Northern Virginia: Stuart Raids Pope’s Headquarters

August 22, 1862 – Confederate Major General Jeb Stuart sought revenge for the recent Federal ambush and exacted even more than he intended.

On the morning of the 20th, the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia crossed the undefended fords of the Rapidan River. The army consisted of about 54,000 men in seven divisions, two unattached infantry brigades, a cavalry division, and artillery. At the same time, Major General John Pope’s Federal Army of Virginia crossed the Rappahannock River to the north, as Pope sought to link with Major General George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac transferring from the Virginia Peninsula.

General Robert E. Lee, commanding the Confederate army, hoped to destroy bridges over the Rappahannock to prevent the Federal withdrawal, but skirmishing at Raccoon Ford, Stevensburg, Brandy Station, and Kelly’s Ford prevented that. Confederate cavalry pursuing Pope drove off Brigadier General George Bayard’s Federal troopers, but Bayard stalled long enough for Pope to finish crossing the Rappahannock and guard the fords. This compelled the Confederates to move up the Rappahannock by Pope’s left flank.

Although he had thwarted Lee’s plan to trap him between the Rappahannock and the Rapidan, Pope was not satisfied with his positions north of the Rappahannock. He reported to General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck, “The line of the Rappahannock offers no advantage of defense, but you may rely upon our making a very hard fight in case the enemy advances on us.”

Halleck informed Pope that General Fitz John Porter’s V Corps from McClellan’s army had just arrived at Aquia Creek, and “will be pushed up the Rappahannock as rapidly as possible” to give Pope around 60,000 men. Pope turned most of his attention to his left, where he feared that Confederates might try cutting him off from McClellan’s arriving Federals.

Lee continued probing the Federal defenses but could find no weaknesses. Confederate cavalry clashed with Federals at Kelly’s, Beverly, and Freeman’s fords on the Rappahannock and sustained heavy casualties; the Confederates lost 700 killed or wounded and had nearly 2,000 taken prisoner. Pope believed this was just an enemy reconnaissance; he was unaware that Lee was moving his entire army north to confront him.

Confederate General Jeb Stuart | Image Credit: Flickr.com

Meanwhile, Lee approved Stuart’s request to lead the cavalry on a raid of Pope’s supply line. Stuart’s 1,500 troopers and two guns moved farther up the Rappahannock than either army, crossing at the unguarded Waterloo Bridge. He planned to cut the Orange & Alexandria Railroad, the main Federal supply line, by destroying the Cub Run bridge near Catlett’s Station, 10 miles behind Federal lines.

The Confederates arrived outside the station around 7:30 p.m., where they captured the Federal pickets. They learned from the prisoners that this was Pope’s headquarters, and a contraband guided them to his tent. Pope was on an inspection, but Stuart raided the tent and made off with Pope’s dress coat, dispatch book, and $350,000 in greenbacks from the army’s payroll chest.

Stuart saw this raid partly as revenge for the Federal ambush a few days before, but he was pleasantly surprised by such a large bounty. He left a note for Pope: “You have my hat and plume. I have your best coat. I have the honor to propose a cartel for the fair exchange of the prisoners…”

Covered by a thunderstorm, the Confederates rode into the heavily stocked supply depot, hollering the “Rebel yell,” capturing many Federals in their camps, and sending others fleeing. Stuart’s men cut the telegraph line, but they could not burn the bridge due to the rain.

The Confederates captured over 200 Federals (many of them Pope’s staff officers) and thousands of dollars’ worth of supplies before riding back to their lines. More importantly, Pope’s dispatch book contained copies of all the messages he sent or received from the past week. Stuart’s raid indicated that Pope’s efforts to protect his left made his right vulnerable. It also indicated that once McClellan’s Federals arrived to reinforce him, Pope’s army could double Lee’s.

Pope learned of Stuart’s raid late that night, along with news that part of Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s force had crossed the Rappahannock at Sulphur Springs. He consulted with Halleck and resolved to turn Lee’s right flank, just as Lee planned to turn Pope’s right. Meanwhile, Porter’s corps arrived at Falmouth, 20 miles from Pope’s left at Kelly’s Ford on the Rappahannock.

Stuart’s troopers returned to their lines the next day, where Stuart shared the information he had learned with Lee. Pope’s captured coat was sent to Richmond, where it was put on public display. Lee quickly began devising a plan to destroy Pope’s army before it could join with McClellan’s.

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References

Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 216; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 17150-69; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 205-06; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 609-10, 614; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 194-95; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 4342, 4353; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 254; Time-Life Editors, Lee Takes Command: From Seven Days to Second Bull Run (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 125; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 147; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 120-21; Wikipedia: Northern Virginia Campaign

Federals Branded War Criminals

August 21, 1862 – President Jefferson Davis issued an executive order authorizing the execution of Federal officers caught using slaves for military purposes against the Confederacy.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

On August 1, the Davis administration issued a general order to all Confederate military commanders to treat Federals violating the rules of civilized warfare as criminals if captured, subject to imprisonment or death. This was a direct response to Major General John Pope’s orders waging war on civilians in northern Virginia. Davis accused Pope of endorsing “the murder of our peaceful inhabitants as spies, if found quietly tilling the farms in his rear, even outside of his lines.”

Davis also singled out the actions of General Adolph von Steinwehr of Pope’s army. Steinwehr had seized five prominent citizens in Page County, Virginia, and proclaimed: “They will share my table and be treated as friends, but, for every one of our soldiers who may be shot by ‘bushwhackers,’ one of these hostages will suffer death, unless the perpetrators of the deed are delivered to me.” Even Pope had reprimanded Steinwehr for his extremism.

The Federal notion of “bushwhackers” was defined in the Confederate order as “the citizens of this Confederacy who had taken up arms to defend their lives and families.” The order accused the Federals of starting “a campaign of robbery and murder against innocent citizens and peaceful tillers of soil.” Had Confederate officials known the Federals would violate the rules of civilized warfare, they would not have agreed to the recent prisoner exchange cartel.

The August 1 order declared that the Confederacy would not retaliate against northern civilians or “the enlisted men of the army of the United States who may be unwilling instruments of the savage cruelty of their commanders.” Rather, the Confederates would target the officers of commanders who violated the rules of war, as they “have the power to avoid guilty action by refusing service under a Government which seeks their aid in the perpetration of such infamous barbarities.”

Captured officers would be imprisoned until the Federal government renounced its harsh policies, and:

“In the event of the murder of any unarmed citizen or inhabitant of this Confederacy, it shall be the duty of the commanding General of the forces of this Confederacy to cause immediately to be hung, out of the commissioned officers prisoners as aforesaid, a number equal to the number of our own citizens thus murdered by the enemy.”

President Davis addressed another issue troubling him on the 1st, writing to General Robert E. Lee:

“The newspapers received from the enemy’s country announce as a fact that Major-General (David) Hunter (commanding the Federal Department of the South) has armed slaves for the murder of their masters, and has thus done all in his power to inaugurate a servile war which is worse than that of the savage, inasmuch as it superadds other horrors to the indiscriminate slaughter of all ages, sexes, and conditions.”

Davis asked Lee to seek confirmation from the Lincoln administration on whether it officially endorsed this policy. Davis feared that arming slaves would add to the “merciless atrocities which now characterize the war waged against us.”

Lee sent a letter to Federal General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck inquiring about:

  • The alleged murder of William B. Mumford by Major General Benjamin F. Butler’s Federal occupation forces in New Orleans
  • The alleged murder of Colonel John Owens by Pope’s Federals in Missouri (before Pope was transferred east)
  • Whether Hunter and Brigadier General John W. Phelps were arming slaves to murder their masters

Davis directed Lee to inform the Lincoln administration that if no response was received within 15 days, the Confederacy would assume the allegations were true and retaliate accordingly. Halleck replied on August 20: “As these papers are couched in language insulting to the Government of the United States, I most respectfully decline to receive them.”

The next day, Davis issued an order branding Hunter and Phelps as “outlaws” for encouraging servile insurrection by recruiting slaves into the military. Davis decreed that any commissioned Federal officer “employed in drilling, organizing, or instructing slaves with a view to their armed service in this war… shall not be regarded as a prisoner of war but held in close confinement for execution as a felon at such time and place as the President shall order.”

The Lincoln administration had stopped Hunter’s and Phelps’s efforts to turn slaves into soldiers (prompting Phelps to resign), but four days later, the War Department granted General Rufus Saxton’s request to recruit 5,000 slaves to serve as combat soldiers on South Carolina’s Sea Islands.

The ideas of waging war against civilians and recruiting blacks into the military were not supported by most Federal commanders. The most vocal opponent was Major General George B. McClellan, who wrote Halleck this month:

“It is my opinion that this contest should be conducted by us as a war, and as a war between civilized nations, that our efforts should be directed toward crushing the armed masses of the rebels, not against the people; but that the latter should, so far as military necessities permit, be protected in their constitutional, civil, and personal rights.”

Regarding slavery, McClellan lectured that the administration “should avoid any proclamations of general emancipation, and should protect inoffensive citizens in the possession of that as well as of other kinds of property. If we do not actively protect them in this respect, we should at least avoid taking an active part on the other side, and let the negro take care of himself.”

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 21380-88; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 199; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 194; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 246; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 565; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q362

The Prayer of Twenty Millions

August 20, 1862 – Horace Greeley published an editorial in his influential New York Tribune that challenged President Abraham Lincoln to enforce the newly enacted laws against slavery to preserve the Union. This prompted a rare public response from the president.

Horace Greeley | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Horace Greeley | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

The Sioux uprising, combined with recent Confederate victories and rumors of slave emancipation, harmed the Lincoln administration’s popularity in the North. One of Lincoln’s most prominent critics was Greeley, who wrote an open letter on August 19 and published it the next day in his newspaper under the title “The Prayer of Twenty Millions.”

Claiming to represent the sentiments of his readers, Greeley alleged that many who had voted for Lincoln were “sorely disappointed and deeply pained by the policy you seem to be pursuing with regard to the slaves of the Rebels.” He wrote:

“We require of you, as the first servant of the Republic, charged especially and preeminently with this duty, that you EXECUTE THE LAWS… We think you are strangely and disastrously remiss in the discharge of your official and imperative duty with regard to the emancipating provisions of the new (Second) Confiscation Act. Those provisions were designed to fight Slavery with Liberty.”

Greeley accused Lincoln of being “unduly influenced by the counsels, the representations, the menaces, of certain fossil politicians hailing from the Border Slave States… We ask you to consider that Slavery is everywhere the inciting cause and sustaining base of treason: the most slaveholding sections of Maryland and Delaware being this day, though under the Union flag, in full sympathy with the Rebellion. It seems to us the most obvious truth, that whatever strengthens or fortifies Slavery in the Border States strengthens also Treason, and drives home the wedge intended to divide the Union.”

Greeley declared, “We complain that the Union cause has suffered… from mistaken deference to Rebel slavery… On the face of this wide earth, Mr. President, there is not one disinterested, determined, intelligent champion of the Union cause who does not feel that all attempts to put down the Rebellion and at the same time uphold its inciting cause are preposterous and futile…” He concluded:

“As one of the millions who would gladly have avoided this struggle at any sacrifice but that Principle and Honor, but who now feel that the triumph of the Union is dispensable not only to the existence of our country to the well being of mankind, I entreat you to render a hearty and unequivocal obedience to the law of the land.”

Lincoln, bothered by Greeley’s accusations, took the time two days later to publicly respond to Greeley’s letter. Lincoln reiterated the goal he had explained in his 1861 inaugural address:

“I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be ‘the Union as it was.’ If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I don’t believe it would help to save the Union.”

Lincoln had written another line but chose to omit it before publishing the rebuttal: “Broken eggs can never be mended, and the longer the breaking proceeds the more will be broken.”

By this time, Lincoln had already decided to issue an emancipation proclamation, and he hoped that this moderate letter would lay the groundwork for what he knew would be a controversial, unpopular, and unconstitutional decree. On the other hand, abolitionists unaware of Lincoln’s plan condemned this response as too conciliatory toward slavery.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Civilwarhome.com/lincolngreeley.htm; Crocker III, H.W., The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War (Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2008), p. 6-7; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 7781; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 470-71; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 252-54; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 509-10; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 600; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 150

The Sioux Uprising of 1862

August 17, 1862 – In southwestern Minnesota, Dakota Sioux Native Americans rebelled against local settlers and Federal authorities in what became known as the Sioux Uprising, or the Dakota War, of 1862.

The Mdewkanton Santee (Dakota Sioux) Indians had long endured hardships on government reservations due to treaty violations and inadequate annuity payments. By 1862, their territory consisted of just a small plot of land on the south bank of the Minnesota River that lacked adequate wild game and farming soil, leaving the Indians to depend on government handouts. But the war slowed the handouts, leaving the Indians to face starvation.

When the Indians’ crops failed this summer, new Federal Indian Agent Thomas J. Galbraith delayed paying the tribes their $71,000 annuity until Congress decided whether to pay in gold or greenbacks. In the meantime, he locked away all provisions while the Indians grew hungrier.

Starving Indians looted sacks of flour at the Upper Sioux Agency (the reservation’s distribution center) in early August, and the Federal post commander finally persuaded Galbraith to issue some goods on credit pending the annuity payment. Galbraith also agreed to provide for the Indians at the Lower Sioux Agency, but the goods never came.

Dakota Chief Little Crow | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Dakota Chief Little Crow | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

The Indians tried bargaining with local traders to get needed food and supplies, but the traders refused to sell goods to them until their annuity payments arrived. Dakota Chief Taoyateduta (Little Crow) angrily protested to Galbraith, “We have no food, but here are these stores filled with food.” If no food came, “we may take our own way to keep ourselves from starving. When men are hungry they help themselves.” Perceiving this as a threat, a trader named Andrew J. Myrick replied, “So far as I am concerned, if they are hungry, let them eat grass.”

Two days later, four Wahpeton Sioux young men robbed eggs from a farm in Acton, then began shooting residents on a dare. They killed five white townspeople, including two women, before stealing some horses and riding off. Word quickly spread among the Indian villages, as the leaders debated what should be done with the youths.

Some urged turning them over to the U.S. government, but Little Crow said that “the whites would take a dreadful vengeance because women had been killed.” They finally concluded that the Federals would exact revenge whether the youths were turned over or not, and therefore they should preemptively attack.

Some elder Dakota had long sought a war of extermination against the growing number of white settlers in the area. Little Crow saw the futility of opposing the Federal government, but he agreed to join nonetheless. As Sioux Chief Big Eagle explained, “We understood that the South was getting the best of the fight, and it was said that the North would be whipped. It began to be whispered about that now would be a good time to go to war with the whites and get back the lands.”

The Sioux uprising began in earnest on the 18th when four tribes of the Eastern Santee Sioux (Mdewakanton, Wahpekute, Sisseton, and Wahpeton) attacked the Upper and Lower agencies. Myrick was slaughtered with arrows and axes, and his mouth was stuffed with the grass he had told the Indians to eat.

The Sioux then ambushed a Federal recruiting party led by Henry Behnke, sending them fleeing back to New Ulm with horrifying tales of torture, rape, and murder. The Indians allegedly nailed young boys to doors and raped girls before dismembering them. As the Indians rampaged against white settlements in the area, the residents of New Ulm fled 100 miles northeast to St. Paul and Fort Snelling.

Meanwhile, Captain John S. Marsh led 46 soldiers of the 5th Minnesota and an interpreter from Fort Ridgely to try brokering a peace with the Sioux raiding the Lower Agency. The Indians ambushed the Federals at Redwood Ferry, about a mile below the agency.

The troops took cover and exchanged fire until the numbers overwhelmed them. Marsh ordered his men to swim across the Minnesota River to save themselves; he drowned in the effort. The Indians killed 24 of his men and wounded five others. Survivors fled back to Fort Ridgely, where the commander, along with Behnke, called on Governor Alexander Ramsey for reinforcements.

The Indians approached Fort Ridgely on the morning of the 19th, where Little Crow, Mankato, Big Eagle, and about 300 warriors held a council of war. The chiefs urged a halt to slaughtering civilians and to focus instead on attacking the Federal army at the fort. But the warriors argued that they could not counter the Federal artillery and wanted to attack the people of New Ulm, a German settlement 16 miles away. Little Crow and about 100 warriors refused, but the rest attacked without them.

The panicked residents at New Ulm worked with militia to repel several Indian charges. Some buildings were burned in the two-hour fight, but the militia kept the Indians out of town. An evening thunderstorm and the arrival of Federal reinforcements ended the fight. Over the past two days, the Sioux had killed over 350 settlers in the largest massacre of whites in U.S. history. The Indians remained outside the town, intending to put it under siege.

The next day, Little Crow assembled about 400 warriors and attacked Fort Ridgely, which was garrisoned by about 175 Federal troops under Lieutenant Timothy Sheehan and had become a sanctuary for hundreds of settlers fleeing the Indians’ wrath. The warriors surrounded the fort and charged, seizing some buildings and gaining a foothold in the northeast corner. But the Federal howitzers ultimately overwhelmed the Indians and drove them off. A few more charges were repulsed as well. Little Crow called a halt, but during another evening thunderstorm, 400 more Sissetons and Wahpetons from the Upper Agency arrived to reinforce him.

The assault resumed the next day, but the Indians could not withstand the Federal artillery, and their charges were knocked back again. Little Crow, dazed by an artillery shell, decided to break off the fight and instead help in the ongoing siege of New Ulm, a few miles down the Minnesota River Valley.

On the 23rd, the reinforced warriors around New Ulm advanced and captured parts of the town, but Federal troops arrived and drove them out. The destruction of nearly 200 buildings left New Ulm in ruins. Aided by Federals, about 2,000 settlers fled 30 miles down the Minnesota River to Mankato. The Sioux gave up attacking the town on the 25th, but the remaining residents feared more attacks and evacuated.

Meanwhile, reports of the Indian attacks began appearing in eastern newspapers, with many editors (including Horace Greeley of the influential New York Tribune) incorrectly blaming the uprising on a Confederate conspiracy. Colonel Henry Hastings Sibley took command of four new companies of the 6th Minnesota Infantry at Fort Snelling and began moving them toward Ridgely.

Sibley’s forces reached Fort Ridgely and relieved the garrison two days after the Indians stopped attacking. Newspaper editors accused Sibley of moving too slow from Fort Snelling, calling him a coward and “the state undertaker with his company of gravediggers.” Sibley searched in vain for the Sioux, then dispatched troops to bury the dead and investigate the Lower Agency. The pursuit of the retreating Sioux continued into September.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Cullen, Joseph P., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 690-91; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 8301-11; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 189, 193-98; Josephy, Jr., Alvin M., War on the Frontier: The Trans-Mississippi West (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 72-85, 88; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 252-53, 255-57

Northern Virginia: Lee Tries Trapping Pope

August 15, 1862 – General Robert E. Lee hoped to attack the Federals while they were between two rivers, but Major General John Pope learned of Lee’s plan.

John Pope and Robert E. Lee | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Lee arrived at Gordonsville on the morning of the 15th, joining his two top commanders, Major Generals Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson and James Longstreet, on the Rapidan River. Pope’s Federal Army of Virginia was situated in a “V” formed by the Rappahannock River to the north and the Rapidan to the south, with the troops posted along the Orange & Alexandria Railroad. The Federal and Confederate armies each numbered about 55,000 men.

When Lee learned that Pope had just one functioning bridge over the Rappahannock, he studied the maps and decided to attack in hopes of trapping the Federals between the rivers and destroying their army. Lee planned to begin the offensive by sending his cavalry north to destroy the Rappahannock bridge and any other crossings the Federals could use to escape.

Jackson wanted to attack immediately, but Lee was informed that the cavalry horses needed rest. Also, most of the army’s supplies had not yet arrived from Richmond. Thus, Lee informed Jackson and Longstreet that they would cross the Rapidan on the 17th and attack Pope the next day. Disappointed, Jackson began the movement by leading his three divisions northeast of Orange Court House.

That same day, a large portion of Major General George B. McClellan’s Federal Army of the Potomac boarded steamers and left the Virginia Peninsula. McClellan warned General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck, “I don’t like Jackson’s movements. He will suddenly appear where least expected.”

Meanwhile, Pope continued waiting for the Confederates to make a move. He was unaware that doing nothing was damaging his troops’ morale, which was already down due to their low opinion of Pope as a leader. Many men took advantage of Pope’s orders to live off the land by looting nearby homes and farms, leaving the residents destitute.

General Marsena Patrick of Major General Irvin McDowell’s corps wrote that he was “so utterly disgusted that I feel like resigning and letting the whole thing go. There has never been such a state of things before, in any command.” Pope issued orders prohibiting attacks on civilians, singling out General Adolph von Steinwehr for his men’s poor conduct. But the damage had already been done.

By the 16th, Pope believed Jackson was at Gordonsville and Lee was about to join him with the rest of his army. However, Jackson was near the Rapidan River, and Lee was at Gordonsville already. Pope found no good ground north of the Rapidan to attack from, and he knew he needed to protect his left or else the Confederates could cut him off from McClellan’s reinforcements landing at Aquia Creek.

Pope asked Halleck to keep McClellan’s men in the Aquia Creek vicinity to protect his left flank. Halleck warned Pope against advancing any further: “I think it would be very unsafe for your army to cross the Rapidan. It would be far better if you were in the rear of the Rappahannock.”

At Gordonsville, Lee received word that 108 transports had arrived at Harrison’s Landing on the Peninsula, indicating that McClellan’s entire army was being shipped north. This allowed Lee to bolster his own army by pulling more troops from the Richmond defenses. However, Lee needed to strike quickly, before Pope received McClellan’s men. After giving the horses a day of rest, Lee directed the cavalry under General Jeb Stuart to head north and burn the Rappahannock bridge. Jackson and Longstreet would then advance and assault Pope’s left.

Lee assembled his army in Pope’s front on the 17th, but he was still not yet ready to cross the Rapidan, so he delayed the attack. That afternoon, Stuart’s horsemen rode into Orange Court House, where Stuart reported Pope’s positions to Lee. The next day, the troopers were ambushed by Federal cavalry near Verdiersville and sent fleeing. The Federals collected the items the Confederates left behind, including Stuart’s plumed hat and cloak, and dispatches from Lee stating the attack would be delayed. When Pope received this information, he ordered a withdrawal across the Rappahannock.

Lee received confirmation that night that Pope was indeed pulling back. This thwarted Lee’s plan to catch Pope between the rivers. Disappointed, Lee continued preparing for an attack nonetheless. During the Federal retreat, the corps of Major Generals Franz Sigel and Irvin McDowell became dangerously tangled at Culpeper Court House. Although this made them vulnerable to a Confederate attack, Lee did not take advantage of it.

Lee and Longstreet watched Pope’s army withdraw from atop a mountain crest on the 19th. Lee said, “General, we little thought that the enemy would turn his back upon us thus early in the campaign.” Knowing his men needed rest before potential combat, Lee gave them the rest of the day off and issued orders to begin crossing the Rapidan in pursuit at 4 a.m. on the 20th.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 17150; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 203; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 606-07, 613; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 192-94; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 4283-342; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 251-52; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 449; Time-Life Editors, Lee Takes Command: From Seven Days to Second Bull Run (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 124-25; Wikipedia: Northern Virginia Campaign

Slave Emancipation or Slave Colonization

August 14, 1862 – President Abraham Lincoln hosted a conference of black men at the White House, where he reiterated his desire that they voluntarily leave America.

U.S. President Abraham Lincoln | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

U.S. President Abraham Lincoln | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

This month, the demand for emancipating the slaves continued increasing among congressional Republicans, especially the Radicals. New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley wrote to Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, the leading Radical abolitionist in the Senate, complaining about Lincoln’s inactivity regarding emancipation: “Do you remember that old theological book containing this: ‘Chapter One–Hell; Chapter Two–Hell Continued.’ Well, that gives a hint of the way Old Abe ought to be talked to in this crisis.”

Unbeknownst to most politicians, Lincoln was preparing the public for an emancipation edict, but he wanted to wait for military success before announcing it. In the meantime, Lincoln continued to publicly champion his longtime commitment to black colonization (i.e., deportation) out of America.

On August 14, Lincoln became the first U.S. president to invite and receive a delegation of black people at the White House. A group of free blacks and former slaves came to hear Lincoln discuss his proposals. Lincoln hoped to garner support for his idea so the delegates could explain and promote the benefits to fellow blacks.

Announcing to the delegates that he favored deportation, Lincoln asked rhetorically, “Why should people of your race leave the country?” then answered, “You and we are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races… This physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both, as I think your race suffers very greatly, many of them, by living among us, while ours suffer from your presence. In a word, we suffer on each side.”

While Lincoln acknowledged that “slavery was the greatest wrong inflicted on any people,” he asserted that whites would not tolerate emancipation. He said, “But even when you cease to be (enslaved), you are yet far removed from being placed on an equality with the white race… On this broad continent, not a single man of your race is made the equal of a single man of ours.” A delegate tried to object, but Lincoln stopped him:

“I do not propose to discuss this, but to present it as a fact with which we have to deal. I cannot alter it, if I would… I need not recount to you the effects upon white men growing out of the institution of slavery… see our present condition–the country engaged in war–our white men cutting one another’s throats, none knowing how far it will extend… But for your race among us there could not be war, although many men engaged on either side do not care for you one way or the other. It is better for us both, therefore, to be separated… There is an unwillingness on the part of our people, harsh as it may be, for you to remain with us.”

Lincoln announced that Congress had appropriated the funds to set up a colony in Central America, and he needed educated black men to encourage other blacks to join the program. Lincoln noted a similarity to Africa in climate, and he suggested that the deportees work in the lucrative coal fields until “they got ready to settle permanently in their homes.” If the pilot colonies succeeded, they could pave the way for thousands of former slaves to start new lives outside America.

Although the political climate was volatile in Central America, Lincoln said the people “are more generous than we are here… To your race, they have no objections. Besides, I would endeavor to have you made equals… I ask you then, to consider seriously not pertaining to yourselves merely, nor for your race, and ours, for the present time, but as one of the things, if successfully managed, for the good of mankind—not confined to the present time, but… ‘Into eternity.’”

The delegates agreed to pass Lincoln’s plan on to their constituents, but they could not make any promises that it would be accepted. Almost immediately, most black civil rights leaders vehemently rejected the plan and denounced Lincoln for devising it. Frederick Douglass declared that Lincoln had “contempt for Negroes” and “canting hypocrisy.” He asserted that Lincoln’s plan would encourage “ignorant and base” whites to commit “all kinds of violence and outrage upon the colored people.”

Douglass stated that blacks were just as much American citizens as whites and should not be manipulated into leaving their homeland. The Pacific Appeal, influential among blacks, opined that Lincoln’s proposal made it “evident that he, his cabinet, and most of the people, care but little for justice to the negro. If necessary he is to be crushed between the upper and nether millstone–the pride and prejudice of the North and South.” Even Lincoln’s own treasury secretary, Salmon P. Chase, wrote, “How much better would be a manly protest against prejudice against color!—and a wise effort to give free(d) men homes in America!”

However, some activists agreed to promote the plan in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. Reverend Henry Highland Garnet led the minority in supporting Lincoln’s effort to save “our emancipated brethren from being returned to their former condition of slavery,” calling colonization “the most humane, and merciful movement which this or any other administration has proposed for the benefit of the enslaved.” And a prominent abolitionist conceded that deportation “is a damn humbug, but it will take with the people.”

While Lincoln had long supported black deportation, he had already begun leaning toward favoring emancipation when this conference took place. As such, this was a clever political tactic on Lincoln’s part to prepare the nation for slave liberation. It could also help Republicans’ chances in the upcoming midterm elections. Lincoln’s suggestion of deporting blacks made emancipation more appealing to the slaveholding border states, and it helped calm northern fears that massive waves of freed slaves would flood into their states.

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References

Anderson, Nancy Scott; Anderson, Dwight, The Generals: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee (New York: Vintage Books, 1987), p. 321; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 7758-81; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 192; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 469-70; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 247, 251, 254-55; McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 505, 508; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q362

The Peninsula Campaign Ends

August 13, 1862 – Major General George B. McClellan tried one last time to persuade the Federal high command to cancel the order to pull the Army of the Potomac off the Virginia Peninsula.

Maj Gen G.B. McClellan | Image Credit: Wikispaces

In a letter to his wife, McClellan wrote that although General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck had ordered him to leave the Peninsula a week ago, he intended to stay and coax General Robert E. Lee’s Confederates into attacking his defenses at Harrison’s Landing. Apparently unaware that Lee would never try such a foolish thing, McClellan wrote, “If I succeed in my coup, everything will be changed in this country so far as we are concerned & my enemies will be at my feet.”

McClellan denounced Halleck and Major General John Pope as “enemies of the country & of the human race,” and the more he learned “of their wickedness, the more am I surprised that such a wretched set are permitted to live much less to occupy the positions they do.” He predicted, “I have a strong idea that Pope will be thrashed during the coming week, & very badly whipped he will be & ought to be–such a villain as he is ought to bring defeat upon any cause that employs him.”

Boasting that he would march on Richmond (even though he was just 25 miles away and made no effort to do so for over a month), McClellan wrote, “I will try to catch or thrash (Major General James) Longstreet (of Lee’s army), & then if the chance offers follow in to Richmond while they (the rest of Lee’s army) are lamming away at Pope.” If this desperate move failed, “why well & good. I will fall back.” But if successful, “I shall have saved my country & will then gratefully retire to private life.”

After divulging his true sentiments to his wife, McClellan sent one more frantic plea to stay on the Peninsula. He cited the overwhelming logistical problems that went with moving such a large army to Aquia Creek, as well as the lack of adequate living space for his men once they got there. McClellan argued, “If Washington is in danger now this Army can scarcely arrive in time to save it. It is in much better position to do so from here than from Aquia.”

On the 13th, McClellan traveled to Cherry Stone Inlet, over 70 miles away, to have a direct conversation with Halleck from the telegraph office there. He received a final message from Halleck in the early hours of the 14th:

“I have read your dispatch. There is no change of plans. You will send your troops as rapidly as possible. There is no difficulty in landing them. According to your own accounts there is now no difficulty in withdrawing your forces. Do so with all possible rapidity.”

Informed that Halleck had left the Washington telegraph office for the night, McClellan replied, “Your orders will be obeyed. I return at once. I had hoped to have had a longer and fuller conversation with you, after traveling so far for the purpose.”

McClellan finally began withdrawing on the 14th, 11 days after Halleck had ordered him to move immediately. Troops of III and IV corps began boarding transports, covered by the gunboats U.S.S. Galena, Port Royal, and Satellite. The transfer to Aquia Creek was completed two days later, ending McClellan’s failed five-month campaign to capture Richmond. His Federals had been as close as five miles to the Confederate capital, only to be driven off and neutralized on the Peninsula.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 203; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 595-96, 605; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 192-93; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 4272-83; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 473-74; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 251; Time-Life Editors, Lee Takes Command: From Seven Days to Second Bull Run (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 124; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q362; Wikipedia: Northern Virginia Campaign