Here are some of the events of the Civil War that were happening 150 years ago this week. Sources are numbered according to the list at the bottom of this post.
Cavalry and Railroads
Some reading in The L&N Railroad in the Civil War (1, pages 68-69) gave me a better perspective on the overall goal of the Confederate cavalry actions of John Hunt Morgan and Nathan Bedford Forrest. This book, of course, focuses on the railroad, and these pages describe how dependent on the Memphis & Charleston Railroad US General Buell and his Army of the Ohio were during their advance on Chattanooga.
The land they were traveling over in northern Alabama, while not bristling with enemies (as a route through Eastern Tennessee would have been), also was not the sort of land where an army can find plenty of food and supplies; it was basically cotton country and mountains.
Too, General Buell – to the frustration of President Lincoln and General Halleck – hesitated to live off the land his army was marching over. He was more like McClellan in that he supported a “kinder, gentler” war in which occupied territory would not be ravaged and Confederate civilians would not be pillaged and plundered.
It was for these reasons that Buell’s path to Chattanooga, Tennessee, from Corinth, Mississippi, paralleled the M&C. When supplies ran out and a drought made the rivers too low to support supply ships, he and his men had to get resupplied by rail.
The M&C was fed from the north by the Nashville & Decatur Railroad and the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad, and these two lines depended on the Louisville & Nashville (L&N) Railroad.
Breaks in the northern lines would prevent Buell from being resupplied from Union depots to the north. Small raiding parties could thus stop the massive Army of the Ohio in its tracks without having to come anywhere near it, and this summer, 150 years ago, both Morgan and Forrest were making sure there were plenty of breaks thanks to burned bridges, blocked tunnels and other damage. General Buell actually split his force (which was on half-rations now), keeping some of his divisions in Alabama and sending others to guard strategic rail points in Tennessee (an area where it was easier for the Federals to forage, too).
Forrest’s July 13th raid on Murfreesboro caused a big interruption in rail service, and a week later, some of his men took out two bridges that again stopped supply traffic for Buell on the M&C. General Buell was at Stevenson, Alabama, 150 years ago this week, when news came that the trains were moving again (perhaps because Forrest’s cavalry was busy in skirmishes around Nashville, while Morgan’s Raiders, after their success in the First Battle of Cynthiana on the 17th and in Paris, Kentucky, on the 18th, were now being pursued by Union forces and heading back to ground in a pro-Confederate part of East Tennessee). As we will see below, the Army of the Ohio did get a two-day “Christmas in July” treat. (2, 3, 4)
Military events: General Bragg’s Army of the West arrives in Chattanooga. All told, Bragg moved 30,000 infantry man 770 miles by rail, taking a roundabout route from Tupelo, Mississippi, through Mobile and Montgomery, Alabama, while his cavalry and artillery traveled by road. This was the largest Confederate troop movement by rail during the war. (6, Wikipedia)
General Halleck becomes the Union’s general-in-chief upon his arrival in Washington and immediately goes into conference with President Lincoln and Secretary of War Stanton; later in the day, he meets with General Pope and General Burnside. (5, 7)
Military events: General-in-chief Halleck and General Burnside make a quick trip by steamer to Harrison’s Landing to meet with General McClellan. Of that meeting, Halleck later said, “General McClellan received me kindly, but our interview was from its nature necessarily somewhat embarrassing, especially as I was obliged to disagree with him as to the feasibility of his plans.” McClellan told him that he did indeed intend (as Davis and Lee feared) to cross the James River, cut Richmond’s lines of supply from the south and capture the city, but that he needed 20,000 more men. Halleck reserves judgment on that. While Halleck and McClellan are meeting, General Burnside meets with some of McClellan’s corps commanders to discuss withdrawal of the Army of the Potomac from the Peninsula to some point from which it can travel by water to reinforce General Pope’s Army of Virginia (7).
Mississippi River: With the river at very low levels and difficult to navigate, Admiral Farragut has received orders to return downriver at his discretion. He gets underway this date, leaving the river to tend to his blockaders out in the Gulf. Four gunboats – smaller ships that can navigate despite the reduced flow – remain to protect army units in New Orleans and Baton Rouge and to police the river. (12, 13)
Battles: “The big, famous battles of the War of the Rebellion get all the attention and most of the books, but it is worth remembering that one is just as dead if killed in an unnamed skirmish as in the Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble Charge at Gettysburg. Small actions known as operations and skirmishes took place today at Summerville, Va; Courtland and Trinity, Alabama, Clinton Ferry, Tenn., Mountain Store, Mo, Holly Springs Miss., on Pearl River and Lake Ponchartrain, La, and in Pass Manchac nearby.” (13)
Military events: Mississippi River: With Vicksburg still in Confederate hands, the small Union garrison at Natchez is overexposed and so is withdrawn to New Orleans. (12)
Battles: “Orange Court House, Virginia was the scene of a minor activity today. Other small disturbances of the peace took place at Tazewell, Tenn.; Mill Creek, near Pollocksville, N.C., and Spangler’s Mill near Jonesbrough, Ala. An “operation”, which was more of an exploration expedition than an excursion intended to lead to battle, began today in southeastern Missouri.” (13)
Military event: Northern Virginia campaign. General Pope sends word to General Halleck: “The enemy is massing in large force at Louisa Court-House and Gordonsville. The divisions of Jackson, Ewell, Hill, and Longstreet are already there. The strength of these divisions cannot be ascertained. The whole force of the enemy now in the neighborhood will not fall short of 35,000. They have as yet made no forward movement, but probably will attempt one soon. As soon as the troops under Burnside and Stevens are brought to Acquia Creek, if they should be brought, I will unite the division at Fredericksburg with the other division of McDowell’s corps on the Upper Rappahannock.” (15)
Battles: “It was yet another day of minor skirmishes here and there, but no preparation for, recovery from, or conduct of major battles or operations. Some of these were in connection with what was known as “operations” – more than an exploration but less than a planned battle. One such proceeded from Rienzi to Ripley, Miss.; another one went for a couple of days between Woodville to Guntersville, Ala. One action big enough to be classified as at least a “skirmish” took place at Toone’s Station (also known as Lower Post Ferry), Tennessee.” (13)
Military events: General Lee sends General A. P. Hill’s division by rail to reinforce General Jackson at Gordonsville. (15) Meanwhile, General D. H. Hill is ordered to threaten McClellan’s communication lines by seizing favorable positions below Westover from which to attack transports on the James River. D. H. Hill chooses to take Coggins Point and puts General Samuel French in charge of the expedition. (11) (An interesting side light: CS General French was a New Jersey native, while at about this same time, US General George Thomas, a Virginia native, was leading a division out from Corinth to reinforce General Buell. It shows that you couldn’t always assume somebody’s loyalties during the Civil War based on where they came from.)
Military events: John Hunt Morgan’s First Kentucky Raid ends as the Raiders return to the Sparta area in East Tennessee. (1)
President Lincoln and Secretary of War Stanton meet with General Halleck and General Burnside to discuss the recommendation of General Keyes, one of McClellan’s corps commanders, that the Army of the Potomac be withdrawn from the peninsula if it isn’t reinforced with 100,000 men. (5)
General Pope relieves General Hatch from duty for having twice called off a mission, transferring him to General King’s unit at Fredericksburg. Hatch is replaced by General John Buford, Jr. (*that* John Buford, if you’ve seen Gettysburg). (15)
Battles: The Georgia coast: A blockade runner, unable to get into port at Charleston or Savannah, breaks through the Union blockade at the Ogeechee River and heads upriver to the protection of Fort McAllister, pursued by four Federal ships. The Union ships exchange artillery fire with the fort for an hour and a half, and then withdraw. (6, Source)
Military events: Stevenson, Alabama: Over 200,000 rations arrive by rail to feed General Buell’s army. About the same amount will arrive again the following day. (2)
(3) Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson
(4) The Campaigns of Lieut.-Gen. N.B. Forrest, and of Forrest’s Cavalry by Thomas Jordan, J. P. Pryor
(5) The Lincoln Log timeline.
(7) Henry Halleck’s War: A Fresh Look at Lincoln’s Controversial General-In-Chief, by Curt Anders
(8) Grant Chronology, Mississippi State University.
(9)”The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government” (Vol. II), Jefferson Davis.
(10) Civil War Home’s “The Eastern Theater: 2nd Manassas, Antietam and Fredericksburg.”
(11) The Army of Northern Virginia in 1862, by William Allan (1892)
(12) Conquest of the Lower Mississippi. BrownWaterNavy.org.
(15) A Year of Glory, July 1862.
Categories: American Civil War