The American Civil War, day by day - Page 96 - Politics | PoFo

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September 9, Friday

President Lincoln and his Cabinet, still concerned over the serious problems connected with cotton trading with the Confederates, lean increasingly toward open trading.

Northern scouting expeditions in the West expand their efforts to control guerrilla activities. Expeditions operate from Mobile Bay to Bonsecours, Alabama; from Pine Bluff toward Monticello, Arkansas; from Fort Pike, Louisiana, to the Pearl River; from Lewisburg to Norristown, and from Helena to Alligator Bayou, Arkansas. Fighting breaks out on the Warrensburg Road near Warrensburg, Missouri; Confederates attack the steamer J. D. Perry at Clarendon, Arkansas; and a skirmish erupts at Currituck Bridge, Virginia.
September 10, Saturday

Although the primary fronts are largely quiet, the virtually unknown small wars continue with an affair at Campbellton, Georgia; a skirmish at Woodbury, Tennessee; fighting near Roanoke, Pisgah, and Dover, Missouri; Darkesville, West Virginia; and an assault on Confederate works at the Chimneys, West Virginia. Until early October Federals carry out expeditions in east Tennessee with some skirmishing.
September 11, Sunday

For most of the month there are various operations in the Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory, with some fighting, including affairs between Amerind units of both sides. The never ceasing Union scouts continue in Monroe, Ralls, Moniteau, and Morgan counties, Missouri. Skirmishes occur near Hodge’s Plantation, Louisiana, and Fort Smith, Arkansas. Through the 30th Federal troops undertake an expedition from Fort Rice, Dakota Territory, to relieve an emigrant train.
September 12, Monday

Both Grant and Lincoln are disturbed over what the President calls “a dead lock” in the Shenandoah. Neither Sheridan nor Early seem to be making any progress around Winchester. To the fighting list are added a skirmish near Memphis, Tennessee; one at Caledonia, Missouri; and a Federal scout from Fayetteville to Huntsville, Arkansas.
September 13, Tuesday

Skirmishing increases in the Shenandoah with action at Bunker Hill, near Berryville, and at Locke’s and Gilberts’ fords on Opequon Creek. Skirmishes also break out near Searcy, Arkansas, and Longwood, Missouri. A five-day Federal expedition moves from Morganza to Fausse River, Louisiana. In Washington the President responds at a political serenade, but makes no policy statement.
September 14, Wednesday

From their position on the right flank of the Confederate lines south of Petersburg, Hampton’s raiders start out early today for the cattle herd at Coggin’s Point with Sergeant Shadburne as a guide, riding straight south all day.

While Sheridan waits for Kershaw’s men to leave the Valley, he keeps his cavalry active, probing and harassing the Confederate pickets. As his men are pleased to notice, Sheridan not only manages their camps and marches efficiently but also keeps track—as his predecessors have sometimes neglected to do—of exactly where the enemy is located. Sheridan’s aggressive patrolling is not enough, however, for U.S. Grant. Restive at all the delays, he leaves for Charles Town today to meet with Sheridan in person—just as Sergeant Shadburne predicted to Hampton almost two weeks ago. In Grant’s pocket is a plan of campaign that would drive Early back on Richmond. Grant has ordered Sheridan’s defensive measures but there is great pressure on the Federal army to break Early’s hold on the Shenandoah Valley and threat to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.

For the second time R.H. Anderson’s corps starts from the Shenandoah to join Lee at Petersburg, where the men are badly needed to face Grant’s spreading siege lines. The return of Anderson to Lee seriously depletes Early’s force opposing Sheridan.

The day’s struggles include skirmishes near Centerville, West Virginia; near Weston, Kentucky; at Bullitt’s Bayou, Louisiana; and at Thomasville, Missouri.
September 15, Thursday

Guided by Sergeant Shadburne, Hampton’s raiders turn northeast and make for Cook’s Bridge on Blackwater River, Virginia, four miles to the rear of the Federal IX Corps and ten miles from Coggin’s Point. Cook’s Bridge has been destroyed, as Hampton well knows; he chose it as a crossing point because the enemy won’t be watching it closely. He comes prepared, and while his troopers dismount to rest, his engineers go to work erecting a new bridge. They finish the job before dark. The men have a cold camp this evening. As deep in enemy territory as they are, they can’t light campfires. They find some sweet potatoes, hungrily dig them up, and chew on them raw as they cross the new bridge at midnight.

Thus far the men haven’t known where they are going or why, but now the orders are laid out. General Rooney Lee is to take his division to the left, placing it between the cattle herd and Grant’s army. He is to prevent news of the raid from reaching the Federals for as long as possible and then act as rearguard. Brigadier General James Dearing’s brigade is to move on the right, protecting that flank, while Hampton himself, with Brigadier General Thomas Rosser’s brigade and a battalion led by Lieutenant Colonel Lovick P. Miller, head straight for Coggin’s Point and the herd.

A Federal reconnaissance toward Dinwiddie Court House involves a skirmish. In Georgia skirmishes break out at Snake Creek Gap on Sherman’s supply line and in Lumpkin County. For five days Federals operate in Randolph, Howard, and Boone counties, Missouri.
September 16, Friday

With about 4,500 men, Forrest, so greatly feared by the North, begins operating against Sherman’s communications in northern Alabama and middle Tennessee. His expedition leaves from Verona, Mississippi, and will continue until mid-October.

When Grant reaches Charles Town this morning, the situation in the Shenandoah Valley has changed. Sheridan, learning from a spy that Kershaw has left the Valley at last, is bursting with plans of his own. As the two generals pace near Sheridan’s headquarters, it is the younger man who does most of the talking. Grant, impressed by what he hears, merely stuffs his notes in his pocket and confines his instructions to a two-word grunt of approval: “Go in.”

At first light, to carry out his part of Hampton’s raid, General Rosser has to deal with the Federal cavalrymen at Sycamore Church. At first light he drives in their pickets and confronts their main body, waiting behind hastily built breastworks. Rosser’s force outnumbers the Federals ten to one. But when Rosser demands their surrender, the response is: “Come and get us if you want us.” The Confederates open fire, and although the D.C. cavalry fight back gamely, the shooting is over in a few minutes. After taking almost the entire 250-man Federal contingent, Hampton and Rosser hurry on toward Coggin’s Point.

Captain Nathaniel Richardson, the Commissary of Subsistence in charge of the Federal herd, has spent a quiet night. He and his herdsmen had bedded down the cattle earlier than usual yesterday evening, yet most of the animals are still lying down in their corral when he rises. Then, just before 5 am, Richardson receives an urgent message from Captain Henry Gregg, commander of his small Pennsylvania cavalry guard. Gregg’s pickets have been attacked. Richardson rouses his herdsmen. He has just ordered them to tear down the fence and scatter the cattle when he hears the fearsome howls of a Rebel charge. Hampton’s men seem to come out of nowhere and are all around him at once, the troopers from D.C. and Pennsylvania fleeing before them. Richardson and his men run for their lives. Only twenty steers escape before the Confederates surround the herd. By 6 am, with the help of several shepherd dogs they brought along, the raiders have the cattle well in hand and are on their way back toward Blackwater River. Rooney Lee and his division remain behind for three hours to cover the withdrawal.

Now Hampton sends Rosser ahead several miles to the Jerusalem Plank Road, where the Federals will most likely try to intercept him. Rosser is to take a position on the road and hold it so the cattle can be driven across behind him. Hampton has forded the Blackwater with the cattle and is nearing the plank road when Rosser reports the approach of Federal troopers. Ordering Rosser to hold his ground, Hampton turns the herd farther to the south and drives it toward the Nattoway River. No sooner have the animals crossed the river than pursuing Federal cavalry under General August Kautz catch up with Rosser and attack. Dearing and Rooney Lee hurry to Rosser’s aid, and together the Confederates hold off the Federals until after midnight, when Kautz gives up the pursuit.

When night falls Hampton bivouacs safely, and his cavalry dines lavishly on steaks and on sardines taken from captured Yankee wagons. They have much to celebrate. At a cost of 10 men killed and 47 wounded, Hampton has taken some 2,400 cattle, eleven wagons heavily laden with supplies, and 304 prisoners.

Meanwhile, there is a skirmish at Snicker’s Gap, Virginia, and about ten days of Union operations near Morganza, Louisiana.
September 17, Saturday

Today Hampton herds his prize herd into the Confederate camp, proudly turning over 2,468 steers to the Army of Northern Virginia’s commissary. Only eighteen steers were lost on the drive home. A few days later, when Grant is asked when he expects to starve Lee out of Richmond, he replies: “Never, if our armies continue to supply him with beef-cattle.”

Despite the loss of Kershaw’s division and the presence of a superior Federal force only six miles away, General Early remains certain he retains the upper hand. He is satisfied that Sheridan is “without enterprise,” and possesses “an excessive caution” which amounts “to timidity.” Confident that he won’t be attacked, Early boldly divides his army to strike again at the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and threaten Maryland. Leaving General Stephen Ramseur’s 2,400 men in front of Winchester and Brigadier General Gabriel Wharton’s 1,600 at Stephenson’s Depot four miles north, Early starts toward the B & O’s Martinsburg yards with the divisions of Generals Robert Rodes and John Gordon. Early’s headquarters staff don’t share their commander’s low opinion of Sheridan. They are worried, sensing that their crusty commander is courting disaster.

Sheridan immediately decides to strike the two divisions Early has left behind near Winchester. While Wright’s VI Corps and Emory’s XIX Corps attack Ramseur from the east along the road from Berryville to Winchester, two cavalry divisions under William Averell and Wesley Merritt will swing far north around Wharton’s left, and Crook will march south around Ramseur’s right; Sheridan is going to attempt a classic double envelopment. If it succeeds, half of Early’s force will be destroyed and the other half trapped in the lower Valley.

John C. Fremont informs a committee of the Radical Republicans of his “intention to stand aside from the Presidential canvass.” He pledges support to the “radical Democracy.” Fremont will say later he withdrew to prevent the election of McClellan, as election of a Democrat would mean either “separation or re-establishment with slavery.” He still considers Lincoln a failure, but he urges a united Republican party to save emancipation. Senator Chandler and other politicians have also urged a bargain with Fremont in order to help the Lincoln cause. Part of the arrangement is reported to be the retirement of Montgomery Blair from the Lincoln Cabinet, possible removal of Stanton, and an active command for Fremont. Fremont has apparently refused these inducements.

For the rest of the month, minor operations occur around Buckhannon, West Virginia. An affair takes place at Limestone Ridge, Virginia.
September 18, Sunday

While Sheridan is preparing to attack toward Winchester at dawn tomorrow, Jubal Early is in Martinsburg, twenty miles to the north. There he reads copies of some Federal messages found in the local telegraph office—and soon comes across one that must cause the blood to drain from his face. It refers to Grant’s recent visit to Sheridan’s headquarters. Grant’s presence means one thing: action. Thoroughly alarmed, Early orders the two divisions with him to make a forced march back to Winchester. By nightfall, Rodes joins Wharton’s division at Stephenson’s Depot. Gordon is still eight miles farther north, at Bunker Hill, under orders to join Rodes by daybreak.

The situation isn’t as bad for the Confederates as they could be—the prospective battlefield has drawbacks for the attackers. Hemmed in on the north and south by two small watercourses, Redbud Run and Abraham’s Creek, it is cramped and doesn’t allow sufficient room for maneuver. Dead ahead is the larger Opequon Creek, behind which Ramseur waits on some heights just east of Winchester itself. As it meanders southeastward, Redbud Run is bordered by marshy ground and stands of timber. The Berryville road neatly bisects the field but offers only a narrow avenue down which most of the advancing Federals will have to move. Ramseur has taken advantage of the terrain. His line, supported by a single battery, faces an open plateau. His right extends almost to the steep banks of Abraham’s Creek and is screened by Major General Lunsford Lomax’s cavalry. The longer expanse between his left and the marshy bed of Redbud Run is being watched by Fitzhugh Lee’s division of horsemen.

Elsewhere, there is a skirmish near Lexington, Missouri. Federals scout until October 5th on the Cimarron River in northeastern New Mexico Territory, and a Federal expedition operates from Barrancas to Marianna, Florida, until October 4th.

President Davis, still somewhat optimistic, at least in writing, tells a Confederate congressman that he thinks Atlanta can be recovered and that “Sherman’s army can be driven out of Georgia, perhaps be utterly destroyed.”
September 19, Monday

Sheridan’s Federals go into action at 3 am, opening what will become known as 3rd Winchester by the defenders and the Battle of Opequon Creek by the Federals. At first, all goes well for Sheridan’s attackers. Wilson’s division of cavalry crosses the Opequon on the Berryville road, drive off a few pickets, and gallops through a narrow, two-mile-long defile known as Berryville Canyon. At the western end of the canyon, the road ascends a small hill defended by skirmishers from Ramseur’s division. Wilson’s men easily overrun this first line of Confederates, then dismount and hold the hill, thus covering the Federal infantry’s route to the battlefield. Before long, the vanguard of VI Corps arrives. Wilson’s cavalry remounts and moves off to the left while VI Corps forms a line of battle under fire from Ramseur’s battery a mile away. Brigadier General James Ricketts’ division forms to the right of the road and Brigadier General George Washington Getty’s to the left. The division led by Brigadier General David A. Russell remains in reserve.

The soldiers are impressed to see Sheridan “at the very front, and under the fire of the enemy.” Sitting his horse on a “conspicuous elevation,” Little Phil Sheridan is “carefully attending to details which we had been accustomed to see more celebrated commanders entrust to their staff.” But Sheridan is focusing too much attention on the initial attack and not enough on the troops advancing from the rear. As a result, the rest of the Federal infantry gets into a serious snarl. Contrary to Sheridan’s instructions, VI Corps has brought along its full complement of supply wagons and ambulances. These block the narrow Berryville Canyon, bringing the advance of XIX Corps to a virtual halt. General Wright tries to get his wagons to the side of the road to make way for Emory’s troops, but the result is a jam that delays the entire assault.

Early takes advantage of the Federal confusion to reorganize his position in front of Winchester. Around 10 am Gordon, marching in from the north, forms a line of battle in front of a thicket just south of Redbud Run. Rodes, following close behind, files past Gordon’s men to plug the gap between them and Ramseur’s division. Remaining to the north at Stephenson’s Depot are Gabriel Wharton’s infantry division and McCausland’s cavalry, both commanded by Breckinridge. Although forced to give ground slowly under pressure from Averell’s and Merritt’s Federal cavalry, Breckinridge’s force seems strong enough to make an effective fighting retreat, protecting the left of Early’s line.

It is noon before the Federal XIX Corps makes its way out of Berryville Canyon—and by then Early’s main units are in place and waiting. Nevertheless Sheridan, ordering the discharge of a signal gun, launches the main Federal attack. The men of VI Corps on the Union left, after struggling through a dense thicket, moves forward and gets their first look at their objective. The prospect is appalling. The troops will have to advance across a long, open slope to the foot of a steep hill, then move up the hill in the face of Confederate guns located on the crest. Seeing this fearsome sight, the line involuntarily halts and the men throw themselves on the ground. Then, the chaplain of a Vermont regiment will say, “an iron surf, rolling in from the enemy’s batteries, broke over us.”

On the Federal right, XIX Corps is having greater success. Brigadier General Cuvier Grover’s division, leading the charge, slams into Gordon’s left, held by Colonel Edmund Atkinson’s Georgia brigade, and drives the Georgians back into some woods. There General Grover tries to halt and reorganize, but his excited troops, ignoring orders, plunge into the trees after the Confederates. They pay a heavy price for their impetuosity. Emerging from the woods, the Federals are hit by deadly close-range fire from the twelve guns of Lieutenant Colonel Carter Braxton’s artillery battalion. Then, from the right, Fitzhugh Lee’s horse artillery rakes the length of the Federal line, plowing lanes through the regiments. Meanwhile, as the officers of VI Corps get their men moving again, a minor oversight in Sheridan’s orders bring the Federal left to the brink of disaster. VI Corps has been instructed to advance along the Berryville road, which veers off sharply to the south. The men obediently follow the road, even though it means marching left into a hail of canister from the Confederate batteries. Grimly the Federals fight their way sideways and forward, gradually bending back Ramseur’s southern flank. But XIX Corps, drawn forward by their success on the right, continues straight ahead. A gap opens in the center of the Federal line—and the Confederates charge right into it.

The counterattack is staged by Early’s hard-fighting subordinates, Gordon and Rodes. Knowing that their main infantry line will be outnumbered when Sheridan’s entire force gets into action, the two generals agree that the best course of action is to charge, hoping to confuse the Federals long enough to permit their men to escape. the attack is delayed briefly when, just as the two men finish conferring, Rodes is mortally wounded, struck behind the ear by a shell fragment. But Gordon quickly takes command of both divisions and launch the desperate assault. The Confederates surge forward, screaming the Rebel yell, straight for the just-opened hole in the Federal line. The unexpected charge strikes the Federal center “with a heavy force, crumbling off the troops on either side of it, and causing each side of the interval to think that the others had let the enemy through.” Ricketts’ right and Grover’s entire division are driven back. Sheridan is on the knoll when fleeing men begin to “emerge from the woods, their dark blouses looking like black spots on the sunburnt vegetation.” Sheridan sends his staff and escort officers galloping in all directions to try to stop the rout and to summon Crook’s corps, which until now has been waiting in reserve by the Opequon. Then Sheridan simply sits his horse, watching “silent and immovable” as his infantry seems to disintegrate.

But the situation isn’t as desperate as it appears—if only because Sheridan has more than 30,000 men to Early’s 14,000. General David Russell’s division rushes forward from its reserve position, and though Russell is shot through the chest, he urges his men on until another shell fragment strikes him within inches of the first, tearing through his heart and killing him instantly. The three batteries of Colonel Charles H. Tompkin’s artillery brigade rains shells into the advancing Confederates on VI Corps’ right, bolstering that flank. Brigadier General Emory Upton, commanding Russell’s 2nd Brigade, marches his men toward the gap; then, finding he is too late to plug it, places half his command in line facing northwest, at an angle to the Confederate line of advance. These Federals—a Connecticut Heavy Artillery regiment serving as infantry under Colonel Ronald S. Mackenzie—fixes bayonets and wait. Mackenzie, a tough 24-year-old West Pointer, took command of the regiment just months ago, but the men have already learned to hate him, considering him a cruel martinet. There are rumors that some members of the regiment intend to shoot the “Perpetual Punisher,” as they call him, at the first opportunity. But when the Confederates are within 200 yards and Upton orders the charge, Mackenzie is transformed, grinning broadly and waving his hat joyfully as he gallops through “a perfect hailstorm of rebel lead and iron, with as much impunity as though he had been a ghost.” His men can’t bear to shoot a man as brave as that. With the Connecticut regiment in the lead, Upton’s brigade pinches off the Confederate advance, takes hundreds of prisoners, and restores the Federal line.

A lull now settles over the field, and General Early concludes that the fighting is over. Even years later he will refer to the situation this afternoon as “a splendid victory.” But while Early smugly waits for the Federals to retire, Sheridan is energetically preparing to bag Early’s entire army. Sheridan’s plan is to send Crook’s infantry—now on the field after being held up in the Berryville Canyon—to the left. They were to cross the Valley Turnpike south of Winchester to cut off a Confederate retreat in that direction. But Torbert hasn’t sent word about Merritt’s and Averell’s cavalry attack on the Confederate left near Stephenson’s Depot. Sheridan reluctantly tells Crook to go instead to the right of XIX Corps “and look well for the right flank” while Wilson’s troopers move left to feel for the southern end of the Confederate line.

At about this time, as Sheridan will learn shortly afterward, Averall and Merritt are approaching Early’s left, driving Breckinridge’s force southward along the Valley Turnpike. Around 2 pm, one of Breckinridge’s infantry brigades, led by Colonel George S. Patton, had tried to make a stand on that flank along with Fitzhugh Lee’s cavalry. But they couldn’t hold because both Confederate commanders were wounded—Patton mortally, Lee seriously. Breckinridge reforms Wharton’s weary division perpendicular to the pike to protect the Confederate left. But soon Early learns that Wilson’s horsemen are rounding his other flank and approaching the Valley Turnpike to the south. Early detaches a brigade from Lee’s hard-pressed division to deal with Wilson and keep the pike open.

Early’s “splendid victory” is eroding fast, and Sheridan’s double envelopment is nearly accomplished as Crook prepares the final thrust. Having placed Colonel Joseph Thoburn’s division between XIX Corps’ right and Redbud Run, Crook leads his other division, under Colonel Isaac H. Duval, north across the stream—and discovers he is beyond the Confederate left flank. Instantly, Crook orders an attack. Sheridan gets word of Crook’s preparations when he learns that Wilson’s cavalrymen are pressuring the Confederate right. The time has come for a last, crushing attack. Galloping over to Thoburn’s position, Sheridan orders his division to advance and sends messages instructing XIX Corps and part of VI Corps to wheel forward also, maintaining alignment with Duval’s division. This done, Sheridan returns to his command post, riding along the lines of VI Corps and XIX Corps. Normally, a commanding general would make that ride well to the rear. But the astonished Major Walker sees Sheridan gallop “along the whole of our extended skirmish line, wheeling out from the storm of bullets only as he reached our own division, and pausing as he passed between the brigades to exclaim, with eloquent profanity, ‘Crook and Averell are on their left and rear—we’ve got ‘em bagged, by God!’ ” Crook’s “broad blue waves” surge forward with a yell that lasts for minutes. When Duval’s men have struggled through the swamps along Redbud Run and have linked with Thoburn’s line, General Crook rides over to see why XIX Corps isn’t keeping pace with the advance. He finds General Emory’s men still pinned down by Braxton’s 12-gun artillery battalion, posted at the center of the Confederate line. Crook can’t find General Emory; instead he finds General Upton, from VI Corps, desperately trying to get XIX Corps moving. At length Upton gives up and deploys his own right in front of XIX Corps, joining Crook’s line, and advances. A shell fragment tears through his thigh, knocking him from his horse and laying bare his femoral artery. Ignoring the terrible wound, Upton refuses to leave the field. Once a surgeon has stopped the bleeding, he orders himself put on a stretcher and carried along with his men.

Slowly the tide of battle begins to turn in the Federals’ favor. Ramseur’s and Rodes’s divisions, hearing the roar of Breckinridge’s battle with Crook in their rear, begin falling back toward Winchester. Sensing the kill, Sheridan gallops along the Federal lines, waving his hat and exhorting his infantry forward. Now it is the Confederates who suffer heavy losses. On Gordon’s left flank, the remnants of the Stonewall Brigade withdraw, leaving their commander, Colonel John H. Funk, dying within a mile of his family home. In the center, Braxton’s guns limber up to retreat in a deadly crossfire that kills gunners and brings horses thrashing to the ground. Nearby, Brigadier General Archibald Godwin, who is commanding one of Ramseur’s brigades, falls with a fatal wound in the neck. Then comes the coup de grâce—a thundering cavalry charge by Merritt and Averell. While Averell’s division gallops around the Confederate left to strike at the enemy rear, Merritt hurls his horsemen on the line of earthworks held by Breckinridge just north of Winchester, bursting “like a storm of case-shot in their midst, showering saber blows on their heads and shoulders, trampling them under, and routing them in droves in every direction.” Next, Merritt sends the brigade commanded by a young Boston blue blood, Colonel Charles Russell Lowell, charging for a two-gun redoubt in the center of Breckinridge’s line. Just as the horsemen reach it the cannon roar, smashing a dozen horsemen to the ground. A staff officer riding next to Lowell has his arm torn off, and Lowell loses his fourth horse of the day. But the charge can’t be stopped, and the redoubt is taken. The Confederate line disintegrates, with Merritt’s troopers pursuing fugitives into the streets of a Winchester already battered by overshot artillery shells. With night falling, the town changes hands for the 73rd time in the war.

As General Gordon rides into the maelstrom of fleeing men, wagons, and guns in the streets of Winchester shouting “Georgians never run from a battlefield!” he receives another shock. To his horror, he finds his wife—as well as Mrs. Breckinridge and the wives of other officers—on the streets where shells from Sheridan’s batteries are falling and Minié balls flying. She is pleading with her husband’s troops to keep fighting. General Gordon has to leave her there with their six-year-old son, presuming they will be captured. But Mrs. Gordon talks some soldiers into hitching up her carriage, and she and her son escape, along with Mrs. Breckinridge. The Federal cavalry and Crook’s infantry chase the Confederates for a few miles. General Ramseur, whose exhausted men met the Federals’ first attack, covers the retreat. Their courage in the midst of disaster restores the reputation that had been tarnished the previous month at Stephenson’s Depot.

Darkness puts an end to the chase. As night falls, Sheridan rides into the town and reports the victory to Washington in a matter-of-fact telegram. Then he sends another message to his chief of staff, Lieutenant Colonel James Forsyth, that in ringing phrases signals an end to Federal humiliation in the Shenandoah: “We have just sent them awhirling through Winchester, and we are after them tomorrow.” Another wire reaches General Grant, provoking the only show of exhilaration his staff officers have ever seen. “He came out of his tent,” one officer will recall, “threw his hat in the air, and went back in again. He knew that was the beginning of the end.”

It is an awful night for the Confederates, leaving their dead and many of their wounded behind them, riding hour after hour. Early has lost more than one quarter of his entire army—estimated at 276 killed, 1,827 wounded, and 1,818 missing or captured for 3,921. Although the Confederates have inflicted heavy punishment on Sheridan’s attackers—697 killed, 2,983 wounded, and 338 missing for 4,018—the Federal losses are proportionately smaller and much more easily replaced. But Jubal Early will never admit defeat. Years later he will charge, “Sheridan ought to have been cashiered” for letting the Confederates escape with three fourths of their men.”

Far off to the west, a rather desperate column under Sterling Price enters Missouri. It is a last-ditch effort by Sterling Price to win the state. Though Price’s plans are imprecise, he proposes timing his invasion to influence the Federal presidential election in November. Price believes that if he can take St. Louis and trigger an uprising of secessionists throughout Missouri, he might help Northern peace advocates defeat Lincoln and force a negotiated end to the war—with Missouri part of an independent South. Price sets to work organizing his force into three cavalry divisions under Brigadier General John Marmaduke, Brigadier General Joseph Shelby, and Major General James F. Fagan. Altogether, Price has 12,000 Missourians and Arkansans and fourteen pieces. One third of the men are raw recruits with no weapons, however, and many even lack horses; they are counting on being able to acquire arms and mounts in Missouri. Price insists on hobbling himself further with a long train of supply wagons, which are bound to be a drag on the army’s progress. In addition, he brings along a clutch of Missouri politicians, including the former governor, Thomas C. Reynolds, who has been presiding over a Confederate Missouri government-in-exile in Texas. Part of Price’s scheme is to reinstall Reynolds in the Missouri capital at Jefferson City. Today Price starts his force northward from Pocahontas, in Arkansas. An affair at Doniphan, Missouri, marks the beginning.

In St. Louis, Major General William S. Rosecrans, who has taken command of the Union’s Department of the Missouri, has received many reports from scouts and spies of Price’s preparations. His own forces, about 11,000 men, are scattered throughout the state. Hastily, Rosecrans concentrates his men at strategic points and requests reinforcements. He is given 4,500 infantrymen from Major General Andrew J. Smith’s corps of the Army of the Tennessee—veterans of the Red River Campaign—who were on their way to join General William Tecumseh Sherman in Atlanta before being diverted to St. Louis.

Cooperating with a force of 1,200 men under Colonel Gano, Brigadier General Stand Watie helps capture a huge Union wagon train at Cabin Creek, in northeastern Indian Territory. Federals report losses of 202 wagons, five ambulances, forty horses, and 1,253 mules, valued at $1,500,000 (2020 $26,861,273) worth of food, clothing, and other necessities for the troops and refugee Amerinds at Fort Gibson. Later on the same day action occurs at Pryor’s Creek not far from Cabin Creek.

In a daring, somewhat farfetched adventure, Confederate agents under John Yates Beall capture the steamer Philo Parsons on Lake Erie and then capture and burn Island Queen. Beall is to sail near Johnson’s Island, where USS Michigan guards Confederate prisoners. Meanwhile, Captain Charles H. Cole, CSA, is to capture Michigan. The two vessels would then release the prisoners and carry out operations on the lake. However, near Sandusky the commander of the Michigan discovers the plot and arrests Cole, a passenger. Beall is forced to burn Philo Parsons at Sandwich, Canada.

As the tide of war has turned against the Confederacy throughout this year, a clandestine force of experienced military has laid plans to cripple the Union from within. Based in Canada, the Confederates originally plotted to strike across the border in a series of raids with the cooperation of local secret anti-government organizations. Colonel Benjamin J. Sweet, the commandant of the Army post of Chicago and the nearby Camp Douglas with its 10,000 prisoners of war, became aware of the threats to Camp Douglas. Initially he dismissed or ignored information about collusion between Chicagoans and prisoners. For instance, in May Army officers in Kentucky interrogated a recaptured rebel escapee from Camp Douglas, who told them that Chicago “copperheads” gave money and horses to escaped men and were led by a man named Charles Walsh, who employed his young daughter to smuggle messages to prisoners. But evidently Sweet failed to act on this information.

Then, in August, a disgruntled rebel officer in Windsor, Ontario, approached the Army commander in Detroit with news that Confederate Captain Thomas Henry Hines planned to lead an attack on Camp Douglas later that month, during the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Alerted, Sweet hired detectives to locate the Confederates in the city, but the sleuths failed to find them. As Sweet reported, he acknowledged that a secret organization indeed existed in the city, but he didn’t think it was armed or plotting “open armed hostility.” If they were up to no good, he said, “I have not yet been able to detect it.” Acting on reports from other sources, however, higher-ups in the Army chain of command took the threat more seriously and reinforced the Camp Douglas garrison as a precaution. As it turned out, Hines and other Confederates had filtered into Chicago during the convention hubbub and were poised to lead local armed conspirators in an attack, but the locals, led by Walsh, got cold feet at the last minute. Frustrated, Hines sent most of his force back to Canada, while he and about 25 others scattered across southern Illinois to recruit men for another attempt.

Sweet now hires more detectives and assiduously works to uncover plots. As he will later report, his spies inside the camp get wind of a plan to overpower the Camp Douglas garrison today, timed to coincide with the Confederate plot to seize the Philo Parsons steamship in Lake Erie, attack the Union warship Michigan, and free Confederate officers held on Johnson’s Island. But the prisoners at Camp Douglas see his beefed-up defenses and call off the effort.

Off Charleston, desultory fire on Fort Sumter by the Federals lasts the rest of the month and totals 494 rounds. On the Mississippi, Union expeditions from Natchez last several days. A skirmish is recorded for Culpeper, Virginia.

President Lincoln urges Sherman to allow Indiana soldiers to go home as long as they cannot vote in the field. Indiana is a pivotal state to the Republicans and Lincoln in the coming election.

President Davis writes the governors of South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Virginia, and Florida that “harmony of action between the States and Confederate authorities is essential to the public welfare.” He is referring to state proclamations requiring aliens to serve in the military or leave the South. He points out that such a policy deprives the Confederacy of needed skilled workmen and asks that such aliens be encouraged to serve in nonmilitary capacities.
September 20, Tuesday

Sheridan’s men follow rapidly on the heels of Early’s retiring Confederates, with fighting at Middletown, Strasburg, and Cedarville in the Shenandoah. By evening the Federals are fortifying on the high land north of Strasburg. The Confederates are south of the town on the formidable line of Fisher’s Hill, known as the Gibraltar of the Valley, where Early faced down Sheridan once before. From abrupt cliffs looming over the Valley pike, a steep, densely wooded ridge extends east to the nose of Massanutten Mountain. Cleared and somewhat gentler ridges stretch west to North Mountain. Fully manned, Fisher’s Hill is virtually impregnable. But Early is increasingly short of men and officers. He has put Ramseur in charge of Rodes’s division, giving Ramseur’s division to Brigadier General John Pegram. But now Early receives another blow: Lee has ordered Breckinridge south, to resume command of the Department of Western Virginia. Thus Early has to prepare his defenses without two of his best subordinates.

As Sheridan advances through Strasburg, Early masses infantry and artillery on either side of the depression in Fisher’s Hill through which the Valley pike winds south. He leaves the western end of the line more lightly defended by Lunsford Lomax’s dismounted cavalry. Fitzhugh Lee’s cavalry he sends into the Luray Valley to keep the Federals from flanking his right by advancing on the other side of Massanutten Mountain. Sheridan is in no hurry. Fisher’s Hill is too rugged for a frontal assault. Crook proposes another turning movement against Early’s left. At a council of war this evening, Crook introduces a smoother speaker—Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes—to advance his arguments. Apparently Hayes is persuasive; Sheridan agrees to the plan.

In Georgia Sherman is suffering some at Atlanta from Confederate cavalry in his rear. A skirmish at Cartersville threatens the vital railroad to Chattanooga. In northern Alabama Forrest, at work again, heads north toward Tennessee. In Missouri, Price and 12,000 men are on the move (8,000 armed). There is action at Ponder’s Mill on the Little Black River, and Keytesville, Missouri, surrenders to Price. Until October 7th Federals raid from Kentucky and east Tennessee into far southwestern Virginia.

President Davis leaves Richmond for Georgia to see what can be done to retrieve Confederate fortunes.
September 21, Wednesday

Philip H. Sheridan is assigned to permanent command of the Middle Military District, including the Shenandoah Valley. At Strasburg Sheridan positions his large army preparatory to attack on the Confederates under Early at Fisher’s Hill. The Federals are in full view of a Confederate signal station atop Shenandoah Peak, the northernmost eminence of Massanutten Mountain. In order to elude surveillance, Crook keeps his corps hidden all day and begins his march to North Mountain under cover of darkness. Meanwhile, Sheridan sends Torbert with two cavalry divisions around the Massanutten to cross the mountain at New Market Gap and cut off Early’s line of retreat. There is a skirmish in the Strasburg, another near Fisher’s Hill, and a third at Front Royal, where Confederates try to prevent Federal cavalry from occupying Luray Valley.

Desertion has become a chronic problem for Hood’s Army of Tennessee. Hood’s troops are bone-tired and lack supplies and equipment. Forced to abandon Atlanta in a rush, they burned munitions laboriously collected from all over the Confederacy. The men are also short of other basics—shoes, clothes, weapons. Even food is scarce because Georgia farmers have become increasingly reluctant to sell their produce in exchange for the inflated Confederate paper currency.

Despite his swarming troubles, Hood is determined to go on the offensive. He can’t stand still and watch his army erode as more and more dispirited men decamp. He is sure that an offensive will be a tonic for his soldiers, infusing them with renewed fighting spirit. Even the lack of reinforcements fails to daunt him. Today he shifts his army twenty miles west of Lovejoy’s Station to Palmetto.

There is a change in the war this September. Atlanta might have fallen to Sherman at the beginning of the month—the first clear-cut Federal victory of the year. But that distant triumph is perhaps less appreciated by the Army of the Potomac than is the fact that the railroad from City Point, Virginia, has been extended to the immediate rear of the Federal lines at Petersburg. Now the trenchbound Federal can count not only on regular meals but on such forgotten treats as watermelon and peaches as well. At midmonth, Sheridan attacked Early’s corps on Opequon Creek in the Shenandoah Valley and sent it “whirling through Winchester.” Meanwhile at Petersburg, Colonel Wainright notices that Federal recruits are now more than making up for the army’s losses. “There is every prospect,” he writes today, “of the regiment soon being full to the maximum allowed by law, which it has never yet been.” It’s only a temporary respite, of course, but while it lasts the men of both armies get sorely needed rest, despite the constant feints and alarms of trench warfare. “We have no idea, when we turn in at night, that we will be permitted to ‘sleep out our full sleep’ until morning,” a Virginia artilleryman writes this month. “There is hardly an acre of ground from Richmond to Petersburg, or from the James to the Chickahominy, that we have not been over a dozen times.” The soldier and his comrades know every road and lane so well, he writes, that they can “go anywhere on the darkest night without mishap.” Often as not they find themselves slogging through mud and rain on the kind of march that causes another Confederate to observe, “This knocks the poetry out of war, don’t it?”

Even when there is no nighttime action, sleep is intermittent at best because of the almost-constant artillery fire. Every two minutes or so, all day and all night, an unseen mortar or a siege gun thunders out, in part to wear down the enemy by preventing sleep. The hard marching and lack of rest tell heavily on the men. Some of the men develop an eerie fascination for the agents of their destruction. “It is interesting to watch the flight of those shells,” writes a Confederate private, “and to note the little cloud of white smoke that forms in the atmosphere where a shell explodes.” The smoke forms a compact, round mass, Jones says, that “does not float off on the wind like any other cloud, but vanishes slowly from sight, a picture of all that is human.”

While the men can’t ever ignore the shelling entirely, they do learn to live with it. They also find ways to protect their sanity by having some fun. Men of the Federal Iron Brigade lay out a track for horse and mule races near their camp and enjoy a good deal of sport until their corps commander, General Warren, orders the track closed to enlisted men. Warren may have decided the diversion is causing the widespread lack of interest in clearing fields of fire and digging more trenches. “I never saw a lazier set of men in my life,” he complains. Then he adds, with a touch of pride, “They are good for nothing but fighting.” Confederate soldiers seek relaxation in Petersburg and Richmond; the wounded and the furloughed fill the streets of both cities. At night, men slip away from the trenches and go into town without permission—especially if there is a dance to attend. These informal soirees often are interrupted by an outbreak of shelling. Then the soldiers go back to their works for an hour or so, “but not without securing a partner for a dance after their return.” In Richmond, soldiers and civilians continue the long-held custom of an evening promenade along Third Street to Gamble’s Hill, where breezes on the height help to soften the heat and humidity. Bands still play; girls still flirt. Often the young women come out to the front lines to ride the officers’ horses or to stand daringly on the parapets and peer across at the Yankee soldiers sunning themselves. “Hello, Johnnie! It’s ladies’ day, ain’t it?” a Federal sentinel would call out, and by unspoken agreement the pickets’ firing ceases until the belles depart.

Forrest is moving in northern Alabama across the Tennessee River and is about to threaten Athens, Tennessee. Through the 26th there are Federal expeditions north from Vicksburg to Deer Creek and Rolling Fork.

President Lincoln continues his interest in the political campaign, obtaining information from various sources and using members of the Administration to feel the pulse of the politicos and the people.
September 22, Thursday

Sheridan deploys his VI and XIX Corps formations noisily and visibly before Fisher’s Hill, where Early awaits attack with decreasing confidence. Meanwhile, Crook’s Federal corps takes most of the day to move into position for an attack on Early’s left. By late afternoon, Early concludes that his force isn’t “strong enough to resist a determined assault.” He orders a withdrawal after dark. But at dusk, Crook’s ranks appear from the woods of North Mountain, marching east, rolling up Lomax’s thin line. The same maneuver had driven the Confederates from Winchester, yet it takes them completely by surprise. “Had the heavens opened and we been seen descending from the clouds,” a Federal officer will write, “no greater consternation would have been created.” In moments, Crook’s left connects with VI Corps’ right and the Federals swarm over the breastworks. “The mischief” cannot be repaired, Early admits grudgingly. For the second time in three days his army is routed. He has lost another 1,200 men, most of them taken prisoner, and has been forced to abandon twenty guns. His remaining force is now in imminent danger of total destruction. All night long the Federals hound Early’s shattered brigades southward. “Run, boys, run!” Sheridan bellows to his men as he leads them up the Valley pike. “Don’t wait to form! Don’t let ‘em stop.” When some soldiers protest that they are too exhausted to continue, he shoots back, “If you can’t run, then holler!”

General Hood informs Richmond that he has decided on an offensive. “Sherman is weaker now than he will be in the future,” Hood wires, “and I as strong as I can expect to be.” Yesterday’s move to Palmetto places his troops southwest of Atlanta and in an excellent position to strike due north at Sherman’s communications.

Quite unexpectedly President Davis arrives in Macon, Georgia, by train. To a refugee relief meeting, the President says, “Friends are drawn together in adversity.” He adds, “Our cause is not lost. Sherman cannot keep up his long line of communication, and retreat, sooner or later, he must.” President Davis says he will confer with General Hood about recovering Georgia. He calls for army absentees to return, and concludes, “Let no one despond.”

Price’s Confederates move deeper into Missouri with skirmishing at Patterson and Sikeston. Fighting also breaks out at Carthage and near Longwood, Missouri. A seven-day Yankee scout probes from Helena to Alligator Bayou, Arkansas.

President Lincoln is still involved in lining up support for reelection. Victories at Atlanta and in the Shenandoah help his cause.
September 23, Friday

When Sheridan enters Woodstock, nine miles from Fisher’s Hill, at dawn, Sheridan figures that he has Early exactly where he wants him—caught between the main Federal army and Torbert’s cavalry, which by now should have crossed New Market Gap. But soon Sheridan gets two nasty surprises. First comes word about Torbert: “I was astonished and chagrined,” Sheridan later writes, “to receive the intelligence that he had fallen back to Front Royal.” It turns out that Torbert has been bluffed out of the Luray Valley by a force of Confederate horsemen half the size of his own cavalry. Given Orbert’s failure, Averell’s division will have to redouble the speed of its pursuit. But Averell cannot be found. Not until noon do his troops trot into Woodstock. Incredibly, Averell went into camp at Fisher’s Hill last evening, leaving the pursuit of the fleeing Confederates to the infantry. His career ends this afternoon. Furious, Sheridan forthwith orders Colonel William H. Powell to take command of the 1st Cavalry Division.

Meanwhile, a Federal expedition operates for the rest of the month in the Kanawha Valley of West Virginia. To the west, Forrest’s troops in northern Alabama skirmish at Athens, and Price’s Confederates fight near Rocheport, Missouri.

For the Federals, Major General S.A. Hurlbut assumes command of the Department of the Gulf.

President Lincoln asks Postmaster General Montgomery Blair to resign and Blair formally tenders his resignation. Blair had offered to step aside when Lincoln thought best, and now the President says, “the time has come.” Blair has long been unpopular with the Radical Republicans, many of whom have demanded his ouster as the price of supporting Lincoln’s reelection.
September 24, Saturday

Two major Confederate raiding expeditions are pressing now. Forrest captures Athens, Alabama, after a fight, and in Missouri Price’s troops skirmish at Jackson and Farmington. Magnolia, Florida, also experiences a skirmish. In the Shenandoah Valley fighting occurs at Mount Jackson, New Market, Luray, Forest Hill, or Timberville. Mainly, however, the defeated forces of Early—badly needing reorganization, rest, and, most of all, reinforcements—are retiring further. Sheridan’s infantry and cavalry begin burning barns, crops, and other property in response to Grant’s orders that the Valley cease to be a granary and sanctuary for the enemy. A Union naval force destroys four small Confederate vessels, captures five others, and levels a fishery at Milford Haven, Virginia, in the Rappahannock River area.

With William Quantrill out of the picture, George Todd has assumed leadership of Quantrill’s followers, while Bloody Bill Anderson remains on his own. Hiding out in the rugged Sni-a-Bar country east of Kansas City, Todd repeatedly makes strikes against Union personnel and property. Yet he gets the worst of encounters with the crack 2nd Colorado Cavalry Regiment, which has been brought in to deal with the bushwhackers. During a 20-day period this month, General Egbert Brown, commander of Missouri’s Central District, sends out more than 100 patrols that ride over 10,000 miles while losing 42 men and killing about 100 bushwhackers.

But through all this, Bloody Bill Anderson covers himself with gruesome glory. On July 24th, with 100 riders, Anderson waylaid a Union detachment near his northern Missouri hometown of Huntsville. Although most of the Federals escaped, two were killed—and then scalped by Little Archie Clement, an 18-year-old murderer who habitually wears a sadistic smirk. Before they left, the bushwhackers attached to one of the bodies a note signed by Bill Anderson: “You come to hunt bush whackers. Now you are skelpt. Clemyent skelpt you.” A month later, near Rocheport, Anderson ambushed and overran a patrol of the 4th Missouri Cavalry detailed to chase the guerrillas, killing seven soldiers—of whom four were found scalped and three others found with their throats slit.

Through the atrocities, Bloody Bill, who is by no means as illiterate as the note he left on the corpse made him out to be, uses the Missouri newspapers to engage in a war of words. In a letter to one editor, he issues a warning to the citizens of Missouri: “If you proclaim to be in arms against the guerrillas I will kill you. I will hunt you down and murder you. You cannot escape.” In another letter, he taunts a Union colonel about the marksmanship of Federal troops: “They are such poor shots it is strange you don’t have them practice more. Send them out and I will train them for you.”

But now, Anderson suffers one of his few setbacks. Joining forces with Todd’s gang in support of Price’s invasion of Missouri, Anderson launches an assault against thirty men of the state militia’s 9th Cavalry, who are defending a fortified brick courthouse and a nearby blockhouse at Fayette. Time and again, Anderson leads headlong charges against the building; time and again, he is repulsed. “It was like charging a stone wall only this stone wall belched lead,” a bushwhacker named Frank James will recall. Then he will add: “The worst scared I ever was during the war was in the Fayette fight.” In this action, the bushwhackers lose thirteen dead and thirty wounded.

President Lincoln names former Ohio governor William Dennison Postmaster General. A leading Republican and businessman, Dennison will, it is hoped, be less controversial than Blair, who has resigned at the President’s request. President Lincoln also approves congressional authorization for the Union purchase of products from states “declared in insurrection.”
September 25, Sunday

Sheridan’s large Federal army moves forward slowly toward Staunton and Waynesborough, Virginia, destroying railroads and other property and eventually forcing Early back to Brown’s Pass in the Blue Ridge. Generals Grant and Sheridan agree that Early’s demoralized army has fled across the Blue Ridge Mountains, probably to Charlottesville and perhaps as far as Richmond. The question now is what Sheridan should do next, and on that point the generals disagree. The first sign of variance appears in Sheridan’s report today to Grant from Harrisonburg. To the details of his movements since the fighting at Winchester and Fisher’s Hill, Sheridan adds a single unelaborated sentence: “I am now 94 miles from Martinsburg and 104 miles from Harpers Ferry.” Sheridan knows his chief won’t miss the significance of those distances to the nearest railroad depots. As Grant is well aware, no large army can maintain itself long, let alone engage in combat, when it depends for supplies on wagon trains plying a hundred miles of hostile country. Yet Grant can’t forget that the Virginia Central Railroad is still in service to Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. “If you can possibly subsist your army to the front a few days more,” he urges, “and make a great effort to destroy the railroads about Charlottesville.” Sheridan thinks this would be a mistake. Getting across the mountains would be difficult, and once there he would probably have to fight Early again. Meanwhile, his supply lines would be even longer. “I think the best policy,” Sheridan tells Grant, “Will be to let the burning of the crops in the Valley be the end of this campaign, and let some of this army go elsewhere.” Grant bows to Sheridan’s judgment, at least for the moment, and gives him permission to withdraw as far as Strasburg.

Captain Samuel Chapman and a force of about 120 of Mosby’s Rangers attack a Union Army wagon train near Front Royal, Virginia. Chapman thinks the wagon train has no cavalry escort and will be an easy target. But as he divides his men into two columns for the attack, a brigade of U.S. Regular Army cavalry under the command of Colonel Charles Lowell, Jr. appear. Chapman’s force is in danger of being trapped or destroyed, and he orders the two columns to withdraw as quickly as possible. But Lowell attacks before the Rangers can get away. The Federals nearly surround the Rangers, but the Southerners are able to push their way out and escape. The Union cavalry pursue and take six prisoners before ending the chase.

Lieutenant Charles McMaster of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry is one of the Federal casualties, killed by a bullet to the head. Some of the Union cavalrymen think McMaster had been killed after he had surrendered. When the erroneous story reaches the Federals in Front Royal, the Union men are outraged. Lowell’s command arrives at Front Royal with the six prisoners, and the Federals call for revenge for McMaster’s death. Besides Lowell, senior officers present include Brigadier Generals Wesley Merritt and George A. Custer. In retaliation for McMaster’s death, Merritt orders the execution of the six prisoners. Though many, including Mosby himself, will blame Custer for the executions, Lowell will that it was Merritt who gave the order. Years later, Mosby will clarify his position. Custer and the other senior officers present made no attempt to stop the executions and went along with them, so in Mosby’s view they shared responsibility for the incident. Also, some of Custer’s men participate in the executions. Three of the prisoners are taken out and shot immediately. Another prisoner, 17 year old Henry Rhodes, is not a member of the Rangers, but wanted to be one. He had grabbed a horse and joined in the retreat of some of Mosby’s men as they passed through Front Royal and was captured. Rhodes’ mother begs for her son’s life to no avail; in perhaps the most brutal event of the day, one of Custer’s cavalrymen shoots Rhodes to death in his mother’s presence. Two other prisoners are interrogated and promised their lives will be spared in exchange for information on Mosby, but the two refuse to talk. They are then executed by hanging. A sign is placed on one of the victims declaring “Such is the fate of all of Mosby’s men.”

In the West, Forrest continues raiding railroads, taking Sulphur Branch Trestle in Alabama. Price fights at Farmington and Huntsville in Missouri. Skirmishes erupt near Henderson, Kentucky; near Johnsonville, Tennessee; and at Walnut Creek, Kansas. Federals operate an expedition from Little Rock to Fort Smith, Arkansas, until October 13th.

President Davis visits General Hood’s headquarters at Palmetto, Georgia, to confer on the military situation. Hood has been asking for the removal of General Hardee from his army.
September 26, Monday

Sheridan’s cavalry clashed with Early’s horse and infantry around Port Republic, Weyer’s Cave, and Brown’s Gap, Virginia, before the Federals pull out and leave Early to restore his chaotic army. There Early begins to receive reinforcements—Kershaw’s footsore infantry division, shuttling over the mountains one more time; an artillery battalion; and later a brigade of cavalry under Brigadier General Thomas L. Rosser. But the string of defeats has demoralized Early’s men. With the reinforcements, Lee sends Early a grim message: “It will require the greatest watchfulness, the greatest promptness, and the most untiring energy on your part to arrest the progress of the enemy in the present tide of success. I have given you all I can.” On the outskirts of Petersburg, Grant has the Army of the Potomac’s artillery fire a 100-gun salute to Sheridan’s victory—into the enemy works; Secretary of War Stanton orders fifteen commanders across the country to follow suit.” “Keep on,” Grant wires Sheridan, “and your good work will cause the fall of Richmond.” Meanwhile, in Richmond and elsewhere, news of Early’s defeat gives rise to severe criticism.

While Sheridan is no longer seeking to close with Early, he sends his cavalry south to strip Staunton of all armaments, provisions, and military equipment. The horsemen then move eastward, tearing up the track of the Virginia Central Railroad.

Minor fighting breaks out near Roswell, Georgia; at Vache Grass, Arkansas; and Osage Mission, Kansas. Expeditions by Federals move from Natchez to Waterproof, Louisiana, and from Napoleonville to Grand River, Louisiana. Forrest skirmishes with the Union garrison at Richland Creek near Pulaski, Tennessee. Price and his Confederates fight in Arcadia Valley, Shut-in-Gap, and Ironton, Missouri, as the Army of Missouri also heads north toward St. Louis.
September 27, Tuesday

The invasion of Missouri by Sterling Price is developing rapidly with skirmishing at Arcadia, Ironton, and Mineral Point. Learning that General Smith and his force have moved into position south of St. Louis, Price pauses near Pilot Knob, a fortified post defended by Brigadier General Thomas Ewing Jr. and 1,100 Federal troops. General Shelby, arguing that the unmounted, outnumbered Federals can’t pursue them, advises Price to bypass Pilot Knob. But Price sees a chance for a quick kill. In August last year, Ewing was the author of the harsh order expelling all civilians from Missouri’s pro-Confederate western counties, his purpose to eliminate havens for guerrillas. The opportunity to bring this hated Union general to justice seems to him to be reason enough for an attack. It is a costly error. Though greatly outnumbered, Ewing fights from within Fort Davidson, an earthwork protected by thirteen cannon and three mortars. Attacking frontally, the Confederates are ripped to shreds by Ewing’s gunners. By nightfall, when Price calls off the attack, more than a thousand casualties lie in front of the fort. The defenders have lost only 75 men. Then, during the night, Ewing and his troops slip through Price’s lines and steal away to safety.

Bloody Bill Anderson gets an opportunity for revenge for his repulse at Fayette three days ago, and St. Louis is becoming concerned. Yesterday evening, the men under Anderson and George Todd camped together on a farm near the tiny Missouri railroad town of Centralia. Early this morning, apparently eager to read accounts of his activities, Anderson orders thirty of his men into their saddles; leaving Todd’s people behind, they ride into Centralia to fetch S. Louis newspapers. At the Centralia depot, a few of the men find a barrel of whiskey, along with a crate of boots. Pouring the liquor into the boots, they force some of the townspeople to drink. At the same time, the bushwhackers down huge gulps of whiskey, and they are soon reeling drunk. For the next three hours, they amuse themselves by looting the little town and setting fire to the depot. Just as they are preparing to depart, Anderson stops them with a gleeful shout that a train is coming, and orders them to block the track.

By the time the westbound train rolls into the smoking station, the bushwhackers have blocked the track with ties. Ordered out of the train, the 125 passengers—including at least 25 uniformed but unarmed Federal soldiers going home on leave—find themselves in the midst of a screaming, dancing mob of drunken bushwhackers. Dividing the passengers into two groups—one of civilians and the other of soldiers—Anderson orders the Army men to strip, and in a shrill, mad voice informs them that they “are all to be killed and sent to hell.” Naked and trembling, the soldiers are lined up along the station platform. Turning to Little Archie Clement, Anderson tells him to “muster out” the helpless Federals. Grinning happily, Clement starts to shoot. Other bushwhackers join in, and by the time they have finished, 22 of the soldiers lie dead. Shouting, laughing, drinking, and still shooting, the bushwhackers finally ride out of town and return to camp, where they boast of their exploits to Todd’s men.

Four hours after Anderson’s departure, a 150-man Union detail of a Missouri infantry regiment, commanded by Major A.V.E. Johnston, rides into Centralia; they have been following the bushwhackers’ trail and saw a column of smoke rising from the town. Johnston’s soldiers are green recruits, and doubtless he is greatly relieved to learn that Anderson left with only thirty men. Johnston stations 35 of his soldiers in the town and goes after the guerrillas with the bulk of his command. The soldiers’ approach is seen by the bushwhackers, who now number several hundred. The guerrillas quickly form a long, crescent-shaped line out of sight behind a gentle rise. To lure the Federals on, Anderson sends out ten men under Little Archie Clement, who plays his part to perfection. Approaching almost to within firing range of the Union column, Clement and his men suddenly wheel their horses and flee. Johnston’s men pound after them—and enter the jaws of the trap. Coming over the rise, Major Johnston sees the bushwhackers in line at the foot of the slope; realizing that he has led his inexperienced men into an ambush, he orders them to dismount and form a line of battle. They manage to get off one volley from their single-shot Enfield muskets as Anderson leads the bushwhackers roaring up the hill. Then, with the bushwhackers upon them from all sides, they drop their muskets, turn in panic, flee—and die. By the time the firing fades away, 115 dead Federals lie thickly strewn on the ground. Among those killed is Major Johnston, shot by a revolver in the hands of 17-year-old Jesse James.

Two days later, Brigadier General Clinton Fisk, the district commander, will report in sickening detail what his soldiers find when they arrive, too late, at the scene of the massacre. Some of Johnston’s men, he will write, “were shot through the head., then scalped, bayonets thrust through them, ears and noses cut off, and privates torn off and thrust in the mouths of the dying.”

While action in Virginia continues against Early at Port Republic and Weyer’s Cave, Forrest fights in the Pulaski, Tennessee, area. In addition, there are isolated skirmishes at Lobelville and Beardstown, Tennessee.
September 28, Wednesday

Remarkably, when a new Federal offensive around St. Petersburg comes, it is initiated by the inept General Butler, at Bermuda Hundred. Since the Federal failure at Deep Bottom last month, Butler has been gathering information about the Confederate defenses. After the Weldon Railroad fighting of late August, Butler saw an opportunity in the weakness of of the lines facing him north of the James and he has prepared to grasp it.

The chance is even better than Butler knows, for the Confederates are stretched dangerously thin. Lee, determined to regain the Weldon Railroad, has taken south to Petersburg all but three brigades of the Army of Northern Virginia. These three brigades, a brigade of cavalry and some reserve battalions from Richmond—fewer than 4,000 men—are all that stand between Butler’s Army of the James and Richmond. The Confederates do have a wealth of fortifications at their disposal. Three rows of Confederate entrenchments loop across the Peninsula, north of the James. The exterior and the intermediate lines are anchored on a fortified camp enclosing Chaffin’s Bluff, with its vital river batteries and pontoon bridge. The interior line is a ring of forts just outside Richmond. A fourth line, little more than a single trench, extends from Signal Hill below the camp to New Market Heights, five miles to the east. To securely garrison these lines requires more men than Lee has in his entire army. The defenders have to guess which sector is most threatened and go there, a task that is becoming more and more difficult as the men wear down. By now, the few Confederates north of the James are concentrated at and around Chaffin’s Bluff in the intermediate line and in the New Market line—which confronts the Federal position at Deep Bottom.

Butler proposes to hit the Confederates’ New Market line and Chaffin’s Bluff with a three-pronged surprise attack. Major General Edward O.C. Ord is to lead 8,000 men from XVIII Corps across the river at Aiken’s Landing, two miles southwest of Deep Bottom. From there Ord is to drive north along the Varina road, which passes in front of the eastern face of the works at Chaffin’s Bluff. Ord is to assault Fort Harrison, the strong salient at the southeast corner of the camp, occupy Chaffin’s Bluff, and roll up the Confederate positions along the Osborne Turnpike toward Richmond. Meanwhile, Major General David B. Birney with X Corps and Brigadier General Charles J. Paine’s division of US Colored Troops from XVIII Corps—10,000 men in all—are to advance from their position at Deep Bottom and surprise the Confederate left at New Market Heights. After Birney drives off the defenders, he is to move toward Richmond on the New Market road, which leads to the northwest and eventually converges with the Osborne Turnpike. General Kautz and his cavalry division is to support Birney until the heights are taken, then push along the Darbytown road toward the capital. Grant likes the plan and adopts it, partly because it offers a fair hope of capturing Richmond. He also thinks that it is certain to draw Confederates north of the river again and thus weaken their hold on the Southside Railroad, one of the last three rail lines serving Lee.

With so much at stake, Butler is determined that his subordinates be fully briefed and that the enemy be kept completely in the dark. Today, the day before the attack is scheduled to take place, Butler’s headquarters is a scene of endless activity. “Portents of a coming something were unmistakable,” a New York Times correspondent will report. Yet no one knows just what to expect. “In all my experience,” the journalist will write, “I never knew a plan to be kept so profoundly secret.” The corps commanders meet with Butler to receive their final instructions—sixteen pages of them, providing for every conceivable contingency. But no orders of any kind are to be distributed to the men until after nightfall. Butler, riding along the river in the twilight to survey his forces, is delighted to see that they reveal no sign of an impending movement. He watches the construction of the pontoon bridge on which Ord and his troops are to move to the north side of the James. When the bridge has been rigged and muffled with dirt and straw, the quietly tramping thousands begin to cross and Butler goes back to his headquarters to wait. He sits up most of the night drinking coffee, then rides to Deep Bottom, where a pontoon bridge has been in place since June, and follows Birney’s men over. By 4:30 am he is with the Black troops assigned to Birney’s X Corps, who are waiting to go into the fight.

Yesterday’s defeat convinces Price that he lacks the strength to attack St. Louis. Instead, he veers northwest toward Jefferson City, skirmishing today in Polk County, Missouri, and at Caledonia.

From West Point, Georgia, President Davis wires Hood to relieve Lieutenant General Hardee from the Army of Tennessee and send him to command the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Hardee and Hood have long had their difficulties and such a move seems necessary if the President is to support Hood. Davis most likely regrets this—he respects Hardee’s military skill and likes the man for his apolitical nature. But since he isn’t willing to fire Hood, Davis reluctantly posts Hardee to Charleston to his new post. Thus a personal animus costs Hood the services of one of the Confederacy’s most effective officers. The loss of Hardee, however, does little to encourage the officers and men of the Army of Tennessee, many of whom despise Hood for sacrificing so many lives around Atlanta. Writing of their talks, Davis raises the possibility of putting Beauregard in charge of an overall Western Department. The whole trip is an effort by the President to prop up the dangerously penetrated western portion of the Confederacy.

The lull continues at Atlanta. A skirmish is fought near Decatur, Georgia. Sheridan falls back briefly toward Harrisonburg in the Shenandoah after more secondary action against Early’s outposts at Port Republic and Rockfish Gap. Fighting also occurs at Brownsville, Mississippi; Wells Hill, Tennessee; and near Rheatown, Tennessee.
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