Tuesday, March 4, 2014

February 29, 1864

February 29, 1864

—Col. Ulric Dahlgren, leading part of Kilpatrick’s raiding force to Richmond, has prepared a speech to his men that he never actually has a chance to read to them—but he carries it with him:

You have been selected from brigades and regiments as a picked command to attempt a desperate undertaking–an undertaking which, if successful, will write your names on the hearts of your countrymen in letters that can never be erased, and which will cause the prayers of our fellow-soldiers now confined in loathsome prisons to follow you and yours wherever you may go.           

We hope to release the prisoners from Belle Island first, and having seen them fairly started, we will cross the James River into Richmond, destroying the bridges after us and exhorting the released prisoners to destroy and burn the hateful city; and do not allow the rebel leader Davis and his traitorous crew to escape.

Many of you may fall; but if there is any man here not willing to sacrifice his life in such a great and glorious undertaking, or who does not feel capable of meeting the enemy in such a desperate fight as will follow, let him step out, and he may go hence to the arms of his sweetheart and read of the braves who swept through the city of Richmond.

—On this date, guerillas and irregulars of all kinds harass Kilpatrick’s column, while Dahlgren’s is fairly unmolested.  The fine weather turns nasty, as stiff winds and sleet fly into the faces of the Federal trooopers. 

Brig. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick, USA

—Having offered his resignation, Sec. of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase is essentially owning up to instigating the “Replace Lincoln” movement that has sprung up in recent weeks.  Lincoln, on this date, rejects Chase’s offer to resign.  Lincoln tells Chase in a letter that he does not hold Chase responsible for the “Pomeroy Circular” that touts Chase for the GOP nomination instead of Lincoln: that no man can be "justly held responsible for what our respective friends may do without our instigation or countenance."

—Lincoln also sends to George Bancroft a signed copy of the Gettysburg Address to raise money at the Baltimore Sanitary Fair.

---George Michael Neese, of Chew’s Battery, Army of Northern Virginia, writes in his journal of a major raid by Gen. George A. Custer and 2,500 Federal troopers into the artillery camps near Charlottesville:

February 29 — To-day the Yankees attempted a raid on Charlottesville and the Virginia Central Railroad. A force of about twenty-five hundred cavalry and two pieces of artillery, all under the command of General Custer, advanced on the Earleysville road and came within one mile of our camp before we were apprised of their approach. They were then advancing rapidly, and we were wholly unprepared for any such winter surprise in this part of the country. However, we hurriedly mixed up a drastic dose and administered it under unfavorable and difficult circumstances, yet it eventually had the effect of saving Charlottesville from the hands of the marauders. The raiders rushed in so suddenly on our camp that we had no time for preparation, even for a forced leaving, consequently many of our company lost all their baggage, and some of the men even lost their blankets. Our artillery horses were scattered all over the fields and we had scarcely time to get our guns out before the Yanks were right on us; in fact we had to fire some of our pieces in park, before we had our horses hitched up, in order to check the oncoming raiders long enough to give us a little precious time to say good-bye to our winter quarters and get our guns moved to a more advantageous situation. As it was, we had to leave our caissons in the tender care of the enemy, and abandoned all baggage and kitchen utensils.

By the time we had our horses hitched to the pieces and were ready to move, blue-coated horsemen were riding excitedly among our quarters, firing their pistols and brandishing their sabers, trying to play thunder in general with the horse artillery. We rapidly got our guns out and to a good position, and opened a rapid fire on our own camp, which was then full of Yankee cavalrymen destroying our winter home.

Our artillery fire completely checked the raiders, and they did not proceed any farther in the direction of Charlottesville than our camp. We had no support whatever in the way of sharpshooters or cavalry, and about two hundred horse artillerymen, including the lame, sick, and Company Q, with no sabers, very few pistols, and one old battle flag, with our guns successfully defended Charlottesville against the brave and gallant Custer, with his twenty-five hundred well-armed horsemen and two pieces of artillery.

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