Thursday, November 28, 2013

November 7, 1863

November 7, 1863

---Celebrations break out all over the army camps as Union soldiers learn that the cause of the Union has triumphed in the elections.  The Republicans now have won the state of New York.

---Battle of Rappahannock Station:  Troops from the Army of the Potomac strike suddenly at the river crossings at Rappahannock Station, Virginia.  Meade divides his army into two columns, which are to converge on Rappahannock Station and Brandy Station.  As the Federals finish a ten-mile march in the morning, they surprise a division under Harry Hays still on the north side of the river, Hays is hard-pressed to keep his position.  As dusk settles, the assaults are renewed.  As the Yankees capture the bridge at one crossing, the remaining 1,300 Rebel troops surrender.  

November 6, 1863

November 6, 1863

---Battle of Droop Mountain, West Virginia:  Two Federal, under Gen. Alfred Duffie (1,700) and Gen. William Averell (5,000), close in on two sides of Confederate forces under Brig. Gen. John Echols, with 1,700 men, near Lewisburg.  Averell’s men encounter William “Mudwall” Jackson, with his Rebel troops, and drive them in a running 20-mile fight. “Mudwall” selects Droop Mountain to make a stand, and send word back to Echols, who marches his brigade (under Col. George Patton), also mostly West Virginians, up to Droop Mountain just in time for the Federal attack on Jackson’s position.  Averell deploys his artillery as Pennsylvania troops and dismounted West Virginians advance over rough ground.  As the assault sweeps up the mountain, the Rebel lines break, and flee down the mountainside.  Union Victory. 

Losses:   U.S.  140               C.S.  255

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

November 5, 1863

November 5, 1863

---Gen. Sherman, marching his corps slowly and repairing railroads and bridges and leaving garrisons as he has been ordered, receives an urgent dispatch from Grant, ordering him to drop everything and “cross the Tennessee, and hurry eastward with all possible dispatch toward Bridgeport, till you meet further orders from me.”

November 4, 1863

November 4, 1863

---On this date, Gen. Braxton Bragg makes the fatal decision to order Gen. Longstreet on an expedition to Knoxville, to eject Gen. Burnside from East Tennessee.  Whether Bragg does this from a sound strategic basis of judgment, or from his exacerbated inability to tolerate Longstreet in his command is still uncertain and open to debate.  Longstreet, however, is the only remaining officer of the cabal that sought his being relieved.  Hill, Polk, and others had been sent away to other duties.  Bragg orders Longstreet and his divisions (McLaws and Hood), with artillery, to march to Knoxville and drive Burnside out.  Longstreet protests, believing that two divisions is not enough to take on Burnside’s Ninth Corps plus supports.  In addition, he points out, as do others, that Bragg is weakening his army precisely at the wrong time, as Grant and his troops are gaining strength day by day.  
Lt. Gen. James Longstreet

November 1, 1863

November 1, 1863

---A Union officer named Luman Harris Tenny, serving with Sherman’s troops, writes in his journal concerning the lot of the soldier: 

Sunday, Nov. 1st. Took a bath before breakfast. A beautiful Sabbath day. Wish I could spend it quietly at home. May the time soon come when we may all be at home in peace, but contentment we should ask for. I find myself uneasy nowadays. Mr. Brown preached at 2 from Ecclesiastes 12, 1. Very good. Read some in Burns and several chapters in the Bible. Good visit with several boys.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

October 31, 1863

October 31, 1863

—John C. West, a sergeant in the 4th Texas Infantry, Army of Northern Virginia (but currently serving near Chattanooga) writes to his sister back in Texas, and ruminates over the harshness of the common soldier’s lot:

Letter No. XXII.

Camp Near Chattanooga,
 October 31st, 1863.

    To Mrs. James D. Blair, Austin, Texas.
    My Dear Sister:
    Your surprise of August the 6th reached me ten days ago. I call it a surprise because I thought that you trans-Mississippians were so crest-fallen at the Vicksburg catastrophe as to regard yourselves as entirely cut off from friends on this side of the river, and so would cease all effort at correspondence.  . . . I trust you will all write me more frequently, for you have no idea what a comfort it is to stand in mud to the ankle, on an empty stomach, and read a line of comfort from sympathizers at home. Newspapers may exhaust their stereotyped phrases, and correspendents may discourse eloquently about the sufferings of the “poor soldier” until the phrase becomes a by-word and fails to excite an emotion of pity, much less a tear, but I will say now (for perhaps I may not live to say it face to face in the better day to come), that the sacrifice made and the toils endured by the private soldier in the service of the Confederate States cannot be appreciated or expressed in words, nor will they ever be known except to those who have shared them. Not even the officers of infantry, whose duties are almost as arduous, can tell the tale of hardships which fall to the lot of the man in the ranks. He is the lowest mud sill in this structure which is being reared, and when the edifice totters all the props and braces must be placed upon his shoulders. My thoughts are all the news I have—we seldom get a paper here. We have been in the mud for over a month in an almost continuous rain. . . .
    . . . I have been quite blessed. I was barefooted about a week ago, but then the water was too deep for shoes, so it made very little difference. It has never been necessary for me to take a dose of medicine yet, so you may know that I stand it pretty well, never having missed a roll call or a duty of any kind. I will write to Brother Charles in a day or two, and give him my thoughts on heroes and stragglers. The former race is not extinct, but dying out rapidly. The latter is increasing alarmingly. You observe that we have a good deal of time to think while in camp, and not on active service, and some time to read, too. I have read lately, “The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table,” “Aurora Leigh,” “Davenport Dunn,” “Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo, and innumerable articles in magazines, which I have picked up in waste places. I now have on hand “Tasso’s Jerusalem Delivered,” which belongs to our quartermaster. I have carried a Bible and Milton in my knapsack all the time, so you see we are not absolutely illiterate. Your brother, truly,

    John C. West

—Major Charles Francis Adams, Jr., in the Federal cavalry in Virginia, writes to his father, the U.S. Ambassador to Britain, revealing his thoughts about the meaning of the War, and what must accrue from it–namely, the complete emancipation of the negro--if it is to be worth all of the pain and sacrifice:

    That the crowning success was withheld from this summer’s campaign was a bitter disappointment to me, but, on second thought, seems right and good, for I see we are not ripe for it. The one good to result from this war must be the freedom and regeneration of the African race. Without that it will be barren of results. That can only be wrought out through the agency of the army — the black soldiers. They are coming but they are not here yet. Every disaster and every delay brings them on and the necessity and difficulty of raising more troops only forces their development. I want to see 200,000 black soldiers in the field, and then I shall think it time to have peace. The African question might yet take a step backward in the face of a final success won by white soldiers, but it never will after that success to which 200,000 armed blacks have contributed. . . .

---Harper’s Weekly, the most popular newspaper weekly in the North, publishes this editorial on the dismissal of Gen. Rosecrans:

     SATURDAY, OCTOBER 31, 1863.

    GENERAL ROSECRANS has been removed from the command of the Army of the Cumberland, and General Thomas, the hero of Chicamauga, appointed in his place—General Grant taking the supreme command of all the armies on the Mississippi and in East and Southern Tennessee. The announcement has taken every, one by surprise. But whereas, some months ago, the removal of a popular general from his command would have been a signal for a popular uproar, now even the Copperheads can barely get up a feeble hiss at the change; and the public at large, fully satisfied that the President knows what is required by the emergency, and is doing his duty faithfully, accept the event without murmur.
    Whatever may have been the faults of General Rosecrans, it is encouraging to see that the President, when satisfied that he ought to be removed, had the courage to remove him, without hesitation or explanation to the public. …
    There is a lesson to be learned by the people from this event, and that is, to beware of accepting the newspaper and popular estimate of generals as the true one. Up to the hour of Rosecrans’s removal he was believed to be nearly perfection. He was called prudent, daring, invincible, loyal to the back-bone, dextrous as a strategist, and always obedient to his superiors. He was contrasted with other generals, to their invariable disparagement. When he failed at Chicamauga, the Copperheads—whose implacable foe he had proved himself—threw the whole blame on Government, and entirely exonerated him. … that, so far from obeying orders promptly and cheerfully, he frequently disregarded the commands of the President; and that, so far from being the chivalric soldier we pictured him, he left the battle-field at Chicamauga in the middle of the fight, and was in bed at Chattanooga, snug and safe, when the gallant Thomas, with his handful of heroes, was stemming the furious onset of the rebel army. If all this should be presently discovered to be the truth, what shall we then say of popular estimates of generals?

October 30, 1863

October 30, 1863

—An unidentified war correspondent writes about a development out on the frontier of the Southwest, in the heavily Unionist part of Arkansas:

    October 30.—Unconditional Unionists, representing twenty counties of Western Arkansas, held a convention at Fort Smith, at which patriotic speeches were made, resolutions adopted, and Colonel Johnson of the First Arkansas infantry, nominated to represent that district in the Congress of the United States. . . .

October 29, 1863

October 29, 1863

Chattanooga Campaign: As a result of the Battle of Wauhatchie, Grant is able to open “the cracker line”, which runs by ship up the Tennessee River to Bridgeport, Alabama, and then overland to Brown’s Ferry and then to Chattanooga.  For the moment, at least, Thomas's Army of the Cumberland is saved from starvation.

—In Charleston Harbor, Union naval ships lob 1,691 shells into Fort Sumter, killing over two dozen of the defending garrison.  The shelling will continue, but with little results.

—David Lane, an infantryman in the 17th Michigan with Burnside at Knoxville, writes in his journal of the inexplicable order to go into Winter Quarters, at precisely the time when Washington is prodding Burnside to make a move in East Tennessee:

    All sorts of rumors are afloat. “Bragg, with all his army, is advancing.” Longstreet is crossing the river six miles below Kingston to flank us on the right. Another heavy force is on our left, making for Knoxville. “Wilcox has been driven back from the east,” and a hundred others equally encouraging. We know not what to think of it, and yet must criticise and form conclusions. But it is all explained at last. We fell in at 1 o’clock today, marched about a mile to a beautiful grove near a large spring of never-failing water. Here our division formed in line and stacked arms, with orders to remain in line until further notice. Lieutenant Colonel Comstock soon called our regiment to “attention,” ordered company commanders in front of center, and then and there revealed to them the long-wished-for intelligence. All officers and men were taken by surprise. We were prepared to hear of some great calamity, but not for this. Nothing like it had ever before happened to the Ninth Army Corps. “Our fall campaign is closed. Prepare for yourselves comfortable quarters for the winter.” For a moment there was a silence that could be felt, then a shout went up that “rent the heavens and shook the everlasting hills.” Not simply because we were ordered to prepare winter quarters, but a mysterious movement had been explained—a weight of anxiety removed.

—In the midst of death and destruction, and the rigors of war, there is still time for romance.  Ephraim Shelby Dodd, a trooper with Terry’s Texas Rangers (8th Texas Cavalry Regiment), writes in his journal of the social rounds he made:

    Thursday, 29th—I went down to our old stamping ground to-day. I stopped to see Miss Eugenie Holt; had just returned from a visit to Marietta and was looking very pretty; stopped but a short time. Went on to Mr. Davis’s; nobody at home but Miss Mollie. Crossed the River at Freeman’s Ferry and went to Mr. Somers. Miss Maggie’s husband at home. I staid all night. Miss Mattie came down this morning. I staid till bout 10 o’clock.

October 28, 1863

October 28, 1863

---Battle of Wauhatchie, Tennessee:  Gen. Hooker marches his troops from Kelly’s Ford across the bend in the river to hook up with Hazen and Turchin at Brown’s Ferry, leaving Geary’s division at Wauhatchie Station on the railroad.  After dark, Longstreet sends two brigades to attack Geary.  When the attack breaks out, Hooker sends Gen. O.O. Howard and his XI Corps divisions to assist Geary.  But Howard’s men attack Laws and do not reinforce Geary, who holds his position, nonetheless.  The Rebels finally are unable to hold, and they abandon the attack and retreat, after incurring 408 casualties to the 420 casualties for the Yankees.  Union Victory.

—This item appears in the Richmond Daily Dispatch today:

    Wanted–1,000 negroes.
    –We wish to hire for the year 1864, one thousand Negroes, to be employed at the Tredegar Iron Works, Richmond, and at our Blast Furnaces in the counties of Rockbridge, Botetourt, and Alleghany, and Collieries in Goochland and Henrico, for which we are willing to pay the market prices.
    Having made arrangements for a supply of provisions and clothing, we can safely promise that servants entrusted to us shall at all times be well fed and clothed.
    Our furnaces and other works are located in healthy sections of the country, remote from the enemy’s line, offering unusual inducements to the owners of negroes to send them to us.
    We would be glad to hear from those whose hands we have hired this year as early as possible, as to rehiring them another year, and whether they desire that the hands shall be sent home or retained under our protection at the end of the year.

    J R Anderson & Co,
    Tredegar Iron Works, Richmond, Va.

Tredegar Iron Works, on the James River at Richmond, Virginia: the most vital iron mill in the Confederacy

October 27, 1863

October 27, 1863

---In Chicago, the first major Sanitary Fair is held, organized by Mary Livermore and Jane Hoge of the U.S. Sanitary Commission.  The USSC asks people to donate items (or make new items) for sale to raise funds to purchase medical supplies, blankets, clothing, and a more nutritious diet for the soldiers in the field.  Admission is 75 cents.  The biggest item for sale was the original manuscript of the Emancipation Proclamation, donated by Pres. Lincoln, which sells in the auction for $3,000.00.  The Fair will remain open for two weeks.

Chattanooga Campaign:  The Move on Brown’s Ferry.  Two brigades–one under William Hazen and another under John Turchin are detailed by Gen. Thomas to capture Brown’s Ferry, a river crossing downstream from the city, and the key to re-establishing a supply line.  Hazen’s men float downstream under cover of fog and no moon, and Turchin’s march over Moccasin Point in the early morning hours.  

---John Beauchamp Jones, a clerk in the War Department in Richmond, writes in his journal on a poignant subject that often must have crossed the minds of many on both sides of the war:

            How long will it be after peace before the sectional hatred intensified by this war can abate? A lady near by, the other night, while surveying her dilapidated shoes, and the tattered sleeping-gowns of her children, burst forth as follows: “I pray that I may live to see the United States involved in a war with some foreign power, which will make refugees of her people, and lay her cities in ashes! I want the people ruined who would ruin the South. It will be a just retribution!”

Unidentified young soldier in Union musician's uniform and coat in case
An unnamed young musician in the U.S. Army

October 24, 1863

October 24, 1863

—Mary Boykin Chesnut of South Carolina writes in her journal of her husband’s service on behalf of Pres. Davis to the Army of Tennessee:

    October 24th.—James Chesnut is at home on his way back to Richmond; had been sent by the President to make the rounds of the Western armies; says Polk is a splendid old fellow. They accuse him of having been asleep in his tent at seven o’clock when he was ordered to attack at daylight, but he has too good a conscience to sleep so soundly.
    The battle did not begin until eleven at Chickamauga[1] when Bragg had ordered the advance at daylight. Bragg and his generals do not agree. I think a general worthless whose subalterns quarrel with him. Something is wrong about the man. Good generals are adored by their soldiers. See Napoleon, Caesar, Stonewall, Lee.
    Old Sam (Hood) received his orders to hold a certain bridge against the enemy, and he had already driven the enemy several miles beyond it, when the slow generals were still asleep. Hood has won a victory, though he has only one leg to stand on.
    Mr. Chesnut was with the President when he reviewed our army under the enemy’s guns before Chattanooga. . . .
    Joe Johnston advancing, or retreating, I may say with more truth, is magnetic. He does draw the good-will of those by whom he is surrounded. Being such a good hater, it is a pity he had not elected to hate somebody else than the President of our country. He hates not wisely but too well. . . .

October 23, 1863

October 23, 1863

---Today, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant arrives in Chattanooga, and takes command of the Military Division of the Mississippi, which basically gives him command of all Federal troops west of the Appalachians.  Arriving after dark, Grant immediately finds the Headquarters of Gen. Thomas, the new commander of the Army of the Cumberland, and meets with Thomas and Gen. William “Baldy” Smith, who has already been at work on the pontoon bridge, and is planning another, and has jury-rigged a makeshift steamer to use on the supply line they hoped to open between Bridgeport (about 40 miles downstream) and Chattanooga.

—Pres. Jefferson Davis removes Gen. Leonidas Polk from command of a corps in Bragg’s Army of Tennessee.  Polk is reassigned to command of troops in Mississippi, under Joe Johnston.

October 22, 1863

October 22, 1863

---The Richmond Daily Dispatch, not yet having learned of Thomas’s appointment to command of the Army of the Cumberland, publish an editorial highlighting the perfidy and treachery of the Virginia-born Thomas to his home state, due to his loyalty to the Union--and how a spirited Virginia lady---Thomas’s own sister---refused to send him a treasured sword:

Major-Gen. Geo. H. Thomas.

–It has been already stated that this individual, who is now connected with Rosecrans’s army, is a native of Southampton county, Va. A lady who resides at Jerusalem, the county seat of Southampton, informs the editor of the Spirit of the Age that Thomas distinguished himself in the war with Mexico, and on his return home was presented by the ladies of his native county with a handsome sword.–After the beginning of the present war, and Thomas had determined to array himself against the South, he wrote to his sister to send him that sword. The true hearted, patriotic woman, replied that he could not have a sword presented by the women of Virginia to turn against their brave fathers, sons, and brothers, who were fighting in defence of the land whose birth-place he had disgraced, and that instead of sending the sword to him she would prefer seeing it thrust through his traitorous heart. –Petersburg (Va.) Express.

---John Beauchamp Jones, a clerk in the War Department in Richmond, writes in his journal concerning the food shortage in the city:

    Beef, to-day, sold in market at $1.50 per pound. There is no bacon for sale, or corn-meal. But we shall not starve, if we have faith in a beneficent Providence. Our daughter Anne, teaching in Appomattox County, writes that she will send us a barrel of potatoes, some persimmons, etc. next Wednesday. And we had a good dinner to-day : a piece of fat shoulder Capt. Warner let me have at $1 per pound—it is selling for $2.50—and cabbage from my garden, which my neighbor’s cow overlooked when she broke through the gate last Sunday. Although we scarcely know what we shall have to-morrow, we are merry and patriotic to-day.

October 20, 1863

October 20, 1863

---Gen. Rosecrans, in Chattanooga, receives orders to turn over command of the Army of the Cumberland to Gen. George Thomas, which he does.  By the next morning, he is on his way from Chattanooga to Washington to report.  Gen. Thomas, with his characteristic brevity, remarks, “We will hold this town until we starve.”  The Army of the Cumberland is very close to this.  Draft animals, such as mules, oxen, and horses, are disappearing into the ration pot.  The soldiers lack shoes and cold-weather gear.

October 19, 1863

October 19, 1863

---On this date, Sherman receives orders from Gen. Halleck to assume command of the Army of Tennessee, since Grant has been advanced to overall theater command. 

---Battle of Buckland Races, Virginia:  In a rear-guard action, as Lee’s army heads back down south, Confederate cavalry hits a force of probing Union cavalry, driving them back in a running battle for over 5 miles.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

October 18, 1863

October 18, 1863

---Even while Gen. Halleck is sending orders to Rosecrans to attack the Rebels on Lookout Mountain, Grant sends orders to relieve Rosecrans of command and put George Thomas in his place:


No. 1.
Louisville, October 18, 1863.

Major-General Rosecrans having been relieved from the command of the Department of the Cumberland by direction of the President of the United States, per General Orders, No. 337, of October 16, 1863, Major-General Thomas is hereby assigned to the command, and will at once assume its duties. General Rosecrans will turn over all books, papers, maps, and other property pertaining to the command to Major-General Thomas. All staff officers, except the aides-de-camp authorized by law now on duty with General Rosecrans, will report to General Thomas for assignment as soon as relieved. General Rosecrans will proceed to Cincinnati, Ohio, and report to the Adjutant-General of the Army by letter for orders.

By order of Major-General Grant:
Assistant Adjutant-General.

---Kate Cumming, a Confederate Army nurse in northern Georgia, records in her journal some conversation with the wounded officers, and rumors in the army about Gen. Bragg, and the trouble with his subordinates:

We have a wounded captain, named Desha, related to the family in Mobile of that name. He is from Kentucky, and a cousin of Professor Pickett, whom I met at Ringgold. I have been told he is one of the bravest and best men in our army. I was conversing with him one day relative to the ignorance of our men. He said there was no doubt it was very great, but not greater than that of the northerners. He had seen hundreds of letters from the people in the North, and they were not only illiterate, but vulgar. This I have often heard said before.

Dr. B. is as kind as ever to the patients. He is constantly going around inquiring if they get enough to eat, and is using every means to get plenty for them. We get quantities of buttermilk, which is a great treat.

Dr. B. tells me he has over fifty relatives in the army, and he has not heard from them since the battle.

The president has just paid a visit to the Tennessee army; it is said for the purpose of making inquiries as to the dissatisfaction against General Bragg among his officers.

It seems that all his generals, excepting General Breckinridge, sent a petition to the president to have him removed. General Bragg has heard of it, and begged to be relieved, but the president refuses, as he says he does not know who to put in his place.

---Fighting in Charlestown, Virginia, sputters sporadically as Gen. Imboden's Rebels attack the town and overwhelm the 9th Maryland Infantry, but later are driven off by the arrival of Federal reinforcements.

October 17, 1863

October 17, 1863

---President Lincoln, on this date, calls for another 300,000 volunteers, in anticipation of the impending expiration of the term of service for most of the Army’s volunteers, in the coming months.

---Cavalry skirmishes spring up all over northern Virginia.  Farther south, Buford’s division is still south of the Rapidan River, clashing with Rebel units, as they withdraw back to the north side of the river, Stuart’s gray troopers right behind them.  Kilpatrick’s troopers help to cover Buford’s withdrawal back to Brandy Station, and then north across the Rappahannock.

---On the Hillsborough River, Florida, the gunboats USS Tahoma and USS Adela attack the Confederate Navy vessels Scottish Chief and Kate Dale, and destroy them.

October 16, 1863

October 16, 1863

---True to Gen. Sherman’s predictions, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant receives orders from Gen. Halleck:

GENERAL: You will received herewith the order of the President of the United States placing you in command of the Departments of the Ohio, Cumberland, and Tennessee. The organization of these departments will be changed as you may deem most practicable. You will immediately proceed to Chattanooga and relieve General Rosecrans. You can communicate with Generals Burnside and Sherman by telegraph. A summary of the order sent to those officers will be sent to you immediately. It is left optional with you to supersede General Rosecrans by General G. H. Thomas or not. Any other changes will be made an your request by telegraph.

One of the first objects requiring your attention is the supply of your armies. Another is the security of the passes in the Georgia mountains to shut out the enemy from Tennessee and Kentucky. You will consult with General Meigs and Colonel Scott in regard to transportation and supplies.

This will constitute one of the most fateful and significant decisions by the Union government in the entire war.

Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, USA

---John Beauchamp Jones, a clerk in the Confederate Department of War, writes in his journal of several bits of war news, including a new conspiracy to bring California and the Southwest into the Confederacy:

Judge Hastings, of California, proposes to return thither and publish a pamphlet describing newly discovered gold mines, and organizing companies to work them, which shall be secessionists; and when organized, he will fall upon and destroy the United States troops, march into Arizona, and from thence pour reinforcements into Texas. The Secretary, in the absence of the President, sends a copy of this scheme to Lieut.-Gen. E. K. Smith, trans-Mississippi Department, and gives some encouragement to the judge; abstaining, however, for the present, from devoting any money to the project.

October 15, 1863

October 15, 1863

---The experimental submarine, the C.S.S. H.L. Hunley, sinks for a second time during testing and training in Charleston Harbor, killing the seven men in its crew.

---Gen. William T. Sherman, his divisions en route to Chattanooga, is in the neighborhood of Corinth, Mississippi, and he writes to Gen. Grant, reporting that although Confederate troops are harassing his progress, his troops are moving well toward Nashville.  Sherman encourages Grant to accept the job of overall command (which he is certain will be offered to him) and to arrive in Nashville in person:

I am very anxious you should go to Nashville, as foreshadowed by Halleck, and chiefly as you can harmonize all conflicts of feeling that may exist in that vast crowd. Rosecrans and Burnside and Sherman, with their subordinates, would be ashamed of petty quarrels if you were behind and near them, between them and Washington. Next, the union of such armies and the direction of it is worthy your ambition.

---U.S. Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles writes in his journal about the election results, and the defeat of famed Copperhead Clement Vallandigham and others, and hoping that George McClellan’s support for them will take the wind out of Little Mac’s political sails:

The election returns come in triumphantly for the Union. Woodward and Vallandigham, both Rebel sympathizers, have been defeated. General McClellan, whose reticence and caution have hitherto been well maintained, unwisely exposed himself. I am informed he refused to write a letter until assured by those in whom he had full trust that there was no doubt of Woodward’s election. I doubt if his letter helped Woodward to one vote, but it has effectually killed McClellan.

---Charels Francie Adams, Jr., an officer in a Masschusetts cavalry regiment, writes to his father, about the possibility of McClellan running for president against Lincoln the next year, and whether Mac will have much support amongst the army:

At present my means of information are not very good and I cannot tell how the Army feels, but my impression is that the October vote will foreshadow exactly the November vote. Soldiers don’t vote for individuals; they don’t vote for the war; they have but one desire and that is to vote against those who delay the progress of the war at home; they want to vote down the copperheads. The vote just taken reflects this feeling and this only, and in November, you will see a repetition of the same thing. McClellan has no popularity in the Army except among a few officers in his old Army, and these are now growing surprisingly few. In the West he has no friends. In November I do not think he will poll one vote out of six. So the election according to all precedent may be considered as no longer an open question.

Monday, November 18, 2013

October 14, 1863

October 14, 1863

Battle of Bristoe Station
(map courtesy of Civil War Trust - used by permission)

---Battle of Bristoe Station:  Stuart, still trapped between two Federal columns, opens fire with his artillery and smashes through to freedom, but is essentially out of the game for the day.  Meanwhile, Ewell and his Second Corps, searching for the fight that Stuart started, turns to the east and makes contact with Warren’s II Corps of the Union army.  Hill turns also, marching toward Bristoe Station on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad line southwest of Centreville—both he and Ewell groping for the Union position, which is constantly shifting.  Hill sees Union troops moving to the north, and he deploys his divisions and attacks the rearguard of the Union V Corps, under Sykes, who bruises the Rebel attack and moves on.  Hill changes face, just as Warren comes up from the south, along the railroad line.  

Maj. Gen. Gouveneur K. Warren, U.S.A.

The Confederates advance, and Warren’s II Corps, already in line and hidden, rises up and pours massed volleys into Hill’s troops--principally Heth's division.  The Rebels push forward anyway, breaking the Federal line.  

Lt. Gen. Ambrose Powell Hill, C.S.A.

But Hill has no fresh troops to follow up his break-through.  Warren’s troops re-form, and counterattack, smashing the new Rebel position, inflicting heavy casualties and capturing a complete battery.  Hill has not waited for Ewell to come up to support his attack, and it is too late.  Union Victory.

Losses:     Union, 540                  Confederate, 1,381

Warren pulls back from his position, but it is clear to Robert E. Lee that his surprise will not work, since Meade has gotten in front of him.

---Gen. Sherman sends a dispatch to Gen. Grant, alluding to the rumors that Halleck is going to offer Grant command of all the Union armies between the Mississippi and the Appalachians:

Accept the command of the great army of the center; don’t hesitate. By your presence at Nashville you will unite all discordant elements an impress the enemy in proportion. All success and honor to you.



October 13, 1863

October 13, 1863

---Bristoe Station Campaign:  Meade continues moving north, having a better sense of where Lee’s troops are.  Troops from the III Corps fight a heavy skirmish with Southern cavalry at Auburn, although the fight leaves Gen. Stuart and two brigades of his gray cavalry are caught between two moving columns of Yankee infantry.  Both armies continue to move north.

October 12, 1863

October 12, 1863

---Bristoe Station Campaign:  Confusing reports begin to convince Meade that Lee is hovering in the Culpeper area, and that perhaps the Federals ought to re-cross to the southwest bank of the Rappahannock and attack Lee where he is.  But Lee has accelerated his march northward, and has only the Rappahannock River and Gen. Gregg’s cavalry between his column and Warrenton.  Meade sends the II, V, and VI Corps, along with John Buford’s cavalry division, move south across the river at Brandy Station to spar with Lee’s supposed presence there---but after deploying into a three-mile long line and advancing, this force only encounters the small force guarding the fords, and Buford chases them nearly to Culpeper Court House.  It is clear Lee is not there.  Meanwhile, many miles to the north, Stuart’s gray riders encounter Gregg’s blue cavalry at Sulphur Springs crossing, where Gregg’s guns keep the Rebel troopers at bay for awhile.  But when more Rebel artillery from Ewell shows up, Stuart is able to clear the Yankees away from the crossing, and the way to Warrenton is wide open.  However, information from Gregg is not forthcoming, and Meade does not know that Lee has again flanked him.  Meade gets Gregg’s report long after nightfall, and therefore puts his entire army into motion, and that by forced night marching is barely able to keep Lee from cutting him off.

Bristoe Campaign

October 11, 1863

October 11, 1863

---Bristoe Station Campaign:  Soon, the entire Army of the Potomac is in retreat northward.  Meade knows now that Lee is attempting to get in position to attack either his right or his rear, although erroneous reports to the contrary spread confusion for much of the day.  The cavalry of both armies boisterously skirmish with each other at various points along the way, and discover little about enemy positions.  Lee, who has intended to attack the flank of the Union army at Culpeper, finds that they have moved also, and that Lee’s cavalry has little idea where the Yankees actually are.  By this point, nearly all of the attacking force (Hill and Ewell) are north of Culpeper Court House, and Meade has managed to get almost all of his army across the Rappahannock to the northeast bank of that river.  Lee then writes to President Davis that he is determined to continue his march to Manassas in order to get in Meade’s rear and hopefully cut him off from Washington. 

---Of the fighting on this day, George Michael Neese, a Southern artilleryman with Stuart’s cavalry, writes of the action his battery was in, and the disabling of his gun:

When we put our gun in position right near the Barbour house the Yankee battery was firing on our cavalry and artillery in its immediate front, and paid no attention to us; but when we opened fire the whole Yankee battery turned its fire on my one lonely gun, and before I could make my third shot a thunderbolt from a twelve-pound gun struck my piece and crushed one of the wheels to smithers, and slightly wounded two of my cannoneers. We had just loaded our gun and were ready to fire when the twelve-pound solid shot came crashing through a little house that stood near our position and struck the gun carriage, then whizzed past us at a fearful speed and unhealthily close. When I saw the debris of the little house, such as shivered weather boarding, pieces of window sash, and fractured glass flying at us, and very sensibly felt the concussion of the solid shot, I thought that the hill had exploded.

The Yankee battery fired some six or eight shots at our position after our gun was disabled, but they were wasting their ammunition on a dead gun, for the time being. Soon after the Yankee battery ceased firing at our hill our cavalry made a bold advance on the enemy’s whole line, and successfully charged and captured the battery that disabled my gun.

This last fight occurred just as the sun dipped behind the crest of the distant Blue Ridge, and by the time the twilight changed into the dusky shades of night the last sound of battle had died away and the Yankee cavalrymen were moving once more with their faces turned toward the friendly infantry camps along the banks of the Rappahannock.

We are camped to-night one mile south of Brandy Station.

---George Templeton Strong writes in his journal as he travels to Washington, musing on the old slaveholding Maryland aristocratic planter class, and the fading of old ways:

Went to Washington by the usual unavoidable railroad Monday. . . . The ride presented no incidents, unless it might be the lovely glimpses of the arms of the Chesapeake which the railroad traverses—beautiful bays, bordered by golden autumnal woodland.  Genteel seceshdom has its had along their sequestered shores and waxes fat on soft-shell crabs and canvasback ducks.  But Maryland seceshdom is nearly played out.  It will soon be what Jacobitism was in England sixty years ago or seventy, the sentimental tradition of a few old families.  A new order of society is coming there, and the patriarchs must clear the track.

---The blockade runner Spaulding, a British-owned ship, is captured off Charleston Harbor, in addition to the Duoro, which is driven ashore by U.S. Navy blockading forces.

October 10, 1863

October 10, 1863

---Bristoe Station Campaign: Union scouts confirm that part of the Army of Northern Virginia has indeed evacuated its lines along the Rapidan.  The Rebels (A.P. Hill’s Third Corps, followed by Richard Ewell’s Second Corps) march northeast up the Robertson’s River, and JEB Stuart throws out a cavalry screen east of Madison Court House to discourage Yankee curiosity.  The Rebels turn north and are soon in a position to flank Meade and even get into the rear of the Federal forces.  The Federal cavalry under Gregg and Kilpatrick probe the Confederate march, but find out little, at first.  When the Federal troopers are able to get convincing news about Lee’s moves, they report to Meade, who informs Gen. Halleck that he intends to withdraw back across the Rappahannock.  Watching the Rebels warily, Meade becomes convinced that Hill’s advance is meant to threaten his right flank, and that his army, mostly in the neighborhood of Culpeper Court House, must retreat.  He sends the V Corps marching north back towards the Bull Run area, and Gen. Warren with the II Corps (in the absence of the wounded Hancock) following behind, shadowing the Confederate advance parallel to his east. 

---Battle of Blue Springs, Tennessee:  A small fight with large consequences.  Gen. Burnside, commanding the Federal forces in mountainous East Tennessee, slowly and awkwardly inches toward the Virginia frontier along the line of the East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad, the only rail link between the two states, hoping to eventually capture the main salt works in western Virginia near Abingdon.  A brigade of Southern cavalry, under Brig. Gen. John S. Williams, has been skirmishing with some of Burnside’s cavalry, under Brig. Gen. Samuel P. Carter, near Bull’s Gap for nearly a week.  On this date, Williams attacks Carter’s troopers at Blue Springs.  As Carter holds the Rebels in place as a division of IX Corps troops under Gen. Edward Ferrero moves up in an attempt to cut off Williams’ route of retreat.  Ferrero’s assault breaks through the Rebel line and threatens to cut them off, when Williams deftly withdraws his troops, after suffering heavy losses.  Carter chases the Confederate column all the way into Virginia.  Union Victory.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

October 9, 1863

October 9, 1863

---Virginia: Bristoe Station Campaign. From  Clark’s Mountain near the south bank of the Rapidan River, Gen. Lee sends Gen. A.P. Hill and the Third Corps of his army on  a quick march, crossing the Rapidan west of Orange Court House, and turning north.  Hill marches quickly, at some distance west of the Orange & Alexandria railroad line, heading toward Centreville.  At first, only the II Corps of the Army of the Potomac gives chase, under Gen. G.K. Warren.
---Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs writes to Washington with more details of the Army of the Cumberland’s plight and their desperate lack of supplies, particularly forage for the horses and draft animals, which would hamper the army’s ability to move:

Chattanooga, Tenn., October 9, 1863.

Secretary of War:

Communication has been interrupted. I have not written since the 5th. Forage grows scarce. Many horses are unserviceable and some have died. Foragers must go far, and require heavy guards. I have advised sending for supplies all teams except the artillery and ammunition; to let these do the work of the post. Forage should be pushed forward from Nashville, where there is ample supply in depot. A little interchange of artillery fire yesterday afternoon’ ineffective on both sides. Hooker has orders to forage below Stevenson. Rosecrans thinks he will thus obtain much. Forage from Nashville appears to me more important than men just now, as without it what we have may be unable to follow the enemy should he cross the river above in force. If the artillery and ammunition horses give out the army cannot move. A few days’ rations for itself it could carry without wagons, and once on the march with these animals it could find forage. Chief quartermaster, Colonel Hodges, is at Nashville, fitting out trains for Hooker’s troops. I have not lately been able to communicate with him.


—John Camden West, Jr., a Confederate soldier serving in the 4th Texas Infantry Regiment with Lee’s army, writes home to his wife, and reveals much about the suffering of the soldiers on campaign:

Letter No. XIX.

Camp Near Chattanooga,
October 9th, 1863.

My Precious Wife:

Your letters of 16th and 26th of July, enclosing one from Mrs. Carter, reached me three days ago, but I was sent out on picket, immediately on receiving it and had to use spade and pick all day yesterday on a redan, which prevented me from answering sooner. . . .

Tell Stark that I cannot love him if he does not say his lessons and obey you and tell little blue eyes she must be smart and beat her brother reading. I am glad you were thinking of me in those hot July days, for from the 15th of June until the 27th of July was one constant march or manouver, while we were parched with thirst, pinched with hunger, foot-sore and weary. . . . I hope you have received all these letters, and I regret to see you so desponding about our cause. The loss of Port Hudson and Vicksburg are small affairs, and did not cause me a night’s uneasiness except as cutting off communications from you, which has all the time been so doubtful that I do not consider the coming of letters as a matter of course, but only as delightful luxuries to be enjoyed "few and far between." I have had only two in six months, in which you speak of others which have never come. You must not despond about me—what if I do suffer a little—better men have died in a worse cause. I have passed through trials of endurance and of my courage to which I thought myself uneqaul, but the hollow of an Almighty hand has been over me, and the trials of yesterday I can smile at to-day. Suppose we did pass seven days and nights soaking wet, marching, eating no meat and having bread without salt? What if we marched for days through briar fields, with worn-out low-quartered shoes until our ankles were a mass of blood? What difference is it now that we frowned and groaned with pain, when the soles of our feet were one great bruise? What boots all this if we returned from the campaign stronger and in better health than we ever were before? Now, when God brings us safely through all these difficulties and saves us amid a shower of bullets, when inside the Yankee line stricken down amid the dead and wounded of the foe, exposed to a torrent of shell and grape which literally tore up the earth about us, shall we not take courage and be grateful?

We have eaten corn-bread half done, made with unsifted meal, accompanied with bacon raw or broiled on a stick, for three weeks at a time—yet I am well, perfectly well. Verily I believe that God has guarded and preserved me every hour. I firmly believe that he will save me harmless through this dread day of our country’s danger, or He will answer my constant prayer that I may be taken, if die I must, in the very midst of my country’s foes, and that my spirit may ascend amid the smoke of battles, a fit offering to liberty and truth, and my body rest among the brave where the dead lie thickest, and here let me emphasize what I have said before, you must not cherish a hope of recovering my body if I am lost in battle. It will be the merest accident if you do so. You must not be troubled in mind continually. I can excuse some uneasiness when you hear of a battle, but do not be worried all the time. Of course there is great danger every time we go into battle. It seems to me it must be the utmost stretch of divine power to save one in the thickest of a fight. The rescue of Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego was no more a miracle than the preservation of some of us on the afternoon of Saturday, the nineteenth of September, at Chickamauga. Don’t have the blues. Study your Latin, your music and your children, and leave the result to God. Kisses for the children, and love to Mrs. Carter.

Your husband, faithfully ever,
John C. West.

October 7, 1863

October 7, 1863

---In the morning, Gen. Crook pushes his pursuit of the Rebel cavalry, passes through Shelbyville, and badly mauls Davidson’s brigade, pushing it back, in a confusing, running fight.  Crook loses fewer than 75 men, while inflicting 310 Southern casualties.  However, Crook is furious that his remaining brigade, under Minty, fails to come up on the Rebel flank, thus spoiling Crook’s opportunity to trap much of Wheeler’s force.  The Confederates head south for the Tennessee River.

---Pres. Lincoln sends a telegram to Andrew Johnson, the Military Governor of Tennessee, asking for information about Rosecrans:

Washington, D. C., October 7, 1863-8.45 a.m.

Governor JOHNSON,

Nashville, Tenn.:

What news have you from Rosecran’s army, or in that direction beyond Nashville?


Gov. Johnson responds that he has no news from Chattanooga, but the telegraph line is almost back in business---and that Chattanooga “must be held.”

October 6, 1863

October 6, 1863

---Battle of Baxter Springs, Kansas:  Lt. Col. William Quantrill and his irregular Rebel cavalry attack a Federal outpost here, held my detachments from the 3rd Wisconsin Cavalry Regiment, and the 2nd Kansas Colored Infantry.  Quantrill’s men attack, but are able to do little, when a force of over 100 Yankees approach from the north—Gen. James Blunt and his staff.  The Rebels attack, and are able to hunt down, trap, and massacre 103 Union soldiers.  Gen. Blunt barely escapes with his life.

---The Richmond Daily Dispatch publishes an editorial on a curious topic: how few Northern generals have been slain in battle as compared with Southern generals---of whom many have perished.  There is clearly a gap in cultural ideals and perceptions, with the North not as passionate about the chivalric code as their enemies in the South, and the snide and satirical tone of this piece makes clear the Southern scorn for Yankee indifference to matters of honor:

It has been observed that not many Federal Generals have been killed in this war. The military expediency of keeping out of danger is fully appreciated by those heroes, so self-denying of glory, so generous in their distribution of the posts of honor and peril to the humble privates in their ranks. Burnside, butting the heads of his rank and file against the ramparts of Fredericksburg, and ensconcing himself in a snug covert three miles from the roar of battle, is a fair specimen of the military discretion of the Commander in Chief of the Federal forces. It is a rare thing to hear of one of them who is unmindful of the great law of self preservation. Such slaughter as has been witnessed among the common soldiers of the Yankee army has not often been witnessed, nor such exemption from peril as their leaders have enjoyed. Scott, McClellan, McDowell, Buell, Pope, Burnside, Hooker, all live, and have not even a scar to testify that they have ever been engaged in a battle of this war.

And yet, though successful in escaping Confederate bullets, they are as dead, to all intents and purposes, as if they had shared the fate of the thousands whom they have driven to the slaughter. Not one of the long array we have mentioned has survived the fields of their former notoriety. Each and all of them have been paralyzed by the shock of arms which they so carefully kept out of, and laid up in a mausoleum where they are scarcely objects of curiosity to the living world. The Confederates have killed them one and all as effectually as if they had perforated their carcases [sic] with Minnie bullets. Better would it have been for their reputation to have perished in the smoke and din of battle than to go down to posterity not only defeated, but disgraced. They have purchased a few years of life at the expense of all that makes life desirable to a soldier. With them the process of decomposition has begun before death, and they are masses of living putrefaction — a stench in the nostrils of all mankind and of themselves. . . .

---The New York Times publishes an editorial discussing the possible reasons for General Lee’s invasion of Pennsylvania, even considering Lee’s own report.  The editorial concludes:

This report of LEE confirms the opinion universally entertained, that a grand opportunity was missed to strike a blow at his army while it was at Williamsport, making preparations to retreat across the Potomac. He confesses to his embarrassments in that position, and brings to our knowledge some whose existence we had surmised, but of which we previously had no proof. At the same time, his campaign is throughout tacitly confessed to have been a total and stupendous failure — even accepting his own confession of its objects; but we are persuaded now, as during the pendency of the campaign, that its real and final object was the capture of Washington.

---Wheeler’s raid burns its way into middle Tennessee, towards Murfreesboro.  Right behind Wheeler is Gen. George Crook with a brigade of Union cavalry, nipping at the Rebels’ heels.  Crook catches up with Wheeler’s rear guard, and attacks in an extended saber charge.  After deploying his artillery, Crook breaks through, but Wheeler reaches Murfreesboro and captures a railroad bridge and a few Federal troops.  After tearing up track, Wheeler’s gray riders move on to Shelbyville, on the Duck River, and take up a defensive position.  With over 5,000 troopers, Wheeler outnumbers Crook, but Crook is joined by Gen. Robert Mitchell, with 2,000 more, bringing the Federal total to 4,000.  Wheeler’s three divisions, under Davidson, Martin, and Wharton, are spread out guarding river crossings.

Maj. Gen. Joseph Wheeler, CSA

Friday, November 8, 2013

October 5, 1863

October 5, 1863

---On this night, the CSS David, a torpedo boat (semi-submersible vessel), carries out an attack on the USS New Ironsides just at the mouth of Charleston Harbor.  Lt. Cmdr. William Glassell commands the small crew.  Equipped with a 14-foot spar, the David steams toward the New Ironsides and detonates a spar torpedo under its hull, but which does not appreciably damage the Federal armored ship, in spite of  considerable blister in the hull.  A surge from the blast swamps the smokestack and engine.  Since the engines are flooded, some of the crew leap overboard, and Glassell is captured by a Yankee patrol boat.

Schematic drawing of the CSS David

USS New Ironsides bombarding Fort Sumter

---At Chattanooga, Confederate batteries open fire on the Federal works, but few of the projectiles even reach the fortifications.  However, the Rebel guns do command a stretch of the river.  Union troops are building a pontoon bridge which Rosecrans hopes will circumvent the interdiction of their supply route.