- 04 Nov 2021 12:08
November 5, Thursday
Despite the two-to-one odds his army faces in its risky position within the constricting V of the rivers, General Lee awaits Meade’s advance with confidence and as much patience as his ingrained preference for the offensive will permit. “If I could get some shoes and clothes for the men, “he says, “I would save him the trouble.” In electing to stand on the line of the Rappahannock—shown in the past to be highly vulnerable at Kelly’s Ford, where the south bank is lower than the north—he has evolved a novel system of defense. Massing his troops in depth near the danger point, he has prepared to contest a crossing there only after the blue infantry has moved beyond the effective range of its artillery on the dominant north bank, and in furtherance of this plan (patterned, so far, after the one he used with such success at Fredericksburg, just short of eleven months ago) he maintains at Rappahannock Station, five miles upstream, a bridgehead on the far side of the river, fortified against assault by the labor-saving expedient of turning the old Federal works so they face north instead of south. A pontoon bridge near the site of the wrecked railroad span, safely beyond the reach of enemy batteries, makes possible a quick withdrawal or reinforcement of the troops who, by their presence, are in a position to divide Meade’s forces or attack his flank and rear in case he masses them for a downstream crossing. Ewell’s corps guards all these points, with Early in occupation of the tête-de-pont, Rodes in rear of Kelly’s Ford, and Johnson in reserve; Hill’s is upstream, beyond Rappahannock Station. For more than two weeks, since October 20th, Lee has waited in his Brandy headquarters for Meade’s arrival. Today his outpost scouts send word that blue reconnaissance patrols are probing at various points along the river.
Federals reduce the bombardment of Fort Sumter to slow, occasional firing.
Grant, at Chattanooga, hopes Sherman will arrive in time to allow the Federals to strike Bragg before Longstreet can attack Burnside. For Longstreet, as his men pack to move north today, he writes a note to General Simon Bolivar Buckner asking for any information the general can offer about the Knoxville area. Longstreet gloomily concludes in the note that “it was to be the fate of our army to wait until all good opportunities had passed, and then, in desperation, seize upon the least favorable movement.” The trains that are supposed to carry his men to Sweetwater, roughly midway between Chattanooga and Knoxville, fail to arrive. Longstreet, tired of waiting, starts his troops toward Knoxville on foot, hoping their transport will catch up with him.
As Longstreet starts toward Knoxville, the Lincoln Administration, having tried for weeks to get Burnside to abandon the place, now becomes determined to hold the town; and the Federal high command also grows deeply concerned about Burnside’s welfare. General Grant will write that his superiors “plied me with dispatches faster than ever, urging that something should be done for his relief.” Grant indeed tries something: He calls on General George Thomas to mount an attack on Bragg’s lines at Chattanooga, in the hope that it will cause Bragg to recall Longstreet. But Grant is told that the attack is impossible—there aren’t enough healthy horses left in Chattanooga to pull Thomas’ artillery. Grant can only encourage Burnside to hold fast until some way can be found to send him help. But Burnside responds with calm confidence. The Army of the Ohio is in no trouble, he assures Grant, and can hold out as long as its ammunition lasts. In fact, Burnside thinks he might be able to help Grant: By meeting Longstreet south of Knoxville, engaging the Confederates and giving ground slowly, he can protract the affair and keep Longstreet out of the forthcoming battle at Chattanooga. Grant is delighted and instantly accepts the suggestion. Burnside will leave a strong force behind to bolster the Knoxville defenses and set out with about 5,000 troops to meet Longstreet.
Mosby, the irrepressible Confederate raider, is active most of November in northern Virginia. Also in Virginia, near the main armies, a skirmish breaks out at Hartwood Church. Other fighting is at Neosho, Missouri; at Vermillionville, Louisiana; Mill Point, West Virginia; Loudon County, Moscow, and La Fayette, Tennessee; and Holly Springs, Mississippi.
Two Yankee vessels seize three blockade runners off the mouth of the Rio Grande, an example of the increasing effectiveness of the blockade. Three other runners are taken off Florida and South Carolina.
President Lincoln writes General Banks, commanding in Louisiana and Texas, of his disappointment that a constitutional government has not yet been set up in Louisiana and urges Banks to “lose no more time.” He emphasizes that such a government must “be for and not against” the slaves “on the question of their permanent freedom.”
Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.