The American Civil War 150th Anniversary – November 25-December 1, 1863

Here’s a look at events in the Civil War 150 years ago this week.

General Grant and five other men on Lookout Mountain in 1863.  (Library of Congress)

General Grant and five other men on Lookout Mountain in 1863. (Library of Congress)

November 25

Military Events/Battles: Eastern Tennessee operations/Chattanooga: Missionary Ridge. (Also see last week.) President Lincoln is awaiting war news, but still suffering from varioloid smallpox, retires to bed, feeling unwell. (5)

Eastern Tennessee operations/Siege of Knoxville: Skirmishes, sorties, sniping and small fights continue. During a total eclipse of the moon from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. “a darkness that almost could be felt settled on us all.” The night (obviously a clear one) is very cold, with a heavy frost. Confederate troops are starting to wonder why nothing is being done to attack or draw out the city’s defenders, while US troops are content to stay in the city and hope that General Grant eventually does something. Longstreet actually had planned to attack Fort Sanders today but postpones it after word arrives that Bragg is sending him two infantry brigades, gambling that these will help speed up the task at Knoxville so everybody can return to Chattanooga before Grant makes his move there. Bragg also sends the engineer who designed the original Fort Loudon; after a discussion with this man, Longstreet decides to hold off the attack until the engineer can reconnoiter the defenses. However, he can and does order a reconnaissance in force against a Federal position at Armstrong Hill (PDF), south of the Tennessee near the new artillery position. The Yankees there are taken by surprise but hold their position, denying the enemy use of this excellent artillery position and keeping two brigades out of the main fight at Knoxville. (17, including quote)

Siege of Charleston, South Carolina: Heavy bombardment of Fort Sumter continues. (6)

November 26

Military Events/Battles: Eastern Tennessee operations/Chattanooga (source 10): General Bragg orders a withdrawal to Dalton, Georgia. Grant sends 20,000 men to relieve Burnside in Knoxville and then orders a two-pronged move, with one force positioned between Bragg and Longstreet in Knoxville and the other force moving south, toward Rossville, to cut off Bragg’s retreat. (10)

In Washington, Lincoln is confined to sick room. (6)

Eastern Tennessee operations/Siege of Knoxville: Skirmishes, sorties, sniping and small fights continue. It’s the first national day of Thanksgiving, and General Burnside orders his men to observe it as best they can. He himself has a turkey dinner but refuses coffee from his hostess because the men don’t have any (the men are scavenging any food they can and burning grain to make a coffee substitute). During the night, defenders hear a band playing in the Confederate lines. A Southern picket yells, “How are you, Vicksburg?” Members of the 79th New York reply, “You hain’t got us yet.” (17, including quote)

"  Rebel earthworks commanding the passage at Germanna ford, abandoned on the approach of Meade's army," A. R. Waud (Library of Congress)


“Rebel earthworks commanding the passage at Germanna ford, abandoned on the approach of Meade’s army,” A. R. Waud (Library of Congress)

Virginia Operations: The Mine Run Campaign begins when US General Meade crosses the Rapidan River with the intention of catching the Confederates by surprise and striking the corps of A.P. Hill and Richard Ewell. However, heavy rains have turned the roads to mud and the Army of Potomac soon gets bogged down. General Lee, however, has received earlier scouting reports of planned Federal movements, as well as a heads-up from General JEB Stuart’s cavalry about the troop movement. Lee shifts his army eastward to block Meade’s flanking maneuver. (20, 21)

Siege of Charleston, South Carolina: Heavy bombardment of Fort Sumter continues. (6)

November 27

Military Events: John Hunt Morgan and several of his men break out of a penitentiary in Ohio and head for Dalton, Georgia, General Bragg’s winter quarters. (Source)

Military Events/Battles: Eastern Tennessee operations/Chattanooga: General Grant’s plan to cut off Bragg’s retreat is thwarted in the Battle of Ringgold Gap as well as in fighting at Chickamauga Station, Pea Vine Valley, and Pigeon Hill, all in Tennessee, and in Graysville, Georgia. With the army scattered there, Grant decides to return to Chattanooga, ordering Sherman to cut rail communications between Bragg and Longstreet. (9, 17) Lincoln’s physician is keeping him quiet and away from people. (5)

Eastern Tennessee operations/Siege of Knoxville: After issuing and then countermanding orders for other targets, General Longstreet orders an attack on Fort Sanders for the 28th. However, a storm hits the area just at dusk, delaying preparations. (17)

Virginia Operations: The Battle of Mine Run/Payne’s Farm/New Hope Church begins. (20, 21)

Bombardment of Fort Sumter.  (Library of Congress)

Bombardment of Fort Sumter. (Library of Congress)

Siege of Charleston, South Carolina: Heavy bombardment of Fort Sumter continues. (6)

November 28

Eastern Tennessee operations/Chattanooga: Circumstances make General Grant put General Sherman in charge of the Knoxville relief force. Although telling his old friend, “Recollect that East Tennessee is my horror,” Sherman agrees to make the 84-mile march, living off the country, and will set off with some 30,000 men. (17) From Dalton, Georgia, General Bragg telegraphs his resignation to CS President Davis. (6) Lincoln is reported to be feeling better. (5)

Military Events/Battles: Eastern Tennessee operations/Siege of Knoxville: Just before dawn, Longstreet postpones the attack on Fort Sanders “until the weather clears up.” Eventually, the date is set for November 29th. In the evening, Longstreet begins to get rumors from telegraph operators that General Bragg has been defeated at Chattanooga. The news strengthens his resolve to attack in the morning, for he believes that if Bragg’s army has been destroyed, “our own had better be also, for we will be not only destroyed but disgraced. There is neither safety nor honor in any other course… .”

Although the night is cold and freezing rain is failing, Confederate commanders advance a skirmish line overnight, starting at around 10 p.m. (17, including quotes)

Northern Mississippi/West Tennessee operations: General Nathan Bedford Forrest plans to “throw himself, through the Federal line, into West-Tennessee and bring to bear his personal influence and prestige upon the scattered fighting elements abounding there, and thus bring them together in numbers sufficient to make an effective offensive force.” This means crossing the Federal-held and heavily fortified Memphis & Charleston Railroad, and on the 28th or 29th, Forrest and General Stephen Lee go to New Albany, Mississippi, where brigades are assembling. (4, including quote)

Virginia Operations: Battle of Mine Run/Payne’s Farm/New Hope Church: Heavy rain and muddy roads hamper the Union advance while General Lee and his men fortify their positions. (21)

Siege of Charleston, South Carolina: Heavy bombardment of Fort Sumter continues. (6)

Gulf Blockade Operations: The USS Kennebec and USS Kanawha seize the schooner Winona, bound for Havana from Mobile with 248 bales of cotton, 50 barrels of rosin, 14 barrels of turpentine and $5000 in money. (8)

U. S. Engineers O.E. Babcock, left, seated on a tree stump, and O. M. Poe, right, standing on a war damaged salient in Fort Sanders in 1863.  Poe oversaw construction of Knoxville's defenses.  (Library of Congress)

U. S. Engineers O.E. Babcock, left, seated on a tree stump, and O. M. Poe, right, standing on a war damaged salient in Fort Sanders in 1863. Poe oversaw construction of Knoxville’s defenses. (Library of Congress)

November 29

Military Events/Battles: Eastern Tennessee operations/Siege of Knoxville: Battle of Fort Sanders, described by one historian as “cruel and gruesome by nineteenth century standards.” In about 40 minutes over 800 Confederates, including many officers, are lost, compared to about fifty Federal troops overall.

While Longstreet is still on the battlefield, he is handed the official announcement of Bragg’s defeat in Chattanooga. CS President Davis advises him to break contact at Knoxville and rejoin Bragg, thus ending any planned second attack (at least Longstreet’s chief of artillery Colonel Alexander is hoping for one) that day. Longstreet orders his trains to move out to Loudon and starts planning a withdrawal beginning on the 30th or the morning of the 1st. However, word reaches him from Wheeler with messages from Bragg that indicate Longstreet is on his own. Then he gets news that US forces have broken the rail link between him and Bragg. He decides to hold at Knoxville to force Grant to detach troops to help Burnside, thus hopefully relieving the pressure on Bragg to some extent. At a council in the evening, his subordinates agree to this plan and he countermands his earlier orders. (17)

Lincoln is reportedly improving and expected to resume his duties “tomorrow or the next day.”

Virginia Operations: Battle of Mine Run/Payne’s Farm/New Hope Church (source 21):

On the morning of November 29th Meade sent Warren’s corps on a wide flanking maneuver to the south. It took Warren all day to get his men into position, but by 5 p.m. they stood poised to roll up the lightly defended Confederate right flank. Unfortunately for the Federals, darkness postponed the assault until morning. During the night, General Lee learned of Warren’s movement and shifted Lieutenant General A.P. Hill’s corps to the south, where it hastily constructed trenches opposite Warren’s line. Overnight the temperature dropped below zero, and without tents, shelters or even fires, the soldiers shivered through what, for many, was perhaps the worst night of the war.

Siege of Charleston, South Carolina: Heavy bombardment of Fort Sumter continues. (6)

Gulf Blockade Operations: The USS Kanawha catches the schooner Albert (also known as the Wenona) on a run taking cotton, naval stores and tobacco out of Mobile. (8)

November 30

Military Events/Battles: President Davis accepts General Bragg’s resignation and appoints General Hardee as temporary commander of the Army of Tennessee. (6)

Eastern Tennessee operations/Siege of Knoxville: It’s a very cold morning, only 18 degrees above zero at 7 a.m. Some Confederate units are trying to reach Longstreet. No new assault on Knoxville is planned. US troops continue to improve the city’s earthworks and telegraph lines are strung to connect all the major forts. Both sides are suffering food shortages and lack of winter clothing. (17)

Lincoln, still confined to bed, starts work on his annual message to Congress. (5)

Col. Tyree H. Bell, CSA.  (Source)

Col. Tyree H. Bell, CSA. (Source)

Northern Mississippi/West Tennessee operations: At New Albany, Generals Forrest and Lee find, not thousands of men, but hundreds only. In addition, Forrest’s command is short of horses after the long march from Georgia, so some fifty troops have to be left behind. Forrest’s total force will number at most some 500 men. The weather is a factor, too. Heavy rains for over a month have flooded rivers, and Forrest’s expedition into Tennessee must wait until a bridge is built across the Tallahatchie. (4) Meanwhile, CS Colonel Tyree Bell, “a man of great influence in this section of Tennessee, and a leader of dauntless courage and ability,’ has gone ahead, with a small detachment, to scout out things west of the Tennessee River and to spread the word that Forrest is coming to occupy that land and hold it for the Confederacy. (11)

Virginia Operations: Battle of Mine Run/Payne’s Farm/New Hope Church: Meade plans an all-out assault at 6:30 a.m. but is thwarted by Lee’s countermove during the night. (21)

Siege of Charleston, South Carolina: Heavy bombardment of Fort Sumter continues. (6)

A variety of sources suggest that Sherman's actions during these campaigns were affected by grief over the loss of his son William back in October.  (Image source)

A variety of sources suggest that Sherman’s actions during these campaigns were affected by grief over the loss of his son Willie back in October. (Image source)

December 1

Military Events: General Grant is again planning an attack on Mobile, Alabama. (7)

Military Events/Battles: Eastern Tennessee operations/Siege of Knoxville: All through this time, General Sherman’s relief force is moving toward Knoxville. There are two columns, with no communication between them because Confederate control the rail lines. Sherman intends to march along the rail line for a while and then veer off to join the second column, under General Granger, which has been traveling by road; then together they will move on Longstreet at Knoxville. By December 1st, Sherman’s men have occupied the town of Charleston, Tennessee, and been welcomed into Athens, Tennessee, and gotten word of Longstreet’s failed attack on Fort Sanders. Sherman hopes to cross the Tennessee at Loudon. (17, 20)

Northern Mississippi/West Tennessee operations: General Forrest sets out toward the Memphis & Charleston Railroad. (11) I don’t know if the Battle of Ripley, Mississippi, (source – PDF, scroll down) is a part of this or happened on its own.

Siege of Charleston, South Carolina: Heavy bombardment of Fort Sumter continues. (6)

Virginia Operations: Battle of Mine Run/Payne’s Farm/New Hope Church: “Frustrated by Lee’s countermove, low on provisions, and faced with continuing bad weather, he withdrew his army back across the Rapidan on December 1st.” (21, including quote) The Army of the Potomac goes into winter quarters at Brandy Station. Fifty-six-year-old General Lee is quoted at Wikipedia as saying, “I am too old to command this army. We never should have permitted those people to get away.”

Other: “The problem of gathering supplies was becoming increasingly difficult for all Southern armies, and the commanding generals were pleading with Jefferson Davis for assistance for the men now mostly in winter camp. Gen. Joe Wheeler, however, commanded a cavalry unit, and he took the approach that God helps a force which helps itself. The difficulty was, his men were helping themselves to the property of their fellow Confederate citizens of North Carolina. Fed up, Gov. Zebulon B. Vance sent a letter of his own to Jeff Davis today, complaining severely about the depredations. ‘If God Almighty had yet in store another plague for the Egyptians worse than all others, I am sure it must have been a regiment or so of half-armed, half-disciplined Confederate cavalry!’ Vance thundered.” (9, including quote)

A Northern forager back in 1862.

A Northern forager back in 1862.

Sources:

(1)  The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.

(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.

(6) Blue and Gray Timeline.

(7)  Grant Chronology, Mississippi State University.

(8) The Western Gulf Blockade.  BrownWaterNavy.org.

(9) Civil War Interactive.

(10) Born to Battle: Grant and Forrest: Shiloh, Vicksburg, and Chattanooga: The Campaigns That Doomed the Confederacy, Jack Hurst (2012).

(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.

(13) This Week in the Civil War.

(14) The Siege of Charleston, “The State.” (South Carolina)

(15) Friends of the Hunley.

(16) CWSAC Battle Summaries

(17) The Knoxville Campaign: Burnside and Longstreet in East Tennessee, Earl J. Hess (2012) [Note: The dating is difficult to follow in this source, though it’s excellent for details…Barb]

(18) The CSS Alabama’s Indian Ocean Expeditionary Raid (Wikipedia).

(19) The Longest Night: A Military History of the Civil War.” (2002) David J. Eicher.

(20) March to the relief of Knoxville. (PDF)

(21) The Battle of Mine Run.



Categories: American Civil War

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