The American Civil War 150th Anniversary – Where things stood on August 5, 1862

The excessive heat/humidity are gone and the timeline is back! This calls for a song (a sad, proud song), posted by Ryan C. MacKenzie (who I don’t know – it came in a search and looked good):

At around 4:10 in that video is a quick view, I think, of something I read that Jeb Stuart had: horse artillery. Did they really fire it on the move like that? All I have read so far is that he set it up and took a couple of shots at the Army of the Potomac when they first settled at Harrison’s Landing, and then took it down and moved away before the Union troops could catch him.

Well. We’re a month behind, and if this were any year but 1862, I’d just summarize everything. However, as someone said in the Ken Burns series, overall victory was still up for grabs for either side this year, and they both wanted it. Fighting was frequent and intense. It’s best to do a quick summary of things that I’ve mentioned in the timeline as they were on August 5, 1862, and then start catch-up posts, one week at a time, beginning with the week of August 6-12, 1862 (next post coming up later this week).

We have already missed Second Manassas/Bull Run in late August. Because of Helium and Cracked writing projects, I don’t know if this timeline can be caught up by the 150th anniversary of Sharpsburg/Antietam on September 16-17, but we should certainly be back to the weekly posts before it’s time to commemorate Jeb Stuart’s second ride around McClellan’s army on October 9-12.

Lithograph:  "A. Lincoln, President of the U.S."

Lithograph: “A. Lincoln, President of the U.S.” (Library of Congress, somewhere between 1862 and 1864)

Where Things Stood From the Union Point of View

In July, US President Lincoln had appointed Henry Halleck General-in-Chief, hoping that Halleck could coordinate a combined offensive against Richmond with McClellan’s 100,000-man Army of the Potomac, at Harrison’s Landing, and Pope’s 50,000-man Army of Virginia, north of Richmond. This did not work out so well, but Halleck did finally get McClellan to start relocating his army off the Peninsula to Acquia Creek on the Potomac. General Burnside and his force were already there. Some Union troops left the creek as soon as they arrived, in order to reinforce General Pope’s forces, which were threatening the rail lines to Richmond as well the Southern capital’s access to the Shenandoah Valley. Before leaving Harrison’s Landing, McClellan was ordered to investigate reports that had reached Washington of Confederate troops leaving Richmond. The best observation point was Malvern Hill, and General Hooker retook it on August 5th.

Meanwhile, US General Don Carlos Buell and the Army of the Ohio had been sent from Corinth, Mississippi, eastward to take Chattanooga. It was a long, slow slog, and when drought lowered the water level in formerly navigable rivers, Buell was forced to stay close to rail lines to keep supplied. By the end of July he was at the terminus of the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad in Stevenson, Alabama. Although forced to put his men on half rations there for a time because of rail disruptions to the north caused by Confederate attacks, Buell had just gotten resupplied at the end of July. The good news that railroad connections were working again must have somewhat counterbalanced all the irritable telegrams he was getting from Henry Halleck in Washington, who along with Lincoln was very displeased with Buell’s lack of progress. Buell ordered stockades be built at every important point on the railroad north of Nashvhille, manned by a company of soldiers at each and two companies at the Twin Tunnels at Gallatin.

Further west, Halleck’s former second-in-command, General Grant, was now in charge of the districts of Cairo and Mississippi, the Army of the Mississippi and the Army of the Tennessee, as well as the District of West Tennessee. General Sherman assumed Grant’s former command at Memphis, while General Rosecrans covered Corinth. A division was also in Arkansas; I haven’t found much about that, but there was apparently a plan to capture Little Rock around this time.. Grant was also ordered to send General George Thomas’s division to Buell (apparently with the idea in Washington being that Thomas would replace Buell).

On the Mississippi River, Vicksburg was still in Confederate hands. Admiral Farragut had withdrawn most of his fleet back to the Gulf to resume blockading functions, leaving a few gunboats and other craft to patrol near New Orleans and Baton Rouge. The small Union garrison at Natchez was left unprotected and so ordered to return to New Orleans.

Jefferson Davis and General Lee

Photograph of Jefferson Davis and painting of General Lee. (Library of Congress, for both)

Where Things Stood From the Confederate Point of View

CS President Davis and General Lee knew that McClellan could resume an offensive against Richmond at any moment (McClellan didn’t only because he felt he needed reinforcements). Then General Pope’s forces appeared on the upper Rappahannock River and at Fredericksburg, while the main body of Pope’s Army of Virginia moved toward Charlottesville and the vital railroad center at Gordonsville. In mid-July, while waiting to see what McClellan would do, Lee ordered General Jackson to take his forces plus Ewell’s division to reinforce Robertson’s cavalry brigade at Gordonsville. Jackson arrived just in time to stop a planned attack on Gordonsville, but the opposing force was too strong for Jackson to advance against. At the end of July, as McClellan was doing nothing, Lee took the risk of reinforcing Jackson with A. P. Hill’s division, while sending a force under General D. H. Hill to mount a small artillery attack on McClellan at Coggin’s Point. In response to US General Hooker’s re-capture of Malvern Hill, Lee mobilized four divisions.

In the Western Theater, General Bragg, commander of the Department of the Mississippi, saw the successes of Confederate cavalry under generals Nathan Bedford Forrest and John Hunt Morgan against Buell’s supply lines in Tennessee and Kentucky, and decided to repeat this on a large scale by taking 34,000 men to Chattanooga, from which an invasion of Kentucky could be launched. He left 32,000 men under generals Van Dorn and Price to defend Vicksburg and Central Mississippi, and set off on a roundabout rail journey – the largest Confederate troop movements of the war – to reach Chattanooga. He also requisitioned 15,000 extra rifles for the Kentuckians he expected to join his forces once the “Confederate Heartland Offensive” began. On July 31, Bragg and General E. Kirby Smith met in Chattanooga to plan the campaign. The Confederacy lacked a unified command, and so all generals had to cooperate in order to be the most effective. These two could not totally agree on the opening move.

In the Western Theater, General Van Dorn had successfully resisted the Union bombardment of Vicksburg and now he resisted his orders to support General Price, believing that if Baton Rouge were retaken by the Confederates the Union could be driven out of Louisiana. Five thousand men headed for Baton Rouge and were joined along the way by another small division. The Confederate ram Arkansas headed downriver as well. Brand-new and poorly supplied Union troops lined up to meet them about a mile outside Baton Rouge.

And now it’s time to pick up the weekly timelines once again.

But there’s one more thing for this week, in particular, tomorrow, September 11, 2012.

Remember this scene (the first 30 seconds of the video below) from Gods and Generals?

According to IMDb, it was filmed on September 11, 2001. If you saw that whole scene, you’ll remember how shocked everybody looked – it would be easy to think Ames was shocked by the poor quality of the new recruits and Chamberlain and the new 20th Maine recruits were shocked by the realities of military life.

But if you remember how you felt on 9/11, now you know how you must have looked as you tried so hard that day to keep working, so that the terrorists wouldn’t win.



(2)  Morgan’s Raiders and The L&N Railroad in the Civil War, by Dan Lee.

(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.

(6) Blue and Gray 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.

(13) Civil War Interactive.

(14) Chronology of the Second Manassas Campaign.

(15) A Year of Glory, July 1862.

(16) The Strategy of Robert E. Lee, by J. J. Bowen (1914).

Categories: American Civil War

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