The American Civil War 150th Anniversary – August 25-31, 1864

"Bulldog" Grant also posed for this picture at his Virginia headquarters this August.  Library of Congress

“Bulldog” Grant also posed for this picture at his Virginia headquarters this August. Library of Congress

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

We won’t be hearing too much from General Grant this week, or from CS General Nathan Bedford Forrest in Mississippi.

After Hancock’s loss at Ream’s Station on the 25th, Grant will spend the week visiting with his wife – or perhaps Julia will be at his side during a tense time when the temptation of liquor might be high? That’s just my guess. The general will also have to testify at the court of inquiry about the disastrous Battle of the Crater. This will all play out against the background of the Democratic convention up in Chicago – and General Grant knows he cannot give Lincoln a battlefield victory in Virginia.

After last week’s successful raid on Memphis, part of his force, under General Chalmers, is on its way to Mobile, Alabama. McCulloch’s Brigade is being deployed to the Yazoo River region to reinforce General Wirt Adams. Forrest, back in his headquarters at Grenada, Mississippi, is reorganizing the rest of his force. (3)

Frank Leslie's depiction of Second Ream's Station.  (Source)

Frank Leslie’s depiction of Second Ream’s Station. (Source)

Meanwhile, in Georgia, US General Sherman, who is also aware of the fall elections, is planning to draw CS General Hood out of Atlanta by moving around the city and cutting Hood’s last supply line, the Macon and Western (a/k/a West Point) Railroad.

August 25

Battles: Virginia operations, Siege of Petersburg: Second Battle of Ream’s Station.

Shenandoah Valley operations: Battle of Smithfield Crossing begins.

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

The real movement commenced on the 25th, at night. The Twentieth Corps drew back and took post at the railroad-bridge, and the Fourth Corps (Stanley) moved to his right rear, closing up with the Fourteenth Corps (Jeff. C. Davis) near Utoy Creek; at the same time Garrard’s cavalry, leaving their horses out of sight, occupied the vacant trenches, so that the enemy did not detect the change at all.

August 26

Battles: Shenandoah Valley operations: Battle of Smithfield Crossing continues.

Military events: Georgia operations, Siege of Atlanta: General Sherman again (15):

The next night (26th) the Fifteenth and Seventeenth Corps, composing the Army of the Tennessee (Howard), drew out of their trenches, made a wide circuit, and came up on the extreme right of the Fourth and Fourteenth Corps of the Army of the Cumberland (Thomas) along Utoy Creek, facing south. The enemy seemed to suspect something that night, using his artillery pretty freely; but I think he supposed we were going to retreat altogether. An artillery-shot, fired at random, killed one man and wounded another…

August 27

Battles: Shenandoah Valley operations: Battle of Smithfield Crossing continues.

The ladies would have emulated the fashion in Paris as much as the Yankee blockade allowed.  (Source)

The ladies would have emulated the fashion in Paris as much as the Yankee blockade allowed. (Source)

Military events: Georgia operations, Siege of Atlanta: A day of celebration around Atlanta and the South, according to Sherman (15):

…[S]ome of his infantry came out of Atlanta and found our camps abandoned. It was afterward related that there was great rejoicing in Atlanta “that the Yankees were gone;” the fact was telegraphed all over the South, and several trains of cars (with ladies) came up from Macon to assist in the celebration of their grand victory.

August 28

Battles: Shenandoah Valley operations: Battle of Smithfield Crossing continues.

Military events: Georgia operations, Siege of Atlanta: Per Sherman (15):

On the 28th (making a general left-wheel, pivoting on Schofield) both Thomas and Howard reached the West Point Railroad, extending from East Point to Red-Oak Station and Fairburn.

August 29

Battles: Shenandoah Valley operations: Battle of Smithfield Crossing ends.

Military events: Georgia operations, Siege of Atlanta: US troops wreck the West Point Railroad, as General Sherman describes (15):

Later, in Atlanta, among white people and in possession of the city, Sherman's men didn't use IEDs.  (Image source)

Later, in Atlanta, among white people and in possession of the city, Sherman’s men didn’t use IEDs. (Image source)

[W]e spent the next day (29th) in breaking [the railroad] up thoroughly. The track was heaved up in sections the length of a regiment, then separated rail by rail; bonfires were made of the ties and of fence-rails on which the rails were heated, carried to trees or telegraph-poles, wrapped around and left to cool. Such rails could not be used again; and, to be still more certain, we filled up many deep cuts with trees, brush, and earth, and commingled with them loaded shells, so arranged that they would explode on an attempt to haul out the bushes. The explosion of one such shell would have demoralized a gang of negroes [sic], and thus would have prevented even the attempt to clear the road.

August 30

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

Schofield, with the Twenty-third Corps, presented a bold front toward East Point, daring and inviting the enemy to sally out to attack him in position. His first movement was on the 30th, to Mount Gilead Church, then to Morrow’s Mills, facing Rough and Ready. Thomas was on his right, within easy support, moving by cross-roads from Red Oak to the Fayetteville road, extending from Couch’s to Renfrew’s; and Howard was aiming for Jonesboro.

I was with General Thomas that day, which was hot but otherwise very pleasant. We stopped for a short noon-rest near a little church (marked on our maps as Shoal-Creek Church), which stood back about a hundred yards from the road, in a grove of native oaks. The infantry column had halted in the road, stacked their arms, and the men were scattered about—some lying in the shade of the trees, and others were bringing corn-stalks from a large corn-field across the road to feed our horses, while still others had arms full of the roasting-ears, then in their prime. Hundreds of fires were soon started with the fence-rails, and the men were busy roasting the ears. Thomas and I were walking up and down the road which led to the church, discussing the chances of the movement, which he thought were extra-hazardous, and our path carried us by a fire at which a soldier was roasting his corn. The fire was built artistically; the man was stripping the ears of their husks, standing them in front of his fire, watching them carefully, and turning each ear little by little, so as to roast it nicely. He was down on his knees intent on his business, paying little heed to the stately and serious deliberations of his leaders. Thomas’s mind was running on the fact that we had cut loose from our base of supplies, and that seventy thousand men were then dependent for their food on the chance supplies of the country (already impoverished by the requisitions of the enemy), and on the contents of our wagons. Between Thomas and his men there existed a most kindly relation, and he frequently talked with them in the most familiar way. Pausing awhile, and watching the operations of this man roasting his corn, he said, “What are you doing?” The man looked up smilingly “Why, general, I am laying in a supply of provisions.” “That is right, my man, but don’t waste your provisions.” As we resumed our walk, the man remarked, in a sort of musing way, but loud enough for me to hear: “There he goes, there goes the old man, economizing as usual.” “Economizing” with corn, which cost only the labor of gathering and roasting!

As we walked, we could hear General Howard’s guns at intervals, away off to our right front, but an ominous silence continued toward our left, where I was expecting at each moment to hear the sound of battle. That night we reached Renfrew’s, and had reports from left to right (from General Schofield, about Morrow’s Mills, to General Howard, within a couple of miles of Jonesboro).

August 31

Battles: Georgia operations, Siege of Atlanta: The Battle of Jonesboro begins. General Sherman (15):

General Jefferson C. Davis, USA, was no relation to the Confederacy's president.  (Source)

General Jefferson C. Davis, USA, was no relation to the Confederacy’s president. (Source)

[A]ll moved straight for the railroad. Schofield reached it near Rough and Ready, and Thomas at two points between there and Jonesboro. Howard found an intrenched foe (Hardee’s corps) covering Jonesboro, and his men began at once to dig their accustomed rifle-pits. Orders were sent to Generals Thomas and Schofield to turn straight for Jonesboro, tearing up the railroad-track as they advanced. About 3.00 p.m. the enemy sallied from Jonesboro against the Fifteenth corps, but was easily repulsed, and driven back within his lines. All hands were kept busy tearing up the railroad, and it was not until toward evening of the 1st day of September that the Fourteenth Corps (Davis) closed down on the north front of Jonesboro, connecting on his right with Howard, and his left reaching the railroad, along which General Stanley was moving, followed by Schofield. General Davis formed his divisions in line about 4 p.m., swept forward over some old cotton-fields in full view, and went over the rebel parapet handsomely, capturing the whole of Govan’s brigade, with two field-batteries of ten guns. Being on the spot, I checked Davis’s movement, and ordered General Howard to send the two divisions of the Seventeenth Corps (Blair) round by his right rear, to get below Jonesboro, and to reach the railroad, so as to cut off retreat in that direction. I also dispatched orders after orders to hurry forward Stanley, so as to lap around Jonesboro on the east, hoping thus to capture the whole of Hardee’s corps. I sent first Captain Audenried (aide-de-camp), then Colonel Poe, of the Engineers, and lastly General Thomas himself (and that is the only time during the campaign I can recall seeing General Thomas urge his horse into a gallop). Night was approaching, and the country on the farther side of the railroad was densely wooded. General Stanley had come up on the left of Davis, and was deploying, though there could not have been on his front more than a skirmish-line. Had he moved straight on by the flank, or by a slight circuit to his left, he would have inclosed the whole ground occupied by Hardee’s corps, and that corps could not have escaped us; but night came on, and Hardee did escape.

CS General Hood had ordered the destruction of ordnance before the city surrendered.  (Library of Congress)

CS General Hood had ordered the destruction of ordnance before the city surrendered. (Library of Congress)

Meantime General Slocum had reached his corps (the Twentieth), stationed at the Chattahoochee bridge, had relieved General A. S. Williams in command, and orders had been sent back to him to feel forward occasionally toward Atlanta, to observe the effect when we had reached the railroad. That night I was so restless and impatient that I could not sleep, and about midnight there arose toward Atlanta sounds of shells exploding, and other sound like that of musketry. I walked to the house of a farmer close by my bivouac, called him out to listen to the reverberations which came from the direction of Atlanta (twenty miles to the north of us), and inquired of him if he had resided there long. He said he had, and that these sounds were just like those of a battle. An interval of quiet then ensued, when again, about 4 a.m., arose other similar explosions, but I still remained in doubt whether the enemy was engaged in blowing up his own magazines, or whether General Slocum had not felt forward, and become engaged in a real battle.

Other: Former general George McClellan is nominated as the Democratic presidential candidate.
 


Y’know something…I would have voted for him, and probably so would have most Americans, if not for the dramatic events of the coming week.

 
 
 


 
Sources:

(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) 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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