Averell Raids into West Virginia

August 5, 1863 – Federal Brigadier General William W. Averell initiated another of the war’s many raids into West Virginia, which culminated in an engagement at White Sulphur Springs.

Brig Gen W.W. Averell | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Averell led a force of about 2,000 men that included four cavalry regiments, mounted infantry, and two artillery batteries. The Federals moved west from Winchester, in the Shenandoah Valley, toward the Alleghenies. Their mission was to destroy bridges on the Virginia & Tennessee Railroad, and to wreck saltpeter and gunpowder factories near Franklin. The Federals were also to confront the forces of Major General Samuel Jones, the Confederate department commander.

Averell’s men arrived at Moorefield late on the 6th, having covered 58 miles in two days. Jones’s Confederates fell back but tried harassing the enemy whenever they could. The Federals skirmished with enemy outposts and drove them off. Three days later, Averell’s men began moving south into the mountains. The advance was slowed by a lack of supplies for both the men and the horses, as well as an ammunition shortage.

On the 22nd, Averell’s Federals forced the Confederates out of Huntersville on a retreat to Warm Springs. Averell then pushed the enemy east, and the Federals occupied Warm Springs on the 24th. They next destroyed the saltpeter works at Callaghan’s Station before advancing on White Sulphur Springs. Jones resolved to make a stand before Averell passed White Sulphur Springs, otherwise the Federals would have easy access to the railroad.

Jones directed Colonel George S. Patton (grandfather of World War II General George S. Patton, Jr.) to lead four Virginia regiments and an artillery battery (about 1,900 men) to stop Averell’s advance. Patton led the Confederates to Rocky Gap, a defile in the Alleghenies.

On the 26th, the Confederates formed a battle line on the road and in the surrounding woods. Averell’s cavalry dismounted to join the infantry in an attack on the enemy line. Both sides traded intense fire, as Patton’s men repelled several Federal charges against their right. Averell finally pulled back; he resumed the attack the next morning.

The Federals focused on the Confederate left this time, but they could not break Patton’s veterans. Averell withdrew around 12 p.m. back toward Callaghan’s Station, and his rear guard fended off a Confederate bayonet charge. The Federals suffered 218 casualties (26 killed, 125 wounded, and 67 missing or captured) while the Confederates lost 162 men (20 killed, 129 wounded, and 13 missing). Jones submitted a report to Confederate Adjutant General Samuel Cooper:

“We met the enemy yesterday morning about a mile and a half from this place on road to the Warm Springs. Fought from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Every attack made by the enemy was repulsed. At night each side occupied the same position they had in the morning. This morning the enemy made two other attacks, which were handsomely repulsed, when he abandoned his position and retreated toward Warm Springs, pursued by cavalry and artillery.”

Averell returned to Beverly four days later. His raid was largely unsuccessful because he did not break Confederate resistance in the region; he only destroyed two saltpeter works, and he captured just a few enemy troops and some cattle.

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References

Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 344; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 639-40; WVGenWeb.org

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Post-Vicksburg: Grant’s Army Reduced

August 3, 1863 – Major General Ulysses S. Grant’s Federal Army of the Tennessee underwent vast reductions following its capture of Vicksburg.

Maj Gen U.S. Grant | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

By this month, Grant’s Federals were performing occupation duty at Vicksburg and other points in Mississippi and western Tennessee. After borrowing IX Corps to help conquer Vicksburg, Grant returned those troops to Major General Ambrose E. Burnside’s Army of the Ohio, which was poised to invade eastern Tennessee.

Grant proposed joining forces with Major General Nathaniel P. Banks’s Army of the Gulf to capture Mobile, Alabama. This plan was backed by both Banks and Rear Admiral David G. Farragut, whose naval force would be needed to attack the city from the Gulf of Mexico. But General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck rejected the idea and instead urged Banks to invade eastern Texas while Grant continued managing occupation forces.

Halleck informed Grant on the 6th, “There are important reasons why our flag should be restored to some part of Texas with the least possible delay.” Halleck did not explain those reasons, but President Abraham Lincoln did in a letter to Grant three days later:

“I see by a dispatch of yours that you incline strongly toward an expedition against Mobile. This would appear tempting to me also, were it not that, in view of recent events in Mexico, I am greatly impressed with the importance of re-establishing the national authority in Western Texas as soon as possible.”

Lincoln was referring to Mexico falling under the rule of Maximilian I, a puppet dictator installed by Emperor Napoleon III of France. European interference in the affairs of a Western Hemisphere nation violated the Monroe Doctrine. Even worse, Napoleon had hinted at the possibility of allying with the Confederacy, and the administration feared that the Confederates could start receiving military and financial support from French-occupied Mexico.

Thus, much of Grant’s army was broken up, with Major General E.O.C. Ord’s XIII Corps going to reinforce Banks at New Orleans and Major General William T. Sherman’s XV Corps performing garrison duty in Louisiana. The rest of Grant’s forces held points along the Mississippi River in western Tennessee and Mississippi.

Meanwhile, Lincoln tried convincing Grant of the effectiveness of black troops. Lincoln wrote on the 9th that black troops were “a resource which, if vigorously applied now, will soon close the contest.” However, Sherman wrote his wife Ellen doubting the ability of blacks in the military and stating, “… I cannot trust them yet.” Consequently, Sherman did little to alleviate the problem of freed slaves scouring the region and resorting to robbery for food and shelter.

Major General John A. McClernand, who had caused Grant so much trouble until Grant relieved him of corps command during the Vicksburg campaign, had his military career effectively ended when Lincoln declined assigning him to a new command.

On the 17th, elements of Sherman’s infantry from Vicksburg and Major General Stephen A. Hurlbut’s cavalry from Memphis raided Grenada, Mississippi, south of the Yalobusha River, where Confederates had gathered supplies from the Mississippi Central Railroad. Those supplies were guarded by a token force while the main body of Confederates evacuated Jackson and burned the bridge over the Pearl River in May.

The Federal forces drove the Confederate guards off and seized 57 locomotives, destroyed over 400 railcars, and burned buildings containing vast amounts of commissary and ordnance supplies. This was one of the most destructive raids of the war, with damage estimated at $4 million.

In late August, Grant attended a banquet in his honor at the Gayoso House in Memphis. A pyramid in front of his place at the table listed all his battles, beginning with Belmont. He was toasted as “your Grant and my Grant,” and his feat of opening the Mississippi River was compared to the feats of Hernando de Soto and Robert Fulton. Grant delivered a two-sentence speech to the 200 guests, thanking them and pledging to do what he could to maintain their prosperity.

On the water, Rear Admiral David D. Porter formally took command of all Federal naval forces and operations on the Mississippi River, replacing Farragut. Porter’s main goal was to suppress Confederate raids on Federal shipping while promoting river commerce.

Recalling the terrible problems the navy had in trying to navigate the Yazoo River before the fall of Vicksburg, Porter reported to Navy Secretary Gideon Welles, “There are no more steamers on the Yazoo. The large fleet that sought refuge there, as the safest place in rebeldom, have all been destroyed.”

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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. 314-16; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 770-73; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 337, 339, 345; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 393-94, 396-97; 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. 167, 170-71; Pritchard, Russ A., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 178

From Spencer G. Welch, 13th South Carolina

Letter from Dr. Spencer Glasgow Welch, a surgeon with the 13th South Carolina Volunteer Infantry

Camp near Orange Court House, Virginia

August 2, 1863

The South Carolina Flag | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

DEAREST:

In a recent letter I promised to write you more about our campaign in Pennsylvania.

On the night of the 29th of June, we camped on the west side of the Blue Ridge Mountains, where they extend into Pennsylvania. On the morning of the next day (30th), we renewed our march. Shortly after starting, it began raining, but the road was hard and well macadamized and the rain made the march rather agreeable than otherwise.

On this same morning, we passed where a splendid iron factory had been burned by General Early, of Ewell’s Corps. It belonged to a very celebrated lawyer and politician of Pennsylvania by the name of Thaddeus Stevens, who is noted for his extreme abolition views and his intense hatred for slave-holders. The works are said to have been worth more than $100,000. The burning had thrown a great many operatives out of employment, and they seemed to be much distressed.

During the day we wended our way up the mountains… In the afternoon about one or two o’clock we halted and bivouacked among the mountains. Our stopping-place was in a basin of the mountains which was very fertile and contained a few very excellent and highly cultivated farms. A while after we stopped, I started off to one of these farmhouses for the purpose of getting my dinner, as I was quite hungry and wanted something different from what I had been accustomed…

Upon returning to camp, I found that an order had been received during my absence to cook one day’s rations and have it in haversacks and be ready to march at five o’clock next morning. This at once aroused our suspicions, for we concluded that we were about to meet the enemy. Next morning about five o’clock we began moving. We had not gone more than a mile and a half before our suspicions of the evening previous were fully verified and our expectations realized by the booming of cannon ahead of us in the direction of Gettysburg. Upon looking around, I at once noticed in the countenance of all an expression of intense seriousness and solemnity, which I have always perceived in the faces of men who are about to face death and the awful shock of battle…

It was really a magnificent sight. The country was almost destitute of forest and was so open that it was easy to see all that was going on. Our division (Pender’s) continued to keep within about half a mile of Heth’s. McGowan’s Brigade was at the right of the division and the 13th Regiment was at the right of the brigade. This being the case, I could see from one end of the division to the other as it moved forward in line of battle. It was nearly a mile in length…

Officers who have been in all the fights tell me that they never saw our brigade act so gallantly before. When the order was given to charge upon the enemy, who were lying behind stone fences and other places of concealment, our men rushed forward with a perfect fury, yelling and driving them, though with great slaughter to themselves as well as to the Yankees. Most of the casualties of our brigade occurred this day (July 1). As the enemy were concealed, they killed a great many of our men before we could get at them.

There were a good many dwellings in our path, to which the Yankees would also resort for protection, and they would shoot from the doors and windows. As soon as our troops would drive them out, they would rush in, turn out the families and set the houses on fire. I think this was wrong, because the families could not prevent the Yankees seeking shelter in their houses. I saw some of the poor women who had been thus treated. They were greatly distressed, and it excited my sympathy very much. These people would have left their houses, but the battle came on so unexpectedly to them, as is often the case, that they had not time…

The fighting on the first day ceased about night, and when our brigade was relieved by Lane’s North Carolina Brigade, it was nearly dark… When they drove the Yankees to the long high range of hills, which the Yankees held throughout the fight, they should have been immediately reinforced by Anderson with his fresh troops. Then the strong position last occupied by the enemy could have been taken, and the next day, when Ewell and Longstreet came up, the victory completely won. If “Old Stonewall” had been alive and there, it no doubt would have been done. Hill was a good division commander, but he is not a superior corps commander. He lacks the mind and sagacity of Jackson…

On the second day of the battle, the fighting did not begin until about twelve or one o’clock, from which time until night it raged with great fury. The reason it began so late in the day was because it required some time for Ewell and Longstreet to get their forces in position.

On the third day, the fighting began early in the morning and continued with the greatest imaginable fury all day; at one time, about three o’clock in the afternoon, with such a cannonading I never heard before. About 150 pieces of cannon on our side and as many or more on the side of the enemy kept up for several hours. It was truly terrifying and was like heavy skirmishing in the rapidity with which the volleys succeeded one another. The roar of the artillery, the rattle of the musketry and the wild terrific scream of the shells as they whizzed through the air was really the most appalling situation that could possibly be produced. Our troops (Pickett’s Division) charged the enemy’s strong position, which they had now entrenched, but with no avail, although we slaughtered thousands of them.

On the night of the 3rd, General Lee withdrew the army nearly to its original position, hoping, I suppose, that the enemy would attack him; but they didn’t come out of their strongholds, for well they knew what their fate would be if they met the Confederate Army of Virginia upon equal grounds. On the 4th, our army remained in line of battle, earnestly desiring the advance of the Yankees, but they did not come. During this day the rain fell in torrents, completely drenching the troops…

On July 5, we recrossed the Blue Ridge Mountains. Climbing the mountains was very tedious after so much toil, excitement and loss of sleep, but we met with no obstacle until we came to Hagerstown, Md., where we stopped on account of the Potomac’s being too high to ford. While here, the Yankees came up. Our army was placed in line to meet them, but they did not dare to attack. In this situation we remained for several days with them in sight of us.

After a pontoon bridge was finished at Falling Waters and the river was sufficiently down to ford at Williamsport, we left the vicinity of Hagerstown. It was just after dark when we began leaving. It was a desperately dark night and such a rain I thought I never knew to fall… It appeared to me that at least half of the road was a quagmire, coming in places nearly to the knees…

Being very tired, we all lay down and nearly everyone fell asleep. Suddenly the Yankee cavalry rushed upon us, firing and yelling at a furious rate. None of our guns were loaded and they were also in a bad fix from the wet of the previous night. They attacked General Pettigrew’s North Carolina Brigade first. Our brigade was lying down 50 yards behind his. I was lying down between the two brigades near a spring. General Pettigrew was killed here. I was close to him when he was killed. It was a serious loss to the service. We fought them for some time. Then General Hill sent an order to fall back across the river, and it was done in good order.

The attack was a complete surprise, and is disgraceful either to General Hill or General Heth. One is certainly to blame. The Yankees threw shells at the bridge and came very near hitting it just as I was about to cross; but, after we were close enough to the river not to be hurt by our own shells, our cannon on this side opened upon them, which soon made them “skedaddle” away.

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Source: Tapert, Annette, The Brothers’ War: Civil War Letters to Their Loved Ones from the Blue and Gray (New York: Vintage Books, 1988), p. 169-75

 

Chattanooga: Bragg Looks to Counterattack

August 2, 1863 – Confederate General Braxton Bragg looked to take back Middle Tennessee, while the Lincoln administration continued pressuring Federal Major General William S. Rosecrans to advance.

General Braxton Bragg | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Bragg’s Army of Tennessee was stationed around Chattanooga after being maneuvered out of Tullahoma in July. Bragg had sent one of his corps commanders, Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk, to urge President Jefferson Davis to authorize a concentration of Bragg’s army with Lieutenant General Simon B. Buckner’s at Knoxville and General Joseph E. Johnston’s in Mississippi.

Three major Federal armies operated in the Western Theater:

  • Rosecrans’s Army of the Cumberland held Middle Tennessee from Tullahoma
  • Major General Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of the Tennessee held western Tennessee and most of Mississippi from Vicksburg
  • Major General Ambrose E. Burnside’s Army of the Ohio held Kentucky and threatened eastern Tennessee

Davis, fearful that Grant might either attack Mobile, Alabama, or join with Rosecrans, sent Bragg a message through Adjutant General Samuel Cooper: “If we can spare most of Johnston’s army temporarily to re-enforce you, can you fight the enemy?” Bragg replied on the 2nd, “With the most of his forces, if I correctly estimate them, I should look for success if a fight can be had on equal terms. I have invited a conference with General Johnston, and will write in full. My present inclination is for a flank movement.”

As Bragg prepared to meet with Johnston, he learned that Johnston’s force did not consist of 23,000 well-equipped veterans as supposed, but rather 18,000 ill-clad, demoralized troops. Bragg canceled the meeting because Johnston’s force, though only 5,000 men less than Bragg believed, was “entirely inadequate to enable me to see the enemy beyond the mountains.”

Bragg notified Richmond on the 5th that combining the two forces would give the army just 50,000 men, as the remainder would have to guard depots and supply lines. Rosecrans had 60,000 men, and he could be easily reinforced with another 30,000 from Burnside. Bragg wrote:

“After fully examining all resources, I deem them insufficient to justify a movement across the mountains. It would be rashness to place ourselves on the farther side of a country rugged and sterile, with a few mountain roads only by which to reach a river difficult of passage. Thus situated, the enemy need only avoid battle for a short time to starve us out…”

Bragg also noted that Rosecrans was using the Cumberland Plateau to screen his preparations for an advance. If Rosecrans or Burnside would just confront him “on this side of the mountains, the problem will be changed.”

Although a junction between Bragg and Johnston may not have been practical, Bragg was officially given command of the Department of Tennessee on the 6th, which included Buckner’s Department of East Tennessee. Buckner would continue operating independently in the Knoxville area, but his army would become a corps in Bragg’s larger Army of Tennessee.

On the Federal side, Rosecrans remained at Tullahoma, which he had captured nearly a month ago. From there, he and Halleck had exchanged tense messages about getting the army moving again. Rosecrans responded to Halleck’s latest message explaining that President Abraham Lincoln, not Halleck, was prodding him to move faster.

Rosecrans expressed relief “that the injustice which I have experienced from the War Department” did not come from Halleck. But then he added, “I say to you frankly that whenever the Government can replace me by a commander in whom they have more confidence, they ought to do so, and take the responsibility of the result.”

Rosecrans repeated previous reasons for the delay in advancing from Tullahoma, including the need to establish communication and supply lines. He explained that “these things would have to be done by any commander, and I think we are doing them as rapidly as our men will admit.” But this only caused more impatience in Washington.

Halleck angrily responded to Rosecrans’s message on the 3rd: “Your forces must move forward without further delay. You will daily report the movement of each corps till you cross the Tennessee River.” Rosecrans wrote later that day:

“As I have been determined to cross the river as soon as practicable, and have been making all preparations, and getting such information as may enable me to do so without being driven back, like (General Joseph) Hooker (at Chancellorsville), I wish to know if your order is intended to take away my discretion as to the time and manner of moving my troops?”

Halleck answered, “The orders for the advance of your army, and that its movements be reported daily, are peremptory.” Rosecrans notified his superiors on the 6th: “My arrangements for beginning a continuous movement will be completed and the execution begun by Monday next (August 10).” He once again listed reasons for the delay and requested that Halleck either rescind his peremptory orders of the 4th or remove Rosecrans from army command. Halleck responded the next day:

“I have communicated to you the wishes of the Government in plain and unequivocal terms. The object has been stated, and you have been directed to lose no time in reaching it. The means you are to employ, and the roads you are to follow, are left to your own discretion. If you wish to promptly carry out the wishes of the Government, you will not stop to discuss mere details.”

Rosecrans then accused Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton of having a personal vendetta against him. To this, Halleck replied:

“I do not think he would willingly do you any injustice, but, as I have before written, neither the President nor the Secretary have been satisfied with your long delays… In my communications I have in no case exaggerated the feeling of disappointment and dissatisfaction which has been manifested to me. I know of no one here who has not the kindest and most friendly feelings for you. Nevertheless, many of your dispatches have been exceedingly annoying to the War Department.”

Lincoln personally wrote Rosecrans on the 10th, beginning, “I am sure you, as a reasonable man, would not have been wounded, could you have heard all my words and seen all my thoughts, in regard to you. I have not abated in my kind feeling for and confidence in you.” Then he noted that Rosecrans had refused to attack Bragg before he joined forces with Johnston, and that “impressed me very strangely.”

The president continued, “Since Grant has been entirely relieved by the fall of Vicksburg, by which Johnston is also relieved, it has seemed to me that your chance for a stroke, has been considerably diminished, and I have not been pressing you directly or indirectly. The question occurs, Can the thing be done at all?” Lincoln believed that “by great exertions, you can get to East Tennessee. But a very important question is, ‘Can you stay there?’”

Lincoln concluded by stating, “I make no order in the case–that I leave to General Halleck and yourself. And now, be assured once more, that I think of you in all kindness and confidence; and that I am not watching you with an evil eye.” Rosecrans soon began arranging to advance on Chattanooga.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 676, 689-90; Korn, Jerry, The Fight for Chattanooga: Chickamauga to Missionary Ridge (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 32; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 396; Rutherford, Phillip R., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 170

Charleston: Federals Plan Another Attack

August 1, 1863 – Federal army-navy forces continued working to capture Morris Island at the southern entrance to Charleston Harbor, South Carolina.

Maj Gen Q.A. Gillmore | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

As August began, Confederates still held Batteries Wagner and Gregg on Morris Island, along with James Island to the west and Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. The Federals had unsuccessfully attacked Battery Wagner twice in July, and now Major General Quincy A. Gillmore, commanding the Department of the South, awaited reinforcements to besiege the Confederate works.

Gillmore’s Federals entrenched themselves in the southern section of Morris Island, facing Wagner, Gregg, and Sumter to the north. Gillmore, a former engineer, worked with his army engineers to carefully emplace a powerful artillery battery on the island’s swampy ground. This work was done under heavy fire from the Confederates on James Island.

On the 5th, a detachment of U.S. Marines arrived at Charleston Harbor, sent by Navy Secretary Gideon Welles to support Rear Admiral John A.B. Dahlgren’s South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. The Marines joined their comrades from the naval fleet at Charleston and Port Royal under the command of Major Jacob Zeilin, U.S.M.C. They were deployed on Morris Island as reinforcements.

Meanwhile, President Jefferson Davis wrote South Carolina Governor Milledge L. Bonham:

“Be assured the executive branch of the Government will continue to do all that is possible for the safety and relief of the city, which we pray will never be polluted by the footsteps of a lustful, inhuman foe. It must never pass to the even temporary subjection of the mean and cruel enemy.”

As Federal reinforcements arrived on Morris Island, they began fatigue duty, which consisted of digging trenches and building earthworks in the harsh summer heat. The black troops did most of the heavy labor. By this time, the Federals had constructed three parallel lines of batteries and earthworks, with the third line just over 500 yards from Battery Wagner.

The troops worked almost around the clock, with calcium lights illuminating their work at night. They were under constant bombardment from Batteries Wagner and Gregg, as well as from James Island and Fort Sumter. A furious Confederate barrage opened on the 11th which temporarily halted the Federal work details.

Before dawn the next day, Federal artillerists began testing their newly installed heavy-caliber Parrott guns. This “test” did much to silence the guns at Wagner and Gregg, and blow large holes in the brick walls of Sumter. Colonel Alfred Rhett, commanding the Confederates at Fort Sumter, reported that a Federal shot had destroyed the bakery oven and compelled him to shift his guns to prevent their destruction.

Gillmore planned to open a bombardment from all his guns on the 14th, but it was delayed three days due to defective powder. During that time, the sporadic Federal target practice continued.

Gen P.G.T. Beauregard | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

General P.G.T. Beauregard, commanding the Confederate forces defending Charleston, had just 6,000 men. He had to hold Battery Wagner, or else Battery Gregg would fall and with it all of Morris Island. From there, the Federals could attack Fort Sumter to the north or invade James Island to the west. Either move would put them within easy striking distance of Charleston.

Governor Bonham wrote Beauregard urging him to evacuate non-combatants from the city while holding it at all costs. Beauregard agreed, writing that he would act in accordance with a state convention resolution “that Charleston should be defended at any cost of life or property,” with delegates preferring “a repulse of the enemy with the entire city in ruins, to an evacuation or surrender on any terms whatever.”

Beauregard cited the recommendation of General Robert E. Lee, who had “directed that Charleston should be defended to the last extremity, and if necessary the fight should be made from street to street and from house to house.” Beauregard assured Bonham, “You are entirely right in your belief that I propose to defend the city to the last extremity, in accordance with the patriotic wishes of the people of South Carolina, and the instructions of my superiors.”

Around this time, Confederate Congressman William Porcher Miles wrote Secretary of War James A. Seddon, asking him to send reinforcements to defend Charleston. Miles wrote, “We have every reason to believe that General Gillmore will be speedily re-enforced, when he may attempt by an overwhelming force, to seize James Island. Should he succeed in this, Charleston will be in his power, for it can be battered down from James Island.”

Miles specifically asked Seddon to send Brigadier General Micah Jenkins’s brigade of South Carolinians from the Army of Northern Virginia. He wrote, “In this, our greatest hour of trial, it seems hard that South Carolina cannot have some of her own veteran troops (who have been fighting so long outside of her borders) to strike a blow for their own homes upon their native soil.” Acknowledging that such a move would require sacrifice, Miles stated:

“But, really, if Charleston is to be defended with anything like the energy and tenacity with which Richmond has been, it seems absolutely necessary that something of ‘an army’ should be, so far as possible, concentrated for its defense, even at the expense of great risk and hazard to other places. This is a moral element that high statesmanship will not only refuse to ignore, but will eagerly avail itself of.”

Meanwhile, Beauregard scrambled to defend all points against the Federal assault that was sure to come.

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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. 314-16; Faust, Patricia L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 738; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 697-98; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 337, 339; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 393-96

Federals Regroup on Morris Island

July 31, 1863 – President Abraham Lincoln approved reinforcing the Department of the South to bolster the Federals on Morris Island who were trying to capture not only the island but the city of Charleston, South Carolina.

Federal forces remained on the southern part of Morris Island after sustaining another defeat at Battery Wagner on the 18th. With his force reduced to 6,000 men due to combat and illness, Major General Quincy A. Gillmore, commanding the department, wrote General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck requesting reinforcements. Gillmore asked for 8,000 veterans that he assumed would be freed up after the victories at Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Port Hudson, and Tullahoma.

While waiting for Halleck’s response, Gillmore worked with Rear Admiral John A.B. Dahlgren, commanding the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, on a new plan of attack. The two commanders agreed that reinforcements were needed before any offensive operations could be resumed, but Dahlgren had none to offer.

Rear Adm J.A.B. Dahlgren – Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Dahlgren contacted Navy Secretary Gideon Welles and suggested that 20,000 reinforcements could take Morris Island and put the Federals in position to attack Charleston. When Welles received Dahlgren’s message, he sent Assistant Navy Secretary Gustavus V. Fox to discuss the matter with Halleck. Halleck claimed that he had received no request for reinforcements from Gillmore; that message would not reach him until the 28th. When Halleck read it, he immediately replied:

“You were distinctly informed that you could not have any additional troops, and it was only on the understanding that none would be required that I consented to your undertaking operations on Morris Island. Had it been supposed that you would require more troops, the operations would not have been attempted with my consent or that of the Secretary of War.”

Halleck explained that “every man that we could possibly rake and scrape together is in the field in face of the enemy… And now, at this critical junction, comes your urgent but unexpected application for 8,000 additional troops for Morris Island. It is, to say the least, seriously embarrassing.” Halleck ultimately dispatched 2,000 black troops from North Carolina, but they were untested and too few for Gillmore to proceed.

Lincoln and Welles then met with Halleck and agreed that since Major General George G. Meade would not be launching another offensive in northern Virginia any time soon, troops could be pulled from the Army of the Potomac to reinforce Gillmore. Lincoln directed the War Department to send 5,000 additional troops from XI Corps to Morris Island.

By month’s end, Gillmore had begun preparing to besiege Batteries Wagner and Gregg on Morris Island, as well as Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.

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References

Official Naval Records (Series 1, Vol. 14), p. 380-82, 401; Official Records (Series 1, Vol. 28, Part 2), p. 23-24, 26, 29, 30, 39; Official Records (Series 1, Vol 53), p. 293-94; Welles, Gideon, Diary (Vol. 1); Wise, Stephen R., Gate of Hell

The Gettysburg Aftermath: The Armies Settle Back in Virginia

July 28, 1863 – Both the Federal Army of the Potomac and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia settled into position, as Major General George G. Meade was dissuaded from attacking and General Robert E. Lee submitted his official report on the Battle of Gettysburg.

Federal Maj Gen G.G. Meade and Confederate Gen R.E. Lee | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

By the 28th, Lee had evaded all Federal efforts to trap and destroy his army, skirting around Meade’s southern flank and moving east to safety near Culpeper Court House. Meade, having missed opportunities to destroy Lee’s army in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and now Virginia, moved his army to Warrenton. He reported that he had 105,623 officers and men, including about 13,500 cavalrymen, present for duty. Lee had about 59,178 officers and men, including some 9,000 horsemen.

Confederate scouts correctly located each of Meade’s seven corps in the Warrenton area, but they could not determine their sizes. Lee reported to President Jefferson Davis, “Although our loss has been so heavy, which is a source of constant grief to me, I believe the damage to the enemy has been as great in proportion. This has shown by the feeble operations since.”

He forwarded intelligence to Davis that Meade was being reinforced, adding that “their means are greater than ours, and I fear when they move again, they will much outnumber us.” Lee proposed possibly withdrawing behind the Rapidan River, which was where Meade believed he already was. Lee wrote, “The enemy now seems to be content to remain quiescent,” while “prepared to oppose any offensive movement on our part.”

Lee was wrong. Washington continued prodding Meade into launching another offensive, with General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck reminding Meade that “Lee’s army is the objective point.” Meade replied on the 28th, “I am making every effort to prepare this army for an advance.” He continued, “I am in hopes to commence the movement tomorrow, when I shall first throw over (the Rappahannock River) a cavalry force to feel for the enemy, and cross the infantry as fast as possible.”

However, Meade added, “No reliable intelligence of the position of the enemy has been obtained,” and the Confederate “pickets” along the railroad to Fredericksburg “seem to be mere ‘look-outs’ to warn him of my approach.” Various reports placed Lee’s army at Gordonsville, Culpeper, Cedar Mountain, Staunton, and even beyond the Rapidan on its way to Richmond.

Meade told Halleck, “My plan is to advance on the railroad to Culpeper and as far beyond as the enemy’s position will permit.” He sought to cut the Orange & Alexandria Railroad, Lee’s supposed supply line to Richmond, to determine “the practicability of maintaining open such a long line of communication.”

Later that day, Meade received word that Lee’s army was at Culpeper Court House. He also forwarded a report that “Lee has been re-enforced by D.H. Hill, reported with 10,000 men, and that he intends to make a stand at Culpeper or in its vicinity.” While it was true that Lee was at Culpeper, Major General D.H. Hill had not reinforced him (Hill had instead gone to reinforce General Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee). Nevertheless, Meade planned to advance on the 29th, even if his army was not ready, if only to appease his superiors’ call for immediate action.

But now that Lee had reached Culpeper, President Abraham Lincoln no longer saw the need for Meade to immediately attack. The president wrote Halleck on the morning of the 29th, stating that Meade’s plan “causes me to fear that he supposes the Government here is demanding of him to bring on a general engagement with Lee as soon as possible. I am claiming no such thing of him.”

Lincoln had pressed Meade to attack in Pennsylvania and Maryland, but now the Federals were back in Virginia, where Lee had consistently defeated the Army of the Potomac. Lincoln told Halleck, “If he (Meade) could not safely engage Lee at Williamsport, it seems absurd to suppose he can safely engage him now, when he has scarcely more than two-thirds of the force he had at Williamsport, while it must be that Lee has been re-enforced.”

Lincoln continued, “True, I desired General Meade to pursue Lee across the Potomac, hoping, as has proved true, that he would thereby clear the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and get some advantage by harassing him on his retreat,” despite Halleck telling Meade at the time that he had greatly dissatisfied the president. Lincoln concluded, “I am unwilling he should now get into a general engagement on the impression that we here are pressing him.”

Halleck passed this message on to Meade, who responded the next day: “The impression of the President is correct. I have been acting under the belief, from your telegrams, that it was his and your wish that I should pursue Lee and bring him to a general engagement, if practicable.” Meade clarified that he had not failed to attack at Williamsport, Lee had just retreated before the attack began; he also declared that, contrary to Lincoln’s estimation, the army was at full strength, not two-thirds the size it was at Williamsport.

Meade wrote that his army’s current position was vulnerable to flank attacks, therefore it should advance against Lee before Lee advanced first. Halleck shared Meade’s message with Lincoln, then replied that the Federals should stay north of the Rappahannock for now. More troops might be needed from the army if the northern draft riots got any worse, Halleck explained.

Meade responded, “In my judgment, if there were no other considerations than the relative strength and position of the two armies, I should favor an advance.” But Halleck and Lincoln insisted that Meade stay put for now. To do so safely, Meade needed to secure the Rappahannock crossings in his front. Brigadier General John Buford’s cavalry and XII Corps cleared Confederates away from Kelly’s Ford on the 31st, and they moved upriver to clear Rappahannock Station the next day.

Confederates patrolled the region between Rappahannock Station and Fredericksburg, guessing that if a Federal attack came, it would come from that area. On the last day of July, Lee submitted his official report on the Battle of Gettysburg to Davis, reiterating that the soldiers were not responsible for the defeat:

“The conduct of the troops was all that I could desire or expect, and they deserved success so far as it can be deserved by heroic valor and fortitude. More may have been required of them than they were able to perform, but my admiration of their noble qualities and confidence in their ability to cope successfully with the enemy has suffered no abatement from the issue of this protracted and sanguinary conflict.”

Davis, who had been despairing over the major defeats at Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Port Hudson, Jackson, and Tullahoma this month, confided in Lee near month’s end:

“General Johnston, after evacuating Jackson, retreated to the east, to the pine woods of Mississippi, and if he has any other plan than that of watching the enemy, it has not been communicated… this war can only be successfully prosecuted while we have the cordial support of the people. In various quarters there are mutterings of discontent, and threats of alienation are said to exist, with preparation for organized opposition. I have felt more than ever before the want of your advice during the recent period of disaster. If a victim would secure the success of our cause I would freely offer myself.”

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 569, 647; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 335; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 6327; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 392