Wednesday, October 17, 2012

October 17, 1862

October 17, 1862: In Arkansas, a series of Federal raids over the summer have quelled all significant rebellion—and since the bulk of Arkansas troops had been sent across the Mississippi with Gen. Van Dorn to campaign against Grant, there are no significant Confederate forces in the state. Also, Union sentiment—always strong in Arkansas—begins to blossom anew. The Richmond government sends Gen. Thomas Hindman to raise a new army in order to oppose Union control of the Northwest Arkansas / Southwest Missouri district. Hindman builds an army from scratch in only three months, 20,000 strong, mostly made of new regiments. Gen. Theophilus Holmes—a drop-out from Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia—takes theater command over from Hindman. Hindman marches 6,000 of his troops northward into Missouri and, combined with a few Missouri troops there, plans to strike northeast and break the hold the Yankees have on Missouri. Just as he is about to do this, however, Holmes sends orders to Hindman to return to Little Rock and assume administrative duties. Hindman obeys, leaving Gen. Rains in command.
Gen. Thomas Hindman, CSA

For the North, Gen. Samuel Curtis, the victor of Pea Ridge, combines two small field armies under the command of Gen. John Schofield. Schofield, suffering from McClellan Syndrome, is convinced that Hindman’s small force of Confederates is three times larger than it is; Schofield is reluctant to move against southwest Missouri. Still, Curtis still puts Schofield in command, and the new Army of the Frontier has 14,000 troops, with a division under Blunt, another under James Totten, and a third under 25-year-old Gen. Francis Herron.

In September, Confederate commander Gen. James Rains sends a column of cavalry under Col. Douglas Cooper north to Newtonia, clashing purely by accident with one of Blunt’s brigades. On Sept. 30, in a sharp battle at Newtonia, Cooper drives the Yankees away, but Rains cannot maintain these troops in this area, and they soon pull back into Northwest Arkansas. The Union army follows. On this date, Schfield’s army crosses the state line into Arkansas, and by evening his troops are camped on the old battlefield of Pea Ridge.

—Luman Harris Tenney of Schofield’s Union army, writes in his journal on the night of Oct. 18:

Friday, 17th. Aroused at 3 A. M. Killed a calf for breakfast. Quite a time trying to kill a pig. Marched at sunrise. Whole command gone from old camp. Rear guard. At noon arrived at Kritsville. Stayed till 10 P. M. Marched again at 10 and moved till near morning. Lay down a few minutes by a little fire. Before daybreak passed the Arkansas line, Elkhorn Tavern, and stopped for a cold lunch on the old Pea Ridge battle ground. Interesting—trees considerably marred by bullets. Shot, grape, and shell picked up by different boys as relics of the battle.

—On this date, in New York City, where Democrat opposition to the Lincoln government is strengthening, the Democrat Party holds a large rally at the Cooper Institute building. Among other matters, the body adopts a series of resolutions: that the war to defeat the Confederacy and restore the Union be prosecuted vigorously but without interfering with any rights, property, or institutions of the Southern states; that wholesale emancipation is condemned and should not be done; that the writ of habeas corpus be restored and held inviolate—"that we hold that the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus can only be suspended by act of Congress, and that the question of the power of the President to suspend it must be decided by the Supreme Court--a decision to which both the President and ourselves must yield"; that they repudiate all unconstitutional acts by the Lincoln government; and that they endorse Horatio Seymour for governor.

—The New York Times, in refutation of the idea that voting Democrat will be a better way to restore the Union, publishes this editorial:

A Democratic victory will be, in substance, a verdict given against the presidential proclamation, and therefore by direct implication against the prosecution of the war itself. This will be its whole meaning, and for the rebels its only interest. "Vote the Democratic ticket," cry the supporters of that ticket, and signify to the South that you mean to fight only for the Union." But this is precisely what the South is fighting against, has fought against, and will fight against to the end of its money and its men. The South fights against the Union unconditionally — it fights just as sternly against a Union protecting Slavery, as against a Union abolishing Slavery. If the North meets it in the field with a conditional support of a conditional Union, is it not plain to the meanest capacity that a time must come when the condition being no longer practicable, the North must retire from the contest.
 —This evening, the infamous Confederate raider Capt. William Quantrill and 140 men ride into Shawneetown, Kansas, and attack. They corral all of the citizens into the town square, and burn the town. The raiders take possession of all valuables and livestock. In the course of things, 10 local men are killed by the raiders, and another 17 or so wounded.

—In answer to Lincoln’s rather impatient letter of Oct. 13 insisting that McClellan ought to move, McClellan answers with this letter, not quite concealing his contempt and condescension towards the President and his order:

Camp in Pleasant Valley, October 17, 1862.
His Excellency the PRESIDENT:

SIR: Your letter of the 13th instant reached me yesterday morning by the hands of Colonel Perkins.

I had sent out strong reconnaissances early in the morning in the direction of Charlestown, Leetown, &c., and as sharp artillery fire was heard, I felt it incumbent to go to the front. I did not leave Charlestown until dark, so that I have been unable to give Your Excellency's letter that full and respectful consideration which it merits at my hands.

I do not wish to detain Colonel Perkins beyond this morning's train; I therefore think it best to send him back with this simple acknowledgment of the receipt of Your Excellency's letter. I am not wedded to any particular plan of operations. I hope to have to-day reliable information as to the position of the enemy, whom I still believe to be between Bunker Hill and Winchester. I promise you that I will give to your views the fullest and most unprejudiced consideration, and that it is my intention to advance the moment my men are shod and my cavalry are sufficiently renovated to be available.

Your Excellency may be assured that I will not adopt a course which differs at all from your views without first fully explaining my reasons, and giving you time to issue such instructions as may seem best to you.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Major-General, U. S. Army.

—George Michael Neese of the Confederate artillery (Chew’s Battery) writes in his journal of the hardships of the bivouac in the field:

October 17 — Last night was about as dark as they generally get in this country. I was on guard duty during the fore part of the night and it rained very hard all through my whole watch. We had no fire until after midnight, the ground, wood, and everything else being soaking wet; even the darkness felt like a wet blanket. I made my bed on top of a rock pile. It was a little hardish at first, but it was the driest place I could find and I had the sweet consolation of knowing that the ground all around the rock pile was soft.

—Charles Francis Adams, Sr., the U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James, writes in his journal in London, revealing exactly why the Union victory at Antietam was so politically significant:
London, October 17, 1862
General McClellan’s work during the week ending the 18th has done a good deal to restore our drooping credit here. Most of the knowing ones had already discounted the capture of Washington and the capitulation of the Free States. Some had gone so far as to presume the establishment of Jefferson Davis as the President instead of Lincoln. The last number of the Edinburgh Review has a wise prediction that this is to be effected by the joint labors of the "mob" and of "the merchants" of the city of New York. This is the guide of English intelligence of the nature of our struggle. Of course it follows that no sensible effect is produced excepting from hard blows. If General McClellan will only go on and plant a few more of the same kind in his opponent’s eyes, I shall be his very humble servant, for it will raise us much in the estimation of all our friends. Mr. Gladstone will cease to express so much admiration of Jefferson Davis, and all other things will begin to flow smoothly again.

—David Lane, a Union soldier serving in the 17th Michigan Infantry Regiment, writes a rather poignant and poetic entry in his diary, from a lonely soldier:Pleasant Valley, October 17th, 1862.

Being in a wakeful mood, I will try and compose my mind by writing a few lines in my diary, for we have become great friends—yes, confidantes—and tonight I need a confidante. Did I ever tell you, my silent friend, of my Northern home; of wife and children, loving and beloved? Then listen, while I whisper in your ear the sacred secret. I have a wife and four small children far off in Michigan. I love them with all the intensity and devotion of my nature. The thought of them is ever uppermost in my mind. In the daily, monotonous rounds of duty; in the long, dreary evenings, when folly reigns; in the stillness of the night; on the rugged, toilsome march, or in the tumult of battle, thoughts of the dear ones at home are ever present, inspiring me with hope, encouraging me to duty, a shield against temptation, a beacon light, shining out upon the stormy sea of strife on which my frail bark is launched, enabling me, thus far, to shun the rocks and quicksands that surround me.

Our regiment returned today from Frederic, where it has been guarding the railroad. . . . Where we go, even rumor sayeth not. Our men say it does not matter where, so they take us where work is to be done. Two men deserted from Co. G yesterday and two today. This splendid regiment that left Detroit two months ago nearly one thousand strong, mustered today, at inspection, two hundred and fifty-six men fit for duty. There are more sick than well, the result of insufficient supplies, and brutal, needless exposure of the men by officers high in rank.

The weather is delightful—cold and frosty nights, with warm sunshiny days and pure, fresh, mountain breezes that should strengthen and invigorate, and yet, of all who came from Blackman and Sandstone, I alone am well.

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