Saturday, November 26, 2011

December 2, 1861 (Sunday): Sherman Sent Home

Sedalia, Missouri, 1869

CONFIDENTIAL.] SAINT LOUIS, MO., [December 2,] 1861.
Major General GEORGE B. McCLELLAN,
Commander-in-Chief, Washington, D. C.:
GENERAL: As stated in a former communication, Brigadier General W. T. Sherman, on reporting here for duty, was ordered to inspect troops (three divisions) at Sedalia and vicinity, and if, in the absence of General Pope, he deemed there was danger of an immediate attack, he was authorized to assume the command. He did so, and commenced the movements of the troops in a manner which I did not approve, and countermanded. I also received information from officers there that General S[herman] was completely 'stampeded," and was 'stampeding" the army. I therefore immediately ordered him to this place, and yesterday gave him a leave of absence for twenty days to visit his family in Ohio. I am satisfied that General S[herman's] physical and mental system is so completely broken by labor and care as to render him for the present entirely unfit for duty. Perhaps a few weeks' rest may restore him. I am satisfied that in his present condition it would be dangerous to give him a command here. Can't you send me a brigadier-general of high rank capable of commanding a corps d'armee of three or four divisions? Say Heintzelman, F. J. Porter, Franklin, or McCall. Those of lower grades would be ranked by others here. Grant cannot be taken from Cairo, nor Curtis from this place at present. Sigel is sick, and Prentiss operating against insurgents in Northern Missouri. I dare not intrust the "mustangs" with high commands in the face of the enemy.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant, 


Series I., Vol. 52, Part 1, Page 198

After putting Sherman on duty inspecting troops after he exhibited signs of nervous exhaustion, Halleck then had to send him back to his family in Ohio after he took charge of three divisions at Sedalia when there was no threat at hand.  That Sherman would ultimately come back from his condition to be a central figure in the war is one of the more impressive individual stories of the Civil War.

December 1, 1861 (Saturday): McClellan's Plan Emerges

Port Tobacco-Click to Enlarge    

Memorandum for General McClellan.

[Made on or about December 1, 1861.]

  The idea of shifting the theater of operations to the James, York, or Rappahannock has often occurred.  The great difficulty I have found in the matter is that of moving a body as large as necessary rapidly, and of making the necessary preparations for such a movement, so that they should not in themselves give indications of the whereabouts of the intended operations in time to meet them.
   The first thing to be considered is the old danger attending all similar operations.  In cutting the enemy’s line of operations you expose yourself, and a bold and desperate enemy, seeing himself anticipated at Richmond, might attempt to retrieve the disaster by a desperate effort upon Washington.
   Leaving, then, as we should do, the great mass of the enemy in front of Washington, it would not be safe to leave it guarded by less than 100,000 men; that is, until we became certain that he had withdrawn from our front so far as to render his return upon it impracticable.  It seems to me, too, that the full garrisoning of the works up to the standard fixed upon should be completed without delay.  These works will but imperfectly serve their purpose if they are not defended by troops who have some familiarity with their positions and duties.  (Lieutenant McAlester asks urgently for the regiment of colonel Poe, Heintzelman’s division, to be added to the 600 men under Colonel Christian at Fort Lyon; in the first place to give an adequate and efficient garrison to that important work; in the second, to enable him to get fatigue parties large enough to finish it off.)
   The works between Potomac Eastern Branch [?] are finished and armed (with exception of the three small works above Chain Bridge, not quite done).  Of those over Eastern Branch, Forts Greble, Carroll, Stanton, and work near Benning’s Bridge are nearly or quite done, and garrisons may be assigned.  The gap between Benning’s Bridge work and Fort Stanton is being filled up by three or four works now under construction.
   I dwell on this matter somewhat, since, if the army moves, particularly if it makes a flank movement, leaving the enemy in front, the measures for defense of the city cannot be too carefully taken.
    Now as to the expedition: Considering the great difficulty of transporting at one time large numbers, the confusion which will attend the landing, and consequent difficulty of getting the columns into prompt marching order after landing, with our new troops, if the numbers are great, I should be disposed to make the first descent with a comparatively small but select corp, not over 20,000---at outside, 30,000 men.
   Let it be supposed the latter number is adopted.  How shall the movement be made so as to attract least attention in its preparations and to deceive the enemy as to their object?
   General Burnside’s force I suppose to be about 10,000 men.  His flotilla, including his seven sailing vessels and five floating batteries, will carry that number.  (In my former memorandum I estimated 15,350, but I now exclude the surf boats and launches and diminish the numbers, as I then estimated for a short voyage, not leaving the Potomac.) 
   I suppose there would be three batteries and, say, 1,000 cavalry accompanying this division.
   I suppose that, among the large steamers about Baltimore, the additional transportation for this artillery and cavalry could be found.  If so, we have a force of 10,000 or 11,000, with artillery and cavalry, provided for.
   For a second column, I think I would embark it from the Port Tobacco River.  The concentration of troops under Hooker would cover a movement that way, and it would threaten the Potomac batteries.
   The Navy will furnish four side-wheel steamers and the Stepping Stones, which will carry 3,500.
   The Quartermaster’s Department has seven steamers, which will carry 5,000, and, collecting the eight or nine Schuykill barges to be found here and schooners and tugboats, so doubtless transportation could be commanded for 10,000, with three batteries of artillery and 1,000 cavalry.  You will observe my estimates are much lower than before, for then I was considering an operation restricted to the Potomac and of not more than 50 or 60 miles. 
   Now for additional numbers:  I am inclined to think it is easier to carry troops to New York (twelve hours), embark them there, and make but one thing of it, than to bring the shipping to Annapolis or the Potomac.  However that may be, if it is determined that the additional number shall be 10,000 men or 20,000 men, or more, I would command the transportation at once in New York, the place where everything can be had in unstinted quantities and of the most suitable kind.  All sea steamers (not otherwise chartered), the large sound steamers, the large North River, sound, and coasting propellers, can be had there; and there all of the appliances to fit them for troops, horses, &c., can be quickest made.
   Perhaps the best way, therefore, would be to commence at once and send the troops, artillery and cavalry, to Fort Monroe, to hold themselves ready for shipment at a moment’s notice; to order the transportation necessary in New York.
   According to the foregoing propositions, there would be three columns ready for a simultaneous movement; 10,000 at Annapolis, 10,000 at Port Tobacco River, and 10,000 or 20,000 at Fort Monroe.  The times of starting could be arranged so that the times of arrival should be as desired.
   Probably it would be better to have more than one point of debarkation.  As soon as the first column was landed the transports could go immediately to Annapolis or Baltimore for more.
  The arrangements give no indications of the intended point of attack.  They threaten the Potomac, or Norfolk, or the Southern coast, as much as or more than the Rappahannock.
   I presume there would be no difficulty in sending our steamers down to Port Tobacco; whether there would be in towing the barges there, I do knot know.  This Potomac column does not satisfy me as well as the others, for the collection of troops at Port Tobacco, in connection with collecting at Fort Monroe and Annapolis, would rather indicate an operation in the Lower Chesapeake.
   Distance of points mentioned:  Urbana to Annapolis, 120 miles; Port Tobacco, 90 miles; Fort Monroe, 60 miles.
   Respectfully submitted.
                                                                                                J. G. BARNARD,
                                                                        Chief Engineer, Army of the Potomac.

Series I., Vol. 5, Part 1, Page 671

While President Lincoln favored an advance on the Occoquan, McClellan was developing the idea of moving his line of operations to the James, York, or Rappahannock.  Barnard had lead the reconnaissance leading to the Battle of Bull Run and here lays out options to move around the Confederate right.  Here Barnard envisions a rapid, surprise movement involving far fewer troops than ultimately would be used in the Peninsula campaign.  The requirement to leave 100,000 troops in Washington seems excessive, but is in line with political expectations. 

November 30, 1861 (Friday): Rumors of Battle

General P. G. T. Beauregard

ALEXANDRIA, November 30, 1861

   DEAR SIR: I write to inform you what is going on around our city, hoping that it may prove of some service to you and our cause. On the 28th about 100 wagons came to town, also five regiments, and proceeded up the Leesburg pike. At 4 o'clock two regiments came in and went up on the railroad to Springfield Station. On the 29th eight regiments crossed over the bridge and went up the Columbia pike. I was in Washington yesterday and called at the War and Navy Departments, and from all I could see and hear they intend to make a forward movement. Sumner states that they will move at five different points to Leesburg, Fairfax, Occoquan, where the largest force will be thrown, and attempt to throw a force from Maryland across the river at or near the batteries-supposing that while they attack the forces at Occoquan you will draw your forces from them. This you must take as a rumor and use your judgment. From what I can see and hear they will be forced to try and do something desperate, as the Yankees are getting quite dissatisfied with General McClellan's inactivity. Rumor states that we have a traitor in the War Department at Richmond who transmits news to Washington. One regiment was sent over from Maryland belonging to Sickles' brigade. It was stationed near the hospital opposite the navy-yard. They arrived last night.
Yours, with much respect. 

Y. F. W. 

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 51, Part 2, Page 403.

The informant's report of a contemplated Federal movement to the Occoquan was accurate, but only to the extent the administration in Washington advocated the movement.  McClellan was neither ready, nor willing, to make the move and already was contemplating a movement by water to the Peninsula and then up to Richmond.  The rumor of dissatisfaction with McClellan’s failure to move was also accurate.  The next day Lincoln would present a questionnaire to McClellan asking how long it would take to put the army in moition, naming the Occoquan as a target.

November 29, 1861 (Thursday): Halleck Finds Things Not To His Liking In Missouri

General Henry Halleck

SAINT LOUIS, November 29, 1861.
Major General GEORGE B. McCLELLAN:
After thoroughly sifting for a whole week all information received from scouts, spies, &c., I am satisfied that the enemy is operating in and against this State with a much larger force than was supposed when I left Washington, and also that a general insurrection is organizing in the counties near the Missouri River between Booneville and Saint Joseph. A desperate effort will be made to supply and winter their troops in this State, so as to spare their own resources for a summer campaign. What is wanted here most is arms. Many of our regiments have none of any kind. 


Official Records, I., Vol. 8, Part 1, Page 392

War in the 1860’s functioned on a calendar.  Winter months, certainly January and Februrary, were blocked out from hostilities for the most part because of cold weather, impassable roads, and the difficulty of supplying man and beast during the winter months.  Added to that, in 1861, was the lack of arms Halleck describes.  Unarmed regiments were of no use, and there were more than a few of these. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

November 28, 1861 (Wednesday): The Self-Inflating Pillow

General Gideon Johnson Pillow

Memphis, November 30, 1861.
E. W. MUNFORD, Esq.,
(On General Johnston's staff,)
Bowling Green, Ky.:
   DEAR SIR: Permit me to say to you that our people are very much exercised about General Pillow being in supreme command at Columbus. His daily sensation dispatches keep the country in alarm and commotion. If General Polk is not well enough to take command, I pray General Johnston will put some man of more prudence there. No one here has the slightest confidence in Pillow's judgment or ability, and if the important command of defending this river is to be left to him, we feel perfectly in the enemy's power. I know General Johnston has so much to do and think about, he may not feel as we do about this Colubmus command. My own opinion is the main attack will be made there, and that soon. Their iron gun-boats can pass any battery on shore, and we do feel uneasy here and are doing all in our power to aid our army. The battle of Belmont has not in the least changed public opinion about Pillow.
Your friend.
Official Records, Series I., Vol. 51, Part 2, Page 351.
Tate’s thinking regarding Pillow would prove accurate.  In the Mexican War Pillow had tried to take credit for in newspaper accounts for victories actually won by General Winfield Scott.  This lead to his being called a “Self-Inflating Pillow”.  In late December he would resign during a conflict with Polk and later suffer defeat at Fort Donelson

November 27, 1861 (Tuesday): "Even Into Washington".

C. S. S. Virginia-U. S. Navy Art Collection, Washington, D. C.

NORFOLK, November 27, 1861

President of the Confederate States:
DEAR SIR: Will you pardon my zeal in suggesting that if the Merimac should prove a success in Hampton Roads she be immediately sent up the Potomac. She might capture or destroy everything of the enemy afloat in that river, and might, if her draft would allow, destroy (or take) the Washington Navy-Yard and the valuable work-shops of the enemy in sight of the Federal President and Congress. She might also be able to get near enough to the Long Bridge to destroy it, if desirable, and might throw shells into Arlington Heights, &c. If our troops were to attempt to cross the river she could cover their landing almost anywhere, even into Washington.
Yours, respectfully and truly, 


P. S.-Let her be on the lookout for torpedoes of the enemy in Hampton Roads. 

Official Records, Series I. Vol. 52, Part 2, Page 391.

Correspondence from private citizens finds its way into the O.R.  In this instance a citizen suggests sending the ironclad to Washington and advises of the dangers of mines (torpedoes).  There was fear in the Union of a run up to Washington, but it was not a realistic one.  It took until October to gather the iron for the casemate and test firings revealed a need for additional armor, the last of which would be applied in late January.  The added weight meant the Virginia (Merrimac) would have a top speed of only 4 knots.  In addition, the ship would be incapable of making quick turns and have poor sea keeping qualities.  Although envisioned as a sea going gun platform, it was soon realized long voyages would be out of the question.

November 26, 1861 (Monday): "Kindness and Concilliation"

Major-General John Adams Dix

                                                            Baltimore, Md., November 12, 1861.
Brig. Gen. H. H. LOCKWOOD, Comdg. Expedition to Eastern Shore.
   GENERAL: I have just seen with great surprise and regret a memoranda of an order said to have been issued by Major Andrews, of the Second Delaware Volunteers, to Captain Moorehouse of the said regiment, under which order a very respectable member of the bar of Worcester county, Mr. E. K. Wilson, of Snow Hill, has been arrested.  The memoranda states in substance that—
   All persons who have lately uttered expressions of hostility to the Government or have spoken disrespectfully of the President of the United States are to be arrested and detained in camp.
   If it be so I wish to stamp the whole transaction with my most marked disapprobation and I believe there is no man in the United States who would be more annoyed by it than the President himself.  It is in direct violation of the instructions I have given and is calculated to defeat our efforts to show the people of Maryland of all classes that their rights of person and property are not only to be scrupulously respected but protected instead of being invaded by the military forces we have sent among them.  No arrest is to be made without your special order in each case and then only for overt acts and giving aid and comfort to the enemy.
   I am well aware that such an order has not had your approval and I should direct the officer who issued it to be arrested if I were not sure that it originated in mistaken zeal.  You will please have it rescinded and do all in your power to repair the wrong done under it.  And I request your especial and prompt attention to Mr. Wilson’s case, leaving it to your discretion and good judgment to do what is right.  If his alleged offense is no more than the alleged memoranda above stated specifies he should be instantly discharged.  Our mission is not to annoy or invade any personal rights but to correct misapprehension in regard to the intentions of the Government.  And while all open acts of hostility are to be punished we should labor to win back  those who have separated themselves from us through a misunderstanding in regard to our motives and objects by kindness and conciliation, and above all by rigid abstinence from all invasion of their constitutional and legal rights.
   I am, general, very respectfully, your,
                                                                                JOHN A. DIX,
                                                                      Major-General, Commanding.

Official Records, Series II., Vol. 1, Part 1, page 613.

This message reflects the views of many Democrats toward Southerners at the start of the war, tending toward respecting individual rights where possible in territories in rebellion.  Dix was 63, had fought in the War of 1812 at the age 14 and became a lawyer, Senator from New York, and Secretary of the Treasury.  He earned the gratitude of Lincoln while heading the Department of Maryland by ordering the arrest of the Maryland legislature to prevent a vote on secession. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

November 25, 1861 (Sunday): The Secret Agent Reports

Rose Greehow, Confederate Spy

                                                                                                November 25, 1861.
   This is from undoubted source-a secret agent of theirs.  The plan is to affect to go into winter quarters, but extensive and active preparations are going on, making pontoons, collecting provisions, making preparations for building batteries as they proceed.  The army is to be divided into five divisions:  Hooker below: McCall, McDowell and McClellan in the center, and Banks above.  When all is ready a simultaneous movement is to be made by divisions, and a desperate attack is to be made on the part of Banks and Hooker at each side to outflank and get behind the Confederate Army and fortifications, while the three central push on, fortifying as they go.  The move is to be a desperate one, and every effort made to secure success.  The expression used was that they would be in Richmond before two weeks.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 5, Part 1, Page 978

This enclosure was in a report from Thomas Jordan, an aide to Beauregard, to Secretary of War Benjamin.  Jordan was, in addition to his military duties, a recruiter of informants within Union lines.  He also devised some of the codes used to communicate with them.  In much the way the information provided by Pinkerton detectives misled and confused McClellan, some of the information obtained by Jordan was of little value.  The idea described here, that McClellan would somehow feign inaction before striking a swift and decisive blow, should have seemed improbable even without the benefit of hindsight. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

November 24, 1861 (Saturday): The Confederate Battle Flag

Beauregard's Battle Flag


Numbers 505. Near Centreville,
November 24, 1861

I. All heavy baggage will be sent forthwith and placed in store at Camp Pickens, where it will properly secured and guarded; to which end division commanders will issue the necessary orders.
II. In the event of an action with the enemy, the new battle flag recently issued to the regiments of this army corps will alone be carried on the field. Meantime regimental commanders will accustom their men to the flag, so that they may became thoroughly acquainted with it. 

By command of General Beauregard: 

Assistant Adjutant-General. 

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 5, Part 1, Page 969.

At Manassas Beauregard became keenly aware of the confusion between the flags of the United States and the Confederacy.  He desired regimental flags to be uniform, and with help from General Joseph Johnston and congressman William Porcher Miles, designed the Confederate battle flag featuring the now familiar Saint Andrews cross.  Although it was suggested Congress should adopt this as the national flag as well, this was never done.  Camp Pickens, mentioned here, occupied most of what is now the City of Manassas.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

November 23, 1861 (Friday): Finding Work For Sherman

General William T. Sherman

MISSOURI, Numbers 8. November 23, 1861

Brigadier General W. T. Sherman, having reported for duty in this department, will proceed at once to visit the different stations of the troops in this department, and will report, during his progress, to these headquarters the number and effective strength of the several regiments and companies, the State from which they came, the character of arms and ammunition, their equipment of clothing, wagons, tents, &c., the means of obtaining subsistence and forage, their drill and discipline, the character of defenses, if any, and their ability to serve the guns in position or harnessed up, and generally all things considered to give the commanding general an idea of their real condition for service. He will also report upon the routes of rivers or railway upon which these troops depend for their supplies or transportation, and such other matters as may seem to him proper to communicated.
By order of Major-General Halleck: 

Assistant Adjutant-General. 

Official Records, Series. I, Vol. 8, Part 1, Page 374.

Sherman had been persistently negative about Union prospects since he arrived in Kentucky and unfavorably impressed political leaders in the state.  In addition, newspapers picked up accounts of his nervous manner and speculated regarding his mental health.  Sherman himself acknowledged being under an oppressive mood and was relieved of command on November 15.  Halleck believed the temporary duty, described here, would allow Sherman to recover.  This would turn out not to be the case, as he would have to be sent home to visit his family in December.

Monday, November 21, 2011

November 22, 1861 (Thursday): "...Some Desperate Characters"

Confederate Articles of War-Museum of American History

          Richmond, November 22, 1861.
JOHN LETCHER, Governor of Virginia:
   SIR: Will not your convention do something to protect your own people against atrocious crimes committed on their persons and property?  There are in the Army, unfortunately, some desperate characters—men gathered from the outskirts and purlieus of large cities—who take advantage of the absence of the civil authorities to commit crimes, even murder, rape, and highway robbery, on the peaceful citizens in the neighborhood of the armies.  For these offenses the punishment should be inflicted by the civil authorities.  Our people must not lose their respect for law in the midst of the clash of arms.  Some legislation is absolutely indispensable to provide for changing the venue, for carrying the accused into some county where the process of law is not prevented by the presence of armies.  There are murderers now in insecure custody at Manassas who cannot be tried for want of a court there, and who will escape the just penalty of their crimes.  The crimes committed by these men are not military offenses.  If a soldier, rambling through the country, murders a farmer or violates the honor of his wife or daughter, courts martial cannot properly take cognizance of the offense, nor is it allowable to establish military commissions or tribunals in our own country.  I appeal to Virginia legislators for protection to Virginians, and this appeal will, I know, be responded to by prompt and efficient action.
    I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
                                                                      J. P. BENJAMIN,
                                                                                Secretary of War

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 51, Part 2, Page 386.

At the start of the war the Articles of War (1806), observed by both sides, did not specifically deal with issues such as rape or murder of civilians.  However, Article 34 did compel military authorities to turn over soldiers, where serious offenses were alleged, to civilian authority.  It is unclear why Benjamin would believe the legislation he advocates here was necessary.  As a side note, President Lincoln would issue General Orders 100 in 1863 (the Lieber Code) which dealt specifically with crimes against civilians.  The Articles of War would not be revised again until 1912.  It is no surprise Benjamin, a Yale graduate, took interest in military-legal issues.  He began the war as the Confederacy's attorney general.  He also had quite a command of the language, as his use of purlieus (the area near or surrounding a place) attests.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

November 21, 1861 (Wednesday): Aerial Assessment of Confederate Troops Strength

National Hotel, Washington

                                                                                NATIONAL HOTEL,
                                                            Washington, November 21, 1861.
Lieut. Col. A. V. COLBURN:
   DEAR SIR: Yesterday I inflated one of the balloons, the Intrepid, and moved it to Minor’s Hill.  It being too late for taking observations last night, I ascended at daybreak this morning, and remained up until 8 o’clock, which was sufficient to ascertain that the enemy is not in force this side of Centerville.  Judging from our own camp-fires and smokes, I should say there may be three or four regiments at Fairfax Court-House; twice that number at Centerville and more at Manassas, but nothing like the amount of smokes from our own camps in General Porter’s division.
  Their line of picket smokes near the line of the Leesburg turnpike was quite regular, and occasionally pickets could be seen in the roads and clearings, but owing to the haziness of the atmosphere no moving bodies of troops or their tents were visible.  The balloon for the South is all ready.  Can you tell me from what place I shall ship the materials for making gas?  If from here I must have them sent from Philadelphia to this city, that they may be ready.
   I intend going down the river to-morrow to reinflate the balloon at Budd’s Ferry.  By that time the apparatus for Poolesville will be ready, and I will station one there also.
   Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
                                                                                T. S. C. LOWE.

Official Records, Series III, Vol. 3, Page 266.

Lowe’s ascents provided remarkably detailed intelligence and foreshadowed the use of aerial reconnaissance in World War One.  But the Union failed to exploit this advantage, mainly because authorities became concerned over the relatively minor costs of the operation.  The ascents were generally to about 1,000 feet.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

November 20, 1861 (Tuesday): Jackson's Romney Plan

November 20, 1861.
Hon. J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War:
   SIR: I hope you will pardon me for requesting that at once all the troops under General Loring be ordered to this point.
   Deeply impressed with the importance of absolute secrecy respecting military operations, I have made it a point to say but little respecting my proposed movements in the event of sufficient re-enforcements arriving; but since conversing with Lieut. Col. J. T. L. Preston, upon his return from General Loring, and accertaining the disposition of the general’s forces, I venture to respectfully urge that after concentrating all his troops here an attempt should be made to capture the Federal forces at Romney.
  The attack on Romney would probably force McClellan to believe that the Army of the Potomac had been so weakened as to justify him in making an advance on Centerville; but should this not induce him to advance, I do not believe anything will during the present winter.  Should the Army of the Potomac be attacked, I would be at once prepared to re-enforce it with my present volunteer force, increased by General Loring’s.  After repulsing the enemy at Manassas, let the troops that marched on Romney return to the valley, and move rapidly westward to the waters of the Monongahela and Little Kanawha.  Should General Kelley be defeated, and especially should he be captured, I believe that by a judicious disposition of the militia, a few cavalry, and a small number of field pieces, no additional forces would be required for some time in this district.
   I deem it of very great importance that Northwestern Virginia be occupied by Confederate troops this winter.  At present it is to be presumed that the enemy are not expecting an attack there, and the resources of that region necessary for the subsistence of our troops are in greater abundance than in almost any other season of the year.  Postpone the occupation of that section until spring, and we may expect to find the enemy prepared for us and the resources to which I have referred greatly exhausted.  I know that what I have proposed will be an arduous undertaking and cannot be accomplished without the sacrifice of much personal comfort; but I feel that the troops will be prepared to make this sacrifice when animated by the prospects of important results to our cause and distinction to themselves.
   I may be urged against this plan that the enemy will advance on Staunton or Huntersville.  I am well satisfied that such a step would but make their destruction more certain.  Again, it may be said that General Floyd will be cut off. To avoid this, if necessary the general has only to fall back towards the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad.  When Northwestern Virginia is occupied in force, the Kanawha Valley, unless it be the lower part of it, must be evacuated by the Federal forces, or otherwise their safety will be endangered by forcing a column across from the Little Kanawha between them and the Ohio River.
   Admitting that the season is too far advanced, or that from other causes all cannot be accomplished that has been named, yet through the blessing of God, who has thus far so wonderfully prospered our cause, much more may be expected from General Loring’s troops, according to this programme, than can be expected from them where they are.  If you decide to order them here, I trust that for the purpose of saving time all the infantry, cavalry, and artillery will be directed to move immediately upon the reception on the order*.  The enemy, about 5,000 strong, have been for some time slightly fortifying at Romney and have completed their telegraph from that place to Green Spring Depot.  Their forces at and near Williamsport are estimated as high as 5,000 but as yet I have no reliable information of their strength beyond the Potomac.
    Your most obedient servant,
                                                                      T. J. JACKSON,
                                                               Maor-General, P. A. C. S.


Centreville, November 21, 1861.
                         Respectfully forwarded, I submit that the troops under General Loring might render valuable services by taking the field with General Jackson, instead of going into winter quarters, as now proposed.
                                                                                               J. E. JOHNSTON,

*See Johnston to Cooper, November 22, p. 966, and Benajmin to Lorings, November 24, p. 968.

Official Records, Series. I., Vol. 5, Page 966.

At the time this was written, Loring’s force was at Huntersville, about 100 miles SW from Jackson and to the North and East of Lewisburg.  It would take until late December for his troops to finally join Jackson.  Johnston’s endorsement on the 21st was followed the next day by a memo to General Cooper in Richmond saying he believed Jackson was proposing more than can well be accomplished making it “..inexpedient, in my opinion, to transfer to the Valley District so large a force as that asked for by Major-General Jackson.”  Loring, as well, opposed the move.  General Lee (who before leaving for South Carolina had moved Loring’s force to protect the passes west of Staunton) was also thought not to favor the plan.  Despite this, the War Department ultimately approved of Jackson’s plan, which lead in January to the capture of Romney and ultimately to the famous Loring-Jackson feud. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

November 19, 1861 (Monday): "Shooting the Deluded Men"

General Fitz Lee

Report of Lieut. Col. Fitzhugh Lee, First Virginia Cavalry.

CAMP COOPER, Va., November 19, 1861.
   SIR:  I have the honor to report the result of a scout of a detachment of the First Virginia Cavalry, under my command, which left this camp yesterday, in pursuance to orders from cavalry brigade headquarters, for the purpose of obtaining certain valuable information in the vicinity of Falls Church.
   Learning that a picket of the enemy obstructed my route, I resolved, if possible, to capture them, and prevent my presence being discovered and allowing them to advance in numbers upon me while gaining the desired knowledge.  Accordingly, getting as near as possible, I charged them, they retiring rapidly toward the woods and pines, while we quickly lessened the distance, driving one picket upon another , and both upon the reserve, which retreated toward a thicket upon the side of the road and poured in quite a destructive fire upon us from their sheltered position.  Followed by a portion of my command, I got in between them and some tents visible and completely surrounded them, another detachment having been ordered up on the other side.
   Thus hemmed in, the enemy still fought with bravery and desperation, and made it necessary to dismount some of my men and dislodge them.
   Our loss was 1 private killed and 2 slightly wounded.  I also report with deep regret that Mr. John C. Chichester, my brave, gallant guide, was dangerously wounded, and has since died.  I lost one horse, ridden by Sergt. Jasper N. Jones, of Company L, having run off after the sergeant had dismounted to fight.  The horse of Lieut. James S. Larrick, Company A, was severely wounded, and my own horse killed under me during the action.  The loss of the enemy, as far as I could ascertain, was 7 killed and 1 left mortally wounded, being shot through the body.  Ten were made prisoners, including the lieutenant commanding and the first sergeant, 3 being wounded; 2 severely and 1 slightly (shot in the arm).  I brought away my dead (1) and Mr. Chichester, together with two of the enemy, badly wounded, in vehicles taken for the occasion, the enemy appearing in considerable force from the direction of Falls Church, but not venturing an attack.  The loss of Mr. Chichester must be deeply deplored, and in Private Thomas Tucker, of Company A, the regiment has lost one of its bravest and most efficient members.  Asst. Surg. Talcot Eliason accompanied me, and was as conspicuous with his pistol making wounds as he was afterwards with other instruments healing them.
   Of the detachment engaged the highest compliment I can pay is to say they acted as the First Cavalry always have done, obeyed orders, coolly riding up and shooting the deluded men with their pistols, regard only being paid to carrying out instructions and not to their own lives.
   The enemy were a portion of the Fourteenth New York State Militia, of Brooklyn, and fought with much more bravery than the Federal troops usually exhibit.  It is the same regiment that so thickly dotted the fields of Manassas upon the 21st with red.
   When the action ceased it was so late in the day I deemed it inexpedient to carry out the object first in view, encumbered as I was with prisoners and wounded men, and returned slowly to camp.  The fight took place a little over a mile this side of Falls Church, upon the road leading to Fairfax Court House.
   Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
                                                                                    FITZ LEE,
                        Lieutenant-Colonel First Virginia Cavalry, Commanding,
Capt. L. S. BRIEN, Assistant Adjutant-General

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 5, Part 1, Page 442

Three days after another Confederate cavalry unit overran a foraging party, Fitz Lee’s command met with tougher resistance from the 14th New York.  Casualties were light on both sides, with all the Union casualties coming from a single company, reflecting how quickly they came to arms and how effectively they resisted.  It is interesting to note the detail of the report, and how the casualties (both man and beast) could be recounted in individual detail.  It would not be so for long. Fitz Lee, a nephew of R. E. Lee,  would write his name in large letters throughout the war.  After the war he would serve as Governor of Virginia, Counsul General to Havana, and Major General commanding the 7th Corp during the Spanish-American War (although not arriving in Cuba in time to see combat).

Thursday, November 17, 2011

November 18, 1861 (Sunday): "Porte Crayon"'s Intelligence From the Valley

David Hunter Strother, "Porte Crayon"

HANCOCK, MD., November 18, 1861.
Major General N. P. BANKS:
   SIR: I have received the following intelligence from Virginia, which I believe to be entirely reliable. It is the statement of an intelligent and loyal gentleman who has returned from Richmond through Winchester, where he was in pursuance of some private business..
    When Romney was taken the citizens of Winchester, apprehending the occupation of their town, sent to General Johnston for a force to protect them. He positively declined sending any. Influential citizens of Winchester then applied to the Secretary of War at Richmond, who granted their request to the extent of ordering Jackson with his brigade to their assistance.
     My information said the brigade near Winchester numbered, according to his estimate, 4,000 men. This is the highest estimate I have heard of this force, and it is probably overstated..
    On arriving at Winchester, General Jackson immediately called out the militia en masse; all were between the ages of sixteen an sixty. This call has been very feebly responded to, and the force thus collected is thought to be utterly worthless except for show. In face of an enemy it would be rather a disadvantage then an assistance. With his force Jackson is making a demonstration in the direction of Romney, probably as far as Hanging Rock, on the Cacapon River..
    General Jackson is reported to have said that the militia of the district ought to be able to defend it. This with Johnston's refusal to send the regular troops from Manassas seems to indicate that there would be no effort to hold, much less to retake, Winchester if assailed or occupied by any considerable force of United States troops.
    My father is confident that the advanced of 5,000 men, with cavalry and artillery, from Harper's Ferry would sweep the valley, occupy Winchester, and, if made with secrecy and celerity, might cut off Jackson's whole force..
    My informant also says the Union sentiment, hitherto suppressed in and about Winchester, is against becoming clamorous and restive..
    The officer in command here tells me that he has had a letter from General Kelley, at Romney, stating his force at 11,000 men..
    The conduct of the militia at Harper's Ferry and at Romney justify fully the opinion above expressed of their unreliable character.  At Romney, I am credibly informed that a force of 1,500 or 2,000 fled before Kelley's advance of 130 cavalry, firing only a few scattering shots and making no serious resistance, leaving everything-arms, baggage, and artillery-in the hands of the Union troops.
    It is supposed here at Kelley will take Winchester within ten days. This of course is mere supposition. He is advancing his outposts 15 or 20 miles on the line of the river and railroad, repairing the railway as he advances. He has also, according to reports, advanced on the Winchester road the same distance.
   I have heard nothing further of the force reported to have moved from Leesburg toward Winchester, but suppose it may occupy some strategic point, ready to act on either point (Leesburg or Winchester) that circumstances might indicate-Snickersville, possibly..
    I have no doubt myself that if a strong demonstration was made on Winchester Jackson would either retire or be taken, and the position remain in our hands without further dispute..
    This intelligence of the Confederate forces in the valley is the most recent, and I have full reliance on its general accuracy.
    I submit the above with respect..
                    Yours, &c.,
                                               DAVID H. STROTHER,
Assistant Topographical Engineer, U. S. Army. 

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 5, Part 1, Page 662

 Strother is famous to history as "Porte Crayon" (Pencil Carrier), the best known graphic artist in America prior to the war, and a Union officer who whose post war memoirs "Personal Recollections of the War" was highly regarded.  A native of Martinsburg, he would have better information than most as to events in the Valley.  The note about how Jackson came to Winchester is probably accurate, but Kelley would not take Winchester on any permanent basis.  The first prolonged occupation of Winchester by the Union would not be until March of 1862 when Banks held the city for a time.

November 17, 1861 (Saturday): Reverberations of the Trent Affair

John Slidell

BOSTON, November 17, 1861.

Honorable WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State, Washington.
    DEAR SIR: The excitement of the day - the seizure of Mason and Slidell - must plead my apology for addressing you. I have conversed with many of our leading merchants, heard the opinions of many of our ablest lawyers, and all agree that the action of Captain Wilkes in seizing these men is commendable and that the Administration ought to sustain him and hold them at all hazards. In New York the English interest will be loud in condemnation and ought not to be heeded.
   We think here the results will justify the act of Wilkes and there are preceedents in abundance in the records of the British courts to sustain it. Public sentiment in New England will be all right and entirely sustain this course. The question of opening a port of trade at Beaufort, S. C., if seriously entertained involves numerous questions and difficulties and here it is generally considered that it will be a mistake to attempt it.
With great respect, yours, truly,


Official Records, Series II, Vol. 2, Part 1, Page 1094

Shelton, a Boston merchant and speculator who had extensive overseas dealings, writes to Seward in the aftermath of the Trent Affair.  On November 8 the Union warship San Jacinto stopped the British mail steamer Trent and removed Confederate commissioners Mason and Slidell, on their way to England.  The men were held in Boston until January 1, 1862.  The boarding of a British vessel on the high seas had the effect of inspiring sympathy for the Southern cause in England.  Hostilities were only averted when Seward ordered the men released on the grounds the men were "personal contraband" and should have been brought back to port along with the Trent itself instead of being removed from the vessel.  Shelton's estimate of the situation was, at best, simplistic.