for Washington, and that the people there are scared out of their wits. It seems improbable, but General Lee is a brilliant commander, and must by this time be a little tired of waiting for us to move, and may try to take advantage of our sluggishness by making a sudden and unexpected attack on the capital. If it proves true, what a reflection it will be on the "Little Napoleon."

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