Civil War Timeline: 1864
January 1864January 1, 1864
Emerson Opdycke greets the coming year from East Tennessee, telling his wife:
“I wish you a Happy New Year, from my heart but cannot say that mine has been such. . . But what will the Year 1864 have in store for us?”
At Brandy Station, Virginia, Vermonter Lemuel Abbott is more upbeat:
“All are wishing me a ‘Happy New Year’! God grant that I may have one. I was awakened long before daylight by a band serenading the birth of the New Year.”
Elsewhere in Virginia, Judith Brockenbrough McGuire begins work in the Confederate Commissary Department, observing:
“the duties of the office are not very onerous, but rather confining for one who left school thirty-four years ago. . . . The ladies, thirty-five in number, are of all ages, and representing various parts of Virginia, also Maryland and Louisiana. Many of them are refugees. It is melancholy to see how many wear mourning for brothers or other relatives, the victims of war.”
Residing for now in the Confederate capital, the spirited South Carolinian, Mary Chesnut, starts the new year on a plaintive note:
“God help my country. . . . I think we are more like the sailors who break into the spirits closet when they find out the ship must sink. There seems to be for the first time a resolute feeling to enjoy the brief hour and never look beyond the day.”January 2, 1864
George Davis of North Carolina receives confirmation from the Confederate Senate as the new attorney general.
Meeting with fellow officers from the Army of Tennessee at Dalton, Ga., Patrick Cleburne offers his “Memorial” calling for armed service for slaves and freedom to those who will have remained faithful to the cause of the Confederacy. The Irish-born general, who has served the Confederate States unfailingly himself, sees the matter as one of crucial importance in maintaining sufficient numbers of troops in the field and looks upon the issue as steadfastly patriotic in nature:
“As between the loss of independence and the loss of slavery, we assume that every patriot will freely give up the latter—give up the Negro slave rather than be a slave himself.”
From Richmond, war department clerk John B. Jones records the call for dramatic action from a neighboring community:
“The Lynchburg Virginian has come out for a dictator, and names Gen. Lee.”
Only the day before Jones had found the price of a barrel of flour to stand at $150.January 3, 1864
Opposing forces clash in far-southwestern Virginia.January 4, 1864
Lemuel Abbott records the weather at his billet:January 5, 1864
“It has snowed nearly all day, but not very hard. To-night there is about two inches on the ground and it is still snowing.”
Abraham Lincoln addresses the matter of bounties for service as the U.S. Congress reassesses such incentive payments.
Confederate bureau chief, Robert G.H. Kean assesses the latest rumor for aid from outside of the South:
“It has been determined, as I am informed, to send a minister to the French in Mexico with a proposal of alliance between the Southern Confederacy and [Emperor] Maximilian. I doubt if that card will win.”
In Louisiana, William Henry King reacts to the news that William Hardee has replaced Braxton Bragg as an army commander:
“Don’t know much about Hardee’s merits, but feel quite certain the Confederacy is not worsted in the exchange. Bragg would make a fare general for an aristocracy or a monarchy, but not for a people battling for independence.”
Despite bitterly cold temperatures, Union guards at Johnson’s Island Prison exercise greater vigilance over their captives. John Dooley writes:
“Snow 6 inches deep: since the recent escapes we are obliged at roll call, no matter how severe the weather, to stand outside our blocks and not only to answer to our names but be counted and wait until all the other prisoners are counted throughout the prison, when, at the sound of the drum, we are permitted to return; this act of discipline generally lasts from a half to three quarters of an hour.”January 6, 1864
Some light fighting takes place near Dalton, Ga.
Colonel Christopher “Kit” Carson is at the head of forces aimed at compelling the remaining Navajos operating independently onto a reservation. The action occurs in the vicinity of Canyon de Chelly in the far U.S. southwest.January 7, 1864
From Washington City, President Lincoln makes another of a number of pardons for troops in the field, explaining as motivation in this instance: “I did this, not on any merit in the case, but because I am trying to evade the butchering business lately.”
Former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Caleb Smith dies in Indianapolis, Indiana.January 8, 1864
Southern artillerist Henry Robinson Berkeley poses a difficult philosophical question after he witnesses the dispensing of military justice in Virginia:
“Saw a man shot today for desertion. Poor fellow! His crime was only going home to see after his wife and children. It was his third or fourth offense. . . . He was buried where he was executed. Did he not die for his country?”
Accused Confederate spy David O. Dodd, meets his fate on a gallows in Little Rock, Arkansas.
The colorful Southern horseman, John Hunt Morgan, attends a reception arranged for him in Richmond.January 9, 1864
President Davis is worried about a potential Union assault on Mobile, Ala.January 10, 1864
Although the Union blockade of Southern ports is proving ever-more effective, the U.S.S. Iron Age falls victim to shallow waters and Confederate fire off the South Carolina coast.
Confederate ordnance chief Josiah Gorgas records recent developments in Richmond and elsewhere in Virginia: “The arrival of Gen. Jno. H. Morgan created quite a stir here on Friday. The city authorities and the Govt received him at the Ballard House, and gave him a handsome reception.
Gen. Early is operating in the lower valley of the Shenandoah, to get beef, of which the army is in great need. We shall get thro’ the winter without manifest suffering, tho’ shoes and blankets are still wanting.”January 11, 1864
Union naval forces achieve a measure of retribution for the loss of a vessel on the previous day by causing the destruction of two blockade-runners in the same vicinity.
William T. Sherman is at Memphis, keeping one eye one the ice flowing by on the river and the other on Nathan Bedford Forrest. Concerning the latter and his own plans for the future, Cump confides to his wife Ellen:
“It is exceedingly difficult to deal with these Mounted Devils and I am sure all we can do is to make the Country feel that the People must pay for these wandering Arabs. I will run down to Vicksburg, and back to Memphis and be ready to start on some expedition by the 20th. I may strike for Meridian and Selma.”January 12, 1864
Disturbances in Matamoros, Mexico, prompt efforts to remove the U.S. Consul from danger.January 13, 1864
President Davis wants his field commander in Georgia, Joseph E. Johnston, to understand the vital nature of his position and the desire of the commander-in-chief not to forfeit it by retreating from it:
“I trust you will not deem it necessary to adopt such a measure.”
In Tennessee, Emerson Opdycke notes:
“Three of Longstreet’s men deserted and came over to us; they reported that they had been living off the country and everything was ‘mighty scarce.’
Jefferson Davis continues to keep a close eye on Mobile, one of the few viable life-lines to the outside world left to the Confederacy. He is even considering the propriety of shifting troops from Johnston in Georgia for defense of the city.
Hoosier soldier William Miller is still recovering from a wound as his comrades reap the benefits of their recent campaigning:
“General Washingtons Birth day was celebrated by the Cars running in to Chattanooga for the first time since we occupied it. Now we will get full rations. The Boys boarded the cars and helped them selves to ‘grub.’ They found Some Sanitary [Commission] Whisky and some of them got terible drunk and had a jolly time. . . . I dont approve of the proceedings but they have lived on Half and quarter rations since in September and I dont blame them much.”January 15, 1864
In addition to her government employment, Judith McGuire records another change in her life:January 16, 1864
“My occupation at home just now is as new as that in the office—it is shoe-making.”
Troops clash in the vicinity of Dandridge, as East Tennessee continues to experience the movement of forces through the region.
Major General Samuel R. Curtis assumes command of the Federal Department of Kansas.
Ordnance Chief Gorgas looks to the government’s measures to bolster the armies as well as civilian morale:
“Our armies are filling up and will I hope, be strong enough for their work by the 1st of May. A law abolishing all substitution has just been passed. While I don’t think this will materially Strengthen the army, it will give general satisfaction.”
While in Hartford, Conn., during a transfer from one vessel to another, Union naval officer Roswell Lamson finds time for social pursuits as well as professional ones, including services conducted by one of the leading lights of New England:January 18, 1864
“This morning I went to church . . . and heard a most excellent and interesting sermon from the Rev. Mr. [Nathaniel J.] Burton who is called the most able preacher in Connecticut, and is thought by many to be equal if not superior to Henry Ward Beecher. I would rather hear Mr. Beecher—he speaks more from his everyday observation of the world and of men and touches springs that few men know to exist. Mr. Burton speaks more from books and from his own inward consciousness—he may be superior in intellect but with my [limited theological] training it is natural I should prefer Mr. Beecher.”
One of the many Confederates assembled in the area of Dalton, Ga., sends a letter for publication "from the Army," that contains the state of the weather, the condition of the army and a sense of the morale of the troops. "Camp life is not so horrible as one might suppose. . . . The winter is waering away, and soon our battle flags will have to be unfurled to the breezes od spring, and the lines of gray will have to be drawn up--a living wall, against which the tide of invasion, it is hoped, will beat in vain."
He adds with a literary flourish: "The old year closed down upon us with defeat, disaster. May the present year bring us victory and success. The hour is dark and full of gloom, but such generally comes before the dawning of beautiful day."
Union forces continue to confront Confederate guerrillas along the Mississippi River.January 19, 1864
John C. Breckinridge demonstrates his sense of diplomacy and tact when a guest at a social event in the Confederate capital “pitched into [him] for his conduct of affairs at Missionary Ridge. ‘Well, sir, how came we to lose Chattanooga?’ General Breckinridge coolly responded, ‘It is a long story,’ turned away, and began talking to someone else.”
Just northeast of Knoxville, Emerson Opdycke lets off steam as his command battles the elements and what he deems as less than competent leadership in his own ranks:January 20, 1864
“I am sick of being under Potomac Generals. . . . The campaigning is exceedingly rough cold rain, snow, no tents and short rations.”
Jefferson Davis’s fears seem to be confirmed of Mobile as an emerging focal point for Federal attentions with Union vessels maneuvering into position at the entrance to Mobile Bay.
General Sherman keeps fellow general John Logan abreast of developments in Mississippi:
“The River has been little molested by the Guerillas who find it dont pay, and as the waters rise they know we will go up the Yazoo & Red Rivers and punish the Interior for their rascality. On this trip I have not seen or heard of a Guerilla and the Merchant Boats pass up and down with little fear. Abundance of wood has been gathered, and swarms of adventurers are crowding Vicksburg to hire Abandoned Plantations. The negro soldier idea is nearly exhausted and the popular idea is now to convert them into laborers for the benefit of the hungry Plantation Contractors. Well I am willing the Philanthropists should take the job off our hands and I tell them to go ahead, but I will not divert troops from Military duties to guard local interests.”January 21, 1864
Gorgas notes both the threats and the benefits still being derived from blockade-running traffic:
“Movements reported seem to indicate designs against Mobile. . . . A couple of good cargos have lately arrived there for us from Havanna.”
John B. Jones records an unsettling development for the Confederate president:
“Last night an attempt was made (by his servants, it is supposed) to burn the President’s mansion. It was discovered that fire had been kindled in the wood-pile in the basement. The smoke led to the discovery, else the family might have been consumed with the house. One or two of the servants have absconded."
Mary Chesnut references Patrick Cleburne’s proposal for arming slaves in terse fashion:
“The Army of the West desire the negroes freed and put in the ranks. They wonder it has never been done before.”January 22, 1864
Major General William Rosecrans will become the next Union commander of the Department of the Missouri, in place of the controversial Major General John M. Schofield, who will be headed for the Department of the Ohio.
Arkansas now has a pro-Union government, with a provisional governor. Isaac Murphy will lead the effort to establish this new administration.
Recent events at the Davis home continue to garner attention. Diarist Chesnut observes:
“Went to Mrs. Davis’s. It is sad enough. Fancy having to be always ready to have your servants set your house on fire—bribed to do it. Such constant robberies—such servants coming and going daily to the Yankees, carrying one’s silver, etc., does not conduce to make home happy.”January 23, 1864
Abraham Lincoln responds to a request for his opinion on the matter of returning plantations to productivity in the wake of war and emancipation developments:January 24, 1864
“You have enquired how the government would regard and treat cases wherever the owners of plantations, in Arkansas, for instance, might fully recognize the freedom of those formerly slaves, and by fair contracts of hire with them, re-commence the cultivation of their plantations. I answer I should regard such cases with great favor. . . .”
Small operations mark the day in areas as wide-spread as Mississippi, East Tennessee and Tidewater Virginia.January 25, 1864
Long the scene of contention, Corinth, Miss. has ceased to hold the same importance as occupying Union forces leave the town to move to other posts.January 26, 1864
President Lincoln is once more active, addressing trade in areas once controlled by the Confederates and suspending execution sentences for a number of Union soldiers.January 27, 1864
Developments in Central Virginia continue to look promising for the Union cause there, as Lemuel Abbott records in his diary:
“Two deserters came into our lines this morning; they report Lee’s army in a miserable condition—no rations or clothing, and the citizens nearly starving. They say that ‘Secession is playing out.’”
President Davis requests that Braxton Bragg travel to Richmond for consultation.January 28, 1864
President Lincoln requests that Henry Halleck encourage steps to be taken to secure the lines of communication and transportation westward from Missouri from any potential Confederate actions:
“Some citizens of Missouri—vicinity of Kansas City—are apprehensive that there is special danger of renewed troubles in that neighbourhood and thence on the route toward New-Mexico. I am not impressed that the danger is very great or imminent, but I will thank you to give Genls Rosecrans and Curtis respectively such orders as may turn their attention thereto and prevent as far as possible the apprehended disturbances.”
Roswell Lamson explains in a letter home that hard work remains to be completed before making his vessel, the Gettysburg, ready for service, attributing the level of effort required to “evidences of stupidity almost past belief.” But, he has also maintained sufficient time for other activities and remarks on one of his companions in particular:January 29, 1864
“Wednesday evening I was invited to Mr. Beechers to tea and to spend the evening which passed very pleasantly. There was a ‘Secesh’ lady there from South Carolina whose father owned a large share of the Margaret & Jessie before she was captured; her husband is a Yankee and it was very amusing to hear her remarks about Yankees in general, and Yankees in particular.”
A new round of Federal bombardment of Fort Sumter begins, although the Confederates now have the ironclad Charleston to bolster the defense of the name-sake city.January 30, 1864
Rosecrans assumes command in Missouri, while Major General Frederick Steele does the same in Arkansas.January 31, 1864
Gorgas reflects on recent Congressional action that aims at placing men between 45 and 55 in the ranks:
“In such a war as this—a war for national existence the whole mass of the nation must be engaged. It must be divided into those who go to the field and fight, & those who stay at home to support the fighting portion, supplying all the food, and material of war. . . . It is absurd to call on all to fight. Some must labor or all will starve. There is much crude legislation going on, but we shall work thro’ this revolution [even] with some blunders.”
Mary Chesnut continues to socialize, observe and record events in her diary:
“General Hood informed today that he was ordered to the Army of Tennessee, that he was now a corps commander. Suddenly his eye blazed as he said this.
Said I to myself, ‘All that ambition still—in spite of those terrible wounds.’ Did he read my thoughts? He added, ‘This has been the happiest year of any, in spite of all my wounds.’
Again his eye blazed up.”
In the midst of an on-going struggle between the legislative and executive branches of the Confederate government, Robert Kean laments the apparent loss of one crucial official:
“The clamor against the nitre and mining bureau as a refuge for skulkers and exempts has caused Colonel [Isaac] St. John to resign. . . . Colonel St. John has developed the production of nitre from almost nothing to nearly a full supply. But for the loss of territory where the richest nitrous earths are found, he would have been wholly independent of importation. The loss of Tennessee has caused him to develop his works further in the interior, and in a few months his beds laid down near all the interior cities will be ripe. To his great energy, talent for organization, and skilful invention in supplementing defective resources, the country owes as much as to any man in the service, whatever his rank or fame. Others have made good use of what the country afforded in resources. He has created when resources there were none.”
To a colleague in Alabama, General Sherman addresses questions concerning civilians in occupied areas:
“In my former letters I have answered all your questions save one, and that relates to the treatment of inhabitants known or suspected to be hostile or ‘Secesh.’ This is in truth the most difficult business of our Army as it advances & occupies the Southern Country. It is almost impossible to lay down Rules and I invariably leave this whole subject to the local commander, but am willing to give them the benefit of my acquired Knowledge and experience. . . .
We of the North are beyond all question Right in our Cause. . . .
When men take up Arms to resist a Rightful Authority we are compelled to use like force, because all reason and argument cease when arms are resorted to. When the provisions, forage, horses, mules, wagons, etc., are used by our enemy it is clearly our duty & Right to take them also; because otherwise they might be used against us. . . . But the question arises as to the dwellings used by women, children & non-combatants. So long as non-combatants remain in their houses & Keep to their accustomed peaceful business, their opinions and prejudices can in no wise influence the War & therefore should not be noticed. . . .
To those who submit to the Rightful Laws & authority of their State & National Government promise all gentleness and forbearance, but to the petulant and persistent secessionist, why death or banishment is a mercy, and the quicker he or she is disposed of the better.”
February 1864February 1, 1864
The U.S. House of Representatives moves on the matter of reviving the rank of lieutenant general.February 2, 1864
British Minister to the United States, Lord Richard Lyons, communicates with Foreign Minister John Russell concerning the views of U.S. secretary of state William H. Seward:
“Mr. Seward said to me this morning that he was informed that a move would be made by the English Friends of the Confederates on the meeting of Parliament, and that the object of it would be not to obtain the recognition of the Confederacy as an Independent State, but to induce Her Majesty’s Government to interpose for the restoration of Peace, on the basis of an eventual abolition of Slavery, and assumption of the restored Union of the Confederate Debt. . . .
He should, he said, inform Mr. [Charles Francis] Adams that no Foreign Intervention, in any shape or under any pretext would be admitted [considered] for a moment; that the President was determined to suppress the Rebellion by the strength of the United States and by that alone.”
Additionally, the effects of the Emancipation Proclamation would remain “strictly adhered to.” “As to the Confederate Debt, the United States, Mr. Seward said, would never pay a dollar of it.”
President Lincoln sends condolences to Kamehameha V, the “King of the Hawaiian Islands,” on the death of his predecessor and brother. He also orders a vessel to travel to Santo Domingo “to bring back to this country such of the colonists there as desire to return.”
Indicative of both audacity and reality for the embattled South, a small team of naval personnel board and take the USS Underwriter, a Union gunboat located in the Neuse River in eastern North Carolina. But circumstances prevent the new proprietors from doing more with their acquisition than destroying the vessel. In the meantime, Federal forces continue to hold nearby New Berne and other critical points.February 3, 1864
Sherman’s Meridian Campaign begins as some 26,000 troops leave Vicksburg heading initially for Jackson before moving on to Meridian.February 4, 1864
President Jefferson Davis continues to implore his nation to pluck up its resolve. He considers those who “have enjoyed quiet and safety at home” and yet remain openly discontented particularly problematic for the Confederacy.
The area between Vicksburg and Jackson sees renewed action as Sherman moves toward the Mississippi capital.February 5, 1864
Patrons of the Macon Georgia Journal and Messenger learn the effects of warfare on their newspaper:
“We cannot afford a larger sheet when we have only increased our rates from two dollars and fifty cents to five, while the quantity of paper for which we paid three fifty, we now pay fifty five dollars.”
Sherman’s command reaches Jackson, Miss.February 6, 1864
Sherman’s troops leave Jackson for Meridian.February 7, 1864
Union major general Benjamin Butler is active on the Virginia Peninsula. Federal forces under Brigadier General Alexander Hays cross the Rapidan River at Morton’s Ford, with reinforcements following in a demonstration to support Butler’s movement.
U.S. forces enter Jacksonville, Fla.
The arrival of Confederates under Lieutenant General Richard Ewell compel the Federals at the Rapidan to pull back.
Elsewhere in Virginia, Vermonter Lemuel Abbott sneers:February 8, 1864
“On arrival there we found there had been a great scare from Mosby but it amounted to nothing; wonder if he thinks guerrilla warfare manly?”
Confederate war clerk John B. Jones relates levels of disaffection at various points in the South, but concludes his diary entry for this day on a positive note:February 9, 1864
“Everywhere our troops in the field, whose terms of three years will expire this spring, are re-enlisting for the war. This is an effect produced by President Lincoln’s [amnesty] proclamation; that to be permitted to return to the Union, all men must first take an oath to abolish slavery!”
A dramatic escape occurs when 109 Federal officers tunnel their way to freedom from Libby Prison. Among the escapees is Abel Streight, incarcerated since his capture by Nathan Bedford Forrest in Alabama in the previous spring.February 10, 1864
A tragic fire occurs in the stables serving the White House. Although Abraham Lincoln lends his hand to the efforts, several animals cannot be rescued in time from the burning structures.February 11, 1864
After some delays, Union brigadier general William Sooy Smith sets out for Mississippi from West Tennessee with 7,000 horsemen and twenty pieces of artillery, having previously promised “to pitch into [Bedford] Forrest wherever I find him.”February 12, 1864
Lyons passes along to Russell the statements that Secretary Seward has made to him regarding the matter of opening up to international commerce those ports of the South under Union control, while declaring others to continue to be “abolished as Ports of Entry.”February 13, 1864
“Mr. Seward maintained that the events of the war had now proved beyond a doubt that the South would never achieve its independence, and that this being the case, the occupation of particular points ought not to be regarded as disturbing the old legitimate jurisdiction.
I conceive that Mr. Seward’s main object is to obtain, with a view to the moral effect both in the North and in the south, the revocation of the recognition of the Belligerent Rights of the Confederates. . . . [H]e appears never to lose sight of this object. . . .”
John B. Jones hears rumors of the price of gold soaring in the North and concludes wistfully:February 14, 1864
“If this be true, our day of deliverance is not distant.”
Sherman’s men take Meridian and begin a systematic destruction of everything of military significance.February 15, 1864
Josiah Gorgas records his views of the motivations for Union military activities:
“The enemys movements are now no doubt partly political. They try to get possession of the capitals of the States & institute State governments, for effect on the next elections. All such governments would be subservient to Lincoln.”
President Lincoln instructs Major General Daniel Sickles to travel to various posts from Memphis to New Orleans and over to the Atlantic coast to “ascertain at each place what is being done, if anything, for reconstruction—how the Amnesty proclamation works, if at all—what practical hitches, if any, there are about it—whether deserters come in from the enemy, what number has come in at each point since the Amnesty, and whether the ratio of their arrival is any greater since than before the Amnesty—what deserters report generally, and particularly, whether, and to what extent, the Amnesty is known within the rebel lines. Also learn what you can as to the colored people—how they get along as soldiers, as laborers in our service, on leased plantations, and as hired laborers with their old masters, if there be such cases. Also learn what you can about the colored people within the rebel lines.”February 16, 1864
In Washington Territory, U.S. forces begin an operation against Native Americans in the region.February 17, 1864
The submarine, H.L. Hunley, sets out to a strike a blow against the Union blockade in Charleston Harbor. She closes on the USS Housatonic and uses her spar torpedo to blast a hole beneath the ship’s waterline. Most of the Union crew members are able to escape drowning, but the Confederates who man their craft are not so fortunate.February 18, 1864
Gorgas notes the number of escaped Union officers from Libby Prison who the Confederates have recovered, while also observing that captives from a nearby facility on the James River are heading South for incarceration in a remote camp that has not yet been finished:February 19, 1864
“Fifty-four of the Yankee officers have been recaptured. The prisoners on Belle Isle are being sent to Americus, Ga., at the rate of 400 a day.”
J.B. Jones discusses another matter in the Confederate capital:
“The Legislature has a bill before it to suppress theatrical amusements during the war. What would Shakespeare think of that?”
President Davis is anxious to know from Admiral Franklin Buchanan how he expects to deflect Union threats to Mobile, Alabama.February 20, 1864
The Battle of Olustee, or Ocean Pond, occurs when Union forces under Brigadier General Truman Seymour encounter Confederates under Brigadier General Joseph Finegan in a push toward Tallahassee. Casualties amount to 203 killed, 1,152 wounded and 506 missing among the 5,500 Federals. Finegan’s troops suffer 93 killed, 847 wounded and 6 missing out of 5,000.February 21, 1864
Fighting occurs at Ellis Bridge in West Point, Miss., as elements of N.B. Forrest’s cavalry confront W.S. Smith’s advancing column.February 22, 1864
Josiah Gorgas notes the arrival of a guest from the Western Theater:
“Gen. Bragg spent Tuesday Evey. with us. . . . Bragg was talkative. We had a good game of whist.”
Forrest engages in a running fight at Okolona with Sooy Smith. Despite some success, he loses his youngest brother, Jeffrey, to Union fire. By the time the fighting has subsided, the Federals tally losses of 54 killed, 179 wounded and 155 missing to the Confederates’ 27 killed, including Colonel Forrest, 97 wounded and 20 missing.February 23, 1864
In Richmond, offices close to honor the birthday of George Washington.
In Washington City, Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase denies knowledge of a letter, by Senator Samuel Pomeroy, of Kansas, that has appeared publicly opposing Lincoln’s nomination for re-election and touting his. Chase explains that he does not want his post to become adversely impacted and notes, “For yourself I cherish sincere respect and esteem; and, permit me to add, affection. Differences of opinion as to administration action have not changed these sentiments. . . .”
Union troops are testing the strength of the Confederate position in the vicinity of Dalton, Georgia.February 24, 1864
In another confidential message, Lyons informs Russell about attitudes of the Lincoln administration regarding the recognition of a French-backed monarchical government in Mexico:
“Mr. Seward observed that he was in the habit of saying to such Members [of the U.S. Congress who opposed such action] that he conceived that it was quite as likely that he should recognize Mr. Jefferson Davis as King of Richmond, as that he should recognize the Archduke Maximilian or any other person as Emperor of Mexico.”
Braxton Bragg becomes President Jefferson Davis’s chief advisor.
The U.S. Senate considers reviving the rank of lieutenant general.February 25, 1864
John B. Jones notes the elevation of Bragg to the advisory post “once occupied by Lee.February 26, 1864
No doubt Bragg can give the President valuable counsel—nor can there be any doubt that he enjoys a secret satisfaction in triumphing thus over popular sentiment, which just at this time is much averse to Gen. Bragg.”
General Lee comes to confer with President Davis.February 27, 1864
The first Union prisoners from Richmond arrive at Camp Sumter near rural Andersonville, Georgia.February 28, 1864
Brigadier General Judson Kilpatrick and Colonel Ulric Dahlgren begin what they hope will be a successful raid on Richmond, in part designed to free Union prisoners of war being held there.
War Clerk Jones assesses the state of the Confederate government:February 29, 1864
“Congress and the President parted as the adjournment in bad temper. It is true everything was passed by Congress asked for by the Executive as necessary in the present exigency. . . . These were conceded, say the members, for the sake of the country, and not as concessions to the Executive.”
President Lincoln responds to Secretary Chase on the Pomeroy matter, insisting that he does not see the need, for the moment, to change the leadership of the Treasury Department.
March 1864March 1, 1864
The plan by Judson Kilpatrick and Ulric Dahlgren to enter Richmond, liberate Union prisoners being held there and impact the government and its officials experiences a dramatic turn as the former turns back with his larger raiding force, leaving the latter to fend for himself with some 500 men against aroused local defenders, including civilian personnel pressed into action.
Confederate war clerk John Beauchamp Jones records the reaction of the Confederate capital to the Union raid:
“As the morning progressed, the city was a little startled by the sound of artillery in a northern direction, and not very distant. Couriers and horsemen from the country announced the approach of the enemy within the outer fortifications; a column of 5000 cavalry. . . . To-morrow we shall know more; but no uneasiness is felt as to the result. In a few hours we can muster men enough to defend the city against 25,000.”
President Abraham Lincoln nominates Ulysses Grant for the rank of lieutenant general.
He also revisits the case of a soldier whose sanction for an offence has included a reduction in his pay:
“I do not like this punishment of withholding pay—it falls so very hard upon poor families.”
From Bermuda, U.S. Consul Charles Maxwell Allen informs Secretary of State William Seward:March 2, 1864
“Captain [John N.] Maffitt, late of the privateer Florida, intends to leave here tomorrow as Master of the steamer Flora.”
Trying to extricate his command, Colonel Dahlgren rides into an ambush. Confederate fire fells him from his saddle, where papers on his person suggest his intention to kill President Davis and any other Confederate leaders he may encounter on his mission.
The U.S. Senate confirms the Grant nomination.
J.B. Jones observes proudly of the role of the civilians in Richmond’s defense:March 3, 1864
“The Department Clerks were in action in the evening in five minutes after they were formed. Capt. Ellery, Chief Clerk of 2d Auditor, was killed, and several were wounded.”
The U.S. Congress authorizes the Treasury to issue $200,000,000 in ten-year bonds.March 4, 1864
President Lincoln inquires of Major General Benjamin Butler concerning the latest intelligence on Ulric Dahlgren on behalf of that officer’s illustrious father:
“Admiral Dahlgren is here, and of course is very anxious about his son. Please send me at once all you know, or can learn of his fate."
The U.S. Senate acts on the nomination of Andrew Johnson as military governor of Tennessee.
Michael Hahn takes office as governor of Louisiana as efforts continue to place pro-Union administrations where possible in seceded Southern states.March 5, 1864
J.B. Jones continues to note the impact of the recent Union raid on the city:
“Some extraordinary memoranda were captured from the raiders, showing a diabolical purpose, and creating a profound sensation here."
From prison at Johnson’s Island, John Dooley observes:March 6, 1864
“Snowing very hard and very fine—it nearly always snows fine in this region. To day our room holds a meeting and, in conclave assembled, condemn in unmeasured terms the conduct of the Yankee whining Chaplain who attempted to force political and religious tracts on us yesterday.”
Confederate raids continue on land and water in Kentucky and South Carolina. In the latter instance, an effort to sink the U.S.S. Memphis proves unsuccessful.March 7, 1864
Jefferson Davis calls for General James Longstreet to exercise the initiative from his current position at Greeneville, Tennessee.
Abraham Lincoln turns his attention to the question of emancipation in Maryland and the Union Pacific Railroad.March 8, 1864
President Lincoln and General U.S. Grant meet personally for the first in an awkward moment in the White House.March 9, 1864
Brigadier General Matthew W. Ransom’s forces confront Union troops at Suffolk, Va., that include African Americans, many of whom had come from the area before returning in arms to it.
President Lincoln reflects privately with Ulysses Grant on the conditions under which that general has received his recent promotion and with the words that plans to make public on the following day at a formal ceremony:
“The nation’s appreciation of what you have done, and it’s reliance upon you for what remains to do, in the existing great struggle, are now presented with this commission, constituting you Lieutenant General in the Army of the United States. With this high honor devolves upon you also, a corresponding responsibility. . . . I scarcely need to add that with what I here speak for the nation goes my hearty personal concurrence.”
In South Carolina, Emma Holmes provides a long diary entry that covers matters as diverse as social matters and currency policy to the recent Union cavalry raid on Richmond. She concludes:March 10, 1864
“Dear old Charleston still receives daily her allotted portion of battering, and ‘The Gillmore district’ is showing ghastly rents in many a once fair & goodly mansion.”
General Grant accepts his promotion formally:
“I accept this commission, with gratitude for the high honor confered [sic]. . . . I feel the full weight of the responsibilities now devolving on me and know that if they are met it will be due those armies, and above all to the favor of that Providence which leads both Nations and men."
In his new capacity, General Grant also undertakes “the command of the armies of the United States.”
William T. Sherman writes his friend Grant to express satisfaction at the promotion:
“You are now [George] Washington’s legitimate successor, and occupy a position of almost dangerous elevation . . . . I believe you are as brave, patriotic, and just, as the great prototype Washington; as unselfish, kind-hearted, and honest, as a man should be; but the chief characteristic in your nature is the simple faith in success you have always manifested. . . .
Now as to the future. Do not stay in Washington. . . . Come out West; take to yourself the whole Mississippi Valley; let us make it dead-sure, and I will tell you the Atlantic slope and pacific shores will follow its destiny as sure as the limbs of a tree live and die with the main trunk!
For God’s sake and for your country’s sake, come out of Washington!”
In Louisiana, William Henry King notes the disaffection of the men in Confederate major general John G. Walker’s command “on account of the trade now being carried on between the Federals & our officers. Hoozah for them! That this is ‘a rich man’s war, & a poor man’s fight,’ needs no further proof.”
U.S. Consul C.M. Allen continues to report on the state of affairs in his jurisdiction, noting in part:March 11, 1864
“Brig Carl Emile from Liverpool, barque Enterprise from Newport, and ships Storm King and Gambia from Cardiff, have arrived during the past week with cargoes for the Confederates. The Gambia went onto the rock near the entrance of this port (St. George’s). Vessel and cargo nearly a total loss.”
W.H. King is unimpressed with defensive efforts on the Red River:March 12, 1864
“A portion (110 feet) of the obstructions in R. River at Fort DeRussy has been forced from its place by high water. Great engineering! When this water is low, & gun boats can not pass, obstructions are put in the River under the supervision of ‘Competent Engineers,’ but as soon as there is plenty of water for the gun boats, it sweeps the obstructions out. Consummate folly!”
General Nathaniel Banks is on the move in Louisiana.
Sherman tells his wife that he expects the critical juncture of the war to be coming:March 13, 1864
“All that has gone before is mere Skirmishing—The War now begins and with heavy well disciplined masses the issue must be settled in hard fought Battles. I think we can whip them in Alabama and it may be in Georgia, but the Devils seem to have a determination that cannot but be admired—No amount of poverty or adversity seems to shake their faith. . . .”
Mary Chesnut notes the presence of numerous Confederate generals in worship in Richmond, including Robert E. Lee, James Longstreet and Braxton Bragg:
“Somebody counted fourteen generals in church and suggested that less piety and more drilling of commands would suit the times better.”
Of the recent Union raid she explains:
“Now that Dahlgren has failed to carry out his orders, the Yankees disown them. They disavow it all. He was not sent here to murder us all, hang the president, and burn the town. There is the notebook, however, at the executive office, with the orders to hang and burn.”
Robert G.H. Kean relates the war department news in his journal, but saves his severest assessment for Georgia governor Joseph E. Brown, former secretary of state Robert Toombs and Vice President Alexander Stephens, comparing them unfavorably to the notoriously anti-Davis administration critics, North Carolina governor Zebulon Vance and N.C. Justice Richard Pearson:March 14, 1864
“These people—Brown, Toombs, Stephens and their set—are the most pestilent demagogues in the land, more injurious than the North Carolina buffaloes because [they] are more able and influential.”
President Lincoln sends a private message to Michael Hahn:
“I congratulate you on having fixed your name in history as the first-free-state Governor of Louisiana.”
Fort DeRussy falls to Brigadier General Joseph A. Mower’s Union troops, with strong support from Union ironclads, as the Red River Campaign opens with a Federal success.March 15, 1864
Keen notes the “intrigue” present at the highest levels of the Confederate government to replace Secretary of War John Seddon with administration-favorite Judah Benjamin, currently secretary of state. Benjamin had served as head of the war department in 1861-62.March 16, 1864
Alexandria, Louisiana, surrenders to naval forces under the command of Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter.March 17, 1864
William Henry King underscores the elevation of concern in Shreveport as Union forces penetrate deeper into Louisiana:
“This evening we get the intelligence to the effect that Alexandria has fallen into the hands of the Federals. The intelligence occasions a great stir. Thirty volunteers are called for to do temporary service on the gun boat, Missouri. Eleven of the post guard volunteer, but that lacks 19 of the required number. That 19 is not lacking long, for the guard house is called on, & the deficit is made at once. Some of the men were brought in & imprisoned to-day. That is the way it works."
Back in Washington City, President Lincoln reflects once more on a familiar theme:March 18, 1864
“It needs not to be a secret, that I wish success to emancipation in Maryland. It would aid much to end the rebellion. Hence it is a matter of national consequence, in which every national man, may rightfully feel a deep interest.”
Arkansas ratifies a state constitution that eliminates slavery from within its borders.March 19, 1864
Consul Allen passes along word that has reached him of a scheme for Southerners posing as passengers to travel from Bermuda to New York City “for the purpose of shipping on board some of our steamers and capturing them if the opportunity offers or of working themselves into the favor of parties whereby they may be able to destroy government and other property.”March 20, 1864
The C.S.S. Alabama reaches Cape Town, South Africa, as it continues its operations against Union commerce.March 21, 1864
Jefferson Davis and a number of well-wishers greet returning prisoners. Of the interesting tableaux, J.B. Jones observes:
“A large company of both sexes welcomed them in the Capitol Square, whither some baskets of food were sent by those who had some patriotism with their abundance. The President made them a comforting speech, alluding to their toils, bravery, and sufferings in captivity; and promised them, after a brief respite, that they should be in the field again.”
Abraham Lincoln embodies the notion of “free labor” that has represented the bedrock of the Republican Party since its inception by explaining to an audience:March 22, 1864
“That some should be rich, shows that others may become rich, and hence is just encouragement to industry and enterprize.”
From Shreveport, La., King observes:March 23, 1864
“Gov. [Henry W.] Allen of this State has issued an order for the conscription of the free negroes of this place. When the Federals received negroes into their army the Southern press, & the Southern people in general, made a great ado about the matter. Now negroes are conscripted in the South, & I reckon that if the South urges any thing against the Federals on that score, it will be the ‘pot saying to the kettle, you are black.’”
In the Confederate capital, prices soar and Ordnance Chief Josiah Gorgas terms these domestic conditions, “deplorable. Flour $300 the barrel. A shad costs $35. Turkey 5 to $9 per lb. Beef $5 to 6. Eggs, $7, and so on. How the poor live is incomprehensible. Even meal sells at $30. per bu.”
Edmund Kirby Smith responds to the crisis in his region by issuing Special Order No. 71:March 24, 1864
“Shreveport and the adjoining country extending five miles beyond the fortifications, is declared an In-trenched Camp.”
One of Nathan Bedford Forrest’s subordinates, Colonel William L. Duckworth, achieves a victory at Union City, in a raid in western Tennessee that results in the capture of Tennessee Unionist Isaac Hawkins and some 500 prisoners, with arms and supplies. The operation is already paying dividends in bolstering Forrest’s command and reputation, as well as in producing consternation among the Federals in the region and beyond.
Cump Sherman offers his brother, John, suggestions regarding General Grant:
“Give Grant all the support you can. If he can escape the toils of the schemers he may do some good. He will fight, and the Army of the Potomac will have all the fighting they want. He will expect your friendship—We are close friends. His simplicity and modesty are natural & not affected.”
In his journal, W.H. King writes about the reactions locals have to captives that arrive in their midst:March 25, 1864
“Ten Federal prisoners brought in to-day. Five negroes brought in with them, but not taken from among the Federals. While guarding them, many crowded around, and declared the negroes ought to be killed. How inconsistent! It is but natural for them to desire to be free, & if they do nothing but runaway from their masters to obtain their freedom, certainly they do not merit death.”
Forrest’s troopers reach Paducah, Kentucky, where stout resistance by land and water assets inflict a costly setback on the Confederates. Among the dead is Colonel A.P. Thompson, who perishes when he and his men impulsively try to storm Fort Anderson, a key earthwork on the outskirts of the town. That repulse and the heavy fire from two gunboats in the Ohio River, force the Southern horsemen to withdraw after having inflicted such damage as they can under the circumstances.March 26, 1864
General Grant is back in Virginia, after consulting with Sherman. He has decided to remain in the East, with the Army of the Potomac, which continues under the command of George Gordon Meade.March 27, 1864
Josiah Gorgas ruminates on his service with the Confederate States of America and the young country’s prospects for the future on this Easter Sunday:
“It is just three years ago to-day since I sent in my resignation in the U.S. Service. Another year of hard struggling will I hope serve to consolidate this Confederacy, & establish its right to enter the family of nations. Then it will I believe rapidly recover from the wounds it has received.”
At Johnson’s Island, Dooley remarks on religious matters and cannot help but take a swipe at his Protestant brethren:March 28, 1864
“Beautiful day. In the afternoon the Baptists, who are very numerous in the prison, immerse in the lake about 60 postulants—taking them into the lake up to breast high. . . . Looking at these drenched Baptists reminds me of the village-countryman who one day perceiving an old acquaintance of exceeding bad repute, undergoing a similar operation in the clutches of a Baptist minister, stopped his horse and sang out to the minister ‘I say mister, I don’t wish to interfere with any of your religious ceremonies but if you want to get all the sin out of that fellow, you’d better keep him under a thundering long time.”
John Dooley notes new developments for the Confederate prisoners:March 29, 1864
“[G]reat excitement around the sutler’s shed this morning. He has opened with a fresh supply. . . . [G]et a pound of butter @60cts.”
President Lincoln responds to a sensitive George Meade over the appearance of criticisms concerning his performance at Gettysburg in the New York Herald and the general’s desire for official exoneration of his actions:March 30, 1864
“It is quite natural that you should feel some sensibility on the subject; yet I am not impressed, nor do I think the country is impressed, with the belief that your honor demands, or the public interest demands, such an Inquiry. The country knows that, at all events, you have done good service; and I believe it agrees with me that it is much better for you [to] be engaged in trying to do more, than to be diverted, as you necessarily would be, by a Court of Inquiry.”
Henri Garidel goes to his office in Richmond as usual, but shortages have limited any personal comforts:
“We had no fire at our house because there was no coal."
J.B. Jones reports the latest developments:March 31, 1864
“Many ladies have been appointed clerks. There is a roomful of them just over the Secretary’s office, and he says they distract him with their noise of moving of chairs and running about, etc.
The papers publish an account of a battle of snow-balls in our army, which indicates the spirit of the troops, when, perhaps, they are upon the eve of passing through such awful scenes of carnage as will make the world tremble at the appalling spectacle.”
After a long stint on the South Carolina coast and some time in Ohio, Colonel Alvin Coe Voris notes that except for a corporal who had jumped from the train in an alcoholic stupor, the rest of the command arrived safely:
“The men were kept so closely & quietly on the cars that the people of Pennsylvania thought we had a lot of rebel prisoners.”
From Bermuda, Consul Allen provides the latest intelligence report:
“The following steamers have left for Wilmington during the past few days, viz: Steamer A.D. Vance, Captain Wiley, a southern man left of the 26th. Steamer Minnie, Gilpin, an Englishman who has twice been captured left on the 27th.
Captain Beers [of the Greyhound] was formerly in our Navy. He is called the Admiral here and is considered the King of blockade runners. If he is captured he will claim to be an Englishman. . . .Captain [John N.] Maffit is still here waiting for a steamer. He is drunk the greater part of the time.”
April 1864April 1, 1864
Military operations occur from Florida to Louisiana, Arkansas to North Carolina, giving rise to the notion that with spring such activity will continue to increase.
Confederate ordnance chief Josiah Gorgas is guardedly optimistic:
“There is no war news. The bad weather prevents all military operations; and there is no information as to the plans of the enemy. They openly threaten Richmond, but it is Still believed their main attack will be in Georgia.”
The situation is less sanguine in Bristol, Tennessee, where Milton Barrett tells family members of the plight of the men in his unit:April 2, 1864
“Tha curtail down our rashings to two thirds of a pound of flour not bolted and 1/3 a pound of bacon. This cose grate dissadisfaction a mong the soldiers. in fack it was barely enuf for one meal per day. Hungry will cose a man to do all most any thing. Tha was severil depperdation committed on the sittuzins property sutch as taken chickens and meat. . . . We all a greede to go to the genral and if he did not give us moar rashings to charge the comasary an take by force. He had us a extray days rashins ishued and got us all sorty pasafide.”Light skirmishing again flashes at points across the South.
April 3, 1864Once more Fort Sumter comes under shelling.
April 4, 1864Major General Philip H. Sheridan takes the place of David Gregg as commander of the cavalry of the Army of the Potomac.
To Albert Hodges, a newspaper editor in Frankfort, Kentucky, Abraham Lincoln explains the substance of an earlier conversation between them:
“I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I can not remember when I did not so think, and feel. And yet I have never understood that the Presidency conferred upon me an unrestricted right to act officially upon this judgment and feeling. It was in the oath I took that I would, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. I could not take the office without taking the oath. . . . I did understand however, that my oath to preserve the constitution to the best of my ability, imposed upon me the duty of preserving, by every indispensable means, that government—that nation—of which that constitution was the organic law. Was it possible to lose the nation, and yet preserve the constitution? By general law life and limb must be protected; yet often a limb must be amputated to save a life; but a life is never wisely given to save a limb. I felt that measures, otherwise unconstitutional, might become lawful, by becoming indispensable to the preservation of the constitution, through the preservation of the nation. Right or wrong, I assumed this ground, and now avow it.”
In Southampton County, Virginia, a frustrated Daniel Cobb scribbles in his diary:
“A Mr Lark Impressed 1 of my horses for Government[. . . .] Valued at $450 that $1000 Could not buy so we are imposed on[.]”As part of the redistribution of forces, Union colonel Alvin Coe Voris, is in “Camp Distribution, Va.” outside of Washington City. The circumstances afford him the opportunity to venture into the Capital and avail himself of the chance to visit with politicial figures from Ohio, including Senator Benjamin Wade:
“I called on Judge Wade, whom I found in one of the committee rooms. On meeting me he most cordially took me by the hand and greeted me with grave politeness and Senatorial dignity as follows—‘Why Voris I am d—d glad to see you. I am by G-d I am.’ Now dear wife don’t you think I was awe struck with such marks of consideration so elegantly bestowed on my modest self. . . . Judge Wade promised to come to camp & see me. If he does I hope he will not have as hurried a ride back to Washington as he did from the first Battle at Bull Run.”John Sherman, his views on matters that range from current military affairs to the state of slavery:
“However much I dislike war for its pains & turmoils I do hope it wont Cease till our People learn to leave to Congress, to the Armies, & to the Courts their appropriate business. The idea that the People through the instrumentality of the Press should supervise these matters which from their nature must be confidential is what brought on us the contempt of all Civilized Peoples.
Too much stress has been laid on the Negro. It is used as a touch Stone, a test. It should not be, but treated as any other minor question. The Negro question will solve itself. The Government of the United States is the Issue. Shall it stand or fall?
We are gradually shaping things for a Grand Campaign. We have a well organized force to our front. . . . Grant is as good a Leader as we can find he has honesty, simplicity of character, singleness of purpose, and no hope or claim to usurp civil Power.”Louisiana’s pro-Union convention meets in New Orleans to produce a new state constitution that will abolish slavery.
April 7, 1864
From his camp in London, Tennessee, Emerson Opdycke pauses for reflection in a letter home:
“Two years ago to this day, I was in my first battle on the field of Shiloh. It seems a long time since, but the scenes of that terrible contest of arms are as fresh, as if but a few days old. I would be glad never to repeat them, if the nation could be saved purified from slavery, and firmly established without it; but if more blood must flow, more patriots go down, I feel ready and willing for any fate which God decrees.”
April 8, 1864Today is marked in the Confederacy as a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer.Union major general Nathaniel Prentiss and Confederate major general Richard Taylor confront each other for the second time since the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia in 1862 near Mansfield, Louisiana. An assault by Confederate brigadier general Jean Jacques Alfred Alexander Mouton suffers heavy casualties as the troops attempt to drive the Federals from positions athwart the Old Stage Road, but Union forces retreat from several lines toward Pleasant Hill. In addition to twenty artillery pieces and supplies, U.S. losses in the engagements amount to 113 killed, 581 wounded and 1,541 missing or captured. Confederate casualties stand at approximately 1,000, including General Mouton.
The U.S. Senate moves 38 to 6 to abolish slavery and adopt the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
Josiah Gorgas looks back upon his service for the Confederacy with unrestrained pride:
“It is three years ago to-day since I took charge of the Ord. department of the Conf. States at Montgomery—three years of constant work and application. I have succeeded beyond my utmost expectations. From being the worst supplied of the Bureaus of the War Dept. it is now the best. Large Arsenals have been organized at Richmond, Fayetteville, Augusta, Charleston, Columbus, Macon, Atlanta, & Selma and Smaller ones at Danville, Lynchburg and Montgomery, besides other establishments. A superb powder mill has been built at Augusta, the credit of which is due to Col. G.W. Rains. . . .
All of these have required incessant toil & attention, but have borne such fruit as relieves the country from fear of want in these respects. Where three years ago we were not making a gun, a pistol nor a sabre—a pound of powder—not shot nor shell (except at the Tredegar Works) we now make all these in quantities to meet the demands of our large armies. In looking over all this I feel that my three years of labor have not passed in vain.”
April 9, 1864Banks continues his withdrawal, shaken by the setback of the previous day. His dispositions at Pleasant Hill, Louisiana, contain flaws that General Taylor can exploit. Nevertheless, confusion and a long flanking march by some of the Confederates fail to produce results and cost the Southerners severely in casualties. Banks decides to pull back once more, rather than push against his discomfited opponents. Union forces suffer another 150 killed, 844 wounded and 375 missing or captured. Their opponents set their own losses at 1,200 killed and wounded, with 426 missing.
April 10, 1864The Trans-Mississippi remains active as operations continue under Banks in Louisiana and Union major general Frederick Steele in Arkansas.From Nashville, Sherman sends Grant a “Private & Confidential” communication:
“I will not let side issues draw me off from your main plan in which I am to Knock Joe Johnston, and do as much damage to the resources of the Enemy as possible.”
April 11, 1864Mary Chesnut has been in the company of Varina Davis, who has seemed preoccupied by the likelihood that Richmond will soon come under attack once more, but is currently engaged in more domestic battles:“Drive with Mrs. Davis and all her infant family. Wonderfully clever and precocious children—but unbroken wills. At one time there was a sudden uprising of the nursery contingent. They fought, screamed, laughed. It was Bedlam broke loose.
Mrs. Davis scolded, laughed, and cried.”
“I have several grounds for hoping that it will be the last of the war, all of them based upon the contingency of Grant’s defeat which I will not allow myself to doubt. The first is that if Grant is defeated they lose their main, & so far as I can see, their last dependence as a general. The second is that failure in his campaign will defeat Lincoln in the approaching election, & perfect the formation of antagonistic parties at the North.”
April 12, 1864Fort Pillow, with a garrison of African American and white Tennessee Unionist troops, falls to forces under Nathan Bedford Forrest. The initial assaults pin the garrison in the works, while the gunboat New Era offers some hope of succor or refuge from the river. The Union commander, Major Lionel Booth, dies while supervising Union artillery fire against Confederate sharpshooters and the authority of the post devolves on Major William Bradford, one of the blue-coated Tennesseans. Despite the disadvantages of the Union position, Forrest fails to obtain the surrender of the fort, and sends in a final assault that overwhelms the defenders. Much of the unnecessary bloodshed occurs below the bluff along the riverbank, where confusion reigns and the sectional and racial antagonisms of the opponents comes significantly into play before killing comes to a stop.
Despite overall success, the Confederates in Louisiana continue to endure significant setbacks. Soldiers under Brigadier General Thomas Green catch Union vessels stranded by low water levels in the Red River at Blair’s Landing, but aside from harassing the crews with covering fire can do no more than threaten the squadron, while suffering the loss of their own commander in the process to return fire.
Kentuckian Edward Guerrant encounters a lonely traveler in East Tennessee, recalling the incident in his journal:
“How I envy the equanimity of that soldier whom I met riding through the pelting rain this evening. ‘Sir,’ said I ‘this is awful weather!’ ‘Yes, the roads are pretty splashy!’ said he. He was a philosopher of the Stoic school, no doubt. Wonder what he would have thought of the [Great] Flood!?”
Michigan surgeon John Bennitt tells his daughter what it is like to be stationed in “this land of Rebels” near McMinnville, Tennessee:
“I say this land of Rebels, for it is said that nearly all the men here voted for secession three years ago. But I think nearly all of them are regretting it; for they see what dire calamities it has brought upon them and their fair land. Very many of the men that formerly lived here have left their homes and are now in the rebel army while others are in the Federal army—others still away from home [as refugees], for fear of being killed by the rebels or compelled to go into their army.”
Like others in both North and South, Ned Guerrant speculates about the approaching storm clouds of war:April 14, 1864
“Great armies are ‘dressing their lines’ for terrible conflict, and nations hang trembling in the balances of hope & despair in expectation of the result. Every day brings the minutehand near the hour of destiny, when the doom of millions will be struck, in tones of sublime triumph or dark despair.”
Colonel Opdycke’s speculations about the future come on the heels of a review of his command and amidst the prospects of promotion:April 15, 1864
“A new list of Brigadiers will soon be sent in, and my name will be among them. I give but little attention to it, and I shall not feel badly if I never get beyond the eagles. If I can serve my country well and then go home to you feeling that I have done my duty I shall be happy. . . . No one here thinks that our Corps will go east except by way of Atlanta!"
USS Eastport strikes a torpedo or underwater mine on the Red River.April 16, 1864
Near Culpeper, Virginia, Union major Charles Mattocks is thrilled by developments in camp:
“Glorious news today. The Paymaster has been visiting the 17th. Of course I happened around and was
Paid off to March 1.
much to my gratification as I could find but thirty-five cents in my pocketbook. The two months’ pay amounts to $295.”
Things are less favorable in Savannah, Georgia, where a bread riot by local citizens breaks out.
For Kentuckian John Jackman, the news is no news: Have not any newspapers for a week, owing to the strike of the printers in Atlanta. I feel at a loss without the daily papers--don't know what is going on in the world."
A Confederate device sinks the Union transport General Hunter on the St. John’s River in Florida.April 17, 1864
Suffering from an acute shortage of foodstuffs, Union general Steele orders an expedition of 1,100 men and wagons to depart Camden, Arkansas.April 18, 1864
The Union foraging expedition outside Camden meets with difficulty near Poison Spring. As the Federals retreat, some of the Confederates kill a number of incapacitated or captured members of 1st Kansas (Colored) Infantry. Their losses amount to 117 dead and 65 wounded among a total of 301 Union casualties.
From the Mississippi Gulf Coast, New Englander Rufus Kinsley, responds to reports of recent developments on the Mississippi River north of Memphis:
“News of the capture of Fort Pillow, by Forrest, and his massacre and burning of the colored soldiers and their officers. ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay saith the Lord.’”
Abraham Lincoln declares his views on the notion of liberty and asserts his position on the Fort Pillow affair in an address for the Sanitary Fair at Baltimore, Maryland:April 19, 1864
“The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. . . .
The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep’s throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as a liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty. . . . Plainly the sheep and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of the word liberty; and precisely the same difference prevails to-day among us human creatures. . . .
A painful rumor, true I fear, has reached us of the massacre, by the rebel forces, at Fort Pillow, in the West end of Tennessee, on the Mississippi river, of some three hundred colored soldiers and white officers, who had just been overpowered by their assailants. . . .
We do not to-day know that a colored soldier, or white officer commanding colored soldiers, has been massacred by the rebels when made a prisoner. We fear it, believe it, I may say, but we do not know it. . . . We are having the Fort-Pillow affair thoroughly investigated; and such investigation will probably show conclusively how the truth is.”
The Confederate ironclad Albemarle renders important service near Plymouth, North Carolina. In addition to ramming and sinking USS Southfield, the Southern vessel damages and disperses others, allowing their comrades on land to close on the town. Union brigadier general Henry Wessells holds the town.April 20, 1864
With assistance from the CSS Albemarle, Confederates forces under Brigadier General Robert Hoke capture Plymouth, with substantial military stores and 2,800 men.
From Bermuda, U.S. consul Charles M. Allen offers a comprehensive list of blockade-runners, including cargos and the conditions of the vessels.April 21, 1864
General Banks remains in retreat in Louisiana.
Former slaves are being brought in from near Port Hudson to the Gulf Coast, as staunch abolitionist Rufus Kinsley notes in his journal: “Two hundred Contrabands arrived at Cat Island. . . . They are to cut wood and saw lumber.”
April 22, 1864
Setbacks continue for Union water-borne assets as the gunboat Petrel falls to Confederates in Mississippi.
In Virginia, Major Mattocks records the appearance of a special visitor:
“Today our Corps was reviewed by Lieut. Genl. Grant. It was a very fine affair. This is the first time we have had the chance to see the hero and conqueror of twenty-two battles. He is a very plain, unassuming man, but we hope that he is the man who has so long been needed in the brave ill-starred Army of the Potomac.”
President Davis advises Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk on the matter of captured black Union troops who can be identified as once having been enslaved:April 23, 1864
“If the negro soldiers are escaped slaves, they should be held safely for recovery by their owners.”
Guerrant responds to word of Forrest’s success in Kentucky and Tennessee and the psychological impact this will likely have in Union ranks:
“Forrest will soon be as terrible as Stonewall Jackson!”
Cump Sherman references Bedford Forrest as well to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton as testimony begins to be gathered on Fort Pillow:April 25, 1864
“I know well the animus of the Southern Soldiery, and the truth is they cannot be restrained[.] The effect will be of course to make the negros desperate. . . .
I doubt the wisdom of any fixed Rule by our Government, but let [the] Soldiers affected make their Rules as we progress. . . . The Southern Army, which is the Southern People cares no more for our Clamor than the idle wind, but they will heed the Slaughter that will follow as the natural consequence of their own inhuman acts.”
General Taylor still hopes to trap Banks and close the ill-fated Union Red River Campaign with a Confederate flourish. Federal troops managed to evade a strong position and continue on to Alexandria.
In the meantime, Confederates under brigadier generals James F. Fagan and Joseph “Jo” Shelby confront a Union force of 1,600 men and 240 wagons at Marks’ Mills. The Union commander falls wounded and the rout of his command forfeits 1,300 Union prisoners and the wagon train.
A caustic Robert G.H. Kean reacts to reports that the Confederate government may relocate:April 26, 1864
“It was Bragg’s plan I think. . . . The scheme would have been, and will be whenever tried, a miserable failure. Besides, so large a population cannot be transferred to other points. They could not be subsisted elsewhere as easily as they can be here. The idea was worthy of the hero of Missionary Ridge!”
The crew of the USS Eastport destroys their troubled vessel.
After serving with James Longstreet in the West, Thomas J. Goree and his chief are back in Virginia, anticipating decisive events in the struggle for Southern independence. From Gordonsville, Goree writes home:
“There is pretty general rejoicing, Mother, that we are back again in the noble old Army of Northern Virginia, but as far as I am concerned, I should have much preferred that we had been allowed to make a Kentucky campaign. I think it would have been better. However, we ag. constitute a part of the greatest of all armies under the leadership of the greatest living chieftain, and if we can succeed in inflicting on Grant a crushing defeat, it will do much towards bringing about a speedy peace. . . . [All] feel great confidence in the result. The army is in fine spirits and in splendid condition.”
As a relatively newly-minted captain, Edward Bacon has arrived at Beaufort, South Carolina, with the 29th Connecticut Infantry (Colored). He writes home to tell of the already sweltering conditions of the new billet:April 27, 1864
“I have several times within the last two weeks essayed to write to you, but the exceeding pressure of Company & other business which attends an officer in a colored regiment more than any other, has each time prevented my success.
We are still employed in getting to rights our camp which promises to be a very nice one and in which I shall probably spend the next year of my life. . . . I suppose the sand is as fine & sifting and the flies which live there as numerous & annoying at one post in our Department as at another. . . .
The excessive heat & the prospect of a permanent residence here almost induces me to ask you to pack up my white clothes [from earlier service in the navy].”
A constitutional convention opens in Annapolis, Maryland.April 28, 1864
President Davis informs Edmund Kirby Smith of his view on the latter’s authority in the isolated Trans-Mississippi theater:April 29, 1864
“As far as the constitution permits, full authority has been given to you to administer to the wants of your Dept., civil as well as military.”
War Clerk John Beauchamp Jones observes the ominous developments of the impending campaign season:April 30, 1864
“Troops are passing through Richmond now, day and night, concentrating under Lee. The great battle cannot be much longer postponed.”
Edmund Kirby Smith drives his men relentlessly through rain and over deteriorating roads. The Union troops improve the roads as best they can, while engineers construct a pontoon bridge across the Saline River at Jenkins’ Ferry. Smith’s men strike, but are unable to prevent the Federals from crossing and dismantling the bridge behind them, preventing further pursuit. Casualties in the affair are approximately 700 U.S. and 1,000 Confederate.
On the eve of Spring campaigning, Abraham Lincoln sends Ulysses Grant a message to express his “entire satisfaction with what you have done up to this time, so far as I understand it. The particulars of your plans I neither know, or seek to know. You are vigilant and self-reliant; and, pleased with this, I wish not to obtrude any constraints or restraints upon you. . . . If there is anything wanting which is within my power to give, do not fail to let me know it.
And now with a brave Army, and a just cause, may God sustain you.”
Jefferson Davis returns to the question of slavery in wartime from the Confederate perspective, telling General Polk:
“Captured slaves should be returned to their masters on proof and payment of charges.”
Davis’s 4-year-old son, Joseph Evan “Joe” Davis, plummets from the outside balcony of the Confederate executive mansion in Richmond, and shortly perishes from the effects of the fall onto the brick pavement below.
John B. Jones watches as troop movements continue unabated:
“[T]he work of concentration goes on for a decisive clash of arms in Virginia.
And troops are coming hither from all quarters, like streamlets flowing into the ocean. Our men are confident, and eager for the fray.”
Ned Guerrant responds to word of Nathan Bedford Forrest’s death, but expresses confidence in fellow Kentuckian Abraham Buford, who has been serving under the famed cavalryman:
“There is also a distressing rumor of the death of Genl. Forrest, the hero of West. Tenn. & K’y. We hope & believe it is untrue. Genl. Buford is said to be in West’n Ky, & proclaim his ability & intention to hold it. One good Abe!”
May 1864May 1, 1864
William T. Sherman sends his daughter, Minnie, a letter as he contemplates the action that is shortly to come:
“This is Sunday, May 1st. and a beautiful day it is. I have just come from a long ride over my Old Battle field of November 25th which is on a high Ridge about four or five miles from Chattanooga. The leaves are now coming out, and the young flowers have begun to bloom. I have gathered a few which I send you in token of my love, and to tell you I gathered them on the very spot where many a brave man died for you, and such as you.”
To his wife, Cump notes that he has sent bouquets to the girls, “and if any ill fate attend me in this, they will remember me by that. The weather is beautiful, and the Army is in fine condition. I did expect to have back more of the furloughed veterans, but it takes more time for them to assemble from their homes than we military minds calculate. . . .
Tomorrow I will be off & may not write for some time, but the telegraph will announce the result of our first Stops.”
In the border region of Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky, Edward Guerrant finds the climate less receptive to notions of blooming flowers and greening trees:
“It feels more like Christmas Day than May Day! December than May!
It suggests to me that Western Virginia seasons run thus:
Winter months—October, November, December, January, February, March, April, May.
Summer months—July & August!
Confederate war bureau chief Josiah Gorgas notes the sad state of affairs in the Confederate capital in the aftermath of the tragedy in Jefferson Davis’s family:May 2, 1864
“We attended this afternoon the funeral of one of the Presidents little boys (Joe), who was killed yesterday evening by a fall from the back piazza. . . . The President is very much attached to his children & very caressing toward them, and this is a heavy sorrow to him. Last winter I once saw him take this little fellow off to hear him say his prayers as he went to bed.”
The first session of the Second Congress of the Confederate States convenes. President Jefferson Davis offers an assessment on “the state of the country” in his opening address:May 3, 1864
“You are assembled under circumstances of deep interest to your country, and it is fortunate that, coming as you do newly elected by the people and familiar with the condition of the various localities, you will be the better able to devise measures adapted to the wants of the public service without imposing unnecessary burdens on the citizens.”
President Abraham Lincoln has reached a position on the Fort Pillow affair, which he communicates in a memorandum to his Cabinet:
“It is now quite certain that a large number of our colored soldiers, with their white officers, were, by the rebel forces, massacred after they had surrendered, at the recent capture of Fort-Pillow. So much is known, though the evidence is not yet quite ready to be laid before me. Meanwhile I will thank you to prepare, and give me in writing your opinion as to what course the government should take in the case.”
In Virginia, Major Charles Mattocks of the 17th Maine records:
“Everything indicates that we shall move at midnight. We are all ready, and men and officers carry eight days’ rations.”
From Johnson’s Island, Confederate prisoner of war John Dooley observes:
“My last letter home was destroyed by the Yankee official who deemed it contraband to say that I looked for peace very soon. The envelope was returned to me marked ‘contraband.’ I wonder if the ignoramus ever saw a dictionary. If so, I’m sure it was Webster’s.”
From Bermuda, U.S. Consul Charles Maxwell Allen continues to keep Secretary of State William Seward informed of potential Confederate plots:May 4, 1864
“A large number of passengers, mostly Southerners, have recently gone from here to Halifax, and other places in the British Provinces. Many are still here without any ostensible business, their expenses being paid by Major Walker, the Confederate agent.”
The U.S. House of Representatives passes the Wade-Davis Bill.
Ned Guerrant records the essence of Davis’s address to the new Congress:
“Paper contains a synopsis of Presidents Message to Congr. Short. Says no hope of foreign interference. Must fight it out ourselves.”
Despite the other concerns that demand his attentions, Robert E. Lee issues General Orders, No. 38:May 5, 1864
“The great importance of protecting the agricultural interests of the country induces the commanding general to repeat the orders heretofore issued on the subject of preventing the injury or destruction of private property, and to require of all officers a vigorous enforcement of them during the coming campaign.”
Fighting begins in the Wilderness as George Meade offers Ulysses Grant his assurances concerning their vaunted opponent:
“If he is disposed to fight this side of Mine Run at once, he shall be accommodated.”
The Army of the James reaches Bermuda Hundred and City Point with 40,000 men poised to strike toward the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad under Benjamin Butler.
After receiving a request from President Lincoln for reviewing a decision on the removal of citizens, Sherman replies:
“We have worked hard with the best talent of the country & it is demonstrated that the railroad cannot supply the army & the people too. one or the other must quit & the army don’t intend to unless Joe Johnston makes us. . . . I will not change my order and I beg of you to be satisfied that the clamor is partly a humbug & for effect, & to test it I advise you to tell the bearers of the appeal . . . to relieve their suffering friends on foot as they used to do before a railroad was built. Tell them they have no time to lose.”
Scrawling on paper “In bivouac on the slope of a Georgia Hill, 8 miles from Dalton,” Emerson Opdycke writes his wife Lucy to tell her that he has seen his commander, who shared a letter recently received from James Garfield:
“G. says that ‘The Army of the Potomac seems perfect in all it’s appointments, but the habit of being beaten is a bad one’. Thinks greatest honors must rest upon the Western Armies; and that the fate of the Republic seems to depend upon the present campaigns.
I enclose you a Georgia wild flower, it is pretty and fragrant. The weather is charming, roads perfect, and the troops resolved.”
Union and Confederate vessels, the latter including the ironclad Arkansas, clash in North Carolina waters. Little more can be accomplished by either side than an exchange of fire and the recapture of the steamer Bombshell from the Southerners.
Constituting the most positive feeling, Mary Mallard asserts to Mary Jones from Atlanta:May 6, 1864
“We all fear the next terrible struggle, and I trust our people will not be so lifted up by our recent successes as to be led to vainglory and forgetfulness of our merciful Heavenly Father, the source of all blessings. . . . No one seems to apprehend any danger for this place, for falling back is not General Johnston’s policy.”
Union troops push Confederates from Tunnel Hill, Ga.
The fighting between Lee and Grant has cost the Federals 2,246 killed, 12,037 wounded and 3,383 missing or captured as opposed to total Confederate losses of 7,500, but the numbers represent significant attrition for the Army of Northern Virginia that it cannot easily recover, including the wounding of James Longstreet.
Grant reacts to the harrowing engagement that has been the Wilderness by continuing to consider the ways that he can move forward against Lee, telling his aid, Horace Porter, as they pour over a map together:
“I do not hope to gain any decided advantage from the fighting in this forest. . . . I can certainly drive Lee back into his works, but I shall not assault him there; he would have all the advantage in such a fight. If he falls back and entrenches, my notion is to move promptly toward the left. This will, in all probability, compel him to try and throw himself between us and Richmond, and in such a moment I hope to be able to attack him in a more open country, and outside of his breastworks.”
The normally pious Guerrant holds out hope for what Robert E. Lee can accomplish against Ulysses Grant:
“Genl. Lee’s rough, war-worn hand is laid mightily upon the early blooming laurels of the victor at Donelson & the besieger of Vicksburg! and they wither and perish in his grasp.
If that page be so, the great idol & hero of the lionizing, foolish North, is ‘damned to everlasting fame,” & his blasted name is added to the . . . catalogue of McDowell, Scott, McClellan, Pope, Burnside, Hooker, & Meade!”
Now a prisoner, Charles Mattocks, finds himself relieved of “a nice new poncho, but, before the wise [Southern] youth got his clutches upon this same article the former, and only genuine, proprietor, had easily managed unobserved to make a few damaging incisions with his pocket knife, the better to impress upon the youth the fact that stolen blankets will leak. I do not wish to be revengeful, but should he chance to lie down with this same blanket for protection in a rain storm, I would not wish to interfere with the course of nature, which perhaps might cause a few refreshing drops of water to pass through the holes I made.”
Benjamin Butler sends troops toward the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad, hoping to disrupt the line supporting the Confederate capital.May 7, 1864
Butler’s men seize Port Walthall Junction.
War clerk John Beauchamp Jones notes the degree to which Richmond remains on edge awaiting developments:
“But there is more anxiety manifested to-day. . . .
5 P.M. The tocsin is sounding, for the militia, I suppose, all others being in the field. It is reported that the attack on Drewry’s Bluff, or rather on our forces posted there for its defense, has begun.
There is now some excitement and trepidation among the shopkeepers and extortioners, who are compelled by State law to shoulder the musket for the defense of the city, and there is some running to and fro preliminary to the rendezvous in front of the City Hall.”
Union brigadier general Samuel Sturgis expresses his profound regret in not having forced Nathan Bedford Forrest into an engagement, telling his superior in Memphis, Tenn.:
“Although we could not catch the scoundrel we are at least rid of him, and that is something.”
From Bermuda, Consul C.M. Allen reports on increased Confederate activity:May 8, 1864
“The steamer Index, before reported by me as supposed to have been lost at sea has arrived here on the third instant from Wilmington with 770 bales [of] cotton. She now has her outward cargo on board and will leave here today. She has some large guns on board. . . .Some twenty vessels laden with coal are now afloat here, and there is now landed at this port of Saint George’s some thirty to thirty five thousand tons of coal for the use of the Confederates and blockade runners. There is no doubt they expect to do a large business here the coming summer. Eight vessels with coal from Cardiff arrived during the past week, report says from fifty to sixty more are on the passage here now.”
After the harsh struggle in the Wilderness finally subsides, the opposing forces converge on Spotsylvania Court House, Va.
Charles Mattocks is on his way southward:
“At 2 o’clock this afternoon we started by cars for Lynchburg, which is to be our stopping place for some time. They talk of sending us to Georgia subsequently. We prefer that to the ‘Hotel de Libby’ at Richmond.”
Along the route, the prisoners experienced an unexpected treat:
“The young ladies at the Seminary at Charlottesville, seeing us coming on the cars, took us for Confederate soldiers, and began to rush down across the fields toward us, scaling fences with more celerity and vigor than feminine modesty would dictate or allow perhaps under ordinary circumstances. On they came, a perfect avalanche of petticoats and crinoline, waving handkerchiefs and screeching like mad, when suddenly they discovered that they were making all this ado about a few ‘Yankee prisoners,’ ugh!! Such screeches and such skaling of fences I never saw, and such skedaddling back. They surpassed the Rocky Mountain Sheep. It was now our turn to cheer and yell, which we did as much to their disgust as it was to our own delight.”
A Confederate in Georgia confides in his diary: "We are again on the 'war-path.'"
The number of Union prisoners at Camp Sumter/Andersonville has reached 12,213.May 9, 1864
James McPherson moves through Snake Creek Gap, but fails to sever the rail line that will cut off Johnston at Dalton.
Emerson Opdycke is “In the midst of a sharp skirmish, On ‘Rocky Face Ridge’ 11:30 A.M.” when he pauses to send another message to his wife about his latest activities:
“The Ridge is five hundred feet high, twice as difficult of ascent as Mission Ridge, and then only a narrow back bone of boulders to move upon, after reaching it."
In Virginia, Major General John Sedgwick dies when a Confederate sharpshooter’s bullet finds him after he had declared definitively to men he found crouching to avoid small arms fire, “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance.”
Of the situation in Central Virginia, a member of the Stonewall Bridge observes simply, “Wonder what General Grant thinks of Mister Bob today? Here he is right in his way to Richmond.”
P.G.T. Beauregard arrives at Petersburg to defend this region against Butler’s Bermuda Hundred Campaign.
Butler presses the Confederate lines behind Swift Creek in Virginia. A Confederate counterattack fails, but the Southerners enjoy greater success at nearby Fort Clifton.
A sharp engagement occurs at Cloyd’s Mountain between 6,500 Union troops under Brigadier General George Crook and 2,400 Confederates under Brigadier General Albert G. Jenkins. The Southerners sustain 538 casualties, including Jenkins, who will lose an arm and his life. The Federals suffer the loss of 688 men.
Confederate major general Stephen Dill Lee assumes command of the Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana.May 10, 1864
Emory Upton’s troops penetrate the Confederate defenses at the “Mule Shoe” salient at Spotsylvania. The brutal fighting ends as John B. Gordon seals the breach and Lee’s harried veterans throw up new lines to confront their foes and limit their gains.
Brigadier General Robert Ransom attacks Union troops defending the rail line at Chester Station, Va.
In southwestern Virginia, Brigadier General William W. Averell threatens Wytheville and its vital lead production, but Brigadier General William E. “Grumble” Jones repulses the effort at Cove Mountain.May 11, 1864
Union and Confederate cavalry clash at Yellow Tavern. In the swirling combat, Jeb Stuart suffers a critical wound to the lower extremities that will doubtless prove mortal.
Josiah Gorgas notes the atmosphere in Richmond:May 12, 1864
“The day has been one of the greatest excitement. I slept but a few hours last night having been called up by messages, and kept awake by the ringing of alarm bells & the blowing of alarm whistles the most of the night. At 5 this morning I went to Mr. [James] Seddon’s office and found him laboring under the impression that the last hours of Richmond were at length numbered. The entire cavalry force of Meade’s army were reported to be rapidly approaching the devoted city from the direction of Ashland, with Stuart at their heels it is true, but having a good deal the start of him.”
J.B. Jones notes the lamentable weather—“Thunder, lightning, and rain all day”—as well as the news of the famed “Bold Cavalier’s” fate:
“Major-Gen. J.E.B. Stuart was wounded last evening, through the kidney, and now lies in the city, in a dying condition! Our best generals thus fall around us."
“Bloody Angle” enters the lexicon for Spotsylvania as Union and Confederate troops vie with each other for control of a relatively limited stretch of breastworks. Losses for the bluecoats will approach 6,800 and not much less for their grayclad counterparts. One Confederate sums the frustration he and his comrades face in U.S. Grant: “We have met a man this time, who either does not know when he is whipped, or who cares not if he loses his whole Army.”
Benjamin Butler sends Major General William F. “Baldy” Smith toward Drewry’s Bluff. The move is meant, in part, to divert Confederate attention from a cavalry raid against the Richmond and Danville Railroad under Brigadier General August Kautz.
Joseph Johnston has awakened to the threat that a turning movement poses to his strong works in the Dalton area, opting to withdraw from them.
From Atlanta, Mary Mallard remains optimistic, if beginning to show a hint of concern:May 13, 1864
“We will be in a dreadful predicament should General Johnston be unsuccessful or be compelled to fall back, but no one seems to contemplate this. All have the utmost confidence in his skill.”
At 9:00 A.M. Oliver O. Howard’s men occupy Dalton.
Butler tries additional probing with Major General Quincy Gillmore’s command.
In Richmond, War clerk Jones observes of the unsettling conditions:
“Most of the Members of Congress, when not in session, hang about the door and hall of the War Department, eager for news. But the wires are cut in all directions, and we must rely on couriers.
General Bragg is very distasteful to many officers of the army; and the croakers and politicians would almost be willing to see the government go to pieces, to get rid of the President and his cabinet. Some of the members of Congress are anxious to get away, and the Examiner twits them for their cowardice. They will stay, probably.”
Judith McGuire recalls the last moments of General Stuart as recounted to her, drawing inspiration from it while recognizing the sense of loss the Confederacy is experiencing:
“Thus passed away our great cavalry general, just one year after the immortal Jackson. This seems darkly mysterious to us, but God’s will be done. The funeral took place this evening, from St. James Church. My duty to the living prevented my attending it, for which I am very sorry; but I was in the hospital from three o’clock until eight, soothing the sufferers in the only way I could, by fanning them, bathing their wounds, and giving them a word of comfort.”
Nathaniel Banks pulls out of Alexandria, La., leaving behind much of the town as a smoldering ruin.May 14, 1864
Union troops probe Confederate lines near Resaca, Ga.
One of the defenders notes the need for improving the works, which had consisted only of "piles of rail and logs not capable of resisting shells." In fairly short order, "we had pretty good works; and just in time for about that hour our skirmishers (co. a) were driven in, the men skirmishing beautifully. Soon after two lines of battle burst out of the woods in front of us, and started up, on the charge. We soon commenced 'saluting' them."May 15, 1864
Fighting continues near, Resaca as the two sides grapple with each other, searching for an advantage. Union surgeon John Bennitt passes word of casualties among the officer ranks in the regiment to his wife: “13 of 19th Mich killed—& 68 wounded—10 Dangerously 8 Seriously—30 painfully not Seriously—18 Slightly. Col. [Henry] Gilbert Dangerously, Capt [Charles] Calmer killed, Capt. [Samuel] Hubbard slightly. . . . About 600 of 3rd Div wounded & killed." The combat here has produced 2,747 Union and approximately 2,800 Confederate casualties.
In the Shenandoah Valley, Confederate troops under John C. Breckinridge confront Union forces under Franz Sigel at New Market, Va. Cadets from the Virginia Military Institute join the fray. Sigel retreats with 93 killed, 482 wounded and 256 missing or captured to 42 killed, 522 wounded and 13 missing for their adversaries. The VMI element has lost 10 killed and 47 wounded among their number.
J.B. Jones offers an assessment of the state of race and war in the Confederate capital:May 16, 1864
“Most of the able-bodied negro men, both free and slave, have been taken away—in the field as teamsters, or digging on the fortifications. Yet those that remain may sometimes be seen at the street corners looking, some wistfully, some in dread, in the direction of the enemy. There is but little fear of an insurrection, though no doubt the enemy would be welcomed by many of the negroes, both free and slave.”
At 9:00 A.M., George Thomas’s men advance into Resaca and begin to repair the crossing of the Oostanaula River.
Fighting occurs around Drewry’s Bluff, Va., as Beauregard launches attacks to keep his opponents off-balance. William H.S. Burgwyn records his participation in dramatic tones:May 17, 1864
“About three hundred yards from our breastworks and fearing that the enemy fire and the bad ground might throw them into confusion, I seized the colors of the 51st North Carolina Regiment and called on the men to follow. Running in advance I came in about three hundred yards to the enemy’s first line of rifle pits or breastworks made of rails, logs, etc. Mounting them and waving the colors I jumped on the other side and pushed forward closely followed by the men. . . .”
Confederate defenders appear ready to make a stand at Adairsville, Ga., but after a period of exchanging fire, Johnston determines that the position is not suitable for defense and falls back once more.
In Richmond, Judith McGuire reports:May 18, 1864
“For some days the cannon has been resounding in our ears, from the south side of the James River. Colonel [James] Garnett has come in to tell us that for the first two days there was only heavy skirmishing, but that on yesterday there was a terrific fight all along the lines. Yesterday a brigadier, his staff, and 840 men, were lodged in the Libby Prison.”
Sturgis laments over his lack of success in forcing a confrontation with Nathan Bedford Forrest to Sherman:
“My little campaign is over, and I regret to say that Forrest is still at large. . . . I regret very much that I could not have the pleasure of bringing you his hair, but he is too great a plunderer to fight anything like an equal force, and we have to be satisfied with driving him from the State.”
Undoubtedly, as Sherman advances in Georgia he will not be so easily satisfied, especially when Sturgis adds that Forrest will likely “turn on your communications. . . but I see no way to prevent it from this point with this force."
Brigadier General Joseph Mower covers Banks’ retreat at Yellow Bayou, La.May 19, 1864
Lee is aware that Grant is considering another flanking movement and sends Ewell’s corps to verify his suspicions. The Southern troops encounter Union forces, largely composed to men who had served as heavy artillerists around Washington City and now act as infantry. The fighting is heavy, as attested by 1,500 Union and 900 Confederate casualties.
Joseph Johnston wants to strike at Sherman near Cassville, Ga., but missteps by John Bell Hood negate the opportunity.
Mary Mallard assesses the progress of the armies in Georgia:May 20, 1864
“Our army has been steadily falling back for a week past in order to gain good fighting ground and a position that cannot be flanked. The men are in the highest spirits, and express the utmost confidence in General Johnston. . . . Our army has had continued skirmishing—or rather it ought to be called a succession of small battles; and in every instance the Yankees have been handsomely repulsed with great slaughter. . . . Already about two thousand five hundred wounded have been brought down.
The relief committees from this place, Macon, Alabama, Florida, and elsewhere have all come up, and are very active in their attentions to the wounded. They seem to be provided with almost everything. . . . Poor fellows, they seem so glad to get it.”
General Orders, No. 44, circulate from Army of Northern Virginia Headquarters, lamenting the loss of Jeb Stuart:
“Among the gallant soldiers who have fallen in this war General Stuart was second to none in valor, in zeal, and in unfaltering devotion to his country. His achievements form a conspicuous part of the history of this army, with which his name and services will be forever associated. . . . To his comrades in arms he has left the proud recollection of his deeds, and the inspiring influence of his example. R.E. Lee, General.”
Mary Mallard continues to put the best face on the otherwise disturbing developments in Georgia:May 21, 1864
“Of course it is an anxious time with us all, and a time for earnest prayer. If General Johnston is victorious, the Yankees must suffer terribly. All think he is able and will follow up any advantage he may gain."
Major General David Hunter replaces Franz Sigel as commander of the Department of West Virginia.
Alvin Voris tells his wife:
“My boys took Major Gen. [William S.] Walker yesterday, breaking his leg so as to require amputation. I have his sword as a trophy of the fight. I will send it to you as soon as opportunity offers.”
In Marietta, Ga., Mary Robarts is decidedly worried about the advancing Union tide:May 22, 1864
“The army is now on this side of the Etowah River. The families from above are fleeing before the enemy—the streets filled with all sorts of vehicles, people moving their property of all kinds . . . . And the stampede has commenced in Marietta: streets filled with movables, neighbors packing and going off.
My dear cousin, we were constantly assured the Yankees would never get here!
But, oh, those horrid Yankees! How can I see them enter this place and live?”
Sherman shifts away from the strong position Johnston has taken up at Allatoona Pass, rather than threaten it directly with assault.
From Hanover Junction, Richard Ewell writes his wife, Lizinka:
“You see we are coming nearer—not because Grant drives us but because while keeping up a show in front, he tries to dodge around us. He got the start yesterday, but by marching all night & this morning I am again in front & the rest of the army well up.”
Off Brazos, Texas, U.S.S. Stingaree switched flags three times as the Confederates first captured, then lost her.May 23, 1864
After the protracted combat at Spotsylvania, Lee is in position at the North Anna River to strike at Grant if an opportunity presents itself.
Braxton Bragg orders Major General Fitzhugh Lee to proceed to Wilson’s Wharf, where Butler has detailed a number of African American troops and “break up the nest.” By 4:00 PM, Lee is on his way with 2,500 men to accomplish the mission.
U.S.S. Columbine falls to Confederates in Florida.May 24, 1864
In the morning, General Lee testily confronts A.P. Hill on his apparent failure to prevent Union forces under Gouverneur Warren from crossing the North Anna: “General Hill, why did you let those people cross here? Why didn’t you throw your whole force on them and drive them back as Jackson would have done?”
Then in the afternoon, Lee is stricken with gastrointestinal issues that confine him to his tent. He knows that his acute distress is particularly ill-timed, given the configuration of the opposing forces at the North Anna River. But, all he can do is groan, “We must strike them a blow. We must never let them pass us again. We must strike them a blow.”
In the confused fighting that characterized this phase of the Virginia campaign, a Union soldier watches as Confederates close on his position. “What is it Jack?” he asks of a comrade. “Legs or Richmond?” The men promptly choose to allow Richmond to wait for another time as they scramble for the rear.
Fitzhugh Lee’s force reaches Wilson’s Wharf at mid-day. Earthworks and the Union gunboat Dawn suggest the difficulty of the encounter for the grayclad horsemen. Lee attempts to effect a surrender, but Brigadier General Edward Wild declines: “Take the fort if you can.” Following the repulse of attacks and the arrival of Union reinforcements, the Confederates break off the assault and retire.
Colonel Voris assesses the Bermuda Hundred Campaign in which he has been a participant:May 25, 1864
“I am fearful that Gen. Butler is a failure, nor is this to be wondered at. He has had no military experience in the field. His operations in the early stages of the war were not of such a sort as to develop skill & ability for operations of the kind undertaken by his army. That he has acquired reputation as a General is true, but it has been rather on account of administrative ability connected with civil than military matters. To me it is singular that the War Department should entrust to such a Gen the supreme command of as important an enterprise as this against whom it could only have expected the best talent of the Confederacy must be arrayed, fortified by the practical experience of three years’ service in the field. It was easy to gain reputation in the earlier stages of the war. The blunders & want of experience of our commanders was overlooked by equally blundering and inexperienced tyros in the Confederacy. But it is not so now. . . .
We are virtually besieged on the little isthmus known as Bermuda Hundred.”
Major General Joseph Hooker confronts the Confederates at New Hope Church, Ga. in the mistaken belief that John Bell Hood’s men represent the Army of Tennessee’s flank. Racked by fire from Major General A.P. Stewart’s troops and Southern artillery, the attacks crumble as the losses mount. A thunderstorm underscores the nature of the combat that has left some 1,600 Union and 350 Confederate casualties.
Grant pulls back from his exposed position at North Anna, and determines his next flanking movement.
Also in Virginia, Ordnance Chief Josiah Gorgas watches events unfold in Georgia with thinly veiled disdain:May 26, 1864
“Johnston verifies all our predictions of him. He is falling back just as fast as his legs carry him. . . . Where will he stop heaven only knows.”
The Territory of Montana is formed.
Dick Ewell takes a moment to remind his wife that he has not forgotten the first anniversary of their marriage before turning to other matters:
“We are still in juxtaposition with the Yankees—mutually watching—they entrenched so strongly as to make it impossible to attack any part of their lines on this flank, while they are equally afraid to come against us. This will probably continue untill they take advantage of darkness to past across our flank when we will be forced to move back again to get in their front. We are getting too near Richmond for this to continue much more & one side or the other will have to change tactics & go at it ‘hammer & tongs.’ The idea of their reaching Richmond is too terrible to think of. . . .”
After keeping his wife informed of his progress following a severe wounding on May 14, Emerson Opdycke lets her know that he is back in command of his troops, “’In line’, awaiting the Conflict, near Dallas”:May 27, 1864
“Our great army is moving into positions for a battle. Skirmishing is going on briskly and the balls whiz over our heads frequently. . . . My arm is doing admirably, but I have not much use of it yet.”
Union troops endure a vicious pounding in the thickets and ravines of Pickett’s Mill, Ga. Major General Patrick Cleburne’s men inflict the greatest damage, costing the Federals 1,600 men against 450 casualties of their own.May 28, 1864
The third engagement in this phase of the Atlanta Campaign, Dallas, Ga. becomes the scene of a bloody Confederate repulse when Brigadier General William Bate hurls his men against the trenches of James McPherson’s bluecoats. Inflicting only about 380 casualties on the Federals, Bates’s men suffer over 1,000 in the setback.
Opposing cavalry forces clash at Haw’s Shop, Va., producing 344 Union and 400 Confederate casualties.May 29, 1864
In the wake of the combat at Dallas, Michigan doctor William Bennitt recounts the losses in his regiment, but concludes:
“Our men are feeling what it is to be soldiers now—May God spare us this kind of experience long.”
Josiah Gorgas summarizes the fate of the Federal’s Red River Campaign and the supply situation in the Confederacy:
“From the Red River we hear that Banks has escaped with most of his army and fleet. The latter was Saved by building a dam across the river below the falls & then raising the water so that the vessels could float out over the rapids where they were caught by the low water. If our boats had been so caught, we should simply have blown them up.
Trains laden with corn are constantly arriving. The fear of Starvation has therefore nearly subsided. Four vessels have arrived thro’ the blockade at Wilmington.”
Emerson Opdycke relates a conversation between his men and opposing troops from Louisiana:
“Our boys asked ‘When are you going to ‘light out’ of here?’ Rebs replied ‘Lighting out, is played out; we’ve got our place now,’ and they chatted together pleasantly for some time.”
P.G. T. Beauregard is concerned that fraternization has reduced the effectiveness of his command and that a refocusing on matters of military order and discipline is necessary:May 30, 1864
“It having been reported to these headquarters that our pickets and skirmishers have allowed those of the enemy to advance to within a very short distance of our lines, and that the pickets of the two lines are becoming too familiar, it is hereby ordered that no communication whatever should be had between our pickets and those of the enemy. The latter must be fired upon whenever they are seen within range of our guns; due precaution, however, being taken to prevent a waste of ammunition. . . . This order is dictated by a stern military necessity, as the forbidden practice affords positive advantages to the enemy in procuring information and directing his force; but even if this necessity did not exist, the commanding general still deeply deplores the moral disgrace incurred by his troops in anything like voluntary or unnecessary association with the savage foes who are not only warring against us, but persecuting our women and children, and destroying private property. The hands of such a foe are unworthy the friendly or courteous touch of a Confederate soldier.”
Union pressure continues in the area of Totopotomoy Creek in Virginia. His fighting blood up once more, Lee recognizes that dramatic steps must be taken to turn back the Union thrust toward Richmond.
Robert Garlick Hill Kean comments on relationships in the highest echelons of the Confederate government:May 31, 1864
“There is a stir in our cabinet. [Secretary of the Treasury Christopher] Memminger is said to have handed in his resignation. . . . Mr. Seddon is much disgusted with his position. In a conversation, a friend told me yesterday that he complained heavily that the President was the most difficult man to get along with he had ever seen. If the President cannot get on with a man as smooth and yielding as Mr. Seddon, nobody can please him.”
Since the beginning of the month, the armies of Lee and Grant have engaged each other almost incessantly in the Overland Campaign. The combatants have now reached the vicinity of Cold Harbor, Va., east of Richmond.
June 1864June 1, 1864
The opposing armies confront each other in the vicinity of Old Cold Harbor. One of the men impacted on this day is Captain William H.S. Burgwyn of North Carolina:
“We had not charged but about fifty yards (and I in front of the 51st Regiment and near the colors) when I received a tremendous blow which struck me I thought about the knee making me fall like an ox and suffering intense pain. . . . About 11:00 p.m. Dr. Tamill, Division Surgeon, and Dr. Morrisey, Brigade Surgeon, put me under the influence of chloroform and probed and dressed my wound which they told me had struck about one-half inch below the right knee planing the bone and passed out making a painful but not dangerous wound. . . . Was struck about 7:00 p.m. while charging and driving the enemy.”
Union cavalry under George Stoneman skirts the principal lines and seizes the critical Allatoona Pass, opening the more traditional line of approach for Sherman along the Western and Atlantic Railroad toward Kennesaw Mountain, Marietta and Atlanta.
Louisiana exile Henri Garidel despairs of the fate of the Confederate capital as Grant closes on the city:
“The enemy is nine miles from Richmond. . . . . The cannon fire was over, but Richmond is still on the alert and alive with movement. People are preparing themselves. I think we will soon be overrun by Yankees, and if the Yankees take Richmond, two-thirds of the population will take the oath. That’s my opinion.”
June 2, 1864
The forces continue to solidify their positions at Cold Harbor, while Sherman is on the move in Georgia. In the Valley of Virginia, William E. “Grumble” Jones is preparing to face David Hunter.
President Lincoln grants Charles H. Jonas a three week parole from the prison camp at Johnson’s Island to visit his dying father in Illinois.
June 3, 1864
Cold Harbor enters the pages of bloody assaults in a war replete with them as Ulysses S. Grant unleashes an attack that he hopes will penetrate and destroy Robert E. Lee’s defenses. But the Southern troops are well entrenched, protected by obstructions and head-logs against just such a Union thrust. The effort opens at 4:30 A.M. and quickly devolves into a vicious storm of shot and shell that cuts men down in droves. Some 7,000 Federals will be lost before Grant determines that the attempt cannot succeed and calls off the attacks at noon.
At the same time that Grant tests the Confederate works at Cold Harbor, Abraham Lincoln forwards his unequivocal support for his general and the strategy he is employing to win the war:
“My previous high estimate of Gen. Grant has been maintained and heightened by what has occurred in the remarkable campaign he is now conducting; while the magnitude and difficulty of the task before him does not prove less than I expected. He and his brave soldiers are now in the midst of their great trial. . . .”
From Richmond, Louisiana refugee Henri Garidel awaits developments:
"We went to mass to the sound of horrible cannonading. The battle has been going on since 4:30. It is really frightening to hear it.”
Federal troops are in Acworth, Georgia, pushing closer toward Atlanta.
Confederate raiders capture the Union vessel Water Witch, on the Georgia coast.
June 4, 1864
It is raining in Georgia, but Joseph Johnston must react to the latest of Sherman’s moves. He shifts his line to prepared defenses on Lost, Pine and Brush (Brushy) mountains in an effort to continue to block his adversary’s approach.
Josiah Gorgas rides out to examine the battlefields and entrenchments outside Richmond, concluding that the Confederate soldiery has begun to display a different attitude when it comes to self-preservation:
“They have acquired quite a respect for this sort of intrenchment, & work like beavers when they take up a new position. They began the war with a contempt for the Spade, but now thoroughly believe in it.”
Riding with John Hunt Morgan into Kentucky, the weather presents the greatest challenges for the moment to Edward O. Guerrant and his comrades.
“Day woke with tears in her eyes & soon commence crying good. Our journey lay 30 miles down the everlasting ‘Troublesome.’ It was a Troublesome Creek, a Troublesome Way, a Troublesome Journey, a Troublesome Troublesome! AWFUL travelling on our horses. Stopped a moment at Forks of Troublesome to see our column properly formed.
After great difficulty & hard travelling—which broke down dozens of horses, we stopped for the night at Mrs. Holladay’s a war widow, or one who husband is ‘I don’t know where’—i.e. Yankee Army.”
U.S. Consul Charles M. Allen reports to his government on Confederate blockade-running activities in Bermuda, noting particularly:
"Steamer Lynx arrived today from Wilmington with 600 bales of cotton, having been chased by a U.S. gunboat and having thrown overboard about 100 bales cotton.”
June 5, 1864
Heavy fighting characterizes the attempt by Grumble Jones to stop David Hunter’s advance at Piedmont. With a smaller force, Jones can only hope to achieve his goal, but is killed in the engagement that ends with the rout of his command and the loss of some 1,600 men, the bulk of whom become captives. Hunter’s men suffer 780 casualties, but now have an open road to Staunton.
Elsewhere in the region, Ned Guerrant is finding the indications of the hard warfare of the border areas.
“On Troublesome passed a burning house, where [Thomas] Chenoweth’s men had been after a bushwhacker.
We have been compelled to take most everything to eat, meat & meal that we have found on our line of march. Our rations are out & tonight some of our Battns. are without food & poor prospect of any tomorrow.”
Daniel William Cobb is experiencing a different aspect of the war in Southampton County, Virginia:
“The Crual war has reduced our Table to no Shugar & Coffee no flower. No flesh for brexfast & Supper only Meats for Dinner, & Curtailed other things also My wife falts & Grumbles at me heavy about the preshure of the war scarsety in madness[.]”
Charles Mattocks sits in a prison camp in Macon, Georgia, admittedly a long way from his prewar home in Maine and from Richmond, where he was captured:
“One month ago today I bid farewell to liberty. One month ago we were 800 miles away [from Georgia], battling with the enemy near the Rapidan. . . . In prison life ‘drags its weary length along.’ It is a rare place for character to discover itself. . . .
For the past week I have been more dead than alive, with an attack of ‘Prison Fever,’ very similar to the illness a recruit in the army has to go through.”
In Louisiana, William Henry King, reads news of recent developments in Georgia:
“Another Extra is out to-day from which I learn that Gen’l Johnston has fallen back to Atlanta, Georgia, but is certain of an overwhelming victory. Yes, our reporters and news mongers are always ‘certain’ of some grand achievement whether it be achieved or not. I have great confidence in Gen’l Johnston, but I fear this is one ‘chicken counted before it hatched.’”
June 6, 1864
Josiah Gorgas contemplates Grant’s options as he sees them:
“Grant seems inclined to try a passage of the Chickahominy at Bottom’s bridge. What good that would do him is the question. It brings him further from instead of nearer to Richmond. He is now as near as he ever will be, I trust. Getting over to Butler & taking Petersburgh from below City Point might annoy us, but would hardly advance his object. I think he is at his wit’s end.”
June 7, 1864
The National Union Convention meets in Baltimore, Maryland, to select a slate and establish a platform for the coming fall presidential election.
In southeastern Virginia, farmer Cobb continues to focus on his production, while keeping an eye on the progress of the war near Richmond. “4 ploughs going. . . . My hoe hands finished han thining my Cotton & gorn to weading Corn. I finished shering sheap at 10.”
June 8, 1864
Lincoln’s name receives the nod for a second term in office as president. The military governor of Tennessee, Andrew Johnson, will assume the vice presidential slot for this ticket. Current occupant Hannibal Hamlin has support at the convention, but the vote moves in Johnson’s direction and he secures the nomination.
Morgan captures Mount Sterling, Kentucky, but the action turns into something of a bank robbing spree as much as it has a martial firefight.
The losses of wartime become personal for Edward Guerrant as he receives word of the death of his brother to disease:
“Marshall Guerrant dead! Dead!—The tears of a brother suffuse my eyes when I write that name, & try to realize that all that was noble, & generous & manly, once answering to it, has sunk beyond my gaze forever! O my brother, my brother! A grief deeper than the fountains of tears, and the power of language wrings my heart for thee!”
The news is difficult for Daniel Cobb as well:
“I hurd from Lees Arm to day Lee has drove Grant 12 miles back to White House 1 killed & 3 woundes of Com a 13 Vir Calv J Drewey Killed Capt Wills shot threw the Loongs Asbury Cobb slight wound of the wrist Holland in leg it Cut off Cruell times.”
June 9, 1864
Lincoln responds to the notification of his renomination:
“I will neither conceal my gratification, nor restrain the expression of my gratitude, that the Union people, through their convention, in their continued effort to save, and advance the nation, have deemed me not unworthy to remain in my present position.”
Pondering a plank in the platform regarding a Constitutional amendment abolishing slavery, the President adds:
“When the people in revolt, with a hundred days of explicit notice, that they could, within those days, resume their allegiance, without the overthrow of their institution, and that they could not so resume it afterwards, elected to stand out, such amendment of the Constitution as now proposed, became a fitting, and necessary conclusion to the final success of the Union cause.”
Lincoln exhibits his usual sense of humor in a communication to a delegation from the National Union League:
“I have not permitted myself, gentlemen, to conclude that I am the best man in the country; but I am reminded, in this connection, of a story of an old Dutch farmer, who remarked to a companion once that ‘it was not best to swap horses when crossing streams.’”
From his headquarters at Acworth, Georgia, William T. Sherman tries to allay the concerns of the “young lady” who plans to marry his friend and trusted subordinate, James McPherson, that he is too consumed with the war to pay appropriate attention to her:
“His rise in his profession has been rapid steady and well earned, not a link unbroken, not a thing omitted. Each step in his progress however has imposed on him fresh duties that as a man and a Soldier and still more as a Patriot he could not avoid.
There is no rest for us in this war till you and all can look about you and feel there is Peace & Safety in the Land. God purifies the atmosphere with tempests and Storms which fall alike upon the just and unjust, and in like manner he appeases the jarring Elements of political discord, by wars and famine.
Be patient and I Know that when the happy day comes for him to Stand by your side as one Being identical in heart & human Existence you will regard him with a high respect & honor that will convert Simple love into Something sublime & beautiful[.]”
Sherman also takes the occasion to write his own wife, suggesting that everything is proceeding according to his larger vision:
“Johnston may fight us at the Ridge of hills just this Side of Marietta, but I think I can dislodge him and this will leave the Great Battle on or near the Chattahoochee the passage of which he must dispute. . . . He thinks he checked us at Dallas. I went there to avoid the Alatoona Pass, and as soon as I had drawn his Army there I Slipped my Cavalry into Alatooma Pass & moved the main army in its front a perfect success. I never designed to attack his hastily prepared works at Dallas and New Hope Church, and as soon as he saw I was making for the Railroad around his Right flank he abandoned his works and we occupied them for a moment and moved by the best Roads to our present position. We have captured several of their mails and it is wonderful to See how the soldiers talk of driving me back to the Ohio, and their returning to their Loving families in Tennessee and Kentucky. I fear they Count without their host. . . .
But of course the Real Battle is not yet fought—when it does come I will take good care to have it a big & decisive one.”
A quick thrust by Quincy Gillmore at Petersburg ends when former governor and Confederate brigadier general Henry Wise pulls together enough “old men and young boys” to hold the powerful Dimmock Line. The effort produces 52 casualties for the Federals and 75 for Wise’s defenders.
June 10, 1864
The Confederate Congress expands the age range for military service to seventeen and fifty.
In Mississippi, Nathan Bedford Forrest wins perhaps his finest victory as he confronts Samuel Sturgis and Ben Grierson at Brice’s Cross Roads. Fighting amongst the fields and blackjack thickets, the Confederate cavalryman presses the Union horsemen and then routs their infantry compatriots in the hard-fought contest. Of 8,000 men, Sturgis will count casualties of 223 killed, 394 wounded, and 1,623 captured or missing, as well as the loss much of his artillery and most of his wagons. Forrest will tally 96 killed and 396 wounded of his own, but he has driven a more numerous foe from the field in disorder, shattering the boasts that Sturgis made earlier of defeating him soundly.
Jaded by a type of warfare and changes in society that he struggles to comprehend fully, Ned Guerrant writes of John Hunt Morgan’s raid into his native Kentucky:
“Robbed Lexington. Pillaged Lexington. Lexington defended by negro troops against white plunderers.
The ‘bumming’ process has greatly demoralized all the men, one corps by participation, another by association. (I do not altogether exculpate our 1st Brigade from this general charge of burglary, but we were so far eclipsed by professional thieves of the 2d. Brigade, that we surrendered all claims to comparison).
I was so thoroughly disgusted & shamed by my association with such a command that I resolved to sever my connections with it at the earliest opportunity.”
June 11, 1864
Morgan’s men fight their way into Cynthiana, Kentucky, capturing some 300 Union troops, while at Trevilian Station in Virginia, Philip Sheridan’s troopers engage their counterparts under Wade Hampton and Fitzhugh Lee. In the meantime, David Hunter continues to ravage, turning his torches to the structures at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington.
CSS Alabama reaches Cherbourg, France, hoping to refit for future operations against Northern shipping interests.June 12, 1864
In a bold move designed to end the bloody stalemate in Virginia, the Army of the Potomac crosses the James River.
Fighting continues at Trevilian Station where Sheridan’s inability to break through Hampton’s lines convinces him to reconsider his effort to join David Hunter in the Valley. Sheridan’s losses in the effort have amounted to 102 killed, 470 wounded and 435 missing to total Confederate casualties set at 612.
William T. Sherman is “in an old house” located “In the Field, Big Shanty Geo.” He notes his disappointment that he could not force battle upon Johnston “in the Oostenaula Valley between Dalton & Resaca, but McPherson was a little overcautious, and we cannot move vast armies of this size with the rapidity of thought or of smaller bodies.” Still, he expects to fight Johnston soon. “We must have a terrific Battle, and he wants to choose & fortify his ground.”
War and the movement of his armies nevertheless have a profound effect on the local citizenry, although Sherman must still concern himself with threats to his attenuated and vulnerable supply line:June 13, 1864
“The Country is stripped of cattle, horses, hogs, and grain, but there are large fine fields of growing oats, wheat and corn, which our horses & mules devour as we advance. Thus far we have been well supplied, and I hope it will continue, though I expect to hear every day of Forrest breaking into Tennessee from some quarter. Jno. Morgan is in Kentucky but I attach little importance to him or his Raid, as we dont draw anything from Kentucky, and there are plenty of troops there to capture & destroy him. Forrest is a more dangerous man. I am in hopes that an expedition sent out from Memphis on Tupelo, about the 1st of June will give him full employment.. . . Johnston is now between me and Marietta. As soon as these Clouds and Storms clear away I will study his position and determine to assault his Line or turn it and force him back of the Chattahoochee. As long as I press him close and prevent his sending anything to Lee I fulfill my part of the Grand Plan. In the mean time Grant will give Lee all the fighting he wants until he is sick of the word.”
Troops are on the move in Virginia and Georgia, North Carolina and Kansas. Jefferson Davis can only promise to send help where he can to seemingly everyone in the Confederate States, including in answer to calls from Edmund Kirby Smith in the Trans-Mississippi, but words and intentions must be bent to realities as the Confederacy strains its resources to respond to the myriad threats it confronts.June 14, 1864
The day is overcast in North Georgia as Joseph and Leonidas Polk leave their respective headquarters to convene on Pine Mountain, where they have been requested to survey the situation in order to determine if a repositioning of troops is required. The cluster of officers attracts the attention of General Sherman and Union artillery across the way. Although his compatriots manage to put themselves out of immediate danger, Bishop Polk is not so fortunate and a round smashes into him, killing him instantly. An emotional Johnston remarks, “I would rather anything than this.”
In the early afternoon, General Grant informs President Lincoln of his intentions after the bloody fighting in Virginia:
“Our forces will commence crossing the James to-day. The enemy show no signs yet of having brought troops to the south side of Richmond. I will have Petersburg secured, if possible, before they get there in much force.”
The USS Kearsarge arrives off the coast of France to watch the Alabama.June 15, 1864
Late in the day, Union troops under Major General Dan Butterfield clash with Confederates under Patrick Cleburne at Gilgal Church. The Irish Confederate’s soldiers punish their blue-clad opponents, producing some 200 casualties at minimal cost to themselves. Among the assaulting Federals is Colonel Benjamin Harrison of the 70th Indiana.
Grant’s hopes of rolling through the Petersburg defenses rest with Major General William F. “Baldy” Smith. His corps strikes the thinly held lines, pushing the Confederates back and capturing several batteries and approximately a mile of earthworks in the vaunted Dimmock Line. Nevertheless, against all odds, Beauregard holds on grimly, awaiting the arrival of reinforcements.June 16, 1864
President Lincoln hastens a response to General Grant on word of his latest dispositions:
“Have just read your despatch of 1 P.M. yesterday. I begin to see it. You will succeed. God bless you all.”
Major General Winfield Scott Hancock reaches Petersburg with his command to relieve Smith and renew the offensive.
Speaking before the Great Central Sanitary Fair in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: “That Grant is this evening, with General Meade and General Hancock, of Pennsylvania, and the brave officers and soldiers with him, in a position from whence he will never be dislodged until Richmond is taken. . . .”June 17, 1864
At Petersburg, Union pressure continues as Major General Ambrose Burnside adds his corps to the weight of the forces threatening to overrun the Southern lines.
The favorable circumstances that appear to prevail at Petersburg prompt Secretary of War Edwin Stanton to announce the capture of the city.
At Lynchburg, Virginia, a defensive force under John C. Breckinridge holds against threatening Union troops until 9,000 veterans from Robert E. Lee’s army under Lieutenant General Jubal Early can arrive to bolster their numbers. General Hunter opts to withdraw in the face of the works and his reinforced opposition.
In Georgia, Confederate brigadier general Daniel Reynolds maintains his diary entries despite the other duties that prevail:June 18, 1864
“Skirmishing along the lines during the day. At 10 p.m., left the works and moved back to the top of Big Kennesaw. I left the 9th Arkansas behind to bring up the rear. I placed my men in one rank and connected my left with Ector’s right between Big and Little Kennesaw. I made my headquarters on the south face of Big Kennesaw and about 50 yards from the summit.”
The Confederates have given ground, but still hold at Petersburg. Final Union assaults gain nothing further. Just as he had done a year earlier at Vicksburg, Ulysses Grant will have resort to other methods to achieve success in Virginia.
During the night the Confederates drop back to Kennesaw Mountain.
General Reynolds notes:
“Placed my men in line some 50 yards below the crest of mountain and commenced to fortify with rocks, etc. . . . Could get no tools to work with.”
Sherman complains to Grant regarding his own command:
“My Chief source of trouble is with the Army of the Cumberland which is dreadfully slow. A fresh furrow in a ploughed field will stop the whole column, and all begin to intrench. I have again and again tried to impress on Thomas that we must assail & not defend. We are the offensive, & yet it seems the whole Army of the Cumberland is so habituated to be on the defensive that from its commander down to the lowest private I cannot get it out of their heads.”
From South Carolina, Emma Holmes laments the loss of Bishop Polk:June 19, 1864
“He was a grand old hero and an immense loss to church & country.”
Kearsarge sinks Alabama off the coast of Cherbourg, France. A yacht lkying nearby to witness the events carries the Confederate cruiser’s skipper, Raphael Semmes, to safety.
Abraham Lincoln reassures his wife in New York that their son Tad has returned to Washington “safely, and all well.”
Emerson Opdycke writes his wife from “Under the Rebel guns at Kenesaw Mt. Ga.”
“Our lines are now close up to Kenesaw Mountain, which is nearly as high as Lookout and runs South; we are pressing the enemy sharply, skirmishing constantly. This is rough soldering. . . . The sacrifices that are now being made for Justice, and Right, can never be fully written out; but God knows, and the Right must triumph in the end.”
Confederate general Reynolds and his opponents remain active on the Kennesaw line:
“Enemy shelled our line today. But one casualty in brigade. At 11 p.m., got some tools and the men worked busily the remainder of the night on their works. On yesterday and today could see nearly all the movements and dispositions of the enemy. We have a good telescope, several field glasses, and have an excellent view of all the country for miles around the mountain on every side, including both armies and Marietta.”
Ned Guerrant has finally returned with the remnant from Morgan’s ill-fated foray into Kentucky:June 20, 1864
“Started early, followed Martin’s Fork to it’s source & crossed the Cumbd. Mountain at Pennington’s Gap, the broadest, roughest gap I ever saw. We were three hours at least crossing this terrible mountain, and when we touched Virginia’s sacred & renowned soil beyond, we falt like singing a triumphal song of deliverance, as Moses & Miriam sung so sublimely on the banks of the Red Sea! Every heart thanked God, that he had brought us safely out of Kentucky, back to old Virginia, where at least we could lie down & sleep.”
President Lincoln has his eye on the Copperhead movement in the mid-west, informing Governor John Brough of Ohio and General Samuel P. Heintzelman:
“Both of you have official responsibility as to the U.S. Military in Ohio, and generally—one, in organizing and furnishing, the other in directing, commanding, and forwarding. Consult together freely, watch Vallandigham and others closely, and, upon discovering any palpable injury, or imminent danger to the Military, proceeding from him, them, or any of them, arrest all implicated. Otherwise do not arrest without further order; meanwhile report the signs to me from time to time.”
The U.S. President is not the only individual to worry concerning fires in the rear. Confederate bureaucrat Robert G. H. Kean observes in his diary:
“A curious secret society has made its appearance in North Carolina, traitorous in nature. . . . It has oaths, grips and signs. The essence of the thing is to betray your country in order to preserve yourself and your property. A similar thing has been discovered in Alabama.”
Charles M. Allen reports from his station:
“The following blockade running steamers are now in this port of St. George’s, and intend to leave during the old of this moon for Wilmington. Edith, Lynx (had been on the coast of Wilmington and returned), Boston, Old Dominion (new), Little Hettie (new). Atalanta, City of Petersburgh and Mary Celestia.
Most all the steamers from Wilmington arriving here report having been chased by our gunboats.”
Something of an old-fashioned cavalry engagement involving charges and flashing sabers occurs between Robert Minty and Joseph Wheeler at Noonday Creek in Georgia.June 21, 1864
President Lincoln visits with Grant at City Point, and tours the lines at Petersburg. Alvin Voris is among the mass of soldiers who note the presence of their commander-in-chief:
“Noon. President Lincoln has just passed my quarter. I hear the boys still cheering way to the left. He looks better in the field than in the White House.”
Johnston shifts John Bell Hood’s 11,000-man corps from the Confederate right flank to the left along the Powder Springs Road to contest Federal moves along that route.
President Davis accepts the resignation of his embattled secretary of the treasury, Christopher Memminger. He is sympathetic—“I knew the extreme difficulty of conducting the Treasury Department during the pending struggle.”—but he has felt the necessity of making a change.June 22, 1864
At 5:00 P.M., convinced that he has an advantage over approaching Union forces, Hood launches an assault in the area of Peter Valentine Kolb’s Farm. The gray-clad troops endure a devastating crossfire as they try to press forward. With decimated ranks and no genuine prospect for success, Hood halts the advance and reckon with the cost of the failed venture.
Surgeon John Bennitt is in a field hospital “not far from Marietta Ga.” when the fighting erupts. He tells his wife:
“Our hospital at that time was very near the line of battle, and yester at dinner time, indeed before we had eaten, & when it was all ready, word was sent us that in order to drive the rebels back from a certain point, a battery must be planted so close by us that if the rebels replied to it the shells would fall into our hospital & that it would be necessary to move. Accordingly, we stopped everything and in twenty minutes had our whole hospital of 40 wounded & 80 sick men with all the tents in the wagons and on the move & in two minutes more shells were bursting over the place we left.”
In Virginia, Major General William Mahone smashes the divisions of Brigadier General Francis Barlow and Major General John Gibbon, securing 1,742 prisoners.
Daniel Cobb listens to the sounds of battle traveling across the miles from Petersburg to his farm in Southside Virginia:
“They was a heavy & continual Cananading all day in the direction of Pburgh The most severest I’v yet hurd.”
In the meantime, James Harrison Wilson is on the move to threaten the South Side Railroad near Burkeville. Wilson cannot accomplish permanent damage, but proves his mettle as a fighter.
June 23, 1864
Hunter’s Union raiders are pulling off in the direction of West Virginia, while other cavalry operations continue.
President Lincoln returns to Washington from his visit with Grant and the troops in front of Petersburg.June 24, 1864
Sheridan suffers a setback in Virginia, while in the distant Trans-Mississippi, Jo Shelby takes on Union vessels, taking and destroying the Queen City.
Recognizing the broad spectrum of the war, Emma Holmes notes:June 25, 1864
“The same grand game of chess is going on in upper Georgia, while Forrest has given them a checkmate in another part of the board [at Brice’s], killing & capturing many more men than he carried into battle, besides 250 wagons, heavily laden & other valuables.”
Grant’s efforts to capture Petersburg quickly having fallen short, he turns to another tack that he had employed at Vicksburg: the digging of a tunnel that can be packed with explosives and detonated at a propitious moment to aid in an assault.
Edward Guerrant eavesdrops on religious services. “Church full of women & hO-O-O-Ops! Heard the preacher out of the window. Most men prefer listening thro’ the window.”June 26, 1864
There is more fighting West Virginia, while Early reaches Staunton with his 14,000-man command.
Orville Browning records in his dairy Lincoln’s recent visit to General Grant and a conversation between the two of them that reflects the soldier’s determination: “you Mr. President, need be under no apprehension. You will never hear of me farther from Richmond than now, till I have taken it. I am just as sure of going into Richmond as I am of any future event. It may take a long summer day, but I will go in.”
From Bermuda Hundred, Alvin Voris is not nearly so sanguine of success:
“Two months ago I hoped that the 1st of July would see the successful end of this campaign, but I now look into the future with no hope that we are able to take Richmond by storm, and have doubts about our being able to do it by strategy, the latter course evidently being Gen. Grant’s present plan. The South are relatively stronger today than they were when the war was commenced.”
Still recovering from his recent exertions, Guerrant is in Abingdon, Virginia:
“Saw Genl. Morgan at his office. . . . Morgan is a clever man, but don’t admire him as a General. Always treated me with great consideration & kindness.”
Federal cavalry raiders find their access to the Staunton River Bridge blocked by a determined force which prevents them from damaging or destroying the critical span.
William Henry King has time for newspapers on a Sunday in Louisiana:June 27, 1864
“An Extra (this is a time favorable for Extras—suppose the editors find it profitable) of yesterday furnishes some encouragement, though I shall feel anxious until I hear that either Johnston has whipped Sherman, or Lee has whipped Grant, & I scarcely expect to hear either.”
On this day, Sherman will try to shorten the campaign to take Atlanta by breaking through the stout defenses at Kennesaw Mountain. Planning the assault for 8:00 A.M., he expects a feint or demonstration against Big Kennesaw, while a thrust is made at Pigeon Hill and the main attack directed at what will become known as Cheatham Hill. A bombardment opens the action, with minor initial successes against the pickets at Pigeon Hill, but that attack soon bogs down against stiffened resistance. Although the Confederate line features a salient at a critical point on Cheatham Hill, the position is hardly weak or vulnerable and the men of Ben Frank Cheatham and Patrick Cleburne pummel the attackers with heavy and persistent fire. Despite his losses, Sherman considers continuing the offensive, when George Thomas insists, “Another such attack will use up this army,” and Cump relents.June 28, 1864
President Lincoln notifies members of the Committee of the National Union Convention:
“The nomination is gratefully accepted, as the resolutions of the convention, called the platform, are heartily approved.”
In his continuing dismantling of the old order regarding slavery, Abraham Lincoln approves a measure that repeals the fugitive slave acts.
King observes in his diary the news from afar:June 29, 1864
“Hear the Federals were driven back from Petersburg, Virginia, by the Militia & ‘dead heads.’ The expression, ‘dead heads,’ is both current & significant among the soldiers. By it is meant those who have some position, or office that is of no utility to the Confederacy, but created solely for their benefit—to keep them from active duty. . . we judge the tree by the fruit it actually yields, not by what it pretends to yield."
Secretary of the Treasury Salmon Chase offers his resignation from the cabinet, assuring the President, “I shall regard it as a real relief if you think it proper to accept it.”
General Kautz finds his way back to Union lines blocked by Confederates under General William Mahone at Reams Station. The Federal horsemen jettison their wagons and other impedimenta and take a wide circuitous route to make good their escape from the Southern guns.June 30, 1864
Lincoln’s rocky association with Secretary Chase ends:
“Your resignation of the office of Secretary of the Treasury, sent me yesterday, is accepted. Of all I have said in commendation of your ability and fidelity, I have nothing to unsay; and yet you and I have reached a point of mutual embarrassment in our official relation which it seems can not be overcome, or longer sustained, consistently with the public service.”
Consul Allen offers a very detailed report from his station:
“Sailed June 20th Lynx, Mary Celestia and Atalanta for Wilmington. The Index left the same day for London, being considered too slow to make another attempt to get into Wilmington.
The Edith was released from quarantine on the 21st and sailed on the 23rd for Wilmington. City of Petersburgh and the Old Dominion sailed on the 25th.
The Rouen left on the 28th. My information leads me to think she will attempt to get into Charleston.
The Little Hettie sailed on the 29th. After leaving the harbor she struck the rocks and stove a hole in her bow, filled forward and sunk. She will not run the blockade at present, if ever, as she cannot be fully repaired here and it is doubtful if she can be put in a fit state to go from here at all.”
July 1864July 1, 1864
William Pitt Fessenden assumes the post of Secretary of the Treasury, vacated by Salmon Chase.
Emerson Opdycke finds a few moments to write a letter home from, “Before Marietta Ga.”:
“I wrote my last to you on the 27th of June, the same evening of our assault on the rebel works at Kenesaw Mountain. The loses of my gallant regiment were then but partially known. We had ten killed and forty-two wounded. No regiment lost so heavily, and not one strictly obeyed orders but the noble 125th Ohio. Had all done as well, the attack must have succeeded, and Johnstons Army been routed.”
From City Point, Virginia, Ulysses Grant takes up a question of leadership concerning Benjamin Butler with Henry Halleck after the Bermuda Hundred Campaign has become bottled up and thus rendered relatively ineffective:
“Whilst I have no diff[i]culty with Gen. Butler, finding him always cle[ar] in his conception of orders, and prompt to obey, yet there is a want of knowledge how to execute, and particularly a prejudice against him, as a commander, that operates against his usefulness. . . .
As an administrative officer Gen. Butler has no superior. . . .
I regret the necessity of asking for a change in commander here, but Gen. Butler not being a soldier by education or experience, is in the hands of his subordinates in the execution of all operations Military.”
President Jefferson Davis calls for his ordnance chief, Josiah Gorgas, to visit with him in order to display a Confederate-made sword that he has recently received:
“He opened the conversation by saying as he took the sword to hand it to me ‘Col. I find my conversations with you have more reason & less politics than any others.’ He likes to talk of matters purely military, especially about guns etc. which he used to pay much attention to as Secy of War under Mr. Pierce.”
July 2, 1864
General Grant’s attention to detail includes a source of sustenance on the hoof for his troops located nearby. He sends a telegram to General George Meade with instructions:
“Please detail One hundred & fifty men as an additional guard for the General Herd of Cattle now numbering some 3000 and being grazed or directed to be grazed on the James River near Coggins Point.”
After dark, Johnston evacuates his Kennesaw Mountain position, despite hard-won victories there, as once more Sherman’s troops have flanked the Southern line.
July 3, 1864
On the Virginia Peninsula, Alvin Coe Voris, reacts to the change at the top of the Lincoln administration:July 4, 1864
“We were much surprised to learn this morning that Secy Chase had resigned and that his resignation had been accepted by the President. He loses in Secy Chase the ablest member of his Cabinet. . . .
I believe that the demagogues about the Capital compelled Gov Chase to resign. The people entrusted them with responsibility of acting for them either as Legislators or executive officers. They have used their influence to break down a most valuable man struggling under the almost insupportable weight of the finances of the Government, instead of supporting him, because they dared not do what they knew to be their duty for fear of offending the people who hold the votes.”
Union prisoner of war Charles Mattocks enjoys such celebrations of the occasion as can be had until the authorities at Macon Prison put the festivities at a halt. He notes a trade he has made with a “Reb. speculator” and the relative value of such goods and services. Then he adds an ominous observation:
“Of late the authorities have got into a big scare about their beloved prisoners and have brought three more pieces of artillery to bear upon us. They now have 6 field pieces ready to pour in the grape and canister. Men sleep by the cannon every night, and the sentinels, although overworked, are most always wide awake enough to fire at, if not to hit, an escaping prisoner. Two of our officers however, got out the other night by crawling under the fence where the drain runs through. The sentinels fired at but missed the second one.”
Self-described exile from New Orleans, Henri Garidel, observes a personal anniversary:
“Today it has been one year since I arrived in Richmond. One year since the fall of Vicksburg. The day announced pompously in the North as the day Grant is supposed to take over Richmond and dine here. There are many wagers in the North about this. . . . We shall see.”
July 5, 1864
Lieutenant General Jubal Early begins crossing the Potomac River into Maryland, with 14,000 men.
Even with the movement of Confederate troops toward Maryland, Ulysses Grant remains upbeat, telling his banker:
“You people up North now must be of good cheer. Recollect that we have the bulk of the Rebel Army in two grand Armies both besieged and both conscious that they cannot stand a single battle outside their fortifications with the Armies confronting them. The last man in the Confederacy is now in the Army. They are becoming discouraged, their men deserting, dying and being killed and captured every day. We loose to but can replace our losses.”
President Lincoln suspends the writ of habeas corpus and declares martial law in Kentucky as the state that began the war with neutrality and has never left the Union, but is experiences growing turbulence, citing support by “many citizens of the State of Kentucky [who] have joined the forces of the insurgents” or offering “aid and comfort furnished by disaffected and disloyal citizens of the United States residing therein, [tha] have not only greatly disturbed the public peace but have overborne the civil authorities and made flagrant civil war, destroying property and life in various parts of that State. . . .”
From Petersburg, Mississippian Will Nelson offers his perspective on developments:
“Affairs at this point are now extremely dull, Grant’s advance upon Richmond, seems to have dwindled down to a siege of Petersburg, if indeed it can be called a siege, when we have free access to all the country back of us. it is true all the R.Rds have been cut, but the Road to Richmond and beyond to Charlottesville etc. has been repaired and the others soon will be. The Yankees can never capture Richmond, or defeat Gen Lee, by destroying Rail Roads they may subject us to inconvenience, and for a time debar us from the privilege of hearing from home, but that is not crushing the Rebellion.”
Noting the effects of war already on the community, Nelson explains:
“when we first came here, I attended church, and there was quite a large congregation of ladies in attendance. Day before yesterday I went again, and there were only two ladies present, and our church was I believe the only which was opened at all, and here the services were held in the basement, in view of the fact that the shells were falling in the immediate neighborhood, but none struck the church, and I thought the services more impressive than I had ever witnessed before. . . .”
July 6, 1864
The first of Early’s men reach Hagerstown as the remainder complete the Potomac crossing.
Alvin Voris deplores the call to the front of men who had bargained only to serve for a short time in the rear-areas:
“This plan of using the state militia for a hundred days to the front will make many peace men. They affect to feel sold, said they did not agree to leave the state when they joined the militia, and when they consented to go for the hundred days they were told it was for garrison or guard duty, but the idea of going to the front, digging rifle pits, throwing up breastworks & forts, doing picket duty under the guns of the rebs, and above all to be put where they must fight if the ugly rebs forced a fight never entered their heads. . . .
The poor fellows count the days they have to serve with as much care and accuracy as do our poor convicts in the penitentiary. . . . Their time of service is too short to make the man accommodated to the life and discomforts of the soldier. When Nov comes I am thinking ma[n]y of them will vote the peace ticket. . . .”
Emerson Opdycke pauses“On the banks of the Chattahoochee, And in sight of Atlanta!”
“Last evening Col. Moore and myself climbed a hill a few hundred feet high and Atlanta was in sight! (it is about ten miles distant). I assure you the ‘Gate City’ looked very inviting. We shall doubtless accept the invitation before a great while.”
At prison in Macon, Georgia, Charles Mattocks, enjoys news of Joe Johnston’s discomfort via the rumor mill and observes how some of the men pass the time in captivity:
“Some of our officers manage to amuse themselves hugely with cricket, base ball, fencing, etc., although there is but little room in this little four-acre yard for 1400 men to live and play ball in the bargain. Yet they keep at it. Some, however, are continually gambling—even on the Sabbath. The want of authority and discipline is daily becoming more apparent.”
July 7, 1864
Confederates are active at James Island outside Charleston, South Carolina.
Jefferson Davis reiterates his concern for Atlanta to Joseph Johnston. No more help will be coming and the situation remains desperate, but the Confederate President implores his general to hold the line at the Chattahoochee River.
Horace Greeley sends a communication to the White House suggesting that a meeting might be arranged at Niagara Falls on the Canadian border with persons who are supposed to have access to Jefferson Davis for the purpose of discussing a possible peace:
“I entreat you, in your own time and manner, to submit overtures for pacification to the Southern insurgents which the impartial [person] must pronounce frank and generous. . . .Mr. President, I fear you do not realize how intently the people desire any peace consistent with the national integrity and honor. . . .”
July 8, 1864
President Lincoln decides not to sign the Wade-Davis Bill on the grounds that he considers himself “unprepared, by a formal approval of this Bill, to be inflexibly committed to any single plan of restoration,” especially in light of actions already taken in Arkansas and Louisiana by Unionists there and in anticipation of passage of “a constitutional amendment, abolishing slavery throughout the nation. . . .”
General Grant inquires of General Robert E. Lee if it will be permissible to send two individuals, Colonel James F. Jaquess and J.R. Gilmore to meet with Colonel Robert Ould, Confederate commissioner for prisoner exchange, and President Jefferson Davis, if possible.
July 9, 1864
Lew Wallace returns to a prominent role as battle erupts at the Monacacy River near Frederick, Maryland. Fierce fighting will produce some 700 Confederate and 2,000 Union casualties, but provide crucial resistance as Jubal Early closes on the defenses protecting Washington City.
Lincoln responds to the Greeley proposal firmly:
“If you can find, any person anywhere professing to have any proposition of Jefferson Davis in writing, for peace, embracing the restoration of the Union and abandonment of slavery, what ever else it embraces, say to him he may come to me with you, and that if he really brings such proposition, he shall, at the least, have safe conduct, with the paper (and without publicity, if he choose) to the point where you shall have met him. The same, if there be two or more persons.”
July 10, 1864
Acutely aware of the danger to the U.S. capital, President Lincoln expresses concern and resolve, while remaining realistic:
“Let us be vigilant, but keep cool. I hope neither Baltimore or Washington will be sacked.”
Mattocks notes the arrival of “Fresh Fish !!!” in Macon:
“Today we have received a new installment of victims from the Army of the Potomac”
July 11, 1864
Early’s men arrive in the vicinity of Washington. The Union commander-in-Chief makes a dramatic, but dangerous gesture by appearing personally along the lines at Fort Stevens, to witness for himself the state of affairs. According an entry in the diary of his aide, John Hay, President Lincoln returns to the White House in the afternoon:
“He was in the Fort when it was first attacked, standing upon the parapet. A soldier roughly ordered him to get down or he would have his head knocked off. I can see a couple of columns of smoke just north of the White House. It is thought to be Silver Spring in flames -- I was at Mr. Blair's this evening: Fox says Gen. Wright tells him that Silver Spring is not burnt.
The President is in very good feather this evening. He seems not in the least concerned about the safety of Washington. With him the only concern seems to be whether we can bag or destroy this force in our front.”
Confederate war clerk Robert G.H. Kean sees dire political and unintended ramifications resulting from Early’s march northward:
“I greatly fear that the chief effect of his movement will be to kill off the peace party just beginning to show some head of strength and return the war party, i.e. the administration, to popularity.”
July 12, 1864
Lincoln is back at the front lines on the Washington defenses after greeting troops arriving at the city. Although the exact details as to who utters the words and at which point they occur are unclear, in his exuberance to see the action the tall chief executive comes under fire and is supposed to be chided: “Get down, you damn fool!” The comment is often attributed to a young captain, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
According to Hay’s entry for the day:
“The President again made the tour of the fortifications; was again under fire at Ft Stevens; a man was shot at his side.”
One soldier will recall the incident colorfully:
“The enemy was firing lively from the bushes in front of the fort and it was dangerous for any person to look over the parapet . . . but the President was bound he would look over and see what was going on. Soon a sharpshooter fired at him, and he dodged, in doing so tipped over the pass box on which he was sitting and tumbled down. The ball fired at him struck one of the large guns, glanced back and went through a soldier's leg on the look-out. Lincoln gathered himself up and laughing said: 'that was quite a carom.'”
From his posting, Alvin Voris adds a sardonic element to a common practice in the camplife of soldiering:July 13, 1864
“The bugler has just sounded the Surgeon’s Call, and the lame, halt & blind are thronging about him for their allowance of drugs. The bugler says: ‘Come and get your quinine; Come and get your quinine; You whose heads are sore, have crippled toes; The bellyache or other woes; It’s good for soul and body both; Come and get your quinine. I am not absolutely certain I interpret the bugle correctly, but as near as I can understand the old tune. . . .”
Union troops under Andrew Jackson Smith are sparring with Confederates under Nathan Bedford Forrest. The Southern cavalryman hopes to draw the Federals into a trap by luring them into assaulting a strong position he has established, but Smith steals a march toward the small village of Harrisburg, near Tupelo, on the Mobile and Ohio Railroad.
Sherman conveys his expectations for his campaign to his wife:
“In a few days I will cross the Chattahoochee, and then will come the Real Struggle. I know we will whip Johnston in anything like a fair fight, but being on the defensive he can take great advantage of Forts, field works and the nature of the ground which naturally favors him. But we have overcome all obstacles thus far, and trust we can continue to do so, though it involves time. My army is strong as the day we left Chattanooga and full of confidence.”
Josiah Gorgas records the speculation swirling in Virginia:
“It is reported that Gen. Lee has gone to Georgia. Gen. Bragg has certainly gone. Everybody has at last come to the conclusion that Johnston has retreated far enough.”
From Bermuda, U.S. Consul C.M. Allen finishes compiling a listing of “the arrivals and departures of vessels employed in running the blockade of the Southern ports of the United States, and of those bringing merchandise here for that trade, from the first day of January 1862 to the 30 June 1864. . . .
Some idea of the enormous profit made when successful may be had from the fact that the steamer Flora which went down at sea, making three trips to Wilmington, had standing to her credit on the agent’s books here one hundred seventy three thousand pounds sterling.
The warehouses here are all full. . . .”
July 14, 1864
Smith and Confederate troops under the overall command of Stephen Dill Lee clash at Harrisburg/Tupelo. Piecemeal attacks cost the Southern troops heavily in casualties and fail to drive the Federals from their positions.
In the aftermath of the recent shake-up in the Cabinet and perhaps in the way of articulating his position to himself, President Lincoln drafts a memorandum that can be read before the Cabinet if he desires:
“I must be the judge, how long to retain in, and when to remove any of you from, his position. It would greatly pain me to discover any of you endeavoring to procure anothers removal, or, in any way to prejudice him before the public. Such endeavor would be a wrong to me; and much worse, a wrong to the country.”
Maine native Mattocks marvels at the lack of disease among his prison compatriots, but notes that there is evidence of decline:
“I say the prisoners are healthy. Perhaps I use the wrong term. They are simply not sick. The long confinement and dim prospect of release has made many of them wilt away.”
In Richmond, R.G.H. Kean notes:July 15, 1864
“A very gloomy view of affairs in Georgia prevails in the cabinet. Hon. B.H. Hill got here the day before yesterday on a special mission. . . said he would go and see General Johnston. He did so, had a full conference with him. General Johnston said that the enemy had given him no chance to fight a fair field. . . that he saw no way of resisting Sherman’s advance except by Forrest falling on his communications. This was at Kennesaw Mountain. Mr. Hill understood him to intend to make several stands between there and the Chattahoochee, and that he would occupy a month or so before crossing it. But he went it at one leap. . . . The subject now in hand with the President is the removal of Johnston. . . . The real trouble is to find a successor. The only solution is to send Beauregard, but the President thinks as ill of him as of Johnston. The Secretary goes by special train at 5 in the morning to consult with General Lee. Bragg went out some days ago to consult with Johnston, and telegraphed to the President advising his removal.”
Despite the advantages he has gained from repulsing the Confederate attacks of the previous day, A.J. Smith determines to pull back from his lines at Harrisburg, due to shortages of supply. Sharp fighting occurs at Old Town Creek as the withdrawal takes place. Among the wounded is Nathan Bedford Forrest.
General Grant communicates with Secretary of War Stanton on the status of a subordinate:July 16, 1864
“I regret to learn that Brig. Gen. Edward Ferrero was not confirmed by the Senate. I hope he will be immediately reappointed with his former rank. He deserves great credit on this Campaigned for the manner in which he protected our immense wagon train with a Division of undisciplined Colored troops and detachments of dismounted Cavalry, without organization.”
Davis has reached a critical point with Joe Johnston. Whatever his general plans to do, he had better do it quickly or at least indicate his intentions in detail if he wishes to retain his position as commander of the Army of Tennessee:
“I wish to hear from you as to present situation and your plan of operations so specifically as will enable me to anticipate events.”
After repeated communications with Horace Greeley on the subject of a peace session, President Lincoln orders John Hay to proceed with the arrangements, including the drafting of safe conduct to the City of Washington for four individuals who will speak, in some capacity, for the Confederate leadership.
July 17, 1864
President Davis relieves Joseph Johnston of his command, replacing him with John Bell Hood.
From before Petersburg, Orlando Willcox writes plaintively to his wife:
“Another Sunday has rolled around & we still have not captured Petersburg. . . .”
Union troops under Major General Horatio Wright pursue Early.July 18, 1864
Robert Rodes shatters part of the line of dismounted cavalry under Joseph Thoburn at Cool Spring, Virginia. Some the blue-coated horsemen drown trying to flee across the Shenandoah River.
Once more President Lincoln provides assurances of a willingness to discuss peace only to find that Horace Greeley is now convinced that the individuals with whom he has been in contact that are supposed to represent the Confederacy are not “so empowered as I was previously assured.”
Orlando Willcox completes the letter he had started the day before, when interrupted by the threat of Confederate movements on his line:July 19, 1864
“I see you are gradually reconciling yourself to my not being promoted major general. Burnside says that Meade is a warm friend & that Grant spoke of me in the highest terms lately. I also hear from various sources that my reputation has increased considerably in the North. Well, fortune is a queer mistress.”
The Confederates respond to a move by William W. Averell to aid in the threat to Early’s command. Union forces attack Stephen Ramseur in the area of Rutherford’s Farm north of Winchester and drive him, capturing some 300 men and four artillery tubes.
General Butler telegraphs Grant on the status of the recent unofficial peace mission into the Confederacy by Col. Jaquess and Mr. Gilmore, with a surreal addendum:July 20, 1864
“The commissioners, Jaquess and Gilmore, have returned. Were received by Davis, but the only terms were independence or fight. They go to Washington to-morrow. I send you the Richmond papers, by which you will learn that you died Saturday.”
True to form, Hood determines to strike at Sherman’s forces aggressively, and initiates an assault on the Army of the Cumberland under George Henry Thomas as it encounters Peachtree Creek. Hood hopes to hit the Federals in a vulnerable position as they cross the natural barrier, but Thomas and his men provide a vigorous defense that thwarts the Confederate commander’s purposes. Losses will be severe: 1,779 Union casualties to approximately the same among the Southern troops.
From Virginia, Richard Ewell reacts to events in Georgia, telling his brother, Ben:
“Genl Johnston’s relief from command fell on every one like a thunderbolt, creating a great deal of anxiety. I dont know anything about the situation of things out there—have regretted of course the abandonment of so large an extent of country. I supposed that Genl Johnston knew what he was about & was afraid that he was thwarted by the authorities here. . . .[I] have always feared for the want of the entente cordiale between him & the administration.”
General Grant sends an urgent inquiry to Butler on the subject of possible recruitment among Confederate captives (or what becomes known as “Galvanized Yankees.”):
“Can you tell me if recruiting is now going on from the prisoners of war at Pt. Lookout? I highly disapprove of recruiting from such a source. . . .”
Butler responds shortly that this activity has now stopped in the Maryland prison camp.July 21, 1864
Maneuvering continues near Atlanta, as Hood readies his command to launch what he hopes will be decisive blows against their opponents that will save the city from falling into Union hands.
From City Point, Grant forwards news from the Richmond newspapers to Sherman in Georgia:July 22, 1864
“Johnston has been relieved and Hood takes his place much to the surprise of the army & public, also that this change indicates that there will be no more retreating but that Atlanta will be defended at all hazards and to the last extremity[.]”
William J. Hardee’s troops launch attacks against James McPherson’s Army of the Tennessee in the Battle of Atlanta. Especially vicious fighting swirls around the Troup Hurt house and the total costs of Hood’s second sortie costs the Confederate’s heavily in casualties, roughly ranging from 5,500 to as many as 8,000 (according to Sherman), including Major General William H.T. Walker. Among the lesser number of Union fallen, set at 3,722, is General McPherson himself.
Josiah Gorgas notes the delicate position existing for the South in Georgia:July 23, 1864
“People are I think generally satisfied with the removal of Gen. Johnston. They have praised him, & waited for him to fight until he has lost all of Georgia, and they have gotten tired of him. Nevertheless if Hood fights & is victorious there will be plenty who will exclaim ‘behold the fruits of Johnston’s strategy’, while if he is defeated these people will cry ‘see the fruits of the removal of Johnston!’ The Administration will gain nothing in the estimation of such in either case.”
President Lincoln remains concerned about Confederate activities in the Shenandoah as Union troops shift.
Emerson Opdycke exults at the victory Union arms have achieved at Peachtree Creek:
“We are all feeling much elated with our success. Our Division and Hooker’s Corps had a splendid victory on the 20th. I never have seen the dead rebels lie so thickly strewn upon the ground, since the battle of Shiloh.”
Rumors continue to abound among the Union prisoners at Macon, as do the new arrivals and attempts at escape, including one soldier who has tried an unusual subterfuge:July 24, 1864
“’Fresh Fish’ arrive weekly. We now have about 1900 ‘victims’ here. The other day one of our officers blacked up with coal, and picking up a spade,” to pose as a worker. “He got by the sentinel, but the officer of the guard detected the cheat and brought him to bay with a cocked revolver. He was kept out one night, and then brought back to us. The prison authorities are on a very sharp lookout for tunnels, and the other day succeeded in discovering one nearly completed.”
The Second Battle of Kernstown erupts as Early’s men engage Federal forces under Brigadier General George Crook. The fighting results in 1,185 Union and 600 Confederate casualties.
Generals Grant and Meade exchange communications on the matter of breaking the Confederate lines at Petersburg using a tunnel packed with explosives that General Burnside has ordered constructed and has just been completed:
“The Engineer officers who made a survey of the front from Bermuda Hundred report against the probability of success from an attack there. The chances they think will be better on Burnsides front. If this is attempted it will be necessary to concentrate all the force possible at the point in the enemy’s line we expect to penetrate.”
Meade remains cautiously optimistic:July 25, 1864
“I have no doubt of the successful explosion of the mine & of our ability to effect a lodgment and compel the evacuation of the line at present held by the enemy,” unless the Confederates have managed to construct a second line that would provide a difficult obstacle to overcome. “Fully impressed as I am with the necessity of immediate action, and also satisfied that excepting regular approaches, the assault on Burnsides front is the most practicable, I am compelled as a matter of judgment to state that the chances of success are not such as to make the attempt advisable—At the same time I do not consider it hopeless & am prepared to make the attempt, if it is deemed of importance to do so."
Lincoln articulates the stakes in the upcoming Presidential election as word reaches him that language is being drafted for the Democratic Party for restoration of the Union with slavery intact:
“The men of the South, recently (and perhaps still) at Niagara Falls, tell us distinctly that they are in the confidential employment of the rebellion; and that they tell us as distinctly that they are not empowered to offer terms of peace. Does any one doubt that what they are empowered to do, is to assist in selecting and arranging a candidate and a platform for the [Democratic] Chicago convention? Thus, the present presidential contest will almost certainly be no other than a contest between a Union and Disunion candidate, disunion certainly following the success of the latter. The issue is a mighty one for all people and all time. . . .”
Sherman replies to Grant’s message informing him of a change of command among his opponents in Georgia:
“Your despatch of 21st did not come till today—Johnston is relieved and Hood commands. Hood has made two attempts to strike hard since we crossed the Chattahoochee and both times got more than he bargained for. . . . I would rather that Hood should fight it out at Atlanta than to retreat farther to Macon[.]”
Grant authorizes the “loading” of the mine at Petersburg with powder. He also informs the Secretary of War that he will be pleased to meet with President Lincoln later in the week:
“I am commencing movements to-night from which I hope favorable results.”
The word of Johnston’s removal has reached Johnson’s Island Prison, Ohio:July 26, 1864
“Today the order for the removal of Genl Johnston and the appointment of Genl Hood to the command of the Georgia Army is read in our room—grief and indignation—fill nearly every breast. Probably no Genl of any war has been so continually unsuccessful (of if you please, so devoid of victories) as Genl Johnston, who at the same time has retained the almost enthusiastic confidence of the troops and generals serving with him. . . . I am indignant too, but I refrain from abusing Mr. Davi[s], believing that he has been urged to do what he has done in hopes of arresting the farther progress of the Yankee army and has even been induced by those importunate people of the South who can not bear the delaying but saving process of Mr. Johnston[’s] campaigning, and unable to appreciate that sound but tantalizing Fabian policy which even the very troops, the most impatient of inaction of all men, trusted in.”
President Lincoln expresses his satisfaction with the progress William T. Sherman has been making in his campaign in Georgia.
Sherman writes home on the situation in his front as he sees it:
“We have Atlanta close aboard as the Sailors say but it is a hard nut to handle. These fellows fight like Devils & Indians combined, and it calls for all my cunning & Strength. Instead of Attacking the Forts, which are really unassailable, I must gradually destroy the Roads which make Atlanta a place worth having.”
From Johnson’s Island Prison, Dooley notices:
“The Yankee guard outside are practicing salutes—for they are to be present at the funeral of some general McPherson who was killed recently near Atlanta, Geo and will be buried in Sandusky tomorrow.”
Through the night, Federal forces under Winfield Scott Hancock, supported by Philip H. Sheridan, cross the James River in the direction of Richmond.July 27, 1864
Hancock and Sheridan test the Confederate defenses at Deep Bottom, near Richmond. General Lee reinforces his defenses and the Southerners deflect the Union advance.
From Ohio, Confederate captive John Dooley records:
“Some of the prisoners nearly every evening are engaged in a game they call ‘base ball,’ which notwithstanding the heat they prosecute with persevering energy: I don’t understand the game nor have ever asked any explanation of it, but those who play it get very much excited over it and it appears to be fine exercise.”
Charles Mattocks reports that a movement of the Union prisoners is afoot:
“Finally it is decided that we are to leave Macon. We go to Charleston it is said. . . .”
A number have decided to overpower their guards and fight their way to freedom, but Mattocks is not so sure:July 28, 1864
“I have been solicited to join the organization but declined as I am of opinion that it would be impracticable, and then again, it would be causing bloodshed which we have virtually promised to desist from when delivering up our swords and accepting quarter. I believe it the duty of every prisoner to escape when opportunity offers—either individually or with associates, but such party has no right to shed blood or take up arms until they reach their own lines.”
Recognizing that his defense of Atlanta is predicated upon holding open his lines of supply, John Bell Hood responds to the movement of Oliver O. Howard to threaten the Macon and Western Railroad by sending troops to stop the Federal progress. The Confederates, under Stephen D. Lee and Alexander P. Stewart, confront their opponents at Ezra Church. Hood had hoped to hold the Union troops in place while he prepared a stronger force, but Lee initiates the action with heavy losses, supported by Stewart, whose men experience a similarly bloody repulse. The action will end with Confederate losses at staggering 4,642 to Union losses of some 700. Even so, the Southerners have blunted Howard’s progress.
More combat occurs at Deep Bottom, but it becomes increasingly clear that the Union strike at Richmond and its rail lines will not gain additional ground, although it has caused General Lee to divert troops as Grant had hoped. The fighting over the period of this operation will result in 488 U.S. and 679 C.S. casualties.
Josiah Gorgas records another visit with Jefferson Davis:July 29, 1864
“The President sent for me yesterday to ask me something about the number of men that could be spared to go out to the trenches without suspending the work. . . . He is looking quite well, but is growing not only gray but white with his cares.”
Emerson Opdycke assesses the heavy fighting that has recently occurred in Georgia:
“Hood is getting his army knocked to peices rapidly: their own papers own to a loss of twenty three thousand (23,000) in the battles of the 20th and 22d. I hope Hood may be retained in Command.”
Of the uncertainty of life at the front, Sherman tells his wife, Ellen:
“I dont pretend to See a week ahead, and if I get killed which is not improbable at any moment. . . . Yesterday a solid Canister Shot passed me close & killed an orderlys horse (Charleys orderly) close behind me, in fact I daily pass death in the most familiar shape and you should base your calculations on that event.”
July 30, 1864
A tremendous explosion rips the ground beneath a Confederate fortification at Petersburg. Former coalminers in Lieutenant Colonel Henry Pleasant’s 48th Pennsylvania Infantry have burrowed over 500 feet to beneath Elliott’s Salient and pack the chamber galleries with 8,000 pounds of black powder. Uncertainty prevails as the moment for detonation passes with no eruption, but a relit fuse results in a gapping tear in the Southern line 170-foot. long, some 80 feet across and 30 feet in depth. Black troops under Edward Ferrero had been set aside for leading the operation, but have been pulled at the last minute for men under James H. Ledlie, selected by drawing straws. While Ledlie remains in a bombproof, steeling himself with fortifying drink, the men surged forward, but without ladders and adequate instructions, many of them plunge into the hole or stop to dig out prisoners. The confusion allows the Confederates to regain their composure and mount counterattacks that seal the attackers’ fates. Major General William Mahone’s deft maneuvering contains the breach and although some Federals, including the Black troops who join the action, make it the opposite rim, there remains no realistic chance of a breakthrough. Union losses will stand at 3,798 and Confederate casualties at 1,500, including the 300 caught in the explosion.
Grant informs Butler of the operation as it is in progress:
“the explosion blew up 4 guns & nearly an entere south Carolina Regt Our men pushed forward to the Breach without oposition but unfortunatly stoped—they have been ordered forward again & I am much in hope it is still time to succeed.”
In the immediate aftermath of the failure, Grant observes to Meade:
“Our experience of today proves that fortifications come near holding themselves without troops.”
Richard Ewell is somewhat incredulous concerning the actions of his opponents, telling his wife, Lizinka:
“The movements of the Yankees are incomprehensible on any grounds I can give, and I have a half sort of feeling with somewhat of the ludricous as well as serious, that they are about to try some previously unheard of plan of taking Richmond, by balloons or under water, or that they may suddenly appear in some quarter impossible under every rule that usually governs troops.”
Confederate cavalry under John McCausland reach Chambersburg. The demand for $500,000 in greenbacks and $100,000 in gold comes with the threat of torching the town, made on the grounds of reparations for Union destruction in the Shenandoah Valley. Since the citizens do not produce the amount required, the business district of the town burns.
July 31, 1864
The crater and the resulting Union debacle continue to smolder at Petersburg, as do the ruins of burned structures in Chambersburg. The war seems destined to rage out of anyone’s ability to control it, although Lincoln travels to Virginia to confer with General Grant to discuss their options going forward.
In Richmond, John B. Jones, remarks about the Crater and other developments in the progress of the war in Virginia:
“This was probably Grant’s grand stratagem for our destruction, and it has failed disastrously for him. What will he do next? No matter what, Lee is the master of the situation.”
A cat has also brought a rare treat for the table—a partially devoured, but apparently ample, chicken—which the household cook has seized from the feline for the stewpot, causing the bureaucrat:
“To such straits, are we reduced by this cruel war!”
August 1864August 1, 1864
Ulysses Grant tells Henry Halleck that he wants Philip Sheridan to drive the Confederates from the Shenandoah Valley:
“. . . I want Sheridan put in command of all the troops in the field with instructions to put himself south of the enemy and follow him to the death.”
In another message from City Point, Grant revisits the Crater with Halleck:
“The loss in the disaster of saturday last foots up about 3500 of whom 450 were killed and 2000 wounded. It was the saddest affair I have witnessed in this war. Such opportunity for carrying fortifications I have never seen and do not expect again to have.”
From “Near Atlanta, Georgia,” Emerson Opdycke writes of his opinions on pending actions in the campaign:August 2, 1864
“It looks now as though we were still to have heavy and perhaps protracted work to do, before we get the Gate City; and Sherman says then the campaign will have ‘just commenced.” I like that. Push on our Column until this wicked rebellion is crushed out; and God speed the day.”
Two Confederate agents, John Maxwell and R.K. Dillard, are on the move toward the Union supply base and Grant’s headquarters at City Point to plant a “horological torpedo” or explosive device that they hope will destroy ships, supplies and dock facilities.
William T. Sherman updates his wife, Ellen, on conditions outside Atlanta:
“I have for some days been occupying a good house on the Buckhead Road about 4 miles north of Atlanta but am going to move in the morning nearer to the Right to be nearer where I expect the next battle. You have heard doubtless full accounts of the Battles of the 20, 22 & 28, in all which the Enemy attacked a part of our Lines in force but was always repulsed with heavy loss. But I fear we have sustained a reverse in some Cavalry that I sent round by the Rear to break the Macon Rail. . . . Somehow or other we cannot get Cavalry. The enemy takes all the horses of the Country and we have to buy and our People wont sell. Stoneman is also out with a cavalry force attempting to reach our prisoners confined at Andersonville, but since McCooks misfortune I also have fears for his safety.”
Sherman shifts to internal army politics:August 3, 1864
“McPherson was shot dead. . . . He was shot high up in the breast with a bullet, & must have fallen from his horse dead. Howard who succeeds him is a fine gentleman and a good officer. Hooker got mad because he was not appointed to the command and has gone north. This ought to damn him, showing that he is selfish & not patriotic. He was not suited to the Command.”
Union forces threaten Fort Gaines on the western entrance to Mobile Bay.
President Lincoln responds to Grant’s orders regarding diligent engagement with the Confederate forces, but he is worried that the sense of this command may not filter through to the field:
“This, I think, is exactly right, as to how our forces should move. But please look over the despatches you may have receved from here, even since you made the order, and discover, if you can, that there is any idea in the head of any one here, of ‘putting our army South of the enemy’ or of [‘]following him to the death’ in any direction. I repeat to you it will neither be done nor attempted unless you watch it every day, and hour, and force it.”
August 4, 1864
From Bermuda Hundred, Alvin Coe Voris observes:
“This is the President’s Fast day. I am keeping it in the style it ought to be kept here by taking my ordinary meals with a thankful heart that it is no worse with us than it is. Worse is the rule, and worsely has it been lived up to. I suppose old Abe hopes to make it better by a little hunger and a great deal of prayer. So far as we are concerned we have fasted enough since we came into the field without it necessary for the President to fix upon any special times to go hungry.
What we want is the fast & prayer of an intense purpose, a vigorous policy and a comprehensive appreciation of the wants and dangers of the times."
Voris then turns to more practical matters as a national election looms:
“I do not believe the President is enough for the place he holds in times like these. My sympathies are all with him. His has been the most unthankful task of any President of the United States. None other ever had such weighty responsibilities on him. . . . In all he has been patient, unselfish and devotedly honest to the great work before him. Yet he has been too unsuspecting, too easy, too confident of success, and never energetic enough. . . . While I greatly distrust his adequacy to the occasion I do not know who I could vote for in his stead. I would like ‘Old Abe’ if he meant to close the war in the next year, rather than to hope him to get through with it in the same time. Purpose is what we want, damn the hope.”
From Johnson’s Island, Confederate prisoner John Dooley notes the appearance of new arrivals to the facility:
“Our room is now about as full as can possibly be—two prisoners being in every bunk—27 bunks—3 deep = 54 men in a small room (about 35 feet by 25) upon a close night in August (and for all close nights—during June, July, August and September) is not the pleasantest thing that may be imagined. The authorities at Washington have again interfered with our internal and domestic arrangements forbidding us the privilege of buying from a sutler—so the sutler is put out again and we are left entirely at the mercy of our feeders who dole out our pitiful allowance each day with doleful regularity.”
August 5, 1864
Admiral David Farragut sends his Union fleet of eighteen vessels against the Confederates defending Mobile Bay. The ironclad CSS Tennessee is among the obstacles that must be overcome, including a number of torpedoes or mines and the guns of Forts Gaines and Morgan. The USS Tecumseh leads the way, but falls victim to the mines. Watching the action from the rigging of his flagship Hartford, the determined Union naval commander is supposed to have called out, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.” Regardless of his exact words, the effect of such a spirit impels the Union fleet forward and in a few short hours the battered Tennessee, with her ability to continue her defense compromised and Confederate admiral Franklin Buchanan having received a painful leg wound himself, strikes her colors. Altogether the Federals have lost 145 killed, 170 wounded and four captured to Confederate losses of 12 killed, 20 wounded and 270 captured.
John M. Schofield hopes to threaten the Confederates defending Utoy Creek near Atlanta, but any meaningful advance is plagued by internal wrangling over leadership.
From the Trans-Mississippi, William Henry King tries to take the larger view on the conflict:
“It is currently believed here that the Infantry of General Taylor’s old command have crossed the Mississippi River. Certainly nothing will be gained by sacrificing one department in the interest of the other; for it seems that nothing can be more evident than if one Department be lost, the other will be as a consequence. If, by crossing our men from this Department to the other, the Northern army there could be annihilated, there would be good reason to cross every man from this Department to the Eastern Department—such can not be expected.”
Sherman recalls his friend James McPherson in a letter to the fallen warrior’s betrothed, Emily Hoffman:
“I yield to none on Earth but yourself the right to excel me in lamentations for our Dead Hero. . . . Nothing that I can record will Elevate him in your minds Memory, but I could tell you many things that would form a bright halo about his image. We were more closely associated than any men in this Life. . . . I see him now, So handsome, so smiling, on his fine black horse, booted & spurred, with his easy seat, the impersonation of the Gallant Knight.
Though the Cannon booms now, and the angry rattle of musketry tells me that I also will likely pay the same penalty yet while Life lasts I will delight in the memory of that bright particular star which has gone before to prepare the way for us more hardened Sinners who must struggle on to the End.”
U.S. Consul Charles M. Allen reports a severe outbreak of yellow fever in Bermuda and concludes:
“From the indications today, I think the business of blockade runners is nearly at an end here for this season. . . . This whole colony is undoubtedly infected with this epidemic.”
August 6, 1864
Schofield tries once more to press the Confederates at Utoy Creek, but meets with stout resistance from the division of William Bate. Even with limited success, the Southern defenses have proven sufficient to blunt larger gains.
Josiah Gorgas notes the implementation of a hard war policy toward the North:
“The burning of Chambersburgh by Early gives intense satisfaction. Gen. McCausland seems to have been in command of the troops who did the deed—a very good one.”
From his post in Richmond, New Orleans exile Henri Garidel is weak from a chronic illness, but strong enough to react to the latest developments from the Gulf Coast:
“During the day they came to announce that our navy at Mobile had been decimated by the Yankees. As usual, it was the work of that scoundrel Farragut who is still there with a formidable fleet to wallop us.”
Mary Chesnut remarks on the arrival of one of two expected visitors, exchanged Confederate generals: James J. Archer and Edward Johnson.
“Archer came. Edward Johnson did not stop. Archer was a classmate of my husband’s at Princeton College. They called him Sally Archer then. He was so girlish and pretty. No trace of feminine beauty about this grim soldier now. He has a hard face, black-bearded, sallow, with the saddest black eyes. . . . He is abstracted, weary-looking—mind and body—deadened by long imprisonment. He seems glad to be here, and J.C. is charmed. ‘Dear Sally Archer,’ he calls him cheerily, and the other responds in a far-off, faded kind of way.”
Guests attempt to nudge Archer into expounding on the differences he sees in Joseph Johnston and Hood, who describes the former as “decidedly a man of culture and literary attainments, with much experience in military matters” and the latter as having “a simple-minded directness of purpose always.”
“They tried Archer again and again on the heated controversy of the day, but he stuck to his text.
Joe Johnston a fine military critic, a capital writer, accomplished soldier, as brave as Caesar in his own person, cautious to a fault in manipulating an army.
Hood—all the dash and fire of a reckless young soldier, and his Texians would follow him to the death. Too much caution might be followed easily by too much headlong rush. There was where the swing back of the pendulum would ruin us—etc. etc.”
From Johnson’s Island, John Dooley observes that some of his comrades have “procured blue clothes like those of the Yankees,” to use their new wardrobe and a detail that requires carts and access to the area outside the walls to slip away from their confinement.August 7, 1864
Dooley continues the saga of escape attempts from the prison camp:
“Today the dirt carts coming in as before a great many of the prisoners try the same trick that succeeded so well yesterday: about twenty in all get out of the enclosure but, as too many cooks spoil the broth, they are all recaptured and the trick exposed. This evening we have roll calls—a general search is initiated in our rooms for blue garments etc. And all who have such articles are peremptorily told to give them up. Some of the prisoners, however, suspecting what was going to be done, had time enough before we were ordered out of our rooms to vest themselves in whatever Yankee suits they may have had, putting on their other clothes over them so as to conceal the wearing of the other.”
Ulysses Grant assures his trusted subordinate in Georgia that he has the confidence of everyone who matters with regard to the progress of his campaign there. Sherman responds:
“I was gratified to learn you were satisfied with my progress[.] I am glad you have given Gen. Sheridan the command of the forces to defend Washington; he will worry Early to death[.] Let us give these southern fellows all the fighting they want and when they are tired we can tell them we are just warming to the work[.] Any signs of a let up on our part is sure to be falsely construed and for this reason I always remind them that the siege of Troy lasted six years and Atlanta is a more valuable town than Troy[.]”
In Virginia, Robert G.H. Kean records his sense of the changing nature of the conflict, citing the actions of Union general David Hunter and Confederate Jubal Early as examples:
“The war is taking on features of exaggerated harshness. Hunter when he re-entered the Valley caused a number of private residences of the finest character to be burned. . . . Early has burned Chambersburg to enforce a refractory town into paying a requisition.”
Josiah Gorgas assesses recent developments in Mobile with a cutting tone:
“The news of the destruction of our fleet at Mobile creates no surprise, nothing but disaster comes from that unfortunate branch of the service.”
August 8, 1864
Ulysses Grant has been a busy man, but manages to send a quick note to his wife Julia from Fort Monroe in Virginia:
“I went out to Monocacy, Md, set our troops all in motion placing in command an officer, Gen. Sheridan, in whom I have great confidance and have just reached here on my way back to City Point.”
Confederate colonel Charles Anderson surrenders Fort Gaines to Union forces after internal wrangling over the propriety of the move.
Daniel W. Cobb continues to focus on his farm production as summer wears on and fighting rages in the distance:August 9, 1864
“Crops is neading rain verry much in deed I started by Still this morning in a slow way 1 halled wood for still ½ the day. Woome[n] Cutting down weads & bryers.”
A powerful explosion occurs at the active Union port at City Point, Virginia. The blast kills 43 individuals and injures another 126. The damage is extensive. While the facts are not yet clear as to the exact cause, it appears that at the very least a terrible and tragic accident has occurred.
President Lincoln forwards a ‘Private’ message to Horace Greeley noting his skepticism concerning a potential peace initiative by Confederate vice president Alexander Stephens:
“As to the A.H. Stephens matter, so much pressed by you, I can only say that he sought to come to Washington . . . with no pretence even, that he would bear any proposal for peace; but with language showing that his mission would be Military, and not civil, or diplomatic. Nor has he at any time since pretended that he had terms of peace, so far as I know, or believe. On the contrary, Jefferson Davis has, in the most formal manner, declared that Stephens had no terms of peace. I thought we could not afford to give this quasi acknowledgement of the independence of the Confederacy, in a case where there was not even an intimation of any thing for our good.”
General Grant informs Henry Halleck, George Meade and Benjamin Butler of the explosion along the wharf at City Point.
Grant continues to assess the larger picture, explaining to Sherman his efforts to uncover intelligence regarding the transfer of large bodies of Confederate troops:
“Deserters coming in daily keep us well posted of the position of Lee’s forces. Stories of deserters are not to be relied on but they give their regiment, brigade and Division correctly and many of them coming locates the whole. I think no troops have gone from Lee to Hood."
Union surgeon John Bennitt tells his wife:August 10, 1864
“To-day has been very rainy, but noisy—The 6 batteries of the 20th A.C. were ordered to fire 300 shots each into Atlanta. it has kept a nearly continuous booming.”
To a friend serving in Georgia, General Grant observes candidly:
“The campaign you have been engaged in is a remarkable, and to this point, most successful one. Sherman is one of the very few men, if not the only man, who could have conducted it. I have always felt for Sherman and McPherson a confidence that I could feel in but few men.”
Sherman also offers an interesting perspective to an old friend:
“Time has worn on, and you are now an old man, in want, and suffering, and I also, no longer young, but leading a hostile army on the very road I came when I left Bellfonte, and, at the moment, pouring into Atlanta the dread missiles of war, seeking the lives of its people. And yet, I am the same William Tecumseh Sherman you knew in 1844, with as warm a heart as ever, and anxious that peace and plenty shall prevail in this land, and to prove it, I defy Jeff Davis, or General Lee, or General Hood to make the sacrifice for peace that I will, personally or officially.
Cruel and inhuman as this war has been, and may still continue to be, it was forced upon us. We had no choice and we have no choice yet. We must go on, even to the end of time, even if it result in sinking a million of lives and desolating the whole land, leaving a desert behind. We must maintain the integrity of our country.”
The Confederate prisoners in Ohio are getting creative, with one of the men assigned to the hospital and serving essentially as a trustee, securing a pass from which others can be made, as John Dooley relates:
“Taking one of these passes or permits which are in printed form he has a facsimile struck off by one of the prisoners who has a small instrument for this purpose and who, they say, can execute so adroitly that you can see no difference in the imitation and the thing he undertakes to imitate—counterfeiting exactly upon the printed Pass or leave of absence [an authorizing signature].”
The scheme falls apart when another individual recognizes the would-be escapee and the commanding officer steps-up roll calls and inspections and offers any of his subordinates who locate the counterfeiting instrument “a liberal reward."
Mary Chesnut comments on the defense of key points in the Confederacy:
“Mobile going as New Orleans went. Those western men have not held their towns as we held and hold Charleston, or as the Virginians hold Richmond. And they call us frill-shirt, silk-stocking chivalry, a set of dandy Miss Nancys. They fight desperately in their bloody street brawls. We bear privation and discipline best. Brag is a good dog. Holdfast, a better [one]."
At 7:30 P.M., Emerson Opdycke pauses from his daily activities to note the confluence of the sounds of nature with the sounds of war:August 11, 1864
“A heavy shower has just been raging and the thunders of the cloud were almost equaled by the roar of a few siege guns, which Gen. Howard was introducing to our enemies over the way. The shower is dripping to its close, and the great guns are also closing their first call upon Hood.”
Judith Brockenbrough McGuire records the movement of troops in the Shenandoah Valley, adding:
“Poor Winchester, how checkered its history throughout the war! Abounding in patriotism it is, what a blessing it must be to have a breath of free air, even though it be for a short time! Their welcome of our soldiers is always so joyous, so bounding, so generous! How they must enjoy the blessed privilege of speaking their own sentiments without having their servants listening and acting as spies in their houses, and of being able to hear from or write to their friends! Oh, I would that there was a prospect of their being disenthralled forever.”
In Louisiana, W.H. King is convinced that recent reports of desertion in the Confederate ranks can be explained:August 12, 1864
“Our officers are great men in their way, but it does seem to me that matters could be better. If it be desirous to enlist men in a cause, an incentive must be presented. Cause a man to feel interested; cause him to feel that to act is honorable, profitable and honest, and you are certain of his cooperation. But, cause him to believe you care nothing for his welfare; that for his own debasement & your own aggrandizement, and there is nothing more certain than you have lost him.”
McGuire continues to exhibit the warmest devotion to the beloved town of Winchester, suffering as it has through the travails of war:
“No, it is beautiful to contemplate the long-suffering, the firmness under oppression, the patience, the generosity, the patriotism of Winchester. Other towns, I dare say, have borne their tyranny well, and when their history is known they will call forth our admiration as much. . . . The ‘Valley’ throughout shows the same devotion to our cause, and the sufferings of the country people are even greater than those in town."
Gorgas reacts to news from various points as it filters in to him:August 13, 1864
“The explosion which was lately heard in the Yankee lines at Petersburg seems to have been an explosion of powder & Shells at City Point—a great many employees killed & wounded. An Artillery officer just from Atlanta gives me a gloomy view of the situation. The probability is that the city must be evacuated, as the enemy is closing his lines about it.”
Outside Petersburg, General Grant instructs Winfield Scott Hancock:August 14, 1864
“Wherever You go consume or destroy all the forage and provisions, except what is housed for family use, if it does not interfere with Military movements to do so. I always regret to see wanton destruction of property, which cannot be used in prolonging the War, and know that you equally oppose such conduct on the part of our troops. No caution on this subject therefore is necessary. Cattle, horses, forage and provisions however, and especially so near a partially besieged city, are fair captures and it is a duty we owe ourselves to take them even if they should be the property of Union citizens.”
Confederate major general Charles W. Field responds to the movement under Hancock at Deep Bottom in Virginia, pulling back to better ground on New Market Heights after absorbing losses.
President Lincoln telegraphs a message to Grant concerning excesses arising out of the conduct of the war:
“The Secretary of War and I concur that you better confer with Gen. Lee and stipulate for a mutual discontinuance of house-burning and other destruction of private property.”
Confederate cavalry under “Fighting Joe” Wheeler threaten the Union defenders of Dalton, Georgia, as fighting there continues into the night.
From “In Sight of Atlanta,” Colonel Opdycke reports:
“Last night was a beautiful moonlight night; and our artillery commenced a grand bombardment of the city at dark, the enemy replying vigourously. Our shell burst thickly among the enemy, and some of their batteries were silenced. . . . The firing continued all night, and was so awfully attractive, I could hardly make up my mind to go to bed. I finally did retire, and went to sleep amidst the roar of our artillery, and to the startling music of the bursting hostile shell.”
From a similar vantage-point, Surgeon John Bennitt writes,“Cannonading is at times fierce & tremendous so that the earth fairly trembles around us. Still Atlanta continues beyond our reach to occupy although we toss shell [&] shot into it from 10 to 100 lbs weight at will. . . . But the rebs seem bent on holding this as long as they can.”
Gorgas meets with President Davis as the Confederate executive completes discussions on Union developments with his secretaries of war and the navy. Drawing up his own extensive pre-war experiences, Davis is particularly concerned that Federal attempts at canal building will affect the current placement of Confederate vessels in the James River:
“Having stated the general effect, he called Mr. Mallorys attention to the position of his iron-clads, asked him at what point above the Dutch Gap was the first [sand] bar, & whether his iron-clads might not be caught below it, unable to return, adding after discussing the matter ‘very well Mr. Mallory, forewarned is forearmed."
Mary Chesnut tries to decipher between conflicting reports of Hood in Georgia:August 15, 1864
“Now here are two people strictly truthful who tell things so differently. War? In this war people see the same thing so oddly—one does not know what to believe.”
Hancock’s efforts to turn the Confederate left flank near Richmond falter under a brutal sun and stiffening resistance. General Lee arrives in the area north of the James River to supervise the movement of troops more effectively.
Confederate lieutenant general Richard Taylor receives an assignment as commander of the Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana.
The arrival of Union reinforcements at Dalton spurs Wheeler into breaking off his attempt to overwhelm the garrison there.
John Dooley is impressed with a fellow captive who has interesting prewar antecedents:
“There is an officer in our room, a quick bright eyed, active young gentleman, hailing from the frozen state of Maine (though by no means a maniac). He tells me that after coming of age he married and settled in Tennessee, and as is usual among those who coming from the northern states make their home in the South, become more southern than many of the southern people themselves: at least in words and so far as actions go they have not belied his words."
Educated at Yale, the lieutenant “has been with us some weeks and evinces the most uncompromising spirit toward the Yankees.”
Dooley does not seem to be worried that the “polite and quite well educated” fellow might have been planted in their midst
Union prisoner Charles Maddox is in Charleston, watching and waiting for further developments after the departure of a number of officers in exchange for Confederate major general Edward Johnson:August 16, 1864
“Exchange is now on everybody’s tongue. They say that a proposition has been made to our government to exchange 600 of us, man for man, rank for rank, and leave unsettled the excess and negro questions. Some are sanguine, while others believe nothing, hope nothing. I am neither one nor the other. Perhaps yes, and perhaps no, is my condition.”
At approximately noon, Union assaults in Virginia smash into the troops of Brigadier General Victor Girardey. The brigadier falls while attempting to rally his men, but the arrival of Confederate reinforcements seals the breach and enables the Southern forces subsequently to restore their lines. Confederate brigadier general John Chambliss is also killed in the fighting around Richmond. Unfortunately for his cause, Chambliss has a map of the Richmond defenses on his person that is in Hancock’s hands by the end of the day.
C.S.S. Tallahassee is busy taking vessels off the coast of New England.
Colonel John Mosby’s actions have so exasperated Ulysses Grant that the latter orders General Sheridan to dispatch troops to Loudon County, “to destroy and carry off the crops, animals[,] negroes, and all men under fifty years of age capable of bearing arms. In this way you will get many of Mosby’s men. All Male Citizens under fifty can farely be held as prisoners of war and not as citizen prisoners. If not already soldiers they will be made so the moment the rebel army gets hold of them.”August 17, 1864
After several days of mulling over Lincoln’s request on addressing the destruction of civilian property, Grant replies:
“I have thought over your dispatch relative to an arrangement between Gen. Lee and myself for the suppression of insindiaryism by the respective Armies. Experience has taught us that agreements made with rebels are binding upon us but are not observed by them longer than suits their convenience. On the whole I think the best that can be done is to publish a prohibitory order against burning private property except where it is a Military necessity or in retaliation for like acts of the enemy.” In any event, General Grant promises to “act as you deem best.”
Lincoln also supports his general’s tenacity:
“I have seen your despatch expressing your unwillingness to break your hold where you are. Neither am I willing. Hold on with a bull-dog gripe, and chew & choke, as much as possible."
The President continues a busy period of correspondence by repeating his words to Horace Greeley in 1862 that he would do with regard to slavery whatever he deemed best for saving the Union, including issuing the Emancipation Proclamation and allowing slaves to enter Union service under arms:
“All this I said in the utmost sincerety; and I am as true to the whole of it now, as when I first said it. . . . The way these measures were to help the cause, was not to be by magic, or miracles, but by inducing the colored people to come bodily over from the rebel side to ours. . . . I am sure you would not desire me to say, or to leave an inference, that I am ready, whenever convenient, to join in re-enslaving those who shall have served us in consideration of our promise. As matter of morals, could such treachery by any possibility, escape the curses of Heaven, or of any good man? As matter of policy, to announce such a purpose, would ruin the Union cause itself. All recruiting of colored men would immediately cease, and all colored men now in our service, would instantly desert us. And rightfully too. Why should they give their lives for us, with full notice of our purpose to betray them? Drive back to the support of the rebellion the physical force which the colored people now give, and promise us, and neither the present, nor any coming administration, can save the Union. . . . It is not a question of sentiment or taste, but one of physical force, which may be measured. . . . And by measurement, it is more than we can lose, and live.”
August 18, 1864
Gouverneur Warren leads his Fifth Corps to threaten the Confederate hold on the Weldon Railroad. Some destruction occurs in the area of Globe Tavern, but the Southern troops under Major General Harry Heth bring the activity to a halt at a cost of over 800 Union casualties, with both sides digging in to hold their positions.
President Lincoln addresses members of the 164th Ohio:
“We have, as all will agree, a free Government, where every man has a right to be equal with every other man. In this great struggle, this form of Government and every form of human right is endangered if our enemies succeed. There is more involved in this contest than is realized by every one. There is involved in this struggle the question of whether your children and my children shall enjoy the privileges we have enjoyed. I say this in order to impress upon you, if you are not already so impressed, that no small matter should divert us from our great purpose.”
Ulysses Grant broaches the matter of prisoner exchange with General Benjamin Butler:
“It is hard on our men held in Southern prisons not to exchange them but it is humanity to those left in the ranks to fight our battles. Every man released, on parole or otherwise, becomes an active soldier against us at once either directly or indirectly. If we commence a system of exchanges which liberates all prisoners taken we will have to fight on until the whole South is exterminated. If we hold those caught they amount to no more than dead men."
From Winchester, Robert Parker of the 2nd Virginia Cavalry laments the state of the command’s mounts:
“I am sorry to say our horses, I fear, or at least a good many of them, will not be able to go with us much longer. All we get for them now is grazing and they can’t hold out a great while on that alone. . . . I am sorry to say that the enemy in their fall back from Strasburg burnt all the grains the people had with few exceptions. I have seen one crop of wheat spared from the flames from Front Royal to this place, and a good many burning as I came down. They say that they did not intend to leave anything for the rebels to eat.”August 19, 1864
On orders from Ambrose Powell Hill, Heth’s and William Mahone’s Confederates strike at Warren’s troops as fighting flares once more along the Weldon Railroad. The Federals will lose another 382 in killed and wounded, and another 2,518 men captured or missing from the ranks. A Southern participant concludes: “We whipped them bad.” While a Union captive recalls of his march through Petersburg: “The sidewalks were lined with old men, boys, and decrepit women, who vied with one another in flinging insults and venom. The women were the worst of the lot; they spat upon us, laughed at us, and called us vile and filthy names."
Mary Chesnut ministers to a wounded man who had sworn not to cut his hair until the South had won its independence:
“Four of them had made this vow. All were dead but himself. One was killed in Missouri, one in Virginia, and he left one at Kennesaw Mountain. This poor creature had one arm taken off at the socket. When I remarked that he was utterly disabled and ought not to remain in the army, he answered quickly.
‘I am First Texas. If old Hood can go with one foot, I can go with one arm. Eh?’”
In a personal conversation, revealed by a participant, Abraham Lincoln exposes his feelings regarding the suggestion that he take some time to rest from his duties for a few weeks:August 20, 1864
“Aye said the President, [but] 3 weeks would do me no good—my thoughts my solicitude for this great country follow me where ever I go. I don’t think it is personal vanity, or ambition—but I cannot but feel that the weal and woe of this great nation will be decided in the approaching [election] canvas. My own experience has proven to me, that there is no program intended by the democratic party but that will result in the dismemberment of the Union. . . . The slightest acquaintance with arithmetic will prove to any man that the rebel armies cannot be destroyed with democratic strategy. . . . There have been men who have proposed to me to return to slavery the black warriors of Port Hudson & Olustee to their masters to conciliate the South. I should be damned in time & in eternity for so doing. The world shall know that I will keep my faith to friends & enemies, come what will. My enemies say I am now carrying on this war for the sole purpose of abolition. It is & will be carried on so long as I am President for the sole purpose of restoring the Union. But no human power can subdue this rebellion without using the Emancipation lever as I have done. Freedom has given us the control of 200 000 able bodied men, born & raised on southern soil. It will give us more yet. Just so much it has sub[t]racted from the strength of our enemies. . . ."
Union cavalry and Confederate infantry clash near Lovejoy’s Station, Georgia.
Judith McGuire relates the happier news from Mosby’s capture of a Union wagon train to the actions of the Tallahassee in Northern waters, observing particularly of the latter:
“I bid it God-speed with all my heart; I want the North to feel the war to its core, and then it will end, and not before.”
John Dooley records the latest news to reach the Confederate prisoners in Ohio:August 21, 1864
“The reports which have the greatest sway at present are those in regard to peace and first to an armistice: the latter is the all absorbing topic of conversation and in place of rations and sutlers’ stores the poor prisoners are obliged to resort to hope.”
Dooley has heard such rumors before and keeps a paper that had arrived months earlier as a means of counteracting the latest “news mongers.” He also enjoys the company of a Missourian who explained that “when the war broke out, he was working in the field, and, like everybody else, he thought it wouldn’t last more than a few days: so he left his coat hanging on a fence rail, shouldered a musket and has never seen coat, rail or house since.” The fellow regularly gets mail from a die-hard Unionist, calling upon him to mend his ways and join the ranks of Uncle Sam: “Henly enjoys these letters immensely and we read them over together. . . . Henly roars with laughter and the tears stream from his eyes, but he always winds up by saying the old fellow is a trump and means kindly.”
Bedford Forrest raids Memphis in an attempt to compel A.J. Smith to return to the city.
Heth and Mahone attack Warren’s command in an effort to reassert the Confederate grip on the Weldon Railroad. The Federals suffer another 301 casualties but maintain their hold on the line.
On the Georgia front, Union surgeon Bennitt observes:August 22, 1864
“The Seige of Atlanta still continues, and men get killed and others wounded every day. There is scarcely a minute any part if the day or night that the firing of musketry and cannon are not heard.”
Abraham Lincoln addresses members of another veteran unit passing through Washington:
“I happen temporarily to occupy this big White House. I am a living witness that any one of your children may look to come here as my father’s child has.”
Colonel Opdycke ponders political realities as the fighting outside Atlanta drags on:
“There is a growing feeling in the army that McClellan will succeed Mr. Lincoln. Many think Mr. L. unequal to the position. . . . The president is unfortunate in his advisors; no administration can succeed unless surrounded by wise and good men. The Cabinet should be a unit upon the main issues, and in perfect accord with it’s head; but Mr. Lincoln is so honest and good hearted himself, that he seemed to desire, that all the political elements about him, should be represented in his Cabinet, doubtless believing that he could thus harmonize conflicting elements in the Country. Had he been a great leader the Country would have been delivered before now. My faith in God is strong, that lasting good to the human race must result from this terrible war. Such a sea of blood ought to regenerate any people.”
Writing for the Philadelphia Press, from Virginia, black correspondent Thomas Morris Chester observes:August 23, 1864
“Between the negroes and the enemy it is war to the death. . . . Those here have not the least idea of living after they fall into the hands of the enemy and the rebels act very much as if they entertained similar sentiments with reference to the blacks.”
Isolated by land from Mobile, Fort Morgan finally falls after heavy shelling by Union naval forces.
President Lincoln lays a memorandum before his Cabinet officials and requests their signatures, although they have not read the contents. The extraordinary document is Lincoln’s way of hedging against his possible defeat in the coming elections:
“This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so co-operate with the President elect, as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he can not possibly save it afterwards.”
Mary Chesnut grasps for good news wherever she can find it, including mentioning Bedford Forrest’s raid on Memphis, which he had no plans to hold and recent fighting around Petersburg:
“Row in New Orleans—Memphis retaken—2,000 prisoners captured at Petersburg—Yankee raid on Macon, come to grief.
John Taylor Wood, fine fellow, in his fine ship Tallahassee. He is all right.”
When a visitor insists: ‘How I wish General Lee had been sent west to stop Sherman,” Mary shifts by noting how impressive Grant has been as an opponent for General Lee in Virginia, with a final reference to a passage from Paradise Lost to emphasize her point:
“Grant can hold his own as well as Sherman. Lee has a heavy handful. . . . He has worse odds than anyone else, for when Grant has ten thousand slain, he has only to order up another ten thousand and they are there-ready to step out to the front. They are [thick] like the leaves of Vallombrosa.”
In Southampton County, Virginia, farmer Cobb remarks on the somber atmosphere the war has produced locally:
“I see nothing but Bagdes of morning in our unfortunate land & Contry so this is the time of heavy morning for relation friend & Countramen weap & pray for our distrest Con[.]”
Edward Guerrant has been moving across East Tennessee, complaining about the torrid heat and picking up such news from afar as comes his way:
“Sherman’s communications destroyed to Dalton. Wheeler in his rear. Sherman ruined. ‘Retreat will be like Bonaparte from Moscow.’” He concluded simply, “It was too good to be true, & too good not to believe some of it.”
One Illinois soldier tries to convey a sense of the nature of life in the trenches under fire:August 24, 1864
“Every few minutes one or more of the spiteful missiles go crackling through the tree tops, each one pitched to a different tune. We have a splendid opportunity for noticing the different notes sounded by them. . . . More balls fly at night than in daytime but that don’t prevent us from sleeping soundly.”
Charles Maddox finds the sounds of Union guns at Charleston welcome, despite the proximity of the shells to his place of confinement:
“We are now entertained by General Gillmore’s ‘Swamp Angel’ battery which is shelling the city, a range of five or six miles. The missiles striking very near us—some within 100 yards. Two or three have passed over this building. Our forces seem to know just where we are, and evidently avail themselves of their knowledge to the effect of seeing how near they can come to us without hitting. We can endure the trouble as it does us much good to hear Union powder burn even if we are slightly exposed.”
Josiah Gorgas confirms the reports from the Confederate perspective that U.S. officials had been making about conditions in the Caribbean:August 25, 1864
“The yellow fever is making havoc at Bermuda. Several of our clerks have died there & others are down with the fever.”
A.P. Hill’s men advance against the Union troops near Reams Station. Union losses in the action amount to some 2,700 casualties, while the Confederate total stands at 720. Even so, the Weldon Railroad remains cut and General Lee will have to employ wagons to move supplies to the defenders at Petersburg.
CSS Tallahassee reaches Wilmington, North Carolina, safely, after wreaking havoc on Northern shipping along the East Coast and eluding the Union blockade of the Confederate port city.
In Richmond, President Davis remains as active as ever, as attested to by war clerk John B. Jones:
“The President is indefatigable in his labors. Every day the papers he sends to the department bear evidence of his attention to the minutest subject, even to the small appointments; he frequently rejects the Secretary’s recommendations.”
August 26, 1864
The news from Atlanta for the exhausted defenders of the city is exciting, and yet perplexing. The Union forces in their immediate front seem to have disappeared. One Confederate explains:
“The enemy evacuated their works in our front last night. I visited their abandoned line today. Their works are greatly inferior to ours.”
J.B. Jones notes the arrival of a letter from General Lee on the inability, even with conscription, to refill his ranks, causing the bureaucrat to conclude:
“The rich men and slaveowners are but too successful in getting out, and in keeping out of the service. The Governor, who commissions magistrates, is exempting some fifty daily . . . . And nearly every landed proprietor has given bonds to furnish meal, etc. to obtain exemption. Thus corruption is eating to the heart of the cause, and I fear the result of the contest between speculation and patriotism."
Now located at Petersburg, Alvin Voris describes conditions similarly to those often expressed by the troops outside Atlanta:August 27, 1864
“Ever since we came to this point no moment has passed either night or day but one could hear the discharge of the deadly rifle or the loud canon or mortar throwing their almost irresistible bolts in our midst. This however is not met with as much personal danger as the uninitiated would suppose as we have learned the art of war so well that with the axe and spade a few minutes we can make ourselves comparatively safe from shot shell or musketry fire.”
Voris has also become quite impressed by a particular colleague in camp:August 28, 1864
“Well, I must tell you a little of Miss Clara H. Barton. . . . In appearance. . . black hair, little frosted with grey, strong features, well developed muscles, so far as I could see them, strong vital organization, dark complexion, and awfully afraid to contradict anybody. Lord! what a woman. Afraid to contradict, kind in manner, easy of address and unaffected & frank in action. Too good a girl by all odds to be scattering her good qualities over the wide world (I mean after the war for she is an angel of mercy here).”
Union forces move steadily in Georgia, as Sherman shifts his emphasis toward severing the last major supply lines supporting the defense of Atlanta.August 29, 1864
Members of the Democratic National Convention assemble in Chicago, Illinois, with the sense that popular disgruntlement with the war will provide sufficient impetus to end the current Republican administration.
The numbers in recent fighting in Virginia have favored the Confederates, but ordnance chief Josiah Gorgas recognizes the dire nature of the long-term implications for the Confederacy:
“Can we hold out much longer? The captured killed and wounded tho’ half that of the enemy are still seriously depleting us.”
At 5 P.M. Colonel Opdycke dashes a quick note to his wife while on the march in Georgia:
“Our great Army is across the West Point or Mobile R.R. and a heavy force is tearing up the track. We face eastward and Hood is moving on lines parallel to us. Our present movement is a very bold one, but all feel sanguine and cheerful having confidence in the justice of our Cause, and in Sherman.”
On the Confederate side, Sergeant Major John W. Green is part of the force hastening to prevent the Federals from severing the last rail lifeline into Atlanta:
“We reached Jonesboro ahead of the enemy & began fortifying with the few tools we had. The cavalry report to us today that a whole corps of the enemy are pressing on this way.”
It has been just over a month since disaster struck Henry Robinson Berkeley’s Virginia battery, when the command lost all of its tubes, most of its limbers and caissons and a number of officers and men, but the situation is at last looking decidedly better for the artillerist and his remaining comrades:
“We went for our new guns, which had been brought to within two miles of us, and got them. We are very much pleased with them. They were made at the Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond.”
Sterling Price begins operations in the Trans-Mississippi, with the dream of restoring control over Missouri for the Confederacy.
August 30, 1864
The Democrats generate a platform that emphasizes the desire for bringing the conflict to a close and which condemns the excesses of the current administration, especially with regard to the violation of civil liberties and the Constitution.
On the Georgia front, increased anticipation exists in the Union ranks. A sergeant from the 101st Ohio observes;
“Every man seemed to know that a great crisis was approaching, and each man nerved himself to do his own particular best.”
Sergeant Green and his comrades from the 9th Kentucky are preparing to contest the Federal advance:
“We hear the cavalry skirmishing with them very briskly this morning. We complete our rifle pits & wait, momentarily expecting our cavalry to be driven in & the fight to begin. . . .”
Captain Edward Bacon, of the 29th Connecticut, an African American regiment that has arrived in Virginia from the South Carolina coast, finds himself impressed by the artillery fire he now witnesses firsthand:
“We were relieved at about nine o’clock after listening to a fine band which was discoursing music over in Petersburg and watching the beautiful practice of the batteries on both sides. I have been away from the firing of great guns for over a year & had no idea how great an advance I should find in the service of artillery & ordnance. The practice of the armies here is about twice as accurate and efficient as it was either at New Orleans or Vicksburg. . . .For instance, last night during a vigorous cannonade of an hour, in which a good many mortar shells—the least accurate of all—were thrown at us, every shell struck in our trenches or just about them and one man was killed and six wounded in this one regiment.”
Having left Chattanooga, Tn. on the way to Atlanta, Louisianian Silas Grisamore reached the massive railroad tunnel that left a powerful impression. "This was the first time that the darkness was so dense that I thought it could be chopped out in square blocks, and I felt very much like trying to get a piece of it any how, but having no axe, I could not do so." Some of his comrades had even more striking encounters. "As we entered the Tunnel, there were many of the men on top of the cars, not one of whom knew anything about such a passage, and as we came out they could be heard to draw long breaths, and an amusing conversation was struck up in endeavoring to explain to each other how close they laid themselves along the top of the cars and how small they had made themselves during the passage."August 31, 1864
George Brinton McClellan secures the nomination for the presidency from the Democratic convention. Recent exile Clement Vallandigham orchestrates the final call for unanimity behind the Union general who has now turned overtly to politics. Ohioan George H. Pendleton wins the nod as vice presidential nominee.
William J. Hardee arrives at Jonesboro, Georgia, with reinforcements, and promptly attacks strong Union positions. The assaults fail to dislodge the Federals and produce additional losses for Hood’s already battered army. The noose is tightening on Atlanta.
September 1864September 1, 1864
Union troops spend the day wrecking the Macon & Western Railroad and preparing for an assault on William Hardee’s command at Jonesboro that comes later in the day. The Confederate defeat and loss of the critical supply line compels Hood to evacuate Atlanta.
Mary Chesnut awaits the outcome in Georgia and then quietly notes the campaign’s conclusion:
“The battle is raging at Atlanta—our fate hanging in the balance. Atlanta gone. Well—that agony is over.”
September 2, 1864
Union troops enter the long-sought prize of Atlanta.
In Southampton County, Virginia, Daniel William Cobb reflects on the conflict that has raged around him:
“the Yankies started this war for restoring as said the Union, But has turned out to be slavery. . . ."
September 3, 1864
President Abraham Lincoln issues orders of thanks and celebration for recent Union victories, specifically singling out David Farragut and William Sherman and their commands for praise.
Of the Atlanta Campaign, he notes:
“The marches, battles, sieges, and other military operations that have signalized this campaign must render it famous in the annals of war, and have entitled those who have participated therein to the applause and thanks of the nation.”
In addition, Lincoln calls for a time of reflection for these successes:
“It is therefore requested that on next Sunday, in all places of public worship in the United-States, thanksgiving be offered to Him for His mercy in preserving our national existence against the insurgent rebels who so long have been waging a cruel war against the Government of the United-State, for its overthrow. . . .”
William T. Sherman reports to Henry Halleck regarding the situation on his front:
“Hood at Atlanta finding me on his Road, the only one that could supply him, & between him & a considerable part of his Army, blew up his Magazines in Atlanta & left in the night time when the 20th Corps Genl. Slocum took possession of the place; so Atlanta is ours, & fairly won.”
He tells his wife, Ellen:
“My movement has been perfectly successful, and the Corps I left at the Bridge are now in Atlanta which was abandonned by the Enemy the moment I made a good lodgment on the Macon Road.”
Confederate war clerk John B. Jones assesses the state of affairs amidst the “ugly rumor on the streets to-day—disaster to Gen. Hood, and the fall of Atlanta.”
Jones believes that this recent spate of bad tidings from the battlefield may be offset by report of the Union army’s reaction to the Democratic Party’s selection of George McClellan as a presidential candidate:
“A dispatch from Petersburg states that there is much cheering in Grant’s army for McClellan, the nominee of the Chicago Convention for the Presidency.”
Grant informs Secretary Edwin Stanton that word of Atlanta’s fall had actually filtered in from Confederates to the Union pickets. “All quiet here.”
In Charleston, Emma Holmes records the effects of the intermittent shelling that continues to plague the city:
“I came down yesterday and went directly to shop; while in Mrs. Maule’s, above George St., a fragment of a time fuse shell whizzed overhead with a loud report & fell into the next yard. The Yankees have only been firing this kind during the last fortnight, & the casualties are becoming serious. The shells will burst in the lower part of town, but the fragments fly over a mile up town, killing or injuring passersby & animals; they do not penetrate houses, but cause loss of life, & it is really dangerous walking out below John St. . . . Last night one of them set a house on fire &, as soon as our demon foes saw the blaze & knew our firemen were at work, the shells were fired thick & fast, sometimes two or three at one time. I shuddered to hear the dull distant boom of the discharge, then watch their flight through the air like meteors; when near, the scream [of the missile], followed by the sudden deafening report, was terrible.”
October 1864October 1, 1864
At Peebles’ Farm, Confederates under Ambrose Powell Hill and Federals under Gouveneur Warren continue to clash over control of the Boydton Plank Road and South Side Railroad.
The celebrated Southern spy Rose O’Neal Greenhow drowns as she gets swamped in a small vessel while trying to make her way into the area below Wilmington from a blockade-runner that has run aground.
Sherman writes to his wife Ellen regarding his operations in Georgia and concerns elsewhere:
“We are all well. Forrest is threatening our Road in Tennessee, but I think ample steps are in progress to meet & defeat him. Should he temporarily disturb our Roads we are well prepared, with accumulated supplies here, and our Repair parties are so distributed that breaks can be speedily repaired. Should Hoods main Army attempt Our Rear, I think we can make him suffer. Georgia is now open to me. . . .The People of the South have made a big howl at my moving the families of Atlanta but I would have been a silly fool to take a town at such a cost, and left it in the occupation of a helpless and hectic People. The War dept. has simply been silent, has not committed itself one way or the other so that the whole matter rests on me, but I am used to Such things.”
The chores go on in Southampton County, Virginia, for Daniel W. Cobb and his “foalks” or “hands”:
“Owing to the rain Was but little dun some little wood halling some work in Sorgrham I boild 90 gallons of liquor”
October 2, 1864
Hood has moved back in the area of Big Shanty, Georgia, threatening the Western and Atlantic link that now benefits the Union forces in Atlanta.
Sherman informs Thomas of his “thought on the whole Field of the Future.” He plans to target Macon, Augusta, Savannah and Charleston, but is open to a move on Mobile:
“By this I propose to demonstrate the vulnerability of the South and make its inhabitants feel that war & individual Ruin are synonimous terms. To pursue Hood is folly, for he can twist & turn like a fox and wear out an army in pursuit. To continue to occupy long lines of Railroad simply exposes our small detachments to be picked up in detail and forces me to make countermarches to protect Lines of Communication. I know I am right in this and Shall proceed to its maturity.”`
Union troops under Stephen G. Burbridge assault Confederate defenses at Saltville, Va. The assaults fail to dislodge the defenders and produce 350 casualties, some of whom include men from the 5th U.S. Colored Cavalry.
October 3, 1864
General Grant responds to his counterpart’s call for a prisoner exchange, balking at the Confederate insistence that “Deserters from our Service, & negroes belonging to our Citizens are not Considered Subjects of exchange & were not included in my proposition.”
“In answer I have to state that the Government is bound to secure to all persons received into her Armies the rights due to soldiers. This being denied by you in the persons of such men as have escaped from Southern Masters induces me to decline making the exchanges you ask.”
Henri Garidel is still troubled with ailments and depression over his “exile” in Richmond from his wife “Lolo,” in New Orleans. The city is under pressure and he has tried valiantly to endure the shortages and other challenges of life in a wartime environment:
“They are attacking us from all sides. We are trapped, and we are defending ourselves like devils. . . .
God knows what is going on inside me. It doesn’t surprise me that I am so ill. It is impossible to be in good health with so much suffering, and I don’t see the end of it. Oh, how it all hurts me. Let us say a prayer and stop this whining. I had enough work to keep me busy until three. . . .I have just received a dispatch asking for munitions at Abingdon. . . .At three o’clock I had gone to buy a packet of tobacco for my pipe. We met at the merchant’s. He bought four cigars, supposedly from Havana, for $20. He gave me one which I want to save if I can, to show it to my family. . . .”
Back at the office, a fastidious Henri struggles with the conditions circumstances have forced upon him: “I haven’t had any more telegrams thus far, but I just don’t feel like lying down on the covers used by other people when they sleep at the office. It’s just too much for me. I would rather stay up and not sleep. Tomorrow if I am tired, I will stay home and I will sleep. Only two of us have been doing night service at the office since the beginning of the battles around the city. All the young men who used to do it are at the fortifications, and they are working there at this very moment.”
For the rest of the night he reads and smokes his pipe, while listening to the sentries and hearing the first stirrings of the city: “You can begin to hear the little paperboys in the streets who are going to get their newspapers.”
October 4, 1864
George Thomas is concerned about having Nathan Bedford Forrest on the loose in his area of responsibility. Yet, there may also be opportunity, as he observes to John Croxton:
“I do not think we shall ever have a better chance at Forrest than this.”
Confederate War Clerk, John B. Jones, notes the rising prices of goods in Richmond:
“Flour rose yesterday to $425 per barrel, meal to $72 per bushel, and bacon $10 per pound.”
Edward O. Guerrant reports on fighting at Saltville, Virginia, with a powerful sense of hyperbole that nonetheless contains truth, considering the important resources at stake:
“Today was fought a battle in which all people of our country were more directly & immediately interested than any of the same magnitude ever fought in this war. In its issues, every son & daughter of man, & every beast of the field, in this broad Confederacy had a deep concern.”
October 5, 1864
In the aftermath of the fighting at Saltville, the Union forces pull back, exposing the troops who remain to retribution from angry Confederates. Ned Guerrant captures the essence of what will become known in some circles as “the Saltville Massacre:”
“Scouts were sent, & went over the field, and the continued ring of the rifle, sung the death knell of many a poor negro who was unfortunate enough not to be killed yesterday. Our men took no negro prisoners. Great numbers of them were killed yesterday & today.”
Confederate forces under Major General Samuel G. French threaten the Union defenders under John M. Corse at Allatoona Pass. The Federal works are formidable and after several attempts and the perceived threat of the arrival of Union reinforcements, French calls off the assaults and pulls back. The Confederate his suffered 897 casualties, some of whom he will be forced to leave behind to the clemency of the enemy, while the defenders have lost 706 men, killed, wounded and missing. A brief message of resistance becomes popularized much later as “Hold the Fort, For We Are Coming.”
A brouhaha has developed between the U.S. Navy and War departments over proposed exchange of prisoners. Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles notes in his diary that President Lincoln called on him over the subject:
“The President came to see me pretty early this morning in relation to the exchange of prisoners. It had troubled him through the night. . . . The President said he wanted the subject to be got along with harmoniously, that they were greatly ruffled at the War Department, and if I had no objection he would go over and see Seward, tell him the facts, get him to come over, and bring the Secretary of War. . . .
In less than an hour the President returned with Seward. We went briefly over the question. . . . After discussing the subject, went, by request of the President, with him to the War Department. . . . Stanton was ill-mannered, as usual, where things did not please him. . . .”
Lincoln reads a message he intends to send General Grant that asks that the exchange go forward if possible. “Still you are at liberty to arrest the whole operation, if in your judgment the public good requires it.”
Guerrant remains buoyed by reports from other fronts:
“Rumors that Hood is in Sherman’s rear. Severe fighting at Richmond on north side of James river. Enemy repulsed with slaughter. Forrest captured 1300 prisoners at Athens etc. ‘The Wizzard of the Saddle.’”
Confederate ordnance chief Josiah Gorgas assesses the current state of Confederate soldiery:
“Our poor harrowed and overworked soldiers are getting worn out with the campaign. They see nothing before them but certain death and have I fear fallen into a sort of hopelessness, and are dispirited. Certain it is that they do not fight as they fought at the Wilderness and Spotsylvania. The cure for this is I think to limit the term of Service. They are now in for the war, and there appears no end to it, at present, they begin to look upon themselves as doomed men. A term of Service for 5 years would perhaps correct this without imperiling the existence of the army. Under such a term the men would begin to go home in the middle of 1866 but most of them in 67, and there would be constantly veterans enough to keep up the quality of the Army. This with a proper employment of Slaves as cooks, teamsters, and even as guards, & soldiers would greatly relieve the burdens of the war on the white population.”
October 6, 1864
Jones records the return of Jefferson Davis to Richmond:October 7, 1864
“The President returned this morning, hastened hither by the perils environing the capital.”
General Lee sends troops against Benjamin Butler’s command along the Darbytown and New Market Roads, but the Federals repulse these efforts with heavy losses. Among the 700 Confederate casualties is John Gregg of the Texas Brigade. The Federal loses are 458.
The commerce raider C.S.S. Florida surrenders off the coast of Brazil.
Franklin Anderson has just completed his duty and returned to camp to write home, as much to end the grief he has received for not communicating more often than for relaying news:
“As I am just from the picket post and find no one home of the Mess, and having finished my breakfast of cold buisket and gravy, I have concluded to improve the short season of quiet to your benefit. More especially as you all are disposed to quarrel with me for my slow writing, but don’t understand me as acknowledging the transgression, for I answer the letters I receive promptly or see nothing hear worth communicating even, and what we hear is long after event transpires and has been made stale by the newspapers.”
October 8, 1864
Ned Guerrant suffers through the early blasts of cold weather, while finding the newspaper reports less chilling:October 9, 1864
“Saw late papers. Hood certainly moving towards Sherman’s rear. Heavy fighting at Richmond, rather mixed in result. Enemy taken Fort Harrison. Forrest plays deuce in Tennessee.”
Cavalry action occurs at Tom’s Brook, Va., where George Armstrong Custer and Wesley Merritt confront their Confederate counterparts under Thomas L. Rosser and L.L. Lomax and drive them from the field. Union troopers captured 300 Southern horsemen while sustaining casualties of 9 killed and 48 wounded.
Sherman reports to Grant:
“It will be a physical impossibility to protect this road now that Hood, Forrest, Wheeler and the whole batch of Devils are turned loose without home or habitation.
Until we can repopulate Georgia it is useless to occupy it, but the utter destruction of its roads, houses, and people will cripple their military resources. By attempting to hold the roads we will lose a thousand men monthly and will gain no result. I can make the march and make Georgia howl.”
Sterling Price is on the move in Missouri, battling Union forces there in the region near Jefferson City, west of St. Louis.
October 10, 1864
President Lincoln offers his support to measures in Maryland that “provides for the extinction of slavery. It needs not to be a secret, and I presume it is no secret, that I wish success to this provision. I desire it on every consideration. I wish all men to be free.”October 11, 1864
Josiah Gorgas notes a conversation, that while admittedly second-hand, suggests a degree of hard reality in General Lee’s thinking. He quotes Colonel R.H. Chilton as remembering the general’s candid remark: “if we can’t get the men, all that is left for us is to make peace on the best terms we can.” Gorgas concludes: “I cannot think he was serious, but I regret to hear such language from his mouth. I heard almost the same expression now attributed to him uttered by him in June 1861. He must be subject to fits of despondence. Our brave President never wavers thus, in act or thought.”
Sherman continues to make the case for a bold move that can promise dramatic results:
“We cannot remain here on the defensive. With the 25,000 men, and the bold cavalry he has, he can constantly break my roads. I would infinitely prefer to make a wreck of the roads and of the country from Chattanooga to Atlanta, including the latter City, Send back my wounded and worthless and with my effective army move through Georgia smashing things to the sea.
“Instead of being on the defensive I would be on the offensive, instead of guessing at what he means to do he would have to guess at my plans. The difference in war is full twenty five percent.”
“If you were to cut loose I do not believe you would meet Hood’s Army but would be bushwhacked by all the old men, little boys and such railroad guards as are still left at home.”
The sounds of battle reach distant Southampton County from Petersburg, as D.W. Cobb notes in his diary:
“Fireing in the direction of Pburgh & at 10 of the night I think we had the Studest & heavyest Canonading been since Grant has been near Pburgh for it was a continuel rower of Cannon”
Mary Chesnut is thrilled with a visit by President Davis, who has arrived at her doorstep in the company of Custis Lee and former Texas governor Francis R. Lubbock:
“I went out to the gate to meet the president—who met me most cordially, kissed me, in fact. . . . Immediately after breakfast General Chesnut drove off with the president’s aides, and Mr. Davis sat out on our piazza. There was nobody there but myself, and some little boys strolling by called out: ‘Come here and look! There is a man in Mrs. Chesnut’s porch who looks just like Jeff Davis on a postage stamp.’”
October 12, 1864
U.S. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney dies in Washington.October 13, 1864
Maryland voters abolish slavery by a narrow vote.
Outside Petersburg, Union general Alfred Terry sends out a force to determine the strength of the Confederate positions in his sector. The Southerners repel the probes, inflicting 437 casualties on the Federals, while losing only 50 of their own.
John Mosby is causing more heartburn for those interested in protecting and maintaining the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad as he stops and burns a train, before making off with army pay being carried aboard that amounts to $173,000.
Union naval officer Roswell Lamson is at station in Beaufort while coaling his vessel has an opportunity to visit with Admiral Samuel Phillips Lee, recently removed from command of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron. Initially, it looks as if David Farragut, the hero of Mobile Bay, will be the new commander on the Atlantic coast. Lamson records the somber session in a letter to his fiancée, Kate:
“I cannot say I was very much surprised for I have seen by the way the Department was treating him for some time that something was brewing. . . . I think they have treated him very badly. . . . No one can blockade Wilmington better than he has done with the vessels furnished for that purpose.
As Admiral Lee remarked they have sent the greatest Naval Commander of these or any age to succeed him. . . .”
October 14, 1864
Sterling Price appeals to Missourians to rise up and help to ‘redeem’ their state from Union occupation.October 15, 1864
Joseph “Jo” Shelby hits Sedalia, Missouri, routing the home guards who are attempting to resist his advance and compelling the surrender of the Federal troops fighting there.
In Richmond, John B. Jones notes the news that the Republicans are looking well in several Northern states: “This foreshadows Lincoln’s re-election, and admonishes us to prepare for other campaigns, though languishing for peace.”
October 16, 1864
Maine soldier Charles Mattocks has flirted with the possibility of exchange only to find that he remains a prisoner in South Carolina. As he awaits developments he hears conversations among the officers responsible for holding him:
“I find that many of these ‘Confed.’ officers openly advocate the arming of their slaves. In this case, they will give them their freedom. I really believe the Rebels will have Negro troops in less than six months. The Rebs. are much interested in the Northern Elections.”
J.B. Jones notes several interesting developments:
“Troops, or rather detailed men, and late exempts, are beginning to arrive from North Carolina. I saw 250 this morning. Some of them were farmers who had complied with the terms prescribed, and a week ago thought themselves safe from the toils and dangers of war. They murmur, but there is no escape.”
On the recent exchange of communications between Lee and Grant on prisoners, he observes: “The Secretary of War has written a long letter to Gen. Lee, suggesting that he assemble a council of officers to decide what measure shall be adopted in regard to the treatment of prisoners in the hands of the enemy. . . . I understand several members of the cabinet to have always been in favor of fighting—that is, having others fight—under the black flag.”
October 17, 1864
John Anderson tells his sister of the latest developments around Petersburg and the news that reinforcements are being squeezed out for the army’s benefit:
“Able-bodied men in every ‘harmproof’ department in this Army are being put in the Army of fighting men. We will get a good many men by the operation. . . . It will be like therending of the hold of a drownding man to many of them, but Gen. Lee has given the order and obeyed it must and will be.”
Confederate general Pierre G.T. Beauregard assumes command of the Military Division of the West in the hope of bringing some clarity to conditions in the Western Theater.
Sterling Price continues to make noises in Missouri, capturing Carrollton and threatening Lexington
October 18, 1864
War Department clerk Robert Garlick Kean records some of the internal struggles of his national government with state officials that have plagued the Confederacy as the conflict continues:October 19, 1864
“On the 8th the Secretary answered a long letter of Governor Joe Brown [of Georgia], a very sharp correspondence on both sides. The Secretary has the best of it because Brown is in the position of a factionist, if not a traitor. He has behaved in a manner which laid him open to grievous suspicion of treason. . . .”
Jubal Early unleashes a strike against the Union forces settled along Cedar Creek in Virginia. Joseph Kershaw and John B. Gordon make early gains for Southern arms as they capture opposing camps and round up prisoners. Philip Sheridan has been in Washington and must hasten back to the scene of battle before all is lost for him. Sheridan reaches the field at mid-morning, helps to inspire his troops and plans for a counterattack against the Confederates, whose momentum has blunted as some of the men rummage through the Union camps they have overrun. At approximately 4 P.M. the rallied Union forces smash their opponents and send Early’s men scurrying from the field. An early victory for the South has turned to defeat, leaving the Confederates to absorb some 320 killed, 1,540 wounded and 1,050 missing or captured. Among the mortally wounded is Major General Stephen D. Ramseur. Federal casualties amount to 644 killed, 3,430 wounded and 1,591 missing or captured in the hard-fought contest.
Confederate raiders under Lieutenant Bennett H. Young enter the community of St. Albans, Vermont. In addition to disturbing the bucolic atmosphere of the little town, the Southerners make over $200,000 in withdrawals from several banks before heading for the Canadian border.
Sherman continues to make his case for his grand strategic vision. This time to Henry Halleck:
“We must not be on the defensive, and I now consider myself authorized to execute my plan. . . . This movement is not purely military or strategic, but it will illustrate the vulnerability of the South. They don’t know what war means. . . .”
Robert E. Lee continues the sometimes testy exchange with Ulysses S. Grant over potential prisoner exchanges and the nature of official Confederate attitudes toward Union soldiers of African descent:
“. . . I beg leave to explain the policy pursued by the Confederate government towards this class of persons when captured by its forces. All negroes in the military or naval service of the United States taken by us, who are not identified as the property of citizens or residents of any of the Confederate States, are regarded as prisoners of war, being held to be proper subjects of exchange, as I recently had the honor to inform you. No labor is extracted from such prisoners by the Confederate authorities. Negroes who owe service or labor to citizens or residents of the Confederate States, and who through compulsion, persuasion, or of their own accord, leave their owners and are placed in the military or naval service of the United States, occupy a different position.”
Citing both constitutional and historical examples, General Lee insists that fugitive slaves are being treated as they had before the current conflict began, with the determination to return them to owners who could make claims on them.
October 20, 1864
General Grant replies to his opponent’s latest query on prisoner exchange:
“I shall always regret the necessity of retaliating for wrongs done our soldiers but regard it my duty to protect all persons received into the Army of the United States, regardless of color or Nationality. When acknowledged Soldiers of the Government are captured they must be treated as prisoners of War. . . . I have nothing to do with the discussion of the slavery question therefore decline answering the arguments adduced to show the right to return to former owners such negroes as are captured from our army."
In the evening, Grant sends a telegram to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton concerning recent Union developments in the Shenandoah Valley:
“I had a salute of one hundred guns from each of the Armies here fired in honor of Sheridan’s last victory. Turning what bid fare to be a disaster into glorious victory stamps Sheridan what I have always thought him, one of the ablest of Generals.”
From Washington, President Lincoln issues a special proclamation:
“Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do, hereby, appoint and set apart the last Thursday in November next as a day, which I desire to be observed by all my fellow-citizens wherever they may then be as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to Almighty God the beneficent Creator and Ruler of the Universe.”
War Clerk Kean notes the departure of Braxton Bragg from the Confederate capital:
“On the 17th Bragg left Richmond bag and baggage to take command at Wilmington. Everybody fears that Wilmington will ‘go up’ with ‘Josiah’ there, but is notwithstanding delighted that this element of discord, acrimony, and confusion is withdrawn from here.”
October 21, 1864
General Price’s Confederate movement into Missouri is beginning to encounter greater problems as they penetrate the state, but the local citizenry seems less than anxious to rally to the Southern banner and Union forces begin to accumulate in response.
Sherman tells Ellen:
“This Army is now ready to march to Mobile, Savannah or Charleston, and I am practising them in the art of foraging and they take to it like Ducks to water. They like pigs sheep, chickens, calves and Sweet potatoes better than Rations. We wont starve in Georgia.”
In Virginia, John Anderson is glad for a respite in the fighting he has known this campaign season: “A considerable calm has existed for some time on our line, in fact, since the 30th we have been quiet. Preparations for the grand trial may be going on and then probably only recuperation [for] the Army is Grant’s object and cause of quiet. Of course we think there will be a revolution in affairs as soon as this election comes off, let Lincoln or ‘Little Mac’ be elected.”
October 22, 1864
President Lincoln tenders “the thanks of the Nation, and my own personal admiration and gratitude,” to Philip Sheridan and his command “for the month’s operations in the Shenandoah Valley; and especially for the splendid work of October 19, 1864.”October 23, 1864
Fighting erupts near Westport, Missouri, as Sterling Price, John S. Marmaduke, and Jo Shelby confront Samuel R. Curtis and James G. Blunt. The forces contend at Byram’s Ford on the Big Blue River, and over Brush Creek, with the Confederates getting an early advantage there. Alfred Pleasonton’s arrival and the ability to turn the opposing flank cause the Southerners to give way and force Price to retreat. The combat results in some 1,500 casualties on each side and dashes Confederate hopes for the redemption of Missouri.October 24, 1864
In Virginia, Edward Guerrant pauses in his role as soldier to become tourist as he visits Natural Bridge and “Stonewall” Jackson’s gravesite. Of the natural wonder, he concludes: “My own pleasure was heightened by the knowledge that I was treading the same soil & gazing upon the same great handiwork of God—that had felt the impress & presented an image to thousands & thousands of men before me, of the great & good.”October 25, 1864
Price’s men continue to struggle under Union pressure as pursuit of the retreating Confederates mounts after an initially slower start. The Southerners cannot prevent destruction to their wagons and lose more as they burn the remaining ones they cannot secure from danger. When the fighting subsides along the Marais des Cygnes River, at Mine Creek and at Marmaton River, the Confederate losses stand at some 800 men, with 500 captured, including General Marmaduke, compared to 150 for the Union.
The blockade-runners Wild Rover and Agnes E. Fry leave Bermuda bound for Wilmington.
October 26, 1864
At Albany, Missouri, one of the more notorious Confederate guerrillas, William T. “Bloody Bill” Anderson dies when he charges a force of 150 Federals sent to take him out. His corpse will be displayed for public perusal in Richmond, Mo.
Roswell Lamson remains active in attempting to enforce the blockade in North Carolina. He explains: “Last Wednesday I chased a blockade runner in the direction of Nassau and on Thursday chased another in the same direction. We gained on them about a mile an hour, and at sundown had them almost under our guns but the night was so dark that we lost sight of them. The last one we chased threw over board all of his cargo.”
October 27, 1864
Union troops move forward in the area of Burgess’s Mill, Va., for the purpose of severing the South Side Railroad into Petersburg. Also known as Boydton Plank Road and Hatcher’s Mill, the engagement results in a successful defense of these vital rail and road arteries by Harry Heth, William Mahone and Wade Hampton. Union losses for Winfield Scott Hancock and Gouverneur Warren in the operation stand at 166 killed, 1,028 wounded, and 564 missing or captured. Confederate casualties amount to approximately 1,300 men.
A Union diversion north of the James River pits men under Benjamin Butler against a returned James Longstreet. An assault by Major General Godfrey Weitzel proves disastrous and costs the Federals 700 men in prisoners alone.
Confederate Thomas Moore is not content in his portion of the trenches around Petersburg:
“I have been at this place one week and a half and am thoroughly disgusted with it already. It is certainly the worst place I have found since I have been a soldier. I have been at work like a hero making a bomb proof for the last several days. You will have a good idea of it when I tell you it is exactly like our milk house with the exception of the cover which in this is logs laid across the top of the ground and covered with dirt. . . . We all live underground. You have no idea how much ditching has been done here. There is a ditch (deep as my head) to carry you to any part of the line and one-half mile in rear. . . . I can see the Yankees any time I look and when on picket can talk to them. They call us ‘Johnny Rebs’ and we call them ‘Bill.’”
A daring raid by Lieutenant William B. Cushing succeeds in passing through the Confederate obstructions to place a torpedo that explodes against the hull of the ironclad Albemarle. Noted for his willingness to take enormous risks, Cushing survives the operation without serious injury, but much of his small crew of fifteen are not so fortunate. Even so, a dreaded vessel is out of operation for the Confederacy.
From Gaylesville, Alabama, Cump Sherman pauses in his operations, hinting of his future situation to Ellen, “as I have more leisure at this moment than I will likely again for a long time I will write at length. . . . I expect very soon now to attempt another feat in which I think I will succeed but it is hazardous and you will not hear from me for months. The War Dept. will Know my whereabouts and the Rebels and you will be able to guess.”
October 28, 1864
Blunt and Shelby clash near Newtonia, Missouri, as the Confederate withdrawal continues.
Confederate brigadier general Abraham Buford arrives in the vicinity of Fort Heiman as part of General Forrest’s attempt to blockade the Tennessee River.
October 29, 1864
Three more blockade-runners set out for Wilmington from Bermuda.
Abe Buford’s cavalry raiders capture the heavily-laden Mazeppa as it attempts to pass their artillery positions. In the aftermath, the Confederates find much to plunder, but general from the Kentucky Bluegrass explains: “Plenty of meat, boys, plenty of hard-tack, plenty of shoes and clothes for the boys, but just enough brandy for the General.”
Guerrant is struck by the state of the Shenandoah Valley as he passes through it:
“Our march lay today thro’ the waste of a beautiful country, the utter desolation of the far famed Valley of Virginia. No one can imagine how utterly destroyed is this fine country, unless he could see it. Not one of the hundreds of splendid barns, the pride of the people, & promise of the future was left standing from mountain to mountain. The fences were all gone. Broad, fertile fields lay open & barren.”
October 30, 1864
The gunboat Undine is the next victim to enter Buford’s trap and falls into Confederate hands. Two other vessels, Venus and J.W. Cheeseman, join the hapless Union gunboat as recipients of Confederate attentions.
The Chickamauga arrives at Bermuda from Wilmington bringing in “1,000 bales of cotton.” Calling the craft the Virginia, U.S. Consul C.M. Allen describes her as “a large new vessel and considered the most valuable of the fleet; is now in port here with an outward cargo on board.”
October 31, 1864
Nathan Bedford Forrest arrives at the scene where Buford has created such havoc with regard to Union shipping. The opportunity to convert two captured vessels into something of a fleet of his own is too great a temptation to avoid. The cavalryman turns to a former steamboat skipper, Captain Frank Gracey to take over Undine, while Lieutenant Colonel William A. Dawson assumes command of Venus. Dawson is aware of the hazard for himself, should this mission prove disastrous and asks for appropriate dispensation should the worst occur: “Now, General, I will go with these gunboats wherever you order, but I want to tell you now that if I lose your fleet and come in afoot you will not curse me out about it.” His bemused superior replies, “No, Colonel, you will do the best you can; that is all I want. I promise not to haul you over the coals if you come home wet.”
In the meantime, Hood reaches Tuscumbia, Ala. As he continues to weigh his options for redeeming the losses the Confederacy has suffered in the Western Theater.
Union naval forces capture Plymouth, North Carolina.
President Lincoln issues a proclamation admitting Nevada into the Union as the thirty-sixth state.
November 1864November 1, 1864
Nathan Bedford Forrest is already finding that his Tennessee River “Hoss Navy” will not have the support the vessels need to survive potential encounters with Union river units because his land forces cannot move as efficiently on the rain-soaked terrain to enable the two elements to maintain contact.
From Rome, Georgia, William T. Sherman tells Ulysses Grant:
“As you foresaw, and as Jeff. Davis threatened, the enemy is now in the full tide of execution of his grand plan to destroy my communications and defeat this army. . . . If I were to let go Atlanta and North Georgia and make for Hood, he would, as he did here, retreat to the southwest, leaving his militia, now assembling at Macon and Griffin, to occupy our conquests, and the work of last summer would be lost. . . . [Instead] I will destroy all the railroads of Georgia and do as much substantial damage as is possible, reaching the sea-coast near one of the points hitherto indicated, trusting that General Thomas, with his present troops and the influx of new troops promised, will be able to do a good deal of damage. . . .”
Grant is still trying to persuade Sherman, and perhaps himself, that Hood’s destruction trumps a proposed march to the sea: “Do you not think it advisable now that Hood has gone so far north, to entirely settle him before starting on your proposed campaign? With Hoods Army destroyed you can go where you please with impunity. . . . If you see the chance for destroying Hoods Army, attend to that first & make your other move secondary[.]”
President Lincoln reads a letter from Sergeant H. Warren Stimson of the One Hundred Forty-second Pennsylvania Volunteers, who had left school at Columbia College to enlist and is now seeking an appointment to the United States Military Academy. Stimson had written a few days earlier: “I am 19 years of age. I have carried my musket nearly thirty months, and am willing to carry it, thirty more if by so doing the Rebellion may be crushed. I have had plenty of chances to be detailed: but have refused, because I believe that when a man enlists, it is his duty to fight & not to ‘burn.’ I have been in every action since the ‘2d Bull Run,’ and have been wounded twice. I expect to go into another one tomorrow, as we are ordered to march at 5 A.M. Perhaps by tomorrow night I may be beyond the need of a cadetship, but I hope not.”
Lincoln’s response: “I wish this ‘soldier boy’ to have a chance.”
November 2, 1864
A portion of Forrest’s water-borne command ends as Venus confronts Federal gunboats, which, after a fight, force the vessel onto the bank where the temporary Confederate crew makes good an escape. But, Venus, two twenty-pounder Parrotts and part of the spoils from Mazeppa fall into Union hands.
Secretary of State William Seward shares concerns with New York City’s mayor that agents from the Confederacy may seek to disrupt the up-coming elections by setting fires in the city.
Grant is reassessing the Hood-Sherman quandary, but is turning in his general’s direction for conducting a separate campaign to the coast:
“With the force however you have left with Thomas he must be able to take care of Hood and destroy him. I do not really see that you can withdraw from where you are to follow Hood without giving up all we have gained in territory. I say then go on as you propose.”
At 6:00 P.M., Sherman continues to argue that his plan for a march to the sea will work:
“If I turn back the whole effect of my campaign will be lost. . . . I am clear of opinion that the best results will follow me in my contemplated movements through Georgia.” At 9:30 he follows: “I think Jeff Davis will change his tune when he finds me advancing into the heart of Georgia instead of retreating and I think it will have an immediate effect on your operations at Richmond.”
November 3, 1864
The birth of a child causes Confederate ordnance chief Josiah Gorgas to become reflective: “Two boys & four girls in a family will do very well. May Heaven bless & protect them all & bring them safely to years of maturity. It is a wet miserable evening, & as I sit writing by the blaze of a cheerful wood fire, I sorrow over our soldiers exposed to the slow, cold, penetrating rain. Heaven watch over them, too.”November 4, 1864
Early in the day, the captured U.S. gunboat Undine comes under heavy fire and the Confederate crew determines to place oil-soaked mattresses on the vessel, light them, and abandon ship. When the fire reaches the powder magazine the resulting explosion rips the craft apart. Forrest’s navy is no more.
But, better news for the Confederates prevails as the cavalryman unleashes a barrage against the storage depot and facilities at Johnsonville, Tennessee. Shells from the Southern tubes burst over the twenty-eight steamboats and barges and among the supplies stacked on the shoreline and wharves. Forrest joins in the firing personally and the conflagration consumes resources that he estimates in a subsequent report to be “$6,700,000 worth of property.”
Charles Mattocks is on his way out of prison, having slipped away while joining officers who were supposed to be gathering wood. Guards locate one man, but miss the rest, and soon the escapees renew their efforts: “Swam Saluda River last night just after dark—swim of 200 yds—600 yards from Reb. pickets on bridge.
Travelled all night. Now hiding in wood 15 miles from Columbia.”
November 5, 1864
General Grant prepares General George Meade for the possibility of heavier Confederate activity on election day. “Every precautions should be taken to have all troops so in hand that they can be used if required.”November 6, 1864
John Decker, the chief engineer of the New York City Fire Department puts his men on alert to be ready to battle fires set by Confederate agents.
Of the recent success against his supply depot on the Tennessee River, an exasperated William T. Sherman tells Ulysses Grant, “That devil Forrest was down about Johnsonville, making havoc among the gunboats and transports.”
But, Sherman’s focus remains on the larger picture and the miscalculations he believes others have made: “The taking of Atlanta broke upon Jeff Davis so suddenly as to disturb the equilibrium of his usually well-balanced temper, so that at Augusta, Macon[,] Montgomery and Columbia (S.C.) he let out some of his thoughts which otherwise he would have Kept to himself. As he is not only the President of the Southern Confederacy, but also its commander in chief we are bound to attach more importance to his words than we would to those of a mere civil magistrate.”
Sherman also praises Philip Sheridan for the successes he has enjoyed and urges him to greater exertions:
“I am satisfied, and have been all the time, that the problem of this war consists in the awful fact that the present class of men who rule the South must be killed outright rather than in the conquest of territory, so that hard, bull-dog fighting, and a great deal of it, yet remains to be done, and it matters little whether it be done close to the borders, where you are, or farther in the interior, where I happen to be; therefore, I shall expect you on any and all occasions to make bloody results.”
November 7, 1864
The Second Session of the Confederate Congress opens in Richmond. Jefferson Davis offers an upbeat evaluation of the progress of the war, emphasizing his government’s dedication and determination, while noting the advances made by Union arms.
“The lessons afforded by the history of this war are fraught with instruction and encouragement. Repeatedly during the war have formidable expeditions been directed by the enemy against points ignorantly supposed to be of vital importance to the Confederacy. Some of these expeditions have, at immense cost, been successful, but in no instance have the promised fruits been reaped. . . . [I]f we had been compelled to evacuate Richmond as well as Atlanta—the Confederacy would have remained as erect and defiant as ever. Nothing could have been changed in the purpose of its Government, in the indomitable valor of its troops, or in the unquenchable spirit of its people.”
In addition to his overview of foreign policy, finance and war, the Confederate chief executive focuses on the matter of the “Employment of Slaves.” In the evolutionary nature of the conflict he has begun to embrace the notion that more able-bodied slaves might be induced into serving in noncombat roles, rather than being subjected to impressment as property for periods of time:“The policy of engaging to liberate the negro on his discharge after service faithfully rendered seems to me preferable to that of granting immediate manumission, or that of retaining him in servitude.” I must dissent from those who advise a general levy and arming of the slaves for the duty of soldiers.”
While Davis is not yet ready to embrace the use of slaves as soldiers for the Confederacy, he understands that circumstances might require a further reassessment at some future point when any final chance for independence makes it necessary. He also indicates that his government continues to pursue a path toward a peaceful resolution to the current conflict, while remaining resolved “resolutely [to] continue to devote our united and unimpaired energies to the defense of our homes, our lives, and our liberties. This is the true path to peace. Let us tread it with confidence in the assured result.”
In Georgia, Sergeant William B. Miller of Seventy-fifth Indiana, records his sentiments regarding the attempts of local Southern units to harass Union interests in the region north of Atlanta:
“The Guirillas under Henderson captured two wagons from foragers near Cassville. He has about three hundred cut throats with him and he needs a warming up.”
Further to the west, in Louisiana, William Henry King predicts that the South will experience difficulties regardless of the outcome of the war:
“The truth is, we are a house divided against ourselves, and could not stand if left to ourselves. Should the Federals withdraw, leaving us alone, we would soon have an internecine war of our own. We are now composed of heterogeneous elements—elements that will not unite when all external force is withdrawn. The instant external pressure is with-drawn, elements will begin to fly off in a tangent with a deafening whiz.”
In Bermuda, U.S. consul Charles M. Allen continues his reports to Secretary Seward in Washington, noting the departure of a number of vessels for Wilmington. “The Stormy Petrel is under the command of Capt. Gordon who has made twenty nine voyages through the blockade.”
November 8, 1864
Abraham Lincoln is re-elected to the presidency, receiving a popular vote of 2,330,552 to George B. McClellan’s 1,835,985. The electoral tally is 212-21, with the Democratic ticket securing only the states of Delaware, Kentucky, and New Jersey.
McClellan’s concession amounts to what might be expected of him:
“For my country’s sake I deplore the result. . . .”
Sergeant Miller notes an overwhelming straw vote of 310 out of 331 in the regiment for the Lincoln ticket, in which he erroneously includes Vice President Hannibal Hamlin. “Now the northern Democrats say we are tired of the war. Does that look like it. The Rebels boasted once that if President Lincoln would give them a white piece of paper to write their own terms to come back into the Union they would not write them. Now we propose to write them for them and within another year if Lincoln is the next president they will sue for peace.”
Edward O. Guerrant tries to anticipate the Northern elections with brave resolve:
“Four years ago today Lincoln was elected—the cause of ‘woes innumberable. Today after hundreds of thousands of men have been slain & dollars spent in a cruel, futile & unholy war, he proposes to continue his reign. . . .As a matter of interest to us in this great struggle we care very little who is elected whether Lincoln or McClellan. We despise Lincoln, & have a contempt for McClellan, We fear neither. We expect no favors from either & shall not be disappointed.”
November 9, 1864
General Grant forwards a poll of the vote of the soldiers of the Army of the Potomac sent him by General Meade to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, which indicates that the President enjoys solid support from the men in the ranks.
The realities of war and the need for replacements in the Union ranks have not softened the hazing of new men, as Sergeant W.B. Miller observes:
“I was down to the Depot and seen a Train load of Conscripts but none whom I knew. Our Boys dont play fair with them they Steal their Knapsacks and guns and every thing els They will find out how to watch their things closer after they Soldier a year or two.”
November 10, 1864
Grant sends a message for President Lincoln via Secretary Stanton: “Enough now seems to be known to say who is to hold the reins of Government for the next four years. Congratulate the President for me for the double victory. The election having passed off quietly, no bloodshed or rioit throughout the land, is a victory worth more to the country than a battle won. Rebeldom and Europe will so construe it.”
Aware that his opponent can read newspapers as well as he, Sherman advises Assistant Secretary of War Charles Dana, if necessary, to counteract correct information made public with “other paragraphs calculated to mislead the enemy,” even offering several examples that might be drawn upon or used.
Alvin Coe Voris explains political developments from his perspective:
“The presidential election is over and so far as I can learn ‘nobody is hurt’ unless it is ‘Little Mack’ and his friends. In the army the elections passed off verry quietly. . . . It appears to have been a foregone conclusion amongst all classes that ‘Honest Old Abe’ had the inside track and would beat the ‘Great Unready’ by a long way, perhaps distance him.
We are assured that he has done this handsomely.”
Emerson Opdycke is as elated by the news of the re-election of President Lincoln as he is disdainful of the words he has read attributed to President Davis:
“Jeff Davis was in Hood’s army a short time ago, and addressed the troops urging them to plant their flags on the banks of the Ohio! This was modest he ought to have said on the banks of Lake Erie!”
November 11, 1864
At midnight, General Sherman informs Henry Halleck:
“My arrangements are now all complete. . . . Last night we burned all foundries, mills, and shops of every kind in Rome, and to-morrow I leave Kingston with the rear guard for Atlanta, which I propose to dispose of in a similar manner, and to start on the 16th on the projected grand raid.”
His next communication is to George Thomas in Nashville, admonishing him to keep an eye on the Confederates and march on Selma, Alabama, if the Southerners attempt to follow Sherman’s marching columns. “The probabilities are that the wires will be broken to-morrow and that all communication will cease between us. . . . You may act, however, on the certainty that I sally forth from Atlanta on the 16th instant with about 60,000, well-provisioned, but expecting to live chiefly on the country.”
From Smyrna Camp Ground, Georgia, Thomas W. Osborn tells his brother:
“I have been both busy and tired since our return from the chase after General Hood or I should have written you earlier. It is now ten o’clock in the forenoon and the last train will pass by here at twelve noon after which the railroad will be destroyed. After that we will be at sea from 300 to 500 miles from anywhere. I do not think you will hear from me again in less than six weeks. The Confederate newspapers will probably keep the country pretty well informed of our whereabouts and of what we are doing.”
From the same location, Major General Oliver Otis Howard writes his wife:
“From present appearances we shall be cut off from communication for some little time. I don’t know myself where we shall go, but we have stripped [down] for a trip in the enemy’s country.”
Ned Guerrant surveys the region near Front Royal, in the Valley of Virginia:
“This country is perfectly laid waste, the picture & personification of desolation. Every fence is gone & the country looks as old, & open & wide & desolate & dreary as the Great Sahara, or as old Palestine.”
November 12, 1864
John Bell Hood is beset by delay in advancing while he waits for Forrest’s cavalry to reach him over roads and across a Tennessee River badly-impacted by the weather. He tells President Davis: “As soon as Forrest joins me, which will be in a few days, I shall be able to move forward. Without the assistance of Forrest’s cavalry I cannot secure my wagon trains when crossing the river. You may rely upon my striking the enemy whenever a suitable opportunity presents, and that I will spare no efforts to make that opportunity.”
Indiana sergeant Miller is in a mood for vengeance as he tramps through Cartersville and Kingston, crosses the “Ettawa River and camped at the foot of the Altoona mountains for the night. All the building[s] was burned along our line of march and the Rail Road distroyed and it looks as though we are going to devastate or burn out the confederacy. That has always been my policy. That we must make them feel our power and give the Rebel Soldiers to understand that we will not protect their families while they remain in the Army. It looks hard to see women and children driven out without shelter but it seams to be the only remedy that will cure the disease. When they learn that unless they submit their families will suffer for their folly the war will end. If we go across the country and destroy the property as we have to day there will be sufferin all over the south and I think forbearance has long ago ceased to be a virtue.”
November 13, 1864
From City Point, Grant observes to a friend:November 14, 1864
“Every thing is very quiet here and seems likely to remain so until I make it otherwise. The rebels are reinforcing to a conciderable extent by bringing in men who have heretofore been detailed in workshops etc. and by collecting the old men and little boys. It is better that it should be so. When the job is done then it will be well done.”
Confederate artillerist Henry Robinson Berkeley offers a harsh critique of his latest billet and the individuals responsible for selecting the site:
“We came on up to New Market, and went into the meanest camp an officer could possibly pick out. It was very cold and windy and this camp was on the north side of a steep hill. The boys in the whole battalion seemed to think that it would be utterly impossible to choose a meaner camp in Rockingham County. They were abusing the officer who selected it pretty much all night, for it was so cold we could not keep warm and the hill so steep that we could [not] sleep in any comfort.”
Sergeant Miller continues to record the destruction he is witnessing in Georgia:
“We was on the march early and passed through Marietta and the town was fired. All the Buildings but a few was burned. . . . The beautiful town is only a mass of ruins.”
November 15, 1864
General Grant instructs Thomas in Nashville to keep an eye on his opponents and respond accordingly: “If Hood commences falling back it will not do to wait for the full equipment of your Cavalry to follow. He should in that event, be pressed with such force as you can bring to bear.”
Now the revels of destruction for Sergeant Miller and his comrades reach Atlanta:
“The city is fired in severel places and about dark the Torch was set into the Buisiness part. It was a grand sight from our camp to look down on the burning city. . . . It reminds me of the distruction of the city of Babalon as spoken of in the Bible whis was distroyed because of the wickedness of her people and that is the case with Atlanta. I feel Sorry for some of the people but a Soldier is not supposed to have any concience and must lay aside all scruples he may have.”
November 16, 1864
Having limited the capability of the city to return to any semblance of usefulness for the Confederacy, Sherman takes his leave of Atlanta to begin his long-awaited campaign for the coast.
Now that yellow fever season has subsided, blockade-running activity in Bermuda reaches its highest levels, with Consul Allen providing as much information as he can on each vessel, including the fact that the craft are receiving new coats of white paint. He also observes that more coal than at any previous time is being accumulated there.
November 17, 1864
Josiah Gorgas offers a sobering assessment of the election results in the North:
“Lincoln has been re-elected President of the United States by overwhelming majorities. There is no use in disguising the fact that our subjugation is popular in the north, & that the war must go on until this hope is crushed out & replaced by desire for peace at any cost.”
The sergeant from Indiana, William B. Miller, is now part of William T. Sherman’s “March to the Sea”:
“We marched fifteen miles and camped near Conyers Station. We find plenty of forage and live entirely off the country. Some of the old citizens complain teribly and claim to be Union men and have never been any thing els. Our Boys tell them if they are Union men they can afford to contribute some thing to help us carry on the war and if they are Rebels we will take it any way. In that way we manage to live. But if we was not here they would be all Rebels. They are loyal by compulsion only.”
From Cat Island, off of the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, Rufus Kinsley notes the activities far away from the heavy fighting in Virginia and Tennessee:
“Started to make the rounds, or rather to visit the pickets at the west end last night, in my sail boat. Breeze stiff from the north. About four miles out broke the mast even with the deck. Have for my crew skillful sailors, and we were soon under sail again, but glad to get back to port without being driven out to sea. Left the pickets to visit themselves.”
Charles Mattocks and his compatriots are feeling better, having crossed into North Carolina, where they hope to secure aid from Unionists.
“After two weeks of wandering we have brought our marching down to a regular system. Start at 8 o’clock, walk an hour, rest 10 minutes, and so on until nearly daylight when we seek a good hiding place. By day and in fact most of the time by night we speak only in a whisper. We are just now upon a very small allowance of food. . . . I never would have believed that a person could do so much with so little food. Perhaps one could not in another cause than going home from a Rebel prison! Our friends at home are doubtless anxious because we do not write. We hope soon to explain the matter in person.”
Henri Garidel finds that myriad dangers lurk in the Confederate capital:
“I have never seen anything darker than the streets of Richmond when there is neither gaslight nor moonlight. You can’t see where to put your feet. On my way home, two women, I can’t call them ladies, accosted me. One of them asked me if I hadn’t picked up her veil. I answered her politely that I hadn’t and I knew what she was getting at, but she was wasting her time. I hurried off so that I wouldn’t have to spend any longer in their company.”
November 18, 1864
The bulk of Forrest’s cavalry finally reaches Florence, Alabama, to join with Hood after an arduous and circuitous journey. Hood places the officer in charge of all of the Army of Tennessee’s cavalry units and the final preparations for a forward movement take place.
In Georgia, the troops forage liberally, although with occasional harassment from “Bush Whackers.” Sergeant Miller proclaims triumphantly: “This part of the country has never seen any Yankees only prisoners and the armies have not molested it and the citizens are well fixed and have plenty which makes it nice for us in levying contributions on them. We live like fighting cocks.”November 19, 1864
In his absence from City Point, Ulysses Grant tells Brigadier General John A. Rawlins to notify him if the Confederates should detach any sizable force from the lines at Petersburg and Richmond. “Should such a thing occur telegraph me and I will get back as fast as steam can carry me.” Grant may be forgiven for remembering previous times when he had left the immediate front to attend to other matters and unexpected Confederate actions occurred to which he had to respond, such as at Fort Donelson and Shiloh.November 20, 1864
Josiah Gorgas recognizes the challenges that exist for the Confederacy, but tries to remain optimistic: “I fear the President is no military genius, tho’ genius avails not much without resources. I hope the roads & the distances will destroy Sherman if the military dont.”
Rufus Kinsley records the arrival of new refugees intent on becoming volunteers:
“Received two more negroes from Wolf River. They will join the Regiment on Ship Island. Glad to see them escape, of their own free will, without the aid of the Federal army. Two men less for the rebs., and two more for the Union.”
November 21, 1864
John Bell Hood shakes his command from its camps at Florence, Alabama, with the purpose of moving into Middle Tennessee.November 22, 1864
Sherman’s troops occupy the Georgia state capital of Milledgeville. Fighting occurs at Griswoldville in a lop-sided affair that costs militia from the state some 650 casualties, mostly old men and boys, to 62 Federals.
In Tennessee, Emerson Opdycke scrawls a quick note to Lucy detailing the news as day breaks:
“The bugle will sound the ‘Forward’ in a few minutes, and then our Division moves Northward to confront Forrest in a supposed advance. I may get to old Franklin again. It snowed and froze yesterday, no mail. Cool and clear this morning."
November 23, 1864
Alvin Voris remarks on the observance of a feast day that also brings back memories of home for him: “Here I am quietly waiting for Thanksgiving. Not an old fashioned New England Thanksgiving, with turkey, pumpkin pie, hard cider and all the family at the same table, but an army Thanksgiving with reveille at 5½ A.M., & al hands under arms, and drum & fife, and shoulder arms, and hard tack, perhaps a turkey for the men in a camp kettle stew style.”November 24, 1864
P.G.T. Beauregard sends a message of support “To the people of Georgia.
Arise for the defence of your native soil. Rally around your patriotic government and gallant soldiers, obstruct and destroy all roads in Shermans front, flank and rear and his Army will soon starve in your midst. Be confident and resolute. Trust in our overruling providence and success will crown your efforts. I hasten to join you in defence of your homes and fire-sides.”
Edward Guerrant continues to see evidence of destruction in the Shenandoah Valley:
“The country approaches Grant’s ideas & prayer of desolation when it is said he remarked ‘that a crow flying over it should carry his rations.’”
November 25, 1864
Ned Guerrant adds to his catalog of desolation for the once verdant Valley of Virginia:
“I observed that but one single House or barn was left standing between Harrisonburg & Dayton. Every one was burned & as the country was rich, the houses were of the finest kind.”
Confederate agents attempt to consign New York City to flames, largely failing to have any impact except for the charring of a dozen hotels, Barnum’s Museum, and Wallack’s Theater, among other instances of mayhem. Undoubtedly to the chagrin of the covert operatives, the chemicals that are used as combustibles in the effort prove generally ineffective and the city is spared anything even approaching significant, much less wholesale, destruction. The most telling damage is approximately $2,000 to the St. Nicholas Hotel.
After a brief visit to northward, Ulysses Grant has returned to City Point. But the effects of his public persona are grating on the side of him that craves operating outside of the spotlight, as he tells his wife, Julia: “Have you read how I was mobbed in Phila? It is a terrible bore to me that I cannot travel like a quiet citizen.”
November 26, 1864
From Columbia, Tennessee, Emerson Opdycke writes home: “Digging and marching in the rain and mud, with a little shooting by way of variety afford us plenty of ‘Exercise.’”November 27, 1864
Hood has attempted unsuccessfully to outpace Schofield in reaching Columbia, Tenn., but still hopes to hold him there so that an engagement can take place against this smaller portion of the Union troops defending Tennessee. But, during the night, Schofield evacuates the town as snow swirls and intense cold settles into the region.
Despite his dire prognostications of poor fare for Thanksgiving, Alvin Voris notes, “We had turkey, pumpkin pie and cake, in addition to the usual allowance of things.” Folks from home had supplied the men in the ranks with eatables that offered a substantial improvement to hardtack rations. “It did them lots of good to eat this supply of good things from the kind hearted friends at home. I know that the good women who did the work would have been repaid a hundred fold if they could have seen the boys enjoy the meal. . . . Kind words, kind thoughts and kind actions in themselves trifling are of great consequence to the soldier, especially if they come from home.”
Largesse of another form reaches the Union troops in Georgia, at least those comrades of Sergeant Miller of Indiana, as they approach a local plantation:
“The proprietor was not at home haveing important buisiness to attend to when he heard Sherman would visit him. But it made no material difference as we helped ourselves as usual and made ourselves perfectly at home.”
November 28, 1864
Forrest crosses the Duck River to attempt to maintain pressure on the Federals, meeting some resistance at the fords before pushing onward in the direction of Spring Hill.
Despite all of the travails encountered and precautions taken, Charles Mattocks and his comrades find themselves recaptured, their hopes of reaching Union lines and freedom dashed.
Activity remains high in Bermuda, with blockade-runners arriving and departing regularly: “arrived 20th, Armstrong from Wilmington with 750 bales cotton to Crenshaw Brothers. 23, Talisman, Knox master, with 450 bales cotton to James Thurrold, reports having been hard chased for two days, threw over her deck load. 24, Ruby, 25, Stag, both from England via Madeira. The Ruby got short of coal and burned most of her woodwork. The Stag came in painted white. . . .From the best information I can obtain I think there is at the present time nearly or quite forty thousand tons of steam coal in the hands of southern agents here.”
Allen forwards a stronger letter to Secretary Seward regarding the flow of supplies and his earlier attempts to receive clearance for bringing his suspicions on specific vessels to local authorities, for which Washington has been silent. The consul’s language is measured, but his use of the phrase “much disappointed” suggests the degree of frustration under which he has operated, that could also not have been helped by the arrival of the word that his brother, Jonathan V. Allen, had died in October as a result of the fighting at Cedar Creek, in Virginia.
November 29, 1864
One of the potential opportunities for a significant Confederate success in the Tennessee Campaign slips through Hood’s fingers as Schofield’s forces pass by the Southerners who were supposed to have blocked the road at Spring Hill.
Sand Creek, Colorado Territory, becomes the site of an infamous “massacre” as Colonel John M. Chivington unleashes his fury on a Native American encampment. The Union commander has instructed his 700 men not to take prisoners from among the 500 Southern Cheyennes and Arapahos sleeping in the camp. Ultimately some 150 of these individuals perish at the hands of their attackers, many chased down while trying to flee. Others manage to hide or escape successfully. Chivington’s command has less than 50 casualties and return to Denver as heroes for the moment.
Rufus Kinsley relates the story of an effort by several Confederate prisoners of war to escape to freedom:
“Six of the rebel officers confined at Ship Island (among them Col. [Charles] Anderson, who was in command at Fort Gaines), made an attempt to escape the other night. They cut the chain that fastened a skiff belonging to the Light House, and under cover of a thick fog, pulled for the confederacy; but a vigilant sentinel heard the plash of an oar in the water and alarmed the camp. The Colonel started with his launch and one from the Sloop of War Vincennes, and the chivalrous gentlemen were very soon in close quarters inside the ‘Dead Line.’”
November 30, 1864
Still chafing from his missed opportunity at Spring Hill, General Hood confronts Schofield at Franklin, with the Union forces holding a strong position anchored on the Harpeth River. A “wrathy” Hood orders his men to charge with the intent of obliterating the command that has eluded him thus far. Yet, the obliteration that will come will be of the attacking forces instead. This day represents one of tremendous sacrifice for the Confederate States of America as the advancing troops lose six generals, including the incomparable Patrick R. Cleburne, and approximately 1,750 killed, 3,800 wounded and 702 missing or captured, in the fierce and brutal combat that occurs along the line. The Army of the Tennessee had inflicted only 2,326 total casualties on the opposing army.
Confederate bureaucrat Robert G.H. Kean offers grudging admiration for Sherman’s recent operations:
“Sherman’s march through Georgia has been conducted with consummate skill. He has so directed it as to induce the collection of troops at points at which he seemed to be aiming and then he has passed them by, leaving the troops useless and unavailable.”
December 1864December 1, 1864
John Schofield’s weary, but victorious troops reach Nashville and enter the city to join the Union command there, pending the next move John Bell Hood might wish to make after Franklin.December 2, 1864
Ulysses Grant’s assessment of William Rosecrans to Secretary of War Edwin
Stanton is harsh, but reflects the former’s attitude toward some of those who have held high rank in the past:“Rosecrans will do less harm doing nothing than on duty. I know no Department or Army Commander deserving such punishment as the infliction of Rosecrans upon him.”
The timing of this scathing indictment on a previous commander could not be worse for George Thomas in Tennessee. He does not know that Secretary Stanton has turned the heat up on Grant in Virginia for action, while Thomas does not want to engage in a battle with John Bell Hood prematurely. Stanton’s message to Grant is nevertheless quite clear on the Lincoln Administration’s intent:
“The President feels solicitous about the disposition of Thomas to lay in fortifications for an indefinite period, ‘until Wilson gets his equipments.’ This looks like the McClellan and Rosecrans strategy of do nothing and let the rebels raid the country. The President wishes you to consider the matter.”
Emerson Opdycke pauses to attempt to convey to his wife the scene of fighting at Franklin in which he has proven an important participant: “On came the enemy, hundreds falling before our terrible fire of musketry and artillery, but they do not stop [as] they reach the breastworks. Great God our men are giving way and leaving the breastworks. ‘First Brigade forward to the works. . .’ Thank God the 1st Brigade proved irresistible, the breastworks are ours, and several hundred prisoners, and ten rebel battle flags were their trophies. On came fresh columns of the enemy and the musketry exceeded anything I ever heard; the powder smoke darkened the sunlight. . . . Again and again the enemy attacked our line in the most determined and reckless manner, even after darkness shadowed the awful scene, then the blazing guns seemed to be millions; finally the enemy yielded and ceased firing.
I stepped over the front of our works to see the effects. I never saw their dead and wounded lie so thickly piled one upon another; the carnage was awful.”
Like all else, life must go on, and war clerk John B. Jones complains in Richmond:
“My landlord gets $400 of the $500 increase of my salary.”
December 3, 1864
Sherman is at Millen, Ga., as his troops move toward Savannah and the sea.December 4, 1864
Joseph Wheeler strikes a portion of Sherman’s command at Waynesborough, Ga. “Fighting Joe” then spars with Judson “Kill-Cavalry” Kilpatrick through the day.
John B. Jones notes the internal divisions that have emerged in the Confederacy:
“The law allowing exemptions to owners of a certain number of slaves is creating an antislavery party. The non-slaveowners will not long fight for the benefit of such a ‘privileged class.’ There is madness in our counsels.”
December 5, 1864
Roswell Lamson pauses to write of his exploits on patrol, “At sea,” on the U.S.S. Gettysburg, with his vessel first chasing a blockade-runner unsuccessfully and then having better luck. “The prize proved to be the “Armstrong” with a cargo of cotton from Wilmington, and a fine prize.” Lamson is proud of his vessel’s role in the capture, but becomes irked when a comrade signals “Good Boy” to him. “I replied ‘Thank You;’ I thought of giving him a more impertinent reply for I did not fancy being called a ‘boy’ by even one of the oldest Commanders in the service.”December 6, 1864
Salmon P. Chase becomes Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.
President Lincoln provides his annual message to Congress. The focus for much of the work is on foreign policy, before turning to the Cabinet reports from the Secretaries of War and the Navies. Then, Lincoln shifts to the late military developments:
“The most remarkable feature in the military operations of the year is General Sherman’s attempted march of three hundred miles directly through the insurgent region. It tends to show a great increase in our relative strength that our General-in-Chief should feel able to confront and hold in check every active force of the enemy, and yet to detach a well-appointed large army to move on such an expedition. The result not yet being known, conjecture in regard to it is not here indulged.”
On the matter of completing the work he started with the Executive action of the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln notes that the recent election ought to bear significance: “At the last session of Congress a proposed amendment of the Constitution abolishing slavery throughout the United States, passed the Senate, but failed for lack of the requisite two-thirds vote in the House of Representatives. Although the present is the same Congress, and nearly the same members, and without questioning the wisdom or the patriotism of those who stood in opposition, I venture to recommend the reconsideration and passage of the measure at the present session. Of course the abstract question is not changed; but an intervening election shows, almost certainly, that the next Congress will pass the measure if this [one] does not.”
Lincoln sees even larger purpose to these events: “The national resources, then, are unexhausted, and, as we believe, inexhaustible. The public purpose to re-establish and maintain the national authority is unchanged, and, as we believe, unchangeable. . . . On careful consideration of all the evidence accessible it seems to me that no attempt at negotiation with the insurgent leader could result in any good. He would accept nothing short of the severance of the Union—precisely what we will not and cannot give.”
December 7, 1864
Secretary of War Stanton is becoming particularly perturbed at the messages he is receiving from General Thomas at Nashville. Much hinges on the Virginian’s ability to keep the Army of Tennessee contained in Middle Tennessee and the strain is beginning to show in Washington as well as at City Point, Virginia, where Ulysses Grant is trying to figure out what to do to prod his subordinate into action as quickly as possible. Nevertheless, Stanton informs Grant, “Thomas seems unwilling to attack because it is hazardous, as if all war was anything but hazardous. If he waits for Wilson to get ready [with the cavalry], Gabriel will be blowing his last horn.”
At the same time, the martial tableau at Nashville is impressive. One Union soldier from Kentucky tries to paint the image in words for his brother:
“[T]he rebel army is within 2 miles at night their fires can be seen as plainly as our own. I wish you could but take a look at these things. Towards sundown every evening the bands begin to play and for an hour or two we hear the most delicious music.”
Outside the tremendous fortified camp that Murfreesboro has become, featuring the formidable works of Fortress Rosecrans, Confederate cavalryman Nathan Bedford Forrest quickly understands that he cannot assault the position directly without incurring substantial losses. He hopes to lure Union troops under the overall command of Major General Lovell Rousseau out of their defenses to battle him in the open, but when he confronts a foray by Major General Robert H. Milroy, the result is not what the horse soldier had expected. A panic sets in the Southern ranks and compels Forrest to resort to extraordinary means to halt the rout in the Battle of the Cedars (or Wilkinson’s Pike).
Having come to Atlanta to assess the situation in the fallen city, Georgia militia officer, William Pinckney Howard reports to Governor Joseph Brown on his findings. Among the most troubling aspects will be the degree to which the city has become subject to pillaging by lawless elements bent on taking advantage of the chaotic environment, including, “about two hundred and fifty wagons . . . loading with pilfered plunder. . . . This exportation of stolen property had been going on ever since the place has been abandoned by the enemy. Bushwhackers, robbers and deserters, and citizens from the surrounding country for a distance of fifty miles have been engaged in this dirty work.”
But Howard has also found that the opposing troops had proven most effective in their work of destruction before they departed Atlanta:
“The[rail] car wheels that were uninjured by fire were rendered useless by breaking the flanges. In short every species of machinery that was not destroyed by fire, was most ingeniously broken and made worthless in its original form. . . . Nothing has escaped.”
December 8, 1864
Thomas and Grant remain at odds over the progress, or as the superior officer sees it, lack of progress, toward a showdown with Hood at Nashville. In the afternoon, Grant observes to Henry Halleck: “If Thomas has not struck yet he ought to be ordered to hand over his command to Schofield. There is no better man to repel an attack than Thomas—but I fear he is too cautious to ever take the initiative.”December 9, 1864
Halleck replies: “If you wish Genl Thomas relieved from command, give the order. No one here will, I think, interfere. The responsibility, however, will be yours, as no one here, so far as I am informed, wishes Genl Thomas’ removal.”
Grant hesitates, and an hour later remarks: “I would not say relieve him until I hear further from him.”
Grant remains angry that Thomas has not acted as he wishes him to do, whatever the circumstances at the scene. He directs that orders be drafted to replace the “Rock of Chickamauga” with Schofield, but once more demurs: “I am unwilling to do injustice to an officer who has done as much good service as Gen. Thomas has, however, and will therefore suspend the order relieving him until it is seen whether he will do anything.” In reply to a message from Thomas, General Grant explains: “I have as much confidence in your conducting a battle rightly as I have in any other officer. But it has seemed to me that you have been slow and I have had no explaination of affairs to convince me otherwise. Receiving your dispatch to Gen. Halleck of 2 P.M. before I did the one to me, I telegraphed to suspend the order relieving you until we should hear further. I hope most sincerely that there will be no necessity of repeating the order and the facts will show that you have been right all the time. ”
Alvin Coe Voris is convinced that his government is on the right track when it comes to the war effort: “Well, I like Old Abe’s plain way of telling the rebels they can have peace if they want it, and if not they can have war to their hearts content. I like plain talk.
In truth I should admit that our operations of the past six months have been of that demonstrative kind that must convince them that the way of the transgressor is hard. The devastation of the Virginia valley, and the destruction accompanying Gen Sherman’s columns show vigor and emphasis on the part of the Government that will do more than all the executive bullying & coaxing of his Administration towards bringing these rebellions [sic] madcaps back to their sober senses.”
Calls increase for more drastic measures to secure Confederate independence, including as War Clerk Jones remarks from the governor of Virginia:
“Gov. Smith, in his message to the Legislature now in session, recommends the employment of negro troops, even if it results in their emancipation.”
December 10, 1864
Sherman’s troops arrive in the vicinity of Savannah, Ga., although the campaign is hardly over as long as William Hardee’s men hold the city’s defenses.
John Dooley describes a daring prison break from Johnson’s Island that ends badly for the fugitives, one of whom dies at the outset, while the others soon return to captivity:
“Poor Bowles, shot through the heart, lies with his face upturned to the cold gaze of the moon and faces of his slayers. . . .Meanwhile Pearce and his two companions are fleeing like the wind to elude the pursuit of the guard and make good their escape! The direction they have taken leads to a portion of the [frozen] lake not more than a mile wide. But after crossing they do not reach the mainland but have still some 27 miles to travel: but this narrow point of land is thickly inhabited and the commander of our prison has notified the inhabitants that should any prisoners escape, he would make the same known to them and the whole country by discharging a heavy piece of ordnance, upon which signal they would, as trooly loil citizens of Uncle Sam’s munificent & glorious government and haters of all the rebel kind, be expected to leave their beds or work or whatever they were engaged in, and do all that in them lay to recapture and bring back dead or alive the escaped prisoners; but, as a further inducement to their brimming loyalty, a reward of fifty dollars had been publicly proclaimed to any individual or band of individuals who should capture and restore to prison any rebel found at large! [Pearce] was soon brought back to durance vile as were also his two companions. . . . But poor Bowles is not concerned in what people are saying about his endeavors: for he is lying stark and dead in the morgue or dead-house—in rear of the hospital, and his brother [who had tried to dissuade him] is sadly gazing on his beloved features.”
December 11, 1864
Sherman is tightening his grip on Savannah, while wintry weather plagues Thomas’s preparations for an assault in Tennessee.
Josiah Gorgas assesses the situation in Georgia and Tennessee hopefully, but gingerly:
“Should Sherman receive a check at S. it will go hard with his army. His northern friends are as anxious about him as we are about Hood. Lincoln’s message to Congress spawns nothing but subjugation. He says the door of reconciliation is not yet closed, & we may lay down our arms & return to the fold. I hope six months hence a different story will be popular at the north—especially should we catch Sherman tripping.”
December 12, 1864
After receiving a communication from Edward R.S. Canby on strained relations in Louisiana between the military and civil authorities, President Lincoln explains his plans to his general: “As to the new State Government of Louisiana. Most certainly there is no worthy object in getting up a piece of machinery merely to pay salaries, and give political consideration to certain men. But it is a worthy object to again get Louisiana into proper practical relations with the nation; and we can never finish this, if we never begin it. Much good work is already done, and surely nothing can be gained by throwing it away.”December 13, 1864
Below Savannah on the Ogeechee River, Fort McAllister falls to Union forces and makes William T. Sherman’s connection to the sea complete and unencumbered. In the late evening, Sherman reports to Henry Halleck in Washington from aboard the gunboat Dandelion, having made contact with the Federal fleet. “The army is in splendid order, and equal to any thing. Weather has been fine and supplies abundant. Our march was most agreeable, and we were not at all molested by Guerillas. We reached Savannah three days ago, but, owing to Fort McAllister, we could not communicate, but now we have McAllister we can go ahead.December 14, 1864
The whole army is crazy to be turned loose in Carolina; and with the experience of the past 30 days, I judge that a month’s Sojourn in South Carolina would make her less bellicose.”
Ulysses Grant has decided to redeploy Major General Benjamin Butler and the Army of the James against the defenders of Fort Fisher, near Wilmington, North Carolina. But, poor weather has delayed the transport of these elements and the troops have to remain in Virginia until they can finally begin to depart today.
In Southwest Virginia, Edward O. Guerrant laments the state of the climate that produces “rain, & snow, & mud.” He concludes, “This kind of day puts thoughts of desertion into the hearts of bad men, & thoughts of desire for peace into the hearts of the best men. It measures the price of liberty & the cost of rebellion.”
Bad meteorological conditions have been occurring in Nashville as well, where General Thomas waits for a chance to strike at Hood’s army on the rolling terrain nearby. At 8:00 P.M., after receiving another thinly-veiled last chance message to advance, the Virginian replies: “The ice having melted away today, the enemy will be attacked tomorrow morning. Much as I regret the apparent delay in attacking the enemy, it could not have been done before with any reasonable hope of success.”
At the same time, Captain Job Aldrich of the 17th U.S. Colored Troops, prepares himself for the battle that now looms ahead, writing his wife: “The clock strikes one, good night. At five the dance of death begins around Nashville. Who shall be partners in the dance?”
December 15, 1864
The Battle of Nashville opens with a strike on the Confederate right, while Union forces wheel against Hood’s vulnerable left and begin to roll it back. Stubborn resistance meets the initial Union advance on the Confederate right. Losses mount as the bogs down. Among the killed here, is Captain Aldrich, the Union officer who had predicted the “dance of death” that he has just experienced himself. But the decisive action of the day comes against the string of redoubts on the Confederate left, where the men of Lieutenant General Alexander P. Stewart’s corps try valiantly, but cannot stem the blue tide that washes over them.
Confederate ordnance chief Gorgas continues to second-guess his government’s war strategy:
“I think still that my notions were correct at the outset of Sherman’s movement when I advocated the detachment of 10,000 men to Georgia, even at the risk of losing Petersburgh & the Southern R.R. It would have ruined Sherman, & with his ruin, gone far to make the north tied of the war. What can be the object of moving down troops now I cannot see. It is too late—the golden moment for action in Georgia has passed.”
December 16, 1864
The fighting around Nashville continues as the Confederates attempt to hold a consolidated position anchored on two prominent terrain features. Once more the Federals face stubborn resistance before it finally crumbles under the relentless pressure. The two-days’ events allow George Thomas to add “The Sledge of Nashville” to his long list of wartime monikers and give him an impressive victory that has decimated the Army of Tennessee. Thomas sets his losses at 387 killed, 2,562 wounded and 112 missing for a total of 3,061, while the Confederates have left to him 4,462 officers and men, and 53 pieces of artillery, captured, in addition to an undetermined number of killed, wounded, and missing in their demoralized ranks.
President Lincoln wires Thomas his gratitude for the victory won in Tennessee, but underscores his desire for as thorough a success as possible: “You made a magnificent beginning. A grand consummation is within your easy reach. Do not let it slip.”
From the Georgia coast, and not yet knowing of developments at Nashville, Cump Sherman displays his usual attitude toward Thomas in a communication with his friend, and their superior, Sam Grant, that the Virginian is fortunate did not get delivered earlier:
“I myself am somewhat astonished at the attitude of things in Tennessee. . . . Why [Thomas] did not turn on Hood at Franklin, after checking and discomfiting him; surpasses my understanding. . . . I know full well that General Thomas is slow in mind and action, but he is judicious and brave, and the troops feel great confidence in him—I still hope that he will out-manoeuvre & destroy Hood.”
Sherman also writes to assure Ellen of his own condition:
“I have no doubt you have heard of my safe arrival on the Coast. The fact is I never doubted the fact, but these southern Blatherscytes have been bragging of all manner of things but have done nothing. We came right along living on turkeys, chickens pigs etc. bringing along our wagons to be loaded as we started with bread etc. I suppose Jeff Davis will now have to feed the People of Georgia, instead of collecting provisions of them to feed his armies. . . . The soldiers think I know everything and that they can do anything.”
Union cavalry raiders under the overall command of Major General George Stoneman attack and disperse their Confederate counterparts at Marion, Va., giving them the opportunity to wreck the local lead mines and a portion of the Virginia & Tennessee Railroad in the area.
In Bermuda, U.S. consul C.M. Allen remains vigilant in his reporting on Confederate activities in and around his posting. At one point, he poses as a sympathizer and obtains additional information regarding the transfer of “deserters” to New York where “a confederate officer would find employment for them there. From all the information I can obtain, I think the above conversation reveals the true policy of allowing these men to come on shore here.”
William Henry King offers a sobering assessment of the latest developments in Arkansas, where he is posted: “General Magruder has issued a circular to the citizens & soldiers of the District of Arkansas, in which he manifests quite a conciliatory spirit evidently bolstering up for another 4-years war. He contends that election of Lincoln to the presidency secures infallibly our independence. He also thinks it quite certain that a financial crisis will take place soon in the United States. The same old hobby [horse] revived again. It is curiously amusing to retrospect the different reasons why the United States could not prosecute the war against us much longer. . . . All the while, there has been no good reason for supposing that foreign intervention would be for us rather than against us; that a financial crisis was more likely to occur in the North than in the South; that the people of the North would be more apt to quarrel among themselves than the people of the South. Indeed, the reverse of all these, might now be pretty safely assumed.” King sees much that distresses him: “The soldiers are ripe for a revolt against their officers, and a vast majority would willingly have President Davis and his cabinet into the middle of the Atlantic Ocean; there is but little good feeling between citizens and soldier. . . . Not that I hate Federal oppression any less, but that I hate Confederate oppression the more. The Federals from the beginning proposed to subjugate us, and the Confederates proposed to save us from that subjugation. But in saving us they substitute oppression as bad if not worse. If oppression I must receive, I prefer it from an open enemy—deliver me from the sway of a pretended friend.”
December 17, 1864
Hood is in retreat in Middle Tennessee, with Union forces pursuing as aggressively as circumstances will allow.
Sherman tries to convince his counterpart to surrender, while President Davis admonishes Hardee to save what he can of his command.
December 18, 1864
Josiah Gorgas catalogs the latest setbacks in Georgia, and although he makes no overt reference, does so no doubt with an eye to the damage to Confederate production output it represents:
“At Griswoldville near Macon we met with bloody loss, over 600 killed & wounded nearly all Reserves.”
Hood’s rearguard actions are critical to his army’s survival. However, in the frustrating atmosphere of the retreat there is a mystifying moment of “Southern Honor” played out when Nathan Bedford Forrest and Benjamin Franklin Cheatham threaten to shoot each other over whose troops will cross the Duck River first. Fortunately for the Confederacy, cooler heads and the dire nature of the circumstances prevail to defuse the situation before any harm can be inflicted on either of the South’s tougher warriors.
Grant offers his views on recent developments confidentially to Sherman: “I congratulate you, and the brave officers and men under your command, on the successful termination of your most brilliant campaign. I never had a doubt of the result. When apprehentions for your safety were expressed by the President I assured him with the Army you had, and you in command of it, there was no danger but you would strike bottom on Salt Water some place. That I would not feel the same security, in fact would not have entrusted the expedition to any other living commander.”
As if to illustrate his confidence in his friend, Grant adds: “It has been hard work to get Thomas to attack Hood. I gave him the most peremptory orders and had started to go there myself before he got off. He has done magnificently however since he started.”
Hardee rejects the call for his surrender, but recognizes that he cannot hold Savannah much longer.
Thomas Goree, on James Longstreet’s staff, writes an assessment of the situation in Virginia and a passionate defense of Joseph Johnston, whose removal in Georgia the previous year he lays at the prejudices of President Davis and the manipulations of Braxton Bragg. He tells his brother, “You probably do not feel so warmly on this subject as myself, hence I will say no more about it; have probably already written too much, as well as imprudently, about it.”
Nevertheless, his devotion to the cause remains undiminished: “I do not see any present prospects of an early peace. The enemy seem to be more determined than ever to subjugate us. We can only get peace by continuing to fight for it. It is better to die than be subjugated, and I for one am ready and willing to fight to the bitter end.”
December 19, 1864
Philip Sheridan sends Alfred T.A. Torbert on an expedition to wreck the Virginia Central Railroad.
Although he senses the end, Lincoln remains adamant that the resources in men continue to be available to Union arms by calling for another 300,000 volunteers for the service.
December 20, 1864
Confederate forces under William J. Hardee pull back from Savannah rather than risk being cut-off by Sherman.
Hood withdraws from Columbia to Pulaski in his effort to reach the Tennessee River and place that barrier between himself and his pursuers.
John B. Jones determines that for all of the despairing news elsewhere, there is some solace in holding onto the Confederate capital, with its larger consequences:
“The great disaster would be the loss of Richmond and retreat of Lee’s army southward. This would probably be followed by the downfall of slavery in Virginia.”
December 21, 1864
Union troops occupy Savannah, Ga.
George Stoneman’s troops capture the salt works at Saltville, Va., and the 400 men who have attempted to defend them, damaging the important facility and its connecting infrastructure before they depart.
December 22, 1864
Sherman tells President Lincoln: “I beg to present you, as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah with 150 heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about 25,000 bales of cotton.”
To U.S. Grant, he explains: “I take great satisfaction in reporting that we are in possession of Savannah and all its forts. . . . The capture of Savannah, with the incidental use of the river, gives us a magnificent position in this quarter; and if you can hold Lee, and if Thomas can continue as he did on the 18th, I could go on and smash South Carolina all to pieces. . . .”
December 23, 1864
A daring plan takes shape near Fort Fisher, in North Carolina, as the Federals attempt to disrupt the Confederate works by sending U.S.S. Louisiana with a 200-ton load of black powder, intended to be detonated in close proximity to the earthen fortification and produce wide-spread destruction. Roswell Lamson has the unenviable duty of towing the vessel into position and removing her skeleton crew before the explosion occurs. The next day, he explains to his fiancée:
“We had just reached a safe distance when the Louisiana blew with a terrific explosion. An immense column of flame rose towards the sky, and four distinct reports like that of a sharp heavy thunder were heard and a dense mass of smoke enveloped everything.”
Ned Guerrant has been ill and on the move almost constantly in often difficult winter conditions when he has finally had enough of the rumors that pervade camp, ranging from President Davis’ state of health to numerous battlefield setbacks:
“I discredit these wild, extravagant rumors, which always accompany disasters at home, & want of reliable intelligence, by regular mails until I am compelled to believe them by indubitable testimony. Then it will be time to mourn, but never to despair. Let Jeff. Davis die. God lives! Let Savannah fall. The Heavens & Justice stand! Let Hood & his army vanish. Mightier armies than Hood’s, & greater armies than his defend the right! It is never time to give up when we contend for the just & the true,”
December 24, 1864
Union forces begin a bombardment of Fort Fisher, with the objective of closing the final port for the Confederacy at Wilmington.
Heavy skirmishing continues in Tennessee, with Forrest holding the pursuit at bay at Richland Creek, although he loses the services, through a battle wound, of the redoubtable Kentuckian Abraham Buford.
Sherman remains in a zealous mood in Georgia, letting Henry Halleck know that he has his sights set on South Carolina. “I look upon Columbia as quite as bad as Charleston, and I doubt if we shall spare the public buildings there, as we did at Milledgeville.”
In Virginia, Judith Brockenbrough McGuire places the best face she can on recent events. “Savannah has been evacuated, without loss to us, except some stores, which could not be removed. . . . Savannah was of little use to us for a year past, it has been so closely blockaded, and its surrender relieves troops which were there for its defence, which may be more useful elsewhere; but the moral effect of its fall is dreadful. The enemy are encouraged, and our people depressed. I never saw them more so.”
Henri Garidel finds prices exorbitant for goods in Richmond on Christmas Eve:
“Everything is so expensive. This morning at the market they are asking $100 for a chicken. Butter is $12 a pound, sugar is $18 and $20, coffee is $22, and everything else is proportionately expensive. The exchange rate for Confederate dollars is $55 in gold and still going up.”
December 25, 1864
The holiday so closely associated with hearth and home, peace and goodwill, settles on the warring parties, but with little joy for those still engaged in the struggle.
Judith McGuire spends some of the day in church services in Richmond, which she finds “sweet and comforting. St. Paul’s was dressed most elaborately and beautifully with evergreens; all looked as usual; but there is much sadness on account of the failure of the South to keep Sherman back.”
In Arkansas, Henry King notes gloomily: “Another Christmas is now upon us, and this civil war still rages. There is some consolation in believing it is now in its dying struggles. Every day it is continued only aggravates the evils that attend it. Men are growing more and more demoralized; property is being consumed by the millions; the awful chasm that separates us in feeling from the Northern people is daily becoming broader and deeper, and scarcely a faint gleam of hope of our political separation remains.”
A Federal landing effort against Fort Fisher succeeds in depositing troops nearby, but fails to make headway against the main works before the decision comes to terminate the operation. Men under Brigadier General Adelbert Ames capture some of the Confederates who have become cut-off from their comrades by the Union advance, but Butler becomes convinced that the earlier attempt to blast the fort into submission and the possibility of the arrival of reinforcements has doomed any genuine hope for success.
December 26, 1864
From Washington, President Lincoln wires: “My dear General Sherman. Many, many thanks for your Christmas-gift—the capture of Savannah.December 27, 1864
When you were about leaving Atlanta for the Atlantic coast, I was anxious, if not fearful; but feeling that you were the better judge, and remembering that ‘nothing risked, nothing gained’ I did not interfere. Now, the undertaking being a success, the honor is all yours. . . . And, taking the work of Gen. Thomas into the count, as it should be taken, it is indeed a great success.”
What is left of the battered Army of Tennessee passes over the Tennessee River. Forrest reports that he put his men across that “evening.”
In Richmond, Josiah Gorgas explores the latest rumors relating to Confederate command and control:
“There is deep feeling in Congress at the conduct of our military affairs. They demand the Gen. Lee shall be made Generalissimo to command all our armies—not constructively & ‘under the President’—but shall have full control of all military operations & be held responsible for them.”
December 28, 1864
Judith McGuire’s spirit remains intact. She sees hope in the inability of the Federals to take Fort Fisher and notes the general sense of “generosity and patriotism,” while chiding those who would profit from the war and the shortages that prevail. Still, the end of a trying year hits her hard and she returns to solace from another realm as she faces an uncertain future: “The year 1864 has almost passed away. Oh, what a fearful account it has rendered to Heaven! What calamities and sorrows crowd into its history, in this afflicted country of ours! God help us, and guide us onward and upward, for the Saviour’s sake!”
Grant is in no mood to tolerate missteps in the Union war effort, telling Abraham Lincoln unequivocally, but hastily: “The Wilmington expeditoin has proven a gross and culpable failure.” He holds “Delays and free talk of the object of the expedition” responsible for the outcome thus far.
Josiah Gorgas notes another blow to the Confederacy—this time relating to the “Gray Ghost:”
“Mosby was badly wounded last week. He is a great favorite and everyone asks about him with interest. It is hoped he will soon recover.”
The ordnance chief then shifts to a visit he has had with an embattled Jefferson Davis, who offered a sense of the isolation he is feeling in his official capacity:
“I saw the President to-day & conversed with him for half an hour, chiefly on business. He remarked ‘I will say to you in confidence that since Bragg has gone I can get very little information of things about Richmond. . . . am almost deprived of the assistance."
December 29, 1864
Still holding a grudge for the ways in which his commanding general and the Army of the Cumberland seemed to be viewed, Emerson Opdycke, observes to his wife, Lucy: “Gen Thomas[‘s] reports do not exaggerate at all: his victory is the completed of all our battles. . . . [Hood] has gone back with the remnants of his Army utterly demoralized. Thomas is a great general. What has Sherman ever done that equals this?”
Roswell Lamson is merciless in his assessment of Benjamin Butler’s performance in the effort to reduce and take Fort Fisher. “Words are too weak to express a proper indignation at such conduct, but if I could only have him to deal with I would as certainly hang him at the yard-arm to-morrow morning as the sun rose.
He alone is responsible that the lives lost in this attack have been lost for nothing; that they have been lost without benefit to the cause to which they were devoted. . . .
The rebels of course discovered the weak points to their works and our mode of approach, and are certainly working day and night to strengthen the one and guard against the other. Gen. Butler makes some excuse about reinforcements on the way to the fort and bad weather, but it made no difference if the whole Confederacy had been enroute for the fort for they could have been taken before any assistance could have reached it. . . .”
December 30, 1864
As the year comes to a close, Confederate activities in the Caribbean seem not to have diminished entirely from Consul Allen’s perspective. He reports to Secretary of State Seward “the arrival at these Islands” of several vessels, some of which “are under the rebel flag.
The following blockade running steamers are now in the port of St. George’s. Dieppelaid up, Whisper expected to leave today, Charlotte and Owl to leave soon, Susan Beirne, Col. Lamb and Maude Campbell.”
In Washington, it is also clear that Benjamin Butler’s days as commander of the Army of the James are numbered. Whatever utility he has provided to the Union previously, Butler’s showing at Fort Fisher and his inability to achieve meaningful success in the Bermuda Hundred Campaign have created an impossible position for him to remain unscathed once he had lost Grant’s and the Lincoln Administration’s confidence.
From City Point, Grant offers support and relief to Admiral David Dixon Porter, who is incensed at developments outside Wilmington:
“Please hold on where you are for a few days, and I will endeavor to be back again with an increased force and without the former Commander.”
Grant emphasizes his intent for as much secrecy as possible so that the Fort Fisher defenders will not have advance notice of renewed Union efforts against them. “In Washington but two persons know of it and I am assured will not [divulge the plan]. The Commander of the expedition will probably be Maj. Genl. [Alfred] Terry. He will not know of it until he gets out to sea. He will go with sealed orders.”
Francis P. Blair, Sr., writes to Confederate president Jefferson Davis asking for a discussion on “the state of affairs of our Country,” as he sets in motion an unofficial visit to Richmond.
December 31, 1864
In South Carolina, young Emma LeConte takes account of the year now passing in her diary: "Yes, the year that is dying has brought us more trouble than any of the other three long dreary years of this fearful struggle. . . . I wonder if the new year is to bring us new miseries and sufferings. I am afraid so."
What has heretofore been a momentous year for the conflict that has raged between the Union and the Confederacy ends on a rather quiet note. Even so, momentum is clear except to those who do not wish to see or admit it. With the re-election of Abraham Lincoln, the continuing pressure by Grant on Petersburg and Richmond, the successful defense of Nashville, Tenn., and the re-emergence of Sherman’s command at Savannah, Ga., the course of the war seems to be marching toward a conclusion. Although it has survived the ordeal of Hood’s Tennessee Campaign, the Army of Tennessee is a but shadow that now only consists of some 18,700 officers and men present for duty. Lee will have to fend for himself in Virginia, with little hope of assistance from elsewhere as the relentless campaigning continues. Yet, Fort Fisher manages to hold out, and despite the blows it has absorbed, the Confederacy staggers toward a new year, bolstered fleetingly by the hopes of the most optimistic that a turn for the positive might still occur.