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#15227349
May 14, Saturday

Outside Resaca, Georgia, this morning, General Sherman is so sleepy from his late night of planning that, riding toward the front, he stops to catnap. He has to reassure passing troops that see him lying slumped against a tree that he isn’t drunk. What Sherman plans is to press all along the line, at the same time sending one of McPherson’s divisions directly south to probe for a crossing of the Oostanaula River; having crossed, McPherson’s troops will then attempt to cut the railroad.

On the Federal left, John Schofield’s Army of the Ohio is assigned to pierce the Confederate defenses at the head of Camp Creek. Schofield, who arrived from the frontier war in Missouri the previous winter to assume command of the army, is 32 years old and a former roommate of McPherson’s at West Point. A physics professor at Washington University in St. Louis before the war, Schofield is short and plump and rather dowdy. But his men take a liking to him. Schofield’s little army includes many raw and undisciplined men from Kentucky and Tennessee. Its leadership also is largely unproved. Schofield, who himself is untried, fully trusts only one of his three division commanders, the capable Brigadier General Jacob D. Cox, and already has asked Sherman to replace Brigadier General Alvin P. Hovey, who he feels doesn’t adequately respond to orders. Schofield also has doubts about his other division commander, Brigadier General Henry M. Judah.

Shortly after noon, Schofield launches two divisions abreast against Major General Thomas C. Hindman’s Confederate division on the other side of Camp Creek; Cox attacks on the left and Judah on the right. They charge across an open field interspersed with dead trees. A roaring fire of artillery bursts from the enemy’s works on the margin of the woods on their front; shot and shell fall among the dead tree-tops and “crash down upon the moving columns like a shower of meteoric stones.” Cox’s division splashes across the shallow creek and captures part of Hindman’s first line of entrenchments about 1:30 pm. But within an hour, the attack founders against stronger fortifications a few hundred yards farther ahead, costing Cox most of his day’s toll of 562 casualties. Meanwhile, on Cox’s right, Judah’s division fares even worse. First, Judah gets his lines entangled with a division from the Army of the Cumberland that is meant to support him on the right. He doesn’t halt to reorganize his confused men, nor does he wait for the supporting troops to get into position. In great haste, Judah orders a charge across the 400-yard-wide valley of Camp Creek. This is open ground, and Hindman’s defenders, concealed beyond the far bank of the creek, rake it with nearly continuous fire that costs Judah more than 600 men. Only a handful of Judah’s troops get across the creek, and they have to seek shelter under its steep banks until darkness covers their withdrawal. For “incompetency displayed in handling his division”—some of his men think he’s drunk—Judah will soon be relieved of his command.

While Schofield is being repulsed, Confederate scouts notice an opening on the extreme Federal left. This position is occupied by Thomas’s IV Corps, having followed the Confederates south when they abandoned Dalton. Facing south, most of Howard’s troops have crowded right to link up with Schofield, leaving a division under Brigadier General David S. Stanley exposed on the left near the railroad. About 4 pm, the Confederates take advantage of this gap. Two of John Bell Hood’s divisions—strengthened by four brigades taken from the center and left of the Confederate line—slam into Stanley’s right flank. It is a “grand charge” and the enemy are driven hastily back from their entrenched position, “leaving knapsacks, haversacks, guns.” The sudden attack stampedes an Indiana regiment, leaving only an Indiana battery to try to plug the hole. Firing double-shotted canister from the crest of a knoll, the Indiana gunners gouge big gaps in the gray lines. But the Confederates press ahead on both sides of the knoll, threatening to envelop the guns. Only the timely arrival of Federal reinforcements prevents a breakthrough. Major General Alpheus William’s division marches at the double-quick over from the Army of the Cumberland in the center of the Federal line to rescue the threatened battery. Under withering new fire, the Confederate attack slows, then recedes around the base of the knoll. The Federal artillery are safe, at least for the time being.

Hood tries to regroup for another attack, but night falls and the fighting ends. Nevertheless, General Johnston is so pleased with Hood’s initial success that he orders him to renew the advance at dawn. Johnston hopes that Hood can turn the enemy left flank, then smash through to Snake Creek Gap, cut off the Federals from their supply wagons, and sever their line of retreat. The day’s events have left Johnston in high spirits—but not for long. Come night ominous reports reach the general from his left flank. First, he learns that, during the evening, part of McPherson’s army shifted south and without opposition has quietly occupied a hill that commands Johnston’s line of retreat from Resaca. Artillery on this hill would be capable of knocking out the railroad bridge and another span across the Oostanaula just south of town. Then, about 8 pm, comes alarming news from scouts that a Federal division has crossed the Oostanaula at Lay’s Ferry, six miles southwest of Resaca. The report is true enough—but misleading all the same.

In reality, General McPherson, following Sherman’s orders, has dispatched a division under Brigadier General Thomas Sweeny southward to get across the river and into the Confederate rear. Sweeny, a 43-year-old, one-armed Irishman who, according to a subordinate, speaks three languages—“English, Irish-American and profane”—had executed his mission well enough at the start of the afternoon. He ordered most of his division to demonstrate on the north bank of the river at Lay’s Ferry for the benefit of some Confederate cavalrymen on the south bank. Then, about 5 pm, Sweeny launched some troops from Ohio and Illinois regiments in five pontoon boats farther downstream. With about twenty men to the boat, the soldiers rowed across the river under a spattering of enemy fire and “with a bound and a yell and a volley” established a bridgehead on the south bank. They were scarcely across, however, when Sweeny received reports—erroneous, as it turned out—that a large Confederate force was crossing the river above Lay’s Ferry. Fearing that his division would be cut off, he called back the boats and withdrew.

Up in Resaca this night, Johnston knows only that the Federals have reached the south bank. Faced by this apparent danger to the south and by the threat of Federal artillery to his bridges just below Resaca, he issues a series of orders to prepare for the worst. He calls off the scheduled attack by Hood north of Resaca, and orders immediate construction of a pontoon bridge a mile upstream from Resaca, beyond the reach of McPherson’s guns. And he directs the division of Major William H.T. Walker, posted a few miles south of Resaca, to march westward toward Lay’s Ferry in hopes of heading off Sweeny’s Federals at Oostanaula.

Sherman is also busily making plans for tomorrow. He orders Sweeny’s division, reinforced by a division of cavalry, to return to the Oostanaula and cross it again. And he calls for a major push in the left center of the line, northwest of Resaca, near the mouth of Camp Creek, where Schofield’s little Army of the Ohio failed to make headway today.


East of Spotsylvania Court House, Virginia, the ordered assaults by the Federal V and VI Corps fail to occur. Darkness, confusion, weariness, and the ankle-deep slime left by rainstorms hindered their march, and by first light only the vanguard of Warren’s V Corps has arrived at their launch point. The advantage of surprise is now lost and the attacks are canceled. “The very heavy rains of the last 48 hours have made it almost impossible to move trains or artillery,” an impatient Grant reports to General Halleck in Washington. The roads are “so impassible,” he continues, “that little will be done until there is a change of weather.”


In the Shenandoah Valley, General Sigel has decided it is too dangerous to go further south than Woodstock. “If Breckinridge should advance against us,” he tells Washington bravely, “I will resist him at some convenient location.” But on learning of Boyd’s defeat, Sigel is seized by a sense of urgency. He orders Colonel Augustus Moor, commander of one of his two infantry brigades, to assemble a force of infantry, cavalry, and artillery from various commands—2,300 men in all, approximately one third of Sigel’s army—and make a reconnaissance. The order troubles Moor. Only one of his three regiments is from his own brigade. He asks for scouts, or a reliable map of the Valley, as he doesn’t have any knowledge of the place at all, but nobody can furnish either. Still, in seven hours Moor’s men march 21 miles with only a single, 10-minute rest. They camp just north of New Market.


General Beauregard arrives at Drewry’s Bluff at three am, after taking a roundabout route to avoid capture. He finds that the Federals have driven the defenders from sone of the outworks, south and west of Drewry’s, and now are consolidating their gains, obviously in preparation for an all-out assault that will open the way to Richmond. The high-spirited Creole, with his big sad bloodhound eyes and his hair brushed forward in lovelocks over his temples, doesn’t quail before this menace; he welcomes it as a chance to catch General Butler off balance and drop him with a counterpunch.

Though it comes at a rather awkward time, Ransom having detached two brigades two days ago to help fend off Sheridan, whose troopers had broken through the outer defenses north of the capital, Beauregard has a plan involving Grand Strategy which he hopes will provide him with all the soldiers needed to dispose of the threat to Richmond, not only from the south, but from the north as well: not only from Butler, that is, but also of Grant. For three years now the Hero of Sumter has specialized in providing on short notice various blueprints for total victory, simple in concept, large in scale, and characterized by daring. This one is no exception. In essence, the plan is for Lee to fall back on the capital, avoiding all but rearguard actions in the process, then send Beauregard 10,000 of his veterans, together with Ransom’s two detached brigades, as reinforcements to be used in cutting Butler off from his base and accomplishing his destruction; after which, Old Bory subsequently explains, “I would then move to attack Grant on his left flank and rear, while Lee attacks him in front.” He adds that he not only “felt sure of defeating Grant,” but is convinced that such a stroke would “probably open the way to Washington, where we might dictate Peace!!”

Thus Beauregard plans—at 3 o’clock in the morning. Wasting no time by putting the plan on paper, he outlines it verbally for a colonel on his staff and sends him at once to Richmond with instructions to pass it on without delay to the Commander in Chief. Davis isn’t available at that hour, but Bragg is. Having heard the proposal, he dresses and rides to Drewry’s for a conference with its author. Old Bory is waiting, and launches into a fervent plea for action. Though noncommittal, the grim-faced military adviser listens to further details of the plan and returns to the capital, having promised to lay the facts before the president as soon as possible. This he does: along with his objections, which are stringent. Not only does the scheme ignore the loss of the Shenandoah Valley and the Virginia Central Railroad, he declares, but “the retreat of General Lee, a distance of sixty miles, from the immediate front of a superior force with no less than 8000 of the enemy’s cavalry between him and the Chickahominy ... at least endangered the safety of his army if it did not involve its destruction.” Moreover, he says, such a concentration of troops beyond the James is quite unnecessary; Beauregard already has a force “ample for the purpose of crushing that under Butler, if promptly and vigorously used.” Davis agrees that the plan is neither practical not requisite, and in courtesy to the Louisiana general, as well as out of concern for his touchy pride, he rides out to Drewry’s Bluff to tell him so in person, in the gentlest possible terms.

Beauregard’s spirits droop; but only momentarily. They rebound at the President’s assurance that Ransom’s two brigades, having wound up their pursuit of Sheridan, will be ordered back across the James for a share in the attack, and Old Bory, savoring the prospect of belaboring the Beast who had tyrannized New Orleans, sets to work devising a plan for assailing him, first frontally, to put him in a state of shock, and then on the flanks and rear, so that, being “thus environed by three walls of fire, [Butler] could have no resource against substantial capture or destruction, except in an attempt at partial and hazardous escape westward, away from his base, trains, or supplies.” To accomplish this consummation, Beauregard’s first intention is to assamble all twelve infantry brigades at Drewry’s for the assault, but then he decides that, instead of waiting for the troops to arrive from Petersburg by a roundabout march to avoid the Federals on the turnpike, he will have Whiting move up to Port Walthall Junction and pitch into their rear when he hears the guns announce the opening of the attack on their front by the other ten brigades, four each under Hoke and Ransom and two in a reserve division under Brigadier general Alfred Colquitt, who commands one of the three brigades from Charleston. Notifying Whiting by messenger and the other three division chiefs in person, he sets dawn of May 16th as the jump-off hour.


Other skirmishing is at Wilson’s Landing on the Red River in Louisiana.

President Davis writes General Lee from Richmond, “Affairs here are critical …” meaning Butler’s operations against Drewry’s Bluff and Petersburg.
#15227581
May 15, Sunday

In the Shenandoah Valley, yesterday’s heat and humidity give way during the night to a pelting rain that will last well into the day. The downpour catches General Imboden sleeping in the open, alongside the Valley Turnpike, four miles south of the town. He is awakened about two hours before daybreak by General Breckinridge, who informs him that Breckinridge’s Confederate troops will reach that point before sunrise. Keenly aware that time is short, Breckinridge tries to get a quick sense of the terrain. He learns that the prospective battlefield is a small one, sharply delineated by natural features. Massanutten Mountain is less than two miles to the east, and a line of four hills just west of the pike extends one mile south and three and a half miles north of New Market. The North Fork of the Shenandoah angles in from the west and Smith’s Creek from the east, until the two rain-swollen streams converge at Mount Jackson a few miles to the north.

Working swiftly in the steady rain, Breckinridge forms a line of battle across the Valley Turnpike. He sends Gabriel Wharton’s brigade—augmented by two of Imboden’s dismounted cavalry regiments—to the left, across the southernmost of the four hills. He places two of John Echols’ regiments, from Virginia, astride the pike and holds the third, also from Virginia, in reserve alongside the VMI cadets. Imboden and the mounted 18th Virginia guard the low, marshy ground between the pike and Smith’s Creek.

With this accomplished by 8 am, Breckinridge orders Imboden to prod Moor’s line and try to draw an attack. But Moor refuses the bait. With General Sigel still in Woodstock and the rest of the Federal army strung out over the intervening twenty miles, Moor stays put and sends for help. Breckinridge prods harder, moving a number of his guns north to the next crest, Shirley’s Hill. Some of the fire from these guns fall short and hit the town. When the Federals still show no inclination to attack, Breckinridge orders his infantry forward onto Shirley’s Hill. If the Federals won’t move, Breckinridge will. But first he has a special assignment for Imboden. He tells the cavalryman to take the 18th Virginia and the horse artillery, ride to the east, circle behind the Federals, and destroy the Mount Jackson Bridge, thus cutting the Federals off from reinforcement—and severing their main avenue of retreat.

By this time Brigadier General Julius Stahel, Sigel’s cavalry commander, has arrived in New Market with the rest of the Federal troopers. Colonel Strother describes Stahel contemptuously as a Hungarian exile and a former dancing master: “A little fellow, rather insignificant, looking for all the world like a traveling clerk in dress and figure.” However, since he ranks Colonel Moor, Stahel takes command. Understrength and unsure when reinforcements will arrive, Stahel decides to fall back to New Market’s northern outskirts. He aligns his men between the pike and the crest of Manor’s Hill, north of Shirley’s Hill, with a battery on each flank. Shortly after 11 am, the Federals on Manor’s Hill sees movement on Shirley’s Hill. They are little concerned; as far as they know, they are still dealing with only Imboden’s cavalry. But then, a Federal gunner will recall, something odd happens to what he and his companions have thought is merely a fence across the top of Shirley’s Hill. It moves. Instead of fence rails, the Federals fnd themselves staring at a row of bayonets. “A cold chill runs down our backs,” the gunner will write of the experience. He and his comrades realize they are facing Breckinridge’s entire army—which now comes down the hill “like a swarm of bees.”

To offset the Federal guns pounding the slope of Shirley’s Hill, Breckinridge orders an unorthodox two-stage advance. The brigades of Echols and Wharton race pell-mell to the bottom of the defile between the hills, where the enemy guns cannot be depressed enough to reach them. After driving out the Federal skirmishers there, the Confederates pause to re-form their lines. The VMI cadets, however, don’t get the word to hurry. They march down the hill into the teeth of the Federal fire in parade-ground order, taking their first—and largely needless—casualties. Breckinridge gives his men half an hour to rest before making the charge up Manor’s Hill. Just then, around noon, General Sigel arrives on the field. Ever ready to call a retreat, he tries to persuade Moor and Stahel to fall back to Mount Jackson. When they resist, Sigel says without enthusiasm, “We may as well fight them today as any day.” With thirteen pieces of artillery firing in support, the Confederate line of battle begins a steady climb up Manor’s Hill. Demoralized by the bombardment and by the sight of the unexpectedly large attacking force, the Ohio regiment holding the center of Moor’s line gives way long before the enemy reaches it. The men on either side stand firm, but Sigel decides to pull back; four of his regiments aren’t yet up, and the enemy seems more numerous than he has anticipated. He orders his men to withdraw farther north, and Wharton’s Confederates, to their surprise, find themselves in sole possession of Manor’s Hill.

Sigel re-forms his men on Bushong’s Hill, named for the family whose home and orchard are situated atop it. He deploys two lines, thinking to slow the Confederate advance with the first line while he feeds arriving units into the second. The forward line—a regiment from Connecticut, the less-than-stalwart Ohio regiment, and Captain Albert von Kleiser’s battery—is deployed in the shallow depression between Manor’s and Bushong’s Hills. The main line forms up north of the Bushong house and orchard. Two other batteries hold the right on the hill’s crest. The infantry—including a Pennsylvania regiment that has just arrived on the field—extends to the pike and Stahel’s understrength cavalry sits east of the pike. Sigel’s errors are accumulating fast. His army actually outnumbers the Confederates, but his combat line is outnumbered by three to two. Thus, his advanced infantry line can be overlapped on both flanks by the attackers. He compounds that mistake by deploying his cavalry with its left in the air and with no room because of the difficult terrain to mount an effective charge.

Breckinridge pauses on Manor’s Hill to restore his formations and place his artillery; he masses ten of his thirteen guns ahead of his main line, east of the Valley Turnpike, facing Moor’s left and Stahel’s right. He takes a few minutes to ride along his lines, steadying the men with his commanding presence. Then, stationing himself near the forward guns, he orders the infantry to charge. The rain-soaked battle flags hang limply, and the men’s feet catch in the ankle-deep mud. A mild wind pushes thick clouds of acrid cannon smoke over the battlefield, obscuring some of the attackers. The hapless Ohio regiment fires a single volley at the Confederates and breaks for the rear. The Connecticut regiment and Kleiser’s battery, their left thus exposed, have no choice but to fall back as well. On come the Confederates, grimly closing with the main Federal body. As the tension mounts, a Federal regiment from West Virginia, in reserve to the rear, panicks and fires a volley into the backs of their comrades, wounding several of them. Meanwhile, Imboden and his cavalry, on their circuit around the Federal left, have worked their way through the woods on a rise east of Smith’s Creek. Suddenly they find themselves overlooking the left flank of Stahel’s cavalry. Just as Breckinridge launches his charge on Bushong’s Hill, Imboden orders his artillery to open fire on “acres of men and horses.” The effect on the enemy is magical. The first discharge of the guns throw the whole body of cavalry into confusion.

Then the tide of the battle unexpectedly begins to run against the Confederates. When Wharton’s men come within musket range of Sigel’s main line, just north of the Bushong house, their charge stalls. At the same time, Echols’ advance along the pike is halted by fire from Stahel’s troopers, who have recovered from Imboden’s surprise bombardment. For a few minutes the two armies stand face to face, shooting it out, neither side able to gain an advantage. Then disaster threatens the Confederate center. Von Kleiser’s battery blows a hole in Wharton’s line between two Virginia regiments. A staff officer gallops up to Breckinridge, shouting that the day will be lost if the Federals spot the gap and counterattack. Breckinridge thinks of extending his line, but his men are pinned down. His only available reserve are the VMI cadets. “Put the boys in,” he orders, “and may God forgive me for the order.” The cadets rise with a cheer and surge forward into the Federal shot and shell. Topping a slight rise in the ground that has shielded them, the yelling boys run toward the Bushong house, one after another of them going down under the Federal fire. One youngster claws at the grass in his death agony. Another rips the shirt from his chest to display his mortal wound to the sky as he topples backward into the mud. The cadets reach their objective, a rail fence north of the Bushong orchard. On command, the boys kneel, raise their dripping muskets, and fire a volley. The gap in the Confederate line is closed.

But Wharton’s brigade is still in peril because its right, now held by the cadets, remains exposed; Echols’ stalled line is several hundred yards to the rear. And now Stahel launches his 1,000 troopers in a charge against Echols’ infantrymen. Echols’ two Virginia regiments are ably commanded. One is led by Colonel George S. Patton, and Lieutenant Colonel Clarence Derrick heads the other. As the Federal cavalry thunder toward Derrick’s center, the two colonels quickly improvise a defense. The men on Derrick’s left and center jam themselves shoulder to shoulder into small squares from which they can fire outward in all directions; the right of Derrick’s line wheels inward to take the approaching cavalrymen with flanking fire. Patton’s men wheel in the opposite direction. The Federal troopers find themselves galloping into a deadly corridor with a closed end. Nor is that the worst of it. Imboden’s guns, in the woods across Smith’s Creek, have resumed firing on Stahel’s left. Breckinridge, grasping the situation, runs his guns forward along the pike and has them blaze away at Stahel’s right with canister. Unnerved by the ferocious artillery fire coming from two directions, the Federal cavalrymen reverse direction in midcharge and gallop for the rear.

Belatedly, Sigel tries to organize an infantry counterattack to block Wharton’s advancing troops. But in the excitement he lapses into German, and many of his shouted orders are incomprehensible to his American subordinates. By the time the Federal troops start moving forward it is too late. Wharton’s line has stabilized; Patton and Derrick have changed front to face the new threat; and Breckinridge has redirected his massed artillery. The men of the West Virginia regiment move out from Sigel’s center before the regiments on either flank are ready. They struggle forward for 100 yards, then break for the rear. To their left, a Pennsylvania regiment also begins retreating. Only the Massachusetts regiment on the Federal right doggedly presses forward, taking more than 200 casualties, almost half the regiment’s strength, in a few minutes. Colonel George D. Wells tries to order a retreat, but in the deafening roar of the guns his orders either aren’t heard or not heeded. In desperation, he runs forward, grabs the color-bearer, and bodily turns him around. Ironically, Wells begins his retreat just as the Virginia regiment he was advancing toward begins to fall back from the orchard fence, dismayed by the determined advance of the men from Massachusetts. But the Virginian regiment in reserve quickly comes up from its reserve position to bolster their fellow Virginians and together they regain the line to the left of the VMI cadets, who are stubbornly holding their ground.

Then, with no general order given—or possible, with the roar of battle now augmented by the renewed fury of the rainstorm—the entire Confederate line rises up and charges. The cadets drive into the gap between the Pennsylvania and Massachusetts regiments, punishing both units with enfilading fire. They advance so quickly that von Kleiser has to abandon one of his guns, and the cadets ensure their place in legend by capturing a field piece in their first battle. On the cadets’ left, the combined forces of the two Virginia regiments smash into the Massachusetts regiment, delivering such a concentrated fire that the Federal regiment’s color-bearer, mortally wounded by one bullet, is struck by three more before his body hits the ground. Sigel tries desperately to hold his men in place, but it is too late. His army disintegrates as the Confederates swarm over Bushong’s Hill. Sigel’s provost marshal, Lieutenant Colonel William Starr, tries valiantly to stop the Federal flight. A rifle ball kills the horse under him, and another horse he tries to mount panics and throws him; before he can mount a third, a squad of fleeing cavalrymen run him down.

Sigel’s army might have been destroyed but for the timely appearance of Captain Henry A. DuPont. Arriving from Mount Jackson with his single battery, DuPont hastily strings his guns along the pike by sections, with 500 yards between each pair of guns. The lead section is to fire until almost overrun, then dash to the rear of the line to wait for its turn to come again. DuPont’s men keep up a steady fire for four miles, winning precious time for Sigel’s retreating army. Afterwards, DuPont will bitterly recall: “I had to depend entirely upon myself and did not receive a single order, either directly or indirectly, from any military superior.”

The moment he sees the day is won, Breckinridge rides over to the cadets on Bushong’s Hill. By this time, the boys are not only exhausted but also wet, hungry, and many of them shoeless—they lost shoes and socks in the deep mud. “Well done, Virginians,” Breckinridge tells them proudly. “Well done, men.” Then he orders them to fall out. But the cadets have paid a high price for their moment of glory; ten of them have been killed and 47 wounded, almost one fourth of their number.

Breckinridge intends to bag Sigel’s entire army. But before he can begin the chase, Imboden rides up with frustrating news: he has been unable to recross Smith’s Creek and destroy the bridge at Mount Jackson. Thinking Sigel might try to make a stand at the river anyway, Breckinridge orders his men forward. But it isn’t to be. Earlier in the day, Sigel sent two of Moor’s Ohio regiments to Mount Jackson but forgot to order them up to New Market until too late. When Sigel meets them a little after 6 pm at Rude’s Hill, halfway between the two towns, he considers trying to hold the position. But he doesn’t have the heart for it. Instead, Sigel marches his men across the Shenandoah River and heads north, neglecting to leave a rearguard to prepare the bridge for burning and hold it until Captain DuPont’s battery can arrive. When DuPon and his weary men finally reach the bridge, they find it “absolutely deserted.” The furious DuPont has to waste precious time setting the wooden span on fire before following the retreating army.

South of the Mount Jackson Bridge, as evening falls, the victors celebrate so loudly that they can be heard for miles. The victory deserves its full-throated celebration. Breckinridge didn’t destroy Sigel’s army, but he has crippled it. At the cost of 43 Confederate dead, 474 wounded, and three missing, he has inflicted far greater losses on the Federals: 96 dead, 520 wounded, and 225 captured or missing. He has saved, for the time being at least, the principal source of rations for Robert E. Lee’s army—a fact underscored this very evening by a dispatch from General Lee to all quartermasters in Virginia: “Borrow all the corn you can from citizens and send me at once. If persons holding corn will not let you have it, impress it. I presume an impressment will not be necessary when the magnitude of the stake is thought of. Answer me at once what you can do.”


In Georgia, in the morning Schofield moves to the extreme Federal left to make room for Major General Joseph Hooker’s XX Corps of the Army of the Cumberland. Hooker, the well-known “Figinting Joe” who once led the Army of the Potomac, will make the attack supported by Howard’s IV Corps. Just before noon, Hooker’s troops move out to the east on a three-division front roughly parallel with the Dalton-Resaca road. The road runs between a series of north-south ridges, and the ridge just east of it is occupied by one of Hood’s divisions under Major General Carter L. Stevenson. At the angle where Stevenson’s line bends to the east, a point about three miles north of Resaca, a spur juts westward from the ridge. In an unfinished earthen fort on this heavily wooded knob, Captain Max Van Den Corput has emplaced his Georgia battery of four 12-pounder Napoleons. The fort stands about eighty yards in front of the Confederate main line in a commanding position where the guns can enfilate advancing Federals. Infantrymen with spades are still working on finishing the fort when Hooker’s marching troops reach the next ridge to the west. Sizing up the situation, Hooker instructs Major General Daniel Butterfield to take his division to seize the Confederate earthworks. His orders set in motion a furious little struggle during which, for those involved, the fate of the entire battle seems to hinge on the control of those four guns.

Butterfield’s 1st Brigade, under Brigadier General William T. Ward, spearheads the attack in column of regiments. In the lead is an Indiana regiment, 400 men who, despite nearly two years of service, have never been under fire. These Hoosiers are commanded by Colonel Benjamin Harrison, the 30-year-old grandson of the ninth US President, William Henry Harrison. Harrison leads his troops down the slope and into the open valley that separates the two ridges, waving his cap and shouting encouragement. The Hoosiers surge ahead, maintaining their lines in parade-ground order despite galling fire from the fort and from riflemen entrenched on the ridge. They cross the road and start up the wooded knob. Near the top, emerging from the dense underbrush, they run into a wall of lead. The Georgia gunners are firing canister, discharging their pieces virtually into the faces of the Federals—“so close to us as to blow the hats off our heads,” one private will write. The Federals flop to the ground, seeking shelter behind the earthen parapets of the fort’s outer ring, less than ten yards away. Then Harrison, noting that the Confederate infantry supporting the guns have fled to the rear, stands up and brandishes his sword in one hand and his pistol in the other. With a yell, the Hoosiers swarm into the fort. In the melee that follows, a few of the gunners flee of take refuge beneath their gun carriages. But most of them defiantly stick by their guns. Several artillerymen lash out with their ramrods and are bayoneted in return. Others fight with clubbed muskets and their fists. More Federal regiments rush into the fort and the issue is quickly settled. Of the 27 Georgians manning the guns, only five manage to escape. The others die or surrender. One cannoneer tries to surrender, but someone notices the words stitched on his coat sleeve—“Fort Pillow.” Enraged by this reference to the Tennessee post where Federal soldiers, black and white alike, were massacred last month, men of an Illinois regiment proceed to shoot and bayonet the Confederate to death.

The Federals have captured the fort, but their position is untenable. The fort is exposed to fire from the Confederate main line and is the target of angry gunners elsewhere. By now Harrison is leading the brigade, having replaced Ward, who has been wounded in the fighting. Harrison pulls the regiment back to the shelter of the Fort’s western parapets. His Hoosiers and remnants from other regiments in the brigade remain there all afternoon. The four guns stand silent in the open fort between the lines, surrounded by dead men in blue and gray, until after dark. Then some Federals dig away part of the parapet, attach the guns to ropes, and haul them down the slope.

The fight for the guns tends to overshadow more significant events taking place this Sunday afternoon. While Hooker’s advance bogs down, the Battle of Resaca is being settled elsewhere in rather routine fashion. Down at Lay’s Ferry, Thomas Sweeny gets his boats across the Oostanaula River. His division then lays a pontoon bridge and begins erecting earthworks on the south bank. William Walker’s Confederates arrive in the evening—to late. They fail to dislodge the Federals, who, when reinforced tomorrow morning, will be in a position to strike eastward at the rail line south of Resaca.

Once again, as at Dalton, Johnston has been outflanked and has to pull back. When night falls he begins the retreat from Resaca, using all three bridges over the Oostanaula. Fearing that Union artillery might start shelling the two bridges within its range, the Confederates take pains to cover the noise of withdrawal. Pickets stay in the lines and make a racket with rifle fire; artillerists lay green cornstalks over the bridges to muffle the rumble of gun carriages. By dawn, all Johnston’s men are safely across the bridges—burned behind them—and the general can rest easier. In the fighting at Resaca, he has suffered moderate casualties—about 2,600 killed, wounded, or captured. The Federals have lost about 3,500.


At Drewry’s Bluff, General Beauregard’s men have a full day to prepare for their attack on the Union troops under General Butler—if Butler will only cooperate by remaining where he is. He does just that, though more from ineptness than by design; an attack planned for today has to be called off when it turns out that he has provided so well for the defense of his newly won position that there are no troops left for the offensive. Butler is not greatly disturbed by this development, apparently having become inured to the fact that fumbling brings delay. For one thing, he has done well these past three days—especially by contrast with the preceding seven—and encountered only token opposition in occupying the outworks around Drewry’s. So has his cavalry, now astride the Southern line, tearing up sections of track. Back on the James, moreover, though the river is too shallow for the ironclads to proceed beyond City Point, the navy has been persuaded to lend a hand by pushing a few lighter-draft gunboats up to Chaffin’s for a duel with the batteries on that bluff. All this should give the rebels plenty to think about for the next day or so, Butler reasons; by which time he will be ready to hit them in earnest.

His two corps commanders, while considering themselves honor-barred from tendering any more “voluntary advice,” are by no means as confident that the Confederates will be willing to abide a waiting game. Smith, in fact—called “Baldy” from his cadet days when his hair began to thin, though he protests unavailingly nowadays that he still has more of it than do many who address him by this unwanted sobriquet—is so disturbed by what he takes to be signs of a pending assault on his position that he spends a good part of today—a Sunday—scavenging rebel telegraph wire along the turnpike and stringing it from stumps and bushes across his front, low to the ground to trip the unwary; “a devilish contrivance none but a Yankee could devise,” Richmond papers will presently say about this innovation which Burnside found useful in his defense of Knoxville six months ago. Smith hopes it will serve as well here on Butler’s right, though he runs out of wire before he reaches his flank brigade, nearest the James. He and Gillmore each have two divisions on line; his third is still at City Point, completely out of things, and one of Gillmore’s is posted in reserve, back down the pike.


In the Spotsylvania area the only fighting is a skirmish at Piney Branch Church. However, the Federals are changing their positions and reestablishing their main lines. The whole battle front moves more to the east and south of Spotsylvania; tactical maneuver temporarily replaces the fighting. Sheridan’s cavalry, frustrated in its efforts to reach Butler’s troops, recuperate at Haxall’s Landing on the James.

Shelby’s Confederates skirmish near Dardanelle, Arkansas; in West Virginia Federals scout from Beverly into Pocahontas, Webster, and Braxton counties. Confederates attack Mount Pleasant Landing, Louisiana; and skirmishes occur at Centre Star, Alabama; and Avoyelles or Marksville Prairie, on the Red River, in Louisiana.

President Davis calls to Virginia all troops he can from South Carolina, Georgia, and part of Florida. The President is particularly concerned by the threat to Drewry’s Bluff. He warns General Lee not to expose himself to the enemy for “The country could not bear the loss of you….”

President Lincoln seems confident after hearing news from the fronts.
#15227747
May 16, Monday

At Drewry’s Bluff, Virginia, the night has been dark, soggy with intermittent rain and a heavy fog that seems to thicken with the dawn, providing a curtain through which—true to Baldy Smith’s uncommunicated prediction—the Confederates come screaming and shooting and, as it turns out, tripping over the low-strung wire Smith set up across much of his front on the right yesterday, where the first blow falls. Along those hampered portions of the line, Smith will say, the attackers are “slaughtered like partridges.” But unfortunately for the boys in blue, as the next phase of the fight shows, there is no wire in front of Gillmore’s two divisions on the left; nor is there any in front of the brigade on the far right, where Beauregard is intent on unhinging the Union line, severing its connection with the river, and setting it up for the envelopment designed “to separate Butler from his base and capture his whole army, if possible.” Struck and scattered, the flank brigade loses five stands of colors and more than 400 prisoners, including its commander, and though the adjoining brigades and Smith’s other division stand fast behind their wire, inflicting heavy casualties on Ransom, Gillmore’s divisions give ground rapidly before an advance by Hoke, also losing one of their brigade commanders, along with a good many lesser captives and five guns. Confusion follows on both sides, due to the fog and the disjoined condition of the lines. Beauregard throws Colquitt in to plug the gap that develops between Hoke and Ransom, and Gillmore gets his reserve division up in time to stiffen the resistance his troops are able to offer after falling back.

By 10 am, after five hours of fighting, the battle has reached the pendulous climax Old Bory intends for Whiting to resolve when he comes up in the Union rear, as scheduled, to administer with his two brigades the rap that will shatter the blue mass intro westward-fleeing fragments, ready to be gathered up by the brigade of saber-swinging troopers he is bringing with him, up the railroad from the Junction. Two hours ago, a lull in the fighting allowed the sound of firing to come through from the south. It grew, then died away, which was taken to mean that Whiting had met with slight resistance and would soon be up. Since then nothing has been heard from him, though Beauregard has sent out couriers to find him somewhere down the pike, all bearing the same message: “Press on and press over everything in your front, and the day will be complete.”

None of the couriers find Whiting, for the simple yet scarcely credible reason that he is not there to be found. Not only is he not advancing, as ordered, from Port Walthall Junction; he has fallen back in a state of near collapse at the first threat of opposition, despite the protests of subordinates and Harvey Hill, who has reverted to his role of volunteer aide. Whiting is a brilliant engineer, whose talent made Wilmington’s Fort Fisher the Confederacy’s stoutest bastion and who had attained at West Point the highest scholastic average any cadet has ever scored. But the forty-year-old Mississippian is cursed with an imagination that conjures up lurid pictures of all the bloody consequences incaution might bring on. Intelligence can be a liability when it takes this form in a military man, and Chase Whiting is a case in point for the argument that a touch of stolidity, even stupidity, might be a useful component in the makeup of a field commander. In any event, wrought-up as he is from the strain of the past two lonely days at Petersburg, which he was convinced was about to be attacked by the superior blue force at City Point, he went into something resembling a trance when encountering sporadic resistance on the turnpike beyond Swift Creek, and ordered a precipitate return to the south bank. Dismayed, the two brigade chiefs had no choice but to obey. Hill, though he retired from Whiting’s presence in disgust, will later defend him from rumors that he is drunk or under the influence of narcotics. Whiting himself has a simpler explanation, that he gives after returning to Petersburg this evening. Berated by the two brigadiers, who cannot restrain their anger at having been denied a share in the battle today, he turns the command over to Hill, “deeming that harmony of action was to be preferred to any personal consideration, and feeling at the time—as, indeed, I had felt for twenty-four hours—physically unfit for action.”

Up at Drewry’s, the truth as to what is happening below lies well outside the realm of speculation. Expecting Whiting to appear at any moment on the far side of the field, Beauregard abstains from attempting a costly frontal assault, which might or might not be successful, to accomplish what he believes can be done at next to no cost by pressure from the rear. Jefferson Davis, who can seldom resist attending a battle whose guns are roaring within earshot, rides down from Richmond to share in the mystery and the waiting. “Ah, at last!” he says with a smile, shortly before 2 pm, when a burst of firing is heard from the direction of Whiting’s supposed advance. It dies away and doesn’t recur, however, and Beauregard regretfully concludes that it had been produced by an infantry attack. After another two hours of fruitless waiting and increased rersistance, the Creole general will report, “I reluctantly abandoned so much of my plan as contemplated more than a vigorous pursuit of Butler and driving him to his fortified base.... I therefore put the army in position for the night, and sent instructions to Whiting to join our right at the railroad in the morning.”

As it will turn out, no “driving” will be needed; General Butler drives himself. Badly confused by the day’s events—he has lost 390 killed, 2,380 wounded, and 1,390 missing, including two brigade commanders, for a total of 4,160, as compared to Beauregard’s 355 killed, 1,941 wounded, and 210 missing for 2,506—he orders a nighttime withdrawal to Bermuda Neck. “The troops having been on incessant duty for five days, three of which were in a rainstorm,” he will inform Washington, quite as if no battle had been fought, “I retired at leisure to within my on lines.”


At Mansura, Louisiana, Banks’s retreating Federals find Taylor’s valiant little army drawn up in a long, thin line across an open prairie, determined to oppose their further progress. Banks forms his larger force in a line facing them, and for almost four hours, while the men in the ranks watch each other, the two armies engage in an exchange of artillery fire. Then Banks orders A.J. Smith to advance, and Taylor quickly retires before the superior force. The van of the Union army arrives at Simsport on the wide Atchafalaya, across which lies safety. Again Lieutenant Colonel Bailey, the dam builder, demonstrates his ingenuity. At his suggestion, Admiral Porter’s transports are lashed side by side from one shore to the other, creaiting a bridge over the river. A plank roadway is laid across the ships’ bows to accommodate the artillery, cavalry, and wagons, and the army begins to cross.


Elsewhere there is more action than usual—an action at Big Bushes near Smoky Hill, Kansas; skirmishing at Dry Wood Creek, Missouri; and an Amerind affair at Spirit Lake, Minnesota; a skirmish on the Ashepoo River, South Carolina; and a skirmish at Pond Creek in Pike County, Kentucky. In addition, Federal expeditions operate from to Bloomfield and Pilot Knob, Missouri; and from Fort Craig, New Mexico Territory, to Fort Goodwin, Arizona Territory, against Amerinds. Union naval vessels duel with enemy shore batteries on the Mississippi near Ratliff’s Landing, Mississippi, part of the continuing small war on the river.
#15227791
Doug64 wrote:None of the couriers find Whiting, for the simple yet scarcely credible reason that he is not there to be found. Not only is he not advancing, as ordered, from Port Walthall Junction; he has fallen back in a state of near collapse at the first threat of opposition, despite the protests of subordinates and Harvey Hill, who has reverted to his role of volunteer aide. Whiting is a brilliant engineer, whose talent made Wilmington’s Fort Fisher the Confederacy’s stoutest bastion and who had attained at West Point the highest scholastic average any cadet has ever scored. But the forty-year-old Mississippian is cursed with an imagination that conjures up lurid pictures of all the bloody consequences incaution might bring on. Intelligence can be a liability when it takes this form in a military man, and Chase Whiting is a case in point for the argument that a touch of stolidity, even stupidity, might be a useful component in the makeup of a field commander. In any event, wrought-up as he is from the strain of the past two lonely days at Petersburg, which he was convinced was about to be attacked by the superior blue force at City Point, he went into something resembling a trance when encountering sporadic resistance on the turnpike beyond Swift Creek, and ordered a precipitate return to the south bank. Dismayed, the two brigade chiefs had no choice but to obey. Hill, though he retired from Whiting’s presence in disgust, will later defend him from rumors that he is drunk or under the influence of narcotics. Whiting himself has a simpler explanation, that he gives after returning to Petersburg this evening. Berated by the two brigadiers, who cannot restrain their anger at having been denied a share in the battle today, he turns the command over to Hill, “deeming that harmony of action was to be preferred to any personal consideration, and feeling at the time—as, indeed, I had felt for twenty-four hours—physically unfit for action.”

Indeed. As the Soviet film director Sergei Eisenstein was later to remark (somewhat ruefully, I would imagine), “A certain ineradicable amount of philistinism is absolutely necessary for a successful human life.” Whiting was a victim of his own lack of philistinism. He never should have been given field command, and he never should have sought it.
#15227811
Potemkin wrote:Indeed. As the Soviet film director Sergei Eisenstein was later to remark (somewhat ruefully, I would imagine), “A certain ineradicable amount of philistinism is absolutely necessary for a successful human life.” Whiting was a victim of his own lack of philistinism. He never should have been given field command, and he never should have sought it.

Yup, yesterday we had General Sigel for the North, and today General Whiting for the South. Then there’s people like Burnside, who are fine with field command so long as they aren’t promoted out of their comfort zone. Though to Burnside’s credit he knew when he was being pushed too high and did everything short of resign in an attempt to avoid it.
#15227924
May 17, Tuesday

In Georgia, General Johnston has been following the railroad south, while to the rear Wheeler’s cavalry keeps up a running skirmish with Sherman’s swiftly pursuing Federals. Unlike the rugged terrain around Resaca, the region south of the Oostanuala is gently rolling and mostly open country, and Johnston can’t immediately find a suitable place to take a stand. But tonight, at Adairsville, about fifteen miles south of Resaca, Johnston happens upon some intriguing topography—a fork in the road leading south. The main road veers southeast to Cassville, a small college town twelve miles distant. The other road follows the railroad ten miles south of Kingston before bending eastward to Cassville. Johnston think Cassville might be a good place to stage an ambush. He will send two thirds of his army, Polk’s and Hood’s corps, directly there. His third corps, under Hardee, will attempt to confuse the enemy by taking the road to Kingston. Sherman, Johnston reasons, will come to the fork at Adairsville and divide his army, taking both roads. Meanwhile, Hardee will hurry east from Kingston to join the rest of the army at Cassville. There, the reunited Confederates will overwhelm the isolated wing of the enemy.


At Spotsylvania the weather has changed at last, the rain ceasing yesterday. Today is very hot, and the earth is quickly drying. Meanwhile General Lee, as Grant knows from the interrogation of prisoners, has been shifting some of his units from the left of the Confederate line southward to his right in order to counter the Federal movements. Grant now thinks he sees an opportunity at last to break through Lee’s infuriating trenches. In strengthening his right, Grant reasons, Lee must necessarily have weakened his left. An attack there, on the already blood-soaked earthworks north of Spotsylvania, might encounter nothing but a thin gray line. Wright’s tired VI Corps is ordered to countermarch all the way from its new position on the Federal left to its old position on the right. Winfield Scott Hancock’s II Corps, now in reserve, is to join in the assault, scheduled for dawn tomorrow.


To the south, back within the sheltering arms of two rivers, General Butler busies himself with strengthening his three-mile line of entrenchments, followed by the victorious Confederates, who come up this morning and begin digging a three-mile line of their own, studded with guns confronting those in the Union works. Thus, after two weeks of fitful confusion, in the course of which the Federals have suffered just under 6,000 casualties to inflict about half as many, a stalemate is achieved. Butler’s Army of the James around Bermuda Hundred, again prevented from threatening Petersburg by geography, by Beauregard’s army, and by its own ineffectiveness, is pinned between the James on the north, the Appomatttox on the south, and the Confederates in front. A dangerous threat to Richmond has been stopped.


Skirmishing breaks out at Adairsville with action also at Rome, Georgia. An affair occurs at Madison Station, Alabama. In Arkansas Shelby’s Confederate raiders capture Dardanelle and in Louisiana skirmishing flares at Yellow Bayou and an action takes place at Moreauville. In Virginia Sheridan’s cavalry has left Haxall’s Landing on the James and headed north again, endeavoring to get back to Grant’s army.

The Federal Congress passes measures setting up what will become the postal money order system.
#15228072
May 18, Wednesday

Again, circumstances at Spotsylvania conspire against the Federals. The attack by Wright and Hancock, planned for first light to catch the Confederate army off guard, is slow getting started. Hours are lost while the advancing infantry cautiously occupy the original Confederate position at the Bloody Angle, then move on to the second line of defense the Confederates constructed in the Mule Shoe six days ago. There the Federals encounter not a thin gray line, but Richard Ewell’s stubborn veterans supported by 29 pieces of artillery. Around 8 am, the Confederate gunners can see the Federals in the abandoned works like fish in a barrel and gleefully begin shooting. The fight is over by 10 am. The Federals have lost approximately 2,000 men. “We found the enemy so strongly entrenched that even Grant thought it useless to knock our heads against a brick wall,” Meade comments irascibly in a letter to his wife. “We shall now try to maneuver again, so as to draw the enemy out of his strtonghold.”


Richmonders, meanwhile, exult in the thought of cock-eyed Butler snarling behind the bars of the cage General Beauregard’s army is building for his Army of the James, but Grant employs a different simile to describe the outcome of his well-laid plan for obliging Lee to fall back, in haste and probable disarray, to protect the threatened capital in his rear. Angered by the news from Bermuda Hundred, which reaches him hard on the heels of equally woeful accounts of what has happened to Banks and Sigel, up the Red River in Louisiana and at New Market in the Shenandoah Valley, he borrows a phrase from a staff engineer who he sends to look into the tactical situation beyond the James. Butler’s army, he presently reports, “was as completely shut off from further operations directly against Richmond as if it had been in a bottle strongly corked.”

As for Beauregard the corker, though he is proud of his victory and its outcome, he is by no means content. “We could and should have done more,” he says. “We could and should have captured Butler’s entire army.” Believing that this can still be done, he returns to his former proposal that he and Lee collaborate in disposing of the enemies before them, except that this time he reverses the order of their destruction. “The crisis demands prompt and decisive action,” he notifies Bragg this night, outlining a plan whereby he will detach 15,000 troops for a flank attack on Grant while Lee pulls back to the Chickahominy. Once Grant is whipped, then Lee will reinforce Beauregard for attending to Butler in much the same fashion. Admittedly the odds are long, but Old Bory considers the prize well worth the gamble, especially by contrast with what is likely to result from not trying at all. “Without such concentration,” he declares, “nothing decisive can be effected, and the picture presented is one of ultimate starvation.”


Fighting occurs at Foster’s Plantation and near City Point. Sheridan’s cavalry makes its way back during the Army of the Potomac from its resting places on the north side of the James.


Johnston’s Confederates carry out the planned movements from Adairsville, Georgia. The Federals react just as Johnston had hoped. Confronted by the two choices at the Adairsville road fork, Sherman sends most of Thomas’ troops to Kingston and Schofield’s little Army of the Ohio, augmented by Hooker’s corps, to Cassville. McPherson’s army, in the meantime, is marching south on a track about five miles west of Adairsville. One Federal division, that of Brigadier General Jefferson C. Davis, is even farther extended: It follows the Oostanaula down to Rome, about fifteen miles west of Kingston, and occupies that armaments center with only minor opposition.


“I regret very much that I could not have the pleasure of bringing you his hair,” Sturgis writes Sherman on his return to Tennessee from his pursuit of Forrest, “but he is too great a plunderer to fight anything like an equal force, and we have to be satisfied with driving him from the state. He may turn on your communications ... I rather think he will, but see no way to prevent it from this point and with this force.” In part this has a true aggressive ring, confirming the choice of Sturgis for his post as the chief of cavalry for General Washburn’s District of West Tennessee, but Sherman doesn’t enjoy being told there is no way to keep the raider off his life line. The farther he gets from his starting point, the more vital that supply line becomes, and the more exposed it is to depredation. Concerned lest Forrest give Washburn the slip, he wires orders for the West Tennessee commander to launch “a threatening movement from Memphis,” southeast into Mississippi, to prevent Forrest “from swinging over against my communications” in north Georgia or middle Tennessee. Sturgis is to have charge of the expedition, but Washburn himself will see to the preparations.


In Louisiana, ignoring their setback two days ago, Taylor’s units press the rearguard of the Federals retreating from Alexandria, until the combative Vermonter, General Mower, strikes back near Yellow Bayou. After hours of hard fighting during which the thickets catch fire and obscure the field in smoke, the Confederates again withdraw. Losses are heavy on both sides. Thomas Green’s original outfit, the 5th Texas Mounted Volunteers, which he first led into New Mexico with Sibley, comes out of the engagement with only seven men left.


In Alabama skirmishing breaks out at Fletcher’s Ferry and in Kentucky in Pike County and along the Wolf River. Other fighting includes a skirmish at Clarksville and an affair near Searcy, Arkansas. For several days Federals scout near Neosho and Carthage in Missouri.

President Davis expresses his disappointment to General Johnston over the withdrawal in Georgia.

The New York World and the Journal of Commerce publish a spurious proclamation from Lincoln calling for 300,000 more troops. The President believes it wicked and traitorous and orders the arrest of the editors, proprietors, and publishers, and the occupation of the offices by troops. However, the newsmen are released soon and the papers resume publication; the editors claim a fraud has been perpetrated upon them by a stock manipulator.
#15228266
May 19, Thursday

Eager as they are for a favorable omen, many Confederates have seen an almost mystical significance in the fact that Brackinridge’s victory on the 15th came on the first anniversary of Stonewall Jackson’s funeral. The Richmond newspapers have compared Breckinridge with the hero of the Valley Campaign two years ago, and the victor of New Market is being hailed as “the new Jackson, who has been sent to guard the Valley and redeem it from the occupation of the enemy.” But with the immediate threat to his lifeline repulsed, Lee cannot afford the luxury of leaving Breckinridge in the Valley. Earlier in the war, when the Federals have been driven back in the Shenandoah, they have spent several dazed months pondering what to do next. Assuming the pattern will hold, and much in need of a fighting general, Lee orders Breckinridge to join him at Hanover Junction. But this time the Valley will have no respite, for General Grant is imposing a faster tempo on the war. When chief of staff Henry W. Halleck suggests that the incompetent Sigel be replaced by Major General David Hunter, an aging but aggressive officer, Grant eagerly concurs. The transfer takes place today, the same day Breckinridge leaves the Valley.

General Hunter burns with inner rage. Grim and energetic, Hunter isually projects a tense quietude, but he is capable of erupting into sudden, violent fury. His advanced age—he will soon turn 62—have neither mellowed nor marked him. His hair is so black that many of his men are convinced he dyes it. During his long military career, his disputatious ways have kept him in constant turmoil. He is said to have killed two fellow officers in duels. Once Hunter went so far as to challenge his commanding officer, and for that offense he was tried by court martial and sentenced to be dismissed from the service. Only the intervention of President John Quincy Adams saved his career.

Hunter has become a bitter opponent of slavery, and on this issue he focuses all his toxic anger. Although he is a member of a prominent Virginia family, he has declared that the participation of Virginians in suppressing John Brown’s raid on the US Armory at Harpers Ferry five years ago justifies the destruction of the state. Posted to Kansas in 1860, Hunter ignored the usual restraints on Army officers and involved himself deeply in the bitter political debates raging there, even corresponding with presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln. After the election of 1860, Hunter was invited to accompany the President-elect on his journey to Washington. As a result of that intimacy, Hunter felt free to refer his military problems directly to Lincoln. After recovering from a wound received at Bull Run, Hunter was promoted to major general and sent to the Department of the West. When the department commander, Major General John C. Fremont, was relieved (one of Fremont’s transgressions was to emancipate prematurely the slaves in his department), Hunter was put in charge. But within a few days, the department was split and Hunter was relegated to a lesser command back in Kansas. Hunter bitterly complained to Lincoln that he was being “humiliated and disgraced.” Hunter had misread Lincoln’s amiability. “It is difficult to answer so ugly a letter in a good temper,” Lincoln responded. “I am, as you intimate, losing much of the great confidence I placed in you, not from any act or omission of yours but from the flood of grumbling dispatches and letters I have seen from you since.” The order would stand, said Lincoln, and Hunter would be well advised to do his duty without further complaint: “You are adopting the best possible way to ruin yourself.”

Neither the letter from Lincoln nor the downfall of Fremont made any impression on Hunter. Later, upon receiving command of the Department of the South with headquarters at Federally occupied Hilton Head, South Carolina, he immediately took it upon himself to start freeing slaves. He soon announced the formation of the war’s first Black regiment—the 1st South Carolina Volunteers. An exasperated Lincoln countermanded Hunter’s emancipation orders and the general was recalled to Washington, where he has spent almost a year sitting on commissions and boards before being sent to the Shenandoah. The Confederate government, horrified at the prospect of armed Blacks, has declared Hunter an outlaw who, if captured, “shall not be regarded as a prisoner of war, but held in close confinement for execution as a felon.”

None of this has daunted Hunter. Last year he pressed Washington for permission to organize a “general arming of the negroes and a general destruction of all the property of the slaveholders in the South.” Hunter is “dominated by prejudices and antipathies so intense and so violent as to render him at times quite incapable of taking a fair and unbiased view of many military and political situations.” Despite his excesses, Hunter is an experienced, well-trained officer who looks especially good by comparison with his predecessor. “We can afford to lose such a battle as New Market,” concludes Colonel David Strother ruefully, “to get rid of such a mistake as Major General Sigel.”


General Beauregard’s latest suggested plan reaches President Davis’ desk this morning. He agrees that the future seems bleak, but he cannot see that the plan is one that would make it rosy. All the previous objections still obtain, particularly the danger to General Lee in falling back before a superior blue army reported to be receiving heavy reinforcements almost daily, while he himself gets none, and it is to this problem that Davis gives his attention in returning the rejected plan to Bragg. “If 15,000 men can be spared for the flank movement,” he notes, “certainly 10,000 may be sent to reinforce General Lee.”


Grant possesses no patent on guessing wrong. Today Lee, suspecting that Grant has withdrawn Hancock and Wright from their positions following the unsuccessful attack, determines to undertake a reconnaissance in force in the same area. He orders Ewell to advance his corps through the presumably weakened Union right, cross the Ni, and strike out in the direction of Fredericksburg with the objective of cutting the Federals’ line of communications and seizing their wagon trains. What Lee doesn’t know is that Grant’s right isn’t weak; it has just been reinforced by 7,500 fresh men, 6,000 of them pulled from the Heavy Artillery regiments that are defending Washington. These green troops, hastily assembled into a division commanded by Brigadier General Robert O. Tyler, arrives on the field just in time to meet Ewell’s attack.

Spearheaded by Brigadier General Stephen Ramseur’s brigade, Ewell’s troops surge across the fields of the Harris and Alsop farms only to be met by the countercharge of Tyler’s Heavy Artillerymen. A viscious battle ensues, the opposing ranks firing volleys into each other at point-blank range. Suddenly the first line of artillerymen gives way, Ramseur’s brigade crashing through them, firing as they come and wounding and killing at close range. As Ramseur’s men push on for the Fredericksburg Pike, they are caught in a flanking fire and forced to fall back. Ewell commits the remainder of Robert Rodes’s division and then brings up Gordon’s division, but the Federals have rallied and are now holding their ground. As Ewell gallops across the field, his horse is shot from under him, throwing the one-legged general to the ground and injuring him. With the commander temporarily out of action, the Confederate attack stalls. Tyler’s “paper-collar” soldiers are fighting with unexpected gallantry; one Maine artillery regiment withstands the assault of Gordon’s entire division. By 6 pm Federal reinforcements have begun arriving from II and V Corps, and Ewell is forced to retreat, leaving 900 casualties behind him. Tyler’s inexperienced artillerymen have lost 1,535 men, but they have bested the Confederate veterans.

With this encounter the fighting around Spotsylvania comes to an end. The postbattle inventory proves distressing for the Federals. Grant’s Army of the Potomac has suffered 18,399 casualties at Spotsylvania, plus another 17,666 in the Wilderness for a total of 36,065 since May 5th. About 4,000 more Federals have been sent back to Washington hospitals to recover from illnesses that have struck them during the campaign. Another 14,000 have either deserted or returned home when their enlistments expired. With Sheridan’s cavalry still on its long ride, Grant can count only 56,124 effectives today. Replacements available to fill the gaps in the tattered Federal battle line won’t total more than 12,000.

The news from the other eastern armies is even worse. With Sigel retreating down the Valley Breckinridge is able to spare two of his brigades, or 2,500 men, to reinforce Lee. Another entire division of 6,000 men are on their way to Lee from the James River, thanks to Beauregard’s success in bottling up General Butler there. These additions to Lee’s command make up for some of the losses—roughly 7,500 men in the Wilderness and 10,000 at Spotsylvania—that the Confederate army has suffered during the first weeks of May. More crippling to the effectiveness of the army has been the toll of commanders: Stuart is dead, Longstreet wounded, Ewell suffering from his injuries, and A.P. Hill sick with some mysterious malady. Tomorrow A.P. Hill will feel fit enough to resume command of his corps, but his pallor suggests that the decision might be premature. For all that, Lee’s army is still a formidable force—especially with the canny Lee in command.


This morning General Johnston prepares to spring his trap at Cassville, Georgia. For once, his army will enjoy numerical superiority. The rest of Polk’s troops from Mississippi have arrived, passing through Rome just before the Federals got there, and Johnston now has nearly 74,000 men. About two thirds of these troops are at Cassville, and Hardee is hurrying there from Kingston with the remaining corps. By contrast, the Federal wing now approaching Cassville under Schofield and Hooker consist of fewer than 35,000 men. Johnston is so confident he begins the day by issuing a ringing proclamation to the troops. The weary days of retreat are over, he announces: “I lead you to battle.” Cheers greet Johnston’s brave words as they are read to each regiment.

This is to be accomplished from front and flank. To meet the Federal advance head on, Polk’s corps is deployed across the Adairsville road northwest of Cassviille. About a mile to Polk’s right, meanwhile, Hood’s corps is to march north on a parallel road, then turn west and fall upon the left flank of the advancing Federals. But as Hood moves into position at mid-morning, chance intervenes. A detachment of Union cavalry has wandered several miles east, off the main line of Hooker’s march, and wind up on Hood’s right. An aide reports this unexpected presence to Hood, who realizes that the Federals will be behind him if he faces west according to plan. When word of this new development reaches Johnston, he refuses to believe it. His scouts have reported no such body of Federals. All the same, without sending an aide forward to verify the report, Johnston calls off Hood’s attack.

Johnston still hopes to salvage a victory at Cassville. He pulls back Hood and Polk and puts them on a wooded ridge; just southeast of town, where they are joined late in the afternoon by Hardee’s corps coming in from Kingston. The ridge, 140 feet high and more than two miles long, commands the open valley in which the town lies. Johnston will later remember the position as “the best that I saw occupied during the war.” But late in the afternoon, part of his new line comes under fire from Federal artillery as Sherman, rushing up from Kingston, begins massing his forces just north and west of Cassville. The Federal guns, situated on a ridge less than a mile west of the Confederates, lay a punishing enfilade fire on the right center of Johnston’s line.

Hood and Polk meet this night with Johnston and insist that this enfilade by enemy artillery fire will make it impossible for them to hold their ground. What they advise Johnston to do becomes another of the many controversies in the acrimonious postwar dispute that will develop between Hood and Johnston. Hood will write that he and Polk wanted to launch an attack from the ridge. Johnston will say the two favored retreat. He agreed, he will say, because their lack of confidence in the position “would inevitably be communicated to their troops” and thus be self-fulfilling. A day that began with stirring hopes of victory end with the bitter taste of another retreat—“a step I have regretted ever since,” Johnston will write. At midnight the Confederates start moving south again, following the railroad nine miles to Cartersville. Dissension is again causing trouble among the generals of Johnston’s forces in the West.

Also in Georgia, skirmishing takes place at Mill Springs Gap.


The tag end of the Red River Campaign occurs as the Federal army continues crossing the Atchafalaya on their retreat from Alexandria. Fayetteville, Arkansas, sees a skirmish; Shelby’s Confederate cavalry operates near Norristown, Arkansas. In Florida, through the 27th, there are small fights and other operations by both sides on the St. John’s River. Union forces reach Meadow Bluff, West Virginia, in their raid on the railroads of far southwestern Virginia. There is a skirmish at Dandridge, Tennessee. At Fort Sumter the guns fire on Federal small boats off the southwestern angle.

President Davis tells Lee of Beauregard’s success in driving back Butler’s forces and tells Lee of his own discretion about the future.

News of war and politics are temporarily eclipsed—last night Nathaniel Hawthorne died in his sleep at Plymouth, New Hampshire. One of the great New England school of writers, the sixty-year-old Hawthorne is recognized and honored as a classic American writer.
#15228465
May 20, Friday

It is a day of movement in Georgia and in Virginia. Johnston’s army crosses the Etowah River and continues a few miles farther, taking up positions around Allatoona Pass, where the railroad they’ve been following crosses the 1,000-foot-high Allatoona Mountains. Sherman fully expected to fight today and is surprised to find Johnston gone again. He doesn’t immediately pursue the Confederates across the Etowah but pauses “to replenish and fit up.” Colonel William W. Wright’s 2,000-man Railroad Construction Corps has rebuilt the burned bridges at Resaca in only three days, and today the first supply trains arrive at Kingston. Sherman writes his wife, Ellen, noting with pride that his campaign thus far has been “rapid, skillful and successful.” In just two weeks his armies have covered more than half the distance to Atlanta. Federal troops of Schofield’s army move into Cartersville after a skirmish at the Etowah. Other fighting occurs around Cartersville and at Allatonna Mills.


Despite the Federals’ terrible losses in Virginia, Grant gives no thought to abandoning the campaign. Instead he decides that he will return to his plan of sidestepping once again past the Confederates’ right flank. This time, perhaps, he will be able to catch Lee napping. Grant sits at his desk issuing orders for the army to move on south. First to move will be Hancock. His II Corps will step out in the direction of Milford Station, marching just east of the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac Railroad. The other Federal corps will follow. Since Hancock will have a head start and appear to be on an independent mission, perhaps Lee will be tempted to pitch into II Corps. In that case, Grant will fall upon Lee with his other three corps and defeat the outnumbered Confederates.


To the south side of the James a skirmish flares at Ware Bottom Church, not far from Bermuda Hundred, where Beauregard is effectively blocking Butler’s Federals. General Beauregard, learning that he is to reinforce Lee, protests mightily—it will deny him anything more than a subservient role in Richmond’s further deliverance from peril. His protests aren’t entirely without success. Not 10,000, but 6,000 are ordered detached today from the force that mans the entrenchments confronting and corking the bluecoats on Bermuda Neck. Pickett’s four brigades, plus one of the three sent up from Charleston in the course of the past week—all five had been scheduled to do so anyhow, before Butler’s appearance up the James—will leave tomorrow to join or rejoin the Army of Northern Virginia.


In Louisiana, Mower’s rearguard has caught up with the rest of General Banks’s retreating army, and by today the last of that army crosses the Atchafalaya River to safety. The disastrous campaign, which has cost the Union more than 8,000 men, nine ships, and 57 guns, is over. During their withdrawal from Alexandria, Federal soldiers have vented their feelings about the wasteful campaign by hooting and hissing Banks. At Simsport the Union commander is met by General Canby and leanrs of his new position under Canby in the newly enlarged Military Division of West Mississippi. Banks is relieved of field command and, returning to New Orleans, is relegated to political and administrative duties. The failure of his campaign ends Banks’s presidential aspirations; although next year, after he leaves the Army and returns to Massachusetts, he will again be elected to Congress.


Other action occus at Lamar, Missouri; Greenbrier River, West Virginia; Mayfield, Kentucky; Greenville, Mississippi; and Stony Point, Arkansas.

The departure of General Breckinridge from the Shenandoah Valley has left the Confederate forces in western Virginia with no commander and no instructions. It appears that the dour Brigadier General William E. (Grumble) Jones is the senior officer remaining. Today he fires off a waspish, one-line telegram to Richmond: “Must I assume command of Department of Western Virginia?”

President Lincoln orders that no person engaged in trade in accordance with the treasury regulations should be hindered or delayed by the Army or Navy. It is part of the continuing difficulties regarding trade in occupied territory or with the enemy.

President Davis writes Lee in detail about other fronts, but leaves movements in Virginia up to Lee.
#15228662
May 21, Saturday

Grant’s army in Virginia is shifting en masse to the east and south toward and around Guiney’s Station following Hancock’s advance. Lee isn’t taking the bait Grant was hoping for. As soon as he detects the Federal movement, he drops back to the south, ignoring Hancock and keeping his army between the Federals and Richmond. He swiftly decides that the nearest position of strength is behind the steeply banked North Anna River. If he entrenches there, he can cover the direct road to the capital as well as protect Hanover Junction, where the Virginia Central Railroad meets the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac line. It is at Hanover Junction that Lee’s army is to be joined by the two brigades Breckinridge has spared, the division sent by Beauregard, and another brigade from Richmond—8,500 men in all. There is no need for Lee to hurry. The Confederates closest to the junction—Ewell’s corps—have only 25 or so miles to march. Hancock, moving on inferior routes, has 34 miles to cover. Ewell’s corps steps off at midday, followed in the afternoon by Anderson’s men. Lee orders Hill to hold his corps in position through the night, unless it becomes clear that the last of the Federals have departed Spotsylvania Court House. At 8 am Lee tells his staff, “Come, gentlemen,” then mounts Traveller and heads south. He stops during the night for a two-hour rest beside Polecat Creek, then reumes his ride to the North Anna.

Grant is in the saddle as well. At Guiney’s Station he has his headquarters tents pitched on the lawn of a farm, then rides over to the house to explain his encampment. A woman there tells him that this is where Stonewall Jackson died. Grant says that he knew Jackson at West Point and in Mexico, and that he had appreciated the general’s abilities. Further, he says that he can “understand fully the admiration your people have for him.” The woman describes Jackson’s final hours and begins weeping. Taking his leave, Grant orders that her house and land go unharmed.

Combats break out at Guiney’s Station and at Stanard’s Mill. South of the James a skirmish takes place at Fort Powhatan but things quiet down on the front near Petersburg.


Elsewhere, a detachment from the Army of the Tennessee that has been on Banks’ Red River Campaign heads back to Vicksburg. There are three days of demonstrations on James Island near Charleston; an affair on the Blue River in Missouri; skirmishing at Pine Bluff in Arkansas; and a skirmish at Newtown, Virginia. Sheridan and his cavalry, coming north from the James, arrive at White House en route back to Grant.


Sherman regroups, repairing bridges and getting a brief breathing spell in the Cassville-Kingston-Cartersville area. Johnston is in position around Allatoona Pass. When Sherman resumes his advance, he intends to keep on flanking. From his days as an artillery lieutenant in the region twenty years before, he is aware of the natural strength of Johnston’s new position at Allatoona Pass. (“I knew more of Georgia than the rebels did,” he will brag after the war.) The pass is stronger than the “terrible door of death” at Rocky Face Ridge. Sherman decides to skirt the pass to the south by cutting loose from the railroad. He will load his wagons with twenty days’ supplies and march to a little crossroads town named Dallas, 22 miles south of his present field headquarters at Kingston and about fifteen miles southwest of Allatoona Pass. Then, having outflanked the Confederates and forced them to abandon their mountain stronghold, he intends to head east to rejoin the railroad at Marietta.


President Lincoln urges Western state governors to continue sending forward hundred-day troops to “sustain General Sherman’s lengthening lines….”
#15228847
May 22, Sunday

Lee arrives at North Anna after an all-night ride, just as Ewell’s column reaches the river at Chesterfield Bridge and begins taking a position from the bridge southward, covering the railroad crossing at Hanover Junction. Anderson comes up about noon and moves his two divisions into a line extending upstream about a mile and a half from Ewell’s left to Ox Ford. Lee inserts Breckinridge and his two brigades from the Shenandoah, already detraining at Hanover Junction, between Ewell and Anderson. He has beaten Grant into position, staying in front of him, but much nearer to Richmond.


Sherman rides south with his three armies across the Etowah, which he confidently calls “the Rubicon of Georgia.” Only one more river, the Chattahoochee, six miles from Atlanta, stands between him and the Gate City. “We are now all in motion like a vast hive of bees,” he wires his chief quartermaster back in Nashville, “and expect to swarm along the Chattahoochee in five days.” The bulk of the troops are to head toward Dallas, Georgia, thus going around Johnston’s left flank, posted in the Allatoona area near the vital Chattanooga-Atlanta railroad.


Otherwise it is a quiet day with an affair near Devall’s Bluff, Arkansas; a skirmish at Front Royal, Virginia; and another near Mount Pleasant, Mississippi. USS Stingaree is taken by Confederates off Brazos, Texas, and then recaptured.
#15228851
Sherman rides south with his three armies across the Etowah, which he confidently calls “the Rubicon of Georgia.” Only one more river, the Chattahoochee, six miles from Atlanta, stands between him and the Gate City. “We are now all in motion like a vast hive of bees,” he wires his chief quartermaster back in Nashville, “and expect to swarm along the Chattahoochee in five days.”

It is significant that Sherman addressed this to his chief quartermaster. As the saying has it, "Amateurs talk about tactics, but professionals study logistics." Sherman was all about the logistics.
#15228854
Potemkin wrote:It is significant that Sherman addressed this to his chief quartermaster. As the saying has it, "Amateurs talk about tactics, but professionals study logistics." Sherman was all about the logistics.


@Potemkin :

Sherman warned his Southern friends shortly before the war that they didn't know war, had no conception of what was important or what advantages their opponents had over them in any military conflict. General Sherman showed them, that's for sure
#15228857
@Potemkin, @annatar1914, I wouldn’t say that Sherman was all about logistics, all the supplies in the world won’t help you without officer and soldiers willing to take the hits and keep moving forward, and commanders both able to do that and think about how to do it. But yes, Sherman was definitely about logistics—the lengths he went to piling up supplies in south Tennessee and training special crews in rapid train track repairs before this campaign amply demonstrated that. But while Sherman was right that before the war his Southern friends had no conception of what they were getting into, neither really did he. No one did.
#15229051
May 23, Monday

In Virginia, when General Hill arrives at North Anna, his men extend Lee’s line a couple of miles southwestward beyond Ox Ford. It is a strong position, as Lee fully recognizes, the North Anna offering obstacles to any Federal maneuver. Just possibly, Lee thinks, he might catch Grant’s army awkwardly astride the river and deliver a crushing counterblow. For the time being, Lee wants to make sure that his troops can rest and recuperate from seventeen straight days of fighting and marching. The commanding general, Anderson is informed, “desires that you will place your troops in some good ground on this side of the Anna, where they can get rest and refresh themselves.” The Confederate commissary, unfortunately, isn’t up to the task of providing the refreshment Lee has in mind for his men. “We were allowed one pint of corn meal (not sifted) and one fourth of a pound of bacon for one day’s ration,” one hungry Confederate writes in his diary, adding that since “there was nothing in that country to steal, we were pretty badly off.”

Meanwhile, despite their exhaustion, the better-supplied Federal army is in a confident mood. The weather is fine, the roads are dry, and the troops are heading south once again. One of Hancock’s officers will write, “There was an idea that we were still advancing, that there was a plan that would be carried out successfully. When we reached the North Anna I think the general feeling was that we should roll on, like a wave, up to the very gates of Richmond.” As they march into the town of Bowling Green, Hancock’s infantrymen find slaves lining the road. The shops are closed and the townspeople are staring at the Federals from porches or from behind shuttered windows. As some of the soldiers break ranks to batter open the padlocked doors to the shops, taking sugar, tobacco, and other goods, they are mocked by the more daring of the White onlookers. “You’ll be coming back over these roads quicker than you are going now!” “Are you going to Richmond? You’ll all lay your bones in the ground before you get sight of it.”

The Army of the Potomac reaches the North Anna after a two-day march, approaching on a wide front. Hancock holds the Federal left on the east, General Burnside and his IX Corps are in the center, and Wright’s VI Corps a few miles farther west. The North Anna, to the eye of General Meade’s aide, Colonel Theodore Lyman, is “a pretty stream, running between high banks, so steep that they form almost a ravine, and, for the most part, heavily wooded with oak and tulip trees, very luxuriant.” Meade and Grant doubtless fail to share Lyman’s appreciation of the stream’s natural beauty. Here is Lee, once again strongly entrenched astride the main routes to Richmond, inviting attack. there is nothing for it, Grant concludes, but to strike Lee’s army head on and hope for a decisive battle that will end the bitter campaign.

The first Federal corps to reach the approaches to the North Anna this afternoon is Warren’s. Grant wastes no time, sending Warren’s vanguard upstream to Jericho Mills with orders to ford the North Anna and feel out Lee’s left flank. Next to come up is Hancock. Grant sends him and his two lead brigades straight ahead for Chesterfield Bridge. There, at 4 pm, they encounter opposition. Anderson has left part of Colonel John Henagan’s South Carolina brigade on the north side of the river behind an earthwork to guard the railroad bridge and the highway bridge. Kershaw’s and Field’s divisions line the far bank, supported by batteries of artillery. Hancock swiftly orders his own guns into action, and for two hours a fierce artillery duel rages. By 6 pm the Federal batteries have gained the upper hand, and Hancock orders General David Birney to deploy two brigades for a charge up a broad, easy slope toward Henagan’s defenses. Amid much noise and smoke—and a pelting rainstorm—Birney’s brigades roll over Henagan’s position, driving the Confederates “pell-mell across the stream with considerable loss to them.” Federal casualties total fewer than 200 men.

On the Federal right, Warren’s corps gets across the river at Jericho Ford without any opposition. But then his men run into trouble. A.P. Hill, holding the Confederate left, learns that the Federals are on his side of the North Anna, asvancing through the woods in unknown strength. At 4:30 pm Hill sends Major General Cadmus Wilcox’s division driving at the Federals, with Henry Heth’s division following. Wilcox strikes Warren’s right flank, where Brigadier General Lysander Cutler’s division is in the process of deploying. Almost immediately, Cutler’s division—which includes the famed Iron Brigade and the Pennsylvania Bucktails—gives way in panic and joins in a mad stampede for the river. Wilcox lacks the strength, however, to complete the Federal rout, and the still-ailing Hill doesn’t hurry Heth’s division forward fast enough to help out. Warren’s other two divisions stand firm, and Artillery Colonel Charles Wainwright brings forward three batteries that rake the charging Confederates with double-shotted canister. Wilcox’s attack stalls, and his men retreat into the dense woods. Across the battlefield, Warren’s troops dig in on the south side of the river.


In Georgia, Sherman’s entire army heads toward Dallas from the Cassville area, once again trying to turn Johnston’s left flank, and cross the Etowah River. Johnston tries to determine Sherman’s action from his contracted lines around Allatoona Pass.

Minor action in Georgia is recorded at Stilesborough. Elsewhere, fighting is limited to a skirmish at Grouse Creek, California, in the Humboldt River operations against Amerinds; and a three-day Federal scout from Warrensburg, Missouri. In Florida Confederates capture USS Columbine.


“Grumble” Jones receives a response from Richmond to his telegram sent three days ago. He is to not only assume responsibility for western Virginia, but east Tennessee as well in the new Department of Southwestern Virginia. It is conceded that there is no more caustic a personality in the Confederate Army than Jones. He has the look of an Old Testament prophet, with glittering eyes framed by a bushy beard below and a balding head above. Those who know him date his antisocial behavior to a tragic day in 1852 when, as a young Regular Army cavalry officer returning by ship from California, he had his bride of two months swept from his arms to her death during a storm at sea. Jones resigned from the Army five years later and returned to his native Washington County in southwestern Virginia. There he lived as a hermit farmer, known to his neighbors even then as Grumble.

When the war began he rode out of the hills to take command of a volunteer company called the Washington Mounted Rifles. Jones hammered his amateur troops into shape with endless drilling as he swore at them, shrieking with his high-pitched voice. Nevertheless, he earned their respect. One recruit, a young lawyer named John S. Mosby, admired Jones ability and will later write that the training was “a good course of discipline.” Paradoxically, Jones the stickler for drill is slovenly in appearance: he simply tacks his officer’s insignia on his ragged homespun coat, which he wears over a hickory shirt and bluejeans. His indifference to dress extends to that of his men; when they saw a shipment of uniforms he had obtained for them, “there was almost a mutiny. They were a sort of dun color and came from a penitentiary.” Yet Jones somehow got his recruits equipped with new Sharps breechloading carbines. Jones went on to command a cavalry company under the dashing and dandified Jeb Stuart, with whom he was utterly incompatible. They clashed repreatedly until, almost two years ago, Jones committed “a flagrant piece of official insolence.” He was found guilty of insubordination by a court martial and sent to western Virginia, away from Stuart. Not visibly affected by his troubles, Jones simply went on fighting, terrifying his enemies in battle, his men in camp. Jones is first of all a soldier. On learning of Stuart’s death, he was distraught. “By God, Martin,” he cried to his adjutant. “You know I had little love for Stuart and he had just as little for me. But that is the greatest loss this Army has ever sustained since the death of Jackson!” This same month Jones is being considered for promotion to major general, and an inspecting officer reports favorably: “Notwithstanding all his grumbling, he is a fine officer.”
#15229244
May 24, Tuesday

In the morning at North Anna, Virginia, the Federal situation appears promising at first glance. During the night the Confederates have fallen back from the Chesterfield Bridge, and Hancock is able to cross the river virtually unopposed. Wright, following Warren, has crossed unimpeded farther upstream. Word has from from Sheridan that the cavalry will shortly rejoin the Army of the Potomac after fifteen days of raiding.

Overlooked for the moment, however, is the key to Lee’s defense: Ox Ford. Here, for a half-mile stretch, the south bank of the North Anna is higher than the bank on the opposite side. On this high ground Lee has positioned half of Anderson’s corps and provided it with strong artillery support. Anderson’s men and the batteries can pour a murderour fire down on any Federal troops foolish enough to try to wade the stream around Ox Ford. General Burnside, whose IX Corps covers the ford, reports the situation to Grant and makes no attempt to attack. the rest of the position Lee has chosen appear on closer examination to be hardly less formidable. The other half of Anderson’s corps, along with Ewell’s, hold the high ground near Ox Ford, facing the Federal center. On the left, A.P. Hill’s corps is deployed along a line that runs southwest between Ox Ford and the Little River. The Confederates can fight from a compact, five-mile-long position that describes a V, the strongest point its apex, Ox Ford. Anchored on an unassailable center, the wings on the right and left can easily reinforce each other, shifting troops to buttress any spot that comes under attack.

Grant’s position, on the other hand, is decidedly awkward. To reinforce his left with his right, or vice versa, he would have to draw troops back across the North Anna, march them past the rear of Burnside’s corps at Ox Ford, and then have them cross the river again. The Army of the Potomac is essentially cut in two by the point of the Confederate wedge resting upon the river, with any attempt to force it out of place by striking on its sides made with little to no mutual support.

The Confederate battle line is perfect, but its architect is ill. Lee has been stricken by a severe case of diarrhea. During an illness the courtly commander is never himself, according to his staff; only when he is sick will Lee allow his temper to get out of hand, and now is one of those times. He borrows a carriage this morning and pays a visit to A.P. Hill. Lee knows that Hill had timidly sent only one division charging into Warren’s path yesterday, and he sharply speaks his mind. “Why did you not do as Jackson would have done—thrown your whole force upon these people and driven them back?” Hill accepts the rebuke and makes no reply. Lee then leaves him and his corps to carry on with their digging. As Lee’s condition worsens, he becomes increasingly impatient to attack. “We must strike them a blow—we must never let them pass us again—we must strike them a blow,” the ailing leader says. But his own health won’t permit him to direct an assault personally, and when he considers his staff he finds no one else who can handle it. Ewell is showing signs of physical collapse. Hill has demonstrated that he, too, is not up to a vigorous attack. And Anderson is spanking new to corps command. “We must destroy this Army of Grant’s before he gets to the James River,” Lee tells Jubal Early, who will soon assume command for the ailing Ewell. “If he gets there it will become a siege, and then it will be a mere question of time.”

A pair of Grant’s officers, meanwhile, decide to probe Lee’s defenses to see just what sort of odds the Federal army faces. One of them is Hancock, who wants to find out how many Confederates lie between his bridgehead and Hanover Junction to the south. At 3 pm he orders one of Brigadier General John Gibbon’s brigades to test the Confederate position. The brigade, led by Colonel Thomas Smyth, collides with entrenched troops from Ewell’s and Anderson’s corps. The combative Smyth soon calls for reinforcements. In short order, Gibbon’s entire division is locked in furious combat near the Doswell family plantation. By late afternoon Gibbon has succeeded in capturing a section of Ewell’s line that lies inside a thick patch of woods. But then Brigadier General Bryan Grimes’s Confederate brigade launches a counterattack that halts the Federal breakthrough and regains much of the lost ground at bayonet point. A heravy rain begins to fall, but it is almost midnight before the inconclusive fighting ends.

On the Federal right another—and wholly unauthorized—attack is launched this same afternoon by one of IX Corps’s brigades. This assault is headed by a brigadier general from New York named James H. Ledlie, who is obviously intoxicated. Dreaming of martial glory—and disobeying the orders of his division commander, General Thomas L. Crittenden, to remain on the defensive—Ledlie pushes his way across the North Anna near Ox Ford and orders his troops to attack a virtually impregnable part of A.P. Hill’s line. After charging through a hail of musketry, Ledlie’s men have almost reached the Confederate earthworks when suddenly every cannon flashes out a shower of grape and canister which shake the ground and sweep everything in front. Beneath the clouds of rising smoke the Confederate infantry can be seen rapidly advancing and closing in from the right and left. The Federals break and run for the river with General Nathaniel Harris’ Mississippi brigade at their heels. General Ledloe, raving with what one soldier euphemistically terms “sunstroke,” makes no attempt to rally his men. Instead he retreats to the banks of the North Anna as swiftly as the most panic-stricken of his soldiers. The entire affair would be ludicrous except for the fact that there are 220 soldiers killed, wounded, or missing—and that Ledlie’s superior unaccountably fail to punish him or to relieve him of command.

Thanks in part to Ledlie’s unauthorized attack, Federal casualties on the North Anna stand at 1,972, more than twice those suffered by the Confederates. Having seen two assaults so strongly opposed, Grant concludes that a concentrated push would be folly. In a wire to General Halleck, Grant proposes that he withdraw on the night of the 26th and proceed to sidle once again around Lee’s right. Despite the standoff, Grant feels there is ample reason for optimism. The fire, he believes, is fading from the Army of Northern Virginia. Given such strong works, why hasn’t Lee attacked him? “Lee’s army is really whipped,” he reports to Halleck. “The prisoners we now take show it, and the action of his army shows it unmistakably. A battle with them outside of intrenchments cannot be had. Our men feel that they have gained the morale over the enemy, and attack him with confidence. I may be mistaken, but I feel that our success over Lee’s army is already assured.”


In the Shenandoah Valley, a Federal wagon train is fired on near Newtown, eight miles south of Winchester. General Hunter sends a cavalry detachment to burn the house from which the shots came. He orders the troopers to announce a tough new policy: If the incident is repeated, “the commanding general will cause to be burned every rebel house within five miles of the place where the firing occurs.” Hunter’s so-called retaliation order is unusual, to say the least, in the Eastern Theater, where the armies of both sides are under orders to safeguard civilians and private property. “Indiscriminate marauding should be avoided,” Grant had told General Sigel. “Nothing should be taken not absolutely necessary for the troops, except when captured from an armed enemy.” Hunter feels justified in stretching these orders because he is convinced that the Confedetate cavalry leaders—John Mosby, Hanse McNeill, and Harry Gilmor—aren’t military officers at all but outlaws beyond the pale of civilized warfare, a conclusion that Captain DuPont, for one, calls “absolutely untenable.”


Sherman presses on from the Etowah toward Dallas. Skirmishing takes place at Cass Station, Cassville, Burnt Hickory or Huntsville, and near Dallas, Georgia. Much of the action involves Wheeler’s Confederate cavalry against Federal wagons in Sherman’s rear. Johnston, at Allatoona, realizes Sherman’s intent and orders his army toward Dallas by way of New Hope Church, to attempt to get in front of Sherman once more. But the New Hope-Dallas area is closer than ever to Atlanta, albeit Sherman is now quite a ways from his vital railroad supply line, and Johnston’s lines of communication are ever contracting.


Lesser action increases, with skirmishing near Nashville, Tennessee; at Holly Springs, Mississippi; near Little Rock, Arkansas; near Morganza, Louisiana; at Wilson’s Wharf, Virginia; and near Charles Town and Lewisburg, West Virginia. Confederate raiders under Colonel Colton Greene operate on the west bank of the Mississippi River for the next eleven days, engaging Federal steamers, harassing river shipping, and capturing two Northern vessels.
#15229470
May 25, Wednesday

The going for Sherman’s troops has not been as easy as Sherman hoped. So rough is the broken and unmapped terrain beyond the Etowah—“densely wooded and with few roads”—that it has taken two days just to get within striking distance of Dallas. And this morning, when Hooker’s corps reaches Dallas in the lead, an unpleasant surprise is waiting. As usual, Joseph Johnston has exercised what Sherman will later refer to as his “lynx-eyed watchfulness.” Alerted at Allatoona by his cavalry that Sherman is up to his old flanking tricks, Johnston has responded by sidestepping in a southwesterly direction with his entire army. His new line occupies some low wooded ridges, extending from a mile south of Dallas to a crossroads about four miles northeast of town at a Methodist meetinghouse called New Hope Church.

Around 10 am Joseph Hooker’s leading division, under Brigadier General John Geary, is advancing southeast on a road that leads to New Hope Church when it encounters two regiments of Alabama and Louisiana men. Geary drives the Confederates back but learns from prisoners that Hood’s entire corps is entrenched near the church a couple of miles down the road. Geary goes as far as a ridge opposite the one occupied by Hood, then halts to pile up log breastworks and wait for reinforcements. Sherman rides over to the sound of the firing and orders Hooker to attack. he waits with mounting impatience while Hooker brings up his two other divisions, which have been heading for Dallas on separate roads several miles apart. Sherman, who doean’t like Hooker anyway, doubts the reports that Hood’s whole force is already entrenched at the church. “I don’t see what they are waiting for,” Sherman growls to a staff officer. “There haven’t been twenty rebels there today.”

It is after 4 pm and dark thunderclouds are rolling in from the southwest when Hooker at last launches his attack. Geary’s troops are in the middle, flanked on the right by Daniel Butterfield’s division and on the left by that of Brigadier General Alpheus S. Williams. Williams, a 53-year-old veteran known to his men as “Pop,” is grinding away on an unlit cigar—a sure sign he expects a big fight. Moving forward through the dense underbrush of blackjack bushes, Williams gets his men across the valley and to the foot of the enemy ridge. Then, about fifty yards from the Confederate main line, the division is forced to halt in the face of what Williams will call the “most effective and murderous fire.” It seems to him that it comes from “all directions except the rear.” In no more than twenty minutes, 745 of about 7,500 men fall dead or wounded.

Geary and Butterfield are also having a hard time—partly because of the manner in which Hooker has deployed his corps. Because of the dense forest on his flanks, Hooker has ordered that each division advance in a column of brigades, one brigade behind another. But this formation exposes masses of men behind the front rank to fire that they cannot return for fear of hitting their comrades. It also means that the entire front of Hooker’s attacking force, which consists of nearly 20,000 men, is only three brigades wide—about the same width as the Confederate division directly confronting them.

That Confederate division, occupying the center of Hood’s line near the church, is commanded by Major General Alexander P. Stewart. A West Pointer and former mathematics professor, Stewart is a 42-year-old veteran of all the battles fought by the Army of Tennessee and is much admired by his men, who know him as a strict disciplinarian and refer to him as “Old Straight.” To support his three infantry brigades, Stewart has massed in his front line three batteries of artillery. These sixteen guns are able to concentrate their fire with devastating effect against the narrow front of the Federal advance. In less than three hours, the cannon unleash into the tightly packed Federal ranks no fewer than 1,560 rounds of shell and canister. But the Confederate batteries also suffer dearly because of their exposed position in the front line. 44 horses are hit, and 43 men are killed or wounded. Among the casualties are three courageous brothers in Captain Charles E. Fenner’s Louisiana Battery. The oldest is a rammer. He is shot down and the second brother takes his place. In a short time he too is shot down, and the third brother takes his place when shortly he is shot, but stands there until a comrade comes to relieve him. at the peak of the fighting, a courier rides up to Stewart with a message from the commanding general. Stewart is facing odds of more than three to one while Confederate divisions on either side of his position are practically idle. Johnston wants to know if Stewart needs help. “My own troops will hold the position,” replies Old Straight.

About 7 pm, the darkening sky finally erupts. Thunder and lightning outmatch the roar and flash of Stewart’s guns. Then come torrents of rain that literally drowns out the Battle of New Hope Church. As the firing subsides, one New Yorker, lying in a pool of water, jokingly offers to “swim over and tackle the Johnnies.” In Hooker’s corps, 1,665 soldiers have been killed or wounded today; Hood has lost not quite half that many men.


The Federal right south of the North Anna move forward only slightly, for Grant realizes that Lee’s position is too strong for further offensive action. The operations on the North Anna are a frustrated Federal advance, ably held off by the Confederates despite Lee’s illness. Total Union losses are 425; Confederate casualties aren’t clear.


Raiders are active: Colton Greene’s Confederates from the shore engage USS Curlew on the Mississippi and capture USS Lebanon. Shelby’s men skirmish with Federals at Buck Hoen, Arkansas. Elsewhere, fighting occurs at Cripple Creek, Woodbury Pike, Tennessee; Camp Finegan, and Jackson’s Bridge near Pensacola, Florida. The crew of a small boat fail to destroy CSS Abemarle near Plymouth, North Carolina. A joint Federal army-navy expedition up the Ashepo and South Edisto rivers, South Carolina, fails to break the Charleston-Savannah Railroad. A Federal expedition operates through July 12th from Fort Wingate, New Mexico Territory, to the Gila and San Carlos rivers, Arizona Territory.
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May 26, Thursday

Charles A. Dana, currently Assistant Secretary of War and traveling with Grant, is even more enthusiastic than his Union commander. “Rely upon it,” he says in a dispatch to the War Department, “the end is near as well as sure.”


Farther west, in the Shenandoah Valley, General Hunter has taken firm hold of a command that he has found to be “utterly demoralized and stampeded.” From his headquarters—an imposing stone house called Belle Grove, on an estate north of Strasburg—he has sent Sigel north to command the reserves guarding the B&O and ordered Brigadier General Crook to leave his West Virginia sanctuary and “move immediately on Staunton.” Hunter has also weeded Sigel’s cronies from his staff, appointing Strother chief of staff and making DuPont chief of artillery. He has tried but failed to replace Sigel’s two division commanders, Julius Stahel and Jeremiah Sullivan. now today, just five days after taking command, he marches the rejuvenated Army of the Shenandoah, now 8,500 strong, southward once again. Grant wants Hunter to join Crook and his 7,500 men and move against the rail hubs of Charlottesville and Lynchburg. General Halleck has relayed the instructions, telling Hunter to destroy the railroads “beyond the possibility of repair for weeks; then, either return to your original base or join Grant, via Gordonsville.”


At New Hope Church, Georgia, the rest of Sherman’s troops have come up during the night, and this morning slosh through the mud to take up positions parallel to the six-mile-long Confederate line. The nature of the terrain and Sherman’s own inclinations mean that there will be no large-scale attack. the loblolly pines grow “almost as closely as a canebrake,” and are “nearly impenetrable for man or horse.” By evening the two armies are very close to each other and entrenched. Sherman, having failed in yesterday’s assault and finding no apparent weakness elsewhere during heavy probes today, decides to seek out the enemy’s far-right flank and attempt to turn it.


Cavalry engagements occur at Decatur and Moulton, Alabama. In the Mississippi Valley an affair takes place on Lane’s Prairie, Maries County, Missouri. In South Carolina on the Ashepoo, US transport Boston is destroyed by her crew at Champan’s Fort, after being grounded and under Confederate fire. General John G. Foster assumes command of the Federal Department of the South. Montana Territory is formally created largely from Dakota Territory in the continued development of the Federal West.
#15230039
May 27, Friday

General Grant has his infantry columns on the move down the north bank of the North Anna before first light. He plans to swing wide to the southeast, keeping the North Anna and a confluent river, the Pamunkey, between him and Lee’s army. When he reaches the nearly abandoned port of Hanovertown on the Pamunkey, Grant will cross that river and hook to the southwest. Thus he hopes finally to turn Lee’s right flank and put the Army of the Potomac between the Confederates and Richmond. Hanovertown is only fifteen miles from Richmond. Moreover, says Grant in a telegram to Halleck, a crossing there “leaves us still where we can draw supplies.” Grant’s great, slow supply train is vulnerable to attack and an impediment to the movement of the army. To shorten the distance his wagons have to travel, he had moved his supply base after Spotsylvania from Belle Plain, on the lower Potomac, to Port Royal, on the Rappahannock. Then, on the day he gave up his North Anna thrust, he ordered supplies transferred to the small river port known as White House Landing, fifteen or so miles down the Pamunkey from Hanovertown. Sheridan’s Federal cavalry occupy Hanovertown with little opposition. Fighting, mainly by cavalry, erupts at Hanover Junction, Sexton’s Station, Mount Carmel Church, Dabney’s Ferry, Hanovertown, Little River, Pole Cat Creek, and Salem Church.

As the Army of the Potomac marches in two columns over narrow dusty roads, Lee too is on the move. Finding the enemy absent on his front this morning, he marches the Army of Northern Virginia eighteen miles south to Atlee’s Station on the Virginia Central, along the chord of the arc that Grant’s troops are inscribing. With only eighteen miles to cover—compared with the forty miles that lie ahead of Grant—Lee has his lead units at Atlee’s Station by this afternoon. As the rest of his three corps come up, he skillfully deploys them east of the station so that they block all approaches to Richmond from the Pamunkey. Lee is still racked with the instestinal disorder that is the scourge of his army, and today Richard Ewell succumbs to the same ailment. Lee has been concerned about Ewell’s health for some time, largely because the one-legged general won’t allow himself enough rest. Now prostrate, Ewell is offered indefinite leave, which he declines. Nonetheless, Lee makes him yield his command to Jubal Early. This means that all three army corps have changed commanders since the start of the campaign, although A.P. Hill has regained his command. Three of the army’s nine infantry divisions also have new leaders, as do fourteen of the 35 original brigades.


In the wake of Breckinridge’s departure from the Shenandoah Valley to join General Lee, General “Grumble” Jones finds himself facing a nightmarish reprise of the crisis of a few weeks ago. Today General John Imboden reports from New Market that General Hunter’s Federal army is advancing from Strasburg: “His cavalry outnumbers ours two to one, his infantry four to one, his artillery four to one. There is no point this side of Mount Crawford where I can successfully resist him.”


On the New Hope Church-Dallas line in Georgia, Sherman sends a force of about 14,000 Federals under the IV Corps commander, Oliver Howard, toward a grist mill known as Pickett’s Mill, about two miles northeast of New Hope Church. It is hard going, “through dense forests and the thickest jungle.” Generals Thomas J. Wood and Oliver Howard keep peering through their field glasses in search of the entrenchments on the enemy’s extreme right.

Finally, about 2:30 pm, Howard concludes that he has located the end of the enemy line near Pickett’s Mill. He deploys his forces to attack in a southeasterly direction. Brigadier General Richard W. Johnson’s division from the XIV Corps is to support the attack on the Federal left, and a brigade from the Army of the Ohio is to shield the right. Wood’s division is to spearhead the assault with the 1,500-man brigade of Brigadier General William B. Hazen in the lead. Hazen is 33, a veteran general who is quick to attack the enemy and just as eager to get embroiled in disputes with his superiors. “A synonym of insubordination,” a fellow brigadier says of him. “The best-hated man I knew,” remarks the future writer Ambrose Bierce, who has served him as a topographic officer, “a skillful soldier, a faithful friend and one of the most exasperating of men.” Hazen says nothing now, but he must be fuming at the clumsy Federal preparations. Howard has brought no artillery. He has worn out his men thrashing awkwardly through the woods looking for the Confederate flank. And now he takes two full hours to form for the attack in a column of brigades, the same narrow deployment that Hooker unwisely used at New Hope Church two days ago. Howard isn’t at all sure of himself this afternoon, and his uncertainty is revealed in a short note he sends his army commander, George Thomas, at 4:35 pm. “I am now turning the enemy’s right flank, I think.”

In fact, Howard has not reached the Confederate flank. What he perceives as the end of the enemy line is mearly a slight bend in it. The flank extends beyond Howard’s left and is covered by several hundred of Brigadier General John P. Kelly’s dismounted Confederate cavalrymen. And in front of Howard waits nearly 4,700 infantrymen of Patrick Cleburne’s division—regarded as the best in the Army of Tennessee—who had been moved there yesterday to extend Hood’s right. Cleburne knows the attack is coming. A reconnaissance by Brigadier General Daniel C. Govan’s brigade spotted the Federal movement this morning and has followed it by the sound of bugle calls and of blueclad hordes thrashing about in the thickets.

At 5 pm. Hazen begins his advance and almost immediately runs into Confederate skirmishers on his left—Kelly’s dismounted cavalrymen firing their carbines from behind heaps of little stones they have piled up. Pushing on, Hazen crosses a wide ravine and climbs a long slope studded with rock outcroppings. Deployed at the top under their distinctive blue battle flags are Cleburne’s three brigades: Govan’s Arkansas troops, Brigadier General Hiram B. Granbury’s Texans, and a brigade of Alabamians under Brigadier General Mark P. Lowrey. Part of the Confederate line is protected by rifle pits and log revetments, but some grayclads lie prone, protected only by rocks or folds in the ground. Hazen’s men, seeing their enemy without fortifications, spring forward shouting. Cleburne’s men, whose training has always emphasized rapid-fire marksmanship, open up at point-blank range. Their fire is augmented from the Confederate left by a pair of howitzers from Captain Thomas J. Key’s Arkansas Battery, which catches Hazen’s right in a murderous stream of case shot and canister. Hazen gets within twenty paces of Granbury’s line on the Confederate right, but no farther. Blueclad bodies begin to pile up. In a matter of 45 minutes, Hazen estimates, his brigade loses 500 men killed or wounded. Then, with their ammunition depleted, his men break and scurry toward the ravine about eighty yards behind them. As they regroup in the rear, Hazen’s men are in “bad humor.” They grumble that they have been “sold out”—not properly supported—by Johnston’s division on the left, which is held back by the Confederate cavalrymen, and by the brigade on the right, which failed to come up. Even worse, General Howard commits Wood’s two other brigades with agonizing slowness—at forty-minute intervals. In any case, Hazen’s men are already spent when the next brigade comes up.

This new wave of Federals, under Colonel William H. Gibson, marches against Cleburne’s wall of fire with even higher casualties and no better results—but not for lack of trying. The color-bearer of an Ohio regiment struggles to within fifteen paces of the Confederate line, plants the regimental flag, and falls dead. Ohioan after Ohioan—five in all—attempt to recover the flag, and each is felled before the sixth brings it back safely. Another of Gibson’s Ohio regiments sends more than 400 men into the battle and loses 203 of them. Shortly before dark, as Confederate artillery shells endanger the Federal rear, Howard sends in Wood’s remaining brigade just to hold the line. A shell fragment has already put one Union general, Richard Johnson, out of action with a severe wound in the side. Now, as Wood’s last brigade starts forward, a shell explodes near Howard. Howard, who suffered the loss of his right arm two years ago at Fair Oaks, Virginia, feels the impact and thinks for a moment that he has lost a leg. But when he summons the courage to look down, he sees that a fragment of the shell has merely ripped off the heel of his boot.

The firing gradually subsides after sundown. Over in the Confederate line, however, Granbury’s Texans note with distate that a number of Federals still hold out in the ravine in front of them. These Federals are “moving among the dead leaves on the ground, like hogs rooting for acorns.” At 10 pm, with their bayonets fixed, the Texans rush down into the pitch-black ravine—“yelling like all the devils from the lower regions had been turned loose.” They capture 232 Federals, about a third of whom are wounded.

All told, more than 1,600 Federals are lost in Howard’s abortive assault, whereas Confederate casualties number no more than 500. After the war, Ambrose Bierce will write that the Federal attack belongs to that class of events “foredoomed to oblivion”—officially forgotten by General Sherman, who omits all mention of Pickett’s Mill in both his official report and his voluminous personal memoirs.


Other fighting breaks out at Pond Springs, Alabama; Greenville, Mississippi; Cassville, Georgia; Shanghai, Missouri; and at Thomas’ House on the Trinity River, California. Confederate General Shelby assumes command of Southern troops north of the Arkansas River.
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May 28, Saturday

Preceded by Philip Sheridan’s cavalry, the four corps of the Army of the Potomac cross the muddy Pamunkey on pontoon bridges. Gouverneur Warren and Ambrose Burnside make the crossing at Hanovertown, Horatio Wright and Winfield Scott Hancock four miles downstream.

Even as the Federal infantry is crossing the Pamunkey, Lee sends Wade Hampton riding east with two cavalry brigades on a reconnaissance. With them go about 800 newly arrived, green South Carolina troopers. At a crossroads called Haw’s Shop, about three miles west of the Pamunkey, the Confederate force runs into Sheridan’s 2nd Division under General David Gregg, who is trying to locate the main body of Lee’s army. Over the next seven hours the inexperienced South Carolinians become veterans. Jeered at first by Hapmton’s old hands, they battle with notable courage and tenacity in woods so dense the whole command has to fight dismounted. For a time it seems as though the Confederate cavalry will win the day. In the end, however, Gregg is saved by the timely arrival of General Custer’s Michigan brigade. The Federals launch a sweeping counterattack and, with Custer’s men using their rapid-firing Spencer carbines to advantage, drive the Confederates from the field. Noting that he has suffered 256 casualties, General Gregg pays tribute to the Confederate horsemen “who resisted with courage and desperation unsurpassed.” The fight, he will add later, “has always been regarded by the Second Division as one of its severest.” Among the dead is Private John Huff of the 5th Michigan Cavalry—the man credited with killing Jeb Stuart.

Meanwhile, Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia, hurrying from the North Anna, arrive north of the Chickahominy and Mechanicsville. Then moving southeast toward Cold Harbor, Lee again gets in front of Grant’s army. Fighting, mainly between cavalry forces, occur at Aenon Church, Jones’ Farm, Crump’s Creek, and Haw’s Shop, as well as along the Totopotomoy River. Although Lee is in front of Grant, both he and President Davis have cause for concern. Davis tells Lee that Beauregard, south of Richmond, is strengthening his defenses but is outnumbered at least two to one.


Sherman’s ill-fated foray at Pickett’s Mill, Georgia, leads Joseph Johnston to suspect that the Federals, by extending their left, might be weakening their right. Accordingly, today he orders Hardee to probe in force to test the defenses of McPherson’s army, which is south of Dallas. The assignment falls to the division of Major General William B. Bate, which holds the extreme left of the Confederate line. Bate’s plan is to lead off on his left with a brigade of dismounted cavalry under Brigadier General Frank C. Armstrong. If Armstrong finds the Federal trenches abandoned, as suspected, he is to fire four cannon shots as a signal for Bate’s infantry, which will then attack.

About 3:45 in the afternoon, Armstrong’s cavalry storm out of the brush “with a yell the devil ought to copyright.” The Confederates hit the Federal right flank just south of Dallas and find McPherson’s XV Corps well entrenched. But the surprise and momentum of the attack carries Armstrong’s men past the first line of fortifications, where they overrun three exposed guns of an Iowa battery. The XV Corps commander, Major General John Logan, rushes to the front, “growling at the situation.” Known to his troops as “Black Jack” for his swarthy complexion, dark hair, and sweeping mustache, Logan is an Illinois politician and one of the best of the politically appointed Union generals, though the West Pointers tend to distrust his flair for the dramatic. Even in battle, General Stanley notes acidly, “Logan always played to the gallery.” At the front, Logan finds disorganized groups of Federals milling around asking for their regiments and officers. Waving his sword, Logan shouts, “Damn your regiments! Damn your officers! Forward and yell like hell!” With the men rallying behind him, he jumps his horse over some earthworks and heads for the cannon the Confederates have seized. A bullet hits him in the left forearm, but Logan improvises a sling and stays in the saddle while his men recapture the guns.

Meanwhile, over in the Confederate line, Bate’s infantry hear the firing and mistake it for the signal to attack. Soon after 4 pm, Bate’s Florida Brigade and, to its right, the 1st Kentucky Brigade surge forward against the heavily fortified lines of the Federal XV Corps and of the XVI Corps farther north. They emerge from the underbrush to encounter “a sheet of flame.” The Florida Brigade suffers heavy casualties and soon falls back under orders. But word of its retreat fails to reach Brigadier General Joseph H. Lewis’ 1st Kentucky, the veteran outfit widely known as the Orphan Brigade. Many of the orphans are proudly wearing new uniforms issued today. They swarm over the first line of Federal works and then, without support on either flank, slug it out with the main line only fifty yards away. The Orphans find cover behind logs, abandoned haversacks, and even their own dead. One regiment works its way to within twenty yards of the Federal works and stays there resolutely behind any protection the men can find. As the firing intensifies, the soldiers of the forward regiment fight with uncommon valor and when the brigade finally gets the order to retire, the forward regiment refuses to budge. Only when the regimental commander, Lieutenant Colonel Hiram Hawkins, seizes the colors and waves them frantically do these men fall back.

The Orphan Brigade contributes heavily to the Confederate losses of more than 700 this afternoon. By one account, the Orphans lose 51 percent of the men engaged in a battle that lasted no more than an hour.


In Missouri Confederates sack Lamar and skirmishes break out at Warrensburg and Pleasant Hill. Action flares near Little Rock and at Washington, Arkansas, and at Pest House opposite Port Hudson, Louisiana. A skirmish takes place near Jacksonville, Florida, and fighting continues at Big Flat, California, during the Humboldt operations.


Far from the scene of the American Civil War, Maximilian of Hapsburg lands at Vera Cruz to take the throne of Mexico, backed by Napoleon III of France and opposed by Mexican leader Benito Juárez.
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