The American Civil War, day by day - Page 88 - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

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#15230393
Doug64 wrote:May 28, Saturday
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.

Napoleon III, with his usual mixture of opportunism and recklessness, was trying to take advantage of the USA’s distraction to seize another colony for France, in violation of the Monroe Doctrine. It surprises me that more European powers weren’t trying to do the same thing.
#15230403
Potemkin wrote:Napoleon III, with his usual mixture of opportunism and recklessness, was trying to take advantage of the USA’s distraction to seize another colony for France, in violation of the Monroe Doctrine. It surprises me that more European powers weren’t trying to do the same thing.

IIRC, at this point there wasn’t really any other European power in a position to do so. Germany and Italy don’t exist yet, the Austro-Hungarian Empire has more than enough to deal with at home, Russia is cementing its Asian holdings and engaging in the Great Game with Britain, others like Belgium are just too small. And even Napoleon is being reckless, he really should have known better—as brilliant as the man was domestically, there was more than a touch of comic opera to his foreign affairs.
#15230404
May 29, Sunday

As General Hunter’s Federal Army of the Shenandoah has marched south, he has wreaked his vengeance on pro-Confederate civilians with an enthusiasm that sometimes disturbs his own men. Every day, whether or not any Federals have been shot at, dark columns of smoke from burning homes have marked the army’s course. More than once Hunter puts the torch to houses owned by his Virginia relatives. With pungent accuracy the Federal troops begin calling their glowering commander “Black Dave.” Near Strasburg two days ago, a farmer’s house that was rumored to be a meeting place for partisans went up in smoke; yesterday, a captain sent to burn a house said to belong to another supposed partisan “came back to report that he had found there a woman with three little children and they had nowhere to go, so his heart failed him and he came away without executing the order.” Hunter reprimanded the captain and then laughed, declaring that the house was such a mean affair it wasn’t worth burning. Marching through Woodstock today, Hunter stops the column and has the jail searched, “evidently seeking an apology to burn something.” Finding no Federal prisoners, Hunter thinks he might burn the town’s hotel anyway, but his chief of staff, Colonel Strother, talks him out of it. Then Hunter receives word that another Federal wagon train has been attacked near Newtown. Enraged, he sends a detachment of New York cavalry to “burn every house, store and outbuilding in that place.” But the detachment commander, Major Joseph K. Stearns, faces objections not only from the residents—who plead that they have nothing to do with Mosby’s men—but also from the New Yorkers, some of whom announce flatly that they won’t obey the order. Stearns decides not to harm the town, and returns to face the wrath of his commanding general.


Yesterday’s cavalry battle in Virginia—the largest since Brandy Station before the battle at Gettysburg last year—doesn’t halt the approach of Grant’s four infantry corps. Fanning out south and west, they arrive around dusk at a sluggish, marsh-fringed watercourse called Totopotomoy Creek. Lee is on the opposite bank with his three corps drawn up in line of battle.

As Lee sees it, the situation is critical. His army has been unable to make up even half the losses it has suffered since the 4th. Moreover, Lee’s veterans are weak both from sickness and from hunger as severe as any they have endured. By the time the Confederates reach the Totopotomoy area, some men have gone without rations for two days. Their fast is broken by three biscuits and a slice of bacon. Two days later, they get another biscuit. One artilleryman who has a biscuit shot out of his hand while another bullet creases his skull remarks wryly, “That shows how foolish it is to save anything.”


In Georgia there is mostly shifting of positions and more sharp skirmishing. At night Johnston opens up his artillery and outposts are pushed near McPherson’s works. The lines are close everywhere and irregular fire commonplace these days in the Georgia woodlands; commonplace, too, are the mounting casualties, not part of a big battle, but the inevitable attrition of a big campaign.


Elsewhere on the war fronts there are skirmishes on Bayou Fordoche Road, Louisiana; at Hamlin, West Virginia; Middleburg, Virginia; Moulton, Alabama; Yazoo River, Mississippi; and guerilla depredations at Winchester, Tennessee. Confederates capture a Federal wagon train at Salem, Arkansas.
#15230630
May 30, Monday

In Virginia fighting breaks out at Matadequin Creek, Old Church, Shady Grove, Armstrong’s Farm, and Ashland. Grant’s main force arrives along the Totopotomoy River and faces Lee’s line north of the Chickahominy. Grant is now nearly as close to Richmond as McClellan was two years ago but again the Confederates have barred the way. Fighting is heavy as the Federals feel out the Confederate line, determining where it lies.

Now there is evidence that Grant is extending his left on a front that Lee can’t cover without leaving vulnerable spots in his already-weakened line. For the time being, all Lee can do is try to check the Federal march around his right. The best way to do that, Lee decides, is to strike Grant’s left hard enough to halt it. The task falls to Jubal Early, who is holding the right flank of the Confederate position. At midday, Early attacks near Bethesda Church with Robert Rodes’s division in a headlong charge that sweeps aside a line of Federal skirmishers and stampedes a part of Brigadier General Samuel Crawford’s division of Warren’s V Corps. But Early neglects to bring up his reserve divisions swiftly enough, and Warren is able to beat off the Confederates handily.

Lee is less disturbed by the thwarted attack than he is by news that substantial reinforcements for Grant are debarking downstream on the Pamunkey at White House Landing. These are 16,000 men of General William Smith’s XVIII Corps, withdrawn at Grant’s request from Benjamin Butler’s force at Bermuda Hundred. Federal transports have taken them down the James River and up the York to the Pamunkey. Lee, forewarned by reports, has already requested that part of Beauregard’s army at Bermuda Hundred be transferred to his own command. Beauregard had refused, but Lee then wired directly to Jefferson Davis and got results. Without reinforcements he faced “disaster,” Lee had said—he has never been so unequivocal—and before midnight he learns that Major General Robert Hoke’s division of 7,000 men will soon be on the way from Bermuda Hundred.


The Federal Army of the Shenandoah reaches New Market and surveys the ghastly vestiges of the battle fought on the 15th. “In a slight hollow of the field, the bodies of our dead, thrown indiscriminately into a pile, and but partially covered with earth, presented a sickening sight.” Feet, arms, and heads are protruding at all points of the festering mass. The dead horses had received more diligent attention; they had been “carefully skinned and their shoes taken off.” A burial detail inters the dead properly, and the advance continues.

General Crook’s Federals march out of Meadow Bluff and head for Staunton to rendezvous with Hunter.

Meanwhile, General Lee sends “Grumble” Jones essentially the same order he sent Breckinridge late last month to “get all the available forces you can and move at once to Imboden’s assistance to defend the Valley.”


In Georgia the lines still hold around New Hope Church and Dallas, and the skirmishing and sharpshooting continues with action near Allatoona and at Burned Church, Georgia. In Charleston Harbor a minor bombardment of Fort Sumter is opened by the Federals lasting until June 5th, and consisting of 319 rounds.

There are skirmishes on Mill and Honey creeks in Missouri; a Federal expedition until June 5th from Morganza to the Atchafalaya, Louisiana; and a skirmish at Greeneville, Tennessee.
#15230816
May 31, Tuesday

When he gets word that Hoke is on the way to join him, Lee sends Fitzhugh Lee with his division of cavalry to secure the Cold Harbor crossroads. Fitzhugh Lee’s instructions are to hang on by any means until Hoke arrives. Grant recognizes the tactical importance of Cold Harbor as well as Lee does, and today he sends Sheridan and a strong force of cavalry south in the direction of the crossroads to protect the Union army’s left flank. Cold Harbor is little more than a dusty intersection where five roads meet. One of the roads goes eastward to White House Landing, another northwest to Bethesda Church. These two roads provide vital links, connecting Grant’s army with its supply base and offering a way for Grant to extend his left flank. The name of the place seems to make no sense. There is no harbor, and the temperature these days is running close to 100˚. One explanation of the name ties it to an English expression meaning a place that houses the traveler overnight but doesn’t have hot meals. In any event, nothing is there save a tumbledown tavern in a triangular grove of trees—and a crossroads important to both armies.

In the early afternoon, Fitzhugh Lee hears from his pickets that Sheridan’s troopers are coming. When Sheridan rides up with Brigadier General Alfred Torbert’s division, he finds Fitzhugh Lee’s men on the outskirts of Cold Harbor with the crossroads at their backs. Torbert’s three brigades under Wesley Merritt, George Custer, and Thomas Devin fan out, attacking down several of the roads leading into Cold Harbor and driving the Confederates back into previously prepared breastworks. Once in their fortified position, however, the Confederates are able to fend off repeated attacks.

It is a hard, slow, and costly afternoon, with Fitzhugh Lee wondering where Hoke is and Sheridan wondering the same about Smith. As it happens, Smith’s orders had been to head northwest and come in behind the Federals on Totopotomoy Creek, and Grant or his chief of staff, John Rawlins, unaccountably has failed to change the orders and redirect Smith toward Cold Harbor. By nightfall, Smith has overshot the cavalry action and has left it six miles behind, off his left flank. His corps won’t get straightened around and find the action until noon tomorrow. Hoke’s lead brigade, a little soft from its relative inactivity at Bermuda Hundred, doesn’t reach Cold Harbor until late in the afternoon. By now the tide is already changing. A portion of Merritt’s brigade roll up the Confederates’ left flank while a squadron of Custer’s 1st Michigan charges the Confederate works with drawn sabers. Fitzhugh Lee’s cavalrymen, abandoning their defenses, are swept out of Cold Harbor, leaving their dead and wounded on the field. Sheridan orders his troopers forward and takes the crossroads.

But then Sheridan is overcome by doubt. With the approach of the rest of Hoke’s division, “Little Phil” fears he can’t defend Cold Harbor. He sends word to Meade: “I do not feel able to hold this place. With the heavy odds against me here, I do not think it prudent to hold on.” Sheridan has already begun a withdrawal when a dispatch arrives from General Meade ordering Sheridan to hold on to all he has gained at Cold Harbor at all hazards; that the VI Corps will be up in the morning to relieve the cavalry. Torbert immediately faces about. The Federal cavalry spend the night throwing up temporary breastworks. Meanwhile, Horatio Wright’s VI Corps is making a grueling nighttime march from the Federal right, circling behind the army to come to Sheridan’s support. Cold Harbor is in Grant’s hands, but Lee is determined to retake it. He will use Hoke’s division and Anderson’s corps of three divisions, which he orders over from the Confederate left. Anderson will be in charge of the joint operation. The orders reach Anderson at 4 pm, and he starts pulling out immediately.

Fighting occurs at Mechump’s Creek, Shallow Creek, Turner’s Farm, and Bethesda Church, Virginia.


John Hunt Morgan is on his way again—this time into Kentucky to take pressure off Johnston in Georgia by attacking Sherman’s more distant communications. After his victory over Averell on the 8th he reverted to his plan for a return to his homeland. His application for permission to make the raid has been turned down by the Richmond authorities, on the ground that he is needed where he is, but he hasn’t let that stop him now any more than he did ten months ago, when he set out on the “ride” that landed him in the Ohio Penitentiary. Besides, having just learned that Brigadier General Stephen Burbridge, Union commander of the District of Kentucky, and a subordinate, Brigadier General Edward Hobson, are even now assembling troops in separate camps for a march across the Cumberlands to visit on Saltville and Wytheville the destruction Averell failed to accomplish, Morgan believes that he now has a more persuasive argument in favor of a quick return to the Bluegrass. Their combined forces are better than twice the size of his own, which amounts to fewer than 3,000 men, and he is convinced that the only way to stop them is to distract them before they get started. “This information has determined me to move at once into the State of Kentucky,” he informs the War Department today, “and thus divert the plans of the enemy by initiating a movement within his lines.” Forestalling another refusal, he sets out this same day.


In Georgia Sherman has moved many miles toward Atlanta from far northwest Georgia, but he, too, confronts a determined and skillful foe. Federals and Confederates have each lost about nine thousand men during the May campaign. A bright spot for the Confederates is that Richmond and Atlanta still hold. Nevertheless, the spring has been a rough one for the South.

Already the November presidential election attracts a lot of attention in the North. Lincoln has been hearing from the politicos. At Cleveland a dissident group of Radical Republicans, unhappy over Lincoln’s emancipation policies and his lack of vindictiveness, meet to nominate General John Charles Fremont for President and Brigadier General John Cochrane of New York for Vice-President. A splinter group of no great strength or outstanding leaders, it nevertheless causes the President some distress.
#15230967
June 1864

Crisis looms on two fronts: Federals have plunged deeper than ever into Georgia and moved some miles nearer to Richmond. Just what can President Davis and his government do to aid the armies under Generals Lee and Johnston? With shrinking territory, supplying even its main armies becomes increasingly problematical for the Confederacy. Possible threats from the Mississippi Valley and along the coasts, morale on the homefront, and criticism of the Davis administration present further difficulties.

The roll calls of the casualties from the Wilderness and Spotsylvania begin to reach the homes of the North. But Grant moves on. Has a new means of crushing the South really been found? Is Sherman about to take Atlanta, perhaps even without a major battle? Will the replacements for the Federal armies still come?

The Union party, a combination of Republicans and War Democrats, is about to meet at Baltimore, obviously to nominate Lincoln. Already, late in May, John C. Fremont has been nominated by a group of Radical Republicans urging an extremely harsh war policy. On the other end of the spectrum, Peace Democrats and others attack the President with increasing violence and urge negotiation or some other nonbelligerent method of ending the war.

June 1, Wednesday

Before dawn on a hot day at Cold Harbor, Anderson has Kershaw’s Confederate division on Hoke’s left and ready to fight. Anderson figures that those two divisions can push back Sheridan’s dismounted cavalry, then strike at any approaching Union columns as his other two divisions come into line. Anderson’s movement from the Confederate left has been carried out with such dispatch that the nearest Federal foot soldiers—advance elements of Wright’s VI Corps—are still four hours away from the Cold Harbor area. Unfortunately for the Confederates, the lead brigade in Kershaw’s division is commanded by an inexperienced colonel named Lawrence Keitt and includes a green South Carolina regiment. Keitt arrived with this newly raised unit just a week before. Because of the political power he wields in his home state—he is a former Congressman and fire-breathing secessionist—Keitt has been given command of a full brigade. Now he rides recklessly into the first battle he has ever seen. He looks “like a knight of old,” “the embodiment of the true chevalier.” But this brave cavalier doesn’t last long. As he gallops across an open field, trying to rally the already-faltering men, Keitt is toppled from his horse, mortally wounded, by the first Federal volley. With that the green South Carolinians run pell-mell for the rear, forcing veterans on their flanks to give way. The panic spreads quickly and soon the entire brigade has halted, with some of the men on the ground trying to burrow into the earth.

Kershaw eventually gets his men turned around, but Sheridan has no difficulty hanging onto the crossroads until 10 am, when the weary men of Wright’s VI Corps begin arriving on Sheridan’s left to secure the position for the Union. Wright’s men start digging in at once, and the Confederates opposite, now shtrengthened by the rest of Anderson’s corps, does the same. More Federals soon arrive; Smith’s XVII Corps files in around noon after its roundabout march from White House Landing. And now that Smith’s and Wright’s two corps are joined at last at Cold Harbor, Meade proposes an immediate attack. Grant agrees: If nothing else, a push forward might put the Federals in a better position for a breakthrough tomorrow.

A concentrated assault begins at 4:30 pm, with Smith’s troops on the right of the east-west road to Richmond and the VI Corps on the left. The Confederates, working fast, have made an abatis of felled trees and sharpened saplings thirty yards in front of their first line of entrenchments. When the Federals reach the barrier, they are met by a volley so intense that a survivor likens it to “a sheet of flame, sudden as lightning, red as blood,” and so near that it seems to singe the men’s faces. Then up and down the line the Federals recover and return the fire. The whole line thunders with the incessant volleys of musketry. In the forefront of Smith’s XVIII Corps, a young Federal brigade commander, Colonel Guy V. Henry, rides at a gallop over the enemy parapet and, standing coolly in the stirrups on his dying horse, empties his revolver “into the very faces of the awestruck foe.” It is six Union divisions against Anderson’s four, and for a moment it looks as though the Federals might push through. At one point a brigade posted on the right of the Confederate line gives way, but even as the Union troops are taking prisoners there, Anderson calls up a reserve brigade and rushes it in to plug the gap. Emory Upton, newly promoted to brigadier general for his brilliant assault on the Confederate works at Spotsylvania, is active on the front line. His horse is shot from under him, but he keeps leading his brigade on foot. When an officer says he doubts his men can stop a counterattack, Upton snaps, “Catch them on your bayonets and pitch them over your heads!”

When night comes, the firing sputters away. The Federals have lost about 2,200 troops and taken prisoners. They have made a few slight gains but paid a high price—not only in casualties but in morale. The Heavy Artillery regiments, which have just come from Washington, are especially hard-hit. Everyone senses that the fight isn’t over and that the bloodshed will continue. In fact, Grant is already preparing for another and larger attack tomorrow. He tells Hancock to take II Corps from its position on the extreme right and march it around the rear of the Union army to bring it up beside Wright’s VI Corps on the extreme left. Once in position, Hancock is to join a massive dawn offensive that will be launched by all five Uinion corps. Grant decides to make the main thrust against Lee’s right. Anderson’s Confederates there have been heavily engaged today, and it seems unlikely that they have found the time to build substantial defenses. If the attack succeeds, Lee’s right will be driven back into the Chickahominy, with no time or space to recover. The three Union corps on the left—those of Hnacock, Wright, and Smith—will do most of the fighting. But the two corps north of them—Warren’s and Burnside’s—will not be idle. Acting on reports that Lee is strengthening his right, Grant and Meade reason that he must be drawing troops from his left and that he is therefore vulnerable to attack on that flank. Accordingly, Meade orders Warren and Burnside to hit Lee’s left in the morning “at all hazards.” If by any chance Lee’s left is stronger than Meade thinks it is, the enemy’s right must be weaker, and the attack there will surely succeed.

Meade is correct in assuming that Lee has been robbing his left and center to bolster his right. Indeed, Lee is shifting the weight of the entire Confederate line to the right flank, sending the divisions of Generals John Breckinridge, William Mahone, and Cadmus Wilcox south to fill the gap between Cold Harbor and the Chickahominy. Henry Heth remains on the extreme left, entrenched behind heavy fortifications and with cavalry patrolling his flank. When the movements and the diggings are done, the seven-mile Confederate front will stretch in a great crescent from the Totopotomoy on its left to the Chickahominy on its right. Anchored on the two watercourses, Lee’s position will be nearly impossible to flank.

Seeing the Confederates reinforcing heavily on his front this night, Horatio Wright warns Grant that unless an attack is launched at dawn as planned, he risks losing what little he has gained. But Hancock’s corps, in making the nine-mile march from the right to the left of the Federal line, encounters unforeseen difficulties. “The night was dark, the heat and dust oppressive, and the roads unknown,” as Hancock himself will express it. Lacking adequate maps, the corps takes a wrong turn and marches six miles more than it should.


In Georgia, where the main armies of Johnston and Sherman face each other in the New Hope Church-Dallas area, Federal cavalry under George Stoneman capture the now lightly defended Confederate stronghold at Allatoona Pass, through which runs the all-important railroad to Chattanooga. With the seizure of this indispensable pass Sherman can advance his railroad closer to the fighting lines. He abandons his former plan of flanking the enemy on the south, sidling northward in a slow and intricate sidestep to the left toward the railroad, moving away from the New Hope Church area. Since the 28th the Confederates have continued to attack on the Federal right flank, keeping McPherson pinned down. Now his Army of the Tennessee manages to disengage and—entrenching and fighting as it moves—to follow the other two Federal armies. Skirmishing occurs near Marietta and Kingston, Georgia.

Instead of swarming across the Chattahoochee, Sherman’s armies had gotten bogged down fighting what he calls “a big Indian war” in which every tree and log seemed to shelter an enemy sharpshooter. His Army of the Cumberland alone was expending 200,000 rounds of ammunition every day for little gain. Sherman wants out and so do his soldiers, who are sick of the heat, the stench of unburied bodies, and the incessant skirmishing and sharpshooting. For years they will remember the arduous last week in May, 1864, not in terms of the three major engagements—New Hope Church, Pickett’s Mill, and Dallas—but as one endless battle. They will refer to it all simply as the “Hell Hole.”


It has taken General Washburn two full weeks to prepare the cavalry expedition General Sherman has ordered General Sturgis to mount into Mississippi against General Forrest’s raiders in order to protect Sherman’s lengthening supply line. But Washburn has made sure nothing is omitted that might be needed, either in men, supplies, or equipment. He sends 8,300, 2,300 more than the 6,000 Sherman had wired him was needed: three brigades of infantry, totalling 5,000, under Colonel William L. McMillen, the senior field officer in the district; and two of cavalry, totaling 3,300, led by Brigadier General Benjamin Grierson, who came to prominence a year ago with the 600-mile raid that distracted Vicksburg’s defenders while Grant was beginning the final phase that accomplished its surrender. In overall charge of the two divisions, Sturgis also has 22 guns, and is traveling light with only 250 wagons loaded with a twenty-day supply of food and ammunition. Grierson’s troopers are equipped with repeating carbines of the latest model, which will give them a big advantage in firepower over their butternut opponents, and part at least of McMillen’s command is armed with a zeal beyond the normal, one of his brigades being made up of Black soldiers who have taken an oath to avenge Fort Pillow by showing Forrest’s troops no quarter. They and their white comrades, mounted and afoot, are on the march out of Memphis, Tennessee, toward Ripley, Mississippi, reaching Colliersville today.

Forrest himself is also on the move. He has been in the vicinity of Tupelo reorganizing after his raid north, and today moves out with 2,200 troopers and six guns, bound at last for middle Tennessee and a descent on Sherman’s lifeline below Nashville.


John Hunt Morgan also has to be considered; on his raid into Kentucky he fights a skirmish near Pound Gap. A skirmish breaks out near Arnoldsville and Federals raid near New Market, Missouri. Colonel Colton Greene’s Confederate raiders, operating along the west bank of the Mississippi River near Columbia, Arkansas, fight an affair with USS Exchange.

President Davis orders Major General Robert Ransom, commanding at Richmond, to summon all local forces possible to the Chickahominy to meet the threat to the capital. General Lee urges Beauregard, who commands south of the James facing Federal General Butler, to move part of his command north of the James north to the Chickahominy in front of Richmond.
#15231193
June 2, Thursday

At Cold Harbor, when Hancock’s corps ends its arduous night march to the Federal left flank at 6:30 am “in a condition of utter physical exhaustion,” Grant reschedules the attack for dawn tomorrow. Fighting flares up briefly in the afternoon—Early’s corps, reinforced by Heth’s division, hits Burnside and Warren at the north end of the Union line, taking prisoners and driving Union skirmishers back on their works around Bethedsa Church. But the attack is quickly contained. In late afternoon rain begins to fall heavily, ending offensive operations for the day. Both armies settle down to wait for the battle they know is coming tomorrow morning.

In the Union encampments, the much-feared Confederate earthworks seem to be on everyone’s mind. Meade worries that if Lee’s veterans are given much more time “they will dig in so as to prevent any advance on our part.” Indeed, the postponement of the Federal attack gives the Confederates 24 precious hours in which to dig, and they use their time well. Along the low ridges they construct a lacework of trenches, with artillery skillfully placed to lay down a crossfire on every avenue of approach. It is “a maze and labyrinth of works within works.” Yet the Confederates fold their trenches into the terrain so ingeniously that, from the Union perspective, the defenses don’t look nearly so threatening as those at Spotsylvania or on the North Anna. But in their bones the Federal infantry know: Whatever the Confederates have been preparing, the Union soldiers will have to pay. There is a sense of foreboding in the air. Unable to sleep, the men read and reread letters from home or sit “pale and thoughtful, forming resolutions.” In the night, after the rain has turned to hail and then to drizzle, Federal soldiers in the extreme front line begin taking off their coats. As Horace Porter, one of Grant’s staff officers, passes among them, it seems to him that the men are sewing their uniforms—an odd chore at a time like this. Looking closer, Porter finds that the men are “calmly writing their names and home addresses on slips of paper and pinning them on the backs of the coats, so that their bodies might be recognized and their fate made known to their families at home.”

If the men are profoundly uneasy, so are their commanders. The upcoming battle is perceived as critical throughout the Union command: “Every one felt that this was to be the final struggle,” Lieutenant Colonel Martin T. McMahon, chief of staff of Wright’s VI Corps, will later recall. “No further wheeling of corps from right to left, no further dusty marches.” Yet Grant hasn’t given specific instruction for the attack. He leaves it up to the corps commanders to decide where they will hit the Confederate lines and how they will communicate to coordinate their operations. More unsettling, no one from Grant’s or Meade’s headquarters have reconnoitered the Confederate positions. Meade simply said, in postponing the attack from today to tomorrow, that “corps commanders will employ the interim in making examinations of the ground on their front and perfecting the arrangements for the assault.” One corps commander, William Smith, is “aghast at the reception of such an order, which proved conclusively the utter absence of any military plan.” He quickly asks General Wright, on his left, to explain his plan of attack so that the two of them—at least—can act in unison. Wright says that he is just “going to pitch in”—thus reinforcing Smith’s belief that Wright has no plan at all. The whole attack, says Smith angrily to his staff, is “simply an order to slaughter my best troops.”


In the Shenandoah Valley, the Federal Army of the Shenandoah has moved faster under Hunter’s command than under Sigel, and now camps on a hill overlooking Harrisonburg. Hunter learns that eight miles south, at Mount Crawford, where the Valley Turnpike crosses the North River, the harried Imboden has thrown up fortifications; thus far Hunter’s progress has been easy. Now he will have to fight.


As General Sturgis’s expedition into Mississippi leaves Colliersville the rain begins to fall, drenching men and horses and drowning fields and roads, much as it is doing 300 miles away in Georgia. Here, as there, the result is slow going, especially for the wagons lurching hub-deep through the mud. His intended opponent, General Forrest, is in north Alabama preparing to cross the Tennessee River, when an urgent message from Stephen Lee summons him back to meet Sturgis’s newly developed threat to the department Lee inherited from Polk.


Sherman, with Allatoona Pass firmly in his hands, slowly shifts his three armies northeastward by the left flank from New Hope Church toward Allatoona and the Chattanooga-Atlanta railroad. Action flares at Acworth and Raccoon Bottom, Georgia. Colton Green, still waging his private war with Union shipping on the Mississippi, engages USS Adams and USS Monarch near Columbia, Arkansas. USS Louisville is also severely damaged in the same encounter.

The Confederate War Department in Richmond receives John Hunt Morgan’s message of his intention to move into Kentucky. “A most unfortunate withdrawal of forces from an important position at a very critical moment,” Bragg indorses it, and Seddon adds: “Unfortunately, I see no remedy for this movement now”—Morgan is already through Pound Gap and back on the soil of his native state.
#15231383
June 3, Friday

At Cold Harbor a little after midnight, the Federal soldiers are issued two days’ rations—hardtack, coffee, and sugar—and by 3:30 am they are forming in line of battle. The early morning chill and the swampy odors from the river make the mood more dismal. The rain stops just before first light. The Union assault troops looking west from their rifle pits see an apparently empty and featureless plain stretching away before them to a long line of low, flat hills. At 4:30 am buglers sound the advance. Along two miles of line, more than 50,000 infantrymen of II, VI, and XVIII Corps begin clambering out of their works and moving on the Confederate fortifications, still wreathed in morning mists, several hundred yards away.

As the Union attackers come closer and closer to the Confederate center, the Confederate officers have great difficulty in restraining the men from opening fire too soon. But when close enough the word ‘fire’ is given, and the men behind the works rise deliberately, resting their guns upon the works, and fire volley after volley into the rushing but disorganized ranks of the enemy. The first Union line reels and attempts to fly the field, but is met by the next column, which halts the retreating troops with the bayonet, butts of guns, and officers’ swords, until the greater number are turned to the second assault. All this while the Confederate sharpshooters and men behind their works are pouring a galling fire into the tangled mass of advancing and retreating troops. The Federals are falling “like rows of blocks or bricks pushed over by striking against one another.” One infantryman rushing forward on the right of his company looks left and finds he is the only one still on his feet. Another sees all his comrades hit the ground as if on command; when he, too, drops to the ground, he finds they are all dead or wounded. The bravery of one regiment is starkly evident in the aftermath of the battle: The dead lie before the defensive work in a triangle with the regiment’s colonel at the apex, face down, head toward the Confederate fortifications. Fighting from behind their breastworks, the Confederates are by turns appalled and elated at the slaughter. Under that withering fire, the Federal line seems to dissolve, so that scores of individual battles are fought in savage and bloody isolation.

The fiercest fighting of all is on the extreme left of the Union line, which Hancock’s II Corps holds: Francis Barlow’s division on the left, John Gibbon’s on the right, and David Birney’s in support. Barlow attacks with the same verve he displayed at Spotsylvania, galloping forward dressed in his checkered flannel shirt and threadbare trousers. By chance, Barlow’s men hit the only weak spot in the Confederate line. This is a stretch of low ground on Breckinridge’s front that has been turned into a mire by the driving rain. Here the Confederates have withdrawn most of their men—unwisely as it turns out—leaving only a picket line along a sunken road. Splashing at full tilt across the sloppy ground, Colonel John R. Brooke’s brigade routs the picket line and pursues the fleeing Confederates. Men of a New York Heavy Artillery regiment, fighting as infantrymen, battle their way over the nearest parapet, caving in General John Echol’s brigade and taking more than 200 prisoners, three cannon, and a stand of colors. But Brooke is shot and critically wounded in the attack. Over on Brooke’s left, Colonel Nelson A. Miles’s brigade has also breached the main Confederate works. But now the tide turns. A hard-fighting Maryland regiment rallies, and within minutes it is reinforced by a Florida brigade headed by a tough Irish-born brigadier named Joseph Finegan. At the same time, Confederate artillery on the right and left sweep Barlow’s Federals with a crossfire—“case-shot and double-shotted canister, fired at very short range, into a mass of men 28 deep, who could neither advance nor retreat, and most of whom could not even discharge their muskets.” Federal troops coming up are stopped by the same terrible fire, with the loss of two colonels, the commander of the Irish Brigade and of a New York regiment. The noise is infernal—“the fury of the Wilderness musketry with the thunders of the Gettysburg artillery super-added.” Cut off from their support troops, the survivors of Barlow’s two lead brigades fall back from the Confederate works and retreat to a low swell of the ground, where they begin digging in with bayonets and tin cups.

Hancock’s second assault division, under Gibbon, is almost as badly battered. Gibbon’s veterans move forward briskly, but with few illusions about what lies ahead. As it happens, Gibbon’s battle-weary veterans fall victim to command carelessness—in thise case inadequate prebattle reconnaissance of the terrain. Two hundred yards beyond their own lines they unexpectedly hit a swamp that cuts the division in two. As the swamp widens, so does the gap in the division, which is being peppered hard by skirmishers and pounded by artillery. Two brigades at last slosh out the other side. One of these, under Brigadier General Robert O. Tyler, sweeps over a Confederate advance position, capturing several hundred prisoners. Tyler is severely wounded in the action. One of his regiments, another Heavy Artillery from New York, gets within twenty feet of the breastworks but loses 505 men, including the regiment’s colonel. A few men of a nearby Irish New York regiment, clad in colorful Zouave uniforms, actually get to the main works under the inspired leadership of their colonel, James McMahon. Taking up the regimental flag from a wounded color-bearer, McMahon races forward and manages to plant it on the parapet before he falls dead. He is hit so many times that his body can be identified after the battle only by the buttons on his sleeve. But the Federals can’t come on forever. So many of Gibbon’s officers have fallen, that the fight is now “simply one of the rank and file.” Gibbon’s lead brigades waver and lose formation. Having suffered 1,000 casualties in less than twenty minutes, his division can’t sustain the attack. Instead of retreating the men drop to the ground, begin digging, and fire when they can.

The story is the same all along the line. The works prove as nightmarish as any Federal expected. Because Lee’s men have built their works in a zigzag fashion, they can pour a murderous enfilading fire on the lead elements of the Federal columns. Wright’s VI Corps has the reputation of being one of the toughest fighting aggregations in the Army of the Potomac, but at Cold Harbor it is unable to move. The corps attacks with all three of its divisions in line of battle. Both flanks come under long-range artillery fire, and progress is also slowed by thickets and marshy ground. Soon the divisions become separated and the battle lines break apart. One brigade on the right gets within 250 yards of the Confederate works, but most of Wright’s troops stop short of the enemy skirmish line. The smoke becomes so thick that the men are fighting almost blind: One Federal’s abiding memory is of “volleys of hurtling death” pouring out from “lines which we could not see.” In the face of that overwhelming fire, the attack grinds to a halt within ten minutes, and the men begin digging in.

No one along the raging front can see much of anything. Smith has at least made a reconnaissance, and he knows that marshy ground on his front precludes a major attack from either the extreme left or right of his line. But in the center he finds a stream that runs for a distance toward the Confederate lines. The right bank of the stream is high enough to afford partial protection from enfilade fire from the right. It is here that an attack has the best chance of succeeding, Smith decides. Along the banks of the stream he sends one of his divisions under Brigadier General James H. Martindale. General William Brooks’s division and that of Charles Devens are to move up on the left and right to give Martindale flank protection. As they move from the shelter of the stream bed and turn toward the Confederate lines, Martindale’s men let out a cry of “Huzzah! Huzzah!” and charge in a column of regiments ten lines deep. Colonel Griffin Stedman’s brigade is at the forefront, with Stedman himself urging his men on, waving a ramrod instead of a sword. Immediately the column comes under fire so intense that the men instinctively bend forward, as if walking into a gale. The ground is “a boiling cauldron from the incessant pattering of shot” which raises “the dirt in geysers and spitting sands,” piling up the men “like cordwood.” But the men press on, the rear ranks stepping over the bodies of the fallen. Those in the lead get so near the Confederate works that they can see “the flash of their musketry quivering through the bank of smoke like lightning through a cloud.” Line follows line until the space becomes a mass of humanity, hammered by artillery and musketry. The attack falters, and then the Union infantry begin to “dodge, lie down and recoil.” Yet even now the attack isn’t over. Martindale’s column re-forms and charges again. Again, the Federals are met with an impenetrable wall of fire. Within half an hour, Martindale’s column is all but destroyed and the survivors hopelessly pinned down. To Martindale’s left, Brooks’s division has been stopped in its tracks by enfilading fire, while Deven’s division on the right has scarcely been able to mount an attack.

By 5:30 am, Smith’s, Wright’s, and Hancock’s corps are all hugging the earth. Warren’s V Corps—stretched out long and thin to the north—doesn’t attack at all this morning, and Burnside’s IX Corps does little but capture some advance rifle pits as a diversionary operation. The Union casualties suffered in the assault are appalling: Between 5,600 and 7,000 men have fallen, the great majority in the first quarter hour. There hasn’t been a faster rate of killing yet in the war. By comparison the Confederate losses are paltry—fewer than 1,500. Firing will continue throughout the day, but the issue is decided. It has all happened so quickly that at first neither side understands the truth—the Army of the Potomac has suffered a major defeat. The opening assault has been repulsed almost before the Confederates realize its extent, and many of Lee’s soldiers now wait for the day’s main action to begin. In fact, many are confused, “not aware at any time of any serious assault having been given.” Lee gets the news in bits and pieces. His staff officers begin returning from the front about 6 am, bearing testimony to unusually heavy Federal losses and a Confederate line remaining intact. The sheer quantity of the dead strike even the most seasoned of the campaigners. The sound of the guns has carried to Richmond, nine miles to the west, and late in the morning a delegation of three men, headed by Confederate Postmaster General John H. Reagan, rides out to see what is going on. Lee tells them cautiously that his lines are secure so far but that he has not a single regiment in reserve. By the end of the day he is more sanguine: “Our loss today has been small,” he writes to Jefferson Davis, “and our success, under the blessing of God, all that we could expect.”

Only slowly do Grant and Meade realize what has happened. Aware that there has been no breakthrough, Meade sends Grant a message about 7 am saying that he would “be glad to have your views on the continuance of these attacks.” Suspend them when it is obvious that they can’t succeed, answers Grant, but “when one does succeed push it vigorously, and if necessary pile in troops.” Meade orders another attack. when he finds it impossible to coordinate the broken corps in a joint assault, he sends word to each corps commander to attack on his own. The order is passed down through division, brigade, and regimental headquarters, losing credibility at every step. “I will not take my regiment in another such charge if Jesus Christ himself should order it!” shouts Captain Thomas E. Barker, the commander of a New Hampshire regiment. The corps commanders agree. It is apparent, says Hancock, that the Union assault has “failed long since.” He and the two other corps leaders make some token effort to renew the attack, but soon see it is impossible. When Meade prods Smith yet again to move forward, he rebels. The men in the line balk as well. When told to get up and charge again, they ignore the order and simply fire faster from wherever they happen to be sprawled. Finally, around noon, Grant rides out to the three corps headquarters and learns that the attack is a failure. He tells Meade to cancel all offensive operations and hold the line. Yet even now he doesn’t fully understand the situation. At 2 pm he wires Halleck that the morning’s attack has left the Union forces well dug in “close to the enemy.” The losses on neither side are severe, Grant adds. Meade, too, is still in the dark: He writes his wife that the battle is a draw “without any decided results.” Either general could enlighten himself by inspecting the field of battle. Before the Confederate works men lie “in places like hogs in a pen—some side by side, across each other, some two deep, while others with their legs lying across the head and body of their dead comrades.” Calls all night long can be heard coming from the wounded and dying. The Federals can’t get to their wounded—Neither Grant nor Lee is willing to order a ceasefire that would allow burial parties and litter-bearers to go out. The two armies will volley and cannonade for the next three days while the cries of the wounded grow weaker.

Charles Francis Adams, Jr., while he has great faith in Grant, writes that the army “has literally marched in blood and agony from Rapidan to the James.” Eight miles away in Richmond the people listen to the sounds of the struggle.


In the Valley, “Grumble” Jones’ three Confederate understrength infantry regiments commanded by Brigadier General John C. Vaughn begin to file into Imboden’s Mount Crawford position, swelling the Confederate force to 5,000.


In Georgia the first of Sherman’s Federals, sidestepping northeastward from Dallas, arrive at the little rail town of Ackworth, pushing out a few Confederate vedettes. Johnston realizes that with Sherman’s main force moving off north of New Hope Church, the Confederates can no longer hold their position in the New Hope area and must once more respond to a Federal move.


Federal Brigadier General W.W. Averell’s cavalry sets out from Bunger’s Mills in Greenbrier County, West Virginia, to aid Hunter’s main effort in the Shenandoah aimed at Lynchburg. Skirmishes occur at Searcy, Arkansas, and Neosho, Missouri. A three-day Union scout moves from Sedalia to the Blackwater Creek, Missouri. Confederates capture the Federal gunboat Water Witch in Ossabaw Sound, Georgia.

Lincoln approves an act of Congress calling for a national currency secured by pledges of government bonds and establishing a Bureau of Currency with an office of Comptroller of the Treasury. This act replaces a similar act of February 25, 1863.

President Lincoln writes a New York political gathering, “My previous high estimate of General Grant has been maintained and heightened by what has occurred in the remarkable campaign he is now conducting....”
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June 4, Saturday

Joseph E. Johnston abandons Dallas, Georgia, in a torrential rain and shifts his Confederate Army of Tennessee during the night northward to an already prepared position intersecting the Western & Atlantic about eight miles below Ackworth. Fighting breaks out near Big Shanty and Acworth, Georgia, during the day. Out on the new Federal picket line, a soldier from Illinois calls to his Confederate counterpart: “Hello, Johnny, how far is it to Atlanta?” “So damn far you’ll never get there.” “Yes, we will get there, and we’ll have a big dance with your sister!” With that, a shower of Confederate bullets puts an end to the conversation.

Sherman is now “in the very heart of Dixie.” He is twelve miles north of Marietta, the rail town he originally had hoped to reach in his aborted flanking maneuver via Dallas, and only about thirty miles from Atlanta itself. But in order to reach Atlanta, the Federals have to pass through rough terrain studded with four mountains. Three of those mountains define the new 10-mile-long Confederate line, which extends across the railroad on a southwesterly axis. Brush Mountain, just north of the Western & Atlantic, anchors the line on the Confederate right, and Lost Mountain the left. In the middle, Pine Mountain juts slightly forward, bowing the line toward the Federals. The fourth mountain stands about two miles in the rear of the new line and gives the Confederate position its greatest strength. A humpbacked ridge two miles long, Kennesaw Mountain rises nearly 700 feet above the rugged landscape. Already bristling with cannon, the mountain’s defenses watch over the railroad, which skirts the base of its towering northern peak. Kennesaw also shields Johnston’s new headquarters at Marietta and blocks the way to Chattahoochee, the last broad river remaining in Sherman’s path. As Sherman describes the mountain in a dispatch to Washington, “Kennesaw is the key to the whole country.”


At Cold Harbor the armies of Grant and Lee lie entrenched, often only yards apart, and each appears so strong that no further assault seems possible. The dead and some wounded still lie between the lines. A skirmish takes place at Panther Gap, West Virginia. Elsewhere, the guns are heard at Ossabaw Sound, Georgia; Hudson’s Crossing on the Neosho in Indian Territory; and near Vicksburg, Mississippi. Federal scouts operate from Huntersville and Clinton, Arkansas. General John Hunt Morgan and his raiders, in Kentucky, head toward Lexington. Meanwhile, the Federal column of S.D. Sturgis from Memphis marches slowly into northern Mississippi toward Forrest’s Confederates.


General “Grumble” Jones himself arrives at the Confederate position at Mount Crawford in the Shenandoah Valley with its 5,000 Confederate defenders—and so do the Federals. General Hunter still has 8,500 men with him; when General Crook’s 10,000 appear, his numerical advantage will be overwhelming. But Hunter doesn’t know Crook’s whereabouts. Without Crook, Hunter thinks the Confederate position is too strong for a frontal assault. He decides to flank the Confederates out of their prepared defenses. Instead of marching southwest up the Valley Turnpike, he heads southeast toward Port Republic. From there the Federal cavalry can take Waynesboro, fifteen miles farther south, sever the Virginia Central, and, with Staunton cut off, bring Jones to battle on more favorable ground. The movement catches Jones by surprise. But at Port Republic, where the North, South, and Middle Rivers converge to form the South Fork of the Shenandoah, the Federals have to throw a pontoon bridge across the rain-swollen waters. None of the engineers seem to understand how to put up the canvas pontoons. It is awkwardly done and so slow that it “is evident that we would lose all the benefit of our early march.” The crossing isn’t complete until 6 pm. By now Jones knows what is afoot. Hunter’s planned dash to Waynesboro is now out of the question, his army will have to march directly on Staunton and will have to fight Jones to get there—but not today. Another hard rain has begun to fall, and the drenched Federals camp for the night a mile south of Port Republic.
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June 5, Sunday

Skirmishing at Mount Crawford in the Shenandoah Valley begins shortly after sunrise, exactly three weeks after the Federal defeat at New Market. New York cavalry push southward along the East road, and Imboden’s men take on the now-familiar task of trying to hold off a superior force until the Confederate infantry have time to organize a defense. This time they can’t stem the tide for long, and they have to fall back. The Federals capture seventy men from the 18th Virginia Cavalry, including one of Imboden’s brothers. (Another brother is the colonel commanding the 18th, a third its sergeant major.) As Imboden backs away from the skirmish, he is startled to come upon Jones’s main force at the little village of Piedmont, a single street of wood-frame houses, eight miles south of Port Republic. Yesterday he and Jones had agreed that their stand should be made closer to Staunton but Jones subsequently received the orders from Lee to engage Hunter quickly, before Crook arrives. Thus, he has decided to move farther north, to Piedmont, where he has deployed his infantry regiments on a series of wooded hills in front of the village, between the East road and a bluff overlooking the Middle River. The troops have hastily erected log-and-rail breastworks along the tree line. About a mile to the rear, a second line of defenses is set up at the edge of a stand of timber on the opposite side of the village. The second line, manned by Vaughn’s mounted infantry and Imboden’s cavalry, extends almost two miles eastward from the road across a little valley to Round Top Hill.

Hunter deploys Sullivan’s division west of the road with Augustus Moor’s brigade on the right, and Joseph Thoburn’s on the left. DuPont masses his 22 guns near the road. Stahel’s cavalry is held in reserve. Hunter takes time out to make a speech to the men of a Connecticut regiment, telling them they are about to get a chance to make up for their sorry performance at New Market. “They didn’t seem much elated with the prospect,” his chief of staff will later recall, “and scarcely got up a decent cheer in response.”

At midmorning Moor’s skirmishers drive the Confederate pickets into their breastworks—then back away in surprise as the defenders storm out at them, screaming derisively: “New Market! New Market!” The counterattack is stopped only after fierce fighting. While Moor gets the rest of his brigade into position for another attack and Thoburn aligns to Moor’s left, the troops come under heavy but inaccurate fire from the Confederate artillery. Captain DuPont concentrates the fire of the Federal guns on one after another of the enemy batteries until the Confederates are “compelled to abandon their position and fall back rather precipitously.” By 11:30 am, the Confederate fire has ceased entirely.

At 1 pm Moor attacks again. The Connecticut regiment Hunter “encouraged,” along with a New York Heavy Artillery regiment now serving as infantry, charge almost to the Confederate defenses; here the soldiers fight “desperately and at some disadvantage, being entirely in the open field.” Colonel William G. Ely, the commander of the Connecticut regiment, pleads for artillery support. In response, DuPont brings forward two guns, unlimbers them 500 yards from the enemy, and opens fire with solid shot. The guns do “excellent service in knocking the rail pens to splinters amid great slaughter.” But no decisive advantage is gained, and the two regiments remain stalled in the open, fighting obstinately. Many are falling under the hot fire. The Connecticut colors are riddled by three cannon shot and thirteen bullets, and all of the color guard but one are killed or wounded. Whatever damage the regiment’s reputation had suffered at New Market is being repaired at Piedmont. But at last Moor’s brigade, having suffered more than 150 casualties, has to fall back. This encourages the Confederates, who with ear-splitting yells make a determined assault upon their whole line.

Hunter is becoming discouraged. The Confederate line has reacted like a prodded snake to every Federal initiative, lashing out and fighting the attackers to a standstill. Now he sees movement that suggests the enemy is massing for a counterattack on his right. Hunter orders his wagons turned around in preparation for a withdrawal. But first he will try one more assault. His target is a flaw in the Confederate lines—an interval of several hundred yards between Jones’s right and Vaughn’s left. Jones himself isn’t worried about the gap because his cavalry can charge the flank of any Federal turning movement. But to be safe, he begins pulling his line back to the crossroads to join Vaughn’s. Hunter, with his eye on that inviting gap, has set Thoburn’s brigade in motion. Leaving skirmishers in place to mask their intentions, two regiments from Massachusetts and Pennsylvania are pulled back into some woods. From there they march across the road to the southeast, into a treelined hollow that leads directly to the opening in the Confederate ranks. The Federals approach to within 700 yards of the enemy’s forward line without drawing much response; when told about the Federal movement, Jones, probably thinking of the corrective measures he has already ordered, answers that there is nothing to fear.

Jones’s assessment is wrong. The Pennsylvania regiment fires a volley and immediately charges into the woods on the right flank and rear of the enemy’s entrenched position. Here for a short time a most desperate struggle takes place, bayonets and clubbed guns are used on both sides, and many hand-to-hand encounters take place. To the left of the Pennsylvanians, the Massachusetts regiment opens fire at a scant twenty yards distance. The Confederates break back into the woods in some confusion, the Massachusetts line advances cheering, and the day is seemingly the Federals’. But Jones, working furiously, rallies his defenders and sends orders to Vaughn and Imboden to counterattack. Then he rushes to a small reserve force he had posted on the road and personally leads it into the left flank of the Massachusetts regiment. In less than five minutes, the Massachusettsians lose their major, adjutant, senior captain, and 55 men killed or wounded. But the Confederates suffer a more grievous loss: “Grumble” Jones, struck in the head by a bullet, falls dead from his horse.

Meanwhile Moor’s battle-weary brigade moves forward yet again against the Confederate left, supported this time by Stahel and the bulk of the Federal cavalry division. Those troopers who carry Spencer repeating rifles are ordered to dismount and advance on foot on Moor’s right. A piece of shrapnel strikes Stahel in the arm. Weakened by shock and loss of blood, he nevertheless has himself lifted onto a horse to lead his mounted men in a charge on the Confederal position. For his boldness and courage, the much-maligned former dancing master will be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

The Confederates on the right, demoralized by the death of Jones, fall back before the Massachusetts and Pennsylvania regiments and the rest of the Federal cavalry. The 2,000 horsemen commanded by Vaughn and Imboden—almost half the Confederate force—sit on their horses and watch the destruction of the infantry without making a move. Vaughn will later plead that he had been ordered by Jones to hold his position until he received further orders. The orders never come; in the confusion, the courier sent by Jones can’t find either Vaughn or Imboden. There is nothing for the Confederate infantry to do but run. Within moments, the entire Federal army senses victory: At Hunter’s headquarters, “fresh, hearty cheers” rise with the smoke of guns and musketry. Back roll the cheers from the front. Stretcher men, ambulance drivers, wounded men, butchers, bummers all take up the shout. The Federal cavalry pursue the defeated Confederates only about a mile, and Vaughn and Imboden are able to lead their men south and then east to Waynesboro; from there they slip through the Blue Ridge at Rockfish Gap. Although the bulk of the enemy force has escaped, Hunter is satisfied with the day’s work and decide to camp this night on the field. At the cost of only 780 men, the Federals have dealt the Confederates a smashing blow, killing or wounding about 600 men and taking more than a thousand prisoners. For the first time in the war, a Federal army has the run of the Shenandoah Valley. One of the secondary prongs of Grant’s overall offensive appears to be working at last.


Five days of slogging about seven miles a day through rain and mud has brought General Sturgis’s blueclad marchers as far as Salem, a north Mississippi hamlet whose only historical distinction will be that it is the boyhood home of their prey, General Bedford Forrest. A disencumbered flying column of 400 trooper is detached there for a forty-mile ride due east to strike the Mobile & Ohio at Rienzi, a dozen miles below Cornith, in hopes that breaking the railroad at that point will delay the concentration, somewhere down the line, of the Confederates who no doubt by now have begun to gather in the path of Sturgis’s main column.

This same day Forrest arrives back in Tupelo, fifty miles to the southeast. Uncertain whether the Federals are headed for Corinth or Tupelo—the 400-man flying column striking at Rienzi contributes to the confusion—Lee tells Forrest to dispose his men along the Mobile & Ohio between these two towns, ready to move in either direction, while he himself does what he can to get hold of more troops to help ward off the 8,300-man blow, wherever it might land. His notion is that, if the enemy moves southward, the cavalry should retire toward Okolona, about twenty miles below Tupelo, in order to protect the Black Prairie region just beyond, where most of the subsistence for his department is grown and processed, and also to draw Sturgis as far as possible from his base of supplies and place of refuge in Memphis before giving him battle with whatever reinforcements have been rounded up by then. Lee makes it clear before they part, however, that Forrest is left to his own devices as to what should be done in the meantime.


Now that Grant has been stopped again at Cold Harbor, he is running out of maneuvering room. “Without a greater sacrifice of human life than I am willing to make,” he admits, “all cannot be accomplished that I had designed.” Characteristically, Grant regards this not as a defeat but as an occasion to change his strategy. He now focuses his attention on the railroad network that is keeping Lee’s army alive. That network has two centers in Virginia, one in Richmond and the other twenty miles to the south, in Petersburg. Lee’s army receives most of its food by the Virginia Central Railroad, which runs from Staunton in the Shenandoah Valley to Richmond via Charlottesville and Gordonsville. A branch line runs from Charlottesville southwestward to Lynchburg. In addition, a vital railroad from Danville, southwest of Richmond, and one from Petersburg also meet in the Confederate capital. Petersburg is the hub of three more important lines: the Southside from Lynchburg in the west, the Weldon from North Carolina, and the Norfolk & Petersburg from the southeast.

Grant determines to sever these iron arteries carrying the lifeblood of the Army of Northern Virginia. “I have, therefore, resolved upon the following plan,” he tells the authorities in Washington today. He will send a cavalry force west to cut the Virginia Central for “25 or 30 miles.” Then he will make the longest, most difficult sidestep of all: He will move the Federal army to the south side of the James River and seize the rail hub at Petersburg. It is a plan fraught with peril. Grant proposes to disengage an army of 100,000 men from direct contact with the enemy; march it south through the swamps on either side of the Chickahominy River; cross the broad, tidal James; and deploy forty miles away, in the enemy’s rear. If Lee catches him in the act and attacks, the result could be an unmitigated Union disaster. Grant takes pains to make sure that his masterful opponent is blinded to his intentions. The raid on the Virginia Central will help by drawing off to the west Confederate cavalry that might otherwisee spot Grant’s dangerous maneuver. Butler will lend a hand as well, by attempting a breakout from Bermuda Hundred in four days and, if possible, attacking Petersburg. Three days later Grant will make a feint from Cold Harbor directly toward Richmond. At the same time the real movement—one of the biggest gambles of the war—will begin. Grant sends detailed orders for the first crucial diversion to the commander of his cavalry corps—Major General Philip H. Sheridan. In two days, Sheridan is to take two of his three cavalry divisions west toward Charlottesville. He is to destroy the railroad bridge over the Rivanna River just east of that city and tear up the tracks of the Virginia Central from there to Gordonsville, fifteen miles to the northeast; then he is to work his way back toward Richmond, wrecking the track as he makes for Hanover Junction. Every rail, Grant says, “should be so bent and twisted as to make it impossible to repair the road without supplying new rails.” After issuing these orders, he learns of General Hunter’s victory over Jones’s Confederates and occupation of Staunton today. This is perfect; Hunter can turn east, join Sheridan at Charlottesville, help with the destruction, and move with him back to the Army of the Potomac, threatening Lee from the west. In view of this possibility, Grant changes his instructions, telling Sheridan to await Hunter near Charlottesville. Once the forces meet, Sheridan is to detach a brigade to cut the James River Canal. Grant also proposes to Lee an arrangement for tending to the wounded and burying the dead.


In Georgia Sherman is shifting more rapidly northeast toward the Atlanta-Chattanooga rail line and Johnston’s new position on the mountains in front of Marietta. Skirmishing breaks out at Pine Mountain and Acworth. In the Trans-Mississippi a skirmish flares at Worthington’s Landing, Arkansas, and Federals scout in Missouri. At Charleston a minor bombardment against Fort Sumter by Federal guns ends with 319 rounds fired and only four casualties.

At Washington and other political discussion centers, the question is what Lincoln will do about a vice-presidential candidate. Many hold that Hannibal Hamlin must be dropped in favor of a war-minded Democrat to create the atmosphere of a united political ticket.
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June 6, Monday

After yesterday’s Battle of Piedmont in the Shenandoah Valley, General Hunter marches his Federal army into Staunton and unleashes an orgy of destruction. This time he confines his attentions to property of military significance—storehouses, mills, workshops, and railroad facilities. But while the military property is being wrecked, unrestrained looting begins in Staunton, carried out by “a mixed mob of Federal soldiers, Negroes, Secessionists, mulatto women,” and “the riffraff of the town.” At the Virginia Hotel Hospital, the provost guard is knocking the heads out of the numerous barrels of apple brandy. The resulting stream is running over the curbstones in cascades and rushing down the gutters. It is greedily drunk by dozens of soldiers and “vagabonds” on their hands and knees with their mouths in the gutter while others set their canteens to catch it as it flows over the curbs.


Sherman continues shifting position in Georgia to face Johnston’s entrenchments, although there is action at Big Shanty and Racoon Creek. Grant and Lee are largely quiet about Cold Harbor except for a movement by Early toward Burnside on the Federal right. A skirmish occurs near Moorefield, West Virginia; and out in Arkansas fighting breaks out at Lake Chicot or Old River Lake, and at Bealer’s Ferry on the Little Red River. For most of the rest of June there is desultory firing by Federal guns against Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.
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June 7, Tuesday

Delegates to the National Union Convention, representing most Republicans and some War Democrats, gather in Baltimore to nominate a candidate for President of the United States. Their support for Lincoln is almost unanimous. Open to possible question is the vice-presidential nomination. The day is devoted to the usual preliminaries, with the nomination set for tomorrow. Lincoln has told John Hay and others that he wants to keep hands off the vice-presidency and the platform. The Radical Republicans concede the nomination of Lincoln but hope for a dastric hard-war platform. Plans to postpone the convention have dissipated.


At Cold Harbor, Grant has finally arranged a truce with Lee and Federal burial details and medical teams go out to collect the dead and wounded in front of the Confederate works from the assault on the 3rd. By now most of the wounded are dead—some at their own hands to end their suffering—and most of the dead are unrecognizable. Some wounded managed to survive the burning days by sucking dew from the grass. There is still some talk, even at this late date, of resuming the offensive, but no one takes it seriously. Throughout the Army of the Potomac, criticism of the Cold Harbor offensive is mounting. The cavalry’s General James Wilson, who is visiting Grant’s headquarters, finds the staff worried that the “smash-‘em-up” policy will eventually disincline the troops “to face the enemy at all.” The men need rest, says General Warren in a passionate outburst to a friend. Warren has just seen a soldier bury a comrade and within half an hour be killed himself. “For thirty days now it has been one funeral procession past me, and it is too much!” Even the Confederates are calling Cold Harbor “Grant’s slaughter pen.” Grant isn’t a man who acknowledges failure easily, but even he feels moved to make a apology of sorts to his staff. “I regret this assault,” he says, “more than any other I ever ordered.” Thereafter, Horace Porter will recall, Grant says very little about it, turning his attention instead to “consummating his plans for the future.”


In order to carry out Grant’s orders, Sheridan has selected the divisions of Brigadier Generals Alfred T.A. Torbert and David M. Gregg to go with him on the raid. Between them, Torbert and Gregg have about 8,000 troopers mounted for duty. This is about two thirds the number Sheridan had with him on his Richmond raid last month, during which his men bested and killed the legendary Confederate cavalryman, Major General Jeb Stuart. The Federal troopers have drawn only three days’ rations; they are expected to forage. Each man carries 100 rounds of ammunition with him and slings over his saddle two days’ grain for his horse. The small train of 125 ammunition wagons and ambulances carry no additional supplies. This morning the cavalrymen move north from their camps at New Castle on the Pamunkey River, behind Grant’s lines at Cold Harbor. Sheridan intends to follow the North Anna River roughly fifty miles to the northwest, then cross the river and strike the Virginia Central Railroad ten miles east of Gordonsville at Trevilian Station. From there he will continue westward, destroying the track as he goes.


General Forrest has taken full advantage of the discretion he has been allowed by Stephen Lee in defense of Lee’s department. Forrest has some 4,300 troopers within reach: a single large brigade of 2,800 and two smaller ones of about 750 each. Over these past two days, while waiting for General Sturgis to show his hand, he has posted his commands in accordance with Lee’s instructions to cover both Tupelo and Corinth in Mississippi. Colonel Tyree Bell’s 2,800 are sent to Rienzi, which they reach in time to drive off the 400 detached bluecoats before they do any serious damage to the railroad. Forrest accompanies Colonels Hylan Lyon and Edmund Rucker, with their 750 each, to Booneville, nine miles south of Rieniz, along with Captain John Morton’s two four-gun batteries, all the artillery on hand.


Federal troops under S.D. Sturgis skirmish with Confederates at Ripley, Mississippi, as the Union expedition heads into Mississippi in search of Forrest. In Missouri there is action at Sikeston and New Franfort, and in Arkansas a skirmish at Sunnyside Landing. Morgan’s Confederate raid has taken five days to complete the 150-mile trek across the mountains to within sight of the Bluegrass.

President Davis, in a letter to a citizen of Canton, Louisiana, speaks of his desire “to prevent the oppression and redress the wrongs of citizens, but I cannot hope to have effected all I desired.”
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June 8, Wednesday

General Crook and the Army of the Kanawha arrives at Staunton in the Shenandoah Valley from West Virginia. They have been marching for more than a week, tearing up the railroad and skirmishing repeatedly with Confederate cavalry under Colonel William L. Jackson—called “Mudwall,” in “contradistinction to Stonewall Jackson.” The West Virginians are still short of supplies, and the shoes of many of the men are falling to pieces. But their needs are readily met by the bounty from Staunton’s storerooms. With his force now increased to 18,000 men and thirty guns, General Hunter prepares to march eastward, across the Blue Ridge to his next objective. He has relieved the wounded Stahel and put his 1st Cavalry Division under the command of Brigadier General Alfred N. Duffié, a former officer in the French army. And in place of the stalwart Colonel Moor, whose term of enlistment is up, Colonel George D. Wells is moved up from his command of a Massachusetts regiment to take command of the 1st Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade.


General Butler is anxious to recover from the embarrassment of his previous bungling. For a week, Federal spotters watching the Richmond & Petersburg Railroad from observation towers at Bermuda Hundred have been reporting that trains are carrying Confederate troops north, toward Richmond. The defenses of Petersburg have been stripped to reinforce Lee. Today Butler meets with Brigadier General Edward W. Hinks to plan a raid on Petersburg. Butler has decided to attack tomorrow, which leaves the officers who will lead the raid precious little time to prepare. Butler means to put Hinks in charge of the assault, but while they are conferring, Major General Quincy A. Gillmore, commanding X Corps, enters Butler’s headquarters. When he learns what is being planned, Gillmore demands that as senior officer, he be given command of the raid. Butler yields to his demand.

Hurried arrangements are made this afternoon. Three forces are to cross to the south side of the Appomatix—which joins the James just below Bermuda Hundred after flowing past the north edge of Petersburg three miles to the southwest. Gillmore will provide 1,800 infantrymen from his corps, and Hinks will lead 1,300 Black troops from his 3rd Division of XVIII Corps. These two forces will attack the defences east of the city. Simultaneously, Brigadier General August V. Kautz will take 1,300 cavalrymen on a sweep around Petersburg to strike the city from the south. Believing that Petersburg is defended by only about 1,500 men, Butler thinks that each of these thrusts has an excellent chance of being successful. Whichever force breaks through first can then move on the flank and rear of the defenders facing the other two. The plan has to be accomplished quickly, however, before the Confederates can shift reinforcements.

The troops move out after nightfall—and delays begin at once. The first challenge is to get the attacking forces across a pontoon bridge over the Appomattox River. This bridge is within Gillmore’s lines, yet he and his men lose their way marching to it in the dark. Hinks is there on time, but he has to await Gillmore’s arrival; since the plan calls for the infantry to cross before the cavalry; Kautz, too, is held up for several hours. Thus, though ordered to cross at midnight, Gillmore doesn’t get his command south of the Appomattox until 3:40 am. The operation isn’t yet underway, but the faultfinding is. Gillmore sends word that he anticipates trouble because the hoofbeats of the cavalry crossing the bridge can be heard “for miles.” Forgetting or ignoring the fact that he is in charge, Gillmore complains that no one has muffled the bridge with straw. Butler reads the message and smells doom.


In Georgia Sherman’s troops slosh through mud and rain to the Western & Atlantic Railroad, preparing to face Johnston once more in front of Marietta. Francis P. Blair comes up with a reinforcing corps, although Sherman has his forces depleted by the necessity of garrisoning the railroad back to Chattanooga. There is action near Acworth and a skirmish at Lost Mountain. In Virginia troops of Crook and Averell augment Hunter’s Federal force aiming at Lynchburg, bringing his total to eighteen thousand.


Morgan approaches the town of Mount Sterling, a day’s ride west of Lexington, Kentucky. His strength is 2,700 men, less than a third of them veterans from his old command, while another third are unmounted recruits for whom he hopes to find horses and equipment in the stock-rich country up ahead. A beginning is made at Mount Sterling, which he surrounds and captures, along with 380 Federals posted here to guard a large accumulation of supplies, including some badly needed boots.

While the prisoners are being paroled and Morgan is preparing to move on, looters begin to break into shops, plunder homes, and even rough up citizens to relieve them of watches and wallets. Though the officers do what they can to stop the pillage, the undisciplined recruits, many of whom have spent the last two years avoiding conscription and stealing to make a living while on the run, are so far beyond control that some even draw pistols on women to rob them of their jewelry—an outrage the bloodthirstiest guerrillas in Missouri haven’t perpetrated up to now. Confederates have mostly been greeted joyously on previous raids through this section of Kentucky, of which Morgan himself is a boasted product, but they aren’t likely to be welcome in the future, if indeed there is to be a future for them. A sort of climax is reached when a group of townspeople call indignantly on Morgan to show him an order, issued over the name of one of his brigade commanders, demanding immediate delivery of all the money in the local bank, under penalty of having “every house in the place” put to the torch; $72,000 (2020 $1,186,907) in gold and greenbacks has been handed over. Morgan pales and turns to the colonel in question, who pronounces the signature a forgery and asks who presented it. A light-haired officer with a blond beard and a German accent, he is told. Surgeon R.R. Goode answers that description, but when he is sent for he doesn’t appear. He is missing—and will remain so, though later he will be rumored to be living high in his native Germany.

Morgan can’t afford to spend time on an investigation, however desirable one would be to clear his name, and sets out without further delay for Lexington, his home town just over thirty miles away, leaving the foot-sore, horseless troopers behind to complete the distribution and destruction of the captured stores before taking up the march to join him.


Another three days of heavy plodding by General Sturgis’s Mississippi expedition has covered the twenty miles of the rain-soaked nearly bottomless road to Ripley, where Sturgis turned back from his pursuit of Forrest’s plunderers a month ago. Discouraged by the slowness of his march, as well as by the thought of all those graybacks probably gathering up ahead, he is inclined toward doing the same thing tomorrow, and come night holds a conference with his division commanders to get their views on the matter. Grierson feels much as his chief does. Delay has most likely enabled the rebs “to concentrate an overwhelming force against us,” and he is impress as well by “the utter hopelessness of saving our train or artillery in case of defeat.” McMillen, on the other hand, declares that he “would rather go on and meet the enemy, even if we should be whipped, than to return again to Memphis without having met them.” The key word here is again, Sturgis having turned back at this same point last month. Sturgis thinks it over and decides, on balance, that “it would be ruinous on all sides”—not least, it would seem, to the aggressive reputation that has won him his current post—“to return again without first meeting the enemy. Under these circumstances, and with a sad foreboding of the consequences,” he determines to move forward, keeping his force “as compact as possible and ready for action at all times.”

General Forrest is still at Booneville when he learns that Sturgis is at Ripley, twenty miles away.


The first two days’ march of Sheridan’s raiders have been hampered by oppressive heat and humidity. Scores of horses have broken down and had to be shot by the rearguard to keep them from enemy hands. Still, by nightfall the raiders have covered more than thirty miles.

General Lee learns of the fall of Staunton and Sheridan’s departure from Cold Harbor yesterday, immediately guesses Sheridan’s intent, and takes steps to thwart him. It has been less than a month since the peerless Jeb Stuart was killed, and Lee hasn’t yet chosen a permanent replacement to lead his cavalry corps. Two division commanders are in line for the post: Major General Wade Hampton, 46, of South Carolina, and Lee’s 29-year-old nephew, Major General Fitzhugh Lee. Lee orders both of them to go after Sheridan but gives charge of the operation to Hampton, who is senior.


Elsewhere, action includes an engagement at Simsport, Louisiana, and an affair at Indian Bayou, Mississippi. Until August 9th Federal troops operate from Fort Churchill to the Humbolt River in Nevada Territory.

Politics divert attention even from the military operations in Georgia and Virginia. At Baltimore, on the second day of the National Union party convention, Lincoln is nominated for President as expected. Andrew Johnson, military governor of Tennessee, becomes the vice president candidate in place of the incumbent Hannibal Hamlin. The party platform calls for the integrity of the Union, quelling of the rebellion, no compromise with the rebels, and a constitutional amendment ending slavery. The vote for President is 484 for Lincoln, 22 for Grant. Then Missouri changes its vote to make it unanimous. Upon the nomination, “the long pent up enthusiasms burst forth in a scene of wildest confusion.” “Hail, Colimbia” from the band increases the racket. For Vice-President, Democrat Johnson receives 200 votes; Hamlin 150; and Democrat Daniel S. Dickinson of New York 108. Most delegates change to Johnson and then it is made unanimous. The President’s role in dropping Hamlin and selecting Johnson will never be entirely clear. On the surface President Lincoln indicated he wanted an open choice. This evening a Union League council differs from the convention and favors, as does the Cleveland Radical convention, confiscation of rebel property.
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June 9, Thursday

Crowds of delegates from the Baltimore convention rush to the White House to congratulate the President on his nomination. Convention president William Dennison formally notifies Lincoln. The President expresses his gratitude and approves the call for a constitutional amendment prohibiting slavery: “such (an) amendment of the Constitution as (is) now proposed became a fitting, and necessary conclusion to the final success of the Union cause.” He points out that those in revolt have been given the opportunity to desist without “the overthrow of their institution” but have failed to do so. In the evening President Lincoln is serenaded by a brass band.


On the Appomattox, Gillmore’s orders are to wait until daylight, march toward the southwest until he strikes the enemy’s picket line, drive it in, and then attack Petersburg’s main works. Hinks is to follow the cavalry south to the Jordan’s Point road, then turn and launch his own assault straight west on the city. “Unless the attack is made promptly and vigorously there will be danger of failure,” Gillmore tells Hinks at 5 am. When Hinks asks if they are to hold any ground gained against strong counterattacks, Gillmore’s reply is “No; uness we take them within an hour it will be useless to attempt it and you must use your discretion in the attack.” at 6 am Gillmore’s men encounter the first of the enemy pickets and open fire.

Awaiting the Federals inside the city’s defenses are barely 1,000 Confederates. They are led by Brigadier General Henry A. Wise, a crusty former Governor of Virginia and brother-in-law to Union General Meade. Lacking any military training or experience, Wise is a purely political general, just like Butler, and fellow Confederates think about as much of Wise’s ability as Federals do of Butler’s. Wise is commanding the depleted forces in Petersburg because the Confederates didn’t expect anything to happen there. These forces consist of a Virginia regiment, a company of a South Carolina regiment, a few scattered artillery companies, a small body of cavalry, and Major Fletcher H. Archer’s company of local militia—in dress nothing to distinguish them from ordinary citizens. Archer will later recall how, when he gives the order to load muskets, one elderly man carefully uses a pocket knife to open the paper cartridge—the man has no teeth with which to bite it open. When the shooting starts, Wise musters wounded soldiers from the city’s hospitals and even releases a few score Confederate military prisoners to augment his force. Brigadier General Raleigh Colston, who has been without assignment for some time, happens to be in the city, and Wise gratefully accepts his offer to help.

The Federals unwittingly give Wise plenty of time to organize his defense. Gillmore pushes forward slowly for about an hour after encountering the pickets. Then he halts before the Confederate defenses around 7 am. Hinks proceeds to the Jordan’s Point road, turns and advances as planned, driving Wise’s pickets before him until he comes within 600 yards of the main enemy works. There he, too, stops. Gillmore is an engineer by training, and an excellent one, who has made his reputation by using artillery to reduces enemy forts. But he has no artillery with him now. Further, he has no experience leading troops in combat. Looking at the formidable earthworks before him, he hesitates. He will later assert that “it was no part of the plan to assault the enemy’s works on the right, unless there was a strong probability of success or until General Kautz’s attack should divert them.” Hinks, meanwhile, finds himself being peppered by a single Confederate battery, hastily brought forward by Wise. Hearing no firing on his right, where he expects Gillmore to be attacking, Hinks sends word that the works in his front are too strong and too heavily manned. He feels he can’t succeed unless Gillmore attacks with him. Gillmore, who outnumbers the Confederates in his front by better than four to one, replies that he will attack but that both of them should hold their positions and await Kautz’s assault from the south. But Kautz won’t arrive for another five hours. After leaving the infantry, Kautz’s cavalry meets enemy pickets on every road. This continual, though feeble, resistance slows the troopers’ progress, which is already hampered by an order from someone—no one knows who—that they ride at a walk. As a result, Kautz doesn’t reach the outer line of Petersburg’s defenses until noon.

Confident that he can take the lightly defended works, he attacks. Kautz is facing Major Archer, commanding 150 militiamen posted in two artillery lunettes on either side of the Jerusalem Plank Road. The militiamen turn back Kautz’s first probing attack, a mounted charge by Pennsylvania cavalry. The Federals dismount before continuing the attack, providing a lull in the action. Behind the Petersburg militiamen, a clatter of horses’ hooves heralds the arrival of General Colston, accompanied by one 12-pounder howitzer and six gunners from Sturdivant’s Virginia battery. To his dismay, Colston finds that the gun’s limber chest contains no case or canister rounds—the ammunition of choice against attacking formations. He has to make do with solid shot and shells fuzed to burst at point-blank range. Despite this disadvantage and the inexperience of his small command, Colston holds his position. Soon, however, Kautz has two fieldpieces firing on the Confederates, and he begins extending his line on either flank.

Colston is in serious trouble. His nearest support to the left is a mile away; to the right there is a four-mile gap. Still, he holds on until troopers from Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia are within fifty yards of him. Suddenly skirmishers begin to overlap his flanks. Only then, still fighting, does Colston begin to pull back, leaving on the field his howitzer, fifty men killed or wounded, and 35 taken prisoner. As the remnants of the local militia fall back into Petersburg and take a new position near the city’s waterworks, Kautz pursues with two Pennsylvania squadrons while the remainder of his command return to mount their horses. The Federals enter a ravine just on the edge of the city, and when they reach its bottom they come under heavy fire from Captain Edward Graham’s Virginia battery on the heights above. Thanks to Gillmore’s timidity, Wise has been able to shift the battery and two regiments of cavalry from Brigadier General James Dearing’s brigade, which has just arrived from the Richmond defenses; now their combined fire is so galling that Kautz pulls his advance squadron back and halts his main column. Although he believes that Petersburg isn’t strongly held, he fears the defenders can repulse him long enough for reinforcements to come in and for the Confederate cavalry to cut off his line of retreat. Hearing nothing from Gillmore’s front, Kautz concludes that his infantry supports have withdrawn, leaving him on his own. He sees no alternative but to retreat. He takes with him the captured howitzer, but leaves behind one of his own cannon in the confusion.

Kautz came within 150 yards of the streets of Petersburg at 1:30 pm. Just half an hour earlier, Gillmore and Hinks had pulled back to unite their forces. They have missed a golden opportunity. With most of Wise’s command shifted to face Kautz’s attack, an infantry assault on the eastern fortifications should have been a walkover. The Federals might not have been able to hold Petersburg for long—Confederate reinforcements are already on their way from the forces confronting Butler on Bermuda Hundred—but they could have held the city long enough to destroy public buildings, warehouses, railroad track and rolling stock. Instead, Gillmore and his command retreat to the Appomattox River and begin making their excuses. Butler immediately charges Gillmore with disobedience and military incapacity, removes him from command, and orders his arrest. Gillmore requests a court of inquiry; it will never be convened, but Grant will restore his freedom and transfer him to another command, apparently writing off the affair as a poor performance by all involved.


The attack has been so feeble that it amounts to the least of Robert E. Lee’s troubles of the moment. Of crucial importance to the Confederate commander is an awareness of Grant’s next move. But Lee’s intuitive grasp of his opponent’s strategy has deserted him. Now the Confederate general has no idea, and no way of finding out, what Grant intends to do. Grant can’t know how thoroughly he has succeeded in confusing and bedeviling General Lee. Yet he must sense something, because he accepts the recent shortcomings of his own operations with remarkable sanguinity. “Everything is progressing favorably but slowly,” he writes to his old friend, Congressman Elihu Washburne. He still has the initiative, and he knows exactly what he is going to do with it. “Unless my next move brings on a battle,” Grant writes, “the balance of the campaign will settle down to a siege.”


At dawn with the Army of Northern Virginia, Generals Hampton and Lee’s troopers stuff barely a day’s rations into their coats or saddle bags and set out in pursuit of General Sheridan’s cavalry raiders. Sheridan has a two-day head start; but while he has taken a circuitous route to Trevilian, perhaps 65 miles in length, Hampton has only about 45 miles to go. That gains him almost a day, and he proceeds to improve upon the advantage by pressing his command hard. The Confederates ride around the clock, stopping only for two hours to rest the horses at noon, and another two hours at midnight. It is tough going, through stifling heat. The dust raised by the lead units choke and blind the men in the rear of the column. The only water obtainable for man or beast is from small streams crossed, and this, churned up by thousands of hoofs, is almost undrinkable. Meanwhile, Sheridan’s raid has frequent skirmishes with mounted “irregulars.”


Only about half of the troopers that Morgan left behind at Mount Sterling will ever rejoin him, the rest being killed or captured as the result of a miscalculation. “There will be nothing in the state to retard our progress except a few scattered provost guards,” Morgan had predicted on setting out, and this opinion has been bolstered by reports from scouts that the heavy Union column under Burbridge, unaware of what is in progress across the way, had begun its eastward march toward the Cumberlands just before the Confederates emerged from them, headed west. Morgan’s announced purpose is to oblige the blue invaders to turn back, but he didn’t think they would react with anything like the speed they have. When Burbridge learned at Prestonburg that his adversary had passed him en route, by way of Pound Gap, he not only countermarched promptly; he has done so with such celerity that he is on the outskirts of Mount Sterling before daylight this morning, and launches a dawn attack that catches the scantily picketed gray recruits so completely by surprise that many of them, still groggy from their excesses from yesterday and last night, are shot before they can struggle out of their blankets. The survivors—about 450 of the original 800—manage to fall back through the town and down the road to the west, thankful that the Federals are too worn by their hard return march to pursue.

Morgan is halfway to Lexington when he finds out what has happened, and though his first reaction is to turn back and counterattack with his whole command, on second thought (Burbridge having about twice as many men, well supported by artillery, and Morgan having been unable to bring any artillery of his own across the mountains) he decides to wait for what is left of the horseless brigade to join him, then continue on to his home town. He approaches it come night and makes camp astride the pike.


In Mississippi, General Forrest learns this morning that General Sturgis’s mud-slathered column is continuing southeast. There is no longer any doubt that it is headed not for Corinth but for Tupelo, twelve miles below Guntown, a station on the Mobile & Ohio at the end of the road down which Sturgis is marching. A brigade remnant of 500 men under Colonel William A. Johnston arrives today from Alabama, raising Forrest’s strength to 4,800. That is all he is likely to have for several days, but he figures it is enough for what he has in mind. He tells Johnson to rest his troopers near Baldwin, twenty miles down the track from Booneville, having decided to hit Sturgis, and hit him hard, before he gets to Guntown. In fact, he has already chosen his field of fight, twenty miles from Ripley and six miles short of the railroad—a timber-laced low plateau where the Ripley-Guntown road, on which the Federals are moving southeast, is intersected at nearly right angles by one from Booneville that runs southwest to Pontotoc—and when he learns this evening that Sturgis has called an overnight halt at Stubbs Farm, nine miles from the intended point of contact, his plan is complete. Orders go out to all units this night.


A smaller fight takes place near Pleasureville, Kentucky.

Sherman is just about ready for the next act of the Atlanta Campaign against Johnston at the Lost, Pine, and Brush mountains position. Skirmishing breaks out near Big Shanty and near Stilesburough, Georgia.

An affair occurs near Breckinridge, Missouri. For five days Federals scout from Cassville, Missouri, to Cross Hollow, Arkansas. At La Fayette, Tennessee, there is yet another skirmish. Near Cold Harbor orders go out to build fortifications to cover the proposed Federal march to the James. River.

President Davis warns Lee that “The indications are that Grant despairing of a direct attack is now seeking to embarrass you by flank movements.” He also worries about the threats at Petersrbug and is concerned that Johnston has not yet struck the enemy in Georgia.
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June 10, Friday

At his headquarters at Staunton in the Shenandoah Valley, General Hunter has been pondering his next move. Grant’s orders mentioned Charlottesville as a target, and he sent with Sheridan a letter emphasizing that preference. But Hunter never received it. Now, at Strother’s urging, Hunter chooses a more ambitious prize—Lynchburg, a huge Confederate supply depot and a vital rail center linking Richmond with the West and the Deep South. He decides to continue up the Valley to Lexington, cut through the Blue Ridge at the Peaks of Otter, and head east toward Lynchburg. It is a bold plan that requires swift execution. Hunter has to send to Harpers Ferry for a fresh supply. Moreover, there are 1,000 stands of Confederate small arms to be destroyed along with the Staunton depot buildings and fifty miles of Virginia Central track. Thus it isn’t until today, five days after the Battle of Piedmont and two days after Crook’s arrival, that Hunter’s combined force, now styled the Army of West Virginia, is ready to march southward. Confederates under Breckinridge again gather to oppose him, with action at Middlebrook, Brownsburg, and Waynesborough.


This same morning Morgan rides into Lexington, Kentucky, to find, along with much else in the way of supplies and equipment, enough horses in its several government stables to mount all his still-dismounted men and replace the animals broken down by the long march from Virginia. Despite this valid military gain, today is another stain on the reputation the raid had been designed, in part, to burnish. As the local paper will report tomorrow, “Though the stay of Morgan’s command in Lexington was brief, embracing but a few hours, he made good use of his time—as many empty shelves and pockets will testify.” Once more looters take over, and this time veterans join the pillage. Another bank is robbed, though more forthrightly than the one two days ago; the celebrants simply put a pistol to the cashier’s head and make him open the vault, from which they take $10,000 (2020 164,848). Several buildings are set afire and whiskey stores are stripped, with the result being that a good many troopers, too drunk to stay on a horse, have to be loaded into wagons for the ride to Cynthiana, thirty miles northeast. Morgan has learned there are supplies and a 500-man garrison there, and he is determined to have or destroy them both. He moves by way of Georgetown, Kentucky, and a smaller band heads toward Frankfort, Kentucky, carrying out a demonstration.


In Mississippi, the march of Forrest’s men to meet Sturgis’s invaders begins before dawn. Forrest leads the way with his hundred-man escort company and Lyon’s small Kentucky brigade; Rucker and Bell are to follow, along with Morton’s guns, and Johnson will come in from the east. The result is the battle that will be variously called Guntown, Tishomingo Creek, or Brice’s Crossroads. The enemy has close to a two-to-one advantage in men, as well as nearly three times as many guns, but Forrest believes that boldness and the nature of the terrain, which he knows well, will make up for the numerical odds he faces. “I know they greatly outnumber the troops I have at hand,” he tells Rucker, who rides with him in advance of his brigade, “but the road along which they will march is narrow and muddy; they will make slow progress. The country is densely wooded and the undergrowth so heavy that when we strike them they will not know how few men we have.” His companion might point out, but doesn’t, that the road they themselves are on—called the Wire Road because in early days before the railroad, the telegraph line to New Orleans had run along it—is as muddy and narrow as the one across the way. Moreover, all the Federals are within nine miles of the objective, while aside from Johnson’s 500 Alabamians, seven miles away at Baldwyn, all the Confederates have twice as far to go or farther; Lyon, Rucker, and Morton have eighteen miles to cover, and Bell just over 25. Forrest has thought of that as well, however, and here too he sees compensating factors, not only in the marching ability of his troopers, but also in the contrasting effect of the weather on their blue-clad adversaries. The rain has stopped and the rising sun gives promise that the day will be a scorcher. “Their cavalry will move out ahead of their infantry,” he explains, “and should reach the crossroads three hours in advance. We can whip their cavalry in that time. As soon as the fight opens they will send back to have the infantry hurried in. It is going to be hot as hell, and coming on the run for five or six miles, their infantry will be so tired out we will ride right over them.” Quickly returning to present matters, he adds, “I will go ahead with Lyon and the escort and open the fight.”

Sturgis rises at Stubbs Farm in a better frame of mind, encouraged by the letup of the rain and the prospect that a couple of days of mid-June heat will bake the roads dry, down through Tupelo and beyond. The flying column returned from Rienzi last night, and though their mounts are jaded the 400 troopers are doubly welcome as replacements for about the same number of “sick and worn-out men” he starts back toward Memphis this morning in forty of the wagons his two divisions have eaten empty in the past nine days. While Sturgis knows that it is “impossible to gain any accurate or reliable information of that enemy” and that it behooves them “to move and act constantly as if in his presence,” but that is precisely what he fails to do—compassion for his weary foot soldiers leads him to give them an extra couple of hours in camp to dry their clothes and get themselves in order for another hard day’s march. Grierson and his troopers ride off for Guntown at 5:30 am but McMillen’s lead brigade doesn’t set out till 7:00, thus giving Forrest a full measure of the time he estimates he will need to “whip their cavalry” before the infantry hurries up.

The first word that Sturgis receives that a battle is underway comes shortly after 10:00 am, when a courier from Grierson comes pounding back with news that the cavalry is hotly engaged, some five miles down the road, with a superior hostile force; he has, he says, “an advantageous position,” and can hold it if the infantry is brought up promptly. Leaving orders for McMillen to proceed “as rapidly as possible without distressing the troops,” Sturgis gallops ahead to examine the situation at first hand. It doesn’t look at all good from the rear, where a nearly mile-long causeway across a stretch of flooded bottomland leads to and from a narrow bridge over Tishomingo Creek; artillery and ambulances and lead horses jam the road, and when he reaches Brice’s about noon, another mile and a half toward Guntown, he finds the cavalry hard pressed, fighting dismounted amid “considerable confusion.” One brigade commander declares flatly that he will have to fall back unless he receives some support, while the other, according to Sturgis, is “almost demanding to be relieved.” Grierson is more stalwart. Though the rebels are there “in large numbers, with double lines of skirmishers and heavy supports,” he is proud that he and his rapid-firing troopers have “succeeded in holding our own and repulsing with great slaughter three distinct and desparate charges.” The sun is now past the overhead. How much longer he can hang on he doesn’t say, but it can scarcely be for long unless he is reinforced, heavily and soon, by men from the infantry column toiling toward him through the mud and heat. Sturgis reacts promptly. With no further mention of “distressing the troops,” he sends word for McMillen to hurry his three brigades forward and save the day.

Grierson is wrong in almost everything he has said, and Sturgis is fatally wrong in accepting his estimate of the situation. Those three “desperate charges,” for example, were simply feints, made by Forrest—a great believe in what he calls “bulge”—to disguise the fact that his troopers, dismounted and fed piecemeal into the brush-screened line as soon as they come up, are badly outnumbered by those in the two blue brigades, who overlap him on both flanks and have six pieces of horse artillery in action, unopposed, and four more in reserve. Forrest opened the fight, as he said he would, by attacking with Lyon astride the Wire Road, then put Rucker and Johnson in on the left and right, when they arrived, for a second and third attack to keep the Federals off balance while waiting for Morton’s guns and the rest of his command to complete their marches from Booneville and Rienzi. “Tell Bell to move up fast and fetch all he’s got,” he tells a staff major, who rides back to deliver the message. It is just past 1:00 pm when this last and largest of his brigades come onto the field, close behind Morton; by which time, true to his schedule, Forrest has the cavalry whipped. Convinced that he has been “overwhelmed by numbers,” Grierson is asking to have his division taken out of line, as it is “exhausted and well-nigh out of ammunition” for its rapid-firing carbines. McMillen rides up to the crossroads at this point, in advance of his lead brigade, and is dismayed to find that “everything is going to the devil as fast as it possible could.” Like Sturgis earlier, he throws caution to the winds. Though many of his troops have already collapsed from heat exhaustion on the hurried approach march, and though all are blown and in great distress from the savage midday, mid-June Mississippi sun, he sends peremptory orders for his two front brigades to come up on the double quick and restore the crumbling cavalry line before the rebels overrun it.

They are hurrying to destruction, and hurrying needlessly at that; for just as they come into position, every bit as “tired out” as Forrest predicted, a lull falls over the crossroad. It is brief, however, lasting only long enough for the Confederate commander, now that all his troops are on the field, to mount and launch his first real assault of the day. Giving direction of the three brigades on the right to Buford, a Kentucky-born West Pointer two years his senior in age, he goes in person to confer with Bell, whose newly arrived brigade comprises the left—Bell it to begin the charge, with the rest of the line following suit when they hear his bugles and guns. This done, he comes back to the right, checking his line along the way and passing on the same instructions. Drawing rein at Morton’s position, Forrest tells him to double-shot four of his guns with canister and join the charge when the bugle sounds, then keep pace with the front rank as it advances. Afterwards, the young artillerist, who celebrated his 21st birthday on the field of Chickamauga, will tell his chief: “You scared me pretty badly when you pushed me up so close to their infantry and left me without protection. I was afraid they might take my guns.” Forrest will laugh, saying, “Well, artillery is made to be captured, and I wanted to see them take yours.”

With the main effort begun there is a grim struggle, much of it hand to hand, before the contest reaches the climactic point at which Forrest judges the time has come to go all-out. Returning to the left, where he believes the resistance will be stiffest, he puts an end to the thirty-minute lull by starting Bell’s advance up the Guntown road. McMillen’s second brigade is posted there, sturdy men from Indiana, Illinois, and Minnesota who, winded though they are from their sprint to reach the field, not only break the attack but launch one of their own, throwing the Tennesseans into such confusion that Forrest has to dismount his escort troopers and lead them into the breach, firing pistols, to stop what has the makings of a disaster. Over on the right, Buford too is finding the enemy stubborn, and has all he can do to keep up the pressure along his front. Finally, though, the pressure tells. Orders come from Forrest—who fights this, as he does all his battles, “by ear”—that the time has come to “hit ‘em on the ee-end.” It is past 4:00 pm by now, and simultaneous attacks, around the flanks and into the rear of the Union left and right, makes the whole blue line waver and cave in, first slowly, then with a rush.

Fleeing past the two-story Brice house at the crossroads, the fugitives seek shelter back up the road they ran down, four hours ago, to reach the battle that’s now lost. But conditions there are in some ways worse than those in what had been the front: especially along the causeway through the Tishomingo bottoms and on the railless bridge across the creek, the narrow spout of the funnel-shaped host of panicked men, who, as Sturgis will say, “came crowding in like an avalanche from the battlefield.” Morton’s batteries have the range, and their execution is increased by the addition of four Federal guns, captured with their ammunition. Presently a wagon overturns on the high bridge and others quickly pile up behind it, creating “one indiscriminate mass of artillery, caissons, ambulances, and broken, disordered troops.” Some escape by leaping into the creek, swollen neck-deep by the rains, and wading to the opposite bank. But there is no safety there, either. Though Sturgis hopes to form a new line on the far side of the stream, the rebels are crossing so close in his rear that every attempt to make a stand only brings on a new stampede. The only thing that slows the whooping graybacks is the sight of abandoned wagons, loaded with “fresh, crisp hardtack and nice, thin side bacon.” They pause for plunder, wolf it down, and then come on for more.

This continues, well past sundown, to within three miles of last night’s bivouac, where there is another and still worse stretch of miry road across one of the headwater prongs of the Hatchie River. It is night now and the going is hard “in consequence of abandoned vehicles, drowned and dying horses and mules, and the depth of the mud.” Despairing of getting what is left of his shipwrecked train through this morass, Sturgis goes on to Stubbs Farm, where he is approached before midnight by Colonel Edward Bouton, whose Black brigade has served as train guard during the battle and has therefore suffered less than the other two infantry commands have done. Bouton wants more ammunition with which to hold Forrest in check, on the far side of the bottoms, while the remaining guns and wagons are being snaked across to more solid ground beyond. Sturgis is too far in despair, however, to consider this or any other proposal involving resistance. Besides, he has no ammunition to give. “For God’s sake,” he breaks out, distraught by the events of this longest day in his life and the prospect of a sad birthday tomorrow, “if Mr. Forrest will let me alone, I will let him alone! You have done all you could, and more than was expected.... Now all you can do is to save yourselves.”

Mr. Forrest, as Sturgis so respectfully styles the man he had said a month ago is “too great a plunderer to fight anything like an equal force,” has no intention of letting him alone so long as there is profit to be gained from pressing the chase. Heaving the wreckage off the Tishomingo bridge and into the creek, along with the dead and dying animals, he continues to crowd the rear of the retreating bluecoats. “Keep the skeer on ‘em,” he tells his troopers, remounted now, and they do just that, past sunset and on into twilight and full night. “[Sturgis] attempted the destruction of his wagons, loaded with ammunition and bacon,” Forrest will report, “but so closely was he pursued that many of them were saved without injury, although the road was lighted for some distance.” Furious at this incendiary treatment of property he considers his already, he comes upon a group of his soldiers who have paused, still mounted, to watch the flames. “Don’t you see the damned Yankees are burning my wagons?” he roars. “Get off your horses and throw the burning beds off.” Much toasted hardtack and broiled bacon is saved this way, until finally, some time after 8 pm, “It being dark and my men and horses requiring rest,”—they do indeed, having been on the go, marching and fighting, for better than sixteen hours—he throws out an advance to follow slowly and cautiously after the enemy, and orders the command to halt, feed, and rest.

By 1 am he has his troops back in the saddle and hard on the equipment-littered trail. Within two hours they reach the Hatchie bottoms, where they come upon the richest haul of all. Despite Bouton’s plea, Sturgis has ordered everything movable to proceed this night to Stubbs Farm and beyond, abandoning what is left of his train, all his non-walking wounded, and another fourteen guns, all that remains of the original 22 except for four small mountain howitzers that haven’t seen action anyhow. This brings Forrest’s total acquisition to 18 guns, 176 wagons, 1,500 rifles, 300,000 rounds of small-arms ammunition, and much else. He himself has lost nothing, and though he has 492 killed and wounded in the battle—a figure larger in proportion than the 617 casualties he has inflicted—his capture of more than 1,600 men on the retreat brings the Federal losses to 2,240, nearly five times his own. Many of the enemy, especially from Bouton’s brigade, which have the misfortune to bring up the rear and suffer heavily in the process, are picked up here in the Hatchie bottoms.


The “irregular” skirmishers haven’t prevented Sheridan from crossing the North Anna and camping near a crossroads store barely three miles north of Trevilian. The Confederate scouts have become more aggressive, and Sheridan concludes that a large force of Confederate cavalry has succeeded in getting ahead of him. If he is right, there will be a fight in the morning.

He is right. By nightfall, General Hampton and his 4,700 troopers have reached Trevilian Station. Indeed, Brigadier General Thomas Rosser’s brigade bivouacs this night on the Gordonsville road beyond Trevilian. Fitzhugh Lee’s division, meanwhile, camps near Louisa Court Hous, on the railroad four miles to the east. They have beaten the enemy to the Virginia Central. Now they have to fight him off.


In Georgia Sherman’s three armies move forward cautiously toward Johnston’s mountainous positions northwest of Marietta. Action occurs at Acworth, Pine Mountain, Roswell, Lost Mountain, and Calhoun. Muddy roads and swollen streams still hamper operations.

Grant at Cold Harbor refines his plans for the movement of the Army of the Potomac to the James River. Fighting erupts at Old Church and Newport, Virginia, and Kabletown, West Virginia. In the West the day is marked with an affair near St. James, Missouri; another at Lewisburg, Arkansas; and considerable scouting in Missouri.

The Confederate Congress in Richmond authorizes military service for men between seventeen and eighteen years of age and between forty-five and fifty
#15232819
June 11, Saturday

In Virginia, General Hampton is awakened at dawn by Rosser and another brigade commander, Matthew C. Butler. They can hear bugles rousing Sheridan’s Federal cavalry in the distance. Their own men and mounts have been at the ready since first light. “General,” says Rosser, “what do you propose to do today, if I may inquire?” Hampton is a master of brevity. “I propose to fight.” Hampton surmised correctly that Sheridan’s course will bring him through the crossroads at Clayton’s Store, northeast of Trevilian. From there, two roads lead through the heavily wooded countryside to the Virginia Central tracks at Trevilian Station and at Louisa Court House. Hampton advances from Trvilian with Butler’s and Brigadlier General Pierce M.B. Young’s brigades, sending Rosser’s wide to the left to prevent a flanking attack. meanwhile, Fitshugh Lee’s division is to advance toward Clayton’s Store from Louisa. They will meet at the crossroads and together drive Sheridan back to the North Anna. It’s a bold plan, but it can’t work. Sheridan is already astride the crossroads when Hampton starts to move. Two of Torbert’s brigades, commanded by Brigadier Generals Wesley Merritt and Thomas C. Devin, lead the Federal advance toward Trevilian Station. Torbert’s remaining brigade—Brigadier General George A. Custer’s—moves down the Louisa Court House road with one of David Gregg’s brigades.

Federal and Confederate troopers meet on both roads very early this morning. On the Trevilian road, Butler dismounts his South Carolina brigade and slams into Merritt’s skirmishers, confident in the belief that Fitzhugh Lee will be arriving on his right to help. They are soon driving the enemy before them in the very thick woods. Moreover, Butler hears the comforting sound of gunfire to his right. But he is thoroughly outnumbered by the force in front of him. The Confederate advance falters, then stops. The dismounted cavalrymen struggle to hold their positions in the thick underbrush, “the enemy meantime pounding us with all his might.” No help arrives from Fitzhugh Lee. The fighting goes on at close quarters for several hours. Butler, all the time listening for Fitzhugh Lee’s guns on his right, is forced back, step by step. General Hampton arrives with another brigade, but the slow, stubborn retreat continues until the fighting is almost within sight of Trevilian Station. Now at last new gunfire erupts, but it isn’t on Hampton’s right; it is in his rear. Custer’s Federal brigade, all alone, has taken Trevilian Station.

Fitzhugh Lee had barely begun his advance this morning when he ran into the two Federal brigades on the road ahead of him. Instead of attacking this superior force, he changed his route and turned west, on the road leading directly to Trevilian. Custer was under orders from Sheridan to try to get behind Hampton. Unopposed by Lee, he dashed to his right along a trail that leads to the southwest. No one on the battlefield realizes it yet, but Custer has got not only behind but also between the two Confederate divisions. Just as the battle is heating up between Hampton and Torbert, Custer comes out of the woods near Trevilian Station. There he finds, virtually unprotected, Hampton’s ammunition wagons, several hundred horses being held while the Confederates fight dismounted, battery wagons and caissons—all for the taking. At once, Custer sends his Michiganders in at the charge. So complete is the surprise that the Federal troopers are carried away by their success. Instead of halting at the station, they pursue the fleeing wagons for some distance and as a result are themselves later cut off, losing many of their number and most of what they’ve captured. Meanwhile, one of Young’s Georgian regiments deploys between Trevilian and the rest of Custers force. Custer immediately orders a cavalry charge, and the men cut through the Confederates to the station.

Then everything changes at once. Hampton, learning of the danger in his rear, pulls Rosser back toward Trevilian from his left. And now Fitzhugh Lee’s division enters the fight from Louisa Court House. As Confederate pressure builds, Custer attempts to move his men, along with the prisoners and captured wagons, down the Gordonsville road. Captain W. Thomson’s Confederate horse artillery battery, posted on a hill north of the station, finds itself in a perfect position to cover the road. As the column of Federals moves in front of the guns, Thomson opens fire, felling horses and riders and smashing the lead wagons. At this moment, Rosser’s cavalry strikes Custer’s right, forcing him back to the station. Custer is now virtually surrounded. Between the nature of the ground and the attacks pressing on him, his lines very nearly resemble a circle. The Confederates advance, his lines contract, and soon there is “actually no place which could be called under cover.” With withering gunfire and mounted charges coming in from all sides, Custer dispatches squadrons of cavalry to one crisis point after another. The 24-year-old general rightly becomes concerned that his command might be overrun. When his color-bearer is hit, Custer picks up the headquarters guidon, tears it from its staff, and hides it under his coat.

Sheridan has heard the firing in Hampton’s rear, surmised what it means, and knows that Custer is going to need help fast. He throws Colonel John Irvin Gregg’s brigade of General David Gregg’s division against Hampton’s weakened line and forces the Confederates back. Indeed, some of them are driven into Custer’s line as they withdraw. General Gregg moves Brigadier General Henry E.W. Davies’ brigade against Fitzhugh Lee’s exposed right flank and drives it back as well. Eventually Lee retreats almost to Louisa, while Hampton and his division draw off to the west, leaving Sheridan in undisputed possession of Trevilian Station.

After the fight, Custer reports to Sheridan. When Sheridan asks him whether the Confederates have captured his colors, Custer pulls the flag from his coat and proudly waves it over his head. “Not by a damned sight!” he shouts. “There it is!”


In Kentucky, Morgan’s raiders arrive at Cynthiana, and Morgan demands the garrison’s surrender. This is declined at first, but then accepted after a house-to-house fight in which, Morgan will inform Richmond, “I was forced to burn a large portion of the town.” Before he can enjoy the fruits of victory, lookouts spot a blue column, 1,200 strong, approaching from the east. It is Hobson; he, too, has turned back, well short of the Virginia line, on hearing from Burbridge that the raiders are in his rear. Headed for Lexington, he marched hard for Cynthiana when he saw the smoke and heard the firing. As it turns out, he is marching to join the surrender. Morgan throws two brigades directly at him and circles around to gain his rear with the other. This being done, Hobson is left with no choice except to be slaughtered or lay down his arms. He chooses the latter course; which is doubly sweet for Morgan, Hobson having been widely praised for his share in the capture, last July, of about half of Morgan’s “terrible men,” including the raider’s second in command and two of his brothers, who he later joined in prison as a felon. Now with Hobson himself a captive the tables are turned.

Proud of this latest exploit—as well he might be; he now has more prisoners than troopers—Morgan refuses to be alarmed when scouts ride in at nightfall to report that Burbridge, having learned of Morgan’s appearance at Cynthiana, is on the way from Mount Sterling with close to 5,000 men. That is three times the strength of the Confederates, who are down to about 1,400, half their original force, as a result of casualties, stragglers, and detachments sent out to mislead the numerous Union garrisons roundabout. Even more serious, perhaps, is the shortage of cartridges for the Enfield rifles his raiders favor so much that they have declined to exchange them for captured Springfields, even though there is plenty of ammunition for the latter. But Morgan’s mind is quite made up, determined to give his weary men a good night’s rest, he announces to his brigade commanders that he will meet the blucoats in the morning on ground of his own choosing, two miles south of town, and whip them as he whipped Hobson today, whatever the odds. When one colonel protests that Burbridge is too strong to be fought without full cartridge boxes, the Alabama-born Kentuckian replies curtly: “It is my order that you hold your position at all hazard. We can whip him with empty guns.”


Four miles short of Ripley, Mississippi, at dawn, Forrest’s pursuing troopers come upon General Sturgis’s rearguard remnant, which Forrest says “made only a feeble and ineffectual resistance.” He drives its members back on the town, where they are reinforced and rally briefly, only to scatter when attacked. From there, the enemy offers no organized resistance, but retreats “in the most complete disorder, throwing away guns, clothing, and everything calculated to impede his flight.” Beyond Ripley Forrest leaves the direct pursuit to Buford and swings onto a roundabout adjoining road with Bell’s brigade, intending to cut the Federals off at Salem. But that is a miscalculation. Buford presses the Federals so hard the interception fails, the blue column clears the hamlet before Forrest gets there around sundown. He calls off the chase at this point and turns back to scour the woods and brush for fugitives, gather up his spoils, and give his men and mounts some rest from their famous victory, which will be studied down the years, in war colleges here and abroad, as an example of what a numerically inferior force can accomplish once it gets what its commander calls “the bulge” on an opponent, even one twice its size.

There is no rest, though, for Sturgis and his men, who continue to flee in their ignorance that they are no longer pursued except by rumors of graybacks hovering on their flank. “On we went, and ever on,” a weary colonel will write, “marching all that day and all that interminable [second] night. Until half past ten the next morning, when we reached Collierville and the railroad, reinforcements and supplies, we marched, marched, marched, without rest, without sleep, without food.” At any rate they make excellent time. The march down took more than a week, but the one back takes only a night and a day and a night.


In the Shenandoah Valley, about noon, General Crook approaches Lexington and the Virginia Military Institute, whose corps of cadets is again in the field. John McCausland’s Confederate cavalrymen, who have been trying to slow Crook, have burned the bridge into the town. From a high cliff on the opposite side of the river, and from the nearby buildings of the institute, a few Confedertate cannon and sharpsooters temporarily halt the powerful Federal force. Averell takes a brigade of cavalry across a ford south of Lexington to get behind the defenders. But the Federal horsemen move slowly, and both McCausland’s troopers and the VMI cadets escape unscathed.

As the Federal troops march through town on their way to the institute, two men from an Ohio regiment knock on the door of a house and ask the owner for a drink of water. The man seizes a shotgun and fires it into the startled soldiers, killing one of them instantly. The others open fire on the civilian until “his skin looked more like a pepperbox than a human being.” By the time Hunter reaches the VMI campus, the sacking has already begun. “We found soldiers, Negroes, and riffraff disputing the plunder,” Strother will recall. “The plunderers came out loaded with beds, carpets, cut velvet chairs, mathematical glasses and instruments, stuffed birds, charts, books, papers, arms, cadet uniforms and hats in the most ridiculous confusion.”


In Georgia, Sherman has his armies moving again. He now musters more than 100,000 men, approximately the strength with which he started five weeks ago. His battle losses of 9,209 men during May have been nearly replaced by the 9,000 troops of XVII Corps, newly arrived from Northern furlough, under Major General Francis Preston Blair. This former Congressman and brother of President Lincoln’s Postmaster General also brings with him several hogsheads of ice and numerous baskets of champagne. (Joseph Johnston, lacking the luxury of either champagne or reserve manpower, is unable to replace all 8,500 troops lost to combat in May; his army now numbers fewer than 70,000 men.)

Deployed on a ten-mile front, the Federals move forward slowly, feeling for the enemy main line, which intersects the railroad a couple of miles below the town of Big Shanty. On the Federal left, McPherson’s Army of the Tennessee heads down the railroad toward Brush Mountain; on the right, Schofield’s Army of the Ohio moves toward Lost Mountain; and in the center, Thomas’ Army of the Cumberland approaches the most vulnerable part of the enemy’s line—the salient jutting forward at Pine Mountain. Fighting breaks out at McAffee’s Crossroads and skirmishing near Lost and Pine Mountains lasts several days.


CSS Alabama has had a very good war. Since her commissioning almost two years ago, she has decimated the US whaling fleet in the Azores; ravaged Yankee shipping off New Foundland and New England; haunted the Caribbean trade routes; made a side trip into the Gulf of Mexico, during which she ambushed and sank the warship Hatteras; worked the Atlantic coast of South America; then sailed across the Atlantic and Indian Oceans into the Java and China Seas; before returning to Africa’s Cape of Good Hope. During those almost twenty months at sea, the Alabama had netted 37 ships.

But the Alabama was beginning to show the wear and tear of such a long time at sea with few breaks. “Her boilers were burnt out,” Lieutenant Kell will write, “and her machinery was sadly in want of repairs. She was loose in every joint, her seams were open, and the copper on her bottom was in rolls.” Captain Semmes decided to head for England or France for a thorough overhaul of his ship. As the Alabama beat north along the Atlantic coast of Africa, Semmes captured two Yankee ships, took their crews and passengers aboard, then put the vessels to the torch. But he had lost his zest for the campaign, reflecting despondently on reports of Union victories in newspapers he acquired in Cape Town. The Alabama reaches the Cape of the Hague on the Normandy coast, picks up a French pilot, and today drops anchor in the port of Cherbourg. Semmes immediately requests permission to land his prisoners and put the Alabama into dry dock.


Other minor actions are reported at Ridgeley, Missouri, and Midway, Virginia. An expedition by Federals from Point Lookout, Maryland, to Pope’s Creek, Virginia, lasts until the 21st.
#15232820
Fitzhugh Lee had barely begun his advance this morning when he ran into the two Federal brigades on the road ahead of him. Instead of attacking this superior force, he changed his route and turned west, on the road leading directly to Trevilian. Custer was under orders from Sheridan to try to get behind Hampton. Unopposed by Lee, he dashed to his right along a trail that leads to the southwest. No one on the battlefield realizes it yet, but Custer has got not only behind but also between the two Confederate divisions. Just as the battle is heating up between Hampton and Torbert, Custer comes out of the woods near Trevilian Station. There he finds, virtually unprotected, Hampton’s ammunition wagons, several hundred horses being held while the Confederates fight dismounted, battery wagons and caissons—all for the taking. At once, Custer sends his Michiganders in at the charge. So complete is the surprise that the Federal troopers are carried away by their success. Instead of halting at the station, they pursue the fleeing wagons for some distance and as a result are themselves later cut off, losing many of their number and most of what they’ve captured. Meanwhile, one of Young’s Georgian regiments deploys between Trevilian and the rest of Custers force. Custer immediately orders a cavalry charge, and the men cut through the Confederates to the station.

Then everything changes at once. Hampton, learning of the danger in his rear, pulls Rosser back toward Trevilian from his left. And now Fitzhugh Lee’s division enters the fight from Louisa Court House. As Confederate pressure builds, Custer attempts to move his men, along with the prisoners and captured wagons, down the Gordonsville road. Captain W. Thomson’s Confederate horse artillery battery, posted on a hill north of the station, finds itself in a perfect position to cover the road. As the column of Federals moves in front of the guns, Thomson opens fire, felling horses and riders and smashing the lead wagons. At this moment, Rosser’s cavalry strikes Custer’s right, forcing him back to the station. Custer is now virtually surrounded. Between the nature of the ground and the attacks pressing on him, his lines very nearly resemble a circle. The Confederates advance, his lines contract, and soon there is “actually no place which could be called under cover.” With withering gunfire and mounted charges coming in from all sides, Custer dispatches squadrons of cavalry to one crisis point after another. The 24-year-old general rightly becomes concerned that his command might be overrun. When his color-bearer is hit, Custer picks up the headquarters guidon, tears it from its staff, and hides it under his coat.

I was going to write a long post criticising Custer for his grandstanding recklessness, and how it led him to near-disaster here and utter annihilation at Little Big Horn, but then I read this....

Proud of this latest exploit—as well he might be; he now has more prisoners than troopers—Morgan refuses to be alarmed when scouts ride in at nightfall to report that Burbridge, having learned of Morgan’s appearance at Cynthiana, is on the way from Mount Sterling with close to 5,000 men. That is three times the strength of the Confederates, who are down to about 1,400, half their original force, as a result of casualties, stragglers, and detachments sent out to mislead the numerous Union garrisons roundabout. Even more serious, perhaps, is the shortage of cartridges for the Enfield rifles his raiders favor so much that they have declined to exchange them for captured Springfields, even though there is plenty of ammunition for the latter. But Morgan’s mind is quite made up, determined to give his weary men a good night’s rest, he announces to his brigade commanders that he will meet the blucoats in the morning on ground of his own choosing, two miles south of town, and whip them as he whipped Hobson today, whatever the odds. When one colonel protests that Burbridge is too strong to be fought without full cartridge boxes, the Alabama-born Kentuckian replies curtly: “It is my order that you hold your position at all hazard. We can whip him with empty guns.”

What a bunch of crazy bastards! They just don't make 'em like that any more. :lol:

Custer fitted right in with these lunatics, and wasn't even the most reckless or the most grandstanding of them. I guess people just thought differently back then. Indeed, if this thread has taught us anything, it's taught us that.
#15232846
Potemkin wrote:I was going to write a long post criticising Custer for his grandstanding recklessness, and how it led him to near-disaster here and utter annihilation at Little Big Horn, but then I read this....


What a bunch of crazy bastards! They just don't make 'em like that any more. :lol:

Custer fitted right in with these lunatics, and wasn't even the most reckless or the most grandstanding of them. I guess people just thought differently back then. Indeed, if this thread has taught us anything, it's taught us that.

:lol: Oh, they’re still out there, we just weed them out of frontline command as quickly as we can recognize them—our ability to “reach out and touch someone” at a serious distance has simply gotten too good. Though while Custer and Forrest were the epitome of what both sides wanted in their cavalry commanders back then, Morgan did take it to extremes....

Next week I’ll be on vacation, so some of the updates may be coming later in the day than usual (depending on what the final arrangements are).
#15232955
June 12, Sunday

Morning in Virginia with Sheridan’s raid, Gregg’s division begins tearing up track from Trevilian east toward Louisa Court House while Torbert’s men do likewise to the west, toward Gordonsville. Come afternoon Custer’s brigade find Hampton’s entire force, dismounted and behind log breastworks, across the Gordonsville road two miles west of Trevilian Station. Fitzhugh Lee had marched all night to get around the Federals and rejoined Hampton at noon. Custer attacks but is repulsed with heavy losses. Torbert feeds Merritt’s brigade into the fight, then Devin’s, but the Confederates cannot be budged.

About this time, Sheridan hears some bad news from captured Confederates: Hunter isn’t coming east from Staunton. Instead, he has headed south toward Lexington and Lynchburg. Sheridan is also told that a Confederate infantry division is in the vicinity of Charlottesville and that a full corps is headed for Lynchburg. Clearly he cannot make a junction with Hunter now. Sheridan has many wounded, most of them from Custer’s brigade, as well as 500 prisoners to contend with. His supply of ammunition has been seriously depleted. Weighing all this, he decides to withdraw. Since Hampton is sure to follow, Sheridan will make his way back to Grant “by leisurely marches,” thus keeping the enemy troopers occupied for as long as possible.


General Lee, facing disaster in the Shenandoah Valley, can ill afford to divide his forces when he is outnumbered almost two to one by the Army of the Potomac in front of him—but, ever the gambler, he now decides to dramatically increase the stakes in western Virginia. He will try again the maneuver that brought him victory at 2nd Bull Run/Manassas and at Chancellorsville. He will divide his forces in the face of the enemy and strike for his opponent’s rear. Today, he sends for Jubal Early. It’s only been a few days since Early received promotion to the rank of lieutenant general and took command of II Corps in place of the ailing General Ewell. Now Lee tells Early to take his corps west to save Lynchburg and drive General Hunter from the Valley and then, if he thinks it possible, go farther—strike north, invade Maryland, drive toward Washington, D.C., and force the Federal government to loosen Grant’s ever-tightening grip on Richmond and Petersburg.

This is much too late to save the Virginia Military Institute, however, as today Hunter gives the order to burn the looted buildings and all the faculty houses except for the one belonging to VMI’s superintendent, where Hunter has set up temporary headquarters. The conflagration is spectacular. While the fire rages, an officer brings Hunter a proclamation by the former governor of Virginia, John Letcher of Lexington, calling on the people to wage guerrilla warfare “upon the vandal hordes of Yankee invaders.” Incensed, Hunter orders the absent Letcher’s house burned, giving the family ten minutes to clear out. Nearby, a group of curious Federal have gathered at the grave of Stonewall Jackson in the Lexington town cemetery. The Confederate flag that flies beside the grave is torn down and the staff is chopped up for souvenirs. One soldier scrawls in pencil on the general’s marble headstone, “A good man and a brave soldier, but a traitor to God and his country.” Later in the day Strother’s attention is attracted to the bronze statue of George Washington that remains, unharmed by the flames, in front of VMI’s gutted main building. Strother feels “indignant that this effigy should be left to adorn a country” whose citizens are “striving to destroy a government which he founded.” Accordingly, the statue is crated up and sent to Wheeling, West Virginia, as a trophy of war. Years later, when Strother becomes adjutant general of Virginia, he will arrange its return to a reconstructed VMI.

Duffié, meanwhile, has taken his cavalry division raiding across the Blue Ridge. He dodges the Confederate forces in Rockfish Gap above Waynesboro, skirmishes with Mudwall Jackson’s troopers, and destroys a section of the railroad between Charlottesville and Lynchburg. It is a pointless expedition—the railroad is immediately repaired by the Confederates.


Sometime before sundown, a Confederate picket at Barker’s Mill on the Chickahominy River yells a question toward the nearby Federal lines: “Where is Grant agoing to elbow us again?” He is referring, of course, to Grant’s repeated edging around Lee’s right flank since the beginning of the spring campaign. What neither the Confederate picket nor his commanding general know this evening is that the next elbowing is already in progress. Under cover of the advancing darkness, all 100,000 men of the Union’s Army of the Potomac are beginning a ponderous, meticulously orchestrated movement. Five infantry corps, a division of cavalry, 49 batteries of artillery along with their 1,200 caissons and ammunition wagons are about to vanish from the sight of the Army of Northern Virginia. It will be the most difficult and daring elbowing of all. In the morning, that inquisitive picket will be astonished to find the lines opposite him deserted.

The army that marches southeast toward Petersburg isn’t the army that crossed the Rapidan a month ago. Grant has lost 50,000 men—a total that represents half the casualties suffered by the Army of the Potomac since the beginning of the war. His officer corps has been cut to pieces, with appalling losses among the regimental commanders. Brigades are now commanded by lieutenant colonels, regiments by captains, companies by junior lieutenants and sergeants. The troops in the marching columns, one infantryman observes, “seemed to have added twenty years to their age.” Lee, for his part, has gained little save time. Like a skillful boxer fighting a heavier man, Lee has adroitly parried all Grant’s direct thrusts at Richmond while preserving his own army from the shattering blow that Grant had hoped to deliver. Lee has forced Grant to pay an enormous price to reach the ground McClellan occupied two years ago at a fraction of the cost. In the process, he has taught Grant, in the words of Meade, “that Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia are not the same as Bragg and the Army of Tennessee.” Although Grant hasn’t made a breakthrough, he has hammered Lee hard, inflicting about 30,000 casualties. And although Grant’s own losses will be replaced in a matter of months, the Confederate losses are irreplaceable. Even more important, Lee has been unable to repulse the Army of the Potomac and drive it back to the North, as he has done in the past. For all Lee’s tactical successes, Grant keeps coming. As he does so, he gets closer to Lee’s sources of supply, and hence the means of throttling the Confederacy. Despite his losses at Cold Harbor, Grant still holds the strategic advantage. Lee can’t move now without exposing Richmond, but Grant can move wherever he pleases, except straight ahead. He has lost the battle, but retained the initiative. Hancock might say, sadly and truthfully, that his old II Corps lies “buried between the Rapidan and the James,” but Grant isn’t looking back at old graves. He is moving on.

The logistics of the move are formidable. Federal infantry formations sprawl for ten miles northwestward from Barker’s mill—on the Chickahominy twelve miles east of Richmond—to Totopotomoy Creek, northeast of the city. The Federal left covers the railroad on which supplies are forwarded from the depot at White House on the Pamunkey River, another ten miles to the east. Grant has to back the entire army out of its lines and away from direct contact with the Confederate pickets without arousing suspicion and march the mass of men and animals southeastward along the Chickahominy to crossing points that are a safe distance from the enemy. Once across the Chickahominy, the Federals have to march another twelve miles south to the James, which they plan to cross using a combination of ferries and an enormous pontoon bridge that hasn’t yet been built. The historic James is a daunting barrier to the passage of so large an army. At the chosen crossing place, Wilcox’s Landing, the river is 2,100 feet wide and nearly 100 feet deep in the middle; it has a strong current and rises and falls four feet with the tide. Crossing the river will require the rapid construction of a pontoon bridge that will be the longest ever built, not to mention one of the strongest and most flexible. Contingency preparations for the movement began weeks ago, with the collection at Fort Monroe at the mouth of the James of an enormous quantity of pontoons and planking for bridges, along with a fleet of tugboats, ferryboats, and gunboats. Immediately after the fighting at Cold Harbor ended in stalemate, on the 3rd, firm plans were drawn drawn in exacting detail.

By this evening, engineers have scouted the river crossings and built a new line of entrenchments just behind the Federal left to cover the movement and to make it look as though they intend to stay. They have also begun dismantling the depot at White House and tearing up the railroad so that neither can be used by the Confederates. Later in the aftgernoon General Grant and Meade ride down to the Chickahominy to observe as the grand movement gets underway. Already the roads are choked with dust, and the temperature stands near 100˚. Even the imperturbable Grant shows the strain. He lights cigars, then forgets he’s done so and lets them go out, time and again. He snaps at his staff officers and interrupts them as they make their reports. It is no wonder, for once the complicated maneuver has started his entire army is subject to a myriad of possible errors and vulnerable to attack. With the sunset, there is no going back.

The first movement is carried out by XVIII Corps, under Major General William F “Baldy” Smith, borrowed earlier from Benjamin Butler’s Army of the James. At sunset Smith’s corps pulls out of its place on the right center of the Union line and begins the 15-mile march to White House Landing. There the men are to board steamers and ferryboats for the 140-mile passage down then Pamunkey to the York, thence to Hampton Roads and back up the James to Bermuda Hundred, where they will rejoin Butler. Meanwhile, Brigadier General James Wilson, with one of his two cavalry brigades, leads Major General Gouverneur K. Warren’s V Corps out of the left of the line and down the Chickahominy. Six miles downstream, engineers are throwing a pontoon bridge across the river at the site of Long Bridge, destroyed earlier by the Confederates. Wilson and Warren are to cross there, then thrust northwest toward Richmond. This is the feint, meant to deceive Lee into thinking that Grant intends merely to elbow around his right flank again. As the ponderous dance continues, Major General Winfield Scott Hancock’s II Corps and Major General Horatio G. Wright’s VI Corps drop back from the main line after dark and take up a position in the new line of fortifications to cover Smith’s and Warren’s withdrawals. Behind them comes IX Corps, under Major General Ambrose Burnside, following Smith toward White House. A few miles short of the landing, Burnside is to turn south toward the site of Jones Bridge, five miles downstream from Long Bridge, and cross the river there. Incredibly, all goes smoothly. The engineers have assembled the pontoons at Long Bridge by 1:30 am, whereupon Wilson’s cavalry and Warren’s V Corps cross and form up for the feint toward Richmond. By morning, Smith’s men have reached White Hoiuse, Hancock has set off in Warren’s path, and Wright, with the rest of Wilson’s cavalry as rearguard, is following Burnside toward Jones Bridge. At first light, the Cold Harbor lines are empty.


In Kentucky at dawn, Burbridge attacks Morgan’s Confederate raiders just south of Cynthiana, and though Morgan is prevented from employing his accustomed flanking tactics by the need for putting all his men in the line, he manages to stem the assault successfully until the shout, “Out of ammunition!” comes from the right and is taken up next by the center, then the left. His whole command is soon forced back into the streets of the town, routed and demoralized. There is much shooting, swearing, and yelling. Some are crying from “sheer mortification.” Morgan does what he can to accomplish an orderly withdrawal, but what is left of his force by now has been split in two, with the halves presently blasted into fragments, some men fleeing southwest across the Sinking River to Leesburg, others northeast to Augusta. Many, caught on foot, surrender; others are shot down. Not over half escape, including their leader.


Meanwhile, in Mississippi the shambles of Sturgis’ command, continuing their post-Brice’s Crossroads retreat, reach Collierville. The wait there this morning for the train that will take them on to the outskirts of Memphis, seventeen miles away, is in some ways even harder than the 90-mile forced march had been. Relieved of a measure of their fright, they now know in their bones how tired they are and how thoroughly they have been whipped. An Ohio regiment, in the course of their wait beside the railroad track, become “so stiffened as to require assistance to enable them to walk.” Some, too foot-sore to stand upon their feet, crawl on their hands and knees to the railroad cars.

Sturgis’s hurts are mainly professional, being inflicted on his career. Back in Memphis, amid rumors that he had been drunk on the field—a conclusion apparently reached by way of the premise that no sober man could be so roundly trounced—he puts the disaster in the best light he can manage, vainly claiming that his 8,000 troops have been beaten by “15,000 to 20,000 men” rather than the 5,000 men actually under Forrest’s command. Sherman is disappointed, of course, but he is also inclined to give Sturgis credit for having accomplished his “chief object,” which had been “to hold Forrest there [in Mississippi] and keep him off our [rail] road.” Though the price turned out to be high, both in men and equipment, it is by no means exorbitant, considering the alternative. Learning that the raider had been in north Alabama, poised for a strike across the Tennessee River before Sturgis lured him back, the red-haired Ohioan wires the district commander instructions designed to discourage a return: “You may send notice to Florence that if Forrest invades Tennessee from that direction, the town will be burned, and if it occurs you will remove the inhabitants north of the Ohio River, and burn the town”—adding, as if by afterthought: “and Tuscumbia also.” He would send both places up in smoke, along with much else, if it will help to keep “that devil Forrest” off his life line.


At Cherbourg, France, Captain Semmes of the CSS Alabama takes to his bunk with a cold and fever. The French authorities refuse his request for dock space, explaining—as Semmes knows—that the only docks in Cherbourg belong to the French Navy; permission to use them can be granted only by the Emperor Napoleon III, who is away from Paris on a vacation. The authorities recommend that Semmes move the Alabama to Le Havre or another port with private facilities. But Semmes is confident that permission will be granted. After all, the French government has been a strong supporter of the Confederacy, which in turn has supported Napoleon III’s venture in Mexico. Semmes puts his 38 prisoners ashore and gives his men the run of the town. News of Alabama’s arrival in Cherbourg sweeps across Europe. Soon the hotels in Cherbourg are filled with fashionable visitors eager to see the famous Confederate cruiser and talk with her celebrated crew.

The Federals haven’t been standing by as the Alabama and her handful of sister ships have ravaged Union shipping. Lincoln and his naval strategists have been under heavy pressure from Northern shipowners for many months to mount a kill campaign against the Confederate cruisers. Originally they had refused to comply at the expense of weakening the blockade. But as the US Navy grew from 427 ships at the end of 1862 to 588 a year later, warships could occasionally be spared for duties other than maintaining the blockade. A few warships have been stationed in or near ports most likely to be visited by the Confederate cruisers, and a few patrol the busy trade lanes in hopes that a raider will show up. Semmes and the other captains know that the enemy is growing more numerous and more dangerous. But the hunting has been too good for them to realize their time is running out. Now, with the spread of the news of the Alabama’s arrival at Cherbourg, the US Minister in Paris telegraphs the news to the USS Kearsarge, riding at anchor 300 miles away, off the Dutch coast near Flushing. The commander of the Kearsarge, Captain John A. Winslow, is urged to hurry to Cherbourg before the Alabama can escape. Winslow, who had been a shipmate of Semme’s during the Mexican War, knows his adversary and doesn’t need the Minister’s advice to hurry. He fires a gun to recall his crew and quickly puts the Kearsarge under way.


Skirmishing takes place at Davis’ Mill, Mississippi. In Missouri fighting breaks out at Montevallo, Calhoun, and Kingsville. In Georgia skirmishing reupts near Acworth once more, as Sherman’s Federals carefully inch forward against Johnston. Meanwhile, supplies for the Union Army are being brought in from Chattanooga and the communication lines strengthen.
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In Kentucky at dawn, Burbridge attacks Morgan’s Confederate raiders just south of Cynthiana, and though Morgan is prevented from employing his accustomed flanking tactics by the need for putting all his men in the line, he manages to stem the assault successfully until the shout, “Out of ammunition!” comes from the right and is taken up next by the center, then the left. His whole command is soon forced back into the streets of the town, routed and demoralized. There is much shooting, swearing, and yelling. Some are crying from “sheer mortification.” Morgan does what he can to accomplish an orderly withdrawal, but what is left of his force by now has been split in two, with the halves presently blasted into fragments, some men fleeing southwest across the Sinking River to Leesburg, others northeast to Augusta. Many, caught on foot, surrender; others are shot down. Not over half escape, including their leader.

Being a crazy bastard doesn't always work, as Custer himself was later to discover.
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