Monday, July 29, 2013

July 8, 1863

July 8, 1863

---Siege of Port Hudson, Day 42

---Officers from the Rebel garrison of Port Hudson, Louisiana, meet with officers from Gen. Banks’ Federals today to arrange for the surrender of Port Hudson to the U.S. Army.

Brig. Gen. John Hunt Morgan, CSA

---John Hunt Morgan, now a general, has led his 2,400 cavalrymen on another raid.  He crosses his men and horses over the Cumberland River into Kentucky on July 2, and in several sharp fights over the next several days, the Rebel riders suffer losses.  After the Battle of Lebanon, the Rebels burn much of the town, in revenge for the death of Morgan’s younger brother.  On this date, Morgan’s raiders arrive on the banks of the Ohio River, just across from Indiana.  Captured steamboats ferry his men and equipment across, and by midnight, all of Morgan’s men are in Union territory.  Thus begins the most daring of Morgan’s raids.

The route Morgan's raid will take through Northern territory

---U.S. Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles, writes in his journal about the chronic lack of “celerity” in the Union pursuit of the fleeing Rebel army out of the North, and traces this tendency to General Halleck, the Chief of Staff:

The Potomac is swollen by the late heavy rains, and the passage of the Rebel army is rendered impossible for several days. They are short of ammunition. In the mean time our generals should not lose their opportunity. I trust they will not. Providence favors them. Want of celerity, however, has been one of the infirmities of some of our generals in all this war. Stanton and Halleck should stimulate the officers to press forward at such a time as this, but I fear that they are engaged in smaller matters and they will be more unmindful of these which are more important. Halleck’s policy consists in stopping the enemy’s advance, or in driving the enemy back, — never to capture.*

---A Seneca county newspaper in upstate New York reports on the Battle of Gettysburg:

A Fierce and Bloody Conflict.

The dark cloud that has so long overhung the nation is parting, and through the almost impenetrable mist, gleams of hope and sunshine are glancing. The Army of the Potomac under MEADE has saved us from defeat and disaster, if it has won a substantial and glorious victory. A terrible and bloody conflict commenced near Gettysburg, Pa., on Wednesday of last week, the rebels attacking our forces and repulsing them with great slaughter, until re-inforced by the veteran troops of Gen. MEADE. At nightfall the battle ceased, only to be renewed the following day with increased fury and violence, both sides being largely reinforced. the rebels were the attacking party on the second as well as the first day. . . . The forces of the enemy were massed upon all points of our lines, but were repulsed as often as they endeavored to pierce the solid ranks of our veteran troops. After a slaughter inconceivable, the enemy were repulsed, and compelled to fall back at all points. . . . The loss on both sides is very heavy. It is semi-officially stated that ours foot up seventeen thousand, killed, wounded and missing, while our reports put the rebel loss at twenty-three thousand. In all probability one side suffered quite as severely as the other. The result, however, ought to rejoice the heart of every American citizen. Had General MEADE’s army been defeated, Heaven only knows what would have been the consequences. The end, however is not yet. – . . . A few days may change the tide of success.#

---John C. West, an infantryman from Texas fighting in Robertson’s Brigade, Hood’s division, writes home to his 4-year-old son about the battle at Gettysburg, particularly the fighting on the Second Day around Devil’s Den and Little Round Top---which includes some rather gruesome graphic details:

Letter No. VIII.
Hagerstown, Md.,
July 8th, 1863.

To Master Stark West, four years old:

My Dear Little Man: I wrote to mamma from our camp near Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, and as to-morrow is your birthday, and you are getting to be a big boy, I thought you would like for papa to write you a letter and tell you something about the war and the poor soldiers.

God has been very good to me since I wrote to mamma. He has saved my life when many thousands of good men have been slain all around me. On the 1st, 2nd and 3rd of July a very terrible battle was fought near Gettysburg. We marched all night, leaving camp at 2 o’clock in the afternoon in order to reach the battlefield in time. There had been some fighting on the 1st and we passed a hospital where I saw a great many wounded soldiers, who were mangled and bruised in every possible way, some with their eyes shot out, some with their arms, or hands, or fingers, or feet or legs shot off, and all seeming to suffer a great deal. About two miles farther on I found a great many soldiers drawn up in a line, ready to meet the Yankees, who formed another line a mile or two in front of them. These lines were three or four miles long, and at different places on the hills were the batteries of artillery.

These, you know, are cannons, which shoot large shells, and iron balls a long distance. We kept in this line so long, and I was so tired, I went to sleep and dreamed about you and mamma and little sister, and I asked God to take care of you if I am taken away from you. After awhile we were marched off in a great hurry towards the left of the Yankee line of battle, which is called the left wing, and was opposite to our right wing, which was composed principally of Hood’s division. Our brigade was ordered to charge upon one of the Yankee batteries, which was posted on a mountain as high as mount Bonnell, with another battery on a still higher mountain, just back of it, to support it. We were standing in an open field, under the shot and shell of these batteries, for half an hour, before we moved forward, and a good many soldiers were killed all around me. One poor fellow had his head knocked off in a few feet of me, and I felt all the time as if I would never see you and little sister again. When the command was given to charge we moved forward as fast as we could towards the battery. It was between a half and three-quarters of a mile across an open field, over a marshy branch, over a stone fence, and up a very rugged and rocky hill, while Yankee sharpshooters were on the higher mountains, so as to have fairer shots at our officers. On we went yelling and whooping, and soon drove the Yankees from the first battery, but were too much worn out and exhausted to climb to the second, besides a great many of our men were killed, and minnie bullets and grape shot were as thick as hail, and we were compelled to get behind the rocks and trees to save ourselves.

We renewed the charge several times, but the slaughter of our men was so great that after four or five efforts to advance we retired about sunset and slept behind the rocks. I had thrown away my blanket and everything except my musket and cartridge box in the fight, and so spent a very uncomfortable night. We remained at the same place all the next day, and every now and then Yankee bullets would come pretty thick amongst us. One bullet went through my beard and struck a rock half an inch from my head, and a piece of the bullet hit me on the lip and brought the blood.

Lieutenant Joe Smith, of McLennan county, was killed in ten feet of me, and John Terry and Tom Mullens were both wounded in the shoulders. I wanted to write my little man a letter, which he could read when he was a big boy, but it has been raining and the ground is very wet and everything so uncomfortable that I cannot enjoy it.

Tell mamma she had better put off her visit to South Carolina until the war is over, as she seems to be doing very well, and it will be better for her.

Your father, truly,

John C. West.*

* from Daily Observations of the Civil War  at
# from Blue Gray Review: An American Civil War Site

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