Wednesday, November 28, 2012

November 28, 1862

November 28, 1862: The Battle of Cane Hill, Arkansas - When Gen. Thomas Hindman of the Confederate Army had sent Gen. Marmaduke and 2,000 troopers 50 miles north of Ft. Smith to "nudge" the Yankees back up into Missouri, he did not expect that the Yankees were as numerous as they were, or that the reinforcements under Gen. Herron in Springfield, Missouri were not so out-of-reach as he had supposed. Marmaduke’s assignment was either to force the Yankees out of the state or to hold them there until Hindman could come up from the south with the rest of his 11,000-man army. On this date, however, Brig. Gen. James Blunt of the Union army advances his 5,000 troops south to catch the Rebels unprepared. Marmaduke and his riders are caught by surprise: after some skirmishing and trading artillery duels, Marmaduke sees that he is badly outnumbered, and so assigns Col. Jo Shelby to fight a delaying action while the rest of the Rebels escape. However—Blunt is now more than 100 miles from reinforcements and very isolated. Gen. Marmaduke begs Hindman to bring up the rest of the army.

Casualties are light: each side loses about 50 men. Union Victory.


—Of this battle, a young Union officer named Luman Harris Tenny, serving in Blunt’s army, writes this in his journal:
Friday, 28th. Started out at 5 as advance, but soon were ordered back, as rear guard. Division moved by another road. While at Rhea’s Mills we could hear the cannon roar. How aggravating. Moved on to Cane Hill. Learned that quite a battle had taken place there and on the mountain beyond. Went to a house and got some provisions. Built fires and rested, after some fresh pork and meal cakes.

—Capt. William Thompson Lusk, a Connecticut man serving in a New York regiment, receives his long-expected promotion to Major in his regiment, making him the third-highest rank therein. He writes home in jubilation to his mother:
My dear Mrs. Lusk:
You will rejoice with me on hearing that the Postman has just brought me a large envelope stamped with the State Seal, containing a Commission for Major W. T. Lusk! Hurrah! And Hurrah a second time, because I was too much for his honor, Lt.-Col. Morrison!
I surmised he would play Will a shabby trick and recommend another, and I was ready for him. I wrote to the Gov.’s secretary that he might nominate a fellow named More, but that Farnsworth, I was pretty sure, preferred Capt. Lusk. Sure enough!

—Charles Francis Adams, Jr., of the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry Reg., writes home to complain of the conditions for bivouac and campaigning for the Army of the Potomac near Fredericksburg, and how a winter campaign is out of the question:
A winter campaign here, by the way, is just impossible, no more and no less, and you who sit so snugly at home by the fire and round the hearth, and discuss our laziness in not pressing on, may as well dry up. We will allow everything to please you, waste of life, loss of labor, extreme exposure without tents, existence in a foodless country and all you will, and yet any movement is just simply impossible on account of mud. Horses can’t walk, artillery can’t be hauled, and ammunition can’t be carried through this country after this season. Of course, we don’t expect to get any forage, rations or tents through, but it is simply impossible to go ahead and carry the arms and ammunition to enable us to fight, though we should consent to starve and freeze cheerfully.

—Cavalry skirmishing between Rebel cavalry and a detachment of the 3rd Pennsylvania Cavalry ends with the Federals being beaten off and losing some prisoners, near Falmouth. Jeb Stuart with Lee’s cavalry are beginning to harry and probe the Union encampment and positions.


—According to the New-Albany Ledger, Gen. A.P. Hovey, with nearly 7,000 Federal infantry and cavalry, are ferried over the Mississippi River to Delta, near the confluence of the Yazoo and Coldwater Rivers, where the force landed and camped. The aim of this expedition is to threaten the western flank of Gen. Price in northern Mississippi while Sherman from Memphis and Grant from La Grange threaten the Rebel front. Hovey’s troops are inteded to march across the Yazoo country, aiming for Grenada, Mississippi.


—The State of Georgia, abetted by the irascible Governor Joe Brown, issues a proclamation which declares that military conscription by the Confederate government is illegal and unconstitutional.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

November 27, 1862

November 27, 1862: Upon meeting with Pres. Lincoln, Burnside is assured that the President supports him, and wants him to take all the time he needs for the army to be ready to attack. Lincoln comes up with his own plan: to have three forces converging on Lee’s army, one of which would cut off the Confederates’ retreat to Richmond. Halleck and Burnside both reject Lincoln’s plan as unfeasible.

Thanksgiving Day On the date this holiday was celebrated in the North, Union soldiers take time out for relaxation and amusements. One soldier, John Jasper Wyeth, of the 44th Massachusetts Infantry, then stationed in coastal North Carolina, writes in his diary:
November 27. — Thanksgiving was a great day in the barracks and a fine day outside, except for those who are on guard. We will recollect them all day, having great pity, but unable to relieve them.

To-day has been talked about and worked up for a week. Turkeys and the fixings have been at a premium, but they say our dinner is safe. The day opened splendidly ; just cold enough to induce the boys to play at foot and base ball; some of the officers taking hold and seemingly enjoying the sport.

We had dinner at one p.m. The table, extended nearly the length of the bar-racks, was covered with our rubber blankets, white side uppermost, looking quite home-like.

Our plates and dippers were scoured till we could see our faces in them, and how we hated to rub them up ! for, according to tradition, the blacker the dipper and the more dents it had, the longer and harder the service. But it had to be, and was done, and we had to acknowledge "How well it looks!" When we were seated, about a man to every ten was detailed as carver ; and a few of us who had engineered to get near the platters were caught and had to cut up and serve. We tried in vain to save a nice little piece or two for ourselves ; each time we did it some one would reach for it. At last we cut the birds into quarters and passed them indiscriminately. After the meats we had genuine plum-pudding, also nuts, raisins, &c. After the nuts and raisins were on a few made remarks, but the climax was capped by our Lieut. Cumston, who, after telling us not to eat and drink too much, said, " There is a man in camp from Boston, getting statistics; among others, wishes to find out how many of ‘ E ‘ smoke." The lieutenant said it would be easier counting to ask the question, "How many did not smoke." Several jumped up proud to be counted ; among them a few who did occasionally take a whiff. The joke was soon sprung on them, for when they were well on their feet, Lieut. Cumston remarked that he had a few cigars, not quite a box, and hoped they would go round, but those who did not smoke were not to take any. We had the cigars and the laugh on those who wished to figure in the statistics. It was a big dinner, and we did it justice, and gave the cooks credit for it. In the evening Company D and ourselves gave a musical and literary entertainment. Our barrack was full, and the audience often applauded the amateurs.

The programme was as follows : —

Part I.
Song … " Happy are we to-night, boys" …
Declamation … "England’s Interference" … F. S. Wheeler (Co. D)
Song … "Oft in the Stilly Night" …
Declamation … "The Dying Alchemist" … S. G. Rawson (Co. E)
Readings … "Selections" … J. W. Cartwright (Co. E)
Song … "Viva L’ America" …
Declamation … "Spartacus to the Gladiators" … J. Waterman (Co. D)
Declamation … "The Beauties of the Law" … H. T. Reed (Co. E)
"Contraband’s Visit," … Myers and Bryant (Co. E)
Song … "Gideon’s Band." …


Part II.
Song … "Rock me to sleep, mother" …
Declamation. …"Garibaldi’s Entree to Naples "… G. H. Van Voorhis (Co. E)
Song … "There’s music in the air" …
Imitation of Celebrated Actors … H. T. Reed (Co. E)
Declamation. . ."Rienza’s Address to the Romans" … N. R. Twitchell (Co. E)
Old Folks Concert … Father Kemp.
Ending with "Home, Sweet Home," by the audience.

—George Opdyke, the Governor of New York, issues a proclamation declaring today as a day of Thanksgiving in the state. In his statement, he reminds his constituents of the prosperity that they are experiencing, and reminds them of the safety and satisfaction they live in, "but for the unhallowed Rebellion, that has steeped our country in blood and draped our households in mourning. . . ." He even suggests that in future times that New Yorkers may come to see the trials of the war as "blessings in disguise":
It subdues the vices engendered by peace, purifies the heart and ennobles the sentiments, as may be seen in the exalted patriotism, the heroic courage, the fortitude and the humanity manifested by the noble volunteer army now battling in defence of the Union. May we not hope, therefore, that the trying ordeal through which our country is passing, is but a process of purification, intended by the Great Ruler of Nations to free us from our national sins and infirmities, and fit us for a higher standard of patriotism, civilization and Christianity? Abiding in this faith, let us be of good cheer; and with one heart join in grateful thanks to the Giver of all Good for the richness of His mercies, and with confiding trust unite in earnest prayer for their continuance.
And then he adds this bit, reminding the people to pray also for their enemies:
Let us in Christian charity remember the enemies of our country, and pray God to deliver them from the evil spirit which now holds possession of their hearts; and let us, as far as in us lies, minister to the wants and alleviate the sufferings of the sick and wounded, the poor and the oppressed.

—In a Richmond paper appears an ad offering reward for returning a runaway slave:
Three hundred Dollars reward.
Runaway, on 2d July, a negro woman by the name of Winny Morton. She is about 5 feet 2 inches high, stout built, and black, with thin lips, chews tobacco, and looks glum; she has relations in Richmond and some in Manchester; she passes as a washerwoman. She was sold into absolute slavery by order of the Hustings Court. She no doubt has her free papers; she reported she lost them, which is false. Wherever any person comes across a Winny, and she has her free papers, take her up.--I will give the above reward to any white man, or black man, or black woman, let her be slave or free, so that I am able to lay my hands upon said Winny, or lodged in any jail.
J. W. Satterwhite.

—William E. Gladstone, a leader in Parliament and future Prime Minister of Great Britain, writes to Cyrus Field, an American who devised and laid the Transatlantic Cable, and offers his personal responses to the American War, believing that the Yankees have, in fact, lost the War, and can never beat the South:
But there is one aspect of the war which transcends every other: the possibility of success. The prospect of success will not justify a war in itself unjust: but the impossibility of success in a war of conquest of itself suffices to make it unjust. . . .
You know that in the opinion of Europe that impossibility has been proved. . . Depend upon it, to place the matter upon a single issue, you cannot conquer and keep down a country when the women behave like the women of New Orleans, & which, as this author says, they would be ready to form regiments if such regiments could be of use. . . . you have spent as much money, & have armed and perhaps have destroyed as many men, taking the two sides together, as all Europe spent in the first ten years of the Revolutionary war. Is not this enough? Why have you not more faith in the future of a nation, which should lead for ages to come the American continent, which in five or ten years will even up its apparent loss, or first loss, of strength and numbers, and which, with a career unencumbered by the terrible calamity and curse of slavery, will even from the first be liberated from a position generally & invariably false, and will from the first enjoy & permanent gain in credit & character such as will much more than compensate for its temporary material losses.

I am in short a follower of General Scott: with him I say "wayward sisters, go in peace": immortal fame to him for his will and courageous advice, amounting to a prophecy. Finally, you have done what man could do. You have failed because you failed to do what men could not do. Laws stronger than human will are on the side of easiest self-defence. And the aim at the impossible, which in other times very be folly only, when the path of search is dealt with misery and red with blood, is not folly only but guilt to boot.

I should not leave used so largely in this letter the privilege of free utterance, had I not been conscious that I am with yourselves in my admiration of the founders of your republic, and that I have no lurking sentiment either of hostility or of indifference to America & her, I may add, even then had I not believed that you are lovers of sincerity, and that you can bear even the rudeness of its tongue

I remain […]
Very faithfully yours
W E Gladstone

—A sharp skirmish between Union and Confederate troops ensues near La Vergne, Tennessee, a few miles outside of Nashville. Gen. Joseph Wheeler commands the Rebel riders; Col. Kirk commands the Union.

—Over 2,500 Union cavalry, under the command of Brig. Gen. Washburne, crosses the Mississippi River from Helena, Arkansas, in order to conduct a raid in Mississippi state.


November 26, 1862

November 26, 1862:  On this date, Lt. Gen. Stonewall Jackson is marching his 38,000 men towards Fredericksburg, mostly forsaking the Shenandoah Valley, and hurrying to Lee’s orders.  Lee by this time is convinced that Gen. Burnside and his Federals will try a frontal assault across the Rappahannock straight against the heights above Fredericksburg.  The Federals still do not yet have the pontoon boats needed to bridge the river, and Burnside is running out of ideas.  Pres. Lincoln is worried about Burnside’s delay and so yesterday wires Burnside and asks for a meeting off Aquia Creek on a steamer.  This evening, his steamer arrives, and the general rides to Aquia Creek to meet with the President.

---Near Cold Knob Mountain, Virginia, the 2nd Virginia Vol. Cavalry (U.S.), under command of Col. Paxton, ran into mounted Confederate troops and routed them. 

---The 7th Illinois Cavalry Regiment raid a Rebel cavalry camp near Summerville, Mississippi, taking a number of prisoners and equipment.

Monday, November 26, 2012

November 25, 1862

November 25, 1862:  In northwest Arkansas, Gen. Marmaduke, with 2,000 Southern cavalry troopers, has made a base at Cane Hill (about 25 miles southwest of Fayetteville) and is busily foraging the countryside for provisions.  He writes to Gen. Hindman, his superior, and urges him to bring the rest of the Army of Arkansas northward and thus press their advantage.  On the Federal side, Gen. James Blunt with about 5,000 infantry and cavalry are camped just west of Bentonville.  When Blunt sends a cavalry detachment to scout out the Rebels, they run into Rebel scouts long before Cane Hill, and Blunt discovers that there really are Rebels too near.  He begins to plan an attack.  Part of his plan involves getting the Federal troops under Brig. Gen. Francis Herron, in Springfield, Missouri, to bring down his troops to support Blunt.

---Confederate artilleryman George Michael Neese writes in his journal this evening of a huge store of tobacco in Winchester that Gen. Stonewall Jackson has ordered destroyed lest it fall into the hands of the Federals, describing in poignant and poetic style the tragic loss of so much prime Virginia weed: 

We are camped about a mile from where the tobacco was burned, but I smelled the burning sacrifice all day, and this evening at dusk I went to the great funeral pyre, which was beyond the southern limits of town near a group of weeping willows not far from the Front Royal pike. There was a large stock of fine-looking tobacco burning, when I saw it after dark, and many a glorious quid had then already gone up in the curling aromatic smoke from the fire that was burning all day. The sacrificial flame shot its dancing light through the dusky shadows of night and its golden lances were caught by the drooping branches of the willows that were weeping over the funeral pyre. A strong guard of soldiers were standing around the fire, with fixed bayonets, to keep sacrilegious sinners from snatching with irreverence the incense from the glowing censer. I heard to-night that the tobacco destroyed to-day was worth about seventy-five thousand dollars.

---Capt. A.W. Shirk, of the USS Lexington, is fired upon by Rebels on the west bank of the Mississippi near Helena, Arkansas, and he returns fire.  After some heavy-gun sparring for a while, Shirk sends men ashore, who capture contrabands and a large deposit of cotton.

---A detachment of Rebel cavalry, operating behind Union lines, cross the Potomac River into Maryland, and at Poolesville seize a government telegraph station and its operators.

---Rebel cavalry raids Henderson, Tennessee, burns the rail depot, and captures a company of Union infantry.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

November 24, 1862

---The Richmond Daily Dispatch editorializes against Burnside’s orders to empty the town of Fredericksburg before he shells it, reminding their readers that this town was the home of George Washington’s mother.  The editorial notes with outrage the irony the possibility that “the home in which she lived, and in which she trained her illustrious son for his lofty mission, that the very monument erected to her memory, have been demolished by the cannon of a people who owe to Washington their freedom and independence! . . . Exile, desolation, and ruin are the fate with which such a town has been visited by this fiendish invasion, whilst the Northern cities, reeking with moral corruption, are exuberant with pleasure and gaiety. Washington, the central fountain of all the bloodshed, misery, and crime of this inhuman war, is said to be the scene of extraordinary festivities, whilst innocent Southern cities are clothed in mourning and tribulation.”

---Pres. Abraham Lincoln writes a frank letter to his friend Carl Schurz, a German immigrant who is well-connecting and skilled in politics and now a general in the army, apparently in reference to Schurz’s criticisms that the Republican cause is not being prospered:



MY DEAR SIR—I have just received and read your letter of the 20th. The purport of it is that we lost the late elections and the administration is failing because the war is unsuccessful, and that I must not flatter myself that I am not justly to blame for it. I certainly know that if the war fails the administration fails, and that I will be blamed for it, whether I deserve it or not. And I ought to be blamed if I could do better. You think I could do better; therefore you blame me already. I think I could not do better; therefore I blame you for blaming me. I understand you now to be willing to accept the help of men who are not Republicans, provided they have "heart in it." Agreed. I want no others. But who is to be the judge of hearts, or of "heart in it"? If I must discard my own judgment and take yours, I must also take that of others and by the time I should reject all I should be advised to reject, I should have none left, Republicans or others not even yourself. For be assured, my dear sir, there are men who have "heart in it" that think you are performing your part as poorly as you think I am performing mine. I certainly have been dissatisfied with the slowness of Buell and McClellan; but before I relieved them I had great fears I should not find successors to them who would do better; and I am sorry to add that I have seen little since to relieve those fears.

I do not see clearly the prospect of any more rapid movements. I fear we shall at last find out that the difficulty is in our case rather than in particular generals. I wish to disparage no one certainly not those who sympathize with me; but I must say I need success more than I need sympathy, and that I have not seen the so much greater evidence of getting success from my sympathizers than from those who are denounced as the contrary. . . . I will not perform the ungrateful task of comparing cases of failure. . . .

Very truly your friend,


---The famous preacher Henry Ward Beecher criticizes Lincoln heavily in his newspaper, The Independent:

We have been made irresolute, indecisive and weak by the President's attempt to unite impossibilities; to make war and keep the peace; to strike hard and not hurt; to invade sovereign States and not meddle with their sovereignty; to put down rebellion without touching its cause. . . .

---Sergeant Alexander Downing of the 11th Iowa Infantry, with the Army of the Tennessee, writes in his journal the soldier’s plaintive lament about poor rations:

Monday, 24th—We draw rations now of equal parts of meal, flour and crackers, and in amount equal to a one-pound loaf of bread. We have no means for baking bread, so each man turns over his flour and corn meal to the company cook, who boils it into a mush. Then at the noon hour he calls out and the men go and get their portions. Some of us fry the mush with a little bacon, which makes a very palatable dish. But I cannot understand why it is, that with a railroad open to our base of supplies, the quartermaster cannot draw full rations of crackers for the men.

---Kate Cumming, a nurse in the Confederate Army hospital in Chattanooga, passes judgment on foodstuffs speculators in the South, in her journal: 

Have just received a letter from Mr. M—— ;he says provisions are so high in Mobile that it is almost impossible to live, and that speculators are making piles of money out of the misfortunes of their country. It will be a curse to them and their posterity after them, for it is the very blood of their fellow-mortals they are making it out of. I little thought, when we set out, that there was one man in the whole South who could be guilty of such a base act. How can they expect men to fight for them when they are taking the lives of their wives and children?

Friday, November 23, 2012

November 22, 1862

November 22, 1862:  Stonewall Jackson’s corps begins its move rapidly eastward toward Fredericksburg. 

---Pres. Lincoln gives direct orders to Gen. Nathaniel Banks to quit delaying and to embark with his troops to steam to New Orleans.

---Lieutenant Cushing of the U.S. Navy steamed up the New River in North Carolina with the Ellis, as far as Jacksonville, where he attacks and captures two Rebel schooners.

---William Thompson Lusk, an officer in the Army of the Potomac, writes home to his mother about his misgivings for the upcoming battle at Fredericksburg: 

I must say the attack on Fredericksburg is a thing I greatly dread. The field of battle with all its horrors is redeemed somewhat by the thought that the dead on both sides have fallen in a cause sacred in their own eyes at least, and this redeems them, but wanton destruction of property and all the probable results of a successful siege develop only the most devilish propensities of humanity. To see women and children, old men, the weak and the feeble insulted and injured, makes one hate war and distrust one’s cause, and yet with the lax discipline maintained in our armies, we have too frequent examples of such outrage, the efforts of officers to check them being completely neutralized by the accursed conduct of the Press with its clamor for a vigorous prosecution of the war. . . . I do not despair, but hope — and while I live, will never despair — but my hopes will rise when a sincere effort shall be made to check the license and marauding propensities of our troops, when thieves and robbers shall receive speedy and terrible justice, when, in a word, we shall deserve to conquer. A righteous indignation toward the authors of the rebellion may be a good thing, but it is very likely to be confounded with a desire to pamper one’s belly at the expense of the helpless.


---Near Winchester, Virginia, troopers from the 1st New York Cavalry skirmish with Rebels.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

November 21, 1862

November 21, 1862: Gen. Burnside, commander of the Army of the Potomac, sends Brig. Gen. Marsena Patrick with a message across the swollen Rappahannock River to the mayor of Fredericksburg, Montgomery Slaughter, demanding the city’s surrender, or he will open fire and shell the town. The message reads, in part:
Under cover of the houses of your city, shots have been fired upon the troops of my command. Your mills and manufactories are furnishing provisions and the material for clothing for armed bodies in rebellion against the Government of the United States. Your railroads and other means of transportation are removing supplies to the depots of such troops. This condition of things must terminate, and, by direction of General Burnside, I accordingly demand the surrender of the city into my hands, as the representative of the Government of the United States, at or before 5 o’clock this afternoon.
Burnside offers some period of time to remove the women and children and sick before the shelling starts. The officer in command of the garrison troops, Col. Ball, sends the message back to Gen. Longstreet, who had arrived. By the time the message got to Longstreet, Lee had arrived in Fredericksburg, and the generals confer. The Confederates agree to pull troops out of the town, yet promise that any attempt by the Federals to occupy the town will be resisted. The citizens of Fredericksburg begin to leave, in a long refugee train out of town.
Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside, outside his tent

—Lieut. Josiah Marshall Favill, serving in the Union army in the 57th New York Infantry Regiment, writes in his diary about the prospects for the coming battle, and how the Army of the Potomac always seems to be the Hard Luck outfit. Already the common soldier is taking stock of the situation before Fredericksburg:
The enemy occupy the range of hills opposite, and are working night and day to make them impregnable. Apparently there are a series of hills running parallel to the river, or nearly so, in rear of each other, and the camps of Lee’s army are wholly sheltered in the intervening valleys. No better position for defense could be found, and Lee must thank his stars Burnside did not establish himself on that side when he had a chance to do so almost unopposed. It is strange how constantly we fall short in our endeavors at the very moment when we might succeed. Something is missing; this time, it was the pontoon train that failed us just at the critical point in the campaign.

The Fredericksburg Campaign, showing the movements of both armies

—On this date, Pres. Lincoln issues an executive order prohibiting the exportation of arms and ammunition out of the country, in order to prevent third parties from buying arms and selling them to the Rebels.

—Lieut. Robert Graham, of the 56th North Carolina Infantry Regiment, writes home to his father about their march up into southern Virginia near Norfolk in an attempt to limit the raids by Union troops on the countryside. Among other depredations, he notes the effect Yankees have on the slave population fleeing their plantations to go with the Northerners:
Two or three skirmishes take place nearly every week. We find provisions and everything else a great deal lighter over here than in North Carolina. We fared very well in this respect in our last line of march, as very few soldiers had passed through that section of the country before us. I was not aware before of the great quantity of brandy made in Eastern North Carolina. The Yankees destroyed in one way or another all they could lay hands on. Sometimes they would take a band or two along with them. They killed some 300 head of hogs in and around Hamilton, sometimes taking only a few slices of ham and leaving the rest for the Buzzards. Some of the citizens of Martin thought that they had carried off no less than 3000 negroes from that and the adjoining counties. One plantation alone lost 60. Their expedition is said to have resembled a Bacchanal more than a march – in some regiments not more than one soldier out of four carrying his musket – each had a negro by his side for this purpose. I wish we could have cut them off. The New York Express says they intended to take Goldsboro and had 12,000 men. They were commanded by Gen. Foster, quondam Assistant Professor at West Point.

—The Richmond Daily Dispatch, ever optimistic over the Southern cause, publishes this gleeful editorial on the continuous round of changing generals in the Union command structure, and the innate capabilities of Northern soldiers:
Since this war commenced, the Yankees have immeasured military idols, and then annihilated them, with a real harness unparalleled in the history of war. At first, Gen Scott war the great soldier of the age, but Manassas gave him his quietus. . . . McClellan was at once hoisted upon the vacant pedestal, and every one remembers the fevrile enthusiasm with which he was hailed by the universal Yankee nation. . . . But where is McClellan now?–Pope’s star flashed for a brief hour across the firmament and then disappeared as suddenly as it rose . . . and other subordinate leaders have been sacrificed by the wholesale. For our own part, we do not believe that any of those men deserved their fate — They were engaged in a bad cause; they had to encounter superior generalship, and a people fighting in defence of their own homes and firesides. They did as well under the circumstances as any Generals could have done, and no change from one to the other has at all improved the Yankee fortunes.

We venture to predict that the late changes will be as fruitless as those which occurred before. It would be hard to say on what field Burnside has proved his superiority to McClellan. . . .

Whilst never regarding McClellan as a "Young Napoleon," he unquestionably understood the capabilities of his men, and the obstacles he had to encounter. Much better than the rabble of the North or their besotted Government. We have never been of those who regarded the Yankees as cowards, but they have not the military aptitude of the Southern people and cannot be improvised into soldiers. They are unfamiliar by education both with the idea of danger and the use of arms.

They were called upon to confront men who had been accustomed to both from their cradle and who are fighting in the holiest cause for which men ever drew a sword.

—Henry Adams, the grandson and great-grandson of Presidents, serves as secretary to his father, Charles Francis Adams, Sr., the U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James. From the American legation in London, he writes to his brother Charles, Jr., an officer in the Union cavalry, serving with the 1st Massachusetts Cav. Reg. This letter reveals Henry’s own despair at prospects for a diminished and uncertain future, as well as his fallen faith in himself—and in the war’s efficacy and the Union cause. It is interesting to note how his ideas follow the Progressive’s desire for comprehensive planning for the State, as if it were a single organism:
The future is a blank to me as I suppose it is also to you. I have no plans nor can have any, so long as my course is tied to that of the Chief [father]. . . . The truth is, the experience of four years has done little towards giving me confidence in myself. The more I see, the more I am convinced that a man whose mind is balanced like mine, in such a way that what is evil never seems unmixed with good, and what is good always streaked with evil; an object seems never important enough to call out strong energies till they are exhausted, nor necessary enough not to allow of its failure being possible to retrieve; in short, a mind which is not strongly positive and absolute, cannot be steadily successful in action, which requires quietness and perseverance. I have steadily lost faith in myself ever since I left college, and my aim is now so indefinite that all my time may prove to have been wasted, and then nothing left but a truncated life.
I should care the less for all this if I could see your path any clearer, but while my time may prove to have been wasted, I don’t see but what yours must prove so. At least God forbid that you should remain an officer longer than is necessary. And what then? The West is possible; indeed, I have thought of that myself. But what we want is a school. We want a national set of young men like ourselves or better, to start new influences not only in politics, but in literature, in law, in society, and throughout the whole social organism of the country — a national school of our own generation. And that is what America has no power to create. In England the Universities centralize ability and London gives a field. So in France, Paris encourages and combines these influences. But with us, we should need at least six perfect geniuses placed, or rather, spotted over the country and all working together; whereas our generation as yet has not produced one nor the promise of one. It’s all random, insulated work, for special and temporary and personal purposes, and we have no means, power or hope of combined action for any unselfish end.
One man who has real ability may do a great deal, but we ought to have a more concentrated power of influence than any that now exists.
For the present war I have nothing to say. We received cheerful letters from you and John today, and now we have the news of McClellan’s removal. As I do not believe in Burnside’s genius, I do not feel encouraged by this, especially as it shakes our whole structure to its centre. I have given up the war and only pray for its end. The South has vindicated its position and we cannot help it, so, as we can find no one to lead us and no one to hold us together, I don’t see the use of our shedding more blood. . . .
Henry Adams

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

November 20, 1862

November 20, 1862: At Falmouth, Virginia, while Burnside is fretting about his missing pontoon boats, Gen. Joseph Hooker arrives with his two corps. On the other side of the river, at Fredericksburg, the divisions of Ransom and McLaws arrive, and in nearby Spotsylvania are Hood’s and Anderson’s divisions, with Pickett’s division close behind.

—Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, recently sacked as commander of the Army of the Potomac, visits New York City and makes public appearances to adoring crowds. His visit is sponsored by the Democrat Party. After spending most of the day trying to locate the general, several hundred people gathered in the street in front of the Fifth Avenue Hotel, where the Seventh Regiment band and the Young Men’s Democratic Association were expected to serenade him. The New York Times gives details:
At 20 minutes of 11 o’clock the Young Men’s Democratic Association appeared in front of the hotel, with Capt. RYNDERS’ gun, and band and gun began to play. With them there came several hundred citizens, who enlivened the occasion by cheers for Gen. MCCLELLAN and reseated groans for Gen. FREMONT and Mr. GREELEY. There was a call for three cheers for Gen. BURNSIDE, which was responded to with one faint cheer, and a die-away. At length the General appeared, accompanied by Mr. LUKE COZZENS, President of the Young Men’s Democratic Association, and the assemblage gave cheer after cheer, lasting for fully a minute.
After the music, the crowd calls upon Gen. McClellan for a speech. He thanked them for their appreciation, and praised New York as having been liberal in furnishing material and men for the war. To the crowd’s disappointment, he did not trash Lincoln or anyone in the government. The Capt. Rynders mentioned, apparently, was a power broker and political organizer in city Democratic politics, and a leader of the Five Points gangs that controlled so much illegal activity in the city.

—In the New Orleans Delta, in the U.S.-occupied city, the editors publish a letter written by "a colored soldier," who is serving in the 1st Regiment of Louisiana Native Guards, one of the first black regiments in the national army, and who are deployed at Lafourche Landing in Cajun country:
I address you this letter, hoping that you may publish it in your columns, which are read daily by at least five or six hundred of their friends. When we left the city, on the 25th ult., we were from 850 to 875 strong. We arrived at this place on the 1st inst., 600 to 845 strong—only about thrity men having fallen out, and these from sickness. We have not, as yet, had the pleasure of exchanging shots with the enemy. But we are still anxious, as we have ever been, to show to the wolrd that the latent courage of the African is aroused, and that, while fighting under the American flag, we can and will be a wall of fire and death the enemies of this country, our birth-place. When we enlisted we were hooted at in the streets of New-Orleans as a rabble of armed plebeians and cowards. I am proud to say that if any cowardice has been exhibited since we left Camp Strong . . . it has been exhibited by the rebels. Most of the 1st Louisiana Native Guards were free blacks, and most of them literate.

—William Lyon, a Union officer stationed at the captured Fort Henry, on the Tennessee River in Tennessee, writes home to his wife, Adelia, about the garrisons usual activity of chasing down Rebel irregulars:
Fort Henry, November 20, 1862.—Four of our companies go up the river tomorrow on an expedition. I do not go. Do not be frightened about guerillas. They are great cowards and will not fight if they can help it. They are mere thieves, and a thief is always a coward. I do not at all fear being killed. Something constantly assures me that I am coming home to you safely. Now, don’t get up a presentiment the other way.

Monday, November 19, 2012

November 19, 1862

November 19, 1862: Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside, in command of the Army of the Potomac, had a simple plan that looked as if it ought to work famously: That the army was to slip off to the east, leaving the bulk of Lee’s army in the Warrenton-Orange area, and by forced march move swiftly to the banks of the Rappahannock opposite Fredericksburg, cross the river before Lee can get there, and then strike south for Richmond on Fredericksburg’s good road. If he can get the Union army across the river in bulk before the arrival of the Rebels, then he has a good chance of dictating the course of the war: Lee would have to attack him (and at unfavorable odds) or retreat toward Richmond, which would make it only a matter of time till The End. However—the key part to Burnside’s Plan is to get a train of pontoon boats down to Falmouth (on the opposite bank of the river from Fredericksburg) in time for the troops to cross swiftly and in large numbers to gain control of the town, there on the south bank.

Even though Lee knows that Fredericksburg is Burnside’s target, the Southern commander has pretty much decided that Burnside will beat him to it, since Longstreet is to the west, focused at Culpepper Court House, and Jackson is even farther west in the Shenandoah Valley. Longstreet’s division are immediately dispatched eastward, hoping to block the crossing of the Anna Rivers farther south, and to strike Burnside’s advance. But Burnside is not across the river. What Lee does not count on is the bureaucratic snarl that results from Gen. Burnside’s orders: the train of pontoon boats goes in the wrong direction, and then take way too long to get to Falmouth. So, Sumner arrives in Falmouth with his two corps two days ago, and other troops are arriving every hour, and yet the Federals have no good way to cross the river, which has become a raging torrent by now, due to heavy rains. All other possible crossing places, at the fords, are flooded. Lee begins to hurry troops to Fredericksburg.

—William J. Bolton, of the 51st Pennsylvania, having been badly wounded in the mouth at Antietam, has been promoted to Major, and is nearly fit for duty. Bolton records the events of the day, including their march to Falmouth for the Fredericksburg move:

Spent the day pleasantly. Regiment broke camp at 6 o’clock A.M. marched throiugh Falmouth and arrived opposite Fredericksburg about 4 o’clock P.M. and pitched our tents about one mile from the old camping ground we had occupied the August before, but with sadness, I must state, with our ranks very much reduced—one half at least, of the number that we left here with three months before. The bloodstained fields of Manassas, Chantilly, South Mountain, Antietam, and Sulphur Springs, and the many skirmishes we ahd passed through with in those three months, has been the cause.

—Capt. William Thompson Lusk, serving in the Union Army of the Potomac with the 2nd New York Infantry, writes home to his mother, complaining mildly about petty regimental politics:
Near Fredericksburg,

Nov. 19th, 1862.
My dear Mother:
Here we are at last on familiar ground, lying in camp at Falmouth, opposite to Fredericksburg. I have been unable while on the march for the few days past, to write you, but am doing my best with a pencil to-night, as one of our Captains returns home to-morrow, and will take such letters as may be given him. It was my turn to go home this time, but my claim was disregarded. You know Lt.-Col. Morrison has command of the Regiment in Col. Farnsworth’s absence, and Morrison never omits any opportunity to subject me to petty annoyances. I am an American in a Scotch Regiment, and in truth not wanted. Yet I cannot resign. The law does not allow that, so I have to bear a great deal of meanness. . . . I have borne them of late without complaint, hoping the efforts of my friends might work my release. In the Regiments of the old Division I think no officer had so many strong friends as I. In my own Regiment I may say that I am friendless. . . .

—1st Lieut. Charles Francis Adams, Jr., serving in the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry Regiment, writes to his younger brother Henry, who serves their father (the U.S. Ambassador to Britain) as legation secretary, and complains about Army politics, especially in regard to the dismissal of Gen. McClellan:
The army believed in McClellan, but the Generals are jealous and ambitious and little, and want to get a step themselves, so they are willing to see him pulled down. We believed in him, not as a brilliant commander, but as a prudent one and one who was gradually learning how to handle our immense army, and now a new man must learn and he must learn by his own mistakes and in the blood of the army. It is all for the best and the Lord will in his own good time bear witness for us; but oh! the blunders and humbug of this war, the folly, treachery, incompetence and lying!!! They tell me here that Halleck is a very strong man, and that his touch is already felt in the West and soon will be in the East, and that the winter will restore our fortunes. I hope it may prove so, but my theory is that there will be much more fighting this year in Virginia. . . .
Charles Francis Adams, Jr., (hatless) with fellow officers in camp

—James A. Seddon, of Virginia, is appointed as the new Secretary of War for the Confederate States of America.

November 18, 1862

November 18, 1862:  Gen. Robert E. Lee writes to Lt. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, commanding his II Corps, that Burnside’s Yankees are on the move:\

The reports from our cavalry, individual scouts, and citizens, represent that the enemy has abandoned Warrenton, fallen down to the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, and is moving in force to Fredericksburg. Their progress and direction is confirmed by their camp-fires at night, which are said to be plainly visible.  . . . The [Federal] cavalry, with light artillery, reached Falmouth [near Fredericksburg] yesterday about 3 p.m. Their infantry were said to have reached Hartwood last night; their camp-fires distinctly visible, extending continuously back toward the railroad. An intelligent scout reports this morning that it was Sumner's corps . . .  There are in Fredericksburg a regiment of [our] cavalry, one of infantry, and two additional companies, and two light batteries. McLaws' division marched this morning for that place; also Lee's brigade of cavalry, and Ransom's division from Madison. The rest of Longstreet's corps is prepared to move, . . .  I think it would be advisable to put some of your divisions in motion across the mountains, and advance them at least as Sperryville or Madison Court-House.

---The Richmond Daily Dispatch publishes a news item about rioting over a salt shortage, as the Blockade begins to bite deeply into Southern life:

Salt Excitement.

A letter from Dalton, Ga., states that a number of ladies in that place had gone to the State depot and demanded of the agent some salt. He directed them to the Commissary’s office, when they repaired thither and demanded salt or blood. That officer gave them some salt, which supplied their immediate wants. It is reported, says the Rome Courier, that this something was done at several other places on the State road.

November 17, 1862

November 17, 1862:  Gen. Edwin V. Sumner, with his Grand Division, is the first of Burnside’s infantry to arrive at Falmouth, across the Rappahannock River from Fredericksburg.  He is unable to cross, however.

---Julis LeGrand, of New Orleans, writes to her friend, Mrs. Brown, about the war spirit (or lack of it) in the city:

A dull and heavy anxiety has settled upon us. We hear nothing upon which we can rely, and know nothing to which we can cling with comfort. Those who come in say there is much joy beyond the lines, but no one can give the why and wherefore. In the meantime we are leading the lives which women have lead since Troy fell; wearing away time with memories, regrets and fears; alternating fits of suppression, with flights, imaginary, to the red fields where great principles are contended for, lost and won; while men, more privileged, are abroad and astir, making name and fortune and helping to make a nation. There was a frolic on board the English ship a few nights since . . . There was acting and dancing, and fish, flesh and fowl suffered in the name of our cause. Toasts were drunk to our great spirits to whom it seems the destiny of a nation is entrusted. How my heart warms to the weary, battle-stained heroes. . . . I can’t tell you what a life of suppression we lead. I feel it more because I know and feel all that is going on outside. I am like a pent-up volcano. I wish I had a field for my energies. I hate common life, a life of visiting, dressing and tattling, which seems to devolve on women, and now that there is better work to do, real tragedy, real romance and history weaving every day, I suffer, suffer, leading the life I do.

November 16, 1862

November 16, 1862:  In Middle Tennessee, Gen. Braxton Bragg gathers his Army of Tennessee, the principal Confederate force in the Western Theater.  After adding Breckinridge’s division to his army, and Benjamin Cheatham’s, he still only had about 38,000 men.  Gen. William S. Rosecrans, who was concentrating his Army of the Cumberland (nee Army of the Ohio) in Nashville, had about 60,000.  Bragg is short on supplies, and is plagued by illness in the ranks and desertions.  He moves his army from Murfreesboro to Tullahoma, about 70 miles southeast of Nashville, but leaves Breckinridge and his small division in Murfreesboro, which is only 25 miles from Nashville (Why Rosecrans did not attack Breckinridge, either before or after this, remains a mystery.) 

---Confederate troops at Warrenton, Virginia, under Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, prepare for battle, since it seems clear that Burnside is planning to attack across the river.  As of this date, Longstreet is unaware that this Union movement is a feint.

---The rest of Burnside’s army joins the main part on the road to Fredericksburg.

Friday, November 16, 2012

November 15, 1862

November 15, 1862:  On this date, units of the Army of the Potomac step off on their new campaign: to make an end run around the Confederate right, cross the Rappahannock River, and drive straight south to Richmond.  It begins with a strong feint at the Rebel positions near Culpepper, Virginia, and artillery duels.  The Southern troops are caught by surprise.

---George Wythe Randolph, Secretary of War for the Confederate States, today submits his resignation to President Davis.  Randolph has been continually frustrated with Davis’s micromanagement of the War Department and going over his head on many matters.  Randolph is also fighting tuberculosis, which influences his decision.  Randolph is the third man to hold this post, after Leroy Walker and Judah P. Benjamin.

---Charles Wright Wills, a Union officer in Grant’s Army of the Tennessee, is stationed in La Grange, Tennessee, waiting for orders to go forward.  In his journal, he muses over the relative popularity of the various commanders, in the opinion of the common soldier:

We can’t have more than 40 days’ of marching weather yet until the rains come, and in that time we ought at least to make 250 miles. The more I think about the matter, the surer I am that we won’t do much before next May. Well, I enjoy soldiering and can stand the delay in proportion; but inactivity when a fellow can’t see the reason therefor, is provoking to a degree extensive. . . . General feeling is that the Potomac Army is only good to draw greenbacks and occupy winter quarters. We’re in hopes that Pope will be sent back to us after he finishes hanging those Indians. I don’t believe there is a regiment in this army that would not cheer him as its corps commander. Everybody seems to be willing to bet something on Pope. Hurlbut is the most popular man here as a division commander, and I think that Grant could get more votes than any other man for commander of the army, always excepting Rosy. Grant is not so popular among the general officers, as far as I know, but the whole line believe in him, mostly, because he is for going ahead and will fight his men.

---Elisha Franklin Paxton, a staff officer in the Army of Northern Virginia, has just been promoted to Brigadier General, and given command of the Stonewall Brigade.  He  writes home to his wife and indulges in rather gloomy thoughts on the prospects for the army, himself, and the Confederacy:

How I wish that I was at home again with those who love me! It is the wish of many thousands around me who have left homes loved as well as mine. God grant it may soon be realized! But we must stay just where we are and do just what we are ordered to do. There is no use in having will or wish in the matter, for there is nothing we can do to accomplish it. We must wait in patience for the event when the war shall end, and those of us who survive will be at liberty to return again to our old associations and pursuits. Soon we shall have winter, and it will bring with it, I fear, much suffering to our troops, and to many, I fear, a still keener pang in the letter from home telling that wife and child that never knew want before are suffering from hunger and cold.

If ever a people on earth had cause upon bended knees to pray God to spare a further infliction of this terrible curse, it is ours. We have suffered much, yet the future seems to hold for us an inexhaustible store of suffering—the bloodshed of the battle, the diseases which the camp and exposure engender, and the want of food and clothing produced by laying waste the country. It seems dark enough.