The American Civil War 150th Anniversary – August 4-10, 1864

John Wilkes Booth.  (Library of Congress)

John Wilkes Booth. (Library of Congress)

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

Of note, it was about this time that John Wilkes Booth, per Kauffman (31), started getting his conspiracy going, though he was still working as an actor. Details and dates are sketchy, Kauffman says, but it is worth remembering that Abraham Lincoln’s own timeline was nearing its end. I think of that whenever I visit the Lincoln Log (4).

There is a lot of military stuff going on, so it will probably be best to put this matter in the forward at appropriate points, even if the exact date isn’t known. Here is the first such entry from Kauffman.

Sometime in August [of 1864], Booth stopped at the Holliday Street Theatre [in Washington] and recognized an old friend…William Stockton Arnold had not seen Booth in years, and they had a lot to talk about. The subject turned to Billy’s brother Sam, who had also known Booth fro School days. Sam Arnold was back from the war and was now living at his uncle’s farm, five miles north of town. At that moment, he was in the city, and if Booth would like, Billy could send him over for a visit…Sam Arnold had not seen Booth in eleven years, and he could hardly believe the changes in his old friend…Booth had arranged a meeting at Barnum’s Hotel, in the center of town. He was a marvelous host, and regaled his boyhood friend with tales of the stage and wartime travels. In a few minutes, there was a knock on the door, and a small, dark-haired man joined the conversation. This was Mike O’Laughlen, Booth’s friend…Arnold and O’Laughlen had never met, but both had served in the same Confederate regiment early in the war. A few glasses of wine made them as chummy as lifelong companions.

Sam Arnold.  (Image source)

Sam Arnold

Talk turned to the war, and Booth found that they all supported the Confederacy…Booth believed that some drastic measure might force the Lincoln administration to resume the prisoner exchange – thus giving the Confederacy a resurgence of strength in the ranks.

He had an idea. Mr. Lincoln was known to make frequent trips to the Soldiers’ Home, just outside Washington, and he often rode alone, over isolated country roads. A group of men could overtake his carriage, put the president in handcuffs, and transport him through Southern Maryland and into Virginia. They could have him in Richmond before a day had passed. With Abraham Lincoln as a hostage, his government would have to resume the prisoner exchange. Though abducting him would not be easy, it was certainly possible. And if the plan succeeded, Lincoln’s captors would have saved thousands of prisoners’ lives – not to mention the life of the Confederacy itself. Their names would live forever.

Arnold and O’Laughlen agreed to take part in the scheme, and they pledged themselves to secrecy and good faith. They parted company and went back home to await further developments. Booth went to New York, as he had planned, and would begin work on the plot after his return.

Horrible, isn’t it. You wish you could go back in time and warn Lincoln…sigh.

President-elect Lincoln before he left Springfield for his first inauguration, and the last formal portrait of Lincoln in February 1865.

President-elect Lincoln before he left Springfield for his first inauguration, and the last formal portrait of Lincoln in February 1865.

August 4

Battles: Alabama operations, Mobile Bay operations continue.

Marc Stewart says he found these artifacts on the battlefield as a boy.

Marc Stewart says he found these artifacts on the Utoy Creek battlefield as a boy.

Georgia operations, Atlanta campaign: Battle of Utoy Creek begins.

Military events: Mississippi operations: With Federals columns advancing into Mississippi from Memphis, CS General Nathan Bedford Forrest is deploying his small force. Neely’s Brigade is sent to Oxford and General James Chalmers is ordered to seize all able-bodied African Americans and put them to work building fortifications and key points along the Tallahatchie River. Mabry’s Brigade is sent to Grenada, and the governor of Mississippi is informed of the advancing columns. Forrest suggests the state legislature disband and that the legislators return to their districts to rally the people. (3)

Georgia operations, Atlanta campaign: Per General Sherman (15):

Meantime, rumors came that General Stoneman was down about Mason, on the east bank of the Ocmulgee. On the 4th of August Colonel Adams got to Marietta with his small brigade of nine hundred men belonging to Stoneman’s cavalry, reporting, as usual, all the rest lost, and this was partially confirmed by a report which came to me all the way round by General Grant’s headquarters before Richmond.

A few days afterward Colonel Capron also got in, with another small brigade perfectly demoralized, and confirmed the report that General Stoneman had covered the escape of these two small brigades, himself standing with a reserve of seven hundred men, with which he surrendered to a Colonel Iverson. Thus another of my cavalry divisions was badly damaged, and out of the fragments we hastily reorganized three small divisions under Brigadier-Generals Garrard, McCook, and Kilpatrick.

Stoneman had not obeyed his orders to attack the railroad first before going to Macon and Andersonville, but had crossed the Ocmulgee River high up near Covington, and had gone down that river on the east bank. He reached Clinton, and sent out detachments which struck the railroad leading from Macon to Savannah at Griswold Station, where they found and destroyed seventeen locomotives and over a hundred cars; then went on and burned the bridge across the Oconee, and reunited the division before Macon. Stoneman shelled the town across the river, but could not cross over by the bridge, and returned to Clinton, where he found his retreat obstructed, as he supposed, by a superior force. There he became bewildered, and sacrificed himself for the safety of his command. He occupied the attention of his enemy by a small force of seven hundred men, giving Colonels Adams and Capron leave, with their brigades, to cut their way back to me at Atlanta. The former reached us entire, but the latter was struck and scattered at some place farther north, and came in by detachments. Stoneman surrendered, and remained a prisoner until he was exchanged some time after, late in September, at Rough and Ready.

The Siege of Atlanta.  Thure de Thulstrup. (Source, French language)

The Siege of Atlanta. Thure de Thulstrup. (Source, French language)

I now became satisfied that cavalry could not, or would not, make a sufficient lodgment on the railroad below Atlanta, and that nothing would suffice but for us to reach it with the main army. Therefore the most urgent efforts to that end were made, and to Schofield, on the right, was committed the charge of this special object. He had his own corps (the Twenty-third), composed of eleven thousand and seventy-five infantry and eight hundred and eighty-five artillery, with McCook’s broken division of cavalry, seventeen hundred and fifty-four men and horses. For this purpose I also placed the Fourteenth Corps (Palmer) under his orders. This corps numbered at the time seventeen thousand two hundred and eighty-eight infantry and eight hundred and twenty-six artillery; but General Palmer claimed to rank General Schofield in the date of his commission as major-general, and denied the latter’s right to exercise command over him. General Palmer was a man of ability, but was not enterprising. His three divisions were compact and strong, well commanded, admirable on the defensive, but slow to move or to act on the offensive. His corps (the Fourteenth) had sustained, up to that time, fewer hard knocks than any other corps in the whole army, and I was anxious to give it a chance. I always expected to have a desperate fight to get possession of the Macon road, which was then the vital objective of the campaign. Its possession by us would, in my judgment, result in the capture of Atlanta, and give us the fruits of victory, although the destruction of Hood’s army was the real object to be desired. Yet Atlanta was known as the “Gate-City of the South,” was full of founderies, arsenals, and machine-shops, and I knew that its capture would be the death-knell of the Southern Confederacy.

August 5

Battles: Alabama operations: Battle of Mobile Bay. Admiral Farragut damns the torpedoes (floating mines). Per the NPS, Farragut will continue Mobile Bay operations until the fall of Fort Morgan late in the month.

Georgia operations, Atlanta campaign: Battle of Utoy Creek continues.

Military events: Mississippi operations: General Chalmers arrives at Oxford with Thrall’s Battery and McCulloch’s Brigade and establishes his headquarters there. Meanwhile, US General A. J. Smith is back and his forces are running trains to Waterford, eight miles south of Holly Springs. Their main force is one mile north of Waterford, and they have outposts and pickets on the north bank of the Tallahatchie. Over the next couple of days Forrest will be busy moving his forces northward, while Colonel Alexander Chalmers (the general’s brother) and his Eighteenth Mississippi Cavalry, some 300 strong, face the Federals at the Tallahatchie. (3)

August 6

Battles: Georgia operations, Atlanta campaign: Battle of Utoy Creek continues.

August 7

Battles: Georgia operations, Atlanta campaign: Battle of Utoy Creek ends. Sherman resumes siege operations against Atlanta. (12)

Shenandoah Valley operations: First Battle of Moorefield/Oldfields.

Military events: Shenandoah Valley operations: “Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan formally received his new command today in Halltown, Va. Officially his new job was called the Middle Military Division. Its territory included West Virginia, Washington D.C., and the Susquehanna Valley. Unofficially, at this point he had only one task in front of him: catch, kill, or at least chase Jubal Early and his force of cavalry out of the area before they caused any further nuisance.” (7, including quote)

Georgia operations, Atlanta campaign: Sherman to Halleck (in Washington) (15):

Have received to-day the dispatches of the Secretary of War and of General Grant, which are very satisfactory. We keep hammering away all the time, and there is no peace, inside or outside of Atlanta. To-day General Schofield got round the line which was assaulted yesterday by General Reilly’s brigade, turned it and gained the ground where the assault had been made, and got possession of all our dead and wounded. He continued to press on that flank, and brought on a noisy but not a bloody battle. He drove the enemy behind his main breastworks, which cover the railroad from Atlanta to East Point, and captured a good many of the skirmishers, who are of his best troops—for the militia hug the breastworks close. I do not deem it prudent to extend any more to the right, but will push forward daily by parallels, and make the inside of Atlanta too hot to be endured. I have sent back to Chattanooga for two thirty-pound Parrotts, with which we can pick out almost any house in town. I am too impatient for a siege, and don’t know but this is as good a place to fight it out on, as farther inland. One thing is certain, whether we get inside of Atlanta or not, it will be a used-up community when we are done with it.

Fort Gaines today.  (Source)

Fort Gaines today. (Source)

August 8

Battles: Alabama operations, Mobile Bay: Fort Gaines surrenders. (5)

August 9

Battles: Alabama operations, Mobile Bay: Farragut lays siege to Fort Morgan. (5)

Virginia operations, Siege of Petersburg: Confederate agents blow up an ordnance ship at City Point after Grant returns to his headquarters there from conferences in Washington. They miss Grant (barely), who tells General Halleck, “Every part of the yard occupied as my Hd Qrs is filled with splinters and fragments of shells.” (5, 6, 7)

Military events: Mississippi operations: Forrest establishes his headquarters at Pontotoc, his wounded foot still in a sling. Colonel Alexander Chalmers is forced to fall back from the Tallahatchie to Abbeville and then, I think, to Oxford, near which US forces stop for the night. (3) General A. J. Smith crosses the river with a division of US troops during the night of the August 9-10. Per source 29:

The Eighteenth Mississippi Cavalry, not over 300 strong, commanded by that brilliant young Colonel Alexander H. Chalmers, was holding the line of the Tallahatchie in front of Abbeville. His position was a very unfavorable one. The south bank of the river was much lower than the north bank, and furthermore the timber had been cut from the south bank for a distance of half a mile, while the north bank was thickly wooded to the river. The enemy forced the pickets from the river bank with his big guns, but Colonel Chalmers formed a line on a ride in the edge of the woods, about half a mile back, and soon got together rails and timbers which he used as breast-works. The enemy threw several regiments across the river and moved against the Mississippians, but were driven back. Colonel Chalmers held his position until late in the evening of August 9, and then retired to Abbeville, where he was re-enforced by General Chalmers with McCulloch’s brigade.

General Joseph Wheeler, CSA.  (Source)

General Joseph Wheeler, CSA. (Source)

August 10

Battles: Georgia operations, Atlanta Campaign: CS General Joe Wheeler’s raid begins. (30)

Military events: Mississippi operations: Per source 29:

[O]n the morning of August 10, [General Smith] sent 10,000 infantry against McCulloch’s brigade of cavalry, 1,500 strong. The enemy closed column and moved around and in front of Chalmers, expecting evidently to overpower and capture him. Chalmers had but four guns, while the enemy used twenty. Like hungry wolves they charged the little ‘game cock,’ but were twice repulsed. When Chalmers fell back to Hurricane creek, six miles north of Oxford, the enemy did not advance further and made no attempt to pursue.

Chalmers then fell back to Oxford, where he received advice from Forrest that he had left Pontotoc with Bell’s Brigade and Morton’s Battery and would pick up Neeley’s Brigade, hoping to reach Oxford by midnight. Chalmers was ordered to fall back slowly, and if possible draw the enemy’s cavalry out south of Oxford. The federal cavalry did follow, but hearing that a Confederate force was approaching from the east, fell back on the column, before Forrest reached Oxford, at 1 o’clock.

Chalmers returned with McCulloch’s and Mabry’s Brigade, the latter having joined him south of Oxford.

Georgia operations, Atlanta campaign: Per General Sherman (15):

On the 10th of August the Parrott thirty-pounders were received and placed in Position; for a couple of days we kept up a sharp fire from all our batteries converging on Atlanta, and at every available point we advanced our infantry-lines, thereby shortening and strengthening the investment; but I was not willing to order a direct assault, unless some accident or positive neglect on the part of our antagonist should reveal an opening. However, it was manifest that no such opening was intended by Hood, who felt secure behind his strong defenses. He had repelled our cavalry attacks on his railroad, and had damaged us seriously thereby, so I expected that he would attempt the same game against our rear. Therefore I made extraordinary exertions to recompose our cavalry divisions, which were so essential, both for defense and offense. Kilpatrick was given that on our right rear, in support of Schofield’s exposed flank; Garrard retained that on our general left; and McCook’s division was held somewhat in reserve, about Marietta and the railroad. On the 10th, having occasion to telegraph to General Grant, then in Washington, I used this language:

Since July 28th Hood has not attempted to meet us outside his parapets. In order to possess and destroy effectually his communications, I may have to leave a corps at the railroad-bridge, well intrenched, and cut loose with the balance to make a circle of desolation around Atlanta. I do not propose to assault the works, which are too strong, nor to proceed by regular approaches. I have lost a good many regiments, and will lose more, by the expiration of service; and this is the only reason why I want reenforcements. We have killed, crippled, and captured more of the enemy than we have lost by his acts.




(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) This Week in the Civil War.

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

(11) CWSAC Battle Summaries

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

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

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

(15) Memoirs of W. T. Sherman

(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.

(24) Petersburg National Battlefield.

(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

(28) Sherman’s Horsemen: Union Cavalry Operations in the Atlanta Campaign. David Evans.

(29) The Capture of Memphis. Southern Historical Society.

(30) Confederate Outlaw: Champ Ferguson and the Civil War in Appalachia (Wheeler’s Raid section)

(31) Michael W. Kauffman. American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies. Random House. New York. 2004.

Categories: American Civil War

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