Wednesday, February 26, 2014

February 2, 1864 (Tuesday): Skirmish at Cumberland

Cumberland, Maryland

CUMBERLAND, MD., February 2, 1864. - 7 p. m.
(Received 12 midnight.)
    At 1 p. m. to-day about 500 of Rosser's brigade made an attack on the forces guarding the bridges across Patterson's Creek and North Branch of Potomac. Several of our men were wounded, 1 killed, balance either captured or dispersed. Both bridges were fired. Re-enforcements were promptly sent forward, and arrived in time to drive the enemy away and save the Patterson's Creek bridge. About 1 mile of the telegraph line destroyed. It will be repaired to-morrow, and in three days the bridges will be repaired and the road in working order. Mulligan still driving the enemy back from New Creek. If Sullivan's cavalry arrives at Romney to-night I hope to cut Rosser off.

      B. F. KELLEY.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Page 29.

The security of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad remained an issue even in 1864.  Here Rosser's men make an incursion near Cumberland, Maryland.   

February 1, 1864 (Sunday): Sherman Begins the Meridian Campaign

General William W. Loring

DALTON, February 1, 1864.
    I informed you by telegraph this morning that our scouts on the Tennessee report that on the night of January 29 Sherman's corps was crossing the river on a pontoon bridge, 20 miles above Guntersville.
    The weather for several weeks has been mild and dry, consequently the roads are quite practicable. This indicates, I suppose, a preparations for a movement on Rome, to be made whenever they may be ready to advance. That place is near enough to our communications to make it, impossible to hold this position after its occupation by the enemy, and far enough from them to make it difficult to attack an enemy there without giving up those communications to the main force, which would probably approach at the same time from Chattanooga.
    I have completed a minute inspection of the troops since the date of my last letter. There is no reason to doubt the spirit of the soldiers; on the contrary, I have full confidence in their courage.
    The material of the army is not so good, however, as from the representations of others I reported it in my letter of January 2. The artillery horses are not improving, and are so feeble that in the event of a battle we could not hope to maneuver our batteries, nor in case of reverse to save our guns. We have not received by rail road enough long forage to restore their condition. More than half the infantry are without bayonets, and the want of shoes is painful to see even in this mild weather. Although the chief quartermaster promised when I arrived to supply the deficiency very soon, it is increasing fast. Only about 4,200 pairs were received in January, not more than a fourth of the number necessary to supply the monthly wear.
     I respectfully submit to Your Excellency that the arrangements of the War Department for supplying provisions to troops are so executed as to put this army under some disadvantages. Lieutenant-General Polk's command, much inferior in number to this, has all Mississippi, West Tennessee, and the productive part of Alabama to draw upon, while we have to depend for meat, which Southern men think a necessary of life, upon an exhausted country, the mountainous parts of Georgia and Alabama. This is the representation of Major Cummings, commissary of subsistence, upon whom this army depends for provisions. I understand the object of the present system to be to enable the Government, by having military supplies collected under its own direction, to control their distribution. But if Major Cummings is correct, the meat of each department belongs to the troops in it, so that we shall derive no benefit from the system except 1,000 beeves promised from Mississippi.
     I regret to make a report to Your Excellency so much less favorable than that which you received before my arrival. As it is necessary that you should know the truth I will not apologize for writing it.
The more I consider the subject the less it appears to me practicable to assume the offensive from this point. If the reports of our scouts are correct, the enemy has sent no troops from our front; therefore we may expect him to take the offensive whenever he is ready. You see from my report that this army is not in condition for the field. It is also too small in number compared with that of the enemy.
    Should Your Excellency desire to carry back the war into Middle Tennessee, it seems to me that it must be done by assembling as large a force in Northern Mississippi as we can collect there, with a bridge equipage for the passage of the Tennessee; a larger force, if practicable, than Lieutenant-General Polk's and mine united.
      Most respectfully, your obedient servant,


Official Records I., Vol. 32, Part 2, Pages 644-645.

Sherman was cooperating with Banks proposed Red River Campaign.  But the rivers would be too low for naval support until March, so Sherman decided to trengthen the Federal hold on Vicksburg by destroying the railroads and resources of central Mississippi.  As this was written Sherman was preparing to leave Vicksburg.  Johnston had Polk's two infantry divisions under Loring and French near Jackson and Meridian, S. D. Lee's cavalry near Jackson, and Forrest's cavalry in Northern Mississippi. 

January 31, 1864 (Saturday): Death Is Mercy

General William T. Sherman

Major R. M. SAWYER,
Asst. Adjt. General, Dept. of the Tennessee, Huntsville:
    DEAR SAWYER: In my formed letters I have answered all your questions save one, and that relates to the treatment of inhabitants known or suspected to be hostile or "secesh." This is in truth the most difficult business of our army as it advance and occupies the Southern country. It is almost impossible to lay down rules, and I invariably leave this whole subject to local commanders, but am willing to give them the benefit of my acquired knowledge and experience.
    In Europe, whence we derive our principles of war, as developed by their histories, wars are between kings or rulers, through hired armies, and not between people. These remaining, as it were, neutral, and sell their produce to whatever army is in possession. Napoleon, when at war with Austria and Russia, bought forage and provisions of the inhabitants, and consequently had an interest to protect farms and factories which ministered to his wants. In like manner the allied armies in France habitants whatever they needed-the produce of the soil or manufactories of the country. Therefore the rule was and is, that wars are confined to the armies and should not visit the homes of families or private interests. But in other examples a different rule obtained the sanction of historical authority. I will only instance that when in the reign of William and Mary the English army occupied Ireland, then in a state of revolt, the inhabitants were actually driven into foreign lands and were dispossessed of their property and a new population introduced. To this day a large part of the north of Ireland is held by the descendants of the Scottish emigrants sent there by William's order and an act of Parliament.
    The war which now prevails in our land is essentially a war of races . The Southern people entered into a clear compact of government, but still maintained a species of sperate interests, history, and prejudices. The latter became stronger and stronger till they have led to a war, which has developed fruits of the bitterest kind. We of the North are beyond all question right in our lawful cause, but we are not bound to ignore the fact that the people of the South have prejudices which form part of their nature and which they cannot throw off without an effort of reason or the slow proceeds of natural change. Now, the question arises, should we treat as absolute enemies all in the South who differ from us in opinion or prejudices, kill or banish them, or give them time to think and gradually change their conduct so as to conform to the new order of things which is slowly and gradually creeping into their country?
    When men take arms to resist a rightful authority we are compelled to use force, because all reason and argument cease when arms are resorted to. When the provisions, forage, horses, mules, wagons, &c., are used by our enemy it is clearly our duty and right to take them, because otherwise they might be used against us. In like manner all houses left vacant by an inimical people are clearly our right, or such as are needed as store-houses, hospitals, and quarters. But a question arises as to dwellings used by women, children, and non-combatants. So long as non-combatants remain in their houses and keep to their accustomed business their opinions and prejudices, can in nowise influence the war, and therefore should not be noticed; but if any one comes out into the public streets and creased disorder, he or she should be punished, restrained, or banished, either to the rear or front as the officer in command adjudges. If the people or any of them keep up a correspondence with parties in hostility they are spies, and can be punished with death or minor punishment.
    These are well-established principles of war, and the people of the South having appealed to war are barred from appealing to our Constitution, which they have practically and publicly defied. They have appealed to war, and must abide its rules and laws. The United States as a belligerent party, claiming right in the soil as the ultimate sovereign, have a right to change the population, and it may be and is both politic and just we should do so in certain districts.
    When the inhabitants persist too long in hostility it may be both politic and right we should banish them and appropriate their lands to a more loyal and useful population. No man will deny that the United States would be benefited by dispossessing a rich, prejudiced, hard-headed, and disloyal planter, and substituting in this place a dozen or more patient, industrious, good families, even if they be of foreign birth. I think it does good to present this view of the case to many Southern gentleman who grew rich and wealthy, not by virtue alone of their personal industry and skill, but by reason of
the protection and impetus to prosperity given by our hitherto moderate and magnanimous Government.
    It is all idle nonsense for the Southern planters to say that they made the South, that they own it, and that they can do as they please, even to break upon our Government and shut up the natural avenues of trade, intercourse, and commerce.
     We know, and they know, if they are intelligent beings, that as compared whit the whole world they are but as five millions are to one thousand millions; that they did not create the land; that the only little to its use and usufruct is the deed of the United Stated, and if they appeal to war they hold their all by a very insecure tenure.
    For my part I believe this war is the result of false political doctrine, for which we all as a people are responsible; that any and every people a natural right to self-government, and I would give all a chance to reflect and when in error to recant. I know slave owners, finding themselves in possession of a species of property in opposition to the growing sentiment of the whole civilized world, conceived their property in danger and foolishly appealed to war, and by skillful political handling involved with themselves the whole South on the doctrine of error and prejudice. I believe that some of the rich and slave-holding are prejudiced to an extent that nothing but death and ruin will extinguish, but hope, as the poorer and industrial classes of the South realize weakness and their dependence upon the fruit s of the earth and good will of their fellow-men, they will not only discover the error of their ways and repent of their hasty action but bless those who persistently maintained a constitutional Governments strong enough to sustain itself, protect its citizens, and promise peaceful homes to millions yet unborn.
    In this belief, whilst I assert of our Government the highest military prerogatives, I am willing to bear in patience that political nonsense of slave rights, State's rights, freedom of conscience, freedom of the press, and such other trash as have deluded the Southern people into war, anarchy, bloodshed, and the foulest crimes that have disgraced any time or any people.
    I would advise the commanding officers at Huntsville, and such other towns as are occupied by our troops, to assemble the inhabitants and explain to them these plain, self-evident propositions, and tell them that it is now for them to say whether they and their children shall inherit the beautiful flank which by the accident of nature has fallen to their share.
    The Government of the United States has in North Alabama any and all rights which they choose to enforce in war-to take their lives,their lands, their everything-because they cannot deny that war does exist there, and war is simply power unrestrained by constitution or compact.
If they want eternal war, well and good; we accept the issue, and will dispossess them and plant our friends in their place. I know thousands and millions of good people who at simple notice would come to North Alabama and accept the elegant houses and plantations there. If the people of Huntsville think different, let hem persist in war three years longer, and then they will not be consulted. Three years ago by a little reflection and patience they could have had a hundred years of peace and prosperity, but they preferred war; very well. Last year they could have saved their slaves, but now it is too late.
    All the powers of earth cannot restore to them their slaves, any more than their dead grandfathers. Next year their lands will be taken, for in war we can taken them, and rightfully,too, and in another year they may beg in vain for their lives. A people who will persevere in war beyond a certain limit ought to know the consequences. Many, many peoples with less pertinacity have been wiped out of national existence.
    My own belief is, even now the non-slave holding classes of the South are alienating from their associates in war. Already I hear recrimination. Those who have property left should take warning in time.
    Since I have come down here I have seen many Southern planters who now hire their negroes and acknowledge that they could part in peace. They now see that we are bound together as one nation by indissoluble ties, and that any interest or any people that set themselves up in antagonism to the nation must perish. Whilst I would not remit one jot or tittle of our nation's right in peace or war, I do make allowances for past political errors and prejudices. Our national Congress and supreme courts are the proper avenues on which to discuss conflicting opinions, and not the battle-field. You may not hear from me again, and if you think it will do any good, call some of the better people together and explain these, my views. You may even read to them this letter and let them use it so as to prepare them for my coming.
    To those who submit to the rightful law and authority all gentleness and forbearance; but to the petulant and persistent secessionists, why, death is mercy, and the quicker he or she is disposed of the better. Satan and the rebellious saints of Heaven were allowed a continuous existence in hell merely to swell their just punishment. To such as would rebel against a Government so mild and just as ours was in peace, a punishment equal would not be unjust.
   We are progressing well in this quarter, though I have not changed my opinion, that although we may soon assume the existence of murder, and robbery will cease to afflict this region of country.
    Truly, your friend,

    W. T. SHERMAN,
    Major-General, Commanding.

Official Records, Series I, Vol. 32, Part 2, Pages 278-281.

Sherman had an understanding of the changes his arrival would bring and no small amount of ego.  It is not clear from the letter exactly what his views are regarding the conduct of war, but as he gains momentum it becomes more clear he was inclined toward taking a heavy hand to civilians in his path.  The idea of banishing civilians and replacing them with a population more in tune with Northern views went beyond anything suggested by the administration.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

January 30, 1864 (Thursday): The Thanks of Congress

Major Heros von Borcke

[No. 44.] - JOINT RESOLUTION of thanks to Major General J. E. B. Stuart, and the officers and men under his command.
     Resolution of thanks by the Confederate Congress to Major Heros von Borcke. Whereas Major Heros von Borcke, of Prussia, assistant adjutant and inspector general of the cavalry corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, having left his own country to assist in securing the independence of ours, and by his personal gallantry in the field having won the admiration of his comrades as well as that of his commanding general, all of whom deeply sympathize with him in his present sufferings from wounds received in battle: Therefore, Resolved by the Congress of the Confederate States of America, That the thanks of Congress are due, and the same are hereby tendered, to Major von Borcke, for his self-sacrificing devotion to our Confederacy, and for his distinguished services in support of its cause. Resolved. That a copy of the foregoing resolution be transmitted to Major von Borcke by the President of the Confederate States. Approved January 30, 1864.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 27, Part 2, Page 712.

Von Borcke sought adventure and on hearing of the advent of war in America made his way to the Confederate states through Bermuda.  A cavalry officer in Prussia he attached himself to Stuart's command and the two become good friends.  He participated in all of Stuart's campaigns until severely wounded at Middleburg.  He later resumed active service with Stuart as a staff officer and finished the war on a diplomatic mission to England.

January 29, 1864 (Wednesday): Aroused From My Nocturnal Repose

Colonel Alfred Gibbs

January 29, 1864.
Brigadier General W. MERRITT,
Commanding First Division Cavalry, Culpeper:
    DEAR GENERAL: Since we have been deprived of the pleasure of judicially assassinating that deserter to-day, I shall endeavor to elevate my depressed spirits by literary composition. Now, general, when we were ruthlessly thrust out to the front, where we have since been kept at the point of the bayonet, we were promised a division of infantry to protect us. Well, they have never done it. These regiments of General Robinson's have been in Culpeper all the time, and last night about 1 o'clock I was aroused from my nocturnal repose by General Robinson's dispatch informing me that the Cedar Run brigade was to be withdrawn to-day, and that he wanted his pickets relieved by cavalry.
    I understand that another division was ordered to relieve General Robinson's, but mean time that division had erected a theater in town, and of course it could not be thought of that they should go to the front and leave the theater behind. Now, we don't want their infernal old sharp-sticks at all, and I think we will be safer if they will withdraw the other brigade, so that if we are run back we won't have to wait until they pack up their duds and skedaddle back to their present position.
    They have left 100 men as a guard to the four blind signal officers on Cedar Mountain. It is reported that some camp-fires were seen yesterday in the woods north and west of Thoroughfare Mountain; perhaps that will account for the brigade changing front to rear so suddenly. The patent-sight man yesterday took four shots while the enemy were firing at Somerville Ford, and says he hit two certain. Mr. Emmons, assistant adjutant-general, will communicate to you some views of mine with regard to the picket-line on our left, which I desire to have changed. Lieutenant Walker is still basking in the sunshine of beauty.
   We still live, move, and have our being; somewhat muddy.
    Very respectfully, yours,

    Colonel, &c.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Pages 440-441.

Gibbs, as evidenced by his word smithing here, was well educated.  He attended Dartmouth prior to graduating from West Point.  A career soldier, he fought in the Mexican War and on the plains prior to the Civil War.  He remained in the army after the war, but died in 1868 of what was then called "congestion of the brain."


January 28, 1864 (Tuesday):Preserving Farms

January 28, 1864.
     In order to afford every facility and encouragement to the farmers to prepare for planting the coming season, the general commanding directs that particular attention be given to the preservation of the fencing and the closing of roads through fields which the owners may desire to cultivate. The gaps in the inclosures of such fields which have been made by the army will be closed by the nearest command, and passage across them by persons mounted or on foot and by vehicles will be strictly prohibited. Travel will be confined to the regular roads of the country as far as practicable.
Corps and division commanders will see to the strict enforcement of this order, and give to farmers in their vicinity all the assistance in their power.
     The general commanding is confident that it is only necessary to remind the army of the importance of a supply of provisions for its use, and that of the people, to insure a cheerful compliance by all.

     R. E. LEE,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Page 1126.

Armies occupied vast amounts of rich farm land.  In the case of the Army of Northern Virginia, that farm land had been occupied and reoccupied for the duration of what was now a long, hard war.  Lee was here making sure that the farmers who provided the crops which fed his army had the best chance of being productive, even if that meant his soldiers had to take the long way around to get from point to point. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

January 27, 1864 (Monday): Lee Evaluates His Officers

General Robert E. Rodes

HEADQUARTERS, Orange Court-House, January 27, 1864.
   I have not been unmindful of your request, expressed in your letter of the 16th instant,* desiring my opinion in reference to the reorganization of the troops in West Virginia. It is the difficulty of this subject and the importance of selecting a proper commander that has caused my silence. There are many able officers in this army, and many, I have no doubt, capable of administering that department, could I designate them. All have done well in their present positions, but to send them to a new and difficult field would be an experiment. But so important do I consider the maintenance of Western Virginia to the successful conduct of the war that I will relinquish any of them you may select for its command, though I do not know where to replace them. A change, I think, is necessary, both for the country. The duties might be more unsuitable to the health of General Ewell than his present position. I have also great confidence in the ability of Generals Early, Rodes, Edward Johnson, and Wilcox. Of the brigadiers, I think General Gordon, of Alabama, one of the best. I do not know to what duty General Buckner is assigned, but of the officers that have seen serving in that department I think General Ransom is the most prominent. If any of these officers be selected, and they should not answer, they should be removed and another tried.
    If a proper man can be found I think it would be better to include the Shenandoah Valley in his command, in order that he might concentrate the troops where most necessary. A better discipline should be instituted among the troops themselves. Their local character should be abolished by law, all deserters from other armies be returned to their proper commands, and all authority to organize companies, either within or without the enemy's lines, be revoked. This authority causes desertion from the general service. Men go within the enemy's lines, either really or nominally, with the connivance or invitation of the officers, to enter these organizations. In a word, the system should be such as to organize the men of the country for its defense, and not for their convenience or the benefit of certain individuals. Unless this is done the resources of that country will be lost to us, both its mineral wealth and provisions. The first step to improvement is an energetic, active commander, and no time should be lost in his selection.
     I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,

     R. E. LEE,
*See G. W. C. Lee to R. E. Lee, p. 1091.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Page 1124.

Left off the list were Anderson and Heth.  Lee was personally fond of Heth, but he had not distinguished himself at Gettysburg, nor had Anderson.  Hays had served during the Mine Run campaign in charge of Early's division, but was not equal to the others in rank, being only a brigadier general.  No 1st Corp officers were mentioned, as all were with Longstreet in Tennessee.  Early would ultimately take this command, with mixed results.

January 26, 1864 (Sunday): Forrest Afloat

General Nathan B. Forrest

Commanding Liberia Guards, 4th Ark. Vols., African Descent:
    SIR: It is reported that the rebel Colonel Forrest constructed a raft and made a raid on Island Numbers 63, last night.
    You will embark your company on the S. B. Bertha at 11 a. m. and proceed to the island, where on arrival you will ascertain all the facts and co-operate with Captain Holibaugh. You will take such steps as the contingency demands, using a sound discretion, and return and report as soon as practicable.
     Your obedient servant,

     N. B. BUFORD,
     Brigadier-General, Commanding.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 32, Part 2, Page 228.

Forrest remained active during this period, launching numerous raids.  He had the advantage of the vastness of the territory in which he operated and the speed of cavalry often moving against infantryBut his forces were generally not large enough to inflict substantial damage.

January 25, 1864 (Saturday): The North Carolina Question

North Carolina Capital (NC Division of Archives and History)

[Governor VANCE:]
    SIR: In consultation of our delegation this morning with the President in regard to public affairs in North Carolina, the President read to us a communication made by himself to you in reply to a letter of yours upon the subject of negotiating with the United States Government for the termination of the war. He did not read your letter to him, to which his was a response, and we do not know what were the views expressed by you to him in your letter. The letter of the President to you contains information which would be interesting to our people, and we are of the opinion that its publication would have a happy effect not only in our State, but upon public opinion throughout the Confederacy. There may be something in your letter to the President which you do to care to make public, and if so, the letter of the President alone would effect our object in getting his views before the public. The President informed us that the letter was a public paper in the hands of yourself, and that its publication was a matter for your consideration; that he certainly had no objection to its being made public. In that state of facts, we have thought proper to suggest the publication of this correspondence, or at least the letter of the President, thinking that it will remove much prejudince against the President now existing in our State upon the subject of peace and peace propositions.
     We have the honor to be, your obedient servants,


Official Records, Series I., Vol. 52, Part 1, Page 813.

Vance had written Davis to state there was pressure on him from within the state to press the Confederate government to open negotiations with the Lincoln administration.  Davis' response was carefully crafted and set forth the case there could be no negotiations given the administration's stance on the war. 

January 24, 1864 (Friday): Supplying the Cavalry

General Fitzhugh Lee

Major General J. E. B. STUART,
Commanding Cavalry, Army of Northern Virginia:
    GENERAL: In connection with the disposition of the two brigades of Fitz. Lee's division now near Charlottesville, as proposed by Major-General Lee and indorsed by you, I am directed by the general commanding to say that he desires that the transportation of this command be kept together and well cared for. Perhaps a portion of it can be judiciously employed by Major-General Hampton in foraging and supplying the brigades of Young, and Gordon, as General Hampton has expressed a desire for additional wagons for this purpose. Such as is not turned over to him for temporary service must be placed together under the proper officer of the quartermaster's department, who shall see that the animals are properly foraged and protected and the wagons placed in the best possible condition. If the transportation cannot be properly attended to in this way, it must be turned over to Major Harman, the acting chief quartermaster of the army, until required by the troops.
    General Lee directs me to add that Major-General Early reports that Major-General Lee carried off with him some fifteen or sixteen of the captured wagons and most of the captured mules. Every one of them must be turned in to the chief quartermaster of the army and a report of the number of wagons and mules promptly made to these headquarters.
     The general commanding wishes the headquarters of Lee's cavalry division, after the contemplated disposition shall have been effected, established at some point nearer the troops of the division now in front, say west of Orange Court-House, and somewhere between Lomax's brigade and the camps in rear.
     I am, most respectfully, your obedient servant,

     W. H. TAYLOR,
     Assistant Adjutant-General.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Page 1119.

We think of generals in grand terms moving large portions of their armies across large expanses of campaign territory.  But this memo shows that generals also had to concern themselves with many smaller details, such as the placement of Fitz Lee's division and provision for it's wagons.