Civil War Sesquicentennial
Jan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May June July
- Friday, January 1: Emerson Opdycke greets the coming year from East Tennessee, telling his wife:
“I wish you a Happy New Year, from my heart but cannot say that mine has been such. . . But what will the Year 1864 have in store for us?”
At Brandy Station, Virginia, Vermonter Lemuel Abbott is more upbeat:
“All are wishing me a ‘Happy New Year’! God grant that I may have one. I was awakened long before daylight by a band serenading the birth of the New Year.”
Elsewhere in Virginia, Judith Brockenbrough McGuire begins work in the Confederate Commissary Department, observing:
“the duties of the office are not very onerous, but rather confining for one who left school thirty-four years ago. . . . The ladies, thirty-five in number, are of all ages, and representing various parts of Virginia, also Maryland and Louisiana. Many of them are refugees. It is melancholy to see how many wear mourning for brothers or other relatives, the victims of war.”
Residing for now in the Confederate capital, the spirited South Carolinian, Mary Chesnut, starts the new year on a plaintive note:
“God help my country. . . . I think we are more like the sailors who break into the spirits closet when they find out the ship must sink. There seems to be for the first time a resolute feeling to enjoy the brief hour and never look beyond the day.”
- Saturday, Jan. 2: George Davis of North Carolina receives confirmation from the Confederate Senate as the new attorney general.
Meeting with fellow officers from the Army of Tennessee at Dalton, Ga., Patrick Cleburne offers his “Memorial” calling for armed service for slaves and freedom to those who will have remained faithful to the cause of the Confederacy. The Irish-born general, who has served the Confederate States unfailingly himself, sees the matter as one of crucial importance in maintaining sufficient numbers of troops in the field and looks upon the issue as steadfastly patriotic in nature:
“As between the loss of independence and the loss of slavery, we assume that every patriot will freely give up the latter—give up the Negro slave rather than be a slave himself.”
From Richmond, war department clerk John B. Jones records the call for dramatic action from a neighboring community:
Only the day before Jones had found the price of a barrel of flour to stand at $150.
“The Lynchburg Virginian has come out for a dictator, and names Gen. Lee.”
- Sunday, Jan. 3: Opposing forces clash in far-southwestern Virginia.
- Monday, Jan. 4: Lemuel Abbott records the weather at his billet:
“It has snowed nearly all day, but not very hard. To-night there is about two inches on the ground and it is still snowing.”
- Tuesday, Jan. 5: Abraham Lincoln addresses the matter of bounties for service as the U.S. Congress reassesses such incentive payments.
Confederate bureau chief, Robert G.H. Kean assesses the latest rumor for aid from outside of the South:
“It has been determined, as I am informed, to send a minister to the French in Mexico with a proposal of alliance between the Southern Confederacy and [Emperor] Maximilian. I doubt if that card will win.”
In Louisiana, William Henry King reacts to the news that William Hardee has replaced Braxton Bragg as an army commander:
“Don’t know much about Hardee’s merits, but feel quite certain the Confederacy is not worsted in the exchange. Bragg would make a fare general for an aristocracy or a monarchy, but not for a people battling for independence.”
Despite bitterly cold temperatures, Union guards at Johnson’s Island Prison exercise greater vigilance over their captives. John Dooley writes:
“Snow 6 inches deep: since the recent escapes we are obliged at roll call, no matter how severe the weather, to stand outside our blocks and not only to answer to our names but be counted and wait until all the other prisoners are counted throughout the prison, when, at the sound of the drum, we are permitted to return; this act of discipline generally lasts from a half to three quarters of an hour.”
- Wednesday, Jan. 6: Some light fighting takes place near Dalton, Ga.
Colonel Christopher “Kit” Carson is at the head of forces aimed at compelling the remaining Navajos operating independently onto a reservation. The action occurs in the vicinity of Canyon de Chelly in the far U.S. southwest.
- Thursday, Jan. 7: From Washington City, President Lincoln makes another of a number of pardons for troops in the field, explaining as motivation in this instance: “I did this, not on any merit in the case, but because I am trying to evade the butchering business lately.”
Former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Caleb Smith dies in Indianapolis, Indiana.
- Friday, Jan. 8: Southern artillerist Henry Robinson Berkeley poses a difficult philosophical question after he witnesses the dispensing of military justice in Virginia:
“Saw a man shot today for desertion. Poor fellow! His crime was only going home to see after his wife and children. It was his third or fourth offense. . . . He was buried where he was executed. Did he not die for his country?”
Accused Confederate spy David O. Dodd, meets his fate on a gallows in Little Rock, Arkansas.
The colorful Southern horseman, John Hunt Morgan, attends a reception arranged for him in Richmond.
- Saturday, Jan. 9: President Davis is worried about a potential Union assault on Mobile, Ala.
- Sunday, Jan. 10: Although the Union blockade of Southern ports is proving ever-more effective, the U.S.S. Iron Age falls victim to shallow waters and Confederate fire off the South Carolina coast.
Confederate ordnance chief Josiah Gorgas records recent developments in Richmond and elsewhere in Virginia:
“The arrival of Gen. Jno. H. Morgan created quite a stir here on Friday. The city authorities and the Govt received him at the Ballard House, and gave him a handsome reception.
Gen. Early is operating in the lower valley of the Shenandoah, to get beef, of which the army is in great need. We shall get thro’ the winter without manifest suffering, tho’ shoes and blankets are still wanting.”
- Monday, Jan. 11: Union naval forces achieve a measure of retribution for the loss of a vessel on the previous day by causing the destruction of two blockade-runners in the same vicinity.
William T. Sherman is at Memphis, keeping one eye one the ice flowing by on the river and the other on Nathan Bedford Forrest. Concerning the latter and his own plans for the future, Cump confides to his wife Ellen:
“It is exceedingly difficult to deal with these Mounted Devils and I am sure all we can do is to make the Country feel that the People must pay for these wandering Arabs. I will run down to Vicksburg, and back to Memphis and be ready to start on some expedition by the 20th. I may strike for Meridian and Selma.”
- Tuesday, Jan.12: Disturbances in Matamoros, Mexico, prompt efforts to remove the U.S. Consul from danger.
- Wednesday, Jan. 13: President Davis wants his field commander in Georgia, Joseph E. Johnston, to understand the vital nature of his position and the desire of the commander-in-chief not to forfeit it by retreating from it:
“I trust you will not deem it necessary to adopt such a measure.”
In Tennessee, Emerson Opdycke notes:
“Three of Longstreet’s men deserted and came over to us; they reported that they had been living off the country and everything was ‘mighty scarce.’”
Major General Samuel R. Curtis assumes command of the Federal Department of Kansas.
- Sunday, Jan. 17: Ordnance Chief Gorgas looks to the government’s measures to bolster the armies as well as civilian morale:
“Our armies are filling up and will I hope, be strong enough for their work by the 1st of May. A law abolishing all substitution has just been passed. While I don’t think this will materially Strengthen the army, it will give general satisfaction.”
While in Hartford, Conn., during a transfer from one vessel to another, Union naval officer Roswell Lamson finds time for social pursuits as well as professional ones, including services conducted by one of the leading lights of New England:
“This morning I went to church . . . and heard a most excellent and interesting sermon from the Rev. Mr. [Nathaniel J.] Burton who is called the most able preacher in Connecticut, and is thought by many to be equal if not superior to Henry Ward Beecher. I would rather hear Mr. Beecher—he speaks more from his everyday observation of the world and of men and touches springs that few men know to exist. Mr. Burton speaks more from books and from his own inward consciousness—he may be superior in intellect but with my [limited theological] training it is natural I should prefer Mr. Beecher.”
- Monday, Jan. 18: Union forces continue to confront Confederate guerrillas along the Mississippi River.
John C. Breckinridge demonstrates his sense of diplomacy and tact when a guest at a social event in the Confederate capital “pitched into [him] for his conduct of affairs at Missionary Ridge. ‘Well, sir, how came we to lose Chattanooga?’ General Breckinridge coolly responded, ‘It is a long story,’ turned away, and began talking to someone else.”
- Tuesday, Jan. 19: Just northeast of Knoxville, Emerson Opdycke lets off steam as his command battles the elements and what he deems as less than competent leadership in his own ranks:
“I am sick of being under Potomac Generals. . . . The campaigning is exceedingly rough cold rain, snow, no tents and short rations.”
- Wednesday, Jan. 20: Jefferson Davis’s fears seem to be confirmed of Mobile as an emerging focal point for Federal attentions with Union vessels maneuvering into position at the entrance to Mobile Bay.
General Sherman keeps fellow general John Logan abreast of developments in Mississippi:
“The River has been little molested by the Guerillas who find it dont pay, and as the waters rise they know we will go up the Yazoo & Red Rivers and punish the Interior for their rascality. On this trip I have not seen or heard of a Guerilla and the Merchant Boats pass up and down with little fear. Abundance of wood has been gathered, and swarms of adventurers are crowding Vicksburg to hire Abandoned Plantations. The negro soldier idea is nearly exhausted and the popular idea is now to convert them into laborers for the benefit of the hungry Plantation Contractors. Well I am willing the Philanthropists should take the job off our hands and I tell them to go ahead, but I will not divert troops from Military duties to guard local interests.”
- Thursday, Jan. 21: Gorgas notes both the threats and the benefits still being derived from blockade-running traffic:
“Movements reported seem to indicate designs against Mobile. . . . A couple of good cargos have lately arrived there for us from Havanna.”
John B. Jones records an unsettling development for the Confederate president:
“The Army of the West desire the negroes freed and put in the ranks. They wonder it has never been done before.”
“Last night an attempt was made (by his servants, it is supposed) to burn the President’s mansion. It was discovered that fire had been kindled in the wood-pile in the basement. The smoke led to the discovery, else the family might have been consumed with the house. One or two of the servants have absconded.
Mary Chesnut references Patrick Cleburne’s proposal for arming slaves in terse fashion:
- Friday, Jan. 22: Major General William Rosecrans will become the next Union commander of the Department of the Missouri, in place of the controversial Major General John M. Schofield, who will be headed for the Department of the Ohio.
Arkansas now has a pro-Union government, with a provisional governor. Isaac Murphy will lead the effort to establish this new administration.
“Went to Mrs. Davis’s. It is sad enough. Fancy having to be always ready to have your servants set your house on fire—bribed to do it. Such constant robberies—such servants coming and going daily to the Yankees, carrying one’s silver, etc., does not conduce to make home happy.”
Recent events at the Davis home continue to garner attention. Diarist Chesnut observes:
- Saturday, Jan. 23: Abraham Lincoln responds to a request for his opinion on the matter of returning plantations to productivity in the wake of war and emancipation developments:
“You have enquired how the government would regard and treat cases wherever the owners of plantations, in Arkansas, for instance, might fully recognize the freedom of those formerly slaves, and by fair contracts of hire with them, re-commence the cultivation of their plantations. I answer I should regard such cases with great favor. . . .”
- Sunday, Jan. 24: Small operations mark the day in areas as wide-spread as Mississippi, East Tennessee and Tidewater Virginia.
- Monday, Jan. 25: Long the scene of contention, Corinth, Miss. has ceased to hold the same importance as occupying Union forces leave the town to move to other posts.
- Tuesday, Jan. 26: President Lincoln is once more active, addressing trade in areas once controlled by the Confederates and suspending execution sentences for a number of Union soldiers.
- Wednesday, Jan. 27: Developments in Central Virginia continue to look promising for the Union cause there, as Lemuel Abbott records in his diary:
“Two deserters came into our lines this morning; they report Lee’s army in a miserable condition—no rations or clothing, and the citizens nearly starving. They say that ‘Secession is playing out.’”
President Davis requests that Braxton Bragg travel to Richmond for consultation.
- Thursday, Jan. 28: President Lincoln requests that Henry Halleck encourage steps to be taken to secure the lines of communication and transportation westward from Missouri from any potential Confederate actions:
“Some citizens of Missouri—vicinity of Kansas City—are apprehensive that there is special danger of renewed troubles in that neighbourhood and thence on the route toward New-Mexico. I am not impressed that the danger is very great or imminent, but I will thank you to give Genls Rosecrans and Curtis respectively such orders as may turn their attention thereto and prevent as far as possible the apprehended disturbances.”
Roswell Lamson explains in a letter home that hard work remains to be completed before making his vessel, the Gettysburg, ready for service, attributing the level of effort required to “evidences of stupidity almost past belief.” But, he has also maintained sufficient time for other activities and remarks on one of his companions in particular:
“Wednesday evening I was invited to Mr. Beechers to tea and to spend the evening which passed very pleasantly. There was a ‘Secesh’ lady there from South Carolina whose father owned a large share of the Margaret & Jessie before she was captured; her husband is a Yankee and it was very amusing to hear her remarks about Yankees in general, and Yankees in particular.”
- Friday, Jan. 29: A new round of Federal bombardment of Fort Sumter begins, although the Confederates now have the ironclad Charleston to bolster the defense of the name-sake city.
- Saturday, Jan. 30: Rosecrans assumes command in Missouri, while Major General Frederick Steele does the same in Arkansas.
- Sunday, Jan. 31: Gorgas reflects on recent Congressional action that aims at placing men between 45 and 55 in the ranks:
“In such a war as this—a war for national existence the whole mass of the nation must be engaged. It must be divided into those who go to the field and fight, & those who stay at home to support the fighting portion, supplying all the food, and material of war. . . . It is absurd to call on all to fight. Some must labor or all will starve. There is much crude legislation going on, but we shall work thro’ this revolution [even] with some blunders.”
Mary Chesnut continues to socialize, observe and record events in her diary:
“General Hood informed today that he was ordered to the Army of Tennessee, that he was now a corps commander. Suddenly his eye blazed as he said this.
Said I to myself, ‘All that ambition still—in spite of those terrible wounds.’ Did he read my thoughts? He added, ‘This has been the happiest year of any, in spite of all my wounds.’
Again his eye blazed up.”
In the midst of an on-going struggle between the legislative and executive branches of the Confederate government, Robert Kean laments the apparent loss of one crucial official:
“The clamor against the nitre and mining bureau as a refuge for skulkers and exempts has caused Colonel [Isaac] St. John to resign. . . . Colonel St. John has developed the production of nitre from almost nothing to nearly a full supply. But for the loss of territory where the richest nitrous earths are found, he would have been wholly independent of importation. The loss of Tennessee has caused him to develop his works further in the interior, and in a few months his beds laid down near all the interior cities will be ripe. To his great energy, talent for organization, and skilful invention in supplementing defective resources, the country owes as much as to any man in the service, whatever his rank or fame. Others have made good use of what the country afforded in resources. He has created when resources there were none.”
To a colleague in Alabama, General Sherman addresses questions concerning civilians in occupied areas:
To those who submit to the Rightful Laws & authority of their State & National Government promise all gentleness and forbearance, but to the petulant and persistent secessionist, why death or banishment is a mercy, and the quicker he or she is disposed of the better.”
“In my former letters I have answered all your questions save one, and that relates to the treatment of inhabitants known or suspected to be hostile or ‘Secesh.’ This is in truth the most difficult business of our Army as it advances & occupies the Southern Country. It is almost impossible to lay down Rules and I invariably leave this whole subject to the local commander, but am willing to give them the benefit of my acquired Knowledge and experience. . . .
We of the North are beyond all question Right in our Cause. . . .
When men take up Arms to resist a Rightful Authority we are compelled to use like force, because all reason and argument cease when arms are resorted to. When the provisions, forage, horses, mules, wagons, etc., are used by our enemy it is clearly our duty & Right to take them also; because otherwise they might be used against us. . . . But the question arises as to the dwellings used by women, children & non-combatants. So long as non-combatants remain in their houses & Keep to their accustomed peaceful business, their opinions and prejudices can in no wise influence the War & therefore should not be noticed. . . .
- Monday, February 1: The U.S. House of Representatives moves on the matter of reviving the rank of lieutenant general.
British Minister to the United States, Lord Richard Lyons, communicates with Foreign Minister John Russell concerning the views of U.S. secretary of state William H. Seward:
“Mr. Seward said to me this morning that he was informed that a move would be made by the English Friends of the Confederates on the meeting of Parliament, and that the object of it would be not to obtain the recognition of the Confederacy as an Independent State, but to induce Her Majesty’s Government to interpose for the restoration of Peace, on the basis of an eventual abolition of Slavery, and assumption of the restored Union of the Confederate Debt. . . .
He should, he said, inform Mr. [Charles Francis] Adams that no Foreign Intervention, in any shape or under any pretext would be admitted [considered] for a moment; that the President was determined to suppress the Rebellion by the strength of the United States and by that alone.”
Additionally, the effects of the Emancipation Proclamation would remain “strictly adhered to.” “As to the Confederate Debt, the United States, Mr. Seward said, would never pay a dollar of it.”
President Lincoln sends condolences to Kamehameha V, the “King of the Hawaiian Islands,” on the death of his predecessor and brother. He also orders a vessel to travel to Santo Domingo “to bring back to this country such of the colonists there as desire to return.”
- Tuesday, Feb. 2: Indicative of both audacity and reality for the embattled South, a small team of naval personnel board and take the USS Underwriter, a Union gunboat located in the Neuse River in eastern North Carolina. But circumstances prevent the new proprietors from doing more with their acquisition than destroying the vessel. In the meantime, Federal forces continue to hold nearby New Berne and other critical points.
- Wednesday, Feb. 3: Sherman’s Meridian Campaign begins as some 26,000 troops leave Vicksburg heading initially for Jackson before moving on to Meridian.
President Jefferson Davis continues to implore his nation to pluck up its resolve. He considers those who “have enjoyed quiet and safety at home” and yet remain openly discontented particularly problematic for the Confederacy.
- Thursday, Feb. 4: The area between Vicksburg and Jackson sees renewed action as Sherman moves toward the Mississippi capital.
Patrons of the Macon Georgia Journal and Messenger learn the effects of warfare on their newspaper:
“We cannot afford a larger sheet when we have only increased our rates from two dollars and fifty cents to five, while the quantity of paper for which we paid three fifty, we now pay fifty five dollars.”
- Friday, Feb. 5: Sherman’s command reaches Jackson, Miss.
- Saturday, Feb. 6: Sherman’s troops leave Jackson for Meridian.
Union major general Benjamin Butler is active on the Virginia Peninsula. Federal forces under Brigadier General Alexander Hays cross the Rapidan River at Morton’s Ford, with reinforcements following in a demonstration to support Butler’s movement.
- Sunday, Feb. 7: U.S. forces enter Jacksonville, Fla.
The arrival of Confederates under Lieutenant General Richard Ewell compel the Federals at the Rapidan to pull back.
Elsewhere in Virginia, Vermonter Lemuel Abbott sneers:
“On arrival there we found there had been a great scare from Mosby but it amounted to nothing; wonder if he thinks guerrilla warfare manly?”
- Monday, Feb. 8: Confederate war clerk John B. Jones relates levels of disaffection at various points in the South, but concludes his diary entry for this day on a positive note:
“Everywhere our troops in the field, whose terms of three years will expire this spring, are re-enlisting for the war. This is an effect produced by President Lincoln’s [amnesty] proclamation; that to be permitted to return to the Union, all men must first take an oath to abolish slavery!”
- Tuesday, Feb. 9: A dramatic escape occurs when 109 Federal officers tunnel their way to freedom from Libby Prison. Among the escapees is Abel Streight, incarcerated since his capture by Nathan Bedford Forrest in Alabama in the previous spring.
- Wednesday, Feb. 10: A tragic fire occurs in the stables serving the White House. Although Abraham Lincoln lends his hand to the efforts, several animals cannot be rescued in time from the burning structures.
- Thursday, Feb. 11: After some delays, Union brigadier general William Sooy Smith sets out for Mississippi from West Tennessee with 7,000 horsemen and twenty pieces of artillery, having previously promised “to pitch into [Bedford] Forrest wherever I find him.”
- Friday, Feb.12: Lyons passes along to Russell the statements that Secretary Seward has made to him regarding the matter of opening up to international commerce those ports of the South under Union control, while declaring others to continue to be “abolished as Ports of Entry.”
“Mr. Seward maintained that the events of the war had now proved beyond a doubt that the South would never achieve its independence, and that this being the case, the occupation of particular points ought not to be regarded as disturbing the old legitimate jurisdiction.
I conceive that Mr. Seward’s main object is to obtain, with a view to the moral effect both in the North and in the south, the revocation of the recognition of the Belligerent Rights of the Confederates. . . . [H]e appears never to lose sight of this object. . . .”
- Saturday, Feb. 13: John B. Jones hears rumors of the price of gold soaring in the North and concludes wistfully:
“If this be true, our day of deliverance is not distant.”
- Sunday, Feb. 14: Sherman’s men take Meridian and begin a systematic destruction of everything of military significance.
Josiah Gorgas records his views of the motivations for Union military activities:
“The enemys movements are now no doubt partly political. They try to get possession of the capitals of the States & institute State governments, for effect on the next elections. All such governments would be subservient to Lincoln.”
- Monday, Feb. 15: President Lincoln instructs Major General Daniel Sickles to travel to various posts from Memphis to New Orleans and over to the Atlantic coast to “ascertain at each place what is being done, if anything, for reconstruction—how the Amnesty proclamation works, if at all—what practical hitches, if any, there are about it—whether deserters come in from the enemy, what number has come in at each point since the Amnesty, and whether the ratio of their arrival is any greater since than before the Amnesty—what deserters report generally, and particularly, whether, and to what extent, the Amnesty is known within the rebel lines. Also learn what you can as to the colored people—how they get along as soldiers, as laborers in our service, on leased plantations, and as hired laborers with their old masters, if there be such cases. Also learn what you can about the colored people within the rebel lines.”
- Tuesday, Feb. 16: In Washington Territory, U.S. forces begin an operation against Native Americans in the region.
- Wednesday, Feb. 17: The submarine, H.L. Hunley, sets out to a strike a blow against the Union blockade in Charleston Harbor. She closes on the USS Housatonic and uses her spar torpedo to blast a hole beneath the ship’s waterline. Most of the Union crew members are able to escape drowning, but the Confederates who man their craft are not so fortunate.
- Thursday, Feb. 18: Gorgas notes the number of escaped Union officers from Libby Prison who the Confederates have recovered, while also observing that captives from a nearby facility on the James River are heading South for incarceration in a remote camp that has not yet been finished:
“Fifty-four of the Yankee officers have been recaptured. The prisoners on Belle Isle are being sent to Americus, Ga., at the rate of 400 a day.”
J.B. Jones discusses another matter in the Confederate capital:
“The Legislature has a bill before it to suppress theatrical amusements during the war. What would Shakespeare think of that?”
- Friday, Feb. 19: President Davis is anxious to know from Admiral Franklin Buchanan how he expects to deflect Union threats to Mobile, Alabama.
- Saturday, Feb. 20: The Battle of Olustee, or Ocean Pond, occurs when Union forces under Brigadier General Truman Seymour encounter Confederates under Brigadier General Joseph Finegan in a push toward Tallahassee. Casualties amount to 203 killed, 1,152 wounded and 506 missing among the 5,500 Federals. Finegan’s troops suffer 93 killed, 847 wounded and 6 missing out of 5,000.
- Sunday, Feb. 21: Fighting occurs at Ellis Bridge in West Point, Miss., as elements of N.B. Forrest’s cavalry confront W.S. Smith’s advancing column.
Josiah Gorgas notes the arrival of a guest from the Western Theater:
“Gen. Bragg spent Tuesday Evey. with us. . . . Bragg was talkative. We had a good game of whist.”
- Monday, Feb. 22: Forrest engages in a running fight at Okolona with Sooy Smith. Despite some success, he loses his youngest brother, Jeffrey, to Union fire. By the time the fighting has subsided, the Federals tally losses of 54 killed, 179 wounded and 155 missing to the Confederates’ 27 killed, including Colonel Forrest, 97 wounded and 20 missing.
In Richmond, offices close to honor the birthday of George Washington.
In Washington City, Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase denies knowledge of a letter, by Senator Samuel Pomeroy, of Kansas, that has appeared publicly opposing Lincoln’s nomination for re-election and touting his. Chase explains that he does not want his post to become adversely impacted and notes, “For yourself I cherish sincere respect and esteem; and, permit me to add, affection. Differences of opinion as to administration action have not changed these sentiments. . . .”
- Tuesday, Feb. 23: Union troops are testing the strength of the Confederate position in the vicinity of Dalton, Georgia.
In another confidential message, Lyons informs Russell about attitudes of the Lincoln administration regarding the recognition of a French-backed monarchical government in Mexico:
“Mr. Seward observed that he was in the habit of saying to such Members [of the U.S. Congress who opposed such action] that he conceived that it was quite as likely that he should recognize Mr. Jefferson Davis as King of Richmond, as that he should recognize the Archduke Maximilian or any other person as Emperor of Mexico.”
- Wednesday, Feb. 24: Braxton Bragg becomes President Jefferson Davis’s chief advisor.
The U.S. Senate considers reviving the rank of lieutenant general.
- Thursday, Feb. 25: John B. Jones notes the elevation of Bragg to the advisory post “once occupied by Lee.
No doubt Bragg can give the President valuable counsel—nor can there be any doubt that he enjoys a secret satisfaction in triumphing thus over popular sentiment, which just at this time is much averse to Gen. Bragg.”
- Friday, Feb. 26: General Lee comes to confer with President Davis.
- Saturday, Feb. 27: The first Union prisoners from Richmond arrive at Camp Sumter near rural Andersonville, Georgia.
- Sunday, Feb. 28: Brigadier General Judson Kilpatrick and Colonel Ulric Dahlgren begin what they hope will be a successful raid on Richmond, in part designed to free Union prisoners of war being held there.
War Clerk Jones assesses the state of the Confederate government:
“Congress and the President parted as the adjournment in bad temper. It is true everything was passed by Congress asked for by the Executive as necessary in the present exigency. . . . These were conceded, say the members, for the sake of the country, and not as concessions to the Executive.”
- Monday, Feb. 29: President Lincoln responds to Secretary Chase on the Pomeroy matter, insisting that he does not see the need, for the moment, to change the leadership of the Treasury Department.
- Tuesday, March 1: The plan by Judson Kilpatrick and Ulric Dahlgren to enter Richmond, liberate Union prisoners being held there and impact the government and its officials experiences a dramatic turn as the former turns back with his larger raiding force, leaving the latter to fend for himself with some 500 men against aroused local defenders, including civilian personnel pressed into action.
Confederate war clerk John Beauchamp Jones records the reaction of the Confederate capital to the Union raid:
“As the morning progressed, the city was a little startled by the sound of artillery in a northern direction, and not very distant. Couriers and horsemen from the country announced the approach of the enemy within the outer fortifications; a column of 5000 cavalry. . . . To-morrow we shall know more; but no uneasiness is felt as to the result. In a few hours we can muster men enough to defend the city against 25,000.”
President Abraham Lincoln nominates Ulysses Grant for the rank of lieutenant general.
He also revisits the case of a soldier whose sanction for an offence has included a reduction in his pay:
“I do not like this punishment of withholding pay—it falls so very hard upon poor families.”
From Bermuda, U.S. Consul Charles Maxwell Allen informs Secretary of State William Seward:
“Captain [John N.] Maffitt, late of the privateer Florida, intends to leave here tomorrow as Master of the steamer Flora.”
- Wednesday, Mar. 2: Trying to extricate his command, Colonel Dahlgren rides into an ambush. Confederate fire fells him from his saddle, where papers on his person suggest his intention to kill President Davis and any other Confederate leaders he may encounter on his mission.
The U.S. Senate confirms the Grant nomination.
J.B. Jones observes proudly of the role of the civilians in Richmond’s defense:
“The Department Clerks were in action in the evening in five minutes after they were formed. Capt. Ellery, Chief Clerk of 2d Auditor, was killed, and several were wounded.”
- Thursday, Mar. 3: The U.S. Congress authorizes the Treasury to issue $200,000,000 in ten-year bonds.
- Friday, Mar. 4: President Lincoln inquires of Major General Benjamin Butler concerning the latest intelligence on Ulric Dahlgren on behalf of that officer’s illustrious father:
“Admiral Dahlgren is here, and of course is very anxious about his son. Please send me at once all you know, or can learn of his fate.”
The U.S. Senate acts on the nomination of Andrew Johnson as military governor of Tennessee.
Michael Hahn takes office as governor of Louisiana as efforts continue to place pro-Union administrations where possible in seceded Southern states.
- Saturday, Mar. 5: J.B. Jones continues to note the impact of the recent Union raid on the city:
“Some extraordinary memoranda were captured from the raiders, showing a diabolical purpose, and creating a profound sensation here.”
From prison at Johnson’s Island, John Dooley observes:
“Snowing very hard and very fine—it nearly always snows fine in this region. To day our room holds a meeting and, in conclave assembled, condemn in unmeasured terms the conduct of the Yankee whining Chaplain who attempted to force political and religious tracts on us yesterday.”
- Sunday, Mar. 6: Confederate raids continue on land and water in Kentucky and South Carolina. In the latter instance, an effort to sink the U.S.S. Memphis proves unsuccessful.
- Monday, Mar. 7: Jefferson Davis calls for General James Longstreet to exercise the initiative from his current position at Greeneville, Tennessee.
Abraham Lincoln turns his attention to the question of emancipation in Maryland and the Union Pacific Railroad.
- Tuesday, Mar. 8: President Lincoln and General U.S. Grant meet personally for the first in an awkward moment in the White House.
- Wednesday, Mar. 9: Brigadier General Matthew W. Ransom’s forces confront Union troops at Suffolk, Va., that include African Americans, many of whom had come from the area before returning in arms to it.
President Lincoln reflects privately with Ulysses Grant on the conditions under which that general has received his recent promotion and with the words that plans to make public on the following day at a formal ceremony:
“The nation’s appreciation of what you have done, and it’s reliance upon you for what remains to do, in the existing great struggle, are now presented with this commission, constituting you Lieutenant General in the Army of the United States. With this high honor devolves upon you also, a corresponding responsibility. . . . I scarcely need to add that with what I here speak for the nation goes my hearty personal concurrence.”
In South Carolina, Emma Holmes provides a long diary entry that covers matters as diverse as social matters and currency policy to the recent Union cavalry raid on Richmond. She concludes:
“Dear old Charleston still receives daily her allotted portion of battering, and ‘The Gillmore district’ is showing ghastly rents in many a once fair & goodly mansion.”
- Thursday, Mar. 10: General Grant accepts his promotion formally:
“I accept this commission, with gratitude for the high honor confered [sic]. . . . I feel the full weight of the responsibilities now devolving on me and know that if they are met it will be due those armies, and above all to the favor of that Providence which leads both Nations and men.”
In his new capacity, General Grant also undertakes “the command of the armies of the United States.”
William T. Sherman writes his friend Grant to express satisfaction at the promotion:
“You are now [George] Washington’s legitimate successor, and occupy a position of almost dangerous elevation . . . . I believe you are as brave, patriotic, and just, as the great prototype Washington; as unselfish, kind-hearted, and honest, as a man should be; but the chief characteristic in your nature is the simple faith in success you have always manifested. . . .
Now as to the future. Do not stay in Washington. . . . Come out West; take to yourself the whole Mississippi Valley; let us make it dead-sure, and I will tell you the Atlantic slope and pacific shores will follow its destiny as sure as the limbs of a tree live and die with the main trunk!
For God’s sake and for your country’s sake, come out of Washington!”
In Louisiana, William Henry King notes the disaffection of the men in Confederate major general John G. Walker’s command “on account of the trade now being carried on between the Federals & our officers. Hoozah for them! That this is ‘a rich man’s war, & a poor man’s fight,’ needs no further proof.”
U.S. Consul C.M. Allen continues to report on the state of affairs in his jurisdiction, noting in part:
“Brig Carl Emile from Liverpool, barque Enterprise from Newport, and ships Storm King and Gambia from Cardiff, have arrived during the past week with cargoes for the Confederates. The Gambia went onto the rock near the entrance of this port (St. George’s). Vessel and cargo nearly a total loss.”
- Friday, Mar. 11: W.H. King is unimpressed with defensive efforts on the Red River:
“A portion (110 feet) of the obstructions in R. River at Fort DeRussy has been forced from its place by high water. Great engineering! When this water is low, & gun boats can not pass, obstructions are put in the River under the supervision of ‘Competent Engineers,’ but as soon as there is plenty of water for the gun boats, it sweeps the obstructions out. Consummate folly!”
- Saturday, Mar. 12: General Nathaniel Banks is on the move in Louisiana.
Sherman tells his wife that he expects the critical juncture of the war to be coming:
“All that has gone before is mere Skirmishing—The War now begins and with heavy well disciplined masses the issue must be settled in hard fought Battles. I think we can whip them in Alabama and it may be in Georgia, but the Devils seem to have a determination that cannot but be admired—No amount of poverty or adversity seems to shake their faith. . . .”
- Sunday, Mar. 13: Mary Chesnut notes the presence of numerous Confederate generals in worship in Richmond, including Robert E. Lee, James Longstreet and Braxton Bragg:
“Somebody counted fourteen generals in church and suggested that less piety and more drilling of commands would suit the times better.”
Of the recent Union raid she explains:
“Now that Dahlgren has failed to carry out his orders, the Yankees disown them. They disavow it all. He was not sent here to murder us all, hang the president, and burn the town. There is the notebook, however, at the executive office, with the orders to hang and burn.”
Robert G.H. Kean relates the war department news in his journal, but saves his severest assessment for Georgia governor Joseph E. Brown, former secretary of state Robert Toombs and Vice President Alexander Stephens, comparing them unfavorably to the notoriously anti-Davis administration critics, North Carolina governor Zebulon Vance and N.C. Justice Richard Pearson:
“These people—Brown, Toombs, Stephens and their set—are the most pestilent demagogues in the land, more injurious than the North Carolina buffaloes because [they] are more able and influential.”
President Lincoln sends a private message to Michael Hahn:
“I congratulate you on having fixed your name in history as the first-free-state Governor of Louisiana.”
- Monday, Mar. 14: Fort DeRussy falls to Brigadier General Joseph A. Mower’s Union troops, with strong support from Union ironclads, as the Red River Campaign opens with a Federal success.
- Tuesday, Mar. 15: Keen notes the “intrigue” present at the highest levels of the Confederate government to replace Secretary of War John Seddon with administration-favorite Judah Benjamin, currently secretary of state. Benjamin had served as head of the war department in 1861-62.
- Wednesday, Mar. 16: Alexandria, Louisiana, surrenders to naval forces under the command of Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter.
- Thursday, Mar. 17: William Henry King underscores the elevation of concern in Shreveport as Union forces penetrate deeper into Louisiana:
“This evening we get the intelligence to the effect that Alexandria has fallen into the hands of the Federals. The intelligence occasions a great stir. Thirty volunteers are called for to do temporary service on the gun boat, Missouri. Eleven of the post guard volunteer, but that lacks 19 of the required number. That 19 is not lacking long, for the guard house is called on, & the deficit is made at once. Some of the men were brought in & imprisoned to-day. That is the way it works.”
Back in Washington City, President Lincoln reflects once more on a familiar theme:
“It needs not to be a secret, that I wish success to emancipation in Maryland. It would aid much to end the rebellion. Hence it is a matter of national consequence, in which every national man, may rightfully feel a deep interest.”
- Friday, Mar. 18: Arkansas ratifies a state constitution that eliminates slavery from within its borders.
- Saturday, Mar. 19: Consul Allen passes along word that has reached him of a scheme for Southerners posing as passengers to travel from Bermuda to New York City “for the purpose of shipping on board some of our steamers and capturing them if the opportunity offers or of working themselves into the favor of parties whereby they may be able to destroy government and other property.”
- Sunday, Mar. 20: The C.S.S. Alabama reaches Cape Town, South Africa, as it continues its operations against Union commerce.
- Monday, Mar. 21: Jefferson Davis and a number of well-wishers greet returning prisoners. Of the interesting tableaux, J.B. Jones observes:
“A large company of both sexes welcomed them in the Capitol Square, whither some baskets of food were sent by those who had some patriotism with their abundance. The President made them a comforting speech, alluding to their toils, bravery, and sufferings in captivity; and promised them, after a brief respite, that they should be in the field again.”
Abraham Lincoln embodies the notion of “free labor” that has represented the bedrock of the Republican Party since its inception by explaining to an audience:
“That some should be rich, shows that others may become rich, and hence is just encouragement to industry and enterprize.”
- Tuesday, Mar. 22: From Shreveport, La., King observes:
“Gov. [Henry W.] Allen of this State has issued an order for the conscription of the free negroes of this place. When the Federals received negroes into their army the Southern press, & the Southern people in general, made a great ado about the matter. Now negroes are conscripted in the South, & I reckon that if the South urges any thing against the Federals on that score, it will be the ‘pot saying to the kettle, you are black.’”
- Wednesday, Mar. 23: In the Confederate capital, prices soar and Ordnance Chief Josiah Gorgas terms these domestic conditions, “deplorable. Flour $300 the barrel. A shad costs $35. Turkey 5 to $9 per lb. Beef $5 to 6. Eggs, $7, and so on. How the poor live is incomprehensible. Even meal sells at $30. per bu.”
Edmund Kirby Smith responds to the crisis in his region by issuing Special Order No. 71:
“Shreveport and the adjoining country extending five miles beyond the fortifications, is declared an In-trenched Camp.”
- Thursday, Mar. 24: One of Nathan Bedford Forrest’s subordinates, Colonel William L. Duckworth, achieves a victory at Union City, in a raid in western Tennessee that results in the capture of Tennessee Unionist Isaac Hawkins and some 500 prisoners, with arms and supplies. The operation is already paying dividends in bolstering Forrest’s command and reputation, as well as in producing consternation among the Federals in the region and beyond.
Cump Sherman offers his brother, John, suggestions regarding General Grant:
“Give Grant all the support you can. If he can escape the toils of the schemers he may do some good. He will fight, and the Army of the Potomac will have all the fighting they want. He will expect your friendship—We are close friends. His simplicity and modesty are natural & not affected.”
In his journal, W.H. King writes about the reactions locals have to captives that arrive in their midst:
“Ten Federal prisoners brought in to-day. Five negroes brought in with them, but not taken from among the Federals. While guarding them, many crowded around, and declared the negroes ought to be killed. How inconsistent! It is but natural for them to desire to be free, & if they do nothing but runaway from their masters to obtain their freedom, certainly they do not merit death.”
- Friday, Mar. 25: Forrest’s troopers reach Paducah, Kentucky, where stout resistance by land and water assets inflict a costly setback on the Confederates. Among the dead is Colonel A.P. Thompson, who perishes when he and his men impulsively try to storm Fort Anderson, a key earthwork on the outskirts of the town. That repulse and the heavy fire from two gunboats in the Ohio River, force the Southern horsemen to withdraw after having inflicted such damage as they can under the circumstances.
Saturday, Mar. 26: General Grant is back in Virginia, after consulting with Sherman. He has decided to remain in the East, with the Army of the Potomac, which continues under the command of George Gordon Meade.
- Sunday, Mar. 27: Josiah Gorgas ruminates on his service with the Confederate States of America and the young country’s prospects for the future on this Easter Sunday:
“It is just three years ago to-day since I sent in my resignation in the U.S. Service. Another year of hard struggling will I hope serve to consolidate this Confederacy, & establish its right to enter the family of nations. Then it will I believe rapidly recover from the wounds it has received.”
At Johnson’s Island, Dooley remarks on religious matters and cannot help but take a swipe at his Protestant brethren:
“Beautiful day. In the afternoon the Baptists, who are very numerous in the prison, immerse in the lake about 60 postulants—taking them into the lake up to breast high. . . . Looking at these drenched Baptists reminds me of the village-countryman who one day perceiving an old acquaintance of exceeding bad repute, undergoing a similar operation in the clutches of a Baptist minister, stopped his horse and sang out to the minister ‘I say mister, I don’t wish to interfere with any of your religious ceremonies but if you want to get all the sin out of that fellow, you’d better keep him under a thundering long time.”
Monday, Mar. 28: John Dooley notes new developments for the Confederate prisoners:
“[G]reat excitement around the sutler’s shed this morning. He has opened with a fresh supply. . . . [G]et a pound of butter @60cts.”
- Tuesday, Mar. 29: President Lincoln responds to a sensitive George Meade over the appearance of criticisms concerning his performance at Gettysburg in the New York Herald and the general’s desire for official exoneration of his actions:
“It is quite natural that you should feel some sensibility on the subject; yet I am not impressed, nor do I think the country is impressed, with the belief that your honor demands, or the public interest demands, such an Inquiry. The country knows that, at all events, you have done good service; and I believe it agrees with me that it is much better for you [to] be engaged in trying to do more, than to be diverted, as you necessarily would be, by a Court of Inquiry.”
- Wednesday, Mar. 30: Henri Garidel goes to his office in Richmond as usual, but shortages have limited any personal comforts:
“We had no fire at our house because there was no coal.”
J.B. Jones reports the latest developments:
“Many ladies have been appointed clerks. There is a roomful of them just over the Secretary’s office, and he says they distract him with their noise of moving of chairs and running about, etc.
The papers publish an account of a battle of snow-balls in our army, which indicates the spirit of the troops, when, perhaps, they are upon the eve of passing through such awful scenes of carnage as will make the world tremble at the appalling spectacle.”
- Thursday, Mar. 31: After a long stint on the South Carolina coast and some time in Ohio, Colonel Alvin Coe Voris notes that except for a corporal who had jumped from the train in an alcoholic stupor, the rest of the command arrived safely:
“The men were kept so closely & quietly on the cars that the people of Pennsylvania thought we had a lot of rebel prisoners.”
From Bermuda, Consul Allen provides the latest intelligence report:
“The following steamers have left for Wilmington during the past few days, viz: Steamer A.D. Vance, Captain Wiley, a southern man left of the 26th. Steamer Minnie, Gilpin, an Englishman who has twice been captured left on the 27th.
Captain Beers [of the Greyhound] was formerly in our Navy. He is called the Admiral here and is considered the King of blockade runners. If he is captured he will claim to be an Englishman. . . .
Captain [John N.] Maffit is still here waiting for a steamer. He is drunk the greater part of the time.”
- Friday, Apr 1: Military operations occur from Florida to Louisiana, Arkansas to North Carolina, giving rise to the notion that with spring such activity will continue to increase.
Confederate ordnance chief Josiah Gorgas is guardedly optimistic:
“There is no war news. The bad weather prevents all military operations; and there is no information as to the plans of the enemy. They openly threaten Richmond, but it is Still believed their main attack will be in Georgia.”
The situation is less sanguine in Bristol, Tennessee, where Milton Barrett tells family members of the plight of the men in his unit:
“Tha curtail down our rashings to two thirds of a pound of flour not bolted and 1/3 a pound of bacon. This cose grate dissadisfaction a mong the soldiers. in fack it was barely enuf for one meal per day. Hungry will cose a man to do all most any thing. Tha was severil depperdation committed on the sittuzins property sutch as taken chickens and meat. . . . We all a greede to go to the genral and if he did not give us moar rashings to charge the comasary an take by force. He had us a extray days rashins ishued and got us all sorty pasafide.”
- Saturday, Apr. 2: Light skirmishing again flashes at points across the South.
- Sunday, Apr. 3: Once more Fort Sumter comes under shelling.
- Monday, Apr. 4: Major General Philip H. Sheridan takes the place of David Gregg as commander of the cavalry of the Army of the Potomac.
To Albert Hodges, a newspaper editor in Frankfort, Kentucky, Abraham Lincoln explains the substance of an earlier conversation between them:
“I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I can not remember when I did not so think, and feel. And yet I have never understood that the Presidency conferred upon me an unrestricted right to act officially upon this judgment and feeling. It was in the oath I took that I would, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. I could not take the office without taking the oath. . . . I did understand however, that my oath to preserve the constitution to the best of my ability, imposed upon me the duty of preserving, by every indispensable means, that government—that nation—of which that constitution was the organic law. Was it possible to lose the nation, and yet preserve the constitution? By general law life and limb must be protected; yet often a limb must be amputated to save a life; but a life is never wisely given to save a limb. I felt that measures, otherwise unconstitutional, might become lawful, by becoming indispensable to the preservation of the constitution, through the preservation of the nation. Right or wrong, I assumed this ground, and now avow it.”
In Southampton County, Virginia, a frustrated Daniel Cobb scribbles in his diary:
“A Mr Lark Impressed 1 of my horses for Government[. . . .] Valued at $450 that $1000 Could not buy so we are imposed on[.]”
- Tuesday, Apr. 5: As part of the redistribution of forces, Union colonel Alvin Coe Voris, is in “Camp Distribution, Va.” outside of Washington City. The circumstances afford him the opportunity to venture into the Capital and avail himself of the chance to visit with politicial figures from Ohio, including Senator Benjamin Wade:
“I called on Judge Wade, whom I found in one of the committee rooms. On meeting me he most cordially took me by the hand and greeted me with grave politeness and Senatorial dignity as follows—‘Why Voris I am d—d glad to see you. I am by G-d I am.’ Now dear wife don’t you think I was awe struck with such marks of consideration so elegantly bestowed on my modest self. . . . Judge Wade promised to come to camp & see me. If he does I hope he will not have as hurried a ride back to Washington as he did from the first Battle at Bull Run.”
William T. Sherman offers his brother, Senator John Sherman, his views on matters that range from current military affairs to the state of slavery:
“However much I dislike war for its pains & turmoils I do hope it wont Cease till our People learn to leave to Congress, to the Armies, & to the Courts their appropriate business. The idea that the People through the instrumentality of the Press should supervise these matters which from their nature must be confidential is what brought on us the contempt of all Civilized Peoples.
Too much stress has been laid on the Negro. It is used as a touch Stone, a test. It should not be, but treated as any other minor question. The Negro question will solve itself. The Government of the United States is the Issue. Shall it stand or fall?
We are gradually shaping things for a Grand Campaign. We have a well organized force to our front. . . . Grant is as good a Leader as we can find he has honesty, simplicity of character, singleness of purpose, and no hope or claim to usurp civil Power.”
- Wednesday, Apr. 6: Louisiana’s pro-Union convention meets in New Orleans to produce a new state constitution that will abolish slavery.
- Thursday, Apr. 7: From his camp in London, Tennessee, Emerson Opdycke pauses for reflection in a letter home:
“Two years ago to this day, I was in my first battle on the field of Shiloh. It seems a long time since, but the scenes of that terrible contest of arms are as fresh, as if but a few days old. I would be glad never to repeat them, if the nation could be saved purified from slavery, and firmly established without it; but if more blood must flow, more patriots go down, I feel ready and willing for any fate which God decrees.”
- Friday, Apr. 8: Today is marked in the Confederacy as a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer.
Union major general Nathaniel Prentiss and Confederate major general Richard Taylor confront each other for the second time since the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia in 1862 near Mansfield, Louisiana. An assault by Confederate brigadier general Jean Jacques Alfred Alexander Mouton suffers heavy casualties as the troops attempt to drive the Federals from positions athwart the Old Stage Road, but Union forces retreat from several lines toward Pleasant Hill. In addition to twenty artillery pieces and supplies, U.S. losses in the engagements amount to 113 killed, 581 wounded and 1,541 missing or captured. Confederate casualties stand at approximately 1,000, including General Mouton.
The U.S. Senate moves 38 to 6 to abolish slavery and adopt the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
Josiah Gorgas looks back upon his service for the Confederacy with unrestrained pride:
“It is three years ago to-day since I took charge of the Ord. department of the Conf. States at Montgomery—three years of constant work and application. I have succeeded beyond my utmost expectations. From being the worst supplied of the Bureaus of the War Dept. it is now the best. Large Arsenals have been organized at Richmond, Fayetteville, Augusta, Charleston, Columbus, Macon, Atlanta, & Selma and Smaller ones at Danville, Lynchburg and Montgomery, besides other establishments. A superb powder mill has been built at Augusta, the credit of which is due to Col. G.W. Rains. . . .
All of these have required incessant toil & attention, but have borne such fruit as relieves the country from fear of want in these respects. Where three years ago we were not making a gun, a pistol nor a sabre—a pound of powder—not shot nor shell (except at the Tredegar Works) we now make all these in quantities to meet the demands of our large armies. In looking over all this I feel that my three years of labor have not passed in vain.”
- Saturday, Apr. 9: Banks continues his withdrawal, shaken by the setback of the previous day. His dispositions at Pleasant Hill, Louisiana, contain flaws that General Taylor can exploit. Nevertheless, confusion and a long flanking march by some of the Confederates fail to produce results and cost the Southerners severely in casualties. Banks decides to pull back once more, rather than push against his discomfited opponents. Union forces suffer another 150 killed, 844 wounded and 375 missing or captured. Their opponents set their own losses at 1,200 killed and wounded, with 426 missing.
- Sunday, Apr. 10: The Trans-Mississippi remains active as operations continue under Banks in Louisiana and Union major general Frederick Steele in Arkansas.
From Nashville, Sherman sends Grant a “Private & Confidential” communication:
“I will not let side issues draw me off from your main plan in which I am to Knock Joe Johnston, and do as much damage to the resources of the Enemy as possible.”
- Monday, Apr. 11: Mary Chesnut has been in the company of Varina Davis, who has seemed preoccupied by the likelihood that Richmond will soon come under attack once more, but is currently engaged in more domestic battles:
“Drive with Mrs. Davis and all her infant family. Wonderfully clever and precocious children—but unbroken wills. At one time there was a sudden uprising of the nursery contingent. They fought, screamed, laughed. It was Bedlam broke loose.
Mrs. Davis scolded, laughed, and cried.”
William P. DuBose allows himself to contemplate the possibilities that a new campaign season might offer for peace:
“I have several grounds for hoping that it will be the last of the war, all of them based upon the contingency of Grant’s defeat which I will not allow myself to doubt. The first is that if Grant is defeated they lose their main, & so far as I can see, their last dependence as a general. The second is that failure in his campaign will defeat Lincoln in the approaching election, & perfect the formation of antagonistic parties at the North.”
- Tuesday, Apr.12: Fort Pillow, with a garrison of African American and white Tennessee Unionist troops, falls to forces under Nathan Bedford Forrest. The initial assaults pin the garrison in the works, while the gunboat New Era offers some hope of succor or refuge from the river. The Union commander, Major Lionel Booth, dies while supervising Union artillery fire against Confederate sharpshooters and the authority of the post devolves on Major William Bradford, one of the blue-coated Tennesseans. Despite the disadvantages of the Union position, Forrest fails to obtain the surrender of the fort, and sends in a final assault that overwhelms the defenders. Much of the unnecessary bloodshed occurs below the bluff along the riverbank, where confusion reigns and the sectional and racial antagonisms of the opponents comes significantly into play before killing comes to a stop.
Despite overall success, the Confederates in Louisiana continue to endure significant setbacks. Soldiers under Brigadier General Thomas Green catch Union vessels stranded by low water levels in the Red River at Blair’s Landing, but aside from harassing the crews with covering fire can do no more than threaten the squadron, while suffering the loss of their own commander in the process to return fire.
Kentuckian Edward Guerrant encounters a lonely traveler in East Tennessee, recalling the incident in his journal:
“How I envy the equanimity of that soldier whom I met riding through the pelting rain this evening. ‘Sir,’ said I ‘this is awful weather!’ ‘Yes, the roads are pretty splashy!’ said he. He was a philosopher of the Stoic school, no doubt. Wonder what he would have thought of the [Great] Flood!?”
Michigan surgeon John Bennitt tells his daughter what it is like to be stationed in “this land of Rebels” near McMinnville, Tennessee:
“I say this land of Rebels, for it is said that nearly all the men here voted for secession three years ago. But I think nearly all of them are regretting it; for they see what dire calamities it has brought upon them and their fair land. Very many of the men that formerly lived here have left their homes and are now in the rebel army while others are in the Federal army—others still away from home [as refugees], for fear of being killed by the rebels or compelled to go into their army.”
- Wednesday, Apr. 13: Like others in both North and South, Ned Guerrant speculates about the approaching storm clouds of war:
“Great armies are ‘dressing their lines’ for terrible conflict, and nations hang trembling in the balances of hope & despair in expectation of the result. Every day brings the minutehand near the hour of destiny, when the doom of millions will be struck, in tones of sublime triumph or dark despair.”
- Thursday, Apr. 14: Colonel Opdycke’s speculations about the future come on the heels of a review of his command and amidst the prospects of promotion:
“A new list of Brigadiers will soon be sent in, and my name will be among them. I give but little attention to it, and I shall not feel badly if I never get beyond the eagles. If I can serve my country well and then go home to you feeling that I have done my duty I shall be happy. . . . No one here thinks that our Corps will go east except by way of Atlanta!"
- Friday, Apr. 15: USS Eastport strikes a torpedo or underwater mine on the Red River.
- Saturday, Apr. 16: Near Culpeper, Virginia, Union major Charles Mattocks is thrilled by developments in camp:
“Glorious news today. The Paymaster has been visiting the 17th. Of course I happened around and was
Paid off to March 1.
much to my gratification as I could find but thirty-five cents in my pocketbook. The two months’ pay amounts to $295.”
Things are less favorable in Savannah, Georgia, where a bread riot by local citizens breaks out.
A Confederate device sinks the Union transport General Hunter on the St. John’s River in Florida.
- Sunday, Apr. 17: Suffering from an acute shortage of foodstuffs, Union general Steele orders an expedition of 1,100 men and wagons to depart Camden, Arkansas.
- Monday, Apr. 18: The Union foraging expedition outside Camden meets with difficulty near Poison Spring. As the Federals retreat, some of the Confederates kill a number of incapacitated or captured members of 1st Kansas (Colored) Infantry. Their losses amount to 117 dead and 65 wounded among a total of 301 Union casualties.
From the Mississippi Gulf Coast, New Englander Rufus Kinsley, responds to reports of recent developments on the Mississippi River north of Memphis:
“News of the capture of Fort Pillow, by Forrest, and his massacre and burning of the colored soldiers and their officers. ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay saith the Lord.’”
Abraham Lincoln declares his views on the notion of liberty and asserts his position on the Fort Pillow affair in an address for the Sanitary Fair at Baltimore, Maryland:
“The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. . . .
The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep’s throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as a liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty. . . . Plainly the sheep and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of the word liberty; and precisely the same difference prevails to-day among us human creatures. . . .
A painful rumor, true I fear, has reached us of the massacre, by the rebel forces, at Fort Pillow, in the West end of Tennessee, on the Mississippi river, of some three hundred colored soldiers and white officers, who had just been overpowered by their assailants. . . .
We do not to-day know that a colored soldier, or white officer commanding colored soldiers, has been massacred by the rebels when made a prisoner. We fear it, believe it, I may say, but we do not know it. . . . We are having the Fort-Pillow affair thoroughly investigated; and such investigation will probably show conclusively how the truth is.”
- Tuesday, Apr. 19: The Confederate ironclad Albemarle renders important service near Plymouth, North Carolina. In addition to ramming and sinking USS Southfield, the Southern vessel damages and disperses others, allowing their comrades on land to close on the town. Union brigadier general Henry Wessells holds the town.
- Wednesday, Apr. 20: With assistance from the CSS Albemarle, Confederates forces under Brigadier General Robert Hoke capture Plymouth, with substantial military stores and 2,800 men.
From Bermuda, U.S. consul Charles M. Allen offers a comprehensive list of blockade-runners, including cargos and the conditions of the vessels.
- Thursday, Apr. 21: General Banks remains in retreat in Louisiana.
Former slaves are being brought in from near Port Hudson to the Gulf Coast, as staunch abolitionist Rufus Kinsley notes in his journal:
“Two hundred Contrabands arrived at Cat Island. . . . They are to cut wood and saw lumber.”
- Friday, Apr. 22: Setbacks continue for Union water-borne assets as the gunboat Petrel falls to Confederates in Mississippi.
In Virginia, Major Mattocks records the appearance of a special visitor:
“Today our Corps was reviewed by Lieut. Genl. Grant. It was a very fine affair. This is the first time we have had the chance to see the hero and conqueror of twenty-two battles. He is a very plain, unassuming man, but we hope that he is the man who has so long been needed in the brave ill-starred Army of the Potomac.”
President Davis advises Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk on the matter of captured black Union troops who can be identified as once having been enslaved:
“If the negro soldiers are escaped slaves, they should be held safely for recovery by their owners.”
- Saturday, Apr. 23: Guerrant responds to word of Forrest’s success in Kentucky and Tennessee and the psychological impact this will likely have in Union ranks:
“Forrest will soon be as terrible as Stonewall Jackson!”
Cump Sherman references Bedford Forrest as well to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton as testimony begins to be gathered on Fort Pillow:
“I know well the animus of the Southern Soldiery, and the truth is they cannot be restrained[.] The effect will be of course to make the negros desperate. . . .
I doubt the wisdom of any fixed Rule by our Government, but let [the] Soldiers affected make their Rules as we progress. . . . The Southern Army, which is the Southern People cares no more for our Clamor than the idle wind, but they will heed the Slaughter that will follow as the natural consequence of their own inhuman acts.”
- Monday, Apr. 25: General Taylor still hopes to trap Banks and close the ill-fated Union Red River Campaign with a Confederate flourish. Federal troops managed to evade a strong position and continue on to Alexandria.
In the meantime, Confederates under brigadier generals James F. Fagan and Joseph “Jo” Shelby confront a Union force of 1,600 men and 240 wagons at Marks’ Mills. The Union commander falls wounded and the rout of his command forfeits 1,300 Union prisoners and the wagon train.
A caustic Robert G.H. Kean reacts to reports that the Confederate government may relocate:
“It was Bragg’s plan I think. . . . The scheme would have been, and will be whenever tried, a miserable failure. Besides, so large a population cannot be transferred to other points. They could not be subsisted elsewhere as easily as they can be here. The idea was worthy of the hero of Missionary Ridge!”
- Tuesday, Apr. 26: The crew of the USS Eastport destroys their troubled vessel.
After serving with James Longstreet in the West, Thomas J. Goree and his chief are back in Virginia, anticipating decisive events in the struggle for Southern independence. From Gordonsville, Goree writes home:
“There is pretty general rejoicing, Mother, that we are back again in the noble old Army of Northern Virginia, but as far as I am concerned, I should have much preferred that we had been allowed to make a Kentucky campaign. I think it would have been better. However, we ag. constitute a part of the greatest of all armies under the leadership of the greatest living chieftain, and if we can succeed in inflicting on Grant a crushing defeat, it will do much towards bringing about a speedy peace. . . . [All] feel great confidence in the result. The army is in fine spirits and in splendid condition.”
As a relatively newly-minted captain, Edward Bacon has arrived at Beaufort, South Carolina, with the 29th Connecticut Infantry (Colored). He writes home to tell of the already sweltering conditions of the new billet:
“I have several times within the last two weeks essayed to write to you, but the exceeding pressure of Company & other business which attends an officer in a colored regiment more than any other, has each time prevented my success.
We are still employed in getting to rights our camp which promises to be a very nice one and in which I shall probably spend the next year of my life. . . . I suppose the sand is as fine & sifting and the flies which live there as numerous & annoying at one post in our Department as at another. . . .
The excessive heat & the prospect of a permanent residence here almost induces me to ask you to pack up my white clothes [from earlier service in the navy].”
- Wednesday, Apr. 27: A constitutional convention opens in Annapolis, Maryland.
- Thursday, Apr. 28: President Davis informs Edmund Kirby Smith of his view on the latter’s authority in the isolated Trans-Mississippi theater:
“As far as the constitution permits, full authority has been given to you to administer to the wants of your Dept., civil as well as military.”
- Friday, Apr. 29: War Clerk John Beauchamp Jones observes the ominous developments of the impending campaign season:
“Troops are passing through Richmond now, day and night, concentrating under Lee. The great battle cannot be much longer postponed.”
- Saturday, Apr. 30: Edmund Kirby Smith drives his men relentlessly through rain and over deteriorating roads. The Union troops improve the roads as best they can, while engineers construct a pontoon bridge across the Saline River at Jenkins’ Ferry. Smith’s men strike, but are unable to prevent the Federals from crossing and dismantling the bridge behind them, preventing further pursuit. Casualties in the affair are approximately 700 U.S. and 1,000 Confederate.
On the eve of Spring campaigning, Abraham Lincoln sends Ulysses Grant a message to express his “entire satisfaction with what you have done up to this time, so far as I understand it. The particulars of your plans I neither know, or seek to know. You are vigilant and self-reliant; and, pleased with this, I wish not to obtrude any constraints or restraints upon you. . . . If there is anything wanting which is within my power to give, do not fail to let me know it.
And now with a brave Army, and a just cause, may God sustain you.”
Jefferson Davis returns to the question of slavery in wartime from the Confederate perspective, telling General Polk:
“Captured slaves should be returned to their masters on proof and payment of charges.”
Davis’s 4-year-old son, Joseph Evan “Joe” Davis, plummets from the outside balcony of the Confederate executive mansion in Richmond, and shortly perishes from the effects of the fall onto the brick pavement below.
John B. Jones watches as troop movements continue unabated:
“[T]he work of concentration goes on for a decisive clash of arms in Virginia.
And troops are coming hither from all quarters, like streamlets flowing into the ocean. Our men are confident, and eager for the fray.”
Ned Guerrant responds to word of Nathan Bedford Forrest’s death, but expresses confidence in fellow Kentuckian Abraham Buford, who has been serving under the famed cavalryman:
“There is also a distressing rumor of the death of Genl. Forrest, the hero of West. Tenn. & K’y. We hope & believe it is untrue. Genl. Buford is said to be in West’n Ky, & proclaim his ability & intention to hold it. One good Abe!”
- Sunday, May 1: William T. Sherman sends his daughter, Minnie, a letter as he contemplates the action that is shortly to come:
“This is Sunday, May 1st. and a beautiful day it is. I have just come from a long ride over my Old Battle field of November 25th which is on a high Ridge about four or five miles from Chattanooga. The leaves are now coming out, and the young flowers have begun to bloom. I have gathered a few which I send you in token of my love, and to tell you I gathered them on the very spot where many a brave man died for you, and such as you.”
To his wife, Cump notes that he has sent bouquets to the girls, “and if any ill fate attend me in this, they will remember me by that. The weather is beautiful, and the Army is in fine condition. I did expect to have back more of the furloughed veterans, but it takes more time for them to assemble from their homes than we military minds calculate. . . .
Tomorrow I will be off & may not write for some time, but the telegraph will announce the result of our first Stops.”
In the border region of Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky, Edward Guerrant finds the climate less receptive to notions of blooming flowers and greening trees:
“It feels more like Christmas Day than May Day! December than May!
It suggests to me that Western Virginia seasons run thus:
Winter months—October, November, December, January, February, March, April, May.
Summer months—July & August!
Confederate war bureau chief Josiah Gorgas notes the sad state of affairs in the Confederate capital in the aftermath of the tragedy in Jefferson Davis’s family:
“We attended this afternoon the funeral of one of the Presidents little boys (Joe), who was killed yesterday evening by a fall from the back piazza. . . . The President is very much attached to his children & very caressing toward them, and this is a heavy sorrow to him. Last winter I once saw him take this little fellow off to hear him say his prayers as he went to bed.”
- Monday, May 2: The first session of the Second Congress of the Confederate States convenes. President Jefferson Davis offers an assessment on “the state of the country” in his opening address:
“You are assembled under circumstances of deep interest to your country, and it is fortunate that, coming as you do newly elected by the people and familiar with the condition of the various localities, you will be the better able to devise measures adapted to the wants of the public service without imposing unnecessary burdens on the citizens.”
- Tuesday, May 3: President Abraham Lincoln has reached a position on the Fort Pillow affair, which he communicates in a memorandum to his Cabinet:
“It is now quite certain that a large number of our colored soldiers, with their white officers, were, by the rebel forces, massacred after they had surrendered, at the recent capture of Fort-Pillow. So much is known, though the evidence is not yet quite ready to be laid before me. Meanwhile I will thank you to prepare, and give me in writing your opinion as to what course the government should take in the case.”
In Virginia, Major Charles Mattocks of the 17th Maine records:
“Everything indicates that we shall move at midnight. We are all ready, and men and officers carry eight days’ rations.”
From Johnson’s Island, Confederate prisoner of war John Dooley observes:
“My last letter home was destroyed by the Yankee official who deemed it contraband to say that I looked for peace very soon. The envelope was returned to me marked ‘contraband.’ I wonder if the ignoramus ever saw a dictionary. If so, I’m sure it was Webster’s.”
From Bermuda, U.S. Consul Charles Maxwell Allen continues to keep Secretary of State William Seward informed of potential Confederate plots:
“A large number of passengers, mostly Southerners, have recently gone from here to Halifax, and other places in the British Provinces. Many are still here without any ostensible business, their expenses being paid by Major Walker, the Confederate agent.”
- Wednesday, May 4: The U.S. House of Representatives passes the Wade-Davis Bill.
Ned Guerrant records the essence of Davis’s address to the new Congress:
“Paper contains a synopsis of Presidents Message to Congr. Short. Says no hope of foreign interference. Must fight it out ourselves.”
Despite the other concerns that demand his attentions, Robert E. Lee issues General Orders, No. 38:
“The great importance of protecting the agricultural interests of the country induces the commanding general to repeat the orders heretofore issued on the subject of preventing the injury or destruction of private property, and to require of all officers a vigorous enforcement of them during the coming campaign.”
- Thursday, May 5: Fighting begins in the Wilderness as George Meade offers Ulysses Grant his assurances concerning their vaunted opponent:
“If he is disposed to fight this side of Mine Run at once, he shall be accommodated.”
The Army of the James reaches Bermuda Hundred and City Point with 40,000 men poised to strike toward the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad under Benjamin Butler.
After receiving a request from President Lincoln for reviewing a decision on the removal of citizens, Sherman replies:
“We have worked hard with the best talent of the country & it is demonstrated that the railroad cannot supply the army & the people too. one or the other must quit & the army don’t intend to unless Joe Johnston makes us. . . . I will not change my order and I beg of you to be satisfied that the clamor is partly a humbug & for effect, & to test it I advise you to tell the bearers of the appeal . . . to relieve their suffering friends on foot as they used to do before a railroad was built. Tell them they have no time to lose.”
Scrawling on paper “In bivouac on the slope of a Georgia Hill, 8 miles from Dalton,” Emerson Opdycke writes his wife Lucy to tell her that he has seen his commander, who shared a letter recently received from James Garfield:
“G. says that ‘The Army of the Potomac seems perfect in all it’s appointments, but the habit of being beaten is a bad one’. Thinks greatest honors must rest upon the Western Armies; and that the fate of the Republic seems to depend upon the present campaigns.
I enclose you a Georgia wild flower, it is pretty and fragrant. The weather is charming, roads perfect, and the troops resolved.”
Union and Confederate vessels, the latter including the ironclad Arkansas, clash in North Carolina waters. Little more can be accomplished by either side than an exchange of fire and the recapture of the steamer Bombshell from the Southerners.
Constituting the most positive feeling, Mary Mallard asserts to Mary Jones from Atlanta:
“We all fear the next terrible struggle, and I trust our people will not be so lifted up by our recent successes as to be led to vainglory and forgetfulness of our merciful Heavenly Father, the source of all blessings. . . . No one seems to apprehend any danger for this place, for falling back is not General Johnston’s policy.”
- Friday, May 6: Union troops push Confederates from Tunnel Hill, Ga.
The fighting between Lee and Grant has cost the Federals 2,246 killed, 12,037 wounded and 3,383 missing or captured as opposed to total Confederate losses of 7,500, but the numbers represent significant attrition for the Army of Northern Virginia that it cannot easily recover, including the wounding of James Longstreet.
Grant reacts to the harrowing engagement that has been the Wilderness by continuing to consider the ways that he can move forward against Lee, telling his aid, Horace Porter, as they pour over a map together:
“I do not hope to gain any decided advantage from the fighting in this forest. . . . I can certainly drive Lee back into his works, but I shall not assault him there; he would have all the advantage in such a fight. If he falls back and entrenches, my notion is to move promptly toward the left. This will, in all probability, compel him to try and throw himself between us and Richmond, and in such a moment I hope to be able to attack him in a more open country, and outside of his breastworks.”
The normally pious Guerrant holds out hope for what Robert E. Lee can accomplish against Ulysses Grant:
“Genl. Lee’s rough, war-worn hand is laid mightily upon the early blooming laurels of the victor at Donelson & the besieger of Vicksburg! and they wither and perish in his grasp.
If that page be so, the great idol & hero of the lionizing, foolish North, is ‘damned to everlasting fame,” & his blasted name is added to the . . . catalogue of McDowell, Scott, McClellan, Pope, Burnside, Hooker, & Meade!”
Now a prisoner, Charles Mattocks, finds himself relieved of “a nice new poncho, but, before the wise [Southern] youth got his clutches upon this same article the former, and only genuine, proprietor, had easily managed unobserved to make a few damaging incisions with his pocket knife, the better to impress upon the youth the fact that stolen blankets will leak. I do not wish to be revengeful, but should he chance to lie down with this same blanket for protection in a rain storm, I would not wish to interfere with the course of nature, which perhaps might cause a few refreshing drops of water to pass through the holes I made.”
Benjamin Butler sends troops toward the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad, hoping to disrupt the line supporting the Confederate capital.
- Saturday, May 7: Butler’s men seize Port Walthall Junction.
War clerk John Beauchamp Jones notes the degree to which Richmond remains on edge awaiting developments:
“But there is more anxiety manifested to-day. . . .
5 P.M. The tocsin is sounding, for the militia, I suppose, all others being in the field. It is reported that the attack on Drewry’s Bluff, or rather on our forces posted there for its defense, has begun.
There is now some excitement and trepidation among the shopkeepers and extortioners, who are compelled by State law to shoulder the musket for the defense of the city, and there is some running to and fro preliminary to the rendezvous in front of the City Hall.”
Union brigadier general Samuel Sturgis expresses his profound regret in not having forced Nathan Bedford Forrest into an engagement, telling his superior in Memphis, Tenn.:
“Although we could not catch the scoundrel we are at least rid of him, and that is something.”
From Bermuda, Consul C.M. Allen reports on increased Confederate activity:
“The steamer Index, before reported by me as supposed to have been lost at sea has arrived here on the third instant from Wilmington with 770 bales [of] cotton. She now has her outward cargo on board and will leave here today. She has some large guns on board. . . .
Some twenty vessels laden with coal are now afloat here, and there is now landed at this port of Saint George’s some thirty to thirty five thousand tons of coal for the use of the Confederates and blockade runners. There is no doubt they expect to do a large business here the coming summer. Eight vessels with coal from Cardiff arrived during the past week, report says from fifty to sixty more are on the passage here now.”
- Sunday, May 8: After the harsh struggle in the Wilderness finally subsides, the opposing forces converge on Spotsylvania Court House, Va.
Charles Mattocks is on his way southward:
“At 2 o’clock this afternoon we started by cars for Lynchburg, which is to be our stopping place for some time. They talk of sending us to Georgia subsequently. We prefer that to the ‘Hotel de Libby’ at Richmond.”
Along the route, the prisoners experienced an unexpected treat:
“The young ladies at the Seminary at Charlottesville, seeing us coming on the cars, took us for Confederate soldiers, and began to rush down across the fields toward us, scaling fences with more celerity and vigor than feminine modesty would dictate or allow perhaps under ordinary circumstances. On they came, a perfect avalanche of petticoats and crinoline, waving handkerchiefs and screeching like mad, when suddenly they discovered that they were making all this ado about a few ‘Yankee prisoners,’ ugh!! Such screeches and such skaling of fences I never saw, and such skedaddling back. They surpassed the Rocky Mountain Sheep. It was now our turn to cheer and yell, which we did as much to their disgust as it was to our own delight.”
The number of Union prisoners at Camp Sumter/Andersonville has reached 12,213.
- Monday, May 9: James McPherson moves through Snake Creek Gap, but fails to sever the rail line that will cut off Johnston at Dalton.
Emerson Opdycke is “In the midst of a sharp skirmish, On ‘Rocky Face Ridge’ 11:30 A.M.” when he pauses to send another message to his wife about his latest activities:
“The Ridge is five hundred feet high, twice as difficult of ascent as Mission Ridge, and then only a narrow back bone of boulders to move upon, after reaching it.
In Virginia, Major General John Sedgwick dies when a Confederate sharpshooter’s bullet finds him after he had declared definitively to men he found crouching to avoid small arms fire, “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance.”
Of the situation in Central Virginia, a member of the Stonewall Bridge observes simply, “Wonder what General Grant thinks of Mister Bob today? Here he is right in his way to Richmond.”
P.G.T. Beauregard arrives at Petersburg to defend this region against Butler’s Bermuda Hundred Campaign.
Butler presses the Confederate lines behind Swift Creek in Virginia. A Confederate counterattack fails, but the Southerners enjoy greater success at nearby Fort Clifton.
A sharp engagement occurs at Cloyd’s Mountain between 6,500 Union troops under Brigadier General George Crook and 2,400 Confederates under Brigadier General Albert G. Jenkins. The Southerners sustain 538 casualties, including Jenkins, who will lose an arm and his life. The Federals suffer the loss of 688 men.
Confederate major general Stephen Dill Lee assumes command of the Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana.
- Tuesday, May 10: Emory Upton’s troops penetrate the Confederate defenses at the “Mule Shoe” salient at Spotsylvania. The brutal fighting ends as John B. Gordon seals the breach and Lee’s harried veterans throw up new lines to confront their foes and limit their gains.
Brigadier General Robert Ransom attacks Union troops defending the rail line at Chester Station, Va.
In southwestern Virginia, Brigadier General William W. Averell threatens Wytheville and its vital lead production, but Brigadier General William E. “Grumble” Jones repulses the effort at Cove Mountain.
- Wednesday, May 11: Union and Confederate cavalry clash at Yellow Tavern. In the swirling combat, Jeb Stuart suffers a critical wound to the lower extremities that will doubtless prove mortal.
Josiah Gorgas notes the atmosphere in Richmond:
“The day has been one of the greatest excitement. I slept but a few hours last night having been called up by messages, and kept awake by the ringing of alarm bells & the blowing of alarm whistles the most of the night. At 5 this morning I went to Mr. [James] Seddon’s office and found him laboring under the impression that the last hours of Richmond were at length numbered. The entire cavalry force of Meade’s army were reported to be rapidly approaching the devoted city from the direction of Ashland, with Stuart at their heels it is true, but having a good deal the start of him.”
- Thursday, May 12: J.B. Jones notes the lamentable weather—“Thunder, lightning, and rain all day”—as well as the news of the famed “Bold Cavalier’s” fate:
“Major-Gen. J.E.B. Stuart was wounded last evening, through the kidney, and now lies in the city, in a dying condition! Our best generals thus fall around us.”
“Bloody Angle” enters the lexicon for Spotsylvania as Union and Confederate troops vie with each other for control of a relatively limited stretch of breastworks. Losses for the bluecoats will approach 6,800 and not much less for their grayclad counterparts. One Confederate sums the frustration he and his comrades face in U.S. Grant: “We have met a man this time, who either does not know when he is whipped, or who cares not if he loses his whole Army.”
Benjamin Butler sends Major General William F. “Baldy” Smith toward Drewry’s Bluff. The move is meant, in part, to divert Confederate attention from a cavalry raid against the Richmond and Danville Railroad under Brigadier General August Kautz.
Joseph Johnston has awakened to the threat that a turning movement poses to his strong works in the Dalton area, opting to withdraw from them.
From Atlanta, Mary Mallard remains optimistic, if beginning to show a hint of concern:
“We will be in a dreadful predicament should General Johnston be unsuccessful or be compelled to fall back, but no one seems to contemplate this. All have the utmost confidence in his skill.”
- Friday, May 13: At 9:00 A.M. Oliver O. Howard’s men occupy Dalton.
Butler tries additional probing with Major General Quincy Gillmore’s command.
In Richmond, War clerk Jones observes of the unsettling conditions:
“Most of the Members of Congress, when not in session, hang about the door and hall of the War Department, eager for news. But the wires are cut in all directions, and we must rely on couriers.
General Bragg is very distasteful to many officers of the army; and the croakers and politicians would almost be willing to see the government go to pieces, to get rid of the President and his cabinet. Some of the members of Congress are anxious to get away, and the Examiner twits them for their cowardice. They will stay, probably.”
Judith McGuire recalls the last moments of General Stuart as recounted to her, drawing inspiration from it while recognizing the sense of loss the Confederacy is experiencing:
“Thus passed away our great cavalry general, just one year after the immortal Jackson. This seems darkly mysterious to us, but God’s will be done. The funeral took place this evening, from St. James Church. My duty to the living prevented my attending it, for which I am very sorry; but I was in the hospital from three o’clock until eight, soothing the sufferers in the only way I could, by fanning them, bathing their wounds, and giving them a word of comfort.”
Nathaniel Banks pulls out of Alexandria, La., leaving behind much of the town as a smoldering ruin.
- Saturday, May 14: Union troops probe Confederate lines near Resaca, Ga.
- Sunday, May 15: Fighting continues near, Resaca as the two sides grapple with each other, searching for an advantage. Union surgeon John Bennitt passes word of casualties among the officer ranks in the regiment to his wife: “13 of 19th Mich killed—& 68 wounded—10 Dangerously 8 Seriously—30 painfully not Seriously—18 Slightly. Col. [Henry] Gilbert Dangerously, Capt [Charles] Calmer killed, Capt. [Samuel] Hubbard slightly. . . . About 600 of 3rd Div wounded & killed.”
The combat here has produced 2,747 Union and approximately 2,800 Confederate casualties.
In the Shenandoah Valley, Confederate troops under John C. Breckinridge confront Union forces under Franz Sigel at New Market, Va. Cadets from the Virginia Military Institute join the fray. Sigel retreats with 93 killed, 482 wounded and 256 missing or captured to 42 killed, 522 wounded and 13 missing for their adversaries. The VMI element has lost 10 killed and 47 wounded among their number.
J.B. Jones offers an assessment of the state of race and war in the Confederate capital:
“Most of the able-bodied negro men, both free and slave, have been taken away—in the field as teamsters, or digging on the fortifications. Yet those that remain may sometimes be seen at the street corners looking, some wistfully, some in dread, in the direction of the enemy. There is but little fear of an insurrection, though no doubt the enemy would be welcomed by many of the negroes, both free and slave.”
- Monday, May 16: At 9:00 A.M., George Thomas’s men advance into Resaca and begin to repair the crossing of the Oostanaula River.
Fighting occurs around Drewry’s Bluff, Va., as Beauregard launches attacks to keep his opponents off-balance. William H.S. Burgwyn records his participation in dramatic tones:
“About three hundred yards from our breastworks and fearing that the enemy fire and the bad ground might throw them into confusion, I seized the colors of the 51st North Carolina Regiment and called on the men to follow. Running in advance I came in about three hundred yards to the enemy’s first line of rifle pits or breastworks made of rails, logs, etc. Mounting them and waving the colors I jumped on the other side and pushed forward closely followed by the men. . . .”
- Tuesday, May 17: Confederate defenders appear ready to make a stand at Adairsville, Ga., but after a period of exchanging fire, Johnston determines that the position is not suitable for defense and falls back once more.
In Richmond, Judith McGuire reports:
“For some days the cannon has been resounding in our ears, from the south side of the James River. Colonel [James] Garnett has come in to tell us that for the first two days there was only heavy skirmishing, but that on yesterday there was a terrific fight all along the lines. Yesterday a brigadier, his staff, and 840 men, were lodged in the Libby Prison.”
- Wednesday, May 18: Sturgis laments over his lack of success in forcing a confrontation with Nathan Bedford Forrest to Sherman:
“My little campaign is over, and I regret to say that Forrest is still at large. . . . I regret very much that I could not have the pleasure of bringing you his hair, but he is too great a plunderer to fight anything like an equal force, and we have to be satisfied with driving him from the State.”
Undoubtedly, as Sherman advances in Georgia he will not be so easily satisfied, especially when Sturgis adds that Forrest will likely “turn on your communications. . . but I see no way to prevent it from this point with this force.”
Brigadier General Joseph Mower covers Banks’ retreat at Yellow Bayou, La.
- Thursday, May 19: Lee is aware that Grant is considering another flanking movement and sends Ewell’s corps to verify his suspicions. The Southern troops encounter Union forces, largely composed to men who had served as heavy artillerists around Washington City and now act as infantry. The fighting is heavy, as attested by 1,500 Union and 900 Confederate casualties.
Joseph Johnston wants to strike at Sherman near Cassville, Ga., but missteps by John Bell Hood negate the opportunity.
Mary Mallard assesses the progress of the armies in Georgia:
“Our army has been steadily falling back for a week past in order to gain good fighting ground and a position that cannot be flanked. The men are in the highest spirits, and express the utmost confidence in General Johnston. . . . Our army has had continued skirmishing—or rather it ought to be called a succession of small battles; and in every instance the Yankees have been handsomely repulsed with great slaughter. . . . Already about two thousand five hundred wounded have been brought down.
The relief committees from this place, Macon, Alabama, Florida, and elsewhere have all come up, and are very active in their attentions to the wounded. They seem to be provided with almost everything. . . . Poor fellows, they seem so glad to get it.”
- Friday, May 20: General Orders, No. 44, circulate from Army of Northern Virginia Headquarters, lamenting the loss of Jeb Stuart:
“Among the gallant soldiers who have fallen in this war General Stuart was second to none in valor, in zeal, and in unfaltering devotion to his country. His achievements form a conspicuous part of the history of this army, with which his name and services will be forever associated. . . . To his comrades in arms he has left the proud recollection of his deeds, and the inspiring influence of his example. R.E. Lee, General.”
Mary Mallard continues to put the best face on the otherwise disturbing developments in Georgia:
“Of course it is an anxious time with us all, and a time for earnest prayer. If General Johnston is victorious, the Yankees must suffer terribly. All think he is able and will follow up any advantage he may gain.
- Saturday, May 21: Major General David Hunter replaces Franz Sigel as commander of the Department of West Virginia.
Alvin Voris tells his wife:
“My boys took Major Gen. [William S.] Walker yesterday, breaking his leg so as to require amputation. I have his sword as a trophy of the fight. I will send it to you as soon as opportunity offers.”
In Marietta, Ga., Mary Robarts is decidedly worried about the advancing Union tide:
“The army is now on this side of the Etowah River. The families from above are fleeing before the enemy—the streets filled with all sorts of vehicles, people moving their property of all kinds . . . . And the stampede has commenced in Marietta: streets filled with movables, neighbors packing and going off.
My dear cousin, we were constantly assured the Yankees would never get here!
But, oh, those horrid Yankees! How can I see them enter this place and live?”
- Sunday, May 22: Sherman shifts away from the strong position Johnston has taken up at Allatoona Pass, rather than threaten it directly with assault.
From Hanover Junction, Richard Ewell writes his wife, Lizinka:
“You see we are coming nearer—not because Grant drives us but because while keeping up a show in front, he tries to dodge around us. He got the start yesterday, but by marching all night & this morning I am again in front & the rest of the army well up.”
Off Brazos, Texas, U.S.S. Stingaree switched flags three times as the Confederates first captured, then lost her.
- Monday, May 23: After the protracted combat at Spotsylvania, Lee is in position at the North Anna River to strike at Grant if an opportunity presents itself.
Braxton Bragg orders Major General Fitzhugh Lee to proceed to Wilson’s Wharf, where Butler has detailed a number of African American troops and “break up the nest.” By 4:00 PM, Lee is on his way with 2,500 men to accomplish the mission.
U.S.S. Columbine falls to Confederates in Florida.
- Tuesday, May 24: In the morning, General Lee testily confronts A.P. Hill on his apparent failure to prevent Union forces under Gouverneur Warren from crossing the North Anna: “General Hill, why did you let those people cross here? Why didn’t you throw your whole force on them and drive them back as Jackson would have done?”
Then in the afternoon, Lee is stricken with gastrointestinal issues that confine him to his tent. He knows that his acute distress is particularly ill-timed, given the configuration of the opposing forces at the North Anna River. But, all he can do is groan, “We must strike them a blow. We must never let them pass us again. We must strike them a blow.”
In the confused fighting that characterized this phase of the Virginia campaign, a Union soldier watches as Confederates close on his position. “What is it Jack?” he asks of a comrade. “Legs or Richmond?” The men promptly choose to allow Richmond to wait for another time as they scramble for the rear.
Fitzhugh Lee’s force reaches Wilson’s Wharf at mid-day. Earthworks and the Union gunboat Dawn suggest the difficulty of the encounter for the grayclad horsemen. Lee attempts to effect a surrender, but Brigadier General Edward Wild declines: “Take the fort if you can.” Following the repulse of attacks and the arrival of Union reinforcements, the Confederates break off the assault and retire.
Colonel Voris assesses the Bermuda Hundred Campaign in which he has been a participant:
“I am fearful that Gen. Butler is a failure, nor is this to be wondered at. He has had no military experience in the field. His operations in the early stages of the war were not of such a sort as to develop skill & ability for operations of the kind undertaken by his army. That he has acquired reputation as a General is true, but it has been rather on account of administrative ability connected with civil than military matters. To me it is singular that the War Department should entrust to such a Gen the supreme command of as important an enterprise as this against whom it could only have expected the best talent of the Confederacy must be arrayed, fortified by the practical experience of three years’ service in the field. It was easy to gain reputation in the earlier stages of the war. The blunders & want of experience of our commanders was overlooked by equally blundering and inexperienced tyros in the Confederacy. But it is not so now. . . .
We are virtually besieged on the little isthmus known as Bermuda Hundred.”
- Wednesday, May 25: Major General Joseph Hooker confronts the Confederates at New Hope Church, Ga. in the mistaken belief that John Bell Hood’s men represent the Army of Tennessee’s flank. Racked by fire from Major General A.P. Stewart’s troops and Southern artillery, the attacks crumble as the losses mount. A thunderstorm underscores the nature of the combat that has left some 1,600 Union and 350 Confederate casualties.
Grant pulls back from his exposed position at North Anna, and determines his next flanking movement.
Also in Virginia, Ordnance Chief Josiah Gorgas watches events unfold in Georgia with thinly veiled disdain:
“Johnston verifies all our predictions of him. He is falling back just as fast as his legs carry him. . . . Where will he stop heaven only knows.”
- Thursday, May 26: The Territory of Montana is formed.
Dick Ewell takes a moment to remind his wife that he has not forgotten the first anniversary of their marriage before turning to other matters:
“We are still in juxtaposition with the Yankees—mutually watching—they entrenched so strongly as to make it impossible to attack any part of their lines on this flank, while they are equally afraid to come against us. This will probably continue untill they take advantage of darkness to past across our flank when we will be forced to move back again to get in their front. We are getting too near Richmond for this to continue much more & one side or the other will have to change tactics & go at it ‘hammer & tongs.’ The idea of their reaching Richmond is too terrible to think of. . . .”
After keeping his wife informed of his progress following a severe wounding on May 14, Emerson Opdycke lets her know that he is back in command of his troops, “’In line’, awaiting the Conflict, near Dallas”:
“Our great army is moving into positions for a battle. Skirmishing is going on briskly and the balls whiz over our heads frequently. . . . My arm is doing admirably, but I have not much use of it yet.”
- Friday, May 27: Union troops endure a vicious pounding in the thickets and ravines of Pickett’s Mill, Ga. Major General Patrick Cleburne’s men inflict the greatest damage, costing the Federals 1,600 men against 450 casualties of their own.
- Saturday, May 28: The third engagement in this phase of the Atlanta Campaign, Dallas, Ga. becomes the scene of a bloody Confederate repulse when Brigadier General William Bate hurls his men against the trenches of James McPherson’s bluecoats. Inflicting only about 380 casualties on the Federals, Bates’s men suffer over 1,000 in the setback.
Opposing cavalry forces clash at Haw’s Shop, Va., producing 344 Union and 400 Confederate casualties.
- Sunday, May 29: In the wake of the combat at Dallas, Michigan doctor William Bennitt recounts the losses in his regiment, but concludes:
“Our men are feeling what it is to be soldiers now—May God spare us this kind of experience long.”
Josiah Gorgas summarizes the fate of the Federal’s Red River Campaign and the supply situation in the Confederacy:
“From the Red River we hear that Banks has escaped with most of his army and fleet. The latter was Saved by building a dam across the river below the falls & then raising the water so that the vessels could float out over the rapids where they were caught by the low water. If our boats had been so caught, we should simply have blown them up.
Trains laden with corn are constantly arriving. The fear of Starvation has therefore nearly subsided. Four vessels have arrived thro’ the blockade at Wilmington.”
Emerson Opdycke relates a conversation between his men and opposing troops from Louisiana:
“Our boys asked ‘When are you going to ‘light out’ of here?’ Rebs replied ‘Lighting out, is played out; we’ve got our place now,’ and they chatted together pleasantly for some time.”
P.G. T. Beauregard is concerned that fraternization has reduced the effectiveness of his command and that a refocusing on matters of military order and discipline is necessary:
“It having been reported to these headquarters that our pickets and skirmishers have allowed those of the enemy to advance to within a very short distance of our lines, and that the pickets of the two lines are becoming too familiar, it is hereby ordered that no communication whatever should be had between our pickets and those of the enemy. The latter must be fired upon whenever they are seen within range of our guns; due precaution, however, being taken to prevent a waste of ammunition. . . . This order is dictated by a stern military necessity, as the forbidden practice affords positive advantages to the enemy in procuring information and directing his force; but even if this necessity did not exist, the commanding general still deeply deplores the moral disgrace incurred by his troops in anything like voluntary or unnecessary association with the savage foes who are not only warring against us, but persecuting our women and children, and destroying private property. The hands of such a foe are unworthy the friendly or courteous touch of a Confederate soldier.”
- Monday, May 30: Union pressure continues in the area of Totopotomoy Creek in Virginia. His fighting blood up once more, Lee recognizes that dramatic steps must be taken to turn back the Union thrust toward Richmond.
Robert Garlick Hill Kean comments on relationships in the highest echelons of the Confederate government:
“There is a stir in our cabinet. [Secretary of the Treasury Christopher] Memminger is said to have handed in his resignation. . . . Mr. Seddon is much disgusted with his position. In a conversation, a friend told me yesterday that he complained heavily that the President was the most difficult man to get along with he had ever seen. If the President cannot get on with a man as smooth and yielding as Mr. Seddon, nobody can please him.”
- Tuesday, May 31: Since the beginning of the month, the armies of Lee and Grant have engaged each other almost incessantly in the Overland Campaign. The combatants have now reached the vicinity of Cold Harbor, Va., east of Richmond.
- Wednesday, June 1: The opposing armies confront each other in the vicinity of Old Cold Harbor. One of the men impacted on this day is Captain William H.S. Burgwyn of North Carolina:
“We had not charged but about fifty yards (and I in front of the 51st Regiment and near the colors) when I received a tremendous blow which struck me I thought about the knee making me fall like an ox and suffering intense pain. . . . About 11:00 p.m. Dr. Tamill, Division Surgeon, and Dr. Morrisey, Brigade Surgeon, put me under the influence of chloroform and probed and dressed my wound which they told me had struck about one-half inch below the right knee planing the bone and passed out making a painful but not dangerous wound. . . . Was struck about 7:00 p.m. while charging and driving the enemy.”
Union cavalry under George Stoneman skirts the principal lines and seizes the critical Allatoona Pass, opening the more traditional line of approach for Sherman along the Western and Atlantic Railroad toward Kennesaw Mountain, Marietta and Atlanta.
Louisiana exile Henri Garidel despairs of the fate of the Confederate capital as Grant closes on the city:
“The enemy is nine miles from Richmond. . . . . The cannon fire was over, but Richmond is still on the alert and alive with movement. People are preparing themselves. I think we will soon be overrun by Yankees, and if the Yankees take Richmond, two-thirds of the population will take the oath. That’s my opinion.”
- Thursday, June 2: The forces continue to solidify their positions at Cold Harbor, while Sherman is on the move in Georgia. In the Valley of Virginia, William E. “Grumble” Jones is preparing to face David Hunter.
President Lincoln grants Charles H. Jonas a three week parole from the prison camp at Johnson’s Island to visit his dying father in Illinois.
- Friday, June 3: Cold Harbor enters the pages of bloody assaults in a war replete with them as Ulysses S. Grant unleashes an attack that he hopes will penetrate and destroy Robert E. Lee’s defenses. But the Southern troops are well entrenched, protected by obstructions and head-logs against just such a Union thrust. The effort opens at 4:30 A.M. and quickly devolves into a vicious storm of shot and shell that cuts men down in droves. Some 7,000 Federals will be lost before Grant determines that the attempt cannot succeed and calls off the attacks at noon.
At the same time that Grant tests the Confederate works at Cold Harbor, Abraham Lincoln forwards his unequivocal support for his general and the strategy he is employing to win the war:
“My previous high estimate of Gen. Grant has been maintained and heightened by what has occurred in the remarkable campaign he is now conducting; while the magnitude and difficulty of the task before him does not prove less than I expected. He and his brave soldiers are now in the midst of their great trial. . . .”
From Richmond, Louisiana refugee Henri Garidel awaits developments:
We went to mass to the sound of horrible cannonading. The battle has been going on since 4:30. It is really frightening to hear it.”
Federal troops are in Acworth, Georgia, pushing closer toward Atlanta.
Confederate raiders capture the Union vessel Water Witch, on the Georgia coast.
- Saturday, June 4: It is raining in Georgia, but Joseph Johnston must react to the latest of Sherman’s moves. He shifts his line to prepared defenses on Lost, Pine and Brush (Brushy) mountains in an effort to continue to block his adversary’s approach.
Josiah Gorgas rides out to examine the battlefields and entrenchments outside Richmond, concluding that the Confederate soldiery has begun to display a different attitude when it comes to self-preservation:
“They have acquired quite a respect for this sort of intrenchment, & work like beavers when they take up a new position. They began the war with a contempt for the Spade, but now thoroughly believe in it.”
Riding with John Hunt Morgan into Kentucky, the weather presents the greatest challenges for the moment to Edward O. Guerrant and his comrades.
“Day woke with tears in her eyes & soon commence crying good.
Our journey lay 30 miles down the everlasting ‘Troublesome.’ It was a Troublesome Creek, a Troublesome Way, a Troublesome Journey, a Troublesome Troublesome! AWFUL travelling on our horses. Stopped a moment at Forks of Troublesome to see our column properly formed.
After great difficulty & hard travelling—which broke down dozens of horses, we stopped for the night at Mrs. Holladay’s a war widow, or one who husband is ‘I don’t know where’—i.e. Yankee Army.”
U.S. Consul Charles M. Allen reports to his government on Confederate blockade-running activities in Bermuda, noting particularly:
Steamer Lynx arrived today from Wilmington with 600 bales of cotton, having been chased by a U.S. gunboat and having thrown overboard about 100 bales cotton.”
- Sunday, June 5: Heavy fighting characterizes the attempt by Grumble Jones to stop David Hunter’s advance at Piedmont. With a smaller force, Jones can only hope to achieve his goal, but is killed in the engagement that ends with the rout of his command and the loss of some 1,600 men, the bulk of whom become captives. Hunter’s men suffer 780 casualties, but now have an open road to Staunton.
Elsewhere in the region, Ned Guerrant is finding the indications of the hard warfare of the border areas.
“On Troublesome passed a burning house, where [Thomas] Chenoweth’s men had been after a bushwhacker.
We have been compelled to take most everything to eat, meat & meal that we have found on our line of march. Our rations are out & tonight some of our Battns. are without food & poor prospect of any tomorrow.”
Daniel William Cobb is experiencing a different aspect of the war in Southampton County, Virginia:
“The Crual war has reduced our Table to no Shugar & Coffee no flower. No flesh for brexfast & Supper only Meats for Dinner, & Curtailed other things also My wife falts & Grumbles at me heavy about the preshure of the war scarsety in madness[.]”
Charles Mattocks sits in a prison camp in Macon, Georgia, admittedly a long way from his prewar home in Maine and from Richmond, where he was captured:
“One month ago today I bid farewell to liberty. One month ago we were 800 miles away [from Georgia], battling with the enemy near the Rapidan. . . . In prison life ‘drags its weary length along.’ It is a rare place for character to discover itself. . . .
For the past week I have been more dead than alive, with an attack of ‘Prison Fever,’ very similar to the illness a recruit in the army has to go through.”
In Louisiana, William Henry King, reads news of recent developments in Georgia:
“Another Extra is out to-day from which I learn that Gen’l Johnston has fallen back to Atlanta, Georgia, but is certain of an overwhelming victory. Yes, our reporters and news mongers are always ‘certain’ of some grand achievement whether it be achieved or not. I have great confidence in Gen’l Johnston, but I fear this is one ‘chicken counted before it hatched.’”
- Monday, June 6: Josiah Gorgas contemplates Grant’s options as he sees them:
“Grant seems inclined to try a passage of the Chickahominy at Bottom’s bridge. What good that would do him is the question. It brings him further from instead of nearer to Richmond. He is now as near as he ever will be, I trust. Getting over to Butler & taking Petersburgh from below City Point might annoy us, but would hardly advance his object. I think he is at his wit’s end.”
- Tuesday, June 7: The National Union Convention meets in Baltimore, Maryland, to select a slate and establish a platform for the coming fall presidential election.
In southeastern Virginia, farmer Cobb continues to focus on his production, while keeping an eye on the progress of the war near Richmond.
“4 ploughs going. . . . My hoe hands finished han thining my Cotton & gorn to weading Corn. I finished shering sheap at 10.”
- Wednesday, June 8: Lincoln’s name receives the nod for a second term in office as president. The military governor of Tennessee, Andrew Johnson, will assume the vice presidential slot for this ticket. Current occupant Hannibal Hamlin has support at the convention, but the vote moves in Johnson’s direction and he secures the nomination.
Morgan captures Mount Sterling, Kentucky, but the action turns into something of a bank robbing spree as much as it has a martial firefight.
The losses of wartime become personal for Edward Guerrant as he receives word of the death of his brother to disease:
“Marshall Guerrant dead! Dead!—The tears of a brother suffuse my eyes when I write that name, & try to realize that all that was noble, & generous & manly, once answering to it, has sunk beyond my gaze forever! O my brother, my brother! A grief deeper than the fountains of tears, and the power of language wrings my heart for thee!”
The news is difficult for Daniel Cobb as well:
“I hurd from Lees Arm to day Lee has drove Grant 12 miles back to White House 1 killed & 3 woundes of Com a 13 Vir Calv J Drewey Killed Capt Wills shot threw the Loongs Asbury Cobb slight wound of the wrist Holland in leg it Cut off Cruell times.”
- Thursday, June 9: Lincoln responds to the notification of his renomination:
“I will neither conceal my gratification, nor restrain the expression of my gratitude, that the Union people, through their convention, in their continued effort to save, and advance the nation, have deemed me not unworthy to remain in my present position.”
Pondering a plank in the platform regarding a Constitutional amendment abolishing slavery, the President adds:
“When the people in revolt, with a hundred days of explicit notice, that they could, within those days, resume their allegiance, without the overthrow of their institution, and that they could not so resume it afterwards, elected to stand out, such amendment of the Constitution as now proposed, became a fitting, and necessary conclusion to the final success of the Union cause.”
Lincoln exhibits his usual sense of humor in a communication to a delegation from the National Union League:
“I have not permitted myself, gentlemen, to conclude that I am the best man in the country; but I am reminded, in this connection, of a story of an old Dutch farmer, who remarked to a companion once that ‘it was not best to swap horses when crossing streams.’”
From his headquarters at Acworth, Georgia, William T. Sherman tries to allay the concerns of the “young lady” who plans to marry his friend and trusted subordinate, James McPherson, that he is too consumed with the war to pay appropriate attention to her:
“His rise in his profession has been rapid steady and well earned, not a link unbroken, not a thing omitted. Each step in his progress however has imposed on him fresh duties that as a man and a Soldier and still more as a Patriot he could not avoid.
There is no rest for us in this war till you and all can look about you and feel there is Peace & Safety in the Land. God purifies the atmosphere with tempests and Storms which fall alike upon the just and unjust, and in like manner he appeases the jarring Elements of political discord, by wars and famine.
Be patient and I Know that when the happy day comes for him to Stand by your side as one Being identical in heart & human Existence you will regard him with a high respect & honor that will convert Simple love into Something sublime & beautiful[.]”
Sherman also takes the occasion to write his own wife, suggesting that everything is proceeding according to his larger vision:
“Johnston may fight us at the Ridge of hills just this Side of Marietta, but I think I can dislodge him and this will leave the Great Battle on or near the Chattahoochee the passage of which he must dispute. . . . He thinks he checked us at Dallas. I went there to avoid the Alatoona Pass, and as soon as I had drawn his Army there I Slipped my Cavalry into Alatooma Pass & moved the main army in its front a perfect success. I never designed to attack his hastily prepared works at Dallas and New Hope Church, and as soon as he saw I was making for the Railroad around his Right flank he abandoned his works and we occupied them for a moment and moved by the best Roads to our present position. We have captured several of their mails and it is wonderful to See how the soldiers talk of driving me back to the Ohio, and their returning to their Loving families in Tennessee and Kentucky. I fear they Count without their host. . . .
But of course the Real Battle is not yet fought—when it does come I will take good care to have it a big & decisive one.”
A quick thrust by Quincy Gillmore at Petersburg ends when former governor and Confederate brigadier general Henry Wise pulls together enough “old men and young boys” to hold the powerful Dimmock Line. The effort produces 52 casualties for the Federals and 75 for Wise’s defenders.
- Friday, June 10: The Confederate Congress expands the age range for military service to seventeen and fifty.
In Mississippi, Nathan Bedford Forrest wins perhaps his finest victory as he confronts Samuel Sturgis and Ben Grierson at Brice’s Cross Roads. Fighting amongst the fields and blackjack thickets, the Confederate cavalryman presses the Union horsemen and then routs their infantry compatriots in the hard-fought contest. Of 8,000 men, Sturgis will count casualties of 223 killed, 394 wounded, and 1,623 captured or missing, as well as the loss much of his artillery and most of his wagons. Forrest will tally 96 killed and 396 wounded of his own, but he has driven a more numerous foe from the field in disorder, shattering the boasts that Sturgis made earlier of defeating him soundly.
Jaded by a type of warfare and changes in society that he struggles to comprehend fully, Ned Guerrant writes of John Hunt Morgan’s raid into his native Kentucky:
“Robbed Lexington. Pillaged Lexington. Lexington defended by negro troops against white plunderers.
The ‘bumming’ process has greatly demoralized all the men, one corps by participation, another by association. (I do not altogether exculpate our 1st Brigade from this general charge of burglary, but we were so far eclipsed by professional thieves of the 2d. Brigade, that we surrendered all claims to comparison).
I was so thoroughly disgusted & shamed by my association with such a command that I resolved to sever my connections with it at the earliest opportunity.”
- Saturday, June 11: Morgan’s men fight their way into Cynthiana, Kentucky, capturing some 300 Union troops, while at Trevilian Station in Virginia, Philip Sheridan’s troopers engage their counterparts under Wade Hampton and Fitzhugh Lee. In the meantime, David Hunter continues to ravage, turning his torches to the structures at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington.
CSS Alabama reaches Cherbourg, France, hoping to refit for future operations against Northern shipping interests.
- Sunday, June 12: In a bold move designed to end the bloody stalemate in Virginia, the Army of the Potomac crosses the James River.
Fighting continues at Trevilian Station where Sheridan’s inability to break through Hampton’s lines convinces him to reconsider his effort to join David Hunter in the Valley. Sheridan’s losses in the effort have amounted to 102 killed, 470 wounded and 435 missing to total Confederate casualties set at 612.
William T. Sherman is “in an old house” located “In the Field, Big Shanty Geo.” He notes his disappointment that he could not force battle upon Johnston “in the Oostenaula Valley between Dalton & Resaca, but McPherson was a little overcautious, and we cannot move vast armies of this size with the rapidity of thought or of smaller bodies.” Still, he expects to fight Johnston soon. “We must have a terrific Battle, and he wants to choose & fortify his ground.”
War and the movement of his armies nevertheless have a profound effect on the local citizenry, although Sherman must still concern himself with threats to his attenuated and vulnerable supply line:
“The Country is stripped of cattle, horses, hogs, and grain, but there are large fine fields of growing oats, wheat and corn, which our horses & mules devour as we advance. Thus far we have been well supplied, and I hope it will continue, though I expect to hear every day of Forrest breaking into Tennessee from some quarter. Jno. Morgan is in Kentucky but I attach little importance to him or his Raid, as we dont draw anything from Kentucky, and there are plenty of troops there to capture & destroy him. Forrest is a more dangerous man. I am in hopes that an expedition sent out from Memphis on Tupelo, about the 1st of June will give him full employment.. . . Johnston is now between me and Marietta. As soon as these Clouds and Storms clear away I will study his position and determine to assault his Line or turn it and force him back of the Chattahoochee. As long as I press him close and prevent his sending anything to Lee I fulfill my part of the Grand Plan. In the mean time Grant will give Lee all the fighting he wants until he is sick of the word.”
- Monday, June 13: Troops are on the move in Virginia and Georgia, North Carolina and Kansas. Jefferson Davis can only promise to send help where he can to seemingly everyone in the Confederate States, including in answer to calls from Edmund Kirby Smith in the Trans-Mississippi, but words and intentions must be bent to realities as the Confederacy strains its resources to respond to the myriad threats it confronts.
- Tuesday, June 14: The day is overcast in North Georgia as Joseph and Leonidas Polk leave their respective headquarters to convene on Pine Mountain, where they have been requested to survey the situation in order to determine if a repositioning of troops is required. The cluster of officers attracts the attention of General Sherman and Union artillery across the way. Although his compatriots manage to put themselves out of immediate danger, Bishop Polk is not so fortunate and a round smashes into him, killing him instantly. An emotional Johnston remarks, “I would rather anything than this.”
In the early afternoon, General Grant informs President Lincoln of his intentions after the bloody fighting in Virginia:
“Our forces will commence crossing the James to-day. The enemy show no signs yet of having brought troops to the south side of Richmond. I will have Petersburg secured, if possible, before they get there in much force.”
The USS Kearsarge arrives off the coast of France to watch the Alabama.
- Wednesday, June 15: Late in the day, Union troops under Major General Dan Butterfield clash with Confederates under Patrick Cleburne at Gilgal Church. The Irish Confederate’s soldiers punish their blue-clad opponents, producing some 200 casualties at minimal cost to themselves. Among the assaulting Federals is Colonel Benjamin Harrison of the 70th Indiana.
Grant’s hopes of rolling through the Petersburg defenses rest with Major General William F. “Baldy” Smith. His corps strikes the thinly held lines, pushing the Confederates back and capturing several batteries and approximately a mile of earthworks in the vaunted Dimmock Line. Nevertheless, against all odds, Beauregard holds on grimly, awaiting the arrival of reinforcements.
President Lincoln hastens a response to General Grant on word of his latest dispositions:
“Have just read your despatch of 1 P.M. yesterday. I begin to see it. You will succeed. God bless you all.”
- Thursday, June 16: Major General Winfield Scott Hancock reaches Petersburg with his command to relieve Smith and renew the offensive.
Speaking before the Great Central Sanitary Fair in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania:
“That Grant is this evening, with General Meade and General Hancock, of Pennsylvania, and the brave officers and soldiers with him, in a position from whence he will never be dislodged until Richmond is taken. . . .”
- Friday, June 17: At Petersburg, Union pressure continues as Major General Ambrose Burnside adds his corps to the weight of the forces threatening to overrun the Southern lines.
The favorable circumstances that appear to prevail at Petersburg prompt Secretary of War Edwin Stanton to announce the capture of the city.
At Lynchburg, Virginia, a defensive force under John C. Breckinridge holds against threatening Union troops until 9,000 veterans from Robert E. Lee’s army under Lieutenant General Jubal Early can arrive to bolster their numbers. General Hunter opts to withdraw in the face of the works and his reinforced opposition.
In Georgia, Confederate brigadier general Daniel Reynolds maintains his diary entries despite the other duties that prevail:
“Skirmishing along the lines during the day. At 10 p.m., left the works and moved back to the top of Big Kennesaw. I left the 9th Arkansas behind to bring up the rear. I placed my men in one rank and connected my left with Ector’s right between Big and Little Kennesaw. I made my headquarters on the south face of Big Kennesaw and about 50 yards from the summit.”
- Saturday, June 18: The Confederates have given ground, but still hold at Petersburg. Final Union assaults gain nothing further. Just as he had done a year earlier at Vicksburg, Ulysses Grant will have resort to other methods to achieve success in Virginia.
During the night the Confederates drop back to Kennesaw Mountain.
General Reynolds notes:
“Placed my men in line some 50 yards below the crest of mountain and commenced to fortify with rocks, etc. . . . Could get no tools to work with.”
Sherman complains to Grant regarding his own command:
“My Chief source of trouble is with the Army of the Cumberland which is dreadfully slow. A fresh furrow in a ploughed field will stop the whole column, and all begin to intrench. I have again and again tried to impress on Thomas that we must assail & not defend. We are the offensive, & yet it seems the whole Army of the Cumberland is so habituated to be on the defensive that from its commander down to the lowest private I cannot get it out of their heads.”
From South Carolina, Emma Holmes laments the loss of Bishop Polk:
“He was a grand old hero and an immense loss to church & country.”
- Sunday, June 19: Kearsarge sinks Alabama off the coast of Cherbourg, France. A yacht lkying nearby to witness the events carries the Confederate cruiser’s skipper, Raphael Semmes, to safety.
Abraham Lincoln reassures his wife in New York that their son Tad has returned to Washington “safely, and all well.”
Emerson Opdycke writes his wife from “Under the Rebel guns at Kenesaw Mt. Ga.”
“Our lines are now close up to Kenesaw Mountain, which is nearly as high as Lookout and runs South; we are pressing the enemy sharply, skirmishing constantly. This is rough soldering. . . . The sacrifices that are now being made for Justice, and Right, can never be fully written out; but God knows, and the Right must triumph in the end.”
Confederate general Reynolds and his opponents remain active on the Kennesaw line:
“Enemy shelled our line today. But one casualty in brigade. At 11 p.m., got some tools and the men worked busily the remainder of the night on their works. On yesterday and today could see nearly all the movements and dispositions of the enemy. We have a good telescope, several field glasses, and have an excellent view of all the country for miles around the mountain on every side, including both armies and Marietta.”
Ned Guerrant has finally returned with the remnant from Morgan’s ill-fated foray into Kentucky:
“Started early, followed Martin’s Fork to it’s source & crossed the Cumbd. Mountain at Pennington’s Gap, the broadest, roughest gap I ever saw. We were three hours at least crossing this terrible mountain, and when we touched Virginia’s sacred & renowned soil beyond, we falt like singing a triumphal song of deliverance, as Moses & Miriam sung so sublimely on the banks of the Red Sea! Every heart thanked God, that he had brought us safely out of Kentucky, back to old Virginia, where at least we could lie down & sleep.”
- Monday, June 20: President Lincoln has his eye on the Copperhead movement in the mid-west, informing Governor John Brough of Ohio and General Samuel P. Heintzelman:
“Both of you have official responsibility as to the U.S. Military in Ohio, and generally—one, in organizing and furnishing, the other in directing, commanding, and forwarding. Consult together freely, watch Vallandigham and others closely, and, upon discovering any palpable injury, or imminent danger to the Military, proceeding from him, them, or any of them, arrest all implicated. Otherwise do not arrest without further order; meanwhile report the signs to me from time to time.”
The U.S. President is not the only individual to worry concerning fires in the rear. Confederate bureaucrat Robert G. H. Kean observes in his diary:
“A curious secret society has made its appearance in North Carolina, traitorous in nature. . . . It has oaths, grips and signs. The essence of the thing is to betray your country in order to preserve yourself and your property. A similar thing has been discovered in Alabama.”
Charles M. Allen reports from his station:
“The following blockade running steamers are now in this port of St. George’s, and intend to leave during the old of this moon for Wilmington. Edith, Lynx (had been on the coast of Wilmington and returned), Boston, Old Dominion (new), Little Hettie (new). Atalanta, City of Petersburgh and Mary Celestia.
Most all the steamers from Wilmington arriving here report having been chased by our gunboats.”
Something of an old-fashioned cavalry engagement involving charges and flashing sabers occurs between Robert Minty and Joseph Wheeler at Noonday Creek in Georgia.
- Tuesday, June 21: President Lincoln visits with Grant at City Point, and tours the lines at Petersburg. Alvin Voris is among the mass of soldiers who note the presence of their commander-in-chief:
“Noon. President Lincoln has just passed my quarter. I hear the boys still cheering way to the left. He looks better in the field than in the White House.”
Johnston shifts John Bell Hood’s 11,000-man corps from the Confederate right flank to the left along the Powder Springs Road to contest Federal moves along that route.
President Davis accepts the resignation of his embattled secretary of the treasury, Christopher Memminger. He is sympathetic—“I knew the extreme difficulty of conducting the Treasury Department during the pending struggle.”—but he has felt the necessity of making a change.
- Wednesday, June 22: At 5:00 P.M., convinced that he has an advantage over approaching Union forces, Hood launches an assault in the area of Peter Valentine Kolb’s Farm. The gray-clad troops endure a devastating crossfire as they try to press forward. With decimated ranks and no genuine prospect for success, Hood halts the advance and reckon with the cost of the failed venture.
Surgeon John Bennitt is in a field hospital “not far from Marietta Ga.” when the fighting erupts. He tells his wife:
“Our hospital at that time was very near the line of battle, and yester at dinner time, indeed before we had eaten, & when it was all ready, word was sent us that in order to drive the rebels back from a certain point, a battery must be planted so close by us that if the rebels replied to it the shells would fall into our hospital & that it would be necessary to move. Accordingly, we stopped everything and in twenty minutes had our whole hospital of 40 wounded & 80 sick men with all the tents in the wagons and on the move & in two minutes more shells were bursting over the place we left.”
In Virginia, Major General William Mahone smashes the divisions of Brigadier General Francis Barlow and Major General John Gibbon, securing 1,742 prisoners.
Daniel Cobb listens to the sounds of battle traveling across the miles from Petersburg to his farm in Southside Virginia:
“They was a heavy & continual Cananading all day in the direction of Pburgh The most severest I’v yet hurd.”
In the meantime, James Harrison Wilson is on the move to threaten the South Side Railroad near Burkeville. Wilson cannot accomplish permanent damage, but proves his mettle as a fighter.
- Thursday, June 23: Hunter’s Union raiders are pulling off in the direction of West Virginia, while other cavalry operations continue.
President Lincoln returns to Washington from his visit with Grant and the troops in front of Petersburg.
- Friday, June 24: Sheridan suffers a setback in Virginia, while in the distant Trans-Mississippi, Jo Shelby takes on Union vessels, taking and destroying the Queen City.
Recognizing the broad spectrum of the war, Emma Holmes notes:
“The same grand game of chess is going on in upper Georgia, while Forrest has given them a checkmate in another part of the board [at Brice’s], killing & capturing many more men than he carried into battle, besides 250 wagons, heavily laden & other valuables.”
Saturday, June 25: Grant’s efforts to capture Petersburg quickly having fallen short, he turns to another tack that he had employed at Vicksburg: the digging of a tunnel that can be packed with explosives and detonated at a propitious moment to aid in an assault.
Edward Guerrant eavesdrops on religious services. “Church full of women & hO-O-O-Ops! Heard the preacher out of the window. Most men prefer listening thro’ the window.”
- Sunday, June 26: There is more fighting West Virginia, while Early reaches Staunton with his 14,000-man command.
Orville Browning records in his dairy Lincoln’s recent visit to General Grant and a conversation between the two of them that reflects the soldier’s determination: “you Mr. President, need be under no apprehension. You will never hear of me farther from Richmond than now, till I have taken it. I am just as sure of going into Richmond as I am of any future event. It may take a long summer day, but I will go in.”
From Bermuda Hundred, Alvin Voris is not nearly so sanguine of success:
“Two months ago I hoped that the 1st of July would see the successful end of this campaign, but I now look into the future with no hope that we are able to take Richmond by storm, and have doubts about our being able to do it by strategy, the latter course evidently being Gen. Grant’s present plan. The South are relatively stronger today than they were when the war was commenced.”
Still recovering from his recent exertions, Guerrant is in Abingdon, Virginia:
“Saw Genl. Morgan at his office. . . . Morgan is a clever man, but don’t admire him as a General. Always treated me with great consideration & kindness.”
Federal cavalry raiders find their access to the Staunton River Bridge blocked by a determined force which prevents them from damaging or destroying the critical span.
William Henry King has time for newspapers on a Sunday in Louisiana:
“An Extra (this is a time favorable for Extras—suppose the editors find it profitable) of yesterday furnishes some encouragement, though I shall feel anxious until I hear that either Johnston has whipped Sherman, or Lee has whipped Grant, & I scarcely expect to hear either.”
- Monday, June 27: On this day, Sherman will try to shorten the campaign to take Atlanta by breaking through the stout defenses at Kennesaw Mountain. Planning the assault for 8:00 A.M., he expects a feint or demonstration against Big Kennesaw, while a thrust is made at Pigeon Hill and the main attack directed at what will become known as Cheatham Hill. A bombardment opens the action, with minor initial successes against the pickets at Pigeon Hill, but that attack soon bogs down against stiffened resistance. Although the Confederate line features a salient at a critical point on Cheatham Hill, the position is hardly weak or vulnerable and the men of Ben Frank Cheatham and Patrick Cleburne pummel the attackers with heavy and persistent fire. Despite his losses, Sherman considers continuing the offensive, when George Thomas insists, “Another such attack will use up this army,” and Cump relents.
President Lincoln notifies members of the Committee of the National Union Convention:
“The nomination is gratefully accepted, as the resolutions of the convention, called the platform, are heartily approved.”
- Tuesday, June 28: In his continuing dismantling of the old order regarding slavery, Abraham Lincoln approves a measure that repeals the fugitive slave acts.
King observes in his diary the news from afar:
“Hear the Federals were driven back from Petersburg, Virginia, by the Militia & ‘dead heads.’ The expression, ‘dead heads,’ is both current & significant among the soldiers. By it is meant those who have some position, or office that is of no utility to the Confederacy, but created solely for their benefit—to keep them from active duty. . . we judge the tree by the fruit it actually yields, not by what it pretends to yield.
- Wednesday, June 29: Secretary of the Treasury Salmon Chase offers his resignation from the cabinet, assuring the President, “I shall regard it as a real relief if you think it proper to accept it.”
General Kautz finds his way back to Union lines blocked by Confederates under General William Mahone at Reams Station. The Federal horsemen jettison their wagons and other impedimenta and take a wide circuitous route to make good their escape from the Southern guns.
- Thursday, June 30: Lincoln’s rocky association with Secretary Chase ends:
“Your resignation of the office of Secretary of the Treasury, sent me yesterday, is accepted. Of all I have said in commendation of your ability and fidelity, I have nothing to unsay; and yet you and I have reached a point of mutual embarrassment in our official relation which it seems can not be overcome, or longer sustained, consistently with the public service.”
Consul Allen offers a very detailed report from his station:
“Sailed June 20th Lynx, Mary Celestia and Atalanta for Wilmington. The Index left the same day for London, being considered too slow to make another attempt to get into Wilmington.
The Edith was released from quarantine on the 21st and sailed on the 23rd for Wilmington. City of Petersburgh and the Old Dominion sailed on the 25th.
The Rouen left on the 28th. My information leads me to think she will attempt to get into Charleston.
The Little Hettie sailed on the 29th. After leaving the harbor she struck the rocks and stove a hole in her bow, filled forward and sunk. She will not run the blockade at present, if ever, as she cannot be fully repaired here and it is doubtful if she can be put in a fit state to go from here at all.”
- Friday, July 1: William Pitt Fessenden assumes the post of Secretary of the Treasury, vacated by Salmon Chase.
Emerson Opdycke finds a few moments to write a letter home from, “Before Marietta Ga.”:
“I wrote my last to you on the 27th of June, the same evening of our assault on the rebel works at Kenesaw Mountain. The loses of my gallant regiment were then but partially known. We had ten killed and forty-two wounded. No regiment lost so heavily, and not one strictly obeyed orders but the noble 125th Ohio. Had all done as well, the attack must have succeeded, and Johnstons Army been routed.”
From City Point, Virginia, Ulysses Grant takes up a question of leadership concerning Benjamin Butler with Henry Halleck after the Bermuda Hundred Campaign has become bottled up and thus rendered relatively ineffective:
“Whilst I have no diff[i]culty with Gen. Butler, finding him always cle[ar] in his conception of orders, and prompt to obey, yet there is a want of knowledge how to execute, and particularly a prejudice against him, as a commander, that operates against his usefulness. . . .
As an administrative officer Gen. Butler has no superior. . . .
I regret the necessity of asking for a change in commander here, but Gen. Butler not being a soldier by education or experience, is in the hands of his subordinates in the execution of all operations Military.”
President Jefferson Davis calls for his ordnance chief, Josiah Gorgas, to visit with him in order to display a Confederate-made sword that he has recently received:
“He opened the conversation by saying as he took the sword to hand it to me ‘Col. I find my conversations with you have more reason & less politics than any others.’ He likes to talk of matters purely military, especially about guns etc. which he used to pay much attention to as Secy of War under Mr. Pierce.”
Saturday, July 2: General Grant’s attention to detail includes a source of sustenance on the hoof for his troops located nearby. He sends a telegram to General George Meade with instructions:
“Please detail One hundred & fifty men as an additional guard for the General Herd of Cattle now numbering some 3000 and being grazed or directed to be grazed on the James River near Coggins Point.”
After dark, Johnston evacuates his Kennesaw Mountain position, despite hard-won victories there, as once more Sherman’s troops have flanked the Southern line.
Sunday, July 3: On the Virginia Peninsula, Alvin Coe Voris, reacts to the change at the top of the Lincoln administration:
“We were much surprised to learn this morning that Secy Chase had resigned and that his resignation had been accepted by the President. He loses in Secy Chase the ablest member of his Cabinet. . . .
I believe that the demagogues about the Capital compelled Gov Chase to resign. The people entrusted them with responsibility of acting for them either as Legislators or executive officers. They have used their influence to break down a most valuable man struggling under the almost insupportable weight of the finances of the Government, instead of supporting him, because they dared not do what they knew to be their duty for fear of offending the people who hold the votes.”
Monday, July 4: Union prisoner of war Charles Mattocks enjoys such celebrations of the occasion as can be had until the authorities at Macon Prison put the festivities at a halt. He notes a trade he has made with a “Reb. speculator” and the relative value of such goods and services. Then he adds an ominous observation:
“Of late the authorities have got into a big scare about their beloved prisoners and have brought three more pieces of artillery to bear upon us. They now have 6 field pieces ready to pour in the grape and canister. Men sleep by the cannon every night, and the sentinels, although overworked, are most always wide awake enough to fire at, if not to hit, an escaping prisoner. Two of our officers however, got out the other night by crawling under the fence where the drain runs through. The sentinels fired at but missed the second one.”
Self-described exile from New Orleans, Henri Garidel, observes a personal anniversary:
“Today it has been one year since I arrived in Richmond. One year since the fall of Vicksburg. The day announced pompously in the North as the day Grant is supposed to take over Richmond and dine here. There are many wagers in the North about this. . . . We shall see.”
Tuesday, July 5: Lieutenant General Jubal Early begins crossing the Potomac River into Maryland, with 14,000 men.
Even with the movement of Confederate troops toward Maryland, Ulysses Grant remains upbeat, telling his banker:
“You people up North now must be of good cheer. Recollect that we have the bulk of the Rebel Army in two grand Armies both besieged and both conscious that they cannot stand a single battle outside their fortifications with the Armies confronting them. The last man in the Confederacy is now in the Army. They are becoming discouraged, their men deserting, dying and being killed and captured every day. We loose to but can replace our losses.”
President Lincoln suspends the writ of habeas corpus and declares martial law in Kentucky as the state that began the war with neutrality and has never left the Union, but is experiences growing turbulence, citing support by “many citizens of the State of Kentucky [who] have joined the forces of the insurgents” or offering “aid and comfort furnished by disaffected and disloyal citizens of the United States residing therein, [tha] have not only greatly disturbed the public peace but have overborne the civil authorities and made flagrant civil war, destroying property and life in various parts of that State. . . .”
From Petersburg, Mississippian Will Nelson offers his perspective on developments:
“Affairs at this point are now extremely dull, Grant’s advance upon Richmond, seems to have dwindled down to a siege of Petersburg, if indeed it can be called a siege, when we have free access to all the country back of us. it is true all the R.Rds have been cut, but the Road to Richmond and beyond to Charlottesville etc. has been repaired and the others soon will be. The Yankees can never capture Richmond, or defeat Gen Lee, by destroying Rail Roads they may subject us to inconvenience, and for a time debar us from the privilege of hearing from home, but that is not crushing the Rebellion.”
Noting the effects of war already on the community, Nelson explains:
“when we first came here, I attended church, and there was quite a large congregation of ladies in attendance. Day before yesterday I went again, and there were only two ladies present, and our church was I believe the only which was opened at all, and here the services were held in the basement, in view of the fact that the shells were falling in the immediate neighborhood, but none struck the church, and I thought the services more impressive than I had ever witnessed before. . . .”
Wednesday, July 6: The first of Early’s men reach Hagerstown as the remainder complete the Potomac crossing.
Alvin Voris deplores the call to the front of men who had bargained only to serve for a short time in the rear-areas:
“This plan of using the state militia for a hundred days to the front will make many peace men. They affect to feel sold, said they did not agree to leave the state when they joined the militia, and when they consented to go for the hundred days they were told it was for garrison or guard duty, but the idea of going to the front, digging rifle pits, throwing up breastworks & forts, doing picket duty under the guns of the rebs, and above all to be put where they must fight if the ugly rebs forced a fight never entered their heads. . . .
The poor fellows count the days they have to serve with as much care and accuracy as do our poor convicts in the penitentiary. . . . Their time of service is too short to make the man accommodated to the life and discomforts of the soldier. When Nov comes I am thinking ma[n]y of them will vote the peace ticket. . . .”
Emerson Opdycke pauses“On the banks of the Chattahoochee, And in sight of Atlanta!”
“Last evening Col. Moore and myself climbed a hill a few hundred feet high and Atlanta was in sight! (it is about ten miles distant). I assure you the ‘Gate City’ looked very inviting. We shall doubtless accept the invitation before a great while.”
At prison in Macon, Georgia, Charles Mattocks, enjoys news of Joe Johnston’s discomfort via the rumor mill and observes how some of the men pass the time in captivity:
“Some of our officers manage to amuse themselves hugely with cricket, base ball, fencing, etc., although there is but little room in this little four-acre yard for 1400 men to live and play ball in the bargain. Yet they keep at it. Some, however, are continually gambling—even on the Sabbath. The want of authority and discipline is daily becoming more apparent.”
Thursday, July 7: Confederates are active at James Island outside Charleston, South Carolina.
Jefferson Davis reiterates his concern for Atlanta to Joseph Johnston. No more help will be coming and the situation remains desperate, but the Confederate President implores his general to hold the line at the Chattahoochee River.
Horace Greeley sends a communication to the White House suggesting that a meeting might be arranged at Niagara Falls on the Canadian border with persons who are supposed to have access to Jefferson Davis for the purpose of discussing a possible peace:
“I entreat you, in your own time and manner, to submit overtures for pacification to the Southern insurgents which the impartial [person] must pronounce frank and generous. . . .
Mr. President, I fear you do not realize how intently the people desire any peace consistent with the national integrity and honor. . . .”
Friday, July 8: President Lincoln decides not to sign the Wade-Davis Bill on the grounds that he considers himself “unprepared, by a formal approval of this Bill, to be inflexibly committed to any single plan of restoration,” especially in light of actions already taken in Arkansas and Louisiana by Unionists there and in anticipation of passage of “a constitutional amendment, abolishing slavery throughout the nation. . . .”
General Grant inquires of General Robert E. Lee if it will be permissible to send two individuals, Colonel James F. Jaquess and J.R. Gilmore to meet with Colonel Robert Ould, Confederate commissioner for prisoner exchange, and President Jefferson Davis, if possible.
Saturday, July 9: Lew Wallace returns to a prominent role as battle erupts at the Monacacy River near Frederick, Maryland. Fierce fighting will produce some 700 Confederate and 2,000 Union casualties, but provide crucial resistance as Jubal Early closes on the defenses protecting Washington City.
Lincoln responds to the Greeley proposal firmly:
“If you can find, any person anywhere professing to have any proposition of Jefferson Davis in writing, for peace, embracing the restoration of the Union and abandonment of slavery, what ever else it embraces, say to him he may come to me with you, and that if he really brings such proposition, he shall, at the least, have safe conduct, with the paper (and without publicity, if he choose) to the point where you shall have met him. The same, if there be two or more persons.”
Sunday, July 10: Acutely aware of the danger to the U.S. capital, President Lincoln expresses concern and resolve, while remaining realistic:
“Let us be vigilant, but keep cool. I hope neither Baltimore or Washington will be sacked.”
Mattocks notes the arrival of “Fresh Fish !!!” in Macon:
“Today we have received a new installment of victims from the Army of the Potomac”
Monday, July 11: Early’s men arrive in the vicinity of Washington. The Union commander-in-Chief makes a dramatic, but dangerous gesture by appearing personally along the lines at Fort Stevens, to witness for himself the state of affairs. According an entry in the diary of his aide, John Hay, President Lincoln returns to the White House in the afternoon:
“He was in the Fort when it was first attacked, standing upon the parapet. A soldier roughly ordered him to get down or he would have his head knocked off. I can see a couple of columns of smoke just north of the White House. It is thought to be Silver Spring in flames -- I was at Mr. Blair's this evening: Fox says Gen. Wright tells him that Silver Spring is not burnt.
The President is in very good feather this evening. He seems not in the least concerned about the safety of Washington. With him the only concern seems to be whether we can bag or destroy this force in our front.”
Confederate war clerk Robert G.H. Kean sees dire political and unintended ramifications resulting from Early’s march northward:
“I greatly fear that the chief effect of his movement will be to kill off the peace party just beginning to show some head of strength and return the war party, i.e. the administration, to popularity.”
Tuesday, July 12: Lincoln is back at the front lines on the Washington defenses after greeting troops arriving at the city. Although the exact details as to who utters the words and at which point they occur are unclear, in his exuberance to see the action the tall chief executive comes under fire and is supposed to be chided: “Get down, you damn fool!” The comment is often attributed to a young captain, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
According to Hay’s entry for the day:
“The President again made the tour of the fortifications; was again under fire at Ft Stevens; a man was shot at his side.”
One soldier will recall the incident colorfully:
“The enemy was firing lively from the bushes in front of the fort and it was dangerous for any person to look over the parapet . . . but the President was bound he would look over and see what was going on. Soon a sharpshooter fired at him, and he dodged, in doing so tipped over the pass box on which he was sitting and tumbled down. The ball fired at him struck one of the large guns, glanced back and went through a soldier's leg on the look-out. Lincoln gathered himself up and laughing said: 'that was quite a carom.'”
From his posting, Alvin Voris adds a sardonic element to a common practice in the camplife of soldiering:
“The bugler has just sounded the Surgeon’s Call, and the lame, halt & blind are thronging about him for their allowance of drugs. The bugler says: ‘Come and get your quinine; Come and get your quinine; You whose heads are sore, have crippled toes; The bellyache or other woes; It’s good for soul and body both; Come and get your quinine.
I am not absolutely certain I interpret the bugle correctly, but as near as I can understand the old tune. . . .”
Wednesday, July 13: Union troops under Andrew Jackson Smith are sparring with Confederates under Nathan Bedford Forrest. The Southern cavalryman hopes to draw the Federals into a trap by luring them into assaulting a strong position he has established, but Smith steals a march toward the small village of Harrisburg, near Tupelo, on the Mobile and Ohio Railroad.
Sherman conveys his expectations for his campaign to his wife:
“In a few days I will cross the Chattahoochee, and then will come the Real Struggle. I know we will whip Johnston in anything like a fair fight, but being on the defensive he can take great advantage of Forts, field works and the nature of the ground which naturally favors him. But we have overcome all obstacles thus far, and trust we can continue to do so, though it involves time. My army is strong as the day we left Chattanooga and full of confidence.”
Josiah Gorgas records the speculation swirling in Virginia:
“It is reported that Gen. Lee has gone to Georgia. Gen. Bragg has certainly gone. Everybody has at last come to the conclusion that Johnston has retreated far enough.”
From Bermuda, U.S. Consul C.M. Allen finishes compiling a listing of “the arrivals and departures of vessels employed in running the blockade of the Southern ports of the United States, and of those bringing merchandise here for that trade, from the first day of January 1862 to the 30 June 1864. . . .
Some idea of the enormous profit made when successful may be had from the fact that the steamer Flora which went down at sea, making three trips to Wilmington, had standing to her credit on the agent’s books here one hundred seventy three thousand pounds sterling.
The warehouses here are all full. . . .”
Thursday, July 14: Smith and Confederate troops under the overall command of Stephen Dill Lee clash at Harrisburg/Tupelo. Piecemeal attacks cost the Southern troops heavily in casualties and fail to drive the Federals from their positions.
In the aftermath of the recent shake-up in the Cabinet and perhaps in the way of articulating his position to himself, President Lincoln drafts a memorandum that can be read before the Cabinet if he desires:
“I must be the judge, how long to retain in, and when to remove any of you from, his position. It would greatly pain me to discover any of you endeavoring to procure anothers removal, or, in any way to prejudice him before the public. Such endeavor would be a wrong to me; and much worse, a wrong to the country.”
Maine native Mattocks marvels at the lack of disease among his prison compatriots, but notes that there is evidence of decline:
“I say the prisoners are healthy. Perhaps I use the wrong term. They are simply not sick. The long confinement and dim prospect of release has made many of them wilt away.”
In Richmond, R.G.H. Kean notes:
“A very gloomy view of affairs in Georgia prevails in the cabinet. Hon. B.H. Hill got here the day before yesterday on a special mission. . . said he would go and see General Johnston. He did so, had a full conference with him. General Johnston said that the enemy had given him no chance to fight a fair field. . . that he saw no way of resisting Sherman’s advance except by Forrest falling on his communications. This was at Kennesaw Mountain. Mr. Hill understood him to intend to make several stands between there and the Chattahoochee, and that he would occupy a month or so before crossing it. But he went it at one leap. . . . The subject now in hand with the President is the removal of Johnston. . . . The real trouble is to find a successor. The only solution is to send Beauregard, but the President thinks as ill of him as of Johnston. The Secretary goes by special train at 5 in the morning to consult with General Lee.
Bragg went out some days ago to consult with Johnston, and telegraphed to the President advising his removal.”
Friday, July 15: Despite the advantages he has gained from repulsing the Confederate attacks of the previous day, A.J. Smith determines to pull back from his lines at Harrisburg, due to shortages of supply. Sharp fighting occurs at Old Town Creek as the withdrawal takes place. Among the wounded is Nathan Bedford Forrest.
General Grant communicates with Secretary of War Stanton on the status of a subordinate:
“I regret to learn that Brig. Gen. Edward Ferrero was not confirmed by the Senate. I hope he will be immediately reappointed with his former rank. He deserves great credit on this Campaigned for the manner in which he protected our immense wagon train with a Division of undisciplined Colored troops and detachments of dismounted Cavalry, without organization.”
Saturday, July 16: Davis has reached a critical point with Joe Johnston. Whatever his general plans to do, he had better do it quickly or at least indicate his intentions in detail if he wishes to retain his position as commander of the Army of Tennessee:
“I wish to hear from you as to present situation and your plan of operations so specifically as will enable me to anticipate events.”
After repeated communications with Horace Greeley on the subject of a peace session, President Lincoln orders John Hay to proceed with the arrangements, including the drafting of safe conduct to the City of Washington for four individuals who will speak, in some capacity, for the Confederate leadership.
Sunday, July 17: President Davis relieves Joseph Johnston of his command, replacing him with John Bell Hood.
From before Petersburg, Orlando Willcox writes plaintively to his wife:
“Another Sunday has rolled around & we still have not captured Petersburg. . . .”
Union troops under Major General Horatio Wright pursue Early.
Monday, July 18: Robert Rodes shatters part of the line of dismounted cavalry under Joseph Thoburn at Cool Spring, Virginia. Some the blue-coated horsemen drown trying to flee across the Shenandoah River.
Once more President Lincoln provides assurances of a willingness to discuss peace only to find that Horace Greeley is now convinced that the individuals with whom he has been in contact that are supposed to represent the Confederacy are not “so empowered as I was previously assured.”
Orlando Willcox completes the letter he had started the day before, when interrupted by the threat of Confederate movements on his line:
“I see you are gradually reconciling yourself to my not being promoted major general. Burnside says that Meade is a warm friend & that Grant spoke of me in the highest terms lately. I also hear from various sources that my reputation has increased considerably in the North. Well, fortune is a queer mistress.”
Tuesday, July 19: The Confederates respond to a move by William W. Averell to aid in the threat to Early’s command. Union forces attack Stephen Ramseur in the area of Rutherford’s Farm north of Winchester and drive him, capturing some 300 men and four artillery tubes.
General Butler telegraphs Grant on the status of the recent unofficial peace mission into the Confederacy by Col. Jaquess and Mr. Gilmore, with a surreal addendum:
“The commissioners, Jaquess and Gilmore, have returned. Were received by Davis, but the only terms were independence or fight. They go to Washington to-morrow. I send you the Richmond papers, by which you will learn that you died Saturday.”
Wednesday, July 20: True to form, Hood determines to strike at Sherman’s forces aggressively, and initiates an assault on the Army of the Cumberland under George Henry Thomas as it encounters Peachtree Creek. Hood hopes to hit the Federals in a vulnerable position as they cross the natural barrier, but Thomas and his men provide a vigorous defense that thwarts the Confederate commander’s purposes. Losses will be severe: 1,779 Union casualties to approximately the same among the Southern troops.
From Virginia, Richard Ewell reacts to events in Georgia, telling his brother, Ben:
“Genl Johnston’s relief from command fell on every one like a thunderbolt, creating a great deal of anxiety. I dont know anything about the situation of things out there—have regretted of course the abandonment of so large an extent of country. I supposed that Genl Johnston knew what he was about & was afraid that he was thwarted by the authorities here. . . .
[I] have always feared for the want of the entente cordiale between him & the administration.”
General Grant sends an urgent inquiry to Butler on the subject of possible recruitment among Confederate captives (or what becomes known as “Galvanized Yankees.”):
“Can you tell me if recruiting is now going on from the prisoners of war at Pt. Lookout? I highly disapprove of recruiting from such a source. . . .”
Butler responds shortly that this activity has now stopped in the Maryland prison camp.
Thursday, July 21: Maneuvering continues near Atlanta, as Hood readies his command to launch what he hopes will be decisive blows against their opponents that will save the city from falling into Union hands.
From City Point, Grant forwards news from the Richmond newspapers to Sherman in Georgia:
“Johnston has been relieved and Hood takes his place much to the surprise of the army & public, also that this change indicates that there will be no more retreating but that Atlanta will be defended at all hazards and to the last extremity[.]”
Friday, July 22: William J. Hardee’s troops launch attacks against James McPherson’s Army of the Tennessee in the Battle of Atlanta. Especially vicious fighting swirls around the Troup Hurt house and the total costs of Hood’s second sortie costs the Confederate’s heavily in casualties, roughly ranging from 5,500 to as many as 8,000 (according to Sherman), including Major General William H.T. Walker. Among the lesser number of Union fallen, set at 3,722, is General McPherson himself.
Josiah Gorgas notes the delicate position existing for the South in Georgia:
“People are I think generally satisfied with the removal of Gen. Johnston. They have praised him, & waited for him to fight until he has lost all of Georgia, and they have gotten tired of him. Nevertheless if Hood fights & is victorious there will be plenty who will exclaim ‘behold the fruits of Johnston’s strategy’, while if he is defeated these people will cry ‘see the fruits of the removal of Johnston!’ The Administration will gain nothing in the estimation of such in either case.”
Saturday, July 23: President Lincoln remains concerned about Confederate activities in the Shenandoah as Union troops shift.
Emerson Opdycke exults at the victory Union arms have achieved at Peachtree Creek:
“We are all feeling much elated with our success. Our Division and Hooker’s Corps had a splendid victory on the 20th. I never have seen the dead rebels lie so thickly strewn upon the ground, since the battle of Shiloh.”
Rumors continue to abound among the Union prisoners at Macon, as do the new arrivals and attempts at escape, including one soldier who has tried an unusual subterfuge:
“’Fresh Fish’ arrive weekly. We now have about 1900 ‘victims’ here. The other day one of our officers blacked up with coal, and picking up a spade,” to pose as a worker. “He got by the sentinel, but the officer of the guard detected the cheat and brought him to bay with a cocked revolver. He was kept out one night, and then brought back to us. The prison authorities are on a very sharp lookout for tunnels, and the other day succeeded in discovering one nearly completed.”
Sunday, July 24: The Second Battle of Kernstown erupts as Early’s men engage Federal forces under Brigadier General George Crook. The fighting results in 1,185 Union and 600 Confederate casualties.
Generals Grant and Meade exchange communications on the matter of breaking the Confederate lines at Petersburg using a tunnel packed with explosives that General Burnside has ordered constructed and has just been completed:
“The Engineer officers who made a survey of the front from Bermuda Hundred report against the probability of success from an attack there. The chances they think will be better on Burnsides front. If this is attempted it will be necessary to concentrate all the force possible at the point in the enemy’s line we expect to penetrate.”
Meade remains cautiously optimistic:
“I have no doubt of the successful explosion of the mine & of our ability to effect a lodgment and compel the evacuation of the line at present held by the enemy,” unless the Confederates have managed to construct a second line that would provide a difficult obstacle to overcome. “Fully impressed as I am with the necessity of immediate action, and also satisfied that excepting regular approaches, the assault on Burnsides front is the most practicable, I am compelled as a matter of judgment to state that the chances of success are not such as to make the attempt advisable—At the same time I do not consider it hopeless & am prepared to make the attempt, if it is deemed of importance to do so.
Monday, July 25: Lincoln articulates the stakes in the upcoming Presidential election as word reaches him that language is being drafted for the Democratic Party for restoration of the Union with slavery intact:
“The men of the South, recently (and perhaps still) at Niagara Falls, tell us distinctly that they are in the confidential employment of the rebellion; and that they tell us as distinctly that they are not empowered to offer terms of peace. Does any one doubt that what they are empowered to do, is to assist in selecting and arranging a candidate and a platform for the [Democratic] Chicago convention? Thus, the present presidential contest will almost certainly be no other than a contest between a Union and Disunion candidate, disunion certainly following the success of the latter. The issue is a mighty one for all people and all time. . . .”
Sherman replies to Grant’s message informing him of a change of command among his opponents in Georgia:
“Your despatch of 21st did not come till today—Johnston is relieved and Hood commands. Hood has made two attempts to strike hard since we crossed the Chattahoochee and both times got more than he bargained for. . . . I would rather that Hood should fight it out at Atlanta than to retreat farther to Macon[.]”
Grant authorizes the “loading” of the mine at Petersburg with powder. He also informs the Secretary of War that he will be pleased to meet with President Lincoln later in the week:
“I am commencing movements to-night from which I hope favorable results.”
The word of Johnston’s removal has reached Johnson’s Island Prison, Ohio:
“Today the order for the removal of Genl Johnston and the appointment of Genl Hood to the command of the Georgia Army is read in our room—grief and indignation—fill nearly every breast. Probably no Genl of any war has been so continually unsuccessful (of if you please, so devoid of victories) as Genl Johnston, who at the same time has retained the almost enthusiastic confidence of the troops and generals serving with him. . . . I am indignant too, but I refrain from abusing Mr. Davi[s], believing that he has been urged to do what he has done in hopes of arresting the farther progress of the Yankee army and has even been induced by those importunate people of the South who can not bear the delaying but saving process of Mr. Johnston[’s] campaigning, and unable to appreciate that sound but tantalizing Fabian policy which even the very troops, the most impatient of inaction of all men, trusted in.”
Tuesday, July 26: President Lincoln expresses his satisfaction with the progress William T. Sherman has been making in his campaign in Georgia.
Sherman writes home on the situation in his front as he sees it:
“We have Atlanta close aboard as the Sailors say but it is a hard nut to handle. These fellows fight like Devils & Indians combined, and it calls for all my cunning & Strength.
Instead of Attacking the Forts, which are really unassailable, I must gradually destroy the Roads which make Atlanta a place worth having.”
From Johnson’s Island Prison, Dooley notices:
“The Yankee guard outside are practicing salutes—for they are to be present at the funeral of some general McPherson who was killed recently near Atlanta, Geo and will be buried in Sandusky tomorrow.”
Through the night, Federal forces under Winfield Scott Hancock, supported by Philip H. Sheridan, cross the James River in the direction of Richmond.
Wednesday, July 27: Hancock and Sheridan test the Confederate defenses at Deep Bottom, near Richmond. General Lee reinforces his defenses and the Southerners deflect the Union advance.
From Ohio, Confederate captive John Dooley records:
“Some of the prisoners nearly every evening are engaged in a game they call ‘base ball,’ which notwithstanding the heat they prosecute with persevering energy: I don’t understand the game nor have ever asked any explanation of it, but those who play it get very much excited over it and it appears to be fine exercise.”
Charles Mattocks reports that a movement of the Union prisoners is afoot:
“Finally it is decided that we are to leave Macon. We go to Charleston it is said. . . .”
A number have decided to overpower their guards and fight their way to freedom, but Mattocks is not so sure:
“I have been solicited to join the organization but declined as I am of opinion that it would be impracticable, and then again, it would be causing bloodshed which we have virtually promised to desist from when delivering up our swords and accepting quarter. I believe it the duty of every prisoner to escape when opportunity offers—either individually or with associates, but such party has no right to shed blood or take up arms until they reach their own lines.”
Thursday, July 28: Recognizing that his defense of Atlanta is predicated upon holding open his lines of supply, John Bell Hood responds to the movement of Oliver O. Howard to threaten the Macon and Western Railroad by sending troops to stop the Federal progress. The Confederates, under Stephen D. Lee and Alexander P. Stewart, confront their opponents at Ezra Church. Hood had hoped to hold the Union troops in place while he prepared a stronger force, but Lee initiates the action with heavy losses, supported by Stewart, whose men experience a similarly bloody repulse. The action will end with Confederate losses at staggering 4,642 to Union losses of some 700. Even so, the Southerners have blunted Howard’s progress.
More combat occurs at Deep Bottom, but it becomes increasingly clear that the Union strike at Richmond and its rail lines will not gain additional ground, although it has caused General Lee to divert troops as Grant had hoped. The fighting over the period of this operation will result in 488 U.S. and 679 C.S. casualties.
Josiah Gorgas records another visit with Jefferson Davis:
“The President sent for me yesterday to ask me something about the number of men that could be spared to go out to the trenches without suspending the work. . . . He is looking quite well, but is growing not only gray but white with his cares.”
Friday, July 29: Emerson Opdycke assesses the heavy fighting that has recently occurred in Georgia:
“Hood is getting his army knocked to peices rapidly: their own papers own to a loss of twenty three thousand (23,000) in the battles of the 20th and 22d. I hope Hood may be retained in Command.”
Of the uncertainty of life at the front, Sherman tells his wife, Ellen:
“I dont pretend to See a week ahead, and if I get killed which is not improbable at any moment. . . . Yesterday a solid Canister Shot passed me close & killed an orderlys horse (Charleys orderly) close behind me, in fact I daily pass death in the most familiar shape and you should base your calculations on that event.”
Saturday, July 30: A tremendous explosion rips the ground beneath a Confederate fortification at Petersburg. Former coalminers in Lieutenant Colonel Henry Pleasant’s 48th Pennsylvania Infantry have burrowed over 500 feet to beneath Elliott’s Salient and pack the chamber galleries with 8,000 pounds of black powder. Uncertainty prevails as the moment for detonation passes with no eruption, but a relit fuse results in a gapping tear in the Southern line 170-foot. long, some 80 feet across and 30 feet in depth. Black troops under Edward Ferrero had been set aside for leading the operation, but have been pulled at the last minute for men under James H. Ledlie, selected by drawing straws. While Ledlie remains in a bombproof, steeling himself with fortifying drink, the men surged forward, but without ladders and adequate instructions, many of them plunge into the hole or stop to dig out prisoners. The confusion allows the Confederates to regain their composure and mount counterattacks that seal the attackers’ fates. Major General William Mahone’s deft maneuvering contains the breach and although some Federals, including the Black troops who join the action, make it the opposite rim, there remains no realistic chance of a breakthrough. Union losses will stand at 3,798 and Confederate casualties at 1,500, including the 300 caught in the explosion.
Grant informs Butler of the operation as it is in progress:
“the explosion blew up 4 guns & nearly an entere south Carolina Regt Our men pushed forward to the Breach without oposition but unfortunatly stoped—they have been ordered forward again & I am much in hope it is still time to succeed.”
In the immediate aftermath of the failure, Grant observes to Meade:
“Our experience of today proves that fortifications come near holding themselves without troops.”
Richard Ewell is somewhat incredulous concerning the actions of his opponents, telling his wife, Lizinka:
“The movements of the Yankees are incomprehensible on any grounds I can give, and I have a half sort of feeling with somewhat of the ludricous as well as serious, that they are about to try some previously unheard of plan of taking Richmond, by balloons or under water, or that they may suddenly appear in some quarter impossible under every rule that usually governs troops.”
Confederate cavalry under John McCausland reach Chambersburg. The demand for $500,000 in greenbacks and $100,000 in gold comes with the threat of torching the town, made on the grounds of reparations for Union destruction in the Shenandoah Valley. Since the citizens do not produce the amount required, the business district of the town burns.
Sunday, July 31: The crater and the resulting Union debacle continue to smolder at Petersburg, as do the ruins of burned structures in Chambersburg. The war seems destined to rage out of anyone’s ability to control it, although Lincoln travels to Virginia to confer with General Grant to discuss their options going forward.
In Richmond, John B. Jones, remarks about the Crater and other developments in the progress of the war in Virginia:
“This was probably Grant’s grand stratagem for our destruction, and it has failed disastrously for him. What will he do next? No matter what, Lee is the master of the situation.”
A cat has also brought a rare treat for the table—a partially devoured, but apparently ample, chicken—which the household cook has seized from the feline for the stewpot, causing the bureaucrat:
“To such straits, are we reduced by this cruel war!”