Saturday, September 29, 2012

September 29, 1862

September 29, 1862: 

Brig. Gen. William “Bull” Nelson, a corps commander under Buell, has called for the dismissal of Gen. Jefferson C. Davis (no relation to the Rebel president), commander of the Home Guard Brigade in Louisville, for what Nelson considers dereliction of duty.  At the Galt House Hotel, Davis confronts Nelson, sharp words are exchanged, and Nelson slaps Davis on the side of the head.  Gen. Davis goes out, borrows a pistol, and comes back in and murders Gen. Nelson with one shot in the heart.  Davis is arrested, but never tried or convicted for his crime.  He will go on to command a corps in the Georgia and Carolinas campaign.
Gen. William "Bull" Nelson
Gen. Jefferson C. Davis

---After pulling rank, Gen. Earl Van Dorn is able to convince Gen. Sterling Price that their combined armies, under Van Dorn’s command, should move against Corinth and wrest it back from the Yankees.  Price has misgivings, because he knows that Grant and Rosecrans have more troops than the Confederates within striking distance to take Corinth back again.  The Rebels are outnumbered, but Van Dorn is ignoring the math.

---Union army surgeon Alfred L. Castleman writes in his journal of his furlough to visit his family:

29th.—To-day received the anxiously expected furlough, and now for my dear, dear home, from which I have been absent for nearly a year and a half. Now for a visit to my dear wife and children! I have ridden since night to Hagerstown, where I shall stop till morning, then hie me onward. My hand is very painful and much swollen, but I anticipate no results from it more serious than severe pain.

---Lt, James A. Graham, Co. G of the 27th North Carolina Infantry Regiment in Lee’s army, writes home to his father about his regiment’s participation in the Maryland campaign, and how they fared at the Battle of Antietam with high losses:

[After] crossing the Potomac again at Shepherdstown [we] proceeded to Sharpsburg Md and were engaged in the battle there on the 17th. Our Reg’t went into the fight with 299 men and 26 officers, were engaged for 7 hours and lost 87 men & 16 officers killed & wounded. Our men behaved very well and we were very highly complimented by every Gen. on the field.

Our Col. (Cooke) commanded our Right and the 3d. Ark. Reg’t and Gen. Lee said that a charge that our two Reg’ts made changed the fortunes of the day. During the hottest part of the fight the enemy brought up two pieces of artillery to within 250 or 300 yards of us, Col. Cooke ordered our Company and three other Cos on the left to fire upon them and before they could get their pieces into action we had killed every horse hitched to them and about half the men. Our two Reg’ts were then ordered to charge. This we did with a yell and the enemy opposed to us (34th N.Y. & 125th Pa Reg’ts) ran like sheep. We pursued them for nearly half a mile when seeing that we were not supported by other forces and our ammunition giving out we were ordered to fall back to our original position.

---A debate ensues in the Confederate House of Representatives over a bill introduced by Rep. Semmes of Louisiana, in which he recommends that the C.S.A. declare the Emancipation Proclamation to be an infamous and “gross violation of the usages of civilized warfare” and that the Confederacy should resort to any and all measures to force the Union to retract it.  Semmes apparently feels that the Proclamation gives the South the right to ignore the usual rules of warfare in retaliation.  The debate unravels into a general consensus that the South raise the “black flag” and give no quarter for the rest of the war.

September 28, 1862

September 28, 1862:  Kate Cummings, a nurse in the Confederate Army hospital in Chattanooga, writes in her journal of her concerns for the patients, the management of the hospitals, and for the soldiers and her brother:

The great cry of our sick is for milk. We could buy plenty, but have no money. We get a little every day for the worst cases, at our own expense. I intend letting the folks at home know how many are suffering for want of nourishment, for I feel confident that if they knew of it they would send us means.

Last week, in despair, I went to Dr. Young, the medical purveyor, and begged him to give me some wine; in fact, any little thing, I told him, would be acceptable. I did not come away empty-handed. He gave me arrow-root, sago, wine, and several kinds of spices, and many things in the way of clothing.

In every hospital there is invariably a fund; there is none at present in this. The reason, we have been told, is because the hospitals at this post are in debt to the government, by drawing more money from it than their due, and until it is paid we will get no more. . . .

There are quite a number of soldiers in the place who can not get on to their commands, as the country is filled with bushwhackers, and it is dangerous for them to go through it unless in very large bodies.

I am a good deal worried about my brother, as I have not heard from him since the army went into Kentucky.

---Union Army surgeon Alfred L. Castleman records a disturbing experience as he rides to Sharpsburg:

28th.—Rode to Sharpsburg to-day to procure some medicines, of which we are sadly deficient. Found a purveyor there, but he had no medicines except morphine and brandy. I passed over Antietam battle-field. The smell was horrible. The road was lined with carriages and wagons conveying coffins and boxes for the removal of dead bodies, and the whole battle-field was crowded with people from distant States exhuming and removing the bodies of their friends. ‘Twas a sad, sad sight, and whilst the world is calculating the chances of war, and estimating its cost in dollars, I am dotting down in my memory the sad scenes I witness as small items in the long account of heart-aches.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

September 27, 1862

September 27, 1862:  The Confederate Congress considers a second conscription act, to supplement the first one back in April.  This new act drafts men aged 36 to 45.  Governor Joseph  Brown of Georgia, notorious for his opposition to efforts of the Richmond government to wield centralized power, opposes this measure vigorously, as does the governor of South Carolina.  Pres. Davis ameliorates the impact of the law by exempting certain privileged classes of men, especially wealthy slave owners.  This quiets the furor somewhat, but does nothing to endear the Confederate government to poor whites.
Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States

--- On this date, the 1st Louisiana Native Guards Regiment of New Orleans is the first regiment of African-American troops officially accepted and mustered into the U.S. Army by Major General Benjamin Butler.  Even though Spencer H. Stafford of New York, a white officer, was given command of the regiment, all officers at the company level---captains and lieutenants---were of African-American or African-French heritage.  Soon there will be a 2nd Regiment, and eventually a 3rd Regiment of Lousiana Native Guards. 
Black troops commanded by white officers became the norm, but not at first

---The Huntington Democrat, in Indiana, in what is apparently a common reaction to the Emancipation Proclamation, openly condemns the presidential order, and predicts that the “savage negro” would break out in “insurrection, rapine, murder, arson, and what not.” 

---Maj. Gen. George  B. McClellan, feeling as secure as he does as the hero of the hour, responds to Pres. Lincoln’s inquiries as to why he has not crossed the Potomac in force to pursue Lee, writes to the President in answer, offering excuses in terms of the organizational and operational complexities that the President apparently cannot possibly understand:

    This army is not now in condition to undertake another campaign nor to bring on another battle, unless great advantages are offered by same mistake of the enemy or pressing military exigencies render it necessary. We are greatly deficient in officers. Many of the old regiments are reduced to mere skeletons. The new regiments need instruction. Not a day should be lost in filling the old regiments-our main dependence-and in supplying vacancies among the officers by promotion.
    My present purpose is to hold the army about as it is now, rendering Harper's Ferry secure and watching the river closely, intending to attack the enemy should he attempt to cross to this side.  Our possession of Harper's Ferry gives us the great advantage of a secure debouche, but we cannot avail ourselves of it until the railroad bridge is finished, because we cannot otherwise supply a greater number of troops than we now have on the Virginia side at that point. . . .

He goes on to reveal a still-persistent illusion that he has been engaging greatly superior numbers, in spite of all  evidence to the contrary:

    I would be glad to have Peck's division as soon as possible. I am surprised that Sigel's men should have been sent to Western Virginia without my knowledge. The last I heard from you on the subject was that they were at my disposition. In the last battles the enemy was undoubtedly greatly superior to us in number, and it was only by very hard fighting that we gained the advantage we did. As it was, the result was at one period very doubtful, and we had all we could do to win the day. If the enemy receives considerable re-enforcements and we none, it is possible that I may have too much on my hands in the next battle. . . .

Private David Lane, a young soldier in the 17th Michigan Infantry Regiment, still in camp after the Battle of Antietam, writes in his diary an idyllic picture of camp life:

Antietam, September 27th, 1862.
We have had one week of rest; are encamped three miles from our last battlefields, with a prospect of staying here several weeks. There is much sickness, but nothing of a serious nature. As for myself, I have not seen an hour’s sickness since I left Michigan. Our camp is pleasantly situated on a high hill, and the surrounding hills and valleys are white with tents. In the evening, when every tent is lighted up, they present a brilliant and beautiful appearance. Several regiments are supplied with brass bands, which delight us every evening with a “concord of sweet sounds.” Last evening the Fiftieth Pennsylvania serenaded the “Bloody Seventeenth,” as they call us.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

September 25, 1862

September 25, 1862:  Gen. Bragg’s plan for Kentucky has not worked out.  He had originally conceived of having Kirby-Smith, Price, and Van Dorn all join him in Kentucky, which would have given him nearly 60,000 troops---or more, if Kirby-Smith could get all his men there.  But Price and Van Dorn have gotten themselves tied up on northern Mississippi trying to outwit Grant. 

---Somehow, Gen. Buell and his army are able to slip around Bragg’s western flank and slips into Louisville on this date.  However, Buell’s stock has fallen in the North, and he is attacked in the Press for going soft on the Rebels, and for not using his army since the Corinth campaign finished.  As his overmarched and exhausted troops march into Louisville, the city greets them with celebrations, cakes, and drinks.  For days, nearly one-third of the Army of the Ohio is absent-without-leave as they go on a drunken rampage, abusing the hospitality of their greeters. 

---Sergeant J. Smith DuShane of the 100th Pennsylvania Vol. Inf. Reg., writes home to his to tell her of the wound he has received at the Second Battle of Bull Run:

My Dearest May,

God bless you dearest for your kind and encouraging letter, it came like a sunbeam to brighten my pathway. while reading it I forgot my wounds and pain and in thought I was again with my my little curly headed pet again. do you know darling that thoughts of the happy hours spent with you are the kindliest ones that come to cheer me in my hour of loneliness, why is this? what wierd enchantment is this with-which you surrounded me that scarce do my thoughts wander to my loved ere they wander to my little teaze. but I suppose that it is one of your mischiefous pranks so I’ll just grin and bear it.

---Confederate War Department clerk John Beauchamp Jones writes in his journal:

The Northern papers contain intimations of the existence of a conspiracy to dethrone Lincoln, and put a military Dictator at the head of the government. Gen. Fremont is named as the man. It is alleged that this movement is to be made by the Abolitionists, as if Lincoln were not sufficiently radical for them!

---Surgeon Alfred L. Castleman of the Army of the Potomac, writes in his journal, including this somewhat worrisome  note about the pain with his hand:

25th—Well, Gen. Lee is, safely to himself, out of Maryland, into which he came in the confident expectation of adding at least fifty thousand men to his army, but which he left with fifteen thousand less than he brought in.

My hand is excessively painful, though all constitutional symptoms have left. Suppuration has fairly set in, and I no longer feel any uneasiness as to results.

September 24, 1862

September 24, 1862:  Gen. Halleck dispatches an aide, Col. Hibbin, with orders to relief Buell of command of the Army of the Ohio and to give Gen. Thomas orders to assume command of that army in Buell’s stead.  Halleck tells Hibbin not to give these orders if “if General Buell should be found in the presence of the enemy preparing to fight a battle, or if he should have gained a victory, or if General Thomas should be separated from him so as not be able to enter upon the command of the troops operating against the enemy.”

---Today, Pres. Lincoln issues an order that the writ of habeas corpus may be suspended for people who are suspected of being engaged in treasonous activity.  He also orders that “all persons discouraging volunteer enlistments, resisting military drafts, or guilty of any disloyal practice affording aid and comfort to the rebels against the authority of the United States, shall be subject to martial law, and liable to trial and punishment by courts-martial or military commission.”

---Gen. Pierre G.T. Beauregard assumes command of the Department of  South Carolina and Georgia on this date.

---Sec. of the Navy Gideon Welles  records in his diary a disturbing instance of attitudes in High Command that are counter to the Presidents’ policies:

September 24, Wednesday. Secretary Smith called this morning. Said he had just had an interview with Judge- Advocate Turner, who related a conversation which had taken place between himself (T.) and Colonel Key, one of Halleck’s staff. T. had expressed to K. his surprise that McClellan had not followed up the victory last week by by pursuing the Rebels and capturing them or cutting them in pieces. That, said K., is not the policy. Turner asked what, then, was the policy. Key said it was one of exhaustion; that it would have been impolitic and injudicious to have destroyed the Rebel army, for that would have ended the contest without any compromise, and it was the army policy at the right time to compel the opposing forces to adopt a compromise.[1]

Smith assures me that Turner made to him this communication. It is most extraordinary, yet entirely consistent with current events and what Wilson and others have stated. While I can hardly give credit to the statement, the facts can be reconciled with every action or inaction, — with wasted energies, fruitless campaigns, and barren fights. . . .

[1] Major John J. Key was summarily railed upon by the President to account for his language, stingingly rebuked, and forthwith discharged from the service.


---Sarah Morgan of Louisiana writes in her journal about the privations civilians suffer, with some humor:

September 24th.

Yesterday the General saluted us with “Young ladies, if you will ride in a Confederate carriage, you may go to dress parade this evening.” Now, in present phraseology, “Confederate” means anything that is rough, unfinished, unfashionable, or poor. You hear of Confederate dresses, which means last year’s. Confederate bridle means a rope halter. Confederate silver, a tin cup or spoon. Confederate flour is corn meal, etc. In this case the Confederate carriage is a Jersey wagon with four seats, a top of hickory slats covered with leather, and the whole drawn by mules. We accepted gladly, partly for the ride and sight, partly to show we were not ashamed of a very comfortable conveyance; so with Mrs. Badger as chaperon, we went off in grand style. I must say I felt rather abashed and wished myself at home as we drove into town, and had the gaze of a whole regiment riveted on us. . . .  We three girls sat in our rough carriage as comfortable as could be, dressed — well, we could not have been dressed better and looking our very best.

September 23, 1862

September 23, 1862: Pres. Lincoln is alternately praised and attacked in the northern Press for the Emancipation Proclamation.  But the Washington Evening Star pronounces it “void of practical effect.”  Similarly, many Radical Republicans criticize it for not freeing a single slave.  Although some Radicals, such as Sen. Charles Sumner, greet its advent by saying that “the skies are brighter and the air is purer, now that slavery has been handed over to judgment.”

---Pres. Jefferson Davis of the Confederacy condemns in unrestrained terms the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation: that Lincoln’s idea would "debauch the inferior race by promising indulgence of the vilest passions” with what he calls “the most execrable measure recorded in the history of guilty man.”  He authorizes capital punishment for Union officers captured while leading negro troops: “that they may be dealt with in accordance with the laws of those States, providing for the punishment of criminals engaged in exciting servile insurrections.

---Union Army surgeon Alfred L. Casteman writes in his journal:

23rd.—Hung around, and did not get into motion till to 2 P. M. Marched four or five miles down the river and bivouaced. The pain in my finger grows more severe and extends to the scapula. It is a sickening pain and proves to be the result of a scratch by a spiculum of bone, whilst I was examining a gangrenous wound at Antietam (dissecting wound). I cannot say that I apprehend danger from it, but I wish it were well.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

September 22, 1862

September 22, 1862: The Emancipation Proclamation - On this day, Pres. Abraham Lincoln does the single most renowned deed of his time in office: He issues the Emancipation Proclamation.  As he shares it with his Cabinet, he tells them that he is keeping a promise he made to “myself and to my Maker” that he would reveal this document if the Rebels were driven back across the Potomac.  It is a strange document, in many ways: It freed only the slaves behind Confederate lines but not in any of the occupied South (such as southern Louisiana, the coastal islands of South Carolina, western Tennessee, coastal North Carolina, and so forth), nor in any of the slave states that were loyal to the Union: Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware.  Also, this proclamation would not become law until January 1, 1863—giving the Rebel states time to consider their options.  The Proclamation states.

That on the 1st day of January, A.D. 1863, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.

Lincoln argues that this is a military measure, and therefore under his authority as commander-in-chief.  The Proclamation will be released to the public on the morrow.

—General Lee issues an order that reveals the shocking degree that lawless behavior and morale have declined considerably during the break-neck pace of operations by the Army of Northern Virginia during the summer, as well as the scarcity of rations and other supplies, which has led to Confederate soldiers engaged in foraging and looting:

The depredations committed by this army, its daily diminution by straggling, and the loss of arms thrown aside as too burdensome by stragglers, make it necessary for preservation itself, aside from considerations of disgrace and injury to our cause arising form such outrages committed upon our citizens, that greater efforts be made by our officers to correct this growing evil.

---Near Yellow Medicine, Minnesota, Col. Sibley of the U.S. Army and his command were attacked by over 300 Dakota warriors.  After a two-hour battle, the Federal troops drove off the attackers, suffering only 4 men dead and about 30 wounded.  By best count, the Dakota suffered nearly 10 times that many casualties.

---Union army surgeon Alfred L. Castleman records with fine sarcasm his scorn for McClellan’s timidity in pursuing the retreating Rebels:

Monday, 22nd.—A beautiful morning and all quiet, except that the officers are pitching tents and fixing up tables, as if for a stay. But that is no indication of what is in store for us; even before night we may be ordered to pull up and move again. But this would be very cruel. Our poor, worn out enemy, having fought and been driven for seven days, and now being entirely without provisions, must be exhausted and need rest. How cruel it would be to pursue him, under these circumstances. The kind heart of our Commander can entertain no such idea.

---Sec. of the Navy Gideon Welles writes in his journal of his thoughts and reaction to Lincoln presenting to the Cabinet the Emancipation Proclamation:

While, however, these dark clouds are above and around us, I cannot see how the subject can be avoided. Perhaps it is not desirable it should be. It is, however, an arbitrary and despotic measure in the cause of freedom.


Friday, September 21, 2012

September 21, 1862

September 21, 1862: Campaigning in Kentucky - Gen. Braxton Bragg and his 26,000 men of the Army of Mississippi are now deep into Kentucky, and Gen. Don Carlos Buell and the U.S. Army of the Ohio are following timidly behind. Buell has a problem, and he knows it: by following Bragg, he has put Bragg between himself and Louisville, his main supply base. Bragg has an opportunity, but even after leaving a large garrison in Nashville, Buell’s troops number about 40,000, which are too many for Bragg to take on alone. Bragg is also aware that large Union forces are accumulating in Louisville under Gen. Nelson (in Lousiville) and Gen. Lew Wallace (in Cincinnati), so the danger that he could get caught between the Federals to the north and to the south was palpable. At the moment, since they did not bother to coordinate, Kirby-Smith and his troops were too far away from Bragg for either of them to come quickly to the aid of the other. So Bragg decides that he must effect a junction with Kirby-Smith farther north, in Bardstown. He evacuates Munfordville, which is uncomfortably close to Bowling Green, where Buell is.

Mississippi: Gen. Price and his army march southwest, burning and looting the countryside as they go (yes, ravaging the Southern citizens they are supposed to protect), until they end up in Baldwyn, Mississippi, about 70 miles away from Van Dorn, with whom they are supposed to rendezvous. Grant turns his attention back to Corinth, wary of Van Dorn and Price and what might happen if they combine.


—The New York Herald publishes this rather overconfident editorial about the Union’s prospects after the victory at Antietam:
The expulsion of the grand rebel army from Maryland is one of the most important and decisive events in the history of this rebellion. It marks the limit of General Lee’s advance to the northward, it secures Washington, it [.....] Maryland, it destroys the prestige of rebel invincibility, it demoralizes this hitherto successful and powerful rebel army of Virginia, it restores confidence, solidity and enthusiasm to our own troops, it breaks up the whole of this last audacious rebel programme of a winter campaign on the northern side of the Potomac and the Ohio, it opens our way to the easy occupation of the rebel capital, and it marks that final turn in the tide upon which, from the Potomac to the Mississippi, we may pursue our advantages down to the Gulf of Mexico.

The loss on the part of General McClellan of the great battle of Wednesday last might have involved the loss of Baltimore, of Maryland, and of Washington; it might have been a loss which a thousand millions of money and another year or two of war on the grandest scale would have failed to repair. But with the victory on our side the losses to the rebel cause, as we have indicated, are correspondingly great. The game is now in the hands of President Lincoln, his Secretary of War and his General-in-Chief, and especially is their opportunity for the capture of Richmond so clear and inviting that if they neglect it they will surely be called to account for it by a disappointed and justly indignant people.
The editorial then goes on to suggest buoyantly that a swift march could bring Federal troops into Richmond in less time it would take Lee to return, and that Richmond was guarded by no more than 10,000 troops—and that the time to strike is now. The North would have all of the advantages in the race to Richmond. The editorial thus recognizes the prime issue at hand: Now that Lee has been forced out of Maryland, the whole point of McClellan’s victory is to follow it up by moving with speed and deliberation—which are not the Young Napoleon’s strong suits.


—James A. Graham, a soldier in the 27th North Carolina Infantry, writes home to his mother about the ghastly battle at Antietam:

Camp near Martinsburg Va
Sept 21st 1862

My dear Mother

I would have written before this but we have been on the march ever since we left Rapidan Station and I have had no chance to send a letter. We have been marching every day this month and several times we have marched all night. We were at Harper’s Ferry when it was taken, but our Reg’t was not engaged. Our Reg’t was in the fight at Sharpsburg Md. last Wednesday (17th) and lost nearly 200 men killed and wounded. I escaped without a single scratch. Our company lost 3 killed and 20 wounded. . . . It was the hottest time I ever saw and I am very thankful that I came out unhurt for I hardly thought I could escape where so many were falling. Our Reg’t took a battery from the enemy and in fact covered themselves with honor. No troops could display more cool determination & bravery than they did. Four of our men viz Shields, W.T. Patterson Merrit & G.W. Woods were left in the hospital on the other side of the river when we crossed to this side and fell into the hands of the enemy, but they will be well cared for as our Surgeon stayed with them. The rest of our company are getting along very well.

There is no news. I will write as often as I can and if I should get hurt will get somebody to write for me. Love to all. I remain

Your affectionate Son

James A. Graham
A young Rebel soldier from Louisiana

—Sarah Morgan, staying with friends in the countryside, relates this interesting example of Southern chivalry:
Many officers were in church, and as I passed out, Colonel Breaux joined me, and escorted Miriam and me to the carriage, where we stood talking some time under the trees before getting in. He gave us a most pressing invitation to name a day to visit the camp that he might "have the pleasure of showing us the fortifications," and we said we would beg the General’s permission to do so. Charming Colonel Breaux! Like all nice men, he is married, of course. He and another officer drove just behind our carriage in coming home, until we came to the fork of the road. Then, leaning from their buggy, both gentlemen bowed profoundly, which we as cordially returned. Two more behind followed their example, and to our great surprise, ten, who were seated in a small wagon drawn by two diminutive mules, bowed also, and, not content with that, rose to their feet as the distance between the two roads increased, and raised their caps, though in the most respectful silence. Rather queer; and I would have said impertinent had they been any others than Confederates fighting for us, who, of course, are privileged people.


September 20, 1862

September 20, 1862:  In a letter to his wife, Gen. McClellan writes: “I feel some little pride in having with a beaten and demoralized army defeated Lee so utterly, and saved the North so completely.”  He adds, believing that he can now capitalize on his political stock:  “I have insisted that Stanton shall be removed and that Halleck shall give way to me as Commander in Chief. I will not serve under him – for he is an incompetent fool – in no way fit for the important place he holds.”

---Gen. Halleck asks what McClellan is doing, having received almost no details since the battle three days earlier.  McClellan answers:

I regret that you find it necessary to couch every dispatch I have the honor to receive from you, in a spirit of fault finding, and that you have not yet found leisure to say one word in commendation of the recent achievements of this Army, or even to allude to them.

---Near Shepherdstown, Virginia, Confederate troops under A.P. Hill spar with troops from FitzJohn Porter’s corps for an hour.


September 19, 1862

September 19, 1862

Battle of Iuka
Western Theater

Gen. Sterling Price had set out from Tupelo, Mississippi with his Army of the West on Sept. 11, and on Sept. 14 he captured the town and the vast Federal supply depot there. He is also in a position to block the railroad east---or to dash northward to join Bragg in Kentucky. However, Price plans to coordinate a junction with Gen. Earl Van Dorn’s 7,000-strong Army of West Tennessee in order to attack the Federals at Corinth. But Grant decides to not wait to be attacked, and moves first. 
Grant moves to trap Price.

Price is not very surprised when Grant, now in Corinth, sends two forces after him: Gen. Edward O.C. Ord, with three small divisions of the Army of the Tennessee, and Gen. William Rosecrans, with the Army of the Mississippi (2 divisions). Rosecrans takes the road that approaches Iuka from the southwest and Ord from the northwest. However, Rosecrans has the longer route, and over poorer roads. Rosecrans informs Grant (who is riding with Ord’s troops) on the night of the 18ththat he is still 20 miles out of Iuka. Grant orders Ord to close within a few miles of Iuka and to wait: when Rosecrans arrives in the afternoon, and opens his attack, then Ord will move in when he hears the sounds of battle, hopefully being able to strike at the Confederate rear. Price, in the meantime, has received a message from Van Dorn that they should march south to rendezvous and combine forces.
Maj. Gen. Sterling Price, CSA

Late on the afternoon of this day, Price is preparing his army to set out when Rosecrans approaches. Price sends out his best division, under Gen. Little, who deploys Gen. Hebert’s brigade (followed by Martin’s) and these troops run into Sanborn’s Union brigade. Early in the fighting, Gen. Little is killed by one bullet. Price takes personal command and brings up the rest of Little's division. Sanborn places the 11th Ohio Battery as the linchpin of his line, and Hebert’s troops—mostly Louisianans, Arkansans, and Texans—hit the Union line. After three attempts, the charging Rebels capture the Ohio battery. Of the 54 men and 4 officers of the 11th Ohio, 46 men and 3 officers are dead, as are most of the horses. But the six guns are in Southern hands.  But soon both Yankee divisions are on the field. The rest of Little’s line comes in also, and Green’s and Martin’s Mississippi brigades charge, but are stopped by a remarkable stand by the 5th Iowa and 11th Missouri. Grant and Ord, only about 4 or 5 miles away, are deceived by an acoustic shadow: neither of them hears any sound of battle, and give up on Rosecrans attacking today—so Ord never moves in to support Rosecrans. It is a small battle, and a Union victory by default, but Grant is unable to trap and destroy the Rebel army, as he had hoped.

This is a remarkably bloody battle: both armies lose nearly a third of the forces engaged in the short space of two hours.
Maj. Gen. William Starke Rosecrans, USA

This evening, Price simply leaves his position and marches his army out on the road south, left unwatched by Rosecrans. On the morning of Sept. 21, Grant’s troops find themselves facing empty trenches. Rosecrans mounts a pursuit, but soon finds that pursuit is futile. Union Victory (marginal)

Losses:     Killed       Wounded     Captured or Missing      Total

North          144              598                     40                                   790

South          263             692                     561                                1,516

—Alexander G. Downing, a sergeant in the 11th Iowa Infantry, under Gen. Ord, relates the events of the day, and of his regiments only "action":
At noon the Eleventh Iowa was on a high piece of ground in open field awaiting orders. Some of the boys started fires to boil their coffee, and the rebels, seeing the smoke, opened with a few shots from a battery of four-pounders. Then our battery of heavy guns, lying in front of us, suddenly opened up on them and soon put them out of business. But the boys put out their campfires in short order. When the rebels first opened fire upon us, I was lying on the ground resting my head upon my knapsack and a ball passed just over me, striking the ground at my left. That was a closer call than I cared to have and I did not think of taking a nap again.

—Sharpsburg, Maryland: Lt. Josiah Marshall Favill, of the 57th New York Infantry, writes in his journal of the day after Lee’s army has vanished over the Potomac, giving perhaps one of the most vivid descriptions of a battlefield after a battle:
At eight o’clock the next morning, the 19th, the men on the skirmish line, suspecting by the stillness in front that something was up, advanced and found the enemy gone. Immediately the men stood up and all was excitement. . . . Advancing over the hill we found it covered with dead, mostly our men, but just below in the sunken road over which we originally charged, the rebel dead lay in regular ranks, so close together that it was hard to believe they were not living men in line of battle. Most of them had turned black with the two days’ exposure and it required more than a glance to convince ourselves they were not negro troops. A lot of the gallant Fifty-seventh fellows lay scattered about the hill, the ditch, and cornfield. Amongst them, conspicuous for his neatness and soldierly appearance, was Sergeant Risley, of Co. E, firmly grasping his musket, his features almost as natural as in life, and his appointments perfect in all respects. He was a fine fellow, much above the average in intelligence, and a splendid soldier, and like a soldier died, his face towards the foe. Several men were shot while climbing a rail fence near by, and some of them stuck fast, looking in one or two cases, from a distance, exactly like live men. There were men in every state of mutilation, sans arms, sans legs, heads, and intestines, and in greater number than on any field we have seen before. About noon Colonel Brooke directed me to bury the dead in front of our brigade, and with a strong fatigue party I immediately went to work. In one long grave we buried fifty-three U. S. soldiers gathered on this side of the sunken road, and in two others respectively, one hundred and seventy-three, and eighty-five rebel soldiers; we dug the ditches wide enough to hold two bodies, feet together, heads out, and long enough to hold all those the men had collected. When they were all carefully laid away, we threw over them some army blankets gathered on the field, and then replaced the earth. How many shattered hopes we buried there none of us may ever guess. War is certainly a dreadful thing, and a battlefield an ugly blot on civilization.

The country people flocked to the battlefield like vultures, their curiosity and inquisitiveness most astonishing; while my men were all at work many of them stood around, dazed and awe-stricken by the terrible evidence of the great fight; hundreds were scatered over the field, eagerly searching for souvenirs in the shape of cannon balls, guns, bayonets, swords, canteens, etc. They were all jubilant over the rebel defeat, of course, and claimed for us a mighty victory. I was much amused at the way they stared at me. Had I been the veritable Hector of Troy, I could have scarcely excited more curiosity than while in command of this burial party.

Our brigade moved down to the foot of the hill, immediately after it was known the enemy had decamped, and prepared hot coffee for the first time in three days. . . . While our losses are heavy, they are said to be a mere bagatelle to those of the right wing. Twenty thousand men, it is claimed, were killed and wounded during the battle, which seems too enormous to be true. . . . The whole loss of the regiment is something over a hundred, which is wonderful, considering the fire they were exposed to.
The Sunken Road at Antietam today

Battle of Boteler’s Ford: Maryland - On the Potomac River, Boteler’s Ford is where Lee’s army crossed from Maryland back into Virginia. Lee leaves a large brigade of artillery (45 cannon) under Brig. Gen. William Pendleton, in addition to two infantry brigades to guard the ford. Federal troops attack the Rebels, and capture 4 guns.


—Jonathan Lewis Whitaker, a Union army surgeon at a hospital in southern Pennsylvania, writes home to his wife Julia:
Matters are progressing very nicely at this place, we are living very easy, patients are getting well very fast. . . . We are expecting a new lot now very soon. O what terrible fighting they are having down in Maryland for the last 5 days and it still goes on killing off human beings by thousands every day and bringing grief & desolation to so many families, to as many fathers & mothers, so many young wives, and fatherless children, God in mercy grant that as this is being the hardest and bloodiest field, that it may also be the last, that our affairs may be so ordered in the wisdom of providence that wars and bloodshed may come to an end. But as His ways are unsearchable and His wisdom past finding out so that we cannot understand why he is so afflicting us as a nation, yet we do believe (as we must if we trust in Him), that he has some wise end in view. . . . Whatever it may be, may it be the prayer of all good men that it may be speedily accomplished, that we may once more become a united people whose God is the Lord, and blessed with peace and prosperity.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

September 18, 1862

September 18, 1862:  Sharpsburg, Maryland – This morning, both armies on the Antietam battlefield awake to find that yesterday’s battle did not determine a clear winner.  The Union army wore down the Rebels, and have clearly put an end to Lee’s invasion, thus achieving a strategic victory.  On the other hand, the Confederates did parry nearly every blow, and so therefore won a marginal tactical victory.  No one was sure whether the battle was even over.  McClellan telegraphed Washington that the chances for the battle continuing were good.  But McClellan did not say that he thought his army is too exhausted to carry on the fight---even though he has 23,000 veteran troops in two corps (v AND vi) that did not fight at all, and another 12,000 that would arrive later this same day.  Lee’s army remains in position, apparently in defiance of McClellan, and McClellan is willing to indulge the Rebels.
Union assault near the Dunker Church

My assessment: Had McClellan attacked with all of his troops, in a coordinated effort, Lee’s lines would have collapsed.  Trapped against the Potomac, Lee would have had to surrender, thus bringing the war to an end after only a year and a half of war, instead of the four years it actually lasted.
Dead Confederates on the Hagerstown Road

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

September 17, 1862

September 17, 1862:

Battle of Antietam

(or Sharpsburg)


Eastern Theater, Maryland Campaign

The Bloodiest Single Day in American History. 
In what many historians consider the most important battle of the Civil War, Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan of the Army of the Potomac finally launches an attack on Gen. Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia, which has taken position on hilly terrain around Sharpsburg, Maryland, where he protects the roads by which is army is concentrating and his escape route across the Potomac at Boteler’s Ford.   He is also able to anchor both flanks on the Potomac to prevent the Federals from turning his line, using a large bend in the river. During the night, Stonewall Jackson has come up from Harper’s Ferry to bolster the mere 18,000 Lee had in place: now, there are over 35,000 Confederates in position. McClellan has been in position for nearly two days, and has chosen not to attack until this day. Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker (I Corps) and Maj. Gen. Mansfield (XII Corps) are in position on the west side of Antietam Creek to strike directly southward at Lee’s left flank. Lee, however, has seen the Federal movement, and has hurried reinforcements to his left to counter it.

Little Mac’s battle plan is not known to many; he remains in his headquarters some distance from the battlefield, and ends up launching three separate assaults with three separate parts of his army—and apparently never contemplates striking simultaneously at all parts of the Rebel line, which would likely have destroyed Lee and forced him to surrender, thus bringing an early end to the war.

To see a cool animated map online for this campaign and battle, go to

But there is an even cooler one here at the site of the Civil War Trust, which features animated maps and some really excellent footage of reenactments for effect:
Part One:
Gen. Hooker advances troops from the divisions of Doubleday, Meade, and Ricketts down the Hagerstown Road between the West Woods and the East Woods, into a cornfield owned by a man named Miller. At 5:30 AM, Hooker’s I Corps steps off north of the North Woods – Dunkard Church – East Woods line to push down through the clear area by the church in order to smash the Confederate right, with Mansfield’s XII Corps right behind him.
Miller's Cornfield

 Hooker’s three divisions push into the Confederate lines with heavy losses on both sides—although on the tactical level, most fights are piecemeal, a brigade at a time.  Gen. Lee begins to bleed his right flank (under command of Gen. Longstreet) of units to bolster the beleagured left. He sends Hood with his two-brigade division, and Wofford’s Texas brigade (along with Laws’ Mississippians) smashes into the Federal lines, driving the Yankees back through the cornfield, until Federal reserves decimate the Texas regiments with well-time volley fire. 
Hooker's assault and Hood's counterattack

But Hood’s counterattack breaks the Federal momentum for a time, despite the fact that his brigades suffer 60% casualties. The Union line surges ahead again with Mansfield’s XII Corps, who are mostly green troops; Mansfield advances them in a bunched formation and they take heavy losses from Southern cannon fire. However, Greene’s Division pushes the Rebels back into the West Woods and gets as far as Dunker Church, but then are stuck with no orders. 
Confederate dead near the Dunker Church

Union field command problem: McClellan has sent in two corps on the right wing, but has designated no field commander. At any rate, soon Hooker is wounded and carried off the field, and awhile later Mansfield is also mortally wounded at a critical juncture–and the individual brigades settle into just so many disconnected firefights with whichever Rebels are in front of them, having no orders to either advance or withdraw. The fight on the Federal right bogs down.

Part Two:
McClellan finally sends in Sumner’s II Corps. Gen. Edwin Sumner, the oldest general in the Army of the Potomac, advances directly westward, cutting across the front of battle, unsure even as to where his fellow Yankees are on the battlefield, so far. Part of Sumner’s men even open fire on their fellow Yankees in the murk of the East Woods. 
Mansfield and Sedgwick on the assault

Somehow, at about 9:00 AM, only Sedgwick’s division arrives, French and Richardson having drifted off to the left, and as this division crosses the front perpendicularly, the Rebels counterattack from the south, striking Sedgwick on the flank, and his formation breaks up. Meanwhile, farther away in the center of the field, French and Richardson deploy their divisions and advance on what appears to be a thinly-held line along a sunken wagon road. It is indeed thinly held, but the cover afforded by the sunken road allows D.H. Hill’s Confederates to shoot down large numbers of the French’s Federals as they advance over open ground. by 10:30 AM, within a mere hour of fighting, French’s division has lost 1,750 men out of 5,700. 

Sedgwick in the West Woods and fighting on the Bloody Lane

Then, Richardson’s division comes up, and renews the assault. Meagher’s famous Irish Brigade, green flags fluttering, makes a gallant assault and breaks the Rebel line for a time. Southern officers are falling, all of Hill’s brigade commanders being hit, and confusion reigns as orders are misunderstood. The Rebels are very thin, and a misunderstanding causes them to retreat. Lee, all this time, is desperately shifting reserves down to his center, to prevent a Yankee breakthrough. Richardson himself is mortally wounded, though, and the advance grinds to a halt. At this point, The Rebels here really have nothing left to resist a resumed Union advance. At this odd moment, Gen. Longstreet and his staff see the peril, and see nothing between them and the Yankee division but a battery of artillery, with most of the crews dead. Lonstreet, wearing carpet slippers, orders his staff to dismount and serve the guns, and they keep up a hot fire. D.H. Hill scrapes together a few stragglers and counterattacks. That–and getting a mortal would himself—convinces Richardson that they cannot push the attack. But for a while, it is clear that a big Federal push would win the day. McClellan feels he must hold on to his reserves and declines to send them in. Two entire Corps—the V Corps, under Porter, and Franklin’s VI Corps.

Part Three:Finally prodded into action by orders he does not receive until 10:00 AM, Gen. Burnside, still miffed over the slight he feels from McClellan’s assignments of command, begins to deploy his troops. He sends troops on several approaches to reach the Rohrbach Bridge (henceforth known as the Burnside Bridge). 
On the other side, entrenched in a ridge that dominates the bridge is Gen. Robert Toombs and his brigade–or, rather, part of it, since most of it had been summoned to assist elsewhere. All Toombs has left are two under-strength regiments, the 2nd and 20th Georgia, numbering 400 men plus—only this to face Burnside’s 12,500 men. But this position gives the Georgians a clear field of fire that sweeps down the length of the bridge, and they shoot down nearly every unit coming across. The bridge is littered with dead and dying Federals. Assaulting troops have to run down the ridge, run along the road parallel to the creek, and then dash across in column. Burnside ignores the fact that the creek is fordable, and sends wave after wave to take the bridge. Finally, Ferrero’s brigade, notably the 51st New York and the 51st Pennsylvania, make a desperate dash across the bridge, using a more direct route downhill, and they drive off Toombs and his men. Capt. William J. Bolton of the 51st Penn writes of this assault which begins about 12:30 PM: . . . marching as if on regimental drill an sight never to be forgotten by those in that charge, gained the top of the hill overlooking the bridge and in full view. From that moment the regiment received volley after volley of grape, muysktery, shot, and shell, filling our faces and eyes with sand and dirt, all this time reserving our fire. . . . and after the regiment had cleared the fence that intervened between us and the bridge, the order to charge was given by [Colonel] Hartranft, certain death, as it were staring us in the face. We made the dash for the bridge through a perfect hell of shot and shell. . . . all this time the men falling all around, but in a few momnets we commanded the entrance to the bridge. . . . and in less than nine minutes the brigde and the heights beyond were in our possession and beyond dispute. . . . Within the few feet of the bridge a minie ball came crashing through my right lower jaw bone carrying away all the teeth on the right side of my face, both upper and lower jaw, passed through my mouth, and came out on the other side of my face. . . .
The 51st Penn loses 135 men in that attack. 

Burnside gains the bridge until Hill counterattacks
Now that the bridge has been gained, Burnside takes another two hours before organizing a force to cross it and deploy on the far side to attack Lee’s right flank. In the meantime, he has sent Gen. Rodman’s division downstream to cross at a more fordable place. He moved his corps across the bridge slowly, and then found that he needed to bring up more ammunition. Finally, by 3:00 PM, Burnside is ready to attack Gen. D. R. Jones’s threadbare division. The Union assault is successful, and Jones pulls back. His line is about to break, and dust on the road and cheers announce the arrival of A.P. Hill’s division from Harper’s Ferry in the nick of time. Hill has lost half of his strength due to straggling, but he attacks Burnside anyway with about 3,000 troops on the Yankee left flank. This blow stops Burnside cold, who is now convinced that he cannot resume the assault. In one more push, he could have turned the flank and captured Lee’s only escape route.

The battle is over, and Hill’s’ counterattack has saved the Confederates from complete destruction. Union Victory.

Losses:            Killed    Wounded    Captured or Missing       Total

Union                2,108       9,540                     753                            12,401

Confederate    1,546       7,752                  1,108                            10,406

The Army of the Potomac has lost over 25% of those engaged in battle, and the Army of Northern Virginia loses over 33% of its strength present.

—Rebel artilleryman George Michael Neese, in reserve three miles away, describes the battle’s sounds:
At times the artillery fire was so fierce and heavy that it sounded like one continual roar of thunder rumbling and rolling across the sky. The musketry fire was equally severe and raged furiously, almost incessantly all day, and its hideous deathly crash vied with the deafening roar of the thundering artillery. It is utterly incomprehensible and perfectly inconceivable how mortal men can stand and live under such an infantry fire as I heard to-day. Judging from the way the musketry roared the whole surrounding air between the lines must have been thick with flying lead.

—Battle of Munfordville, Kentucky: Nearly 4,000 men under Col. Wilder surrender to Gen. Bragg’s Confederates.