Thursday, May 30, 2013

May 31, 1863 (Sunday): "Error is better than probable wrong"

"Auburn" the Minor Botts Hose at Brandy Station-Site of Stuart's Cavalry Review

May 31, 1863.
Major General J. E. B. STUART,
Commanding Cavalry Division:
   GENERAL: I have received your letter of 9 p. m. yesterday, with Burke's report and New York papers, for which I am much obliged.
   I am unable yet to determine what are the plans or intentions of the enemy' reports are so contradictory. I think a cavalry expedition must be on foot, unless they are moving up to Fauquier, with wagons, packs, &c., for the purpose of grazing. If you can find out this is so, and that they are in detached parties, they can easily be broken up.
    Unless you see an opportunity for striking them a successful blow, when detached, I think it better to hold yourself in reserve en masse, recuperate, and at the proper time throw yourself with force on a vulnerable point, which they must disclose if they attempt another expedition. It will be important to punish them severely if they attempt an expedition within our lines or it may become inconveniently common.
    I wish I could attend the review you propose. It would give me great pleasure to see all your fine cavalry in a body. But I see no prospect of doing so at present. There is so much to be done here which I have to attend to.
    There was a gun fired by the enemy about 12 o'clock last night, or so reported; and there were indications yesterday of some movement and probable crossing below Fredericksburg on his part, but everything, as far as heard from, is quiet this morning.
    I cannot recall now whether the case of Lieutenant [E. M.] Ware has been acted on by me with certainty. I have no recollection of it; will refer to the subject. I regret that the case of Private Stanley has not been decided. I am not acquainted with its merits, but I recollect General Jones thought he was entitled to the horse, and in some way considered himself responsible for it. I am satisfied that no officer would desire or allow, if he could prevent it, that a soldier should be deprived of his horse. Under the circumstances, if the case is doubtful and cannot be determined, it is better to give him the benefit of the doubt or uncertainty than to keep him waiting indefinitely, as I presume he is incapacitated for duty.
    This is a case, in my opinion, where possible error is better than probable wrong. I desire that the question be determined by the board at once, and the proceedings be forwarded.
    On reference, I find that the proceedings in the case of Lieutenant Ware have been acted upon, the order sent to the printer, and you notified of the result.
    I am, most respectfully, your obedient servant,

    R. E. LEE,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 25, Part 2, Page 844.

Lee's correspondence with Stuart is always interesting because it is extensive.  He usually discussed his view of the current situation, since he relied on Stuart to confirm or deny his ideas through scouting the enemy lines.  And there is a less formal air than in letters to other generals in his command.  The discussion of the situations of a junior officer and a private give insight into Lee's character and concern for his men.  The comment regarding the Union cavalry needing to be punished lest they become too accustomed to entering Confederate territory underlines how concerned the Confederate command was at the recent Union cavalry success in approaching Richmond during the Chancellorsville campaign.  Finally, it is interesting to see Stuart asking for Lee to attend a grand review of the cavalry.  While he declines, he would soon attend just such a review at Brandy Station.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

May 30, 1863 (Saturday): Preparing to Defend Richmond

The Defenses of Richmond (

May 30, 1863.
Honorable JAMES A. SEDDON,
Secretary of War:
    SIR: I have the honor to recommend that you expedite as much as possible the organization of the citizens of Richmond as a local force for the defense of the city. All the citizens capable of doing duty should be encouraged to take up arms for the defense of their homes.
    I also recommend that such troops as can be spared from the departments of Sough Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, and from the James to the Cape Fear Rivers, should be advanced to Virginia. The brigades ordered by me from the latter department to Virginia I have directed to await your further orders, and I request or be relieved from the control of that department.
    I think it probable, from information received, that General Hooker will endeavor to turn the left of my present position, and hold me in check, while an effort is made by the forces collected on York River, by forced marches and with the aid of their cavalry, under General Stoneman, to gain possession of Richmond. Two scouts from within the enemy's lines have brought me this report. it may be a rumor propagated to cause me to abandon my present position, but I think preparations had better be made to guard against any such attempt. But movements of the enemy on the Upper Rappahannock now in progress indicate an advance from him in that direction.
     I need not express to you the hope that the arrangements you may think proper to make will not be of a character to excite alarm or useless apprehension in the community.
     I have the honor o be, with much respect, your obedient servant,

     R. E. LEE,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 25, Part 2, Page 834.

In a sense, the Gettysburg campaign was a race against time.  Lee did not have the luxury of making a leisurely decision to move north.  If he did not he had to anticipate being fixed in position in northern Virginia while Union cavalry and forces from Fort Monroe threatened the Confederate capital.  The success of the Union raids in penetrating almost to Richmond created a well founded fear that even if Richmond were not taken it could be threatened with destruction by raiders. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

May 29, 1863 (Friday): Burnside's Administration of Justice

Congressman Clement Vanlandigham

HEADQUARTERS, Cincinnati, Ohio, May 29, 1863.
His Excellency A. LINCOLN,
President of the United States:
    A messenger from Governor Morton came to me this morning in reference to the arrest by the military authorities of a citizen of Indiana. I understood from him that my action in the administration of affairs in this department was not approved by a single member of your Cabinet. This taken in connection with your dispatch to me several days ago approving of my course convinces me that my action here has been a source of embarrassment to you. My views as to the proper policy to be pursued in this department are only changed in the belief that the present policy should be increased in rigor. You know my views upon the subject of command and you must not allow me to stand in the way of the carrying of any general policy which you may choose to adopt, and I should be glad to be relieved if the interest of the public service requires it but at the same time I am willing to remain and assume the responsibility of carrying out the policy which has been inaugurated if it is approved.

     A. E. BURNSIDE,

WASHINGTON, D. C., May 29, 1863.
Major-General BURNSIDE, Cincinnati, Ohio:
Your dispatch of to-day received. When I shall wish to supersede you I will let you know. All the Cabinet regretted the necessity of arresting for instance Vallandigham - some perhaps doubting that there was a real necessity for it, but being done all are for seeing you through with it.


Official Records, Series II., Vol. 5, Part 1, Page 717.

Burnside had published General Orders #38, which stated "The habit of declaring sympathies for the enemy will no longer be tolerated in the department. Persons committing such offenses will be at once arrested, with a view to being tried as above stated, or sent beyond our lines into the lines of their friends."  On May 1, Congressman Vallandigham of Ohio gave a speech saying the war was now being fought "...not to save the Union but to free the slaves by sacrificing the liberty of all Americans to "King Lincoln".  Burnside had him arrested and he was sent into southern lines, leaving from there to ultimately live for a time in Canada.  While there he was involved in a conspiracy to split Ohio and other western states from the Union.  He returned to the United States in defiance of his deportation and was allowed to stay, although kept under watch.  After the war he returned to the practice of law and died at age 50 while demonstrating that a client was innocent of murder because the victim could have shot himself.  While doing so he shot himself and died of his wound.

Monday, May 27, 2013

May 28, 1863 (Thursday): Sinking of the Cincinnati

USS Cincinnati

WALNUT HILLS, May 28, 1863.
Commanding Mississippi Squadron:
    DEAR ADMIRAL: I was on the hill to our extreme right yesterday morning, to take advantage of any success to be gained by the gunboat attack on the enemy's left flank. At 9 a. m. I saw four gunboats advance from below, and engage the enemy's lower batteries, and soon the Cincinnati came down from above, steering directly for the upper water batteries. From our position we could only see the hill which shielded them from the rear. As the gunboat approached, she was fired on from these points. We directed 30-pounder Parrotts, some 6-pounder guns, and our musketry opened one all points within reach, but these batteries were covered by the shape of the ground. As the Cincinnati neared, she fired several of her bow guns, but as the current would have carried her below, she rounded to, firing from her broadside guns, but soon presented her stern. The enemy's shot at first went wild, but soon got her range, and struck her several direct shots, and two right under her stern. She ran slowly up stream, keeping mid-channel, and, when about 1 1/2 miles up, she steered directly to the shore in the bend. I saw that her larboard quarter-boat was shot away, and her flag-staff, but otherwise she appeared uninjured. She ran to the shore and soon sank; her bow appeared down and her stern up, her upper decks out of water. The moment I saw her sunk, I sent a company of the Seventy-sixth Ohio to her relief. I could see by our glass that she was near shore, and her people on the bank. Waiting a couple of hours to hear more definite news from her, I came to the center of my line, and dispatched one of my aides, Lieutenant [Jacob C.] Hill, to see that all possible assistance should be afforded her crew, and received message that a boat had been sent to you, and that as soon as dark would make it safe, you would send down a boat with all the assistance required. I received the following official report. * Inasmuch as you must know all, I have no occasion to report more than that the style in which the Cincinnati engaged the batteries elicited universal praise, and I deplore the sad result as much as any man could. The importance of the object aimed to be accomplished, in my judgment, fully warranted the attempt. It has been unsuccessful, and will stimulate us to further efforts to break the line which terminates on the Mississippi in such formidable batteries.
     I am, &c.,

     W. T. SHERMAN.

Official Record, Series I., Vol. 24, Part 3, Page 354.

The Cincinnati's mission was to destroy two batteries which were harassing Sherman's flank as he moved along the river.  There was, however, a Confederate eleven gun battery overlooking the river.  The Union forces believed it had been removed, but in fact its guns were merely concealed under brush.  When the Cincinnati came beneath the battery it opened, with the first shot penetrating the magazine and exiting the hull beneath the waterline.  The Union guns could not be raised enough to return fire and the ship was turned back upriver, sinking as it went.  Finally it was run aground and a hawser tied to a tree.  But it broke and the ship drifted into the channel and sank.  Many of the sailors could not swim, but their crew mates managed to get them all off safely.  For their efforts, six of the crew were awarded the Medal of Honor.


May 27, 1863 (Wednesday): Port Hudson Assaulted

US Cemetary at Port Hudson (CivilWarAlbum.Com)


May 27, 1863.
    About half an hour by sun this morning the enemy opened an infernal fire on our lines. With occasional lulls, the cannonade continued until about 2 p. m., when I learned the enemy had formed in line of battle, and was advancing on General Beall's center and left. Without waiting for official notification, I at once pushed forward to his support every man I could spare. My men had barely got their position when the enemy opened fire, advancing with infantry and artillery. He was repulsed three several times, and has now retired. I am holding the field, General Beall's forces having gone to the left. What the enemy's loss is it is impossible to say. Subordinate commanders not having handed in their reports, it is impossible to give an accurate list of casualties. I will supply the omission hereafter.
     Respectfully, &c.,

     W. R. MILES,
     Colonel, &c.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 26, Part 1, Page 169.

Port Hudson was located 25 miles north of Baton Rouge.  In March Admiral Farragut bombarded the works while passing up river to Vicksburg, losing the USS Mississippi.  From May 8-10 gunboats gain hammered the position.  On the 26th the 19th Corp of Banks Army advanced and made contact on the Bayou Sara Road, four miles  away.  This was followed by a larger assault on the 27thAs was the case in Vicksburg, frontal assaults having failed, the position was invested and siege operations begun.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

May 26, 1863 (Tuesday): A Matter of Promotion

General Henry Heth

RICHMOND, VA., May 26, 1863.
General R. E. LEE,
Commanding Army of Northern Virginia, near Fredericksburg, Va.:
    GENERAL: Yours of the 25th, with its inclosure, was received last night, and I find that to some extent your views as contained in the letter of the 20th were misapprehended. I inferred from the first letter that you considered Heth, by seniority and equal merit, the preferred candidate for promotion, but that you doubted the propriety of promoting him, because a former nomination to make him major-general had failed in the Senate. I felt the high commendation you bestowed upon Pender to be fully due to him, having marked his conduct in the campaign before Richmond with peculiar admiration. I did not suppose Ransom to be included in the comparison, because the proposition to form a division of Ransom's, Cooke's, and Pettigrew's brigades, in conjunction with a high estimate I knew you put upon Ransom, indicated him as your probable preference for the command of that division. As the case now stands, I perceive that Pender might be promoted to command the division formed of four brigades of A. P. Hill's former division, and Heth to command a division to be formed of the brigades of Heth, Archer, and two others; but it would seem hard that Ransom's brigade should be one of them. This either postpones Ransom's promotion or separates him from the army immediately commanded by yourself, which I believe would not be agreeable to him. The only alternative would be, regarding your letter and that of General Hill as concluding the question of Pender's promotion, to cancel the promotion of Heth, or accepting the condition of separating Ransom from the Army of Northern Virginia. He might be promoted and sent to Mississippi, or exchanged for French or Whiting by sending one of them to Mississippi. You will realize the embarrassment resulting from the fact of Heth's appointment before your second letter arrived, for though the letter of appointment might be withheld, the fact of its having been made probably will be, if it has not been, communicated to him in some unofficial form. I have nothing from General D. H. Hill since he left here. There are, however, reports of active operations in the direction of New Berne. It may be the reconnaissance in force which he had in contemplation. Inclosed is a sketch* handed to me by Doctor Garnett, intended to represent what General Wise side to front toward the enemy have constructed earth-works. The side to front toward the river, and as they cannot be designed to operate against our boats in the Mattapony, must have been to resist an attack anticipated from the northeast side of that river. The force was said to be small-perhaps a brigade. Our intelligence from Mississippi is, on the whole, encouraging. Pemberton is stoutly defending the intrenchments at Vicsburg, and Johnston has an army outside, which I suppose will be able to raise the siege, and, combined with Pemberton's forces, may win a victory. Many thanks for your friendly solicitude. My health is steadily improving, and if we can have good new from the west I hope soon to be quite well again. General Bragg has bravely and patriotically detached strong re-enforcements to General Johnston- so much so that I have to warn him to be mindful of this own necessities. We are attempting by addresses to the Governor of the State to get forces for local defence by the organization of the except corps of minute-men, who are to respond to any call for the defense of cities, railroad, brides, &c. In proportion to the success of this effort, disciplined troops will be relieved from such duties and made available for active operations in the field. I have been glad to learn from the Governor of North Carolina that the decision of Judge Pearson did not touch the question of the constitutionality of the conscript law, but only covered the legality of employing the militia to arrest desertes. The decision against the right thus to use the militia paralyzed the effors of Governor Vance thus to aid us in that regard.
     Very respectfully and truly, your friend,


* Not found.

Series I., Vol. 51, Part 2, Pages 716-717.

The problem of three generals and two divisional commands was solved by putting Ransom in charge of the defenses near Richmond and immediately to the east.  His health, in any case, was problematic.  Pender and Heth were promoted, and soon to have their names writ large in the events of the Gettysburg Campaign.  This letter is one of a number during this period in which Davis and Lee misunderstood each other.  Earlier, Davis had believed Lee advocated (as did Davis) sending Longstreet and his corp west.  There was also a misunderstanding over whether troops should be withdrawn from the South Carolina coast to strengthen Lee for his invasion of the north.

May 25, 1863 (Monday): The Desertion Issue

Judge Richmond Pearson (
Raleigh, May 25, 1863.
Honorable J. A. SEDDON,
Secretary of War, Richmond, Va.:
    SIR: Your letter of the 23rd instant, inclosing copy of one from General Lee with descriptive rolls of deserters from General Rodes' brigade, appealing to me for action in regard to the best means of arresting desertion in the army, has been received. You will see by copy of my proclamation,* that everything which it is possible for me to do has been already done. The most stringent orders have been issued to the militia to guard all fords and feries and public highways, and every imaginable step taken to insure activity and obedience. And to avoid, if possible, the danger of conflicting with the legal tribunals of that State, I have recently written to the President suggesting that he should make a requisition upon me for the milita for the purpose of arresting deserters, &c., to which letter I beg to refer you as an evidence of my great desire to put a stop to this evil. I regret, sir, that you should have deemed it necessary to adopt as an expanation of the cause for so much desertion-an idea which has its origin solely in political prejudice-the "too ready interposition of the judicial authority in these question of military obligation," and the false constructions given to the decisions of our judges in the army. That such impressions do prevail in the army I make no doubt. You are not the first authority I have had for that fact; but why it should exit and how it was first made I am unable to determine, except upon the ground that there exist among our neighbors, and even among some of our own citizens, "a too ready" disposition to believe evil of the State. When it is know that North Carolina is the only State in the Confederacy which employs her militia in the arrest of conscripts and deserters; that she has better executed the conscript law; has fuller regiments in the field that any other, and that at the two last great battles on the Rappahannock, in Decempber and in May, she furnished over one-half of the killed and wounded, it seems strange, passing stange, that an impression should prevail that desertion would receive official contenance and protection on her borders.
    The decisions of our judges have been published in all the papers of our State, and any pervarsion of their meaning must be designed and willful. Neither have our judges been "too ready" to offer them. Heavy penalties, as your know, are annexed to the refusal of a judge to grant the writ of haveas corpus, and an upright judge must deliver the law as he conceives it to be, whether it should happen to comport with the received notions of the military authorities or not. I must therefore most respectfully decline to use my influence in restaining or controlling that co-ordinate branch of the Government which intrudes upon nobody, usurps no authority, but is, on the contrary, in great danger of being overlapped and destroyed by the tendency of the times. Whilst, therefore, it is my intention to make every possible effort to sustain the common cause, it is my firm determination to sustain the judicial authorities of the land, the rights and privileges of the citizens to the utmost of my power. By the action of Congress no appreal lies from the supreme court of a State to that of the Confederate States, and the decisions of the supreme court of North Carolina when formally rendered will be binding upon all parties. I also regret to see that the impression will be made by these letters of yours and General Lee's that desertion is greater among the North Carolina troops than those of her sister States, which I have every reason to believe is not true. Yet has any other Executive been appealed to isue proclamations, and to employ the militia in arresting it? Has the "too ready interposition" of the judiciary of South Carolina and Georgia been rebuked for almost similar decisions rendered? Exuse me, sir, for writing in this strain; I feel that our exertion are scarcely appreciated properly, and I can but speak plainly when I approach the subject.
     Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

     Z. B. VANCE.

* See May 11, 1863, p. 706. 

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 51, Part 2, Page 715.

In the spring of 1863 North Carolina militia entered Yadkin County is pursuit of deserters.  In the process two militia were killed and a group of deserters arrested.  They applied to judge Richmond Pearson of the North Carolina Supreme Court for a writ of habeus corpus.  Pearson ruled that without some specific act of the Confederate Congress which imposed on the state the obligation to utilize the militia, there was no legal authority for the militia to attempt the arrest.  The men were therefore resisting an unlawful arrest and had committed no crime.  The judge ordered them released.  At the same time, Richmond and Lee were alarmed by the increase in desertions by North Carolina troops and asked Governor Vance to overrule the judiciary.  Instead, Vance asks, in conformity with Pearson's ruling, for the Confederate government to requisition the militia of the state to perform the task (thereby making it legal).  The irony is that the Confederate Government was created on the basis of states rights, yet if they exerted those rights once they seceeded they risked the destruction of their cause.

Friday, May 24, 2013

May 24, 1863 (Sunday): Meade and Reynolds Consult

General George G. Meade

May 22, 1863.
    GENERAL: An issue having been raised between the commanding general and myself in regard to the construction to be placed on the language I used at the consultation of corps commanders held on the night of May 4, I would esteem it a personal favor if you would, at your earliest convenience, state your recollection of what I said, and the impression it made on you at the time.
    Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

    GEO. G. MEADE,

May 24, 1863.
Major General GEORGE G. MEADE,
Commanding Fifth Army Corps, Army of the Potomac:
    GENERAL: Your note of the 22nd instant has been received. My recollection of the substance of the remarks made by you at the consultation of the corps commanders, held on the night of the 4th of May, is that you were decidedly in favor of an advance in the direction of Fredericksburg at daylight the next morning; that you considered this army had already too long been made subservient to the safety of Washington, and you threw that out of the question altogether. This drew the remarks from General Sickles. I simply said, as my corps was the only one which had not been engaged, I would not urge my opinion, but that I agreed with you.
    I am, general, very respectfully your obedient servant,

    Major-General Volunteers.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 25, Part 1, Page 510.

An interesting exchange between two of the principal players in the upcoming drama at Gettysburg.  Disputes over recollections and actions were common during the war and even more so afterward.  Here Meade is prompting Reynolds to recollect Meade's position during a critical point in the Chancellorsville campaign.  It could be argued Hooker had bigger things to worry about at this point, and rightfully so, but generals in this war always fought with one eye on the enemy and one on public and political opinions.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

May 23, 1863 (Saturday): The Not Quite General-In-Chief

Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton
Washington, D. C., May 23, 1863.
Honorable E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War:
SIR: In your letter of to-day, just received, you propose four questions for answer:
     1. What provision, in the present condition of the Army of the Potomac and the forces around Alexandria, Baltimore, and Washington, should be made to guard against such raids?
    The disposition of the forces in and around Alexandria and Washington is as stated in my letter of the 18th. I do not think that this disposition can be improved unless the position of the Army of the Potomac, or of its cavalry, be changed. General Heintzelman has been directed to block up the roads of approach by felling trees, and to remove the paroled prisoners, now south of the Potomac, to Annapolis, or to the north side of the river. They cannot fight, and will only be in the way where they are. General Schenck has been directed to concentrate his troops upon fewer points, so that they can be more available against raids.
    2. Whether proper precautions have been taken to guard against such raids?
    In addition to the disposition above stated General Heintzelman has stopped all passage of the brigades during the night, has barricaded them, and placed at them strong guards with artillery. The planking of Chain Bridge is ordered to be taken up every night. Staff officers are directed to visit the guards, forts, and pickets frequently, to see that all are on the alert.
     The guards of the public stores in the city are directed to be held in readiness to act on any threatened point. As an additional precaution, I suggest that all clerks and employes of the Government should be directed to assemble at their several departments, in case of an alarm, to be armed, and replace the guards at the public stores and buildings.
      3. What dispositions of our cavalry force should be made under present circumstances?
      All available cavalry forces in the Department of Washington are kept on and in front of the outer line of pickets south of the Potomac, scouts being sent out on the roads to feel the enemy and give notice of his movements. I do not think a better disposition can at present be made of these forces.
      4. Any other suggestions you deem proper to make in respect to the above-mentioned forces for offense or protection. You will also state what cavalry force now belongs to the Army of the Potomac, where it is, and on what duty engaged.
     The last return received of the cavalry of the Army of the Potomac is dated April 10. The aggregate was then 22,253, of which 13,398 was reported present for duty. Since then this force has been weakened by an extensive raid against the enemy. Probably not more than 9,000 or 10,000 could now be taken into the field. When I last saw General Hooker, I understood from him that he intended to station this cavalry near the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, in rear of the Rappahannock, to provide against raids, and protect that line of supplies. I was told by General Stoneman, on the 21st, that only a picket guard had been left there, and that the remainder of the cavalry had been withdrawn to Belle Plain, some 35 or 40 miles from the Rappahannock Station. If so, it could not reach this road without a hard day's march.
     In my opinion, this cavalry, if the Army of the Potomac contemplates no immediate movement, should either be stationed nearer to the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, or be employed in again attacking and breaking up the enemy's cavalry. It is rumored that Stuart and Lee are collecting a cavalry force at Culpeper. If so, it is probably for a raid upon Alexandria or into the Valley of the Shennadoah, which the cavalry of the Army of the Potomac should be prepared to prevent.
    Since writing the foregoing, I learn verbally from General Butterfield that two divisions of the Cavalry Corps are stationed near the Orange and Alexandria Railroad; that two regiments have been sent to clean out the country between the Rappahannock and the Occoquan, and that two other regiments have been sent for the same purpose down the neck of land between the Potomac and Rappahannock.
     If a mere cavalry raid should be made upon Alexandria, the only serious apprehensions would be for our stores at that place, while, on the other hand, the enemy's retreat ought to be cut off by the cavalry of General Stahel and that of the Army of the Potomac. If the enemy should attack in large force, we must rely for assistance mainly upon the army under General Hooker.
     The efficiency of the defenses south of the Potomac would be greater if there was a more experienced officer in command of the forts and artillery. I therefore respectfully renew my recommendation that Colonel De Russy be made a brigadier-general of volunteers, in order that he may be assigned to that command.
In regard to the Army of the Potomac, I must respectfully refer you to my letter of the 18th. I have not now, nor have had since General Hooker assumed the command, any information in regard to its intended movements other than that which I have received from the President, to whom General Hooker reports directly.
     Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

     H. W. HALLECK,

MAY 24, 1863.
   Respectfully referred to the President for his orders. The opinion that the large cavalry forces of the Army of the Potomac should be so disposed as to afford protection against the enemy's cavalry raids upon our military depots and exposed points is concurred in by the general commanding the department, Major-General Heintzelman, and the Quartermaster-General, who, under my direction, has just made a personal examination as to the defenses of our depots at Alexandria. As General Halleck, for reasons stated, does not deem himself authorized to give orders to General Hooker, it is submitted to the President whether the circumstances do not require him to give such directions as upon consideration of the within report may appear to be necessary.


     Secretary of War.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 25, Part 2, Page 516.

It is worth noting Halleck, commander of all U.S. armies,did not consider himself authorized to give orders to Hooker.  It was an unworkable situation, created by Lincoln himself.  It placed the General-In-Chief of the armies in a role most accurately described as an administrator.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

May 22, 1863 (Friday): The Seige of Vicksburg Begins

Battle of Vicksburg (Harper's Weekly)

NEAR Vicksburg, May 22, 1863,
General H. W. HALLECK,
Washington, D. C.:
    Vicksburg is now completely invested. I have possession of Haynes' Bluff and the Yazoo; consequently have supplies. To-day an attempt was made to carry the city by assault, but was not entirely successful. We hold possession, however, of two of the enemy's forts, and have skirmishers close under all of them. Our loss was not severe. The nature of the ground about Vicksburg is such that it can only be taken by a siege. It is entirely safe to us in time, I would say one week, if the enemy do not send a large army upon my rear. With the railroad destroyed to beyond Pearl River, I do not see the hope that the enemy can entertain of such relief.
     I learn that Jeff. Davis has promised that if the garrison can hold out for fifteen days he will send 100,000 men, if he has to evacuate Tennessee to do it.
     What shall I do with the prisoners I have?

     U. S. GRANT,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 24, Part 1, Page 37.

Grant was correct in laying out the difficulties the Confederates would face, but his estimate of a week to take Vicksburg would be highly optimistic.  Sherman, McPherson, and McClernand made simultaneous assaults on the 22nd with a loss of 3,000 troops.

Monday, May 20, 2013

May 21, 1863 (Thursday): Of Officers and Whiskey

Brigadier-General WILLIAMS,
Assistant Adjutant-General, &c.:
    GENERAL: In reply to the inclosed, I would respectfully state that I have no reason to doubt the truth of the charges against purveyors and caterers. A privilege,at first accorded to officers for the purpose of enabling them to obtain articles of necessity to them, and not embraced in the Sutler's list, or where it was impossible for sutlers to furnish them, has become an evil of enormous magnitude, flooding the army with intoxicating drinks, and loading down steamboats and railroad trains with articles entirely unnecessary, in the way of table delicacies, &c.
    The facilities afforded to these purveyors for obtaining transportation by the use of officers' names enables them to supply not only the officers of their respective commands, but to sell to the soldiers. The caterers are frequently detected in these nefarious transactions, and sent beyond the lines, but the facilities for rascality in their line are so numerous that it is almost impossible to prevent the abuse of these purveyors' pursuits.
I regret to say that the root of the evil is with the officers who give orders for unreasonable purchases, and the commanders who indorse them. Frequently the allowance of liquors on these orders for one officer per day has been from one to three bottles of whisky, and as high as a gallon and two gallons of fermented beverages additional. The vast numbers of purveyors, caterers, messengers, clerks, employes, &c., hanging upon this army are a curse to it; and refugees from taxation and conscription at home are fattening upon the plunder obtained here.
     Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

    M. R. PATRICK,
    Provost-Marshall General.

A complaint of Crosby and other sutlers in relation to the way they are treated. Cannot supply their regiments while purveyors and caterers are furnished transportation, &c. A copy on file, date May 11, 1863, referred to this office through headquarters Army of the Potomac, to be returned with report.

Series I., Vol. 25, Part 2, Page 513.

The best and worst in society turned out for the war and the officer ranks were no exception.  Discipline in the Army of the Potomac had improved in some ways under Hooker, but in his attitude toward strong drink there was room for mischief.  Officers north and south far too often imbibed to their disadvantage.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

May 20, 1863 (Wednesday): Trimble Gets A Job Offer

General Isaac Trimble

May 20, 1863.
Shocco Springs, N. C.:
   MY DEAR GENERAL: I am delighted to hear by your letter of the 13th that you are doing so well. I was very much grieved at your attack, and started one day to see you, but was told it was thought better you should be quiet. I hope you will soon recover your strength, but you must not return to the field until able to endure fatigue. I have a proposition to make: it is that you take command, if able, of the Shenandoah Valley. Colonel Davidson is in local command at Staunton. General Jenkins with his cavalry will be below. You will have all the Maryland troops, which I hope you will be able to organize and build up into something respectable. Their organization has been a failure so far, you will be in a beautiful, healthy county; can give general supervision of operations there; will form the left wing of this army, and shall have permission to capture Milroy and take Maryland as soon as you can.
    Let me know when you will be able to enter on your new command and I will issue the order. I want some one there at once, as I intend to bring W. E. Jones' brigade east of the mountains as soon as he returns from the west. He ought to reach Staunton to morrow.
     With many thanks for your kind letter, and feeling with you sympathy at our heavy loss of the great and good Jackson, I remain, very truly yours,

      R. E. LEE.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 25, Part 2, Page 812.

Trimble was a difficult subordinate, having much influence in Maryland but little tact and a high estimation of his own abilities.  He had been wounded at Second Manassas and recovered with difficulty.  Trimble did have some ability and the assignment would be preferable to displaying an existing general within the current Army of Northern Virginia command structure.  Shocco Springs was a spa near Warrenton, North Carolina which utilized the local mineral waters, and at one time was the second most popular such resort on the east coast and heavily visited.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

May 19, 1863 (Tuesday): "Vicksburg Must Before Long Fall"

The Vicksburg Campaign (

May 19, 1863.
Admiral PORTER, U. S. Navy:
    You can rely on any information which may be given you by the bearer. We have the city invested, and all the bluffs between this and Snyder's under our control. There are no troops at Haynes' Bluff. General Grant has sent Colonel Taggart to communicate with Admiral Porter by way of Snyder's Bluff. General Grant wishes the admiral's co-operation in taking Vicksburg.
    We are short of rations, and want rations sent up the Yazoo to Snyder's, if the Chickasaw Bayou is not navigable.
     Very truly, yours,


(Any officer of the Army or Navy of the United States, into whose hands this may fall, will please forward it to Admiral Porter immediately.)

HDQRS. 15TH ARMY CORPS, Walnut Hills, May 19, 1863.
Admiral Porter, or Senior Officer at Mouth of Yazoo:
    DEAR ADMIRAL: My right is on the Mississippi. We have possession of the bluff down a mile or more below the mouth of the bayou.
    Can't you send immediately a couple of gunboats down? They can easily see and distinguish our men, and can silence a water battery, that is, the extremity of their flank on the river, and enfilade the left flank of their works.
    I think nearly all the guns of their upper batteries are moved inside of Vicksburg and are now on the land front.
    You will have no trouble in distinguishing our flank; it is about one-quarter of a mile below a cattle pen, on the immediate shore of the Mississippi.
    I would get General Grant to make this request, but he is far on the left flank and it would take hours to find him.
    Truly, yours,

    W. T. SHERMAN,

near Vicksburg, MISS., May 19, 1863-11. 16 a. m.
    Army corps commanders will push forward carefully, and gain as close position as possible to the enemy's works until 2 p. m. At that hour they will fire three volleys of artillery from all the pieces in position. This will be the signal for a general charge of all the corps along the whole line.
    When the works are carried, guards will be placed by all DIVISION commanders, to prevent their men from straggling from their companies.
    By order of Major General U. S. Grant:

    Assistant Adjutant-General.

Vicksburg, May 19, 1863.
President JEFFERSON DAVIS, Richmond:
    Against my own judgment, but by instructions from superior authority, sustained by the unanimous voice of my general officers, I felt myself compelled to advance my position beyond Edwards Depot, and to offer or accept battle according to circumstances. The enemy attacked me in very great force about 7 a. m. on 16th. My position was a good one, but numbers prevailed; at 5 p. m. we were forced to retire. General Loring's DIVISION, which covered the retreat across Baker's Creek, failed to rejoin me, but will probably form a junction with General Johnston. We were again driven from and intrenched line at east and south head of Big Black Bridge, on morning of 17th; we lost a large amount of artillery. The army was much demoralized; many regiments behaved badly. We are occupying the trenches around Vicksburg; the enemy is investing it, and will probably attempt an assault. Our men have considerably recovered their morale, but unless a large force is sent at once to relieve it, Vicksburg must before long fall. I have used every effort to prevent all this, but in vain.


Series I., Vol. 24, Part 3, Pages 318-319, 892.

On May 19 Grant staged a series of frontal assaults against Pemberton's fortifications, suffering heavy losses. He would not immediately give up on the idea of storming the city, but with the Navy coming up river and the city surrounded the game was over unless relief was sent.  Meanwhile Pemberton sends a message to Davis blaming his situation on Johnston.

May 18, 1863 (Monday): Pemberton Seals His Fate

Approaches to and Defenses of Vicksburg (Library of Congress)

Vicksburg, May 18, 1863.
General JOSEPH E. Johnston:
    GENERAL: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication, in reply to mine by the hands of Captain [Thomas] Henderson. In a subsequent letter of same date as this latter, I informed you that the men had failed to hold the trenches at Big Black Bridge, and that, as a consequence, Snyder's Mill was directed to be abandoned. On the receipt of your communication, I immediately assembled a council of war of the general officers of this command, and having laid your instructions before them, asked the free expression of their opinions as to the practicability of carrying them out. The opinion was unanimously expressed that it was impossible to withdraw the army from this position with such morale and material as to be of further service to the Confederacy. While the council of war was assembled, the guns of the enemy opened on the works, and it was at the same time reported that they were crossing the Yahoo River at Brandon's Ferry, above Snyder's Mill. I have decided to hold Vicksburg as long as is possible, with the firm hope that the Government may yet be able to assist me in keeping this obstruction to the enemy's free navigation of the Mississippi River. I still conceive it to be the most important point in the Confederacy.
     Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

    Lieutenant-General, Commanding.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 24, Part 1, Page 273.

This is in response to a letter from Johnston on the 17th which read in part, "...if, therefore, you are invested in Vicksburg, you must ultimately surrender. Under such circumstances, instead of losing both troops and place, we must, if possible, save the troops. If it is not too late, evacuate Vicksburg and its dependencies, and march to the northeast."  Johnston was undoubtedly correct in his estimation of the situation.  But Pemberton understood how fragile his army was and how poorly it had performed at Big Black Bridge.  He felt they were not capable of cutting their way through the Union lines and escaping.  Pemberton hoped for help which would not come and sealed the fate of his command.  

Friday, May 17, 2013

May 17, 1863 (Sunday): Battle At Big Black River

HDQRS. DEPT. OF Mississippi AND EASTERN LOUISIANA, Vicksburg, MISS., May 17, 1863.
General JOSEPH E. Johnston,
Commanding, &c.:
    GENERAL: Whilst writing my communication this morning, the enemy attacked me on my right, left, and center. My troops, although strongly posted behind breastworks and protected in rifle-pits, were forced from their positions, owing to the demoralization consequent upon the retreat of yesterday. Every effort is now being made to reorganize the troops, and it is hoped that their numbers, although greatly diminished by incidents narrated, will be speedily increased.
    The army has fallen back to the line of intrenchments around Vicksburg. As stated in my communication of this morning, this retreat will render it necessary to abandon the works at Snyder's Mill, which has accordingly been ordered. All the ammunition possible will be saved. The heavy guns, however, will necessarily be abandoned.
    Two companies will be left at that point for the purpose of making a demonstration, and of spiking the guns and destroying the remaining stores whenever the emergency may arise.
     The works at Fort Pemberton, which may prove essential to a line along the Yalabusha, have not been abandoned. The garrison of 200 men remain there.
     I regret to say that as yet I have received no reliable, information with regard to General Loring's division. It is reported, but I cannot trace the rumor to a reliable source, that he is crossing the Big Black River at some point below the Big Black Bridge.
    In addition to the artillery lost yesterday, I regret to state that most of the artillery of Bowen's division is lost. Yesterday it was all successfully brought off, but to-day was abandoned in the trenches, almost without an effort to save it.
     I greatly regret that I felt compelled to make the advance beyond Big Black, which has proved so disastrous in its results.


Series I., Vol. 24, Part 3, Page 887.

Three divisions of McClernand's Corp advanced from Edwards' Depot and made contact just east of the bridge over the Big Black River.  Panic by inexperienced troops led to the loss of their position, and the Cofederates fell back over the river having lost 1800 men.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

May 16, 1863 (Saturday): Champion Hill

CSA Left Flank (1 mile in front of Champion Hill)

BOLTON, MISS., May 16, 1863
Brigadier General A. J. SMITH.
    GENERAL: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note to General Carr, advising him of your arrival at Raymond. Inclosed you will find orders for the movement of your DIVISION. # If
you are prompt in your movement, at 4 a. m. you will take the lead in the left wing, General Blair having orders to move at 5 a. m. You will take the road to Edwards Depot, which leaves the Raymond and Bolton road 1 1/2 miles this side of Raymond, diverging to the left.

    JOHN A. McClernand.

CLINTON, MISS., May 16, 1863-5. 30 a. m.
Major General WILLIAM T. SHERMAN, Comdg. Fifteenth Army Corps:
    Start one of your DIVISIONS on the road at once, with their ammunition wagons, and direct the general commanding the DIVISION to move with all possible speed until he comes up with our rear beyond Bolton. It is important that the greatest celerity should be shown in carrying out this movement, as I have evidence that the entire force of the enemy was at Edwards Depot at 7 p. m. last night, and was still advancing. The fight may, therefore, be brought on at any moment. We should have every man in the field.

    U. S. GRANT.

HDQRS. Fifteenth ARMY CORPS. Numbers 36.
Bolton, MISS., May 16, 1863.,
The movement to-morrow will be as follows:
    I. All the effective cavalry will constitute the advance, and will move as soon as day breaks by a road that will be explained to them by the
general commanding. All the non-effectives will be put under an officer, and ordered to accompany the wagon-train, to protect it.
     II. General Steele's DIVISION will lead and General Tuttle's follow. Each DIVISION commander will designate a good officer to take charge of the tired and foot-sore, to remain with the wagon train, composed of all the wagons of this corps, which will follow the troops, and as soon as firing is heard in the front, the wagons will be parked, and all wagon guards will prepare to defend it.
     III. The troops will march Light, followed only by ammunition wagons and ambulances, which will follow brigades.
     IV. The occasion calls for the utmost energy of all the troops. One determined effort and the opportunity for which we have all labored so hard and patiently will not be lost. Our destination is now the Big Black River, 13 miles distant, beyond which lies Vicksburg. The commanding general announces that the other corps with which we are acting have to-day signally repulsed the enemy, and our part is to make that repulse a complete defeat.
    V. The artillery of each DIVISION will be massed and kept near the front of each DIVISION.
    By order of Major General W. T. Sherman:

   R. M. SAWYER,
   Assistant Adjutant-General.

CLINTON, MISS., May 16, 1863-5. 45 a. m.
Major General J. B. McPHERSON, Comdg. SEVENTEENTH Army Corps:
I have just received information that the enemy have crossed Big Black with the entire Vicksburg force. He was at Edwards Depot last night, and still advancing. You will, therefore, pass all trains, and move forward to join McClernand. I have ordered your rear brigade to move at once, and given such directions to other commanders as will secure a prompt concentration of your forces.

     U. S. GRANT.

Brigadier General A. P. HOVEY:
    GENERAL: Your dispatch is received. * I have referred the question of bringing on an engagement to General Grant, who is said to be close by.
    Osterhaus is about 4 miles from Edwards Station; Smith 5 miles, and both have driven before them the enemy's pickets and skirmishers. Carr is well up to Osterhaus, and so is Blair to Smith.
     It appears that no force has passed to our left and rear. So soon as I am advised by General Grant, I will communicate with you. Meantime take any advantage you can, without bringing on a general engagement.    Watch your left as well as right. Communicate often.

    JOHN A. McClernand,

 *Not found.

JONES' PLANTATION, May 16, 1863-6 a. m.
Major General U. S. GRANT, Commanding, &c:
     GENERAL: I think it advisable for you to come forward to the front as soon as you can.
     Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


In the Field, before Edwards Station, May 16, 1863-7. 50 a. m.
Major General J. B. McPherson, Comdg. SEVENTEENTH Army Corps:
    GENERAL: My artillery has engaged the enemy on my extreme left. I am, as I advised you this morning, convinced that if you will move on the far side of the railroad and fall on the enemy's flank and rear, it would be decisive; besides, Hovey may need support by a co-operative movement by you, either on the north or south side of the railroad.
     Respectfully, your obedient servant,

    JOHN A. McClernand.

IN THE FIELD, Before Edwards Station, May 16, 1863.
Brigadier General A. P. HOVEY:
     GENERAL: Our forces have engaged the enemy with artillery on the left. Move forward on the right, cautiously but promptly
     Very respectfully,

    JOHN A. McClernand.

May 16, 1863.
Major General U. S. GRANT, Commanding Department:
    GENERAL: I received an order last evening from General McClernand to take the road from Raymond to Edwards Depot, which I accordingly did, and am now, at 9. 50 a. m., within 1 1/2 miles of Baker's Creek. General A. J. Smith's DIVISION is with me. We are feeling the enemy cautiously, skirmishing, and I have sent to ascertain the exact where-abouts of Osterhaus, Carr, and Hovey. We shall attack as soon as we can develop the enemy's position and ascertain that of our friends.
     Respectfully, &c.,


CLINTON, MISS., May 16, 1863.
Major General F. P. BLAIR, Jr.:
Commanding FIFTH DIVISION, Fifteenth Army Corps:
     Information received indicates that the enemy have moved out to Edwards Station, and are still pushing on to attack us with all their force. Push your troops on in that direction as rapidly as possible. If you are already on the Bolton road, continue so; but if you still have a choice of roads, take the one leading to Edwards Depot.
     Pass your troops to the front of your train, except a rear guard, and keep the ammunition wagons in front of all the others. I sent your orders on the 14th to move directly from wherever you might be to Bolton. Did you received the order? If you take the Edwards Depot road, you will want to communicate with the troops along the railroad by all cross-roads, after having advanced to WEST of Bolton. Precautions in approaching Baker's Creek are necessary. Before doing so, know where friend and enemy both are.

    U. S. GRAN

Major General U. S. GRANT, Comdg. Dept. of the Tennessee:
     GENERAL: At 9. 45 a. m. General Hovey has advanced on his road about 4 miles. Finds the enemy strongly posted in his front, showing two pieces of artillery at the distance of some 400 yards. The general has taken 15 prisoners, who represent the enemy to be from 50,000 to 60,000 strong. Osterhaus must be some 4 miles from Edwards Station. General Smith is about the same distance.
McPherson, I think should move up to the support of Hovey, who thinks his right flank will encounter severe resistance. Shall I hold,

EDWARDS STATION, MISS, May 16, 1863. -12. 35 p. m.
Major General John A. McClernand, Comdg. Thirteenth Army Corps:
    As soon as your command is all in hand, throw forward skirmishers and feel the enemy, and attack him in force if an opportunity occurs. I am with Hovey and McPherson,. and will see that they fully co-operate.
or bring on an engagement? General Hovey thinks the enemy has passed a large force toward Raymond, and to our rear, but an aide from General Smith knows nothing of it.

    JOHN A. McClernand.

    U. S. GRANT.

IN THE FIELD, Before Edwards Station, May 16, 1863.
    Generals Smith and Osterhaus will attack the enemy vigorously, and press for victory. Generals Carr and Blair will support Generals Smith and Osterhaus. General Carr will place General Lawler's brigade as a reserve in front of his first position to-day.
     By order of Major General John A. McClernand:

    A. L. LEE.

    We are informed that a force of infantry and artillery are pressing between you and Smith. We threw Blair's right and Carr's left between the road. Look out for the enemy there.
    By order of Major General John A. McClernand:

    A. L. LEE.

In the Field, May 16, 1863.
General CARR:
      Information is received that the enemy are pressing infantry and artillery between Smith and Osterhaus. You will throw a brigade on the left of your road, and advance it to oppose any such attempt. General Blair will also throw a brigade from his right for the same purpose.
     Whenever your brigade commander is satisfied that no danger is to be apprehended from that quarter, he will resume his position.
     By order of Major General John A. McClernand:

    A. L. LEE.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 24, Part 3, Pages 316-320.

Johnston left Jackson when Grant moved between the Vicksburg and Jackson forces.  Pemberton was ordered to leave Edwards Depot and attack the Union forces at Clinton.  Pemberton at first advised against the order, but then turned to move on Clinton, which placed his supply wagons in the vanguard.  Pemberton drew up his forces on a commanding ridge overlooking Jackson Creek.  Three Union columns moving up the Jackson Road threatened the Confederate left at Champion Hill.  If this position was turned, the rebels would be cut off from their line of retreat.  For five hours a series of attacks and counterattacks ensued, before the Southern forces fell back behind the Big Black River in front of Vicksburg.  It was ultimately a victory for Grant, both in terms of casualties (3,000 CSA, 2,500 US) and position (moving the rebels back further toward Vicksburg). 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

May 15, 1863 (Friday): The Jones-Imboden Raiders Return

General Samuel Jones

Dublin, May 15, 1863.
Honorable JAMES A. SEDDON,
Secretary of War:
    SIR: Brigadier-General Imboden and his command were at Bulltown, Braxton County, on Saturday night, the 9th instant. Brigadier General W. E. Jones had started from Weston to destroy the railroad between Clarksburg and Parkersburg. He and Imboden were then to unite at Summerville, and would then, as Imboden informs me, be ready strike at Charleston or any other point I might direct. This information was sent to me in a letter from Major Claiborne, and officer of the command, dated at Lewisburg on the 13th instant. Major Claiborne was sent by Imdoben to convey the information to me.
    Hearing that the enemy was sending re-enforcements to Summerville, I directed Brigadier-General Echols to move forward two battalions of infantry, a section of artillery, and company of cavalry to Imboden's support at Summerville. I think Imboden's force alone is strong enough to drive the enemy from Summerville, but if Echols reaches there in time, they may capture any force the enemy has there.
    I have ordered Colonel McCausland to move from Princeton with about 1,200 infantry, a battery, and company of cavalry, and threaten Fayetteville, to prevent the enemy from detaching any force from that place to interfere with Imboden.
     I have also directed Imboden that if, after he reaches Summerville, his men are in condition to continue the expedition, to move and strike the Kanawha at or near Montgomery's Ferry; clear out that valley between Gauley and Charleston; then cross over and take Fayetteville in rear, while McCausland threatens it in front.
    I communicate this information to you chiefly that you may communicate such instructions for W. E. Jones and Imboden to move eastward as rapidly as possible, and, not knowing where they were, could send them the order. Any instructions you may desire to send had better be sent through me, and I will forward them without delay.
     Most respectfully, sir, your obedient servant,


Official Records, Series I., Vol. 25, Part 2, Page 803.

 Jones and Imboden's raid began on April 20th with a mission to attack the B&O Railroad between the Maryland line and Rowlesburg, W. Va.  Jones accomplished his part of the raid, destroying railroad bridges between Rowlesburg and the Alleghany Mountains, going on to threaten Wheeling and Pittsburgh.  But Imboden had failed to destroy the bridge at Rowlesburg, which was the key part of the mission.  W. E. Jones, who led the raid, was in command of the Valley District and Samuel Jones (the writer of the letter) was in command of the Department of Western Virginia, which included most of the Confederacy's salt works.

Monday, May 13, 2013

May 14, 1863 (Thursday): Intrique in Richmond

A Wartime Letter Written by Jefferson Davis

President of the United States, Washington, D. C.:
     The following is a copy of an original letter of Jefferson Davis in my possession.

     Major-General and Chief of Staff.


May 1, 1863-Sunday a.m.
     MY DEAR SIR: Inclosed I send you a telegram from Isaac, as requested by him. Our news from Mississippi is not definite beyond the fact that [John S.] Bowen, after engaging the enemy south of Port Gibson, had, under cover of night, fallen back across the Bayou Pierre, and that Loring was moving to his support from Vicksburg. The enemy landed in large force near Bruinsburg and have made cavalry raids as far as the New Orleans and Jackson Railroad. General Pemberton, as you are aware, is very deficient in cavalry, and is greatly outnumbered in infantry. We are looking, with intense anxiety to the operations of your army, and I have made earnest though not very successful efforts to give it prompt re-enforcements.
     With best wishes, I am, as ever, your friend.


Official Records, Series I., Vol. 25, Part 2, Page 480.

How is it Butterfield (Hooker's Chief of Staff) came into possession of a recently signed letter from the Confederacy's President?  It hints of intrigue, coupled with the recent presence near Richmond of Union cavalry.  Perhaps a messenger was captured with the memo, but then again it would not have been the first time Davis' office was spied upon.  In 1861 a slave serving in the rebel White House crossed into Union lines and recounted very clearly conversations had there by Davis.  Perhaps there were still spies in Richmond.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

May 13, 1863 (Wednesday): Hooker Wants to Move Again Against Lee

General Joseph Hooker

May 13, 1863.
    My movements have been a little delayed by the withdrawal of many of the two-year's and nine-months' regiments, and those whose time is not already up it will be expedition to leave on this side of the river. This reduction imposes upon me the necessity of partial reorganization. My marching force of infantry is cut down to about 80,000, while I have artillery for an army of more than double that number. It has always been out of proportion, considering the character of the country we have to campaign in, and I shall be more efficient by leaving at least one-half of it in depot. In addition, Stoneman's cavalry returned to camp day befroe yesterday, and will require a day or two more to be in readiness to resume operations.
    I know that you are impatient, and I know that I am, but my impatience must not be indulged at the expense of dearest interests.
    I am informed that the bulk of Longstreet's force is in Richmond. With the facilities at hand, he can readily transfer it to Lee's army, and no doubt will do so if Lee should fight and fall back, as he will try to do.
The enemy's camps are reported to me as being more numerous than before our last movement, but of this I have no positive information. They probably have about the same number of troops as before the last battle, but with these and Longstreet's they are much my superior, besides having the advantage of acting on the defensive, which, in this country, can scarcely be estimated.
    I hear nothing of Peck's movements and of the force at West Point, which is too small to be of much importance in the general movement. If it is expected that Peck will be able to keep Longstreet's force in and about Richmond, I should be informed of it, and if not, a reserve infantry force of 25,000 should be placed at my disposal in this vicinity. I merely state this for your information, not that I know even that you have such a force, or, if you have, that you would be disposed to make use of it in this way. I only desire that you should be informed of my views. In my opinion, the major part of the troops on the Upper Potomac, in and around Washington and Baltimore, are out of position, and if great results are expected from the approaching movement, every man and vessel at the disposal of the Government should be assigned their posts. I hope to be able to commence my movement to-morrow, but this must not be spoken of to any one.
    Is it asking too much to inquire your opinion of my Orders, Numbers 49?* If so, do not answer me.
Jackson is dead, and Lee beats McClellan in his untruthful bulletins.
     Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

    Major-General, Commanding.

*See Part I, p. 171.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 25, Part 2, Page 473.

Hooker went to Washington the evening of this noteThe following day Lincoln sent him a letter saying because of the strength of the Confederate it did not appear he could accomplish anything by recrossing the Rappahannock.  He also told Hooker he was concerned it appeared some of his corp and division commanders did not give him their entire confidence.  Orders Number 49, referred to here, were Hooker's congratulatory orders to his troops after the battle of Chancellorsville.  In essence, they indicated they had accomplished much, and were not driven back across the river but left on their own accord.


May 12, 1863 (Tuesday): The Battle of Raymond

McPherson's Ridge at Raymond Battlefield (

DILLON'S PLANTATION, MISS., May 12, 1863-9. 15 p. m.
Major General John A. McClernand, Comdg. Thirteenth Army Corps:
     General McPherson gained Raymond this afternoon, after a severe fight of several hours, in which we lost from 400 to 500 killed and wounded. The enemy was driven at all points, leaving most of his wounded and over 100 prisoners in our hands.
     He retreated toward Clinton, and no doubt to Jackson. I have determined to follow, and take first the capital of the State. Accordingly McPherson is ordered to move at daylight from Raymond toward Clinton and Jackson. Sherman leaves here at 4 o'clock in the morning, in the same direction. You will start with three of your divisions as soon as possible, by the road north of Fourteen-Mile Creek, to this place, and on to Raymond. The road is plain, and cannot be mistaken. A supply train left Grand Gulf yesterday, and Blair's division with an additional train, to-day.
     Under present instructions, these trains will divide at the forks of the road where you and Sherman separated this morning. I would direct, therefore, that your Fourth division go back to Old Auburn, and wait until these trains come up, both of them, and conduct them after the army on the Raymond road, until they receive further orders from these headquarters.

     U. S. GRANT.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 24, Part 3, Page 300.

Grant's intention had been to combine with Banks in operations against Fort Hudson, Louisiana and then move on Vicksburg.  But he learned Banks was engaged in his own campaign (known as the Red River Campaign) and would not return to Baton Rouge until May 10th, and then with only 15,000 men.  So Grant decided to advance on Jackson and attempt to get between the separated wings of Confederate forces who were attempting to concentrate there.  He could have moved directly on Vicksburg, but in doing so would not have disrupted the re-enforcements would have come to Pemberton's aide.  At Raymond the Confederate brigade of John Gregg formed south of town and held off McPherson from 11 a.m. until late afternoon.  This confirmed for Grant the idea that considerable force was building at Jackson.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

May 11, 1863 (Monday): Stuart Feels Slighted

Fredericks Hall VA (

HEADQUARTERS, Fredericksburg, May 11, 1863.
General J. E. B. STUART,
Commanding Cavalry:
    GENERAL: I received your note of the 9th, and I am glad that the railroad bridge will be so soon completed. When it is done, unless circumstances in your opinion prevent, I request you to move into Culpeper, where you can better observe the enemy. I shall be glad to get your view as to the increase of the cavalry, and I need not assure you that nothing will be wanted on my part to augment it. Do you know how many brigades compose the cavalry divisions of the enemy, and who are the brigade commanders? If you think a visit to Richmond, on your part, will expedite the organization or equipment of your command, I have no objection, but, on the contrary, recommend it. I believe I told you of my wish to place Jenkins' cavalry in the Valley and draw Jones' to you. I thought it would give you a more reliable and larger force, from which you could re-enforce either flank, a necessary. What do you think of it? I have ordered Jenkins to assemble his companies (which have been scattered for forage) at Staunton. Hood is at Fredericksburg Hall. Communicate with him, and keep him advised of movements of enemy. I have directed him, as far as possible, to guard bridges over the North Anna, &c. I hope between you two you may scatter Stoneman. Rhett has been ordered from Gordonsville to Richmond. His troops I think necessary there.
    As regards the closing remarks of your note, I am at a loss to understand their reference or to know what has given rise to them. In the management of the difficult operations at Chancellorsville, which you so promptly undertook and creditably performed, I saw no errors to correct, nor has there been a fitting opportunity to commend your conduct. I prefer your acts to speak for themselves, nor does your character or reputation require bolstering by out-of-place expression of my opinions.
     I regret to inform you that the great and good Jackson is no more. He died yesterday at 3.15 p.m., of pneumonia, calm, serene, and happy May his spirit pervade our whole army; our country will then be secure.
     Very truly, yours,

     R. E. LEE,

P. S.-From indications observed yesterday, it seems probable General Hooker is contemplating some new movement. The late Washington papers seem also to indicate something. They claim a great victory. Keep your scouts on the alert.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 25, Part 2, page 792.

This most interesting note cannot be matched to Stuart's letter of the 9th, as it is not in the O.R.  Did Stuart believe he had not received sufficient credit for taking charge of Jackson's Corp after his wounding?  Stuart was anxious to get at the Union troopers, who were being given great credit for their raid behind Confederate lines, while Lee had been counseling patience.  Were the roots of Stuart's misadventure during the Gettysburg campaign sown with his perceived slight after Chancellorsville?  Lee probably rubbed some salt in the wound without meaning by reminding Stuart that Union papers considered the battle a victory because of the success of the Union cavalry.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

May 10, 1863 (Sunday): A Great National Calamity

Guinea Station-Site of Jackson's Death (

Secretary of War:
    It becomes my melancholy duty to announce to you the death of General Jackson. He expired at 3.15 p.m. to-day. His body will be conveyed to Richmond in the train to-morrow, under charge of Major Pendleton, assistant adjutant-general. Please direct an escort of honor to meet it at the depot, and that suitable arrangements be made for its disposition.

     R. E. LEE,

RICHMOND, VA., May 11, 1863.
General R. E. LEE:
     DEAR GENERAL: A great national calamity has befallen us, and I sympathize with the sorrow you feel and the embarrassment you must experience. The announcement of the death of General Jackson following frequent assurances that he was doing very well, and though the loss was one which would have been deeply felt under any circumstances, the shock was increased by its suddenness.
    There is sincere mourning here, and it will extend throughout the land as the intelligence is received.

    Your friend,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 25, Part 2, Page 791.

It was a shocking development.  Jackson had rallied for a time after his arm was amputated, but ultimately succumbed to pneumonia.  The deaths of Jackson and Lincoln were national events before the time of mass communication and both elicited deep mourning in their respective regions.  While many would mark Gettysburg as the turning point of the war, the death of Jackson marks a clear dividing point.  The Army of Northern Virginia would be effective, but never the same, after his death.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

May 9, 1863 (Saturday): "Give them breathing time..."

General J.E.B. Stuart

HEADQUARTERS, May 9, 1863.
General STUART,
Commanding Cavalry:
     GENERAL: Your note of the 8th has been received. The boats are at Orange Court-House, or perhaps back at Gordonsville, but they are without horses. I have no objection to your taking them if you require them, but you will not be able to transport them, or, I fear, protect them.  The river would in all probability subside before you could get them in place. They are in charge of Captain Douglas, of the Engineers. Call upon him in my name if you desire them.
     As regards General W. E. Jones, I have had it in my mind to make a change in the Valley, and order him to report with his brigade to you, and place the cavalry from Western Virginia there. I am perfectly willing to transfer him to Paxton's brigade if he desires it; but if he does not, I know of no act of his to justify my doing so. Do not left your judgment be warped. Hampton has probably joined you. Get your cavalry together, and give them breathing time, so as to when you do strike, Stoneman may feel you.
       Very truly,

      R. E. LEE,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 25, Part 2, Pages 788-789.

Stuart was asking after the Confederate pontoon bridges, which would indicate he had in mind an excursion across the Rappahannock (at least). Lee's caution to let his men rest awhile was sound.  The desire to do something of note after the ignominy of Stoneman's cavalry penetrating to the gates of Richmond must have burned bright in Stuart, but the need to rest exhausted men and horses after arduous service could not be ignored.  As for General W. E. "Grumble" Jones, Lee would return him to Stuart (it would appear from Lee's comments he knew this would not please the cavalry commander) on the 28th, exchanging him for Isaac Trimble, still recovering from wounds incurred during the 2nd Manassas campaign.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

May 8, 1863 (Friday): The Governor Inquires

Governor John Andrew of Massachusetts

May 8, 1863-11 a.m.
Honorable E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War;
     Thanks for your telegram. May I ask if storm and rise of Rappahannock determined Hooker's recrossing?


May 8, 1863.
Governor ANDREW,
Boston, Mass.:
    When General Hooker's official report is made it will no doubt answer all inquiries. The two causes mentioned were proximate and sufficient. What influences, if any, were exercised by other causes, I am unable to state. It is certain that he was not driven across by the enemy, or for want of force. Information has been received of the safe return of Stoneman's command.


Series I., Vol. 25, Part 2, Page 451.

There were three inches of rainfall from May 5-7, which Andrew alludes to.  It no doubt made Hooker's task more difficult, but it was not by any means the reason for his retiring over the river.  The condition of the Army of the Potomac was such it could not immediately resume operations and it would not have been prudent to remain, back to the river, with an aggressive opponent like Lee in his front.  Hooker's loss in killed, wounded, and missing was over 17,000 (or about 1/8th of his total force).  Confederate casualties were proportionately heavier, 13,000 of 60,000 engaged (more than 1/5th the total).