A new year offers fresh opportunities and perspectives for the leaders and peoples of the United States and Confederate States of America. For Abraham Lincoln, this beginning is fraught with concern. George McClellan remains ill, but is improving and the president wants other chief commanders to handle matters in his absence.
For Jefferson Davis, the possibilities appear less harrowing on the surface. The new nation has survived into an early infancy that may yet hold the promise of longevity, but criticism grows concerning his leadership and the lack of follow-up to the victory at Manassas.
Diarist Mary Chesnut offers a poetic tribute to her fellow Southerners:
“A happy new year to the distant brave
Who combat the foemen or battle the wave;
For each in his home there is a heart that still burns;
God send them say I—many happy returns.”
Never one to be unduly hampered by conditions, Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson begins a campaign from Winchester, Va., that targets the important Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and other infrastructure elements.
Diarist George Templeton Strong reflects Northern concerns in his journal:
“It is a pleasant day, but in these times one cannot get rid of the presence of national peril. Even when one gives up a whole day to mere amusement, he is haunted by a phantom of possible calamity and disgrace.”
Confederate war clerk and diarist, John Beauchamp Jones, confides his concerns for the new year in his journal:
“The enemy are making preparations to assail us everywhere.” Following a long list of likely targets he sees as threatened along the Atlantic seaboard, the Gulf Coast and the Mississippi River, as well as noting the presence of “monster armies” concentrating to invade “Tennessee and the Cotton States,” Jones observes rhetorically: “Will Virginia escape the scourge? Not she; here is the bull’s-eye of the mark they aim at.”
Bragg’s army begins to pull back from Murfreesboro, ceding the battlefield and ostensibly the victory to Rosecrans in Tennessee.
In an act of clemency, President Lincoln responds to a case that has come to his attention with the note: “Let this woman have her boy out of Old Capitol Prison.”
Jackson’s men enter Bath, Va.
President Lincoln is still anxious to offer relief at the earliest juncture to the Unionists of East Tennessee. To Don Carlos Buell in Louisville, Ky., he inquires about the shipment of arms into the region:
“Please tell me the progress and condition of the movement, in that direction. Answer.”
Stonewall Jackson remains on the prowl near the Potomac River, looking to add to the consternation of his, and his nation’s, foes.
In Centreville, Va., Thomas J. Goree offers a scathing assessment of Jefferson Davis as commander in chief. He observes:
"But we are more than all crippled by an unfortunate misunderstanding which unhappily exists between Pres. Davis and the leading generals of this army. . . . Mr. Davis’ motto seems to be: ‘Rule or Ruin.’
Mr. Davis is undoubtedly a great man, but he has his faults, his whims, and his unbounded prejudices. I have nearly lost all the admiration I ever had for him as an honest man and a patriot.”
General Buell’s hesitation to assume an operation aimed at East Tennessee, in preference to one that pushes instead for Nashville, prompts a strong response from the president that emphasizes his disappointment. In addition to his desire to inflict damage on a major transportation artery of the Confederacy—the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad—he notes:
“But my distress is that our friends in East Tennessee are being hanged and driven to despair, and even now I fear, are thinking of taking rebel arms for the sake of personal protection. In this we lose the most valuable stake we have in the South.”
One Union officer’s letter to his wife from Kentucky illustrates the precarious state of the health of his troops and the emotional toll exacted from him:
“There is a great deal of sickness in this camp and especially in our regt. principally measles. One of my men . . . died with them a few days ago. It was very sad for me, I assure you, as the commander of a company is, or ought to be, something of a father to his men.”
The new Department of North Carolina comes into being, with command going to Union brigadier general Ambrose E. Burnside.
Union cavalry strike a camp at Roan’s Tan Yard, containing Missouri State Guards, that have been recruiting for the Confederacy, capturing a handful of the Southerners and disrupting their activities.
Mary Chesnut records an ominous incident in her diary regarding the institution of slavery and the encroachment of Union forces on Southern territory and interests concerning the deaths of two men:
“These dead men had been bringing negroes from the coast—negroes who did not want to come. They laid down their guns and went to sleep. The negroes took their guns, shot the owners of them, and went back to the [Union] fleet.”
Another Northern flotilla carrying troops under General Burnside departs from Virginia waters heading for the North Carolina coast.
President Abraham Lincoln accepts the resignation of Simon Cameron from his Cabinet.
Mary Chesnut records a sermon based on the Old Testament victory of Gideon at Manassas and draws the appropriate modern application:
“Nothing will ever equal that ‘first sprightly running’ of our foes—at our Manassas.”
Abraham Lincoln has been contemplating the manner in which he can prompt more aggressive action from his field commanders. From the Executive Mansion in Washington, he sends a communication to General Buell in Kentucky that indicates the strategy he wishes to pursue, although is careful to remind the officer that these are suggestions and not orders. Nevertheless, the ideas suggest an understanding of martial matters for which the president is not often credited at this point in the conflict:
“I state my general idea of this war to be that we have the greater numbers, and the enemy has the greater facility of concentrating forces upon points of collision; that we must fail, unless we can find some way of making our advantage an over-match for his; and that this can only be done by menacing him with superior forces at different points, at the same time; so that we can safely attack, one, or both, if he makes no change; and if he weakens one to strengthen the other, forbear to attack the strengthened one, but seize, and hold the weakened one, gaining so much.”
From the consulate in Bermuda, Charles Allen tells his wife that he has had to remove a “Secession Flag” surreptitiously placed on the flagstaff of his facility, but assures her that he had “captured it before anyone saw it.”
Confirmation by the U.S. Senate for new Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton occurs.
A Union officer writes hurriedly that his command has been called to action:
“We were quite surprised this morning to learn that we were under orders to go to Romney, Va at once. . . . Our Regiment is in no condition to move. It has had little or no instruction. For a week I have been instructing the Regt. battalion exercises. I learned my lessons that night before each day’s exercise & then manly go out and put the men through in gallant style. The boys think I am quite a military man but I know better.”
Former president and erstwhile peacemaker, John Tyler, dies in Virginia. At the time of his death he is set to become a member of the Confederate House of Representatives.
Trying to anticipate conditions as the war proceeds, one Confederate staff officer advises the folks at home:
“It will soon be time for planting, and what I could suggest is that you reduce your cotton crop, and plant more grain than usual. . . . If this course is generally pursued throughout the South, the small quantity of cotton raised on account of the increase in price would bring almost as much money as a large crop at a reduced price. If the blockade is not raised soon, there will in all probability be on hand next fall two crops, and the more raised this year the less will be the price when it does come to market.”
Union troops under the Virginian George Henry Thomas clash with Confederates under the immediate command of Felix Zollicoffer at Mill Springs or Logan’s Cross Roads. The engagement begins in rain and fog and continues through the morning hours, with critical moments highlighted by a bayonet charge and by the death of the Southern commander when Zollicoffer rode mistakenly into Union lines, wearing a raincoat that covered his uniform. The Confederate loss is set at 125 killed, 309 wounded, and 99 missing, while Union casualties consist of 39 killed, 207 wounded and 15 missing. The Northern victory has severely compromised the Southern defensive line in Kentucky and demoralized Confederate hopes in this portion of the Western Theater.
The defeated troops huddling along the Cumberland River receive a reprieve when the steamboat Noble Ellis transfers them across the swollen waters to safety through the night. But, the vessel is not as fortunate, suffering an ignoble ending once the process is complete in order to prevent it from being used by the Federals in any pursuit. The overall Confederate commander, George B. Crittenden, suffers the brunt of criticism for the setback.
President Davis spends a portion of his day vetoing bills forwarded to him by the Confederate Congress. His objections rest largely on what he deems as infringements upon Executive prerogatives.
Burnside is having his difficulties in the coastal waters of North Carolina, but the Confederate defenders in the region are beset by problems of their own.
Beauregard leaves the Eastern Theater for the West to serve as second-in-command to Albert Sidney Johnston.
A frustrated President Lincoln finally decides that his gentle prodding for a forward movement has proven unsuccessful and turns to the method of providing a firm date of February 22, 1862, for a general advance against the Confederates.
From his War Office desk in Richmond, John B. Jones has followed military events as they have unfolded and concludes:
“What we want is a military man capable of directing operations in the field everywhere. I think [Robert E.] Lee is such man.”
George Templeton Strong is not overly enamored with Abraham Lincoln’s homespun-style, but sees beneath it a wisdom that is at once compelling and effective:
“He told us a lot of stories. Something was said about the pressure of the extreme anti-slavery party in Congress, and in the newspapers for legislation about the status of all slaves. ‘Wa-al,” says Abe Lincoln, ‘that reminds me of a party of Methodist parsons that was traveling in Illinois when I was a boy thar, and had a branch to cross that was pretty bad—ugly to cross, ye know, because the waters was up. And they got considerin’ and discussin’ how they should git across it, and they talked about it for two hours, and one on ‘em thought they had ought to cross one way when they got there, and another another way, and they got to quarrellin’ about it, till at last an old brother put in, and he says, says he, ‘Brethern, this here talk ain’t no use. I never cross a river until I come to it”
A strange new ironclad vessel launches its career as the U.S.S. Monitor goes forth amid fanfare from onlookers.
Mason and Slidell, the embattled Confederate diplomats, finally reach England, where it remains to be seen if they will be able to accomplish as much on their duty stations as they had almost done in simply attempting to reach them.
Secretary of War Judah Benjamin orders Southern troops out of Romney, Va.
Stonewall Jackson reacts to the intervention of the War Department amidst the constant carping of subordinate William Wing Loring in the difficult winter campaigning in western Virginia. Jackson is prepared to resign if necessary, arguing that “with such interference in my command I cannot expect to be of much service in the field.”
A critical international factor plays out when Queen Victoria asserts that her realm will remain neutral regarding the American conflict.
President Abraham Lincoln sends a letter of condolences on the part of the United States to Queen Victoria of Great Britain on the death of her consort, Prince Albert. He reiterates the connections between the countries and dismisses any “accidents” that might have come between the two nations.
“The People of the United States are kindred of the People of Great Britain. With all our distinct national interests, objects, and aspirations, we are conscious that our moral strength is largely derived from that relationship, and we do not deceive ourselves when we suppose that, by constantly cherishing cordial friendship and sympathy with the other branches of the family to which we belong, we impart to them not less strength than we derive from the same connection.”
President Lincoln has a busy day corresponding with the King of Siam over an offer for elephants, while closer to home he grapples with George McClellan about the most appropriate strategy for waging war in Virginia. Lincoln is prone to be more direct, while McClellan prefers an elaborate operation that would call for the transfer of most of his troops to the coast for a monumental campaign against the Confederate capital from that direction.
Union forces are beginning to close on Fort Henry, Tenn. Poorly-located in a low-lying area along the Tennessee River prone to flooding, Henry has been expected to be the Confederate answer to that river’s defense. While Kentucky had remained neutral the site was not an issue, but as Union vessels and Ulysses S. Grant’s land forces bear down on it the circumstances are set to alter dramatically.
Better situated on higher ground than its neighbor, Fort Heiman, is not yet complete when the Confederates abandon it and Union troops under Charles F. Smith occupy the site preparatory to moving against Fort Henry itself.
Fort Henry falls to a concerted effort by a U.S. gunboat flotilla. Recognizing the futility of a long-term defense, the Confederate commander, Brigadier General Lloyd Tilghman depletes the garrison of most of its men, with the exception of enough to serve the fort’s heavy guns and those too sick to leave a hospital boat. As they approach, the Federals lay down a heavy fire that knocks out thirteen of the seventeen Southern artillery pieces. The worst Union casualties occur when a hit on the boiler of the Essex sends scalding steam into crew members, including Commodore William D. Porter, but the outcome of the battle is not in doubt. Tilghman lowers the flag and surrenders Fort Henry and its remnant of defenders. Total casualties for the day’s work amount to 47 Federals and approximately 100 Confederates, of whom most are prisoners.
The defense of the general location of what in colonial times had been called the “Lost Colony,” is about to be tested by a powerful Union fleet. U.S. Flag Officer Louis M. Goldsborough and Brigadier General Ambrose Burnside are set to apply that test. In the preliminaries, Goldsborough’s fleet spars with a Confederate “mosquito fleet” under William F. Lynch and provides cover as Burnside lands 4,000 men nearby. By the end of the day, this force swells to 10,000.
Approximately 1,500 of the 3,000 available Confederate defenders prepare to fend off a Union advance on Roanoke Island, but only after the attacking force has traversed half of the ground it has had to cover without meeting resistance. A Union double envelopment shatters the Southern line in the fighting that follows and the Confederates scurry off only to reach the island’s edge with no transport to safety. Colonel Henry M. Shaw, the commander of the troops surrenders to the victorious Union forces, having lost 23 men killed and 62 wounded. The Federals report 37 of their own number killed, with another 214 wounded and 13 missing. Roanoke Island reveals critical defects in the Confederate war effort that range from inadequate training and supply to poor leadership and support.
Recriminations over Roanoke Island such as those leveled by Brigadier General Henry A. Wise at his superior Major General Benjamin Huger cannot recompense for the defeat, nor assuage the personal loss Wise feels for his son, O. Jennings Wise, who dies from a wound received in the ill-starred defensive effort.
Ulysses Grant positions himself to attack Fort Donelson, which sits on the west bank of the Cumberland River. Temperatures plummet during the night, adding to the misery of the men on both sides especially those who have previously discarded heavier clothing in an unseasonably warm period.
Gunboats under Flag Officer Andrew Foote attempt to deliver St. Valentine’s greetings against the defenders of Fort Donelson in hopes of repeating the earlier success at Fort Henry. The Confederates, who have the advantage of well-placed water batteries and pre-set range markers on the river bank, rebuff the overtures firmly. In the course of the fighting, Southern shelling pummels the Union vessels, tearing the pilothouse from the St. Louis and wounding Foote. Damage to the steering mechanisms of the St. Louis and the Louisville leave those gunboats drifting with the current. Altogether, eleven men have died and forty-three suffered wounds in the short, but brisk and unsuccessful encounter by the flotilla with the fort.
Ulysses Grant leaves his headquarters to meet with Flag Officer Foote concerning the next steps to be taken against Donelson. However, the Confederates dictate matters when they attempt a breakout by striking the Union right in a surprise offensive. The Southerners roll a portion of the Union lines back, but reinforcements stabilize the situation for the North. Faced with the decision to proceed with the assault, or accepting the opportunity to move as many men out of the fort as possible, Gideon Pillow vacillates and opts to return to the fort instead. An assault by Charles Smith as he gains a foothold in the works on the Confederate right further complicating matters for the Confederate leadership. Floyd, Pillow and Simon Buckner will meet during the night to decide the fate of the garrison, passing authority to each other before determining to surrender. Subsequently, the two Confederate commanders leave Buckner to conduct the surrender proceedings. Confederate colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest receives permission to leave and extricates his command from the fort before the opportunity vanishes once overtures for terms have been made.
From Virginia, Thomas J. Goree writes a family member:
“Since the battle of Manassas an apathy seems to have rested upon our people. We . . . have considered one Southerner as a match for five Yankees. We have thought that the Yankees would always take to their heels after a few rounds.” Citing the string of defeats that have recently beset the South, Goree observes: “But while these reverses have proved to us that our foes are not such cowards as we have heretofore taken them for, it has also disclosed the very disagreeable fact that our forces are not the invincible heroes which we thought them to be.”
President Davis spends part of his day trying to offer reassurances to leading North Carolinians in light of the adverse military developments in their state, while struggling over conflicting state and national imperatives. “The defense of North Carolina occupies my anxious attention. I am sending there all the aid I can procure.” Although this aid will not include North Carolina troops assigned elsewhere. “To be successful, the common means must be employed for the common defense, as its necessities require.”
Fort Donelson surrenders with some 15,000 Confederates and 48 field pieces, in addition to the heavy ordnance of the fort’s batteries. Buckner had hoped for better terms from the old friend to whom he had once lent money, but “Unconditional Surrender” Grant is set to enter the lexicon of the American Civil War after exacting the capitulation of the fort on the basis of those conditions.
Diarist Mary Chesnut fears the worst from the early reports:
“Awful newspapers today. Fort Donelson a drawn battle. You know that means [coming] in our mouths that we have lost it.”
George Templeton Strong uses the occasion of Fort Donelson’s surrender to indicate his disdain for John B. Floyd. Strong suggests that if Floyd is indeed among the captives, he ought to be turned over to P.T. Barnum and “most profitably exhibited” in his circus.
The First Congress of the Confederate States of America takes it seat, replacing the Provisional Congress that has been in place since the formation of the new nation.
Thomas Goree girds himself for continuing in the face of the news of the fall of Fort Donelson:
“Affairs look very gloomy indeed in that quarter, but we must trust in Providence, Who, I cannot but believe, is on our side. We must not for one moment despond of our ultimate success, but must arouse ourselves to renewed exertions, determined to conquer or die.”
Personal tragedy strikes in Washington, D.C. when twelve-year old William Wallace “Willie” Lincoln succumbs to typhoid. Happier news from the war front cannot off-set the despair that pervades the White House.
From his post at Bermuda, U.S. Consul Charles Allen reports the arrival of the “Rebel Steamer Nashville,” purported to be short of fuel. “I shall do all I can to prevent her getting coal,” he adds in his communication with his superiors in Washington.
In the Trans-Mississippi, Confederate brigadier general Henry Sibley has moved his 2,500-man Army of New Mexico to the vicinity of Union-held Fort Craig. He positions his force on the Federal supply route, hoping to bring Colonel Edward R.S. Canby out into the open. Confederate artillery provides the first shots of the Battle of Valverde.
The Battle of Valverde continues as Sibley and Canby thrust and react to each other. The Federals enjoy initial success and incapacitate Sibley himself. But the Confederates, now under Colonel Thomas Green, drive against the Union line, capturing six pieces of artillery and breaking it. Union forces retreat into Fort Craig, having suffered 263 total casualties to 186 by the Confederates.
In New York City, the commander of a slave ship, Captain Nathaniel P. Gordon, arrested while engaged in the illegal importation of slaves into the U.S. meets his fate on the gallows after a brief stay by President Lincoln. Diarist George Templeton Strong observes coldly, “Vere dignum et justum est, dignum et salutare. Served him right.”
In an inauguration as the President of the Confederate States of America in its “permanent” form that is steeped in history and evokes the memory of George Washington, Jefferson Davis offers a brief address to a rain-drenched crowd assembled on the Capitol square in Richmond:
“On this birthday of the man most identified with the establishment of American independence, and beneath the monument erected to commemorate his heroic virtues, and those of his compatriots, we have assembled to usher into existence the Permanent Government of the Confederate States.”
Davis notes the general conditions that prevail in the country, emphasizing the blockade of Southern ports and the military setbacks recently experienced, and draws lessons from the past to apply to the present:
“The tyranny of an unbridled majority, the most odious and least responsible form of despotism, has denied us both the right and the remedy. Therefore we are in arms to renew such sacrifices as our fathers made to the holy cause of constitutional liberty.”
“To show ourselves worthy of the inheritance bequeathed to us by the patriots of the Revolution, we must emulate that heroic devotion which made reverse to them but the crucible in which their patriotism was refined.”
To Confederate war clerk, John B. Jones, the weather portends gloom:
“Such a day! The heavens weep incessantly. Capitol Square is black with umbrellas; and a shelter has been erected for the President to stand under.”
From South Carolina, Mary Chesnut offers her expression of hopes for the new chief executive from the perspective of a sunnier climate:
“What a beautiful [day] for our Confederate president to be inaugurated. God speed him. God help him. God save him.”
For Emerson Opdycke, a Union officer currently posted at Paducah, Kentucky, the month’s events have been simultaneously exciting and exasperating, as he explains to his wife, Lucy:
“Trust we shall go into something active soon, for I am sick of doing nothing, while others are doing so much. Our arms are winning glorious triumphs, which are but the beginning of the End of the Rebellion.”
In Gladeville (Wise), Virginia, Kentuckian Edward Guerrant spends his first days as a soldier ruminating on the significance of the day:
“Strange, mysterious tho’ts & scenes—for Washington’s birthday. His Country divided & warring; his State pressed by hostile feet & fattened with the blood of her noblest sons.
Today the Government of the Confederate States—ceases to be “Provisional” & becomes Constitutional & I hope, stable & perpetual.”
From his camp in Arkansas, Texan James C. Bates remarks about the news that has filtered into their ranks and his desire for redemption:
“I hope the enemy will give us a fight. I want us to make amends for the defeats we have suffered in the East. If we win a victory it may cost us the lives of many men—but they cannot die in a nobler cause.”
Nashville becomes the first state capital in the Confederacy to fall to occupying Union forces.
The C.S.S. Nashville has better fortune than her namesake city. U.S. Consul Allen reports that the Confederate commerce raider has obtained 150 tons of coal to continue her voyage and left Bermudan waters.
Emerson Opdycke informs Lucy that he has reached the Tennessee state capital:
“I suppose you know all about our grand entrance into Nashville through swifter means of communication than the mail. When we came up there was not a flag out in the whole city, but soon the Stars and Stripes floated from their magnificent State House.”
Thomas Goree, with General James Longstreet in Virginia, remains confident in the command with which he is associated and perturbed at the disasters that have befallen Confederate commands elsewhere and says so in letter to home:
“I have almost come to the conclusion that the fate of the Country depends on our success. . . . You will never, I hope, hear of any such disgraceful conduct in this army, as has characterized our arms at Hatteras, Port Royal, Somerset, Roanoke, Henry and Donelson.”
The fall of Fort Donelson particularly bothers the Confederate staffer:
“We once boasted that one Southerner could whip three Yankees in a fair fight, but the result of that fight does not prove it. If the place was untenable, why could not the whole force have made their escape as well as those that did get away with [Gideon] Pillow & [John B.] Floyd? I expect the truth of the matter is that Pillow and Floyd ran off and left [Simon] Buckner.”
Goree’s final condemnation is not against Buckner, whom he deems to be “a brave man, and a splendid officer, a better man than Pillow and Floyd put together.”
Confederate major general Earl Van Dorn pulls the forces of Major General Sterling Price and Brigadier General Ben McCulloch into a new Army of the West with designs for pushing into Missouri.
In Washington City, President Lincoln forwards his list of names for appointment at various levels as general officers, including Irvin McDowell and Franz Sigel, who had experienced setback at First Manassas and Wilson’s Creek, respectively. McDowell, Sigel, Ambrose E. Burnside, Don Carlos Buell, John Pope, Samuel R. Curtis, John A. McClernand, Charles F. Smith and Lew Wallace are to be made major generals of volunteers.
Confederates enter Santa Fe in the New Mexico Territory as Henry Sibley continues his campaign in the region.
From the South Carolina coast, W.P. DuBose reflects on his life and the war:
“It seems to me a very short time since my 21st Birthday, & now my 26th is at hand. Who can tell what the next five years will bring forth? I often indulge in pictures of the future, & am sometimes surprised at myself for allowing this fearful war with all its uncertainties to interfere so little with my anticipations.”
The soldier speculates that the time has arrived for everyone to view the circumstances more soberly: “With our disparity of numbers & resources, the sooner we assume a sterner, more determined & more devoted attitude the better for our cause.”
Nathaniel Banks moves out from Harpers Ferry, targeting the town of Winchester in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.
Anxious to display credentials meant to set some minds at ease concerning his views on slavery, President Lincoln sends a proposed joint resolution regarding gradual compensated emancipation for Congressional consideration:
“Resolved that the United States ought to co-operate with any state which may adopt gradual abolishment of slavery, giving to such state pecuniary aid, to be used by such state in it’s discretion, to compensate for the inconveniences public and private, produced by such a change of system.”
As part of the message, Lincoln insists that the “measure [is meant] as one of the most efficient means of self-preservation” and that by giving some, if not all, of the slaveholding states remaining in the Union the opportunity to demonstrate a desire to engage in the “initiation of emancipation” the rebellious states would know that no other states were going to join them “in their proposed confederacy.” The President believes this course of action to be the most reasonable of choices, “because, in my judgment, gradual, and not sudden emancipation, is better for all.”
Troops under Earl Van Dorn engage a rear-guard of Union forces commanded by Franz Sigel in Arkansas as a prelude to a fight at Pea Ridge.
Van Dorn maneuvers with Sterling Price on a long night march designed to strike the flank of Major General Samuel R. Curtis in the vicinity of a hotel that displays a rack of elk horns as a distinctive adornment feature. In the meantime, he hopes to hold Curtis’s attentions with a feint by subordinate generals Ben McCulloch and Albert Pike. Following the difficult trek, Price is not in position to attack until 10:30 A.M., three hours after the time Van Dorn had intended and after Curtis had detected the Confederate march and reacted to it. Several attacks against grudging opposition give the Southerners ground, but expend the energy of the offensive.
In the meantime, the other effort enjoys initial success as Pike’s Cherokees capture a Union battery, but a counterattack nullifies any advantage. McCulloch’s Texas and Arkansas troops press forward, but sustain heavy casualties, including their commander, as he tries to lead them forward. James McIntosh steps forward to assume command only to be struck down and the attacks lose their momentum as the demoralized Confederates reassess.
With everything running in short supply and his leadership decimated, Van Dorn clings to ground around Elkhorn Tavern. Curtis turns to strike the V-shaped Confederate line. The Southern right flank gives way. Demonstrating an uncharacteristic exuberance for a normally-stoic personality, the Union commander watches as his opponents flee the field, dashing Van Dorn’s hopes of moving into Missouri and securing St. Louis. The battle has cost 1,340 Union and 800 Confederate casualties.
In Hampton Roads, the Confederate ironclad Virginia (formerly the U.S.S. Merrimack) creates havoc among elements of the Union fleet guarding the entrance to Chespeake Bay, threatening the viability of wooden warships against the new type of naval vessel. The Virginia encounters and rams the twenty-four gun sloop Cumberland and then turns on the fifty-gun frigate Congress. Confederate flag officer Franklin Buchanan becomes enraged when his vessel takes fire from the shore while the Congress, having run aground, displays a white flag. Buchanan returns the fire personally, only to become wounded himself, then orders his cannoneers to pour heated shot into the Congress in retaliation. Catesby Ap Roger Jones replaces the stricken skipper and the Virginia turns on the grounded Minnesota. The lateness of the day and the strain of battle on a vessel and crew that is also impacted by the fighting convinces Jones to finish the work tomorrow.
From Martinsburg, Va., Union officer Alvin Coe Voris assesses the broader effects of the war thus on Virginia:
“The statesmen of Va have not manifest their usual sagacity in taking part with secession. They have voluntarily brought upon the State a terrible financial, social and political scourge. A person who has not seen the effects of the war cannot appreciate the extent of the injury. At every place where a camp has been made for any length of time the hand of destruction has fallen, leaving nothing but buildings & the native soil. . . . This is true whether the occupying army is friendly or hostile. . . . It is fortunate for Ohio that the stroke of war has only fallen on her sons in the field and far outside her borders.”
Beginning at approximately 8:45 A.M., a revolution in naval warfare occurs when the Virginia and the Monitor duel in Hampton Roads. As Virginia steams back out to confront the Union fleet the crew spots an unusual craft lying low in the water adjacent to Minnesota. The more nimble Monitor, featuring two eleven-inch Dahlgren guns in a revolving turret, will give as good as she gets on this day, despite the label of being little more than a “cheesebox on a raft.” For her part, the Virginia has endured hits from the previous day and struggles with leaks and faulty machinery. Trading shots as the antagonists circle each other, the Confederate vessel becomes vulnerable when she runs aground, but despite a pummeling Jones succeeds in freeing her before critical damage can be done. Late in the morning, the Monitor’s commander, John Worden, suffers an incapacitating wound when a shell burst hits the pilothouse in which he is directing the fight and blinds him temporarily. The confrontation ends in a stand-off or draw, but history has been made on the waters of America.
Mary Chesnut exudes about the news of the previous day:
The Merrimack business came like a gleam of lightning, illuminating a dark scene.”
Receiving some criticism from newspaper editorials for his proposed joint resolution on gradual compensated emancipation, President Lincoln responds:
“Have you noticed the facts that less than one half-day’s cost of this war would pay for all the slaves in Delaware, at four hundred dollars per head?—that eighty-seven days cost of this war would pay for all in Delaware, Maryland, District of Columbia, Kentucky, and Missouri at the same price?”
As such, Lincoln suggests that “another article” might be in order.
President Lincoln passes along concerns he has heard related to the U.S.S. Monitor to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles. One naval officer has ventured that a boarding party might render the vessel’s turret inoperable by “wedging” it so it cannot turn. Lincoln is careful not to use his own words, but suggests, “He is decidedly of [the] opinion she should not go sky-larking up to Norfolk.”
By virtue of the President’s War Order No. 3 and his own decision to lead the Army of the Potomac personally as it positions itself for a campaign against Richmond, George B. McClellan is relieved as commander of all other Union military departments.
President Lincoln expresses his intention that while McClellan maneuvers his army for a strike at the Confederate capital, Washington itself is not to be left exposed.
In Virginia, Alvin C. Voris notes his good fortune: “We are luxuriating on secesh chicken now. I got one for 2/c yesterday. It was a chicken indeed, an old he hen of almost a centuries growth, & after boiling it long enough to tan sole leather it made a chicken soup for five persons for supper and breakfast.”
Union general John Pope establishes himself as an aggressive and successful commander with operations against the defenses of New Madrid, Missouri.
Union activity continues to plague Confederates on the coast of North Carolina as troops occupy New Berne. Most of the 609 Southern casualties are prisoners of war.
Still working to sell his idea for gradual compensated emancipation, Abraham Lincoln offers statistics for each slaveholding state remaining in the Union and posits:
“Suppose, for instance, a State devises and adopts a system by which the institution absolutely ceases therein by a named date—say January 1st, 1882. Then, let the sum to be paid to such state by the United States, be ascertained by taking from the Census of 1860, the number of slaves within the state, and multiplying that number by four hundred—the United States to pay such a sum to the state in twenty equal annual instalments [sic], in six per cent. bonds of the United States.”
After absorbing the news of the loss of New Berne, Mary Chesnut concludes dejectedly: “So many discomfitures. No wonder we are downhearted.”
Union troops under William T. Sherman and Stephen A. Hurlbut reach Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River, not far from the Mississippi borderline.
George McClellan begins the movement of his army for its campaign against Richmond by way of the Virginia Peninsula.
Following a controversial tenure as secretary of war, Judah Benjamin replaces Robert M.T. Hunter, who has resigned his office in a fit of pique, as the new Confederate secretary of state. Benjamin is unfailingly loyal to President Davis and possesses a brilliant mind, but is also an easy target for critics and anti-Semites.
Confederate war clerk John Beauchamp Jones notes the degree to which black-marketing has flourished in Richmond, while offering not such a thinly-veiled criticism of the hypocritically-motivated efforts of those supposedly engaged in curtailing such activities:
“Gen. [John H.] Winder’s detectives are very busy. They have been forging prescriptions to catch the poor Richmond apothecaries. When brandy is thus obtained it is confiscated, and the money withheld. They drink the brandy, and imprison the apothecaries.”
Southern cavalry under Turner Ashby probe the area of Kernstown in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, but fail to detect the presence of the greater portion of 9,000 Federals located nearby under James Shields.
Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s men approach what they believe to be only a small rear-guard of Union forces, but find themselves engaged in the First Battle of Kernstown with a powerful and well-posted foe. Despite reluctance to fight on the Sabbath, among the other factors that might have given another man pause, Jackson presses the attack. Nathan Kimball, the replacement for a wounded Shields, feeds additional Union troops into the combat. The numbers begin to tell, and this development, coupled with depletion in ammunition causes Confederate general Richard Garnett to order the Stonewall Brigade to retreat. The command as a whole then withdraws under duress. Jackson’s aggressiveness with a force inferior in size to Shields yields a loss of 80 killed, 375 wounded, and 263 missing for the Confederates and 118 killed, 450 wounded, and 22 missing for the Federals. The hard-fought engagement is the opening salvo of a campaign in the Shenandoah.
Fort Macon, near Beaufort, North Carolina, comes under attack by Union forces.
President Lincoln communicates with newspaper editor Horace Greeley regarding the gradual emancipation proposal: “If I were to suggest anything it would be that as the North are already for the measure, we should urge it persuasively, and not menacingly, upon the South.”
In the early morning hours, 418 Union troops under Major John M. Chivington clash with Confederates at Apache Canyon, New Mexico. Although he has driven the Southerners repeatedly, Chivington withdraws his men and 60-70 captives, having suffered 19 killed, 5 wounded, and 3 missing of his own. Confederate losses are less certain, but amount to at least 16 dead and 30-40 wounded.
Diarist John B. Jones records that General John Winder’s sting operation against black-marketers in the Confederate capital has ended in acquittals handed down “by a court-martial.” The general’s response to subsequent orders for the release of the prisoners reflects his fiery nature: “Not approved, and you may congratulate yourselves upon escaping a merited punishment.”
At Pigeon’s Ranch, in Glorieta Pass, the antagonists in the New Mexico Campaign spar with each other, while a small contingent of 400 men under John Chivington detach for a bold strike against the Southern supply wagons. The destruction of these critical resources compels the Confederates to withdraw. Casualties of 36 killed, 60 wounded, and 25 missing for the Southerners, as opposed to Federal losses of 31 killed, 50 wounded, and 30 missing, mark the human costs of the fighting.
In the North, George Templeton Strong is in no mood to celebrate the month’s successes:
“There is an uneasy feeling about the conduct of the war. That fatal Merrimac is ready for sea again. With a little luck to help her, she may do infinite mischief. Is Congress or the Navy Department accountable for our want of preparation? Somebody ought to be hanged, because we have not six Merrimacs now in commission.”
Kentucky Unionist Josie Underwood watches as Wisconsin troops pass her home, marveling at the sight:
“I think I never saw such a fine looking body of men. All of our troops look splendidly—so well equipped and comfortably clothed but it seems to me the Wisconsin men are larger—more stalwart and healthy looking than any.”
The scene makes her momentarily feel compassionate toward the “Poor ‘Confeds! Though all wrong from my standpoint—there is something grand and heroic in the reckless daring that could ever induce them to put themselves against this strong government, with its inexhaustible supply of men and money—and they don’t seem for a minute to realize the self sacrifice they are making and are absolutely confident of winning out—even when they are hungry and cold.”
In Virginia, the Army of the Potomac, George B. McClellan commanding, continues its shift to the Peninsula for launching operations against Richmond from that direction.
Federal troops are on the move in other places as well. From her home in Kentucky, Unionist Josie Underwood records:
“No funny fooling today—it is raining. The streets are in horrible condition—yet on and on go more troops marching south, through slush and mud. The hospitals are full to overflowing.”
Union officer Alvin Coe Voris, writes home from Woodstock, Va., in a letter tinged with hopefulness:
“You see that we are getting ‘away down in Dixie.’ Every move takes us further from home, but nearer a speedy return.”
Legislation meant to provide the means for states to transition from slave-holding to free with compensation for the owners passes the U.S. Senate. President Lincoln has seen this process as the practical application of the notion of gradual compensated emancipation.
Abraham Lincoln is feeling exposed in Washington as so much of the force once defending it is no longer in the vicinity of the nation’s capital. He holds Irvin McDowell’s troops in place and urges McClellan to “commence his forward movement from his new base at once.”
Despite the sympathies she and her family hold with regard to the Union, Josie Underwood learns harsh lessons from the war raging around them:
“We find that Union soldiers are not much more regardful for personal property than were the Rebels—only now Pa has some chance of getting his rights redressed and that too, without insult.”
New siege lines take shape in the area of Yorktown, Virginia, as McClellan’s massive army confronts an unknown number of Confederate defenders under Major General John Bankhead Magruder.
Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard is exhibiting severe second-thoughts about a surprise Confederate offensive against Union forces encamped along the Tennessee River north of Corinth. As another day passes with Southern forces beset by delay and chaotic movement a frustrated Albert Sidney Johnston proclaims:
“This is perfectly puerile! This is not war!”
Later in the day, when confronting the debate about what to do next raging between his subordinates, Johnston insists:
“Gentlemen, we shall attack at daylight tomorrow.”
“I would fight them if they were a million.”
“I have ordered a battle for tomorrow at daylight, and I intend to ‘hammer ‘em’!”
The pastoral beauty of Spring becomes shattered in western Tennessee near Pittsburg Landing and a little log meeting house called Shiloh Church. Sidney Johnston has maneuvered his troops from Corinth to the area that contains numerous Union camps, and despite missteps has effected a surprise that has given the Southerners an early advantage in the fighting. In a joking mood, Sidney Johnston remarks, “That checkmates them,” as fighting swirls around features that will become legendary in what becomes known as the “Hornets’ Nest” for its bitter and bloody action. Before the combat near Sarah Bell’s peach orchard is finished, Johnston suffers a wound, which due to a pre-war injury and his high-topped boots he is unaware until he has nearly bled to death. “Yes, and I fear seriously,” he explains to an inquiry concerning his wounding while still mounted on his horse, Fire-eater. Carried to a ravine for closer examination, it is already too late, a fate made all the more memorable because Johnston had a tourniquet in his pocket.
In the meantime, the defense of the Hornets’ Nest winds down, but the men of Stephen Hurlbut, Benjamin Prentiss and William H.L. Wallace, have bought Grant precious time to cobble a powerful defense line together near Pittsburg Landing. A Confederate round slams into Wallace’s face and as the action passes him, he remains on the battleground, not knowing that his wife, Ann, has reached the scene and awaits anxiously aboard a steamboat on the Tennessee River. Only the day before, Wallace, thinking she was still in Illinois, dash
From the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, an Ohioan observes:
“I see the deep traces of war depicted in the brow of many mothers, wives and sisters as I pass through the villages of this valley. . . . It pains me to pass through their towns. I feel as if I was looked upon as being one who was helping to spread this pall of woe upon their once happy homes. I am not fit for a soldier. Soldiers should be made of iron, with hearts as fierce as fire, and of a purpose as cool and relentless as fate.”
For all of the horrors of war in places like Shiloh, the war exacts a less glamorous, but deadly toll elsewhere. At his station in the Gulf of Mexico, a Union diarist notes without much elaboration as to the circumstances:
“Six of the Maine boys were drowned while bathing.”
In the vicinity of Island No. 10 in the Mississippi River, John Pope stages for an attack that will, if successful, push the Federal tide toward Memphis.
At Shiloh the first day has gone reasonably well from the Confederate standpoint, although the loss of Albert Sidney Johnston remains to manifest itself completely. More ominous is the inability to shatter a last line of Union defense at Pittsburg Landing or to prevent the arrival of additional forces under William “Bull” Nelson and the wayward Lew Wallace, through the night. P.G.T. Beauregard has assumed the mantle of leadership for the Southern forces, but seems to believe that the fight is essentially over. Today will prove him wrong.
By the end of these two days’ fighting, more names, such as “Bloody Pond,” have become part of the Civil War lexicon. The Federals have tallied 1,754 killed, 8,408 wounded and 2,885 missing or captured to the Confederates’ 1,723 dead, 8,012 wounded and 959 missing or captured.
On the Mississippi, Island No. 10 falls along with some 7,000 supporting Confederate troops.
The Confederate retreat to Corinth continues. Nathan Bedford Forrest confronts William T. Sherman at Fallen Timbers and is fortunate to escape with his life when he leads a charge into Union lines only to find that he has carried himself so far that he is alone and surrounded by blue-coated antagonists. Although suffering a gunshot wound, Forrest turns, grabs a hapless Union defender and uses him as a shield until he is out of range and discards the fellow.
Along the Mississippi, Brigadier General William W. Mackall, consummates the surrender of the Island No. 10 defenders.
In the Trans-Mississippi, Henry Sibley’s retreat encounters light opposition at Albuquerque. The New Mexico Territory is rapidly returning to Union control.
News has reached the Appalachians about Shiloh, but as usual it is a jumbled mix of rumor and unsubstantiated reports. Kentuckian Edward Guerrant grasps at the “Glorious News!”
Intelligence was received today of a fierce & bloody battle . . . which resulted in the entire overthrow of the Vandal Hordes of Lincoln—with the loss of six thousand prisoners & 80 pieces of artillery—but too dearly bought by the lamented death of the great & gallant Genl. A. Sydney Johnston. We hope this part is not true.—The information is considered reliable. It will offset Fort Donelson—Roanoak Island etc. and all our late reverses. May God grant it be so!”
President Lincoln has a busy day. He accepts a joint resolution from Congress on the matter of gradual emancipation by the states and issues a proclamation of thanksgiving to celebrate recent military successes:
“It has pleased Almighty God to vouchsafe signal victories to the land and naval forces engaged in suppressing an internal rebellion, and at the same time to avert from our country the dangers of foreign intervention and invasion.”
The tone of Lincoln’s pronouncement is fitting backdrop for the fading W.H.L. Wallace. In and out of delirium, he finally gives in to the wounds he had suffered defending the Hornets’ Nest. Ann is with him in the Cherry Mansion at Savannah, Tn., until the end.
From nearby Tybee Island, heavy guns erected by troops under the command of Brigadier General Quincy Gillmore open on Fort Pulaski, which protects the approach to Savannah, Georgia.
Pounding by the Union guns on Tybee Island renders further defense of masonry Fort Pulaski impossible as rounds threaten to widen breaches in the wall and fall in the vicinity of the fort’s powder magazine.
James J. Andrews and a band of raiders use a brief stop for breakfast as the opportunity for absconding with the locomotive General, precipitating a chase that covers ground from Big Shanty, north of Marietta, Georgia, to the vicinity of Chattanooga. William Fuller pursues the band relentlessly and finally helps to run the raiders to ground.
From the Gulf, Rufus Kinsley records more noncombat tragedies experienced by his comrades:
“Awful thunder storm last night. 4 men of the 31st Mass. killed by lightning.”
On his own initiative, Union general David Hunter declares slaves found in the area of Fort Pulaski to be considered confiscated from their masters and emancipated.
From the “Battle Ground of Pittsburgh Landing,” Emerson Opdycke relates the events of the recent engagement to his wife from the perspective of an officer connected with General Don Carlos Buell and who is convinced that the arrival of these reinforcements has saved Grant’s army after the disastrous opening day:
“[A]s the darkness came on, the enemy withdrew a little to the rear, having driven Grant from all his positions, captured many of his batteries, and the most of his camp and garrison equipage etc. etc., in short had we not come up, Grant could not have escaped with ten thousand men. . . . . Such inexcusable inefficiency ought to cost Gen. Grant his office if not his life. No good officer need ever be surprised to the extent that he was if he regard [the] plainest rules of War.”
Diarist Emma Holmes recalls the significance of the day, but tempers the memory with more recent and sobering events in Georgia:
“The first anniversary of the surrender of Fort Sumter. We scarcely feel like celebrating it, when [Fort] Pulaski has just fallen.”
The Confederate States of America enters a new phase of conducting war as President Jefferson Davis signs into law a conscription act that ostensibly impacts every white male between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five.
By presidential signature on legislation passed by Congress, Abraham Lincoln brings slavery to an end in the District of Columbia.
Forts Jackson and St. Philip, meant to guard the approaches to New Orleans from the Gulf via the Mississippi, come under attack.
From his camp is Augusta County, Va., Irby Scott informs his father:
“Shenandoah Mountain is naturally a very strong position being very steep on all sides. We will soon have it well fortified and then we defy the yankees to come and take it. If Stonewall Jackson will maintain his ground and not fall back any farther we will hold this mountain untill the cows come home.”
The warmer weather and absence from home have combined for the homesick soldier, although he will argue that he is not as “low spirited or grieving” as he sounds:
“I want to see you all worse than ever since spring has set in. Spring here is quite different from what it is in Georgia. I think of home and the loved ones there almost a hundred times a day.”
South Mills, North Carolina, is the scene of fighting as Federal troops seek to disperse Confederate defenders and destroy locks on the Dismal Swamp Canal. The Union forces encounter resistance, but succeed in forcing them to retreat after several hours of combat.
From Tennessee, Union lieutenant Friedrich Bertsch recalls happier Easter Sundays of the past:
It is a Sunday but no sun, rather a rainy day, as yesterday and the day before, wet memories; the bunnies and Easter eggs are completely missing. . . . And so according to all probability, the Easter celebration here will be quite gloomy, and if we carry our thoughts to home, we run the danger of becoming homesick.”
The Confederate Congress adjourns.
From near Yorktown, Va., Confederate officer Thomas J. Goree tells his mother:
“We are now organized and ready and more than eager for the fray. We have been daily expecting McClellan to make an attack, but he has not done so. . . . I do not know what Gen. Johnston’s plans are, but I suppose that if McClellan does not attack soon, we will.”
Goree reminds his mother that George Washington and Lord Cornwallis had once clashed in the vicinity:
“Our Hd Qurts [is] in 100 yards of Washington’s old breastworks. I feel that the fate of Va., if not the Confederacy, depends on the result of this fight. We must win it, or all is lost. I will not say all is lost, but it will be very hard for us to recover from a defeat here.”
The actions of the last several days in the lower Mississippi have convinced Flag Officer David G. Farragut to try to run past Forts Jackson and St. Philip, guarding the approach to New Orleans.
Farragut’s fleet is underway in its dangerous, but exhilarating, effort to cross the guns of the Confederate forts protecting the Crescent City. In the darkness of early morning and amidst heavy fire and smoke, the vessels move beyond the fixed fortifications and obstructions that were supposed to prevent them from doing so. A “mosquito fleet” that features the ram Manassas tries to do what the forts had not in preventing the further advance of the Union ships, but to no avail. Most of the Southern vessels are lost, with approximately 100 casualties in gray, while the Union forces sustain losses of one craft, 37 men killed and 149 wounded.
David Farragut reaches New Orleans amid chaos and confusion, with no one apparently willing to “surrender” the city. The remnants of the uncompleted Confederate ironclad Mississippi burns.
Fort Macon, guarding Beaufort Harbor in North Carolina, is also under attack, with heavy artillery fire disabling many of the Confederate guns. Colonel Moses White sees no choice but to hoist a white flag over the beleaguered installation.
The outcome of Shiloh has left grief and despair that people on both sides recognize as shared elements to be endured. Kentucky Unionist Josie Underwood observes of one fallen Confederate:
“A nobler, sweeter soul never entered Heaven—no matter how wrong the cause for which he died, he believed it—to him it was sacred. Oh! the crime of the men on both sides. Fanatics North and South who brought about this cruel war.”
Another prominent Union officer, Brigadier General Charles F. Smith, who had scrapped his leg badly, only to watch as infection set in and then find himself wracked with dysentery, dies in the same house that had held the fatally-stricken General Wallace and served as headquarters for General Grant.
In North Carolina, 400 more Southern defenders of a fortified post stack their arms as prisoners of war as the formal surrender of Fort Macon takes place.
In South Carolina, Mary Chesnut processes more ill-tidings from the Western Theat
“Doleful dumps—alarm bells ringing. Telegrams say the [Union] mortar fleet has passed the forts at New Orleans. . . . Down into the very depth of despair are we.”
A night of rest and reflection has not softened the blow for the proud Southerner:
“New Orleans gone—and with it the Confederacy. Are we not cut in two”
Her anger is particular strong toward government officials: “The Confederacy done to death by the politicians. What wonder we are lost. Those wretched creatures the Congress and the legislature could never rise to the greatness of the occasion. They seem to think they were in a neighborhood squabble about precedence.”
Now that New Orleans is gone, several small fortifications give up to their opponents, while some of the most desperate members of the isolated garrison at Fort Jackson mutiny and abandon the post out of fear for their own fates.
Maury’s brief tenure in East Tennessee ends with his replacement by Simon Buckner as commander of the department
Forts Jackson and St. Philip, rendered no longer relevant to the protection of New Orleans and with their dispirited defenders cut off from further supply, capitulate to the Federals.
With the Confederate evacuation of New Orleans by troops under Mansfield Lovell, Mary Chesnut believes she has identified a flaw in strategy:
“War seems a game of chess—but we have an unequal number of pawns to begin with. We had knights, kings, queens, bishops, and castles enough. But our skillful generals—whenever they cannot arrange the board to suit them exactly, they burn up everything and march away. We want them to save the country. They seem to think their whole duty is to destroy [our own] ships and save the[ir] army.”
Kentuckian Edward Guerrant registers his assessment of the loss of New Orleans while buoying his spirits with faith in a mightier hand at work:
“This is a great blow to the Confederacy—but ‘our cause it is just, And in God is our trust!”
An incredulous Chesnut concludes:
The last day of this month of calamities. Lovell has left the women and children to be shelled and took the army to a safe place. I do not understand. Why not send the women and children to the safe place and let the army stay where fighting was to be? Armies are to save, not to be saved—at least, to be saved is not their raison d’etre, exactly. If this goes on the spirit of our people will be broken.”
Pressure from George B. McClellan’s massive Union command has convinced Joseph E. Johnston that the time for evacuating the Yorktown line toward Richmond is drawing nigh and he so informs President Jefferson Davis.
McClellan is completing the process of mounting siege guns that he hopes will pummel the Confederates into submission and secure him the commendation of a grateful nation for having saved the Union. President Abraham Lincoln remains worried, concerned that Little Mac’s request for more artillery “argues indefinite procrastination.”
In the Shenandoah, Lieutenant Colonel Alvin Coe Voris confesses to confusion about the attitudes of some of the citizens he has encountered:
“If I was a Virginian as I am an Ohioan by the Eternal I would do differently than do the FFV [First Families of Virginia] in this fight. I would strike here, there & everywhere when a foe presents. I would not run unless to strike at a better point, & when I did strike I would make it till the enemies of my state fell in battle rather than by the fleetness with which I fled from the approach of the ‘cowardly Yankees’.”
Voris is convinced that the end is near for the Confederacy at any rate:
“The boys are beginning to look forward to a time when this accursed war will be brought to a close. Events look verry discouraging to the rebels. New Orleans, the whole Mississippi, the seaboard forts, Yorktown, and all the later battles must be exceedingly unconsoling to them.”
Further westward, Lieutenant Friedrich Bertsch complains that the newspapers had made “fake heroes” of generals like Ulysses Grant and William Sherman after Shiloh, at the expense of Don Carlos Buell, Lew Wallace, William “Bull” Nelson and others:
“What is not possible in America, the birthplace of Humbug in all well-developed forms?”
From his post in South Carolina, William P. DuBose, reflects his concerns for the safety of Charleston and other coastal cities:
“It would be sad to see our beloved City in the hands of the Enemy, but so far as our course, & the policy of the war are concerned, I am fast becoming reconciled to the surrender of every place accessible to gun boats, and falling back into the country.”
There will be no showdown this time at the site of Lord Cornwallis’s surrender in 1781, as the Confederates evacuate their positions around Yorktown, Va.
In Richmond, President Jefferson Davis establishes May 16 as a day for humiliation and prayer in the face of the setbacks the Confederacy has experienced:
“An enemy, waging war in a manner violative of the usage of civilized nations, has invaded our country. With presumptuous reliance on superior numbers, he has declared his purpose to reduce us to submission. . . . Recent disaster has spread gloom over the land, and sorrow sits at the hearthstones of our countrymen; but a people conscious of rectitude and faithfully relying on their Father in Heaven may be cast down, but cannot be dismayed.”
“The success is brilliant,” George B. McClellan proclaims as his forces move into the abandoned works at Yorktown, culminating a month-long siege and stalemate that has nevertheless left a bitter taste for the Union commander.
Confederate troops are evacuating elsewhere as well, in Tucson, in the New Mexico Territory.
A heavy fight in the rain in the vicinity of the colonial town of Williamsburg pits the vanguard of McClellan’s army and the rearguard of Joseph Johnston’s. The task for defending the Southern column chiefly falls to James Longstreet. By the time the combat ends, the Federals have experienced some 2,200 casualties and the Confederates approximately 1,700.
Abraham Lincoln is out of Washington, arriving at Fortress Monroe, in the Chesapeake Bay.
Lincoln visits with the crew of the celebrated Union ironclad, Monitor, who may yet have much work to do in supporting McClellan’s push for Richmond.
Further along the James River, Brigadier General William B. Franklin sends his division on a mission that will flank the retreating Confederates and quite possibly score the decisive, and as yet elusive, victory that Little Mac has sought. Tough fighting at Eltham’s Landing (also West Point or Barhamsville), prevents the effort from succeeding. Good execution by Brigadier John Bell Hood helps to win the day for the Southerners. When Joe Johnston chides Hood for exceeding his orders and asks what would have happened if he had instructed the Texans to drive the Federals back instead of ordering a probe, the pugilistic subordinate answers:
"I suppose, General, they would have driven them into the river, and tried to swim out and capture the gunboats."
Stonewall Jackson maneuvers his small 9,000-man army in the Valley of Virginia for a blow against one of the many Union forces arrayed against him. Union brigadier general Robert H. Milroy is in the vicinity of McDowell, having been reinforced by Brigadier General Robert C. Schenck as the lead elements of Major General John C. Fremont’s command. Although outnumbered, the 6,000 Federals opt to attack and Jackson finds himself in a tough battle along the heights of Sitlington’s Hill. Holding the center of the Confederate position and subjected to a galling fire from the advancing enemy, the 12th Georgia will lose 40 killed and 140 wounded of 540 men engaged. Stubbornness, adds to the exposure of the troops, as the Georgians refuse to fall back to a more defensible position, with one of them insisting gallantly, “We did not come all this way to Virginia to run before [the] Yankees.”
The Confederates hold their ground, but at a fearful cost that set 500 total casualties against Union losses of 256. Nevertheless, Milroy will withdraw, leaving McDowell to Jackson.
On another front in Virginia, everyone is not pleased that the Southern forces are pulling back from the lower Peninsula. But North Carolinian William Dorsey Pender, with the retreating command, is not one of them. He tells his wife:
“We are out of the Peninsula which was a perfect trap for us. We had some hard marching.”
Norfolk and Portsmouth, Va., which boasts an important shipyard and other facilities is no longer in Confederate hands.
Repositioning in Virginia has not diminished the expectation of ultimate success for Dorsey Pender:
“Tomorrow or [the] next day will place us where we will make a stand for Richmond. No one amongst us fears the result.”
Union major general David Hunter disseminates General Orders, No. 11, from Hilton Head, South Carolina, based upon his previous declaration of martial law in the region:
“Slavery and martial law in a free country are altogether incompatible; the persons in these three states of Georgia, Florida and South Carolina—heretofore held as slaves, are therefore declared forever free.”
In Kentucky, with most troops having passed on to the front lines, Unionist Josie Underwood records in her diary:
“The days are so beautiful now—but the poor little town looks distressingly dilapidated. The buildings burned when the rebels left, have never been rebuilt. The streets are in dreadful condition, ever so many hospitals, full of sick soldiers. . . . Deserted camping grounds . . . with all sorts of cast-off things, scattered around. The soldier’s ‘graveyard’ getting bigger—every day nearly, a few more new boards at the head and foot of mounds of fresh earth, maybe a name on the boards—maybe just a number.”
A tangle between “fleets” occurs at Plum Run Bend as a small contingent of Southern vessels under Captain James E. Montgomery confronts Union mortar boats and ironclads. Despite the unlikely odds, the Confederates sink Cincinnati and Mound City in shallow water and put up a brave show before dropping back from the heavy Union firepower that has taken its toll on them as well.
In the lower Tidewater of Virginia, President Lincoln has come to witness personally the occupation of Norfolk and its environs.
For all of its promise, the Confederate ironclad Virginia simply draws too much water to be safely moved beyond the reach of advancing Federal forces. As a result, she is scuttled to prevent her from falling into Union hands and the brief, but historic career of the vessel in its most recent and celebrated incarnation comes to a close.
President Lincoln “relaxes” the naval blockade at Southern ports now in the hands of Union forces in “the interests of commerce.” His actions end the restrictions to trade, except for “contraband of war” that had existed at Beaufort, Port Royal and New Orleans in South Carolina and Louisiana.
William T. Sherman remains dogged by press reports that have soured him on the Fourth Estate. To brother John, he asserts that in response to newspaper criticism,
“For my part though silent I have at times felt that I would prefer to be governed by Davis, Beauregard & Bragg, [than] to be thus abused by a set of dirty newspaper scribblers who have the impudence of Satan. They come into camp, poke around among the lazy shirks & pick up their camp Rumors & publish them as facts. . . . They are a pest and Shall not approach me, and I will treat them as spies, which in truth they are.”
Diarist Mary Chesnut, who has recently lamented: “It is this giving up that kills me. Norfolk they talk of now. Why not Charleston next?” notes on this day, Norfolk burnt—the Merrimack sunk without striking a blow.”
Charleston will have its own moment of drama as an African-American pilot named Robert Smalls takes advantage of an opportunity to escape with other crewmen and family members on a small vessel called the Planter and bring it successfully out to the Union blockading fleet. His actions make him a hero in the North and merit a subsequent personal visit with President Lincoln.
It is a day of speechmaking for Abraham Lincoln. To one delegation he assures: “You well know, gentlemen, and the world knows, how reluctantly I accepted this issue of battle forced upon me, on my advent to this place, by the internal enemies of our country.”
To members of the 12th Indiana Regiment he asserts:
“For your kind expressions I am extremely grateful, but, on the other hand, I assure you that the nation is more indebted to you, and such as you, than to me. It is upon the brave hearts and strong arms of the people of the country that our reliance has been placed in support of free government and free institutions.”
Fort Darling at Drewry’s Bluff on the James River is the scene of a significant Union effort to ascend that tributary to approach the Confederate capital. The Southern gunners and their Northern counterparts will exchange a furious fire for several hours before the river attack subsides with damage to the Union vessels, particularly the ironclad gunboat Galena. Despite the inspirational presence of the Monitor, the Federals find that this avenue to Richmond is closed.
Confederate war department clerk John B. Jones, confides in his diary:
“The enemy’s gun-boats, Monitor, Galena, etc., are at Drewry’s Bluff, eight miles below the city, shelling our batteries, and our batteries are bravely shelling them. The President rode down to the vicinity this morning, and observed the firing.
The guns are heard distinctly in the city, and yet there is no consternation manifested by the people.”
Another defense of Confederate assets occurs in western Virginia, where Brigadier General Humphrey Marshall launches a campaign against his Union counterpart Jacob D. Cox in order to protect the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad from assault.
At Liverpool, England, a seemingly nondescript vessel (it bore only the number 290) is launched from the Laird Shipyards that will soon assume a famous identity in Confederate service as the Alabama.
Union major general Benjamin F. Butler, has once more made his presence known in New Orleans by issuing Order No. 28 in response to the behavior of recalcitrant female Rebels in the city:
“As the officers and soldiers of the United States have been subject to repeated insults from the women (calling themselves ladies) of New Orleans in return for the most scrupulous non-interference and courtesy on our part, it is ordered that hereafter when any female shall by word, gesture, or movement insult or show contempt for any officer or soldier of the United States she shall be regarded and held liable to be treated as a woman of the town plying her avocation.”
The opprobrium offered in response to the directive spreads rapidly across the Confederacy, reflecting the disdain many Southerners have come to feel for “Beast Butler.”
Butler continues his crackdown in New Orleans, shutting down the newspaper the Bee. The notorious Union general also acquires the nickname “Spoons” for his reputation of requisitioning silverware from local residences.
In Richmond, President Davis gains a renewed sense of his capital’s defensibility, but vows to his wife that the city will be destroyed before it is surrendered.
Near Corinth, William T. Sherman evaluates conditions as he sees them:
“You Know my opinion of newsmongers and Reporters, and that I scorn them from the bottom of my soul. . . . I hold the soldiers harmless, but I do blame those leaders whether of Military or Civil Life who have impressed the men with the belief that all they have to do was to come south and the Secesh would run. They now find themselves mistaken and are ‘tired of the war.’”
Humphrey Marshall’s operations come to a successful close, with Cox withdrawing, having sustained 129 casualties to Confederate losses of 16.
Lincoln foreshadows his reaction to Union major general David Hunter’s emancipation proclamation in a message to a Cabinet official:
“No commanding general shall do such a thing, upon my responsibility, without consulting me.”
Citizens of the small Virginia town of Suffolk are on their way to church when Union cavalry appear. A mother and child take note of the arrival of the blue-coated mounted troops, with the boy raising his cap and shouting, “Hurrah for Jeff Davis!” The Union commander rides over, wags his finger gently in the lad’s direction and admonishes, “You little traitor,” as the mortified parent grabs her child and races for the security of their home. The war has hit home for this previously quiet community.
David Farragut brings his fleet to Vicksburg and brashly demands the capitulation of the river city and its garrison. Confederate brigadier general Morgan L. Smith declines.
John B. Jones is in the Confederate capital, mostly trying to figure out how the tobacco stored in warehouses in the city can be disposed of if Richmond falls, but also keeps a wary eye on the advance of the Union army:
“We await the issue before Richmond. It is still believed by many that it is the intention of the government and the generals to evacuate the city.”
In Washington, President Lincoln has battles of another kind on his mind as he formally rejects General Hunter’s proclamation of emancipation.
“[N]either General Hunter, nor any other commander, or person has been authorized by the Government of the United States to make proclamations declaring the slaves of any State free, and that the supposed proclamation . . . is altogether void.”
Aside from the determination that generals in the field will not establish government policy, he retains the hope that some of the states will embrace the idea of gradual compensated emancipation.
As he enters Warrenton, Va., with his troops, Lieutenant Colonel Voris observes mixed reactions among the black and white populace.
“The negroes appear pleased to see us. The whites act sullen. . . . A verry pretty young girl made a nasty face at me as I rode at the head of my column through town. . . . The girls feel chagrined at the fact that their fellows have been compelled to make tracks before the cowardly Yankees. Our advent wounds their pride as well as their affections. Their hate is as much the hate of wounded pride as of anger.”
With Southern delegations no longer blocking passage, the Homestead Law goes into effect with President Abraham Lincoln’s signature. The path-breaking legislation would be a powerful accomplishment for any administration under ordinary circumstances, but these are hardly ordinary. Even so, the advancement of the settlement of the West becomes its hallmark.
Benjamin Butler’s actions in New Orleans raises Mary Chesnut’s ire in Charleston.
“There is said to be an order from Butler, turning over the women of New Orleans to his soldiers! Then is the measure of his iniquities filled.
We thought that generals always restrained by shot or sword, if need be, the brutal soldiery.
The hideous cross-eyed beast orders his men to treat the ladies of New Orleans as women of the town. To punish them, he says, for their insolence.”
Dorsey Pender is in a similar mood outside Richmond. He explains to his wife, Fanny:
“By the way, have you seen Gen. Butler’s order or proclamation in which he says if another lady dares treat a Yankee officer discourteously they shall be treated as women of the town—that is, women of bad repute. Did you ever hear of such brutality, trying to frighten our poor women into showing respect to his miserable drunken rabble. Can such people succeed[?] I pray not.”
Emerson Opdycke has happier news for the Union cause in the Western Theater:
“We have made another advance on Corinth and are now within a mile and a half of the rebel works. I was out Monday on picket with the regiment; we had an all day fight with the rebel pickets, the balls flew among us, and over us, quite briskly; one struck a sapling a few inches above my head: we could see the rebels aiming, and firing at us, but it was nothing but fun, after going through the Shiloh battle.”
Jones responds to events in the Shenandoah Valley with unalloyed joy and a sense of prescience:
“There is lightning in the Northwest [Virginia], and the deep thundering of avenging guns is heard in Washington! Gen. Jackson, sent thither by Gen. Lee, is sweeping everything before him, defeating Shields, Banks, Fremont, and one or two other yankee major-generals with his little corps d’arme!”
Front Royal, Va., becomes the site of a clash between Stonewall Jackson’s “foot cavalry,” and elements of Union troops under Nathaniel P. Banks. Colonel John R. Kenly commands a force of just over a thousand men, confronting opponents who bring three times that number into the engagement. Despite a furious struggle, in which the 1st Maryland on both sides battle each other directly, the fight ends with a surrender of some 700 men after Kenly has suffered a wound. Banks decides to retreat with his main force from Strasburg rather than risk being cut off from his line of communications and supply.
Jackson strikes at the flank of the Federal forces in an effort to intercept Banks as he retreats. The Confederates succeed in creating chaos and capturing troops and supply wagons, but it is clear that they are only tangling with a rear-guard. Jackson orders Major General Richard S. Ewell to proceed to Winchester, where he hopes to engage the bulk of Banks’s retiring army.
In the evening, President Lincoln responds to reports that Henry Halleck has been seeking reinforcements by informing him:
“I beg you to be assured we do the best we can. I mean to cast no blame when I tell you each of our commanders along our line from Richmond to Corinth supposes himself to be confronted by numbers superior to his own.”
Fighting continues to flare around Winchester, Va., as troops under Stonewall Jackson clash once more with Banks. Although the Federals will lose over 2,000 men, the bulk of these are prisoners. The 62 killed and 243 wounded roughly match the Confederate casualties of 68 killed and 329 wounded. By the end of these several days of combat and withdrawal, Nathaniel Banks has assumed a derisive new nickname from his opponents based upon the resources that fallen into enemy hands: “Commissary Banks.” The Southern successes add pressure on President Lincoln to retain troops that might otherwise be employed to reinforce McClellan as he closes on Richmond. -
Writing the “Dear ones at home,” Irby G. Scott describes the circumstances he has recently passed through with Stonewall Jackson:
“Yesterday we were in sight of them about 4 miles our men and them running as fast as they could. We ran them through town, the Ladies cheered and thanked us as we passed. They tried to burn their stores but the fire was put out and nearly everything saved. They must have lost everything they had for I never saw the like of plunder in my life.”
In Washington, President Lincoln responds to a resolution of censure by the U.S. Congress aimed at former secretary of war Simon Cameron in which he spreads responsibility widely for actions taken at the outbreak of hostilities. Although meant to provide the background and justification for the steps followed by the administration, the language is among Lincoln’s strongest regarding the events that led to the present conflict from his perspective:
“The insurrection which is yet existing in the United States, and aims at the overthrow of the federal Constitution and the Union, was clandestinely prepared during the winter of 1860 and 1861, and assumed an open organization in the form of the treasonable provisional government at Montgomery, in Alabama, on the 18th day of February, 1861. On the 12th day of April, 1861, the insurgents committed the flagrant act of civil war by the bombardment and capture of Fort Sumter, which cut off the hope of immediate conciliation.”
While contemplating the slowly developing campaign to take Corinth, in which he is participating, Lieutenant Bertsch suggests the possibility of a [tank-like] “‘Monitor’ for land operations, as do our naval forces for sea battles. It would certainly be practicable to fabricate a—at least in its parts—mobile, bombproof revolving tower on a disk that can be rotated, and then set it up at a suitable place. Such a machine, which is turned around by hand and fires its destructive projectiles toward all sides, can send a hail of balls that could finish Corinth, the surrounding area, and all contents in a day, sweep everything clean.”
Bertsch is convinced that if the vaunted Yankee ingenuity cannot develop such a device, someone else, like the Swedish-born inventor of the Monitor itself would likely do so.
At Corinth, William Sherman suggests that their opponents are soldiers of better caliber than ordinarily credited and “are our equals in all respects,” but concludes:
“Still our army is now composed of all of the best troops & men in the West and if we cannot conquer here we might as well give it up.”
Not all ill-feeling lies between Confederates and Federals. Newly arrived in eastern Virginia, Lieutenant Colonel Alvin Voris experiences the underlying tensions between his Ohio troops and some of their compatriots, who seem to enjoy the lion’s share of soldier amenities:
“It is not always so bad with us, but somehow or other the [War] Department has an idea that our Division can fight and march and endure hardships as if they were made of iron, while the Eastern troops are distributed over the country in fine camps with nice tents. . . . Our boys call these troops Band Box soldiers, and next to thrashing Jackson would like to see these bandbox fellows licked by the secesh.”
The long and methodical crawl toward the key rail junction of Corinth, Ms., comes to a less than dramatic conclusion as P.G.T. Beauregard evacuates the town. Henry Halleck has won the campaign’s chief goal, but the accomplishment has hardly been accompanied by raucous celebrations.
The frustration is felt in the ranks of the missed opportunities in Mississippi. Emerson Opdycke tells his wife:
“I have just returned from Corinth, no fight, rebels left last night, we could have taken their whole army, two days ago. I am boiling over with wrath, and cannot write about it. . . . The Rebs left an effigy with ‘Halleck out witted’ fastened on it.”
Confederate bureaucrat John B. Jones notes the tone of public expressions in the North as the Southern capital faces the fate Corinth has experienced: Northern papers manifest much confidence in the near approach of the downfall of Richmond, and the end of the ‘rebellion.’ The 15th of June is the utmost limit allowed us for existence.”
A great engagement begins in the defense of Richmond as the first day of Fair Oaks/Seven Pines takes place. Joseph Johnston has created a complex plan of battle that ostensibly will bring larger concentrated numbers against a portion of his opponent’s army. Unfortunately, for Confederate hopes, the scheme unravels from the start, plagued by misdirection and lack of coordination. The Southerners make progress, but the attacks bog down as Union reinforcements reach the field. In the evening, Johnston is riding along when a musket ball strikes his shoulder, followed shortly by a shell fragment hitting him in his chest. Debilitated from the blows, Johnston relinquishes command to Gustavus W. Smith for the remainder of the day, although a new individual will be in place on June 1. In the meantime, both sides have drawn blood, in copious amounts, but the battle is not yet decided.
The battle of Fair Oaks/Seven Pines continues as the Confederates strive to deflect the advance of George McClellan’s army toward Richmond. A wounded Joseph Johnston has given way in command to Robert E. Lee, upon whose shoulders the successful defense of the Southern capital now falls.
On the streets of Richmond, War department clerk John B. Jones records an encounter with a young warrior who has been engaged in the fighting outside the capital:
“I saw a boy, not more than fifteen years old (from South Carolina), with his hand in a sling. He showed me his wound. A ball had entered between the fingers of his left hand and lodged near the wrist, where the flesh was much swollen. He said, smiling, ‘I’m going to the hospital just to have the ball cut out, and will then return to the battle-field. I can fight with my right hand’.”
War Clerk Jones anticipates a positive outcome from the shift of command to Robert E. Lee.
“Gen. Lee henceforth assumes command of the army in person. This may be hailed as the harbinger of a bright fortune.”
The caustic Kentuckian Edward Guerrant passes through far Southwest Virginia, making contact with a local family that is scrapping by with thirteen children to feed and concludes: “If ‘Ignorance is bliss’ this family is blessed.”
William T. Sherman writes his friend Ulysses Grant, who still feels the barbs of the press from Shiloh.
“There is a power in our land, irresponsible, corrupt and malicious—‘the press,’ which has created the intense feelings of hostility that has arrayed the two parts of the country against each other, which must be curbed and brought within the just limits of reason and law, before we can have peace in America.”
“We can deal with armies who have a visible and tangible existence, but it will require tact and skill and courage to clip the wings of this public enemy.”
Sherman is convinced that Grant’s enemies have turned the general’s “just celebrity” after Fort Donelson against him “to pull you from the pinnacle which you had richly attained.”
Ohioan Alvin C. Voris:
“Trick, traffic, artifice and force already have cleared the whole country of food for both men and horse. All the available horses are pressed into the service on one side or another. Farms are desolate. . . . The fences are torn down to make shelter and fuel for the army. My own victuals and tent have consumed many rods of Old Virginia fence since I first set foot on [her] sacred soil. These Virginia chivalry are much tamer than our Buckeyes would be under like circumstances.”
In South Carolina, diarist Mary Chesnut notes her sentiments regarding the earlier wounding of General Joseph Johnston near Richmond:
“And now a heavy blow! Joe Johnston, the staff upon [which] we [have] leaned so heavily—his shoulder blade has been broken in battle.”
Emma Holmes reaches an interesting conclusion based upon her observations that she confides in her diary:
“It seems a very singular fact that, when almost every one of our important positions has been attacked this year, the floods have risen to an unprecedented height, enabling the yankee gunboats to come to our very doors, and often destroying our fortifications. Fort Donelson, Island No. 10, New Orleans, Fort Jackson, & Richmond would seem to show that the hand of God was against us, but our trust is in his goodness and mercy that he will not desert us in our great need.”
Holmes also recounts the rumor that “the most execrable wretch Picayune [Ben] Butler, had been assassinated in New Orleans and rejoiced exceedingly at his righteous doom, but found it to be a mistake.”
Mary Chesnut continues to gather information as it becomes available on the fighting at other fronts, leading her to conclude:
“When we read of battles in India, in Italy, in the Crimea—what did we care? Only an interesting topic like any other to look for in the paper.
Now we hear of a battle with a thrill and a shudder. It has come home to us. Half the people that we know in the world are under the enemy’s guns.”
A tangle between “fleets” occurs at Plum Run Bend as a small contingent of Southern vessels under Captain James E. Montgomery confronts Union mortar boats and ironclads. Despite the unlikely odds, the Confederates sink Cincinnati and Mound City in shallow water and put up a brave show before dropping back from the heavy Union firepower that has taken its toll on them as well.
Thinking strategically, Cump Sherman tells his wife: “I think the Mississippi [is] the great artery of America and whatever power holds it, holds the continent.”
A bed-ridden Edward Guerrant has found that more than the glories of war are fleeting as he complains of an “affliction of the bowels, & which I fear will eventually put an untimely end to my fruitless life.”
The flamboyant gray horseman, James Ewell Brown “Jeb” Stuart embarks on a ride that will take his command completely around McClellan’s Union forces outside Richmond.
Still in his sick-bed in Virginia, Edward Guerrant complains: “Between Castor Oil & a Crying kitten was deprived of my rest last night. Today is somewhat better looking—as I catch glimpses of it through the [window] glass. First day I have been able to sit up in bed.” When a comrade arrives with news that “Old Andy Johnson & ‘Picayune’ Butler—of N. Orleans” have died, the Kentuckian’s sense of humor rebounds” “May their host never grow weary of his kind attentions—nor the warmth of their reception grow cooler. Their rewards are great—I hope they may all be repaid [in Hades].”
In the pages of her diary Mary Chesnut laments:
“Drop a tear for Turner Ashby. The hero of the Valley. They say he is killed! All things are against us. Memphis gone—Mississippi fleet annihilated.”
Stuart’s tired, but exuberant horsemen return to Richmond, having circumnavigated the Union army successfully, with the loss of only one man—Captain William Latane´ of the 9th Virginia Cavalry. Stuart has also obtained vital information on the disposition of George McClellan’s forces that will earn him the title as the “Eyes of Lee’s Army.”
An indication of the general alteration in thinking is reflected in John B. Jones’s diary entry:
“What a change! No one now dreams of the loss of the capital.”
President Lincoln continues to grapple with John C. Fremont over developments in the Shenandoah Valley:
“We have no indefinite power of sending re-enforcements; so that we are compelled rather to consider the proper disposal of the forces we have than of those we could wish to have. We may be able to send you some dribs by degrees, but I do not believe we can do more.”
Emma Holmes has doubts that Northern-born John C. Pemberton will be able to defend Charleston successfully and clings to word that “our idolized Beauregard has come to inspect everything. I trust it may be true, for his presence alone will inspire that confidence which Pemberton fails to give.”
In the meantime, the battle of Secessionville rages on James Island, south of Charleston. The engagement occurs after an extended period of long-range artillery fire between the opposing commands in the area. Union brigadier general Henry W. Benham secures permission for a reconnaissance in force against a Confederate fort at Secessionville that has harassed the Federal camps. Receiving word of threatening activity by the Union forces from the local commander, Colonel Thomas G. Lamar, Confederate brigadier general Nathan G. “Shanks” Evans moves up with reinforcements. These men arrive at approximately 4:15 A.M., after Lamar’s artillery has already repulsed an initial Union advance. Subsequent attacks likewise fail and Benham orders his troops to withdraw, leaving 107 killed, 487 wounded, 89 missing on the field. The stout Confederate defense has cost Lamar and Evans 52 killed, 144 wounded, 8 missing of their own.
Zebulon Vance authors an editorial for the Fayetteville, N.C. newspaper from his camp at Kinston, N.C. regarding the efforts underway to advance his name for the North Carolina governorship.
“Believing that the only hope of the South depended upon the prosecution of the war at all hazards and to the utmost extremity so long as the foot of an invader pressed Southern soil, I took the field at an early day, with the determination to remain there until our independence was achieved. My convictions in this regard remain unchanged. In accordance therewith I have steadily and sincerely declined all promotion save that which placed me at the head of the gallant men whom I now command. A true man should, however, be willing to serve wherever the public voice may assign him. If, therefore, my fellow-citizens believe that I could serve the great cause better as Governor than I am now doing, and should see proper to confer this great responsibility upon me without solicitation on my part, I should not feel at liberty to decline it, however conscious of my own unworthiness.”
The Confederacy has a new commander in the vital Western Department. Braxton Bragg is now in charge as an ill and unhappy Gustave Beauregard gives way.
From his post outside Richmond with James Longstreet, staffer Thomas J. Goree describes the fighting at Seven Pines, declaring it, “only second to ‘Shiloh’ in magnitude.”
After detailing his personal experiences, he adds soberly:
“I tell you, Sis Frank, war is indeed a terrible thing. You have no idea of how one feels when he sees persons cold in death on the field, or being borne away wounded, with whom but a few hours before he was talking & laughing.
I recollect one instance. On Saturday, just before the battle commenced, I was riding along with Capt. Weem and was laughing heartily at him for letting his horse throw him. I saw him a few hours afterwards a corpse, shot through the head with a Minnie ball.”
Abraham Lincoln signs a law prohibiting slavery in the territories of the United States.
Emma Holmes insists that the Union occupation of Memphis is nothing more than a hollow victory:
“The Yankees have got nothing by the possession of Memphis, for all the cotton has been burnt [and] government stores & other valuable property as well as a great deal of private removed. . . . In fact, all that they will get is the pleasure of insulting the inhabitants.”
In his remarks to a visiting delegation of Progressive Friends, President Lincoln intimates the continuing progression of his thought concerning slavery, with Lincoln opening with a humorous note that he was grateful his visitors were not additional office-seekers, “for his chief trouble was from that class of persons.”
“If a decree of emancipation could abolish Slavery, John Brown would have done the work effectually. Such a decree surely could not be more binding upon the South than the Constitution, and that cannot be enforced in that part of the country now. Would a proclamation of freedom be any more effective?”
Robert Smalls, the African American pilot who had absconded with the steamer Planter and brought it out to the Union blockading fleet at Charleston, uses the same vessel and a companion gunboat to land a party of raiders south of the city. A surprise of the 16th South Carolina Infantry costs the men their camp before the Federals slip back to their ships, with the nebulous nature of the expedition making an assessment of casualties difficult.
Colonel Voris observes:
“We hear a great deal of humbug from the army, and from verry high authority too. The American people love to be humbugged, and this war has contributed more to this appetite than anything else ever presented to our nation.”
“We are within 6 or 8 miles of Manassas, and at every step see the devastating hand of war, large farms entirely turned to common, buildings destroyed, the people driven from their homes & everything indicating desolation. . . . Little do our people of the North know of the manifold ways the war is cursing the South. Poor Va. No state has been destroyed as she has.”
The Seven Days action begins with a Union movement before Richmond meant to secure high ground from which George McClellan can place and fire his siege guns at the city. Joseph Hooker and Philip Kearny press against Benjamin Huger, and although the Confederates withdraw into their defenses, the Federal assault gains little actual ground at a cost of just over a thousand casualties on both sides (626 Union and 441 Confederate). After this testing at Oak Grove, it remains to be seen how much more aggressive McClellan will be, by choice or otherwise, as the next days unfold.
At midnight, George McClellan remarks to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton:
“All things very quiet on this bank of the Chickahominy. I would prefer more noise.”
Major fighting breaks out near Richmond, when General Lee unleashes an assault on a portion of the Union army that Jeb Stuart has revealed is relatively isolated from its peers. The Southern commander targets Fitz John Porter’s V Corps, with a complex plan for various elements of his army to converge. The most difficult variable to gauge is the arrival of Stonewall Jackson from the Shenandoah Valley that is meant to seal the line of retreat for the Union troops as the rest of the Confederates strike them from the front. The day passes slowly as Ambrose Powell Hill waits for the sounds of Jackson’s guns. Finally, Hill launches his portion of the operation, driving the Federals through the little hamlet of Mechanicsville before reaching a formidable defense line in the vicinity of Ellerson’s Mill along Beaver Dam Creek. Fronted by a swampy morass and well-supported by thirty-two pieces of artillery, the area becomes a killing zone as Hill’s 11,000 troops hurl forward against Porter’s 14,000 defenders. The result is a slaughter and repulse that generates 1,484 casualties for the men in gray and only 361 for their blue-coated opponents.
David Farragut begins the bombardment of the Vicksburg defenses with mortars flinging 220-pound shells at the Confederates.
Heavy fighting continues around Richmond as Lee presses forward with attacks meant to drive the enemy from the Confederate capital’s doorsteps and McClellan reacts to his opponent’s strikes. Now, acutely aware of the danger he faces, Porter pulls back toward the bridges over the swollen Chickahominy River that will connect him to his comrades. The Federals craft a powerful defensive position near Gaines’ Mill and Cold Harbor that is protected in part by Botswain’s Swamp. The heat of the day matches the hot fighting to come as Confederates surge again into the teeth of a strong Union position backed by artillery. At approximately 2:30 in the afternoon, Maxcy Gregg’s South Carolinians lead the way only to be engulfed in a torrent of Union fire. A lethal combination of cannon fire and infantry volleys decimate these advances as they occur through the day, the stubborn defenders laying a murderous fire on the attackers that drives them back. Both sides send reinforcements as they can and finally, at about 7 P.M,, Brigadier General John Bell Hood and Colonel Evander Law unleash a general Confederate advance and, at last, break a portion of the Union line. Porter can only hope to withdraw relatively intact from the blood-soaked ground he has defended. Lee has a hard-won victory, but at the terrible price of 8,750 casualties. While, McClellan now looks for a means of extracting his army, now with 6,837 less men of their own as a result of this combat, from the grip of what he believes to be a much larger opposing force.
Not often thought to be grandiose or romantic in his statements, General Lee informs President Davis:
“Profoundly grateful to Almighty God for the signal victory granted to us, it is my pleasing task to announce to you the success achieved by this army to-day. The enemy was this morning driven from his strong position behind Beaver Dam Creek and pursued to that behind Powhite Creek, and finally, after a severe contest of five hours, entirely repulsed from the field. Night put an end to the contest. I grieve to state that the loss in officers and men is great. We sleep on the field, and shall renew the contest in the morning.”
Cump Sherman displays his sense of the reality of the war to his wife:
“You must not suppose this war is at an end or any thing like it. If McClellan take[s] Richmond which I believe he will it will be another great feat. Still they have a vast country and a determined people.”
In the midst of all other developments, President Lincoln pauses to send a note to a distant relative by marriage who is wavering about his entrance into West Point.
“Allow me to assure you it is a perfect certainty that you will, very soon, feel better—quite happy—if you only stick to the resolution you have taken to procure a military education. I am older than you, have felt badly myself, and know, what I tell you is true. Adhere to your purpose and you will soon feel as well as you ever did. On the contrary, if you falter, and give up, you will lose the power of keeping any resolution, and will regret it all your life.”
To McClellan, the commander-in-chief observes:
“Save your Army at all events. . . . I feel any misfortune to you and your Army quite as keenly as you feel it yourself. If you have had a drawn battle, or a repulse, it is the price we pay for the enemy not being in Washington.”
Lincoln is also in communication with Secretary of State William Seward about the current state of affairs:
“What should be done is to hold what we have in the West, open the Mississippi, and, take Chattanooga & East Tennessee, without more [troops]—a reasonable force should, in every event, be kept about Washington for it’s protection. Then let the country give us a hundred thousand new troops in the shortest possible time, which added to McClellan, directly or indirectly, will take Richmond, without endangering any other place which we now hold—and will substantially end the war. I expect to maintain this contest until successful, or till I die, or am conquered, or my term expires, or Congress or the country forsakes me. . . .”
Savage’s Station becomes the scene of the latest combat between Little Mac and Robert E. Lee. Major General “Prince John” Magruder sends his troops against the Union rearguard under Major General Edwin V. Sumner. Major General Lafayette McLaws joins the engagement later in the day. The fighting finally grinds to a halt around 9 P.M. as losses of 444 Southerners and 919 Northerners add to the tally of casualties for the battles that have occurred thus far around Richmond.
James Chesnut writes his wife from Richmond:
“My dear Mary,
For the last three days I have been witness to the most stirring events of modern times. . . General Lee is vindicating the high opinion I have ever expressed of him, and his plans and execution of the last great fight will place him high in the role of really great commanders.”
The fighting on this day is indicative of the confused nature of the warfare in the Seven Days. Multiple names attach to the combat, often depending upon the vicinity to a landmark or key terrain feature for the combatants involved: Glendale, White Oak Swamp, Frayser’s Farm, Charles City Cross Roads, and so on, as the combatants confront each other on multiple fronts and through inclement weather conditions. Once more Robert E. Lee hopes to use one force to drive the Federals while another attempts to strike the flank and cut off their retreat. Thomas Jackson has some 20,000 men to threaten the Union rear, but the destruction of bridges and an uncharacteristically quiescent Stonewall settles on the long-range exchange of artillery fire, while John Magruder and Benjamin Huger find their advance stymied by obstructions in the road. Only on the Confederate right—the same front on which Lee has positioned himself—is the attack pressed as elements under A.P. Hill and James Longstreet go forward. With President Davis also present, and at a time under fire, the assault becomes one piecemeal effort after another that nevertheless manages to secure limited headway. Where it has occurred, the fighting is brutal and lasts into the darkness when finally the combat lurches to a halt. The human costs stand at another 3,615 Confederates and 2,853 Federals. Much to Robert E. Lee’s chagrin, McCellan’s army has lived through another day.
The month has come to a dramatic, but bloody conclusion in Virginia. Robert E. Lee has thwarted McClellan’s chief goal of subduing the Confederate capital, but a dangerous opponent remains before Richmond that the Southern field general must confront before the city can be considered entirely safe.
On the Mississippi River aboard the USS Iroquois, young Edward Woolsey Bacon, writes of the dramatic movement of his vessel past the Confederate batteries protecting Vicksburg:
“It is much the same story right thru, dull, like any reported battle to you, the reader, but as exciting as if the whole world were swimming around you to the participator.”
“It was not war, it was murder.” So will Daniel Harvey Hill say later of the battle of Malvern Hill as the Seven Days campaigning winds down to a bloody conclusion. Robert E. Lee has removed George McClellan’s army from the doorstep of Richmond, but at a horrible cost. Disjointed and uncoordinated, if valiant, attacks have failed to dislodge the Federal defenders, while Union artillery has ripped tremendous gaps in the Southern ranks. 5,355 grayclad assailants have fallen trying to pry their blue-coated opponents from their ground. The Federals have approximately 3,000 less men to answer roll-calls unscathed.
On another front, the U.S. government has a revised income tax in place that establishes a rate of 3 per cent on incomes of $600-10,000 and 5 per cent above $10,000 to sustain the war effort and cover the government’s operating costs.
The testy relationship between field general and commander-in-chief continues as President Lincoln informs General McClellan that there are not fifty thousand men available to reinforce him. “If in your frequent mention of responsibility, you have the impression that I blame you for not doing more than you can, please be relieved of such an impression. I only beg that in like manner, you will not ask impossibilities of me. If you think you are not strong enough to take Richmond just now, I do not ask you to try just now.”
Lincoln signs the Morrill Land Grant Act containing a land endowment meant to support higher education. Under the legislation, each state would be permitted to apply 30,000 acres per its number of Congressmen and Senators to be used for establishing or enhancing agricultural and mechanical schools. President James Buchanan had vetoed an earlier bill on Constitutional grounds, based upon his concern regarding the transfer of public lands to the states for sale.
Confederate war clerk, John B. Jones, records the personal nature of the misinformation and chaos that permeates Richmond in the aftermath of so much fighting:
“So great is the demand for vehicles that the brother of a North Carolina major, reported mortally wounded, paid $100 for a hack to bring his brother into the city. He returned with him a few hours after, and, fortunately, [having] found him to be not even dangerously wounded.”
The fourth of July comes to a divided nation. A few days later from a posting in Alabama, Union lieutenant Friedrich Bertsch observes:
“So another Fourth of July would be celebrated and pass on the pretty hills and the Tennessee River in North Alabama where the citizens of the various states stand opposite one another in deadly battle. These states combined once to fight against the yoke of foreign domination. These memories have to create a melancholic mood. Will we once again stand in the fields under arms on this day, and if this would be the sad case, where would we celebrate the next 4th of July?
Confederate cavalryman John Hunt Morgan leaves Knoxville, Tennessee, for a raid into his native Kentucky.
The sad detritus of battle continues to exhibit in Richmond. According to J.B. Jones, “Thousands of fathers, brothers, mothers, and sisters of the wounded are arriving in the city to attend their suffering relations, and to recover the remains of those who were slain.”
A diarist in Louisiana records an exchange of views featuring a speech by an officer extolling the fortunes of the Confederacy. One soldier interrupts the proceedings to inquire what the men will be using for arms, to which the speaker insists, “we can whip them with pikes.” The suggestion fails to impress or inspire the men who will be carrying the lances while others shoot at them, but the speaker is unfazed. “Thinks the war cannot last much longer.” The writer concludes sardonically, “His speech, as a whole, was not favorably received.”
Union officer Alvin Coe Voris is distraught at the state of martial affairs outside Richmond:
“I see so much of incompetency & recklessness in the administration of army affairs that I begin to despair of any good growing out of the war. If individuals managed their private affairs as the public is doing, bankruptcy & ruin would inevitably and speedily follow. . . . No one knows what will be done when the 300,000 additional troops are put into the field now called for by the President.”
In Bermuda, U.S. Consul Charles Allen remains vigilant, thwarting blockade-running efforts wherever he finds them. In the case of the Lodona, carrying a load of “salt-petre . . . [as well as] other contraband goods besides spirits, among which are some Enfield rifles,” he has enjoyed some success in detaining the vessel. The master of the ship initially denies the presence of any such cargo, then argues that it was taken on-board by mistake, all while flying a United States flag and insisting upon his loyalty to the Union. Consul Allen remains resolute:
“Every scheme human ingenuity could invent has been resorted to induce me to let him have coal. He went as far as to offer me $1000 if I would go to the other end of the islands and remain two days and leave my business in the hand of a merchant there.”
From Tennessee, William T. Sherman continues to rail against the press, admitting nostalgically that his prejudice predates the current war:
“I conceived a terrible mistrust of the Press in California because these men are less reserved and the secret operations of the wire pullers are more open to the common man; and when this war broke out and [swarms] of the same genus hung around our camps, publishing items as unlike the truth as possible, writing up this General and down that, my mind was forced to the conclusion that a great change has come over our country since the days of our youth.”
Confederate bureaucrat Josiah Gorgas notes of recent developments:
“The papers (one of them at least) grumble that McClellan has ‘slipped thro’ our fingers.’ We should have gladly compromised for such a ‘Situation’ [only] two weeks ago.”
President Lincoln comes to Fortress Monroe in the lower Chesapeake Bay preparatory to meeting with George McClellan at Harrison’s Landing on the James River.
From Tennessee, Sherman observes:
“Tis folly to talk about this war approaching its end—The Enemy has this day a force in arms superior to ours. Their people embracing Kentucky & Tennessee are more united in feeling than ours. They burn their cotton, their houses anything cheerfully at the order of a Single Southern Dragoon, but if our men burns a rail, steals a chicken, robs a Garden, (All our men have turned thieves& pilferers in spite of all efforts to the Contrary) they raise a hue & cry.”
Morgan attacks and disperses or captures a Union garrison of approximately 400 men at Tompkinsville, Ky. The raider places his opponent’s losses at 22 dead and 30-40 wounded.
A Union soldier of German descent, serving in the Western Theater, and now in the vicinity of Tuscumbia, Alabama, determines:
“Ever since then we are living with Secessionists and the sparse Unionists on the best foot . . . thus it is of course unavoidable that some politics are discussed. Most are Southerners through and through, but only the women, old and young, are almost all radical Secessionists.”
Although the authors are unaware of what the other is saying, both John Hunt Morgan and John Pope release enflamed statements. Morgan’s implores fellow Kentuckians to rise up and “drive the Hessian invaders from their soil,” while Pope warns Virginians that they will be held responsible for any guerrilla depredations against the Union supply lines or trains.
President Lincoln designates Henry Halleck “General-in-Chief” of the land forces of the United States. Two days later, William T. Sherman will argue that Halleck is the Union’s “ablest man.”
Morgan continues to enjoy success in Kentucky, capturing Lebanon with 65 Federals taken prisoner, and numerous stores and supplies falling into Confederate hands. Shortly, he will secure “300 Government horses and mules” at Versailles.
Nathan Bedford Forrest strikes divided Union forces at Murfreesboro, Tenn., on his birthday and with a characteristic display of bluff and bravado captures the more numerous troops. Famously asserting, “I mean to have them all,” when nervous subordinates urge breaking off the operation prematurely, the intrepid Southern horseman succeeds in capturing 1,200 prisoners, several pieces of artillery, numerous wagons and much equipment. His 25 killed and 40-60 wounded against the Union loss of 29 killed and 120 wounded attest to the resistance that the defenders offered for a time.
Camping “in sight of the place where William Harrison was born,” Ohioan Alvin Voris observes the changing nature of the conflict in which he and his comrades are engaged:
“We encamped for a few hours in a newly harvested wheat field directly in front of the mansion home of the Harrisons. The boys made beds of the bundles, cattle & horse ate the grain and in a few hours a splendid grain field had gone to destruction. This is the fate of every place occupied by an army, even if only for a short time. Our men are becoming regardless of anything belonging to the enemy. We are in effect adopting the doctrine that the secesh have no right that white men are bound to respect. This goes so far as rebel property is concerned. I fear the moral and social degradation of the army. View it as we may, the service has the tendency to make men reckless, hardened, unrefined. . . .”
In Louisiana, a soldier records that he has approached a local minister with the offer of a sermon by a Union comrade, only to be told that no such message was going to be allowed.
“I intimated to him the propriety and the possible safety of complying with a request so reasonable; whereupon he gave the notice and then [he] preached such a sermon as would suit Jeff Davis and the devil, to a T. This evening the [same] people got the gospel of the Golden Rule [from the Union preacher]. Of course many were mad: and a very few rejoiced.”
John Pope’s confident attitude has not diminished. He boldly calls upon his Army of Virginia to engage the enemy, touting his earlier successes along the Mississippi River to bolster his credentials:
“Let us understand each other. I have come to you from the West, where we have always seen the backs of our enemies; from an army whose business it has been to seek the adversary and to beat him when he was found, whose policy has been attack and not defense. . . . Meantime, I desire you to dismiss from your minds certain phrases, which I am sorry to find so much in vogue amongst you. I hear constantly of ‘taking strong positions and holding them,’ of ‘lines of retreat,’ and of ‘bases of supplies.’ Let us discard such ideas. . . . Let us study the probable lines of retreat of our opponents, and leave our own to take care of themselves. Let us look before us, and not behind. Success and glory are in the advance, disaster and shame lurk in the rear.”
John B. Jones finds offense in the recent expressions of John Pope:
“We have some of Gen. Pope’s proclamations and orders. He is simply a braggart, and will meet a braggart’s fate.”
“He says his headquarters will be on his horse, and that he will make no provision for retreat. That he has been accustomed to see the backs of his enemies! Well, we shall see how he will face a Stonewall!”
The ironclad C.S.S. Arkansas emerges near Vicksburg for the purpose of joining in the defense of the river town by running past the Federal gunboats. David Farragut responds by blasting the defenders and the Confederate vessel with his fleet. The action leaves several of the vessels damaged and costs the Federals 18 killed, 50 wounded and 10 missing. The Arkansas tallies 10 killed and 15 wounded of its crew, but reaches a position at the base of the Vicksburg bluffs.
Charles Allen laments to his wife the loneliness of his post in Bermuda. “I had my flag-staff cut down on 3rd July so could not hoist my flag on the 4th.” Some of his earlier compatriots have departed and there is now less traffic bound for New York than before the war, leaving him “in such a God-forsaken place as this with scarcely one friendly person to speak to[.] I have once been attacked in my office and once knocked down in the street within a few days; the general sentiment is ‘It’s good enough for him; he’s a damn Yankee.’”
Confederate commissioner John Slidell secures an audience with Napoleon III of France, as the diplomat continues to make the case for French involvement in America’s war.
Cump Sherman demonstrates his early strategic vision to Henry Halleck:
“I attach more importance to the West than the East. The one has a magnificent future, but enveloped in doubt. The other is comparatively an old country. The man who at the end of this war holds the military control of the Valley of the Mississippi [River] will be the man.”
President Abraham Lincoln signs a measure of the U.S. Congress entitled, An act to suppress insurrection, to punish treason, and rebellion, to seize and confiscate the property of rebels, and for other purposes.”
This Second Confiscation Act has not been without controversy and Lincoln has considered objecting to portions of it, but wrangling with some of the language has assuaged him sufficiently to allow him to endorse it.
Morgan’s raiders capture 420 Union troops and another “300 Government horses” at Cynthiana, Ky. The sharp fighting has produced some 194 casualties among the defenders, while the Confederate reports his losses at 8 men killed and 29 wounded.
Lincoln names John S. Phelps, the son of a Connecticut lawyer, as military governor of Arkansas. Resident of Springfield, Missouri since the 1830s, he is veteran of the fighting at Pea Ridge, Arkansas, where he led a regiment of Missouri infantry.
Sunday and camp allow Georgian Irby Scott to write his loved ones at home from Virginia. The now much-traveled and grizzled veteran of the spring campaigning offers his view of the differences he has undergone since entering the Confederate army:
“If I had been told when I first entered the service that I could have gone through as much as I have, I never could have believed it, and now I can stand it better than at first for the reason that I know how to take the advantages on a march or anywhere else I may be placed, and besides I have become accustomed to this mode of life.”
Echoing the same sentiments, an ill Union colonel Voris observes:
“This being sick out of doors is not half as bad as many suppose. . . . What once appeared verry hard to be bourn now appears trifling. Still I would not underrate the trials and sufferings of the soldiers.”
This day represents another evolution in the process by which Abraham Lincoln links the institution of slavery to the war for the Union. Employing a constitutional and legislative framework, he advances the notion of gradual compensated emancipation, while applying the threat of “forfeitures and seizures” as punishment for “treason and rebellion,” already stipulated by the U.S. Congress for those who do not “cease participating in, aiding, countenancing, or abetting the existing rebellion, or any rebellion against the government of the United States, and [thereby do not] return to their proper allegiance to the United States.” Finally, as concomitant of confiscation, the President is prepared “as a fit and necessary military measure . . . as Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States [to]declare that on the first day of January in the year of our Lord one thousand, eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any state or states, wherein the constitutional authority of the United States shall not then be practically recognized, submitted to, and maintained, shall then, thenceforward, and forever, be free.”
In the Cabinet session, Postmaster General Montgomery Blair argues that the move will prove detrimental to elections in the fall, while Secretary of State William Seward insists that the administration will be best served to wait for a military success to announce the policy. Secretary of the Treasury Salmon Chase offers support for a measure that will also allow for the arming of the freed slaves, but the President is unwilling to embrace that aspect at this point.
Henry Halleck assumes command of the Armies of the United States.
Alvin Voris remains in a philosophical frame of mind as he wrestles with the impact of war on the region he occupies and the nation as a whole. He grapples with the notion that Virginians must surely regret their involvement in the rebellion, but concludes:
“It is a foolish war for us as well as them. How we are suffering from its terrible consequences. Our armies are being consumed, an enormous national debt created and daily augmenting. Society is becoming poisoned by the influence of war instead of developing the elements of national strength by production of such results as strengthen society, make men happy and promote the elements of an enlightened civilization. All our resources are directed to the production of engines of destruction.”
For a second time in a week, a slave has made his way into a Union camp in Louisiana. This individual has done so despite “wearing a 64 pound ball, attached to his foot by a cable chain five feet long. . . . He had traveled 40 miles. How he loved slavery.” By evening, yet another fugitive will join them, carrying on his neck “an iron yoke weighing 13 pounds, covered with long crooked prongs, seeking some mode of exit from the ‘house of bondage,’ which he is supposed to love so well.”
Former President Martin Van Buren dies at Kinderhook, New York.
The Lincoln administration releases a proclamation meant to “warn” those who would continue to resist the authority of the U.S. government concerning recent legislation authorizing “forfeitures and seizures” as punishment for engaging in such activities.
On this day, the President also notes the passing of his predecessor, Martin Van Buren:
“Although it has occurred at a time when his country is afflicted with division and civil war, the grief of his patriotic friends will measurably be assuaged by the consciousness that, while suffering with disease and seeing his end approaching, his prayers were for the restoration of the authority of the government of which he had been the head, and for peace and good will among his fellow citizens.”
Irby Scott reveals another side to national military service when the native of Georgia soldier turns tourist and informs his father:
“Our camp is near the old residence of James Madison (once President of the United States). I have visited his grave. He has a large fine monument erected over his remains.”
In a private letter to Reverdy Johnson, who is serving as special State Department agent to investigate irregularities in New Orleans, Abraham Lincoln reveals the internal juggling he has had to endure in the course of the war to take measures sufficient to achieve success, while not alienating those upon whom he believes such success, at least partially, rests. “You are ready to say I apply to friends what is due only to enemies. I distrust the wisdom if not the sincerity of friends, who would hold my hands while my enemies stab me. This appeal to professed friends has paralyzed me more in this struggle than any other one thing.”
Lincoln concludes, “I am a patient man—always willing to forgive on the Christian terms of repentance; and also to give ample time for repentance. Still I must save this government if possible. What I cannot do, of course I will not do; but it may as well be understood, once for all, that I shall not surrender this game leaving any available card unplayed.”
Having just reached the Confederate capital, a tired South Carolinian, William Porcher Dubose, is nevertheless impressed with what he witnesses in the seat of government and war:
“Saw Pres’t Davis today in church. There are no end to the Confederate uniforms in the street. They are by far the commonest dress.”
In Pulaski, Tennessee, Union officer Emerson Opdycke, finds the realities of war and the policies of his government at substantial and frustrating odds with each other:
“I constantly chafe at the manner the war has been conducted for the past few months. The war might be at an end this coming fall; but I see no probable end, so long as the present policy is continued. We are on a plantation of thirty-five hundred acres of excellent land, well cultivated, 500 acres in corn, in etc.: numbers of splendid horses, mules, and cattle, and hogs, all of which our army need badly; the owner is in the rebel service, doing all in his power to destroy our lives, while we protect his property.”
Still, the Union officer notes with a wink and a nod that despite half rations, “the men never lived so well . . . [as] the hogs, the sheep, the roasting ears, and potatoes, come in quite freely; the men saying, ‘we pay all we are asked for them.’ I tell Co. A they must not commit depredations upon the property of rebels, but I commanded them not to starve.”
Union forces capture a woman who has been engaging in questionable activities around Warrenton, Va. Belle Boyd will be held and ordered confined at Old Capitol Prison in Washington City.
Consul Allen reports to the state department that the Lodona has steamed away from Bermuda, but without her load of contraband material.
A cruiser known in the Laird shipyard as Number 290, then rechristened as Enrica, leaves Liverpool, England. The vessel’s construction has been under the watchful eye of Georgian James D. Bulloch, acting on behalf of the Confederate States of America. With word reaching him that his endeavors might meet with difficulties if he does not act promptly, the resourceful agent Bulloch calls for a dramatic public launching of the unarmed 1,050-ton steam screw sloop. He will convince local dignitaries that they are part of a special gala trial cruise for a new vessel and then shepherd them back by tug, once the steamer sits safely beyond reach of any British official who might try to detain her.
The adventures of the Enrica continue as Bulloch returns to the tug to bring a crew out to the vessel. He finds that in addition to the seamen, a number of women are on-hand to assure that a portion of any wages will be distributed appropriately before the men disappear to their duties. Bulloch’s protests fall on deaf ears when word reaches him that a Union warship, the U.S.S. Tuscarora, is enroute. He gathers the whole contingent and forwards all to the Enrica, where the matter of pay is resolved satisfactorily over a friendly meal and drinks. Duly signed and proudly wielding the first month’s pay, the respective groups of seamen and working women part company, with the latter returning to shore on the busy tugboat around midnight to the joy of all and the relief of the slightly bemused, if not entirely befuddled Confederate agent.
Major General Theophilus Holmes assumes command of the Confederate Department of the Trans-Mississippi.
The Enrica reaches the coast of Northern Ireland about 8 A.M., another step closer to her new identity as the C.S.S. Alabama. In less than twenty-four hours after Bulloch has taken the vessel out, the anticipated Union warship arrives at the position where the Enrica had been waiting for her crew.
New York financier August Belmont forwards a portion of a letter in which an unknown author chides the President Lincoln for his policies heretofore:
“The time has arrived when Mr. Lincoln must take a decisive course. Trying to please everybody, he will satisfy nobody. A vacillating policy in matters of importance is the very worst. Now is the time, if ever, for honest men who love their country to rally to its support. Why will not the North say officially that it wishes for the restoration of the Union as it was?”
Lincoln responds that the writer does not seem to have understood what he has said previously on numerous occasions, then asserts: “Broken eggs cannot be mended. . . . This government cannot much longer play a game in which it stakes all, and its enemies stake nothing. Those enemies must understand that they cannot experiment for ten years trying to destroy the government, and if they fail still come back into the Union unhurt. If they expect in any contingency to ever have the Union as it was, I join with the writer in saying, ‘Now is the time.’”
William Sherman remarks about the difficulties of policing a region in which supplies flow freely southward and “Secesh” abound “all round. The idea of making them take the oath [of allegiance to the U.S.] is absurd. Of course, I Know & everybody knows they prefer the South to the North, and that they hope & pray that the Southern Army will in due time destroy us. I go on the theory that all the leading men are secesh, and the laborers & mechanics neutral or tired of war”
He concludes: “The North may fall into Bankruptcy & anarchy first but if they can hold on the war will soon assume a turn to extermination, not of soldiers alone, that is the least part of the trouble, but the People.”
Friedrich Engels complains to his friend Karl Marx:
“Things go wrong in America. . . . What cowardice in government and Congress! They are afraid of conscription, of resolute financial steps, of attacks on slavery, of everything that is urgently necessary; they let everything loaf along as it will, and if the semblance of some measure finally gets through Congress, the honorable Lincoln so qualifies it that nothing at all is left of it any longer.”
In the distant Trans-Mississippi, Albert Pike spars with his government over the obligation that he feels toward the Native Americans with whom he has helped to arrange treaties on behalf of the Confederate government. He details his sentiments in a communication, To the Chiefs and People of the Cherokees, Creeks, Seminoles, Chickasaws, and Choctaws,” ultimately imploring them: “Remain true, I earnestly advise you, to the Confederate States and yourselves. Do not listen to any men who tell you that the Southern States will abandon you. They will not do it.”
Pike warns that friendly words from representatives of the Union might be employed now, but that those who hear them should not be fooled. “Be not discouraged, and remember, above all things, that you can have nothing to expect from the enemy. They will have no mercy on you, for they are more merciless than wolves, and more rapacious.”
President Jefferson Davis remains livid over reports of Union “atrocities.” He instructs Robert E. Lee to continue to investigate these matters, including indications that “Major-General Hunter has armed slaves for the murder of their masters and has done all in his power to inaugurate a servile war. . . .” Should the United States government decline to respond to the inquiries within fifteen days, Davis insists “on that Government will rest the responsibility of the retributive or retaliatory measures which we shall adopt to put an end to the merciless atrocities which now characterize the war waged against us.”
U.S. Secretary of State William Seward directs his Minister to England, Charles Francis Adams, not to consider any offer of mediation by Great Britain to end the war in America.
Lieutenant Colonel Emerson Opdycke of the 41st Ohio is frustrated at finding himself headed for Murfreesboro, Tenn., “where we ought to have gone immediately after reaching Nashville last Spring, had we done so, there would have been no Shiloh, and no disgraceful Corinth, Chattanooga was then evidently, an objective point, but our Generals could not see it, and now the rebels are fortifying it, while Gen. Buell is digging his ‘parallels’, on this side of the Tennessee River.
President Lincoln orders the enlistment of 300,000 militia for service of at least nine months.
Lincoln also responds to inquiries concerning the developments of the spring outside Richmond in which Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia drove McClellan’s forces from the gates of Richmond:
“The moral effect was the worst of the affair before Richmond; and that has run its course downward; we are now at a stand[still], and shall be rising again, as we hope. I believe it is true that in men and material, the enemy suffered more than we, in that series of conflicts; while it is certain he is less able to bear it.
“You are quite right, as to the importance to us, for its bearing upon Europe, that we should achieve military successes; and that the same is true for us at home as well as abroad. Yet it seems unreasonable that a series of successes, extending through half-a-year, and clearing more than a hundred thousand square miles of country, should help us so little, while a single half-defeat should hurt us so much. But let us be patient.”
Union officials will be better served by focusing their concerns on the Confederates in Virginia, if as War Clerk John B. Jones believes: “Lee is making herculean efforts for an ‘on to Washington,’ while the enemy think he merely designs a defense of Richmond. Troops are on the move, all the way from Florida to Gordonsville [Va.]”
Major General John C. Breckinridge advances with 2,600 Confederates against 2,500 defenders under Brigadier General Thomas Williams at Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Assistance from Union gunboats enables the Federals to drive their attackers off at a cost to themselves of 84 killed, including General Williams, 266 wounded and 33 missing. The Confederate losses amount to 84 killed, 315 wounded and 57 missing or captured. The ram Arkansas arrives too late to contribute to the Confederate effort owing to mechanical difficulties.
Attempting to tamp down rumors pervading Washington of discord in the highest echelons of government, Lincoln meets with a raucous assemblage of “fellow-citizens” in Washington and observes:
“Gen. McClellan’s attitude is such that, in the very selfishness of his nature, he cannot but wish to be successful, and I hope he will—and the Secretary of War is in precisely the same situation. If the military commanders in the field cannot be successful, not only the Secretary of War, but myself for the time being the master of them both, cannot be but failures. I know Gen. McClellan wishes to be successful, and I know he does not wish it more than the Secretary of War for him, and both of them together no more than I wish it.”
William T. Sherman is in Memphis, Tennessee, where he pauses to write a letter his daughter Minnie:
“[Y]ou are in Lancaster and I am here the Stern & Cruel tyrant, slave of a Despotic Master, Lincoln. Hundreds of children like yourself are daily taught to curse my name, and each night thousands Kneel in prayer & beseech the almighty to consign me to Perdition. Such is War.”
The Confederacy loses the services of the C.S.S. Arkansas near Baton Rouge when a faulty engine and on-board fires cause the crew to abandon the vessel after scuttling her.
Union general E.R.S. Canby defeats his Confederate opponents near Fort Fillmore as the Confederate dream of success in the far Southwest continues to evaporate.
As John Pope pushes his Army of Virginia forward, Nathaniel Banks clashes with Stonewall Jackson at Cedar Mountain or Slaughter Mountain. Banks has Jackson in dire straits for a time, at one point compelling the Confederate commander to ride forward and rally his men personally. The timely arrival of reinforcements under Ambrose Powell Hill convince the Union troops to withdraw. The sparring among the old Shenandoah Valley antagonists produces 314 killed, 1,445 wounded and 622 missing in the Federal ranks, and 1,341 total casualties for the Confederates.
William T. Sherman continues to evolve as a practitioner of warfare, exposing his views on this day to kinsman, Thomas Ewing, Sr.:
“The Northern People are forced by the Principle of self existence to push their Power and Dominion so as to embrace the lands whose waters flow to the Mississippi. In this they must be despotic. If the Patriotism of our People is unequal to the task of subjugating the whole South still there can and will be no Peace till a Power exists able & determined to be respected within the limits of our Government. I have always supposed therefore that a large proportion of the People north must move south & possess the soil.
As to changing the opinions of the People of the South that is impossible, and they must be killed or dispossessed. We have finished the first page of this war vainly seeking a union sentiment in the South, and our Politicians have substantially committed suicide by mistaking the Extent and power of the Southern People & its Government, and are about Entering a Second period. Those who sought political advantage by a display of military Zeal have disappeared from the Field of action, and now will begin the real struggle of conquest.”
To his wife, Cump offers a less vitriolic assessment:
“If Mr. Lincoln had accepted the fact of war on the Start & raised his army as I then advised of a million of men the South would have seen they had aroused a lion. Whereas by temporizing expedients 1st 75,000—then ten new Regts.—then half a million, etc., they find it necessary again & again to increase the call. Well at last I hope the fact is clear to their minds that if the North design to conquer the South, we must begin at Kentucky and reconquer the Country from them as we did from the Indians. It was this conviction then as plainly as now that made me think I was insane. A good many flatterers now want to make me a prophet.”
The Federals capture a vessel named General Lee in the waters near Fort Pulaski in Georgia.
Sherman addresses matters to Secretary of War Salmon P. Chase:
“I will write plain & slow because I know you have no time to listen to trifles. This is no trifle. When one nation is at war with another, all the People of the one are the enemies of the other. . . . Most unfortunately the war in which we are now Engaged, has been complicated with the belief on the one hand that all on the other were not Enemies. It would have been better if at the outset this mistake had not been made, and it is wrong longer to be misled by it.”
In Missouri, Southern raiders appear unexpectedly at Independence.
Confederate official Josiah Gorgas laments the loss of the Arkansas. “The brilliant passage of the Arkansas thro’ the enemy’s fleet three weeks ago, destroying several of them made us hope much of her. Had she lived N. Orleans might have been re-taken. With her dies all hope of re-conquering the Mississippi [River].”
Troops under the famed horseman John Hunt Morgan capture Gallatin, Tennessee.
Although such events are unheralded while battlefield casualty lists continue to soar, a collision in the Potomac River between two Union steamers costs the lives of 73 men.
Abraham Lincoln speaks to a visiting delegation of Free Blacks on the subject of slavery and colonization amidst the current backdrop of warfare:
“But for your race among us there could not be war, although many men engaged on either side do not care for you one way or the other. . . . It is better for us both, therefore, to be separated.”
The President notes that while Liberia has been a possibility for such relocation,
“The place I am thinking about for having a colony is in Central America.”
Touting the advantages of this choice, Lincoln asks the delegation to consider the proposal.
From the Confederate war department, John B. Jones is convinced that General Lee will accomplish great things, having “gone up the country to command in person. Now let Lincoln beware, for there is danger.”
Georgian Irby Scott recounts the fighting he and his comrades had experienced earlier at Cedar Mountain to the “Loved ones at home.” After describing the losses in his regiment he turns to a happier subject, but then embraces the darker reality of his point:
“Gen. [Jubal] Early rode up to our regt just as the fight closed, and said the 12th Ga. was his fighting regt he has seven or eight regts in his brigade. . . . I like a good name, but I think we have most too much of it for our own good.”
Scott is worried about conditions at home:
“I feel great solicitude on your account the times are so hard and every thing so high. I do not see how you are going to get along then sell your cotton at such a low price. I wish I could send you some money, but at this time I have none to spare. I have to buy all rations and pay the cash for them everything is high here as well as it is in Georgia. Bacon is worth from 35 to 50 cents a pound, flour $5 per hundred etc.”
The fears of frontier dwellers come true as an uprising of the Sioux begins in Minnesota.
The celebrated cavalier James Ewell Brown “Jeb” Stuart assumes command of all cavalry in Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.
The second session of the Confederate Congress gets underway in Richmond.
An ambush in Minnesota results in the loss of over two dozen U.S. soldiers, as Native American unrest continues to unfold.
Newspaper editor Horace Greeley decides to ramp up pressure on President Lincoln regarding emancipation by publishing, “The Prayer of Twenty Millions.” Using his influential New York Tribune as the platform, Greeley observes:
“I do not intrude to tell you—for you must know already—that a great proportion of those who triumphed in your election, and of all who desire the unqualified suppression of the rebellion now desolating our country, are sorely disappointed and deeply pained by the policy you seem to be pursuing with regard to the slaves of rebels.”
Greeley insists that Lincoln’s failings regarding slavery and rebellion dated from the inauguration of his administration:
“Had you, sir, in your Inaugural Address, unmistakably given notice that, in case the rebellion already commenced, were persisted in, and your efforts to preserve the Union and enforce the laws should be resisted by armed force, you would recognize no loyal person as rightfully held in Slavery by a traitor, we believe the rebellion would have received a staggering if not fatal blow. . . . Had you then proclaimed that rebellion would strike the shackles from the slaves of every traitor, the wealthy and the cautious would have been supplied with a powerful inducement to remain loyal.”
Greeley is convinced that the president has been too long under conservative influences that have checked his willingness to do more to exhibit “a frank, declared, unqualified, ungrudging execution of the laws of the land, more especially of the Confiscation Act.”
Sherman informs the editors of the Memphis newspapers of his policy toward those civilians who not only harbor Confederate guerrillas, but allow them to operate in an area without specific involvement in their activities:
“If an officer is in pursuit [of guerrillas] he would be perfectly justified in retaliating on the farmers among whom they mingle. It is not our wish or policy to destroy the farmers or their farms, but of course there is and must be a remedy for all Evils, if the farmers of a neighborhood encourage or even permit in their midst a set of Guerrillas they cannot expect to escape the necessary consequences. . . . These principles of war and common sense should be made familiar to the people that they may clearly understand how . . . they lay themselves clearly liable to all the risks of war without any of its excitement.”
In Southwest Virginia, staff officer Edward O. Guerrant reacts to the news that Queen Victoria has reiterated a policy of nonintervention in the American conflict:
“We will conquer our independence, & be under no obligations to ‘Her Britannic Majesty’ or any other Crowned head on Earth. We will prove to the world that a brave & determined people, by the help of God, cannot be conquered.”
Although President Lincoln has taken steps internally to address emancipation, he responds to Horace Greeley’s publication of “The Prayer of Twenty Millions:”
“As to the policy I ‘seem to be pursuing,’ as you say, I have not meant to leave anyone in doubt.
I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be "the Union as it was." If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause.”
Jeb Stuart’s cavalry strikes John Pope’s headquarters at Catlett’s Station, capturing the headquarters train and the Union general’s papers.
In Yorktown, Va., Union colonel Alvin Coe Voris explains that a brief visit home to Ohio was not as satisfactory as he had wished.
“My time was so taken up with business that I did not get rested, and had hardly time to realize that I was really at home.”
Now that he is back on duty, the depression extends to the war itself.
“The war should have been closed before this, but as matters now indicate we will have another bloody year. I am not in a writing mood today.”
After her narrow escape from a Union vessel, the former Enrica becomes the C.S.S. Alabama.
In Memphis, Sherman tells an old friend living in nearby Coahoma County, Mississippi:
“I know it is no use for us now to discuss this War is on us. We are Enemies, still private friends. In the one Capacity I will do you all the harm I can, yet on the other if here you may have as of old my last Cent, my last shirt and pants. You ask me of your negroes, and I will immediately ascertain if they be under my Military Control and I will moreover see that they are one and all told what is true of all—Boys if you want to go to your master, Go—you are free to choose. You must think for yourselves, Your master has seceded from his Parent Government and you have seceded from him—both wrong by law—but both exercising an undoubted right to rebel. If your boys want to go, I will enable them to go, but I wont advise, persuade or force them.”
As Robert E. Lee works to determine the exact nature of the forces opposing him under George McClellan and John Pope he realizes that if McClellan no longer poses a threat to Richmond that general can shift his troops to support Pope north of the city. Lee wants to strike before such a junction can occur and sends his trusted lieutenant, Stonewall Jackson on a vast march around Pope’s flank to begin this operation
The second campaign to be waged in the vicinity of Manassas/Bull Run gets underway when Fitzhugh Lee’s Confederate cavalry hits the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. In addition to some prisoners, the Southerners take hold of large amounts of commissary and quartermaster supplies that the Federals had gathered there to sustain John Pope’s Union Army of Virginia.
After having produced another striking example of the ability to cover vast distances in a swift manner by traversing fifty-four miles in thirty-six hours, Stonewall Jackson’s men are finishing the task of destroying what cannot be taken or eaten by them of captured Union supplies. Robert E. Lee will describe this endeavor in the most glowing terms, saying that Jackson had moved with “his accustomed vigor and celerity.”
In the meantime, President Lincoln is passing a frustrating afternoon:
“Do you hear any thing from Pope?” he asks Ambrose Burnside.
“What news from the front?” he queries George McClellan.
From Minnesota, the telegraph wires are producing ominous and unnerving messages:
“We are in the midst of a most terrible and exciting Indian war. Thus far the massacre of innocent white settlers has been fearful. A wild panic prevails in nearly one-half the State. All are rushing to the frontier to defend the settlers.”
In the afternoon, as Union troops travel along the Warrenton Turnpike, Stonewall Jackson rouses from a nap, eyes the opportunity, and unleashes an attack in the vicinity of John Brawner’s farmhouse. In the process, Jackson has challenged the vaunted Iron Brigade and the men from both sides settle into a bloody engagement in which they pour volleys into their respective ranks with deadly proficiency. Perhaps the most positive outcome for the Confederates is that their activity in Thoroughfare Gap has placed Pope’s attentions squarely on Jackson and diverted it from James Longstreet as the latter approaches.
In Tennessee, Braxton Bragg moves out of the area of Chattanooga, angling for Kentucky, and an invasion that he hopes will redeem Confederate fortunes in the Western Theater.
From Richmond, John B. Jones continues to records the news as it filters in from the front:
“Pope’s coat was captured, and all his papers. The braggart is near his end.”
For the second time in the war, the area of Manassas or Bull Run experiences major combat action as a perturbed John Pope turns to annihilate Stonewall Jackson before help can arrive. The Confederates have ensconced themselves along an unfinished railroad line. These makeshift defensive works provide some protection as Union forces pummel the Southerners under the assumption that Jackson’s men are the only opposing troops they face. Through the day, Pope sends forward wave after wave of attackers, but the disjointed nature of the assaults and the ability of the Confederates to plug gaps where they emerge prevent a Northern victory.
Another day of fighting in the area of the Deep Cut of the railroad finds Jackson in dire straits, waiting for James Longstreet to unleash the assault that will relieve the pressure his men from the repeated Union assaults. One of the gray-clad participants describes the masses of Federals thrust against them as so think in number “it was just impossible to miss them,” when shooting. Diminishing Southern stocks of ammunition force some of the troops to resort to the expedient of showering their opponents with rocks. Although tested severely, somehow enough of the line holds when 30,000 of Longstreet’s men attack the unsuspecting Union troops. Hard and desperate fighting marks the final phases as Pope slows the gray tide sufficiently for the darkness to arrive that will allow him to extricate his battered command. These bloody August days on the Plains of Manassas add another 3,300 dead Federals and Confederates, as well as another 15,000 men wounded to the butcher’s bill of the war. Union missing or captured reach a figure of 3,895 as the disorganized and demoralized bluecoats pull back from the battlefield.
President Lincoln continues to grope for information of developments in Virginia. At 10:20 A.M. he wires to Colonel Henry Haupt in Alexandria, “What news?” and then at 3:50 P.M. sends to the same officer, “Please send me the latest news.”
Fighting also breaks out in the area of Richmond, Kentucky, where Confederate general Edmund Kirby Smith is pressing the forces opposing him.
Lincoln still hopes for some reassuring word from Colonel Haupt in Alexandria, wiring him at 7:30 in the morning, “What news? Do you hear firing this morning?”
General Pope is in the area of Centreville, reassessing the condition of his army after the hard days of fighting. Confederates close on Chantilly, with the expectation of another collision as the battered combatants feel each other out for renewed battle.
In a driving rainstorm augmented by streaks of lightning and peals of thunder, antagonists from Second Manassas or Bull Run hurl the final blows of the campaign at each other. Union general Philip Kearny, who rides into Confederate lines by mistake is among the dead mourned by both Northerners and Southerners as the fighting in this phase of the warfare in Northern Virginia grinds to its bloody conclusion.
From Southwest Virginia, Kentucky staff officer Edward Guerrant detects a pending advance and predicts:
“Everything indicates a speedy move to Kentucky.”
Union general George McClellan returns to full authority in Virginia, replacing the now-defeated John Pope. If President Abraham Lincoln is not thrilled over turning the reins of power back to his disgruntled general, he at least has the knowledge that McClellan has worked wonders with a beaten army in the past.
North Carolinian William Dorsey Pender recalls the Chantilly clash for his wife, Fanny:
“We had another fight yesterday in the midst of the most pelting rain I was ever in. The Yankees had rather the best of it as they maintained their ground and accomplished the object that was to cover their retreat. . . . As for yesterday, I have but little to say, but that none of us seemed anxious for the fight or did ourselves much credit.”
Still, Pender was pleased with the overall Second Manassas Campaign, noting that the Confederates “performed the most brilliant and daring feats of Generalship and soldiership ever performed. The boldness of the plan and the quickness and completeness of execution was never beaten. Lee has immortalized himself and Jackson added new laurels to his brow—not that I like to be under Jackson, for he forgets that one ever gets tired, hungry, or sleepy.”
From a quiet posting in Suffolk, Va., Union colonel Alvin Coe Voris yearns for action, although he knows well the dangers of the battlefield. His assessment includes a lesson in psychology for his wife:
“You of course look at the affair in quite a different light than I do, as you rejoice to think I was spared the pains & hazards of the Potomac Army. Women are affectionate, men ambitious. Wives are timid for their husbands. Husbands are heroic for the honor they would confer on their wives. . . .”
In Memphis, William T. Sherman addresses the matter of emancipation with his brother John back in Washington. Cump is convinced that freeing slaves will only prove to be “an incumbrance” to an army that will then have to assume the care for not only the able-bodied men but their dependents:
“Where are they to get work, who is to feed them, clothe them, & house them[?] We cannot now give tents to our soldiers, and our wagon trains are now a horrible impediment, and if we are to take along & feed the negros who flee to us for refuge, it will be an impossible task. You cannot solve this negro question in a day.”
Confederate war clerk John B. Jones rejoices at the recent turn of events in favor of the South:
“The enemy’s loss in the series of battles, in killed, wounded, and prisoners, is estimated at 30,000. Where is the braggart Pope now? Disgraced eternally, deprived of his command by his own government, and sent to Minnesota to fight the Indians!”
From his camp near Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Union lieutenant Friedrich Bertsch forwards another installment of his soldier experiences to a Cincinnati German American newspaper. He explains how the command has dispersed into local structures for shelter, then remarks about an unusual phenomenon as rains settle into the area they are occupying:
“It was notable however that as soon as the sky had pulled on its blue dress coat the Ninth quickly moved out of its unaccustomed wooden houses into God’s open nature and laid down there to rest. The poor devils are no longer used to living in civilized dwellings, and with the rest of the Regts. after their enlistments end or peace comes, the dear parents, sisters, wives, brothers and fiancées, etc., etc., will likely have great trouble accustoming them to ‘domesticity’ and all the blessings of civilization again,” although he adds quickly that a return to the routine of “lager beer drinking” should not pose a problem.
The repositioning of forces and personnel continue as Stonewall Jackson’s ragged Confederates reach Frederick, Maryland to a subdued reaction from locals, while Federal troops pull out of their Aquia Creek base, near Fredericksburg and John Pope accepts formal reassignment to the new Department of the Northwest to handle the Sioux uprising in the region.
Confederate President Jefferson Davis has his principal armies in Virginia and Tennessee on the move toward Northern soil, but he wants his commanders to make clear that the Confederacy is not interested in territorial acquisition.
“[T]he Confederate Government is waging this war solely for self-defence, that it has no design of conquest or any other purpose than to secure peace. . . .”
Abraham Lincoln continues to process the circumstances associated with the campaign of Second Manassas, but new complications arise with the movement of Confederate troops under Braxton Bragg in the crucial Western Theater. He makes inquiries to his field commander in Louisville, Kentucky:
“Where is Gen. Bragg? What do you know on the subject?”
This is just the start of a series of telegrams by which the Union commander-in-chief gropes for answers, postulating that Bragg may be in the Shenandoah Valley, perhaps threatening Harpers Ferry.
In southwestern Virginia, Kentuckian Ned Guerrant is much less uncertain of Confederate intentions:
“Long before day this morning, the General [Humphrey Marshall] aroused us to prepare to start. With pleasure I hailed the prospect of starting soon to ‘God’s Country’ where all except my body is already. Every hope & fear & memory & affection [is] centered there. I rejoice to know that now perhaps our long inaction may end in rendering some service to God’s Cause.”
Guerrant is beside himself with joy at the news of the success of other Confederates in Kentucky, with whom he expects to link his, and the Confederacy’s, fortunes soon:
“Our boys seem crazy--& I dont feel much more sane myself on the subject. Hurrah for ‘Ole Kaintuck’! There are periods in men’s lives when like Saul they are lifted ‘up’, as it were, to the 3d heaven.”
Even after a night of rest the questions remain as President Lincoln asks George McClellan in an almost plaintive fashion:
“How does it look now?”
Interdiction of blockade-runners trying to reach the Confederacy remains a priority. Commodore Charles Wilkes, promoted despite the notoriety associated with the Trent Affair, is now head of the West India Squadron as part of that blockading mission.
Guerrant waxes eloquent as he finally sets his sights on his native state from an eminence on the Virginia-Kentucky border:
“On the top of the mountain I crossed from the territory of the gallant Old Dominion, into the ‘sacred soil’ of our own Kentucky. The shackles so long binding the vigorous limbs of Hope fall from her, & she steps forth free into the boundless realm of enticing & promising possibilities. May her fondest & most cherished aspirations be fully realized. The long looked-for ‘Good Time’ has at length come, & we see the end’s beginning.”
Texan James C. Bates is engrossed in reading a newspaper when mail call comes and he experiences a sudden shift in his priorities:
“I plunged into the battle of [Second] Manassas (the description of it, I mean) and had forgotten I ever had a home or friends or SH [sweetheart] when Col. Jones sent me something to read from one of the person’s not named above. I need hardly tell you the newspaper was droped ‘instanter’ and the battle of Manassas and every body else was forgotten in the pleasure I found in reading your letter, which with the newspaper [accounts] raised my ‘spirits’ about 50 degrees. . . . Yes all the disappointment of the last three or four months was fully compensated by the reception of the glorious news & of your letter.”
President Lincoln makes an identical query as the one he had made of General McClellan on Monday.
From Bermuda, U.S. consul Charles Allen informs Secretary of State William Seward of activities in these waters and concludes from his observations:
“I hope the Navy Department will consider the importance of keeping some watch about these islands or at least communicating with them as often as possible as it is evident the blockade breakers consider it less hazardous to come and go from Bermuda than Nassau.”
Confederate pressure occurs on both major fronts as Southerners enter Hagerstown, Maryland, while other troops come within seven miles of Cincinnati, Ohio. Anxiety abounds in many Northern circles.
For a third time the President asks George McClellan to tell him how things are going. This time there is no response. In the meantime, the Union Army of Virginia ceases to exist as a formal organization, its elements re-designated as part of the Army of the Potomac.
Confederate forces arrive in the vicinity of Harpers Ferry, [West] Virginia, defended by Colonel Dixon Miles, who is under orders to “hold” the town “to the last extremity.”
Potentially one of the most important intelligence coups in the war occurs when some Union troops spot something on the ground formally occupied by Southern forces at Frederick, Md. The cigars are a welcome sight, but the wrapping that binds them is even more significant: a copy of Robert E. Lee’s Special Orders No. 191. George McClellan soon has in his hands a statement of the disposition of the Confederate forces. Subsequently, he crows to a subordinate, “Here is a paper with which if I cannot whip Bobbie Lee I will be willing to go home.”
Abraham Lincoln ponders an argument for emancipation from Chicago:
“The subject presented in the memorial is one upon which I have thought much for weeks past, and I may even say for months. I am approached with the most opposite opinions and advice . . . . These are not, however, the days of miracles, and I supposed it will be granted that I am not to expect a direct revelation [from the Divinity on the matter]. I must study the plain physical facts of the case, ascertain what is possible and learn what appears to be wise and right. The subject is difficult, and good men do not agree.
What good would a proclamation of emancipation from me do, especially as we are now situated? I do not want to issue a document that the whole world will see must necessarily be inoperative, like a Pope’s bull against the comet! Would my word free the slaves, when I cannot even enforce the Constitution in the rebel states?”
After explaining that he has no legal, constitutional or moral objections to emancipation, Lincoln observes:
“I view the matter as a practical war measure, to be decided upon according to the advantages or disadvantages it may offer to the suppression of the rebellion”
President Lincoln receives comments, before offering responses of his own:
“I admit that slavery is the root of the rebellion, or at least its sine qua non. The ambition of politicians may have instigated them to act, but they would have been impotent without slavery as their instrument. I will also concede that emancipation would help us in Europe, and convince them that we are incited by something more than ambition. I grant further that it would help somewhat in the North, though not so much, I fear, as you and those you represent imagine. Still, some additional strength would be added in that way to the war. And then unquestionably it would weaken the rebels by drawing off their laborers, which is of great importance. But I am not sure we could do much with the blacks. If we arm them, I fear that in a few weeks the arms would be in the hands of the rebels; and indeed thus far we have not had arms enough to equip our white troops.”
Lincoln is particularly concerned about the impact on soldiers from the border slave states that have remained in the Union. “It would be a serious matter if, in consequence of a proclamation such as you desire, they should go over to the rebels. I do not think they all would—not so many indeed as a year ago, or as six months ago—not so many to-day as yesterday.”
The Confederate grip on Harpers Ferry tightens, with artillery pieces deployed on the surrounding heights. In the meantime, South Mountain, Maryland, is the scene of fighting as McClellan tries to take advantage of having captured Lee’s “Lost Orders.” Fighting at Crampton’s Gap constitutes the most significant piece of this phase of the campaign as Union major general William B. Franklin presses forward against Confederates who are yet unaware of the dire nature of the circumstances that beset them. Both sides suffer some 2,300 casualties each as Lee orders a withdrawal to a more consolidated position.
Fifteen thousand Confederates under Sterling Price descend upon Iuka, Mississippi, and capture the town, its garrison and substantial quartermaster and commissary stores. One of the beneficiaries of this Union largesse confides in his journal:
“Got full rations of Bacon & Crackers (Captured).”
Additional maneuvering through the night has augmented the Confederate stranglehold on Harpers Ferry. Stonewall Jackson has grown impatient with the nature of the fighting, but now reaps the benefits of his deployments with the surrender of the Union garrison that nets him 12,500 prisoners, 73 cannon and large amounts of supplies and equipment at a cost of 286 men of his own. Two hundred and nineteen Union troops fall, while the capitulation of the rest represents the largest of its kind by Union forces.
Harpers Ferry is hardly a positive development, but President Lincoln retains high hopes for George McCellan’s success in the campaign as a whole as his reticent field commander seems to have at last found an aggressive spirit:
“Your despatches of to-day received. God bless you, and all with you. Destroy the rebel army, if possible.”
Braxton Bragg’s Confederates surround some 4,000 Union defenders of Munfordville, Kentucky as his command works to redeem Kentucky for the South.
History will record this day as the bloodiest of the war, as Robert E. Lee and George B. McClellan slog each other in the vicinity of the town of Sharpsburg and Antietam Creek. The exhausted combatants end the fighting in much the position occupied by the other at the beginning of it, but the toll of battle is staggering. Of 75,315 Union troops, 2,108 are killed, 9,549 wounded, and 753 missing. For the 51,844 Confederates, 2,700 are killed, 9,024 wounded, and 2,000 missing or captured.
In Kentucky, Munfordville surrenders to besieging Southerners, with Bragg paroling 155 Union officers and 3,921 of their men. He destroys a key bridge crossing the Green River by the Louisville and Nashville Railroad.
The ever-vigilant Consul Allen in Bermuda passes along the latest intelligence on blockade-running activities. He documents the exchange of cotton for arms, ammunition and powder that appears to be taking place, noting of one vessel efforts to camouflage her profile for the endeavor of returning to Confederacy successfully:
“I am informed she will leave here this week for Charleston. They have this morning commenced painting her a lead color.”
Only a week before he had overheard one skipper calculating when the trip could be made so as to appear before the Southern port city “between the 20th and 25th inst[.] and go in the night as there will be no moon.”
From South Carolina, Emma Holmes writes in her diary:
“Day of Thanksgiving for our recent victories appointed by President [Davis].”
Edward Guerrant is in Kentucky, basking in the return home and anticipating successes to come, although the tinge of reality is just beneath the surface:
“The people seem delighted to see us all, but fearful we won’t stay long. They are afraid even yet to speak out of a whisper. . . . The march of a Confederate soldier through this country is rather an ovation, a triumph—than a warpath. We are all drunk with the intoxicating influence of excitement & pleasure.”
The Confederate raider Alabama is enjoying success at sea against Northern commerce.
The ever-aggressive Ulysses S. Grant has dispatched 17,000 troops under generals Edward O.C. Ord and William S. Rosecrans to attempt to catch Price’s forces at Iuka, but the Southerners elude the snare. The sharp fight nevertheless produces 790 Union and 1,516 Confederate casualties, 561 of which become prisoners of the Federals.
Fighting in near Shepherdstown, West Virginia, erupts late in the day as a Federal force surprises and captures some of the artillery pieces of a rear-guard under Confederate brigadier general William N. Pendleton. General Lee responds to the threat by directing Major General Ambrose Powell Hill to stage a counterattack.
A sharp firefight occurs at Shepherdstown as Hill works to erase a Union bridgehead. The relative inexperience and faulty weapons of some of the Union soldiers exacerbate a situation already complicated by heavy losses, poor communication, and the generally chaotic nature of the fighting, while the timely arrival of additional troops creates overwhelming pressure on the defenders.
In his subsequent report, Powell Hill notes “Then commenced the most terrible slaughter that this war has yet witnessed. The broad surface of the Potomac was blue with the floating bodies of our foe. But few escaped to tell the tale.”
Union losses amount to 353, while the Confederates suffer 291 casualties of their own.
From Suffolk, Virginia, Colonel Voris notes the change in fortunes for the combatants:
“The invasion of the North is a suicidal policy for the South. If time was of any object to them, Richmond was the place to gain it. It would have been a long time before our armies could have invested it, but they have precipitated matters, and in all probability have by this time lost all they gained during the last three months, and have lost a larger amount of their supplies and military store[s] before they get back to a place of comparative safety. Their army is daily becoming weaker, ours is constantly becoming stronger.”
President Abraham Lincoln announces the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.
One of the many letters of condolence and sympathy leaves a Confederate camp for distant family members at home anxious to hear news of their loved ones on the front. The writer, Colonel P.F. Stevens, does not know the actual fate of the subject after an encounter at South Mountain, yet clearly wishes to prepare family members for the worst:
“It is with a very sad heart and a deep sympathy for yourself that I address you this morning to inform you of the misfortune which has befallen my beloved friend Willie your brother. . . . Despite of the caution repeatedly impressed upon him, my dear friend with that self devotion and utter fearlessness which ever characterised him, preceded his men and upon arriving at the designated point a single shot was heard in the advance, followed immediately by an exclamation. In accordance with their orders the men fell back a short distance and waited for Willie to return. After an hour or so they were recalled and the entire army withdrawn. . . . My own strong hope and faith in God is that he had gotten within the enemies lines and was captured perhaps wounded.”
Dorsey Pender of North Carolina who had already grown irritated at straggling in the ranks is now convinced that the invasion of the North that held such promise ought not to have been undertaken in the first place:
“I gave you my views on the Md. question in [a] letter Mr. Stafford has for you and will not repeat only to say that I have heard but one feeling expressed about it and that is regret at our having gone there. Our Army has shown itself incapable of invasion and we had better stick to the defensive.”
Still addressing war matters with his brother John, Cump Sherman displays the impassioned views he has of the conflict in which he is engaged:
“The war is which Race that of the North or South Shall rule America.”
President Lincoln continues to seek measures that will sustain the war effort at home by issuing a proclamation that suspends the writ of habeas corpus and allows for military trials of those who aid in the rebellion, even to the extent of doing so by “discouraging volunteer enlistments, resisting militia drafts,” or otherwise “affording comfort to Rebels against the authority of the United States.”
In Richmond, where the Confederate Senate adopts a seal for the nation, items are becoming scarce and inflation is taking hold regarding necessities that will be critical as fall and winter approach. War Department bureaucrat John B. Jones records:
“Wood is selling at $16 per cord, and coal at $9 per load. How can we live here, unless our salaries are increased? The matter is under consideration by Congress, and we hope for favorable action.”
From a Union prison camp, William P. Dubose composes a message for his sister:
“You will be surprised to hear of me, as I am surprised to find myself a prisoner of war at Fort Delaware. I was taken at South Mountain (or Middletown Heights) on the night after the battle of the 14th, while engaged on a reconnaissance—reached this place on the 21st, and am quartered here with sixty seven other officers. . . . We are rather closely confined but well treated & well fed—in fact have nothing to complain of & do not complain.”
Willie has survived his experience, as his friend Colonel Stevens had hoped and prayed.
The cost of war continues to be driven home, as J.B. Jones notes:
“Blankets, that used to sell for $6, are now $25 per pair; and sheets are selling for $15 per pair, which might have been had a year ago for $4.”
Don Carlos Buell reaches Louisville to ensure that the town will not fall to Braxton Bragg’s advancing Confederates without a fight.
To John A. Rawlins in Corinth, Miss., William T. Sherman explains his notions of irregular warfare after Confederate guerrillas have fired on an “unarmed” vessel in the vicinity of Randolph, Tenn.:
“I immediately sent a regiment up with orders to destroy the place, leaving [at least] one house. . . . The regiment has returned and Randolph is gone. It is no use tolerating such acts as firing on steamboats. Punishment must be speedy, sure, and exemplary. . . . I would not do wanton mischief or destruction, but so exposed are our frail boats, that we must protect them by all the terrors by which we can surround [them]. . . . The town was of no importance, but the example should be followed up on all similar occasions.”
The Confederate Congress passes the Second Conscription Act that allows for the drafting of men between the ages of thirty-five and forty-five for service.
The First Regiment Louisiana Native Guards or “Chasseurs d’Afrique” musters in New Orleans. The unit is largely composed of “free men of color.” Some of these recruits have previously served with a Confederate militia unit and their captain is a manumitted slave who had held a lieutenancy in that command named Andre Cailloux.
In a “Strictly private” communication, the President of the United States offers guarded optimism to longtime emancipation advocate Vice President Hannibal Hamlin regarding the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation:
“The time for its effect southward has not come; but northward the effect should be instantaneous.
It is six days old, and while commendation in newspapers and by distinguished individuals is all that a vain man could wish, the stocks have declined, and troops come forward more slowly than ever. This, looked soberly in the face, is not very satisfactory. . . . The North responds to the proclamation sufficiently in breath; but breath alone kills no rebels.
I wish I could write more cheerfully. . . .”
Dorsey Pender revisits themes that have bedeviled him in the most recent campaign into Maryland:
“This straggling is becoming to be the curse of the Army and unless Congress pass some law to stop it there is no telling where it will end.”
As for the campaign itself:
“My only regret is that we ever crossed it [the Potomac] in the first place. They cannot drive us from any position we choose to take. . . .”
In one of the strange twists of the war, two Union officers confront each other on the stairs at the Galt House in Louisville, Kentucky. One is a large and charismatic former naval officer and brigadier general named William “Bull” Nelson, whose nickname betokens his mercurial personality and intimidating tendencies as well as his size. The other is Brigadier General Jefferson C. Davis, who has run afoul of the bigger man. Following a series of insults, Davis shoots and mortally wounds his antagonist.
A bloody and important month in the war ends rather quietly. But, with Confederate forces remaining in Kentucky, Robert E. Lee always dangerous in Virginia, and skirmishing occurring across the map, no one reasonably can anticipate an end to warfare anytime soon.
A sequence of unsettling events takes place in Gainesville, Tx., beginning with the arrest of significant numbers of suspected Unionists (150-200 as estimates) by Texas militia under Colonel James G. Bourland. Subsequent trial and execution will lead to the deaths of some forty individuals (two also shot while trying to escape and others lynched), in what becomes known as the “Great Hanging at Gainesville.” President Abraham Lincoln leaves Washington, with plans to stop at Harpers Ferry as part of a personal consultation with George McClellan and inspection of the Army of the Potomac. William T. Sherman describes the nature of the war as he sees it to his brother John in Washington:
“Now in Revolutions extremes must for a time prevail and this war has soon got to that—North vs. South—Free vs. Slave labor. . . . I don’t see the end or beginning of the end, but suppose we must prevail or perish.” - See more at: http://www.kennesaw.edu/civilwarera/sesq_1862.shtml#sthash.UjnWMszS.dpuf
Lincoln’s busy travel schedule includes a review of the division of John W. Geary. That officer notes the degree to which the chief executive has begun to show the stresses and strains of his duties:
“Abraham looks quite care-worn and not nearly so well as he did when I last saw him.”
When the President reaches McClellan’s main camp, he immediately begins his assessment. Pausing with a friend while overlooking the enormous martial array Lincoln responds sharply to a comment concerning the Army of the Potomac:
“So it is called, but that is a mistake; it is only McClellan’s bodyguard.”
Major General John Pemberton, born in Pennsylvania but married to a Southern wife, will head the Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana for the Confederacy with primary responsibility for defending Vicksburg.
Lincoln inquires of Major General Henry Halleck an opinion regarding prisoners paroled by “General Stuart of the Rebel Army,” who insists they not be used in “fighting Indians” until properly exchanged. “My inclination is to send the prisoners back with a distinct notice that we will recognize no parole given to our prisoners by the rebels, as extending beyond a prohibition against fighting them.” Lincoln wants to clarify his understanding as “I wish to avoid violations of law and bad faith.” Halleck responds initially in a favorable way to the President’s view, then examines the prisoner exchange agreement and reverses himself: “I am disposed to think the parole is made by the cartel to include all military duty.”
Generals Earl Van Dorn and Sterling Price descend on the crossroads town of Corinth, Mississippi, in an effort to reclaim it for the Confederacy or at least compel a repositioning of Union forces in response.
“Old Brains” Halleck continues his assessment of the prisoner issue and determines that such persons might indeed be employed in “service against the Indians,” but Attorney General Bates settles the matter by noting, “The terms of the contract are . . . beyond doubt . . . . It is the plainly declared purpose of the Cartel to prevent the use of prisoners paroled . . . in the discharge of any duties of a soldier.”
Abraham Lincoln travels to Frederick, Md. While visiting wounded Brigadier General George Hartsuff, he receives and twice declines requests to present extended remarks, but offers a brief statement of thanks to the soldiers and citizens who have supported the Union:
“May our children and our children’s children to a thousand generations, continue to enjoy the benefits conferred upon us by a united country, and have cause yet to rejoice under those glorious institutions bequeathed us by Washington and his compeers.”
Braxton Bragg diverts to Frankfort, Ky., in order to superintend the inauguration of Richard Hawes as the state’s second Confederate executive.
Fighting at Corinth continues, but the rail center is solidly in Union hands. Van Dorn’s bloody efforts to take the fortifications guarding the line result in heavy casualties and one of the most gruesome photographs of the war to this point of fallen Confederates before Battery Robinett. Among these is Colonel William P. Rogers of the 2nd Texas, a veteran of the War with Mexico and friend of Jefferson Davis. The toll of fighting reaches 473 killed, 1,997 wounded and 1,763 missing or captured in the Southern ranks, while costing the defenders 355 killed, 1,841 wounded and 324 missing.
From Memphis, Tn., the one-time banker and investor, now a general, Cump Sherman observes to his wife:
“The people of the South are so much more Zealous of their Cause than our people, have so much more sense that they have every advantage. Their people are willing to sacrifice their wealth & lives to accomplish this purpose whereas our people seem to measure everything by the money they can make.
For the purposes of adhering to orders to fly only the Confederate “Battle Flag,” Stephen D. Thurston sends the state colors of the Third North Carolina back to Raleigh from Winchester, Va. The state flag had gone with the regiment into Maryland:
“Previous to the Battles of Md. however, our Colonel, at the request of both the officers & men once more unfurled our No. Ca. colors, a special guard was detailed for its defence, & in addition to our “Battle Flag” carried this into the engagement at Sharpsburg. [It] bears evidence in its folds that it was in the very thickest, while our list of killed and wounded shows that we did not fail in our trust.
Two of its bearers were killed & as many seriously wounded, yet not once were its folds allowed to touch the ground. . . .
We have flattered ourselves that it is worthy of a place among the relics of which the State may be proud & we send it to you Sir desiring that it may be kept ever sacred to the memory of those who fell upon the battlefield of Sharpsburg while engaged in the defence of home & liberty.”
A message advocating a forward movement while circumstances permit reaches George McClellan from General Halleck:
“The President directs that you cross the Potomac and give battle to the enemy or drive him south. Your army must move now while the roads are good.”
In a speech at Newcastle, Great Britain’s chancellor of the exchequer, William E. Gladstone, pronounces:
“We may be for or against the South. But there is no doubt that Jefferson Davis and other leaders of the South have made an Army; they are making, it appears, a Navy; and they have made — what is more than either — they have made a Nation... We may anticipate with certainty the success of the Southern States so far as regards their separation from the North.”
The most significant fighting to occur in Kentucky swirls around the small village of Perryville as parched troops under Braxton Bragg and Don Carlos Buell grapple with each other while searching for each other and for water.
When the sounds of combat finish reverberating across the rolling hills, some of which cannot be heard locally because of a phenomenon known as “acoustic shadow,” Bragg has lost 519 killed, 2,635 wounded and 251 missing or captured from his command, while Buell’s losses stand at 845 killed, 2,851 wounded and 515 missing or captured, including mortally wounded Union brigadier generals James S. Jackson (of Kentucky) and William R. Terrell (of Virginia).
Confederate war clerk John B. Jones and his family have learned to improvise as well as economize in the war:
“My wife has obviated one of the difficulties of the blockade, by a substitute for coffee, which I like very well. It is simply corn meal, toasted like coffee, and served in the same manner. It costs five or six cents per pound—coffee, $2.50.”
Jeb Stuart is off on another ride around McClellan’s army that creates consternation in Northern ranks and highlights the degree of the Union general’s apparent lethargy, while added laurels to the Gray Cavalier’s reputation for bravura performances in the saddle.
J.B. Jones records the discouraging news from Braxton Bragg that “indicates but too clearly that the people of Kentucky hesitate to risk the loss of property by joining us. Only one brigade has been recruited so far.”
Thomas Goree, with Longstreet at Winchester describes the role of John Bell Hood’s Confederates in the recent heavy fighting to his mother:
“Hood’s Texas Brigade sustained a heavier loss than any other in these engagements, as at the Rappahannock, Thoroughfare Gap, Manassas, Boonsboro & Sharpsburg it was always in front and in the thickest of the fight. It is very probable that Genl. Hood will be promoted to Major Genl. for his gallantry in these various contests. No man deserves it more. He is one of the finest young officers I ever saw. . . .”
From Stanton, Va., the surgeon general of the state of North Carolina writes Governor Zeb Vance a dire report on the nature of care for the wounded from the recent heavy fighting in Maryland:
“I write you an informal note, with a pencil, as pen & ink can not be procured, to give you some account of myself since we parted in Richmond. . . . [I traveled] to Charlottesville, where I found over 50 soldiers from our State, in a condition of great destitution. Their delight at seeing me, & learning that you had sent me to look after their wants cannot be expressed in words. Many of them cried like children, and declared that they would never forget you. I supplied their most pressing wants, and took my departure for this place this afternoon. . . . There are at least 3000 soldiers in the Hospitals here & of the number at least ¼ are North Carolinians. I had supposed the condition of the sick & wounded at Charlottesville bad enough, but it is infinitely better than that of the poor creatures in these Hospitals. Dirty, naked, without shoes, hats or socks, wounded in every possible manner, utterly dispirited & entirely indifferent to everything they present a picture of wretchedness & misery which no tongue or pen can describe.”
On the same day, another letter begins its journey toward Governor Vance’s desk in Raleigh from the lieutenant colonel of one of the North Carolina regiments:
“A spirit of disaffection is rapidly engendering among the soldiers which threatens to show itself in general straggling & desertions if it does not lead to open mutiny. . . . What is said of the 48th N.C. is equally true of other Regts in the service from N.C. & from other States too.
What we most pressingly need just now is our full supply of Blankets, of Shoes, & of pants & socks. We need very much all our other clothing too. But we are in the greatest need of these indispensable articles & Must have them, & have them Now.
The soldiers of the 48th N.C. & from all the State will patriotically suffer & bear their hardships & privations as long as those from any other State, or as far as human endurance can tolerate such privations. But it would not be wise to experiment to[o] far in such circumstances as now surround us upon the extent of their endurance. With Lincolns proclamation promising freedom to the slaves, what might be the suffering, exhausted, ragged, barefooted & dying Non slaveholders of the South, who are neglected by their government & whose suffering families at home are exposed to so many evils, [to] begin to conclude? Would it not be dangerous to tempt them with too great trials?”
Kentuckian Edward Guerrant is positively apoplectic concerning the developments in his native state:
Long remembered day! Day of blasted hope & ruined fortunes!! Day of evil. Dark Day! Our army unaided & unassisted by the people of the state they came to deliver, weakened by weary marches, sickness & battle . . . stands now like a lion at bay. . . . The purpose is evacuation by Cumberland Gap!
To those others who prefer the Northern despotism, & association with abolitionists, fanatics & Infidels—we leave behind us our ‘God speed’ in their new alliance. . . .”
From Suffolk, Va., Union officer Alvin Coe Voris writes his wife:
“My boys all pray for the war to end. I am well satisfied that could the soldiers vote there would verry soon be an end to the war. Had the people known of the horrors of war before the war began I am wont to think we now would be living in peace, but this generation had grown up in profound peace. They had not the remotest idea of the terrible realities of war, and they almost thought it was an entertaining experiment that would give our country character and enterprise without much cost, but how has the history of the last 18 months demonstrated the error.”
Jeb Stuart returns from his raid across the Potomac, having interrupted communications, seized horses, wrecked public property and generally created a nuisance for the Federals and an embarrassment for McClellan and official Washington.
Ned Guerrant still cannot understand how events have transpired:
“[W]e came to rescue them from worse than Egyptian bondage, but they ‘would not,’ & we go whence we came.”
President Lincoln forwards a message to Major General George McClellan:
“You remember my speaking to you of what I called your overcautiousness. Are you not over cautious when you assume that you can not do what the enemy is constantly doing? Should you not claim to be at least equal in prowess, and act upon the claim?”
Congressional elections in four states illustrate the degree to which political volatility remains in the North. Democratic gains in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana in particular warrant notice.
Under the repeated calls for assistance from North Carolina to support the troops stationed in Virginia, Governor Vance issues a proclamation appealing to that overflowing fountain of generous charity—the private contributions of our people.”
“And now my countrymen and women, if you have anything to spare for the soldier, in his name I appeal to you for it. Do not let the speculator have it, though he may offer you enormous prices; spurn him from your door and say to him, that our brave defenders have need for it and shall have it without passing through his greedy fingers. . . . When they tempt you with higher prices than the State offers, just think for a moment of the soldier and what he is doing for you. Remember when you sit down by the bright and glowing fire, that the soldier is sitting upon the cold earth; that in the wind which is whistling so fearfully over your roof, only making you feel the more comfortable because it harms you not, he is shivering in darkness on the dangerous out-post, or shuddering through the dreary hours of his watch. Remember [when you are on your way to church], the soldier is going forth at the same moment, perhaps, half fed, after a night of shivering and suffering to where the roar of artillery and shout of battle announce that he is to die, that your peace and safety may be preserved.”
Eight of the individuals being held in an Atlanta area jail for their role in the railroad raid conducted by James J. Andrews break out of custody. Most of the escapees head northward, but two of them flee toward the Gulf of Mexico, seeking the refuge of Union blockading vessels.
Still debating questions of propriety in warfare, William T. Sherman tells his Confederate counterpart Thomas Hindman in Arkansas:
“If we allow the passions of our men to get full command then indeed will this war become a reproach to the names of liberty and civilization.” Nevertheless, Sherman is prepared to do whatever is required to answer the actions of pro-Southern guerrillas plaguing western waterways, reminding his correspondent of the price the town of Randolph has paid for harboring such persons and promising “for every grade of offense there is a remedy.”
Confederates under John Hunt Morgan are in the vicinity of Lexington, Ky., where they capture horses and some five hundred men of the 4th Ohio Cavalry, spreading additional alarm in a region still reeling from the recent movements of large opposing forces.
Braxton Bragg’s command reaches the Cumberland Gap, largely unmolested in its movement away from the Bluegrass State. Ned Guerrant finds a glimmer of hope in the darkness surrounding him:
“The women of Ky—are the only remaining diadem in the once illustrious Crown of old Kentucky. May Heaven preserve it with care. They deserve anything & everything. Hurrah for the women—the rebel women of my native state!”
Perhaps prodded by his troubles with McClellan and sensing an opportunity to make a gesture to wavering Midwestern governors, Abraham Lincoln involves himself directly in military affairs in the Western Theater by instructing Illinois Democrat and Union major general John McClernand to prepare his own force for a movement against Vicksburg. The move exacerbates tensions that already exist with Ulysses S. Grant, who commands the Department of the Tennessee and is McClernand’s superior.
Henry Halleck contacts McClellan regarding his army’s operations:
“The President does not expect impossibilities, but he is very anxious that all this good weather should not be wasted in inactivity. Telegraph when you will move, and on what lines you propose to march.”
An avid reader of newspapers, North Carolinian William Dorsey Pender views recent developments favorably, telling his wife:
“Everything looks bright for us. The Democrats of the North are helping us by their speeches.”
From Bermuda, U.S. Consul Charles M. Allen reports the arrival of a steamer carrying a cargo of cotton and an important passenger, Matthew Fontaine Maury. A scientist and naval officer, Maury is on special assignment to England to promote the purchase of ships and advocate generally for the Confederacy.
Bragg’s invasion of Kentucky is over, but military activity is not, as Confederate cavalry under Joseph Wheeler demonstrates when it enters London, Ky.
Buell informs Halleck that he will move to Bowling Green, Ky., preparatory to concentrating at Nashville, Tn., where he can secure his line of supplies and communications. Halleck has already advised Buell to be aggressive in language that almost mirrors exactly what he is telling McClellan in the East:
“I am directed by the President to say to you that your army must enter East Tennessee this fall and that it ought to move there while the roads are passable. . . . He does not understand why we cannot march as the enemy marches, live as he lives and fight as he fights, unless we admit the inferiority of our troops and of our generals.”
The Confederate commerce raider Alabama, continues to make its presence known on the high seas against Union shipping.
William S. Rosecrans takes command from General Buell, who despite forcing the Confederates from Kentucky has failed to destroy Bragg’s army. The command might have gone to the Virginian George H. Thomas except that he had declined promotion in the course of the recent campaign. Thomas is displeased with the developments, but following a brief protest, settles into the secondary role cast for him.
Abraham Lincoln is none too pleased with George McClellan’s continual explanations for his lack of progress against Robert E. Lee after the recent fighting in Maryland:
“I have just read your despatch about sore tongued and fatiegued horses. Will you pardon me for asking what the horses of your army have done since the battle of Antietam that fatigue anything?”
The goading prompts McClellan to respond in the evening with a message detailing the activities of his mounted troops since the recent fighting in Maryland:
“If any instance can be found where overworked cavalry has performed more labor than mine since the battle of Antietam, I am not conscious of it.”
Kentuckian Guerrant offers a last assessment of the recent campaigning:
“Dark. Dreary. Dismal Day. O how cold, how desolate! This morning we left for Virginia—the rear guard of the army of Eastern Ky.—Our march was more like a funeral procession than anything else. It was the funeral march of dead hopes, & joys, & expectations.”
President Lincoln replies to a query from Major General John Dix at Fort Monroe regarding the Emancipation Proclamation:
“It would be dangerous for me now to begin construing, and making specific applications of, the Proclamation. . . . I left my self at liberty to exempt parts of states.”
From his post in Virginia, Alvin Voris tells his wife:
“I see in the papers talk of [a] rebel proposition of peace. They are all delusive. Neither party are yet prepared for peace. The scale of success between the contending parties is too evenly ballanced to make either side yield much. Those having the administration of both governments personally have not felt the pressure of the war. . . . If the mothers, wives & sisters of the land could say, the war would be ended instantly. But the pride, ambition and passion of the authors of this war will not be broken till they feel the terrible weight of the war.”
General Dix explains that he had asked for clarification in order to be able to “induce the people of the Congress District, of which Norfolk is a part, to return to their allegiance and send a loyal member to the House. . . . I am about to call on them . . . to take the oath of allegiance, and I wish to give them the assurance, if I can, [that] by complying with the conditions of your Proclamation of the 22nd of Sept. they will avoid the penalties of disloyalty.”
President Davis has long held the politically expedient position of defending as much of the Confederacy as possible. But he admits to the governor of Alabama that the difficulties are perplexing:
“Our only alternatives are to abandon important points or to use our limited resources as effectively as the circumstances will permit.”
Although not among the more celebrated names of Union generals, Ormsby Mitchel has been active in secondary roles in the Western Theater since 1861 until reassigned to the South Carolina coast following disputes with Don Carlos Buell. Posted at Beaufort, he dies of yellow fever.
Back in the border region of the two major theaters of operations, the dejected young staff officer who had once held such high hopes for the movement of Braxton Bragg and Edmund Kirby Smith into Kentucky employs a much earlier historical reference as he confides in his journal:
“Balboa like we stand between the past & the future, between Kentucky & Virginia. On one side how toilsome & tempestuous the sea over which we have sailed; on the other, how dark & full of gloom the one stretching before us.”
The month ends with desultory skirmishing in locations as divergent as Virginia and Texas. With two major invasions of the North closed, the defense of the Confederate States of America has largely returned to where it had been before those operations began.
Finally having crossed back into Virginia from Kentucky, Ned Guerrant observes:
“October dies today! Life-like, its days have been part sunny, part sorrowful.”
The Lincoln administration continues to grapple with the ways and means of waging and winning the war, prompting a memorandum to address the question of army furloughs:
“The Army is constantly depleted by company officers who give their men leave of absence in the very face of the enemy, and on the eve of an engagement, which is almost as bad as desertion. At this very moment there are between seventy and one hundred thousand men absent on furlough from the Army of the Potomac. The army, like the nation, has become demoralized by the idea that the war is to be ended, the nation united, and peace restored, by strategy, and not by hard desperate fighting. Why, then, should not the soldiers have furloughs?”
From the Confederate war department, John B. Jones notes:
“Gen. Lee has made his appearance at the department to-day, and was hardly recognizable, for his beard, now quite white, has been suffered to grow all over his face. But he is quite robust from his exercises in the field.”
In Memphis, William T. Sherman pauses to write letters that reflect his continuing evaluation of the war and its impact:
“About 6000 Run away negros are here—we employ about 800 on the Fort, some 300 by the Quartermaster and about 1000 as cooks & teamsters. . . . It is useless to talk about Constitutional means for a condition of things never contemplated by any constitution. It is a Revolution where the strongest must prevail. They must subdue us, or we them. There is not middle Course. . . . Sooner or later, every man at the North capable of bearing arms must take part. We must become a Military nation for this war is not a temporary thing, the issues involve the lives of millions, & the property of half a continent.”
Despairing of a conflict that appears to be dragging on without end, Union officer Alvin Voris observes:
“I hope peace will come before long. The war is not accomplishing what it was intended to, and I much fear that it never will. The North will never submit to the despotic terms of war long enough or fully enough to conquer the South. I am really of the opinion that the Confederacy is a foregone conclusion in the estimation of the world.”
Election day brings discouraging news to the Lincoln administration as Democrats make gains.
George McClellan will exasperate Abraham Lincoln no more as commander of the Army of the Potomac, as instructions leave for him to be replaced by Major General Ambrose Burnside.
President Lincoln takes a moment to respond to the implication that his promotions ignore the normal military protocols in favor of political favoritism:
"True, seniority has not been my rule, in this connection; but in considering military merit, it seems to me the world has abundant evidence that I discard politics.”
A Union garrison at Clark’s Mill, Missouri, confronts a larger approaching Confederate cavalry force before retreating into a nearby blockhouse for protection. The Southern horsemen surround the structure, compelling 113 bluecoat defenders to surrender and burning it to the ground before departing, at a cost of 34 casualties of their own.
General McClellan receives official word of his removal at his headquarters at Rectortown, Virginia.
“Poor Burnside feels dreadfully, almost crazy—I am sorry for him.”
In Richmond, War Clerk Jones records:
“The ‘290’ or Alabama, the ship bought in Europe, and commanded by Capt. [Raphael] Semmes, C.S.N., is playing havoc with the commerce of the United States. If we had a dozen of them, our foes would suffer incalculably, for they have an immense amount of shipping.”
Word reaches distant Southwest Virginia of the outcome of the recent elections and staffer Ned Guerrant looks for the means of assuaging the bitterness of the recent retreat from his native state of Kentucky:
“Democrats carry New York, New Jersey and Illinois. Favorable signs.”
Vermonter Rufus Kinsley records an unnecessary tragedy of war with the destruction of an ammunition train in Louisiana that kills 16 individuals, including a civilian black woman:
“Two lieutenants of the 8th New Hampshire, sat smoking in a car that contained two tons of powder, and a large quantity of shells and balls, besides infantry cartridges, when the explosion took place. Six cars were demolished, and the engine and tender scattered to the four winds of heaven.”
President Lincoln contemplates the fates of individuals associated with the uprising of Native Americans in Minnesota, asking Major General John Pope to forward the names of those individuals condemned to death so that he can review their cases.
Still assessing the outcomes of the recent elections, Lincoln observes candidly to Carl Schurz:
“We have lost the elections; and it is natural that each of us will believe, and say, it has been because his peculiar views was not made sufficiently prominent.”
Lincoln attributes the setbacks to the absence of Republicans at war and a re-energized Democratic Party, motivated in part by negative newspaper headlines, even in Republican-oriented sheets. “Certainly, the ill-success of the war had much to do with this.”
On the matter of fighting the conflict, the President responds decisively:
“The administration came into power, very largely in a minority of the popular vote. Notwithstanding this, it distributed to it’s party friends as nearly all the civil patronage as any administration ever did. The war came. The administration could not even start in this, without assistance outside of it’s party. . . . I have scarcely appointed a democrat to a command, who was not urged by many republicans and opposed by none. It was so as to McClellan. He was first brought forward by the Republican Governor of Ohio, & claimed, and contended for at the same time by the Republican Governor of Pennsylvania.”
William C. Nelson spends a portion of his day writing his mother from his camp near Culpeper Court House in Virginia:
“I still cherish hopes of seeing my beloved home and parents again [in Mississippi], although the time may be far distant. I believe however that I grow more and more contented every day with the hardships of a soldier’s life. I never let a day pass without reading one or more chapters in my bible and I know that its perusal does me good. . . . A great many of the soldiers of our army are in sad need of clothing, shoes, hats, etc. quite a number are almost barefooted. . . .”
Edward Guerrant girds himself for the service to come:
“How much I desire to see those I love, no one can tell, but I more desire to see established the great principles of Constitutional liberty without which home & friends are but companions in our misery.”
Abraham Lincoln orders his attorney general to take steps to support vigorously the July 17, 1862, Confiscation Act passed by Congress.
From South Carolina, diarist Emma Holmes records:
“Charlestonians now feel very confident of being able to defend our city, since the genius of Beauregard has been at work. New fortifications and redoubts have sprung up all around and in the city, till now it is one of the most strongly fortified in the world and still they are being multiplied.”
From Ohio, the fiancée of Union naval officer Roswell Lamson tells him that she has heard recently from her father, the man tasked with delivering the order that has removed McClellan from command:
“He said it was the hardest duty he ever had to perform. I do feel so sorry for McClellan and I think the President will find out that he has done him injustice in removing him. I wonder who will be the next General found fault with. . . . Still you know it is always darkest just before day, and there may be brighter times in store for us.”
A growing impasse reaches a conclusion as Secretary of War George Randolph submits his resignation, which President Jefferson Davis promptly accepts.
Still jaded from his relatively quiet billet in Suffolk, Virginia, Voris uses a recent “Grand Review” of the command to voice his thoughts on the conduct of the war:
“I thrashed about on my sorrel horse at a great rate, and marched my men up and down as gay as a holliday. Well these Grand Reviews will soon crush out the wicked rebellion. . . . If the 1st of January does not see the great rebel army driven from Va., I shall expect to see the Confederacy recognized by the European governments, and will be almost sure that we will concede as much ourselves. If the vast army we are putting in the field does nothing before the close of this year, when will it ever be able to do anything? The elections in the North indicate that the people are doubting the competency of the present Administration to manage the mighty realities pressing on them. I sometimes think it is an indication that the people are becoming sick of the war.”
A melancholy Alvin Voris tells his wife:
“You at home probably feel the sad effects of the war more acutely than we do in the field. You are constantly tortured with the uncertainty of the fate of those who are absent, whereas they only feel danger while it is presented to them.”
James A. Seddon receives an appointment as Confederate secretary of war.
Abraham Lincoln discusses the emancipation of slaves with a delegation of Unionists from Kentucky, insisting that “he would rather die than take back a word of the Proclamation of Freedom,” while continuing to promote a plan for gradual emancipation in the slave states remaining in the Union.
The President disdains suggestions of using Union officers as candidates for Congress from Louisiana:
“In my view, there could be no possible object in such an election. We do not particularly need members of congress from there to enable us to get along with legislation here. What we do want is the conclusive evidence that respectable citizens of Louisiana, are willing to be members of congress, & to swear support to the constitution; and that other respectable citizens there are willing to vote for them and send them [to Washington].”
President Lincoln responds strongly to the request for additional requisitions from Nathaniel P. Banks:
“My dear General, this expanding, and piling up of impedimenta, has been, so far, almost our ruin, and will be our final ruin if it is not abandoned.”
Following a furlough that has enabled him to see his wife and family briefly, North Carolinian William Dorsey Pender is on his way to rejoin his command when he pauses at the Confederate capital to tie up loose ends:
“I got my money today for Blucher [his horse]. They allowed me $600 but stopped $75 on an old account, but the Government owes me more than that, which I intend to get soon. . . . My love to all. I will probably write you again tomorrow.”
Then in a hasty postscript, Pender adds: “I will send you some money in a week or so. I am not promoted. I bought you some silk.”
Once more Lincoln responds to Carl Schurz regarding the late elections:
“I certainly know that if the war fails, the administration fails, and that I will be blamed for it, whether I deserve it or not. And I ought to be blamed, if I could do better. . . . I certainly have been dissatisfied with the slowness of Buell and McClellan; but before I relieved them I had great fears I should not find successors to them, who would do better. . . . I must say I need success more than I need sympathy.”
From a hospital in Dalton, Georgia, Thomas Boyd writes to tell his sister that he has been sick, although is “slowly on the mend:”
“The ladys in the place is very kind to the sick. They have a society to cook for all the sickest ones. I git my ration from them as I cant eat the bread and beef they have [suffering from “the diarah”]. . . . Every thing sells high here. Pork is 25cts per pound. Salt is $40. A bushel of potatoes is two dollars. I can git milk at 15 cts a quart. With what little nowersshment I can buy and what I draw I can live finely. I am going to stay here as long as I can git to for I can not stand so much hard marching .. . . I often think of the times that I uset to have when I thought it hard time but I never new what hard times was.”
Confederate colonel Joseph “Jo” Shelby conducts a fighting withdrawal of 2,000 men in the face of 5,000 Union soldiers under Brigadier General James G. Blunt in the area of Cane Hill, Arkansas. In the process of leap-frogging his forces, Shelby loses four horses and 45 men, but the valiant rear-guard action saves the bulk of the command. Federal casualties in the running engagement are just under those suffered by their opponents.
From Central Virginia, Daniel Boyd sends a letter home that reflects the spirits of many of his comrades as they reach the end of another year in the face of an opposing army:
“I want you to rite to [me] as soon as you get this. . . . I would like to come home and se you all this winter if I cold get off but it looks like they ar going to keep us amraching all winter. Rite soon for it gives me great satisfacktion [to] hear from home.”
Major General John B. Magruder assumes command of the Confederate District of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.
President Abraham Lincoln offers his annual message to Congress, noting the state of the union and the prospects for the future:
“In the inaugural address I briefly pointed out the total inadequacy of disunion, as a remedy for the differences between the people of the two sections. I did so in language which I cannot improve. . . . Our national strife pertains to ourselves—to the passing generations of men; and it can, without convulsion, be hushed forever with the passing of one generation.”
Against the backdrop of the emancipation proclamation which will be due to go into effect at the start of the new year, he presents his ideas for amendments to the Constitution of the United States for the end of slavery with compensation in “Every State, wherein slavery now exists” before January 1, 1863. The loyal owners of those slaves freed “by the chances of war” will also be eligible for compensation. He urges Congress to fund colonization of the freed persons and concludes: “Without slavery the rebellion could never have existed; without slavery it could not continue.”
“Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. . . . The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation. . . . We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best, hope of earth.”
In Richmond, War Clerk John B. Jones notes the resignation of a colonel after he has believed that promotion came to others through “partiality.” Jones is pleased that “the gallant officer” will likely offer his services to his governor and receive a generalship in that manner, but laments:
“But where will this end? I fear in an issue between the State and Confederate authorities.
A sense of assurance pervades the Army of Northern Virginia, as North Carolinian William Dorsey Pender explains to his wife:
“One cannot imagine the degree of confidence and high spirits displayed by our men. . . .
Gen. Lee is very anxiously waiting for a fight. He told me today that he believed he would be willing to fall back and let them cross for the sake of a fight.” Pender revels in his reputation for combat as well: “The men seem to think I am fond of fighting. They say I give them ‘hell’ out of the fight and the Yankees the same in it.”
President Lincoln requests the payment of damages in the amount of nine thousand five hundred dollars for a collision by the U.S. steamer San Jacinto with a French vessel off the coast of Cuba.
Dorsey Pender is in a mischievous mood regarding President Lincoln’s announcement of an emancipation proclamation, suggesting to his wife:
“What do you say to selling our negro property to old Abe and quitting the war? He seems to be getting tired of it, and I only hope the old villain will get more tired before he gets through with it.”
In the corner of Southwest Virginia, Confederate staffer Ned Guerrant watches the seasonal changes with his usual literary flair:
“Before night the earth was covered with snow & the December wind whistled mournfully at night around the corners & through the crannies of our Head Quarters. . . . I pity John Morgans men (4000) who this cold night are without tents or covering, & many without blankets!”
Confederate major general Thomas C. Hindman is in the midst of an advance with 11,000 men against a relatively isolated 8,000-man force under Union brigadier general James G. Blunt. Blunt has sensed danger and ordered a junction with 6,000 men under Francis J. Herron, which the latter valiantly attempts to effect by grueling forced marches over 110 miles in three days. Learning of Herron’s approach, Hindman alters his plan to focus on these men rather than Blunt’s, but inexplicably holds his ground after initial contacts to await an assault that offers the Federals the opportunity to coordinate against him.
President Lincoln orders that the executions of thirty-nine Native Americans associated with the uprising in Minnesota sentenced by Military Commission be carried out.
From Tennessee, Sherman offers his view on the stakes of the conflict from his opponents’ perspective:
“I know that the Southern People prefer a Govt. of their own but as soon as it is demonstrated that there cannot be an independent Southern Confederacy, many then will yield obedience rather than lose their Estates.”
In Suffolk, Va., Alvin Voris observes:
“I am afraid that Gen. Burnside will have more of an undertaking than he expects if he is going to crush out the rebellion this winter. The roads become impossible in a verry short time at this season of the year. You have no idea of what bad roads are.”
The Battle of Prairie Grove occurs as Hindman and Herron clash on high ground overlooking the Illinois River. Hearing the sounds of the fighting, Blunt hastens to the scene of the fighting and engages Hindman’s left and center, while Herron threatens the right. Union artillery blasts punish Confederate attempts to follow-up on Union repulses and evening brings a close to what has become, tactically at least, a draw. Casualties amount to 175 killed, 813 wounded and 263 missing for the Federals, with 164 dead, 817 wounded and 336 missing among the Confederates, who retire after darkness from the field.
John Hunt Morgan’s command swoops down on a garrison of raw troops guarding Hartsville, Tennessee, and captures some 2,000 hapless Federals.
In Richmond, J.B. Jones records the extremes of weather and the hazards of war:
“Last night was bitter cold, and this morning there was ice on my wash-stand, within five feet of the fire. Is this the ‘sunny South’ the North is fighting to possess? How much suffering must be in the armies now encamped in Virginia!”
President Lincoln recommends that Congress bestow a vote of thanks to John L. Worden, “for the eminent skill and gallantry, exhibited by him in the late remarkable battle between the U.S. Iron clad steamer Monitor, under his command, and the Rebel Iron clad Steamer Merrimack, in March last.”
Confederate artillery captain Greenlee Davidson tells his father about the state of people fleeing from Fredericksburg, Virginia:
“The country for miles around is filled with refugees. Every house is crowded and hundreds are living in churches, in barns and in tents. I passed one camp, in which there must have been forty or fifty families.
It made me feel sad to see delicate women, beautiful girls and tender young children thus banished from their comfortable homes, living as it were in the woods, at this trying season.”
The U.S. House of Representatives votes for the creation of West Virginia.
In Virginia, Alvin Voris offers a prescription for victory, but then concludes: “Well I am glad I am not President, for who does not feel able to find fault with honest ‘Old Abe,” and who does not feel competent to advise him.”
U.S. forces enter the town of Fredericksburg, after the placement of pontoons across the Rappahannock River while enduring heavy harassing fire by sharpshooters under William Barksdale.
In response to inquiries by the U.S. Senate, President Lincoln explains the measures he has taken to review the cases of individuals slated to be hanged for their involvement in the uprising in Minnesota. “Anxious to not act with so much clemency as to encourage another outbreak on the one hand, nor with so much severity as to be real cruelty on the other, I caused a careful examination of the records of the trials to be made. . . .”
Abraham Lincoln responds to the suggestion, presented to him by Fernando Wood of New York that there might be a possibility for ending the war, and calling for a cease fire to pursue the matter.
“I strongly suspect your information will prove to be groundless; nevertheless I thank you for communicating it to me. I do not think it would be proper now for me to communicate this, formally or informally, to the people of the Southern States. My belief is that they already know it; and when they choose, if ever, they can communicate with me unequivocally. Nor do I think it proper now to suspend military operations to try any experiment of negotiation.”
The Battle of Fredericksburg unfolds with Burnside sending troops against Lee’s entrenchments. The casualties amount to 1,284 Union dead, 9,600 wounded and 1,769 missing. For the Confederates, 595 are killed, including General Thomas R.R. Cobb, who falls in the defense of the Sunken Road, with 4,061 wounded and 653 missing. Despite the heavy slaughter in assaulting Marye’s Heights, the best chance for Union victory had come on the Confederate right.
At Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Confederate president Jefferson Davis continues his inspection tour of the Western Theater by consulting with Braxton Bragg and reviewing the army.
Having recovered from an illness that prostrated him for almost a week, Ned Guerrant expresses his hopes for favorable international developments:
“Emperor Napoleon speaks of intervening in this cruel & unnatural & unnecessary war whether England or Russia will or not.”
Burnside is prepared to renew his attacks, but his subordinates dissuade him from sending his battle-worn and bloodied troops back into the fray.
The Army of the Potomac pulls back across the Rappahannock, while the assessments and recriminations begin for this latest set-back against Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia.
Nathaniel Banks replaces the controversial Ben Butler in New Orleans
General Order No. 11 emanates from Ulysses Grant’s headquarters at Holly Springs, Mississippi, calling for the expulsion of Jewish traders from his department.
In the wake of mounting criticism and pressure, Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase and Secretary of State William H. Seward offer their resignations.
Barbara Fritchie, made famous by her refusal to allow Confederate soldiers to remove her U.S. flag while marching through Frederick during the Maryland Campaign dies. Her patriotic gesture is immortalized with the verse:
"Shoot, if you must, this old gray head,
But spare your country's flag," she said.”
Word of Fredericksburg has filtered down to southeastern Virginia:
“When I was at home in the summer, I tried to convince my friends that we had a stupendous undertaking on our hands, that the South had a vastness of resources that they did not appreciate, & an intensity of purpose that would be calamities from which the people of the North would shrink.
When I hear people talk of the poverty of the rebels & the want of supplies for their army I pity their ignorance. Those who thus console themselves with the reflection that starvation and want will bring them to their knees are verry much mistaken. The rebels have enough to make them good soldiers.”
Earl Van Dorn unleashes a lightning cavalry raid against Ulysses S. Grant’s forward supply base at Holly Springs, Mississippi, capturing or dispersing the defenders and ransacking the stockpiles of Union stores.
Cump Sherman informs his brother that he and 20,000 men are set to board vessels “to be off for the Real South,” but insists that John should not “expect me to achieve miracles. Vicksburg is not the only thing to be done.”
Lincoln foregoes a reshuffling of his Cabinet by refusing to accept any of the proffered resignations and requesting that Seward and Chase resume their duties in their respective posts.
President Davis is at Vicksburg. In a letter to General Theophilus Holmes, he notes that the Federals have exhibited two primary objectives: “one to get control of the Missi. River, and the other to capture the capital of the Confederate States.” Lee has thwarted the latter by defeating Burnside and Davis hopes to prevent the former and the consequent “dismembering [of] the Confederacy . . . [by] maintaining the points already occupied by defensive works: to-wit, Vicksburg and Port Hudson.”
Lincoln accentuates the positive in a congratulatory order to the recently defeated Army of the Potomac. While the artifice is necessary for the purposes of public morale, the scope of Burnside’s set-back cannot be easily papered over.
An incensed President Jefferson Davis denounces Benjamin Butler as an outlaw for that general’s actions in New Orleans.
In Washington, President Lincoln informs his Cabinet officials of the bill for the admission of the state of West Virginia into the Union that has now passed both houses:
“I respectfully ask of each [of] you, an opinion in writing, on the following questions, towit:
1st. Is the said Act constitutional?
2nd. Is the said Act expedient?”
With the heavy fighting at Fredericksburg over, Captain Greenlee Davidson settles down to write his father a full and graphic description of the engagement. Noting his efforts to assist in holding the Confederate right, the artillerist concludes:
“Canister from a Napoleon gun is a terrible engine of destruction.”
Christmas Eve promises little hope that the good will of the season will prevail. Union forces occupy Galveston, Texas, while Confederate raiders under John Hunt Morgan move into Glasgow, Kentucky.
In Virginia, Alvin Voris explains the approaching holiday of Christmas through a soldier’s viewpoint: “Looking at the present conditions of affairs I do not see that we are any nearer to the end of the war than one year ago. In the army we have no hollidays. To us all days are alike. Sundays, week days, hollidays, work, drill, march, camp & bivouac are the routine of the days, weeks, months, & year.”
In some ways, even in wartime, some fortunate individuals mark this special day as they have before in quieter times. Twenty-four year old Emma Holmes observes in her diary:
“We all went to church, as much to see each our friends & pass the time, as anything else—the church was beautifully decorated with garlands & mottoes of evergreens & holly & mistletoe berries.”
More skirmishing also marks Christmas Day, 1862, as soldiers and citizens of the United and Confederate States continue to seek an end to the war that most had not thought would ever reach a second Christmas.
Sherman’s expedition against Vicksburg disembarks on the Yazoo River and marches toward the Confederate city.
In Mankato, Minnesota, the execution of thirty-eight Native Americans implicated in the uprising in the territory takes place, with one of their numbering receiving a reprieve at the gallows.
From Falmouth, Virginia, Edward Wightman writes his brother in New York reflecting a sense of confidence not broken by the recent set-back at Fredericksburg:
“We enjoyed Christmas hugely here. There were multitudes of sutlers around with everything that nobody wanted to buy.
The troops seem rather proud of their bravery in the late battle—elated rather than depressed by the fight. There is no such thing as demoralization among us.”
After slogging its way along the swampy country north of Vicksburg, William T. Sherman’s command endures a bloody set-back at Chickasaw Bluffs. The failed Union effort costs 208 lives, with 1,005 wounded and 563 missing, against the 63 killed, 134 wounded, and 10 missing of the much less numerous Southern defenders who had blocked the Northern advance. Sherman explains succinctly in his report on the matter:
“I reached Vicksburg at the time appointed, landed, assaulted and failed.”
Texan, James Bates, who had ridden a few days earlier with Van Dorn on the Holly Springs Raid, describes the action in detail for his mother:
“The Surprise . . . was complete. . . . Some of them were not yet out of bed some were making fires—others getting breakfast & still others just sitting down to eat. As soon as they heard our yells & the clatter of our horses’ feet most of them took to their heels—a few officers tried to rally their men—but as soon as it was known that ‘The Texas cavalry are on us’ they even fled. Every man for himself & we for the hindmost was now the order & such another ‘Skeedaddle’ I have never before seen.
Our next business was to destroy all the government property which we could not carry away. . . . Our whole Division helped themselves to as much clothing as they could wear & carry. Almost every man fitted himself out in Yankee uniforms—boots, hats, caps, pants, shirts, overcoats etc. & as far as uniforms went we were transformed into Yankee Cavalry.”
Long reputed as a graveyard of ships, the waters off the Outer Banks of North Carolina claim another victim. This one is the Union vessel that has helped to revolutionize naval warfare by engaging in the first battle of ironclads in Hampton Roads, Virginia. The Monitor sinks in rough seas while being towed southward from the Chesapeake Bay where it had established its fame.
A major confrontation between William Starke Rosecrans and Braxton Bragg occurs along Stones River, near Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Both commanders have the notion of using a powerful left blow to crush their opponent’s right, but Bragg’s Confederates achieve the initial advantage by striking first. As the attacking waves push the defenders back, the Federals brace with their backs to the important rail connection and turnpike to Nashville, aided by the stalwart defense of the Union center under George H. Thomas. By the end of the day, it is clear that the combatants have endured heavy fighting and losses, but neither is in position to close the engagement decisively.
Abraham Lincoln weighs his opinions on the questions relating to West Virginia that he has earlier posed to his Cabinet members. Opinion on the constitutionality and expediency of the action are divided. Lincoln notes the importance of obtaining the consent of the Legislature of Virginia in the matter: “A body claiming to be such a Legislature has given it’s consent. We can not well deny that it is such, unless we do so upon the outside knowledge that the body was chosen at elections, in which a majority of the qualified voters of Virginia did not participate. But it is a universal practice in the popular elections in all these states, to give no legal consideration whatsoever to those who do not choose to vote, as against the effect of the votes of those, who do choose to vote. Hence it is not the qualified voters, but the qualified voters, who choose to vote, that constitute the political power of the state. . . . It is said, the devil takes care of his own. Much more should a good spirit—the spirit of the Constitution and the Union—take care of it’s own. I think it can not do less, and live.”
Lincoln turns to the question of expediency by observing that West Virginians loyal to the Union and serving in the ranks expect as much from the government: “The division of a State is dreaded as precedent. But a measure made expedient by a war, is no precedent for times of peace. It is said that the admission of West-Virginia, is secession, and tolerated only because it is our secession. Well, if we call it by that name, there is still difference enough between secession against the constitution, and secession in favor of the constitution.
I believe the admission of West-Virginia into the Union is expedient.”
Thus, Lincoln accepts the admission of West Virginia as the thirty-fifth state of the Union.
Nathan Bedford Forrest battles a Union force at Parker’s Cross Roads, in Tennessee, employing artillery deftly, but finds his position compromised when a second column approaches from the rear. This turn of events necessitates a dramatic escape by the Confederate cavalry raider as he orders his men, “Charge them both ways!” Forrest has lived to fight another day with the bulk of his command and never views the engagement as a defeat.
Alvin Voris has brought his men to the port of Norfolk, Virginia:
“I am placing my men on board a fine ship for somewhere. I hope you will not feel at all uneasy if you do not hear from me for some days. . . . But where we are going the Lord & the Gen[.] only know.”
In Southwest Virginia, Ned Guerrant waxes eloquent regarding the departing year:
“The last day of 1862. His death day! Farewell! Nobler years [have] died without eulogies or funerals.—Now I have no time to soliloquize. 1862, thou hast written thy name & memory in letters of blood on the page of immortal History.”