Here is a look back at what was happening in the Civil War 150 years ago this week.
Here’s an important note without a specific date. Some time in mid-June 1864, the US Congress authorized equal pay for black and white soldiers. However, only black soldiers who had been free on April 19, 1861 – not those who had been slaves – were eligible for back pay. (16)
Also, at the bottom of this post are three videos – one from the Virginia Historical Society and two from the National Park Service – to review some of the momentous events of the first half of 1864.
Battles: Siege of Petersburg. The battle of Jerusalem Plank Road continues.
Siege of Petersburg: The Wilson-Kautz (USA) raid: The raiders head west along the Southside Railroad, destroying track and facilities. Kautz goes to Burkeville Junction. Wilson hits Black and White’s Station at about noon, destroying the place and burning loads of cotton. Wilson then meets CS General Rooney Lee‘s cavalry near Nottoway Court House around 2 p.m.. After a sharp fight Wilson decides to turn south along the Richmond & Danville railroad. Kautz, in the meantime, reaches Burkeville Junction at about 3 p.m., sending two brigades to destroy the Southside and Richmond & Danville lines. Kautz then is ordered to rejoin Wilson. (25)
Military events: Virginia/West Virginia operations: Hunter’s Raid. US General David Hunter, heading for West Virginia, realizes that CS General Jubal Early is not pursuing him. Hunter believes Early has gone back to Lee but doesn’t know for sure where Early is. Generals Grant and Halleck have no idea where General Hunter is or what his plans are. This day, however, Hunter does get news from Grant, current up through the 22nd. General Hunter also decides to continue to West Virginia and not try to come to General Sigel’s aid. (26)
Mississippi operations: CS General Nathan Bedford Forrest, having learned from reliable sources that a very large is preparing to move against him from Memphis, sends 200 men to Ripley to watch the converging roads there. (3)
Atlanta campaign: Per General Sherman (15):
On the 23d of June I telegraphed to General Halleck this summary, which I cannot again better state:
We continue to press forward on the principle of an advance against fortified positions. The whole country is one vast fort, and Johnston must have at least fifty miles of connected trenches, with abatis and finished batteries. We gain ground daily, fighting all the time. On the 21st General Stanley gained a position near the south end of Kenesaw, from which the enemy attempted in vain to drive him; and the same day General T. J. Wood’s division took a hill, which the enemy assaulted three times at night without success, leaving more than a hundred dead on the ground. Yesterday the extreme right (Hooker and Schofield) advanced on the Powder Springs road to within three miles of Marietta. The enemy made a strong effort to drive them away, but failed signally, leaving more than two hundred dead on the field. Our lines are now in close contact, and the fighting is incessant, with a good deal of artillery-fire. As fast as we gain one position the enemy has another all ready, but I think he will soon have to let go Kenesaw, which is the key to the whole country. The weather is now better, and the roads are drying up fast. Our losses are light, and, not-withstanding the repeated breaks of the road to our rear, supplies are ample.
Battles: Sheridan’s raid: St. Mary’s Church. (6)
Siege of Petersburg, The battle of Jerusalem Plank Road ends.
Siege of Petersburg, Wilson-Kautz (USA) raid: Both Wilson and Kautz spend the day wrecking track and destroying railroad facilities. Kautz rejoins Wilson in the evening between Meherrin Station and Keysville. (25)
Military events: Per General Sherman (15):
During the 24th and 25th of June General Schofield extended his right as far as prudent, so as to compel the enemy to thin out his lines correspondingly, with the intention to make two strong assaults at points where success would give us the greatest advantage. I had consulted Generals Thomas, McPherson, and Schofield, and we all agreed that we could not with prudence stretch out any more, and therefore there was no alternative but to attack “fortified lines,” a thing carefully avoided up to that time. I reasoned, if we could make a breach anywhere near the rebel centre, and thrust in a strong head of column, that with the one moiety of our army we could hold in check the corresponding wing of the enemy, and with the other sweep in flank and overwhelm the other half. The 27th of June was fixed as the day for the attempt, and in order to oversee the whole, and to be in close communication with all parts of the army, I had a place cleared on the top of a hill to the rear of Thomas’s centre, and had the telegraph-wires laid to it. The points of attack were chosen, and the troops were all prepared with as little demonstration as possible.
Battles: Siege of Petersburg, Wilson-Kautz (USA) raid: Again the raiders spend the day destroying track, culverts and railroad facilities. At around 6 p.m., they reach Staunton River Bridge, 100 miles from Union lines. Confederate Home Guards delay them long enough for Rooney Lee to arrive and drive the raiders away from the bridge. Under cover of darkness, the raiders head for Wylliesburg, with plans to continue on Christianville and Greensborough and then northeast toward the Nottoway River and back to Union lines. Rooney Lee will not pursue them for a couple of days. (11, 25)
Military events: Virginia/West Virginia operations: Hunter’s Raid. General Grant reads a small newspaper item about General Hunter. (26)
Siege of Petersburg: US soldiers, former Pennsylvania coal miners, start digging a mine in “a little cup of a ravine near to the enemy’s work” in a section known as Elliott’s Salient, east of Jerusalem Plank Road. Somebody will tell Grant about it next month. The mine will eventually be filled with 4 tons of gunpowder. (6; 19, including quote)
Mississippi operations: General Forrest moves General Chalmers to Okolona and gives his commanding officer, General S. D. Lee, a situation report (1, 3):
From the information I have, am clearly of the opinion that the force now moving from Memphis meditate the destruction of the Mobile and Ohio Railroad as far down as possible and then turn across to the Central railroad, destroy it and return to Memphis. I therefore advise the removal of all surplus stores from General and other points across in the direction of Meridian. I do not believe they design joining Sherman. Most of their force consists of 100-days’ men-at any rate, a large number of that character have arrived and are arriving at Memphis. My scouts report that 184 wagons and 20 ambulances passed Forest Hill, twenty-four miles east of Memphis, and that 12,000 troops had passed up; but I think that an overestimate of the number which has thus far left Memphis for up the road. I have no doubt but that they have and will probably move with 18,000 to 20,000 men, a portion of which will be used to garrison the points already fortified on the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, with a base secured as far east as practicable. They will then attempt the programme previously referred to. I respectfully suggest, therefore, that the major-general commanding order up, as far this way as forage will permit, all the available troops of his department. Besides three companies of scouts, I have 200 men at Ripley, and intend sending 200 more under Colonel Forrest, to go as near La Grange as possible and ascertain what is going on and keep me fully posted. Would move a greater force there, but for the difficulty of supplying it with forage, not having a sufficiency of mules. Have ordered all of General Roddey’s force to Corinth, except 300 men to be left in the valley to meet any raids from Decatur; also ordered him to send his wagon train and all his unserviceable and broken-down stock to this place, to be provided for and pastured.
Military events: Virginia/West Virginia operations: Hunter’s Raid. Hunter is ill and orders his men to stop at Gauley, West Virginia, for a couple of days to allow stragglers to catch up. There, 70,000 rations reach them. Jubal Early, meantime, is heading down the Shenandoah Valley (that is, northward) toward the Potomac. (26)
Siege of Petersburg: US General Sheridan rejoins General Grant at Petersburg. (9) Per Civil War Interactive (source 7), “Gen. Phil Sheridan had captured a supply depot at White House, Va., north of the James River, and loaded the booty onto wagons. Ever since, he had been pursued by the Confederate cavalry, desperate to recover the irreplaceable goods to sustain the siege of Petersburg. They had crossed the Chickahominy River under fire, and been harassed daily along the route. Things became safer today as they neared the main body of the Army of the Potomac. They recrossed the James by loading the wagons onto ferryboats at a place called Couthard’s Landing.”
Battles: Atlanta campaign: Kennesaw Mountain.
Battles: Siege of Petersburg, Wilson-Kautz (USA) raid: Wilson, leading the column, is attacked by four Confederate cavalry brigades at Sappony Church, just west of Stony Creek Station on the Weldon Railroad. Unable to dislodge the Confederates, Wilson leaves a rear-guard and heads west and then north toward Ream’s Station, where he expects Union infantry to be. Instead he meets two brigades of CSA infantry and a cavalry division. (11, 25)
Military Events: Virginia/West Virginia operations: Hunter’s Raid. Grant learns of Hunter’s location and plans. (26)
… Soldiers! You have done much, but there is still work for you to do. By prompt obedience to orders and patient endurance you will be enabled to repeat these great achievements. The enemy is again preparing to break through the living wall erected by your noble bosoms and big hearts. In the name and recollection of ruined homes, desolated fields, and the bleaching bones of your martyred comrades, you are appealed to again. The smoke of your burning homesteads, the screams of your insulted women, and the cries of starving children will again nerve your strong arms with strength. Your fathers of ’76 had much to fight for, but how little and unimportant was their cause compared with yours. They fought not against annihilating, but simply to be independent of a foreign yet a constitutional and free Government. You are struggling against the most odious of all tyranny, for existence itself, for your property, your homes, your views, and children, against your own enslavement, against emancipation, confiscation, and subjugation, with all their attendant horrors.
In conclusion, your commanding general congratulates you on the brilliant prospects which every where pervade our cause. The independence of the Confederate States is a fixed, accomplished, immutable fact. The ray of peace is glimmering like bright sunshine around the dark clouds. Be true to yourselves and your country a little while longer and you will soon be enabled to return to your desolated homes, there to collect together once more your scattered household gods.
By order of Major General N. B. Forrest:
C. W. ANDERSON,
Other: US President Lincon approves the repeal of the 1850 fugitive slave act and all acts and parts of acts for rendition of fugitive slaves. (4, 5, 7)
Battles: Siege of Petersburg, Wilson-Kautz (USA) raid: “As bad as the 28th had been for Wilson and his men, the 29th would be much worse. Arriving at Ream’s Station late in the morning, the Yankees found Mahone’s infantry in their front, Fitz Lee’s cavalry coming up on their left, and Hampton’s force now pressing their right and rear. Unable to break through, Wilson was forced to make a decision about how to get away. He sent a member of his staff, Captain Whitaker, with an escort of about 60 men, to try and slip around the Confederates and make contact with the Army of the Potomac, in the hope that General Meade could send out some force to relieve them. Whitaker got through, but lost about half his escort in the attempt. The decision was made to burn the wagons and artillery carriages because they could not move as quickly as the rest of the men, and make a run for it. Before the order to withdraw could be given, a Confederate attack broke through Wilson’s lines and divided the command. At this point, Wilson led the bulk of his division west and south, hoping to march around the enemy and then come back north on the other side of the Weldon Railroad into Union lines. Kautz saw an opening on the Confederate right and was able to make his getaway on a more direct route to friendly territory. He tried to save his guns but they became mired in a swamp and were spiked and abandoned, but he brought his division, plus some of Wilson’s men, in to Federal lines soon after dark on the 30th.
“Wilson did not have it so easy. His command was pursued through the Virginia countryside for over 2 days, covering some 125 miles in 60 hours of hard riding, before finally reaching Union lines along the James River on the evening of July 1st.
“During Wilson’s long ride across Virginia, a large number of slaves had begun following his command, in the hope of thereby reaching Federal lines and freedom. During the wild dash for the Federal lines from Reams Station these unfortunate people were largely left behind, with the result that the Petersburg papers for weeks after the raid carried announcements of runaway slaves being held in the city. Some Federal accounts describe Confederate troopers breaking off their pursuit of the Yankees to follow and then shoot down the fleeing contrabands.” (25, including quote)
A review: “Grant versus Lee: The Wilderness to Petersburg,” posted by the Virginia Historical Society.
Ranger Daniel Vermilya of the Gettysburg National Military Park discusses the Atlanta campaign and the
Battle of Kennesaw Mountains:
Ranger Matt Atkinson of the Gettysburg National Military Park discusses CS General Nathan Bedford Forrest and the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads (and gives a good book reference on Forrest’s post-war life):
(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.
(6) Grant Chronology, Mississippi State University.
(8) Life of Lieutenant-General Nathan Bedford Forrest, by John A. Wyeth (1908/2011).
(10) The Siege of Charleston, “The State.” (South Carolina)
(12) The Longest Night: A Military History of the Civil War.” (2002) David J. Eicher.
(14) The Pictorial Book of Anecdotes and Incidents of the War of the Rebellion…, Richard Miller Devens (1866).
(16) The Louisiana Native Guards: The Black Military Experience During the Civil War. James G. Hollandsworth, Jr., 1995.
(17) A. Lincoln, A Biography, Ronald C. White, Jr. (2009)
(18) Confederate Strategy, Fort Tyler Association.
(19) The Sword of Lincoln, the Army of the Potomac. Jeffrey Wert (2005)
(20) Black Artillerymen from the Civil War through World War I (PDF), Roger D. Cunningham.
(21) The Atlanta Campaign. New Georgia Encyclopedia.
(22) Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, Wikipedia.
(23) Siege of Petersburg, Wikipedia.
(26) Lee’s Bold Plan for Point Lookout, Jack E. Schairer (2008)