Monday, May 27, 2013

May 26, 1863

May 26, 1863

---Gen. Robert E. Lee, without Jackson to  command half of the Army of Northern Virginia, decides to divide his army into three corps, each corps consisting of 3 divisions.  Although the I Corps remains under James Longstreet, he gives command of the II Corps to Richard Ewell and the new III Corps to A.P. Hill. 

---Confederate cavalry raid Morgantown, West Virginia, taking over 200 horses and many thousands of dollars of private property. 

---Today the New York Times publishes an editorial evaluating Gen. U.S. Grant and his rising legacy:

Gen. Grant and His Splendid Success at Vicksburgh.

The track of this war is strewed with faded and with ruined military reputations. As we look back to the first year of the war, we are absolutely amazed to find how few who then stood out as Generals of mark have retained their place in the public regard. . . . Gen. GRANT’s fame has been steadily gaining from the outset. Though but a man of forty, at the commencement of the war he had seen more hard fighting than any other officer, having been in every battle of Mexico except that of Buena Vista. Yet, when he took command at Cairo, he was not much known, and attracted little attention. The public had set its heart upon other favorites. If he obtained some little praise for crossing the Ohio so promptly and seizing Paducah in anticipation of the rebels, it was lost the same season, by his battle of Belmont, which the public in its inexperienced judgment of that time, insisted upon styling a defeat because an advance was followed by a retreat. It was, in fact, simply an expedition . . . to break up the enemy’s camp, and to prevent reinforcements. . . . This was effectually accomplished, and therefore the movement, though it cost blood, was a complete success.

At Fort Donelson, where Gen. GRANT next appeared on the stage, he won a victory unexampled in its results; but the public still were inclined to attribute it to good fortune rather than to any special military capacity, and were even disposed to find fault that a quarter of the rebel army had been allowed to escape in the night before the surrender. At Pittsburgh Landing [Shiloh], his next scene of action, it was conceded that he fought splendidly; but he was reproached for having been on the enemy’s side of the river at all, without intrenchments and without open communications in the rear. The ultimate victory was again ascribed to nothing but good fortune.

At Vicksburgh, his next theatre of operations, he has labored, everybody admitted, with great energy, yet the impression has generally prevailed that it would be to no purpose. The manifold expedients that he adopted, in order to get a chance at the rebel stronghold, were regarded with a good deal of curiosity, but with very little confidence. The expedient, which at last succeeded, struck the public with not a little surprise. He got his chance at last. The style in which he followed it up — his extraordinary celerity of movement, his striking at unexpected points, his success in thwarting the attempts of the enemy to concentrate, his whipping them in detail every time in six distinct battles, and the magnitude and completeness of his final conquest, which casts into the shade all of the other achievements of the war — all this is now a marvel, and the public is quite ready to accept the conclusion, which the Army of the Tennessee long since formed — that, take him all in all, Gen. GRANT is the most serviceable, and, therefore, the most valuable, officer in the national army.

Why has Gen. GRANT thus at last distanced every other commander? . . . Gen. GRANT, though perhaps possessed of no great military genius, yet combines qualities which, in such a war as this, are even better calculated to insure success, and which scarcely any of his brother Generals have exhibited in similar complete combination.

First, he has absolute singleness of purpose. From the beginning he has addressed himself strictly to the military work he had in hand, without a thought about cotton speculations or about political advantage. . . . Second, his Spartan simplicity of character. . . . Third, his modesty, his straightforwardness, his entire freedom from jealousy. . . . Fourth, whether he has genius or not, he has sound judgment and sterling sense. . . .

And, Fifth, he has, what tells more than all else, a most extraordinary combination of energy and persistence. In these two moral elements, he probably has not his equal. Nothing daunts him, nothing discourages him. . . .

U.S. GRANT — or, as his soldiers style him, Unconditional Surrender GRANT — has given the Confederacy blows such as no other arm has dealt, and, if he is let alone, as we trust he will be, he will in due time bring the whole concern to the dust.

Ulysses S. Grant

---In his Memoirs, Gen. Grant details the problems confronting him in the beginning the siege against Vicksburg:

After the unsuccessful assault of the 22d the work of the regular siege began. Sherman occupied the right starting from the river above Vicksburg, McPherson the centre (McArthur's division now with him) and McClernand the left, holding the road south to Warrenton. Lauman's division arrived at this time and was placed on the extreme left of the line. . . . In the interval between the assaults of the 19th and 22d, roads had been completed from the Yazoo River and Chickasaw Bayou, around the rear of the army, to enable us to bring up supplies of food and ammunition. . . .

My line was more than fifteen miles long, extending from Haines' Bluff to Vicksburg, thence to Warrenton. The line of the enemy was about seven. . . . The ground about Vicksburg is admirable for defence. On the north it is about two hundred feet above the Mississippi River at the highest point and very much cut up by the washing rains; the ravines were grown up with cane and underbrush, while the sides and tops were covered with a dense forest. Farther south the ground flattens out somewhat, and was in cultivation. But here, too, it was cut up by ravines and small streams. The enemy's line of defence followed the crest of a. . . . Deep ravines of the description given lay in front of these defences. As there is a succession of gullies, cut out by rains along the side of the ridge, the line was necessarily very irregular. . . . Generally therefore, or in many places, their line would run from near the head of one gully nearly straight to the head of another, and an outer work triangular in shape, generally open in the rear, was thrown up on the point; with a few men in this outer work they commanded the approaches to the main line completely. . . .

We had no siege guns except six thirty-two pounders, and there were none at the West to draw from. Admiral Porter, however, supplied us with a battery of navy-guns of large calibre, and with these, and the field artillery used in the campaign, the siege began. The first thing to do was to get the artillery in batteries where they would occupy commanding positions; then establish the camps, under cover from the fire of the enemy but as near up as possible; and then construct rifle-pits and covered ways, to connect the entire command by the shortest route. The enemy did not harass us much while we were constructing our batteries. Probably their artillery ammunition was short; and their infantry was kept down by our sharpshooters, who were always on the alert and ready to fire at a head whenever it showed itself above the rebel works. . . .

There were no mortars with the besiegers, except what the navy had in front of the city; but wooden ones were made by taking logs of the toughest wood that could be found, boring them out for six or twelve pound shells and binding them with strong iron bands. These answered as cochorns, and shells were successfully thrown from them into the trenches of the enemy.

 The labor of building the batteries and intrenching was largely done by the pioneers, assisted by negroes who came within our lines and who were paid for their work; but details from the troops had often to be made. . . . By the 30th of June there were two hundred and twenty guns in position, mostly light field-pieces, besides a battery of heavy guns belonging to, manned and commanded by the navy. We were now as strong for defence against the garrison of Vicksburg as they were against us. . . .

---James A. Graham, of Hillsborough, North Carolina, serves in the 27th North Carolina Infantry Regiment, and writes home of the sporadic sparring between Rebel troops and the Yankee troops that occupy so much of coastal North Carolina:

Camp near Kinston

May 26th 1863

My dear mother,

We have just returned from a trip after the Yankees. Last Friday morning we received orders to be ready to march and about eleven o’clock we left camp and started in the direction of Gum Swamp, on the road to Newbern, where it was reported that our forces were engaged with the Yankees.  Soon after we started I heard that the enemy had surrounded and taken the whole of the 56th Reg’t and a part of the 25th Reg’t also.

I met some of those Reg’t soon after and found out that the 25th Reg’t had escaped and also part of the 56th, but could hear nothing of Robert except that he was very likely taken prisoner.

About five or six miles from Kinston our Brigade formed line of battle and commenced advan-cing on the Yankees who had already taken the back track toward Newbern.  We caught up with the Yanks after a short while and had a little skirmish-ing and artillery firing with them, but they soon skedaddled and we followed right on their track.

We kept the chase up till about midnight skirmishing with them whenever we could catch up with them and trying out artillery on them when they were too far for our rifles.  Their artillery would reply once in a while.  Next morning we came up with them at Core Creek, drove their pickets across the creek and followed them till night, driving then as far as Batchelor’s Creek about 8 miles from Newbern, and then started on our return.

We reached Camp yesterday morning pretty well tired and as dirty and black a set as I ever saw. . . . Our company lost no men at all and our Brigade very few, al-though we were in front all the time, for it was a hard matter to get up wit the Yanks and they always ran whenever we fired on them.  I met Robert yesterday morn-ing as we came to Camp.  He got out all safe after laying in the swamp some time.  Lt. Ray, the 1st Lt. of his company, was wounded and taken prisoner I understand.  Johnny told me that 19 of his men were taken.  We are camped about 3 or 4 miles from Kinston in the same camp we occupied a little over a year ago. I think we will very likely stay here some time.  I must close.  Love to all.  Write soon

Your affectionate son

James A. Graham

P.S. I have seen Uncle James Bryan several times since we have been at Kinston but have not seen Uncle John yet, as we started on this trip just about the time he came home.

---Lt. Col. Arthur Fremantle, a British officer, writes in his journal, making observations about some of the wounded Confederates he meets on his journey:

The spirit with which wounded men return to the front, even although their wounds are imperfectly healed, is worthy of all praise, and shows the indomitable determination of the Southern people. In the same car there were several quite young boys of fifteen or sixteen who were badly wounded, and one or two were minus arms and legs, of which deficiencies they were evidently very vain.

1 comment:

  1. I think Grant was one of the greatest generals of the US military. It was his tactics that helped take over Vicksburg. I haven't too much research on the Civil War, but capturing Vicksburg was the turning point of the War. The Union would not have won without Grant.
    On another note, this was useful information. There is a lot I learned about Grant that I didn't know before. He carefully studied out his plans before execution.

    Jory Johnson