Thursday, March 20, 2014

March 20, 1864

March 20, 1864

---Red River Campaign:  As Federal troops continue to concentrate at Alexandria, Gen. Richard Taylor, in field command of Confederate troops in the region, begins to concentrate his forces also.  He has two divisions: his own, and another under Gen. Alfred Mouton. 

---The USS Tioga overhauls and captures a blockade runner called the Swallow, on the Combahee River in coastal South Carolina before the Rebel sloop can make a dash for Nassau.  The Swallow carries 180 bales of cotton, as well as tobacco and resin. 

---The infamous commerce raider, the CSS Alabama, under command of Captain Raphael Semmes, arrives at Cape Town, South Africa, amid much fanfare and jubilation welcoming the popular ship and crew.  This is the Alabama’s second visit to this city, and it is in much need of repairs.  Semmes sells the woolens and hides seized from a Yankee merchantman, and the proceeds easily pay for the repairs and refurbishing. 

---The New York Times prints an editorial on the difficulties of invading and subjugating the South, arguing that the surest way is to starve the Rebel armies by invading the productive parts of the Confederacy---a weirdly prescient recommendation, foreshadowing Sherman’s March to the Sea in the coming Fall:

For this reason it is that our advance into Georgia is a direct and most effective step on our way to Richmond. The salient from which to assault the South is evidently the Tennessee mountain ridge.

But in addition to the help we shall derive from the rivers, it is now clearly ascertained that a flying column of 25,000 or 30,000 men can live any where in the Southern States which have not been occupied by armies, and can march twenty or twenty-five miles a day. Gen. SHERMAN has just demonstrated this fact in the most satisfactory manner, and the Western armies have repeatedly proved its truth. . . .

Such a fact will be deeply important as the large armies of the rebels become broken up, for flying columns of Federal troops will no doubt march through the South, sweep the country of means of feeding armies, enlist and arm the negroes, and concentrate at given points in the interior, and so effectually subjugate the rebellious districts. Thus will be solved the great problems of invading and conquering so vast a territory as the South.

---Horatio Nelson Taft of Washington writes in his journal his thoughts of the prospects of the war, and the upcoming campaigns, both military and political:

Our Armies are strong and are better officered than ever before as there has been a great “weeding out” going on during the past year of good for nothing “Shoulder Straps.” The coming next six months must be decisive of the war or I am much mistaken. It is without doubt assuming a more relentless and cruel character as it progresses, on both sides, but the rebel “papers” are getting furious and call loudly for vengeance even on the prisoners in their hands, but as we hold many more of theirs than they do of ours they will have to take it out in raving. The rebel leaders are determined to prolong the War until after the next Presidential Election at least in the hope that a “Peace Democrat” will be Elected and then they can make better terms, or even be acknowledged Independant. But from present indications their hopes will not be realized. Most of the leading Democrats in the States are “War democrats” and would concede nothing to them until they laid down their arms and submitted to the laws.

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