Monday, April 30, 2012

May 1, 1862 (Tuesday): The Insufferable Lincoln

Parrott Gun

EXECUTIVE MANSION, Washington, May 1, 1862.
    Major-General McCLELLAN:
Your call for Parrott guns from Washington alarms me, chiefly because it argues it argues indefinite procrastination. Is anything to be done?


HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, Camp Winfield Scott, May 1, 1862-9.30 p. M.
    His Excellency the PRESIDENT, Washington, D. C.:
I asked for the Parrot guns from Washington for the reason that some expected had been two weeks nearly on the way, and could not be heard from. They arrived last night. My arrangements had been made for them, and I thought time might be saved by getting others from Washington. My object was to hasten, not procrastinate. All is being done that human labor can accomplish.


Official Records, Series I., Vol. 51, Part 1, Page 589.
Lincoln and McClellan should not have been yoked together. It had been obvious since December Lincoln had little or no confidence in McClellan.  But he could not easily remove McClellan without alienating Democrats in Congress.  And McClellan should have resigned, on principle, when Lincoln went behind his back during his illness in late December and January and continued to question his judgment and interject himself into day to day military operations.  In this instance, the Parrot guns were a key part of McClellan's siege train (with maximum range of over 5,000 yards), and it was not unnatural he would want them to be in place before attacking.


Sunday, April 29, 2012

April 30, 1862 (Tuesday): Johnston, Ever the Pessimist

Lee Hall Manson, Newport News (

HEADQUARTERS, Lee's House, April 30, 1862.
General R. E. LEE:
    GENERAL: We are engaged in a species of warfare at which we can never win.
    It is plain that General McClellan will adhere to the system adopted by him last summer, and depend for success upon artillery and engineering. We can compete with him in neither.
We must therefore change our course, take the offensive, collect all the troops we have in the East and cross the Potomac with them, while Beauregard, with all we have in the West, invades Ohio.
    Our troops have always wished for the offensive, and so does the country. Please submit this suggestion to the President. We can have no success while McClellan is allowed, as he is by our defensive, to choose his mode of warfare.
    Most respectfully, your obedient servant,


Official Records, Series I, Vol. 11, Part 3, Page 477.  

Having advocated for a retreat to Richmond from Manassas, Johnston now advocates for an advance across the Potomac.  It would not have been possible for him to undertake such a movement without leaving some delaying force on the Peninsula, which would then have materially weakened any offensive force he commanded.  Beauregard, far from ready to advance in the West, was in charge of a weakened and disorganized force which could not have moved into Ohio without being destroyed on the way.  Johnston was not so much a fantacist as a fatalist.  It is a challenge to memory to find a single point in the war where Johnston was not able to summon to his mind insurmountable challenges.

April 29, 1862 (Monday): Johnston Plans A Retreat

Signal Station, Farenholdt House, Yorktown (

HEADQUARTERS, Lee's House, April 29, 1862.
General R. E. LEE:
    SIR: I suspect that McClellan is waiting for iron-clad war vessels for James River. They would enable him to reach Richmond three days before these troops, setting out at the same time. Should such a move be made, the fall of Richmond would be inevitable, unless we anticipate it. I cannot account otherwise than by this supposition for the long delay here. The fight for Yorktown, as I said in Richmond, must be one of artillery, in which we cannot win. The result is certain; the time only doubtful.
    Should the attack upon Yorktown be made earnestly, we cannot prevent its fall; nor can it hold out more than a few hours. We must abandon the Peninsula soon. As two or three days, more or less, can signify little, I think it best for the sake of the capital to do it now, to put the army in position to defend Richmond. I shall therefore move as soon as can be done conveniently, looking to the condition of the roads and the time necessary for the corresponding movement from Norfolk.
    The wretched condition of the roads may cause us heavy losses of materials on the march.
    The Virginia should hold Hampton Roads as long as may be necessary to prevent the enemy from cutting off the troops now in Norfolk, if she can do so.
    As this is an important movement, I think it necessary that the intention to make it should be reported to the Government.
    Should the enemy approach Richmond in this manner, I apprehend we should have there concentrated the largest force you can collect. 
    Most respectfully, your obedient servant,


Official Records, Series I., Vol. 11, Part 3, Page 473.

Johnston was aware he was outgunned by McClellan to a considerable margin.  Here he is proposing to abandon Yorktown for Richmond.  The next day, he would argue to leave Richmond and move north of the Potomac.   

Saturday, April 28, 2012

April 28, 1862 (Sunday): Jackson at Swift Run Gap

Swift Run Gap Towards Elkton (Grafton)-Google Earth

SWIFT RUN GAP, April 28, 1862. 

General R. E. LEE, Commanding C. S. Army:
    GENERAL: I should have answered your letter of 23rd instant before this had I possessed the requisite information. I have reason to believe that Banks has near 21,000 men within a day's march of me. he

has moved his main body from New Market to Harrisonburg, leaving probably a brigade at New Market and between the town and the Shenandoah to guard against a force getting in his rear. I am a strong advocate of concentrating our forces on the enemy in his exposed positions. I have made arrangements for ascertaining whether there is still a force in the vicinity of Warrenton. Day before yesterday the enemy drove in my picket, and being apprehensive that Banks would advance on me, I requested General Ewell to move forward in the direction of Swift Run Gap, in the vicinity of which he now is. It may be that in a few days I will be able to attack some exposed point.
    If you could send me 5,000 more troops by railroad to Charlottesville I would join that re-enforcement at Port Republic, and move directly from that point on Banks if the does not receive re-enforcements. On yesterday week there were near 7,000 men in the neighborhood of Winchester, under Blenker; as yet I have not heard of their having joined Banks. Whilst I propose to attack Banks in front if you will send me 5,000 more men, yet the more you can send the better, as it would not only increase the prospect of success in battle, but would also increase the prospect of reaping the fruit of victory. As Charlottesville is connected by railroad with Fredericksburg, could you not send me troops from Fredericksburg? Now, it appears to me, is the golden opportunity for striking a blow. Until I hear from you I will watch an opportunity for attacking some exposed point.
    If Banks would advance on me here, I have, with General Ewell, ample force for driving him back; but it does not appear to me that Banks designs pursuing me farther in their direction.
    Should it become necessary, General Ewell and myself can move on Warrenton either via Sperryville or by Orange Court-House.
    I am, general, your obedient servant,

    T. J. JACKSON,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 12, Part 3, Page 871.

Jackson had positioned himself at Swift Run Gap to prevent Banks from moving further up (South) the Valley.  Positioned as Jackson was, he would be able to fall in on Banks rear if he moved further.  Fremont had begun moving off to the West as part of a plan to invade East Tennessee.  With Union forces thus divided, the opportunity to strike a blow became more attractive to Jackson, who had been given wide latitude by Lee in Richmond to develop his own plans.   

Thursday, April 26, 2012

April 27, 1862 (Saturday): Ewell Is Confused

Princess Anne Street-Fredicksburg, Virginia (NPS)

Richmond, Va., April 27, 1862.

Major General R. S. EWELL, Somerset County:
    GENERAL: I have just received, by the hands of Lieutenants Alexander, your letter of the 26th instant. It was my object in my letter of the 25th to explain briefly the position of the enemy north of the Rappahannock and to suggest the practicability of a combination of your army with General Jackson's to strike at General Banks, or should that  be not advisable and your force not be required to hold Banks in check, that with the available part of it for other operations you should unite yourself with the force under Generals Anderson and Field, and drive back the enemy attempting the occupation of Fredericksburg. My views were more fully set forth in my communication to General Jackson, and my desire was that you should possess yourself of the necessary information for any movement that might be determined on.
    I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

   R. E. LEE,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 12, Part 3, page 869.

Lee had written to Ewell:  "It has occurred to me as probable that for this purpose he has stripped his line between the Rappahannock Bridge and Manassas; if not, it must be so weakened that I hope a blow from the combined forces of yourself and General Jackson can oppose General Banks' column, by uniting such part of your force as can be spared with General Field, a successful blow might be struck at the enemy in front of Fredericksburg.  At last accounts he had not crossed the Rappahannock nor repaired the bridges."

Ewell replied "Do you propose in that part of the above after "should he have evacutuated that region, and you are not required to oppose," &c., that Generals Jackson, Field, and myself should unite, or only General Field and myself?  As the preceding speaks of my combining with with General Jackson, the latter portion would seem to contemplate the same combination.  Do you propose in striking at the enemy in front  of Fredericksburg (combining my force with General Field for that purpose)  that he should be attacked from Fredericksburg or that the force should cross above?  I understand by the "Rappahannock Bridge," in the first part of the above extract, the one on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad."

The correspondence has somewhat comic overtones, but Ewell was no doubt correct in wanting to have a better understanding of his orders.  Precision is of the essence in military writing, and in this case it appears Lee's staff was not sufficiently clear in drafting the message to Ewell.  Jackson, having been more fully briefed, understand Lee's intentions to either a)strike Banks, or b)detach Ewell to combine with Field and Anderson to strike the Union force around Fredericksburg.  This confusion foreshadows the confusion over Lee's orders to Ewell at Gettysburg to take Cemetery Hill, "...if practicable."

April 26, 1862 (Friday): Stanton Sees The War's End

Stanton's Wartime Home-K Street, Washington, D.C.

Congratulatory letter from Honorable E. M. Stanton, Secretary of War.

WASHINGTON CITY, April 27, 1862
Major General GEORGE B. McCLELLAN, Yorktown:
    I am rejoiced to learn that your operations are progressing so rapidly and with so much spirit and success, and congratulate you and the officers and soldiers engaged upon the brilliant affair mentioned in your telegrams.
Repeating the assurance the everything in the power of this Department is at your service, I hope soon to congratulate you upon a splendid victory, that shall be the finishing stroke of the war. In every quarter the work seems to go bravely on.
Yours, truly,


Series I., Vol. 11, Part 1, Page 383.

It is easy to see Stanton's message to McClellan in light of what would happen during the remainder of the the Peninsula Campaign.  But, given the size of McClellan's force and the string of Union successes during the spring of 62' it was understandable the end of the war, if not in sight, was at least imaginable to the administration.  Stanton was a controversial figure, and his attempted firing by Andrew Johnson lead to Johnson's impeachment trail.  After Johnson was impeached, Stanton returned to the practice of law, but was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Grant and confirmed by Congress in 1869.  He died four days later, before taking office, and thus is not considered to have served as a justice.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

April 25, 1862 (Thursday): Treachery In Corinth

Huntsville Depot Where Laracombe Worked (

Richmond, Va., April 25, 1862.

General G. T. BEAUREGARD, 
Commanding, &c., Corinth, Miss.:
   GENERAL: My attention has been called to an article published in the New York Herald of the 21st instant, which contains a copy of your telegraphic dispatch of the 9th instant to General Cooper, and which it is stated was intercepted at Huntsville. As the telegram received here was in cipher, I have deemed the matter of sufficient importance to bring it to your notice. It may be necessary to change your cipher or adopt a new one altogether. The only explanation which suggests itself to my mind is the probability that you might have sent two dispatches, one by Hunstville and one by Mobile-the first being in plain English.
    I have just received the inclosed note from General Cooper, and inclose it, together with the article in question, for your perusal.
    I am, very respectfully, &c.,

    R. E. LEE,

APRIL 25, 1862.
General R. E. LEE, &c.:
    GENERAL: In the Examiner of to-day is published an article from the New York Herald, giving verbation the telegraphic dispatch of General Beauregard of the 9th instant to me, which was in cipher.
This information appears to have been communicated from Nashville under date of April 15. The only copy that was made from the original dispatch was sent to you, together with the telegraph, in cipher; the rough, from which the copy sent you was made, has never been out of my possession, and I am therefore led to the conclusion that the telegraph communicated from Nashville must have been obtained somewhere in that quarter.
    Under the circumstances would it not be well to advise General Beauregard of the fact, an suggest a change in his cipher or the adoption of an entirely new one?

    Very respectfully,
    S. COOPER,
    Adjutant and Inspector General.

    P. S.-I inclose the article referred to.


We take the following from the New York Herald of the 21st:
NASHVILLE, TENN., April 15, 1862.
The latest information from the South is of the utmost importance. Beauregard's army had been terribly demoralized, and, according to his own confession, he has now only 35,000 men. The following telegram has been intercepted by General Mitchel, and is a full confession of the hopelessness of the rebel cause in the West. I append it verbatum, leaving you to comment on its importance:

CORINTH, April 9, 1862.
General S. COOPER,
Richmond, Va.:
    All present probabilities are that whenever the enemy move on this position he will do so with an overwhelming force of not less than 85,000 men. We can now muster only about 35,000 effectives. Van Dorn may possibly join us in a few days with about 15,000 more. Can we not be re-enforced from Pemberton's army? If defeated here, we lose the Mississippi Valley and probably our cause; whereas we could even afford to lose for a while Charleston and Savannah for the purpose of defeating Buell's army, which would not only insure us the valley of the Mississippi but our independence.


Official Records, Series I., Vol. 10, Part 2, Page 440.

As it turned out, the regular operator had been ordered away by the assistant superintendent of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad.  In his place was sent Charles E. (J. Howard) Laracombe of Huntsville.  Laracombe, reported an investigator was, along with his wife, "...both Lincolnites and Yankees, as well as many other parasites there...(in Huntsville)."  For his troubles, Laracombe was appointed a railroad superintendent by Union General Mitchell.  The dispatch reprinted in the new York Tribune is word for word the dispatch sent to Cooper by Beauregard.

Monday, April 23, 2012

April 24, 1862 (Wednesday): The South's Largest City About to Fall

Fort Saint Phillip, 1989, NPS

Steamer Mississippi, April 24, 1862.
Flag-Officer FARRAGUT,
Commanding Western Gulf Squadron:
    SIR: Allow me to congratulate you and your command upon the bold, daring, brilliant, and successful passage of the forts by your fleet this morning. A more gallant exploit it has never fallen to the lot of man to witness.
    Captain Porter, with whom I have had a conference, agrees that it was best we should at once proceed to carry out the plan agreed upon by yourself and me, to with, that I should immediately land troops to co-operate with you at the quarantine station and so hem in the forts.
    When I left the mortar fleet, at about 8 o'clock this morning, the rebel flag was still flying upon the forts; the ram had floated down on fire and was consumed; another rebel steamer was burning. A signal had been made to cease firing by Captain Porter; the Portsmouth had returned to her anchorage unhurt; the Winona had been badly crippled, a shot though her boilers and several in her hull, making water fast; the Itasca had been badly used, but had lost no mean, and was in an effective condition-all other men unhurt save trifling casualties; the Harriet lane had but one killed and wounded, besides, in all, so far as I could learn.
    Captain Porter will forward you ammunition and supplies through the quarantine station should you desire. I will be able to aid you from the same point immediately. Please send directions as to your wishes by the bearer or otherwise.
    I send this by Captain Conant, of the Thirty-first Massachusetts Regiment, who goes to communicate with you. He is the gentleman of whom I spoke to you as having made a reconnaissance in the rear of Lieutenant Philips night before last. He knows the contents of this dispatch, for fear of accident, and may be most implicitly relied upon and trusted. I hope he may be able to report to me off Point Salle, when I will immediately communicate with Captain Porter. If in danger, Captain Conant has been ordered to destroy this and remember its contents, and will do the same with any dispatches you may give him.
    If you design proceeding up the river, will you leave, say, two gun boats at the quarantine station to protect our landing?
    Respectfully, yours,

    Major-General, Commanding.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 6, Part 1, Page 714.

New Orleans was the largest southern city and a jewel to be won.  Its taking was simple.  Once Farragut had passed Forts Jackson and Saint Phillip the city was untenable and Confederate general Mansfield Lovell withdrew quickly.  The Union had the city, but it remained in a state of agitation after its capture.  Butler would take harsh measures to subdue the population, earning him the nickname "The Beast".  Some have argued, and not without some merit, that the war was lost to the Confederacy once New Orleans fell.  Whether this is true or not, the running of Farragut's fleet by the forts was yet another great achievement for a U. S. Navy whose role in winning the war is vastly underrated.  Today Fort Saint Phillip is in bad condition.  Even before Hurricane Katrina it was overgrown and in disrepair.  After it has been subject to flooding and is now reportedly inhabited by snakes and stray cattle.  The only redeeming feature of its current condition is that it is twenty miles from the nearest road, so unlikely to be further damaged by visitors.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

April 23, 1862 (Tuesday): Tragedy at Berry's Ford

Berry's Ferry, Present US Highway 50 Between Paris and Winchester

WASHINGTON, April 23, 1862.
Honorable E. M. STANTON,
       Secretary of War:
Report of Frederick Winter, captain Company I, Seventy-fifth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, upon the late casualty on the Shenandoah River, in which a large number of the members of Companies I and K were drowned. 

On Friday, 11th instant, I was commanded to proceed with the pioneers of the Third Brigade to the Shenandoah River to erect a bridge over it, to have it finished by about 8 o'clock on the next morning. Arriving at the place I found, what I knew before, that this river was from 400 to 500 feet wide, and so deep and rapid that the building of a bridge was a matter of impossibility.
    After consulting the engineers of the staff of General Blenker, namely, Captain Schulz and Lieutenant Sprandel, we came to the conclusion to build rafts, as the only way to transport the troops over the river. On Sunday evening we were able to convey over our first raft a portion of the Fifty-eighth Regiment New York State Volunteers, and on Monday, another raft being finished, we passed over the balance of the Fifty-eighth, together with the Seventy-fourth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, and nearly a company of cavalry.
    The working of the rafts was done by three ropes, of which one was tied on a tree above the landing place and the others were managed on both shores by the men on the principle of a floating bridge. The best idea I can give is the diagram of our position.


    On Tuesday, at noon, three regiments of infantry, with ambulances and horses and nearly a company of mounted rifles, had crossed the river without any accident worthy of note. General Bohlen informed me that he was desirous of sending over a number of baggage wagons, and would endeavor to do so by an old ferry-boat which was brought up the river the day before and had undergone some small repairs at the hands of our men, the same being destroyed by the rebels before they left. I spoke to General Bohlen in regard to this boat, and informed him that I had no confidence in its strength, but as by the transporting of a baggage wagon no lives were endangered I consented to make the trial. At the same time, my physical powers being exhausted by four days' continuous hard working, I asked him to be relieved for a few hours from duty, which he granted, by ordering Brigade Quartermaster Weik in my place; but instead of testing the strength of the boat with a baggage wagon, as I suggested, Company D, of the Seventy-fifth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, was placed on the boat and carried in the same way as was done before with the rafts. Company D consisted of about 60 persons. No accident did happen, but the boat drew much water. Quartermaster Weik at this time declared that this mode of conveying the troops across was a perfect humbug; that he could do it much easier and quicker by fastening the rope marked ggg 20 yards farther below the point marked a in the diagram, in which case the rope marked fff would become entirely useless.
In spite of the earnest entreaties of all the officers present, namely, the engineers of the Eighth New York, and others who were at the time constructing another raft near by, he persisted in having his own way, covering his ignorance by his own presumed superior knowledge. Lieutenant Sprandel, of the staff of General Blenker, who was commanded to assist Captain Schulz and myself in transporting the troops, informed him that if he insisted in his mode of conveyance, which he was sure would lead to the death of many men, he should be compelled to leave, as he could not assume any of the responsibility thus incurred. Still he persisted. Lieutenant Sprandel left in disgust, not being satisfied to become a willing witness to the scene that he had predicted was bound to follow such a foolhardy undertaking.
    General Bohlen commanded Companies I and K to be conveyed across. After there had been more than 70 persons aboard and the boat began to draw water, Lieutenant Winter, my unfortunate brother, protested against having more men aboard, as the boat could not carry, the men already in it; but still General Bohlen ordered several more, about 7 or 8, to go aboard. No precaution was taken to draw the boat on the opposite shore, and when within 20 yards of its destination the boat remained permanently fixed, drawing more and more water, and was expected to go down at any moment.
    Quartermaster Weik now ordered the men to draw the boat on shore on the rope which was tied on the tree. Several experienced boatmen that I had employed told him that it was impossible to draw the boat on the shore upstream, as this would run the boat under water. Not willing to take advice or listen to the experience of others, and in spite of all protestations, going even so far as to order the men to keep their mouths shut, he called on Captain Wyck, of Company K, to command his men to draw upon that rope.        
   The order was obeyed; but no sooner was it done when the bow was drawn under water, the boat      careened, and swamped. The scene that followed beggars description. Not much help was to be done, and the greater part of the men swept away by the rapid current of the Shenandoah.
    The loss, as far as known, consists of: Company I, Lieutenant Winter and 22 privates; Company K, Captain Wyck and 24 privates; Captain Wilson, commissary of Third Brigade; one pioneer of Company A; one servant of Lieutenant Shindler, Company K. Total, 51 men.
    Under these circumstances I would respectfully ask that the Department appoint a court of inquiry to investigate the matter and to determine the cause of the mishap.
    Respectfully, your most obedient servant,

     F. WINTER,
     Captain Company I, Seventy-fifth Regiment Pennsylvania Vols.

    Series I., Vol. 12, Part 3, Page 103.

The 75th had taken shelter from a heavy snow storm in early April near Salem, Virginia.  From there they moved by way of Upperville to Paris, then to Berry's Ferry (North of Front Royal, east of Winchester, and south of Berryville).  Because of the recent snow storm the river was swollen across the plain from its normal width of around 350 feet to near 500.  Using an old boat from the ferry, crossings were made despite the risk, until at last the current of of the river caused the boat to stop in the river and, probably in part due to efforts to draw the boat onto shore by rope, capsize.  The men were in full marching gear with their heavy packs on their back.  Consequently there were few survivors.  There is no record General Bohlen was censured, as he continued on with the army through the Valley Campaign.


April 22, 1862 (Monday): Shooting at Old Capitol Prison

The Old Brick Capitol

WAR DEPARTMENT, Washington, April 23, 1862.
Honorable CHARLES B. CALVERT, House of Representatives.

    SIR: I am directed by the Secretary of War to inform you in reply to your letter of the 21st instant that he has already ordered a full investigation of the circumstances attending the shooting of Jesse Wharton at the Old Capitol Prison, and that when the report of the officers intrusted with this duty shall have been submitted to this Department you will be promptly advised of the result of their inquiries.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Assistant Secretary of War.

Official Records, Series II., Vol. 3, Part 1, Page 471.

Wharton was an attorney for Maryland who was being held as a political prisoner in the old Capitol Prison.  Prisoners there were not allowed to put their hands out the windows.  This instruction Wharton, a childhood friend of John Wilkes Booth, did comply with.  But he rested his arms against the bars from the inside and got into an argument with a guard who ordered him away from the window.  It was one of those trivial arguments which assumes a grave dimension when one of the two persons is armed.  The guard shot Wharton, who died after lingering for some hours.  His family, including his wife whose father whose a Union colonel, was with him when he passed away.  The case became something of a sensation in the papers of the time.  The prison was in the old brick capitol building, which served as the U.S. Capitol from 1815-1825 after the burning of the capitol by the British during the War of 1812.

Friday, April 20, 2012

April 21, 1862 (Sunday): For the Reocrd

General David McMurtrie Gregg
No. 11. Letter from Colonel David McM. Gregg, Eighth Pennsylvania Cavalry.
CAMP NEAR HAMPTON, VA., April 21, 1862.

    DEAR COLBURN: A few days ago I saw published a letter from the General-in-Chief to General Kearny concerning the first occupation of Manassas by our troops. The first troops at Manassas were the Third and Eighth Pennsylvania Cavalry. These being there before other regiments was the simple performance of a designated duty, and as such not deserving a public recognition. The reply of the General-in-Chief, however, acknowledges that the Third Pennsylvania Cavalry was, in fact, the first regiment at Manassas, and the object of the correspondence being evidently to secure to one or the body of troops the credit of the first occupation, I write you thus to ascertain if it is known at the headquarters of the Army that the Eighth Pennsylvania Cavalry entered Manassas with the Third Regiment.
    An official recognition of the service is not asked for my regiment; but since I was personally instructed by the Commander-in-Chief to perform a certain duty, it would be gratifying to myself and regiment
to know that he was informed that the duty had been successfully performed.
I am, your friend,

Colonel Eighth Pennsylvania Cavalry.

Series I., Vol. 5, Part 1, Page 549.

Throughout the war and more so thereafter, officers and men were jealous of the role their regiment played in key events.  It was no small thing in 1862 when Union forces retook the old battleground at Manassas.  Here Colonel, later Major-General, David McMurtrie Gregg writes of the role of his regiment in retaking Manassas.  Gregg was a pre-war, regular army, Indian fighter who transferred to become colonel of the 8th Pennsylvania Cavalry.  Colburn was a staff officer to McClellan.  Gregg had a lengthy war record, being in the thick of most engagements of the Union cavalry in the East.  In addition, he was one of the rare individuals who seems to have emerged from the war without enemies, being both respected and liked by his peers.  After the war he was involved with a number of charitable organizations. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

April 20, 1862 (Friday): "Jackson Is Flying"

General James Shields

WOODSTOCK, VA., April 20, 1862.
Honorable E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War, Washington:
    Jackson is flying from this department. I assisted in conducting the movement against him the other day when he was driven from Mount Jackson and New Market, and saw that the moment he abandoned Rude's Hill, which is by far the strongest position in the Shenandoah Valley, he gave the whole valley up for lost. He has between 10,000 and 12,000 men with him. General Ewell is lying now with 10,000 men near Culpeper Court-House. These forces will unite at Gordonsville with the purpose of checking our advance. They constitute the only force between us and Richmond. I would respectfully suggest that my division, Blenker's division, and Abercrombie's and Geary's commands be united and consolidated as speedily as possible, to force their way toward Richmond. This movement, if followed up by General Sumner's command and the rest of the disposable troops on the Potomac, will relieve General McClellan, and contribute to the destruction of the rebel army and the capture of the rebel capital. I am ready to conduct this movement if you can get the Senate to pass at once upon my nomination, but confirmed or not by that body I am ready to lead or follow, whichever you may deem most advisable, and in acting thus will do everything in my power to vindicate your kindness and partiality for me and the generous confidence which the President and yourself have been pleased to place in me since I entered the service.
    There are no troops needed at present in the Shenandoah Valley but those which are necessary to garrison the different posts. Williams' division is ample for this. I venture to make these suggestions know-
ing with what indulgence they will be received, whether they may strike you as practicable or not. If they should impress you favorably there is not a moment to lose. A rapid movement of this kind on the flank of the rebel army may help materially to hasten the defeat of that army and the overthrow of the rebel Government.
    I have the honor to be, with sentiments of profound gratitude and respect, your obedient servant,

    Brigadier-General, Commanding Division.

Series I. Vol. 12, Part 3, Page 95.

Shields was an Irishman who came to this country after being shipwrecked in Scotland.  Active in politics before the war he once challenged Lincoln to a duel, but they settled their differences and became good friends.  Shields tended to overestimate Jackson's force and underestimate Jackson.  It would have been better for him if he had reversed that equation.  At the time this was written, Jackson and his troops were spending a rainy day in camp.  Ashby's cavalry was trying to burn three bridges to the east of New Market and succeeded in burning only one.  And Jackson was biding his time, waiting as always to strike a blow.  After the war he became a Senator from Missouri, which made him the only man to be a U. S. Senator from three states (Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri).

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

April 19, 1862 (Thursday): Intrigues in the Army of the Potomac

General Irwin McDowell

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, Camp Winfield Scott, April 18, 1862-11.30 p. M. His Excellency A. LINCOLN,
    If compatible with your impressions as to the security of the capital, and not interfering with operations of which I am ignorant, I would be glad to have McCall's division so as to be enabled to make a strong attack upon West Point to turn position of the enemy. After all that I have heard of things which have occurred since I left Washington and before, I would prefer that General McDowell should not again be assigned to duty with me.

Major-General, commanding.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 51, Part 1, Page 578.

McDowell, despite the loss at First Bull Run, was a favorite of the Administration.  Although McClellan had backed his promotion to Major General, he learned afterward McDowell and his wife had both intrigued against him in Washington.  Although McClellan no doubt desired to have his troops back, he no longer had any desire to associate himself with McDowell.  On the same day this was written, Secretary of War Stanton sent a letter to Wadsworth, commanding Washington, calling for an immediate drill to assemble all the troops assigned to defend Washington within three hours, simulating an attack.  The administration was still gravely concerned McClellan had not left adequate force at the capital.  Despite his attempts to regain favor with Lincoln during this period, perhaps rightfully believing McDowell was attempting to undercut him, any confidence Lincoln had in McClellan had long since passed. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

April 18, 1862 (Wednesday): Lee Moves His Chess Pieces

View from Swift Run Gap.

Richmond, Va., April 18, 1862. 

Brigadier General EDWARD JOHNSON,
Commanding Shenandoah Mountain:
    GENERAL: I have received information that General Jackson has fallen back to Big Spring, some 9 miles from New Market, and that the enemy is still pressing him in the direction of Staunton. If he is forced to continue to retire he will do so by way of Swift Run Gap, in order to form a junction with the forces of General Ewell and hold the Blue Ridge Mountains at that place. You are directed to keep yourself in communication with General Jackson and regulate your movements by those he may be forced to make. If he is compelled to retire to Swift Run Gap it will be necessary for you to move to Staunton; and should you find the enemy marching in too strong force for you to resist upon that place, you must retire toward Waynesborough and endeavor to hold the passage through the Blue Ridge Mountains. In view of these contingencies it is advisable that you send all your heavy baggage and surplus stores at once to Charlottesville, keeping your force light and movable, so that if the necessity to retire should arise you could do so without incumbrance and preserve a firm face to the enemy. You might keep a small active force at your present position as long as you deem prudent, in order to make the movement of your army from the enemy in your front.
   I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

   R. E. LEE,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 12, Part 3, Page 854.

Jackson is justifiably given credit for the rapid movements and combinations which checked Union movements in the Valley in the spring of 1862.  Often ignored, though, is the role played by Robert E. Lee as military adviser to Jefferson Davis.  He coordinated with Jackson, Johnson, and Ewell as well as Joe Johnston and kept the three small commands working in sync.  A portion of the credit for the Valley Campaign is Lee's.


Monday, April 16, 2012

April 17, 1862 (Tuesday): Prisoner Exchange Rejected

General John E. Wool

Fort Monroe, Va., April 17, 1862.

Honorable E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War:
    SIR: I have received proposals from Major-General Huger at Norfolk to appoint commissaries to take charge of prisoners of war. He uses the following language, viz:
I have in obedience to the wishes * of the Government of the Confederate States to propose to you the appointment of a commissary of prisoners upon the part of teach of the belligerents, whose duty it shall be to receive and transmit remittances to prisoners of war, and to have such supervision of their comforts as is usually allowed among civilized nations.
    I did not hesitate to decline the proposition which I could hope will meet your approbation. To have entertained the proposition would have been tantamount to a recognition of their Government and independence as a nation.
    I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Official Records, Series II., Vol. 3, Part 1, Page 458.

On February 23 General Wool had met with Confederate General Howell Cobb, but no arrangements were made.  General Huger attempted to restart discussions as discussed with no success.  In July an agreement was reached with a fixed rate of exchange of officers for enlisted men (varying by rank).

Sunday, April 15, 2012

April 16, 1862 (Tuesday): Yorktown Besieged

Yorktown-April 1862-Map by Hal Jespersen,

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, April 16, 1862-1.30 p.m.
(Received April 17, 11.50 a.m.)

Secretary of War:
    Smith has gained a very important position, which will, I hope, enable us to control a passage of the Warwick. He completely silenced the fire of the enemy's batteries. I am re-enforcing the position, and will to-nigh erect batteries that will give us full control. The gallantry and skill shown by General Smith to-day will, I hope, secure his immediate confirmation by the Senate as brigadier-general of volunteers. Our loss is small, thanks to the arrangement of General Smith.
    We are making good progress to-day. Have silenced the fire of two of the enemy's works at important points and obliged them to suspend work at these points.


CAMP WINFIELD SCOTT, April 16, 1862-6.45 p.m.
(Received April 17, 11.50 a.m.)
Secretary of War:
    I have this moment returned from the new position of Smith's division. The batteries near the Burnt Chimneys are completely silenced. They still have infantry in the works. Some skirmishers of Third Vermont crossed the stream, wading to their arm-pits. They allowed their ammunition go get wet, and finally fell back upon the approach of a large force of infantry. We now have complete control of the batteries in question and the hills. Dam epaluments will be erected adjacent and our position held. Gorman to-night also silenced five of enemy's batteries, and our men have behaved splendidly. Our loss small, but our shells have inflicted great damage upon the enemy.


WAR DEPARTMENT, Washington, April 16, 1862.
Major-General McCLELLAN:
    Good for the first lick! Hurrah for Smith and the one-gune battery! Let us have Yorktown with Magruder and his gang before the first of May and the job will be over. I have seen General Ripley about the shells.

Secretary of War.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 11, Part 3, Page 103.

It would be difficult to imagine the war lasting until 1865 from the perspective of the Union leadership in the spring of 1862.  McClellan's expedition has been fairly launched and nothing but success seems possible.

April 15, 1862 (Monday): Conditions on the Peninsula

Gloucester Point

FORT MONROE, April 15, 1862.
Honorable E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War:
     I arrived this morning. Have been on board of the Monitor, and thence to the Minnesota, where I saw Commodore Goldsborough, whose plan for receiving the Merrimac is as perfect as circumstances will admit. He awaits an attack, and will not be drawn from his position into shallow water. Merrimac not seen to-day. Commodore Goldsborough has sent four gunboats to General McClellan's assistance, and has three more in reserve to aid the landing in the Severn. The necessity of occupying Gloucester seems admitted on all hands. Gloucester once taken, Commodore Goldsborough will pass above Yorktown and shell the enemy in flank. This is understood between the two commanders. The enemy has seen the necessity of defending Gloucester and is preparing for it. The country, made almost impassable by the late rains, will soon be in good condition for wagons, except through the known swamps. I hear much better accounts of the condition of the public property than was reported a few days ago on good authority. I am persuaded than the army is in good spirits, and is full of reliance on their commander, who is confident of success; but he needs heavy guns, which are but just now reaching him. I see no opening for any additional order from the War Department.

Major-General Volunteers.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 11, Part 3, Page 100.

Hitchcock was the grandson of Revolutionary War hero Ethan Allen (E. A.) and had been an instructor in tactics and Commandant of Cadets at West Point.  He served in staff positions during the war.  Here he reports back to the Secretary of War on the state of affairs on the Peninsula.  A factor Hitchcock points out is the condition of roads in the area, which was often poor.  While McClellan was unable to move more rapidly than his siege guns could be brought up to drive away the enemy from Yorktown and Gloucester Point, had he moved more rapidly he would not have in any case been able to have moved forward until the roads dried sufficiently. 

April 14, 1862 (Sunday): McClellan and Lincoln at Peace

General William B. Franklin

    I have seen General Franklin, and beg to thank you for your kindness and consideration. I now understand the matter, which I did not before.
    Our field guns annoyed the enemy considerably to-day. Roads and bridges now progressing rapidly. Siege guns and ammunition coming up very satisfactorily. Shall have nearly all up to-morrow.
    The tranquility of Yorktown is nearly at an end.

Major-General, Commanding.

Official Records, Series I., Vol., 11, Part 3, Page 98.

McClellan had received an explanation from Franklin of Lincoln's reasons for holding back forces in defense of Washington.  With siege guns being brought into place and Yorktown likely to fall to him, perhaps McClellan found being magnanimous to be easier than it had previously.  Franklin was a Democrat, but had good political connections, his father having been the Clerk of the House of Representatives for a time.  No doubt his political instincts served him well in dealing as a bridge between the administration and McClellan.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

April 13, 1862 (Saturday): Beauregard Rumors

General P. G. T. Beauregard

WAR DEPARTMENT, April 13, 1862.
Major General GEORGE B. McCLELLAN,
Headquarters near Yorktown:
    General Franklin has started for Fort Monroe, via Baltimore, this afternoon. Nothing new. Beauregard is reported to be dead, but this comes from General Banks as a report, and is not relied on.


Official Records, Series I., Vol. 11, Part 3, Page 94.

Reports from the field sometimes had accurate information.  And other times they merely relayed wild rumors.   Possibly the rumor grew from the death of Albert Sydney Johnston at Shiloh.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

April 12, 1862 (Friday): Jackson Brings Up Ewell

General Richard S. Ewell

Near New Market, April 12, 1862-9.15 p. m.

Major General R. S. EWELL,
Commanding Potomac District:
    MY DEAR GENERAL: The enemy have advanced in force to Mount Jackson. I am falling back via Harrisonburg to Swift Run Gap. Please move early to-morrow morning to Swift Run Gap. I will send Lieutenant Meade to guide you; he will proceed via the Gap in the direction of the Rapidan. I hope that you will not make a forced marched, as it desirable that your command should come up in the best possible condition.
    Very truly, yours,


Received between 7.30 and 8.30 on the 18th April, 1862.
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 12, Part 3, Page 846.

Here Stonewall Jackson, despite his penchant for secrecy is clear in his intentions and instructions to Ewell.   At this stage of the Valley Campaign his force is hardly in sufficient strength to challenge the Federals, but by combining with Ewell at the right moment he has a chance to strike a blow.  His position in the Gap is a good defensive one, but because of supply issues the gaps cannot long be maintained.  Poor Meade, who brought the rather late arriving letter, arrived with the message just before another staff officer (Henry Kyd Douglas) brought the same message.  According to Campbell Brown (A staff officer under Ewell whose mother Ewell would marry), Meade arrived looking a bit used up.  Perhaps because of his slowness, Meade soon found himself (in July) as an aide-de-camp to Taliaferro.  He served on various staffs throughout the war, according to Robert E. L. Krick's "Staff Officers In Gray."

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

April 11, 1862 (Thursday): McClellan In A Good Mood

General William B. Franklin
Near Yorktown, April 11, 1862-10 p.m. 

Honorable E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War:
    Weather good; work on roads progressing. Nothing is left undone to enable us to attack with least possible delay. Reconnaissances pushed boldly and satisfactorily to-day. Several skirmishes to-day, in which we have had a few wounded-none killed. In every case drove back the enemy with considerable loss in his side. Our men show the utmost spirit in all these affairs, and have been uniformly successful. I am delighted with Franklin's orders, and beg to thank you. I shall make the movement I have alluded to as soon as possible after he arrives. There shall not be a moment's unnecessary delay in any of the operations here.


Official Records, Series I., Vol. 11, Part 3, Page 91.

Unsuccessful in getting McDowell's Corp sent to him, McClellan did succeed in gaining Franklin's Division.  Although persistent in trying to obtain as many troops as possible for his campaign, McClellan is seen here in relatively good spirits with regard to the force available to him.  After the fact he would complain mightily of the harm done by the detachment of McDowell, but here he seems relatively confident. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

April 10, 1862 (Wednesday): Fort Pulaski Attacked

Interior of Fort Pulaski, showing bomb proofs.

Tybee Island, Ga., April 10, 1862. 

To the COMMANDING OFFICER, Fort Pulaski:
   SIR: I hereby demand of you the immediate surrender and restoration of Fort Pulaski to the authority and possession of the United States. This demand is made with a view to avoiding, if possible, the effusion of blood which must result from the bombardment and attack now in readiness to be opened.
   The number, caliber and completeness of the batteries surrounding you leave no doubt as to what must result in case of your refusal; and as the defense, however obstinate, must eventually succumb to the assailing force at my disposal, it is hoped you may see fit to avert the useless waste of life.
    This communication will be carried to you under a flag of truce by Lieutenant J. H. Wilson, U. S. Army, who is authorized to wait any period not exceeding thirty minutes from delivery for your answer.
    I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,

    Major-General, Commanding.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 6, Part 1, Page 135.

In February the Union completed the investment of Fort Pulaski, placing it within range of 32 artillery pieces.  Before commencing the bombardment of the Fort, Hunter demanded its surrender, which was declined.  At the end of the first day the fort did not appear to observers to be in imminent danger, but actually the damage was much worse than it appeared from the outside.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

April 9, 1862 (Tuesday): Beauregard Prepares For Battle

General Earl Van Dorn

CORINTH, April 9, 1862.
General VAN DORN,
Des Arc:
    Hurry your forces as rapidly as possible. I believe we can whip them again. The enemy, having been largely re-enforced on the night of the 6th with fresh troops from Buell's army, attacked us early next morning, but our forces defended their position heroically until about 1 o'clock p.m., when, finding the enemy was still being re-enforced, made all necessary preparation for returning to this place-a movement which was part of plan contemplated when the offensive was taken. It was never intended to hold a position so near the river. I only regret, however, it could not be held long enough to secure all of the immense amount of artillery stores and supplies captured on the 6th instant.


APRIL 9, 1862.
    Some of my troops are badly armed. Can you let me have some arms? If so, can you have them sent to me at Memphis? Hope further success.


CORINTH, April 9, 1862.
General VAN DORN:
    I regret have none; could not remove all I took, but we will take more. Come on.


CHATTANOOGA, April 9, 1862.
Major-General E. KIRBY SMITH:
    In reply to telegram sent to commanding general at Corinth of condition of things by your order this dispatch just received:

CORINTH, April 9, 1862.
    Can any of said forces be sent here immediately for the coming battle; if so, what portion?


    The Twenty-fourth Mississippi, Forty-first Georgia, detachment of Twenty-sixth Tennessee, and Kain's little company here, besides a small quantity of cavalry here, besides Fifth Georgia at Bridgeport. Everything quiet here. What shall I reply? Answer immediately. If they go, I want to go. The citizens say they will guard the bridge. Answer immediately.

Brigadier-General, Commanding.

Knoxville, April 9, 1862. 

General S. COOPER,
Richmond, Va.:
    General Beauregard telegraphs Brigadier-General Maxey that he wishes aid in the impending battle. I have ordered Brigadier-General Maxey to Corinth immediately with the Fifth Georgia, Forty-first Georgia, and Twenty-fourth Mississippi Regiments from Chattanooga; also the Twentieth and Twenty-third Alabama Regiments from Kingston.
T   his takes all my available force in Tennessee.

Major-General, Commanding.

Knoxville, April 9, 1862.
Kingston, Tenn.:
    GENERAL: General Beauregard telegraphs that a battle is immediately impending at Corinth, and asks that all available troops be sent to his aid. The major-general commanding directs that you proceed with the utmost dispatch with the Twentieth and Twenty-third Alabama Regiments to Loudon, Tenn., where transportation will await you at 9 o'clock Thursday evening. He also directs that these troops move as lightly as possible, unencumbered with the baggage usually carried by volunteer regiments, and with such rations as can be quickly prepared for their subsistence en route to Corinth, Miss.
    You will turn over the command at Kingston to Colonel John C. Vaughn, Third Regiment Tennessee Volunteers.
    Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Assistant Adjutant-General.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 10, Part 2, Page 406.

In contrast to the calm reports of Grant, who had his army surprised and nearly driven into the river, those of Beauregard have an obvious sense of urgency.  Beauregard expects, and perhaps even desires, another battle.  But it would not come to pass, because both armies were played out in ways neither commander fully understood in the immediate aftermath of Shiloh. 

April 8, 1862 (Monday): Between Mickey's, Corinth, and a Hard Place

General Braxton Bragg



   Our condition is horrible. Troops utterly disorganized and demoralized. Road almost impassable. No provisions and no forage; consequently everything is feeble. Straggling parties may get in to-night. Those in rear will suffer much. The rear guard, Breckinridge commanding, is left at Mickey's in charge of wounded, &c. The enemy, up to daylight, had not pursued. Have ordered Breckinridge to hold on till pressed by the enemy, but he will suffer for want of food. Can any fresh troops, with five days' rations, be sent to his relief?
    It is most lamentable to see the state of affairs, but I am powerless and almost exhausted.
Our artillery is being left all along the road by its officers; indeed I find but few officers with their men.
Relief of some kind is necessary, but how it is to reach us I can hardly suggest, as no human power of animal power could carry empty wagons over this road with such teams as we have.
    Yours, most truly,


Official Records, Series I., Vol. 10, Part 2, Page 399.

In general the armies of the West were much less regimented to military routine than those in the east, where standing militias had at least given civilians some familiarity with drill.  It could also be argued that westerners were more independent minded and less likely to adapt to military discipline.  But a simpler explanation for what Bragg describes in this letter is that the Confederate armies at Shiloh had been assembled on the fly over a short period before the battle.  Lacking cohesion, having advanced over difficult roads at long distances with no suitable defensive lines to fall back on, it is a wonder Beuregard's army did not simply melt away.  Fortunately for them, Grant's army possessed similar characteristics. 

April 7, 1862 (Sunday): Grant Retakes the Initiative

General Lew Wallace

PITTSBURG, April 7, 1862.

Yesterday the rebels attacked us here with an overwhelming force, driving our troops in from their advanced position to near the Landing. General Wallace was immediately ordered up from Crump's Landing, and in the evening one division of General Buell's army and General Buell in person arrived. During the night one other division arrived, and still another t-day. This morning, at the break of the day, I ordered an attack, which resulted in a fight which continued until late this afternoon, with severe loss on both sides, but a complete repulse of the enemy. I shall follow to-morrow far enough to see that no immediate renewal of an attack is contemplated.


Major General H. W. HALLECK, Saint Louis, Mo.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 10, Part 1, Page 108.

The Confederates having taken their best shot against Grant at Pittsburg Landing, Grant counterattacked with reinforcements from Buell and pushed back the attackers.  The dilemma faced by Beauregard after the first days fighting was that, having failed to break the Union lines, he now was outnumbered without good defensive positions.  The General Wallace mentioned here is General Lew Wallace, who gained fame after the war as the author of "Ben Hur".

Thursday, April 5, 2012

April 6, 1862 (Saturday): Grant Surprised, But Not Defeated

First Day at Shiloh, Map by Hal Jespersen,

Pittsburg, April 6, 1862.

  Near Pittsburg:
   The attack on my forces has been very spirited from early this morning.  The appearance of fresh troops in the field now would have a powerful effect, both by inspiring our men and disheartening the enemy.  If you will get upon the field, leaving all your baggage on the east bank of the river, it will be more to our advantage, and possibly save the day to us.  The rebel forces are estimated at over 100,000 men.  My headquarters will be in the log building on the top of the hill, where you will be furnished a staff officer to guide you to your place on the field.
                                                                    U. S. GRANT
                                                              Major-General, Commanding.

In his matter of fact way, Grant calls for reinforcements from Buell to save his army.  Surprised through gross negligence, his army backed against a river, Grant has not lost his equipoise.  He does not face 100,000 or more Cbonfederates, only 44,000 (which he outnumbers by 22,000 when Buell crosses the river).  The rule of war is that a 3-1 advantage is required for a decisive result at the point of attack.  This the Confederates do not have, nor do they have a disciplined army.  After overrunning Union positions in the morning units begin to intermingle and men fall out to eat in the abandoned camps of their enemies.  Albert Sydney Johnston is killed in mid-afternoon, and Beauregard's final attempts to break the Union line around Pittsburg landing are repulsed.  After a string of disasters in the West here is a chance, however fleeting, to even the score for Fort Donaldson and reset affairs.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

April 5, 1862 (Friday): McClellan Pleads With Lincoln

General George B. McClelan

NEAR YORKTOWN, April 5, 1862-7.30 p.m.
    The enemy are in large force along out front, and apparently intend making a determined resistance. A reconnaissance just made General Barnard shows that their line of works extend across the entire Peninsula from Yorktown to Warwick River. Many of them are very formidable. Deserters say they are being re-enforced daily from Richmond and from Norfolk. Under these circumstances I beg that you will reconsider the order detaching the First Corps from my command. In my deliberate judgment the success of our cause will be imperiled by so greatly reducing my force when it is actually under the fire of the enemy and active operations have commenced. Two or three of my divisions have been under fire of artillery most of the day. I am now of the opinion that I shall have to fight all the available force of now of the rebels not far from here. Do not force me to do so with diminished numbers. But whatever you decision may be, I will leave nothing undone to obtain success. If you cannot leave me the whole of the First Corps, I urgently ask that I may not lose Franklin and his division.


Official Records, Series I., Vol. 11, Part 3, Page 71.

McClellan was now on the Peninsula and finding the Confederate line more formidable than expected.  The withholding of the First Corp was neither a guarantee of defeat or without impact on his chances of success.  But perhaps the greatest impact was the effect on McClellan's mindset.  As seen from this letter, he was already losing confidence.  A probing attack on the 5th which met some resistance also added to his apprehensions.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

April 4, 1862 (Thursday): The Seige of Yorktown Nears

Confederate Water Batteries at Nelson Church (Library of Congress)

Lee's Farm, April 5, 1862.
General LEE,
    The enemy's pickets advanced in sight of Yorktown, but it is now raining,and I think there will be no attack to-day.
    I have made my arrangements to fight with my small force, but without the slightest hope of success.
If I am re-enforced in time with 10,000 men I think I can block the way to Richmond.

Major-General, Commanding.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 11, Part 3, Page 422.

Two divisions of Heintzelman's III Corp reached Fort Monroe on March 23, but transportation shortages delayed their start for two weeks.  McClellan wanted to envelope Yorktown by the York River, but found out on April 4 that President Lincoln was holding McDowell's Corp back as a kind of collateral to insure the safety of Washington.  The Navy didn't feel they could silence the water batteries of Yorktown and Cloucester  to permit an amphibious envelopment up to West Point.  And the maps he had been provided did not indicate the extent to which the Warwick River (where Magruder had erected fortifications) would obstruct his advance.  Magruder, though a bit of an eccentric, would prove himself expert at playing on the fears of McClellan by exaggerated shows of force along his line.

Monday, April 2, 2012

April 3, 1862 (Wednesday): Johnston Starts the March to Shiloh

General Albert Sydney Johnston

Soldiers of the Army of the Mississippi:
    I have put you in motion to offer battle to the invaders of your country. With the resolution and disciplined valor becoming men fighting, as you are, for all worth living or dying for, you can but march to a decisive victory over the agrarian mercenaries sent to subjugate and despoil you of your liberties, property, and honor. Remember the precious stake involved; remember the dependence of your mothers, your wives, your sisters, and your children on the result; remember the fair, broad, abounding land, the happy homes, and the ties that would be desolated by your defeat.
    The eyes and the hopes of eight millions of people rest upon you. You are expected to show yourselves worthy of your race and lineage; worthy of the women of the South, whose noble devotion in this war has never been exceeded in any time. With such incentives to brave deeds and with the trust that God is with us, your general will lead you confidently to be combat, assured of success.


Official Records, Series I., Vol. 10, Part 2, Page 389.

Johnston sent his army on the march to Shiloh with these sentiments.  During the war generals often made such statements on the eve of battle.  Although they may seem overblown, they personalized the impending battle by linking it to the defense of home and hearth.

April 2, 1862 (Tuesday): Gathering Medicinal Herbs
Richmond, Va., April 2, 1862.
    It is the policy of all nations at all times, especially such as at present exists in our Confederacy, to make every effort to develop its internal resources, and to diminish its tribute to foreigners by supplying its necessities from the productions of its own soil. This observation may be considered peculiarly applicable to the appropriation of our indigenous medicinal substances of the vegetable kingdom, and with the view of promoting this object the inclosed pamphlet,* embracing many of the more important medicinal plants, has been issued for distribution to the medicinal officers of the Army of the Confederacy now in the field. You are particularly instructed to call the attention of those of your corps within your district to the property of the necessity for collecting and preparing with care such of the within enumerated remedial agents, or others found valuable, as their respective enumerated remedial agents, or other found valuable, as their respective charges may require during the present summer and coming winter, with the directions to forward to the medical purveyors of their district for preparation and distribution such amounts of those articles as they may be able to have collected, as well as their own supply for which they may not have storage.
    Our forests and savannahs furnish our materia medica with a moderate number of narcotics and sedatives, and an abundant supply of tonics, astringents, aromatics, and demulcents, while the list of anodynes, emetics, and cathartics remains in a comparative degree incomplete. The attention of the profession should therefore be especially directed to a determination of the relative value and specific application of such of the last-mentioned classes as have been adopted in practice, as well as to the discovery of curative virtues in others of the same classes not yet introduced to public notice.
    Information thus elicited, when of sufficient importance, should be communicated through the medical director of the army corps or military department to this office. Instructions relative to the procuration of a proper supply of indigenous medicinal substances will be forwarded to medical purveyors.


*Not Found

Series 4., Vol. 1, Part 1, Page 1041.

The practical nature of military organization is often neglected.  It is interesting to consider that medical officers would travel with a pamphlet to use in identifying medicinal substances growing in the path of armies.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

April 1, 1862 (Tuesday): The Force Left To Protect Washington

Steamer Commodore, Drawing of Sinking In 1867 off New Jersey
Steamer Commodore, April 1, 1862. 

GENERAL: I have to request that you will lay the following communication before the honorable Secretary of War:
   The approximate numbers and positions of the troops left near and in rear of the Potomac are as follows:
General Dix has, after guarding the railroads under his charge, sufficient to give him 5,000 for the defense of Baltimore and 1,988 available for the Eastern Shore, Annapolis, & c. Fort Delaware is very well garrisoned by about 400 men.
    The garrisons of the forts around Washington amount to 10,600 men; other disposable troops now with General Wadsworth about 11,400 men.
    The troops employed in guarding the various railways in Maryland amount to some 3,359 men. These it is designed to relieve, being old regiments, by dismounted cavalry, and to send forward to Manassas.
General Abercrombie occupies Warrenton with a force which, including Colonel Geary at White Plains and the cavalry to be at his disposal, will amount to some 7,780 men, with 12 pieces of artillery.
    I have the honor to request that all the troops organized for service in Pennsylvania and New York and in any of the Eastern States may be ordered to Washington. I learn from Governor Curtin that there are some 3,500 men now ready in Pennsylvania. This force I should be glad to have sent to Manassas. Four thousand men from General Wadsworth I desire to be ordered to Manassas. These troops, with the railroad guards above alluded to, will make up a force under the command of General Abercrombie of something like 18,639 men.
    It is my design to push General Blenker's division from Warrenton upon Strasburg. He should remain at Strasburg long enough to allow matters to assume a definite form in that region before proceeding to his ultimate destination.
    The troops in the valley of the Shenandoah will thus, including Blenker's division, 10,028 strong, with 24 pieces of artillery; Banks' Fifth Corps, which embraces the command of General Shields, 19,687 strong, with 41 guns; some 3,652 disposable cavalry and the railroad guards, about 2,100 men, amount to about 35, 467 men.
    t is designed to relieve General Hooker by one regiment, say 850 men, being, with some 500 cavalry, 1,350 men on the Lower Potomac.

To recapitulate -
At Warrenton there is to be ............................. 7,780
At Manassas, say ........................................10,859
In the valley of the Shenandoah .........................35,467
On the Lower Potomac .................................... 1,350
In all ..................................................55,456
T   here would thus be left for the garrisons and the front of Washington, under General Wadsworth, some 18,000, inclusive of the batteries under instruction. The troops organizing or ready for service in New York, I learn, will probably number more than 4,000. These should be assembled at Washington, subject to disposition where their services may be most required.
    I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

    Major-General, Commanding.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 5, Part 1, Page 61.

McClellan here counts the force in the Shenandoah Valley as available for the defense of Washington.  Given the small size of Jackson's force it is probable some portion of the Union force in the valley could have realistically been rapidly recalled to the defense of Washington, as Jackson did not have the strength to interpose between them and the capital.  But there is no doubt he was leaving less force than he had promised, with only about 20,000 men actually in the defenses of Washington.  Within days, the Secretary of War would direct that either the corp of McDowell or of Sumner must be left in the vacinity to secure defenses there.  McClellan wrote this letter from the steamer Commodore, having met in person with President Lincoln earlier in the day as he departed for the Peninsula.