The American Civil War, day by day - Page 89 - Politics | PoFo

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

Custer wasn't so much crazy as complacent and a victim of bad timing. Every time he'd charged an encampment the Amerinds had simply scattered in all directions, with scattershot resistance. It simply didn't occur to him that Little Big Horn would be any different, even though the camp was, I think, three times the size of any camp he'd seen before. (The bad timing was the fact that if he'd arrived a few days earlier or later the camp would have been smaller, one reason he'd never seen a camp that size before was because of how quickly it would clean out the local forage and hunting.)

But yeah, Morgan really was a crazy bastard, and that's twice now that it hasn't worked (though the first time was as much because of bad luck).
June 13, Monday

All day the Army of the Potomac presses on, despite the heat and dust. Around noon, Hancock’s II Corps reaches the Chickahominy and begins crossing. Even though the men in the ranks still don’t know what Grant has in mind for them, their mood is much improved just by being on the march again without having to fight for every foot of ground. “By the left flank, once more!” exults a reporter with one of the corps crossing at Jones Bridge. “Where we go we know not,” he writes this afternoon, but no matter: “All have learned to follow General Grant wherever he leads, and no questions asked.” Come evening the whole operation is still progressing flawlessly. Around 5:30 Hancock’s advance units reach Wilcox’s Landing on the James. Wright and Burnside are following, the former crossing the Chickahominy as night falls and the latter bivouacking by the river to cross in the morning. Warren and Wilson are menacing Richmond, skirmishing with mounted Confederate patrols. The flotilla from Fort Monroe has arrived on time. Ferryboats are ready to begin taking Hancock’s men across the James in the morning, and engineers are preparing to throw the massive pontoon bridge on which the rest of the army will cross. By this time, Grant shows no sign of his earlier tension. He lounges on a blanket beside a campfire, smoking and talking with his staff, calming those around him. When a visiting dignitary rants over the loss of a wagon, Grant merely comments absently, not bothering to finish his sentence, “If we have nothing worse than this ...” He has repeated his order to Butler to obstruct navigation in the James by sinking old hulks in the river.

Now it is Robert E. Lee’s turn to worry. He has lost Grant completely. This morning, when Confederate skirmishers find the Federal works empty, they probe for more than a mile and still encounter nothing. Then comes the gunfire on the roads leading into Richmond from the east, beyond Lee’s right, and it seems certain that Grant is elbowing again. At once Lee puts his army in motion; his columns stream along the backroads to cross the Chickahominy and take position from Malvern Hill to White Oak Swamp, covering the approaches to Richmond. This evening the Confederates push back the Federal feint a mile or so, and Lee plans a full-scale assault for the morning.

Throughout the war, the Shenandoah Valley seems to attract crusty characters: Jubal Early is a prime example. Like the deceased Grumble Jones, Early is another West Pointer who quit the Army after a brief career to return to his native southwest Virginia. He practiced law and rural politics in Rocky Mount and became notorious as a woman-hating bachelor with a coarse and unbridled tongue. Around an ever-present wad of chewing tobacco, Early expresses himself with a profanity so shocking and a sarcasm so biting that he can move men to laughter or outrage with equal facility—sometimes with the same remark. Formidable in battle, contemptuous of his own appearance and dismissive of advice, Early shared many characteristics with Jones. But in at least one respect they were very different: Early possesses a consuming ambition that draws him to those that can advance his career. He never makes the mistake of unleashing his tongue on a superior officer.

Neither Early nor his men are strangers to the Valley. His II Corps includes the remnants of Stonewall Jackson’s Army of the Shenandoah, which bled off the strength of the Federal drive toward Richmond two years ago with Jackson’s celebrated Valley Campaign. Early was a division commander under Ewell when II Corps took Winchester during Lee’s drive toward Gettysburg a year later. And last winter, Early spent several months in the Valley in fruitless pursuit of William Averell’s cavalry. But there are deep shadows across his path now. Fearful attrition has reduced II Corps to 8,000 men—the size of a division. The proud Stonewall Brigade is now merely an understrength regiment. And hunger is a constant companion. For a year the standard daily ration has been a pint of cornmeal and a quarter pound of bacon per man. Many of the troops are barefoot, their clothing in tatters. But in the early hours of the morning, they willingly head into the Valley to fight again, loping along at a pace of twenty miles a day.

Action includes a skirmish near Buchanan and Union scouting from Lexington to around Lynchburg.

In Georgia, Thomas, in the center of the Federal line, has worked two of his Federal corps around the base of Pine Mountain. This maneuver threatens to isolate one of William Hardee’s Confederate divisions, which is posted on the mountain. Growing concerned about the danger, Hardee asks Johnston to examine the position with him. There is a skirmish at Burnt Hickory.

Sturgis’ ill-fated Union expedition returns to Tennessee and fights a skirmish near Collierville. Federal troops from Morristown, Tennessee, operate for a month into North Carolina. And farther west a four-day Federal scout moves from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to Weston, Missouri.

Lieutenant General Richard S. Ewell, who has been ailing, is assigned to command the Confederate Department of Richmond. He replaces Major General Robert Ransom, Jr., who goes to the Department of Western Virginia.

President Davis, replying to complaints of neglect from the Trans-Mississippi commander E. Kirby Smith, says, “my ability to sustain you will be the measure of the assistance rendered to you.” More than ever, President Davis can only equivocate when called upon for help.
June 14, Tuesday

General Lee’s divisions advance at dawn, but there is no enemy to attack—the Federal feint has been a complete success, and Lee can’t find out where the Federals have gone. As early as five days ago, General P.G.T. Beauregard predicted that Grant would cross the James and strike Petersburg, but no one listened. Lee admitted that Grant might contemplate such a move, but he believed Grant’s likelier target was Richmond. Moreover, he confidently asserted that the Federal army couldn’t cross the James without being discovered.

Lee is wrong on both counts. Undetected by the enemy, Federal ferryboats begin taking Hancock’s corps across, and his 20,000-man command will be finished with the operation by tomorrow morning. Meanwhile, 450 engineers begin the formidable task of erecting the half-mile-long bridge. Working toward midriver from either shore, the men maneuver into place 101 heavy wooden pntoon boats. To help steady the enormous floating bridge against the powerful current the engineers lash it to three schooners anchored in midstream. There they also rig an ingenious swinging section that permits the passage of ironclads to protect the crossing point from enemy gunboats known to be upstream. All this is finished in only eight hours, and by midnight men, horses, wagons, and artillery are trundling across the river.

As brilliantly conceived and as flawlessly executed as the movement across the James has been, it is only a part of Grant’s current plan. He has deceived Lee for two vital days, but he will have to continue to move swiftly in order to consolidate his advantage. Remarkably, for the boldness and dash required to ensure the payoff that the maneuver makes possible, Grant turns to Butler’s Army of the James, whose performance until now has been uninspired. Today Grant takes a steamer up the river to Butler’s headquarters and there explains his orders. Baldy Smith’s XVIII Corps is to arrive at Bermuda Hundred this afternoon and Grant wants Butler to augment that corps to a strength of perhaps 16,000 men. Then Smith is to retrace the route taken by Gillmore and Hinks a week ago and attack tPetersburg’s works at daylight tomorrow. After leaving Butler’s headquarters, Grant wires Chief of Staff Henry Halleck in Washington that he will have Petersburg secured before enemy reinforcements can arrive.

In the Shenandoah Valley, General Hunter has received several reports that should have disposed him to make haste: He learns that Breckinridge and his division have rejoined Vaughn and Imboden in Rockfish Gap; that another Confederate force is heading west from Richmond; and that Sheridan has been driven back by Hampton. But it is only yesterday that Duffié returns to Lexington from his cavalry raid; and the Federal army isn’t ready to resume its march to Lynchburg until today.

This morning in Georgia, Generals Hardee and Johnston, along with the bishop-general Leonidas Polk, ride to the crest of Pine Mountain. They dismount and, attracting a cluster of soldiers, climb onto an artillery redoubt to survey the Federal forces spread out on the plain 300 feet below. Less than a half mile away, inspecting his own line, stands General Sherman. He looks up at the group of grayclad men on the mountaintop. He doesn’t know who the Confederates are, but their presence irritates him. He orders a few rounds of artillery fire to “make ‘em take cover.”

The order goes down the line to an Ohio battery commanded by Captain Hubert Dilger. A former officer in the army of the German Grand Duchy of Baden, Dilger is one of the best-known artillerists in the Federal Army. He habitually wears an immaculate white shirt with sleeves rolled up and doe-skin trousers, which are the source of his nickname “Leatherbreeches.” Dilger shows flair as well in his strange manner of giving commands: He has trained his artillerymen to respond to carefully rehearsed claps of his hands. The crews follow his cues with such speed and precision that Dilger’s superiors let him place his battery wherever he wishes. That point is usually so near the front that one general jokingly offers to equip Dilger’s cannon with bayonets. Dilger sights on the target on Pine Mountain, claps his hands, the guns roar, and the first salvo lands close enough to startle the Confederate generals. Johnston and Hardee run for cover. The portly Polk, his hands clasped behind his back in an apparent attempt to maintain dignity in the presence of the troops, moves less quickly. Another of clap of Dilger’s hands sends more rounds crashing into the mountaintop. One of the shells hits Polk in the left arm, tears through his body, and emerges from his right side before exploding against a tree. The bishop-general dies instantly. As Polk falls, Johnston braves another salvo and rushes forward, cradling him in his arms. In Polk’s jacket pocket, now soaked with blood, are three copies of a little book of religious inspiration entitled Balm for the Weary and Wounded. Polk had inscribed the books with Johnston’s, Hardee’s, and Hood’s names, intending them as gifts.

A wave of anguish runs through the Army of Tennessee. Polk has been with it since before Shiloh and is the army’s most beloved general. Though scarcely a military genius—“as a soldier he was more theoretical than practical”—Polk has served as a kind of spiritual beacon for generals and privates alike. This night, before the Confederates abandon the mountain stained with his blood, someone chalks a message on the door of a log cabin: “You damned Yankees, you have killed our old General Polk.”

To Sherman, who learns of the death when a signalman intercepts a Confederate semaphore message requesting an ambulance for Polk’s body, the event is scarcely remarkable. On both flanks, as well as in the center, his armies are forcing the outmanned Confederates to pull back and contract their overextended line. Tomorrow evening he will wire Washington, “We killed Bishop Polk yesterday, and have made good progress today.”

The Kearsarge arrives at Cherbourg. As the ship approaches the port, her commander spots the Confederate ship. Winslow orders his ship to circle around and anchor off the breakwater. The two crews study each other’s ship with an intensity known only to men who expect to fight broadside to broadside.

The Alabama and the Kearsarge have almost equal dimensions, but their capabilities are considerably different. The Federal ship’s best guns, two 11-inch Dahlgrens mounted on pivots along the center line, are far superior at close quarters to the 110-pound Blakely and the 8-inch smoothbore on which Semmes chiefly depends; and her broadside throws 365 pounds of metal, about a third more than the Alabama’s. The Kearsarge has a superbly drilled American crew of 163. The Confederate has 149 mixed mercenaries of uneven training. The Yankee is two months out of dry dock, her engines in excellent working order. The captains are evenly matched. Winslow, a North Carolinian, is two years younger than Semmes, but like Semmes he has some 35 years of Navy experience. Although Winslow’s record is known only within the US Navy, he is a skillful captain. Only in appearance is he outshone by the trim Confederate captain. Winslow is paunchy, balding, going blind in one eye. In facial adornment his scraggly ruff of graying whiskers is hardly worth comparing with Semmes’ magnificent handlebar.

Immediately upon sighting the Kearsarge, Semmes orders 100 tons of coal delivered to his ship and starts his crew on the work of preparing the Alabama for battle. He summons Lieutenant Kell to his cabin, and the two candidly discuss their disadvantages in a fight. In addition to their lighter broadside, they have unreliable ammunition: their powder, fuses, and caps have become defective during the many months at sea. To their alarm, one out of every three shells has failed to explode. Nevertheless, Semmes in pure bravado sends a note asking the Confederate agent in Cherbourg to challenge the Yankee warship. The message says: “I desire you to say to the U.S. consul that my intention is to fight the Kearsarge as soon as I can make the necessary arrangements. I beg she will not depart before I am ready to go out.” When Captain Winslow and his officers receive Semmes’ challenge, they suspect a trick and prepare for it.

In Tennessee fighting breaks off near Bean’s Station and in Lincoln County, while in Missouri the action is near Lexington and Melville.

In Richmond, again feeling the threat from east and south, the Confederate Congress adjourns after imposing new taxes on property and income.
June 15, Wednesday

This morning Grant orders Hancock to march toward Petersburg. Grant expects to be inside the enemy works by noon, and Assistant Secretary of War Charles A. Dana, traveling with him, wires to Washington that Hancock is on his way. “All goes on like a miracle,” Dana adds.

By this morning General Beauregard, now in overall command of the scanty forces in Petersburg, is growing alarmed. The one-time Confederate hero of Fort Sumter and 1st Bull Run/Manassas has only Henry Wise’s force, now numbering about 2,200 men, to defend the city, and only 3,200 facing Butler’s considerably greater numbers at Bermuda Hundred. Beauregard learns of the arrival of Smith’s corps to reinforce Butler and begins to doubt whether he can hold out.

One of the few things in Beauregard’s favor is the strength of the fortifications around Petersburg, which has stopped Butler’s men once before. An imposing chain of artillery emplacements connected by earthworks and trenches stretch for almost ten miles, from the Appomattox east of the city, around to the south, and back up to the river on the west. This line is studded with redans—triangular projections placed to give the defenders convering fields of fire. Ditches, abatis, and chevaux-de-frise are arrayed before the earthworks to slow any hostile advance. It is called the Dimmock Line, after the engineer who laid it out, but its strength is largely illusory unless properly manned, and Beauregard and Wise simply don’t have the numbers to do that. The best they can do is to concentrate Wise’s tiny command along the eastern four miles of the line, between Redan No. 1, on the Appomattox River, and Redan No. 23, covering the Norfolk & Petersburg Railroad southeast of the city. But to man even this fragment of the line, Beauregard has to space his infantry at intervals of ten feet. He can’t expect to repulse the Federals for long. He can only hope that the formidable appearance of the works, concealment of his weakness from the enemy, and stiff resistance might buy him enough time to convince Lee that the real danger lies south, not north, of the James.

Beauregard soon is given an unexpected gift of time. The Federal assault force under General Smith, consisting of his own corps, Hinks’s division of Black troops, and Kautz’s division of cavalry, leave Broadway Landing on the Appomattox at 4 am, with Kautz in the lead. Once again, the plan calls for Kautz to ride south to the Jerusalem Plank Road and make a feint there, while Smith makes the main attack from the east. About 7 am, Kautz reaches the City Point Railroad, a few miles east of Petersburg, and drives in some enemy pickets. At nine this morning, just as the Union infantry under Smith begin driving in Wise’s pickets east of Petersburg, Lee is declaring firmly to one of Beauregard’s aides that Grant hasn’t crossed the James, nor has Smith reinforced Butler. But the fiery Beauregard knows better, for by 10 am the skirmishing on Wise’s front has assumed alarming proportions. The order goes out to Wise: “Hold on at all hazards!” Major General Robert Hoke’s division, dispatched earlier by General Lee, is on its way to Petersburg.

By noon, Kautz has reached the Norfolk & Petersburg in the vicinity of Redan No. 20 on Wright’s right. There he encounters Brigadier General James Dearing with a battery and two small regiments of dismounted Confederate cavalry, no more than 600 men in all. Though heavily outnumbered, Dearing holds his ground for some time. After skirmishing for another two hours under heavy artillery fire from the Confederate redans, Kautz decides to attack the thinly defended works. But he gets no closer than 500 yards before he becomes convinced that his line is weaker in men than the enemy’s. He dawdles for another two hours, listening for the sound of Smith’s attack to his right. Then, in a replay of the fiasco six days ago, Kautz gives up and withdraws.

Smith, meanwhile, has been conducting what Butler will later scorn as “interminable reconnaissances.” Butler is no professional soldier, but here, at least, he hits the mark. Smith, whose corps was decimated in the disastrous Cold Harbor assaults of the 3rd, knows what it means to attack well-manned fortifications across open ground. That knowledge undoubtedly makes him cautious as he drives in the skirmishers and approaches the main Confederate defenses around 1:30 pm. Then he stops and spends the next five and a half hours making an extensive survey of the situation. Smith faces an open stretch of ground swept by concentrated artillery fire from the Confederate redans. Although he suspects the fortifications are only lightly supported by infantry, he concludes that it would be suicidal to attack in columns against such cannon fire. Instead, he decides to mass his own artillery and fire against one of the redans, then attack with a reinforced line of skirmishers. Such a spread-out formation will have a better chance of surviving the enemy shellfire and still provide enough troops to sweep out the defenders. But then the hapless Smith finds that Colonel Henry Burton, his artillery commander, without authority and contrary to basic military sense, has decided to water all the artillery horses at the same time. Smith’s guns are thus immobilized for a full hour. Finally, at 7 pm—more than two hours after Kautz has fallen back—Smith orders his corps to move against Redans Nos. 5, 6, and 7, while Hinks’s division attacks on the left as far down as Redan No. 11. By this time, General Beauregard has arrived to take charge of the defense. Thinned out and exhausted as they are, Wise’s heroic forces resist still. But when the Federal infantry, 14,000 strong, smash into the fortifications held by roughly 2,000 infantry and militiamen, a milewide section of the Confederate line gives way. From Redans 3 to 11, Smith’s attacking force rolls into and over Beauregard’s works. Hinks’s Black infantrymen distinguish themselves by capturting seven Confederate guns.

The road into Petersburg lies open. The city at this hour is clearly at the mercy of the Federal commander, who has all but captured it. Yet Smith stops—deeming that he holds important points of the enemy’s line of works, he thinks it prudent to make no farther advance. One cause of his excessive wariness is a rumor that reinforcements are coming into the city; the rumor started with the arrival of Hoke’s division, which goes into line behind the works just taken by the Federals. Even now the capable General Hancock might save the situation for the Federals, but command fumbles and sloppy communications have conspired against him. Either Grant or Meade have failed to tell Hancock what he is expected to do today beyond crossing the river and waiting to be resupplied. His men were famished. Rations that were being forwarded to his command failed to arrive. Moreover, Hancock was instructed to halt at a place on the way to Petersburg that doesn’t exist. At 5:30 pm he is wandering the countryside, trying to find where he is supposed to be, when he receives a dispatch from Grant directing him to hurry and support Smith in the attack on Petersburg. Hancock will later insist that this is the first indication he has received that any attack was planned for today. Completing a four-mile march, Hancock arrives on the scene shortly after the Confederate line has given way. Though senior to Smith, Hancock at once offers to accept his judgment on whether to renew the attack, and Smith demurs. Much later, when it becomes obvious that this is the wrong decision, Smith will try to suggest that the error is Hancock’s, for being late and for not insisting on the assault. Hancock, still suffering from a severe wound received at Gettysburg, and no doubt frustrated by the lost opportunity, goes to the rear and vents his anger by upbraiding one of his division commanders for a slight infraction of marching procedure. This evening the moon over Petersburg rises nearly full; it is a night “made to fight on.” Nevertheless, Smith can’t bring himself to risk a night assault, and the moment passes. This is the end of Smith’s career. He will continue in charge of his corps for a month but will be relieved in July and hold no further field command during the war.

The sorry performance of the Federal commanders in front of Petersburg stand in stark contrast to that of the senior Confederate officer, General Beauregard. A contentious and supremely self-confident man, he is an occasdionally brilliant commander. And he has never served the Confederacy better than in these June days when, almost alone in the high command, he perceives, and opposes, the threat to Petersburg and Lee. Beauregard works feverishly all night, supervising the building of new entrenchments for Hoke’s men and repositioning the remnants of Wise’s command. He sends a flurry of telegrams to the War Departmenr in Richmond and to Lee, warning of the emergency and asking for reinforcements. His small contingent cannot defend both his Bermuda Hundred line and the city, Beauregard says; and he asks Richmond which is more important. Receiving no answer, he makes the decision himself and orders the division under Major General Bushrod Johnson, the only one still facing Butler at Bermuda Hundred, to pull out and march to Petersburg with all speed.

Burnside’s IX Corps is the first to use the huge pontoon bridge across the James, followed by V Corps, its successful feint now abandoned.

In blistering heat and choking dust, General Hunter’s Federal Army of West Virginia marches out of Lynchburg in the Shenandoah Valley and labors over the Blue Ridge on a steep, tortuous track leading between the Peaks of Otter. The scenery is magnificent. As the men descend, they pluck rhododendron blossoms and stick them in the muzzles of their rifles until the marching column looks like “a moving bank of flowers.”

George H. Thomas moves his army forward beyond Pine Mountain toward Kennesaw on the Georgia front, with some severe skirmishing. McPherson and Schofield also press ahead against Confederate trenches. Fighting occurs near Allatoona, at Noonday Creek, Brush Mountain, and Gilgal or Golgotha Church.

Spring rains have reopened the Arkansas River for navigation, but Confederate ambushes have kept the Union garrisons in a virtual stte of siege. In addition, the Federals at Fort Gibson have a new problem—the feeding and clothing of 5,000 refugee Amerinds who have returned to the Cherokee country only to find their homes and lands in ruins. Their needs put an extra burden on the Arkansas River sternwheelers that run the Confederate gauntlet with provisions for the Union forts. Today, Stand Watie shocks Federal commanders along the river by capturing one of the vessels, the J. R. Williams, which is loaded with $120,000 (2020 $1,978,178) worth of supplies. The feat earns the able Cherokee a Confederate promotion to brigadier general.

On the other far-flung fronts of the war Confederates attack Union gunboats at Ratliff’s, Como, and Magnolia landings, Louisiana, and fighting occurs at Newport Crossroads through the 17th. Skirmishes flare near Moscow, Tennessee; near White Hare, Missouri; at San Bois Creek, Indian Territory; and Federals evacuate Pass Cavallo, Texas. USS Lexington captures three riverboats at Beulah Landing, Mississippi.

Clement L. Vallandigham returns to Dayton, Ohio, from Canada to add to the election turmoil.

The Federal House votes 95 for to 66 against a joint resolution abolishing slavery, but a two-thirds majority is needed as this is really a vote on the 13th Amendment.

At this time Lincoln in Washington is greatly interested in the army on the James; he wires Grant, “ … I begin to see it. You will succeed. God bless you all.”
June 16, Thursday

It is Wilson and his cavalry’s turn to cross the pontoon bridge across the James, followed by Wright’s VI Corps, which has stayed on the north side of the James to cover the crossing. By tomorrow, all of the Army of the Potomac except some wagons and their guards will be on the south side.

As it turns out, several of General Beauregard’s messages yesterday aren’t relayed to Lee but simply filed. Thus at 2 am, when Lee learns that Beauregard has evacuated Johnson’s division from the lines in front of General Butler at Bermuda Hundred, he can’t fully understand why. He knows by now that Smith’s corps has returned to Butler and that the Federals on Bermuda Hundred intend to give trouble. But he has no evidence that the Army of the Potomac has crossed the James, and until its location is verified he doesn’t dare uncover Richmond’s eastern defenses. Beauregard’s news worries him enough to temporize, however. He moves his headquarters south of the river and takes with him two divisions from General Richard Anderson’s corps to hold the Bermuda Hundred line. Anderson’s 3rd Division, along with all of General A.P. Hill’s corps, will remain in place east of Richmond. It will take Lee 24 hours to reach Johnson’s empty lines; in which time Butler could march to the Richmond & Petersburg Railroad, in Beauregard’s rear and between Beauregard and Lee, with virtually no opposition. Charactistically, Butler doesn’t take the chance, even though he knows that Grant is sending him General Wright with two divisions of VI Corps to help out.

By dawn, Beauregard has concentrated about 14,000 men in a bent but shored-up line east of Petersburg this represents a vast improvement over yesterday, but before many hours have passed, the Confederates are once again facing an overwhelmingly superior force. Late this morning Grant arrives with Burnside’s IX Corps. Now there are about 50,000 Federals facing Petersburg. Grant spent a difficult day yesterday, trying to find out what was happening to Smith’s attack. He discovered the confusion in the orders for Hancock too late to remedy the failure. On arriving at the front this morning, Grant orders a reconnaissance to feel for weak points in the defenses. Hancock, in command until Meade is able to get there, masses Smith’s XVIII Corps on the right, opposite Hoke in the first three redans and the new breastworks. Hancock takes the center with II Corps, and Burnside’s newly arrived IX Corps files in on the left. Facing them is Bushrod Johnson’s division in its hastily built defenses. Grant schedules an assault for 6 pm.

This morning, Beauregard learns of the presence of Hancock’s corps from a prisoner. He implores Lee, “Could we not have more reinforcements here?” Lee apparently doesn’t accept Beauregard’s conclusion, if in fact he ever receives the message; at 4 pm he wires Beauregard to ask, “Has Grant been seen crossing James River?” And three hours later Lee informs President Davis that Beauregard is hard pressed in Petersburg but adds, “I have not learned from General Beauregard what force is opposed to him. Nor have I been able to learn whether any portion of Grant’s army is opposed to him.” Yet, at this moment fully half of the Army of the Potomac is forcing Beauregard into a battle for his life.

It is about 5:30 pm when Hancock’s II Corps, supported by elements of the two corps on his flanks, moves forward. Hancock’s old Gettysburg wound has begun suppurating and is causing him great pain. This morning Colonel Thomas Egan’s brigade carried Redan No. 12; but now Hancock’s units are slow to advance. Beauregard fights superbly, throwing up new breastworks in the rear of the breached line and continuing the resistance. It is late in the day before Hancock and the newly arrived Meade get the attack going again. With a wave of his hat, Brigadier General Francis Barlow leads his division against Redans 13, 14, and 15. Well-aimed Confederate artillery fire cuts down scores of Federals—among the killed is Colonel Patrick Kelly, commander of the famed Irish Brigade—but Barlow manages to fight his way into the defenses. His men can do no more. Exhausted by days and night of marching, shaken by the stubborn resistance, they give way before a determined counterattack. A Tennessee regiment alone captures nearly 200 Federals and the flag of a New York Heavy Artillery regiment. With night coming soon, Hancock’s soldiers dig in close to the enemy works. The men are used up, and drop asleep in the pits.

Hunter’s chief of staff claims authorship of the plan to move against Lynchburg, but with the army now east of the Blue Ridge and approaching the objective, he is suffering from misgivings. “I feel a vague uneasiness as to the result of our move,” he writes today in his diary. “Lee will certainly relieve Lynchburg if he can. If he cannot, the Confederacy is gone up. If he does succeed in detaching a force, our situation is most hazardous.”

Strother’s worry is prophetic. This same day, General Breckinridge’s 2,000 men march into Lynchburg, which until now has been vitually undefended. Never is a “lot of bronzed and dirty looking veterans, many of them barefooted,” more heartily welcomed. Breckinridge has marched the sixty miles from Rockfish Gap in the time it has taken the Federals to cover 35. But the Confederate hold on Lynchburg is far from firm. For one thing, Imboden has let Breckinridge down. His men are still partisans at heart, it seems, eager to defend their home counties but increasingly diffident the farther afield they travel. Breckinridge has three times ordered Imboden to scout out Hunter’s movements, but yesterday wired Richmond: “Enemy reported to be advancing, in force not known. The cavalry, under Imboden, doing less than nothing. If a good general officer cannot be sent at once for them, they will go to ruin.” To make matters worse, Breckinridge’s men are exhausted from their forced march and Breckinridge himself is near collapse. At Cold Harbor his horse had been killed by an artillery round and fell on him, injuring his right leg. He is still unable to ride, and the exertions of getting his command to Lynchburg has left him bedridden, unable to oversee the preparations for the defense of the city. Fortunately, an old friend and experienced soldier, Major General D.H. Hill, happens to be in Lynchburg. Like Breckinridge, Hill ran afoul of Braxton Bragg while serving in the Army of Tennessee and still has not been given another command. Breckinridge gratefully accepts Hill’s help in deploying the infantry—which once again includes the VMI cadets—in the northern and western outskirts of the city. “There is no occasion for any disorder,” Breckinridge reassures his men. “The enemy is advancing slowly. We will have General Early and large reinforcements tomorrow morning.”

Skirmishes flare near Lynchburg on Otter Creek, near Liberty, and at New London, Virginia.

General Joseph E. Johnston’s left has been weakened by Federal advances and he makes readjustments around Gilgal Church, retiring to a new line near Mud Creek.

Union forces are being organized at Morganza, Louisiana, preparatory to striking against Mobile. Other action includes a skirmish at West Point, Arkansas; an affair near Preston, Missouri; and a foray by Federals from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. In West Virginia there is a scrap at Spencer.

The Confederate War Department authorizes Lieutenant Bennett H. Young to organize raiders in Canada to dash into New England. A small army-navy expedition by Federals takes five small enemy schooners near the mouth of Pamlico River, North Carolina.

President Lincoln travels to Philadelphia for the Great Central Fair. The President makes several speeches and in the main address at the Sanitary Fair he says, “War, at the best, is terrible, and this war of ours, in its magnitude and in its duration, is one of the most terrible.... We accepted this war for an object, a worthy object, and the war will end when that object is attained.”
June 17, Friday

On the left of the Federal line at Petersburg, Brigadier General Robert B. Potter spends the night getting two IX Corps brigades into position for a dawn attack. Under cover of darkness they creep down into a steep ravine tangled with felled trees. They are so near the the enemy that all their movements have to be made with the utmost care and caution; canteens are placed in knapsacks to prevent rattling, and all commands are given in whispers. With the enemy fortifications looming over them a mere hundred yards away, the men silently form two lines. Just as dawn begins to break, Potter gives the command: “Forward.” The men rise in a body from the ground. Not a gunlock clicks; the bayonet is to do the work. Surprise is complete. The startled defenders awake to cries of “Surrender, you damned Rebels!” Nearly a mile of the Confederate fortifications falls to the Federals in minutes, along with four guns, five flags, 600 prisoners, and 1,500 stands of arms. But the success is limited. Potter’s men push forward until they come up against another entrenched line and are forced to halt. Because of the tangled logs in the ravine behind them, which can be swept by enfilading artillery fire from Confederate guns farther to the left, Federal attempts to support and enlarge upon Potter’s breakthrough fail.

At 2 pm Burnside’s corps mounts another attack, spearheaded by Brigadier General John F. Hartranft’s brigade. In an error all too typical of the Federal high command this day, Hartranft’s men are sent forward at a right angle to the Confederate works, which make them desperately vulnerable. The brigade melts out of sight beneath the enfilading musketry and aretillery fire. Just before sunset Brigadier General James Ledlie’s division advances, only to meet a similar fate. Federal gains are small, the sacrifice great. Ledlie is visibly intoxicated, and one of his aides comments that “the deep sense of mismanagement and waste of life were almost enough to drive us to despair.”

Elsewhere along his line, Beauregard has managed to repel most of the Federal advances, thanks in part to the fact that the attacks are uncoordinated. But he knows that he can’t last much longer. During the day he has his chief engineer lay out a new defensive line nearly a mile behind the Dimmock redans, beyond the tracks of the Norfolk & Petersburg Railroad. The new line runs along a marshy creek called Taylor’s Branch from Redan No. 24—which is south of the city, near the Jerusalem Plank Road—north to the Appomattox less than a mile from the city limits. Although the order to hold on at any cost remains in effect on the front, Beauregard has the new line marked with white stakes to that it can be seen in the moonlight, and he makes sure that the staff officers of Hoke’s and Johnson’s divisions are shown where their places are to be. As the firing continues after dark, Beauregard orders campfires to be built high to make it appear that his command will hold its position. After placing sentinels far forward to provide a measure of cover, he pulls his men back after midnight and posts them in the new line. There is to be no rest for the Confederate soldiers, however, for now in the moonlight they commence digging new defensive works and trenches. The men work with axes, spades, knives, and bayonets; some even use spoons and tin cans. Hundreds of slaves are also put to work digging. Beauregard’s situation is desperate, and he no longer expects help from Lee’s army.

In reality, however, Lee had become convinced of the truth earlier this afternoon. All day yesterday and today, while his men spar inconclusively with Butler’s force on Bermuda Hundred, Lee has continued to sniff the wind for a sign of Grant’s intentions. He has shifted more and more of his strength across the James, keeping his army balanced to move either north or south to meet the anticipated Federal thrust. Again and again, he has demanded evidence of the whereabouts of the Armyof the Potomac. From long experience he has discounted strategic estimates of captured privates—and General Beauregard. In the end it isn’t Beauregard, but the commanding general’s son, Major General W.H.F. (Rooney) Lee, who provides the necessary evidence. His cavalry has patched together reliable reports of the pontoon bridge’s existence and of Grant’s crossing.

Fierce delaying actions by the Confederate cavalry slows Hunter’s advance toward Lynchburg to a crawl. Crook’s infantry and Averell’s cavalry are moving northeast on the Salem Pike, opposed at last by Imboden; a little farther out, Sullivan’s division and Duffié’s cavalry are coming in from the west, on the Forest road, against McCausland. Shortly after noon, Averell halts before a defensive line thrown up by Imboden at a Quaker meetinghouse five miles southwest of Lynchburg. About one hour later, General Early races into the town from the northeast with one of his three divisions.

Hunter has ordered Crook and Averell not to attack until all the Federal forces are up. But Crook grows restive late in the afternoon and launches an unauthorized assault. While Crook’s infantry advances along the Salem Pike, the cavalry gallops to the east, around Imboden’s left flank. Seeing that they are about to be enveloped, Imboden’s troopers break for the rear before contact is made, and the exultant Federals head for the city. They almost make it. But the aggressive Early, not content to await attack in Lynchburg, has ordered two of the brigades that have arrived with him from his former division—now commanded by Major General Stephen Dodson Ramseur—to push out along the Salem Pike. They have gone just two miles when they make contact with the Federal advance and are forced by heavy artillery to take cover.

The sun is setting by the time Hunter arrives on the scene, and he decides to halt operations for the night. He does so over the strenuous objections of his officers and men. All night Crook’s men listen in dismay to the sound of huffing locomotives pulling into Lynchburg and the cheering of relieved men greeting their reinforcements.

At Cherbourg, France, work on the Alabama preparing for battle with the Kearsarge has proceeded steadily. Nonessential spars and rigging are removed and the deck holystoned. Small arms, guns, and swords are cleaned. The brasswork is polished to a high gleam. The ship’s boilers are repaired and the crew is run through gun drills. This afternoon Captain Semmes sends the Confederate agent his ship’s valuables: a collection of chronometers taken from his victims; the ship’s funds, including 4,700 gold sovereigns; and the ransom bonds of the ten ships he released. He informs the French authorities that he will be fighting tomorrow, then attends Mass. Returning to the ship early in the evening, Semmes goes straight to bed. So do his officers and crew, despite many invitations from admirers on shore.

Sherman’s right wing troops vigorously attack the new Confederate lines along Mud Creek in front of Marietta, Georgia, and make some progress against Hardee’s corps of Johnston’s army. Elsewhere, skirmishes erupt near Columbia, Missouri, and on the Monticello Road near Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

President Lincoln returns to Washington in the morning from his Philadelphia trip. At 8:30 am a blast, followed by fire, rocks the cartridge-making building of the Washington Arsenal; eighteen are killed or fatally injured and fifteen to twenty injured.
June 18, Saturday

Having finally received proof of Grant’s movements, now at last Lee moves with characteristic vigor, setting his entire army in motion for Petersburg. As always, Lee’s troops are confident; but they are suffering from the effects of six weeks’ strenuous campaigning—constant exposure to sun and rain, the rancid bacon and half-raw cornbread, the filth accompanying the lack of opportunity for bathing or washing what clothes they have, bad water, lack of rest at night, and constant anxiety have produced and aggravated diarrhea, dysentery, and just plain exhaustion. Lee’s march begins at 3 am, and at first light his two leading divisions file in behind Beauregard’s utterly exhausted troops, lying in despair in their scratched-out trenches. While Major General J.B. Kershaw’s division relieves Bushrod Johnson’s and Major General C.W. Field’s extended line to the right, Beauregard’s battered veterans weep and cheer with joy.

By full daylight, Beauregard has 20,000 men under his command. But with the arrival of Warren’s V Corps yesterday afternoon, Grant now has 67,000 men present for duty, and the Confederates are barely in place when the Federals attack. Though superior in number, the Northern forces too are physically exhausted, and memories of the carnage in the Wilderness, at Spotsylvania, and at Cold Harbor haunt their minds. Generals are no more immune to fatigue than privates, and from the onset of the assault it becomes clear that a breakdown in leadership has occurred. Both Grant and Meade seem strangely detached from the tactical reality of the situation, leaving the responsibility of the attack to their corps commanders. The result is a series of disjointed charges.

The initial attack is launched at dawn by II and XVIII Corps on the Federal right, although IX Corps in the center and V Corps on the left have greater distances to cover and should logically move out first. Through the early-morning hours Hancock sends repeated messages urging Burnside to advance, but to no avail. Then the wound in Hancock’s thigh begins to hemorrhage, expelling several splinters of bone, and his staff surgeon orders him to bed. Major General David B. Birney takes command of II Corps. Swarming into the works that had been held by the enemy yesterday evening, Birney’s Federals are startled by the lack of resistance. Slow to realize what has happened, they take too long to push back the Confederate skirmishers; when they come up against Beauregard’s new line, their attack grinds to a halt. The troops unable to advance and unwilling to retreat, every regimental flag is planted in line of battle while the soldiers lie flat on the ground waiting for orders. It is noon before IX and V Corps come abreast of Birney’s men. By now most of the II Corps have been under fire for eight hours, and losses have been high. Again the men rise to attack. They are struck by a hurricane of shot and shell as they emerge from the trees. Men, torn and bleeding, fall headlong from the ranks as the murderous hail sweeps the line.

Burnside’s subsequent attack fares little better than Birney’s. With Willcox’s division in the lead, the Federals occupy the abandoned Confederate line and push on, to a deep cut made by the tracks of the Norfolk & Petersburg Railroad. There Willcox halts while Burnside’s other divisions come up and V Corps advances on the left. The men dig toeholds in the nearly perpendicular face of the railroad embankment, and when orders come to renew the attack they scramble out into an open field crossed by Taylor’s Branch. In the marsh, the charge dissolves in the fire that pours from Beauregard’s defenses. Within minutes one of Willcox’s brigades lose three commanders in succession, and several regiments take casualties of fifty percent or more. By the end of the day Willcox can muster only 1,000 men—the regulation strength of a single regiment. On Burnside’s left, some regiments of Warren’s V Corps also reach Taylor’s Branch, at the point where it flows through a narrow ravine. But it soon becomes obvious that to advance any farther is suicidal. Ahead lies a formidable Confederate earthwork known as Rives’s Salient, which spews death into the ranks of the Federal attackers.

At Union headquarters the tension is exacerbated by a growing sense of frustration and anger. Late in the afternoon Meade orders another headlong assault, but it meets with the same fate as the others. The men go in, but not with spirit. Received by a withering fire, they sullenly fall back a few paces to a slight crest and lie down, as much to say, “We can’t assault but we won’t run.” It is sadly apparent, Meade’s chief of staff Colonel Theodore Lyman concludes, that “you cannot strike a full blow with a wounded hand.” During this assault, the greatest slaughter of the day occurs. In the forefront of the Federal attack marches the 900 men of the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery, a regiment only recently arrived from the defenses of Washington and assigned to duty as infantry. Within minutes, their enthusiastic cheers give way to the screams of the wounded and dying. The 1st Maine loses 632 men, the heaviest battle loss of any regiment during the war.

Another wounded today is Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, the hero of Little Round Top at Gettysburg. He leads his brigade against Rives’s Salient and receives a grievous wound. After his colorbearer is killed in the assault, Chamberlain seizes the flag and is holding it aloft when a Minié ball slams through both his hips. Bleeding profusely, Chamberlain thrusts his sword into the ground to prop himself up and continues shouting orders until he collapses. Surgeons at a field hospital give him up for dead. But his brother, Major Thomas Chamberlain, refuses to let him die. He finds two physicians who piece together Chamberlain’s severed tissue. Still, no one expects that Chamberlain will live. He writes his wife a touching farewell note, and the Army releases his obituary. For weeks he lies in agony, racked with chills and fever. Not only does he survive, but five months later he is back in combat. Chamberlain’s bravery won’t go unnoticed. Without waiting for approval, Grant promotes him to brigadier general—the only such battlefield promotion of the war.

Lee arrives in Petersburg around noon, with the fighting well under way. Beauregard immediately takes his chief to the city reservoir, on an eminence with a broad view of Petersburg, and from it points out the prominent features of the field, his defenses and and troop positions. Then, ever the grand planner, Beauregard proposes that after the balance of the army has arrived, they should move out and strike Grant’s left and rear and attempt to drive the Federals back to the James before they can entrench. He argues that the enemy must be tired and depressed after four days of failure. But Lee knows how tired his own army is. Lee’s strategy all along has been to remain on the defensive; with his weary forces heavily outnumbered, this is no time to change.

By the end of the day Grant has gained little. The Confederates still hold most of their new line, and evening attacks by parts of Burnside’s and Warren’s commands accomplish nothing further. Concluding “that all has been done that can be done,” George Meade orders the Federal commanders to dig in where they are. But Lee and Beauregard know how temporary a victory over Grant can be. All night long they work to shore up their lines. For once, however, the implacable Grant has had enough. After executing one of the most remarkable maneuvers of the war, his army has suffered more than 10,000 casualties in four days of fighting. For the moment, Grant is content. He orders Meade to “rest the men and use the shade for their protection until a new vein can be struck.”

During today’s fighting the 400 men of the 48th Pennsylvania, part of Burnside’s IX Corps, are pushed forward a little farther than the units on either side of them. They cross a deep ravine and struggle up the slope to the opposite side to within 130 yards of the Confederate line. There, closer to the enemy than any other Federal unit, they dig in. Those who dare to peer over their parapets see, on the crest of the rise, a redan containing Pegram’s Richmond Battery and entrenchments stretching north and south. These are manned by South Carolina troops, part of a brigade commanded by Brigadier General Stephen Elliot Jr. of Bushrod Johnson’s division. The redan and its supporting trenches will come to be called Elliott’s Salient. The salient’s location is critical to the Confederate defenses. About 500 yards beyond it the Jerusalem Plank Road runs north along another crest to Petersburg; a half mile to the northwest, on the outskirts of the city, rises an eminence called Cemetery Hill, which dominates the surrounding terrain, including Petersburg. In peacetime the men of the 48th Pennsylvania were miners of anthracite in Schuylkill County, and now their commander, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Pleasants, conceives a plan for destroying Elliott’s Salient: His men will run a tunnel underneath the redan and blow it out of existence. Pleasants, who had been a mining engineer before the war, risks Confederate sniper fire to make careful observations of the enemy position. Then he takes his audacious proposal to his division commander, Brigadier General Robert B. Potter, who forwards it to General Burnside.

The Confederate reinforcements that the Federal troops heard arrive last night by train at Lynchburg in Virginia? All a sham, staged by Early to disguise the fact that the rest of his corps hasn’t arrived and he is still outnumbered by more than two to one. This morning, he moves Breckinridge’s division up to extend Ramseur’s line northward, but it barely makes a link with McCausland on the Forest road. The Lexington Turnpike farther north is completely undefended.

Hunter still is in no hurry. As daylight comes and the hours pass, he orders the enemy lines probed and deliberates on plans for an attack. Somehow he remains convinced that the taking of Lynchburg would be a simple matter. While Duffié pushes McCausland closer to the city, Sullivan aligns his Federal division to the left of Crook’s so that it straddles the Salem Pike with DuPont’s artillery on the road in front of it. When Hunter and his staff ride forward to observe these preparations, Confederate artillery opens fire, narrowly missing the general’s party with the initial salvo. At length Hunter decides upon his tactics. He orders Crook to move his infantry to the right, into some heavy woods, and make a flanking move on the enemy’s position.

It is about noon, and by now Early has grown tired of waiting. Some fifteen or twenty minutes after Crook’s division has disappeared into the timber, the Confederates attack. Leaping over their defenses, the enemy’s infantry, with terrific yells, assault the Union left and center, held respectiverly by Sullivan’s division and the artillery brigade, the 26 remaining guns opening with a roar. The Federals are unprepared for such audacity, their lines seeming at first to recoil. Hunter, badly shaken, quickly recalls Crook, who despite the confusion gets his entire division turned around and back on the scene with “great promptitude.” Sullivan’s men begin to retreat in the face of the surprise attack, but Hunter immediately faces them about and, waving his sword, leads them back to their original position. After swaying back and forth, the entire Union line makes a charge and drives the Confederates into and over their first line of works. The fighting rages for an hour and a half, with Early persistently probing the Federal left, trying to drive a wedge between Sullivan’s and Duffié’s divisions. In response, Crook feeds regiment after regiment of his division to the left to bolster Sullivan. For a short time the Stars and Stripes are seen waving from the enemy breastworks; but the word is given to withdraw, and soon the Federal troops occupy their former lines.

Hunter, who has progressed from gross underestimation to wild overestimation of the forces facing him, has decided to disengage. Upon confirming that he is indeed doing battle with Early’s veteran II Corps, he assumes it to be a full 20,000 strong. In fact, even with the late afternoon arrival of the rest of Early’s corps, the combined Confederate commands probably never equals Hunter’s. But the Federal leader is convinced that the Confederates have concentrated a force at least double his own. He will add in his report that his troops have scarcely enough ammunition left for another well-contested battle—an unlikely development after less than two hours of fighting. Hunter has suffered losses of 940 men in three days of combat and has probably inflicted 500 casualties on his opponents; he has simply lost heart.

Cavalry fight at King and Queen Court House, Virginia; Confederate raiders descend on Laclede, Missouri; and Federals scout from Kansas City.
June 19, Sunday

At Cherbourg it’s a perfect day for the fight. It is bright, clear, and cool, with a breeze just strong enough to clear away the smoke of the battle. A crowd of thousands gather on Cherbourg’s roofs and heights in sight of the English Channel. Fanfare in the newspapers have fetched trainloads of Parisians to watch the contest and enjoy the festive occasion. Some spectators carry tiny Confederate flags to wave for their heroes.

At 9:45 am, the Alabama hoists anchor and sets out toward the Channel. She is escorted by a French ironclad frigate, the Couronne, sent to make certain that the combatants meet outside the three-mile limit. In their wake follows a flotilla of spectator craft. The Alabama’s passage through the harbor and out the West Pass to the Channel is accompanied by hearty cheers from the crowd and a ship that carries a band playing “Dixie.” As the Alabama rounds the breakwater protecting the entrance to the port, Semmes sees the Kearsarge about seven miles to the northeast. The Federal ship turns and bears off northeastward as if trying to avoid the engagement. But Semmes knows better. To him the move means that the Kearsarge is intent on steaming well beyond the three-mile limit so that the two ships might fight to the finish, with neither being able to reach the protection of neutral waters. Captain Winslow is reading the Sunday service to his crew when the alarm comes from the lookout. He closes his prayer book and orders the beat to quarters.

At this moment, Semmes is delivering a romantic speech to inspire his assembled crew. “Officers and seamen of the Alabama!” he shouts from an uncomfortable perch on top of a gun carriage. “The name of your ship has become a household word wherever civilization extends! Shall that name be tarnished by defeat? The thing is impossible! Remember that the eyes of all Europe are at this moment upon you. The flag that floats over you is that of a young republic which bids defiance to her enemies whenever and wherever found! Show the world that you know how to uphold it! Go to your quarters!” Semmes then assumes his battle station on the quarterdeck near the mizzenmast. From his elevated position he will be able to witness the action throughout the battle.

In the meantime, the Kearsarge has turned about and begun closing with the Alabama. When the two vessels are about a mile apart, Semmes opens fire. Winslow holds his fire for several minutes more. Finally, at a range of about half a mile, he commences firing with his starboard battery. Semmes has to veer strongly to port to keep his stern from being raked, but this allows the Kearsarge to close the range. As the Alabama turns back to starboard, her enemy follows suit. The two warships begin to travel in parallel circles. They steam clockwise, drifting westward with the current, confronting each other at a slowly diminishing range as the Kearsarge, the swifter of the pair, is able to tighten each succeeding circle. All the while, the two vessels trade broadsides.

The Alabama draws first blood, knocking out three Union sailors manning the after Dahlgren. But otherwise her shells are having little effect upon the Kearsarge. One shell from the Blakely hits the enemy’s sternpost but proves to be a dud. Other hits do little more damage, even after Semmes switches from explosive shells to solid shot. Meanwhile the 11-inch shells from the Kearsarge’s Dahlgrens are wreaking havoc on the Alabama. Three shells in a row enter through the 8-inch pivot gunport. The first sweeps away the forward men of the gun crew; the second kills one man and wounds several others; the third strikes the breast of the gun carriage and spins it around on the deck. The decks of the Alabama are littered with dead and wounded men.

The ships fight their way through six full circles. As the seventh commences, Semmes is slightly wounded in the right hand; he has it bound and a sling rigged by a quartermaster. His ship is heavily damaged and listing to starboard from hits along the water line. Fearing that the Alabama will go down, Semmes orders Kell to make all possible sail and head for the coast. The ship reverses direction to reach the shore. Kell is proud of the crew’s smart execution of the maneuver, but the Alabama in fact is done. The quarterdeck is so cluttered with mangled bodies that Kell has to have them thrown overboard in order to transfer men from starboard to fight the port guns now facing the Kearsarge. The engineer reports that the boiler fires are out, and Kell goes below to see how long the ship can float. There he finds, as he will write, that Surgeon Llewellyn is “poised to work, but the table and the patient upon it had been swept away by an 11-inch shell,” which opened in the side of the ship a hole that is filling the ship with water. Kell returns immediately and informs Semmes that the Alabama can’t last ten minutes. “Then, sir,” responds Semmes, “cease firing, shorten sail and haul down the colors; it will never do in this 19th Century for us to go down, and the decks covered with our gallant wounded.”

From 500 yards across the water, Winslow watches the Confederate ensign being lowered. But he suspects a trick and orders another broadside with every gun that can be brought to bear. He doesn’t order a ceasefire until a white flag is run up the stern of the Alabama. Soon a dinghy from the Alabama approaches, filled with wounded men. Someone shouts for the Yankees to send boats to rescue the survivors. The Alabama’s guns have damaged or destroyed all but two of the Kearsarge’s boats. Winslow sends them, and later the unloaded Confederate dinghy, to pick up the survivors, who are thrashing about in the water. But it is clear to the Yankees that the three boats won’t be enough for the rescue. An English steamer named the Deerhound draws near, and Captain Winslow shouts for help saving the Confederates. Semmes and Kell are among the last to abandon the Alabama just before it sinks at 12:24 pm, ninety minutes after firing her first shot. A boat from the Deerhound picks up the Confederate officers. Semmes is immediately recognized and hidden under a tarpaulin. When a boat from the Kearsarge comes alongside and a Federal seaman asks for Semmes, Kell says that he drowned. The Deerhound sails for England, with the Alabama’s officers and men its crew have saved.

The sea battle is over. The Kearsarge has suffered three wounded, one of whom later dies. The Alabama has 43 casualties, about half of them dead or drowned. Winslow puts in at Cherbourg, paroles his prisoners, and proceeds to Paris, where he receives a victor’s welcome. In the United States he will be acclaimed by the press and a grateful nation. On President Lincoln’s recommendation, Congress will give Winslow a vote of thanks and a promotion to commodore dating from today. In turn, Winslow will send Lincoln a section of Kearsarge’s sternpost, with the 110-pound dud still embedded in it. Semmes and Kell are landed at Southampton by the Deerhound. There Semmes will pay off his crew and send allotments to the kin of the dead. He will receive a sword from sundry admirers, including officers of the Royal Navy, to replace the one he threw into the Channel just before leaping in himself, before making a roundabout trip to return to the Confederacy. There he will be promoted to rear admiral and assume command of eight ironclads and gunboats on the James River.

At Lynchburg, Virginia, it has been the Confederates’ turn to spend the night listening anxiously to the sounds of enemy movements in the dark—presumably a shift toward the weaker defenses on the Confederate right. But the first light of day reveals to the defenders that the Federals are gone. Demoralized, Hunter has abandoned the attack on Lynchburg, and his hold on the Shenandoah Valley as well. He belatedly realizes that by not going to Charlottesville first, as Grant suggested, he has left in Confederate hands a railroad route that runs from Lynchburg north to Charlottesville and west into the Valley: Early can travel quickly by train to cut off a Federal retreat up the Shenandoah. So when Hunter reaches Staunton, he continues on into the Alleghenies, returning to the Kanawha Valley in West Virginia. In so doing he leaves wide open Jubal Early’s road to Washington. A skirmish takes place at Liberty, Virginia.

Since General Polk’s death five days ago, Sherman has had to measure his advance in yards rather than miles. His success thus far has been based on maneuver so skillful than even his enemies express grudging admiration “Sherman’ll never go to hell,” says a captured Confederate. “He will flank the devil and make heaven in spite of the guards.” But now, rapid movement is impossible. One reason is the rain. It pours down incessantly, turning the roads into “liquid mud.” Some soldiers swear that it is brought on by the continuous roar of artillery and musketry. Sherman’s progress is hindered as well by the tendencies toward trench warfare evidenced earlier at Dallas and New Hope Church. Now, the attackers as well as the defenders are taking the time to entrench at every opportunity. The Federals have to do most of their own digging, although Sherman has authorized each division commander to hire up to 200 freedmen as $10-a-month laborers to work at night while the soldiers sleep. The Confederates, by contrast, often are able to retreat into elaborate breastworks already prepared by slaves. “The whole country is one vast fort,” Sherman wires Washington, “and Johnston must have at least fifty miles of trenches with abatis and finished batteries.” Even the skirmishers on both sides dig in. And it is here, on the skirmish line, that most of the fighting rages as the Federal trenches inch toward Kennesaw.

The “work of death” is about to accelerate. The Confederates, falling back gradually, relinquish all of their high ground except massive Kennesaw Mountain. Today they forge a new and stronger line about five miles long. Centered on Kennesaw’s slopes, it extends north across the railroad and south to a knoll two miles below the mountain. Sherman responds by extending his right farther to the southeast. This movement, although slowed by the continuing rain, threatens to flank the mountain and cut the railroad as it swings south out of Marietta two miles behind Kennesaw.

Lesser fighting occurs at Bayou Grossetete, Louisiana; Eagle Pass, Texas; Hahn’s Farm near Waldron, Arkansas; and Iron Bridge, Indian Territory. A six-day Federal scout begins from Mount Vernon, Missouri.
June 20, Monday

In Virgina, Petersburg remains quiet as two mighty armies stare at each other across growing entrenchments. To the north, Sheridan’s cavalry skirmishes at White House and at King and Queen Court House. In the Valley of Virginia retreating Federals fight at Buford’s Gap.

Grant doesn’t want a siege, but the battle for Petersburg has proven unsuccessful. He has been through one siege already in this war, at Vicksburg. It lasted 47 tedious days, and the inactivity made it difficult to maintain discipline and morale in the ranks. Lee is stronger than General Pemberton had been, and Petersburg is better defended, with several supply routes still open. A siege here will last much longer than at Vicksburg and will be more stubbornly contested. Nevertheless, today Grant tells Butler and the others, “I have determined to try to envelop Petersburg.”

This same day he also sets in motion one last attempt to force Lee out into the open. His army now lies across the Norfolk & Petersburg Railroad east of the city and is in striking distance of two more of Lee’s remaining sources of supply: the Weldon Railroad, which runs into North Carolina and on to the port of Wilmington, and the Southside Railroad, running west to Lynchburg. If he can cut these lines, even temporarily, Lee might be forced to attack him or to abandon Richmond and Petersburg altogether. Grant orders General Wilson to take his own cavalry division and Jautz’s on a wide sweeping ride around the enemy right. Grant wants Wilson to cross the Weldon line as close to Petersburg as possible, cut it, then ride on to the Southside, once again as close to the city as practicable. Then he is to tear up track as far west as he can get, if possible the entire 45 miles to Burke’s Station, where the Southside intersects with the Richmond & Danville line. From there, if still unmolested, Wilson and Kautz are to continue the destruction, moving southwest on the Richmond & Danville. If they are successful, only one line—the Virginia Central—will be left intact to serve the Army of Northern Virginia. Grant expects that Sheridan, who is on his way back east from the Trevilian raid, will keep most of Wade Hampton’s cavalry occupied, though Rooney Lee’s mounted division will have to be dealt with. As further movement, Grant orders Birney and Wright to move to their left, across the Jerusalem Plank Road and out to the Weldon line in the vicinity of Globe Tavern. They might do considerable damage to the railroad themselves, and they will also provide a screen behind which Wilson can get well on his way. Wilson asks for two days to rest and refit his men.

Sherman’s forces in Georgia continue to press toward Johnston’s new Kennesaw defenses. Often the Confederates counter and skirmishing breaks out in many places, with action at Cassville, Noonday Church, Noyes’ Creek, Powder Springs, Lattimer’s Mills, and Noonday Creek. Johnston counters Sherman’s extension of his lines by extending his own left flank. Today he replaces Hood’s corp on his extreme right with Joseph Wheeler’s cavalry division; Johnston then sends Hood marching south behind Kennesaw Mountain to take up a new position on the extreme Confederate left.

Morgan and the remnants of his command with him arrive at Abingdon, Virginia, in the far southwestern part of the state—minus half his troopers, even after all the stragglers come in by various routes across the mountains, and minus considerably better than half his reputation—he puts the raid in the best possible light he can manage in composing his report, stressing the frustration of Burbridge’s expedition against the salt works and lead mines, the capture and parole of almost as many soldiers as he took with him, the procurement of nearly a thousand horses for men afoot and the exchange of roughly the same number of broken-down mounts for fresh ones, the destruction of “about 2,000,000$ (2022 $36,624,713) worth of U.S. Govt. property,” and the disruption of Federal recruitment in central and eastern Kentucky. All this is much; but it isn’t enough, in the minds of his Richmond superiors, to offset his unauthorized departure in the first place, the misbehavior of his raiders wherever they went, and his second-day defeats at Mount Sterling and Cynthiana. Moreover, he now faces all his old problems, with only about half as many troops, and the confirmed displeasure, if not the downright enmity, of the Confederate War Department. One person pleased at the outcome is General Sherman—pleased, but hardly surprised. Indeed, aside from having work crews standing by to make quick repairs in case Morgan broke through to damage the railroad below Louisville, he feared him so little that he scarcely planned for his coming beyond warning local commanders to be on the lookout.

Under brisk Federal fire the Confederate flagstaff on Fort Sumter is replaced, one of several such incidents. Scouts by Federals occur around Lewisburg, Arkansas; and Cassville, Missouri; there are Union operations on the White River, Arkansas; a skirmish at White’s Station, Tennessee; and a Federal expedition from Batchelder’s Creek, North Carolina.

President Lincoln leaves to visit Grant’s army on the James. Before he leaves, he writes the governor of Ohio to watch Copperhead Vallandigham closely, and if he should see any danger to the military, “arrest all implicated.”
June 21, Tuesday

The withdrawal of Sheridan’s cavalry radiers has been slowed by the wounded, the prisoners, and the increasing numbers of slaves who are abandoning farms to follow the Federal column. Sheridan’s men move through the oppressive heat, without sufficient water and rations, and with Hampton’s horsemen following and looking for a chance to pounce. The dust is terrible, at times so dense that troopers can’t see ten feet ahead, or even distinguish their file leaders. Only today do the tired Federal troopers reach their first fresh supplies at White House on the Pamunkey River. Sheridan finds that Grant has left orders behind to destroy the supply base at White House and bring its remaining wagons and stores away with him. Sheridan carries out his orders, sending Torbert’s division to accompany the wagons and David Gregg’s troopers to ride on a parallel road to the west, screening the long train from Confederate attack.

Orders are issued to the II and VI Corps to extend the siege lines to the left toward the Appomattox River west of Petersburg. The goal is to form a semicircle south around Petersburg from the Appomattox on the east to the Appomattox on the west. Farther north fighting breaks out near White House and at Black Creek or Tunstall’s Station, part of the remainder of Sheridan’s Trevilian Raid. A Confederate flotilla bombards the Union squadron on the James at Trent’s and Varina reaches. To the west, pursuing Confederates and retreating Federals from the Valley of Virginia engage at and near Salem and at Catawba Mountains. Johnston, in Georgia, faces heavy pressure on his left from Sherman, and shifts the corp under Hood from his right to the left of the defensive lines. Action is mainly at Noonday Creek. The only other fighting recorded is in Decatur County, Tennessee.

General Grant and other officers visit President Lincoln aboard his steamer at City Point, Virginia. Later Lincoln and Grant tour the Petersburg lines on horseback.
June 22, Wednesday

Before dawn at Petersburg, General Wilson with a total of about 5,000 troopers sets out on the raid Grant ordered. By midmorning they have reached Reams’s Station on the Weldon line without opposition; they stop briefly to burn the railroad buildings and uproot the tracks for a few hundred yards on either side. That done, the raiders move on, and by afternoon they pass through Dinwiddie Court House, with Rooney Lee now sniping ineffectually at their heels. Before nightfall Wilson and Kautz reach Ford’s Station on the Southside line, where they have the good fortune to find two loaded enemy supply trains. These they burn, along with the station buildings and everything else combustible. Then they head west, tearing up the track as they go, heating it red-hot over fires fed with railroad ties and then twisting thew rails out of shape to render them useless. Not until midnight do the Federal raiders finally halt, more than fifty miles from their starting point. The exhausted men sleep with their reins in their hands, lying in formation in front of their saddled horses.

Wright and Birney move their corps as ordered for their part of the plan—aiming across the Jerusalem Plank Road and out to the Weldon line in the vicinity of Globe Tavern. They become separated in the woods and A.P. Hill’s Confederates shove their way between them. Hill stops Wright short and forces the Federals back. Then he strikes Birney ferociously and throws him back to the Jerusalem Plank Road, taking 1,700 prisoners. As a result, the Weldon Railroad is still firmly in Confederate hands.

On the James, President Lincoln, Grant, and others steam upriver to visit the navy squadron and talk with General Butler. In the afternoon the President leaves for Washington.

At White House north of the James, Sheridan, pressed by Hampton’s cavalry, breaks up the supply depot and then heads toward the James with nine hundred wagons. In North Carolina a brief Federal scout probes from Piney Green to Snead’s Ferry and Swansborough. Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan, his raiding about over, assumes command of the Confederate Department of Western Virginia and Eastern Tennessee.

In Georgia, Hood deploys his three divisions across the Powder Springs road near a plantation called Kolb’s farm, about three miles southwest of Marietta. It is the first day of sunshine in at least a week, and in front of Hood the Federal right wing is taking advantage of the dry weather. The Federals are advancing east toward Kolb’s farm astride the same Powder Springs road—Joseph Hooker’s XX Corps on the left of the road and a division of Schofield’s Army of the Ohio on the right. Around noon, Federal skirmishers capture several prisoners and learn from them some alarming news: Hood plans to attack. Indeed, skirmishers of a New York regiment are able to creep close enough to Hood’s lines in the woods to hear the preparations for the assault. Why Hood wants to attack will be a mystery. Perhaps he thinks his position lies beyond the Federal right and he will be able to flank the enemy. Yet he has neither carefully scouted the terrain nor ascertained the strength of the Federals he will fight. What is certain is that Hood has decided on his own: He doesn’t bother to condult his commanding general, Joseph Johnston. Late this afternoon, two of Hood’s divisions emerge from the woods on both sides of the road. The division of Carter Stevenson leads the assault, supported on his right by that of Thomas Hindman. Their path leads almost due west across the partly cultivated fields of Kolb’s farm and across a pair of parallel ravines cut by small streams.

About a half mile away, deployed on a series of ridges, the Federals wait. Alpheus Williams’ division occupies the center. On his right, across the road, is Schofield’s division under Brigadier General Milo Hascall. On Williams’ left, separated from him for several hundred yards by a creek and swampy ravine, stands John Geary’s division. Having been forewarned by their skirmishers, the Federals dig in as best they can and pile up barricades of logs and fence rails. Their line covers at least a mile and a half and contains nearly forty cannon. They outnumber the attackers by about 14,000 to 11,000.

Stevenson’s infantrymen, arrayed elbow-to-elbow in three lines of battle, head directly toward Williams’ sector of the line. Williams scrambles atop a pile of fence rails to get a better view. From this exposed position, he begins directing his artillery fire. The first shells hit the closely packed Confederate ranks at a distance of about 500 yards. Federal guns join in all along the line. They fire shell and solid shot first, then switch to case and canister as the Confederates keep coming. Together the guns are pumping out iron at the rate of ninety rounds a minute. The Confederates who manage to survive this maelstrom swear after they have never endured heavier fire, not even in the far-bigger battles at Chickamauga and at Missionary Ridge. Wide gaps open in Stevenson’s lines, but his assault surges down into the ravine nearest the Federals and then up the slope. His men are now within 200 yards of the Federal line, charging into point-blank fire from artillery and muskets. To make matters even worse, the Confederates are now caught in their left flank by canister from Hascall’s Ohio battery, which is posted just beyond the road. Volley after volley is sent plunging and tearing through the massed lines, strewing the ground with fallen men. Stevenson’s assault comes within fifty yards of Williams’ line, and then it breaks. His men withdraw to the ravine to regroup. They mount a new charge, fall back and then, gallantly and without gain, charge again.

On Stevenson’s right, the attack led by Hindman also falters. His men lag behind Stevenson’s and get bogged down in the swampy bottoms of the westerly flowing creek that separates the Federal divisions of Williams and Geary; then they are caught in a withering enfilade on their right from Geary’s batteries. Hindman’s men retreat to the woods. Stevenson’s battered troops hang on in the shelter of the ravine in front of Williams, listening in the gathering dusk to the Federals taunting them to try another charge. During the night, the Confederates make their way back to the woods in small groups, carrying their wounded with them.

Hood’s ill-considered assault costs him nearly 1,000 men, 870 of them fron Stevenson’s division. Johnston doesn’t learn of these losses from Hood, however. Having neglected to tell his commanding officer about the attack beforehand, Hood also fails to report to him the full dimensions of the disaster.

On the Union side, the commander in chief turns out to be less than happy with his own corps commander, Joseph Hooker. Though Hooker’s hard-fighting XX Corps is responsible for the victory, and at a loss of fewer than 300 men, Sherman chooses to find fault with a message Hooker sent him during the attack. Sherman professes to be angry because Hooker’s message exaggerated the size of the enemy force and expressed undue concern for his right flank, which is secure. These points are so trivial that Sherman obviously has seized upon them to try to cut his ambitious subordinate down to size. Hooker has a reputation for exploiting political influence to snipe at his superiors behind their backs. So tomorrow Sherman will deliver a stern lecture to Hooker about the excesses of his battlefield message. “I reproved him more gently than the occasion demanded,” Sherman will write in his memoirs, “and from that time he began to sulk.”
June 23, Thursday

In the morning in Virginia, while Kautz’s Federal troopers ride ahead toward the Richmond & Danville line, Wilson’s men continue their work, moving slowly west while Rooney Lee’s cavalry skirmish in their rear with fights near Ottoway Court House. The Federals don’t have time to do a proper job, now simply overturning the rails and ties, which can be done quickly but is hardly a permanent form of destruction.

In the Valley of Virginia, Jubal Early’s command is advancing from Lynchburg toward the Shenandoah as Hunter’s Federals have withdrawn into West Virginia. The last fights with Hunter occur at New Castle, Virginia, and Sweet Sulphur Springs and Cove Gap, West Virginia.

Sheridan, with the immense wagon train, is en route to the Army of the Potomac from White House. As he crosses Jones’ Bridge over the Chickahominy there is skirmishing. The Federal II and VI Corps recover some of the ground lost yesterday and take position west of the Jerusalem Plank Road at Petersburg. However, they don’t control the Weldon Railroad. A Confederate attack drives off Union cavalry that briefly holds a section of the railroad.

In Georgia the weather improves and roads begin to dry out. Sherman plans an attack against Johnston’s strong position. For several days Sherman readjusts lines preparatory to the attack. There is considerable skirmishing, such as that at Allatoona. On other fronts fighting takes place at Okolona, Mississippi, and Collierville, Tennessee.

Late in the afternoon a weary Lincoln arrives at Washington after his visit to the army in southern Virginia.
June 24, Friday

General Ambrose Burnside’s uneven and sometimes disastrous performance this far in the war hasn’t diminished his quick and unshakable enthusiasm. This evening Burnside summons Pleasants to his tent to have the colonel explain his idea for mining a Petersburg redan to blow a hole through the Confederate lines. Burnside immediately approves the project and promises to get headquarters’ support for it as soon as possible. Pleasants’ Pennsylvanians will begin digging tomorrow.

Just as Sheridan’s Federal column of troopers and wagon train near Charles City Court House, Hampton attacks. Gregg’s division receives the assault from behind hastily constructed breastworks and hold the Confederates for two hours before being forced out of their position. The Federal line falls back, supported by two batteries of Regular horse artillery. At the last possible moment, the battery commanded by Captain Alanson M. Randol limbers up and dashes to safety. The other battery, under Lieutenant William N. Dennison, remains in place and blazes away. He stands firm as the Federal cavalry withdraws past his position, firing until he has exhausted his ammunition before he joins in the retreat. The Confederate horsemen pursue, and the battle becomes a chaos of charges and countercharges through patches of thick woods, the confusion worsened by blinding clouds of dust kicked up by the horses. The fight sputters to a close—“smothered by the woods,” as a Federal will recall.

Wilson’s cavalry reach Burke’s Station and meet Kautz, who has reduced the depot to a charred ruin and has torn up the Richmond & Danville line for several miles in either direction.

Sherman’s irritation only widens during the days since Hood’s bungled assault as the fighting subsides to the frustrating rhythm of trench warfare. The presence of Hood on the Federal right prevents the intended flanking maneuver there. And Sherman can’t extend farther to the south beyond Hood until the roads dry and ensure the necessary flow of supply wagons that far from the railroad. The mountain itself, together with the foothills extending below it, stymy Sherman’s left and center. Confederate fortifications cover the western slopes of the mountain’s prominences, which descend like tree-carpeted stairsteps to the south: first, the highest peak at 700 feet, which is known as Big Kennesaw; then the 400-foot Little Kennesaw; finally, the 200-foot-high knob called Pigeon Hill, where great flocks of passenger pigeons roost during their annual migration. The Federals bring their own trenches to a perimeter several hundred yards from the base of the mountain but are unable to get any nearer. Sherman tries pummeling the mountain with artillery. He orders up 140 field guns, and the word goes through the Federal trenches that “Old Billy” is determined to take Kennesaw “or shoot it damn full of old iron.”

After the shellfire proves ineffective, Sherman determines to take the mountain by assault. Today he tells his commanders to get ready to attack the Kennesaw line in three days. His plan is based on his assumption that the enemy has weakened its defenses in the middle in order to strengthen the flanks. While the Federal troops demonstrate all along the line, two major assault columns will hit the Confederates where Sherman figures they least expect it—in Johnston’s right center, near the south end of the mountain, and in his center, a mile below the mountain. If these attacks succeed, reinforcements will follow, driving through to the railroad and splitting the Confederate army in two. Sherman’s principal subordinates, recalling the heavy losses incurred in the head-on assaults around Dallas last month, show little enthusiasm for the plan. James McPherson quietly suggests that it might be more prudent to wait until the roads dry and then outflank the enemy. Sherman replies that it is necessary to show that his men can “fight as well as Grant’s.” As the troops make preparations, they too regard the prospect of a head-on attack with grave doubts. Illinoians in one of George Thomas’s regiments are taking bets that they will never get past the Confederate skirmish line.

On the Georgia front a skirmish occurs at La Fayette, where Sherman is protecting his supply lines. Once more the shot-torn flag on Fort Sumter is replaced under fire by Confederates. In Arkansas an affair takes place near Fayetteville. On the White River, Jo Shelby’s Confederates on land fight three US steamers, and attack, capture, and destroy USS Queen City.

The Constitutional Convention of Maryland votes to abolish slavery.
June 25, Saturday

General Kautz takes the advance again, leading Wilson’s troopers and reaching the Staunton River thirty miles southwest of Burke’s Station in the afternoon. Destruction of the bridge here would be a hard blow to the Confederates, but by now the raiders are expected. More than 1,000 home guards, supported by at least one battery, wait in earthworks on the far side of the river. When Kautz advances to burn the bridge, the defenders open a stubborn fire and drive the Federals back. At the same time, Rooney Lee is pressing Wilson’s rearguard. Wilson decides it is time to end the raid and return to friendly lines. For several reasons, this isn’t going to be easy. Wilson is 100 miles from safety, with tired animals and worn-out men. General Hampton is on his way back to the Petersburg area with his two divisions of Confederate cavalry. And friendly lines aren’t where Wilson thinks they are—thanks to Wright’s and Birney’s failure, the Weldon Railroad is still in Confederate hands.

Skirmishing flares again at Allatoona and Spring Place, Georgia. There are skirmishes at Roanoke Station, Virginia; Morganfield, Kentucky; Ashwood, Mississippi; Point Pleasant, Louisiana; Rancho Las Rinas, Texas; and operations on the Yellow River, Florida. The main fronts are relatively quiet.
June 26, Sunday

Jubal Early and his soldiers have grown callous to the destruction of war, yet they are shocked by what they see as they march into the Shenandoah behind David Hunter’s retreating army. Houses have been burned, and helpless women and children left without shelter. The country has been stripped of provisions and many families left without a morsel to eat. Furniture and bedding has been cut to pieces, and old men and women and children robbed of all the clothing they had except that on their backs. Weary and hungry themselves, the Confederates have chased Hunter for three days. Then, seeing that the Federals are running for the Alleghenies, they break off the pursuit and head north down the Valley.

At Lexington the army passes the town’s small cemetery. The officers dismount and walk beside their horses; the men remove their hats and reverse their arms. A “hush as deep as midnight” falls over the thousands of men, and the shrunken formations march in solemn silence past Stonewall Jackson’s grave. Not a man speaks, not a sound is uttered, especially when Jackson’s old division, including the depleted Stonewall Brigade, files by. “Only the tramp, tramp of passing feet told that his surviving veterans were passing in review,” Major Henry Kyd Douglas will remember. “Alas, how few of them were left!”

Arriving in Staunton today, Early pauses just long enough to realign his command before launching one of the more audacious gambles of the war: a surprise attack on Washington. “Jackson being dead,” Douglas will observe, “it is safe to say no other general in either army would have attempted it against such odds.” Early counts 10,000 infantrymen in his four divisions, 4,000 cavalrymen in four brigades, and forty guns. It is an emaciated little army; half of its infantrymen march in worn-out shoes and many have none at all. But the men are experienced in combat, hardened to shortages, and, above all, superbly led: Early’s subordinates include not only the capable John Breckinridge and Robert Rodes, but two of the Confederacy’s brightest young generals—John B. Gordon and Stephen Dodson Ramseur.

Major General Gordon is a lawyer, untrained in war but possessing a natural aptitude for leading men in combat. With his fierce eyes, bristling goatee, and graceful seat on a horse, the elegant 32-year-old Georgian looks every inch the military leader. The effect isn’t diminished by the deep scar on the left side of his face, the legacy of the last of five wounds he suffered on a single day at Antietam; one of his men called Gordon “most the prettiest thing you ever did see on a field of fight. It’ud put fight into a whipped chicken just to look at him.” An even faster rising star is that of Stephen Dodson Ramseur, who shortly after his 27th birthday has taken command of Early’s old division. The youngest West Pointer (class of 1860) to make major general in the Confederate Army, Ramseur has grown a maturity to his boyish face. He had been wounded at Malvern Hill, Chancellorsville, and Spotsylvania. But warfare hasn’t yet quenched his youthful enthusiasm. “I have had three horses shot under me,” he recounts in a letter to his bride of less than a year. “My saddle was shot through the pommel. I got four holes through my overcoat besides the ball which passed through my arm. I tell you these things, my Darling Wife, in order that you may be still more grateful to our Heavenly Father for his most wonderful and merciful preservation of my life.”

While at Staunton, Early places the divisions of Gordon and Brigadier General John Echols under Breckinridge. The divisions of Ramseur and Rodes—along with a new cavalry commander, Major General Robert Ransom Jr.—report directly to Early.

Sheridan’s cavalry and wagon trains complete the crossing of the James by ferry at Couthard’s Landing, and move to join the main army. Fighting breaks out at Olley’s Creek, Georgia, and yet again the flag of Fort Sumter is replaced under fire. In Arkansas, in operations on the White River, Federals pursue Confederates near Clarendon to Bayou De View. Other fighting takes place at Wire Bridge, Springfield, and Smithfield, West Virginia, and on the Sedalia and Marshall Road, Missouri. Early reaches Staunton, Virginia, with about 14,000 men after a hard march.
June 27, Monday

The sun rises “clear and cloudless” over Georgia. At 8 am, the silence of the Kennesaw line is shattered by the roar of more than 200 Federal cannon. From the mountain comes the Confederate artillery’s full-throated reply. On the brow of Little Kennesaw, where his men have dragged nine guns, Confederate Major General Samuel French is “enjoying a bird’s eye view.” He watches while “as if by magic,” one long, waving line of blue infantry seems to spring from the earth and advance. Along most of the curving, eight-mile front, Federal skirmishers are moving forward. But French and the other Confederate commanders quickly see that much of this is a feint. They direct their artillery fire instead on the blueclads emerging from the woods in force: a single division near the southwest slope of Little Kennesaw, and two divisions south of the mountain complex itself. Soon the sharp crack of musketry, combined with the sound of French’s own guns, produce “a roar as constant as Niagra.”

It falls to McPherson’s Army of the Tennessee to make the assault on the Confederate right center. About 8:30 am, after the artillery duel has ceased, three brigades under Brigadier General Morgan L. Smith moves east toward the southern slope of Little Kennesaw and the spur just below, Pigeon Hill. They deploy on a half-mile front astride the Burnt Hickory road, 5,500 men in two columns of regiments facing 5,000 entrenched Confederates. As soon as the Federals cross a swamp, they encounter enemy troops in two lines of rifle pits. To Smith’s right, the Federals are met by two Georgia regiments.

Though greatly outnumbered here, the defenders put up a fight, resisting with clubbed muskets and anything else within reach. In one rifle pit, eleven Georgians battle hand-to-hand until nine of them are bayoneted. In another pit, Lieutenant George A. Bailie, his ear grazed by a bullet, sees his Federal assailant standing twenty feet away, reloading to fire again. Bailie, armed only with a sword, picks up a stone and hurls it directly between the eyes of the Federal, knocking the soldier to the ground. Nearby, a little Georgia Irishman by the name of John Smith wrestles with a Federal for control of his own musket—and loses. Shoving his opponent backward, Smith shouts, “To hell with you and the gun, too!” and runs to the rear.

The Federal division soon overruns the pits, capturing or disabling more than 100 men. Then they start up the steep slope of Little Kennesaw on the left to the lesser incline of Pigeon Hill on the right. The main Confederate line stretches out above them about 500 yards distant. But the intervening ground is strewn with so many obstacles—felled timber, boulders, and spiked logs called chevaux-de-frise—that the momentum of the charge quickly falters. As the Federals struggle through and over these obstacles, they run into musket fire from the front and a vicious enfilade from French’s batteries posted on Little Kennesaw. Within about thirty feet of the enemy’s main works, the line staggers and seeks cover as best they can behind logs and rocks. Before the bugle sounds retreat, the division has lost 500 men, including seven regimental commanders. Then, shortly before 10 am, the brigades withdraw to the rifle pits they overran an hour ago and take refuge there.

A mile and a half to the south, meanwhile, below the mountain itself, the other major Federal assault is developing. At 9 am, two divisions from Thomas’s Army of the Cumberland, having formed south of the Dallas road, move forward against the center of the Kennesaw line. The attack matches 8,000 Federals against an equal number of Confederates who are defending a long ridge. The two Federal divisions advance simultaneously—John Newton’s IV Corps division on the left, Jefferson Davis’s of the XIV Corps on the right. According to Thomas’s orders, the five attacking brigades advance in close-packed columns rather than in broad lines of battle. The columnar formation, what one officer calls “a human battering ram,” enhances the chances of piercing the enemy line. But it also provides a massed target for the enemy and tends to break down quickly if the leading regiments don’t keep moving. On Newton’s right, the advance becomes confused almost as soon as it gets underway. This right-flank brigade is commanded by Brigadier General Charles G. Harker, who at 27 is one of the most promising field officers in the Union army. A West Pointer, he has already distinguished himself at Stones River and Chickamauga, and he is still lame from a wound received at Rocky Face Ridge. But on this day luck deserts Harker. His tight column of five regiments breaks up as the men scramble over their chest-high entrenchments and struggle through the abatis that lines their works. Instead of charging in a solid block, they near the Confederate earthworks in a trickle of desperate men. Then Harker’s attack collapses in the murderous fire from Brigadier General Alfred Vaughan’s Tennessee brigade. Those Federals who aren’t killed or wounded huddle on the slope in front of the Confederate works. “Occasionally some gallant soldier would rise up with a stand of colors in his hand. The movement would begin to spread, when a volley would come from the works, cutting down the leaders, and the movement would then subside.” Harker, determined to renew the assault, gallops up the slope, waving his hat and shouting, “Come on, boys!” Harker and his staff ride along the Federal lines within fifteen yards of the blazing Confederate defenses, until a bullet tears through his right arm and into his chest. He topples from his horse, and now his men retreat down the corpse-strewn slope, bearing their commander with them.

Nearer the Dallas road, Newton’s other two brigades have also struggled without gain. In front of the Confederate section held by one of Cleburne’s Arkansas regiments, scores of Federal wounded lie unattended between the lines. Now these helpless men face a new danger. Gunfire has ignited the underbrush and flames are flashing through the woods, roasting some of the wounded alive and threatening to reach still others. Watching in horror from the Confederate entrenchments, Lieutenant Colonel William H. Martin, commander of a consolidated Arkansas regiment, orders his men to cease firing. He ties his handkerchief to a ramrod and jumps onto the parapet to offer a truce. “Come and remove your wounded; they are burning to death,” Martin shouts to the Federals. “We won’t fire a gun until you get them away. Be quick.” Then, while gunfire continues to roar along the rest of the line, a merciful quiet settles over this little part of the mountain. Men in blue from Illinous come out from behind boulders and fallen trees; men in gray and butternut from Arkansas clamber over their parapets. Working together, they carry the wounded men to safety behind the Federal rear. After the charred area is cleared and the flames are stamped out, a Federal major approaches Martin and presents tokens of appreciation: a pair of matched Colt revolvers. On that note, the truce ends and the men who have shared an extraordinary act of kindness go back to their savage war. In a short time, however, Newton’s three brigades—having suffered in less than two hours most of their 654 casualties for the day—fall back and dig in. In places the lines are less than forty yards apart.

Beyond Newton’s right, meanwhile, the battle has reached a crescendo with the advance of the two brigades under Jefferson Davis. Here, at a point one half mile south of the Dallas road and two miles below the mountain, is “the storm center.” Davis’s objective is a knoll defended by two entrenched brigades under Major General Benjamin Franklin Cheatham, a hard-drinking, 43-year-old veteran. Cheatham’s line juts forward on the hill and then cuts back toward the east to form a sharp-angled salient. In his honor the knoll will later be named Cheatham Hill. For the many who die there this morning, the salient will be known hereafter as “the Dead Angle.” Davis’s advance begins on a sober note. One of his brigade commanders, Colonel Daniel McCook, Jr., walks along the lines of anxious men reciting a poem by Thomas Macaulay; the verse depicts the legendary Roman warrior Horatius as he faces battle in defense of a bridge over the Tiber:

Then out spake brave Horatius,
The Captain of the Gate:
To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late,
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers
And the temples of his gods.

The blueclads listen carefully: Their young commander is one of the famous Fighting McCooks—seventeen brothers and first cousins in Federal blue, three of whom already have died for the Union. Unlike Horatius’s men, McCook’s brigade isn’t outnumbered. The “fearful odds” that McCook contemplates are those presented by the perilous nature of the impending advance: covering 600 yards of rocky ground and a timber-covered slope to reach an open field that is commanded by Confederate fortifications.

And on McCook’s right, in Colonel John Mitchell’s brigade, the men of an Illinois regiment are also worried. They are the ones who have been taking bets that their advance will get stalled in front of the Confederate skirmish line partway up the hill. But the Illinoisans surprise themselves. They deploy as skirmishers in front of the other five regiments of Mitchell’s brigade, race ahead, and sweep over the first Confederate rifle pits with ease. The charge up Cheatham Hill—toward the southern flank of the Dead Angle—is a different matter. Mitchell’s men feel spent even before they emerge into the open field near the enemy works. Their advance began at too fast a pace, and the midmorning heat—the temperature has reached almost 100˚—has sapped their energy. A storm of missiles spews from the Confederate works: bullets and canister, entrenching tools, stones, and even clods of dirt. Soon all of Mitchell’s regiments are pinned down in front of the Confederate breastworks.

While Mitchell’s assault sputters and stalls, Fighting Dan McCook’s column—just to the north—presses on toward the point of the Dead Angle. The air seems “filled with bullets, giving one the sensation experienced when moving swiftly against a heavy wind and sleet storm.” At the same time, ten Confederate cannon posted to the left and right of the Dead Angle keep up a terrible enfilade of shell and canister. Through the crossfire McCook’s narrow column struggles, advancing to within twenty yards of the Confederate line. Making a suicidal dash, McCook himself reaches the Confederate lines, with a handful of men following. He scrambles on top of the parapet, and shouting, “Surrender, you traitors!” he slashes at the defenders with his sword. A Confederate thrusts his musket against McCook’s chest and pulls the trigger. Fatally wounded, the colonel falls backward off the works and is carried to the rear, gasping, “Stick to them, boys!” After McCook is felled, his brigade inspector, Captain William W. Fellows, shouts, “Come on, boys; we’ll take—” A volley cuts short his exhortation, and he falls dead. Colonel Oscar F. Harmon, commander of an Illinois regiment, is the next to take command of the brigade; in less than five minutes a bullet passes through his heart.

Nowhere at the Dead Angle are Davis’s brigades able to sustain their assault. The combined toll of Davis’s casualties for the day amount to 824; in McCook’s brigade alone the casualty rate reaches 35 percent. Orders come to retire. Few men go far, it is safer to dig in than to retreat. Scarcely forty yards from the tip of the dreaded Dead Angle, survivors of McCook’s brigade improvise a line sheltered by a rise in the ground, scooping out shallow trenches in the hard red clay with bayonet and tin cup.

By noon it is clear to Sherman, watching from his headquarters on Signal Hill, a mile or so to the rear, that the assault has failed everywhere. Smith, Newton, and Davis can all hold their ground but no more than that. Sherman also has reports of the appalling casualties that, when the final count is in, will mount to 1,999 killed and wounded and 52 missing—compared with possibly 270 killed and wounded and 172 missing among the Confederates. Even so, he can’t let go. Twice this afternoon he queries General Thomas about renewing the attack. In reply to the second message, the loyal and taciturn Thomas puts it bluntly: “One or two more such assaults would use up this army.” But Sherman has grown hardened to the killing. “Our loss is small, compared with some of those East,” he tells Thomas. And in a letter to his wife he’ll write in a few days, he confesses: “I begin to regard the death and mangling of a couple thousand men as a small affair, a kind of morning dash.”

As it is, by evening Sherman comes to a startling conclusion about his current tactics. Reports from Schofield on the southern flank make Sherman realize he no longer has to batter his armies against the Kennesaw line. Schofield has already outflanked it. Even before the assault was launched this morning, Schofield—demonstrating in support of the main attacks—moved two brigades across Olley’s Creek a mile or so below the Powder Springs road. This gain, which Sherman will describe as “the only advantage of the day,” puts Schofield beyond Hood’s extreme left. Sherman’s seemingly futile main assaults thus have served an ironic end. By diverting the Confederates’ attention from the south flank, the principal thrusts have inadvertently served as demonstrations that enabled Schofield to make his move. Schofield’s bridgehead on the south bank of Olley’s Creek paves the way for a major flanking operation. Before undertaking it, however, Sherman has to wait until the roads bake hard enough to permit him to break loose from his rail supply line.

The day is pretty quiet at Petersburg. Yet another flag is replaced at Fort Sumter. There are affairs at Crittenden, Kentucky; Big Cove Valley, Alabama; near Dunksburg, Missouri; and the Federals scout around Brownsville, Arkansas.

President Lincoln formally accepts the nomination for President.
June 28, Tuesday

In Virginia, Sheridan rejoins Grant, and the Trevilian raid is over. The gains are hardly auspicious. Sheridan clearly won the main battle, although losses from the raid are almost the same on each side, about 1,000. Yet Sheridan failed to link up with Hunter. Further, though he tore up several miles of Virginia Central track, Sheridan’s work fell far short of Grant’s injunction to “make it impossible to repair the road.” Today the railroad superindendent notifies Richmond that the line will be open from Staunton to Hanover Junction tomorrow. Sheridan has interrupted service for little more than two weeks.

Elsewhere in Virginia, at midday Wilson’s weary riders reach Stony Creek Depot, just ten miles south of Ream’s Station, and presumed safety. But there they run into Wade Hampton’s and Fitzhugh Lee’s Confederate cavalry divisions. The dismayed Wilson can’t break through: his line of retreat is cut off and he is in real trouble. Come night Wilson orders Kautz to ride west and north, around the enemy divisions to Reams’s Station; Wilson will hold Hampton at Stony Creek.

Reorganizing complete, General Jubal Early’s army heads north down the Shenandoah Valley. Early doesn’t delude himself that he is about to win the war for the Confederacy. Indeed, he considers this a “forlorn hope.” The indefatigable Grant has sidestepped his entire army around Richmond and is besieging Petersburg. Sherman is driving into Georgia. With every passing day the Confederacy becomes ever smaller, its defenders fewer. Still, the Federals have made no dramatic breakthroughs, and they have suffered grievous casualties. The Union’s will to continue fighting is in question. It doesn’t seem likely that Abraham Lincoln can retain the presidency in the fall elections, and his successor might well negotiate a peace that will leave the Confederacy intact. The strategy now is to make the North ever more weary of the interminable war. In the light of Black Dave Hunter’s depredations, Early’s soldiers have all the motivation they need to march on Washington.

Large-scale fighting seems over for a time. Only skirmishes at Tunnel Hill, Georgia, and Howlett’s Bluff, Virginia, break the quiet.

In the Capital President Lincoln signs a bill repealing the fugitive slave acts. In Georgia Johnston, who seems to be ready for all eventualities, prepares new defensive positions along the Chattahoochee, back of the Kennesaw line.
June 29, Wednesday

In Virginia, while Wilson fights off a substantial attack, Kautz reaches Reams’s Station—only to discover, instead of the Federal II and VI Corps, part of Fitzhugh Lee’s cavalry and two brigades of Hill’s Confederate infantry. Increasingly desperate, Wilson next takes his own command around the opponents facing him to rejoin Kautz west of Reams’s Station. But now the enemy is converging on him from three sides: Fitzhugh and Rooney Lee’s cavalry from the north, Hill’s infantry from the east, and Hampton’s riders from the south. There is no choice but to make a headlong run for it. The Federals burn their wagons, spike their guns, leave their wounded behind, and head southwest. Before they can get away, the Confederates attack and Kautz, covering the escape of Wilson, become separated from him. There is a large swamp on the enemy left flank, and Kautz thinks he sees a chance to break through there. In they plunge, the men riding past Kautz, who is sitting astride his horse, one leg slung over his pommel, with a pocket map of Virginia in one hand and a compass in the other. Looking at the sun for position, he points out their course. Incredibly, the troopers get through the swamp unopposed. Seven hours later, bone-weary and falling asleep in their saddles, they ride into friendly lines southeast of Petersburg. Wilson’s raiders have it even tougher. For eleven hours they are pursued south, until they are nearly twenty miles farther away from Federal lines.

At Kennesaw Mountain, as Sherman waits for the roads to dry out, there is also a grim business to attend to. By now—two days after the battle—the stench of the dead lying between the lines has become so oppressive that both sides agree to a seven-hour truce. Federal soldiers fashion grappling hooks from bayonets and, with the help of the Confederates, drag the bloated corpses into deep trenches for burial. While this grisly work proceeds, the enemies take advantage of the truce to trade coffee and tobacco. Several Confederate officers mingle with the blueclads; some of the Federals crowd admiringly around General Cheatham to get the autograph of the commander responsible for their bloody repulse at the Dead Angle.

President Davis tells Governor Brown of Georgia that he has sent Johnston “all available reinforcements, detaching troops even from points that remain exposed to the enemy.” He doesn’t see how he can do more.

Skirmishes mark the day at Charles Town and Duffield’s Station, West Virginia; La Fayette, Tennessee; Davis’ Bend, Louisiana; and Meffleton Lodge, Arkansas.
June 30, Thursday

At the headquarters of the Army of the Potomac, neither Meade nor Grant express much interest in Colonel Pleasants’ mine under the Confederate earthworks. The general in chief regards it merely “as a means of keeping the men occupied.” Meade will later say that it is in the wrong place, an area held by strong enemy positions on either flank and the rear. Meade’s chief engineer, Major James C. Duane, pronounces the idea “clap-trap and nonsense,” avowing that such a long mine has never been excavated in military operations, and cannot be. As a result, Pleasants gets little cooperation. Lumber for shoring the tunnel isn’t forthcoming, and the men have to scrounge for it, searching abandoned sawmills and tearing down an old bridge. No one will furnish them with wheelbarrows, so they make do with cracker boxes fitted with hickory handles. It takes several days to get the surveying instrument Pleasants needs to calculate the length of the tunnel.

Undeterred, the miners push on with their extraordinary project. They begin the tunnel, or gallery, in the ravine behind their lines, protected from enemy observation. Working in shifts round the clock, they are soon burrowing forty feet a day through sand and clay. But they can’t complete the job if Pleasants can’t solve the problem of ventilation. The gallery is a small one—five feet high, four feet wide at the bottom and only two feet wide at the top—and the longer it becomes, the more difficult it is for the men in it to breathe. This is the reason a tunnel as long as this one has to be—510.8 feet, by Pleasants’ eventual calculation—has seldom been attempted. The solution Pleasants devises is ingenious. About 100 feet into the mine, still behind Federal lines, he runs a vertical shaft to the surface. He places an airtight door across the tunnel between the vertical shaft and the mine opening. Next, he has the men construct a wooden duct, eight inches square, that extends from the mine face, where they are digging, through the bottom of the door. Then a large fire is built and kept burning under the vertical shaft. This apparatus creates the draft that is needed. Air heated by the fire billows up the shaft and, since the main gallery is sealed by the door, sucks replacement air through the long wooden duct. The fresh air erupts from the end of the channel, right where the miners are working.

Day after day, the Pennsylvanians keep up their backbreaking work. One man digs, hunched over in the cramped gallery, while others carry away debris. Dirt, sand, and clay come out of the tunnel in a steady stream until the miners have excavated a small mountain of material—18,000 cubic feet of it, by Pleasant’s calculation. All of it has to be disposed of without drawing the enemy’s attention, so the Pennsylvanians spread it carefully over the ravine behind their works.

Despite their precautions, it is only a few days before at least one Confederate grows suspicious. Brigadier General E. Porter Alexander, the Army of Northern Virginia’s chief of ordnance, notices that the firing of the Federal sharpshooters has become very heavy directly opposite Elliot’s Salient but slackens noticeably on either side. That means some operation is going on, and by today he has become satisfied that it is underground. This same day, as he is returning from his observations, a bullet from one of the telltale sharpshooters brings him down. He is sent home to Georgia to recuperate; but before leaving, he calls on General Lee to relay his suspicions. The military correspondent of the London Times, Francis Lawley, who is visiting Lee’s headquarters, hears of Alexander’s concern and declares that there is little to worry about. The longest such tunnel for military operations, he says, had been dug during the siege of Lucknow, in India, some years ago, and at 400 feet the ventilation problem had made it impossible to dig farther. Nevertheless, Lee takes the warning seriously enough to order countermining near Elliott’s Salient. Other Confederates don’t take the threat seriously. The men joke that Grant, in frustration, is tunneling into Petersburg. They tell new recruits to listen for the sound of a Yankee train running underfoot and to look for the steam of its engine rising through thecobblestone streets.

After yesterday’s desperate flight from Reams’s Station, Virginia, Wilson allows his men two hours’ rest, then leads them east, toward the James River. They ride all day, with Hampton’s Confederates racing to cut them off.

General Early and his advancing Confederates in the Shenandoah arrive at New Market. Skirmishes occur in Georgia at La Fayette, Allatoona, and Acworth. Actions also take place at Four-Mile Creek and Deep Bottom, Virginia.

Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase, who obviously had dreams of the presidency and was backed by some Radical Republicans, resigns once more. This time President Lincoln accepts. “You and I have reached a point of mutual embarrassment in our official relation which it seems can not be overcome, or longer sustained, consistently with the public service,” Lincoln writes. Assistant Secretary Goerge Harrington assumes the duties temporarily. Former Governor David Tod of Ohio is nominated for the post but declines because of poor health. The ostensible cause of Chase’s resignation is dispute over an appointment, but it has been brewing for some time. Chase appears surprised at the acceptance, for several times before his resignation has been refused; this time Lincoln has had enough.

The President also signs several acts increasing duties, providing for more revenue, and broadening the base of the income tax.
July 1864

Union armies are besieging Petersburg only a few miles south of the Confederate capital at Richmond. In Georgia Union armies are forcing their way nearer and nearer to Atlanta. Elsewhere there are no major operations immediately pending but Jubal Early is moving north in the Shenandoah Valley; perhaps he can be of more than nuisance value in threatening Washington and the Yankee nation, but it is at best a diversion.

Northern eyes look to Washington and the election. There is still considerable shock over Grant’s manpower expenditure, which some term needless. Congress is beginning to press the President for strong, even vindictive, reconstruction policies.

In the Confederacy, too, grumbling continues to increase. Casualties there are also great and a huge chunk of Georgia has been lost. Is Davis wise in sticking with “Retreating Joe” Johnston? Grant’s army pounds Petersburg. (At the same time many Southerners view Grant’s campaign as a failure since he has not taken Richmond or conquered Lee.) Confederate citizens have no protection in vast undefended areas of the West. The loss of CSS Alabama on the high seas is bitter, but CSS Tallahassee and Florida operate effectively against Federal shipping. Still, the blockade leaves few ports for the evaders to reach.

July 1, Friday

Wilson’s raiders reach the Blackwater River—seven miles south of the James—in the early pre-dawn hours. There is no enemy on the other side of Blackwater River, but Wilson finds the only bridge burned. Hastily the troopers make makeshift repairs and straggle across; this afternoon they reach the James and safety, having covered 125 miles in sixty hours. For the first time in ten days, his men unsaddle, picket, eat, and go regularly to sleep.

Like most cavalry raids in this war, Wilson’s has been audacious, dramatic—and has yielded mixed results. Undeniably the destruction of more than sixty miles of railroad track is important. Nine weeks will pass before another train enters either Petersburg on the Southside Railroad or Richmond on the Richmond & Danville. The ensuing shortages will force Lee’s army to consume every bit of its commissary reserves, yet it isn’t forced out of Petersburg, much less Richmond. Meanwhile, Wilson has lost all of his artillery, wagons, and supplies, along with one quarter of his command in casualties.

It seems to many that for all the sweat and blood, Grant has accomplished very little; Richmond, Petersburg, and the Shenandoah Valley all remain in enemy hands, and the Army of the Potomac is no closer to Richmond than it had been after Cold Harbor. But Grant knows better. Although he will have to adopt siege tactics, and as he tells Halleck, such tactics will be tedious, the outcome is certain. “Be of good cheer,” he writes to a friend in Chicago, “and rest assured that all will come out right.” One other person who understands what Grant has achieved is Robert E. Lee. The master of maneuver now finds himself immobilized, in a situation he has been dreading. “We must destroy this army of Grant’s before he gets to the James River,” he told Jubal Early weeks ago. “If he gets there it will become a siege, and then it will be a mere question of time.”

Lincoln appoints William Pitt Fessenden, longtime senator from Maine, Secretary of the Treasury in place of Chase. The appointment is immediately confirmed. Fessenden has extensive experience on the Finance Committee, opposes inflation, and believes in heavier taxation. Although he takes the job reluctantly and considers it temporary, Fessenden in less than a year in office operates the wartime Treasury efficiently and soundly.

Sporadic fighting occurs on the Georgia front at Howell’s Ferry, Allatoona, and Lost Mountain. The Petersburg lines remain quiet, for the most part. There is a skirmish near Fayette, Missouri. For the entire month scouts and relatively minor actions take place in Arkansas and along the west coast of Florida. Federal troops operate against Amerinds in Minnesota.

Major General Irvin McDowell assumes command of the Department of the Pacific, a post far from the war for the Federal commander at 1st Bull Run/Manassas.

The US Senate passes the House-approved Wade-Davis reconstruction bill 26-3, with twenty absent.
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