The American Civil War, day by day - Page 67 - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

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#15176256
June 9, Tuesday

At daylight General Buford’s leading brigade, consisting of three regiments under Colonel Benjamin Franklin (Grimes) Davis, hero of last September’s siege of Harpers Ferry, splash across the Rappahannock and swiftly break through the thin Confederate picket line. The Federal horsemen gallop hard, four abreast, down the narrow country road to Brandy Station.

Roused from their sleep, the Confederates hasten to mount up. Twenty-two-year-old Major Cabell E. Flournoy of the 6th Virginia gathers about 100 men and charges headlong at the oncoming Federals. Badly outmatched, Flourney soon withdraws—but only after gaining some precious time for the Conederates. Left behind by Flourney’s retreating Confederates is Lieutenant R.O. Allen, whose horse has been slightly wounded. Taking cover in a grove of trees, Allen spots a Federal officer advancing in front of an enemy column. Allen decides to use the only bullet left in his revolver at the closest possible range, and spurs his injured mount on. The Federal officer is looking back toward his men, waving them on with his saber. Sensing Allen’s attack at the last instant, he turns and slashes wildly with his saber. But the Confederate avoids the cut by swinging to the side of his horse—and at the same time, he fires his last bullet. As Allen gallops to safety, Grimes Davis falls dead, shot through the head.

Jeb Stuart hears the deadly rattle of small-arms fire while he is drinking his morning coffee in his headquarters tent next to the red-brick Barbour House. The house is situated on Fleetwood Hill, a long and commanding north-south ridge that rises about a half mile northeast of Brandy Station. Stuart’s supply train is loaded and ready to accompany the cavalry on its move north, scheduled to begin this morning. While his staff is scurrying about, hastily dressing and saddling the horses, an alarmed Stuart dispatches the wagons rearward to safety in Culpeper. Then he issues orders for reinforcements to move toward the fighting near Beverly’s Ford.

As Buford’s Federals advance farther, they come up against Brigadier General Wade Hampton’s brigade, formed in line of battle at the edge of a wood near Saint James’s Church. Major Robert Morris, a Philadelphia blue blood who commands the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry, is ordered to clear the enemy from his front. Morris deploys his men and charges. Grape and canister are poured into their left flank and a storm of rifle bullets in their front. They have to leap three wide, deep ditches, and many of their horses and men pile up in a writhing mass in those ditches and are ridden over. The charge falters, and the Confederates counterattack, capturing Major Morris and driving his troopers back in savage hand-to-hand fighting. Buford’s troopers begin to fall back toward the Rappahannock. As they do so groups of cavalrymen dismount to form skirmish lines alongside infantrymen who have come up in support.

Just as the Confederate regiments are gathering for a decisive charge, Grumble Jones receives bad news from his scouts: A column of dust has been seen rising from the direction of Kelly’s Ford. Jones instantly sends word to Stuart that Federals have crossed the river downstream. Stuart is incredulous—and issues a scornful reply: “Tell General Jones to attend to the Yankees in his front, and I’ll watch the flanks.” Jones accepts the rebuff with grim humor, remarking: “So he thinks they ain’t coming, does he? Well, let him alone, he’ll damn soon see for himself.”

Indeed, the Federal flanking force under Duffié and Gregg has found its bearings and is coming fast. At a crossroads three miles beyond Kelly’s Ford, the force splits: Duffié’ continues westward toward Stevensburg, a village about five miles south of Brandy Station, to menace the Confederate rear; Gregg’s column turns north on a road heading straight to Brandy Station. The way is wide open for Gregg—and Fleetwood Hill, which commands his approach, is virtually undefended.

Hurrying off toward the fight near Beverly Ford with three brigades, Stuart has left behind at Fleetwood Hill only his adjutant, Major Henry McClellan, and a few couriers. McClellan doesn’t believe a report he receives that Gregg has outflanked the Confederates, but goes to look for himself and is stunned to find that so it is! Within cannon shot of the hill a long column of the enemy fills the road, which there skirts the woods. They are pressing steadily forward upon the railroad station, which would in a few moments be in their possession. By chance, a single howitzer is near the foot of Fleetwood Hill, having been withdrawn from the battle near the river when ammunition ran low. It is only a 6-pounder, but it will have to do. Without an instant to spare, McClellan orders the gun’s commander, Lieutenant John W. Carter, to move the piece to the crest of the hill and commence firing. Scrounging in his limber box, Carter finds some round shot and a few shells, and is soon lobbing them toward the oncoming enemy. In the vanguard of the Federal troopers is a brigade of three regiments under the command of Colonel Sir Percy Wyndham, a veteran British soldier of fortune. Uncertain of the enemy strength, Wyndham halts to wait for the rest of Gregg’s division.

McClellan, meanwhile, has sent a courier galloping to warn Stuart of the threat, but this is not Stuart’s day for accepting reality. “Ride back there and find out what all this foolishness is about,” he orders a staff officer. Just then another courier rides up to confirm the news—and any remaining doubt is dispelled by the sound of Carter’s howitzer opening up on Fleetwood Hill. Stuart acts fast, dispatching four more artillery pieces to Fleetwood Hill and pulling two of Grumble Jones’s regiments out of the line and sending them rearward up the ridge as fast as they can ride. They near the crest just as Carter, his pitiful supply of ammunition completely gone, is withdrawing. The Federal horsemen are now approaching at the gallop. Not fifty yards below, Colonel Percy Wyndham is advancing the 1st New Jersey Cavalry in magnificent order, in column of squadrons, with flags and guidons flying. Without pausing, Jones’s troopers gallop over the crest and down the far slope, headlong into Wyndham’s charging horsemen. The opposing ranks meet with a dead, heavy crash and it is the Confederates who give ground. They break like a wave on the bow of a ship, and over and through them the Federals ride, sabering as they go.

Wyndham has taken a bullet in the leg, but he leads his men up up the slope, overrunning the four Confederate artillery pieces. Some artillerists fight back with revolvers, while others wielding handspikes and spongestaffs knock Federal troopers from the saddle. Just as the Federal momentum ebbs fresh Confederate units enter the fray, driving Wyndham’s scattered regiments back down the hill. At the foot of the hill, the men of a New York battery have just unlimbered three guns when the 35th Virginia Battalion gallops into them. The men of the battery fight with desperation. There is no demand for surrender or offer of one until nearly all the men are either killed or wounded. Of the thirty-six New York artillerists, only six escape death, wounds, or capture. With the tide of battle turning against him, General Gregg sends an urgent appeal to Colonel Duffié to ride immediately to the sound of the guns.

To the northeast, meanwhile, Buford is again trying to force the Confederate position near Saint James’s Church. Again the 6th Pennsylvania charges, only to be met and repulsed by the 9th Virginia. As batteries of horse artillery fire over their heads, the 2nd US Cavalry, tough Regular Army troops, gallop into the fray. There is little halting to make prisoners. Those who surrender are told with a motion to go to the rear, and those who resist are sabered or shot till they reel from their saddles. Yet the Regulars are unable to affect the breakthrough, and eventually they are pushed back by the 2nd North Carolina and 10th Virginia. The battle around the church is winding down now; one of the last Confederate casualties there is Robert E. Lee’s 26-year-old son, Brigadier General W.H.F. (Rooney) Lee, who is shot in the thigh as he heads his brigade in a final charge.

Off to the southeast, Duffié has hooked around to Brandy Station from Stevensburg, but he arrives too late to present any real threat. In the end, General Stuart and his Confederates hold Fleetwood Hill. At 4:30 pm, Pleasanton begins pulling his men back across the Rappahannock in good order. The Federals have suffered 81 men killed, 403 wounded, and 382 missing for a total of 866. Confederate casualties are put at 523. Each side had approximately 10,000 men engaged. But the credible performance of Pleasanton’s troopers against the legendary Stuart has given them a new sense of confidence that will sustain them through the balance of the war. The Battle of Brandy Station, Henry McClellan will write, “made the Federal Cavalry.” No longer can the infantry jibe, “Whoever saw a dead cavalryman?”

Twenty Federals are killed and fourteen injured when a powder magazine explodes near Alexandria, Virginia.

The Federals hang two Southern soldiers as spies at Franklin, Tennessee.

Skirmishes occur at Triune, Tennessee; Monticello and Rocky Gap, Kentucky; Macon Ford on Big Black River, Mississippi; and near Lake Providence, Louisiana.
#15176347
June 10, Wednesday

The fighting at Brandy Station requires General Stuart to rest and refit his battered regiments, thereby delaying his northward movement by a full week. But General Lee is not waiting for anyone, and this afternoon, he puts General Ewell’s II Corps on the road headed northwest, the crippled Ewel travelling in a buggy.

Hooker writes Lincoln that now is the time to march to Richmond. Lincoln replies, “I think Lee’s Army, and not Richmond, is your true objective point.... Fight him when opportunity offers. If he stays where he is, fret him, and fret him.” Citizens north of the Potomac are already alarmed, though no Confederate army is yet on their soil.

Major General Darius N. Couch assumes command of the Department of the Susquehanna.

The governor of Maryland calls for the people to rally in defense against invasion.

Federals scout on the Middleton and Eagleville pikes, Tennessee. Skirmishing occurs at Edwards’ Station, Mississippi, and near Suffolk and at Diascund Bridge, Virginia.

Off Cape Henry, Virginia, the steamer Maple Leaf, en route from Fort Monroe to Fort Delaware with rebel prisoners, is run ashore by the prisoners, who then escape.

Confederate General Braxton Bragg is confirmed in the Episcopal faith at Chattanooga as a wave of religious fervor moves through Southern ranks in the West.
#15176349
Hooker writes Lincoln that now is the time to march to Richmond. Lincoln replies, “I think Lee’s Army, and not Richmond, is your true objective point.... Fight him when opportunity offers. If he stays where he is, fret him, and fret him.”

Absolutely right. Lincoln seems to have had more military sense than his own generals. He knew the War would only end - could only end - once the South's ability to wage war had been comprehensively destroyed. That meant destroying its armies on the field, not capturing useless cities. Napoleon captured Moscow, but it didn't do him a damn bit of good in the end.
#15176350
@Potemkin, agreed. Lincoln’s time in the militia might have been a comedy routine, but by the second year of the war he would have made a better general than many of those in the ranks of both sides. If he’d managed to get his generals to listen to him during Jackson’s Valley Campaign, Jackson would never have made it out of the Shenandoah and Lee would have probably lost the Seven Days Campaign.
#15176410
Potemkin wrote:Absolutely right. Lincoln seems to have had more military sense than his own generals. He knew the War would only end - could only end - once the South's ability to wage war had been comprehensively destroyed. That meant destroying its armies on the field, not capturing useless cities. Napoleon captured Moscow, but it didn't do him a damn bit of good in the end.




Lincoln did appear to have a certain rustic feel for how war should be fought.

I do recall reading somewhere another frustration or two of his with his Generals. They would tell him of the 3 to 1 advantage that the rule books recommended for attacks. So poor ole Abe says, fine; but wonders why that same rule did not appear to deter the likes of Lee and Thomas Jackson. They seemed to attack all the time without that 3-1 advantage.

Another time he- after looking at the maps and data, I imagine- points out that by that same 3-1 rule, if Lee had this size of an Army in seige, then only a third of that should be needed to hold him off, but did that not mean that the Union General in that case could use the excess in other operations elsewhere against Lee?

I dont know, nor can I recall where I ran across that. So you are accepting that on nothing but faith in the reliability of my memory.
#15176470
I managed to get this posted today! I was beginning to wonder....

June 11, Thursday

As the armies march in Virginia and sullenly face each other at Vicksburg, there are lesser happenings elsewhere. Confederate outposts are captured at Port Hudson, Louisiana. Forrest causes trouble for Federals at Triune, Tennessee. Skirmishing occurs at Smith’s Bridge near Corinth, Mississippi; at Scottsville, Kentucky; Jacksonport, Arkansas; and Darien, Georgia. Through the 13th there are operations on Little Folly Island, South Carolina, and at the same time Federals patrol the Potomac looking for Confederate outriders.

In Ohio C.L. Vallandigham is nominated for governor by the Peace Democrats, although absent from the state. Although sent to the Confederacy by order of Lincoln, Vallandigham has been equally unwelcome in the South and is transshipped to Canada.

During the first six months of this year, the armies of Confederate Braxton Bragg and Union Major General William S. Rosecrans have lain no more than thirty miles apart in central Tennessee, menacing each other’s supply lines with cavalry raids but otherwise inactive. Rosecrans, victor in the bloody Battle of Stones River at the turn of the year, has set up camp around the town of Murfreesboro, scene of the fighting. Bragg, after withdrawing to the southeast, has dug in along the Duck River, with his headquarters in the little railroad town of Tullahoma. The Federal victory at Stones River was costly and inconclusive. It boosted morale in the Union after the Federal setbacks last year, but Bragg’s Army of Tennessee still blocks Rosecrans and his Army of the Cumberland from their prime objective—Chattanooga, eighty miles away. This insignificant-looking settlement of 3,500 people on the Tennessee River occupies one of the most important strategic locations of the war—the intersection of several of the South’s most important rail lines. The armies lie athwart the main line of the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad and transport their supplies on it—Rosecrans from the north, Bragg from the south. Just southwest of Chattanooga, at Stevenson, that line meets the Memphis & Charleston Railroad from Vicksburg and the west; just east of the city, the Western & Atlanta Railroad comes up from Atlanta and then snakes northeastward toward Richmond as the East Tennessee & Georgia. Over these rail routes flow a great percentage of the Confederacy’s arms, munitions, textiles, foodstuffs, and manufactures.

And so it is clear that Rosecrans will have to try again to drive through Bragg to Chattanooga. His superiors in Washington urged him to move fast, before the Confederates can reinforce Bragg—or, conversely, before some of Bragg’s troops might be detached to tip the balance against Federal forces elsewhere. The authorities in Washington were justifiably concerned that General Joseph E. Johnston, the overall Confederate commander in the West, might gamble onRosecrans’ inactivity and send reinforcements from Bragg to Pemberton. This would have tipped the odds against Grant. But Rosecrans would not be hurried. The burly general performed creditably early in the war. His aggressive use of smaller commands, his personal courage in battle, and his concern for his men had won him the admiration of the public and his army. But he had driven his superiors in Washington to distraction with his lengthy preparations for any move; an after his victory at Stones River, he has done it again. Rosecrans argued that his men were tired and low on rations. He needed time to strengthen his lines of communication and replenish his supplies. And although his force is considerably larger than Bragg’s army, he felt that in order to wage an offensive campaign he needed to have even more troops, both infantry and cavalry. As for Vicksburg, Rosecrans evolved a novel military concept: If Bragg were driven out of Tennessee, he might abandon the area entirely and join Pemberton against Grant. Thus Rosecrans reasoned that he was protecting Grant by not attacking Bragg. As a clincher to this argument, Rosecrans cited what he said was a military axiom: No nation should fight two decisive battles at once. No one else seemed to have heard of this axiom. Yet Rosecrans has stayed where he is and continued his lengthy preparations. The men have built log huts around Murfreesboro and even planted rows of cedars along the company streets. As the weather has warmed, there has been plenty of drill. But for the most part, boredom reigns.

Thirty miles distant, the hungry Confederates forage, hunt rabbits, practice the manual of arms, gamble, and wait. Only the cavalry has been spared the general ennui. In January, Bragg said that though his army was too short of manpower and rations to attack, he would fight if Rosecrans advanced and would harass him if he didn’t. Bragg’s chief engine of harassment has been his large force of superb horsemen, led by some of the greatest cavalry commanders of the war: the diminutive Fighting Joe Wheeler, only 27 years old; Nathan Bedford Forrest; John Hunt Morgan; and—before he was murdered early last month by a jealous husband—Earl Van Dorn. All told, Braggs had 15,000 horsemen in his army of 47,000 thousand during the early months of this year, and they have badgered the Federals mercilessly. A particular and frequent target of the Confederate cavalry raids has been the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, over which Rosecrans receives the bulk of his supplies. The superintendent of the railroad will report in July that the line has been fully operational for only seven of the previous twelve months. “All the bridges and trestleworks on the main stem and branches, with the exception of the bridge over Barren River and four small bridges, were destroyed and rebuilt during the year. Some of the structures were destroyed twice, and some three times. In addition to this, most of the water stations, several depots and a large number of cars were burnt, a number of engines badly damaged, and a tunnel in Tennessee nearly filled up for a distance of eight hundred feet.”

Rosecrans, who had about 9,000 troopers, has pestered Washington for more cavalry. He got none, but he did receive permission to make some of his foot soldiers mounted infantrymen. Thus is born one of the most colorful—and effective—brigades of the western war. The troops selected for mounted duty are about 1,500 men from two Indiana and two Illinois regiments; their commander is John T. Wilder, who owns an iron foundry in civilian life. Making troopers of Wilder’s infantry isn’t easy. The men have had to scrounge their own mounts from the countryside. An initial sweep yields 300 horses and mules, but the men keep looking until they are all mounted on horses. Since they will fight dismounted, there is the matter of a suitable weapon for hand-to-hand combat; Wilder issues long-handled hatchets. That draws a derisive nickname—the Hatchet Brigade—but Wilder more than makes up for it with his choice of firearms. After witnessing a demonstration by the gun’s inventor, Christopher Spencer, Wilder orders the seven-shot Spencer repeating rifles directly from the factory, paying for the guns by taking out a personal loan. Eacn man agrees to pay Wilder for his rifle through payroll deductions; but before the troopers begin payment, the embarrassed government steps in to buy the weapons.

By now, Rosecrans has as many horsemen as Bragg—whose cavalry has been reduced by transfers and losses to around 10,000. Moreover, infantry reinforcements have been sent to Rosecrans from Kentucky, and his army outnumbers Bragg’s by a substantial margin—70,000 to 40,000. His supply lines are now well protected, and he has been able to gather and store food and forage aplenty. The weather is good for marching. Still Rosecrans doesn’t move. The messages from Washington have taken a biting tone. “I deem it my duty,” General in Chief Henry W. Halleck wires Rosecrans today, “to repeat to you the great dissatisfaction felt here at your inactivity.”
#15176524
June 12, Friday

The head of Lee’s army under Ewell crosses the Blue Ridge into the Shenandoah Valley toward Winchester, and engages in skirmishes at Newtown, Cedarville, and Middletown, Virginia. Federals scout on the Salem Pike, Tennessee. A Federal expedition operates through the 14th from Pocahontas, Tennessee, to New Albany and Ripley, Mississippi, and includes skirmishing; from this day to the 18th another Federal expedition moves from Suffolk to the Blackwater, Virginia.

Federal Brigadier General Quincy Adams Gillmore supersedes Major General David Hunter in command of the Department of the South. Gillmore, an engineer, is experienced in siege operations. He sited the batteries that subdued Fort Pulaski, downriver from Savannah, after only two days of bombardment, proving that the mightiest fortress is no match for rifled guns fired from fixed land positions. He is now ready to teach Fort Sumter the same lesson.

Vice-President Alexander Stephens of the Confederacy offers to President Davis to take part in a mission to effect “a correct understanding and agreement between the two Governments.” Of course, no adjustment can be made that doesn’t admitted the right of each state “to determine its own destiny.”

In Washington President Lincoln visits the War Department, concerned over Lee’s movements. In answer to a complaint about arbitrary arrests, Lincoln states that while he regrets such, “Still, I must continue to do so much as may seem to be required by the public safety.”

Off Cape Hatteras Lieutenant Charles Read, daring commander of CSS Clarence, captures the Union bark Tacony. He scuttles Clarence, which has taken six prizes in a week, transfers his crew to Tacony, and continues raiding exploits into the north Atlantic.
#15176525
Juin wrote:Lincoln did appear to have a certain rustic feel for how war should be fought....

Beyond the common sense you mention (that too many ”by the book” officers seemed to lack), there wasn’t anything rustic about Lincoln’s understanding of war. If I remember correctly, once he found himself the president of a nation at war, he broke out the books and studied, at least when he could find some time.
#15176627
June 13, Saturday

The advance corps of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia under Ewell has crossed the Blue Ridge at Chester Gap and drives in the Federal outposts at Winchester in the Shenandoah and occupies Berryville. The crossroads and rail terminus at Winchester in the northern Shenandoah Valley lies directly athwart the Confederate invasion route, and Lee doesn’t intend to leave its garrison of 5,100 Federals (substantially larger than the town’s 3,500 inhabitants) behind him as he marches north. For the past week Union General in Chief Henry W. Halleck has been trying to get his commander at Winchester, Major General Robert H. Milroy, to move from that exposed position to the relative safety of Harpers Ferry, thirty miles to the northeast. But Milroy has insisted that he can hold Winchester against any force the Rebels can afford to bring against it. Now around Winchester fighting breaks out at Opequon Creek, Bunker Hill, and White Post, as Early’s vanguard attacks outlying Federal detachments. After a sharp skirmish, Milroy orders his men to withdraw to three forts north and west of town.

Hooker, with the Federal Army of the Potomac, starts to move northward toward the Potomac during the night, leaving the position held for nearly seven months on the Rappahannock.

Other action occurs at Howard’s Mills, Kentucky, and near Mud Lick Springs in Bath County, Kentucky. Through the 22nd there are operations in northeastern Mississippi; meanwhile, Federals probe Johnston’s forces outside Vicksburg. From this day to the 23rd there is action in eastern Kentucky.

President Davis, concerned over reinforcements going to Grant at Vicksburg, asks Bragg at Tullahoma if he can either advance his own army or detach troops.
#15176759
June 14, Sunday

President Lincoln wires General Milroy’s department commander, Major General Robert C. Schenck: “Get Milroy from Winchester to Harpers Ferry if possible. If he remains he will get gobbled up, if he is not already past salvation.”

It’s too late. This very morning at dawn, Ewell has seen that the key to Winchester lies in the three forts. A long, wooded ridge offers cover to within a thousand yards of the westernmost fort, which dominates the other two. Ewell orders part of Early’s division to advance through the woods and launch an assault on the fort. Meanwhile, Brigadier General John B. Gordon’s brigade of Early’s division will demonstrate against Milroy from the south, and Johnson’s division will threaten Winchester from the east.

Early’s movements take time, but they go undetected—even by General Milroy. Belatedly concerned about his situation, the Federal commander has himself hoisted in a basket to the top of a flagpole in the West Fort. All day, under a burning sun, Milroy keeps his position on lookout, and with a glass anxiously scans for sign of the enemy; but none is manifest.

Shortly after 5 pm the Confederates suddenly emerge from the woods, unlimber twenty guns, and open fire on the West Fort. Federal artillery responds, steadily at first but with gradually diminishing effect as the fort’s guns fall victim to the relentless Confederate bombardment. At about 6:30, there comes the keening of the Rebel yell as Brigadier General Harry T. Hays’s Louisiana Brigade descends headlong on the West Fort. From his command post to the south, a wildly excited Ewell cheers on the assaulting force. At that instant Ewell is struck in the chest by a spent Minié ball. He is badly bruised, but the injury doesn’t dampen his enthusiasm. Moments later, as darkness falls, Hays’s men take possession of the West Fort and turns their guns on the routed defenders.

At about 10 pm, General Milroy, thinking himself surrounded, orders an evacuation to Harpers Ferry after destroying his wagons and guns. But Ewell, correctly predicting Milroy’s reaction, has already ordered Johnson’s division to march across country to intercept the fleeing Federals.

Meanwhile, Confederates under Robert E. Rodes of Ewell’s corps move from Berryville to capture Martinsburg, along with seven hundred prisoners, five guns, and stores. Skirmishing occurs at Nine-Mile Ordinary, Virginia.

At Port Hudson, above Baton Rouge, General Banks, with a force several times the size of the Confederate defenders, might let time do his work. But he is impatient and calls on the Confederates to surrender. When they refuse, Banks orders an assault at dawn. Two main spearheads advance through the tangled underbrush and fallen timbers bordering the Confederate earthworks. They gain some ground but fail to break the lines. About 6,000 Federals take part in the assault against about 3,750 Confederates. For the Federals 203 are killed, 1,401 wounded, and 188 missing for a total of 1,792 casulaties; 22 Confederate are killed and 25 wounded for a total of 47. The siege continues both at Port Hudson and at Vicksburg.

A skirmish breaks out at Green Hill, Tennessee. Raiding in the eastern part of that state lasts through the 24th.

USS Marmora is fired into by Confederate guerrillas near Eunice, Arkansas. In retaliation Federals burn much of the town and and tomorrow will destroy Gaines’ Landing.

Both Hooker and the Administration in Washington are uncertain as to the whereabouts and strength of Lee’s army. Late in the afternoon President Lincoln wires Hooker, “If the head of Lee’s army is at Martinsburg and the tail of it on the Plank road between Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, the animal must be very slim somewhere. Could you not break him?”
#15176835
June 15, Monday

At about 3:30 am, Johnson arrives at a bridge that spans a deep railroad cut near Stephenson’s Depot, four miles northeast of Winchester on the turnpike to Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Riding forward with his staff to reconnoiter, Johnson hears the sound of voices, the nickering of horses, and the clop of hoofs on the turnpike. It is Milroy’s Federal force. After a brief exchange of shots between advance scouts, and before Johnson can organize an assault, the Federals attack. With his 6,000 men, Milroy vastly outnumbers Johnson, who has only 3,500 on hand. Another Confederate brigade, under Brigadier General James Walker, is still an hour away. But Milroy squanders his advantage by attacking piecemeal. The brunt of Milroy’s successive attacks fall on the Confederate brigade commanded by Brigadier General George H. (Maryland) Steuart, so nicknamed for his devotion to his native state. Steuart quickly positions his men in the shelter of the railroad cut, and he orders a gun from Captain William Dement’s battery rolled out onto the narrow bridge. Soon the ground in front of the railroad cut is strewn with dead and wounded Federals. Yet Milroy won’t give up, and again the blue ranks come on. Thirteen of sixteen Confederate gunners fall around their cannon on the bridge, but the gun still blazes away, served by a handful of staff officers and infantry volunteers. The battle rages through the night. Milroy’s troops charge repeatedly until the Confederates are nearly out of ammunition. And then, with the first gray streaks of dawn, Walker’s Confederates come out of the south and throw themselves into the fight. The 13th Pennsylvania Cavalry stages a valiant last charge, but its ranks are shattered by Confederate artillery fire; 300 of 600 troopers go down. The Federal formations break, and men flee in all directions, some of them escaping toward Harpers Ferry but great numbers of them falling unto the hands of the enemy.

Federal losses are high—95 dead, 348 wounded, 3,358 taken prisoner. The Confederates have also seized 23 guns, 300 loaded wagons, over 300 horses, and large quantities of commissary and quartermasters’ stores. Ewell suffered 47 killed, 219 wounded, and three missing for 269. General Rodes of Ewell’s corps crosses the Potomac with three brigades near Williamsport, engages in minor skirmishing, and sends the cavalry forward toward Chambersburg. Ewell has passed his first test as a corps commander.

As Ewell’s corps is still rounding up prisoners, Lee orders his other two commanders—Longstreet at Culpeper Court House and A.P. Hill at Fredericksburg—to move up in a hurry. Longstreet begins moving his corps north and west via Ashby’s and Snicker’s Gaps. Laboring beneath a schorching sun, more than 500 of Longstreet’s men drop out of the first day’s march, some of them dying by the roadway. One soldier will recall the ordeal: “men crowding you at each elbow, stepping on you from behind, and getting in your way in front, stirring up a tornado of dust and making one’s eyes ache.”

Excitement mounts in Baltimore and elsewhere in Maryland and Pennsylvania as the threat of invasion develops. Hooker tells Lincoln, “it is not in my power to prevent” invasion.

At Pittsburgh business is suspended and bars and saloons closed, in alarm over Lee’s invasion.

In Washington President Lincoln reacts to the new threat by calling for 100,000 militia from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, and West Virginia.

Other fighting includes an affair near Trenton, Tennessee; action near Richmond, Louisiana; a two-day Federal expedition near Lebanon, Tennessee; and operations by both sides in northwestern Mississippi which lasts for nearly the rest of the month.

The British House of Lords debates seizures of British ships by US naval vessels.

A Federal enrolling officer in Boone County, Indiana, is seized by a group of men who hold him while women pelt him with eggs.

The Navy Department dispatches a considerable force to seek out CSS Tacony, commanded by Charles Read, whose raiding along the Atlantic seaboard is causing damage to Union shipping.
#15176961
June 16, Tuesday

By mid-June, more than 200 Union cannon are shelling Vicksburg from land while Porter directs frequent bombardments from the river. The gunboats alone fire a total of 22,000 shells at the town’s defenses, and the barrage from the army’s batteries is even heavier. The targets of the Federal guns are unquestionably military—principally the Confederate entrenchments and their occupants. But it often seems to the town’s civilian inhabitants that they are the chief targets. The Confederate soldiers in trenches and behind breastworks are well protected; the civilians are more vulnerable, and shells fall all about them. “The general impression is that they fire at the city,” writes Emma Balfour, “in that way thinking that they will wear out the women and children and sick; and General Pemberton will be impatient to surrender the place on that account.” The officer husband of Mary Loughborough grows so concerned about her welfare in the town that he moves her and their child to a safer place—up to the front.

Very early in the siege, the Vicksburgers conclude that there is no safety in their houses, and they begin burrowing into the hillsides. By the end of the siege, roughly 500 caves will have been dug in the yellow clay hills of Vicksburg. Federal soldiers begin calling Vicksburg “Prairie Dog Village.” Although some people use the caves simply as bomb shelters, many live in them permanently. The temporary shelters might be no larger than a fireplace. But the permanent refuges can be almost luxurious—many-roomed dwellings equipped with furniture brought from the houses, and with rugs covering dirt floors. Some have clay walls separating their chambers, with doors fitted into them for privacy. Even in the best of circumstances, however, cave life is far from pleasant. For some people, the sense of confinement is even worse than the menace of falling shells. Sometimes the caves are desperately crowded, and always hot and close. Sometimes a cave has twenty or twenty-five people packed into it; no turning room for anybody.

Horror stories proliferate about the effects of the bombardment on the residents, and whether true or not, these tales help undermine morale. Mark Twain is told of a man who is shaking hands with a friend when an exploding shell leaves him holding a disembodied hand. The diarist Mary Boykin Chesnut, in faraway Richmond, hears of a lovely three-year-old girl who loses an arm to a shell. Despite such accounts, the danger to the inhabitants is more apparent than real. Fewer than a dozen civilians will be known to have been killed during the entire siege, and perhaps three times that number injured. Still, thousands have to endure the torment of living day after day under siege.

The people of Vicksburg expect a rescue attempt at any time. So does Grant. General Joseph E. Johnston, now encamped at Jackson, is reportedly raising an army of between 30,000 and 40,000 men, and he worries the Union commander. Grant also knows perfectly well what Johnston is thinking. When an officer suggests that the Confederate general might be planning to enter Vicksburg with 30,000 men to help Pemberton break the siege, Grant says, “No, we are the only fellows who want to get in there. The rebels who are in now want to get out, and those who are out want to stay out. If Johnston tries to cut his way in we will let him do it, and then see that he don’t get out. You sayhe has 30,000 men with him? That will give us 30,000 more prisoners than we now have.” What Grant does fear—and what Johnston is hoping to mount—is an attack on the Federal rear that will give Pemberton a chance to break out and join Johnston. Four weeks into the siege, one division from each of the three Federal corps is detached to form an independent force under Sherman’s command, with orders to guard against any approach by Johnston across the Big Black River.

Johnston, meanwhile, faces a cruel dilemma. Although his forces have been strengthened and are aching to fight, Grant’s army still outnumbers Johnston’s and Pemberton’s together. In any case, a combined Confederate attack appears almost impossible to coordinate. Communications between Johnston and Pemberton have become exceedingly difficult. Couriers are sent out repeatedly by both Confederate commanders. Some try to cross the lines by slipping through gullies and woodlands, while others travel by boat or canoe along the Yazoo and Mississippi Rivers in hopes of skirting the enemy. Few make it. The messages Johnston gets through to Pemberton make vague pledges of aid: “Bragg is sending a division. When it comes I will move to you.” But to Richmond, Johnston confides his worst fears: “I have not at my disposal half the troops needed to relieve Vicksburg.” And in another dispatch: “I consider saving Vicksburg hopeless.” Secretary of War James Seddon responds to Johnston’s pessimism with something approaching horror. “Your telegram grieves and alarms us,” he wires today. “Vicksburg must not be lost, at least without a struggle. The interest and honor of the Confederacy forbid it. I rely on you still to avert the loss.” Seddon urges Johnston to attack—with Pemberton or without him.

In Virginia, as the Confederates begin to cross the Potomac, their army strung out over a large part of Virginia, Hooker moves most of his Army of the Potomac to Fairfax Court House. He now becomes involved in an argument with Halleck in Washington. Hooker wants to move north of Washington to confront Lee. Halleck wants Hooker to follow Lee and possibly to relieve Harpers Ferry, now severely menaced. Hooker wires President Lincoln that he does not have the confidence of Halleck. Lincoln replies, “You do not lack his confidence in any degree to do you any harm.” Hooker has been reporting directly to Lincoln, bypassing Halleck. Now, late in the day, Lincoln tells Hooker he is in strict military relation to Halleck and that Halleck will give orders.

At Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, a reporter describes the scene as “perfect panic.” “Every woman in the place seemed anxious to leave,” and people loaded down with luggage crowd the trains. At the state Capitol books, papers, paintings, and valuables are packed for evacuation.

In Kentucky skirmishes occur at Maysville, Mount Carmel, Fox Springs, and Triplett’s Bridge. Other action includes a demonstration on Waterloo in west Louisiana; a skirmish in the Jornada del Muerto desert area in New Mexico; a Confederate raid on Union lines at Port Hudson, Louisiana; a skirmish at Quinn’s Mills on the Coldwater in Mississippi; a Federal scout form Memphis to the Hatchie River; two days of skirmishes near Holly Springs, Mississippi; and a Federal expedition from La Grange, Tennessee, to Panola, Mississippi, operates until the 24th. A Federal expedition against the Sioux Amerinds in the Dakotas will last until September 13.

General in Chief Halleck wires the commander of the Union Army of the Cumberland, General Rosecrans, a curt and demanding message: “Is it your intention to make an immediate move forward? A definite answer, yes or no, is required.” Rosecrans’ reply is airy—almost insubordinate—but it also holds a promise. “If ‘immediate’ means tonight or tomorrow,” he says, “no. If it means as soon as all things are ready, say five days, yes.”

Opposition to the draft and the war in general causes trouble in Holmes County, Ohio.
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June 17, Wednesday

Early in the morning at the mouth of the Wilmington River in Wassaw Sound, Georgia, the Confederate ironclad Atlanta, rebuilt in Savannah from the blockade runner Fingal, fights Federal Weehawken and Nahant. In a short engagement Atlanta is struck five times before running aground under the weight of her new armament, and surrenders to Captain John Rodgers of Weehawken. Casualties are light but the ship-starved Confederate navy suffers a severe blow. That she is pressed into duty with the blockading fleet just adds insult to injury.

General Stuart has left Brandy Station in a resentful mood; criticism of his handling of the battle there has been severe. Accurately insisting that Stuart and his generals were caught by surprise, the Richmond Examiner blamed it on “vain and empty-headed officers.” Intoned the Richmond Sentinel: “Vigilance, vigilance, more vigilance, is the lesson taught us by the Brandy surprise. Let all learn it, from the Major General down to the picket.” Presciently, General Hooker’s chief of staff, Major General Daniel Butterfield, warns Washington that such public criticism will doubtless require Stuart “to do something to retrieve his reputation.”

But for the present, Stuart has to content himself with the hard, thankless job of preventing Pleasonton’s cavalry from learning what the Confederate infantry is doing west of the Blue Ridge. Through the 21st a series of vicious little cavalry skirmishes erupt on the Loudoun Valley roads leading westward to the Blue Ridge gaps. The fighting begins at 4 pm when General Judson Kilpatrick’s brigade runs into Colonel Thomas Munford’s Confederates astride the Little River Turnpike near the village of Aldie. The impetuous Kilpatrick commits his regiments piecemeal and nearly meets with disaster. Firing from the crest of a haystack-crowned ridge, a dismounted squadron of the 5th Virginia Cavalry blunts charge after charge. When Kilpatrick sends the 1st Massachusetts galloping in a flank attack, the regiment is ambushed in a narrow sunken road and loses nearly half of its men. It is 7 pm before the outnumbered Confederate cavalrymen withdraw. Kilpatrick is supposed to rendezvous with Colonel Alfred Duffié’s 1st Rhode Island at Middleburg, five miles west of Aldie. But Kilpatrick fails to do so, and when Duffié arrives at Middleburg he is surrounded by three Confederate brigades. Not until early tomorrow morning will Duffié be able to cut his way out of the trap. He loses 214 of his 300 men.

As Lee’s movement in Virginia and into Maryland continues, there are skirmishes at Catocin Creek and Point of Rocks, Maryland.

In the Vicksburg area the siege continues. Federals are constantly annoyed by attacks on transports and other vessels in the Mississippi, such as one today near Commerce, Mississippi.

In Missouri fighting erupts near Westport and Wellington; in Tennessee at Wartburg near Montgomery. In North Carolina Yankees scout from Rocky Run to Dover and Core Creek. For five days a Federal expedition operates from Pocahontas, Tennessee, toward Pontotoc, Mississippi.
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June 18, Thursday

Whatever personal problems Grant is wrestling with due to the boredom of the siege of Vicksburg, he manages to clear up a problem among his staff that has been hanging over the army since last autumn. General John A. McClernand is still treating the war as a showcase for his ambitions. He has missed no opportunity to claim credit for himself, warranted or not, and his posturing and near-insubordination has earned him powerful enemies throughout Grant’s army. McClernand is suspected of antedating letters to make it appear tha the successful ideas of others were originally his. Grant has been tempted to remove McClernand more than once, and now McClernand gives him the opportunity he needs.

One of General Sherman’s division commanders shows him a story in the Memphis Evening Bulletin that quotes a congratulatory general order McClernand distributed to his troops following the assault of May 22nd. In this document McClernand takes full credit for the initial achievements that day, and implies that his corps would have carried the Confederate fortifications had it not been for the failure of McPherson and Sherman to give him adequate support. Sherman is outraged. McClernand’s proclamation, he tells Grant, not only does an injustice to the rest of the troops in Grant’s army, but is “an effusion of vain-glory and hypocrisy.” McPherson, too, protests angrily, declaring that McClernand’s order is a self-serving political document intended “to impress the public mind with the magnificent strategy, superior tactics and brilliant deeds” of its author. McClernand has finally gone too far. Not only has he offended his fellow officers, he has published an official order without the knowledge of his commanding officer, a violation of Army regulations. Grant writes a letter relieving McClernand from command of his corps and sending him back to Illinois to awat further instructions. Colonel Wilson has the satisfaction of delivering the order to McClernand personally. He puts on his best uniform, arrives at McClernand’s headquarters at 2 am and demands to see the general. McClernand must have guessed what is coming: Wilson finds him seated at the field desk in his tent, wearing his dress uniform. McClernand reads the paper Wilson hands him and exclaims, “Well, sir! I am relieved!” Then he looks up, doubtless catches the triumphant glint in Wilson’s eyes, and rises to the occasion with a pun: “By God, sir, we are both relieved!” he is replaced by a tough old Regular, Major General E.O.C. Ord, creating more peace and cooperation in Grant’s official family.

Other action in Mississippi involves skirmishing at Coldwater Bridge and Belmont, and an affair at Birdsong Ferry on the Big Black River.

Since their victories at Winchester on the 13th and 14th, the long, undulating gray lines of General Ewell’s corps have moved north, crossing the Potomac near Shepherdstown. Spirits are high, especially among the soldiers from Maryland. When General George (Mayland) Steuart reaches the far bank, he leaps form his horse, kisses the ground, and stands on his head in joy.

In Virginia Lee reports that his three corps are continuing their northward advance and that Stuart’s cavalry holds the approaches to the Blue Ridge. There is skirmishing near Aldie.

As for General Hooker, he seems in a fog. “He acts like a man without a plan,” complains one of his staff officers, “and is entirely at a loss what to do, or how to match the enemy, or counteract his movements.” After Brandy Station, Hooker has begun to slide his army to the northwest, and by now it is spread between Manassas and Leesburg, near the Potomac. There it will remain for almost a week, until most of Lee’s army has moved north through Maryland.

Federals scout on the Peninsula of Virginia. Skirmishes break out on Edisto Island, South Carolina; near Rocheport, Missouri; and at Plaquemine, Louisiana. A two-day Union scout operates on the Big and Little Coal rivers of West Virginia.
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June 19, Friday

General Ewell sends his lead division on up the Cumberland Valley toward Chambersburg, twenty miles beyond the Maryland-Pennsylvania border.

Longstreet’s troops cross the Blue Ridge through Ashby’s and Snicker’s Gaps and enter the Shenandoah Valley. Longstreet intends to turn north toward the Potomac, but Lee orders him back into the mountain passes. Jeb Stuart is having trouble preventing the Federal cavalry from breaking through his screen east of the Blue Ridge. Longstreet will have to help plug the mountain gaps until A.P. Hill, who is following the route previously taken by Ewell, can make his way through the Shenandoah Valley. Jeb Stuart’s men withdraw to a ridge west of Middleburg and meet the attack of General David Gregg’s Federal division. All day long dismounted skirmishers blaze away as horse-artillery shells skriek overhead. In the late afternoon Stuart falls back to the next ridge, and Gregg calls off the pursuit.

Otherwise events fall into the usual pattern of siege at Vicksburg. Nearby, fighting erupts on the Coldwater near Hernando, Mississippi, and at Panola, Mississippi. There is Confederate raiding on Bayou Goula, Louisiana; an affair at Lenoir’s Station and skirmishing near Knoxville and at Triune, Tennessee, also marked the day.

On the Vicksburg siege lines most evenings the sharpshooters cease firing at dusk. Truces are made, “Johnny Reb and Jonathon Fed had many a set-to to see who could say the funniest things, or who could outwit the other in a trade, which generally ended by a warning cry, ‘going to shoot, Johhny’.”
#15177387
June 20, Saturday

Confederate Secretary of War James Seddon tries again to convince General Johnston to attack General Grant’s army besieging Vicksburg. “Rely upon it,” he writes Johnston, “the eyes and hopes of the whole Confederacy are upon you, with the full confidence that you will act, and with the sentiment that it were better to fail nobly daring than, through prudence even, to be inactive.” When the campaign for Vicksburg began, Johnston had been one of the most admired generals in the South. But weeks of inaction have eroded his popularity, and a sharp note of criticism creeps into newspaper assessments of this commander. “He has done no more,” complains the Richmond Sentinel, “than to sit by and see Vicksburg fall and send in the news.” A reporter from the Mobile Register writes acidly that Johnston is “fighting Grant daily by giving him ‘a terrible letting alone’.” And still the ailing Johnston waits and worries.

West Virginia officially takes its place in the Union as the thirty-fifth state by virtue of a presidential proclamation.

A driving rainstorm halts the fighting between Confederate and Federal cavalry along the Blue Ridge passes, but skirmishing occurs at Middletown, Maryland; another at Diascund Bridge, Virginia; and one involves Amerinds near Government Springs, Utah Territory. Federal scouts probe for three days from Waynesville, Missouri. At La Fourche Crossing, Louisiana, Federals repulse Confederate attacks in two days of spirited fighting. There is an especially heavy six-hour Union bombardment by both army and navy guns at Vicksburg.

In Baltimore breastworks are being erected north and west of the city as a precaution against Confederate raids. At Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, the owner of the Union Hotel blurs his sign with brown paint.
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June 21, Sunday

Relatively heavy fighting continues along the fringes of Lee’s advance northward, with action near Gainesville, at Haymarket Thoroughfare Gap, Virginia, and at Frederick, Maryland. Farther northeast, General Pleasonton pushes Stuart eight miles west to Upperville, at the foot of the Blue Ridge. There Stuart turns and stands in an attempt to cover his line of retreat through Ashby’s Gap. East of the town, Gregg’s division is checked by General Wade Hampton’s Confederates in a saber-swinging melee, while a mile north of town Union General John Buford’s charging troopers, slowed by stone walls and ditches, are halted by General William “Grumble” Jones’s men. The Federals soon renew their attacks, however, forcing Stuart back through Upperville. At 6 pm Stuart retreats into Ashby’s Gap, covered by an infantry brigade posted at the summit. Content to rest on his laurels, Pleasonton goes into camp for the night. In five days of fighting, 613 Federal and 510 Confederate troopers have been killed, wounded, and captured. Pleasonton has failed to pinpoint Lee’s army. Even so, the battles in the Loudoun Valley bolsters the confidence that the Federal cavalry recently found at Brandy Station. “Around our flickering fires the bold troopers gave vent to many a yarn,” one Federal soldier will later recall, “expressing their complete satisfaction at the defeat of Jeb Stuart’s Confederate riders hitherto considered invincible.”

In Mississippi fighting erupts at Hudsonville and on Helena Road; in Louisiana at Brashear City; in Tennessee at Powder Springs Gap; and in South Carolina on Dixon’s Island.

At Vicksburg a Confederate major says, “One day is like another in a besieged city—all you can hear is the rattle of the Enemy’s guns, with the sharp crack of the rifles of their sharp-shooters going from early dawn to dark and then at night the roaring of the terrible mortars is kept up sometimes all this time.”
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June 22, Monday

Jeb Stuart has cause for satisfaction in having prevented the enemy from penetrating his screen. But he has grander ideas, and he puts them before General Lee at the commander’s headquarters in the village of Paris. Lee has wanted the cavalry to accompany the infantry into Pennsylvania. But Stuart urges that he be allowed to harass Hooker, delaying the Federal army’s pursuit. Lee agrees, but he stipulates that as soon as Hooker crosses the Potomac, Stuart must take position on the right flank of the Confederate infantry. Lee also orders General Ewell to advance along a broad front, letting his “progress and directions” to be shaped by the “development of circumstances.” If the Pennsylvania capital of Harrisburg “comes within your means,” Lee adds, “capture it.”

In another day of lesser fighting, Confederates continue to move north in Maryland and Virginia, with skirmishes near Aldie and Dover, Virginia, and Greencastle, Pennsylvania. Around Vicksburg troops fight again on the Big Black River, at Jones’ Plantation near Birdsong Ferry, and at Hill’s Plantation near Bear Creek. A skirmish occurs at Powell Valley, Tennessee. Confederate raider Charles Read in Tacony captures five fishing schooners off New England, adding to his mounting record.
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June 23, Tuesday

Keenly aware of General Stuart’s propensity for the dramatic, today Lee puts his admonition in writing. Specifically, the document addresses itself to Stuart’s options “if General Hooker’s army remains inactive” south of the Potomac. In that case—and, presumably, only in that case—Stuart is told that he “would be able to judge whether you can pass around their army without hindrance, doing all the damage you can, and cross the river east of the mountains. In either case, after crossing the river, you must move on and feel the right of Ewell’s troops.” When the order reaches Stuart near Middleburg late this rainy night, he scarecely notices that the letter’s discretionary clause depends on Hooker’s continued inertia. Stuart gleefully reads it as permission to embark on an adventure that promises to make up for his embarrassment at Brandy Station.

Lee believes the Federals are preparing to cross the Potomac in Virginia, and he is right. Hooker is considering such a move as he gropes after the Confederates.

About the time of McClernand’s departure, all of Grant’s soldiers with coal-mining experience are ordered to report to Captain Andrew Hickenlooper, chief engineer of XVII Corps, and now they are turned to work digging a tunnel toward the Confederate entrenchments northeast of town.

At Brashear City, Louisiana, about a thousand Federals surrender after a Confederate attack. Other fighting includes action at Sibley and Papinsville, Missouri; Pawnee Agency, Nebraska Territory; a three-day Union raid on Brookhaven and a skirmish at Rock Creek, near Ellisville, Mississippi; and an affair with Amerinds at Cañon Station, Nevada Territory. Through the 28th a Federal expedition operates from Yorktown, Virginia, to the South Anna Bridge, and involves skirmishing.
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I’ll be posting late through Sunday, I’m on vacation and my internet access will be limited.

June 24, Wednesday

Union General in Chief Halleck is doubtless furious, but cannot have been surprised, that come June 21st, the date General Rosecrans promised to begin operations, the Army of the Cumberland remained in Murfreesboro. Then very early a wire arrives today in Washington: “The army begins to move at 3 o’clock this morning.” Suddenly Rosecrans’ hesitation and uncertainty ends, and this man of many excuses begins to act with boldness and confidence.

Rosecrans’ opponent, General Braxton Bragg, is one of the most thoroughly disliked men in the Confederacy. Lieutenant Colonel James A.L. Fremantle, a visiting British officer who meets many of the South’s generals, described Bragg in late spring this year as the “lest prepossessing of them: tall and stooped and bright-eyed, but with “a sickly, cadaverous, haggard appearance, rather plain features, bushy black eyebrows which unite in a tuft on the top of his nose, and a stubby iron-gray beard.” Bragg’s men resent their commander’s harsh discipline, his officers question his competence, and the general public despises his for his retreats. It is said that Bragg retreats whether he wins or loses; a Confederate joke has it that he will never get to heaven because the moment he is invited to enter he will fall back. Bragg’s failures at the battles of Perryville and Stones River have so disgusted his subordinates that they were in a state of virtual revolt and his staunch friend, President Davis, was on the verge of removing him from command. The crisis has passed, but the sourness remains. Bragg has no illusions about how he stands with his corps and division commanders: They have told him, almost to a man, that they have no confidence in him and that he ought to be replaced. His enlisted men think no better of their general. While riding near Tullahoma one day, Bragg asks a denim-clad man he sees on the road whether the fellow belongs to Bragg’s army. “Bragg’s got no army,” the man snaps back in reply. “He shot half of them himself in Kentucky, and the Yankees killed the other half of them up at Murfreesboro.” Thus it is a grim, irritable, contentious, and sickly man who is preparing for yet another encounter with the Federal Army of the Cumberland.

Bragg has prepared as best he can for the inevitable onslaught. Between his Duck River line and the Federals at Murfreesboro is a long ridge, extending southwest from the Cumberland Plateau. Four passes lead through this mountain barrier: Guy’s Gap on the far west, then Bellbuckle Gap, Liberty Gap, and Hoover’s Gap, farthest east. Hoover’s Gap runs through mountainous country containing side roads ill suited for troop movements. The other three gaps are easier to negotiate and lead directly toward Bragg’s lines. Bragg therefore has placed his strength to his left, deploying Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk’s corps, the largest, around Shelbyville in front of Guy’s and Bellbuckle Gaps. Lieutenant General William Joseph Hardee holds the right at Wartrace, eight miles east of Shelbyville, near Liberty Gap. It is also possible to approach Shelbyville from still farther west, by a roundabout route that avoids the ridge. Bragg is sure that such a move would appeal to Rosecrans, and so he has sent most of Forrest’s cavalry to range west of the ridge.

Rosecrans’ wire is actually slightly late, the first skirmishing occurred yesterday at Rover and Unionville, Tennessee. Now, as the Federal troops are marching en masse out of Murfreesboro, rain begins to fall. It will fall steadily for the next seventeen days—and “no Presbyterian rain, either,” one soldier will recall, “but a genuine Baptist downpour.” Roads will turn to quagmires. An artilleryman will say that the guns in his unit traveled not on the roads, but under them. The rain slows, but doesn’t halt, the Federal advance. The Federals seem to be everywhere at once. Rosecrans has devised an elaborate ruse in an effort to outsmart his opponent. He makes an initial assault on the Confederate left as Bragg has anticipated; Major General Davis S. Stanley’s cavalry sweeps around the end of the ridge and the Reserve Corps, commanded by Major General Gordon Granger, heads through Bellbuckle Gap down the road to Shelbyville. Away off to the Confederate right a lone Federal division is dispatched toward the town of McMinnville, so far to the east that is is beyond Hoover’s Gap. When Bragg learns of the new Federal movement, he thinks it clearly a feint intended to distract him from the main attack on Shelbyville. In fact, the advance on Shelbyville is the feint. And the single division far to the east is part of Rosecrans’ complicated deception: He intended Rosecrans to see it and take it for a decoy. But as Rosecrans has planned, the bulk of the Federal army is in motion not far behind this lone division. General Crittenden’s XXI Corps is to follow it for a distance, punch through Forrest’s cavalry screen up on the Cumberland Plateau, then drive south toward the town of Manchester, just eleven miles northeast of Tullahoma and well in the rear of the Confederate right. Meanwhile Major General George Henry Thomas with XIV Corps is to smash through Hoover’s Gap, down the road that leads directly to Manchester; and Major General Alexander McD. McCook’s XX Corps, after marching a short distance toward Shelbyville to embellish the deception, will head through Liberty Gap straight for Hardee at Wartrace. If everything works perfectly, Bragg’s entire army might be cut off from its base at Chattanooga.

Things for Rosecrans get off to a good start. McCook’s corps encounters fierce resistance at Liberty Gap from a division led by Major General Patrick Cleburne, one of the Confederacy’s finest soldiers and a man the Federals will get to know well in the coming days. it falls to General August Willich’s brigade to clear the Confederates from the gap, but his four regiments get nowhere against Cleburne’s men. Deciding that a frontal attack is useless, Willich sends his men on a flanking movement around the Confederate defenders. Reinforced with two more regiments, Willich’s troops claw their way up the mountain on either side of the pass and eventually outflank their enemy. Seeing the danger, Cleburne orders a retreat, and the gap falls to the Federals.

But the heroes of the Federal assault on the gaps are the 1,500 mounted infantrymen of Wilder’s brigade, who lead General Thomas’s corps down the main road toward Hoover’s Gap. Wilder’s inexperienced riders received orders in the predawn drizzle to trot into the gap, driving the enemy pickets ahead of them. then the troopers are to wait for infantry support before attacking the Confederate fortifications across the narrowest part of the gap. In fact, the Federal horsemen don’t trot—they gallop. As the enemy pickets flee before them, the men of Wilder’s brigade gather momentum. The advance is so swift that the Confederates have no time to organize any resistance. Before anyone quite knows it, Wilder’s men are ranging through the gap—at least ten perilous miles ahead of their infantry support. At this point, the Confederate forces begin to collect themselves. Brigadier General William B. Bate’s brigade, supported by that of Brigadier General Bushroad Johnson and three batteries of artillery, moves to intercept the Federals at the head of the gap. Encountering enemy shells, Wilder’s men dismount and forms a line of battle, supported by four guns of an Indiana battery. The gunners have kept up with the headlong race by galloping their horses; when at the last moment the animals give out, the gunners haul the guns into position by main force. Now it is the Confederates’ turn to attack; the outnumbered Federals grimly prepare to stave off the two brigades as best they can.

Throughout the rainy afternoon, Bate and Johnson try repeatedly to dislodge Wilder from his position in the hills at the head of the gap. Time after time they are thrown back. So heavy is the Federal fire that General Bate believes that he is facing a “vastly superior force.” Major Connolly of Wilder’s brigade will recall, “Our regiment lay on the hillside in mud and water, the rain pouring down in torrents, while each shell screamed so close to us as to make it seem that the next would tear us to pieces. Presently the enemy got near enough to us to make a charge on our battery, and on they came; our men are on their feet in an instant and a terrible fire from the Spencers causes the advancing regiment to reel and its colors fall to the ground.” The seven-shot Spencers carried by the Federal troops are earning the enduring respect of both sides.

Wilder is given a chance to withdraw. As Wilder will remember the incident, Major General Joseph J. Reynolds, his division commander, sends an adjutant to order Wilder to retire from his exposed position. Wilder refuses, insisting that he can hold on until Thomas’ full corps, still six miles away, arrives. The adjutant threatens to arrest Wilder but then leaves when the brigade commander vows to take full responsibility for his actions. They hold their ground with continual fighting until 7 pm, when they discover a battery coming up to their support as fast as the horses can run and a rousing cheer goes up. Wilder’s men realize that if the artillery is on hand, the infantry cannot be far behind. And sure enough, thirty minutes later two brigades of Reynolds’ infantrymen arrive, worn out from their long, fast march. Soon General Thomas, the much-admired corps commander—a massive, rugged West Pointer who in 26 months of hard fighting has never led his men in a retreat—arrives. He grabs Wilder’s hand and declares: “You have saved the lives of a thousand men by your gallant conduct today. I didn’t expect to get this gap for three days.”

By nightfall the fighting dies down. Remarkably, Federal casualties have been light, Wilder losing only fourteen killed and 47 wounded. But the Spencers have taken a heavy toll of Confederates: Bate as lost 23 percent of his force—146 men killed or wounded.

At his headquarters in Tullahoma this night, Braxton Bragg is still trying to figure out what is happening. Confederate cavalry is reporting heavy Federal concentrations on the road to Shelbyville; there is no news from any of the gaps on the right.

General Hooker, at Headquarters of the Army of the Potomac, writes Washington that he will send a corps or two across the Potomac, make Washington secure, and then strike Lee’s probable line of retreat. He asks for orders, since, he says, except in relation to his own army, “I don’t know whether I am standing on my head or feet.”

Early in the morning, General Stuart issues his orders. His two largest brigades—a total of about 3,000 men—will remain behind to guard the Blue Ridge passes, then protect the Confederate supply line as the infantry passes through Maryland on the way to Pennsylvania. But the three best brigades will assemble at Salem and prepare to move on.

The lead division of General Ewell’s corps, commanded by General Rodes, enters Chambersburg. Johnson’s division is following, and Early’s is pushing north on a parallel road ten miles to the east. This same day, Hill’s and Longstreet’s corps begin crossing the Potomac at Shepherdstown and Williamsport. The Confederates are moving fast; one solder writes that in a single day he has savored “breakfast in Virginia, whiskey in Maryland, and supper in Pennsylvania.” A skirmish breaks out at Sharpsburg, Maryland.

On the third front, the situation inside Vicksburg grows more and more serious; Federal shelling continues and the people suffer from lack of food and other supplies. With reinforcements, the Federal grip becomes even stronger.

Skirmishes flare at Mound Plantation and near Lake Providence, Louisiana, and at Bayou Boeuf Crossing and Chacahoula Station in western Louisiana.
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