The American Civil War, day by day - Page 106 - Politics | PoFo

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February 6, Monday

At Hatcher’s Run, Virginia, the two armies have been watching each other since skirmishing yesterday. Finally, this afternoon General Warren ups the ante, sending the Federal divisions of Major Generals Samuel Crawford and Romeyn B. Ayres to probe northwest along Hatcher’s Run. Crawford leads, with the stream to his right and Gregg’s cavalry screening his left. The Federals advance into terrain ominously similar to the Wilderness battlefield last spring. The ground is a series of ridges with marshes in the low spots and thick stands of pines alternating with brush-choked hardwood scrub. The Federals haven’t gone far before Gregg’s cavalry is attacked near Gravelly Run by a brigade from General Pegram’s division. Two of Pegram’s other brigades advance from the northwest and strike Crawford southeast of Dabney’s Mill, a steam-powered lumber operation. The Federals stand fast and send Pegram’s men reeling back. Ayres’s division comes up to Crawford, but Lee is funneling in reinforcements faster than Warren can. Lee orders in a division commanded by General Joseph Finegan to support Pegram, and Evans’ arrival swells the Confederate force at Dabney’s Mill to three divisions.

The Federals facing them are suffering from extremes of inexperience and fatigue. Some regiments of draftees and bounty men stumble into combat for the first time at Dabney’s Mill, while others are too fought out to function effectively. Many of Crawford’s units are gravely short of ammunition and none has been brought up. When the men of Colonel Henry A. Morrow’s brigade falter, Morrow places himself at the front of the line, shouting for the soldiers to take heart and advance. Captain James Coey from New York rides up to join Morrow, seizing his regiment’s colors as he comes. With a cheer the Federals go forward again, only to encounter a water-filled ditch that is too wide to cross. Morrow’s ranks thin rapidly as his men exhaust their cartridge boxes and run to the rear. In desperation Morrow leads his men back to the edge of a grove, where he orders them to entrench and face the enemy with bayonets and shovels. But the pressure is too great. Coey falls, shot in the face; he regains consciousness and, despite his wound, tries vainly to rally his men. Morrow is also injured in the retreat.

The Confederates too show their vulnerability when Brigadier General Charles Griffin’s V Corps divisions counterattack their onrushing line. The Confederates break at the first volley, and leave the field “in great disorder.” During this charge, the final encounter of the day, the Confederates suffer a poignant loss. General Pegram is shot through the body near the heart. He is caught by Major Douglas as he falls from his horse and dies in the major’s arms almost as soon as he touches the ground.

This evening, the Confederates hastily throw up scant breastworks, and as night is fast approaching make brush shelters to protect themselves as much as possible from the rain, snow, and sleet; but no fires can be allowed in such close proximity to the enemy. During the evening the cooks bring to the men in the line of battle a small pone of bread each, the first morsel since early morning. The woods are covered “with long icicles hanging from the tree limbs,” which bend under the burden “like weeping willows,” and a cold north wind blows.

President Davis submits to Congress the report of the Confederate commissioners at Hampton Roads, and tells Senator Benjamin H. Hill that “Nothing less would be accepted than unconditional submission to the government and laws of the United States....” To Congress he tells of the amendment to the US Constitution abolishing slavery, and adds, “the enemy refused to enter into negotiation with the Confederate States, or with any one of them separately, or to give our people any other terms or guarantees than those which the conqueror may grant....”

This same day, Davis makes official two major changes that are intended to bolster his increasingly shaky tenure in office and to revitalize the Confederate war effort. With as much good grace as he can muster, considering that the Congress has forced him to do it, Davis issues an order making Lee general in chief of the Confederate armed forces. The unstated corollary to this belated appointment is that Davis’s personal military staff will be disbanded. Also, in response to a demand from Virginia’s influential congressional delegation, a new Secretary of War takes office to replace the exhausted and embittered James Seddon. Davis brings in Major General John C. Breckinridge, a former Vice President of the United States and an experienced commander whose career suffered after he got on the wrong side of Braxton Bragg during the Tennessee Campaign. Breckinridge takes firm control of the War Department, effecting immediate improvement in its organization and, more important, in the movement of food and supplies to the Army of Northern Virginia.

Sherman’s troops fight with Confederates trying to delay the Federal advance at Fishburn’s Plantation near Lane’s Bridge on the Little Salkehatchie, at Cowpen Ford, and near Barnwell, South Carolina. There are three days of Union operations in Ozark County, Missouri; a Northern scout from Fairfax Court House to Brentsville, Virginia; and an affair at Corn’s Farm, Franklin County, Tennessee.
March 7, Tuesday

The Federal force that Bragg reported sighting to Johnston yesterday is a provisional corps of 13,000 men under Major General Jacob D. Cox, which has been standing guard while the railroad between New Bern—found by the Federals to be an even better supply base for Sherman’s army—and Goldsboro is being repaired to function as Sherman’s supply line. After some sixteen miles, today the Federals encounter Bragg at Southwest Creek, a wide stream that flows into the Neuse River at a point three miles east of Kinston. Control of the creek and the roads that cross it, including the railroad, is the key to controlling troop and supply movements in the area, and it is here that Bragg hopes to stop—or at least delay—Cox’s westward advance. He entrenches his 6,000 troops along the west bank of the creek, directly in Cox’s path.

Cox sees at once that Southwest Creek and its crossings are worth fighting for. “The slight ridge on the hither side of that stream” is the only dry land in the vicinity, and is used by the principal roads. He moves his troops to the edge of the swampland east of the river. Brigadier General Innis Palmer’s division, on the right, protects the railroad. About a mile south of Palmer, Brigadier General Samuel Carter’s division covers the Dover road, a major route through the spongy terrain between New Bern and Kinston. Cavalry patrols the roads to the left. A mile in front of the Federal position, an old track known as the British road runs parallel to Southwest Creek. Where it crosses the Dover road, Colonel Charles Upham of Carter’s division is stationed with two regiments from Connecticut and Massachusetts. A reserve division, made up of green troops led by Brigadier General Thomas Ruger, assumes a position at Gum Swamp, at the end of the unfinished rail line and about three miles behind Carter and Palmer. When Cox discovers that the bridges for the railroad and the Dover road, as well as for the Neuse road, to the north, have been destroyed, he orders his men to search along the creek for a place across which a footbridge can be constructed. General Schofield is expected this evening at Gum Swamp, and Cox, after leaving instructions, rides off to meet his superior’s train.

To the west and south Sherman’s army, plagued by miserable weather, enters North Carolina with skirmishing at Rockingham and Southwest Creek, southwest of Fayetteville. For most of the month there are operations about Licking, Missouri, and through the 15th a Yankee scout operates from Glasgow to the Perche hills in the same state. Fighting occurs at Elyton, Alabama, and near Flint Hill, Virginia. A Union expedition moves until the 12th from Jacksonville into Marion County, Florida.

President Lincoln is issuing a large number of orders these days, permitting private persons owning or controlling products in “the insurrectionary states” to bring such products into national military lines and sell them to agents authorized by the Treasury.
March 8, Wednesday

Before dawn, D.H. Hill joins Bragg east of Kinston, North Carolina, with 2,000 men—a mixed group comprising veterans of the Army of Tennessee and youthful members of the North Carolina Junior Reserves. Their coming boosts the size of Bragg’s force to roughly 8,000 men. A few hours later the Confederates advance; Hoke crosses Southwest Creek and heads north on the British road, unmolested by Federal cavalry. When Colonel Upham hears that Confederate troops are moving on his left, he places his Massachusetts regiment across the British road about 500 yards beyond the Dover road, facing southwest. At noon, Hoke crashes into the New Englanders’ eastern flank. The Massachusetts regiment had lost several hundred men last May at Drewry’s Bluff and been built back to strength with recruits who were no match for Hoke’s seasoned troops. At one point Colonel Upham calls for artillery support; a battery comes up, “but passed on the run under a very hot musketry fire, and I have not seen the officer in command of it since.” After a brief struggle, the regiment is captured nearly intact.

At the sound of the fighting, D.H. Hill crosses Southwest Creek and attempts to turn the Federal right. His Junior Reserves advance “very handsomely for a time,” but then one regiment breaks for the rear and the rest lie down and cannot be “got forward.” Hill leaves them behind, advances with the rest of his men, and corners Upham’s other regiment. The Connecticut regiment breaks and runs “in the wildest confusion.” A rout is in the making. “I had nothing to do now,” Hill will report, “but press forward rapidly to the firing and intercept the foe fleeing from Hoke. I think that with little loss we would have captured several thousand men.” But as Hill is preparing to deliver the blow, he gets orders from Bragg to move his forces five miles north to the intersection of the British and Neuse roads; there, Bragg says, Hill “would make many captures.” Hill complies, but he finds no Federals in the new place and eventually is ordered back to his original position. By the time he returns, the opportunity has been lost. But some damage already as been done: The Connecticut regiment has been captured, almost en masse. Upham has lost his two regiments, a total of 860 men, in a single day.

General Cox returns to the Federal lines from the railhead at Gum Swamp after receiving word of Upham’s predicament. He fortifies his left with a brigade from Palmer’s division and moves Ruger into the gap between Carter and Palmer. Cox also fortifies and extends his breastworks on the left.

Meanwhile, farther south, there is skirmishing at Love’s or Blue’s Bridge, South Carolina, as Sherman’s army continues toward Fayetteville, North Carolina. Otherwise skirmishes flare in Jackson County, Tennessee; at Duguidsville, Virginia, in Sheridan’s move to Petersburg; and on Poison Creek, Idaho Territory, with Amerinds.

Secretary of the Interior John P. Usher submits his resignation to President Lincoln.

The Confederate Senate, 9 to 8, approves use of Blacks as soldiers. General E. Kirby Smith, Confederate commander in the Trans-Mississippi, writes President Davis that he is aware of newspaper attacks on him and that, if the President desires the letter might be regarded as an application to be relieved. Davis refuses this, although he has long tried to obtain closer cooperation from Smith and troops across the Mississippi. On the other hand, Smith has his own problems, both military and administrative.
March 9, Thursday

Heavy skirmishing continues at Kinston or Wise’s Forks, North Carolina, between Confederates of Bragg and Federals of Jacob Cox, under overall command of General Schofield. In Virginia, Sheridan’s cavalry occupy Columbia on its march from Winchester to Petersburg. Other action includes a skirmish at Howard’s Mills, Kentucky; a Union scout from Fort Larned to Crooked Creek, Kansas; and a Union scout until the 15th from Cape Girardeau into Bollinger, Wayne, and Stoddard counties, Missouri.

Confederate cavalry under Wade Hampton and Joe Wheeler move in to attack and completely surprise Federal cavalry encamped near Solemn Grove and Monroe’s Cross Roads, South Carolina. General Judson Kilpatrick is nearly captured in his bed, but manages to escape and rally his men, though he allegedly fled without his trousers. The Federals overcome the Southern advantage with their own attack and defeat Hampton. Kilpatrick is a very unpopular commander both with his own men, whom he pushes to extremes, and with the Confederates, due to his relentless destruction of their property. Later the affair will be dubbed “the Battle of Kilpatrick’s Pants,” but is more officially known as Monroe’s Cross Roads, South Carolina.

Without comment, President Lincoln accepts the resignation of Secretary of the Interior John P. Usher to take effect on the 15th. Assistant Secretary William Otto will handle the department until Harlan assumes the post.

General Lee, in a letter to Secretary of War Breckinridge, states frankly that the military condition of the Confederacy “is full of peril and requires prompt action.” Supplies are a very pressing problem and “Unless the men and animals can be subsisted, the army cannot be kept together, and out present lines must be abandoned.” However, if the Army can be maintained in efficient condition, “I do not regard the abandonment of our present position as necessarily fatal to our success.” He is not sanguine of the prospects from Johnston’s scattered force in the Carolinas, but he concludes that everything depends on the disposition and feeling of the people, and things are no worse than the Confederates have been justified in expecting from the beginning.

Vermont ratifies the 13th Amendment.
March 10, Friday

At Kinston or Wise’s Forks, North Carolina, General Hoke’s men once more attack the Federal left. This time, General Carter’s artillery and infantry drive off the Confederates in less than an hour. D.H. Hill strikes at General Ruger’s position and is repulsed in a similar fashion. By now, Federal strength is mounting rapidly—the rest of Schofield’s XXII Corps is approaching from New Bern—so General Bragg orders a withdrawal. The Confederates cross the Neuse River come evening and encamp near Kinston. The attack has cost Bragg 134 casualties; most of the 1,257 men Cox has lost were captured. Bragg will fall back to Goldsborough to join Johnston.

Sherman’s army is nearing Fayetteville, North Carolina, with some difficulty from the wet weather, and after minor skirmishing with Confederate cavalry. Meanwhile, Johnston tries to gather his army together into one more potent force. At Monroe’s Cross Roads, South Carolina, Kilpatrick’s Federal cavalry rally against Hampton and Wheeler, the leaders of the surprise attack of the night before. In Alabama there is a skirmish near Boyd’s Station. In Virginia a two-day Union expedition moves from Suffolk to Murfree’s Depot, North Carolina; and in Arkansas there is a four-day Yankee scout, until the 13th, from Little Rock to Clear Lake.

General Lee writes President Davis that he advises putting the proposed law authorizing the use of Black troops into operation as soon as practicable, provided the President has approved it, and says, “I attach great importance to the result of the first experiment with these troops....” But the Confederate Congress is still debating.
March 11, Saturday

Sherman, accompanying General Slocum and the army’s left wing, arrives at Fayetteville, on the Cape Fear River roughly 75 miles upstream from Wilmington, ending the second step of Sherman’s Carolina Campaign. The whole army pulls up to and around the important center in the southern part of North Carolina after some light skirmishing. Sherman will report, “Up to this period I had perfectly succeeded in interposing my superior army between the scattered parts of my enemy.” But now he realizes that Johnston will soon be in front of him. Sherman has sent messengers to Wilmington to make contact with Schofield, in order to report his presence and to arrange for cooperation with the force coming in from the sea, so as to form a two-pronged attack against Johnston.

In Virginia, Sheridan’s cavalry is at Goochland Court House after a skirmish while en route from the Shenandoah to Petersburg. From Fort Monroe, Federal troops move out on an expedition into Westmoreland County, Virginia, that lasts until the 13th. In the West there is an affair near the Little Blue River, Missouri, and a skirmish at Washington, Arkansas.

All those who have deserted from the military or naval forces of the US and who return within sixty days will be pardoned, President Lincoln proclaims. If they don’t return, they will forfeit their rights of citizenship. The Senate adjourns after a brief special session to deal primarily with appointments. Presidential secretary John Nicolay is confirmed as US consul in Paris.
March 12, Sunday

Sherman’s army remains at Fayetteville, North Carolina, until the 14th. In the morning a tug comes up the Cape Fear River from Wilmington, carrying the first word of the “outer world” the army has received since leaving Savannah over a month ago. Naval units later join in. Before leaving, Sherman gives special attention to the arsenal there. It is a former Federal installation that the Confederates have expanded and put to heavy use, including the machinery brought from the old Harpers Ferry Arsenal in the first year of the war. “I cannot leave a detachment to hold it,” Sherman tells Secretary of War Stanton, “therefore shall burn it, blow it up with gunpowder, and then with rams knock down its walls. I take it for granted the United States will never again trust North Carolina with an arsenal to appropriate at her pleasure.” Besides the arsenal, the army undertakes the usual destruction of machinery, buildings, and property they deem of use to the enemy. Sherman tells the Federals at Wilmington and New Berne that he will move on the 15th for Goldsborough, after a feint toward Raleigh. Sherman orders the coastal troops to march straight for Goldsborough.

Elsewhere, there are skirmishes near Peach Grove, Virginia, and at Morganza Bend, Louisiana; and an affair near Lone Jack, Missouri. Federal operations include an expedition from Fort Churchill to Pyramid and Walker’s Lakes, Nevada; a scout in Loudoun County, Virginia, until the 14th, a scout until the 23rd from Lewisburg into Yell and Searcy counties, Arkansas; and a three-day expedition from Vicksburg, Mississippi, to Grand Gulf and vicinity.
March 13, Monday

The Confederate Congress, after much delay and debate, finally sends to the President a measure calling for putting Blacks in the Army and President Davis immediately signs it. The President is authorized to call upon owners to volunteer their slaves, and it is generally understood, although not specifically stated, that any slaves who fight for the Confederacy will be made free by action of the states. The law is too late to be of much value, but a few troops will be raised and training begun. Late this month Black soldiers will be seen in Richmond. One of General Lee’s corps commanders, General Longstreet, suggests offering commissions in the new Black regiments to anyone who turns in deserters.

President Davis also sends a message to Congress which brings instant and stern opposition. He has requested Congress to stay in session as there is a need for “further and more energetic legislation.” He points up the perils facing the Confederacy but maintains that triumph is still possible through prompt decisions, including those of Congress. Davis accuses Congress of retarding action. He suggests means of obtaining men and supplies, changes in the impressment law, stronger revenue acts, implementing recruiting laws—such as abolishing all class exemptions, a general militia law, and suspension of the writ of habeus corpus. As an indictment of Congress the message may well be necessary, but it only alienates many members of both Houses.

There is a mild skirmish down at Fayetteville, North Carolina, where Sherman’s army is recuperating from its march. Skirmishing also erupts at Beaver Dam Station, Virginia, involving Sheridan’s cavalry; near Charles Town, West Virginia; and near Dalton, Georgia. Union naval forces and troops are mopping up along the Rappahannock in Virginia.
March 14, Tuesday

The Federal troops of General Cox occupy Kinston, North Carolina, in their advance inland from the sea toward Goldsborough and a junction with the northward-moving Sherman. At Fayetteville, Sherman’s men carry out reconnaissance to the Black River and Silver Run Creek, North Carolina. In Virginia, Sheridan’s cavalry fight a skirmish at the South Anna Bridge as they move steadily on toward junction with Grant. In the Shenandoah Valley there is a skirmish at Woodstock as Confederates harass Federal outposts. In West Virginia Federals scout against enemy pockets of resistance until the 16th from Philippi to Corrick’s Ford and until the 17th from New Creek to Moorefield. There is, in addition, a small skirmish near Dalton, Georgia.

General Lee tells his President that Johnston is uniting his army at Raleigh and although it is inferior in numbers and lacking “tone,” the plan is to “strike the enemy in detail.” Lee adds, “The greatest calamity that can befall us is the destruction of our armies. If they can be maintained, we may recover from our reverses, but if lost we have no resource.”
March 15, Wednesday

Sherman is on the move again. From Fayetteville, North Carolina, and the Cape Fear River the Federal troops move out en masse with Kilpatrick’s cavalry in front of Slocum’s left wing. The cavalry skirmish heavily with rearguards of the enemy near Smith’s Mills on the Black River and at South River, evidence of stiffening resistance. Sherman knows that the Confederates will try to stop him somewhere, and as he moves into North Carolina he becomes increasingly wary. He has heard that Joseph Johnston, for whom he has great respect, is once again his adversary. And today, a guest at his dinner table grudgingly confirms that General Hardee’s corps is close at hand and ready to fight.

The guest is one of Hardee’s brigade commanders, Colonel Albert Rhett. While skirmishing with the Federal advance guard, Rhett blundered into a unit of enemy cavalrymen, whom he mistook for Confederates. When the troopers ordered him to halt—as Sherman will recount it, “in language more forcible than polite”—Rhett had threatened to report them to General Hampton for insubordination. When his mistake was pointed out to him, he surrendered in disgust. A few hours later he finds himself dining with Sherman.

General Johnston has no way of knowing whether Sherman’s next move is north to Raleigh or northeast to Goldsborough. The Confederate commander has been trying to concentrate his forces at Smithfield, midway between the two cities, in order to comply with Lee’s suggestion that he attack one of Sherman’s wings in an effort to defeat the larger army in detail. But Bragg has not yet reached Smithfield with his 8,000 men, and Johnston desperately needs more time. It is Hardee’s assignment to get it for him. Hardee has entrenched his small corps on a narrow ridge between the Cape Fear River and a swamp near the village of Averasborough, which Slocum’s left wing will have to get to either Raleigh or Goldsborough. There Hardee’s 7,500 men stop Judson Kilpatrick’s cavalry screen today.

Sheridan meanwhile moves on in Virginia and is now at Hanover Court House and near Ashland. Skirmishing breaks out at Boyd’s Station and Stevenson’s Gap, Alabama, and a Federal scout operates against Amerinds from Fort Sumner, New Mexico Territory, until the 21st.
March 16, Thursday

Near Averasborough, North Carolina, Hardee resumes his attack on the Federal cavalry and by 10 am he has nearly turned Kilpatrick’s right flank when portions of the Federal XX Corps arrive. Three batteries are placed in a commanding position and begin to pound the Confederate line. While two infantry brigades press Hardee’s front, Sherman directs Colonel Henry Case’s brigade to move north along a creek bed, past the Confederate right flank, and attack from the rear. As soon as they get behind the Confederates the Federals charge at the double-quick with a yell. By coincidence, the brunt of the surprise attack falls on Rhett’s brigade, a hodgepodge of garrison and artillery units fighting as infantry under a new commander, Colonel William Butler. They are no match for Case’s veteran troops. “I was never so pleased in my life as I was to see the rebs get up and try to get out of the way,” a soldier from Illinois will exult. “I tell you there was a good many of them bit the dust.” Panic spreads along the Confederate works and the line falls back. It starts as a rout—the troops leaving behind their knapsacks, muskets, and even swords—but somehow they manage to form another line several hundred yards to the rear. The 1st and 3rd Divisions of X Corps, augmented by a brigade from XIV Corps, advance on this second line while Kilpatrick moves on the right. Threatened with a flanking movement, Hardee withdraws his men to a third position a mile away, on rising ground behind a small swamp. There the determined Confederates withstand repeated Federal attacks throughout the afternoon, suffering 865 losses. The Federals lose 95 killed, 533 wounded, and 54 missing for a total of 682. When twilight brings an end to the fighting, Hardee, having done all he can, slips away in the night to Smithfield.

In the Shenandoah Valley, Federals scout from near Winchester to Front Royal, Virginia, and from Summit Point through Kabletown and Myerstown to Shenandoah Ferry, West Virginia. Until the 18th a Union naval expedition operates up the Rappahannock and destroys a supply base at Montrose, Virginia.

The Confederate Congress, piqued at Davis’s recent message, puts out a statement denying his charge of insufficient congressional action. “Nothing is more desirable than concord and cordial cooperation between all departments of Government. Hence your committee regret that the Executive deemed it necessary to transmit to Congress a message so well calculated to excite discord and dissension....”
March 17, Friday

As an aftermath to Averasborough, there is skirmishing in the area and at Falling Creek, North Carolina. A new theater of operations is about to open. Federal Major General E.R.S. Canby begins maneuvering his some 32,000 men against Mobile, Alabama. One Federal force moves from Pensacola and another from the area of Mobile Point up the east side of Mobile Bay. About 2,800 Confederates under Brigadier General R.L. Gibson defend the city. Union scouting continues in the Shenandoah Valley from Winchester to Edenburg, Virginia. There is also a Northern expedition until the 20th from Pine Bluff to Bass’ Plantation, Arkansas.

Concerned over increasing sales of arms and munitions to Amerinds, President Lincoln directs that all persons detected in this commerce should be arrested and tried by military court martial. In a speech to an Indiana regiment, Lincoln says, “Whenever {I} hear any one, arguing for slavery I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.”
March 18, Saturday

The Confederate Congress ends its session, in a fit of contention with President Davis. Many essential war measures are left unpassed, and for the last few days its main business has been to argue with the President over whether he or Congress has delayed action and is responsible for some of the difficulties facing the Confederacy. It is probably symptomatic of the need to blame someone for the fast-approaching and now nearly obvious disaster.

Once more, General Slocum’s Federal wing has started north from Averasborough. The Federal columns are having trouble staying together in the rain and mud. “In spite of every exertion,” General Cox will write, “the columns were a good deal drawn out, and long intervals separated the divisions.” Thus extended, the Federal troops would have difficulty fending off an attack, and it is at this critical juncture—when the Federals are halfway between Fayetteville and Goldborough and due south of Smithfield—that General Johnston prepares to strike. Although Hardee is still on the march from Averasborough, and some of the promised troops from the Army of Tennessee haven’t yet arrived, Johnston can wait no longer. In another day all three of the Union columns—each numbering more than 20,000 men—will meet at Goldsborough, while Johnston will have only a third as many soldiers even after Hardee arrives. Johnston’s best chance is to defeat one of Sherman’s columns before the others can come to its aid. The Federal right and left wings are reported to be more than a day’s march apart, with Schofield even farther away. Now is the time to strike, and Slocum’s left wing will be the target.

Wade Hampton’s cavalrymen are watching from a distance as Slocum’s advance passes just south of Bentonville. There Hampton has found terrain that he thinks will be ideal for a Confederate attack. The trick is to delay the Federals until Johnston can occupy the ground. All day Hampton’s riders skirmish with the enemy along Mingo Creek, at Bushy Swamp, and near Benton’s Cross Roads, forcing them to deploy and slowing them down. By late afternoon the Confederates have been pushed back to a position just in front of the wooded ridge Hampton has selected for the infantry, but the infantry haven’t yet arrived. Hampton unlimbers his horse artillery, dismounts his cavalry, forms a line in the open, and makes an ostentatious show of preparing to fight Slocum’s 20,000 Federals with his 3,000 troopers. He knows that if the Federals mount a serious attack his artillery is lost, but is determined to run the risk in hopes of checking the Federal advance. His gamble pays off. After making a demonstration that Hampton will later describe as “feeble,” the lead Federals go into camp to wait for the rest of the left wing to arrive this night. Hampton is left in possession of the ground he’s chosen for the fight. During the night Johnston arrives and confers with Hampton on the attack for tomorrow.

Elsewhere, skirmishes occur at Livingston, Tennessee; near Dranesville, Virginia; and on the Amite River, Louisiana. A Union expedition from Fort Gibson to Little River and Hillabee, Indian Territory, operates for the rest of March. At Mobile Bay some 1,700 Federal troops advance from Dauphin Island on the west side of the bay to deceive the enemy as to which side will be attacked. The main effort is to be on the east. The Yankees on the west side will withdraw on the 20th, their mission of deception accomplished.
March 19, Sunday

Sherman, who has been riding with Slocum’s wing, has decided to cut across to Howard’s right wing, still several miles distant. Told that only cavalry was confronting Slocum yesterday, he rides away this morning, confident that no serious encounter is imminent. Slocum orders the division of Brigadier General William P. Carlin to sweep away the Confederate opposition. As Carlin’s men advance, they come under unexpectedly heavy artillery fire and stop to entrench. This accomplished, Carlin sends a strong skirmish line against the enemy’s dismounted cavalry on the forward slope of the ridge, where it had been last night. As expected, Hampton’s troopers retreat behind the ridge. But when the Federals approach the thickly wooded crest, a blaze of musketry drives them back in astonishment. They advance a second time, with the same result. A staff officer who has been watching the action hurries over to Slocum. This is no cavalry skirmish, he reports. There is “infantry entrenched along our whole front, and enough of them to give us all the amusement we shall want for the rest of the day.” Slocum is, in fact, momentarily outnumbered. His men are still coming in from their long march of yesterday, and only about 10,000 have arrived. They are confronting Johnston’s entire force, which came up during the night. Hardee’s troops, the last to arrive, started to deploy just as the battle began.

Behind the ridge, in the cover of the woods and unnoticed by the inattentive Federals, Johnston has arrayed his infantry in a curving line that extends well beyond the Federal left. He now has his army organized in three corps. Bragg’s men are positioned athwart the road to Goldsborough at its intersection with the road north to Smithfield; Hardee is assigned to the center, echeloned forward to Bragg’s right (his troops rushed into position while Bragg’s men were repulsing Carlin’s skirmishers); and Lieutenant General Alexander P. Stewart with 4,000 men from the Army of Tennessee hold the right, his line parallel to the Goldsborough road and facing south. Hampton, after falling back through Bragg’s lines, leads his cavalry to the extreme right, looking for a chance to fall on the Federal rear. The prospects for a crushing Confederate counterattack are ideal. But then Johnston makes a mistake. General Bragg, afraid he cannot withstand another attack, asks for reinforcements. Johnston immediately—and, he will later acknowledge, “most injudiciously”—sends him one of Hardee’s divisions. It turns out that Bragg doesn’t need help after all—but Johnston cannot attack until the division returns to its position. Thus he isn’t ready to move until midafternoon. By now Slocum has twice as many men on the field—all of XIV Corps and a few units from XX Corps—and they have prepared breastworks. Carlin’s Federals are entrenched facing northeast, toward Hoke’s division, still unaware that the Confederate line extends far beyond their left. Another XIV Corps division, under Brigadier General James D. Morgan, has dug in on Carlin’s right. Brigadier General James S. Robinson, who has just appeared with a XX Corps brigade, forms a second line behind Carlin.

At 3 pm Johnston launches his belated attack, with Hardee smashing into Carlin’s front and Stewart’s Tennesseans swinging around the Federal left. Hardee leads his men in person as they make their charge, and the Federals retreat. Their flight is triggered by the sound of Stewart’s Confederates in their rear. Although a much-diminished force—“It was painful,” an observer among Bragg’s troops will say, “to see how close their battle flags were together”—the remaining troops of the Army of Tennessee do their duty today, falling on the left and rear of Carlin’s division and Robinson’s brigade. The unnerved Federals give way in a retreat that “was the best thing we done that whole day” and involves “some of the best running ever did.” The XIV Corps emblem is an acorn, and other Federal units will later take delight in dubbing the engagement the “Battle of Acorn Run.” But the rout is short-lived. On encountering some approaching XX Corps units, the Federals who have been in flight recover their wits.

Their retreat has exposed Morgan’s division to attack from the rear, and Stewart’s men now sweep around behind them. At the same time, Bragg’s corps advances on Morgan’s front. Morgan’s troops hunker down and fight. They wait until Bragg’s charge is within thirty yards of them, then open a staggering fire that they maintain by forming two lines—one to shoot, one to load. They even manage a brief counterattack. Meanwhile, Brigadier General Jefferson C. Davis, commanding XIV Corps, sends Colonel Benjamin Fearing’s brigade to hold off the Confederate sweep. But Fearing doesn’t have enough men to stem the tide. He retreats 300 yards before making a stand, and a gap opens in the Federal line. Hardee’s Confederates sprint into that break and join in the attack on Morgan’s rear. Davis, watching the action, tells an aide, “If Morgan’s troops can stand this, all is right. If not, all is lost. There is no reserve.”

But reinforcements are closer than Davis realizes. All the while, General Slocum has been urging XX Corps forward; one soldier will later marvel, “We actually ran eight miles without a halt.” And now, just as the Confederates are about to overwhelm Morgan’s hopelessly outnumbered men, a brigade under Colonel William Cogswell comes in off the Goldsborough road. Sent forward immediately to rescue Morgan, Cogswell’s men advance on the flank of Stewart’s Tennesseans and pinches off the Confederate movement, driving most of Stewart’s men back to the north. Other Confederates, however, continue the attack on Morgan, whose men are now forced to leap to the other side of their breastworks and continue firing. Their situation is complicated because many of the Confederates are wearing captured uniform coats, and the beleaguered Federals can barely distinguish between their reinforcements and the attackers, all of whom are coming from the same direction. Before long, however, they have weeded out the remaining enemy, again established their lines facing Bragg, and been reinforced.

Carlin’s reorganized division, bolstered by fresh XX Corps units, has stabilized the bent-back Federal left. But this line too has a flaw, a 400-yard gap between Robinson’s three regiments on the right and Colonel William Hawley’s brigade on the left. Into this gap Johnston launches attack after attack in an effort to retain the momentum. The Union artillery covering the gap is effective, however, and with every passing minute the Confederates’ numerical advantage is being reduced. The swelling Federal ranks beat off five successive charges before evening.

Early in the day, as soon as Slocum realized the danger he faced, he began sending messages of alarm to Sherman. Sherman had already started some of his units on their way toward Slocum. Now he orders the rest of Howard’s tired troops back on the road and dispatches a message to Slocum that rings with encouragement: “All of the right wing will move at moonrise toward Bentonville. Fortify and hold your position to the last, certain that all the army is coming to you as fast as possible.”

Over on the Neuse, Schofield’s advancing forces skirmish at the Neuse River Bridge near Goldsborough and near Cox’s Bridge.

The cavalry of Phil Sheridan reaches White House on the Pamunkey after wrecking the Virginia Central Railroad and the James River Canal in its successful march from Winchester to join Grant’s army near Petersburg. Skirmishing at Celina, Tennessee, and Welaka and Saunders, Florida, complete the day.
March 20, Monday

At dawn the first troops of Sherman’s right wing arrive at the town of Bentonville, North Carolina; they had been much closer at hand than Johnston had thought. The remainder of General Howard’s men come up by late afternoon—some have marched 25 miles without stopping to rest. They move down the Goldsborough road toward the Confederate rear, hoping to surprise the enemy. But Johnston has skirmishers out, and the sound of their firing alerts him to the new threat. He quickly pulls his left flank back north of the road, thus protecting it from easy attack by the arriving Federals. Sherman’s entire army is now united in front and on both flanks of Johnston’s position.

For the rest of the day the two armies remain in position, neither side willing to attack. Sherman, low on supplies and uncertain of Johnston’s strength, is reluctant to fight an unnecessary battle; surely the Confederates must retire in any case. But Johnston stays on. He is in extreme peril—greatly outnumbered, far from any secure base, his line of retreat threatened—and he knows it would be folly to attack the larger army, which is now well entrenched. But he feels that he still might aid the Confederate cause if he can lure Sherman into a costly assault. In the meantime, he gathers his wounded and sends them to Smithfield for evacuation by rail. While Johnston holds his position, Sherman frets. “I cannot see why he remains,” the Federal commander says in a note to Slocum.

George Stoneman and some four thousand cavalry from Thomas’s army in Tennessee leave Jonesborough to support Sherman in the Carolinas by carrying out wrecking operations. The Federal column cooperating with the main attack on Mobile moves toward the city from Pensacola, Florida. There are skirmishes in North Carolina near Falling Creek; in Georgia at Ringgold; in Arkansas at Talbot’s Ferry. Federal activities include a three-day expedition from Brashear City to Bayou Pigeon, Louisiana; a scout from Lexington, Missouri; scouting to Kabletown, Myerstown, and Myers’ Ford, West Virginia; a two-day scout from Winchester to Edenburg, Virginia; and yet another, lasting until the 25th, from Harpers Ferry into Loudoun County, Virginia.
March 21, Tuesday

Today at Bentonville, North Carolina, begins much the same way as yesterday. Although heavy skirmishing is “renewed on the whole front,” the two commanders stay where they are, and for most of the day there is no full-scale attack by either side. Then, unexpectedly, Sherman almost becomes embroiled in a general action in spite of himself. One of his favorite division commanders, the combative Major General Joseph A. Mower, slides around Johnston’s flank early in the afternoon on what is supposed to be a reconnaissance. But as Mower drives deeper, he finds himself on the verge of cutting the potential Confederate line of retreat toward Smithfield. The Southern troops, reacting furiously, stop Mower in a bloody fight. Among those who die in the encounter is Confederate General Hardee’s 16-year-old son, whom Hardee had reluctantly allowed to join up only hours before the battle; among those who will grieve the boy’s death is Federal General Oliver Howard, who taught Willie Hardee in Sunday school at West Point before the war. Mower is preparing to continue the battle when Sherman, still unwilling to fight if it can be avoided, recalls him. It is a move Sherman will subsequently regret. If he had supported Mower instead of checking him, Sherman might have administered a smashing defeat to the Confederates.

As it is, Mower’s attack may have been the last straw for Johnston. Most of his wounded are now safe, and Mower has demonstrated the magnitude of the danger. During the night Johnston orders evacuation after reports that Schofield has taken Goldsborough, the Federals will awaken in the morning to find the Confederate army gone. Casualties for the North total over 1,500 and for the Confederates over 2,600, many of whom have been captured. Even if Slocum had been beaten, the Carolina Campaign could scarcely have had any other outcome. In truth, with nearly 100,000 Federals in North Carolina, at Goldsborough and in Sherman’s main army, there is little his opponent could have done. On leaving, Johnston sends a harshly realistic message to Lee: “Sherman’s course cannot be hindered by the small force I have. I can do no more than annoy him.”

Otherwise the day sees only the start of a three-day Federal scout from Pine Bluff to Monticello, Arkansas.

President Davis writes General Lee, concurring with him that Mobile, Alabama, should be held and “all the recent indications are that the purpose of the enemy is to cut off all communication with Richmond....”
March 22, Wednesday

Yet another Federal offensive begins, adding to those in North Carolina, at Mobile, and the continuing siege of Petersburg. The Union forces of James Harrison Wilson strike from the Tennessee River toward Selma, Alabama, one of the few centers left in the South. The raid is to be in conjunction with the Federal attack on Mobile to the south of Selma. In North Carolina skirmishing flares at Mill Creek, Hannah’s Creek, and Black Creek. Fighting also occurs near Patterson’s Creek Station, West Virginia; at Celina, Tennessee; and Stephenson’s Mills, Missouri. At Bentonville, Sherman checks his brief follow-up of the retreating Confederates of Johnston. He now issues orders to concentrate about Goldsborough.
March 23, Thursday

Sherman and Schofield join at Goldsborough, practically on the schedule set by Sherman. The Federal force of some 90,000 to 100,000 men now dominate North Carolina. The railroad to New Bern is almost ready to be put back in operation, and Sherman’s men will no longer have to live off the land. The soldiers, many of them ragged and barefoot, are issued new clothing. They also receive their first mail in two months; 514 bags of it arrive over a two-day period. The Carolina Campaign is all but over—a triumphant journey. It is true there has been no opposition of any size until the last few days. Johnston places what forces he has on the two roads he thinks Sherman will take toward Virginia, through Raleigh or through Weldon. This position will also make junction with the Army of Northern Virginia practicable should Lee retire from Petersburg. The Confederates now have a desperately needed breathing spell to recuperate.

There is another skirmish at Cox’s Bridge on the Neuse River, North Carolina. On other fronts skirmishing breaks out near Dannelly’s Mills, Alabama, and a Union scout probes for two days from Donaldsonville to Bayou Goula, Louisiana.

At General Grant’s invitation, President Lincoln leaves Washington for City Point, Virginia, and Grant’s headquarters, accompanied by Mrs. Lincoln and Tad. “I would like very much to see you,” Grant had wired, “and I think the rest would do you good.” It is to be a combination vacation and conference with Grant concerning what all can see will be a determined and concentrated effort to end the war.
March 24, Friday

It has taken General Gordon three weeks to produce the detailed proposal ordered by General Lee for an attack intended to batter through some likely place in the Federal lines outside Petersburg. The place Gordon has chosen is Fort Stedman. Near the center of the Federal line—east of Petersburg and nearly a mile south of the Appomattox River—it is located at a place where the opposing entrenchments lie only 150 yards apart and the pickets are close enough “that a boy with a strong arm” can throw “a stone from the works of one into the works of the other.” Fort Stedman is, in fact, so near to the Confederate positions that it is difficult to keep in repair because of sniper fire. Still, it is a formidable position, bristling with cannon, strongly manned, and fronted by breast-high fraises—angled rows of sharpened logs set in the ground about six inches apart and reinforced with telegraph wire.

Gordon, pressed by his commanding general and increasingly aware of the Confederacy’s bleak prospects, proposes to strike Fort Stedman with one of the most complicated assaults of the war. Before a predawn jump-off, Gordon’s men will carefully clear the chevaux-de-frise from in front of their lines, trying not to alert the nearby Federal pickets. Confederate pickets, meanwhile, will stalk their enemy counterparts, getting as close as possible so that they can overwhelm the Federals quickly. The attack will be led by fifty men with axes, who will chop through fraises and abatis protecting the fort. After the axemen will come three detachments of 100 men, each detachment with a special assignment. During his extensive observation of the Federal lines, Gordon had determined that behind Stedman are three redoubts, which command the fort; they have to be taken quickly or the attempt at breaking through will fail. Since Gordon believes the redoubts cannot be assailed from the front, he plans to send his three detachments, each led by a guide familiar with the terrain, through the Federal lines. Pretending to be Federal soldiers fleeing, they will then converge on the redoubts from behind. While they are thus engaged, the main attack force, in three columns, will take Fort Stedman and the trenches to the left and right of it. Once these strong points are neutralized, Confederate cavalry can slash through toward the Federal rear.

Gordon convinces not only himself but also General Lee that this elaborate scheme can work. “The tremendous possibility,” Gordon will write later, “was the disintegration of the whole left wing of the Federal army, or at least the dealing of such a staggering blow upon it as would disable it temporarily, enabling us to withdraw from Petersburg in safety and join Johnston in North Carolina.” There seems to be all kinds of possibilities to the war-drugged Confederates. Some think the infantry might drive through to Grant’s military railroad, about a mile east of Stedman, and cut off supplies to the Federal left. Officers even speculate that the cavalry might ride to City Point, eight miles away, and capture Grant himself. The attack is set for 4 am tomorrow. Lee augments Gordon’s corps until the youthful general is commanding four and a half divisions—almost half of the Confederate forces in front of Petersburg. And Lee promises to supply even more men, if he can move them in time from distant parts of the line. This will be a maximum effort; if it works, the Confederates tell themselves, it might turn the entire war around.

Near Moccasin Creek, North Carolina, there is a skirmish; near Dannelly’s Mills and near Evergreen, Alabama, affairs; near Rolla, Missouri, an affair; and a Union scout from Bayou Boeuf to Bayou Chemise, Louisiana.

The vessel containing President Lincoln and his party arrives at Fort Monroe.

Confederate ironclad raider Stonewall puts out from Ferrol, Spain. Two Union wooden frigates refuse to engage her.
March 25, Saturday

At Petersburg, when General Gordon’s early morning assault on Fort Stedman begins, it succeeds beyond his expectations. Brigadier General Gaston Lewis’s North Carolina brigade has detailed its own axmen, led by Lieutenant Flemming, to head the brigade’s assault party. With a band of white light away in the east marking the approach of the day, the silence is broken by the sharp crack of a pistol, followed instantly by the firing of enemy pickets and the muffled sound of feet where Flemming’s party is. Then comes the rush and rapid sound of axes and the crash of falling timber and the wild cheer of the axmen. Two Confederate regiments are across their own works and on the axmen’s heels, and whirling the cheveaux-de-frise around where it can’t be removed, are across the field at quick step, stumbling over and into rifle pits that come in the way. Reaching the abatis with minimal losses, they have considerably more trouble climbing over. But still, they manage to rush into the Yankee breastworks. The Yankee pickets received little warning, and most have been taken by surprise. They have become so accustomed to seeing large groups of deserters moving through the lines, muskets in hand, that they had assumed the attackers were simply coming in to give up and sell their weapons. The pickets have time to fire one volley and the trench guards little more than that before they are overwhelmed.

The main Confederate attack, in three columns, punches through the Federal line just north of Fort Stedman, between Batteries Nos. 9 and 10. While the left column moves north toward Battery 9, the other two columns assault Battery 10 and Stedman itself. The Confederates are moving so quickly and quietly that minutes after they have seized Battery 10, a confused Federal soldier standing guard nearby is still reporting “No attack.” When some Federal troops open fire, their officers stop them, believing they are firing into their own pickets. Colonel Napoleon B. McLaughlen, the Union commander responsible for the Fort Stedman line, rushes into the fort on hearing the firing. He crosses the parapet, and meeting some men coming over the curtains, whom he supposes in the darkness to be a part of the picket, he establishes them inside the work, giving directions with regard to position and firing, all of which are instantly obeyed. Moments later it dawns on McLaughlen that the men are Confederates. They realize he is a Federal—and take him prisoner.

Battery 10 opens in the rear onto ground that is as high as Fort Stedman’s parapet, giving the Confederates yet another advantage. But the fort’s garrison—a portion of a New York Heavy Artillery regiment under Captain George M. Randall—has time to brace for the attack, and the New Yorkers pour a galling fire into the Confederates moving against them from Battery 10. The attackers are driven back but soon come on again from the front, flank, and rear. In desperation Randall commands his men to use bayonets and clubbed rifles as the Confederates pour over the works. It is “rough-and-tumble” fighting, the men frequently “locked together like serpents” and grappling as if they have “drunk two quarts of brandy.” The defenders of Fort Stedman are overpowered, and many are captured. Despite the darkness and the confusion, the remaining men refuse to panic. Most fall back to the east and continue firing into the rear of the fort; others move south along the trenches past Batteries Nos. 11 and 12 to Fort Haskell, about 600 yards away.

Randall has dispatched runners to warn the flanking regiments, and the two Massachusetts regiments are beginning to fall in. Meanwhile, a select team of Confederate artillerists under Lieutenant Colonel Robert M. Stribling takes over the guns in Stedman and Battery 10, opening a ferocious enfilading fire on entrenchments to the north and south. The attacking Confederates, the bulk of whom are Brigadier General Matthew W. Ransom’s North Carolinians, move north and catch one Massachusetts regiment still trying to call on its pickets. Struck in the flank and rear, many of the Massachusetts men are captured, but others fight from their traverses and communication trenches. The Federals manage to form a battle line, perpendicular to their works and anchored on Battery 9. There they make a stand. The Confederates assailing the battery are forced to take shelter 500 yards from their objective. Now they find themselves in the same situation Federal troops faced at the Crater last summer. The Federal entrenchments are a maze of main-line earthworks, connecting trenches, traverses, and dugouts. It is nearly impossible for the attackers to determine their position or maintain formation.

It is the Federal left that Gordon particularly wants to clear, and with the coming of daylight, the full fury of his onslaught is directed at Fort Haskell. The right column has already begun pressing cautiously toward Haskell from Fort Stedman, and in the early-morning gloom, the full mass of Confederates from Evans’ division moves down the trenches, seizing Batteries 11 and 12 and pushing back the second Massachusetts regiment. The color sergeant, Conrad Homan, is surrounded, but he escapes with his colors in the confusion. In Fort Haskell, Captain Christian Woerner sees an oncoming body of men, but as it is still too dark to see who they are, Woerner withholds his fire. When the men are 100 yards away,he recognizes them as the enemy and orders three of his four Napoleons to open fire. Murderous canister rips into the Confederates and the assault is halted. The surviving attackers go to ground among the Federal bombproofs and winter huts. The guns of the Confederate main line join the captured Federal pieces in bombarding Fort Haskell; Federal field batteries and the artillerists operating the huge siege guns in the rear open a massive counterfire. The air is so full of shells that the missiles resemble “a flock of blackbirds with blazing tails beating about in a gale.” Many of Fort Haskell’s defenders are hit, and the Union flag is shot away. When the flag disappears, Federal gunners assume that the fort has fallen and open fire on it. Urgently, an officer calls for volunteers to hold the flag aloft. Eight men respond. Four are quickly shot down, but the survivors manage to signal the cannoneers, who cease firing. The Confederates holding Fort Stedman had thought they had won a great victory, but after daylight the Federal guns from Fort Haskell and the commanding hills make the captured fort untenable and the Confederates become badly demoralized so that it is “with the greatest difficulty that the generals got the men in line to charge the second line of works.”

General Gordon, who has reached Fort Stedman close behind his men, sends a message to Lee saying that all is going well. Though Gordon is unaware of it, however, his attack is in trouble. The Confederate cavalry hasn’t advanced; the way isn’t open. The three 100-man detachments have quickly pressed toward the rear, but they haven’t found the three redoubts. The men have become separated from their guides and are wandering about in confusion. Many of the famished Southerners in and around Fort Stedman find it impossible to resist the Federal rations they see lying about; instead of fighting, they pause to fill their stomachs.

Slowly the massive Federal army facing Petersburg is coming to life. The responsibility for defending the first seven miles of Federal trenches south of the Appomattox River belongs to Major General John G. Parke’s IX Corps. Parke has been startled this morning not only by the attack, but by the discovery that, while General Meade is temporarily away at City Point, he is the acting commander of the Army of the Potomac. Yet Parke reacts decisively. He has two divisions already on the line: Brigadier General Orlando B. Wilcox is defending the line at Fort Stedman and Brigadier General Robert Potter is holding the trenches to the south. Porter immediately calls on General Hartranft’s reserve division to move toward the breach and also directs Colonel John C. Tidball’s reserve artillery to take position on a ridge east of Fort Stedman. As Hartranft’s men move forward, they encounter and drive back the three special Confederate detachments, who are still milling around in the maze behind the Federal trenches. Tidball’s artillery goes into battery and opens fire on the stalled Confederate main force, which is now confined to Fort Stedman and a few hundred yards of adjoining trench. More Federal reinforcements are on the way, from V and II Corps. To General Gordon’s dismay the surrounding hills are “soon black with troops.”

By 8 am, four hectic hours after the attack had begun, the Confederate situation seems hopeless, and Lee sends orders for withdrawal. At the same time, the entire Federal cordon that has been thrown around the attackers begin to advance. Gordon faces a new problem. The ground between the Confederate and Federal lines is under such blistering fire that it will be as perilous for the Confederates to return to their own lines as to stay where they are. Most do go back, risking the fire. But hundreds of others simply surrender, disregarding the orders—and even the threats—of their officers. A Michigan captain, glancing toward the recaptured underground headquarters of one of the two Massachusetts regiments flanking Fort Stedman, sees an enemy soldier peeking out. When he goes over to take the man prisoner, he finds 35 Confederates in the bombproof. He takes them all.

The Confederate losses in the attack on Fort Stedman have been heavy: 1,600 men killed or wounded and, remarkably, about 1,900 taken prisoner. The Federals have lost only 1,000 troops, half of them prisoners. The Union forces have handled Lee’s last, best effort to break their hold on Petersburg with ease. A single corps contained and then repelled the attack. Grant, who is planning a major offensive of his own in a few days, doesn’t bother to alter his plans. The only change in Federal activities is that a divisional review scheduled for this morning is put off until the afternoon. A Confederate prisoner is amazed to see the review under way as he is led off. By chance, Abraham Lincoln is there, and the prisoner marvels that the President and Grant “rode by us seemingly not the least concerned and as if nothing had happened.” Before this colossal self-assurance, the Confederate will say, all the Southerners present understood their situation, “and with one accord agreed that our cause was lost.”

President Lincoln and General Grant had taken the military railroad from City Point to the Petersburg lines. Once the review is over, Lincoln sees a bit of the day’s fighting himself. Lincoln first learned of the Confederate attack from his 21-year-old son, Robert, recently appointed a captain on Grant’s staff. The young man had visited his parents this morning aboard the River Queen, which has been serving as Lincoln’s City Point headquarters, and he had reported, with the casualness of a seamy-faced veteran, that there had been “a little rumpus up the line.”

In the afternoon, while a truce is in effect at Fort Stedman so that the dead and wounded can be attended to, Federal troops of II and VI Corps probe the Confederate right to see if it has been weakened to provide men for the attack on Stedman. As early as 6 am, Major General Henry J. Hunt, the army’s chief of artillery, had sent telegrams to the Federal corps commanders along the line, alerting them to the Confederate assault. Two of them, Major Generals Horatio G. Wright and Humphreys, feel that Lee must have had to deplete his front lines to make his initial assault. Quickly marshalling their divisions—with General Meade’s approval—the generals advance, easily taking the Confederate picket lines. As the Federals dig in along their new front late in the day, Lee orders counterattacks. The Federal pickets in the immediate front are driven in, closely followed by the enemy. But most of the counterattacks are turned back, and at dusk the Federals hold long sections of the Confederate rifle pits.

It is while this brisk fighting is taking place on the left that General Meade, who has returned to the front lines, takes Lincoln to a hilltop fort from which a part of the battle is visible. The President casts his eye over the field, where Federal troops can be seen driving the enemy back, and comments, “This is better than a review.” Lincoln also sees some of the wounded from the fighting at Fort Stedman; he says little, but a member of the party will note that he looks “worn and haggard.” Later, Lincoln remarks quietly that he has seen enough of the horrors of war and hopes they will soon be concluded.

After a trying march due to drenching rains, Federal troops near Spanish Fort and the fortifications of Mobile, Alabama, on the east side of Mobile Bay. By the 27th the investment will be complete. Confederate Brigadier General R.L. Gibson tries to organize his 2,800 men to oppose Canby’s 32,000. Despite strong earthworks around the city it is manifestly impossible for the South to hold out long without help.

Otherwise there is the usual roll of skirmishes—on the Deer Park Road, Alabama; at Cotton Creek, Mitchell’s or Canoe Creek, and Escambia River, Florida; Brawley Forks, Tennessee; Glasgow, Kentucky; Watkins House and Fort Fisher, Virginia. Two Federal expeditions operate from Brashear City, one to Indian Bend, Louisiana, and the other to Oyster Bayou, Louisiana.

Sherman leaves Goldsborough. To some soldiers who meet him en route and ask what he is up to, he explains: “I’m going up to see Grant for five minutes and have it all chalked out for me and then come back and pitch in.”
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