This Week in the Civil War: Nov 12-18, 1862

Wednesday, November 12.  Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee along Stone’s River and Virginia near Suffolk.

Thursday, November 13.  In Mississippi, Federal troops captured the vital railroad depot at Holly Springs. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee near Nashville and Virginia at Sulphur Springs. In Tennessee, General Braxton Bragg began moving his Confederate Army of Tennessee north from Chattanooga to join Confederates under General John Breckinridge at Murfreesboro. President Abraham Lincoln assigned Attorney General Edward Bates to enforce the Confiscation Act.

Friday, November 14.  President Lincoln approved General Ambrose Burnside’s plans to reorganize and move the Army of the Potomac toward Richmond. The army was divided into three “Grand Divisions”: the Right Grand Division under General Edwin V. Sumner, the Center Grand Division under General Joseph Hooker, and the Left Grand Division under General William B. Franklin. In Virginia, skirmishing occurred at several points. In Tennessee, General Bragg began concentrating his Confederates around Tullahoma. In New Orleans, a proclamation was issued allowing for the election of U.S. congressmen from portions of Louisiana under Federal military occupation.

Saturday, November 15.  In Virginia, General Burnside led his first action as commander of the Army of the Potomac by beginning an advance from Warrenton toward Fredericksburg. In Tennessee, Federal forces began a five-day reconnaissance from Edgefield Junction to Clarksville. Confederate President Jefferson Davis accepted the resignation of Secretary of War George W. Randolph. Randolph had grown increasingly annoyed by Davis’s micromanagement of the War Department. President Lincoln called for an “orderly observance of the Sabbath” by the military.

Sunday, November 16.  In Virginia, General Burnside shifted his headquarters from Warrenton to Catlett’s Station as his Army of the Potomac continued toward Fredericksburg. The Federals were closely watched by General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, and a skirmish between the armies occurred at U.S. Ford on the Rappahannock River. In Arkansas, Federal forces began a five-day expedition from Helena to Arkansas Post.

Monday, November 17.  In Virginia, General Sumner’s Right Grand Division reached Falmouth, opposite the Rappahannock from Fredericksburg. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and Missouri. President Davis appointed General G.W. Smith as acting secretary of war following George Randolph’s hasty resignation.

Tuesday, November 18.  In Virginia, Federal and Confederate armies continued advancing on Fredericksburg. In Tennessee, Federal and Confederate armies continued concentrating at Nashville and Tullahoma. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, and North Carolina.

Primary source: The Civil War Day by Day by E.B. Long and Barbara Long (New York, NY: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971)

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This Week in the Civil War: Nov 5-11, 1862

Wednesday, November 5.  President Abraham Lincoln relieved General George B. McClellan as commander of the Army of the Potomac, replacing him with General Ambrose Burnside. After several months of frustration, Lincoln had finally lost patience with McClellan’s lack of action, particularly McClellan’s failure to follow up his partial victory at Antietam and his slow advance against the Confederates in Virginia since then. Also dismissed was corps commander Fitz-John Porter, a pro-McClellan general who was charged with willful disobedience for actions in the Battle of Second Bull Run. Various skirmishes occurred in Missouri, Mississippi, and Virginia.

Thursday, November 6.  The Confederate Army of Northern Virginia was reorganized, as James Longstreet and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson were promoted from major general to lieutenant general and given command of the First and Second Corps respectively. Skirmishing occurred in western Virginia, Kentucky, and Mississippi.

Friday, November 7.  In Virginia, General McClellan was informed that he had been relieved of duty. This ended one of the most controversial military careers of the war. His successor, Ambrose Burnside, had tried to turn down the promotion but accepted it when informed that command would go to Joseph Hooker, whom he detested. McClellan wrote, “Poor Burnside feels dreadfully, almost crazy–I am sorry for him.” Over War Department objections, President Lincoln placed the Mississippi River naval fleet under control of the Navy Department. General Braxton Bragg reorganized his Confederate army by placing one corps under Leonidas Polk and another under William Hardee. General William Rosecrans’s Federal Army of the Cumberland began moving from Kentucky to Nashville. Skirmishing occurred in Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Georgia.

Saturday, November 8.  In Virginia, news spread throughout the Army of the Potomac about McClellan’s dismissal. Most soldiers were fiercely loyal to McClellan, so the news was met with sadness and outrage. In Tennessee, General Ulysses S. Grant’s Federal forces continued a reconnaissance from La Grange. General Nathaniel Banks replaced Benjamin Butler as commander of the Federal Department of the Gulf. Butler had placed New Orleans under dictatorial rule, sparking charges of cruelty and corruption. Banks was informed that “The President regards the opening of the Mississippi River as the first and most important of our military and naval operations.”

Sunday, November 9.  In Virginia, General Burnside assumed command of the Army of the Potomac at Warrenton. Ulric Dahlgren’s Federal cavalry raided Fredericksburg, Virginia. Skirmishing occurred in Missouri, Arkansas, and Tennessee.

Monday, November 10.  In Virginia, George McClellan delivered an emotional farewell address to the Army of the Potomac. Many soldiers wept at the departure of “Little Mac.” Skirmishing occurred in western Virginia and along the Orange & Alexandria Railroad. President Lincoln requested the record on the 303 Indians condemned to death for leading the Sioux Indian uprising in August.

Tuesday, November 11.  In North Carolina, Confederates demonstrated at New Berne. In Virginia, a skirmish occurred at Jefferson.

Primary source:  The Civil War Day-by-Day by E.B. Long and Barbara Long (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc. 1971)

This Week in the Civil War: Oct 29-Nov 4, 1862

Wednesday, October 29.  Skirmishing occurred in Missouri, Texas, and Virginia. President Abraham Lincoln wrote to General George B. McClellan about the Army of the Potomac’s return to Virginia: “I am much pleased with the movement of the Army. When you get entirely across the (Potomac) river let me know. What do you know of the enemy?” Confederate President Jefferson Davis wrote the Alabama governor about the difficulty in defending so many points at once: “Our only alternatives are to abandon important points or to use our limited resources as effectively as the circumstances will permit.”

Thursday, October 30.  General William S. Rosecrans assumed command of the Federal Department of the Cumberland, replacing General Don Carlos Buell. Emperor Napoleon III of France proposed that Russia and Great Britain mediate between the U.S. and the Confederacy to end the war. In South Carolina, prominent Federal General Ormsby M. Mitchel died of yellow fever at Beaufort.

Friday, October 31.  Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, and Federal forces began a two-day bombardment of Lavaca, Texas. Federal troops began concentrating at Grand Junction, Tennessee in preparation for General Ulysses S. Grant’s upcoming offensive against Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Saturday, November 1.  General Benjamin Butler, commanding Federal occupation forces in New Orleans, imposed stricter pass requirements and authorized the liberation of “slaves not known to be the slaves of loyal owners.” In North Carolina, a Federal expedition began from New Berne and featured several skirmishes over the next week.

Sunday, November 2.  Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, as General McClellan’s Federal Army of the Potomac began concentrating in the Blue Ridge. First Lady Mary Lincoln visited New York City.

Monday, November 3.  A Federal expedition began along the coasts of Georgia and eastern Florida. Among the Federals was one of the first black regiments, the First South Carolina Volunteers under Colonel Thomas W. Higginson, even though it would not be officially mustered into service until next year.

Tuesday, November 4.  In the midterm Federal elections, Democrats made substantial gains in the Senate and the House of Representatives. In New York, Democrat Horatio Seymour was elected governor. Democrats also won many seats in New Jersey, Illinois, and Wisconsin. These Democratic gains were largely attributed to war weariness and northern dissatisfaction with President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamantion. Nevertheless, the Republicans retained their congressional majority with victories in New England, California, and Michigan. In Tennessee, Federal troops under General Ulysses S. Grant occupied La Grange and Grand Junction, which were important supply depots for his upcoming offensive against Vicksburg.

Primary source: The Civil War Day by Day by E.B. Long and Barbara Long (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971)

This Week in the Civil War: Oct 22-28, 1862

Wednesday, October 22.  General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate forces continued withdrawing from Kentucky following the Battle of Perryville. Confederate cavalry under General Joseph Wheeler captured London, Kentucky. Various skirmishes occurred in Arkansas, Missouri, and the Indian Territory.

Thursday, October 23.  Bragg’s Confederates successfully returned to Tennessee; President Abraham Lincoln was angry with Federal General Don Carlos Buell for allowing Bragg to escape. President Jefferson Davis wrote about his concerns with pro-Union sentiment in eastern Tennessee. In Kentucky, Federals destroyed the Goose Creek Salt Works near Manchester.

Friday, October 24.  General Buell was replaced by General William S. Rosecrans, primarily due to Buell’s failure to prevent Bragg’s escape back to Tennessee. Rosecrans assumed Buell’s command as well as the new Department of the Cumberland following his recent successes at Iuka and Corinth in Mississippi. Various skirmishes occurred in Arkansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Louisiana.

Saturday, October 25.  President Lincoln wired General George B. McClellan, commander of the Army of the Potomac. McClellan’s forces had been mostly inactive since driving General Robert E. Lee’s Confederates out of Maryland. An angry Lincoln wrote, “I have just read your despatch about sore tongued and fatiegued (sic) horses. Will you pardon me for asking what the horses of your army have done since the battle of Antietam that fatigue anything?” McClellan responded that his cavalry was conducting several reconnaissances and raids. General Ulysses S. Grant assumed command of the Thirteenth Army Corps and the Department of the Tennessee.

Sunday, October 26.  Over a month after Antietam, George McClellan’s Federals began crossing the Potomac River into Virginia to pursue Robert E. Lee. President Lincoln wrote to McClellan that he “rejoiced” over the crossing. Braxton Bragg’s Confederates completed their return to Tennessee, reaching Knoxville and Chattanooga. General Samuel Heintzelman replaced Nathaniel Banks as the commander of Federal defenses around Washington. In Texas, Federal gunboats captured Indianola.

Monday, October 27.  The Federal blockade along the southern coast continued strengthening as two Confederate commerce raiders were captured.

Tuesday, October 28.  George McClellan’s Federals continued moving into Virginia, moving east of the Blue Ridge. Robert E. Lee’s Confederates began moving southward in the Shenandoah Valley to avoid being outflanked by McClellan. General John C. Breckinridge assumed command of the Confederate Army of Middle Tennessee.

Primary Source: The Civil War Day by Day by E.B. Long and Barbara Long (New York, NY: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971)

This Week in the Civil War: Oct 15-21, 1862

Wednesday, October 15.  Skirmishing occurred on various fronts. Admiral David Farragut reported that the Federals had secured Corpus Christi, Galveston, and Sabine City in Texas. North Carolina Governor Zebulon Vance requested North Carolinians to provide blankets and clothing, for the Confederate Army.

Thursday, October 16.   Federal General George McClellan conducted two major reconnaissances from Maryland and northern Virginia. Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was positioned in the northern Shenandoah Valley. General Ulysses S. Grant was given command of the new Federal Department of the Tennessee. The Federal militia draft began in Pennsylvania.

Friday, October 17.  In Pennsylvania, Luzerne County troops suppressed protests against the ineffective Federal militia draft. President Abraham Lincoln asked Attorney General Edward Bates to commission David Davis of Illinois as an associate justice on the Supreme Court.

Saturday, October 18.  In Kentucky, John Hunt Morgan’s Confederate raiders defeated Federal cavalry near Lexington, captured the city’s garrison, then moved on to Versailles. Other skirmishing occurred on various fronts.

Sunday, October 19.  Confederate General Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee began moving through Cumberland Gap during their withdrawal from Kentucky. Various other skirmishing occurred.

Monday, October 20.  President Lincoln ordered a fellow Illinois politician, General John McClernand, to organize and lead a force on an expedition to Vicksburg, Mississippi. Since Vicksburg was in the jurisdiction of Ulysses S. Grant’s new military department, this order conflicted with Grant’s command. Lincoln also issued a memorandum reporting that the Army of the Potomac contained 231,997 men, of which 144,662 were fit for duty.

Tuesday, October 21.  Confederate President Jefferson Davis wrote to General T.H. Holmes in Missouri and shared tentative plans for combining various Confederate forces to drive the Federals out of Arkansas and Tennessee, and reclaim Helena, Memphis, and Nashville. President Lincoln requested civil and military authorities in Tennessee to organize pro-Federal elections for local, state, and national officials.

Primary source:  The Civil War Day-by-Day by E.B. Long and Barbara Long (New York, NY: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971)

This Week in the Civil War: Oct 8-14, 1862

Wednesday, October 8.  In Kentucky, the Battle of Perryville occurred as parts of General Don Carlos Buell’s Federals fought a portion of General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate army. Buell was unaware that a battle was taking place until afternoon due to an atmospheric phenomenon that prevented him from hearing the fighting. Part of Bragg’s force was still in Frankfort. The Federals fought off hard Confederate attacks until Bragg withdrew to the southeast. This was the largest battle fought in Kentucky, and it stopped the Confederate invasion of the state, just as Robert E. Lee’s invasion of Maryland had also been stopped.

Thursday, October 9.  General Jeb Stuart led Confederate cavalry in a reconnaissance and raid into Maryland en route to Pennsylvania. Federal cavalry unsuccessfully tried stopping this ride around General George McClellan’s Army of the Potomac. The Confederate Congress established military courts with defined powers.

Friday, October 10.  Braxton Bragg’s Confederates began their withdrawal from Kentucky. Jeb Stuart’s Confederate cavalry crossed the Potomac River into Maryland on the reconnaissance and raid of the Federal Army of the Potomac. Stuart reached Chambersburg, Pennsylvania by evening. In the Dakota Territory, Dakota Sioux Indians battled miners on the upper Missouri River below Fort Berthold. In Indiana, home guards drove off a band of Confederate guerrillas at Hawesville. President Jefferson Davis asked Virginia to provide 4,500 slaves to complete fortifications around Richmond. Confederate General John B. Magruder was assigned to command the Department of Texas.

Saturday, October 11.  In Pennsylvania, Jeb Stuart’s Confederates drove residents and officials out of Chambersburg and cut telegraph wires, destroyed railroad depots and equipment, seized horses, and burned any supplies they could not take. Stuart then moved southeast toward Emmitsburg, Maryland. The Confederate commerce raider Alabama destroyed the grain ship Manchester. Jefferson Davis signed a bill into law adding more exemptions to the Confederate draft. The most controversial provision exempted an owner or overseer of over 20 slaves. Richmond newspapers began discussing a possible end of the war due to recent Confederate victories.

Sunday, October 12.  Jeb Stuart’s Confederates crossed the Potomac back to Virginia after skirmishing at the mouth of the Monocacy River. General Earl Van Dorn assumed command of all Confederate troops in Mississippi. President Abraham Lincoln asked General Don Carlos Buell for updates in Kentucky; Lincoln was concerned that Buell was not pursuing the withdrawing Confederates fast enough.

Monday, October 13.  The second session of the First Confederate Congress adjourned after approving a bill suspending habeas corpus (with some exceptions) until February 12, 1863. President Lincoln wrote a letter to George McClellan urging him to renew the offensive against Robert E. Lee in Virginia: “Are you not over-cautious when you assume that you can not do what the enemy is constantly doing?” Federal General Jacob D. Cox assumed command of the District of Western Virginia. In Kentucky, Braxton Bragg’s Confederates began moving through Cumberland Gap back to Tennessee.

Tuesday, October 14.  In elections for congressional seats in Iowa, Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania, Democrats gained seats in every state except Iowa. Many cited the Lincoln administration’s war policies and the Emancipation Proclamation as reasons why voters turned against Lincoln’s Republicans. Confederate General John C. Pemberton assumed command of the Department of Mississippi and Eastern Louisiana.

A Soldier’s Letter: John Burnham

Letter from Lieutenant Burnham, 16th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, to his family following the Battle of Antietam dated October 4, 1862.

My Dear Mother and Family,

I received a short note from Lottie enclosing extracts from newspapers about the fight of the 17th or the “Battle of Antietam.” One thing is certain, it was a “big fight,” as the sixteenth found to their severe cost, and although we got the best of it, on the whole I am unable to key myself up to a very high pitch of exultation over the day’s work. We had the best of the fight because we had advanced our position during the day, but it was at heavy cost and the ground gained was contested inch by inch.

There has been no fighting since, and if our army was not pretty badly handled and about used up, I can imagine no earthly reason why we did not go at them the next day with a vengeance. We lay on our arms all day, the day after the battle, and all night the next night, expecting momentarily to be ordered forward, but we were not.

On Friday, we went on the field and gathered the dead and wounded. The rebels held the field in which the 16th were cut up so badly, and we had to leave the dead and wounded on that account over the whole of Thursday. They were there about forty-eight hours, but most of them, the wounded, said the rebs treated them kindly and gave them water. It was very hot weather but fortunately there was a heavy rain on Thursday night and they managed to catch a canteen or two full of water by holding up the corners of their rubber blankets. One of our men, who was unable to get off the field, managed to pull off one of his boots and caught water in that and drank it.

I was on the field from noon until eleven o’clock at night of Friday, giving my personal supervision to the collection of the dead and wounded. You may be assured it was a trying position.

The position we occupy now is a pleasant one and I would like it if we could remain in it. Thus far, since we have been out, we have seen little but the “circumstance of glorious war,” as someone has aptly said. Yesterday we saw a little of the “pomp” for the first time. The army was received by President Lincoln and Gen’l McClellan, and of course we did our share. Our division happened to be the first one reviewed in Gen’l Burnside’s corps. As soon as the ceremony was over, the division and brigade commanders were ordered to dismiss their commands and join the President’s escort.

If we had been in command of the regiment, we should have trotted back to camp, but I was lucky once again and as we stood for the time being in a Brig. Gen’l and Adj. Gen’l’s shoes, respectively, we had the honor of tagging old “Abe” around on his reviewing tour for a couple of hours and taking a look at between fifteen and twenty thousand men. I had seen “Abe” before but I thought him half so homely. He ought to be wise and good and honest.

Lottie wished me to write what were my personal feelings in the fight. You have all heard a great deal about men going into battle and, after the fighting had commenced, forgetting all about what they were doing. This may be the case to some extent, but in my opinion nothing like what is represented. I had no time to think of danger. I am frank to confess that although I had no idea of running away I trembled.

In relation to the condition of the rebels, I can answer that unequivocally I saw as many as five hundred prisoners I should think in one day and I never saw anything like it. Their hair was long and uncombed and their faces were thin and cadaverous as though they had been starved to death. It is of course possible that it is the natural look of the race, but it appeared mightily to me like the result of short fare. They were the dirtiest set I ever beheld. A regiment of New England paupers could not equal them for the filth, lice and rags.

I hope as I always have, that I may have the courage to do my duty well, not recklessly but with simple bravery and fidelity, so that if I fall you may have the consolation of knowing that I not only lose my life in a good cause but die like a man. One thing I wish to say particularly–this romance about men being shot in the back is all a humbug. A mounted officer is as likely to be hit in the back, and more likely to be hit in the side, than in the front, and don’t ever do an officer the injustice to think ill of him for such a wound…

Bless you all. Yours affectionately,

John

Source: The Brothers’ War by Annette Tapert (Vintage Books, New York, 1988)