Here’s a look at what was happening in the Civil War this week, 150 years ago.
I found a remarkable poster, preserved in the Library of Congress, about this week’s Battle of Harrisburg (click above link for full size and information). Look at what it says underneath the eagle…one thing we easily overlook in these hyperpoliticized times is the strong need both sides had after the war for healing and reconciliation.
At Petersburg, Virginia, this week the US Sixth and Nineteenth corps are absent because of the need to defend Washington. General Grant is still focused on Early’s raid. General Ambrose Burnside has assigned General Edward Ferrero’s two brigades of some 3,000 black troops the main role in the coming attack that will follow the explosion of the mine that’s being constructed under Confederate works. Those US Colored Troops are now drilling and practicing maneuvers. (19)
Battles: Mississippi operations, Battle of Tupelo/Harrisburg. US General A. J. Smith repulses repeated, uncoordinated attacks by CS Generals Stephen D. Lee and Nathan Bedford Forrest, who retire at noon. Smith, short of supplies, decides to withdraw to Memphis the following day. (5) General S. D. Lee wrote an account of the battle after the war. It’s also worth while to read Jordan and Pryor’s (3) and Wyeth’s (8) descriptions, which are very detailed.
Military events: Shenandoah Valley operations, Early’s Raid: “Crossing the Potomac at White’s Ford near Leesburg, [CS General] Jubal Early’s division returns to Virginia.” (4, including quote) General Grant orders the Shenandoah Valley to be stripped of supplies “so that Crows flying over it for the balance of this season will have to carry their provender with them.” (6)
Military events: Mississippi operations: Near Harrisburg, General S. D. Lee has the entire Confederate force lined up on the Tupelo-Verona road. At 11 a.m., he hears the “authentic and pleasing intelligence that the enemy [a]re in full retreat.” Chalmers is ordered forward and skirmishes with the Union rear-guard while Smith marches north along the Tupelo-Elliston road. S. D. Lee moves his whole command to Harrisburg. Forrest and his staff go to Tupelo. Around 2 p.m., CS General Abraham Buford is sent to attack the rear of Smith’s main column. Forrest and McCulloch’s brigade join Buford. The Federals are pushed back, though Forrest and McCulloch are both wounded. Chalmers takes charge, as Forrest will not be able to command for a while. In hard fighting, US infantry drives Chalmers back, but stops at nightfall. Confederates bivouac around Tupelo. (3, 8)
Georgia operations, Atlanta campaign. Per General Sherman (15):
From the 10th to the 15th we were all busy in strengthening the several points for the proposed passage of the Chattahoochee, in increasing the number and capacity of the bridges, rearranging the garrisons to our rear, and in bringing forward supplies. On the 15th General Stoneman got back to Powder Springs, and was ordered to replace General Blair at Turner’s Ferry, and Blair, with the Seventeenth Corps, was ordered up to Roswell to join McPherson.
Battles: Shenandoah Valley operations, Early’s Raid: Heaton’s Crossroads/Purcellville Wagon Raid.
Military events: Mississippi operations: S. D. Lee breaks off the pursuit of Smith’s column. The Federals head back to Memphis by way of Holly Springs. (3)
Georgia operations: Grant warns Sherman that Confederate reinforcements might be sent to Georgia after the failure of the raid against Washington. (6)
CS General Joe Johnston to President Davis after Davis’s request for Johnston’s plan of operations (2):
[It] must depend upon that of the enemy…We are trying to put Atlanta in condition to be held by the Georgia militia, that army movements may be freer and wider.
Battles: Shenandoah operations, Early’s Raid: Battle of Cool Spring/Snicker’s Ferry/Parker’s Ford begins.
Military events: Georgia operations. President Davis, supported by his cabinet and the pro-administration part of the Confederate Congress, fires General Johnston, replacing him with General John Bell Hood. (2)
That’s not the last we’ll see of General Johnston:
Atlanta Campaign: General Sherman says (15):
On the 17th we began the general movement against Atlanta, Thomas crossing the Chattahoochee at Powers’s and Paice’s, by pontoon-bridges; Schofield moving out toward Cross Keys, and McPherson toward Stone Mountain. We encountered but little opposition except by cavalry.
Battles: Shenandoah operations, Early’s Raid: Battle of Cool Spring/Snicker’s Ferry/Parker’s Ford ends.
Military events: Grant wants to establish a single military department to control all operations around Washington and in the Shenandoah Valley. Lincoln issues a call for 500,000 volunteers. (6)
Georgia operations, Atlanta campaign. General Hood takes command of the 50,000-man army. Some 80,000 Federal troops are five miles from Atlanta, which is encircled by a 1-1/4-mile ring of fortified lines. (12, 21)
Per Sherman (15):
On the 18th all the armies moved on a general right wheel, Thomas to Buckhead, forming line of battle facing Peach-Tree Creek; Schofield was on his left, and McPherson well over toward the railroad between Stone Mountain and Decatur, which he reached at 2 p.m. of that day, about four miles from Stone Mountain, and seven miles east of Decatur, and there he turned toward Atlanta, breaking up the railroad as he progressed, his advance-guard reaching Ecatur about night, where he came into communication with Schofield’s troops, which had also reached Decatur. About 10 A.M. of that day (July 18th), when the armies were all in motion, one of General Thomas’s staff-officers brought me a citizen, one of our spies, who had just come out of Atlanta, and had brought a newspaper of the same day, or of the day before, containing Johnston’s order relinquishing the command of the Confederate forces in Atlanta, and Hood’s order assuming the command. I immediately inquired of General Schofield, who was his classmate at West Point, about Hood, as to his general character, etc., and learned that he was bold even to rashness, and courageous in the extreme; I inferred that the change of commanders meant “fight.” Notice of this important change was at once sent to all parts of the army, and every division commander was cautioned to be always prepared for battle in any shape. This was just what we wanted, viz., to fight in open ground, on any thing like equal terms, instead of being forced to run up against prepared intrenchments; but, at the same time, the enemy having Atlanta behind him, could choose the time and place of attack, and could at pleasure mass a superior force on our weakest points. Therefore, we had to be constantly ready for sallies.
Peace negotiations: “Horace Greeley is sent to Canada to negotiate an end to the Civil War. Lincoln gives him broad powers to come to a settlement, only requiring that it include the restoration of the Union and a renunciation of slavery. The Confederates would not accept these conditions.” (5, including quote; link added) See links at July 15 and 16 on the Lincoln Log for more information. “J. R. Gilmore reports to Lincoln on interview with President Davis: South fighting for independence and not slavery; terms of peace must be based on recognition of independence.” (4, including quote)
Military events: Shenandoah Valley operations, Early’s raid: “Following two unsuccessful Union attacks on his flanks at Kabletown and Berry’s Ferry, General Early ordered a withdrawal from the Confederate position at Berryville towards a more secure position at Strasburg…” (Wikipedia)
Mississippi operations: Grant (in Virginia) to Sherman (in Georgia) (8):
Smith ought to be instructed to keep a close watch on Forrest and not permit him to gather strength and move into middle Tennessee.
Georgia operations, Atlanta campaign. Per General Sherman (15):
On the 19th the three armies were converging toward Atlanta, meeting such feeble resistance that I really thought the enemy intended to evacuate the place. McPherson was moving astride of the railroad, near Decatur; Schofield along a road leading toward Atlanta, by Colonel Howard’s house and the distillery; and Thomas was crossing “Peach-Tree” in line of battle, building bridges for nearly every division as deployed. There was quite a gap between Thomas and Schofield, which I endeavored to close by drawing two of Howard’s divisions nearer Schofield.
Battles: Shenandoah Valley operations, Early’s Raid: Rutherford’s Farm.
Georgia operations, Battle of Peachtree Creek/Hood’s First Sortie. (See also General Sherman’s comments below.) There is also skirmishing at Bald Hill/Leggett’s Hill, near Decatur, at Flint Hill Church, and at Howard House. (12)
Military events: Mississippi operations: General S. D. Lee is transferred to Atlanta, under General Hood. Pending the arrival of CS General Richard Taylor, General Dabney Maury takes command. (3) Sherman to Washburn (in Memphis) (8):
Order Smith to keep after Forrest all the time. I think a few more days will bring matters to a crisis. Johnston is relieved and Hood succeeds to the command.
Washburn would later telegraph to Sherman:
General Smith thinks you have a wrong impression in regard to his fight. He has returned for lack of supplies. I have ordered him to move again against Forrest…
Georgia operations, Atlanta campaign: On the night of the 20th, General Hood sends Hardee’s corps south and east on a 15-mile march to attack McPherson’s flank and withdraws the rest of his army into Atlanta’s defensive perimeter. (12)
Meanwhile, General Sherman says of the day (15):
On the 20th I was with General Schofield near the centre, and soon after noon heard heavy firing in front of Thomas’s right, which lasted an hour or so, and then ceased.
I soon learned that the enemy had made a furious sally, the blow falling on Hooker’s corps (the Twentieth), and partially on Johnson’s division of the Fourteenth, and Newton’s of the Fourth. The troops had crossed Peach-Tree Creek, were deployed, but at the time were resting for noon, when, without notice, the enemy came pouring out of their trenches down upon them, they became commingled, and fought in many places hand to hand. General Thomas happened to be near the rear of Newton’s division, and got some field-batteries in a good position, on the north side of Peach-Tree Creek, from which he directed a furious fire on a mass of the enemy, which was passing around Newton’s left and exposed flank. After a couple of hours of hard and close conflict, the enemy retired slowly within his trenches, leaving his dead and many wounded on the field. Johnson’s and Newton’s losses were light, for they had partially covered their fronts with light parapet; but Hooker’s whole corps fought in open ground, and lost about fifteen hundred men. He reported four hundred rebel dead left on the ground, and that the rebel wounded would number four thousand; but this was conjectural, for most of them got back within their own lines. We had, however, met successfully a bold sally, had repelled it handsomely, and were also put on our guard; and the event illustrated the future tactics of our enemy. This sally came from the Peach-Tree line, which General Johnston had carefully prepared in advance, from which to fight us outside of Atlanta. We then advanced our lines in compact order, close up to these finished intrenchments, overlapping them on our left. From various parts of our lines the houses inside of Atlanta were plainly visible, though between us were the strong parapets, with ditch, fraise, chevaux-de-frise, and abatis, prepared long in advance by Colonel Jeremy F. Gilmer, formerly of the United States Engineers. McPherson had the Fifteenth Corps astride the Augusta Railroad, and the Seventeenth deployed on its left. Schofield was next on his right, then came Howard’s, Hooker’s, and Palmer’s corps, on the extreme right. Each corps was deployed with strong reserves, and their trains were parked to their rear. McPherson’s trains were in Decatur, guarded by a brigade commanded by Colonel Sprague of the Sixty-third Ohio. The Sixteenth Corps (Dodge’s) was crowded out of position on the right of McPherson’s line, by the contraction of the circle of investment; and, during the previous afternoon, the Seventeenth Corps (Blair’s) had pushed its operations on the farther side of the Augusta Railroad, so as to secure possession of a hill, known as Leggett’s Hill, which Leggett’s and Force’s divisions had carried by assault. Giles A. Smith’s division was on Leggett’s left, deployed with a weak left flank “in air,” in military phraseology.
(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.
(25) James F. Epperson’s Siege of Petersburg site.
(26) Lee’s Bold Plan for Point Lookout, Jack E. Schairer (2008)
(27) Chattahoochee Creek Battle to Jonesboro. Tenth Kentucky Volunteer Infantry
(28) Battle of Cool Spring. National Park Service.
Categories: American Civil War