Federals Capture Galveston

October 5, 1862 – Federal army-navy forces occupied Galveston, the most important port on the Texas coast.

David G. Farragut | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

By this month, Rear Admiral David G. Farragut’s West Gulf Blockading Squadron had seized various points on the Texas coast, from the Sabine River to Corpus Christi. The most important point was Galveston, which had been under Federal blockade for 15 months.

Naval Commander William B. Renshaw confronted Galveston with a gunboat squadron consisting of the U.S.S. Westfield, Harriet Lane, Owasco, Clifton, and the mortar schooner Henry James. The vessels neutralized the Confederates forces in the town, forcing Colonel Joseph J. Cook to surrender.

Renshaw had demanded unconditional and immediate surrender, but he ultimately agreed to give Cook four days to evacuate his troops and equipment. On the 5th, a Federal colonel and 260 men came ashore to begin occupation duty. The two sides agreed the Confederates would not move artillery into Galveston via the two-mile-long bridge connecting the island to the mainland.

Federals now had a foothold in Texas, leaving Alabama as the only Confederate state that still did not have at least one point under Federal occupation. However, Farragut knew that even though his ships had taken several ports along the coast, they could not hold those points without army support.

He wrote Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, “I have the coast of Texas lined with vessels. If I had a military force I would go down and take every place from the Mississippi River to the Rio Grande.” Major General Benjamin F. Butler, commanding Federal occupation troops in New Orleans, had pledged to give Farragut some men to occupy these ports, but they did not materialize. This led Farragut to inform Renshaw, “I fear that I will find difficulties in procuring the few troops we require to hold the place.”

Meanwhile, the Davis administration, which had not responded to urgent calls for help in reinforcing Galveston, now scrambled to regain the port. Major General John B. Magruder was given command of the Confederate District of Texas, headquartered at Houston. Magruder, who had gained fame by holding off a superior Federal force at Yorktown earlier this year, soon began planning to liberate Galveston and other coastal points from Federal occupation.

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References

Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 15753-63; Delaney, Norman C., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 296-97; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 746; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011-01-26), p. 57; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 218, 221; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 275, 277; McPherson, James M., War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865 (Littlefield History of the Civil War Era, The University of North Carolina Press, Kindle Edition, 2012), p. 126-27; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 526; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 750-51

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The Battle of Corinth

October 3, 1862 – Confederates under Major Generals Earl Van Dorn and Sterling Price lost the element of surprise and with it the chance to reclaim a key city in northern Mississippi.

After their defeat at Iuka last month, Price’s Confederate Army of the West had joined with the Van Dorn, the ranking officer, who named his new force the “Army of West Tennessee.” As the force advanced on Pocahontas, Tennessee, Federals under Major General Ulysses S. Grant patrolled the region from four key points: Memphis, Jackson, and Bolivar in Tennessee, and Corinth, Mississippi.

Grant’s largest force, the 23,000-man Army of the Mississippi under Major General William S. Rosecrans, held Corinth. This town was a vital railroad center and the region’s strongest point. Unaware that the combined Confederate force was moving toward Corinth, Grant incorrectly reported from his Jackson headquarters that Price had moved south of Corinth while Van Dorn moved west toward the Mississippi River.

Van Dorn planned to feint against Bolivar and then launch a surprise attack on Corinth in the hope that the unsuspecting Federals would have no time to call for reinforcements from the other points. He dismissed suggestions from subordinates to instead push into Tennessee to cut Rosecrans’s supply lines, which could have forced him to abandon Corinth without a fight. After reclaiming Corinth, Van Dorn would use the town’s railroads to supply an advance into Middle Tennessee. This would at least prevent Grant from sending Federal reinforcements to oppose the Confederate invasion of Kentucky taking place at that time.

Grant realized that the Confederates were in fact targeting Corinth when they reached Chewalla, 10 miles northwest of the town, on the 2nd. Ruining the Confederate element of surprise, Grant notified Rosecrans to be on alert and began directing troops from other points to head toward Corinth. Grant hoped these troops could cut off Van Dorn’s communication and supply lines and destroy his army.

Rosecrans’s defenses consisted of two lines of fortifications west of Corinth, a half-mile apart. Being less certain of an attack than Grant, Rosecrans placed a small force on the outer line and most of his other men in defense of the railroads and in the second, stronger line. The Confederate troops, moving along the Memphis & Charleston Railroad, slept on their arms during the night of the 2nd, intending to launch their surprise attack the next day.

Van Dorn advanced on the morning of October 3 with 22,000 troops in three divisions. They marched the 10 miles from Chewalla without water and attacked the outer Federal lines northwest of Corinth around 10 a.m. The massive onslaught overwhelmed the unprepared Federals, and the Confederates seized the line within 30 minutes despite sustaining heavy casualties. As the Federals fled to their interior lines, Van Dorn called a halt for his thirsty men to rest in the 90-degree heat. This allowed the Federals to strengthen their positions.

The Federals’ second, more compact, defense line proved much stronger, and they repelled a series of piecemeal assaults. Near sundown, Van Dorn consulted with Price and agreed to suspend the attack. Van Dorn reported:

“I saw with regret the sun sink behind the horizon as the last shot of our sharpshooters followed the retreating foe into their innermost lines. One hour more of daylight, and victory would have soothed our grief for the loss of the gallant dead who sleep on that lost but not dishonored field.”

Despite sustaining heavy casualties, Van Dorn resolved to attack again the next day. He planned for his three divisions to launch coordinated attacks on the Federal right, center, and left. Rosecrans anticipated this renewal of hostilities and informed his commanders at a council of war that night. The Federals concentrated in the defenses closest to Corinth.

The next day began with an artillery duel before the Confederates advanced. Brigadier General Louis Hebert, leading the division slated to attack the Federal right, reported sick. He was replaced by Brigadier General Martin E. Green, who led the troops in taking Battery Powell. However, Green refused to advance any further, prompting a subordinate to say that he seemed “hopelessly bewildered, as well as ignorant of what ought to be done.” This allowed the Federals to reinforce their line and regain their guns in a counterattack.

The Battle of Corinth, Second Day, by Currier and Ives | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

On the far Confederate right, Major General Mansfield Lovell refused to advance his division after surveying the strong Federal works in his front. Lovell’s brigade commanders feared that attacking such a line would be suicidal. When one of Lovell’s staffers asked a brigade commander, “Suppose General Lovell orders you to take it?” the officer replied, “My brigade will march up and be killed.”

This left Brigadier General Dabney H. Maury to attack the Federal center unsupported. Maury’s Confederates managed to seize the vital Battery Robinett, but Federal units laying prone 30 yards behind the earthwork suddenly stood and fired, driving the enemy off. By then, some Confederates between Green and Maury had pierced the Federal right and entered Corinth, but they too were driven off around 11:30 a.m. after ferocious hand-to-hand combat.

With the Confederates exhausted in the intense heat, Van Dorn ordered a withdrawal back toward Chewalla around 12 p.m. Lovell’s division served as the rear guard. An hour later, Rosecrans rode among his men at Battery Robinett to dispel rumors he had been killed. He removed his hat and announced, “I stand in the presence of brave men, and I take my hat off to you.” Rosecrans specifically praised the 5th Minnesota for having “saved the day.”

Grant ordered Rosecrans to pursue and destroy the Confederate army, but to Grant’s dismay, Rosecrans stated that his men were too exhausted and shaken to pursue until the next day. As Rosecrans conducted an uninspiring chase from behind, Grant dispatched a force under General E.O.C. Ord to meet Van Dorn in front, cut his supply lines, and possibly destroy his army.

Ord confronted Van Dorn along the Hatchie River near Pocahontas on the 5th. A brief but intense fight ensued that became known as the Battle of Hatchie’s Bridge. It ended when Van Dorn’s men used another bridge to cross the river and slipped away to Holly Springs, Mississippi. Van Dorn lost another 600 men, but his army had not been destroyed as Grant hoped.

In the fighting since October 3rd, the Federals sustained 2,839 killed, wounded, or missing. Grant initially praised Rosecrans’s performance at Iuka and Corinth, but he later criticized the general for allowing the Confederates to escape destruction after both battles. The Confederates lost 4,838, or more than a fifth of their total force. Van Dorn blamed the defeat on Hebert for calling out sick and Lovell for refusing to move; he soon relieved them both from command.

This battle outraged many southerners because it had produced such high casualties for almost no gain. The Confederates successfully prevented Federal reinforcements from being sent to Kentucky, but they failed to either regain Corinth or knock the Federals out of northern Mississippi. In fact, they did not even alter Grant’s plan to push deeper into Mississippi.

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 89; Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 213; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 18226-35, 18245-62; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 221; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 722, 725; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 217-19; Korn, Jerry, War on the Mississippi: Grant’s Vicksburg Campaign (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 40-43; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 274-75; 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. 522-23; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: C.B. Richardson, 1866; revised version New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 516-21; Smith, Dean E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 498; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 166-67, 196, 323; Wikipedia: Battle of Corinth

The Army of Northern Virginia Regroups

October 2, 1862 – General Robert E. Lee reorganized his battered Confederate army, in which many men lacked the necessary food, clothing, or shelter.

Confederate Gen R.E. Lee | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Two weeks after the Battle of Antietam, Lee issued General Orders No. 116 to the Army of Northern Virginia:

“In reviewing the achievements of the army during the present campaign, the commanding general cannot withhold the expression of his admiration of the indomitable courage it has displayed in battle, and its cheerful endurance of privation and hardship on the march…

“History records few examples of greater fortitude and endurance than this army has exhibited; and I am commissioned by the President to thank you, in the name of the Confederate States, for the undying fame you have won for their arms. Much as you have done, much more remains to be accomplished. The enemy again threatens us with invasion, and to your tried valor and patriotism the country looks with confidence for deliverance and safety. Your past exploits give assurance that this confidence is not misplaced.

“R.E. Lee, General Commanding.”

Later that month, the Confederate Congress approved a measure authorizing the new rank of lieutenant general to serve under army commanders. When President Jefferson Davis asked for recommendations on who should receive this new rank, Lee quickly proposed James Longstreet and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. Lee wrote of Jackson, “My opinion of the merits of General Jackson has been greatly enhanced during his expedition. He is true, honest and brave; has a single eye to the good of the service, and spares no exertion to accomplish his object.”

Confederate Lieut Gens James Longstreet and Thomas J. Jackson | Image Credit: BlogSpot.com and Wikispaces.com

These promotions were approved, as was Lee’s request to officially create a corps structure within the army. Since taking command in June, Lee had unofficially assigned certain commanders to lead multiple divisions, or “wings” of the army. Under the new structure, the Army of Northern Virginia’s nine divisions were assigned to two corps commanded by Longstreet and Jackson.

On the 16th, Lee was informed that forces from the Federal Army of the Potomac had crossed the Potomac River and were moving southwest toward his army. The Federals probed from both Sharpsburg and Harpers Ferry. Fearing that Major General George B. McClellan would try outflanking him and prevent access to the Virginia Central Railroad, Lee stalled until he could reorganize his army.

While most of the army rested and regrouped around Winchester in the Shenandoah Valley, Lee directed Jackson to destroy sections of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, which helped supply the Federal army. Colonel James Lane led a brigade from Major General A.P. Hill’s division in tearing up track in a 40-mile radius around Martinsburg. The Confederates roasted the iron rails until they could bend and wrapped them around trees. The men then destroyed anything of military significance in Martinsburg itself, including all railroad manufactories, workshops, engine houses, and telegraph offices.

A revival spirit spread among the ranks, leading to a substantial increase in the number of prayer meetings and church services this month. Lee approved of this movement as he continued struggling to feed and equip his men. He had just over half the number of troops as the Army of the Potomac, but Lee counted on McClellan’s lack of aggression to offset his numerical superiority.

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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. 333; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 780; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 221, 223; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 4925, 4949; Goolrick, William K., Rebels Resurgent: Fredericksburg to Chancellorsville (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 24; Kallmann, John D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 444-45; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 277; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: C.B. Richardson, 1866; revised version New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 489-90

Lincoln Visits the Stationary Army of the Potomac

October 1, 1862 – President Abraham Lincoln left Washington to visit Major General George B. McClellan and inspect the Federal Army of the Potomac after the Battle of Antietam.

Since the Federal victory at Antietam in September, Lincoln had implored McClellan to move his army and finish off General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. But McClellan had not only remained stationary while the enemy escaped back into Virginia, he resumed his pattern of demanding massive reinforcements as well. Moreover, Lincoln had heard rumors of anti-administration fervor among McClellan and his command, particularly regarding their opposition to the recently released Emancipation Proclamation.

To help push McClellan into action and investigate the rumors, Lincoln and some advisors left Washington on October 1 to visit the general’s headquarters in western Maryland. McClellan, who had not been informed of the visit beforehand, learned while Lincoln was en route and arranged to meet him at Harpers Ferry, which the Federals had regained after the Confederate withdrawal.

Lincoln explained that the official purpose of his visit was to see the battlefield and visit the troops. A witness observed that Lincoln looked “careworn and troubled” upon his late arrival. He and McClellan rode together while inspecting the troops camped at Bolivar Heights overlooking Harpers Ferry. After McClellan returned to headquarters, Lincoln visited the town, including the arsenal that John Brown and his followers had seized in 1859 in hopes of sparking a mass slave uprising.

Lincoln occupied a tent beside McClellan’s for the next two days. He became a conspicuous sightseer in his black suit and stovepipe hat as he reviewed troops stationed at Loudoun and Maryland Heights with Major General Edwin V. Sumner. Lincoln visited army camps and hospitals, and he toured the Antietam battlefield in an ambulance “with his long legs doubled up so that his knees almost struck his chin,” noted a Federal officer. McClellan tried describing the battle, but Lincoln curtly ended the tour and returned to camp.

Meeting of Lincoln and McClellan | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Lincoln calculated army strength at 88,095 troops, more than enough to confront Lee. This prompted McClellan to write his wife, “I incline to think the real purpose of his visit is to push me into a premature advance into Virginia.” He complained that the army was “not fit to advance–the old regiments are reduced to mere skeletons and are completely tired out–they need rest and filling up.” McClellan concluded, “These people don’t know what an army requires, and therefore act stupidly.”

McClellan later claimed that Lincoln told him privately, “General, you have saved the country. You must remain in command and carry us through to the end.” McClellan also alleged that Lincoln told him not to move the army until he was completely ready and confident of success, and he would defend McClellan against his critics. This was not corroborated, though Lincoln did discuss what he believed to be McClellan’s “over-cautiousness” in refusing to move.

Before dawn on the 3rd, Lincoln brought friend Ozias M. Hatch out for a walk. They climbed a hillside overlooking the white tents of the Federal army below, where Lincoln asked, “Hatch, Hatch, what is all this?” Hatch replied, “Why, Mr. Lincoln, this is the Army of the Potomac.” Lincoln said, “No, Hatch, no. This is General McClellan’s bodyguard.” Only the troops’ strong devotion to McClellan prevented the president from replacing their beloved commander.

Lincoln reviewed the troops later that day, where some noted that he did not cordially greet them as he had done in past reviews. One officer stated that Lincoln offered “not a word of approval, not even a smile of approbation.” After the review, Lincoln rode with friend Ward Hill Lamon, who tried cheering him by singing songs and telling funny stories. Opponents later accused Lincoln of insulting fallen soldiers by laughing on the battlefield.

Lincoln continued touring hospitals and camps on the 4th and then left for Washington that afternoon. McClellan addressed the issue of possible dissension within the army by ordering subordinates to remain obedient to civil authority, even if they disagreed with administration policies. McClellan stated, “The remedy for political errors, if any are committed, is to be found only in the action of the people at the polls.”

Back at Washington, Lincoln discussed his visit with his cabinet on the 6th, and then issued an order to McClellan through General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck:

“The President directs that you cross the Potomac and give battle to the enemy or drive him south. Your army must move now while the roads are good. If you cross the river between the enemy and Washington, and cover the latter by your operation, you can be re-enforced with 30,000 men. If you move up the Valley of the Shenandoah, not more than 12,000 or 15,000 can be sent to you.

“The President advises the interior line between Washington and the enemy, but does not order it. He is very desirous that your army move as soon as possible. You will immediately report what line you adopt and when you intend to cross the river; also to what point the re-enforcements are to be sent. It is necessary that the plan of your operations be positively determined on before orders are given for building bridges and repairing railroads.”

This message amazed McClellan, who thought he had persuaded Lincoln that the army needed more time to regroup before moving. McClellan answered that he was “pushing everything as rapidly as possible in order to get ready for the advance,” but then he asserted that he lacked the necessary supplies and made no major movements.

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 86; Bailey, Ronald H., The Bloodiest Day: The Battle of Antietam (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 161; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 220-21, 223; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 8180-203; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 216-19; Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 484-85; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 748-49; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 273-76; 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. 559; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: C.B. Richardson, 1866; revised version New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 489-90

The Battle of Newtonia

September 30, 1862 – Confederates tried reentering southwestern Missouri from Arkansas, resulting in a fierce skirmish.

Since the Battle of Pea Ridge in March, General Theophilus H. Holmes had superseded Major General Thomas C. Hindman in command of the Confederate Trans-Mississippi Department due to Hindman’s unpopular and allegedly dictatorial rule over both the department and the people within it.

The Confederates were primarily based in Arkansas, while the Federals were mainly in Missouri. The Federals launched occasional incursions into Arkansas, while Holmes envisioned regaining Missouri for the Confederacy.

Gen Thomas C. Hindman | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

In September, Hindman, now serving under Holmes, moved about 6,000 Confederates to Fort Smith to reenter Missouri and capture Springfield. Hindman advanced into southwestern Missouri and occupied Pineville, but Holmes recalled him to help manage affairs at the department’s Little Rock headquarters. Hindman left General James Rains in command at Pineville and returned as ordered.

Federal officials responded by reinstating the Department of the Missouri, which absorbed the jurisdictions of the Departments of Kansas and the Mississippi, both of which were disbanded. The new department consisted of Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, the Indian Territory, and Alton, Illinois.

Major General Samuel R. Curtis was assigned to command the new department, headquartered in St. Louis. Under Curtis, the Confiscation Acts were stringently enforced by Federal provost marshals, and hundreds of Missourians were jailed under martial law. Curtis’s force consisted of three divisions:

  • Major General Frederick Steele’s at Helena, Arkansas
  • Major General John Schofield’s in southwestern Missouri
  • Brigadier General James G. Blunt’s in Kansas

Brig Gen S.R. Curtis | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Curtis directed Schofield to stop the Confederate threat in southwestern Missouri while Blunt provided support from Fort Scott, Kansas, if needed. Blunt sent Schofield two brigades. From Pineville, Rains dispatched Confederate cavalry north to reconnoiter around Newtonia. About 200 Confederates under Colonel Trevesant C. Hawpe established a base at the town.

On the 29th, Colonel Edward Lynde’s 150 Federals and two howitzers reconnoitered around Newtonia, where Confederates had established a base. That afternoon Lynde’s superior, Brigadier General Frederick Salomon (under Blunt), heard firing from Federal headquarters at Sarcoxie, 15 miles from Newtonia. He sent another two Federal companies and three howitzers to support Lynde.

The Federals arrived the next morning, increasing the force to about 4,500 men. Lynde drove the Confederates into a cornfield, where an artillery duel took place until the Confederates ran out of ammunition. The Federals pushed Hawpe’s men into the town until they were reinforced by Colonel Douglas H. Cooper’s Texas and Indian cavalry. Cooper’s men helped knock Lynde back about three miles.

During that time, Salomon arrived on the scene and directed his men to move around the enemy flank and take Newtonia from the rear. The Confederates fell under murderous enfilade fire until reinforced by Colonel Joseph O. “Jo” Shelby’s 5th Missouri Cavalry. Salomon pulled his men back to a wooded ridge as Cooper massed for a counterattack.

The Confederate reinforcements ultimately crumbled Salomon’s flanks, forcing his men to fall back. Confederate artillery panicked the troops, with some running all the way to Sarcoxie. Cooper pursued until nightfall. The Federals sustained about 400 casualties. Cooper reported losing 12 killed, 63 wounded, and three missing. Although the Confederates were victorious, they could not stay in southwestern Missouri much longer because Blunt was about to join forces with Schofield.

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References

Faust, Patricia L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 407-08, 502, 530-31; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 213, 215-16; Josephy, Jr., Alvin M., War on the Frontier: The Trans-Mississippi West (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 149-50; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 269-71; Sommers, Richard J., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 292-93; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 8, 500, 747; 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 Murder of “Bull” Nelson

September 29, 1862 – Major General William “Bull” Nelson was shot to death by Brigadier General Jefferson C. Davis over a trivial argument.

Gen William “Bull” Nelson | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

The Federal Army of the Ohio enjoyed the amenities of Louisville, and officers settled old grudges. Following the horrific defeat at Richmond, Davis (no relation to the Confederate president) had been assigned to serve under Nelson and help with recruiting Louisville residents into the army. Nelson, a native Kentuckian, had a strong dislike for Indianans, calling them “uncouth descendants of ‘poor trash’ from the mountains of Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina.” Davis was from Indiana.

Davis made it clear that he did not like his new assignment, declaring, “I am a regular army officer, and will not disgrace myself by mixing with a rabble of citizens.” After two days, Nelson told Davis that he was dissatisfied with Davis’s performance. Davis, who had served with distinction at Wilson’s Creek and Pea Ridge, demanded an apology for such disrespect. Nelson refused and relieved him of duty.

Accompanied by Indiana Governor Oliver P. Morton, Davis confronted Nelson in the lobby of the Galt House, a hotel serving as Major General Don Carlos Buell’s headquarters, on the morning of the 29th. Davis again demanded an apology, to which Nelson replied, “Go away, you damned puppy.”

Gen Jefferson C. Davis | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Davis crumpled a hotel registration card and threw it in Nelson’s face. Nelson slapped Davis across his face and turned to go upstairs, telling a reporter witnessing the incident, “Did you hear that insolent scoundrel insult me, sir? I suppose he didn’t know me. I’ll teach him a lesson, sir.”

Davis fumed to Morton, “Did you come here to see me insulted?” He then called for a pistol, which Indiana attorney and friend Thomas Gibson provided. He followed Nelson to the staircase and hollered, “Nelson! Not another step, sir!” When Nelson turned, Davis shot him in the chest from three feet.

Nelson staggered up the stairs and collapsed in a hallway. General Thomas Crittenden rushed to Nelson’s side, asking, “Are you seriously hurt?” Nelson mumbled, “Send for a clergyman. I want to be baptized. I have been basely murdered.” Nelson, one of Buell’s most dependable commanders, died within 30 minutes.

Some witnesses called for Davis to be hanged. Others, such as Major General Horatio G. Wright, said that Davis did what was needed to settle this “matter of honor.” Buell had Davis arrested and jailed, but his services were needed to help confront the Confederates in Kentucky. With Governor Morton’s backing, Davis was released and resumed division command. He never faced justice for the murder.

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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. 219; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 715; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 216; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 272; Longacre, Edward G., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 206-07; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 523; Street, Jr., James, The Struggle for Tennessee: Tupelo to Stones River (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 54; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 414-15

The Army of the Potomac Stays in Maryland

September 27, 1862 – Major General George B. McClellan sought more approval from Washington, while President Abraham Lincoln addressed reports of disloyalty within the army.

Maj Gen George B. McClellan | Image Credit: Histmag.org

McClellan grew sullen and resentful when he did not receive the credit he felt he deserved for driving General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia out of Maryland. He dispatched his intelligence chief, detective Allan Pinkerton, to Washington to meet with Lincoln and determine if Lincoln intended to retain him as army commander.

During the meeting, Lincoln asked several questions, including:

  • Why did McClellan not rescue the Federal garrison at Harpers Ferry?
  • Why did McClellan not resume his attacks after the first day at Antietam?
  • Why did the Confederate army escape back into Virginia?

Based on Pinkerton’s answers, Lincoln concluded that McClellan had squandered an enormous opportunity to destroy Lee’s army and end the war. Nevertheless, Pinkerton returned to McClellan and told him that Lincoln “impresses me more at this interview with his honesty towards you and his desire to do you justice than he has ever done before.”

Meanwhile, McClellan settled his men into camps near Sharpsburg rather than push them into Virginia to chase down Lee. In fact, McClellan was glad Lee had escaped, as he explained to his wife, “I will be able to arrange my troops more with a view to comfort.” McClellan finally submitted his official report on the Battle of Antietam (telling his wife, “I would really prefer fighting three battles to writing the report of one”) and received General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck’s response:

“The valor and endurance of your army in the several conflicts … are creditable alike to the troops and to the officers who commanded them. A grateful country while mourning the lamented dead will not be unmindful of the honors due the living.”

Despite this praise, McClellan wrote his wife the next day, “I do think that man Halleck is the most stupid idiot I ever heard of.”

16th U.S. President Abraham Lincoln | Image Credit: Bing public domain

At Washington, the recent Emancipation Proclamation and suspension of habeas corpus had put the Lincoln administration on high alert for dissension and disloyalty, especially in the military. Lincoln received a report stating that Major John J. Key, a member of Halleck’s staff and brother of McClellan’s judge advocate, had made disloyal statements.

Key had conversed with Major Levi Turner, during which Turner wondered why McClellan had not “bagged” the Confederate army. Key replied sarcastically, “That is not the game. The object is that neither army shall get much advantage of the other; that both shall be kept in the field till they are exhausted, when we will make a compromise and save slavery.”

Lincoln summoned both men to the White House, writing, “I shall be very happy if you will, within twenty-four hours from the receipt of this, prove to me, by Major Turner, that you did not, either literally or in substance, make the answer stated.”

Key and Turner met with Lincoln the next day, where Key admitted he made the statement. Lincoln declared that it was “wholly inadmissible for any gentleman holding a military commission from the United States to utter such sentiments.” If there was indeed a “game” to keep from destroying the Confederacy, Lincoln said that “it was his object to break up that game.”

Lincoln issued an order: “Therefore, let Major John J. Key be forthwith dismissed from the military service of the United States.” Key’s dismissal would serve as “an example and a warning” to stop officers from making such “silly, treasonable expressions.”

After getting rid of Key, Lincoln turned once more to the Army of the Potomac. McClellan reported having nearly 100,000 men under his command, including the troops defending Washington. Lincoln wondered why McClellan had not returned to Virginia after the Battle of Antietam and finished the Confederates off. By month’s end, Lincoln scheduled a trip to McClellan’s headquarters to see for himself.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 8146-57, 8169-80; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 216; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 271-72; 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. 559