Monday, August 20, 2012

August 19, 1862

August 19, 1862: Minnesota River Valley Sioux Revolt, BATTLE OF NEW ULM - Believing that the whites would have their revenge either way, after four Dakota braves had murdered four whites on August 16, Chief Little Crow approves the pre-emptive raid down the river valley of the 18th. But even Little Crow is shocked by the extent and ruthlessness of the butchery, especially he killing of women and children. He calls a council of warriors on this day, within sight of Fort Ridgely, where the remainder of the U.S. troops and settlers are holed up. Little Crow wants to attack Fort Ridgely, but is outvoted by council members who do not believe their 300 braves to be a large enough force against a fort with four cannon. Little Crow and 100 followers returned home, but 100+ of the remaining warriors move to the town of New Ulm, 16 miles away, and attack. The few villagers and militia there hold off each Dakota attack, even though a few buildings are set on fire; after two hours of intense house-to-house fighting, after having killed only 17 whites, the Dakota withdraw, thwarted. That evening, Little Crow returns, and gathers a force of 400 braves, with intent to attack Fort Ridgely, in spite of the fact that it has now been bolstered with 100 more troops from Fort Ripley to the north.
The Dakota attack New Ulm, Minnesota, Aug. 19, 1862

—Gen. Robert E. Lee still intends to send a cavalry raid behind Pope’s army and destroy the only bridge across the Rappahannock—the Yankees’ only retreat. Ironically, on the evening of the 18th, Federal cavalry raids Stuart’s temporary headquarters and nearly captures him. While deliberating and waiting for Brig. Gen. Fitzhugh Lee’s lost brigade to find its way back to Stuart’s headquarters for this task, Pope is suddenly spooked and, during the previous night, manages to pull his entire army of 50,000 back across the Rappahannock, in spite of confused marching orders and a traffic snarl of supply wagons. Lee see that his opportunity is lost. But this night, he puts his own army on the road in the moonlight.

—Capt. William Bolton of the 51st Pennsylvania Infantry details Pope’s nighttime march with his personal experience:
Moved rapidly, pass Ford’s Church near Raccoon Ford during the night. We marched all night, forded several rivers and streams and did not make one stop for rest, as Jackson was at our heels and captured some few of our stragglers. . . . Moved on very rapidly, Jackson still following close behind us, forded many streams, no halts made for rest. Reached the Rappahannock River at 4 o’clock P.M. and crossed it at Kelly’s Ford, selected a field and went into bivouac for the night. Incredible as it may seem, the regiment marched 29 miles to-day, in eight hours, through a scorching hot sun, blinded with dust, with no halts for rest, and hardly time to stop to get a drink.

—Horace Greeley, the wildly inconsistent and yet influential editor of the New York Tribune, writes a letter to Pres. Lincoln and publishes it in his paper as "A Prayer of Twenty Millions," wherein he chides Lincoln for being too soft on slavery. Greeley begins by pointing out how he is "sorely disappointed and deeply pained" by the leniency with which the President has dealt with the Rebels and with slaveholders in general. "Slavery is everywhere the inciting cause and sustaining base of treason: the most slaveholding sections of Maryland and Delaware being this day, though under the Union flag, in full sympathy with the Rebellion." Greeley believes most of the legislature of Maryland to be secretly in support of the Rebellion. "It is the duty of a Government so wantonly, wickedly assailed by Rebellion as ours has been to oppose force to force in a defiant, dauntless spirit." He charges many of the officers of the Army with being in sympathy with slavery, and that they do not aggressively carry out the laws of the Confiscation Acts. "We complain that you, Mr. President, elected as a Republican, . . . seem never to interfere with these atrocities, and never give a direction to your Military subordinates, which does not appear to have been conceived in the interest of Slavery rather than of Freedom." Greeley concludes with this:
On the face of this wide earth, Mr. President, there is not one disinterested, determined, intelligent champion of the Union cause who does not feel that all attempts to put down the Rebellion and at the same time uphold its inciting cause are preposterous and futile. Every hour that slavery commanded any deference at all was an hour that imperiled the Union more deeply.
Horace Greeley

—On the Peninsula in Virginia, Robert Knox Sneden, a Federal soldier on the III Corps staff, observes that McClellan’s retreat goes slowly—that "our marches don’t average six miles per day, though we could make fifteen if required. But McClellan is taking things easy though Pope is badly in want of reenforcements. And it is in a critical position with the enemy confronting him in superior numbers. . . . " Camped near Williamsburg, Sneden notes the clear signs of destruction of the battle all around him, including the "heavy undergrowth of weeds and vines covered all the ground outside the main fort, among which, graves with staked at their heads were numerous." Then, he includes this ghastly detail without a qualm or tremor:
On a trench, which was filled with dead, I found tomatoes growing plentifully. They were dead ripe, and I filled my pockets and everything else with them. I must have eaten several quarts before moving on. I stumbled over battered and rusty canteens, broken muskets, cartridge boxes and half burnt trees for a long while.

—Charles Wright Wills, a young officer of the 8th Illinois Infantry Regiment in occupied Alabama, reflects the shocking and fairly rampant racism found in most of the ranks of the Union Army, as he records them in his journal:
They’re [local planters] getting scared about their negroes, and are carrying them off to the mountains as fast as possible. The blacks are scrambling in this direction to a very lively tune. Over 100 came in on one road within the last 24 hours. About 50 can be used in a regiment to advantage, but I am thoroughly opposed to receiving any more than we have work for within our lines. You have no idea what a miserable, horrible-looking, degraded set of brutes these plantation hands are. Contempt and disgust only half express one’s feelings toward any man that will prate about the civilizing and christianizing influence of slavery. The most savage, copper savage, cannot be below these field hands in any brute quality. Let them keep their negroes though, for we surely don’t want our Northern States degraded by them, and they can’t do the Southerners any good after we get them driven a few degrees further down. These nigs that come in now, say that their masters were going to put them in the Southern Army as soldiers. I’m sure the Southerners are too smart for that, for a million of them aren’t worth 100 whites.

—Gen. Ulysses S. Grant writes to his sister and, among other things, relates his somewhat different view of the "contrabands" who flock to the Northern armies:
The war is evidently growing oppress-sive to the Southern people. Their insti-tutions are beginning to have ideas of their own and every time an expedition goes out more or has of them follow in the wake of the army and come into camp. I am using them as teamsters, Hospital attendants, company cooks etc. thus saving soldiers to carry the musket.

I don’t know what is to become of these poor people in the end but it weakening the enemy to take them.

—Sarah Morgan, staying at a friend’s house—the Carter family—west of the Mississippi River in Louisiana, relates in her journal an experience when some very dirty but polite Confederate soldiers come to the house to ask for redfreshment:
I was alone downstairs, and the nervous trepidation with which I received the dirty, coarsely clad strangers, who, however, looked as though they might be gentlemen, has raised a laugh against me from the others who looked down from a place of safety. . . . Playing hostess in a strange house! Of course, it was uncomfortable! and to add to my embarrassment, the handsomest one offered to pay for the milk he had just drunk! Fancy my feelings, as I hastened to assure him that General Carter never received money for such things, and from a soldier, besides, it was not to be thought of! He turned to the other, saying, "In Mississippi we don’t meet with such people! Miss, they don’t hesitate to charge four bits a canteen for milk. They take all they can. They are not like you Louisianians." I was surprised to hear him say it of his own State, but told him we thought here we could not do enough for them.

—Captain William Thompson Lusk, a Union officer currently serving at headquarters of Gen. Stevens’ division, IX Corps, under Gen. Burnside, writes home to his mother of his disgust with Pope’s orders to the troops to live off the land, in the process apparently protesting a certain newspaper—probably Greeley’s Tribune:
Pope’s orders are the last unabatable nuisance. Are we alone virtuous, and the enemy demons? Let us look at these highly praised orders of Pope which are to strike a death-blow at rebellion. We are henceforth to live on the enemy’s country, and to this, as a stern military necessity, I say "Amen!" But, mother, do you know what the much applauded practice means? It means to take the little ewe-lamb — the only property of the laborer — it means to force from the widow the cow which is her only source of sustenance. It means that the poor, and the weak, and the helpless are at the mercy of the strong — and God help them! This I say is bad enough, but when papers like the _____, with devilish pertinacity, talk of ill-judged lenity to rebels and call for vigorous measures, it makes every feeling revolt. We want vigorous measures badly enough to save us in these evil times, but not the measures the _____ urges. The last thing needed in our army is the relaxing of the bands of discipline. And yet our Press is urging our soldiers everywhere to help themselves to rebel property, and, instead of making our army a glorious means of maintaining liberty, would dissolve it into a wretched band of marauders, murderers, and thieves.

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