Monday, March 17, 2014

February 14, 1864 (Sunday): Jones Makes His Exit

General Samuel Jones

Dublin, February 14, 1864.
Honorable JAMES A. SEDDON,
Secretary of War:
    SIR: I received yesterday your letter of the 11th, in reply to mine of the 4th instant. You misunderstood my meaning if you supposed I desired the President to retain me in command of this department when he thought the interest of the service would be promoted by removing me. I knew that efforts had been made by men of local influence in the department to have me removed, and I had good reason to believe they had represented that a change would be agreeable to me. I only desired that the order relieving me should not be issued under any misapprehension. I was quite sure, and so expressed myself to others, that the President wound not remove me unless he was convinced that the best interests of the service would be thereby promoted.
    I recognize to the fullest extent that it is the right and duty of the President to assign officers to duty in the way best calculated to promote the public interest. He is the proper and rightful judge in all such cases, and I have the utmost confidence in his judgment. And whilst I sincerely regret that my administration of the trust confided in me has to given more general satisfaction, I have no disposition whatever to complain because the President has determined to confide it to another, whom he thinks better adapted to secure the confidence of the people and promote the essential ends of the command.
    I sincerely hope the distinguished officer and statesman who had been selected to relieve me will succeed in the accomplishment of the end proposed.
    I may be permitted to say that I entered upon this command with reluctance, as I believe you and the President know, and my chief reason for reluctance was the general impression that not one of the many officers who had preceded me, not even General Lee, had given satisfaction to the people, and I doubted if any one who administered the affairs of the department with an eye single to the general good of the service, regardless of local interests and influence, could give satisfaction to those who assume to express the opinion and wishes of the people.
    Though it seems I have not the confidence of the people, I have the satisfaction of knowing that whilst I have contributed largely, considering the strength of my command, to re-enforce the Army of Northern Virginia, and was somewhat instrumental in checking the advance of the enemy through East Tennessee, when that department was  abandoned, my own department has experienced no serious reverse, and that my troops now occupy all the territory they occupied when I entered on the command, more than fourteen months since.
    I await the orders of the President, feeling confident that he will not assign me to any duty which I will not perform cheerfully and to the best of my ability.
    With my thanks for the very kind terms in which you have communicated to me the President's intentions, I have the honor to be, with great respect, your obedient servant, 

     SAM. JONES,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Page 1172.

Jone was certainly gracious in his response to being reassigned in favor of Breckinridge.  But he was able to make the very interesting, for a Confederate general, boast that his troops occupied all the territory they did when he assumed his command. 

February 13, 1864 (Saturday): Mobile Threatened?

General Dabney Maury (Library of Congress)

RICHMOND, VA., February 13, 1864.
General J. E. JOHNSTON,
Dalton, Ga.:
    Have heard from Montgomery to-day. The enemy has struck across to Enterprise and is evidently moving on Mobile. What can you do toward striking at him while in motion, and before he establishes a new base? Have you received my dispatch of the 11th instant?* 


+See VOL. XXXII, Part II, p. 714.  

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 52, Part 2, Page 619.

Mobile was held by 10,000 Confederate troops and nearly 100 300 guns.  The Union forces were not, at the time of this memo, moving on Mobile.  But the alarm caused, which reached the President, is a good indication of the difficulties faced by the Confederate government in holding such a vast expanse of territory against a numerically superior opponent, well supplied by the Mississippi River.

February 12, 1864 (Friday): Grant Shows Restraint

Nashville, Tenn., February 12, 1864.
Major General H. W. HALLECK,
General-in-Chief, Washington:
    GENERAL: I have got Thomas ready to move with a force of about 14,000 infantry into East Tennessee to aid the forces there in expelling Longstreet from the State. He would have started on Monday next if I had not revoked the order. My reasons for doing this are these: General Foster, who is now here (or only left this morning), says that our possession of the portion of East Tennessee in perfectly secure against all danger. The condition of the people within the rebel lines cannot be improved now after loosing all they had. Longstreet, where he is, makes more secure other parts of our possessions. Our men, from scanty clothing and short rations, are not in good condition for an advance. There are but very few animals in East Tennessee in condition to move artillery or other stores. If we move against Longstreet with an overwhelming force he will simply fall back toward Virginia until he can be re-enforced or take up an impregnable position. The country being exhausted, all our supplies will have to be carried from Knoxville the whole distance advanced. We would be obliged to advance rapidly and return soon whether the object of the expedition was accomplished or not. Longstreet, could return with impunity on the heels of our returning column, at least as far down the valley as he can supply himself from the road in his rear. Schofield telegraphs to the same effect. All these seem to be good reasons for abandoning the movement and I have therefore suspended it. Now that our men are ready for an advance, however, I have directed it to be made on Dalton, and hope to get possession of that place and hold it as a step toward a spring campaign. Our troops in East Tennessee are now clothed; rations are also accumulating. When Foster left most of the troops had ten days' supplies, with 500 barrels of flour and forty days' meat in store and the quantity increasing daily.
    I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant, 

    U. S. GRANT,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 32, Part 2, Page 374-375.

Grant often is portrayed as crudely wielding the power of his command, winning by blunt force attacks with overwhelming numbers.  But a reading of his memos in the O.R. shows a general who displayed clear logic and an understanding of the logistics of campaigning.  Grant understood, early in 1864, how important Dalton would be to the Atlanta campaign. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

February 11, 1864 (Thursday): Jones Removed

Confederate Secretary of War James A. Seddon

Richmond, Va., February 11, 1864.
Major General SAM. JONES,
Commanding, &c., Dublin Depot, Va.:
    GENERAL: I have received your letter of the 4th instant, and reply to it not without sincere regret and feeling. You have been misinformed in supposing that it had been announced to the President that you wished to be relieved and that it was the purpose of the Department to announce that you were relieved at your own request. It has, however, after hesitancy and deliberation by the President, no less than myselft, been determined that the best interests of the service require a change of command in your department. Without intending disparagement to you and the zealous efforts which it is not doubted you have made to fulfill the arduous duties of your position, it has to be acknowledged that you had ceased to command the general confidence of the people, and discountent and apprehensions of hurtful nature were prevailing in regard to the security of your department. Other considerations, which it is needless to dwell upon, pointed out as probably better adapted to secure the confidence of the people and promote the essential ends of your command an officer of distinction in the Western army, who has political as well as military influences to aid his administration. General Breckinridge has accordingly been selected to relieve you, and orders to that effect will be issued in a few days, on his return form a brief visit to Dalton. As this change is made in no unkind spirit and from no harsh judgment in respect to yourself, but with regret and solely in deference to considerations of public utility, confidence is felt that it will be understood and received by you in the spirit of self-sacrifice and patriotic devotion which is demanded of us all in the prosecution of our great and vital struggle.*
     Very respectfully,

     Secretary of War.

* For Jones' reply see VOL. XXXIII. p. 1172. 

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 51, Part 1, Page 820.

Jones was a very well qualified officer with an undersized command and much territory to defend.  He had accomplished his primary mission, maintaining the defense of the salt works in western Virginia.  But he did not have the confidence of the people of the region.  As he would point out in his letter of reply to the President, no one preceding him in command had, either.  His letter to Davis was as polite as that of Seddon to him and is refreshing to read in light of the many self serving documents to be found in the O.R.  Jones was essentially swap commands with Breckinridge and continue in Confederate service until the war's end.

February 10, 1864 (Wednesday): Lee Upbraided

General Samuel Jones

Dublin, February 10, 1864.
General R. E. LEE,
Commanding, &c., Orange Court-House:
    GENERAL: I have received your letter of the 2nd instant. My chief reasons for telegraphing you on the 31st ultimo of the indications of another move from the Kanawha was that I apprehended the movement might be designed to attract attention in that direction whilst General Averell or some other leader would make another raid east of but near my department, and I thought it probable you might desire to communicate the information to your officers commanding in the Valley of Virginia.
     I had no idea of asking you to detach any portion of your army permanently to aid me, but only wished you to place a small force on the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, to be used in case of necessity, and to be returned to you when the immediate necessity for their presence should be removed. I knew my department was beyond your command, but did not think that any reason why you should not give me a little temporary aid in protecting a very long and important line, if you could do so without endangering your own command.
     If I had heretofore declined to allow any of my troops to be beyond my department my command would now be much larger than it is. Two of the infantry regiments I sent to you temporarily, as I supposed, have never been returned to me, and all the troops I carried to East Tennessee last fall to meet a pressing and, as I supposed, temporary emergency, caused by the abandonment of that section of country, are now under Lieutenant-General Longstreet's orders.
     You seem to overestimate the success which has heretofore attended General Averell's expeditions-I mean those of his expeditions into and near my department. He has made three such expeditions. On the first he was met near White Sulphur Springs, on the 26th and 27th of August last, and whipped and driven back to his base with heavy loss.
     On the second he drove our troops from Droop Mountain on the 6th of November last, but suffered so severely that he did not venture south of Greenbrier River, and he and his officers admitted, as I am informed, the expedition was a failure. On his third expedition, in December last, he succeeded in penetrating between your command and mine, and struck the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, without coming within the limits of this department. On that raid he damaged us very slightly, and his own command suffered severely.
     I have not observed the terror with which you seem to think Averell has inspired the troops in his front. I was with them during the late raid and did not observe in them any indications of terror; on the contrary, they exhibited, amidst great difficulties and hardships, enthusiasm and eagerness to meet the enemy, and if Averell had persevered in his attempt to return by the Sweet Springs I believe his command would have been captured or destroyed.
     You suggest that an aggressive movement on my part would, by throwing the enemy on the defensive, greatly lighten my labors. It happens that the two principal forces in my front operate from different bases, several hundred miles apart, and are wholly independent of each other. They are, besides, so far separated from me, by a country devoid of forage and subsistence, that they can easily evade me and fall back beyond my reach, if they desire to do so. Neither force is dependent upon the other for protection against any attack on it, and if I attack either one the other can penetrate to this railroad with impunity, and ride from one end to the other of it, unless troops can be sent out of other departments to prevent them. I am sure that if you knew the strength of my command, and had looked at the problem before me as earnestly as I have, to see if it admitted of a solution calculated to be productive of good to our cause, you would not advise me to make an aggressive movement at this time.
     I shall lose no opportunity which promises success of striking the enemy.
     With great respect, general, your obedient servant, 

     SAM. JONES,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Pages 1155-1156.

At this point in the war Lee did not command all Confederate forces.  Jones may have held a lesser command (in western Virginia) but he did not have to accept Lee's suggestions without question.  In this letter he upbraids Lee, politely, and points out the geographic and military realities in his department.  Jones was especially put out with Lee over the later's failure to provide him, even temporarily, much needed reinforcements.  This was especially true since Jones had provided Lee with troops which had not been returned.

February 9, 1864 (Tuesday): Hood Goes West

General John Bell Hood

Richmond, February 9, 1864.

Numbers 33.
* * * * * * *
XIV. Lieutenant General J. B. Hood will proceed without delay to Dalton, Ga., and report to General Joseph E. Johnston, commanding, for assignment to the command of an army corps.
* * * * * * * 

By command of the Secretary of War:
Assistant Adjutant-General. 

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 32, Part 2, Page 699.

Hood, coming off a long recovery from wounds received at Gettysburg and Chickamauga accepted a corp command under Johnston.  Hood had served under Johnston earlier in the war in the Peninsula Campaign.  Jefferson Davis had come to know Hood during his convalesence in Richmond and admired the young officer.  The decision was not without critics, given Hood's injuries and relative youth (33).

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

February 8, 1864 (Monday): Sedgwick In Command

General John Sedgwick

February 8, 1864- 2. 45 p. m. (Received 3. 10 p. m.)
Major- General HALLECK:
Scouts from the Shenandoah report Early encamped near Mount Jackson on Friday, at noon. His force consists of the two brigades of infantry heretofore reported and Rosser's and Imboden's cavalry.

     Major- General, Commanding.

Series I., Vol.33, Part 1, Page 539.

Meade was away from the army and Sedgwick was temporarily in command of the Army of the Potomac.  Early had ability, but at this point in the war the Confederacy had even fewer troops there than served under Jackson.

February 7, 1864 (Sunday): A Deserter Meets His End

Brigadier General R. O. Tyler

February 7, 1864- 10. 20 p. m.
Lieutenant Colonel J. H. TAYLOR,
Chief of Staff and Assistant Adjutant- General:
     I have the honor to report al quiet. The deserter [Ormsby] from the Second Massachusetts Cavalry, captured in arms against the United States, was convicted by drum- head court- martial and shot at 12 this noon.

     R. O. TYLER,
     Brigadier- General, Commanding.

Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Page 536.

The Provost General estimated desertions from the Union Army at 268,000 during the war.  Few, though, met Ormsby's fate.  Ormsby had been jailed previously for allegedly taking a bribe from a Confederate soldier he captured.  Later, he fell for a southern woman and was alleged to have deserted.  You have to say alleged since the court martial was not legal.  Drum head court martials were outside of military justice, conducted late at night and not reported up the chain of command. 

February 6, 1864 (Saturday): A Hanging In Missouri

Cape Girardeau, Missouri

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO., February 6, 1864.
General FISK,
While I think the hanging of Bolin just, I still regret that it was done by violence, without trial. Your telegram to me will be misunderstood as winking at it. I apprehend further violence. I will be obliged if you will give me a reprimand or a hint to allow no more violence, so I may the better be able to restrain my men.

      J. B. ROGERS,
     Colonel, Commanding.

Saint Louis, February 6, 1864.
Colonel J. B. ROGERS,
Cape Girardeau:
I much regret that you failed to restrain you men from the unlawful proceedings resulting in the hanging of Bolin. Such acts of violence demoralize both soldiers and citizens. Take prompt and decisive steps to restrain further violence toward the prisoners yet in custody. I would prefer that no such villains be taken prisoners, but after they have been captured and imprisoned within our lines, law and order and the well-being of the community imperatively demand that they receive a proper trial and be punished for their crimes in the manner prescribed by law.


Official Records, Series I., Vol. 34, Part 2, Page 254.

The Bolin gang had terrorized civilians in Missouri throughout the war.  The leader of the gang, Alf Bolin, had been stabbed to death after being lured into a trap by civilians.  John Bolin, mentioned here, was pulled out of a jail cell by soldiers and civilians and hung.  Rogers military background made him frown on such disregard for regulations, even if he did understand the reasons behind it.   

Thursday, March 6, 2014

February 5, 1864 (Friday): Butler Proposes To Take Richmond

Fort Monroe

Fortress Monroe, February 5, 1864.
Honorable E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War:
    SIR: I send inclosed for your perusal the information I have acquired of the enemy's forces and dispositions about Richmond. The letter commencing"Dear Sir," on the first page, is a cipher letter to me from a lady in Richmond, with whom I am in correspondence. The bearer of the letter brought me a private token, showing that he was to be trusted. There are not now in Lee's army or about Richmond 30,000 men. I can get no co- operation from Segdwick. Forty thousand men on the south side of the James would be sufficient for the object of taking and permanently holding Richmond. The roads have been good up to- to- day. You will see that the prisoners are to be sen away to Georgia. Now, or never, is the time to strike. On Sunday I shall make a dash with 6,000 men, all I have that can possibly be spared. If we win, it will pay the cost; if we fail, it will at least be an attempt to do our duty and rescue our friends. New Berne is relieved,a nd, I believe, permanently.
I have marked this "Private and immediate," so that it shall at once come into your hands.
    Respectfully, your obedient servant,

    Major- General, Commanding.

P. S. - Since writing the above Sedgwick telegraphs me as follows:

February 5, 1864- 2 p. m.
Major General B. F. BUTLER,
    A dispatch from the General- in- Chief directs such co-operation with you as I can give. I will be ready to do so on Sunday, the 7th instant, by vigorous demonstrations in my front, unless the weather should render it impossible.

     Major- General.

I have answered as follows:

Fortress Monroe, February 5, 1864.
Major General J. SEDGWICK,
Commanding, Headquarters Army of the Potomac:
Can you not make it to- morrow without regard to weather! I hope to strike the point Sunday morning at 6 o'clock.

     B. F. BUTLER,
     Major- General, Commanding.

     So we may get some co- operation. All the better. We will do our duty.

     B. F. B.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Page 519.

Butler was full of intrigues and grand designs.  His force was too small to have much effect, but his basic plan (fixing the Army of Northern Virginia with the forces north of Richmond while marching from Fort Monroe up the Peninsula) was not entirely unsound.  Butler really seems to have believed based on his "intelligence" sources that Lee had 30,000 men in the Army of Northern Virginia.  But he was flexible.  The next day he would write Washington Lee had but 25,000.  Five thousand having, apparently vanished in the night.

February 4, 1864 (Thursday): New Berne Besieged

Fort Macon

FORT MONROE, VA., February 4, 1864.
(Received 4. 20 p. m.)
Major- General HALLECK, General- in Chief:
    Dispatches from Brigadier- General Palmer, at New Berne, dated 2nd February, at 5. 15 p. m. The post of Newport, between New Berne and Beaufort, is expected to fall. Colonel Jourdan still holds Morehead City, but may have to evacuate and go to Fort Macon. The naval gun- boat Underwriter has been surprised by the enemy and blown up near New Berne. The railroad is probably cut off between New Berne and Beaufort. The river is still open. Palmer has 3,500 man under his command. They have provisions for 6,000 for ninety days. I will endeavor to re- enforce New Berne by a company of heavy artillery, which is the arm they will need. I telegraphed Major- General Sedgwick as you desired, but have received no answer. I still think the enemy's force is not more than 8,000. May not the movement I suggested when I saw you be the best way to relieve New Berne! I await instructions.

     B. F. BUTLER,
     Major- General.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Page 511.

The threat of a Union advance through North Carolina against the railroads southeast of Richmond had prompted a shift of troops in that direction.  It had the effect of causing northern forces in that area to pull back. Why Halleck and Union planners did not take the advice of Grant and move even more troops to the area is an open question, but one which is seldom asked by historians.  Lee's army was not strong enough to contend with a simultaneous advance, but this was never adequately exploited. 

February 3, 1864 (Wednesday): Muskets for Longstreet

69 caliber musket (

Dublin, February 3, 1864.
Lieutenant-General LONGSTREET,
Morristown, Tenn.:
Your telegram of yesterday just received. Three hundred and forty muskets, caliber 69, will be sent to you without delay. That is all I can send now.

     SAM. JONES,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 32, Part 2, Page 668.

It is a striking commentary on the state of the Confederacy's supply system that Longstreet had to ask Jones for excess weapons from his department and received in return only 340 muskets of 69 caliber.