The American Civil War 150th Anniversary – August 11-17, 1864

Mississippi operations.  (Image source)

The field of Mississippi operations – click to enlarge. (Image source)

Here is a look at events in the American Civil War 150 years ago this week.

August 11

Military events: Mississippi operations: CS General Chalmers rejoins General Nathan Bedford Forrest in Oxford. Chalmers’ division is reinforced and, with Bell’s Brigade, is deployed in the afternoon to Hurricane Creek. five or six miles south of Abbeville. Soon the Confederates are involved in skirmishes with the US General A. J. Smith’s pickets. (3)

August 12

Military events: Mississippi operations: Skirmishing continues between Chalmers’ men and US pickets. (3)

Shenandoah Valley operations, Early’s raid: General Grant warns General Sheridan that reinforcements may be on the way to Early. (6)

Image:  US Navy

The USS (formerly CSS) “Tennessee.” Image: US Navy

Confederate naval operations: “It was not uncommon for soldiers on both sides to be in the army despite having no great desire to be there. Perhaps they were drafted, or enlisted in an outburst of enthusiasm which they now regretted. When one of these soldiers was captured they might be offered freedom on the condition of joining the OTHER army. Such new recruits were said to have been ‘galvanized’, as in having a coat of a new color painted on the outside. The procedure did not just apply to men: the gunboat Tennessee, formerly of the Confederate navy, having had her smokestack replaced and other damage repaired, began her new career in the US Navy as she got up steam today.” (7, including quote)

General John Bell Hood, CSA.  (A. R. Waud, Library of Congress)

General John Bell Hood, CSA. (A. R. Waud, Library of Congress)

Georgia operations, Siege of Atlanta. Per General Sherman (15):

On the 12th of August I heard of the success of Admiral Farragut in entering Mobile Bay, which was regarded as a most valuable auxiliary to our operations at Atlanta; and learned that I had been commissioned a major-general in the regular army, which was unexpected, and not desired until successful in the capture of Atlanta. These did not change the fact that we were held in check by the stubborn defense of the place, and a conviction was forced on my mind that our enemy would hold fast, even though every house in the town should be battered down by our artillery. It was evident that we most decoy him out to fight us on something like equal terms, or else, with the whole army, raise the siege and attack his communications.

Other: President Lincoln checks into Grant’s reaction to the possibility of becoming a presidential candidate. Grant (who will eventually become president in March 1869) says, “They can’t compel me to do it!” (4)

The "USS Mendota" on the James River in August 1864.  (Library of Congress)

The “USS Mendota” on the James River in August 1864. (Library of Congress)

August 13

Military events: Mississippi operations: Around 3 p.m., US troops attack the Confederate left flank and are repulsed. Fighting becomes widespread along Hurricane Creek. General Chalmers and his men fall back to a point halfway between the creek and Oxford. (3)

Virginia operations, Siege of Petersburg: “Starting today a fearsome group of Union gunboats began steaming around the James River east of Richmond. They sailed around Fussell’s Mill, Deep Bottom, Gravel Hill, and White Tavern. They roamed short distances up Four-Mile, Dutch and Bailey’s Creeks. Charles’ City Road and New Market Road received attention too. They were trying to distract Lee’s attention from Petersburg and force him to divert some troops. The project lasted a week, and didn’t work.” (7, including quote)

General Joseph Wheeler, CSA.  (Source)

General Joseph Wheeler, CSA. (Source)

Georgia operations, the Siege of Atlanta. General Sherman again (15):

…[O]n the 13th of August, I gave general orders for the Twentieth Corps to draw back to the railroad-bridge at the Chattahoochee, to protect our trains, hospitals, spare artillery, and the railroad-depot, while the rest of the army should move bodily to some point on the Macon Railroad below East Point.

Luckily, I learned just then that the enemy’s cavalry, under General Wheeler, had made a wide circuit around our left flank, and had actually reached our railroad at Tilton Station, above Resaca, captured a drove of one thousand of our beef-cattle, and was strong enough to appear before Dalton, and demand of its commander, Colonel Raum, the surrender of the place. General John E. Smith, who was at Kingston, collected together a couple of thousand men, and proceeded in cars to the relief of Dalton when Wheeler retreated northward toward Cleveland.

August 14

That's General Grierson of Grierson's Raid in Mississippi in 1863, which Hollywood based "The Horse Soldiers" on.  (Image source)

That’s General Grierson of Grierson’s Raid in Mississippi in 1863, which Hollywood based “The Horse Soldiers” on. (Image source)

Battles: Georgia operations, Wheeler’s Raid: Second Battle of Dalton.

Military events: Mississippi operations: Skirmishing is ongoing in the Hurricane Creek area. (3) General Forrest reports to his superiors that he is facing 18,000 infantry and 7,000 cavalry under US Generals Washburn, Smith and Grierson and has been forced back to Oxford. (8)

August 15

Military events: Confederate naval operations: “While Raphael Semmes may have been the most famous of the Confederate commerce raiders, he was far from the only one. Commodore John Taylor Wood was in the middle of a reign of terror off the coast of New England. Today his CSS Tallahassee took six ships. He burned five after loading all personnel onto the sixth, which he released on bond. The New York insurance industry was furious at the toll being taken on their profits and deluged Navy Secretary Gideon Welles with requests to abate the nuisance.” (7, including quote)

Mississippi operations: General Chalmers and 200 men reconnoiter in the direction of Abbeville and succeed in reaching the town. The two US infantry brigades there retreat in confusion and Chalmers advances until Union forces draw up in a battle line, clearly expecting all of Forrest’s force. Chalmers withdraws without loss. CS General Abraham Buford is ordered to bring his division to Oxford. (3)

No one wanted a repeat of this.

No one wanted a repeat of this.

Virginia operations, Siege of Petersburg: Grant to Halleck (4):

If there is any danger of an uprising in the North to resist the draft or for any other purpose our loyal Governor’s ought to organize the militia at once to resist it. If we are to draw troops from the field to keep the loyal States in harness it will prove difficult to suppress the rebellion in the disloyal States. My withdrawal now from the James River would insure the defeat of Sherman. Twenty thousand men sent to him at this time would destroy the greater part of Hood’s army, and leave us men wherever required. General Heintzelman can get from the Governors of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois a militia organization that will deter the discontented from committing any over act. I hope the President will call on Governors of States to organize thoroughly to preserve the peace until after the election. . . .

John Taylor Wood.  (Source)

John Taylor Wood. (Source)

August 16

Battles: Shenandoah Valley operations, Early’s Raid: Guard Hill.

Military events: Confederate naval operations: “Confederate commerce raider Commander John Taylor Woods was up to his usual business today. Since breaking through the Union blockade at Wilmington, N.C., last Thursday, Wood had captured seven ships that day, six on Friday, but then only two on Saturday, all in the offshore area of Sandy Hook, N.J. He took Sunday off to move north, and Monday grabbed six. Five more were out of business today. Wood’s usual tactic was to burn all but one of a day’s take and load personnel on to the remaining one.” (7, including quote)

Virginia operations, Siege of Petersburg: US General Hancock probes Confederate lines with inconclusive results. (6)

Georgia operations, the Siege of Atlanta. General Sherman notes (15):

On the 16th another detachment of the enemy’s cavalry appeared in force about Allatoona and the Etowah bridge, when I became fully convinced that Hood had sent all of his cavalry to raid upon our railroads. For some days our communication with Nashville was interrupted by the destruction of the telegraph-lines, as well as railroad. I at once ordered strong reconnoissances forward from our flanks on the left by Garrard, and on the right by Kilpatrick. The former moved with so much caution that I was displeased; but Kilpatrick, on the contrary, displayed so much zeal and activity that I was attracted to him at once. He reached Fairburn Station, on the West Point road, and tore it up, returning safely to his position on our right flank. I summoned him to me, and was so pleased with his spirit and confidence, that I concluded to suspend the general movement of the main army, and to send him with his small division of cavalry to break up the Macon road about Jonesboro, in the hopes that it would force Hood to evacuate Atlanta, and that I should thereby not only secure possession of the city itself, but probably could catch Hood in the confusion of retreat; and, further to increase the chances of success.

I ordered General Thomas to detach two brigades of Garrard’s division of cavalry from the left to the right rear, to act as a reserve in support of General Kilpatrick. Meantime, also, the utmost activity was ordered along our whole front by the infantry and artillery.

August 17

Military events: Virginia operations, the Siege of Petersburg: Lincoln to Grant (4):

Lieut. Gen. Grant Executive Mansion,
City Point, Va. Washington, August 17. 1864.

I have seen your despatch expressing your unwillingness to break your hold where you are. Neither am I willing. Hold on with a bull-dog gripe, and chew & choke, as much as possible.



Hold on Grant did.  He had just had the horrific loss and massacre at the Crater.  Influential people were telling Lincoln he couldn't be reelected.  How many of today's politicians would have hung on throughout this crisis like Lincoln and Grant did?  (Library of Congress)

Hold on Grant did. He had just had the horrific loss and massacre at the Crater. Lincoln was facing McClellan as his most likely opponent in the fall, and influential people told the president he wouldn’t be reelected. Both Grant and Lincoln were worried about draft riots. How many of today’s politicians would have hung on throughout this crisis like those two leaders did? (Library of Congress)


(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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