Tuesday, March 4, 2014

March 1, 1864

March 1, 1864

—On this date, Pres. Lincoln nominates Ulysses S. Grant to be promoted to the newly revived rank of Lieutenant General, and sends his nomination to the Senate.

---Kilpatrick/Dahlgren Raid -- Col. Dahlgren, having crossed the South Anna River, rides down to the James, attempts to find a crossing, and is unsuccessful. So he leads his column along the north bank of the river toward the city of Richmond. As he draws near, he hears massive small arms fire off to his left, and assumes that this is Kilpatrick---which it is---and is soon engaged himself with Richmond home guard troops. But Kilpatrick, unaware that Dahlgren was nearby, assumes that the other column did not arrive, and disengages when he sees movements in the gathering dark that indicate reinforcements for the enemy. Dahlgren also withdraws. Kilpatrick is unable to free the prisoners at Belle Isle, and so (according to plan) rides southeast down the peninsula, being pursued by Southern cavalry under Bradley Johnson and Wade Hampton. Dahlgren also heads for Williamsburg, but by morning he is separated from his main force, with just a few men.

---Lieutenant Oliver Willcox Norton, of the 8th Regimeny of U.S. Colored Troops, writes home top family about the Battle of Olustee, and of how bravely his hapless black soldiers fought:
First, I think no battle was ever more wretchedly fought. I was going to say planned, but there was no plan. No new regiment ever went into their first fight in more unfavorable circumstances. Second, no braver men ever faced an enemy. To have made these men fight well, I would have halted them out of range of the firing, formed my line, unslung knapsacks, got my cartridge boxes ready, and loaded. Then I would have moved it up to the support of a regiment already engaged. I would have had them lie down and let the balls and shells whistle over them till they got a little used to it. Then I would have moved them to the front, told them to get as close to the ground as they could and go in.

Just the other thing was done. We were double-quicked for half a mile, came under fire by the flank, formed line with empty pieces under fire, and, before the men had loaded, many of them were shot down. They behaved as any one acquainted with them would have expected. . . . The officers finally got them to firing, and they recovered their senses somewhat. But here was the great difficulty—they did not know how to shoot with effect.

Our regiment has been drilled too much for dress parade and too little for the field. They can march well, but they cannot shoot rapidly or with effect. Some of them can, but the greater part cannot. Colonel Fribley had applied time and again for permission to practice his regiment in target firing, and been always refused. When we were flanked, flesh and blood could stand it no longer, and Colonel Fribley, without orders, gave the command to fall back slowly, firing as we went. He fell, shot through the heart, very soon after that. Where was our general and where was his force? Coming up in the rear, and as they arrived, they were put in, one regiment at a time, and whipped by detail. . .

Military men say it takes veteran troops to maneuver under fire, but our regiment with knapsacks on and unloaded pieces, after a run of half a mile, formed a line under the most destructive fire I ever knew. We were not more than two hundred yards from the enemy, concealed in pits and behind trees, and what did the regiment do? At first they were stunned, bewildered, and knew not what to do. They curled to the ground, and as men fell around them they seemed terribly scared, but gradually they recovered their senses and commenced firing. And here was the great trouble—they could not use their arms to advantage. We have had very little practice in firing, and, though they could stand and be killed, they could not kill a concealed enemy fast enough to satisfy my feelings.

After seeing his men murdered as long as flesh and blood could endure it, Colonel Fribley ordered the regiment to fall back-slowly, firing as they went. As the men fell back they gathered in groups like frightened sheep, and it was almost impossible to keep them from doing so. Into these groups the rebels poured the deadliest fire, almost every bullet hitting some one. Color bearer after color bearer was shot down and the colors seized by another. Behind us was a battery that was wretchedly managed. They had but little ammunition, but after firing that, they made no effort to get away with their pieces, but busied themselves in trying to keep us in front of them. Lieutenant Lewis seized the colors and planted them by a gun and tried to rally his men round them, but forgetting them for the moment, they were left there, and the battery was captured and our colors with it.

Colonel Fribley was killed soon after his order to fall back, and Major Burritt had both legs broken. We were without a commander, and every officer was doing his best to do something, he knew not what exactly. There was no leader. Seymour might better have been in his grave than there. Many will blame Lieutenant Lewis that the colors were lost. I do not think he can be blamed. Brave to rashness, he cannot be accused of cowardice, but man cannot think of too many things.

Some things in this story look strange. Officers should know exactly what to do, you may say. Certainly, but it is a damper on that duty when there is a certainty on the mind that the commander does not know. When, with eight or ten regiments ready, you see only two or three fighting, and feel you are getting whipped from your general’s incompetency, it is hard to be soldierly. . . .

Captain Dickey was shot early in the fight and the command of the company devolved on me. He was not seriously wounded, a ball through the face. . . .

Of twenty-two officers that went into the fight, but two escaped without marks. Such accurate firing I never saw before. I was under the impression all the time that an inferior force was whipping us, but the deadly aim of their rifles told the story.

Well, you are wanting to know how I came off, no doubt. With my usual narrow escapes, but escapes. My hat has five bullet holes in it. Don’t start very much at that—they were all made by one bullet. You know the dent in the top of it. Well, the ball went through the rim first and then through the top in this way. My hat was cocked up on one side so that it went through in that way and just drew the blood on my scalp. Of course a quarter of an inch lower would have broken my skull, but it was too high. . . .

Company K went into the fight with fifty-five enlisted men and two officers. It came out with twenty-three men and one officer. Of these but two men were not marked. That speaks volumes for the bravery of negroes. Several of these twenty-three were quite badly cut, but they are present with the company. . . .

Unidentified Union Soldier (Source: Daily Observations from the Civil War, http://dotcw.com/ )

---George Michael Neese, whose battery withstood the brunt of Custer’s raid toward Charlottesville, writes of the aftermath, when the Confederates recover their camps, when Custer and his Yankee riders have withdrawn:
We came back to our old camp to-day and found nothing but desolation and ashes where our winter quarters stood yesterday morning. Personally I lost nothing but the best Confederate jacket that I have had since I have been in service. The marauders took it out of my knapsack and burnt it; I found the buttons to-day in a little pile of ashes near my lonely house, which is one of the few that escaped the fiery ordeal of yesterday’s conflagration.

I suppose that the devout Yankee who burnt my Sunday jacket thought that he was immolating a precious and costly sacrifice on the altar of his country, and that it would prove to be an acceptable offering to Uncle Sam’s God, which of late years seems to be a demon of destruction.

---Susan Bradford Eppes of Florida confides to her diary a secret, in the midst of an entry about how the girls in her circle of friends are going to “make do” without new dresses or material for the party being held for their brave troops:
Let me tell you a secret, little Diary; “I have my second grown-up beau.” I think I like the boys best, in fact, I know I like the boys best. That is because all my life I have had boy play-mates and now that these boys look like men and are in the army, they still seem like comrades to me. They like me too; whenever one gets foolish and says silly things to me I laugh at him, and so, I do not lose my friends as I should if they were allowed to deteriorate into lovers.

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