Here’s a look at what was happening in the Civil War 150 years ago this week.
As mentioned before, I like to start researching this weekly timeline by finding out what CS General Nathan Bedford Forrest is up to. The man was incredibly active, and he isn’t well covered in the general Civil War timelines.
His military worth was recognized this week by CS General Joseph Johnston, commander of the Army of Tennessee, and Georgia Governor Joseph E. Brown, who, in the face of Sherman’s onslaught, were, according to Wyeth (source 8), pleading with CS President Davis to put Forrest in command of all the Army of Tennessee cavalry. General Joe Wheeler, who was currently held that post, concurred (although Forrest had clashed personally with Wheeler earlier).
Davis didn’t like Johnston and thought Governor Brown “impertinent,” and so Forrest stayed in northern Mississippi, collecting what forces he could to cut Sherman’s supply lines. He did not ride into East Tennessee with 10,000 cavalry – more than sufficient to cut Sherman’s lines as well as to prevent his escape after shortages ended the US advance on Atlanta.
But he might have. How would that have changed history, I wonder.
We won’t hear from Forrest this week, as he is busy in northern Mississippi preparing for the onslaught of the strong Memphis-based Federal force Sherman has aimed at him.
By June 30, according to Jordan and Pryor (source 3), Forrest has Chalmer’s division and the brigades of Rucker and McCulloch at Verona, Mississippi, south-southwest of Tupelo. Buford’s, Bell’s and Lyon’s divisions are at Tupelo. Mabry’s brigade is at Saltillo, north-northwest of Tupelo, and Johnson’s and Patterson’s brigades are either at Corinth, Mississippi, near the Tennessee border or in North Alabama.
At Ripley, Mississippi, west of the Tupelo-Corinth line, 600 men under the command of Colonel S. M. Hyams have just boosted the garrison strength, and General S. D. Lee is on his way from Mobile with some 800-900 infantry.
The combined strength of Confederate forces will be around 8,000 troops.
Forrest and S. D. Lee need every man. Coming at them is the Union Army’s Right Wing-XVI Corps – some 14,000 men under Generals Andrew J. Smith and Joseph A. Mower. The deciding battle isn’t going to happen for a fortnight, but this is a good time to mention why it is taking so long to move men and supplies in northern Mississippi.
The same heavy rains that delayed Sherman in Georgia have flooded Mississippi streams and turned roads to mud. The weather has cleared, but now the full heat of summer in the Deep South comes to bear – you have to have felt that heat to really understand what these soldiers, southern as well as northern, are experiencing.
Both sides have to carry on, though. There is too much at stake for either of them to give in to weariness and despair.
Another prominent general we won’t hear much from is General Grant. He’s knee-deep in a squabble his generals are having their fellow general Benjamin Butler this week (6), and the only important thing I can find regarding the Siege of Petersburg is that the sappers are still digging the mine under part of the Confederate fortifications.
Besides, Grant has more important things to think about this week – a Confederate raid on Washington!
Meanwhile, in Washington, influential people had more than CS General Jubal Early on their minds. The word “reconstruction” for the post-war period was heard in Washington this week for the very first time. And, with the Union army well on its way to gaining the 180,000 black soldiers it would have by April 1865, US President Abraham Lincoln finally withdrew his support for sending African Americans to overseas colonies.
Military events: Virginia operations, Wilson-Kautz raid: Kautz makes it back to Federal lines. (25)
Other: President Lincoln signs the Yosemite Grant Act.
Military Events: Georgia operations, Atlanta campaign: General Sherman reports to General Halleck (15, link added):
General Schofield is now south of Olley’s Creek, and on the head of Nickajack. I have been hurrying down provisions and forage, and tomorrow night propose to move McPherson from the left to the extreme right, back of General Thomas. This will bring my right within three miles of the Chattahoochee River, and about five miles from the railroad. By this movement I think I can force Johnston to move his whole army down from Kenesaw to defend his railroad and the Chattahoochee, when I will (by the left flank) reach the railroad below Marietta; but in this I must cut loose from the railroad with ten days’ supplies in wagons. Johnston may come out of his intrenchments [sic] to attack Thomas, which is exactly what I want, for General Thomas is well intrenched on a line parallel with the enemy south of Kenesaw. I think that Allatoona and the line of the Etowah are strong enough for me to venture on this move. The movement is substantially down the Sandtown road straight for Atlanta.
Virginia operations, Wilson-Kautz raid: Wilson makes it back to Federal lines. (25)
Other: President Lincoln abandons plans to colonize the Isthmus of Chiriqui in Central America with African Americans. (4)
Military Events: Georgia operations, Atlanta campaign: Confederates withdraw from the fortified entrenchments on Kenesaw Mountain, retreating to a previously established line south of Marietta, along the west bank of the Chattahoochie River and Nickajack Creek. Richmond newspaper christen General Johnston “Retreating Joe.” (5, 12)
Military Events: Georgia operations, Atlanta campaign: Federal troops push past Kenesaw Mountain and pass through Marietta. General Johnston’s Army of Tennessee slows them down with skirmishes at Big Shanty, Sweetwater Bridge, Kingston and Ruff’s Mills. There are minor actions at Vining’s Station and along Nickajack Creek. (12)
Per General Sherman (15):
McPherson drew out of his lines during the night of July 2d, leaving Garrard’s cavalry, dismounted, occupying his trenches, and moved to the rear of the Army of the Cumberland, stretching down the Nickajack; but Johnston detected the movement, and promptly abandoned Marietta and Kenesaw. I expected as much, for, by the earliest dawn of the 3d of July, I was up at a large spy-glass mounted on a tripod, which Colonel Poe, United States Engineers, had at his bivouac close by our camp. I directed the glass on Kenesaw, and saw some of our pickets crawling up the hill cautiously; soon they stood upon the very top, and I could plainly see their movements as they ran along the crest just abandoned by the enemy. In a minute I roused my staff, and started them off with orders in every direction for a pursuit by every possible road, hoping to catch Johnston in the confusion of retreat, especially at the crossing of the Chattahoochee River…Johnston…chose to let go Kenesaw and Marietta, and fall back on an intrenched camp prepared by his orders in advance on the north and west bank of the Chattahoochee, covering the railroad-crossing and his several pontoon-bridges. I confess I had not learned beforehand of the existence of this strong place, in the nature of a tete-du-pont, and had counted on striking him an effectual blow in the expected confusion of his crossing the Chattahoochee, a broad and deep river then to his rear. Ordering every part of the army to pursue vigorously on the morning of the 3d of July, I rode into Marietta, just quitted by the rebel rear-guard, and was terribly angry at the cautious pursuit by Garrard’s cavalry, and even by the head of our infantry columns. But Johnston had in advance cleared and multiplied his roads, whereas ours had to cross at right angles from the direction of Powder Springs toward Marrietta, producing delay and confusion.
Sherman also gives Federal and Confederate losses over roughly the previous month:
These losses, from June 1st to July 3d, were all substantially sustained about Kenesaw and Marietta, and it was really a continuous battle, lasting from the 10th day of June till the 3d of July, when the rebel army fell back from Marietta toward the Chattahoochee River. Our losses were:
Killed and Missing: 1,790
Johnston makes his statement of losses from the report of his surgeon Foard, for pretty much the same period, viz., from June 4th to July 4th (page 576):
In the tabular statement the “missing” embraces the prisoners; and, giving two thousand as a fair proportion of prisoners captured by us for the month of June (twelve thousand nine hundred and eighty-three in all the campaign), makes an aggregate loss in the rebel army of fifty-nine hundred and forty-eight, to ours of seventy-five hundred and thirty—a less proportion than in the relative strength of our two armies, viz., as six to ten, thus maintaining our relative superiority, which the desperate game of war justified.
Military Events: Georgia operations, Atlanta campaign: General Sherman again (15):
By night [July 3-4] Thomas’s head of column ran up against a strong rear-guard intrenched at Smyrna camp-ground, six miles below Marietta, and there on the next day we celebrated our Fourth of July, by a noisy but not a desperate battle, designed chiefly to hold the enemy there till Generals McPherson and Schofield could get well into position below him, near the Chattahoochee crossings.
It was here that General Noyes, late Governor of Ohio, lost his leg. I came very near being shot myself while reconnoitring in the second story of a house on our picket-line, which was struck several times by cannon-shot, and perfectly riddled with musket-balls.
Other: “As Grant continued to grind away at Lee’s forces around Petersburg, the work in Washington was beginning on how to go about re-integrating the South into the Federal nation. The word “Reconstruction” began to be in use around this time, and virtually nobody agreed about how it should be accomplished. Abraham Lincoln was being very judicious in releasing the details of his plans, which were surprisingly conciliatory to what was, after all, a conquered nation. It was less the Democrats giving him trouble than the members of his own party, known as the Radical Republicans, including the more fanatical abolitionists. Lincoln today pocket-vetoed a measure called the Wade-Davis bill, which would have barred any man who had ever borne arms against the Union from voting or holding office. Essentially the debate was over whether Congress or the President would control the rebuilding process.” (7, including quote)
Military Events: Maryland/Washington operations: CS General Jubal Early crosses the Potomac River at Harper’s Ferry and enters Maryland with a division of men. He begins heading east to Washington. (5)
Virginia operations, Siege of Petersburg: General Grant realizes that Confederate lines are too strong to be taken by frontal assault. (6)
Georgia operations, Atlanta campaign: Per General Sherman (15, links added):
During the night Johnston drew back all his army and trains inside the tete-du-pont at the Chattahoochee, which proved one of the strongest pieces of field-fortification I ever saw. We closed up against it, and were promptly met by a heavy and severe fire. Thomas was on the main road in immediate pursuit; next on his right was Schofield; and McPherson on the extreme right, reaching the Chattahoochee River below Turner’s Ferry. Stoneman’s cavalry was still farther to the right, along down the Chattahoochee River as far as opposite Sandtown; and on that day I ordered Garrard’s division of cavalry up the river eighteen miles, to secure possession of the factories at Roswell, as well as to hold an important bridge and ford at that place.
About three miles out from the Chattahoochee the main road forked, the right branch following substantially the railroad, and the left one leading straight for Atlanta, via Paice’s Ferry and Buckhead. We found the latter unoccupied and unguarded, and the Fourth Corps (Howard’s) reached the river at Paice’s Ferry. The right-hand road was perfectly covered by the tete-du-pont before described, where the resistance was very severe, and for some time deceived me, for I was pushing Thomas with orders to fiercely assault his enemy, supposing that he was merely opposing us to gain time to get his trains and troops across the Chattahoochee; but, on personally reconnoitring, I saw the abatis and the strong redoubts, which satisfied me of the preparations that had been made by Johnston in anticipation of this very event. While I was with General Jeff. C. Davis, a poor negro [sic] came out of the abatis, blanched with fright, said he had been hidden under a log all day, with a perfect storm of shot, shells, and musket-balls, passing over him, till a short lull had enabled him to creep out and make himself known to our skirmishers, who in turn had sent him back to where we were. This negro explained that he with about a thousand slaves had been at work a month or more on these very lines, which, as he explained, extended from the river about a mile above the railroad-bridge to Turner’s Ferry below,—being in extent from five to six miles.
Therefore, on the 5th of July we had driven our enemy to cover in the valley of the Chattahoochee, and we held possession of the river above for eighteen miles, as far as Roswell, and below ten miles to the mouth of the Sweetwater. Moreover, we held the high ground and could overlook his movements, instead of his looking down on us, as was the case at Kenesaw.
From a hill just back of Mining’s Station I could see the houses in Atlanta, nine miles distant, and the whole intervening valley of the Chattahoochee; could observe the preparations for our reception on the other side, the camps of men and large trains of covered wagons; and supposed, as a matter of course, that Johnston had passed the river with the bulk of his army, and that he had only left on our side a corps to cover his bridges; but in fact he had only sent across his cavalry and trains. Between Howard’s corps at Paice’s Ferry and the rest of Thomas’s army pressing up against this tete-du-pont, was a space concealed by dense woods, in crossing which I came near riding into a detachment of the enemy’s cavalry; and later in the same day Colonel Frank Sherman, of Chicago, then on General Howard’s staff, did actually ride straight into the enemy’s camp, supposing that our lines were continuous. He was carried to Atlanta, and for some time the enemy supposed they were in possession of the commander-in-chief of the opposing army.
I knew that Johnston would not remain long on the west bank of the Chattahoochee, for I could easily practise on that ground to better advantage our former tactics of intrenching a moiety in his front, and with the rest of our army cross the river and threaten either his rear or the city of Atlanta itself, which city was of vital importance to the existence not only of his own army, but of the Confederacy itself.
Military Events: Maryland/Washington operations: Federal commanders in Washington D. C. begin recalling troops to defend the city. (5) General Grant, around this time, sends a corps under General Horatio Wright and other troops under General George Crook to reinforce Washington and pursue Early. (22) US General Ethan Hitchcock confers with President Lincoln about the city’s defenses. (4)
Georgia operations, Atlanta campaign: General Sherman reports to General Halleck (15):
Johnston (in his retreat from Kenesaw) has left two breaks in the railroad—one above Marietta and one near Mining’s Station. The former is already repaired, and Johnston’s army has heard the sound of our locomotives. The telegraph is finished to Mining’s Station, and the field-wire has just reached my bivouac, and will be ready to convey this message as soon as it is written and translated into cipher.
I propose to study the crossings of the Chattahoochee, and, when all is ready, to move quickly. As a beginning, I will keep the troops and wagons well back from the river, and only display to the enemy our picket-line, with a few field-batteries along at random. I have already shifted Schofield to a point in our left rear, whence he can in a single move reach the Chattahoochee at a point above the railroad-bridge, where there is a ford. At present the waters are turbid and swollen from recent rains; but if the present hot weather lasts, the water will run down very fast. We have pontoons enough for four bridges, but, as our crossing will be resisted, we must manoeuvre some. All the regular crossing-places are covered by forts, apparently of long construction; but we shall cross in due time, and, instead of attacking Atlanta direct, or any of its forts, I propose to make a circuit, destroying all its railroads. This is a delicate movement, and must be done with caution. Our army is in good condition and full of confidence; but the weather is intensely hot, and a good many men have fallen with sunstroke. The country is high and healthy, and the sanitary condition of the army is good.
This day, according to Sherman (15):
At this time Stoneman was very active on our extreme right, pretending to be searching the river below Turner’s Ferry for a crossing, and was watched closely by the enemy’s cavalry on the other side, McPherson, on the right, was equally demonstrative at and near Turner’s Ferry. Thomas faced substantially the intrenched tete-du-pont, and had his left on the Chattahoochee River, at Paice’s Ferry. Garrard’s cavalry was up at Roswell, and McCook’s small division of cavalry was intermediate, above Soap’s Creek. Meantime, also, the railroad-construction party was hard at work, repairing the railroad up to our camp at Vining’s Station.
Of course, I expected every possible resistance in crossing the Chattahoochee River, and had made up my mind to feign on the right, but actually to cross over by the left. We had already secured a crossing place at Roswell, but one nearer was advisable; General Schofield had examined the river well, found a place just below the mouth of Soap’s Creek which he deemed advantageous, and was instructed to effect an early crossing there, and to intrench a good position on the other side, viz., the east bank. But, preliminary thereto, I had ordered General Rousseau, at Nashville, to collect, out of the scattered detachments of cavalry in Tennessee, a force of a couple of thousand men, to rendezvous at Decatur, Alabama, thence to make a rapid march for Opelika, to break up the railroad links between Georgia and Alabama, and then to make junction with me about Atlanta; or, if forced, to go on to Pensacola, or even to swing across to some of our posts in Mississippi. General Rousseau asked leave to command this expedition himself, to which I consented, and on the 6th of July he reported that he was all ready at Decatur, and I gave him orders to start.
(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) Early’s Raid on Washington/Operations Against the B&O Railroad, Wikipedia.
(23) Siege of Petersburg, Wikipedia.
(26) Lee’s Bold Plan for Point Lookout, Jack E. Schairer (2008)
Categories: American Civil War