Thursday, May 29, 2014

April 28, 1864 (Saturday): Leaving Defenses Thin In Washington

Civil War Culpeper (O'Sullivan)

WASHINGTON, April 28, 1864- 3.30 p. m.
Lieutenant- General GRANT,
Culpeper, Va.:
    General Augur has been stripped of almost everything available to give to General Burnside. When the trains cease to run the guards under General Briggs can be placed in the block- houses, between Bull Run and the Rappahannock. I will also give him the Massachusetts detached artillery as soon as it arrives. No troops are yet available to replace Abbot's artillery in the fortifications. Perhaps some
militia or invalids from the West amy arrive in time. If not, we must weaken the other garrisons. There is very little left outside of Burnside's command to use against any movement of Longstreet. The Navy Department says that one iron- clad left New York and one left Philadelphia on the 26th, and should reach Fortress Monroe to- day. The one from Boston touched at New York, and will leave there to- morrow.

   Major- General, Chief of Staff.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Pages 1002-1003.

Two years before the administration was at loggerheads with McClellan over whether he was leaving adequate troops to man the defenses of Washington.  Now, under Grant, those same defenses were being stripped to allow Grant to maintain forces in front of Lee on the Rappahannock and in Eastern Virginia.  At this point war planners were still uncertain exactly where Longstreet and his forces were located and what their intentions were.

April 27, 1864 (Thursday): Longstreet of the Valley?

"Shenandoah Valley" (William Lewis Sonntag)

CULPEPER, VA., April 27, 1864-1.30 p.m.
(Received 3.20 p.m.)
Major General H. W. HALLECK,
Chief of Staff:
     There are rumors brought in by deserters that Longstreet, re-enforced by Beauregard's troops, will move down the Shenandoah Valley. Should they do so, throw all the force as necessary. If such a movement is commenced by the enemy after we start from here I will follow him with force enough to prevent his return south.

     U. S. GRANT,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Page 992.

The Confederate high command had considered any number of options.  But it was now a settled issue.  Longstreet's troops, moving from Charlottesville, were now beginning to rejoin Lee's Army of Northern Virginia.  Beauregard was giving up troops from the coast of South Carolina, given the weather made campaigning there difficult he was able to let some troops go. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

April 26, 1864 (Wednesday): Again to Familiar Ground

Fredericksburg (

April 26, 1864-10.30 a.m.
Major General A. E. BURNSIDE:
    I have now a pontoon bridge over the Rappahannock at the railroad crossing, in addition to the railroad bridge, which is planked over and can be passed by wagons. I shall take up the pontoon bridge when my troops are relieved. If you require another one, Brigadier-General Benham, at Washington, has been directed to furnish it, with the necessary working party, to lay and take care of it.

    GEO. G. MEADE,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Page 990.

Again to the bridges into Fredericksburg, again to Hamilton's Crossing, again to the plains of Fredericksburg.  A familiar play, but with a new actor (Grant) in the lead role. 

April 25, 1864 (Tuesday): The VMI Corp of Cadets Is Offered For Service

VMI Lexington, VA

April 25, 1864.
Adjutant-General of Virginia, Richmond:
    GENERAL: Your letter of the 22nd instant, inclosing that of General Francis H. Smith, in which he proposes to tender the services of the Corps of Cadets at the Virginia Military Institute for the approaching campaign, is received. I desire to express my appreciation of the patriotic spirit that actuates General Smith in making this proposal, and my gratification at finding that it meets with your concurrence. I do not think, however, that it would be best at this time for the corps to be called to this army. It is now in a situation to render valuable aid in defending our western frontier, which may be menaced simultaneously with the general advance of the enemy in the east. It will thus prevent the necessity of detaching troops from this army. I think it would be advisable for General Smith to hold the command in readiness to co-operate with General Breckinridge and General Imboden in case of necessity, and to notify those officers of the fact. Should it at any time become necessary or expedient to have the services of the cadets with this army, it is very gratifying to me to know that they are so fully placed at my disposal.
    Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

    R. E. LEE,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 52, Part 1, Page 875.

VMI's cadets represented the future of the Confederate Army, but the future was in question.  Smith's offer was not accepted by Lee at this time, but before the year was over the cadets would see action at New Market.  For the time being, they provided a ready force in the Valley which meant Lee could avoid sending troops from his own command to the Valley.


April 24, 1864 (Monday): The Threat of A Single Gunboat

Union Gunboats Advancing on New Berne

New Berne, N. C., April 24, 1864.
Commander H. K. DAVENPORT,
Senior Naval Officer, Sounds of North Carolina:
    SIR: I wish to call your attention to a few facts which, mentioned kindly, I hope you will take the same way, as I only say these things as a matter of duty, believing it for the best interests of both services.
    You understand perfectly the situation of affairs here as far as the rebel ram on the Neuse is concerned, and you must be aware that if that ram is permitted to come into this harbor the shipping, gun-boats, &c., must be destroyed or driven away, and the town itself liable to destruction. I have done everything in my power to avoid such a disaster. The forces under my command have picketed
river on both sides, and the work on the blockade has been pushed as rapidly as possible. For months there has been no boat stationed anywhere near the blockade.
    You will recollect that on the day before yesterday I earnestly urged you to send one of the small-boats, under your orders, to a point up the river where all parts of the blockade could be seen from her decks, and that small boats should at night row up nearer, in order to give us timely notice of any attempt to interfere with the work or to break through. There are points where such a gun-boat can lie perfectly well, and on the night before last I did find at mid-night when I made the rounds that the Lockwood or some other of the small gun-boats was lying in the channel between Fort Stevenson and Fort Anderson in a good position to see everything. Last night, however, there was no boat on the watch, and at 1.30 o'clock this morning, when Lieutenant Ward returned from his reconnaissance up to Swift Creek, there were no naval boats of any description seen higher up the river than where the Commodore Hull is lying.
    Now, commander, do you not think that as these gun-boats lie quietly at their moorings for twenty-five days or more in every month that they ought to render some assistance at such a time as this? I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that they will not unless you give your personal attention to it and make your authority felt by your subordinates here.
     I can say with pleasure that you have never refused to co-operate with me in any special undertaking, but you must recollect that I have frequently conversed with you concerning the precautions to be taken against surprise on the river and about keeping at least one of the small gun-boats busy in running into and examining the small rivers on the other side of the Neuse, where boat expeditions against us could be assembled. Have these things been done? I tell you, commander, that it is my firm belief that if that ram does get down the river it will be more on account of the utter indifference manifested by the naval forces here than anything else. You may be sure that I would not say this to you if I did not feel it my duty, and I repeat that I hope you will take it kindly, even if you are convinced that I am all wrong in the matter.
    I am, commander, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

    I. N. PALMER,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Page 969-970.

The threat posed by the ram Albemarle was very real to Union  planners.  An ironclad loose among wooden support ships could wreck the Union supply line by river.   New Berne had defenses, but none strong enough to stop the ram from running the fortifications and shelling Union troops there. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

April 23, 1864 (Sunday): A New Major General

USS Miami Damaged at Plymouth

RICHMOND, VA., April 23, 1864.
Major General ROBERT F. HOKE:
(Via Rocky Mount, N. C.)
Accept my thanks and congratulations for the brilliant success which has attneded your attack and capture of Plymouth. Your are promoted to be a major-general from that date.


Official Records, Series I., Vol. 52, Part 1, Page 874.


April 22, 1864 (Saturday): Grant Responds to Plymouth

Destruction of Federal Gunboats at Plymouth (Harper's Weekly)

CULPEPER, VA., April 22, 1864-11 a. m.
(Received 2.45 p. m.)
Major General H. W. HALLECK,
Chief of Staff:
    Admiral Lee's dispatch to the Secretary of the Navy has been sent to me for my information. I do not know the situation of affairs in North Carolina well enough to give positive instructions, but it appears to me there is no use of our holding Washington or Plymouth. It would be better to have the forces necessary to garrison those two places added to General Butler's column of attack, which, if successful, will give back to us not only the coast, but probably most of the State. It may be that to evacuate now would compromise Union men who have shown their Unionism in full faith that the country would never be given up to the enemy. I wish you would inquire of General Butler if the two points above mentioned can be abandoned as well as not, and, if so, give the order.

     U. S. GRANT,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Page 947.

Grant realized the setback in Plymouth would require the loss of part of North Carolina.  But he remained, as he would throughout the Overland Campaign, fixed on the real objective--Richmond. 

April 21, 1864 (Friday): Elation in Richmond

CSS Albemarle (

PLYMOUTH, April 21, 1864.
General BRAGG,
Richmond, Va.:
I have stormed and carried this place, capturing 1 brigadier, 1,600 men, stroes, 25 pieces of artillery.

    R. F. HOKE,

PLYMOUTH, April 21, 1864.
His Excellency President DAVIS,
Richmond, Va.:
Heaven has crowned our efforts with success. General Hoke has captured this point with 1,600 prisoners, 25 pieces of artillery, and navy co-operation.

    Colonel and Aide-de-Camp.

ROCKY MOUNT, April 21, 1864.
President DAVIS:
Will be in Richmond to-morrow. The prisoners will number about 2,500, 300 or 400 African-Americans, 30 pieces of ordnance, complete garrison outfit, 100,000 pounds of meat, 1,000 barrels of flour, and other provisions. All stores are being shipped up the river to Weldon. Two gun-boats were sunk, 1 crippled, and 1 small steamer captured. Where will thue prisoners go? Our loss about 300 in all. Colonel Mercer killed.

    Colonel and Aide-de-Camp.

Richmond, April 21, 1864.
His Excellency Z. B. VANCE,
Governor of North Carolina, Raleigh:
SIR: I have the pleasure to congratulate you upon the recent brilliant affair at Plymouth, under the leadership of the young North Carolianian, Brigadier-General Hoke. May we have many more such to refer to hereafter as part of the history of the campaign of 1864.*
     I am, sir, with high regard, your obedient servant,


*Portion here omitted relates to prisoners of war.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 52, Part 1, Page 870.

The Confederate victory at Plymouth prompted congratulations all around and praise for General Hoke.  It was a rare victory at this stage of the war, rarer still in that it was a combined Army-Navy attack, and a relatively quickly organized and executed attack complete in execution and success.  Although little noted by history, it was a clear setup to Union hopes of tying down Confederate forces with an expanded front south of Richmond. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

April 20, 1864 (Thursday): Longsstreet to Petersburg

General James Longstreet

Orange County, April 20, 1864.
    GENERAL: I received last night your letter of the 18th, by your courier.* I regret that your troops are coming in so slowly. Can you not expedite them? As far as I can judge by the reports of our scouts, the enemy are all prepared to advance, packed, provisioned, and equipped, and waiting only for the ground to dry. Around us it is dry now, save in spots, and we may expect them any day. Their artillery, ambulances, and pontoons are brought south of the Rappahannock, but I cannot ascertain what route they will take. Sutlers, sick, women, &c., sent to Washington. I have not heard of Burnside's expedition leaving Annapolis, and have no way of learning, save through their papers. Reports from Richmond received from deserters state that he is assembling his troops at Williamsburg. A dispatch from Elzey, received last night, reports upon information of a citizen from Williamsburg that he was landing troops at Yorktown and Gloucester Point. I think it doubtful. It certainly lacks confirmation. As to your going to Petersburg, you can best judge whether you can be spared from your command and what arrangements you can make for it. Your visit there, if not inconvenient and disadvantageous to your troops, may have the effect you anticipate, and if you think best you can go. Let me know what troops have arrived and who will command in your absence, &c. I send the authority in case you should want to use it. I have endeavored to push forward the intrenchments around Richmond as fast as possible for years. They are in pretty good condition now, except the injury sustained through the winter, and they are connected with Chaffin's Bluff. If you go to P. you must return quickly.
    Very truly,

    R. E. LEE,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 52, Part 1, Page 869.

It is not clear by Longstreet wanted to go to Petersburg.  However, he had temporary command there during the Suffolk campaign and had expressed concern about the defense of the area.  In one sense, Longstreet may have been testing Lee as to what his relationship would be on returning to the Army.  Lee wasted no time in making it clear Longstreet was required to return to the Army of NorthernVirignia.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

April 19, 1864 (Wednesday): Plymouth Attacked

Ausbon House, Plymouth (Duckworth,

APRIL 19, 1864.
Colonel RIPLEY:
    Plymouth has been attacked. Keep your scouts out well on the roads to watch the enemy. Have a strong picket along the bank, so as to prevent any attempt on Macon. Hold the 400 colored men subject to your orders for defense temporarily. So distribute your men as to have all your can available for any service. Ask the naval commander to aid you in the protection of Morehead and other places.


APRIL 19, 1864-9.50 a. m.
Commanding Outposts, &c.:
    The news is that Plymouth has now been attacked. General Wessels writes that he has had some fighting and lost some men. New Berne may yet be the point to look out for.


Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Page 917.

Hoke's force had moved rapidly on Plymouth, supported by the ram Albemarle.  The ram's appearance on the 19th coincided with the four regiments of infantry surrounding the Union defenses.  Twenty-eight hundred men under Wessel were effectively trapped and would surrender the next day.


April 18, 1864 (Tuesday): Longstreet Rebuked

General Evander Law

Richmond, April 18, 1864.
General S. COOPER:
    GENERAL: I learn by a note from General Lee that Longstreet has transferred Law's brigade to Buckner, and left it at Bristol. This should be corrected by telegraph. As the charges against General Law are not sustained by the Department he should be restored to his command. Allow me to suggest early action on McLaw's case. He should be with his division. Allow me to suggest General Holmes for the duty of organizing and commanding the reserves in North Carolina. General Lee suggests the movement of Beauregard's surplus forces this way, to be ready to relieve Pickett, who should go to him. As the re-enforcements to the enemy in Florida seem really to have been the removal of the enemy from there, ought not our troops to come on to North Carolina, instead of again being buried in the district system in Georgia and South Carolina?


April 18, 1864.
Major General S. B. BUCKNER,
Bristol, Tenn.:
    Send Law's brigade to Charlottesville to report to General Field. General Law will be relieved from arrest and put in command of it. The charges against him will not be further entertained.

    S. COOPER,
   Adjutant and Inspector General.

Official Records, series I., Vol. 32, Part 3, Page 793.

McLaws had been court martialed, on his charges preferred by Longstreet, for his actions in the Fort Sanders debacle.  He had been convicted on only one of the three charges (for failing to organize his forces for the attack) but Richmond recognized the charges were an attempt by Longstreet to assign blame for his mistakes elsewhere.  Cooper ordered the charges removed.  Longstreet had also preferred charges against Law (for insubordination) and left his troops behind when he returned with the remainder of the First Corp to the Army of Northern Virginia.  In this he was overruled by Cooper and the authorities in Richmond.  McLaws would be transferred out of Lee's Army and Laws was held under arrest for a large portion of the Overland Campaign.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

April 17, 1864 (Monday): Conclusion of the Dahlgren Affair

Ruins of Dover Steam Mill

General ROBERT E. LEE,
Commanding Army of Northern Virginia:
    GENERAL; I received on the 15th on the 15th instant, per flag of truce, your communication of the 1st instant, transmitting photographic copies of two documents alleged to have been found upon the body of Colonel U. Dahlgren, and inquiring "whether the signs and instructions of Colonel Dahlgren, as set forth in these papers, particularly those contained in the above extracts, were authorized by the United States Government or by his superior officers, and also whether they have the sanction and approval of these authorities. " In reply I have to state the neither the United States Government, myself, nor General Kilpatrick authorized, sanctioned, or approved the burning of the city of Richmond and the killing of Mr. Davis and cabinet, nor any other act not required by military necessity and in accordance with the usages of war.
    In confirmation of this statement I inclose a letter from General Kilpatrick, and have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

     GEO. G. MEADE,

Brigadier General S. WILLIAMS, A. A. G.,
Army of the Potomac:
    GENERAL: In accordance with instructions from headquarters Army of the Potomac, I have carefully examined officers and men who accompanied Colonel Dahlgren on his late expedition.
All testify that he published no address whatever to his command, nor did he give any instructions, much less of character as set forth in the photographic copies of two papers alleged to have been found upon the person of Colonel Dahlgren and forwarded by General Robert E. Lee, commanding Army of Northern Virginia. Colonel Dahlgren, one hour before we separated at my headquarters, handed me an address that he intended to read to his command. That paper was indorsed in red ink, "Approved," over my official signature. The photographic papers referred to are true copies of the papers approved by me, save so far as they speak of "exhorting the prisoners to destroy and burn the hateful city and kill the traitor Davis and his cabinet," and in this, that they do not contain the indorsement referred to as having been placed by me on Colonel Dahlgren's papers. Colonel Dahlgren received no orders from me to pillage, burn, or kill, nor were any such instructions given me by my superiors.
     Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

    Brigadier-General Volunteers.

Official Records, Series I., Vol.33, Part 1, Page 180.

This would close the Dahlgren affair.  The Confederate government chose to accept the Union explanation.  Perhaps this was, in part, because the Rebel government was itself engaged in a variety of activities outside the "normal usages of war."  Historians still debate whether Dahlgren had orders which extended beyond the original warrant of the raid.  It is curious Kilpatrick accepted that the papers accurately reflected what he endorsed with the exception of the exhortation to destroy the city and kill Davis.  Assuming the Confederate authorities had not altered the papers, there is still the possibility Dahlgren intended to exceed the authority given him by Kilpatrick. 

April 16, 1864 (Sunday): March for Washington City

Fort Stevens Washington DC

Charlottesville, Va., April [16?], 1864.
General R. E. LEE,
Commanding, &c,. Orange Court-House:
GENERAL: The troops are coming in very slowly, owing to our very imperfect railroad arrangements. We cannot hope to have the command up before the middle of next week.
It may have a good effect during this delay for me to go to Petersburg and remain. By leaving my horses, &c., with the command I could get back by express train in full time for any emergency. If the enemy learns that I am at Petersburg he will in all probabilty assume that my troops are with me and that is the point at which my corps will rendezvous instead of this.
     If such should be the effect he will move with more caution in that direction and more boldness in this, and we may, by this means, here until we learn that the army at Annapolis has set out on its intended expedition; then, having all things well prepared, I think that we should take up the shortest line of march for Washington City. We will be able to get between the enemy and his capital, and, by pushing on toward it, we will force him to give battle hurriedly in order to save his capital. If he does that we ought to have great reason to hope that we may destroy him and get this capital.
     It seems to me that this will be our safest and best move, whatever may be the service intended for General Burnside's army. If he goes up York River or to Urbanna we would force Meade to fight before Burnside could join him. If he goes to the south side of the James we ought to be able to get Washington before he could get back there.
     I suggested last fall the idea of fortifying Richmond below, so as to hold the river at Drewry's and Chaffin's Bluffs with our vessels and about 10,000 men. In the course of the summer's campaign it may become necessary to use all of the rest of your troops in such a manner as to leave Richmond exposed. If it should so turn out, and the enemy should get there and get possession of the river, he will hold it for the balance of the war; but if we can even hold the position on the river we will be able to recover Richmond very readily, even if we should have the bad fortune to lose it temporarily.
      I remain, general, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,


Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Pages 1286-1287.

Longstreet here joins the number of high ranking Confederates who have begun thinking about the possibility of Richmond being lost for some period of time.  His proposal to take Washington may seem fanciful in light of what was to come, but it was based on the Union having moved many of the defenders in the Washington defenses to the front.  Richmond was vulnerable but so was Washington.

April 15, 1864 (Saturday): A Crowning Victory

General Robert E. Lee

HEADQUARTERS, April 15, 1864.
MR. PRESIDENT: The reports of the scouts are still conflicting as to the character of the re-enforcements to the Army of the Potomac and the composition of that at Annapolis under General Burnside. I think it probable that the Eighth Corps, which embraces the troops who have heretofore guarded the line of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, the intrenchments around Washington, Alexandria, &c., have been moved up to the Rappahannock and that an equivalent has been sent to Annapolis from General Meade.
    Lieutenant-Colonel Mosby states that the Eleventh and Twelfth Corps, consolidated, have also been sent to General Burnside. But whatever doubt there may be on these points, I think it certain that the enemy is organizing a large army on the Rappahannock, and another at Annapolis, and that the former is intended to move directly on Richmond, while the latter is intended to take it in flank or rear. I think we may also reasonably suppose that the Federal troops that have so long besieged Charleston will, with a portion of their iron-clad steamers be transferred to the James River. I consider that the suspension of the attack on that city was virtually declared when General Gillmore transferred his operations to the Saint John's River. It can only be continued during the summer months by the fleet. The expedition of the enemy up Red River has so diminished his forces about New Orleans and Mobile that I think no attack upon the latter city need be apprehended soon, especially as we have reason to hope that he will return from his expedition in a shattered condition. I have thought, therefore, that General Johnston might draw something from Mobile during the summer to strengthen his hands, and that General Beauregard with a portion of his troops might move into North Carolina to oppose General Burnside should he resume his old position in that State, or be ready to advance to the James River should that route be taken. I do not know what benefit General Buckner can accomplished; but if he can only hold Bristol, I think he had better be called for a season to Richmond. We shall have to glean troops from every quarter to oppose the apparent combination of the enemy. If Richmond could be held secure against the attack from the east, I would propose that I draw Longstreet to me and move right against the enemy on the Rappahannock. Should God give us a crowning victory there, all their plans would be dissipated and their troops now collecting on the waters of the Chesapeake would be recalled to the defense of Washington. But to make this move I must have provisions and forage. I am not yet able to call to me the cavalry or artillery. If I am obliged to retire from this line, either by a flank movement of the enemy or the want of supplies, great injury will befall us. I have ventured to throw out these suggestions to Your Excellency in order that in surveying the whole field of operations you may consider all the circumstances bearing on the question. Should you determine it is better to divide this army and fall back toward Richmond I am ready to do so. I, however, see no better plan for the defense of Richmond than that I have proposed.
    I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,

     R. E. LEE.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Pages 1282-1283.

The most telling line of Lee's letter to Davis was "If I am to retire from this line...great injury would befall us."  Grant's objective was to push Lee back toward's Richmond, Lee's to consolidate his forces and maintain his line as far north as possible.  Lee considered the entirity of Confederate forces in making his plans.  He assumed the Red River campaign would fail and Mobile would be, for a time, safe from attack.  And he now began to give more focus to the problem of North Carolina. As always, Lee's thoughts turned toward the offensive, and striking a blow against Grant.

Friday, May 23, 2014

April 14, 1864 (Friday): Evacuate Richmond?

Civil War Richmond

Richmond, Va., April 14, 1864.
General R. E. LEE,
Commanding, &c.:
   GENERAL: I have the honor to acknowledge your letter of the 12th instant, just received, and to thank you very sincerely for the valuable suggestions it contained. They fortify me by the might of your authority in the convictions of policy enteratined and the line of action I had adopted, to some extent, in pursuance of them. The most earnest efforts are being made to command the full resources for transportation of the railroad lines, and I have not hesitated to stop passenger trains whenever by so doing Government freight could be increased or expedited. The officer in charge of railroad transportation has been sent out, and is now absent on a mission, with all the power the Department could confer, to secure the fullest concert of action and the employment of all the means that could be commanded for transportation. The Piedmont Railroad is being pressed to early completion, but, unfortunately, the recent floods pose embarrassing impediments, which may delay it two weeks longer than I confidently anticipated. I still hope it may be completed in the early part of next month.
I am thoroughly convinced of the importance of depleting the population of Richmond, and have, on more occasions than one before the reception of your letter urged on the President the exercise of his influence and authority to accomplish the removal of the population so far as they could be spared from the necessary work of the city. Such steps have not as yet been taken, from the difficulties and embarrassments attending it must be acknowledged to be of a very grave character. It is next to impossible to make, by the action of the Government, adequate provision for the shelter and support of the numbers which would then be thrown homeless and indigent upon the country, and even those who had means of self-support would find it very difficult to obtain accommodation and supplies. Refugees have begun to be regarded with less of sympathy than of apprehension, for they are looked upon as diminishing the means and increasing the privations of the communities to which they may flee. Still, I fear necessity requires that, to a considerable extent, the removal of the useless population from the city should be attempted, for without such measure I do not see the possibility of accumulating the requisite reserve of supplies to enable us to meet partial reverse and bear brief interruption of communication.
    The prisoners of the enemy and our own paroled men are nearly all removed, and the rest will speedily follow. The hospitals and work-shops will be cleared of all who can be spared, and such machinery and stores as are not of immediate necessity I have directed to be prepared and gradually removed. It will be difficult to induce either the people of the city or our officers to make the requisite exertions and sacrifices which a prudent precaution demands, for they repose such confidence in the vaolor of our troops and the generalship of their commanders as to be incredulous of approaching danger. Still, I hope your counsels and the influence of the Department will not be wholly without avail in inducing the "efforts, self-sacrifice, and labor, until the crisis has been safely passed, " which a prudent forecast of all contingencies demands.
     Experience of the past and a just reliance on our means of defense, employed with the skill and energy which have heretofore guided us, may well entitle us to expect, under the blessing of Heaven, deliverance from the worst efforts of our malignant foes; but we should not be the less prepared to be grateful and happy in triumph for having realized our danger and arranged to meet and repair the consequences of a reverse.
     Very truly, yours,

    Secretary of War.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Pages 1279-1280. 

Seddon recognized what neither Lee nor Davis would openly acknowledge.  It was time to prepare for the possible evacuation of Richmond.

April 13, 1864 (Sunday): Fort Pillow

Battle of Fort Pillow

HEADQUARTERS SIXTEENTH ARMY CORPS, Memphis, Tenn., April 13, 1864.
Brigadier General J. McARTHUR,
Commanding at Vicksburg, Miss.:
    GENERAL: Fort Pillow is reported captured yesterday about noon. This closes the river temporarily.
The Third Division, Seventeenth Army Corps, already under orders, must be hurried forward as fast as possible, as it will be necessary to retake the fort from the land side, and it is doubtful whether General Sherman will furnish any force from above.
    Forward the inclosed to Brigadier General A. J. Smith by first and quickest dispatch.
As the gun-boats are engaged in Red River, you will order two of the Marine Brigade boats to report at Memphis for duty.
    I am pretty sure that Loring's infantry is moving on North Alabama, and that most of Lee's cavalry is also above Grenada on the march north. Under these circumstances you can, if you judge it expedient, occupy Yazoo City. The proper force for this would be one regiment white infantry, two of colored, a battery, and the whole or part of Osband's cavalry.
     I have no return of forces, and cannot therefore judge what can be spared. The negro troops should not be scattered. The occupation of Yazoo City is the best protection for the Mississippi River up to Greenville.
     Your obedient servant,

     S. A. HURLBUT,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 32, Part 3, Page 348.

Confederate cavalry general James R. Chalmbers was sent by Forrest with 1500 men to attack Fort Pillow.  The fort was held by 262 African-Americans and 295 white soldiers.  The fort helped protect Union access to the Mississippi River.  On the 12th the Confederates arrived and surrounded the fort.  Forrest arrived to take command and at 10 a.m. and by 3 p.m. had his troops in place and sent in a demand for surrender.  The Union commander, Major Lionel F. Booth had been killed by a sniper, and Major William F. Bradford, his successor responded "I will not surrender."  The Confederates then overwhelmed the defenses with little difficulty.  Southern accounts say Federal losses were incurred in fighting to the river's edge.  Northern accounts say the Union troops surrendered as soon as the fort was overrun and were shot in cold blood by Confederates  shouting "No quarter!".  Most modern scholars maintain a massacre did occur, although there is still debate over the degree.  

April 12, 1864 (Saturday): Bragg Plans A Surprise Attack on Plymouth

General Robert F. Hoke

Richmond, April 12, 1864.
Brigadier General ROBERT F. HOKE,
Kinston, N. C.:
    GENERAL: You are assigned to the special command of the land forces for an expedition against Plymouth, &c., in Eastern North Carolina. Your force will be composed as follows and immediately assembled at Tarborough, viz: Brigadier-General Ransom's brigade from Weldon, N. C.; Brigadier-General Hoke's brigade (except one regiment) from Kinston, N. C.; Eighth North Carolina Regiment, Clingman's brigade, near Petersburg, Va.; Brigadier-General Kemper's brigade, now at Tarborough; such artillery as can be spared from Kinston, N. C., on the requisition of Brigadier General R. F. Hoke; one regiment cavalry, or as much as Brigadier-General Corse may be able to spare. You will concentrate this force with expedition and secrecy, taking all necessary ammunition, &c. About five days' rations should be ready at Tarborough. As soon as you are prepared to move from Tarborough you will notify the commander of the gun-boat Albemarle, and inform him at whattime you propose to make your attack, so that he may co-operate as nearly as possible. It will be well for you to place him in possession of your plans and views previous to this notice, so that the may be able to prepare fully for all that is expected. Ransom's brigade will be ordered to march to Tarborough, but it is suggested that he might form a junction with you much nearer Plymouth and save his command one day's march. Shuld you think this advisable, order him accordingly. In your movement on Plymouth, success will depend in a great measure on celerity and secrecy, but great confidence is reposed on you well-known activity and energy. On your arrival before the enemy's position, prompt and decided action will most probably be crowned with complete success. Any delay, however, will enable the enemy to re-enforce and probably defeat your object, or make it cost too dearly for you to reap the fruits so confidently expected. Should you succeed in the first step, in capturing Plymouth and opening the river, then your attention should be immediately directed to Washington and New Berne. For this purpose you should advise Brigadier-General Corse of your plans and movements and secure his prompt and hearty co-operation. It is hoped you may be able to leave Tarborough Saturday or Sunday next. If possible, I will meet you then, and aid as far as possible in carrying out the details of your plans.
     Wishing you all success, I am, general, very respectfully,


Official Records, Series I., Vol. 52, Part 1, Page 858.

A part of maintaining the security of the Army of Northern Virginia was protection of its rear by forces in North Carolina.  The Union forces in the state had a foothold in Plymouth and Bragg, realizing its strategic importance, aimed to remove it.  For the job he chose General R. F. Hoke.  Hoke had been wounded at Chancellorsville and remained out of action until sent to his native state to quell quell civilian violence, arrest deserters, and maintain a show of force in a state where support of the war was wavering.  He would work in concert with the ram Albemarle, one of the few times in the war the Confederacy was able to mount a combined arms attack.  The attack, as shall be seen, would prove successful.  One of Hoke's sons would be a founder of the Shriner's Children's Hospital.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

April 11, 1864 (Friday): Breckinridge to the Valley

General J. C. Breckinridge

April 11, 1864
GENERAL: Present indications render it more than probable that on the opening of the campaign by the enemy a combined effort will be made for the capture of Richmond, and that the great struggle will take place in Virginia. Troops are apparently concentrating on the Rappahannock and the waters of the Chesapeake. There is but little doubt that the Ninth Corps to which other troops are added, is now in the vicinity of Annapolis, under General Burnside. The Eleventh and Twelfth Corps have been consolidated into the Twentieth, under General Hooker, and is reported to have been ordered to General Meade. It is rumored that a part of the troops at least have reached Alexandria. All the white troops that can be spared have been ordered from the line of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and the intrenchments around Alexandria, and brought up to the Rappahannock, their places being supplies by African-Americans. Other re-enforcements have been made to the Army of the Potomac, and I think it probable that at the proper time the siege of Charleston will be suspended and certain troops and iron-clad steamers transferred to the James River. I see it stated in the Northern papers that General W. S. Smith has been ordered to the command of the troops in the vicinity of Fortress Monroe, and that General Gillmore has been assigned a part in the projected operations. To carry out this plan points in other parts of the country must be weakened, of which we must take advantage. Longstreet has reported that the Ninth and Twenty-third Corps had left Knoxville, marching via Cumberland Gap. I do not know the present strength of the enemy in East Tennessee, but should it not exceed the combined forces of yourself and General Buckner important advantages might be obtained there. Again, should he have drawn a portion of his forces from Northwestern Virginia, or exposed any part of the long line of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, a combination with General Imboden might enable you to strike a serious blow in that direction, interrupt his communications, and draw off some of his troops from the main attack. I have though it well to call your attention to these points, as in the multitude of matters claiming your consideration in your new command they might escape you. If you can, by the commencement of active operations by the enemy, have completed the defenses guarding the main approaches of your line, and organized the local troops as garrisons, you will be able to employ your active forces where they can be most advantageously used in thwarting his general plans. When his main movement takes place we must be prepared for feigned attacks on many points, and not be misled by them. I will write to General Imboden to communicate to you anything of importance occurring on his line.
    With great respect, your obedient servant,

    R. E. LEE,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Page 1272.

Breckinridge was now in command of Confederate forces in the Valley.  Lee here brings him up to speed on the current state of affairs.  As always, disrupting the B&O Railroad would be a primary objection of the Valley command. 

April 10, 1864 (Thursday): Prudent, Vivacious, &c

Fishback House Jeffersonton, Virginia (

JEFFERSONTON, April 10, 1864.
[General J. E. B. STUART:]
    GENERAL: I send you the following information, which comes from a source perfectly reliable. I am    indebted to a lady in Culpeper Court-House, who is very prudent, vivacious, &c., and whose opportunities for hearing are good, as she has been a good deal at Grant's headquarters. The sutlers, traders, and everything of the kind are ordered to pack up and leave within ten days. All extra baggage has been sent to Washington, and all persons not connected with the army ordered to leave.   The Eleventh and Twelfth Army Corps have been ordered here and are daily expected. The three consolidated corps are estimated at 75,000-25,000 each. Meade is expected to have 100,000 men when all re-enforcements come up. Guards and deserters report a large number of artillerymen as having arrived. General Grant has been to Fortress Monroe to confer with Butler, but has returned to the army. I can hear of no road in construction to Germanna. No fortification about the Court-House or Stevensburg. The roads are in shocking condition. Curduroy roads have been made all through the army. I will try to learn which way they will move. This can only be done from leakage from staff officers-General Grant's. You can judge of its merits. Desertions are very frequent. Forty are said to have escaped the other point. They all confirm these reports. This lady gathered this information from confidential conversations with officers. You know her, but I am requested to give no names. I will do my best at watching, and will try and advise you at an early period of movement, &c. Lewis went to Fauquier last week. I expected to have heard from him ere this. Will go there myself to-morrow and see what arrangements he has made to watch the railroad. I shall leave a man in Culpeper, with instructions to notify you of any movement, however. I will be gone only a few days. One of the men with me I have sent to his regiment-the bearer of this. I wrote to ColonelRandolph for another. I suppose there will be no difficulty about it. I willd irect the courier to go through as quickly as possible, though he will have the riverto swim. Will you do me the favor to ask Major McClellan to keep my letters until I send for them.
    I am, very truly, yours, most respectfully,


   Inclosed are some stamps for Major Venable.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 51, Part 2, Pages 854-855.

Smith was a Lieutenant with Mosby's cavalry.  After the war, no less than Robert E. Lee vouched for his "abilities and honorable war record."  Here he details to Stuart the testimony of a civilian informant. 

April 9, 1864 (Wednesday): Reports From The Front

Colonel J. S. Mosby

HEADQUARTERS, April 9, 1864.
President Confederate States:
     MR. PRESIDENT: I received this evening a letter from Lieutenant-Colonel Mosby, dated Loudoun, 8th instant, who had been directed to cause the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and the Alexandria and Orange Railroad to be closely watched. He states that a gentleman from Shepherdstown had informed him that the Eleventh Corps passed east over the former road last week, and that another, living near Fairfax Station, whom he considered reliable, reported that no re-enforcements had come up the latter road, but that every night this week large numbers of troops with artillery had passed down to Alexandria. I do not think the report of the gentleman from near Fairfax Station is worthy of as much credence as that of the scout which I sent you yesterday. That additions have been made to General Meade's army is shown by an increase of tents. Another scout from Culpeper to-day says that the troops on disembarking from the cars separate into squads and move off to the different camps, and do not march in a body, showing that they belong to many organizations. He also states that the Eleventh and Twelfth Corps are expected, and that it is rumored have already arrived in Alexandria. These may be the troops which are said to have come east on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad or they may belong tot he Ninth Corps, which is assembling at Annapolis. Troops may also have been sent to Alexandria during the nights of this week as the report from the scout I sent you yesterday was dated Monday. I see it stated in the Washington Chronicle, of the 4th instant, that over 30,000 troops are in the vicinity of Annapolis, and that General W. F. Smith has been ordered to the command of the troops around Fortress Monroe. The former is no doubt an exaggeration. The latter, if true, would indicate that operations are contemplated from that quarter, which they did not wish to trust to General Butler.
   We have to sift a variety of reports before reaching the truth and that you may compare the foregoing statements with such as may be derived from other sources is the object of this letter.
    I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,

     R. E. LEE

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Pages 1268-1269.

A neglected, but interesting, aspect of the war is the advent of intelligence work similar to that which would evolve during later wars.  Lee relied heavily on northern newspapers, reports from reliable civilians, scouts, and spies.  What was lacking was a more formal organization for evaluating reports away from the front.

April 8, 1864 (Tuesday): Pickett's Charge

General George Edward Pickett

Richmond, Va., April 8, 1864
Major General GEORGE E. PICKETT,
Commanding, Petersburg, Va.:
    GENERAL: It has become a matter of strict military necessity that six miles of iron should be at once taken and removed from the Charlotte and Statesville Railroad in North Carolina, for the completion of the Piedmont Railroad, which will be ready for its track as soon as the iron can arrive. I have sent from here a detachment of engineer troops to remove the iron, and have ordered the officer in charge to report by letter to you. I must ask you to sustain this the ground of positive necessity, and it might be well for you to send a discreet officer to the point to direct operations and meet any contingency of possible opposition. I rely upon your prompt attention to this.

    Secretary of War.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Page 1268.

It was a good indication of the problems facing the Confederate administration that Pickett would be charged with taking up six miles of railroad iron from a road in North Carolina to take the road between Greensboro and Danville. 

April 7, 1864 (Monday): Davis Orders Longstreet Back to Lee

Bristol Virginia Train Station (

RICHMOND, VA., April 7, 1864.
General J. LONGSTREET, Bristol, Tenn.:
    GENERAL: The President directs that you move with that part of your corps proper now in the Department of East Tennessee (that is, McLaw's and Field's divisions, and one battalion of artillery, that lately commanded by Colonel Alexander) to Charlottesville, Va. Arrived there, you will report to General R. E. Lee. The infantry should first move by rail. If the means of transportation will permit, the artillery, its carriages, harness, &c., will go in the same manner; otherwise, it will march. Should the artillery go by rail, the artillery horses will be sent the dirt road. Only such field transportation will be taken as is allowed for a campaign in the Army of Northern Virginia. Please see General Lee's special orders, indorsed. The excess in the Department of East Tennessee above that amount will be promptly put in motion for the gap in the Piedmont Railroad, between Danville, Va., and Greensborough, N. C., to assist in providing necessary subsistence supplies for both your own corps and the troops who remain with General Buckner in the Department of East Tennessee.
     Very respectfully, general, your obedient servant,

     S. COOPER,
     Adjutant and Inspector General.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 32, Part 3, Page 756.

Davis decided the immediate threat to Lee from Grant's army was greater than the potential for relieving him through moving into Tennessee or Kentucky.  Longstreet clearly preferred the later course of action.  However, Johnston had concerns about subsisting his army in the region, Confederate cavalry was inadequate, and Davis remained concern about the defense of Richmond.  Although Lee had expressed support for a move into Tennessee or Kentucky with a combined force consisting of Johnston's troops and Lee, he was likely not overly disappointed with an outcome which saw his forces reunited. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

April 6, 1864 (Sunday): Forrest Proposes A Move

General Nathan B. Forrest

Jackson, Tenn., April 6, 1864.
    GENERAL: I desire to return you my thanks for past favors received while you were in command of this department and to say that so far I have been successful in every engagement with the enemy and have accomplished all that could be reasonably expected of me. I have in my command four small brigades of cavalry of about 1,200 men each, and if permitted to hold this country will increase it in a short time to perhaps 2,000 more. One of my brigades in composed exclusively of Kentuckians, and Colonel T. G. Woodward is exceedingly anxious to become attached to it. His command is very small and was raised in Southern and Southwestern Kentucky, and I think if transferred to me could be readily filled up. At any rate, if the transfer be made I will send to your army from the conscripts and deserters in this portion of the State at least two men for every one of Colonel Woodward's command that may be sent to me. As to whether the good of the service requires or permits the change is a matter left entirely to your better judgment. Am exceedingly anxious to further Colonel Woodward's wishes, provided it meets with your approbation. I have at present entire possession of West Tennessee and Kentucky south and west of Tennessee River, except the posts on the river of Memphis, Fort Pillow, Columbus, and Paducah. My men are in fine spirits and my command harmonious, and I hope to accomplish much during the spring and summer. My loss in all engagements and skirmishes with the enemy since I re-entered West Tennessee is 15 killed and 42 wounded; that to the enemy over 800. Have sent to General Polk over 600 prisoners, and their killed was 72 and balance of the 800 wounded. The Sixteenth and Twentieth Army corps (Federal) have gone up the river from Memphis-reported destination Chattanooga and Pulaski. I am of the opinion that everything available is being concentrated against General Lee and yourself. Am also of opinion that if all the cavalry of this and your own department could be moved against Nashville that the enemy's communication could be utterly broken up.
     I am, general, with great respect, your most obedient servant,

    N. B. FORREST,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 52, Part 2, Page 653.

Forrest had an effective force with good morale, but not in sufficient numbers to change thebalance in Tennessee and Kentucky.  He rightly claimed to control much of western Kentucky and Tennessee, excepting that bordering the river.  The advantage the Union enjoyed in naval superiority was decisive. 

April 5, 1864 (Saturday): Magruder Holds Texas

Texas Governor Pendleton Murrah

HOUSTON, April 5, 1864.
His Excellency Governor MURRAH:
    Dispatches just received from Shreveport state that Steele's forces had advanced on the 4th instant to Little Missouri River, about half way between Arkadelphia and Washington, and only about 60 miles from the Texas border, Bowie County. The enemy continues to advance up Red River Valley, and had reached Pleasant Hill on the march from Natchitoches to Mansfield. With this state of things before me I can but urge Your Excellency to remove all obstacles in the way of organizing forces under the act of Congress by accepting the proposition made in my communication of 2nd instant. I would state to Your Excellency that I have been informed by those connected with Brigadier-General McAdoo's command that the State troops assembled in camp desire to organize under the new act of Congress. I have assured such parties as have waited on me in reference to the same that until I had heard from Your Excellency I would take no steps toward organizing troops under this law.
Our forces in Arkansas under Marmaduke and those in the Red River Valley are skirmishing daily with the enemy and endeavoring to dispute his advance, but I fear that he will be able to turn Shreveport and enter Texas. I again appeal to Your Excellency to throw all your influence in favor of a vigorous execution of the new companies now forming [belong to] the State troops, and much prefer that the conscripts between eighteen and forty-five be transferred at once from the State troops to existing organizations, giving them thirty days to select the same. If Your Excellency agree with me I respectfully request that you issue a proclamation calling upon all those between seventeen and eighteen and forty-five and fifty to organize in accordance with orders to be issued from district headquarters, and all between eighteen and forty-five to join existing organizations, as they may be permitted to volunteer in by orders also from district headquarters, it being decided by Your Excellency and myself that the conscript law shall at once be vigorously enforced. Please state also that those who desire to enter cavalry must come well mounted and armed with a good double-barrel shotgun. The points of rendezvous for the troops will be designated in my orders. I hope the above will meet with your approbation. In any case I consider the co-operation of Your Excellency as absolutely vital.

     J. B. MAGRUDER,
     Major-General, Commanding.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 334, Part 3, Page 735.

Magruder had gone from prominence in the Seven Days campaign to obscurity as the commander of the Department of Texas.  Now, with Banks on the march he was preparing to throw his troops up against the advance.  A problem he faced was the presence of so many state troops who were not directly under his command.  Here he appeals to Governor Murrah of Texas for assistance.


April 4 1864 (Friday):Vigilance! Vigilance! Vigilance!

John R. Chambliss

April 4, 1864
Brigadier General J. R. CHAMBLISS, JR.,
Commanding, &c.:
    GENERAL: I wish you to bear in mind a few considerations for your government as the commander of the outposts on the lower Rappahannock. Keep out scouts who will be competent and certain of communicating to you any movement of a large body of infantry (which, of course, will be preceded by a large force of cavalry) down the Rappahannock on the north side, with the view to a change of base of extension of line to the Aquia Railroad. Endeavor to secure accurate information and telegraph it clearly, avoiding the possibility of ambiguity, for which telegrams are noted. It is very important also to state time and place of enemy's movement. should the enemy endeavor to cross the river anywhere in your front, it is desirable to prevent it; it is possible to delay it,and to the accomplishment of these alternatives, preferably the former, devote every effort, and if needed send for Hart's battery, near Milford. Bear in mind that your telegrams may make the whole army strike tents, and night or day, rain or shine, take up the line of march. Endeavor, therefore, to secure accurate information. Should the enemy cross at Ely's or Germanna you should move at once to meet him, feel his force, endeavor to penetrate his designs, and report back by telegram, giving his progress, and watch his direction of march in doing which do not let a feigned movement deceive you. It is probable that a corresponding move will be made by a part or all of our main body, to connect your reconnaissance with which will be highly desirable. The enemy's main body will, in the event of such a move, either march directly for Fredericksburg or move up the turnpike or plank road toward Verdierville, as before. In the former case, endeavor to impede his march with artillery and dismounted men, so as to give us a chance to strike his flank. In the latter case, close up and harass his rear, as Rosser did so handsomely before. Above, all, vigilance! vigilance! vigilance!
    Very respectfully,

    J. E. B. STUART,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Pages 1257-1258.

Stuart's advice to Chambliss reflects a change in warfare.  With the telegraph it was possible to put armies in motion on short notice from a considerable distance.  Chambliss was an 1853 West Point graduate, former military aide to the governor of Virginia, and planter.  In December he had been appointed Brigadier-General.

April 3, 1864 (Thursday): Sherman Aims at Mobile

Cotton on Docks at Mobile (Library of Congress)

Major-General BANKS,
Commanding Department of the Gulf, Red River:
    GENERAL: The thirty days for which I loaned you the command of General A. J. Smith will expire on the 10th instant. I send down with this Brigadier General J. M. Corse, to carry orders to General Smith, and to give directions to a new movement which is also preliminary to the general campaign.* General Corse may see you and explain in full, but lest he should not find you in person I will simply state that Forrest, availing himself of the absence of our furloughed men, and of this detachment with you, has pushed up between the Mississippi and Tennessee Rivers, even to the Ohio. He has attacked Paducah, but got the worst of it, and still lingers about that place. I hope he will remain thereabouts till A. J. Smith makes his destined point, but this I can hardly count on; yet I want A. J. Smith to reach by the Yazoo a position near Grenada, and thence operate against Forrest, after which to march across to Decatur, Ala. You will see he has a big job, and therefore must start at once. From all I can see, my troops reached Alexandria at the time agreed on, viz, March 17, and I hear of them up at Natchitoches, but I cannot hear of your troops being above Opelousas.
     Steele is also moving. I leave Steele's entire force to co-operate with you and the navy, but as I before stated I must have A. J. Smith's troops now, as soon as possible. I beg you will expedite their return to Vicksburg, if they have not already started, and I want them, if possible, in the same boats they used up Red River, as it will save the time otherwise consumed in the transfer to other boats. All is well in this quarter and I hope by the time you turn against Mobile our forces will again act to the same end, though at distant points. General Grant, now having lawful control, will doubtless see that all minor objects are disregarded, and all the armies acting on a common plan.
   Hoping ere this reaches you that you are in possession of Shreveport, I am, with great respect, &c.,

   Major-General, Commanding.
*For Sherman to Smith and Corse, see Vol. XXXII, Part III, pp. 242, 244.

Official Records, Series I, Vol. 34, Part 3, Page 24.

Banks was on the move in 20 transports with 6 naval ships accompanying him, headed for Springfield Landing, 110 miles north of Shreveport.  Confederate opposition to this point had consisted mainly of cavalry skirmishing.  The place Forrest occupied in the minds of Union planners is evident from Sherman's continued focus on him.  Psychologically he was having an impact, but strategically his force was mainly a distraction.  Sherman had his eyes fixed on a bigger prize, Mobile.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

April 2, 1864 (Wednesday): High Streams and Strategy

The Shenandoah River (

Orange Court-House, April 2, 1864.
President Confederate States, Richmond:
    MR. PRESIDENT: The weather of the past week has been unfavorable for observation of the enemy. The snow and swollen streams have prevented free movements of our scouts. One on North River, 19 miles from Romney, 26th March, reports that no troops had passed over the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad since about the 15th, when three regiments moved as far west as Grafton. This conflicts with the information of a dispatch from the Secretary of War received last evening. Scouts in the valley confirm the reports of the Secretary of the extreme vigilance practiced on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, which seems to be intended to conceal movements on that route. It is stated there is a double chain of pickets from the Blue Ridge to the North Mountain. The scouts north of the Rappahannock report almost daily arrival of re-enforcements to General Meade's army by railroad. They do not know whence they come, or whether they are returning convalescents, men from furlough, &c. On the 26th and 27th ultimo the trains were particularly full. A battery of artillery and 600 cavalry are stated to have marched through Centreville on the 26th for the Rappahannock. On the 30th and 31st large re-enforcements by railroad are also reported; also that a report was in circulation in Alexandria that four corps were to be added to the Army of the Potomac. The furloughed men of the Ninth Corps are ordered to repair to Annapolis, and General Longstreet reports that the Ninth Corps has left Knoxville and gone east via Cumberland Gap. This is corroborative of the statement of the assembling of Burnside's troops at Annapolis. General Couch is stated to be at Hagerstown with 5,000 or 6,000 new troops; number probably exaggerated. These various reports render it quite probable that Virginia may be the theater of Grant's campaign; that Burnside may operate from some point on the coast, and that a column may also be pushed up the Shenandoah Valley. Should this be the plan of the enemy I think troops will be drawn from their other armies, which should, be watched with a view of discovering it. I would recommend that this army be strengthened as much as practicable; that should it be ascertained before commencement of operations by General Johnston, that troops have been drawn from his front and sent to Virginia, that Longstreet's corps be ordered here, and that re-enforcements be sent to General Johnston from General Polk, Mobile and Beauregard. General Johnston will then be relatively stronger in comparison with the force opposed to him than now, and supplies of all kinds should be accumulated at Richmond or at points convenient as fast as possible.
    I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,

    R. E. LEE,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Page 1255.

There were perils and opportunities in the shifting of troops to Grant.  Lee's army was in jeopardy if there were advances on three fronts (the Valley, the coast, and overland) but if the troops drawn by Grant to accomplish those ends were taken from Johnston's front in the west, there was a chance to relieve pressure in the east by Johnston assuming an aggressive posture (words which seem difficult to ascribe to him).  Spring was coming, and so was Grant. 

April 1, 1864 (Tuesday): Advise Richmond

Governor's Mansion, Jackson Mississippi

JACKSON, April 1, 1864.
(Via Mobile. Received 2d.)
President DAVIS,
Richmond, Va.:
   Per conference with General Lee of this department. He is fully impresed by information deemed reliable that the army corps now being sent from this department is to re-enforce Army of Potomac, to operate against Richmond. No early advance of the enemy in this quarter threatened or apprehended.


Official Records, Series I., Vol. 52, Part 2, Page 650.

The "Lee of this department" was S. D. Lee, the cavalry officer, who is advising Richmond of his impression troops leaving his front are bound for Richmond.  The consensus was building in the halls of the Confederate War Department that a major effort would be made by Grant to take Richmond.  The question was whether to bring Longstreet back east with his troops to oppose it directly, or to send he and them to Kentucky to relieve pressure on the Army of Northern Virginia by drawing off troops from Grant.

Monday, May 19, 2014

March 31, 1864 (Monday): Banks Rises, River Falls

Red River Dam

Shreveport, La., March 31, 1864.
Major General S. PRICE:
    GENERAL: I am directed by the lieutenant-general commanding to acknowledge the receipt of General Marmudake's dispatches of the 29th forwarded by you, and to says he advises that you concentrate your forces except that you have operating on the enemy's communications, and that you use every exertion to retard his approach without risking a general engagement, which you will not do unless you have such information of the enemy's strength or position as will giving you some prospect of success. He thinks that the enemy's arrival at Arkadelphia clearly indicates that he will move by Washington. The force from Alexandria is moving up Red River. All information indicates it to be the Thirteenth and Nineteenth Army Corps, under McClernand and Franklin, with a portion of Sherman's command. Should these columns of the enemy, from their superior force, resist or efforts to hold them in check, the lieutenant-general commanding proposes to concentrate when they come sufficiently near upon the one which the best prospect of success. The lieutenant-general commanding directs that you spare no trouble or exertion to get reliable and detailed information of the enemy's strength as upon the accuracy of this information will very much depend the success of our operations. I have the honor to inclose a copy* of a letter from Brigadier General S. B. Maxey, giving information of the enemy's strength and movements at Fort Smith.
    I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

     Lieutenant and Aide-de-Camp.

*Of March 26, p. 1085 

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 34, Part 2, Page 1102.

Banks was working closely under Halleck's direction.  Although Grant, Sherman, and Banks opposed a line of operations up the Red River it was decided upon in Washington.  Banks was to move up Bayou Teche and link up with Sherman.  Steele was to advance south from Little Rock and join Banks at Alexandria, Louisiana.  This would, be mid-March give the Union close to 42,000 men.  Kirby Smith and his 30,000 troops would oppose the advance. Initially Banks was stalled at Alexandria when low water made it barely possible for his naval supports to pass the rapids above town.  Engineers set about building a dam to back up the water in sufficient depth to allow a canal to be built by which the ships could go around the low water.


March 30, 1864 (Sunday): Lee Prepares for Grant

General Robert Frederick Hope

His Excellency J. DAVIS,
President Confederate States:
    MR. PRESIDENT: Since my former letter on the subject the indications that operations in Virginia will be vigorously prosecuted by the enemy are stronger than they then were. General Grant has returned from the army in the West. He is at present with the Army of the Potomac,which is being reorganized and recruited. From the reports of our scouts the impression prevails in that army that he will operate it in the coming campaign. Every train brings it recruits, and it is stated that every available regiment at the North is added to it. It is also reported that General Burnside is organizing a large army at Annapolis, and it seems probable that additional troops are being sent to the valley. It is stated that preparations are making to rebuild the railroad from Harper's Ferry to Winchester, which would indicate a reoccupation of the latter place. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad is very closely guarded along its whole extent. No ingress or egress from their lines is permitted to citizens, as heretofore, and everything shows secrecy and preparation. Their plans are not sufficiently developed to discover them, but I think we can assume that if General Grant is to direct operations on this frontier he will concentrate a large force on one or more lines, and prudence dictates that we should make such preparations as are in our power. If an aggressive movement can be made in the West it will disconcert their plans and oblige them to conform to ours. But if it cannot, Longstreet should be held in readiness to be thrown rapidly in the valley,if necessary, to counteract any movement in that quarter, in accomplishing which I could unite with him, or he united with me, should circumstances require it, on the Rapidan. The time is also near at hand when I shall require all the troops belonging to this army. I have delayed calling for General Hoke, who, besides his own brigade, has two regiments of another of this army, under the expectation that the object of his visit to North Carolina may yet be accomplished. I have heard nothing on the subject recently,and if our papers are correct in their information, the enemy has thrown re-enforcements into that State, and the Neuse is barricaded just above New Berne. There is another brigade of this army, General R. D. Johnston's at Hanover Junction. I should like as soon as possible to get them both back.
     I am, with great respect, your most obedient servant,

     R. E. LEE,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Pages 1244-1245 .

Lee was wary of Grant, both for the number of troops he could employ and the way he would use them.  The question of when Longstreet should return remained in the forefront of his thoughts.  Striking a blow with Longstreet in Tennessee or Kentucky was a considerable, but time was running short to make decisions.  Hoke, mentioned here, had organized successful attacks at Plymouth and New Berne and was attempting to remove Union forces from North Carolina so more of his troops could be utilized by the Army of Northern Virginia.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

March 29, 1864 (Saturday): Draft Dodgers Head For Canada

General James B. Fry (Library of Congress)

LOUISVILLE, March 29, 1864.
Colonel J. B. FRY,
    Loyal slave-holders willing to abide by the law, or to allow their slaves to volunteer, complain that they run off in great numbers for Canada to escape military service. Can any check be applied under the law to prevent this? Answer by telegraph immediately.

     W. M. SIDELL,
     Major and Acting Assistant Provost-Marshal-General.

Official Records, Series III., Vol. 4, Part 1, Page 210.

Kentucky had not abolished slavery, although it was firmly controlled by Union forces.  Since it was within the Union, the Emancipation Proclamation did not apply there.  Many slaves preferred not to enter the army and fled to Canada. 

March 28, 1864 (Friday): Not A Fan of Summerville

General A. N. Duffie (Library of Congress)

Charleston, W. Va., March 28, 1864.
Major General F. SIGEL,
Commanding Department of West Virginia:
SIR: I think it is my duty to make you the following report concerning sending troops to Summerville as a corps of observation:
First. The troops at Fayetteville, consisting of three regiments of infantry and one battery of artillery, can fully fulfill the duties required by you.
Second. My cavalry is constantly moving on the roads leading to Princeton and Lewisburg, and I always by so doing shall be aware of any movements of the enemy. My scouts and spies are constantly out.
Third. The distance from Fayetteville to Princeton is shorter than the distance from Summerville. If I have to occupy the place assigned by you (Summerville) I shall require that more infantry and cavalry be sent here, for in case of an attack, my troops being already much scattered throughout the country, it will require for their concentration more than three days. I do not, general, make any objection to order, which orders shall always be fulfilled with promptness and faithfulness, but it is a mere statement that I submit to you for your approval or disapproval. Troops have started and will carry out strictly your orders.
    The roads leading to Summerville have been heavily blockaded, and now are, so they are nearly impracticable for wagons, and I positively fear nothing from the enemy on this side of the Gauley River.
    I shall beg of you to forward to me without delay the arms and horses required to place this command efficient for field duties.
    I am, general, very respectfully, yours,

    A. N. DUFFIE,
   General, Commanding.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Page 756.

Summerfield, West Virginia was not a very hospitable location.  It was on the rim of the Gauley River Canyon.  Princeton was not a large town, but it was a little larger than and not as isolated.  In addition, the road network in the area was better than that at Summerville.  It is little remarked on, but worth remembering, that troops serving in West Virginia campaigned in much more rugged terrain than their cousins to the east.  The area must have been a shock to Duffie, a Frenchman who had served in Algiers, Senegal, and the Crimea.