Thursday, February 27, 2014

February 27, 1864

February 27, 1864

—A new prisoner exchange policy has been adopted by the U.S. Government: that prisoners will no longer be exchanged. Lincoln’s reasoning is that exchanging prisoners gives the Rebels more veteran men to fight. Also, if they are forced to build prison camps, then more resources (being scarce in the South) will go to feed and house prisoners and less to combat troops. Added to this was the Confederacy’s refusal to treat captured blacks as regular prisoners of war for any reason. Today, in Sumter County, southern Georgia, the new Confederate States prison camp at Andersonville opens its doors as 500 Union prisoners arrive. Col. Alexander Persons of Georgia is given command of the camp.

—On this very date, Robert Knox Sneden, a Union prisoner, was being transported with hundreds of others south to Andersonville. After leaving their stop in Augusta, Georgia, they travel all day until coming to a stop somewhere in central Georgia. Sneden describes their accommodations:
The cars were sidetracked and we all had to get out in a rain storm, when we were marched a few hundred feet until we came to a deep hollow made by the embankments of the railroad where two tracks crossed each other. Down in this muddy hole which was partly covered with tree stumps and loose brushwood we bivouacked for the night. Small fires were made, but would not burn much on account of being wet. We got plenty of pitch pine smoke however. We huddled in small groups in the hollow, while the Rebel guard were posted above us on the railroad tracks on the embankment. About midnight we were served with three crackers and a slice of raw bacon. We pulled our blankets over our heads and sat on stumps and stones until daylight through a drizzliing rain. We had gotten one good night’s sleep in the foundry, and not many of us slept at all here. The place was called "Hell’s Delight" by the guard and before morning the red mud was nearly over our shoes. The guards built quite large fires on the side of the railroad track above us. These enabled them to see us all the time to prevent escape. This hole had been used some weeks ago by a detachment of our prisoners who had preceded.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

February 26, 1864

February 26, 1864

—On this date, Brig. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick, commanding a division of the Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac, receives orders to prepare for a raid down to Richmond, with his 4,000 troopers and some artillery. Their purpose is to free the Union prisoners at Belle Isle and Libbey Prison–in addition to disrupting Lee’s lines of communication with Richmond and thus create mayhem in Lee’s rear, and distributing Lincoln’s amnesty order for rebel states who wish to re-enter the Union. Kilpatrick is to leave on this ride in 2 days. Col. Ulric Dahlgren, the 21-year-old son of Admiral John Dahlgren, is recovered from an amputated leg from the Gettysburg Campaign, and is eager for action; he asks to go along, and Kilpatrick gives him command of a column of his men. Custer is to take a brigade of cavalry toward Charlottesville also, as a diversion, while Meade will send two corps of infantry to strike Lee’s left while Kilpatrick skirts around it. 

 Dahlgren writes to his father:
I have not returned to the fleet, because there is a grand raid to be made, and I am to have a very important command. If successful, it will be the grandest thing on record; and if it fails, many of us will ‘go up.’ I may be captured, or I may be ‘tumbled over’; but it is an undertaking that if I were no in, I should be ashamed to show my face again. With such an important command, I am afraid to mention it, for fear that this letter might fall into the wrong hands before reaching you.
Colonel Ulric Dahlgren, USA

—Mary Boykin Chestnut writes in her diary about affairs in Richmond, and of a visit to Gen. Lee’s wife and daughters:
February 26th. - We went to see Mrs. Breckinridge, who is here with her husband. Then we paid our respects to Mrs. Lee. Her room was like an industrial school: everybody so busy. Her daughters were all there plying their needles, with several other ladies. Mrs. Lee showed us a beautiful sword, recently sent to the General by some Marylanders, now in Paris. On the blade was engraved, "Aide toi et Dieu t'aidera." When we came out someone said, "Did you see how the Lees spend their time? What a rebuke to the taffy parties!"

Another maimed hero is engaged to be married. Sally Hampton has accepted John Haskell. There is a story that he reported for duty after his arm was shot off; suppose in the fury of the battle he did not feel the pain.

General Breckinridge once asked, "What's the name of the fellow who has gone to Europe for Hood's leg?" "Dr. Darby." "Suppose it is shipwrecked?" "No matter; half a dozen are ordered." Mrs. Preston raised her hands: "No wonder the General says they talk of him as if he were a centipede; his leg is in everybody's mouth."

—President Lincoln issues a new order with regard to soldiers sentenced to death for desertion:
The President directs that the sentences of all deserters, who have been condemned by Court Martial to death, and that have not been otherwise acted upon by him, be mitigated to imprisonment during the war, at the Dry Tortugas, Florida . . . The Commanding Generals, who have power to act on proceedings of Courts Martial in such cases, are authorized in special cases to restore to duty deserters under sentence, when in their judgment the service will be thereby benefited.

—Pres. Lincoln attends Grover’s Theatre again, this time to see Edwin Booth play Shylock in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.

Edwin Booth

—Horatio Nelson Taft of Washington, D.C., writes in his journal of the feeling of expectation in the city as Spring draws near:
Feb 26th 1864

As the season advances and Spring approaches the news becomes more interesting. The Armies begin to move and important events are expected to happen soon, are in fact happening at the present time. Genl Sherman has struck out from Vicksburgh with about 30,000 men and has advanced far into the interior taking Jackson the Capitol of Miss and other towns in his course. It is supposed that Mobile is his destination. Genl Grant is moveing South from Chattanooga and the papers tonight say that he is at Dalton Georgia. The Army of the Potomac stretches from near Fairfax Courthouse to Culpepper some Thirty Miles and is now fast being reinforced. Recruits are now arriving rapidly and more than fifteen thousand soldiers have crossed the long Bridge into Virginia this week. Troops are crowding the cars & marching and again we hear "the drums beat at dead of night.

—Against the wisdom of some observers, Pres. Davis appoints Braxton Bragg to be his military advisor, which essentially makes him Chief of Staff.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

February 25, 1864

February 25, 1864

—North of Dalton, Georgia, Gen. Johnston has sent several Rebel divisions to block the passes into Dalton, causing Palmer and another division under Gen. Cruft to pause and send out heavy lines of skirmishers in order to find a way in. Heavy skirmishing ensues, but no major engagement.

—In Washington, D.C., Pres. and Mrs. Lincoln attend Grover’s Theatre to see Edwin Booth, of the famous Booth theatrical family, act in the title role of the play Brutus.

—On this date, Maj. Gen. John Bell Hood rejoins the Army of Tennessee in Georgia, and is given command of a corps, under Joseph Johnston.

—Leverett Bradley, a Union soldier on leave in Washington, writes in his journal:
Went to the theatre. The play was Brutus. I liked it much; it made some of the women cry. He makes me his captive.

February 24, 1864

February 24, 1864

—Gen. George Thomas, commanding the Army of the Cumberland, sends three divisions under Gen. John Palmer south through the mountain passes to make a demonstration against Joseph Johnston’s Army of Tennessee. Several of Palmer’s brigades spar and maneuver in the tangle of hills between Chattanooga and Dalton, and Palmer plans on renewing the engagement tomorrow.


—Alexander G. Downing, of the 11th Iowa, is on the march with the Army of the Tennessee and Sherman in central Mississippi. He details his foraging activities for the day:
Wednesday, 24th—The army left the Hillsborough bivouac over different roads. Our brigade went in advance of the Sixteenth Corps to assist the engineers in laying the pontoons across the Pearl river. This is a good section of the country for forage. We selected twelve men from our entire headquarters’ guard of twenty-eight to go out on forage, and they brought in six hundred pounds of bacon, twenty-five live chickens, one hundred pounds of honey and other articles. Several of us are up tonight cooking the chickens, which with the other things will fill our haversacks. We shall live well now. We are camping on a large plantation.

—Josiah Marshall Favill, a young immigrant from England serving as an officer with the 57th New York Infantry Regiment (and currently detached as a member of the II Corps staff in the Army of the Potomac), writes in his journal of the splendid ball and festivities the Corps gives for the officers of the corps, and all of the general officers and their staffs of the army, including the cavalry:
February 24, 1864. The great ball, reception, and review all came off with the utmost distinction. A special train brought out an immense throng of notables, who in many cases remained over for the review on the 23d and Kilpatrick’s fine cavalry charge. Amongst the distinguished guests were Vice-president Hamlin and his daughter Sarah, a most agreeable young lady; Mrs. Governor Curtin, her daughter, and a bevy of beauties from the state capital. Guests of our headquarters: Mrs. Governor Sprague [nee Kate Chase], radiant in all her glorious beauty, acknowledged to be the handsomest woman in America, and at present the star around which the fashionable world revolves; her husband, Governor Sprague; a large party from the British embassy; Mrs. Chancellor Walworth, of New York; O. A. Brownsen, of Brownsen’s Review; Colonel and Mrs. Carrol; Mrs. Senator Hale and daughters; Senator Wilkinson and party; Mrs. and Judge Miller, of the United States Supreme Court, and hundreds of others, together with every general officer in the army and their staffs. It was a wonderful success without a drawback. The music was furnished by our band and that of the Fourteenth Connecticut, and was delightfully spoken of by all. "Gayly sped the feet and sweetly smiled the lips" of the brave and beautiful and honored of the republic. Swiftly passed the hours of the festal night, and with the matin song of lark and blue bird and the courtesies of parting, the morning light looked in upon a "Banquet Hall deserted."

Miss Alvord was especially in my charge, but everybody danced with everybody else, and I had the distinguished honor of dancing once with the queenly beauty, Mrs. Sprague, and the superb and beautiful Miss Curtin, who was by the way sought after by every one. Nothing could surpass the kindness of the ladies; they were in no wise exclusive, and the youngest lieutenant received as much consideration as the oldest and most conspicuous general. This surprised us most agreeably and completed the enchantment, which will live forever in the memory of those of us who had the honor to belong to the grand army and participate in its festivities.
The following day the entire Second corps and Kilpatrick’s division of cavalry were reviewed in the presence of a great throng of officers and ladies. There were as many as two hundred ladies mounted in the cavalcade, which followed in the retinue of General Meade, the reviewing officer. . . .
Army of the Potomac Winter Ball, Feb 1864 (Harper's Weekly)

February 23, 1864

February 23, 1864

---A circular being passed around calls for the Republican Party to pass its support to Salmon Chase (currently Lincoln’s Secretary of the Treasury) as its candidate for the Presidency.

---Mary Boykin Chestnut, of Richmond, records in her journal of incidents in high places in the Rebel capital:

February 23d.—At the President’s, where General Lee breakfasted, a man named Phelan told General Lee all he ought to do; planned a campaign for him. General Lee smiled blandly the while, though he did permit himself a mild sneer at the wise civilians in Congress who refrained from trying the battle-field in person, but from afar dictated the movements of armies. My husband said that, to his amazement, General Lee came into his room at the Executive Office to "pay his respects and have a talk." "Dear me! Goodness gracious!" said I. "That was a compliment from the head of the army, the very first man in the world, we Confederates think."

Battle of Okolona, Mississippi: Brig. Gen. William Sooy Smith, leading a column of 10,000 Yankee cavalrymen southeast into the interior of Mississippi, is able to cross the Tallahatchie River near New Albany, and from there has proceeded south towards Okolona. Passing that, Smith’s troopers, burning and destroying along the way, press southwards to West Point, where Nathan Bedford Forrest is laying a trap. Smith is aware of the trap, and begins to turn and re-trace his steps northward. Forrest’s riders (two brigades) then attack the Federal rear guard, on Feb. 21, harrassing them all the way to Okolona. The next day, the Rebels continue to strike at exposed odds and ends of the Yankee column, who are beginning to gather at Okolona and build a defensive line. By this point, Forrest has only one brigade at hand, and hesitates. Smith judges that Forrest is uncertain, and decides to attack instead of defend. So just as the Federals are about to launch an attack on the Rebels, Forrest leads the Rebels on an attack against a greatly superior force of Federals. Some of the blue troopers panic and retreat, and finally the whole force retreats. Having established another line, they await Forrest’s next move. Forrest gathers his brigade and another, led by his brother Jeffrey, and attack the Yankees again. The Confederate troopers are badly cut up by the massed fire of the dismounted Yankees. This attack fails, but a second one prevails, and the Yankees resume their retreat. Forrest, now with only 300 troopers with him, pushes them, and after two of his other brigades rejoin him, sends the Federals packing, abandoing their artillery. On their long, 5-day retreat, Smith’s bluecoats face starvation, since they left the countryside burned and devoid of forage or food.

Confederate Victory.

February 21, 1864

February 21, 1864

---Col. Thomas Wentworth Higginson, a Boston aristocrat, notable abolitionist (one of John Brown’s Secret Six who supported his raid on Harper’s Ferry), and now commander of the 1st South Carolina Infantry (U.S.), a black regiment, writes to the editor of the New York Times in his quest to get equal pay for black troops:

The Pay of Colored Soldiers.
Published: February 21, 1864

To the Editor of the New-York Times:

May I venture to call your attention to the great and cruel injustice which is impending over the brave men of this regiment?

They have been in military service for more than a year, having volunteered, every man, without a cent of bounty, on the written pledge of the War Department, that they should receive the same pay and rations with white soldiers.

This pledge is contained in the written instructions of Brig.-Gen. SAXTON, Military Governor, dated Aug. 25, 1862. Mr. Solicitor WHITING, having examined those instructions, admits to me that "the faith of the Government was thereby pledged to every officer and soldier under that call."

Surely if this fact were understood, every man in the nation would see that the Government is degraded by using for a year the services of the brave soldiers, and then repudiating the contract by which they were enlisted. Yet this is what will be done should Mr. WILSON’s bill, legalizing the back pay of the army, be defeated.

We presume too much on the supposed ignorance of these men. I have never yet found a man in my regiment so stupid as not to know when he was cheated. If the fraud proceeds from Government itself, so much the worse, for this strikes at the foundation of all rectitude, all honor, all obligation.
Mr. Senator FESSENDEN said, in the debate on Mr. WILSON’s bill, Jan 4, that the Government was not bound by the unauthorized promises of irresponsible recruiting officers. But is the Government itself an irresponsible recruiting officer? and if men have volunteered in good faith on the written assurances of the Secretary of War, is not Congress bound, in all decency, either to fulfill those pledges or to disband the regiments?

Mr. Senator DOOLITTLE argued in the same debate that white soldiers should receive higher pay than black ones, because the families of the latter were often supported by Government. What an astounding statement of fact is this! In the white regiment in which I was formerly an officer (the Massachusetts Fifty-fourth) nine-tenths of the soldiers’ families, in addition to the pay and bounties, drew regularly their "State aid." Among my black soldiers, with half pay and no bounty, not a family receives any aid. Is there to be no limit, no end, to the injustice we heap upon this unfortunate people? Cannot even the fact of their being in arms for the nation, liable to die any day in its defence, secure them ordinary justice? Is the nation so poor, and to utterly demoralized by its pauperism, that after it has had the lives of these men, it must turn round to filch six dollars of the monthly pay which the Secretary of War promised to their widows? It is even so, if the excuses of Mr. FESSENDEN and Mr. DOOLITTLE are to be accepted by Congress and by the people.

Very respectfully,
Your obedient servant,

Colonel Commanding 1st S.C. Volunteers.
(Source: Seven Score and Ten )
Colonel Thomas Wentworth Higginson, comm. 1st South Carolina (U.S.) Infantry Regiment


---Susan Bradford Eppes of Florida records her reactions to the Battle of Olustee:

February 21st, 1864.—Yesterday a terrible battle was fought at Ocean Pond, or Olustee, both names are used in the news sent to us of the fierce struggle between the Yankees and our troops. Many are dead on both sides and our loss would have been heavier if the Yankees had been better shots. Our soldiers are, the most of them, wounded in the head and the ground was fairly covered with small branches cut from the pines above. Those same pine trees were a great item for our men, they fought behind the trees like the Indians and like General Washington did, in his fights with the French long ago. The dispatch said "Lieut. Holland killed," so Mr. Robinson went down today with a casket to bring his body home. His wife wants him buried in Tallahassee, where she expects to make her home with her sister. The Holland family are grieving deeply, for he was the only son and brother.

February 20, 1864

February 20, 1864

---Battle of Olustee, Florida: The largest battle fought in this state occurs today as Brig. Gen. Truman Seymour and about 5,500 Federal men march westward with the aim of at least threatening the state capital of Tallahassee. 

Brig. Gen. Truman Seymour, USA

 Near Olustee Station, the Rebels, under Gen. Finnegan, have entrenched with Ocean Pond on its left to protect its flank. As the Federals march around the south shore of Ocean Pond, near Olustee Station, they meet a brigade of Confederate troops sent forward by Finnegan. Seymour mistakes these troops for Florida militia, and sends in his men unit by unit. 

 Finnegan begins to commit his troops piecemeal, and the Federals soon are suffering terrific losses to the massed artillery and rifle fire of the Confederates. Toward the end of the fighting, the Southerners are nearly out of ammunition, and after a lull, a small amount is brought up, and the firing resumes. 

Brig. Gen. Joseph Finnegan, CSA

 As Finnegan sends in his last reserves, Gen. Colquitt, who commands on the field, leads them in, while pushing forward a flanking maneuver as well. Seymour’s troops break, and begin the retreat back to Jacksonville. The Rebels pursue, but are rebuffed by the 35th U.S. Colored Troops (1st North Carolina Inf., U.S.), supported by the 8th U.S. Colored Troops. 

Period Lithograph of the Battle of Olustee--which is highly inaccurate

But the black troops deliver a vicious fire, and inflict the most severe casualties on the Rebels experience that day. As the 8th and 35th both give way as their senior officers are shot down, the famous 54th Massachusetts Infantry, another black regiment, comes up and stops the Southern advance cold, although with heavy losses. But the Rebels have no more heart for pursuit, and Seymour’s army is saved by this savage rear-guard action. However, as the Rebels capture the field, they range over the ground, without orders, shooting to death the wounded black troops. One Confederate officer—William Penniman of the 4th Georgia Cavalry--describes the horror:

A young officer was standing in the road in front of me and I asked him, "What is the meaning of all this firing I hear going on?" His reply to me was, "Shooting niggers Sir. I have tried to make the boys desist but I can’t control them". I made some answer in effect that it seemed horrible to kill the wounded devils, and he again answered, "That’s so Sir, but one young fellow over yonder told me the niggers killed his brother after being wounded, at Fort Billow Pillow?], and he was twenty three years old, that he had already killed nineteen and needed only four more to make the matter even, so I told him to go ahead and finish the job". I rode on but the firing continued.

The next morning I had occasion to go over the battlefield again quite early, before the burial squads began their work, when the results of the shooting of the previous night became quite apparent. Negroes, and plenty of them, whom I had seen lying all over the field wounded, and as far as I could see, many of them moving around from place to place, now without a motion, all were dead. If a negro had a shot in the shin another was sure to be in the head.

A very few prisoners were taken, and but a few at the prison pen. One ugly big black buck was interrogated as to how it happened that he had come back to fight his old master, and upon his giving some very insolent reply, his interrogator drew back his musket, and with the butt gave him a blow that killed him instantly. A very few of the wounded were placed on the surgeons operating table- their legs fairly flew off, but whether they were at all seriously wounded I have always had my doubt.

Confederate Victory.
Losses:    Killed   Wounded    Captured/Missing   Total

U.S.            203        1,153            506                   1,861

C.S.               93           847                 6                      946
This was an extraordinarily bloody battle, with about 19% losses for the South, and 27% for the North.

Order of Battle--

Union Forces

Brig. Gen. Truman Seymour, commanding

Barton's Brigade
Col William B. Barton
47th New York: Col Henry Moore
48th New York: Maj W.B. Coan (Col. W.B. Barton)
115th New York: Col Simeon Sammon

Hawley's Brigade
Col Joseph R. Hawley
7th Connecticut: Cpt Benjamin F. Skinner (Col. J.R. Hawley)
7th New Hampshire: Col Joseph C. Abbott
8th United States Colored Troops: Col Charles W. Fribley

Montgomery's Brigade
Col James Montgomery
35th United States Colored Troops: LtCol William N. Reed
54th Mass. Infantry (colored): Col Edward N. Hallowell

Cavalry Brigade
Col. Guy V. Henry
40th Massachusetts Mounted Infantry: Col G.V. Henry
Independent Mass. Cavalry Battn: Maj. Atherton H. Stevens Jr.
Battery B, First U.S. Artillery (4 pieces): Capt Samuel S. Elder

Capt John Hamilton
Battery E, Third U.S. (6 pieces): Capt John Hamilton
Battery M, First U.S. (6 pieces): Capt Loomis L. Langdon
Battery C, 3rd Rhode Island Heavy: Lt Henry H. Metcalf

1st Engineer Regt, NYSV, Maj. Place--Companies A, C, & I between Jacksonville and Baldwin, Company G at Barber's; Detachment of Co. E, Capt. Sears, at Fort Clinch. (

Confederate Forces

Brig. Gen. Joseph Finnegan

Colquitt's Brigade
Brig. Gen. Alfred H. Colquitt
6th Florida Battalion: Maj Pickens Bird
6th Georgia: LtCol John T. Lofton
19th Georgia: Col James H. Neal
23rd Georgia: LtCol James H. Huggins
27th Georgia: Col Charles T. Zachry
28th Georgia: Capt Crawford (Col. Tully Graybill)
Chatham Artillery (Georgia): Capt John F. Wheaton (4 pieces)
Gamble's (Leon Light) Artillery (Florida): Capt Robert H. Gamble

Harrison's Brigade
Col George P. Harrison
1st Florida Battalion: LtCol C.F. Hopkins
32nd Georgia: Maj W.T. Holland (Col. G.P. Harrison)
64th Georgia: Capt C.S. Jenkins (Col. J.W. Evans)
1st Georgia Regular: Capt H.A. Cannon
28th Georgia Artillery Battalion
2nd Florida Battalion
Abell's Artillery (Florida) (Serving as infantry)
Guerard's Battery (Georgia): Cpt John M. Guerard (4 pieces)

Smith's Cavalry Brigade
Col Caraway Smith
4th Georgia Cavalry: Col Duncan L. Clinch
2nd Florida Cavalry: LtCol A.H. McCormick (Col. Caraway Smith)
5th Florida Cavalry Battalion: Maj G.W. Scott


---Susan Bradford Eppes, of Tallahassee, Florida, writes in her diary of the anxiety there, and of the movement of troops:

February 20th, 1864.—Two more Georgia regiments passed through today en route for Lake City. I am afraid that means a fight. God help us.

---A newspaper in Mobile, Alabama, prints a story about a woman in Yankee uniform captured amongst other Yankee prisoners:
MOBILE REGISTER AND ADVERTISER, February 20, 1864, p. 1, c. 7
A Yankee Amazon.—Ninety Yankee prisoners, part of them wounded, reached Dalton from Alabama on the 14th inst. One of the prisoners (says the Huntsville Confederate) is a woman, disguised in masculine habiliments, and moving on crutches. She belongs to the 19th Illinois, noted for its barbarities, and claims to have been wounded at Florence, Ala., but her companions, who call her Frank, say that a dog bit her in the calf of the leg.

—An editorial in Harper’s Weekly, published on this date, discusses the Democrats in Congress and their lack of support for the war:

THERE are several members of Congress who please themselves by asserting that they constitute a healthy constitutional opposition to the Government, and who insist that it is wrong to call them unpatriotic, merely because they do not approve the method and policy of the Administration in conducting the war. They protest that the Administration is not the Government, and that they may censure all its acts without being justly liable to be called traitors.

The reply to this specious strain is very simple. The Government of the United States is defending its existence against an able and desperate rebellion. The Constitution confers upon that Government every power whatever which is necessary to its maintenance. It may, in the last extremity, wage war, and whatever is lawful in war is lawful for that Government. That extremity is now reached, and we are at war; consequently no measure of legitimate warfare can be censured as unconstitutional. . . .

Now to oppose the war, under whatever pretext, is to favor the rebellion, and compass the overthrow of the Government. Is, then, encouragement to the rebellion a legitimate constitutional opposition? . . . Their course leads of necessity, if they can persuade the country that the war is wrong, to a counter-revolution and the success of rebellion. Do they suppose that to be a sound and healthy opposition to the conduct of the war?


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

February 18, 1864

February 18, 1864

—Uncertainty plagues Union war planning this week. Sherman has pushed Polk back from Meridian, and is in position to make a push southeast toward Mobile, but the War Department may have other plans for the Army of the Tennessee. So far, however, Gen. Halleck has not put forth any specific plans. In Louisiana is Gen. Nathaniel Banks and the Army of the Gulf, who plans this spring to advance up the Red River toward Texas, perhaps in concert with Gen. Steele and his Federal force in Arkansas. Another Confederate army, the Army of Tennessee, now under Gen. Joseph Johnston, waits 35 miles southeast of Chattanooga in northern Georgia; facing him is Gen. George Thomas with the Federal Army of the Cumberland. Gen. Grant, in command in the West, wants Thomas to move against Johnston, mostly to keep him from reinforcing Polk in Mississippi, who was retreating eastward into Alabama. But Thomas is wary of several divisions under Gen. Longstreet, still hovering in the Appalachian Mountains north of Thomas’s left flank. Facing Longstreet is a smaller army under Gen. Schofield in Knoxville, but Schofield shows few signs of wanting to move out of the city.

A young Federal soldier in winter, by Winslow Homer

—In North Florida, Brig. Gen. Truman Seymour of the Union Army advances westward with about 6,000 men (three brigades of infantry, 2 battalions of cavalry, and four batteries of artillery), in an apparent bid to capture Tallahassee, the state capital. Opposing his advance is Brig. Gen. Joseph Finnegan with about 5,000 men—two brigades of Georgia and Florida infantry, a small brigade of cavalry, and four batteries of artillery. Three of the eight infantry regiments with Seymour consist of black troops: The 8th and 35th U.S. Colored Troops, and the 54th Massachusetts.


—The Republican Party convention in Baltimore endorses Abraham Lincoln for re-election.

February 17, 1864

February 17, 1864

---Charleston, South Carolina: CSS Hunley vs. USS Housatonic.  The CSS Hunley, an experimental submarine designed by James McClintock, Horace Hunley, and Baxter Watson, has been some time in the developing, having sunk twice, killing both crews, including Hunley.  On this night, with eight men turning the crank propeller shaft, and George Dixon steering, the Hunley sorties out of the harbor to attack the Federal blockade ships.  Hunley steers for the Housatonic, a 12-gun steamer five miles offshore. 

Blueprint of the Hunley

Although the Federal fleet had dealt with semi-submersible torpedo boats before, a fully submersible vessel was something new.  A lookout on the Housatonic saw something rippling the water, and the crew responded with small arms fire, but it was too late.  On a long spar extending from the bow of the submarine was a torpedo.  The Hunley struck the hull of the Housatonic below the waterline and detonated the torpedo, which ignited the ship’s magazine. 
Eyewitness drawing of the explosion of the Housatonic
The Housatonic sinks in mere minutes, but most of the crew escape and are picked up later by other Federal ships.  The Hunley, having just been the first submarine to sink an enemy vessel in battle, never returns to port.  She takes on water, perhaps a result of the shock waves of the explosion, and sinks.  She is found in 1995, and when raised, is found to contain the bodies of Dixon and all his crew.

CSS H.L. Hunley


---Luman Harris Tenny, a young Federal infantry officer, arrives home on furlough:

17th. Went on my way rejoicing at 9 o’clock. Found open arms at- home. How good to be here again. I couldn’t realize it down in Tenn. I am happy—one thing short! Treasure Carrie! God be praised for the blessing of home and friends.

---Mary Boykin Chestnut comments in her diary on some of the political insider buzz in the Confederate capital, and the military infighting:

February 17th.—Found everything in Main Street twenty per cent dearer. They say it is due to the new currency bill.

I asked my husband: “Is General Johnston ordered to reenforce Polk? They said he did not understand the order.” “After five days’ delay,” he replied. “They say Sherman is marching to Mobile.[1] When they once get inside of our armies what is to molest them, unless it be women with broomsticks?” General Johnston writes that “the Governor of Georgia refuses him provisions and the use of his roads.” The Governor of Georgia writes: “The roads are open to him and in capital condition. I have furnished him abundantly with provisions from time to time, as he desired them.” I suppose both of these letters are placed away side by side in our archives.

February 16, 1864

February 16, 1864

---David Lane, a young Union soldier in the 17th Michigan Infantry, writes in his journal about his gratitude for the Sanitary Commission:

February 16th, 1864. 

A dear old lady acquaintance of mine used to say, “Whenever you are downhearted and disposed to complain, just sit right down and count your mercies.” I have been counting my mercies today, and find I have many things to be thankful for. Instead of being half starved, I have now plenty of food, for Joseph Cooley, a particular friend of mine, is chief cook, and the Sanitary Commission furnishes “delicacies.” I am now well dressed, for Dr. Crosby, my friend, issues what the Sanitary Commission furnish—good clothing. I have a good bed, with two white sheets, for the Sanitary Commission issues bedding. I am clean, for I wash and change clothing often, and sleep alone. Last, but not least, I am in good health, because God has bestowed upon me this priceless boon.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

February 15, 1864

February 15, 1864

---Sergeant Alexander G. Downing, of the 11th Iowa Infantry, records his participation in the occupation of Meridian:

Monday, 15th—After two hours’ marching our army entered Meridian at about 10 o’clock this morning and went into camp. The rebels are still retreating, and detachments of our army are pursuing them. The infantry is sent out in all directions tearing up the railroads, burning the ties and twisting the rails. Large numbers of cars, some engines and the depot have been burned, as also the store buildings and many residences. It is a terrible sight to look upon. Forage is plentiful in this vicinity.

---Judith White McGuire, in Richmond, records in her journal her anxieties about the upcoming campaigns once Spring arrives, as well as the rising prices in the city markets:

A pause in my diary; but nothing of importance has occurred, either at home or with the country. The armies are mud-bound — I wish they could continue so. I dread the approach of Spring, with its excitements and horrors.

 Prices of provisions have risen enormously-bacon $8 per pound, butter $15, etc. Our old friends from the lower part of Essex, Mr.--‘s parishioners for many years, sent over a wagon filled most generously with all manner of necessary things for our larder. We have no right to complain, for Providence is certainly supplying our wants. The clerks' salaries, too, have been raised to $250 per month, which sounds very large; but when we remember that flour is $300 per barrel, it sinks into insignificance.

---George Templeton Strong, of New York City, writes in his journal with some shrewd observations about the will to fight, both North and South, but greatly underestimates the capacity for the white Southerners to carry on civil terrorism after defeat:

Cold weather.  Dyspeptic and atrabilious.  Busy day, nevertheless.  Columbia College Committee on School of Mines at Betts’s office.  Prospects good. . . .

Our columns in the Southwest are moving, and newspapers strategists are racking their brains for good guesses at the plan of the coming campaign.  But in East Tennessee, Secesh has the initiative and threatens Knoxville again.  The Army of the Potomac is mired and stationary, as usual.  There must soon be hard fighting in the Gulf States.  Secesh would prefer to fall back, concentrating—its true policy.  But the morale of its army is too low to bear this process.  With a little more discouragement, such as retreat and abandonment of territory would produce, the cohorts of Bragg and Johnston would be disorganized by desertions and mutiny.  So Secesh will have to fight.  Defeat on a large scale will be damaging to us, though not irreparable, but to them it will be final and fatal.  Rebellion can hardly survive another Gettysburg or Lookout Mountain.  Guerillas and rapparees would continue to steal cows and hang niggers for a season, but it would not be for long. . . .

---On this date, President Jefferson Davis of the Confederate States suspends the writ of habeas corpus.  Vice President Alexander Stephens responds by condemning Davis as a tyrant, and eventually leaving Richmond, effectively abandoning his office.
Pres. Jefferson Davis

---In Kinston, North Carolina, Gen. Pickett orders the hangings of 18 men who were North Carolinians and had joined the Union army for treason--even though they had previously only been in the State militia, and had never enrolled in the Confederate Army. 

February 14, 1864

February 14, 1864

---Sherman’s Federal troops march into the city of Meridian, Mississippi, in one of the most significant campaigns of the war that does not result in a major battle.  Sherman gives orders for the destruction of all railroads north, east, south, and west leading out of the town.  He orders the Confederate barracks, gun works, and various machine shops put to the torch.

(Source: Civil War Daily Gazette,

---The Richmond Daily Gazette publishes a story about the arrest of three men who are accused of helping Confederate Army deserters to escape north to Union lines from Richmond. 


---A detachment of U.S. troops from the 40th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment marches into Gainesville, Florida, and takes possession of the town. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

February 13, 1864

February 13, 1864

—After occupying Decatur, Mississippi, the Federals put most of the town to the torch and march on. Gen. Sherman takes a chance to catch up on sleep, but a counter-raid by Rebel cavalry nearly captures the house in which he has been sleeping. As the Yankees march eastward through the night, Gen. Loring, commanding Polk’s troops in Meridian, prepares to evacuate the city.


—On this march, Sergeant Alexander G. Dowling, of the 11th Iowa Infantry Regiment, participates in an act of war that does not sit well with him:
Saturday, 13th —We left Decatur early this morning and marched fifteen miles before going into bivouac. The Sixteenth Corps corralled their train and leaving a brigade to guard it pushed forward after the rebels. Skirmishing in the front continued and was brisk at times. The weather is pleasant and the roads are fine for marching. There is still plenty of forage along the way. This morning I saw a woman with her children forcibly moved out of her residence, all the household goods and the house set on fire. The deed was ordered by our officers, for they had been informed that her husband was out in the brush with his rifle, killing Union soldiers at every opportunity. The plantation home had the appearance of wealth.

—Mary Boykin Chestnut, living in Richmond, notes in her diary about her husband’s work in the Confederate government, and of a visit from crutch-born Gen. John Bell Hood, whose appearance puts to flight Mary’s friend Buck Preston, whom Hood has attempted to woo:
February 13th.—My husband is writing out some resolutions for the Congress. He is very busy, too, trying to get some poor fellows reprieved. He says they are good soldiers but got into a scrape. Buck came in. She had on her last winter’s English hat, with the pheasant’s wing. Just then Hood entered most unexpectedly. Said the blunt soldier to the girl: "You look mighty pretty in that hat; you wore it at the turnpike gate, where I surrendered at first sight." She nodded and smiled, and flew down the steps after Mr. Chesnut, looking back to say that she meant to walk with him as far as the Executive Office.

The General walked to the window and watched until the last flutter of her garment was gone. He said: "The President was finding fault with some of his officers in command, and I said: ‘Mr. President, why don’t you come and lead us yourself; I would follow you to the death.’" ‘Actually, if you stay here in Richmond much longer you will grow to be a courtier. And you came a rough Texan’". . .

To-day a terrible onslaught was made upon the President for nepotism. Burton Harrison’s and John Taylor Wood’s letters denying the charge that the President’s cotton was unburned, or that he left it to be bought by the Yankees, have enraged the opposition. How much these people in the President’s family have to bear! I have never felt so indignant.

—Gideon Welles, the Secretary of the Navy in Lincoln’s cabinet, writes in his journal about a conversation he has with a Congressman concerning the corruption and treason infecting New York City–and reflecting a heartfelt note in Welles about his lost idealism:
Had a pleasant half-hour with Preston King, who made a special call to see me. Few men in Congress are his equal for sagacity, comprehensiveness, sound judgment, and fearlessness of purpose. . . .

I sometimes think he is more true to principles than I am myself. Speaking of Fernando Wood, we each expressed a common and general sentiment of surprise and disgust that any district could elect such a Representative. But the whole city of New York is alike leprous and rotten. This brought the question, How can such a place be regenerated and purified? What is the remedy? While I expressed a reluctant conviction, which is gradually coming over me, that in such a vicious community free suffrage was abased, and it was becoming a problem whether there should not be an outside movement, or some restriction on voting to correct palpable evil in municipal government, King maintained the old faith and would let the evil correct itself. If factious or partisan violence will go so far as to elect men like Wood or Brooks; if men of property and character will prostitute themselves to vote for them and consent to have their city misgoverned and themselves misrepresented, let them take the consequences. The evil will correct itself. After they have disgraced themselves sufficiently and loaded themselves with taxes and debt, they will finally rouse to a sense of duty, and retrieve the city from misrule and bad management and their district from misrepresentation. Such is the reasoning of Preston King.

I felt a return of old enthusiasm of former years, when in the security of youth I believed the popular voice was right, and that the majority would come to right results in every community; but alas! experience has shaken the confidence I once had. In an agricultural district, or a sparse population the old rule holds, and I am not prepared to deny King’s conclusions, but my faith in the rectitude of the strange material that compose a majority of the population of our large cities is not strong. The floating mass who have no permanent abiding-place, who are the tools of men like Wood and Brooks, who are not patriots but party demagogues, who have no fixed purpose or principle, should not by their votes, control and overpower the virtuous and good. Yet they do. Some permanent element is wanting in our system. . . .