Tag Archives: Jefferson Davis

Jefferson Davis’s 1864 Message to Congress

November 7, 1864 – The second session of the Second Confederate Congress assembled and received President Jefferson Davis’s optimistic annual message.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Throughout the war, Davis had emphasized the need to defend territory. But after sacrificing several armies while still losing territory, Davis now reversed course. He explained that the loss of Atlanta and the Shenandoah Valley gave the military more flexibility by freeing it from having to defend cities or regions:

“The truth so patent to us must, ere long, be forced upon the reluctant Northern mind. There are no vital points on the preservation of which the continued existence of the Confederacy depends. There is no military success of the enemy which can accomplish its destruction. Not the fall of Richmond, nor Wilmington, nor Charleston, nor Savannah, nor Mobile, nor all combined, can save the enemy from the constant and exhaustive drain of blood and treasure which must continue until he shall discover that no peace is attainable unless based on the recognition of our indefeasible rights.”

The message did not mention the U.S. presidential elections scheduled for the next day; Davis avoided making any statement that could push northerners to vote for Abraham Lincoln. Regarding the economy, Davis called the financial outlook “far from discouraging.” He asked Congress for measures to increase military recruitment, including waiving some exemptions from the Conscription Act.

Davis also requested legislation allowing the government to buy 40,000 slaves from slaveholders and use them for military labor for the rest of the war. This would replace the current law allowing the military to impress slaves into service without compensation for limited time periods. As the military would then be expected to teach slaves “in the manner of encamping, marching, and parking trains,” the “length of service adds greatly to the value of the negro’s labor.”

After “service faithfully rendered,” Davis recommended that the slaves be rewarded with freedom. However, since slavery was a state issue, each state would have to decide for itself on that. Davis argued that such a grant by the states “would doubtless be more readily accorded as a reward for past faithful service, and a double motive for zealous discharge of duty would thus be offered to those employed by the Government, their freedom, and the gratification of the local attachment which is so marked a characteristic of the negro, and forms so powerful an incentive to his action.”

Davis was not prepared to accept slaves as combat soldiers, stating, “Until our white population shall prove insufficient for the armies we require, and can afford to keep in the field; to employ as a soldier the negro who has been merely trained to labor, and as a laborer the white man, accustomed from his youth to the use of firearms, would scarcely be deemed wise or advantageous by any.” However, “Should the alternative ever be presented of subjugation or the employment of the slave as a soldier, there seems no reason to doubt what should then be our decision.”

Suggesting that slaves could become free citizens in exchange for military service marked what Davis called “a radical modification in the theory of the law.” An editorial in the Richmond Whig countered that trading service for freedom wrongly assumed “that the condition of freedom is so much better for the slave than servitude, that it may be bestowed upon him as a reward.” If implemented, it would be “a repudiation of the opinion held by the whole South… that servitude is a divinely appointed condition for the highest good of the slave.”

In conclusion, Davis stated that he was willing to negotiate with the North regarding peace, but only if the North recognized southern independence and not “our unconditional submission and degradation… This is the true path to peace; let us tread it with confidence in the assured result.”

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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. 484; Faust, Patricia L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 63-64; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 13076-96; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 518; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 593-94; 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. 833-34; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 334

Sherman Plans to Leave Atlanta

November 2, 1864 – Major General William T. Sherman prepared to lead his Federal forces southeast from Atlanta to the Atlantic coast, despite General John Bell Hood’s Confederate Army of Tennessee disrupting his supply lines.

Maj Gen W.T. Sherman | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

In October, Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, the overall Federal commander, had authorized Sherman to strike out for the Atlantic in Georgia. But since then, Hood’s Confederates had moved west and were now threatening Sherman’s supply lines in Tennessee. Undaunted, Sherman went ahead with his plan, leaving Hood for Major General George H. Thomas’s Army of the Cumberland at Nashville.

Sherman had dispatched elements of his armies under Thomas to defend Federal bases in Tennessee. Thomas was building up his force to defend against not only Hood but Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Confederate cavalry. Sherman wrote Thomas on the 1st:

“The fact that Forrest is down about Johnsonville, while Hood, with his infantry, is still about Florence and Tuscumbia, gives you time for concentration. The supplies about Chattanooga are immense, and I will soon be independent of them; therefore I would not risk supplies coming in transit from Nashville to Chattanooga. In like manner we have large supplies in Nashville, and if they be well guarded, and Hood can’t get our supplies, he can’t stay in Tennessee long.”

Sherman’s plan was to cut his Federals off from their supply base and live off the land as they marched to the coast. But he knew that both Hood and President Jefferson Davis planned to harass him from the rear; Davis had imprudently divulged as much on his speaking tour through Georgia. Sherman wrote Grant:

“As you foresaw, and as Jeff. Davis threatened, the enemy is now in the full tide of execution of his grand plan to destroy my communications and defeat this army. His infantry, about 30,000, with Wheeler’s and Roddey’s cavalry, from 7,000 to 10,000, are now in the neighborhood of Tuscumbia and Florence, and the water being low is able, to cross at will. Forrest seems to be scattered from Eastport to Jackson, Paris, and the lower Tennessee, and General Thomas reports the capture by him of a gunboat and five transports. General Thomas has near Athens and Pulaski Stanley’s corps, about 15,000 strong, and Schofield’s corps, 10,000, en route by rail, and has at least 20,000 to 25,000 men, with new regiments and conscripts arriving all the time; also Rosecrans promises the two divisions of Smith and Mower, belonging to me, but I doubt if they can reach Tennessee in less than 10 days.

“If I were to let go Atlanta and North Georgia and make for Hood, he would, as he did here, retreat to the southwest, leaving his militia, now assembling at Macon and Griffin, to occupy our conquests, and the work of last summer would be lost. I have retained about 50,000 good troops, and have sent back full 25,000, and having instructed General Thomas to hold defensively Nashville, Chattanooga, and Decatur, all strongly fortified and provisioned for a long siege.

“I will destroy all the railroads of Georgia and do as much substantial damage as is possible, reaching the sea-coast near one of the points hitherto indicated, trusting that General Thomas, with his present troops and the influx of new troops promised, will be able in a very few days to assume the offensive. Hood’s cavalry may do a good deal of damage, and I have sent Wilson back with all dismounted cavalry, retaining only about 4,500. This is the best I can do, and shall, therefore, when I can get to Atlanta the necessary stores, move as soon as possible.”

To Sherman’s dismay, Grant began reconsidering the whole plan. He wrote Sherman on the night of the 1st:

“Do you not think it advisable now that Hood has gone so far north to entirely settle him before starting on your proposed campaign? With Hood’s army destroyed you can go where you please with impunity. I believed, and still believe, that if you had started south whilst Hood was in the neighborhood of you he would have been forced to go after you. Now that he is so far away, he might look upon the chase as useless and go in one direction whilst you are pushing in the other. If you can see the chance for destroying Hood’s army, attend to that first and make your other move secondary.”

Grant’s reluctance came not only from rumors that the Confederates planned to isolate and destroy Sherman’s Federals in Georgia, but also from the Lincoln administration, which strongly suggested that no risky maneuvers should be attempted before the elections took place on the 8th. But Sherman tried reassuring Grant in a message he sent on the 2nd:

“If I could hope to overhaul Hood I would turn against him with my whole force. Then he retreats to the southwest, drawing me as a decoy from Georgia, which is his chief object. If he ventures north of the Tennessee I may turn in that direction and endeavor to get between him and his line of retreat, but thus far he has not gone above the Tennessee… No single army can catch him, and I am convinced the best results will result from defeating Jeff. Davis’ cherished plan of making me leave Georgia by maneuvering.”

Sherman offered to hold Decatur, Atlanta, and other points to chase down Hood, “but unless I let go Atlanta my force will not be equal to his.” In a final plea, Sherman sent a second message:

“If I turn back the whole effect of my campaign will be lost. By my movements I have thrown Beauregard well to the west, and Thomas will have ample time and sufficient troops to hold him until re-enforcements reach him from Missouri and recruits. We have now ample supplies at Chattanooga and Atlanta to stand a month’s interruption to our communications, and I don’t believe the Confederate army can reach our lines, save by cavalry raid, and Wilson will have cavalry enough to checkmate that. I am clearly of opinion that the best results will follow me in my contemplated movement through Georgia.”

Before these messages arrived at Grant’s headquarters, he had reconsidered his reconsideration. Sherman received Grant’s message that night:

“With the force, however, you have left with Thomas, he must be able to take care of Hood and destroy him. I do not really see that you can withdraw from where you are to follow Hood, without giving up all we have gained in territory. I say, then, go as you propose.”

This final, permanent authorization galvanized Sherman as he prepared for the march. He wrote, “Jeff. Davis will change his tune when he finds me advancing into the heart of Georgia instead of retreating, and I think it will have an immediate effect on your operations at Richmond.”

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 13034-54; Nevin, David, Sherman’s March: Atlanta to the Sea (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 34-35

Davis Urges More Sacrifice

October 2, 1864 – Confederate President Jefferson Davis continued his southern tour this month, as he urged citizens to oppose the Federal invasion of Georgia.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

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.

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References

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

Jefferson Davis Travels South

September 25, 1864 – President Jefferson Davis visited General John Bell Hood at his Palmetto headquarters to learn more about the condition of the Army of Tennessee.

Hood had requested that either Davis or another high-ranking Confederate official come to Georgia to review the army and discuss future strategy. Although Hood had lost Atlanta to Major General William T. Sherman’s Federals, Davis was optimistic that Hood could still redeem Georgia, telling a congressman before leaving, “Sherman’s army can be driven out of Georgia, perhaps be utterly destroyed.” When asked about the loss of Atlanta and the defeats in the Shenandoah Valley, Davis remarked, “The first effect of disaster is always to spread a deeper gloom than is due to the occasion.”

Confederate President Jefferson Davis | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

The president left Richmond on the 20th, hoping to not only visit Hood’s army but to lift southern spirits along the way. He arrived at Palmetto five days later, where he met with elements of the Army of Tennessee and addressed a group of Tennesseans: “Be of good cheer, for within a short while your faces will be turned homeward and your feet pressing the soil of Tennessee.”

Davis met with Hood, who took him on an army inspection, where several soldiers openly called out for Davis to replace Hood with their old commander, Joseph E. Johnston. Hood later wrote, “I regretted I should have been the cause of this uncourteous reception to His Excellency; at the same time, I could recall no offense save that of having insisted that they should fight for and hold Atlanta 46 days, whereas they had previously retreated 100 miles within 66 days.”

Regarding strategy, Hood explained that–

“… our only hope to checkmate Sherman was to assume the offensive, cut the enemy’s communications, select a position on or near the Alabama line in proximity to Blue Mountain Railroad, and there give him battle. Should the enemy move south, I could as easily from that point as from Palmetto, follow upon his rear, if that policy should be deemed preferable.”

Davis also met with Lieutenant General William Hardee, the corps commander who Hood blamed for the defeats at Peachtree Creek and Jonesboro. Hardee criticized Hood and urged Davis to replace him with Johnston. Hardee then said that either he or Hood should be removed from the army.

Davis, having personally selected Hood to command the army, would not admit to a mistake by removing him. Therefore, after leaving on the 28th, he instructed Hood, “Relieve Lieutenant-General Hardee from duty with the Army of Tennessee, and direct him to proceed at once to Charleston, S.C., and assume command of the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.” Hood was authorized to turn Hardee’s corps over to Major General Benjamin F. Cheatham.

The president traveled to Macon and delivered a speech at a benefit to raise money for the exiled Atlanta residents. Davis declared, “Friends are drawn together in adversity. What though misfortune has befallen our arms from Decatur to Jonesborough, our cause is not lost… Our cause is not lost… Sherman cannot keep up his long line of communications; retreat, sooner, or later, he must.”

Davis admonished all able-bodied men who were not serving in the military: “If there is one who will stay away at this hour, he is unworthy of the name of Georgian.” He cited a report showing that two-thirds of Georgians formerly in the Confederate army were no longer there, “some sick, some wounded, but most of them absent without leave.”

Davis concluded, “If one half the men now absent without leave will return to the front, we can defeat the enemy… I may not realize that hope, but I know there are men that have looked death in the face too often to despond now. Let no one despond.”

Davis moved on to the former Confederate capital of Montgomery, Alabama, where he told an audience, “There will be some men who when they look at the sun can only see a speck upon it… We should marvel and thank God for the great achievements which have crowned our efforts.” He continued on to Selma to meet with Lieutenant General Richard Taylor, commanding the Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana.

Meanwhile, Hood moved his Confederates north across the Chattahoochee River. If he could not defeat Sherman in battle, he would head north into Tennessee, destroying Sherman’s supply lines along the way. Depending on Federal resistance, Hood planned to possibly continue northward into Kentucky or even Ohio. Such a move could force Sherman to abandon Atlanta and chase him down.

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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 20973-82; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 461; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 12683-14, 12746-77; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 499, 501, 503; Jensen, Les D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 338; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 570-75; Nevin, David, Sherman’s March: Atlanta to the Sea (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 15-20; 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), Q364

The Second Battle of the Weldon Railroad

August 18, 1864 – Fighting broke out southwest of the Petersburg siege lines when Federals tried moving beyond the Confederates’ flank to sever the Weldon Railroad.

Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, the overall Federal commander, knew that General Robert E. Lee, commanding the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, had sent part of his force to the Shenandoah Valley. Grant also knew that Lee had reinforced the Confederate defenses in front of Richmond, north of the James River. Based on this, Grant guessed that Lee’s defense line outside Petersburg was weak and vulnerable to attack.

Maj Gen Gouverneur Warren | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Grant dispatched Major General Gouverneur Warren’s V Corps from the Army of the Potomac to cut the Confederates’ Weldon supply line running from Petersburg to Wilmington, and to divert attention from the Federal expedition north of the James. This was the first major Federal attempt since the Battle of the Crater to disrupt the Confederate siege lines at Petersburg.

When President Abraham Lincoln learned of Grant’s plan, he sent him an encouraging message: “I have seen your despatch expressing your unwillingness to break your hold where you are. Neither am I willing. Hold on with a bulldog grip, and chew and choke as much as possible.” Grant laughed upon reading this dispatch and told his staff, “The president has more nerve than any of his advisers.”

Warren’s Federals set out at 4 a.m. on the 18th, marching through rain and mud before arriving at Globe Tavern five hours later. They were about four miles south of Petersburg, and three miles south of the Confederate defenses. A division began wrecking the railroad while Brigadier General Romeyn B. Ayres’s division turned north to face any Confederate attempt to stop the operation. Ayres’s men struggled to maneuver in the dense woods and oppressive heat. Brigadier General Samuel W. Crawford’s division came up to support Ayres’s right.

Operations of Aug 18-19 | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

General P.G.T. Beauregard, commanding the Petersburg defenses while Lee was north of the James, called upon Lieutenant General A.P. Hill’s Third Corps to confront the Federals. Hill dispatched two brigades under Major General Henry Heth and another brigade under Major General Robert F. Hoke. Fighting began under heavy rain.

The Confederates initially drove Ayres and Crawford back toward Globe Tavern, but the Federals were reinforced by Brigadier General Lysander Cutler’s division on Ayres’s left. They regrouped and advanced, and by nightfall they regained their original positions. Warren notified Crawford, “You have done very well indeed in getting forward through that difficult country. Make yourself as strong as you can and hold on. I will try and re-enforce you…”

Major General George G. Meade, commanding the Federal Army of the Potomac, dispatched reinforcements from IX and II corps and ordered Warren to hold the railroad “at all hazards.” The Federals lost 836 men (544 killed or wounded, and 292 missing) in the action on the 18th.

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

The Confederates were reinforced by Major General Rooney Lee’s cavalry division and Major General William Mahone’s infantry division. Beauregard wrote Lee at 8 a.m. on the 19th, “I will endeavor to-day to dislodge him with four brigades of our infantry and the division of cavalry you have promised. Result would be more certain with a stronger force of infantry.”

Skirmishing took place throughout the 19th as the heavy rain continued. Mahone’s Confederates approached Crawford’s division on the Federal right, concealed by the woods, and launched a fierce attack at 4:15 p.m. The Federals wavered to the point that two brigades nearly surrendered, and Crawford was almost captured trying to rally his men. Meanwhile, Heth attacked the Federal center and left, but Ayres’s men repelled him.

The arrival of Federal reinforcements enabled Warren to stabilize his position in vicious hand-to-hand combat. He lost another 2,900 men (382 killed or wounded and 2,518 missing or captured), but he ordered an “advance at daylight in every direction.”

The Confederates pulled back for the night, and Warren fell back a mile down the Weldon line. The Federals maintained control of the railroad; now only two other lines could feed Richmond and Petersburg: the South Side and the Richmond & Danville railroads.

Beauregard wrote on the 20th, “General Hill reports enemy still occupying part of railroad where he is fortifying. Am endeavoring to make necessary arrangements to dislodge him to-day, if practicable… Every available man who can be spared from (the Petersburg) trenches has been withdrawn. Shall try attack in the morning with all the force I can spare.”

Warren, who initially planned to advance, now reconsidered after seeing the carnage from the previous day’s fight. He wrote Meade, “I do not think with our present force we can hold a line across where I established the picket-line yesterday.” Skirmishing erupted throughout the 20th, as the Federals continued wrecking the railroad while pulling out of the underbrush and forming a new line two miles to the rear that connected to the Jerusalem Plank Road.

President Jefferson Davis expressed concern about the Federal presence on the railroad. Beauregard wrote that night, “Expect to attack early in the morning. No available force shall be left behind.” He hoped to follow up his success on the 19th with a complete victory, but the only force he could muster was Hill’s two divisions and a few more brigades under Heth and Mahone.

The Confederates launched an intense artillery barrage before renewing their assaults at 9 a.m. With ranks three-deep, Mahone struck the Federal left while Heth hit the center, but they could not dislodge the entrenched Federals from the railroad. Hill finally called off the attack, and the Confederates returned to their original siege lines, thus acknowledging they had permanently lost the Weldon Railroad as a supply line.

The Federals did not pursue, which frustrated Grant: “It seems to me that when the enemy comes out of his works and attacks and is repulsed he ought to be followed vigorously to the last minute with every man. Holding the line is of no importance whilst troops are operating in front of it.” In the four-day engagement, the Federals sustained 4,455 total casualties (198 killed, 1,105 wounded, and 3,152 missing) out of about 20,000 effectives, while the Confederates lost some 1,600 from about 14,000.

Without the railroad, the Confederates had to get supplies from Wilmington by unloading them from the railroad at Stony Creek and taking them by wagon train up the Boydton Plank Road running northeast into Petersburg. Even so, a Confederate staff officer optimistically noted, “Whilst we are inconvenienced, no material harm is done us.” After receiving reports of the fight at Globe Tavern, Grant quickly ordered Federal infantry and cavalry to strike the important Confederate supply line at Reams’s Station between Globe Tavern and Stony Creek.

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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 22242; Davis, William C., Death in the Trenches: Grant at Petersburg (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 99-104; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 448-49; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 11445-68; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 487-88; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 7881-94; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 556-59; 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. 776; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 577-79, 812-13

Hood Replaces Johnston

July 17, 1864 – President Jefferson Davis gambled by replacing General Joseph E. Johnston as commander of the Confederate Army of Tennessee with the untried Lieutenant General John Bell Hood.

Confederate General J.E. Johnston | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Since the Georgia campaign began in early May, Johnston had relinquished Dalton, Resaca, Adairsville, Allatoona, Kingston, Rome, Kennesaw Mountain, and the Chattahoochee River. His Confederates were now within three miles of Atlanta, and he offered no specific plan on how (or if) he intended to put up a fight before Major General William T. Sherman’s Federals descended upon this vital industrial and transportation center.

Davis had sent his top military advisor, General Braxton Bragg, to inspect Johnston’s army and provide a recommendation regarding the command. Bragg reported that Johnston did not seem willing to defend Atlanta and recommended his youngest corps commander, Hood, to replace him.

His patience nearly exhausted, Davis telegraphed Johnston on the 16th: “… I wish to hear from you as to present situation, and your plan of operations so specifically as will enable me to anticipate events.” Johnston vaguely responded:

“As the enemy has double our numbers we must be on the defensive. My plan of operations must, therefore, depend upon that of the enemy. It is mainly to watch for an opportunity to fight to advantage. We are trying to put Atlanta in condition to be held for a day or two by the Georgia militia, that army movements may be freer and wider.”

Johnston’s message directly conflicted with Bragg’s report, which (erroneously) concluded that the opposing armies were roughly the same size. Davis and Johnston had resented each other for three years, ever since Johnston accused Davis of passing him over in the order of ranking among the top Confederate generals. Also, Johnston’s close relationship with Davis’s political opponents did not go unnoticed.

Davis had been deeply disturbed when Johnston gave up Vicksburg without a fight, and now he saw the same pattern emerging with Atlanta. To Johnston, maintaining the strength and morale of the army was worth more than risking a destructive battle over a city or landmark. This fundamental disagreement between Davis and Johnston had finally come to a head.

A courier delivered a message to Johnston on the night of the 17th, as he discussed fortifying Atlanta with his chief engineer. The message came from Davis via Adjutant General Samuel Cooper:

“Lieutenant General J.B. Hood has been commissioned to the temporary rank of General under the late law of Congress. I am directed by the Secretary of War to inform you that as you have failed to arrest the advance of the enemy to the vicinity of Atlanta, far in the interior of Georgia, and express no confidence that you can defeat or repel him, you are hereby relieved from the command of the Army and Department of Tennessee, which you will immediately turn over to General Hood.”

Confederate General J.B. Hood | Image Credit: Flickr.com

Hood received a message notifying him that he now commanded the Army of Tennessee at 11 p.m. He also received a message from Secretary of War James A. Seddon:

“You are charged with a great trust. You will, I know, test to the utmost your capacities to discharge it. Be wary no less than bold. It may yet be practicable to cut the communication of the enemy or find or make an opportunity of equal encounter whether he moves east or west. God be with you.”

When he received these messages, Hood shared them with Lieutenant General Alexander P. Stewart, one of the army’s corps commanders. The two generals traveled to Johnston’s headquarters in the early morning, where Hood pleaded with Johnston, “Pocket that dispatch, leave me in command of my corps and fight the battle for Atlanta.” Johnston refused to stay on.

Hood and Stewart then joined with the other corps commander, Lieutenant General William Hardee, to send a joint wire to Davis asking him to suspend his order “until the fate of Atlanta is decided.” Davis replied, “The order has been executed, and I cannot suspend it without making the case worse than it was before the order was issued.”

Johnston had been deeply beloved by the army, and when news spread of his removal, many officers and men gathered at his headquarters to bid “Old Joe” farewell. Johnston removed his hat, and his troops did the same as they passed. Some men wept; others broke ranks to shake his hand. Johnston went to Macon, leaving behind a farewell address:

“I cannot leave this noble army without expressing my admiration of the high military qualities it has displayed… The enemy has never attacked but to be repulsed and severely punished… No longer your leader, I will still watch your career, and will rejoice in your victories. To one and all I offer assurances of my friendship, and bid an affectionate farewell.”

Johnston had a less sentimental response to Davis’s order removing him from command:

“Your dispatch of yesterday received and obeyed. Sherman’s army is much stronger compared with that of Tennessee than Grant’s compared with that of Northern Virginia. Yet the enemy has been compelled to advance much more slowly to the vicinity of Atlanta than to that of Richmond and Petersburg, and has penetrated deeper into Virginia than into Georgia. Confident language by a military commander is not usually regarded as evidence of competency.”

The Army of Tennessee now belonged to John Bell Hood, a talented officer who had lost the use of an arm at Gettysburg and a leg at Chickamauga. According to the Richmond Whig, Hood was “young, dashing, and lucky, the army and the people all have confidence in his ability and inclination to fight, and will look to him to drive back Sherman and save Atlanta.”

Hood was known as an aggressive fighter, as the Richmond Examiner opined that Hood’s “appointment has but one meaning, and that is to give battle to the foe.” However, this could play right into the Federals’ hands since Sherman had hoped to draw the Confederates out into an open fight ever since the campaign began. Many fellow officers believed Hood was not yet ready to command an entire army. Nevertheless, he now had 48,750 effectives to keep the Federals out of Atlanta.

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References

Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 176-77; Bailey, Ronald H., The Battles for Atlanta: Sherman Moves East (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 80-81, 90; Castel, Albert, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 565-66; CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Crocker III, H.W., The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War (Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2008), p. 82-84; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 20826-35, 20854, 20920-29; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 437; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 8787-840, 8852-72, 9855-85; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 470-71; Kallmann, John D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 368-69, 400-01; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 540-41; 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. 752-53; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 324-25

Jefferson Davis Discusses Peace

July 16, 1864 – Two Federal operatives were permitted to go to Richmond to negotiate a possible peace with President Jefferson Davis.

President Abraham Lincoln | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

While Federal and Confederate agents discussed peace at Niagara Falls, a more clandestine meeting took place in Richmond for the same purpose. Colonel James F. Jaquess of the 78th Illinois Infantry and New York merchant James R. Gilmore were allowed through the Federal lines by President Abraham Lincoln to discuss the possibility of ending the war with Confederate officials in Richmond.

The Federals had no official authority, “but were fully possessed of the views of the United States government, relative to an adjustment of the differences existing between the North and the South.” They sought to learn specifically what terms the Confederates wanted for peace.

Judge Robert Ould, the Confederate commissioner for prisoner exchange, met the two men and escorted them to the Confederate capital, where they stayed at the Spotswood Hotel on the night of the 16th. The next day, they met with Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin. President Davis joined them at the State Department that night, where they discussed the terms.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Davis said that the war could end “In a very simple way. Withdraw your armies from our territory, and peace will come of itself.” When the Federals suggested that the Confederates could return to the Union under Lincoln’s amnesty program, Davis said:

“Amnesty, sir, applies to criminals. We have committed no crime… At your door lies all the misery and crime of this war… We are fighting for INDEPENDENCE and that, or extermination, we will have… You may ‘emancipate’ every negro in the Confederacy, but we will be free. We will govern ourselves…if we have to see every Southern plantation sacked, and every Southern city in flames.”

Gilmore proposed a ceasefire while a popular referendum was held on the matter. Davis said that this would result in southern defeat because northerners outnumbered southerners. He said, “That the majority shall decide it, you mean. We seceded to rid ourselves of the rule of the majority, and this would subject us to it again.” Gilmore declared that the issue involved simply “Union or Disunion,” and Davis countered that it involved “Independence or Subjugation.” Davis explained:

“I tried in all my power to avert this war. I saw it coming, and for 12 years I worked night and day to prevent it, but I could not. And now it must go on till the last man of this generation falls in his tracks, and his children seize his musket and fight his battle, unless you acknowledge our right to self-government… We are fighting for independence–and that, or extermination, we will have.”

When Jaquess and Gilmore mentioned slavery, Davis argued that it was not an “essential element… only a means of bringing other conflicting elements to an earlier culmination.” Davis also maintained that he had no authority over slavery because it was a state, not a national, issue. He concluded, “Say to Mr. Lincoln, from me, that I shall at any time be pleased to receive proposals for peace on the basis of our independence. It will be useless to approach me with any other.” With this, the meeting ended and the Federals were sent back north.

Lincoln allowed an edited version of this meeting to be published in the Boston Evening Transcript. This convinced many northerners, including the Copperheads working with Confederate agents to negotiate a peace, that the Confederate government would not accept any peace terms except those that granted their independence. Lincoln summed up his interpretation of this by stating that Davis–

“… does not attempt to deceive us. He affords us no excuse to deceive ourselves. He cannot voluntarily reaccept the Union; we cannot voluntarily yield it. Between him and us the issue is distinct, simple, and inflexible. It is an issue which can only be tried by war, and decided by victory.”

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References

Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 21709-27; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 9749-801; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 541-42; 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. 766-68