Here is a look at things happening in the Civil War, this week in October.
One thing I missed last week, on October 4, was a petition that nearly all high-ranking officers serving under CS General Bragg signed and sent to CS President Davis. When Bragg learned of it, per this source, instead of flying into a rage he became gloomy and then – incredibly – let it go. Davis, of course, did not.
The sources I have read properly focus on the command aspects of this, but I find interesting the petitioners’ statement that “the condition of [Bragg’s] health totally unfits him for the command of an army in the field.” Bragg’s initial reaction to this act of insubordination seems to support that – heads figuratively should start flying immediately after any commander worth his pay learns about such a letter.
Could the 46-year-old man have been suffering from severe mood disorder of some sort that severely hindered his ability to command?
Those who supported and fought for the Confederacy weren’t rebels, although the winning side successfully painted them – truthfully, many believed – that way. It was actually much more messy and complex, as human relationships are, especially when they approach a breaking point.
Many Southerners were angry and felt abused by political factions in the north, as they could correctly point out that slavery was in the Constitution. They were also proud to a fault and quick to resent a perceived insult. And they loved the South in a way that is very difficult to explain unless you have actually felt the pull of that beautiful region yourself.
Most importantly, perhaps, the nation itself had been split – something we have never had to experience ourselves. The 1960s troubles don’t begin to approach it – think of the silence and weeping in Congress after Jefferson Davis’s resignation speech in 1861 to get an idea of just how badly this hit everyone.
Just looking at the highest ranks of military service once war came, these were men who had sworn to support the United States and had served it well prior to 1861. No one could easily let go of all that. Jefferson Davis himself said that the sight of a US flag during the war always affected him strongly. Add to that stress the presence of enemies on your soil and in your streets, and a strong internal conflict to win and yet to avoid the terrible destruction that fighting brings, and you get some dim idea of the tremendous emotional costs many were paying – wittingly or not – during the Civil War.
Mental health services didn’t exist back then. A few, like Thomas (Stonewall) Jackson, could find all they needed for support in religion. Many were more conflicted inside, whether they admitted it or not.
Bragg, in his own right, as far as this amateur historian can tell, began making strange decisions as early as Stones River at the end of 1862/early 1863, and this continued throughout year, culminating in Chickamauga and his officers’ unhappiness after that battle. Were the petitioners correct, and was General Bragg suffering from a psychiatric condition that would have disqualified him from command, had there been such a thing as psychiatry in 1863?
Neither alternative would appeal to Davis – who had already refused to accept General Lee’s resignation due to physical health reasons. Though Bragg was letting the petition slide, the President of the Confederacy saw that his presence was needed in the field.
Battles: Missouri operations: Shelby’s Raid. Skirmish near Warsaw, Missouri. (16)
Chattanooga Campaign: Wheeler and Roddey’s Raid. Skirmishes at Farmington and at Sims’ Farm near Shelbyville, Tennessee. (19)
Battles/Military events: “No big battles or major actions occurred in the War today. This did not signal any outbreak of pacifistic tendencies, just that nobody was in position to do much damage to anything. All that could be found in the way of militarism were a couple of skirmishes in Virginia, at Robertson’s River and James City to be precise. In the perpetual hotbed of East Tennessee, there was a Federal reconnaissance to Olympian Springs, Kentucky.” (9, including quote)
Other: President Davis speaks in Atlanta and also hears news of problems in his cabinet back in Richmond. (6)
Battles: Missouri operations: Shelby’s Raid: Skirmish near Cole Camp, Missouri. (16)
Tennessee operations: Wheeler’s Raid. Affair at the railroad tunnel near Cowan and skirmishes at Sugar Creek and on the Elk River, Tennessee. (19)
Military events/Other: Chattanooga Campaign: President Davis speaks at Marietta, Georgia, and in the evening arrives at General Bragg’s headquarters in response to the petition. (1) During the visit, General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s resignation also reaches headquarters. Davis refuses to accept it and sets up a meeting with Forrest in the future. (4)
Battles: Missouri operations: Shelby’s Raid: Affairs at Tipton and La Mine Bridge, Missouri. Skirmish at Syracuse, Missouri. (16)
Military events: Chattanooga Campaign: President Davis speaks at Missionary Ridge. Some say this speech was on the 12th. According to the Atlanta Appeal, “He complimented Gen. Bragg in the highest terms, and said that notwithstanding the shafts of malice that have been hurled against him, he has bravely borne it all, and the bloody field at Chickamauga plainly stamps him as a military commander of the first order.” (20)
Meanwhile, on the US side, “Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman had a job to do and was anxious to get on with it. His assignment: march through Tennessee to Chattanooga, and secure it for the Union. His problem: the campaign was designed in such a way that support and supply was required to be provided by gunboats on the Tennessee River, and the water just wasn’t there to do it. It had been a very dry year and the level of the rivers was low all over. Admiral David D. Porter apologized to Gen. Sherman’s boss Gen. U. S. Grant for the situation. Porter, conceding that there was nothing he could do about the river, offered to find shallow-draft boats if necessary, as it was the heavily-armored ironclads that were having the difficulties.” (9, including quote)Virginia operations: Two corps of the Army of Northern Virginia cross the Rapidan, moving to intercept and outflank the Army of the Potomac on the 12th. (6, 20)
General Meade to General-in-Chief Halleck: “Every indication would lead to the conclusion that the enemy’s cavalry attacking me are supported by a large force of infantry, and there are some reasons to believe there is a movement into the Shenandoah Valley… .” (5)
Battles: Tennessee operations: First battle of Colliersville.
Missouri operations: Shelby’s Raid: Skirmish at Boonville, Missouri. (16)
Military events: Chattanooga Campaign: General Bragg requests that General D. H. Hill be relieved of duty. It’s really about the October 4th petition, but Bragg couches it in terms of “a want of conformity to orders of great importance.” (20)
Virginia operations: General Lee’s forces arrive in the area of Culpeper. The Federal forces there withdraw, taking their stores. Heavy skirmishing breaks out over a wide region as the two armies clash between the Rappahannock and Rapidan rivers. Lee moves through Warrenton, aiming to cut the railroad north of the Rappahannock. (6, 20)
Battles: Missouri operations: Shelby’s Raid: Skirmishes at Boonvile (ongoing) and at Merrill’s Crossing and Dug Ford near Jonesborough, Missouri. (16)
Military events: Chattanooga Campaign: The US Military Railroad system and civilian railroads completes moving two corps (some 25,000 men) and all of their artillery, transport (horses, mules, wagons), and baggage to Bridgeport, Alabama. (18)
US President Lincoln to General Rosecrans:
As I understand, Burnside is menaced from the East, and so can not go to you without surrendering East Tennessee. I now think the enemy will not attack Chattanooga; and I think you have to look out for his making a concentrated drive at Burnside. You and Burnside now have him by the throat, and he must break your hold, or perish. I therefore think you better to try to hold the river up to Kingston, leaving Burnside to what is above there. Sherman is coming to you, though gaps in the telegraph prevent our knowing how far he is advanced. He and Hooker will so support you on the West & North-West, as to enable you to look East & North East. This is not an order. Gen. Halleck will give his views.
Virginia operations: General Meade’s men burn the vital Orange & Alexandria railroad bridge during their retreat. (20)
Gulf Blockade: US ships discover a Confederate steamer aground under the guns of Fort Morgan at the entrance to Mobile Bay, with an unidentified Confederate tug attempting to free her. The Union ships steamed toward the strongly defended Confederate shore to destroy the two vessels; but Fort Morgan’s batteries hulled the main ship, forcing them to retire. Two more Union ships then head in with their 150-pounders but before they get in range, the tug gets the steamer afloat and escapes with her into the bay. (8)
Indian Ocean Expeditionary Raid: The CSS Alabama, traveling through rough weather, passes St. Peter and St. Paul islands, about halfway between Capetown, South Africa, and Indonesia’s Sunda Strait. (12, 21) The Confederates are now literally on the opposite side of the globe from US territories.
Battles: Virginia operations: First battle of Auburn.
Tennessee operations: Wheeler and Roddey’s Raid. Skirmishes at Fayetteville, Tennessee. (19)
Missouri operations: Shelby’s Raid. Action at Marshall, Missouri. (16)
Military events: Chattanooga Campaign: President Davis agrees to General Bragg’s request to relieve General D. H. Hill of duty, saying only that “Regretting that the expectations which induced the assignment of that gallant officer to this army have not been realized, you are authorized to relieve Lt. Gen. D. H. Hill from further duty with your command.” (6,20) Hill will be on the sidelines for the rest of the war, per Wikipedia, later fighting as a volunteer.
Virginia operations: President Lincoln reads a despatch to his cabinet from General Meade, who states, that if Lee doesn’t attack him, he will attack Lee. He also sums up the situation, as it is known, to the chairman of the Pennsylvania Union Committee. (5)
(2) Morgan’s Raiders.
(3) Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson (2003 – see side bar for link).
(4) The Campaigns of Lieut.-Gen. N.B. Forrest, and of Forrest’s Cavalry by Thomas Jordan, J. P. Pryor (1868).
(5) The Lincoln Log timeline.
(7) Grant Chronology, Mississippi State University.
(8) The Western Gulf Blockade. BrownWaterNavy.org.
(11) Life of Lieutenant-General Nathan Bedford Forrest, by John A. Wyeth (1908/2011).
(12) Captain Raphael Semmes and the CSS Alabama, US Naval Historical Center.
(14) The Siege of Charleston, “The State.” (South Carolina)
(15) Friends of the Hunley.
(18) US Military Railroad, Chattanooga Campaign (Wikipedia)
(19) Wheeler and Roddey’s Raid (PDF), Tennessee State Library and Archives.
(21) The CSS Alabama’s Indian Ocean Expeditionary Raid (Wikipedia).
Categories: American Civil War