The American Civil War 150th Anniversary – May 25 – June 1, 1864

US General Sherman and his staff in the trenches outside Atlanta.  (Library of Congress, via Wikipedia)

US General Sherman and his staff in the trenches outside Atlanta. (Library of Congress, via Wikipedia)

Now that we have caught up a bit, let’s take a look at the events that were happening in the Civil War this week, 150 years ago.

The bulk of this week’s action, of course, is focused on the Atlanta and Overland campaigns, but I am not losing sight of Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Certainly Grant and Sherman were keeping an eye on him as best they could, aware of the havoc that Forrest, his four field batteries and two divisions – all rested up now after their Tennessee raid – could cause to their supply and communication lines. Sherman’s forces were totally dependent on the Western & Atlantic Railroad (19).

Consequently, as Forrest moved out of Tupelo this week towards Alabama and Georgia, US General Samuel Sturgis headed out of Memphis, bound for Tupelo or wherever Forrest was. (3, 8)

May 25

Confederate entrenchments after the battle of New Hope.  Matthew Brady (National Archives)

Confederate entrenchments after the battle of New Hope. Matthew Brady (National Archives)

Battles: Atlanta Campaign: The Battle of New Hope Church begins.

On the 25th all the columns were moving steadily on Dallas—McPherson and Davis away off to the right, near Van Wert; Thomas on the main road in the centre, with Hooker’s Twentieth Corps ahead, toward Dallas; and Schofield to the left rear. For the convenience of march, Hooker had his three divisions on separate roads, all leading toward Dallas, when, in the afternoon, as he approached a bridge across Pumpkin-Vine Creek, he found it held by a cavalry force, which was driven off, but the bridge was on fire. This fire was extinguished, and Hooker’s leading division (Geary’s) followed the retreating cavalry on a road leading due east toward Marietta, instead of Dallas. This leading division, about four miles out from the bridge, struck a heavy infantry force, which was moving down from Allatoona toward Dallas, and a sharp battle ensued. I came up in person soon after, and as my map showed that we were near an important cross-road called “New Hope,” from a Methodist meeting-house there of that name, I ordered General Hooker to secure it if possible that night. He asked for a short delay, till he could bring up his other two divisions. viz., of Butterfield and Williams, but before these divisions had got up and were deployed, the enemy had also gained corresponding strength. The woods were so dense, and the resistance so spirited, that Hooker could not carry the position, though the battle was noisy, and prolonged far into the night. This point, “New Hope,” was the accidental intersection of the road leading from Allatoona to Dallas with that from Van Wert to Marietta, was four miles northeast of Dallas, and from the bloody fighting there for the next week was called by the soldiers “Hell-Hole.”

The night was pitch-dark, it rained hard, and the convergence of our columns toward Dallas produced much confusion. I am sure similar confusion existed in the army opposed to us, for we were all mixed up. I slept on the ground, without cover, alongside of a log, got little sleep…

— Sherman’s Memoirs (source 16)

Overland Campaign: The Battle of North Anna continues. Grant evaluates Lee’s position and admits, “To make a direct attack from either wing would cause a slaughter of our men that even success would not justify.” (23)
 

"Battle of North Anna River", A. W. Waud.  (Source)

“Battle of North Anna River”, A. W. Waud. (Source)

May 26

Battles: Atlanta Campaign: The battle of New Hope Church ends.

I slept on the ground, without cover, alongside of a log, got little sleep, resolved at daylight to renew the battle, and to make a lodgment on the Dallas and Allatoona road if possible, but the morning revealed a strong line of intrenchments facing us, with a heavy force of infantry and guns. The battle was renewed, and without success. McPherson reached Dallas that morning, viz., the 26th, and deployed his troops to the southeast and east of the town, placing Davis’s division of the Fourteenth Corps, which had joined him on the road from Rome, on his left; but this still left a gap of at least three miles between Davis and Hooker. Meantime, also, General Schofield was closing up on Thomas’s left.

— Sherman’s Memoirs (source 16)

Atlanta Campaign: The battle of Dallas begins. These two battles seem to have been simultaneous, and some sources group both New Hope Church and Pickett’s Mill with Dallas. I’ve put it separately as Sherman does in his memoirs:

McPherson reached Dallas that morning, viz., the 26th, and deployed his troops to the southeast and east of the town, placing Davis’s division of the Fourteenth Corps, which had joined him on the road from Rome, on his left; but this still left a gap of at least three miles between Davis and Hooker. Meantime, also, General Schofield was closing up on Thomas’s left.

Overland Campaign: The battle of North Anna ends as Grant tells Meade to withdraw the Army of the Potomac to Totopotomoy Creek, moving to the right. Lee follows. (6, 23)

Ambrose Bierce.  (Library of Congress)

Ambrose Bierce. (Library of Congress)

May 27

Battles: Atlanta Campaign: Pickett’s Mill. Sherman attacks Johnston’s right flank unsuccessfully. Ambrose Bierce is there:

There is a class of events which by their very nature, and despite any intrinsic interest that they may possess, are foredoomed to oblivion. They are merged in the general story of those greater events of which they were a part, as the thunder of a billow breaking on a distant beach is unnoted in the continuous roar. To how many having knowledge of the battles of our Civil War does the name Pickett’s Mill suggest acts of heroism and devotion performed in scenes of awful carnage to accomplish the impossible? Buried in the official reports of the victors there are indeed imperfect accounts of the engagement: the vanquished have not thought it expedient to relate it. It is ignored by General Sherman in his memoirs, yet Sherman ordered it. General Howard wrote an account of the campaign of which it was an incident, and dismissed it in a single sentence; yet General Howard planned it, and it was fought as an isolated and independent action under his eye. Whether it was so trifling an affair as to justify this inattention let the reader judge.

— Ambrose Bierce, “The Crime at Pickett’s Mill”

Overland Campaign: US General Sheridan’s cavalry occupies Hanover Town, Virginia. (6)

General William Hardee, C.S.A.  (Library of Congress)

General William Hardee, C.S.A. (Library of Congress)

May 28

Battles: Atlanta Campaign: Battle of Dallas. Sherman orders McPherson to withdraw, but CS General William Hardee’s corps keeps McPherson busy until the 1st.

Satisfied that Johnston in person was at New Hope with all his army, and that it was so much nearer my “objective;” the railroad, than Dallas, I concluded to draw McPherson from Dallas to Hooker’s right, and gave orders accordingly; but McPherson also was confronted with a heavy force, and, as he began to withdraw according to his orders, on the morning of the 28th he was fiercely assailed on his right; a bloody battle ensued, in which he repulsed the attack, inflicting heavy loss on his assailants…

— Sherman’s Memoirs (source 16)

 
 
 
Overland Campaign: Haw’s Shop. The Battle of Totopotomoy Creek begins. (23)

May 29

Battles: Atlanta Campaign: Battle of Dallas.

All this time a continual battle was in progress by strong skirmish-lines, taking advantage of every species of cover, and both parties fortifying each night by rifle-trenches, with head-logs, many of which grew to be as formidable as first-class works of defense. Occasionally one party or the other would make a dash in the nature of a sally, but usually it sustained a repulse with great loss of life. I visited personally all parts of our lines nearly every day, was constantly within musket-range, and though the fire of musketry and cannon resounded day and night along the whole line, varying from six to ten miles, I rarely saw a dozen of the enemy at any one time; and these were always skirmishers dodging from tree to tree, or behind logs on the ground, or who occasionally showed their heads above the hastily-constructed but remarkably strong rifle-trenches.

— Sherman’s Memoirs (source 16)

Overland Campaign: The Battle of Totopotomoy Creek continues as some Federal troops probe Confederate lines while others try to work around the Army of Northern Virginia. (23)

General Phillip Roddey, perhaps after the war.  (Library of Congress)

General Phillip Roddey, perhaps after the war. (Library of Congress)

Military operations: Alabama operations: CS General Nathan Bedford Forrest readies a division to aid “the rebel Gen. Roddy,” who is being harassed by Federal troops near Decatur. A brigade is also readied at Oxford. Forrest tells General Roddey to watch the Federals closely and gather on their right flank. (3)

May 30

Battles: Atlanta Campaign: Battle of Dallas.

On the occasion of my visit to McPherson on the 30th of May, while standing with a group of officers, among whom were Generals McPherson, Logan, Barry, and Colonel Taylor, my former chief of artillery, a Minie-ball passed through Logan’s coat-sleeve, scratching the skin, and struck Colonel Taylor square in the breast; luckily he had in his pocket a famous memorandum-book, in which he kept a sort of diary, about which we used to joke him a good deal; its thickness and size saved his life, breaking the force of the ball, so that after traversing the book it only penetrated the breast to the ribs, but it knocked him down and disabled him for the rest of the campaign. He was a most competent and worthy officer, and now lives in poverty in Chicago, sustained in part by his own labor, and in part by a pitiful pension recently granted.

— Sherman’s Memoirs (source 16)

Overland Campaign: The Battle of Totopotomoy Creek continues as Lee attacks Grant’s flanking troops. The southerners drive back several northern divisions, but when the Federals re-form, the Confederates are repulsed. With US troops on the way from the Bermuda Hundred Peninsula, Lee abandons Totopotomoy Creek and heads for Cold Harbor. Battle of Old Church. (23)

Military operations: Alabama operations: Forrest decides to hold after Roddey tells him Federals have fallen back to Decatur and apparently are considering an expedition towards Kingston, Georgia. (3)

May 31

Battles: Atlanta Campaign: Battle of Dallas.

The Army of the Potomac crossing the Pamunkey, on the march to Cold Harbor.  (Edwin Forbes, Library of Congress)

The Army of the Potomac crossing the Pamunkey, on the march to Cold Harbor. (Edwin Forbes, Library of Congress)

Overland Campaign: The Battle of Cold Harbor begins. US General Sheridan seizes the crossroads at Old Cold Harbor after an intense fight with CS cavalry led by Fitzhugh Lee. (2, 23)

Military operations: Alabama operations: Forrest to Roddey (3):

I will start from this place [I assume from Tupelo…Barb] this morning, with 2400 men and six pieces of artillery, to join you. I wish you to ascertain which direction the enemy has taken, and keep me posted. I will move by Fulton, and on the road to Russellville, unless you should advise differently. If the enemy goes in the direction of Rome, I think they will join the main army. If they turn South, you will let me know at once; if they go to Rome, I will move in another direction, and will meet you. Be certain to have with you 1000 of your best men and horses.

June 1

Battles: Atlanta Campaign: Battle of Dallas.

On the 1st of June General McPherson closed in upon the right, and, without attempting further to carry the enemy’s strong position at New Hope Church, I held our general right in close contact with it, gradually, carefully, and steadily working by the left, until our strong infantry-lines had reached and secured possession of all the wagon-roads between New Hope, Allatoona, and Acworth, when I dispatched Generals Garrard’s and Stoneman’s divisions of cavalry into Allatoona, the first around by the west end of the pass, and the latter by the direct road. Both reached their destination without opposition, and orders were at once given to repair the railroad forward from Kingston to Allatoona, embracing the bridge across the Etowah River. Thus the real object of my move on Dallas was accomplished…

— Sherman’s Memoirs (source 16)

Overland Campaign: The Battle of Cold Harbor continues. Sheridan’s cavalry repulses Confederate infantry, but Confederate reinforcements soon arrive and take on the Federal Sixth and Eighteenth Corps when these arrive in the evening. (23)

Military operations: Alabama operations: General Forrest moves out toward Decatur with about 2600 men. (3) US General Sturgis leaves Memphis, bound for Mississippi with 4800 infantry (including 1200 African American infantry and artillerymen), 3300 cavalry, 22 artillery pieces (Forrest has 16, in 4 batteries), and a supply train of 250 wagons and ambulances. The Federals are ordered to hit the Mobile & Ohio Railroad at Corinth, capturing any force that might be there; proceed south, striking the railroad to Tupelo and Okolona; and head as far as possible toward Macon and Columbus, Mississippi. (3)
 
Grant Sherman Forrest

Sources:

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

(2) Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson (2003 – see side bar for link).

(3) The Campaigns of Lieut.-Gen. N.B. Forrest, and of Forrest’s Cavalry by Thomas Jordan, J. P. Pryor (1868).

(4) The Lincoln Log timeline.

(5) Blue and Gray Timeline.

(6) Grant Chronology, Mississippi State University.

(7) Civil War Interactive.

(8) Life of Lieutenant-General Nathan Bedford Forrest, by John A. Wyeth (1908/2011).

(9) Captain Raphael Semmes and the CSS Alabama, US Naval Historical Center.

(10) This Week in the Civil War.

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

(12) CWSAC Battle Summaries

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

(14) A Brief Naval Chronology of the Civil War (1861-65.

(15) The Pictorial Book of Anecdotes and Incidents of the War of the Rebellion…, Richard Miller Devens (1866).

(16) Memoirs of W. T. Sherman

(17) The Louisiana Native Guards: The Black Military Experience During the Civil War. James G. Hollandsworth, Jr., 1995.

(18) A. Lincoln, A Biography, Ronald C. White, Jr. (2009)

(19) Confederate Strategy, Fort Tyler Association.

(20) The Sword of Lincoln, the Army of the Potomac. Jeffrey Wert (2005)

(21) Black Artillerymen from the Civil War through World War I (PDF), Roger D. Cunningham.

(22) The Atlanta Campaign. New Georgia Encyclopedia.

(23) The Overland Campaign. Civil War Trust.

(24) John Hunt Morgan. Encyclopedia of Alabama.



Categories: American Civil War

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