Thursday, February 28, 2013

March 1, 1863 (Tuesday):Longstreet to Lee

General James Longstreet

Petersburg, Va., March 1, 1863.
General R. E. LEE,
Fredericksburg, Va.:
    GENERAL: Your letter of the 28th is received. I shall keep you advised of matters here that you may, by comparing notes, satisfy yourself of the enemy's position, & c. I shall be guided by the information that I may receive from you of the enemy's movements more than by what I hear here, for the present at all events. The force now here I think quite sufficient to overcome that of the enemy at any time that I may be able to meet him, and shall act accordingly until I find that he is moving additional troops from your front. I do not think, however, that he will withdraw any force that he now holds in your front, but may possibly send back the force now at Newport News. Deserters, however, report that this force is intended to operate in North Carolina.
      I remain, sir, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,


    P. S. - I have parties on each bank of the river to watch the force at Newport News.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 18, Part 1, Page 903.

Longstreet was moved between Petersburg and eastern Virginia in order to defend the critical rail lines from Virginia to Petersburg.  There was no plan for active operations on Longstreet's part and little value to an attack on the small Union forces in the region. The biggest advantage to the Confederate effort was it reduced the pressure on agriculture in northern Virginia.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

February 28, 1863 (Monday): Jackson on Incompetent Officers

Stapleton Crutchfield (Jackson's Artillery Chief)

General R. E. LEE:
GENERAL: In your letter of yesterday you say:
    In reply to your letter of the 19th, I regret I do not concur altogether with the principle there laid down regulating claims to promotion. I think the interest of the service, as well as justice to individuals, requires the selection of the best men to fill vacant positions.
     I am well satisfied that there is nothing in my letter in opposition to this rule. On the contrary, my rule has been to recommend such as were, in my opinion, best qualified for filling vacancies. The application of this rule has prevented me from even recommending for the command of my old brigade one of its own officers, because I did not regard any of them as competent as another, of whose qualifications I had a higher opinion. This rule has led me to recommend Colonel Bradley T. Johnson for the command of Taliaferro's brigade.       You further say, referring to the above quotation:
     It is on this principle that I applied for General Heth for one of your brigades, and Colonel Alexander for another.
     I approved of Colonel Alexander's recommendation, as my indorsement on General Early's recommendation will show. From what you have said respecting General Heth, I have been desirous that he should report for duty.
     I desire the interest of the service, and no other interest, to determine who shall be selected to fill vacancies. Guided by this principle, I cannot go outside of my command for persons to fill vacancies in it, unless by so doing a more competent officer is secured. This same principle leads me to oppose having officers, who have never served with me, and of whose qualifications I have no knowledge, forced upon me by promoting them to fill vacancies in my command, and advancing them over meritorious officers well qualified for the positions, and of whose qualifications I have had ample opportunity of judging from their having served with me.
    In my opinion, the interest of the service would be injured if I should quietly consent to see officers with whose qualifications I am not acquainted promoted into my command to fill vacancies, regardless of the merit of my own officers who are well qualified for the positions. The same principle leads me, when selections have to be made outside of my command, to recommend those (if there be such) whose former service with me proved them well qualified for filling the vacancies. This induced me to recommend Captain Chew, who does not belong to this army corps, but whose well-earned reputation when with me has not been forgotten. As I hold my chief of artillery responsible for the efficiency of his artillery, I feel it my duty to let him select his own officers, so far as I may be able to favor such selections, ever having in view the selection of the best qualified.
     In a recent letter I stated to you that Colonel Crutchfield might receive such favorable information respecting the health of Captain Brockenbrough as to render it advisable to recommend his promotion instead of Chew's. Last evening I received a note from Colonel Crutchfield, favoring the promotion of Brockenbrough, and I respectfully recommend that he be promoted to a majority, and assigned to the same battalion with Major Jones, and hope that Captain Barnwell will not be promoted into the artillery of my corps. I know nothing of his qualifications.
     I have had much trouble resulting from incompetent officers having been assigned to duty with me regardless of my wishes. Those who assigned them have never taken the responsibility of incurring the odium which results from such incompetency.
     I am, general, your obedient servant,

    T. J. JACKSON,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 25, Part 2, Pages 645-646.

Had this letter been in regard to promotions into regimental or brigade infantry commands in the Second Corp it would be somewhat understandable.  But here Jackson is in high dungeon over promotions for a major and two captains into Jackson's artillery.  In a letter Jackson had Stapleton Crutchfield (his chief of artillery) draft to him, he makes objections to the three men not for any particular reason beyond that they had not served directly for him and he had insufficient knowledge of them.  It may well be Jackson was driven by a concern for morale within his artillery units, but it also may well have been his expectations for officers in his command were high and his discipline strict and he did not wish to acquire officers not familiar with his frame of mind.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

February 27, 1863 (Sunday): A Clash of Cavalry

Hartwood Church (Google Earth) Click to Enlarge

Culpeper Court-House, va., February 27, 1863.
    SIR: I have the honor to report that I crossed the Rappahannock River at Kelly's Ford on the 24th instant, on a reconnaissance, with 400 men of my command, consisting of detachments of the First, Second, and Third Regiments Virginia Cavalry, commanded, respectfully, by Colonels [J. H.] Drake, [T. T.] Munford, and Lieutenant-Colonel [William R.] Carter.
     On the 25th, I drove in the enemy's pickets near Hartwood Church, and attacked his reserve and main body. Routed them, and pursued them within 5 miles of Falmouth, to their infantry lines. Killed and wounded many of them. Captured 150 prisoners, including 5 commissioned officers, with all their horses, arms, and equipments. I them withdrew my command slowly, retiring by detachments. Encamped at Morrisville that night, and on the 26 th recrossed the river, and returned to camp with my prisoners. The successive charges were splendidly executed. My loss in killed, wounded, and missing was 14.
     I regret to report that Surgeon [W. B.] Davis and Lieutenant [E. W.] Horner, of the Second Regiment, were left in the enemy's lines, I fear mortally wounded. Lieutenant [J.] Alexander, also of the same regiment, was taken prisoner.
     Lieutenants [G. W.] Dorsey and [R.] Cecil, of Company k, First Virginia Cavalry, and Adjutant [Lomax] Tayloe, Captain [T. B.] Holland, Lieutenants [William] Stoptoe and [S. C.] Kilkpatrick, and Sergeant Fulks, Second Regiments Virginia Cavalry, are especially commended by their immediate commanders for good conduct in action.
      As coming under my own observation, I mention the gallant conduct of Colonels Munford and Drake, and Lieutenant-Colonel Carter; also Majors [W. A.] Morgan, of the First, and [C.] Breckinridge, of the Second Regiment.
     Major [Robert F.] Mason, Surgeon [A. C.] Randolph, Captain [Thomas F.] Bowie, Lieutenants [H. C.] Lee and [G. M.] Ryals, of my staff, were of much assistance. The enemy's force was far superior to mine. I took prisoners from seven different regiments.
     I have also to report that one of my men who taken by the enemy, and afterward retaken by our men, reports that he was shot by the enemy when about to be recaptured. i inclose on a separate paper information obtained.*
     Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

     FITZ. LEE,
     Brigadier-General, Commanding.

     Assistant Adjutant-General, Cavalry Division.

* Not found.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 25, Part 1, Page 25.

Cavalry skirmishes take on the feel of jousting matches between bands of knights.  But they served the useful purpose of feeling the enemies lines and determining his dispositions.  Through these clashes opposing generals divined the intent of their opposite number.  The deeper the incursion the more risk (and more information gathered) there was.


Monday, February 25, 2013

February 26, 1863 (Saturday): Lee Reports

General Robert E. Lee

President of the Confederate States:
    Mr. PRESIDENT: I was very glad to learn by your letter of the 18th that your health had been re-established, and that you were again able to take the open air. I hope now you will soon regain your strength, and be long preserved to the Republic.
    I have for some time been doubtful of the intentions of the enemy. His movements could be accounted for on several suppositions. The weather for the last eight or ten days has been so unfavorable for observation that it has prevented the scouts from acquiring information. I have only learned positively of three army corps of the enemy having descended the Potomac. Some troops have been set up the river, probably Sigel's corps, but reports are contradictory on that subject. Slocum's division is at Dumfries. Three thousand infantry are reported at Centreville; three regiments of cavalry at Chantilly, scouting as high as Upperville and Paris, and probably connecting with Milroy at Winchester. Franklin's former grand division, detached to Newport News, is probably intended for Burnside, and I see it announced in Northern papers that he is to repair immediately to his new command, without stating where. I think the scene of his operations will be south of James River.
     The army of General Hooker is now located along the line of railroad from Falmouth to Aquia. The infantry formerly thrown out on its flanks has been drawn in and retired toward the Potomac. A line of cavalry on either flank, in proximity to the railroad, extends from river to river. I believe for the present the purpose of crossing the Rappahannock is abandoned, and that the late storms or other causes have suspended the movements recently in progress. The disposition I have described may be intended to continue the remainder of the winter, or until their conscript law becomes operative.
     Around Falmouth there is apparently a large force. During the late storm their pickets on the Upper Rappahannock were withdrawn, and, not being able to hear from the outlying scouts, I directed a reconnoitering party of Wickham's cavalry to cross at the United States Mine Ford, to descend the left bank of the river, and ascertain its meaning. The river was at swimming stage. Within about 5 miles of the ford the enemy's cavalry was found in too great force to drive in. Captain [Robert] Randolph, of the Black Horse Company, having reported his inability to penetrate their lines farther north, General Fitz. Lee was ordered with his brigade from Culpeper, to break through their outposts and ascertain what was occurring. He yesterday penetrated their lines 5 miles in rear of Falmouth, found the enemy in strong force, fell upon their camps, and brought off about 150 prisoners, killing 36, and losing 6 of his own men. I have received no official report, but this is the account given by a lieutenant, who left him at Hartwood Church, on his return to the Rappahannock, which he probably recrossed last night.
     General W. H. F. Lee reports that he engaged two gunboats near Tappahannock, that had ascended the river, and drove them off with a Napoleon and Blakely gun, without loss to us.
     General Imboden reports that Captains [John H.] McNeill and [George W.] Stump, of his cavalry, with 23 men, attacked a supply train of the enemy on the evening of the 16th, on the Northwestern turnpike, 5 miles west of Romney, guarded by 150 infantry and cavalry. After a brisk skirmish, the guard was driven off, 72 taken prisoners, 106 horses with harness, some saddles, bridles, pistols, and sabers captured. Though hotly pursued to the South Branch of the Potomac, Captain McNeill, by marching all night, succeeded in bringing his prisoners, &c., into Hardy, 12 miles south of Moorefield, where, for want of subsistence, he had to parole the former. No loss on his side is reported. These successes show the vigilance of the cavalry and do credit to their officers. The weather and condition of the country forbid any military operations. The last fall of snow was fully a foot deep. The rain of last night and to-day will add to the discomfort of the troops and the hardships of our horses. I had hoped that the latter would have been in good condition for the spring campaign. The prospect in the beginning of the winter was good, and continued so until recently. Now, when their labors are much increased, it is impossible to procure sufficient forage.
     As soon as I can ascertain what is the probable intention of the enemy, and feel that I can leave here with propriety, I will visit Richmond, and consult with you on the condition of things in North Carolina, &c.
Charleston ought to be very strong; there will be but little time now to strengthen it, if it is to be attacked, as I see General Foster left Old Point on the 19th, on his return to Port Royal. There is yet time to do much at Wilmington if improved. General Whiting is a good engineer and hard laborer. If he has the means, he will make a good defense.
     I do not think Burnside will be able to move immediately, but every preparation should be energetically pushed forward. With the additional divisions under Longstreet, I consider that line safe.
     I am, with great respect, very truly, yours,

     R. E. LEE,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 25, Part 2, Pages 642-643.

Lee stayed in close contact with Davis and in doing so was able to avoid interference in his activities. His letters to Davis and generally lengthy and provide a good impression of what his armies capabilities were and Union intentions as he understood them at the time.  Lee appears confident in this letter that there will be no major offensive by Hooker until better weather comes in the spring.  Conditions, as described here, were such that a coordinated movement was not possible.  The underlying fears for securing the approaches to Richmond is here again demonstrated.


Saturday, February 23, 2013

February 25, 1863 (Friday): Valley Update

General Benjamin F. Kelley (

February 25, 1863.
Brigadier General B. F. KELLEY,
Harper's Ferry, Va.:
GENERAL: My cavalry have encountered the scouts and pickets of the rebels several times within the last week at and near Strasburg. Had a skirmish there yesterday, and captured a horse and rigging belonging to the rebel cavalry. I sent a battalion of the First New York Volunteer Cavalry to Wardensville on last Saturday. They found no rebels there, but the people were confidently looking for Imboden every hour. A gentleman arrived here to day from Harrisburg, having flanked the rebel pickets, who, I have good reason to believe, is a good Union man, and reports that [V. A.] Witcher's rebel cavalry regiment, raised in East Tennessee and Virginia, passed through Harrisonburg on Friday last to join the rebel forces under Jones; that Imboden went west, through Brock's Gap, last week, to come down west of North Mountain, either to Romney or between here and Romney, with 2,500 men; that a Georgia cavalry regiment, 1,100 strong, had come across from Madison Court-House to near Luray, and that a strong infantry force was moving in the direction of Berryville from Culpeper. This cavalry and infantry were under Stuart. The rebels here are expecting their friends soon.
      It is also reported that General Fitzhugh Lee is to supersede Jones, and that he intends making raids upon the Baltimore and Ohio Railraod.
     Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

    R. H. MILROY,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 25, Part 2, Page 106.

Milroy's information was largely accurate.  There was much agitation to remove Jones from command in the Valley and Stuart was operating in the area.   As always, the defense of Romney was critical to the defense of western Virginia.  Kelley spent his entire Civil War career in command of forces defending the rail lines leading west from the Valley. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

February 24, 1863 (Tuesday): A Scout's Report

A Civil War Scout (

February 24, 1863.
Major-General HOOKER,
Army of the Potomac:
     GENERAL: Stevensburg lies about 6 miles southwest from Kelly's Ford, on the Rappahannock.
General Longstreet passed through Richmond on the 18th instant. A portion of his army went to Charleston, S. C., the balance to Suffolk. General Stuart is now at Auburn, near Warrenton. General Jackson and army are at Stauton, with the intention of making a raid in Maryland, with the help of General Stuart.
     Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

    A. YAGER,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 25, Part 2, Page 99.

Scouts often provided useful information, sometimes rumor, sometimes a mix of both.  Yager is correct in saying Longstreet was on the move toward Suffolk, although none of his army went to Charleston.  Stuart was near Warrenton, but Jackson was at Yerby's near Hamilton's Crossing at Fredericksburg.  There does not appear to be anything substantive to the story of a planned raid into Maryland, especially not with Longstreet detached.

February 23, 1863 (Monday): The State of Mississippi

General Greenville M. Dodge

CORINTH, MISS., February 23, 1863.
Major General U. S. GRANT,
Opposite Vicksburg:
    SIR: There are some matters south of this that may be of interest to you, and perhaps I may be excused for communicating them direct. They have been sent, part of them, to my immediate commanders. The scouts posted at Mobile, Meridian, and Jackson have sent in long reports, and the substance of those that can be relied upon are about as follows:
1. No troops have come to Pemberton's army since Smith's 10,000 joined him about Christmas.
2. All troops from Mobile up the road, and from Grenada, have gone to Vicksburg and Port Hudson, leaving a few thousand at Mobile, some 600 at Meridian, and two regiments at Jackson, and about three regiments of militia at Grenada. A portion that left Grenada are posted on Black River. Everything in the shape of cavalry, even to the partisan rangers as low down as Port Hudson, joined Van Dorn in his move to Tennessee, leaving perhaps a regiment or two north of Grenada, a few at Okolona, and a few companies just south of me. Everything in the shape of Government property has been taken away form the country bordering the Yazoo and adjacent streams, and all prominent points, such as Jackson, Grenada, Columbus, &c. At Jackson the foundries are running and a cotton-mill or two, and perhaps a Government shoe and clothing shop, but every preparation is being made to take them away. West Mississippi is being entirely stripped of stock, provisions, forage, &c., and everything indicates that they are getting ready for a quick move.
    In the last ten days some 3,000 negroes have been pressed and put to work at Columbus, Miss.., and one or two points near Meridian, while the great stock of cars and engines at Meridian are being taken east and south. I appears to be the opinion of the scouts that the enemy are making preparations to take up the line of the Tombigbee for the go up Big Black, when their army will have to take position to save Selma and Mobile.
     The trains go loaded from Vicksburg daily with sick and discharged soldiers. They say that they average 12 cars a day. Last week two heavy steamboat engines and the prow to a ram went up the road to Jackson; said to be placed in some boat in the Yazoo.
      Deserters and conscripts are flocking into my lines daily, and, so far as the above statements are concerned, they corroborate them. The raking of the entire State of Mississippi for stock and provisions is as vigorously carried on as it was in Tennessee by Bragg. Van Dorn took about 8,000 mounted men and two batteries away with him. He is now at Columbia, Tenn., with Wheeler and Forrest, and Bragg has taken everything that is movable and that his army does not really need south of the Tennessee. He had put the railroad in order from Decatur to Tuscumbia; bought up all the corn in the valley, and got ready to move it by cars to Decatur and by boat to Bridgeport just as I struck Tuscumbia. My forces are on their way to Decatur now, which will stop that game. I still have men in Meridian, Columbus, Mobile, and Jackson, while one has gone on to Vicksburg, and will try to get to you. Every one sends up the same report, and you have got the substance of them in this.
     These little items may all be known to you, but, as they came so direct to me, I believe it is my duty to send them.
     I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

     G. M. DODGE.

Official Records Series I., Vol. 24, Part 3, Pages 64-65.

Dodge's missive paints an accurate picture of the dispersed nature of Confederate forces in the western theater.  Of particular note are the statements about 12 train cars worth of sick and discharged soldiers leaving daily, and the lack of reinforcements going to Pemberton at Vicksburg.  It is a matter of time before these imbalances in strength fall heavily on the Confederates.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

February 22, 1863 (Sunday): Flooding in Vicksburg

Historical Railroad Station at Vicksburg in 2011 (

VICKSBURG, February 22, 1863.
Richmond, Va.:
     Point opposite Vicksburg foot and a half under water. Levee and railroad alone visible. River at a stand with tendency to rise.

     M. L. SMITH,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 52, Part 2, Page 425.

Martin Luther Smith spent most of his military career as a surveyor.  He built many of the defenses of Vicksburg and commanded engineering troops during their defense.  Here is notes the flooding at Vicksburg, which would be a continual tactical consideration during the campaign. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

February 21, 1863 (Saturday): "As stupid a thing as ever occurred."

General Darius N. Couch

Falmouth, Va., February 21, 1863.

Brigadier-General WILLIAMS:
     DEAR SIR: I telegraphed you last evening that the pickets had reported that sixteen pieces of artillery and eleven pontoons were seen passing through Fredericksburg down the river. The information did not get to me until twenty-four hours or more after the movement was observed-as stupid a thing as ever occurred in military history. It is but a specimen of how military duties are done by a great many officers in my corps. Higher officers spend their time in reading newspapers or books, playing cards or the politician, drinking whisky, and grumbling. Of course, this charge does not include all by a long way, for it contains some of the finest that ever drew sword, from major-general down.
     Upon a personal investigation, I find that the movement of pontoons and artillery was seen by so many that nobody reported the facet. The general officer of the day was Colonel Frank, one of our most sterling officers.
     I am, sir, very respectfully,

    D. N. COUCH,
    Major-General, Commanding.

Official Records, Series I. Vol. 25, Part 2, Page 93.

In a later missive to Halleck Couch pointed out he was not asking higher levels of command to discipline his officers, just relating to information regarding pontoons and artillery as information.  He also clarified that although there was certainty with regard to the artillery which was seen, it was not 100% certain that pontoons had been seen.  The Confederates did have pontoons at different times during the war, but in nowhere near the number the Union did.  It seems unlikely there were any in the area covered in this report.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

February 20, 1863 (Friday): Combat Effectiveness

Army of the Cumberland Roll of Honor (Library of Congress)
Murfreesborough, February 20, 1863.
Major General H. W. HALLECK,
Washington, D. C.:
    GENERAL: Captain [John C.] Peterson, acting assistant inspector-general, being obliged to change climate by medical direction, I avail myself of his zeal and intelligence to send you some details of this army, showing the percentage of absentees and the wear and tear of an army in battle. First, I find, from careful examination, that the average percentage of the present and absent now for the Fourteenth Army Corps
is 56.01 per cent., Twentieth Army Corps, 50.16 per cent., and Twenty-first Army Corps, 55.44 per cent. Presuming that each of these corps has fought but one great battle, in which they lost as follows, viz: Fourteenth Army Corps, 18.44 per cent., Twentieth Army Corps, 20.50 per cent., and Twenty-first Army Corps, 24.64 per cent., the average loss for the entire command being 20.03 per cent., we have before the battle the Fourteenth Army Corps had 63.42 per cent. present, the Twentieth Army Corps 64.60 per cent. present, and the Twenty-first Army Corps 66.93 per cent present.
    Hence, before the battle, we have to pay 100 men for the above present, and we now have the preceding percentage for each 100 on the pay-roll. Although these are better results than I have expected, they are much worse than they ought to be. I am now endeavoring to bring the absentees to some rule, and reduce their numbers. The inspection system detects the illegal absentees, but it requires, in addition, the paymasters with the corps to know who ought not to be paid. Captain Peterson comes to show what means we use to detect absentees and what, even then, are our results. He is also charged to carry on a form of returns, which, if adopted in the Adjutant-General's Office and throughout the army, will force the various commanders to give such data in their returns as will afford means of knowing the true condition and strength of our forces, which, with the present forms in use, is not the case.
     Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

     Major-General, Commanding Department.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 23, Part 2, Pages 77-78.

Rosecrans developed a detailed interest in combat effectiveness numbers.  After Stones River he computed the effectiveness of the fire of both sides by comparing opposing casualties per 100 men firing at them.  Here he paints an interesting picture of both the impact of battle and how short of authorized complement organizations tended to be throughout the war. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

February 19, 1863 (Thursday): Trouble In N.C

Stereo Imagine, Judge R. F. Armfield (

YADKINVILLE, N. C., February 19, 1863.
   DEAR SIR: We have had a startling occurrence in this county, of which you have doubtless heard before this time, which has greatly exasperated every intelligent and good citizen of the county. I mean the murder of two of our best citizens, magistrates of the county, by a land of deserters and fugitive conscripts. The circumstances are these: There has been a strong feeling against the conscript law among the uninformed part of the citizens here ever since its passage. Many of that class swore that they would die at home before they would be forced off, and when the time came for them to go perhaps nearly 100 in this county took to the woods, lying out day and night to avoid arrest; and although the militia officers exerted themselves with great zeal, yet these skulkers have always had many more active friends than they had and could always get timely information of every movement to arrest them and so avoid it. The militia officers have been able to arrest very few of them. This state of affairs has encouraged the dissatisfied in the army from this county to desert and come home, until, emboldened by their numbers and the bad success of the militia officers in arresting them, they have armed themselves, procured ammunition, and openly defied the law. They have even sent menacing messengers to the militia officers, threatening death to the most obnoxious of them and all who assist them. Last Thursday 12 of the militia officers came on 16 of these desperadoes in a school-house about 4 miles from this town, armed, fortified, and ready for the fight. The firing immediately commenced; which side first fired is not positively certain, but from the best information I can get I believe it was those in the school-house. They finally fled, leaving 2 of their number dead and carrying off 2 wounded, after killing 2 of the officers. In the school-house were found cartridges of the most deadly and murderous quality, made of home-made powder (one of the men known to have been among them has been engaged in making powder). Four of the conscripts who were in the fight have since come in and surrendered and are now in jail here, but the leaders and the most guilty of them are still at large; and the section of the country in which they lurk is so disloyal (I grieve to say it), and the people so readily conceal the murderers and convey intelligence to them, that it will be exceedingly difficult to find them, even if they do not draw together a large force than they have yet had and again give battle to the sheriff and his posse. But my principal object in writing this letter is to ask you what we shall do with those four murderers we have and the other if we get them? Suppose we try them for murder, do you not believe that our supreme court will decide the conscription act unconstitutional and thus leave these men justified in resisting it execution? I believe they will, and tremble to think of the consequences of such a blow upon the cause of our independence. It would demoralize our army in the field and bring first the horror of civil war to our own doors and then perhaps subjugation to the enemy, which no honorable man ought to want to survive. I think I know Judge Pearson's opinion on the conscription act, and I believe that he is just itching to pronounce it unconstitutional. Suppose these men get out a writ of habeas corpus and have it returned before him and he releases them (which he would be bound to do if he holds that they were only resisting the execution of an unconstitutional law with such force as was necessary to repel force from their persons), do you not believe it would produce a mutiny in the army of the Rappahannock; and if it did not, how would you get another conscript to the field or keep those there who have already gone, or who could keep the loyal and indignant citizens at home from executing vengeance on these infamous murderers and traitors to the country? These are considerations which alarm me, and I would like to know what you think of them. Please write to me, and I will receive your opinion as confidentially as you may desire and ask. could these men, and ought they if they could, be turned over to the Confederate courts to be tried for treason? Could the military authorities, and ought they to, deal with them? I hope you known I am conservative and for the rights of the citizens and the States, but for my country always, and for independence at all hazards.
     Your obedient servant,

     R. F. ARMFIELD.

Series I., Vol. 18, Part 1, Pages 886-887.

Armfield, a judge, was concerned that in the process of bringing in deserters in Western North Carolina that other judges in the state would rule the draft unconstitutional.  In fact Judge Pearson, referenced here, did intervene on behalf of deserters throughout the war.  He would be rewarded with a prominent role in the post war government in North Carolina. This document highlights how little support the Confederacy enjoyed in western N.C. and eastern Tennessee.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

February 18, 1863 (Wednesday): Longstreet Dispatched

Falling Creek (

Lieutenant General JAMES LONGSTREET,
Commanding Corps:
     GENERAL: The transfer of a portion of the Federal Army of the Potomac to Hampton Roads has rendered it necessary to move two divisions of your corps toward James River. I desire you to join them, and place them in position where their comfort will be secured and whence they can be readily moved to resist an advance upon Richmond by the enemy from his new base. It is reported that he has been largely re-enforced at Suffolk. It will, therefore, be prudent for you to change the present order for General Pickett to halt on the Chickahominy, and to let him proceed to Falling Creek, on the south side of James River, or to some better point, from which you can readily defend Petersburg, &c. Should the movement of the enemy from the Potomac render it expedient, your other divisions will be ordered to join you. I desire, therefore, you be prepared to receive them and to select encampments for their comfortable accommodation. You will be advised of their approach. I need not remind you of the importance of selecting sheltered positions, where there is plenty of wood, and which may be convenient to supplies. It is also desirable that these positions be, as far as possible, not liable to prove injurious to the agricultural interests of the country. You will require at least two battalions of your artillery and probably one of your Reserve Corps. The horses are in such a reduced state, and the country so saturated with water, that it will be almost impossible for them to drag the guns. They might be transported by railroad, by which all heavy baggage, if possible, should also be conveyed, and the battery horses be led. I wish you to inform me where I can communicate with you.
To inform yourself of the movements of the enemy in your front, and to keep me advised, I suggest that you report to the Secretary of War on your arrival in Richmond, as he will have information and possibly some orders to communicate.
     It will be well to have Lane's battery at some favorable point on the James River, to destroy the enemy's transports, if they should ascend.
     I am, with much respect, your obedient servant,

    R. E. LEE.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 25, Part 2, Page 632.

Lee orders Longstreet to begin what will ultimately become the Suffolk Campaign, separating a major part of the First Corp from the Army of Northern Virginia.  The object, as always, is covering Petersburg.  In a very real sense, it was recognized by early in 1863 that possession of Petersburg was vital to the preservation of the Confederacy.


February 17, 1863 (Tuesday): Covering Richmond

Fort Monroe ( Edling photo)
General R. E. LEE,
Commanding, &c.:
    GENERAL: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letters of the 14th instant. They give me interesting information, but correspond only partially with the accounts I receive here of the movements of the enemy.
    An officer of the signal corps, much trusted as a scout, has just returned from within a few miles of Fort Monroe and Newport News. He reports as certain that about 20,000 men have been landed and are encamped at Newport News. They were brought there by transports, in tow of steam-tugs. They are building tent-chimneys and bake-ovens, and seem settling themselves for a time, at least. They, as the scout learned, reported themselves as part of Hooker's army, being Burnside's old division, and believed they were again to be placed under Burnside's command. In addition to these troops at Newport News, 8,000 or 10,000 were reported (as the scout believes truly) to have been sent to Suffolk. In front of Newport News were five iron-clads, with steam kept constantly up, and occasionally moving about. They professed to expect an attack from our gunboats coming down the James, and do not intend to be taken by surprise, as at Charleston. On the bay there were some twenty-five or thirty transports. They had come down the bay with these troops, or a part of them; but whether down the Potomac or not the scout could not learn. He passed on up the York River on his return. There were no transports in that river, not had any additional troops been moved to or landed at Yorktown or Gloucester Point. Such is pretty fully all that is material in the reports of the scout.
    I send inclosed a copy of the only dispatch received to-day from General Beauregard.* There is no later intelligence from either Generals Pryor or French. All the troops sent by General Beauregard to Wilmington have been returned, and two brigades from North Carolina (Clingman's and Cooke's) have been sent from Wilmington. General Ransom's other brigade will very probably likewise be ordered in the same direction, and he replaced in command of his division. As yet, however, the brigade under him is only ordered to be held in readiness.
    I am pleased to learn that, with characteristic vigilance, you are forwarding Pickett's and Hood's divisions to keep ward here. As you have confided in my discretion the location to which, until further orders, they shall be assigned, I shall order Pickett's on the other side of the river, so as to be in a position, if necessary, more readily to support Pryor and defend Petersburg.
    I am inclined to think the enemy's movements too serious for a feint or diversion, and that Hooker really designs withdrawing from the Rappahannock and changing his whole plan. He seemed fully committed to an advance on the Rappahannock, but, very fully trusted by his Republican or Abolition confreres, he can venture to advance and do what Burnside could not. We must, however, await developments, for as yet information is too scant for confident judgment.
     With great esteem, truly, yours,

     J. A. SEDDON,
    Secretary of War.

*Not found.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 25, Part 2, Page 630.

The Union IX Corp was sent by water to Fort Monroe, threatening Richmond and Petersburg by a possible advance from Yorktown or Suffolk.  In response, Lee sent Longstreet with Hood and Pickett's Division to block the advance.  The events show how important Petersburg was to the Confederates.  Merely by moving men to Fort Monroe, near to a half of Lee's Army was taken out of position for any offensive operations.

Friday, February 15, 2013

February 16, 1863 (Monday): Lines of Retreat

North Anna Junction (

Colonel E. P. ALEXANDER,
Commanding Artillery Battalion:
    COLONEL: Will you, if your other duties allow, make a personal examination of the bridge over the North Anna on the road leading to Hanover Junction, toward providing for its being made safe, and, so soon as you determine what should be done with it, have means taken for its very prompt repair. If necessary, make all the requisite details on your battalion for cutting and hauling the timber and having the work done. Any funds required will be furnished by Major Page, quartermaster, on proper call. By details from the General Reserve, I have had a good bridge made opposite Hewlett's, Virginia Central Railroad. If your duties do not allow, please name an officer to superintend and direct the work to be done. Great energy should be exerted, as a movement may be soon expected, and a bridge then may be important. The bridge I had constructed took about ten day; yours would take longer. The nearest saw-mill should be employed. There is a man named Temple Blunt, living near the Fork Church, who understands bridge-building. He directed in the other case, and might do so in this, to facilitate the enterprise; before, he received $100.          Hoping that what is necessary may be speedily done,
      I am, colonel, respectfully, your obedient servant,

     Brigadier-General, &c.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 25, Part 2, Page 628.

Pendelton here writes to E. Porter Alexander, the noted artillerist and diarist regarding constructed required on the roads from North Anna to Hanover junction.  Lee at this point continues to focus on the possibility of a movement of Union troops by water to either the Peninsula or North Carolina, by which route they will ultimately threaten the critical rail lines at Petersburg.  For this reason, parts of the First Corp were on this date moving south towards Hanover Junction.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

February 15, 1863 (Sunday): Graham, Of Banks Secret Service

Meems Bottom Bridge Mount Jackson (

WASHINGTON, February 15, 1863.
Major General H.W. HALLECK, Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Army, Washington:
    SIR: I have the honor to submit [the following] to you, in accordance with orders from Major-General Banks, when he left me here, to report to you any information I might from time to time come into possession of, regarding the movements of the enemy.
    My wife, Catherine Graham, who left Mount Jackson, Shenandoah County, Virginia, some three weeks since, having arrived here on last Wednesday, gives me the following account of their strength, &c., in the region of country which she last passed through. She went from Mount Jackson to New Market, where General Jones' command is, consisting in part of three regiments of infantry, two batteries of artillery and a battalion of cavalry. When she left Mount Jackson, there was but a guard to regulate the hospitals.
Imboden has command of the cavalry at Harrisonsburg; there are not more than 30 men.
     When General Milroy's cavalry went up to Woodstock, they removed the deposits of banks in Rockingham and Staunton to Lynchburg. At that time a regiment of cavalry could have captured Staunton without meeting any resistance.
     There were 800 sick in hospital at Mount Jackson; there had been sixteen cases of small-pox amongst them. Major [Alexander] Baker has charge of the hospitals; he is a relative of Ashby.  At the time of the road, Jones' command had marching orders, they taking in charge all the movable property of the inhabitants along the line of the expected advance.
     At New Market they buried two pieces of heavy artillery that were gotten at Harper's Ferry, in Colonel Miles' surrender, they not having any means of transporting them, as horses are getting very scarce, any kind of a horse being worth from $300 to $500.
      She came through the following posts in her passage, which, from the time she remained in them, she availed herself of all the privileges of a pass which she got through the influence of a clergyman, with whom she was acquainted. New Market, Jones and Imboden, say 1,500 men; Harrisonsburg, 30 men; Mount Crawford, none; Staunton, about 300, under command of Colonel Michael [G.] Harman; Waynesborough; about 25; Charlottesville, a very few (there are a great many fine hospitals, some fifteen); Gordonsville and Culpeper, 1,500; Mechanicsburg, none. In Richmond she remained four days, during which time she saw very few. Was told they are all gone, except what were doing garrison duty around in the works they had and were erecting; the main force having gone to North Carolina, and some 25,000 or 30,000 at Fredericksburg.
     She intended to come by Fort Monroe, but was not allowed to come that way, so she had to go by way of Gordonsville, Culpeper, Woodville, Sperryville and Little Washington (there are no troops at either of last-named places or no pickets, but a few guerrillas); thence to Piedmont; thence to New Berlin, on Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, arriving in Baltimore. On her trip from Culpeper she was accompanied by two rebel spies, as she thinks from their actions, conversation, &c. They came across and took the cars with her and put up at the Fountain House in Baltimore. They called themselves Mrs. Kelley and Mrs. Kenedy, the former being from Culpeper, the latter from Staunton. Their room was 27. I believe they are there yet. They registered as from Leesburg and Kentucky. They told my wife to address a letter for them to Armstrong & Carter [Cator?], Baltimore.
     She also met on her journey here a large number of Jews and others that had been over here after goods and information, they being considered the shrewdest in getting information, as they are in large with some of the same class in Baltimore, if not all of them; they dividing the profits, which are immense, as you see from a list of the necessaries of life that I mention: quinine, $100 an ounce; thread; 75 cents a spool; silk, 25 cents a skein; $25 for a pair of women's gaiters, while others are engaged in buying up Treasury notes and getting them exchanged for told in Baltimore. Some of them cross between Poolesville and Berlin, others between Harper's Ferry and Martinsburg at Shepherdstown, while others go up on the cars and get out at New Creek and other places. They have their places of meeting on the other side. They get caught occasionally, but always get off by bringing the guards. They report to Major Richardson at Gordonsville. Others get from Grafton to Staunton . A great number of teams make their way that way to Staunton.
    The people everywhere and soldiers except peace shortly, for, they say, various reason; some say from dissensions among parties, others again other thoughts, but they help to keep them up it spirits. Others [think] that the Secretary will be turned out of the Cabinet, and [say] that would be better than 100,000 men killed.
    I find in my travels through Pennsylvania that there are a great number of deserters all through the whole State, as well as an immense lot of Government property carried home by those deserters, sutlers, and others. Almost every man in the country has a rifle, saddle, or something else belonging to the Government.
I have the honor to remain, your most obedient servant,

    Of General Banks' Secret Service.

    P. S.-If you would grant me an interview, I would like it much, as I could inform you of a great    many      things that I cannot write about.


FEBRUARY 17, 1863.
      Respectfully referred to General Schenck for his information, to be returned.

     H. W. HALLECK,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 25, Part 2, Page 81.

Graham was a merchant from Ireland who came to Mount Jackson in 1860 and bought the Central Hotel there.  He also held the contract as the war started to build the Manassas Gap Rail Road from Mount Jackson to Harrisonburg, but the advent of the war stopped the project.  To avoid being drafted into Confederate service he gathered hay and bought horses for sale to the Confederates.  But he discouraged his laborers from enlisting, which placed him under suspicion, which only deepened when he became closely aligned with Banks and Fremont.  He spent the rest of the war working as a scout for various Union generals, his wife being placed for a time under house arrest for his activities.  Graham's report is chiefly interesting for the details it provides of the effect of the war on the Valley economy and the rampant inflation it caused.  There is within it also the strain of antisemitism which permeates so many war time accounts.   (Information on Graham comes from "Shenandoah County in the Civil War-Four Dark Years" by Hal Sharpe. 


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

February 14, 1863 (Saturday): Humprheys Recognized

General Andrew A. Humphreys

NEW YORK, February 14, 1863-11 a.m.
President of the United States:
     General Humphreys is the general that behaved so gallantly at Fredericksburg, and when I spoke to you of him said he ought to be rewarded by promotion to rank of major-general, and I hope it will be done. He is attached to the Third Army Corps. I also would respectfully request that Colonel R. B. Potter, Fifty-first New York Regiment, be promoted to brigadier-general.


Official Records, Series I., Vol. 21, Part 1, Page 1006.

Although Burnside had been forced to relinquish command of the Army of the Potomac, he was still in good standing with the administration.  Humphrey's division had advanced furthest at Fredericksburg.  A man of courtly manners, as he prepared to lead his troops to the stone wall, he told his staff "Young gentlemen, I intend to lead this assault; I presume, of course, you will wish to ride with me?'"  His recommendation for promotion of Humphrey would ultimately be accepted (July 1863) and he served most of 63' and 64' as Grant's Chief of Staff after he came east.                                                                                                                                                              

February 13, 1863 (Friday): Stuart Sent On An Errand

General J. E. B. Stuart

FREDERICKSBURG, February 13, 1863.
General J. E. B. STUART,
Commanding Cavalry:
    GENERAL: The present seems favorable for an attempt to limit the operations of General Milroy in the Shenandoah Valley, if he cannot be dislodged.
     Not deeming it prudent to detach any infantry for the expedition, I desire you to select from General Fitz. Lee's brigade of cavalry such men and horses as may be fit for the service, and to direct their commander to proceed to Upperville, and thence into the Valley, by Snickersville, unless circumstances should determine otherwise.
     If you think if advisable, and the condition of his horses will permit, you can also from a detachment from General Hampton's brigade, either to watch the enemy east of the Blue Ridge or to join you, as you may deem best.
     General W. E. Jones, commanding the Valley District, will be directed, with all his available force, to report to you, and it is suggested that you proceed to New Market, or such other point in the Valley as you may prefer, where he can join you. With the infantry in the Valley, you can threaten Winchester in front, while with the cavalry, it is advised, you cut off its communication with Martinsburg, threaten the latter place, if you cannot drive the enemy from it, destroy as much of the railroad as possible, and damage the enemy otherwise to the extent of your ability.
     It is probable that Fitz. Lee's brigade, by seizing the railroad near Kearneysville, and destroying the bridge over the Opequon might, with caution, capture a train of cars. You must endeavor to learn the periods of the arrival of the cars at Martinsburg and of the passage of the wagon trains to Winchester.
     Your particular attention must be given to the comfort of your men and horses, and, should circumstances now unforeseen render it inexpedient, in your judgment, with a due regard to their future usefulness and service, upon your reaching the Valley, to carry out the object of the expedition, you are desired to limit or abandon it at your discretion.
     It is desirable that you gain all information you can of the general plans of the enemy, and especially whether any troops have been sent west over the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and all intelligence bearing upon the future movements of the Federal Army of the Potomac.
      Commending you to a kind Providence, and your own good judgment, I am, with high respect, your obedient servant,

     R. E. LEE,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 25, Part 2, Page 621.

Milroy was a high priority for the Confederate high command.  Virginia politicians were naturally concerned for the welfare of citizens there.  Beyond that, Milroy's various proclamations and policies with regard to treatment of civilians were considered beyond the pale.  If tolerated they would increase civilian demoralization.  Lee appears also to have found Milroy's conduct personally offensive and was intent on suppressing his activities. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

February 12, 1863 (Thursday): "There is a screw loose..."

Paymaster General Timothy Andrews
Murfreesborough, Tenn., February 12, 1863 - 12 p. m.
Honorable E. M. STANTON:
    The Acting Paymaster-General is trying to take away Major Larned from his necessary duties here. I have no hesitation in saying that it is time the public service ceased to suffer from such whimsical or worse management. There is a screw loose somewhere. Will forward an official statement of more length. My army ought to be paid off while the roads are bad, and I want Major Larned here with all his force. Please order the Acting Paymaster-General not to interfere with this necessary work.


Official Records, Series I., Vol. 23, Part 2, Page 60.

The Union armies frequently had problems getting paid in the western theater.  A general inquiring of the Secretary of War about the services of a major, shows the importance field commanders attached to payroll issues.  Eventually Lincoln would write Rosecrans to explain the reasons behind taking away Larned; "There is powerful temptation in money; and it was and is believed that nothing can prevent the Pay-Masters speculating upon the soldiers, but a system by which each is to pay certain regiments so soon after he has notice that he is to pay those particular regiments that he has no time or opportunity to lay plans for speculating upon them."

February 11, 1863 (Wednesday): Help Wanted

General Robert E. Lee

February 11, 1863.
Honorable JAMES A. SEDDON,
Secretary of War:
     SIR: I think it very important to increase the strength of all our armies to the maximum by the opening of the next campaign. Details of officers and men have been sent from all the brigades of this army to collect deserters and absentees. By the return of last month, forwarded to the Department to-day, you will perceive that our strength is not much increased by the arrival of conscripts. Only 421 are reported to have joined by enlistment, and 287 to have returned from desertion, making an aggregate of 708, whereas our loss by death, discharges, and desertions amounts to 1,878. Now is the time to gather all our strength and to prepare for the struggle which must take place in the next three months. I beg you to use every means in your power to fill up our ranks.
     I have the honor to be, with great respect, your obedient servant,

     R. E. LEE,

Official Records, Series III., Vol. 5, Part 1, Page 695. 

The meager increase in the Army of Northern Virginia highlighted the persistent problem facing Lee.  The Union army drew from a larger population pool and was more able to replace casualties.  In a war of attrition, the Confederacy would inevitably lose.  This is likely one reason Lee continued to seek an aggressive stance in 1863.  Time was not on his side. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

February 10, 1863 (Tuesday): McPherson Inspires the Troops

General James B. McPherson

MEMPHIS, TENN., February 10, 1863.
    Our marching orders have come, and it is for us to respond with promptness and alacrity. We move to capture the stronghold of the rebels in the Valley of the Mississippi. That our success is certain, I have not the slightest doubt, if you bring to the performance of the work the same zeal, ability, and patriotic devotion to your country which have marked your course thus far. Before an indomitable will, an earnestness of purpose, and a solemn resolution not to see our glorious old flag dishonored before a rebel foe, all obstacles will disappear. I know that I do not speak to the heroes of Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Island Number 10, and Corinth in vain. The record of your past services, glorious as it is, is but an earnest of the future. Let no discouraging circumstances at home diminish your patriotism or cause you to falter for one moment in the career of honor which lies before you. We go forward to strike a fatal blow against this most unjustifiable rebellion, a blow which will tell with deadly effect, and cause the heart of every true and loyal man in our country to swell with pride.
    We go to plant our flag upon the ramparts of Vicksburg, and I know I but echo your sentiments when I say that each and every one of you desires, no matter what the labor, privation, or danger may be, to battle earnestly and heroically until this great work is accomplished.
     Then, indeed, when this rebellion is crushed, can you return to your homes with manly pride, and, pointing to the glorious but triumphant and battle stained banner with "Vicksburg" inscribed upon it, say, We helped to place it there.


Official Records, Series I., Vol. 24, Part 3, Pages 43-44.  

McPherson had finished first in the West Point class of 1853.  His star was on the rise and he would live to see Vicksburg captured.  But he would not live out the war, dying in 1864 of wounds suffered in the battle of Atlanta.  An interesting item in his address is the reference to "discouraging circumstances at home".  In an agrarian society, the pull of home (where every hand was needed) was powerful to both sides throughout the war. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

February 9, 1863 (Monday): Numbers and Losses

1866 Reburial of Casualties at Stones River (

February 9, 1863.
    We have now all the reports of the subordinate commanders and staff officers. Will have my report of the battle sent forward in a few days. Some facts in it are worth stating in advance. We have prisoners from one hundred and thirty-one regiments of infantry, twelve battalions of sharpshooters, twenty-three batteries of artillery, and fifty-three regiments of cavalry, giving their fighting force at what all our officers consider a low estimate, near 46,000 infantry, 1,200 sharpshooters, 1,800 artillery, and 13,200 cavalry. Total, 62,000 men. We fought them with 42,000. We hit 165 to their 100. Their loss was 23 1/2, ours 21, per cent, of the fighting force. These figures are significant.
     Yours, very respectfully,

     Major-General, Commanding.

     Major-General H. W. HALLECK, General-in-Chief.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 20, Part 1, Page 187.

Rosecrans estimate of Confederate strength (which was over by about 20,000) illustrates how thin rebel ranks were becoming.  His method of estimating strength relied on the Confederates being at the normal levels for regiments, but the reality was they had far fewer men. In reality, over 30% of the men on both sides who carried weapons into battle at Stones River became casualties (killed, wounded, or missing).  The fighting was some of the most intense of the war and illustrated another point.  By 1863 the men were efficient fighters and had enough discipline to remain in formation and inflict sever casualties.  The efficiency of fighting in early 1863 would be a signal that entrenchments would soon, of necessity come to the battlefields.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

February 8, 1863 (Sunday): Defending Fort Sumter

Interior, Fort Sumter

HDQRS. DEPT. SOUTH CAROLINA, GEORGIA, AND FLORIDA, Charleston, S. C., February 8, 1863.
Brigadier General R. S. RIPLEY,
Commanding First Military District, Charleston, S. C.:
    GENERAL: The recent attack of the enemy's iron-clad monitor Montauk on the battery at Genesis Point (the first day at about 1 mile and the second at about 800 or 1,000 yards) would seem to indicate that the enemy is not so confident of the invulnerability of this kind of naval vessel; but I conclude also that the attack on Sumter, whenever it takes place, will probably be made at long range with their heaviest guns and mortars. This being admitted, they will necessarily attack it where it is weakest-i. e., the gorge, southeast angle, and east face-taking their position close along the eastern shore of Morris Island, after having silenced Battery Wagner. By adopting this plan their steamers, gunboats, &c., would be, farther removed from the batteries of Sullivan's Island. The enemy may also establish sand rifled and mortar batteries on the sand hills along the sea-shore of Morris Island at the distance of from 1 to 2 miles form Sumter, as was done in the reduction of Fort Pulaski last year. He might possibly send one or more monitors during the night to take a position in the small channel north of Cummings Point, within close range, to batter down the gorge of Sumter and endeavor to blow up the magazines. That mode of attack being the one most to be apprehended should be guarded against, as well as our limited means will permit, first by transferring as many heavy rifled guns as can be spared from the other faces of the fort to the gorge angle and face already referred to, and the Brooke rifled gun, now on its way here from Richmond, must likewise be put there, substituting in its place at Fort Johnson the 10-inch now expected from that city, so locating it as to fire toward Morris Island when required; secondly, a strong field work should be thrown up (as soon as sufficient labor be procured) on Cummings Point, open in the gorge toward Fort Sumter, to act besides as a kind of traverse to this work from the fire of the batteries located by the enemy along the sea-shore of Morris Island. The Cummings Point Battery should be armed with the heaviest and longest-range guns we may be able to obtain for that purpose.
The introduction of heavy rifled guns and iron-clad steamers in the attack of masonry forts has greatly changed the condition of the problem applicable to Fort Sumter when it was built, and we must now use the few and imperfect means at our command to increase its defensive features as far as practicable. The chief engineers of this department and of the State will be ordered to report to you at once to confer with you, so as to carry out the views expressed by me in this letter.
    Major Harris, chief engineer, has received my instructions relative to locating some Rains torpedoes about Cummings Point and within the harbor, independently of the electrical torpedoes under the charge of Mr. Waldron.
     Respectfully, your obedient servant,

    General, Commanding.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 14, Part 1, Page 770.

The Confederates were now in the position of defending Fort Sumter, and were finding it no easy task.  After the reduction Fort Pulaski it was firmly established that artillery could breach the walls of even the most modern of forts.  But at Fort McAlister (Genesis Point) near Savannah, the lesson learned was that sand and debris was often as effect as masonry at stopping shot.  Although Fort Sumter would be battered throughout the war, the wreckage of the battering was often used to assist in protecting the fort's defenders.  In April the Federal fleet under DuPont would attempt to run the battery, but was deterred by obstructions placed in the harbor.


Monday, February 4, 2013

February 7, 1863 (Saturday): A Clash of Cavalry

Kelly's Ford Area (NPS)
February 7, 1863-9.30 p. m.
    GENERAL: The enemy moved up in considerable force on the Marsh road yesterday and day before. Three brigades (infantry) encamped near Grove Church, while a force of cavalry came to Kelly's Mills with one gun, and another party attacked my pickets at the railroad bridge. This latter force endeavored to destroy the bridge, but were foiled in their attempt. Just at dark a party got under bridge on the opposite side of the river, behind the abutments, and cut a few of the posts, attempting to fire the timbers at the same. In the meantime a vigorous attack was made on my pickets, who got into the rifle-pits, and held their ground resolutely. The enemy were driven off after some hours' fighting, and my loss was 1 man wounded.
The whole force of the enemy retired at 2 a. m. this morning. I regret that the condition of my horses did not allow me to follow them. The infantry have also fallen back.
     My scouts have captured 25 prisoners in the last few days and killed 6 of the enemy. All is quiet along the lines to-night.
     I am, very respectfully, yours,


Official Records, Series I., Vol. 25, Part 1, Page 9.

Joe Hooker was inclined to an aggressive use of cavalry.  Early into his tenure he began to press along the line of the Rappahannock River to determine Confederate dispositions.  A particular target of interest was the railroad bridge referenced her.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

February 6, 1863 (Friday): Imboden of the Northwest

General John D. Imboden

February 6, 1863.
General J. D. IMBODEN,
Commanding Northwest Brigade:
    GENERAL: I beg to express my gratification at your promtion to your present command, and hope you will soon have your brigade ready for the field. The enemy will make every effort to crush us between this and June, and it will require all our strength to resist him. I rely greatly upon your energy and activity, and hope you will use every proper means in your power to bring out all the men subject to military duty in northwest. I think it necessary to caution you against receiving men who have deserted from other companies or regiments. All such should be arrested and returned to their proper commands. The army cannot be kept up if men are allowed to put at defiance the laws and regulations for its government. Men who are out of service, or who have been property discharged, can be legally embraced in your command and firmly held. I hope you will as soon as practicable eradicate from the companies you how have organized all deserters and turn them over to their officers. Your brigade is too elevated in character to retain such in its ranks. I am very sorry to learn that the small-pox has appeared among your men. By faithful vaccination and rigid quarantine it can be prevented from spreading. Cases have appeared in his manner brought by convalescents from Richmond, Danville, &c., but by the means suggested no other cases have occurred in this army. The enemy will no doubt attempt to deceive by spreading his marauding parties over the western country, and thus conceal his real movements. He cannot during the winter move with any large force across the mountains against you. But you must always be prepared and must hold the position best calculated to defeat him. I am very anxious to drive him out of the Valley, and desire you to be prepared to co-operate with General W. E. Jones whenever an opportunity occurs.
     I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,

     R. E. LEE,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 51, Part 2, Page 677.

Lee makes note of two problems which vexed his army.  Small-pox was a persistent problem despite vaccination efforts.  And soldiers leaving one organization and joining another was a problem never eradicated.  Imboden himself was prolific.  Married five times he wrote five articles for the Battles and Leaders.  A capable officer, he commanded an artillery unit at First Bull Run, covered the advance and retreat during the Gettysburg Campaign and served in the cavalry during the 1864 Valley Campaign.  After leaving the army for a time due to typhoid fever he returned in the last year of the war in charge of four different prison camps.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

February 5, 1863 (Thursday): Johnston Sulks

Confederate Secretary of War James A Seddon (

 WAR DEPARTMENT, C. S. A., Richmond, Va., February 5, 1863.

    DEAR SIR: I take the liberty of addressing you unofficially. It has pained me to find from several of your telegrams to the President, as well as from intimations occasionally dropped in conversation by our mutual friend, General Wigfall, that you consider your position in your present command somewhat anomalous and unsatisfactory. You seem to consider the several armies within your department too far separated by distance, and too distinct in the aims of their operations, to be wielded as a whole, and that, while nominally controlling all, you can really have command of none, and must stand responsible for the failures, without receiving the credit of the successes, of each. Now, with this view, I can well understand your position to be distasteful and vexatious, but I feel assured it was very far from the intention of the President, as it certainly never has been mine, to regard your command in this light. The department placed under you was too remote to have that direct supervision and control of the separate armies in it exercised by the authorities here which they could give to the commands nearer to them in this State, and consequently it was much desired that a general of the largest experience and greatest ability and reputation should be placed there, to have over it something of the same guiding direction and control as war exercised nearer the capital by the Department and President. Besides, it was thought that the armies in your department were not so disunited in ends, or so remote from each other, that combined movements among them might not be mutually supporting, and that in certain contingencies even transfers of troops might not be requisite.
     For these purposes you were selected, from the high confidence reposed in you, and certainly from the conviction that an enlarged sphere of usefulness was assigned you.
     In another respect great advantage was anticipated from your superior command, which I fear your generous self-abnegation and excessive consideration for the claims of your subordinate generals will prevent from being fully attained. It was contemplated and expected that, besides the general guidance and supervision above referred to, you should, whenever and wherever the exigency seemed most to demand, assume directly the supreme command of the army imperiled, and give to it the benefit of your prestige and superior ability. Thus, when Vicksburg was attacked, I was disappointed that you had not assumed command, and even more did I regret that you had not the direction of movements in the great operations around Murfreesborough. Can you not take this [as I think the true] view of your relation and duties in respect to the several armies in your department? If so, I assure you the anxiety and responsibility I feel in relation to these several fields of action will be greatly relieved.
     But if unwilling thus, as occasion may demand, to displace your lieutenants, could you not, while exercising a general supervision, yet establish yourself permanently with the central and leading army in Middle Tennessee, with General Bragg [as I understand, admirably qualified to be] an organizer and administrator under you, and direct all its field operations? Would this condition better suit you, or would you prefer to command separately, and without any such leading subordinate, that army alone? I should really be pleased to learn candidly from you your own preferences, for while I cannot assure their fulfillment, yet, from my appreciation and confidence in you, I should have every disposition to promote and may not be powerless to accomplish them.
     I hope the spirit and motives prompting this letter will be understood by you, and your indulgence to them manifested by an early reply.
     With the highest esteem, cordially, yours,

   J. A. SEDDON.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 23, Part 2, Pages 626-627.

Seddon had a long run as Confederate Secretary of War, from November 1862 to the end of the war.  Here he speaks candidly with the always contentious Joseph E. Johnston.  Johnston had been sent west with reasonably high expectations, but proved adept at distracting himself with the obstacles he faced.   

February 4, 1863 (Wednesday): Lowe Observes the Rebel Army

February 4, 1863.
Chief of Staff:
     SIR: From an observation taken this afternoon the enemy appear still in camp about three miles west of Fredericksburg; also a large camp south by west, about eight miles. The largest camp noticed appears to be south from the city about fifteen miles; also a smaller camp east by south.
     The balloons are constantly in readiness, and observations can be taken at any time when the weather will permit.
     Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

    T. S. C. LOWE,
    Chief of Aeronautic, Army of the Potomac.

Official Records, Series III., Vol. 3, Part 1, Pages 294-295.

Lowe continued to provide detailed reports such as this to the Union Army, but his time as chief aeronaut was running short.  Within a month his pay would be cut and he would eventually resign in the face of unfounded criticism from Congress.

February 3, 1863 (Tuesday): Command Problems In the West

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE FRONTIER, Springfield, February 3, 1863.
Major General H. W. HALLECK,
General-in-Chief, Washington, D. C.:
    GENERAL: I am compelled to say that I believe the interests of the service demand my removal from this command. While it would be mortifying to me to be transferred to an inferior one, I will cheerfully submit to it rather than remain here longer, because I believe it will be much better for the country.
    I do not desire to impugn the motives of General Curtis. He may be perfectly honest and sincere in all his official acts; whether so or not is immaterial. The fact is undeniable that his whole course, since I have been in command of his army, has been calculated to prevent my accomplishing any good result. He has discouraged every advance I have made and repeatedly ordered me to fall back. He detained me in Saint Louis nearly a week after I was ready to return to my command, for no other apparent reason than to give Blunt and Herron time to make their raid to Van Buren.
    As soon as I had arrived and assumed command, he ordered me to fall back. At length I got this order modified, so as to permit me to move east and south; but the mountains having become impassable, I was compelled to come round by Crane Creek. Arrived at that place, he refuses to let me go farther. I have been lying here five days, while the roads and weather are fine,and I cannot get permission to move in any direction.
    The entire force of the enemy in Arkansas is at Little Rock, or below that point. No force can be subsisted in Northwestern Arkansas by the enemy, and it is not possible for my command to do any good by remaining here. We must move to the eastern part of the State sooner or later, of course. Why not do it now, is more than I can imagine. It my be that supplies cannot be obtained by the river for some time to come; but this is no reason for our delay. We can move 100 miles nearer Little Rock, and yet draw supplies from Rolla better than now. Besides, we would be in position to unite with Davidson and Warren, should the enemy's force be too strong for this command; not that I believe it is. I have no doubt I can easily whip their entire force combined.
    General Curtis has at length decided that when I move I am to go via Forsyth and close the White River Valley. He has directed me to construct flat-boats for crossing the river at Forsyth (which I am doing), and a field-work or block-house, to protect the crossing. He also directs me not to move my main force over until ample means shall be provided for retreating, or bringing up re-enforcements. From what point? Davidson's and Warren's are the only forces available, and they from 100 to 150 miles eat of Forsyth.
    I have already lost six days since my eastward movement was stopped by General Curtis' order. The weather is fine,and the roads is splendid condition. With all possible exertion, it will take from seven to ten days more to get my army across the river at Forsyth, even if not interfered with any more. Long before that time my command would have been at Batesville, had I been permitted to proceed.
    I can see in all this no other object but to delay my movement and prevent my doing anything until some ulterior object can be accomplished; probably to give some other officer the command. What the reason for this may be I will not assume to say. If General Curtis lacks confidence in me, I ought not to command under him. Better that I be sacrificed, even, than that important movements be delayed a single day. Better give the command to any body, and leave him free to act, than to keep me here and forbid my doing anything. A fool could not go far wrong,so plain is it what should be done. Blunt and Herron are in Saint Louis, or were a few days ago, and doubtless their counsels have had much weight in determining the present delay and annoyance to me. I observe they are both nominated major-generals, and I know they both aspire to this command,and are favorites of General Curtis. Better that either of them have it than that the present state at Prairie Grove and elsewhere, and have shown their utter incapacity to command, yet they would be allowed to act, and could hardly fail, under present circumstances, to blunder into success.
    Do not understand me, general, as being dissatisfied with my command or wanting a higher one. I have a fine little army, and it is all I ask, if I can be permitted to use it. I did feel at one time, and so wrote you, unwilling to take, voluntarily, a lower command; but that feeling is gone. I will cheerfully accept anything to remove the present difficulty, because I believe the good of the service demands it. I will even content myself to remain here, if, after what I have told you, you think no change for the better is practicable.
    I have received my appointment as major-general, and, of course, feel much gratified by this mark of confidence. I would feel much more so could I be in position to render the service demanded by my additional rank.
     I am, general, yours, very respectfully,


Official Records, Series I., Vol. 22, Part 2, Pages 94-95.

Herron and Blunt had defeated Hindman at Prarie Grove in Arkansas in December.  Curtis was attempting to maintain an aggressive posture over a wide area of Missouri and Arkansas.  Schofield believed he was being over ridden in favor of Herron and Blunt.  He had been ill during the winter and naturally had fallen behind in Curtis' estimation.  He would be relieved as a result of this letter and moved over to command of the 3rd Division of the 14th Corp in the Army of the Cumberland.  Schofield was an effective commander, but would draw the ire of Republicans during the war for failing to support their more aggressive vision of war aims.