The American Civil War, day by day - Page 49 - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

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#15122798
September 26, Friday

Lincoln has shrewdly anticipated the favorable foreign reaction to his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. He feels less certain about how emancipation will be perceived in the army that has made it possible. From McClellan on down, many officers in the Army of the Potomac are conservative Democrats who generally oppose immediate emancipation and favor a negotiated settlement with the Confederacy. This fact, as much as McClellan’s penchant for caution, has created an extraordinary distrust of the generals among the Radical Republicans, who from the beginning of the war have called for the abolition of slavery and an all-out war to destroy the South’s institutions. These Radicals have repeatedly accused McClellan and some of his top officers of outright treason. After Antietam, they go so far as to circulate tales that McClellan conspired with Lee to prevent a decisive Federal victory.

In addition to these rumors, a lot of loose talk is rattling around the Army of the Potomac itself. Now Lincoln is confronted with the case of Major John Key, a member of General Halleck’s staff and, more importantly, brother of Colonel Thomas Key, McClellan’s influential aide. After Antietam, John Key has told another officer that McClellan failed to destroy Lee because “that is not the game. The object is that neither army shall get much advantage of the other; that both shall be kept in the field till they are exhausted, when we will make a compromise and save slavery.” Lincoln acts promptly and firmly. He fires Keys as “an example and warning” to officers who have loose tongues. McClellan himself needs no such warning. To be sure, he thinks the Emancipation Proclamation premature and believes that Lincoln has exceeded his presidential powers. He even briefly considers resigning his command because of it. But he is loyal. Even after prominent Democrats and a few fellow officers urge him to take a public stance against emancipation, he heeds calmer counsel and maintains a proper silence. And to quell disloyal talk among his men, he issues a general order—with a copy to the President—reminding them of the soldier’s “highest duty” under the Constitution: “earnest support of the authority of the government.”

The Battle of Wood Lake, Minnesota, on the 23rd has proven decisive, despite the lack of White pursuit when the beaten Sioux withdrew. Most of Little Crow’s warriors have had enough fighting, and they are scattering with their chiefs and families, some going as far as Canada, others joining Yanktonai and Teton bands farther west, still others traveling on to Devils Lake in the future North Dakota to spend the winter beyond the reach of the troops. While the warriors disperse, a Sioux chief from the Upper Agency named Red Iron, who has opposed the uprising, helps the other peace-minded chiefs, Wabasha and Taopi, to protect the captives. When Sibley appears today with a troop escort at Red Iron’s camp near the mouth of the Chippewa River, the chiefs turn over 91 White prisoners and about 150 mixed bloods; over the next few days they will release about thirty more captives for a total of 269. The site will become known as Camp Release. Many of the Whites and half-breeds are in pitiful mental and physical condition, but young Mary Schwandt, protected by a kindly family of missionary-influenced Santees during most of her 39-day ordeal, is well. At least one White woman vocally objects to her own liberation, declaring that “were it not for her children she would not leave her dusky paramour.”

A quiet day on the major fronts. In Arkansas there are Federal expeditions from Helena to La Grange and Helena to Jeffersonville and Marianna, Tennessee; also a skirmish at Catlett’s Station, Virginia; a Federal expedition from Point Pleasant to Buffalo, western Virginia; and a skirmish at Fort Abercrombie, Dakota Territory.

President Lincoln and his Cabinet confers on colonization of the Blacks.
#15122989
September 27, Saturday

The Second Conscription Act of the Confederate Congress authorizes President Davis to call out men between thirty-five and forty-five.

Federal troops carry out reconnaissance from Harpers Ferry toward Charles Towne, western Virginia. There is fighting at Taylor’s Bayou, Texas; and Augusta and Brookville, Kentucky; along with a skirmish near Iuka, Mississippi.

President Lincoln is much perturbed over McClellan’s lack of aggressive action since Antietam.

The first regiment of free Blacks is mustered in at New Orleans as the First Regiment Louisiana Native Guards. The regiment calls themselves “Chasseurs d’Afrique.” General Butler had authorized enlistment of free Blacks August 22.
#15123198
September 28, Sunday

Minor fighting is near Lebanon Junction, Kentucky; Friar’s Point, Mississippi; Standing Stone, western Virginia; and from this day to October 5 there is a Federal expedition from Columbus, Kentucky, to Covington, Durhamville, and Fort Randolph, Tennessee.

Having rescued the hostages from the Sioux, Colonel Sibley establishes a bivouac near the Chippewa River in Minnesota and over the coming weeks will round up hundreds of families of hungry and dispirited Santees wandering through the countryside. Determined to punish those responsible for the uprising and the atrocities committed against the settlers, he appoints a five-man military commission to take evidence against the Amerinds from the freed captives.

President Davis writes General Lee of his concern over enrollment of conscripts “to fill up the thinned ranks of your regiments.”
#15123414
September 29, Monday

In a pointless argument in a hotel in Louisville, Kentucky, Federal Brigadier General Columbus Davis shoots General Nelson in the chest. Nelson dies a half hour later. Davis is immediately arrested and handed over to the civil authorities. He will be indicted, but in the press of the military campaign he will never be brought to trial and soon restored to command of his division. General Buell will have to find someone else to bring the freak Federal recruits into some semblance of effectiveness.

Skirmishing breaks out on the Elizabethtown Road, and near New Haven, Kentucky. There is a Federal expedition from Centreville to Warrenton and Buckland Mills, Virginia.

Major General John F. Reynolds assumes command of the Federal First Army Corps.

The Confederate Army of West Tennessee, 22,000 strong under Van Dorn, marches out of Ripley, Mississippi, heading toward Corinth, Mississippi.
#15123645
September 30, Tuesday

North of the Indian Territory, before being succeeded on July 30 by Major General Theophilus H. Holmes, General Hindman had ordered General Pike to bring his Amerinds out of the Territory. For Pike, this was the last straw. In a fit of temper, he resigned his commission. Scorned now by Southerners as a traitor and detested by Northerners because of the scalpings at Pea Ridge, this strangest of all Confederate generals, who would later state that he had never wanted “the damned command” in the first place, was out of the war. He was succeeded by Colonel Cooper, who immediately joined Hindman at the Missouri-Arkansas border with his Chickasaws and Choctaws, a small unit of Texans, as well as some of Stand Watie’s mixed-blood Cherokees—a total of 2,000 men. Eventually crossing the Arkansas-Missouri border into Newtonia, Missouri, Cooper also assumes command of 2,300 Missourians led by General Price’s dashing cavalry commander, Colonel Joseph O. (Jo) Shelby. General Blunt, learning of this new threat to southwestern Missouri, sends two brigades under newly promoted Brigadier General Frederick Salomon and a now-sober Colonel Weer—whose dispute has been patched up—to make a reconnaissance in force. Probing into Newtonia, the Federals skirmish with Shelby’s Missourians and Cooper’s Amerinds and are driven from the town.

The month ends with a number of lesser actions: at Russellville, Glasgow, and near Louisville, Kentucky; Goodlettsville, Tennessee; Glenville, western Virginia; a Federal reconnaissance from Rienzi, Mississippi, to the Hatchie River; September 30 to October 13 a Federal sea-land expedition from Hilton Head, South Carolina, to Saint John’s Bluff, Florida.
#15123920
October 1862

The people have experienced much in September of 1862. President Lincoln has opened the door to freedom for the slaves by issuing the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. Although for the moment it will not apply directly to a single slave—it refers only to those hold in territory deemed in rebellion—a momentous policy for the future has been laid down. Debate is extensive. Northern abolitionists feel it is too little; other unionists believe the war has wrongly changed course—from saving the Union to ending slavery. In the view of many Confederates, the Proclamation exposes the North’s real purpose. The news quickly filters through to the Blacks of the South and the message is clear, though often confused in detail. Black troops begin to be recruited by the North.

On the military fronts the South has advanced considerably in September, into Maryland, into Tennessee and Kentucky. But the three main offensives seem blunted as fall begins. Lee is back in Virginia, his excursion north only a partial success, Bragg and E. Kirby Smith are still in central Kentucky, but powerful Union forces protect the Ohio River cities from serious threat. In northern Mississippi, Van Dorn and Price have not made spectacular headway. The Mississippi around Vicksburg remains reasonably secure for the Confederacy, but for how long? McClellan continues to frustrate the Federal administration. To many, Antietam seems a halfhearted effort by McClellan.

October 1, Wednesday

As the month opens, Bragg’s Confederate campaign is reaching a climax in Kentucky. The Ohio River cities have apparently been successfully defended by Buell’s Federals, but there is fighting on the Bardstown Pike near Mount Washington and on Fern Creek along the Louisville and Frankfurt Road. In Louisville, Buell has had a close call. When word reached Washington, D.C., that Buell is now something of a hero—now regarded as the man who has saved Louisville and Cincinnati—General-in-Chief Halleck had second thoughts about firing him and wired the aide he sent earlier countermanding the orders for Buell to be relieved of his command. Unfortunately the wire arrived too late. General Thomas, the one tasked in the orders to assume command, resolved the embarrassing situation by refusing the command on the ground that Buell’s preparations to march against the enemy have been completed. Buell retains his post, with Thomas as his second-in-command. Buell seems determined to make the most of his second chance. After assimilating the green Louisville garrison into his army as best he can he has 60,000 troops, and today he puts them on a collision course with the Confederates. Three corps—each with three divisions—march by separate routes toward Bardstown and Bragg’s Army of the Tennessee. And Braxton Bragg is not with his army.

First Kirby Smith and the Braxton Bragg had predicated the success of their invasion on the recruiting of thousands of Kentuckians. It has not come to pass. Smith has managed to scrape together less than a brigade of new volunteers, and Bragg has garnered not a one. When Smith refused to come to Bardstown as requested, Bragg went to Lexington to discuss their next move. There the young general airily observed that Bragg would have to defeat Buell before there will be any rush to the Confederate colors. But Bragg has come up with a less militant idea; he will stimulate recruitment and create a legal framework for conscription in the state by ceremoniously installing a Confederate governor of Kentucky in Frankfurt, the state capital. There is some basis for such a move: The state was accepted into the Confederacy in 1861, and a provisional government set up, only to be driven south by Federal forces. The Provisional Governor was killed at Shiloh, but the Lieutenant Governor, Richard Hawes, is available to assume the office.

Thus as the bulk of the Federal Army of the Ohio approaches Bardstown, Bragg is away from his headquarters, preoccupied with the staging of an elaborate inaugural ceremony. To make matters worse, his troops are in disarray. He has reclaimed Cleburne’s and Preston Smith’s divisions, and his army now numbers 22,500. But they are scattered along a 50-mile front from Bardstown northeast to Shelbyville, halfway between Louisville and Frankfort.

There is considerable skirmishing between Confederate and Federal cavalry along the Potomac near Sharpsburg, Maryland, Shepherdstown, and Martinsburg, western Virginia, and a Federal reconnaissance from Harper’s Ferry to Leesburg, Virginia. Other fighting is at Ruckersville, Mississippi, and at Davis’ Bridge and near Nashville, Tennessee.

Major General John C. Pemberton is given command of the new Confederate Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana, replacing Van Dorn. His main duty is the defense of Vicksburg on the Mississippi, obviously the aim of Federal operations.

What President Lincoln wants most of all from General McClellan is rapid and vigorous pursuit of the Confederates in Virginia. To help bring it about, he decides to pay a surprise visit to the general and his army. Lincoln arrives at Harpers Ferry today, looking “careworn and troubled.”

In an important administrative move the Federal gunboat flotilla on western waters is transferred from the War to the Navy Department. David Dixon Porter is named commander of the new Mississippi Squadron, replacing Charles Davis.

The Richmond Whig says of the Emancipation Proclamation: “It is a dash of the pen to destroy four thousand millions of our property, and is as much a bid for the slaves to rise in insurrection, with the assurance of aid from the whole military and naval power of the United States.”
#15124123
October 2, Thursday

In Kentucky, General Bragg learns that a large Federal force has taken Shelbyville, driving Cleburne’s division toward Frankfort. This is General Buell’s feint, and Bragg responds to it just as the Federals hoped. He sends word to Kirby Smith to bring up his 10,000-man force from Lexington and orders General Polk, on command of the forces at Bardstown, to march northward immediately and strike the Federals’ right flank as they advance toward Frankfurt. Polk knows better. His cavalry has told him that the Federals are moving south towards Bardstown in force. By this morning, all three of the main roads leading to Bardstown are clogged with blueclad columns. Acidly replying to Bragg’s order, Polk says that compliance will be “not only eminently inexpedient but impracticable.” Instead, he falls back toward Bryantsville, where a supply depot was set up earlier and a reserve force waits.

President Lincoln shifts from Harpers Ferry to the Headquarters of the Army of the Potomac, occupying a tent next to General McClellan’s. The President makes a memo of total troops in the Army of the Potomac, arriving at a figure of 88,095. Wearing a black suit and stovepipe hat, Lincoln visits field hospitals and reviews the troops. He tours the Antietam battlefield in an ambulance, sitting, a Federal officer notes, “with his long legs doubled up so that his knees almost struck his chin.”

Scattered fighting breaks out on the Shepherdsville Road, Kentucky; near Columbia, Missouri; Beaumont, Texas; and at Baldwyn and near Ramer’s Crossing, Mississippi. Confederate troops are moving in on Corinth, Mississippi. There are operations October 2-4 at Blue’s Gap or Hanging Rock, Little Cacapon Bridge, and Paw Taw Tunnel, western Virginia.
#15124376
October 3, Friday

As the Confederates move against Corinth, once again the principle Union field commander is William Rosecrans, whose forces now comprise two infantry divisions from his own Army of the Mississippi and two from the Army of the Tennessee, plus a small division of cavalry. Rosecrans is a complex man. He is a deeply religious Roman Catholic, whose profanity and the taking of God’s name in vain is legendary throughout the Army—as is his almost ungovernable temper. And yet as a combat leader, he is beloved by his troops. “Old Rosy” visits his men often, sees that they are well fed and supplied, and—most important from their viewpoint—is always in evidence in battle, usually where the fighting is heaviest. Corinth is defended by two sets of earthworks that guard the northern approaches to the town. One had been dug by the Confederates two or three miles outside the town. After the Federals captured Corinth, Grant ordered the second earthworks constructed on the edge of the town because he felt that the other line was too extended to defend adequately.

This time Rosecran’s adversary is Earl Van Dorn. A 42-year-old West Pointer who has been brevetted for gallantry in the Mexican War and was regarded as one of the most dashing officers in the prewar Army, he has recently been placed in charge of the Vicksburg defenses. Van Dorn has scarcely assumed the post when he angers the city residents by imposing martial law, but the truth is that he has never been popular there. He is known as a drinker and a womanizer. But he is bold to the point of rashness, and is gambling that victory at Corinth will force the Federals in west Tennessee to draw back to Kentucky and the Ohio River. Leading 22,000 troops, he approaches Corinth from the northwest, advancing along the Memphis & Charleston Railroad. He is striking from this direction for what seems an excellent reason. Some weeks before, a young woman from Corinth sent him a note describing the entrenchments around the town and pointing out that they are weak on the northwest side. The note was intercepted by the commander at Corinth, General Ord, who read it, resealed it, and after a time sent it on to its destination. The defenses were in fact weak at the time the note was written, but have since been strengthened by the addition ordered by General Grant. Instead of attacking one line of earthworks, as Van Dorn expects, the Confederates will face two. On the other hand, Rosecrans’ Federal force is equal to Van Dorn’s only in size. Many of the Federal regiments are poorly trained; the morale of the men is low, and dysentery is rampant in the ranks.

Early in the morning, Van Dorn launches his three divisions in a headlong attack on the outlying Federal entrenchments. The heaviest assault falls on the division in the center of the Federal line. Artillery “mowed lanes through the solid columns” of Confederates, but still they come on. Soon Van Dorn’s men have split the Federal line and driven it back. All three of the Federal division’s brigade commanders are wounded as they struggle to rally their men, one will die of his injuries. A disorganized mob of soldiers falls back toward Corinth, but when they come to the troops manning the recently constructed earthworks on the outskirts of town they regroup and stand their ground. For the rest of the day fighting rages around the earthworks, but neither side can gain the upper hand and darkness puts an end to the fighting. Van Dorn and Rosecrans will both insist afterward that with one more hour of daylight he would have won the battle today.

Fighting is confined, outside of Corinth, to skirmishes on the Blackwater and near Zuni, Virginia; at La Fayette Landing, Tennessee; Cedar Church, near Shepherdsville, Kentucky; and Jollification, Missouri. A Federal naval expedition attacks the defenses of Galveston, Texas.

The Confederate cruiser Alabama takes three more prizes. Cries of anguish from Yankee shippers are soon to sound louder than ever.

A battered force of Federals who have evacuated Cumberland Gap arrives at Greenupsburg, Kentucky, after a sixteen days’ march under harsh conditions and with much skirmishing.

Reviews and conferences continue at McClellan’s headquarters in Maryland between the President and his general.
#15124652
October 4, Saturday

At Corinth, Van Dorn resumes the offensive at 10 am in 90 degree heat; General Rosecrans notes that the Confederates “advanced splendidly.” Their strongest effort is against the Federal center; there five regiments move against an earthwork known as Battery Robinett. As the Confederates advance, the Federal artillery opens up with what one officer will call “a storm of iron.” But still the regiments come on, increasing their pace. Then the Federal infantry opens fire, turning the defense into “a perfect storm of grape, canister, cannon balls and minie balls.” Even so, the Confederates lose little momentum. They plow into two Federal regiments aligned in front of Battery Robinett. An Ohio regiment has nine of thirteen officers go down, including the regiment’s colonel, shot off his horse. The Federals fall back. The Confederates scramble over and through a tangled abatis before Battery Robinett, then surge on toward the earthwork. But without warning, the swarming Confederates receive a severe blow. As they scramble up the parapet and crest the earthworks, two regiments from Missouri and Ohio, which have been lying prone thirty yards behind Battery Robinett, rise up and fire a terrible volley into the attackers. By now three of the five Confederate regimental commanders have fallen, but still the Confederates press on. The flag of one Arkansas regiment is torn to pieces by Federal bullets, but the color-bearer keeps moving. He is last seen alive “going over the breastworks, waving a piece and shouting for the Southern Confederacy.” Yet for all the bravery, the assault is doomed. Fresh Federal troops charge into the fray, and after a brief hand-to-hand struggle on the wall of the fort, the surviving Confederates break for the rear.

Van Dorn’s attack against the Federal right flank is slightly more successful. Exhibiting what one Northern officer will call “a desperation seldom paralleled,” Colonel W.H. Moore’s brigade pierces the Federal line, captures a redoubt, and overruns a battery. An Arkansas regiment fights their way into the streets of Corinth itself. But there they are cut off and their colonel killed. Rosecrans regains the lost ground, and by 11:30 am the fighting is over. Van Dorn’s attack has failed disastrously, and his army is in full retreat to the northwest, back up the railroad line toward Chewalla, ten miles from Corinth.

The figures: Union, 355 killed, 1,841 wounded, and 324 missing for 2,520 out of about 23,000 effectives; Confederates, 473 killed, 1,997 wounded, and 1,763 missing for total of 4,233 out of probably 22,000 total troops. The Southerners have succeeded in taking the pressure off Bragg in Kentucky by preventing reinforcements to Buell, but they have failed to capture the important rail and road center of Corinth, or to wreck Rosecrans’ force and thus make Grant pull back toward the Ohio.

Rosecrans has been given strict orders by Grant to keep the pressure on the Confederates if they are driven back. But Rosecrans’ men are worn out, and he always thinks of his men. “I directed them,” he will say, “to proceed to their camps, provide five days’ rations, take some needed rest, and be ready early next morning for the pursuit.” When Grant learns of the delay, he will be disgusted. He will comment dryly: “Two or three hours of pursuit on the day of the battle, without anything except what the men carried on their persons, would have been worth more than any pursuit commenced the next day could have possibly been.”

In Kentucky, incredibly, with most of his army in retreat, General Bragg has left matters in the hands of his subordinates and pressed ahead with the inauguration of a new Confederate Governor at Frankfurt, the state capital. But despite Bragg’s single-minded determination, the ceremony is less than successful; at the end of Richard Hawes’s address, the affair is broken up by the sound of guns in the distance to the west. now the mercurial Bragg decides he is being attacked by the entire Army of the Ohio, so he abandons Frankfort to the Federals and hurries south to join Polk. The Hawes Administration’s tenure lasts about eight hours.

At this point, the Confederate forces in Kentucky are divided. Polk and Hardee are falling back to the southeast from Bardstown, pressed hard by Federal cavalry. Polk is on the Springfield Pike, while Hardee is taking a parallel route about ten miles to the west, struggling to keep up over terrible roads. Meanwhile, Kirby Smith is moving south from Frankfort. Now Bragg decides that his scattered forces should concentrate at Harrodsburg, ten miles northwest of Danville and more than twenty miles east of Hardee’s location. From there, Bragg intends to turn northward and meet Buell’s army, which he persists in believing is converging on Frankfort. The inevitable battle will be fought, he decides, between Frankfort and Harrodsburg, in the vicinity of Versailles. He orders Kirby Smith to halt his troops north of the Kentucky River, near Versailles, to watch for the route of the Federal advance.

As they maneuver through the rolling Kentucky hills, troops on both sides suffer from the worsening drought. They grow desperate for water and have to take it wherever they can find it.

General Salomon’s repulse at Newtonia, in southwestern Missouri, has galvanized the Federal High Command. In St. Louis, General Curtis, head of the Department of Missouri, has ordered General Blunt to reinforce Brigadier General John M. Schofield, commander of Federal forces in southwestern Missouri and northeastern Arkansas. Those reinforcements reached Schofield yesterday, and now he falls upon Colonels Cooper and Shelby at Newtonia, driving the outnumbered Confederates back to the Arkansas River, where Hindman regroups them for another attack.

Other fighting takes place atGranby, and in Monroe County, Missouri; near Middleton, Tennessee; Donaldsonville, Louisiana; and at Conrad’s Ferry, Virginia. There is a Federal reconnaissance from Loudoun Heights to Hillsborough in Virginia October 4-6.

President Lincoln remains with General McClellan visiting camps, hospitals, and battlefields, leaving in the afternoon for Washington. Lincoln has devoted much of his three-day visit to prodding McClellan. He speaks to him of “overcautiousness” and presses him to move the army forward. Yet McClellan afterwards insists that the President “was entirely satisfied with me and with all that I had done; that he would stand by me against all comers; that he wished me not to stir an inch until fully ready.” A story to be told by the President’s close friend Ozias M. Hatch will suggest that Lincoln senses that he and McClellan have been talking at cross-purposes. Early one morning during his visit to Antietam, the President invites Hatch to go for a walk. On a hillside, Lincoln gestures in despair at the expanse of white tents spread out below them and inquires, “Hatch, Hatch, what is all this?” “Why, Mr. Lincoln,” answers Hatch, “this is the Army of the Potomac.” “No, Hatch, no,” replies Lincoln. “This is McClellan’s bodyguard.”
#15124846
Lincoln senses that he and McClellan have been talking at cross-purposes. Early one morning during his visit to Antietam, the President invites Hatch to go for a walk. On a hillside, Lincoln gestures in despair at the expanse of white tents spread out below them and inquires, “Hatch, Hatch, what is all this?” “Why, Mr. Lincoln,” answers Hatch, “this is the Army of the Potomac.” “No, Hatch, no,” replies Lincoln. “This is McClellan’s bodyguard.”

Once again, Honest Abe sums it up in a single sentence.

And how could McClellan have misinterpreted Lincoln's attitude so badly? McClellan's mentality and behaviour is one of the deepest mysteries of the Civil War.
#15124886
October 5, Sunday

Rosecrans begins his pursuit of Van Dorn’s Confederates retreating from Corinth, Mississippi. But the Federals accidentally take the wrong road and never do catch up with the retreating enemy. Another Federal force has been thoughtfully placed by Grant at a bridge over the Hatchie River in Tennessee near Pocahontas on the Confederates’ line of retreat, where there is brief but severe fighting in the afternoon. But most of Van Dorn’s battered army simply moves to another bridge and continue on their weary way to Holly Springs, Mississippi, thus ending the Corinth campaign. In addition there is minor action around Corinth, Mississippi, Chewalla, and Big Hill, Tennessee.

As the Confederate forces in Kentucky continue their own retreat, General Hardee complains in a message to General Polk of his difficulty in maintaining the pace over the “hilly, rocky and slippery” terrain. Polk responds by ordering Hardee to cross to the Springfield road and fall in behind Polk’s columns. This fateful move costs Hardee a day’s march toward Harrodsburg and puts his rear guard under heavy pressure from the Federal advance. Kirby Smith’s Confederates are still in the Frankfort, Kentucky, area.

Other fighting is at Cole Camp and Sims’ Cove on Cedar Creek, Missouri; Neely’s Bend on the Cumberland River and at Fort Riley, near Nashville, Tennessee.

Federal naval forces capture Galveston, Texas, with no resistance, and occupy the city briefly with a small force.
#15124888
Potemkin wrote:Once again, Honest Abe sums it up in a single sentence.

And how could McClellan have misinterpreted Lincoln's attitude so badly? McClellan's mentality and behaviour is one of the deepest mysteries of the Civil War.

As competent as McClellan was within his limitations, his tendency to see the world as he wished it was really handicapped him—which makes you wonder about his constant overestimation, against all logic, of the size of Lee’s army. If McClellan had been as competent on the battlefield as he was at organizing and training an army, Lee would have been crushed and the war would have been over years earlier.
#15124892
Doug64 wrote:As competent as McClellan was within his limitations, his tendency to see the world as he wished it was really handicapped him—which makes you wonder about his constant overestimation, against all logic, of the size of Lee’s army.

Indeed. McClellan, like many people, seems to have been semi-detached from reality. In his mind, things must be as he wanted them to be. As for his constant and irrational overestimation of the size of Lee's army, this (apparently sincerely held) belief must have answered a genuine psychological need in his mind. Maybe the Radical Republicans were right about him after all, though not in the way that they assumed....

If McClellan had been as competent on the battlefield as he was at organizing and training an army, Lee would have been crushed and the war would have been over years earlier.

Indeed. And this failure to crush the South quickly was to have important political consequences after the end of the Civil War, consequences which are still with us even to this day....
#15124900
Potemkin wrote:Indeed. And this failure to crush the South quickly was to have important political consequences after the end of the Civil War, consequences which are still with us even to this day....

A competent McClellan is actually a what-if I haven’t seen explored, it makes for an interesting thought experiment. Off the top of my head, for starters, McClellan would have moved faster, fast enough that by June 1862 he would have been in Richmond and probing south, west, or both. The Army of Northern Virginia would be hammered if not crushed, with Joseph E. Johnston possibly still in charge—it’s possible Lee would never see a major field command after his disastrous 1861 campaign in what became West Virginia, and so would end up an historical footnote. All of this would pull Confederate resources from the western theaters to replace the losses in the east, allowing faster advancement of the Union forces in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi. (Though I suspect General Halleck would still be promoted to general-in-chief, if only to get him out of the field—he had a case of the slows to rival McClellan’s, with a competent McClellan he’d probably end up the future historians’ favorite Union whipping boy.)

This would have a major impact on the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln didn’t present his early draft to his cabinet until July, and in this scenario the excuse of military necessity would be gone. Even if he chose to press ahead anyway, he’d have to move up the date it took effect considerably from the real one’s January 1, 1863, because the odds are decent that the war would be over by then. Even if he went ahead and the war wasn’t over then, vast swaths of the South would be under Federal occupation and so not covered. That combined with the way the North hasn’t had another 2+ years to “radicalize” means that even if the Congressional elections of 1862 went better for the Republicans than they did historically, enough that they had the 2/3 votes to pass an amendment abolishing slavery through Congress, it would be unlikely to be ratified by the 3/4 of the needed states.

So we’d have a South that, thanks to its abortive attempt at secession, is now a permanent minority in both houses of Congress and despised by the rest of the country and so unlikely to have one of its own become president for at least a generation, but nowhere as economically crippled as historically and an institution of slavery hammered by the war, restricted to the southern and border states, but still legal. And Social Darwinism and the racism that distortion of the theory of evolution was used to “scientifically” justify is just getting started.
#15124934
It's an interesting 'what if?', indeed. But sometimes, the worse things get, the better things become in the end. Imagine a world in which Nazi Germany was not utterly hammered into the ground in 1945, but which reached a negotiated peace in, say, 1940? Many fewer people would have died and much human misery avoided, but would that really have been a better reality than this one? The same thing applies to the American Civil War, in my opinion. The worse, the better. It's the only way to lance the boil and drain the poison.
#15125038
Potemkin wrote:It's an interesting 'what if?', indeed. But sometimes, the worse things get, the better things become in the end. Imagine a world in which Nazi Germany was not utterly hammered into the ground in 1945, but which reached a negotiated peace in, say, 1940? Many fewer people would have died and much human misery avoided, but would that really have been a better reality than this one? The same thing applies to the American Civil War, in my opinion. The worse, the better. It's the only way to lance the boil and drain the poison.

You're right, any outcome that leaves the Nazis in charge longer isn't a positive one. The only "negotiated settlement" I can think of is if Hitler actually successfully launched Operation Sea Lion. And the negotiation would essentially be to hand England back to the British Empire in return for peace. Though that would at most simply delay Hitler's assault on the USSR by a few years, IIRC Hitler didn't actually intend to hit the USSR until around 1946 and was caught be surprise when Britain and France declared war on him after the invasion of Poland. More likely would be if somehow Hitler realized that this time the Allies were serious, and that if he invaded Poland he'd have to deal with them. Or perhaps his negotiations with the USSR broke down so that the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was never agreed to.

Any road, that kind of delay would be unlikely to help him much, while an additional five years and no distractions from his western flank would be a big plus, the USSR would also have time to prepare and they needed it more--their equipment was badly antiquated and the military purge Stalin had recently carried out had been devastating. And there was no way that Hitler wasn't going to go after the USSR eventually, whoever was in the way. And of course, by that time all the Jews in Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia at a minimum would be dead.
#15125102
October 6, Monday

Having failed to persuade General McClellan in their personal chats, President Lincoln resorts to peremptory orders. Today he sends instructions to the general in Maryland through Halleck: “The President directs that you cross the Potomac and give battle to the enemy or drive him south, your army must move now while the roads are good.”

In Kentucky Bragg’s main Confederate force is still moving back toward Harrodsburg as Buell moves after him, occupying Bardstown. General Hardee informs General Polk of the Federal pressure on his rear guard, and Polk orders him to halt in order to “force the enemy to reveal his strength. Hardee’s trailing division, 7,000 men, is now at Perryville. Hardee places two brigades on a ridge north of the town, while the five veteran Arkansas regiments of Brigadier General St. John Liddell take their place on a low range of hills west of the town overlooking a shallow creek—now dry—called Bull Run.

There are skirmishes at Fair Grounds, Springfield, Burnt Cross Roads, Beach Fork, and Grassy Mound, Kentucky. In western Virginia there is a Federal reconnaissance from Bolivar Heights toward Charles Town, and a skirmish at Big Birch; and in Missouri there are skirmishes at Sibley and Liberty.
#15125366
October 7, Tuesday

The drought in Kentucky becomes a factor in the selection of a battlefield. The thirsty Confederates at Perryville have come across some pools of precious water in the bed of Doctor’s Creek, another mile west of General Liddell’s line. This watercourse runs roughly north-south and is bracketed by two parallel ridges. This afternoon, two of Liddell’s regiments from Arkansas push out from their line to take up position on the ridge east of Doctor’s Creek. There the men listen to the sounds of skirmishing coming ever closer as units of Brigadier General Joseph Wheeler’s cavalry, ranging farther to the west, encounter the advancing Federal cavalry screen, exchange shots, and fall back. Meanwhile, General Hardee requests reinforcements and permission to drive off the Federals in order to end their harassment and give General Bragg more time to concentrate the army. Bragg responds by further dividing his forces, sending General Polk back from Harrodsburg with Major General Benjamin F. Cheatham’s single division to help Hardee deal with the Federals at Perryville. The rest of the army continues to prepare for a fight twenty miles away, at Versailles.

Meanwhile General Buell, as confused as Bragg, concludes that the entire Confederate army is in front of him at Perryville. Nursing a painful gash in his leg, suffered in a fall from his horse, Buell lurches from place to place in an ambulance, urging his corps commanders to concentrate their forces. All day the Federal columns approach Perryville from the west on three separate roads. In the narrowing gap between the marching Federals and the waiting Confederates, contesting cavalry detachments seesaw back and forth. Late in the afternoon, Federal infantry and cavalry finally drive the persistent—and by now thoroughly exhausted—Confederate cavalry back through Liddell’s advanced regiments on the ridge. The hot and thirsty Federal troopers make a dash for the water in Doctor’s Creek but are driven back by fire from the Arkansas troops. Then General Gilbert’s divisions approach the creek at about 11 pm, and they want water. The advanced brigades are part of a division commanded by Philip Sheridan, who is exceedingly proud of his new brigadier general’s stars and is determined to prove himself worthy of them. He is about to get his chance. Almost immediately upon arrival, an Indiana regiment advances to feel out the Confederate position and seize the creek bed. But when the regiment collides with the determined Arkansans, the Indiana men are forced to fall back. General Buell, who is traveling with Gilbert not far behind the leading units, learns of the repulse around 2 am and orders another attack. Sheridan advances two regiments. Moving out cautiously along the Springfield Pike, the men descend the slope west of the creek, cross the watercourse, and make their way up the slope on the far side. Under “a severe and galling fire,” they explode upon the Confederate line. Liddell’s veterans fight well, but they are unable to check the momentum of the thirsty Federals. Under relentless pressure, the Arkansans are forced to abandon their position and withdraw east toward Perryville.

General Gilbert now becomes worried that Sheridan might advance too far and cautions him against bringing on a general engagement before the army’s other two corps are in position. Sheridan heeds the warning and stops his advance on the ridge just east of Doctor’s Creek; soon Gilbert begins moving reinforcements forward to Sheridan’s exposed position. Although Sheridan is vulnerable to flanking attacks, he now holds one of the key positions on the battlefield. What is more, he has secured a water supply. This means little, however, to the columns of thirsty Federal infantrymen who continue to trudge through the night toward Perryville. “Hour after hour we plodded on in darkness,” one officer will later recall. “It was a dewless night and there was not a breath of wind to scatter the dust that hung in heavy clouds above us and settled on our clothing, completely covering us in a mantle of white.”

During the night, General Polk marches into Perryville, Kentucky, with Cheatham’s division and takes command of the Confederate forces. His orders from General Bragg are to attack in the morning. Although no one on either side understands the situation, there are now 16,000 Confederates in Perryville, preparing to attack 60,000 Federals. Meanwhile, Bragg is assembling 36,000 troops at Versailles to attack a single Federal division of 12,000 men. At least one Confederate commander is beginning to sense disaster. General Hardee is the author of an authoritative text on military tactics, widely used by both Federals and Confederates. During the night, he takes the time to review copies of Bragg’s recent orders, and he is disturbed enough to take the risk of lecturing his commanding general. “Don’t scatter your forces,” he implores. “There is one rule in our profession that should never be forgotten—it is to throw the masses of your troops on the fractions of the enemy.” Fight at Versailles or fight at Perryville, he says, but in either case, “strike with your whole strength.” Hardee adds that he thinks the first blow ought to be delivered at Perryville, but he is of course unable to back up his opinions with a valid estimate of the size of the Federal force assembling there.

Other fighting is in Mississippi on the Hatchie near Box Ford, at Ruckersville and near Ripley; in Missouri at Newtonia, and near New Franklin. Federals are victorious in a small fight near Le Vergne, Tennessee.

There are several command changes. Major General Gordon Granger assumes command of the Federal Army of Kentucky and Brigadier General E.A. Carr, the Army of the Southwest. For the Confederates, middle and east Florida are embraced in Beauregard’s southeast coast command.

In Britain, Chancellor of the Exchequer W.E. Gladstone proclaims that “[t]here is no doubt that Jefferson Davis, and other leaders of the South have made an army. They are making, it appears, a Navy. And they have made—what is more than either—they have made a Nation,” and he anticipates the success of their fight for separation. Gladstone’s remarks will be highly criticized in Britain and the United States, as well as future historians.
#15125656
October 8, Wednesday

As morning approaches, General Polk begins to realize that he has facing far more Federals at Perryville, Kentucky, than had been previously thought, and he quails at the idea of launching an attack. During a predawn meeting of Polk and his commanders to discuss what they should do, they learn that Sheridan is driving Liddlell’s regiments from Doctor’s Creek. Now thoroughly alarmed, Polk decides to go on the defensive. Meanwhile, General Bragg has become impatient about the situation at Perryville and decides to take personal command there. He wants to disperse what he judges to be a small Federal force as rapidly as possible and get his army concentrated farther north. Arriving on the field about 10 am, he is distress to find Polk on the defensive and immediately begins shifting troops into assault positions. Bragg decides to focus his attack against the Federal left. On his right, north of the Mackville Pike, he deploys Cheatham’s division plus three brigades from other divisions. On the right, Cheatham’s line extends along Chaplin River, north of its confluence with Doctor’s Creek. The right wing, with Polk in command, is ordered to attack first, at 1 pm. The Confederate center is to move out immediately after Polk’s troops attack. There has been no activity on the left and Bragg, unaware of the approach of Crittenden’s corps, sends only Wheeler’s cavalry scouting along the Lebanon Pike.

While Bragg shifts his forces, his opposite number on the Federal side has to cope with frustration. Yesterday evening, Buell ordered McCook and Crittenden to leave their bivouacs promptly at 3 am so as to be in line with Gilbert and ready to attack at 10 am. But the message didn’t reach the generals in time, and they are late getting under way. When midmorning passes with no sound of a general engagement reaching Buell’s headquarters, he assumes that he will have to wait until tomorrow to attack.

At noon, Cheatham’s artillery begins to bombard the Federal batteries as a preliminary to the Confederate attack. But the cannonade goes on and on, for an hour and a half, with no attack forthcoming. Bragg rides up to Polk and demands to know why Cheatham’s troops have not moved forward on schedule. Polk explains that a Federal column is approaching from the northeast along the Mackville Pike. If he commits his infantry to a frontal assault while the approaching enemy column is still unengaged and able to maneuver, the oncoming Federals might fall on Cheatham’s right flank. Therefore, Polk has decided to wait until the column moves into the Federal line. Bragg agrees to the delay, orders Cheatham’s line extended farther to the right, and rides back to the rear to wait. By now the Confederate guns have ceased firing, and the entire field is silent.

The approaching Federals belong to McCook’s corps, and with their arrival nearly the entire Army of the Ohio is present on the field—Crittenden has been quietly taking his place on the Federal right during the late morning. But Bragg remains unaware of the odds facing him. As soon as McCook’s newcomers begin to file into place along the ridge on the north side of the Mackville Pike, before they can settle into place and become familiar with their ground, the Confederates attack. The Tennessee brigade leading the Confederate attack charges across the Chaplin River. As the men charge uphill toward the enemy lines, they are caught in a murderous artillery crossfire. An advanced Federal battery blazes away from the ridge, while the 19th Indiana Light Artillery fires from a hill farther to the rear. The shells tear great gaps in the Confederate line, and the onslaught slows; soon the exhausted survivors seek shelter in a small wood and wait for help to arrive. Meanwhile, Cheatham’s other brigades are advancing. Seeing the Tennesseeans’ plight, Cheatham orders Brigadier General Earl Maney’s Tennessee brigade to go to their support. Maney’s brigade makes it as far as the woods, but there it, too, is halted by the artillery fire. Maney moves among the trees, rallying his men as Federal shells send branches crashing down and lethal splinters flying. He somehow manages to mount another charge; his men roar out of the woods, overrun the battery, and continue up the slope. They reach the top and catch the Federals off balance—fresh troops have just arrived, and there is confusion as they take their places in the line. Cheatham’s Confederates deal the poorly deployed Federals a smashing blow. The Federal division commander goes down, mortally wounded. A green Federal brigade struggles to hold the line, but the men are driven back in savage hand-to-hand fighting. The Confederates are soon supported by cannon that have been laboriously moved over the steep bluffs of the Chaplin River. At length, the decimated Federals break and rush toward the rear. They try to make a stand about a mile to the west, but their ranks are broken again by two onrushing brigades and their commanding general is struck down, mortally wounded.

When the Tennesseeans have cut their way almost completely through McCook’s corps, they run into a fresh veteran brigade. Grimly, the Federal veterans breast the onslaught and after desperate fighting, they stop the onrushing Tennesseans and begin to drive the brigade back. McCook asks Sheridan to send help, but Sheridan is under attack by two other Confederate brigades. And to the north of Sheridan’s position, between the Springfield and Mackville Pikes, other Confederate troops have found a gap between Gilbert’s left and McCook’s right, and they are plunging into the opening. General Gilbert orders his batteries to fire obliquely at the advancing Confederates and sends two of his brigades to block the assault. The Federals are steadily driven back, but finally the advance is slowed in the face of the fierce opposition; then, in the growing darkness, it stops.

Remarkably, General Buell doesn’t know until 4 pm that his army is engaged in a furious battle. Atmospheric conditions are such that the roar of the guns cannot be heard at Buell’s headquarters only a few miles from the front. Consequently, Buell arrives too late to do anything but oversee General Gilbert’s deployments and send one brigade from Gilbert to assist McCook. Crittenden’s entire corps, meanwhile, remains stationary a few miles down the Lebanon Pike. This corps could have turned the Confederate left and changed the course of the battle, but Crittenden is thoroughly intimidated by Wheeler’s small cavalry force; Crittenden lacks both initiative and orders, and his corps sits out the battle. By contrast, the aggressive Sheridan manages late in the afternoon to go on the offensive despite heavy casualties. He drives several Confederate brigades back toward Perryville, and a brigade moving up in support of Sheridan’s men actually charges into the streets of the town. But once again Sheridan is getting too far out in front; McCook’s broken and disorganized corps has been pounded back more than a mile. Fearing a counterattack, Sheridan halts and consolidates his position just west of the town.

As night falls the Confederates hold advanced positions, but their lines are so irregular that units on both sides become confused in the gathering darkness. General Polk runs afoul of the confusion. In the twilight he sees what he thinks is a body of Confederates firing, apparently by mistake, on a regiment of comrades. Riding up to the colonel commanding the offending unit, Polk orders him to cease firing on friendly soldiers. The colonel replies that he is sure that his troops are firing on the enemy and identifies his unit as an Indiana regiment. Stunned by the realization that he has ridden into the middle of a Federal regiment, Polk manages to use bluster and the concealing darkness to cover a hasty retreat back unscathed to Confederate lines.

Skirmishing continues after dark, but the battle is over. The cost of Perryville or Chaplin Hills: Federals, 845 killed, 2,851 wounded, 515 missing for a total of 4,211 out of 37,000 estimated effectives, although many of those did not see active fighting; Confederates, 519 killed, 2,635 wounded, and 251 missing for a total of 3,405, nearly a fourth of the possibly 16,000 effectives. Clearly, Bragg is the victor of this day’s action. The moon is bright and almost full this night, and many of the Federal officers who meet at Buell’s headquarters after the battle urge another attack in the moonlight. But Buell, convinced that he faces Bragg’s entire army, decides to wait until morning. By then it will be too late, because General Bragg finally understands that he has been fighting the whole Army of the Ohio. And it dawns on him in the midst of victory that although his Confederate troops have fought gallantly and well, they have survived only because of Federal blunders. After consulting with Hardee and Polk, Bragg orders an immediate and hasty retreat to Harrodsburg, where he can yet again concentrate his forces and counter any move by Buell to cut the Confederate line of retreat to Tennessee. In the end, no one gains at the Battle of Perryville. Private Sam Watkins of the 1st Tennessee will put a proper epitaph on the sorry struggle: “If it had been two men wrestling it could have been called a ‘dog fall.’ Both sides claiming the victory—both whipped.”

There is skirmishing at Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, and a Federal reconnaissance from Fairfax Court House to Aldie, Virginia.

President Lincoln congratulates Grant on the recent victories in Mississippi.
#15125658
As night falls the Confederates hold advanced positions, but their lines are so irregular that units on both sides become confused in the gathering darkness. General Polk runs afoul of the confusion. In the twilight he sees what he thinks is a body of Confederates firing, apparently by mistake, on a regiment of comrades. Riding up to the colonel commanding the offending unit, Polk orders him to cease firing on friendly soldiers. The colonel replies that he is sure that his troops are firing on the enemy and identifies his unit as an Indiana regiment. Stunned by the realization that he has ridden into the middle of a Federal regiment, Polk manages to use bluster and the concealing darkness to cover a hasty retreat back unscathed to Confederate lines.

Skirmishing continues after dark, but the battle is over. The cost of Perryville or Chaplin Hills: Federals, 845 killed, 2,851 wounded, 515 missing for a total of 4,211 out of 37,000 estimated effectives, although many of those did not see active fighting; Confederates, 519 killed, 2,635 wounded, and 251 missing for a total of 3,405, nearly a fourth of the possibly 16,000 effectives. Clearly, Bragg is the victor of this day’s action. The moon is bright and almost full this night, and many of the Federal officers who meet at Buell’s headquarters after the battle urge another attack in the moonlight. But Buell, convinced that he faces Bragg’s entire army, decides to wait until morning. By then it will be too late, because General Bragg finally understands that he has been fighting the whole Army of the Ohio. And it dawns on him in the midst of victory that although his Confederate troops have fought gallantly and well, they have survived only because of Federal blunders. After consulting with Hardee and Polk, Bragg orders an immediate and hasty retreat to Harrodsburg, where he can yet again concentrate his forces and counter any move by Buell to cut the Confederate line of retreat to Tennessee. In the end, no one gains at the Battle of Perryville. Private Sam Watkins of the 1st Tennessee will put a proper epitaph on the sorry struggle: “If it had been two men wrestling it could have been called a ‘dog fall.’ Both sides claiming the victory—both whipped.”

"And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night."

- Matthew Arnold, Dover Beach
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