October 2, 1864 – Confederate President Jefferson Davis continued his southern tour this month, as he urged citizens to oppose the Federal invasion of Georgia.
Davis arrived at Augusta, Georgia, on the 2nd, where he met with General P.G.T. Beauregard, hero of Fort Sumter and Bull Run. Beauregard expected Davis to give him command of General John Bell Hood’s Army of Tennessee. However, Davis offered him command of a new Military Division of the West, which would oversee both Hood’s department and General Richard Taylor’s Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana.
Unimpressed with Beauregard’s tendency to develop grandiose (and impractical) strategies, Davis made Beauregard an advisor who would only directly control troop movements “whenever in your judgment the interests of your command render it expedient.” This appointment gave Davis a more experienced commander to supervise Hood and kept General Joseph E. Johnston, a Davis antagonist, inactive.
The next day, Davis addressed a patriotic Augusta crowd accompanied by Beauregard and Lieutenant General William Hardee. Davis said, “Never before was I so confident that energy, harmony, and determination would rid the country of its enemy and give to the women of the land that peace their good deeds have so well deserved.” He called on Georgians to rise and stop William T. Sherman’s Federal advance because this would embolden northerners seeking peaceful separation with the South:
“Now we have arms for all, and are begging men to bear them. This city of Augusta alone produces more powder than the army can burn… Every man able to bear arms must go to the front… We are fighting for existence, and of fighting alone can independence be gained… We must beat Sherman; we must march into Tennessee. There we will draw from 20,000 to 30,000 to our standard, and, so strengthened, we must push the enemy back to the banks of the Ohio and thus give the peace party of the North an accretion no puny editorial can give.”
Beauregard drew cheers when he said that, having fired the war’s first shot at Fort Sumter, he “hoped to live to fire the last.” The crowd also applauded Hardee for saying that Hood recently vowed “to lay his claws upon the state road in rear of Sherman, and, having once fixed them there, it was not his intention to let them loose their hold.”
The president took a night train to Columbia, South Carolina, and arrived there at dawn on the 4th. Addressing a crowd later that day, he expressed optimism: “(Hood’s) eye is now fixed upon a point far beyond that where he was assailed by the enemy… And if but a half, nay, one-fourth, of the men to whom the service has a right, will give him their strength, I see no chance for Sherman to escape from a defeat or a disgraceful retreat.” He went further with his optimism:
“I see no chance for Sherman… The fate that befell the army of the French Empire in its retreat from Moscow will be re-enacted. Our cavalry and our people will harass and destroy his army, as did the Cossacks that of Napoleon, and the Yankee general, like him, will escape with only a bodyguard… (and then) we must march into Tennessee…”
Davis urged more sacrifice to form a united resistance and vowed ultimate victory:
“South Carolina has struggled nobly in war, and suffered many sacrifices. But if there be any who feel that our cause is in danger, that final success may not crown our efforts, that we are not stronger today than when we began this struggle, that we are not able to continue the supplies to our armies and our people, let all such read a contradiction in the smiling face of our land and in the teeming evidences of plenty which everywhere greet the eye… I believe it is in the power of the men of the Confederacy to plant our banners on the banks of the Ohio, where we shall say to the Yankee: ‘Be quiet, or we shall teach you another lesson’… There is but one means by which you can gain independence and an honorable peace, and that is by uniting… Is this a time to ask what the law demands of you, to ask if the magistrate will take you out of the enrolling office by a writ of habeas corpus? Rather is it time for every man capable of bearing arms to say, ‘My country needs my services, and my country shall have them!’”
The Federals took note of Davis’s speeches, especially his ill-advised announcements of military strategy. Thanks to Davis, Sherman would soon learn that Hood intended to destroy his supply lines and then possibly move north into Tennessee.
Davis began his return trip to Richmond two days later, arriving at the Confederate capital on the 15th. That day, Davis detached General Braxton Bragg as his chief of staff and sent him to command the defenses at Wilmington, North Carolina. Since Wilmington was the Confederacy’s last major seaport, this was an extremely important job for a commander who had a history of turning near-victories into outright defeats.
Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 21000-08; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Kindle Locations 12767-87, 12788-808; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 505-06; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 584, 578-80; 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. 807; 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), Q464