Tag Archives: Judah P. Benjamin

The Kilpatrick-Dahlgren Raid: Confederates Ponder Retaliation

March 5, 1864 – President Jefferson Davis held a cabinet meeting at Richmond to discuss what measures should be taken in response to the controversial Federal raid on Richmond.

Two days after Colonel Ulric Dahlgren was killed in the failed raid on Richmond, his father, Rear Admiral John A.B. Dahlgren, came to Washington to ask his personal friend President Abraham Lincoln for information about his son.

Lincoln was aware that Brigadier General H. Judson Kilpatrick’s Federal command had fled to Major General Benjamin F. Butler’s Federal army at Fort Monroe after the raid, but nobody at Washington knew of Dahlgren’s death yet. Lincoln wrote Butler, “Admiral Dahlgren is here, and of course is very anxious about this son. Please send me at once all you know or can learn of his fate.”

Meanwhile, the South seethed with rage upon learning that papers on Dahlgren’s body called for liberated Federal prisoners of war to burn Richmond and kill top Confederate government officials. General Robert E. Lee, commanding the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, sent the photographic copies of these documents to Major General George G. Meade, commanding the Federal Army of the Potomac, and asked if he or his superiors had any prior knowledge of this plot.

Meade assured Lee that neither he nor the Lincoln administration “had authorized, sanctioned, or approved the burning of the city of Richmond and the killing of Mr. Davis and Cabinet.” Meade also forwarded Kilpatrick’s statement on the matter, which asserted that nobody higher in rank than Dahlgren knew of the plot.

There was no evidence to disprove Meade’s claim. However, Lincoln’s approval of the raid (without necessarily approving the raid’s specific objectives) indicated his urgency to end the war by any means necessary. As news of the raid spread across the North, the northern press took a much different view than the South. The New York Times called the raid a “complete success, resulting in the destruction of millions of dollars of public property.” But the paper either did not know or willfully omitted Dahlgren’s controversial intentions.

Southerners branded Colonel Dahlgren a war criminal, and his body, which had been buried in a shallow grave in Richmond, was unearthed and put on display. A correspondent from the Richmond Examiner reported that the body was–

“Stripped, robbed of every valuable, the fingers cut off for the sake of the diamond rings that encircled them. When the body was found by those sent to take charge of it, it was lying in a field stark naked, with the exception of the stocking. Some humane persons had lifted the corpse from the pike and thrown it over into the field, to save it from the hogs. The artificial leg worn by Dahlgren (who lost his leg at Gettysburg) was removed, and is now at General Elzey’s headquarters. It is of most beautiful design and finish.

“Yesterday afternoon, the body was removed from the car that brought it to the York River railroad depot, and given to the spot of earth selected to receive it. Where that spot is no one but those concerned in its burial know or care to tell. It was a dog’s burial, without coffin, winding sheet or service. Friend and relative at the North need inquire no further; this is all they will know–he is buried a burial that befitted the mission upon which he came. He ‘swept through the city of Richmond’ on a pine bier, and ‘written his name’ on the scroll of infamy, instead of ‘on the hearts of his countrymen,’ never to be erased. He ‘asked the blessing of Almighty God’ and his mission of rapine, murder and blood, and the Almighty cursed him instead.”

Lieutenant Colonel John Atkinson led the burial party, with instructions from Davis not to reveal the burial site. Kilpatrick’s Federal troopers destroyed property, including a grain mill, in King and Queen County near Carlton’s Store, in retaliation for Dahlgren’s death.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

The Confederate press called for retribution, and Davis met with his cabinet on the 5th to discuss what the administration should do about it. Most members present favored executing the prisoners taken from Dahlgren’s command, but Davis was firmly opposed. According to Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin:

“A discussion ensued which became so heated as almost to create unfriendly feeling, by reason of the unshaken firmness of Mr. Davis, in maintaining that although these men merited a refusal to grant them quarter in the heat of battle, they had been received to mercy by their captors as prisoners of war, and such were sacred; and that we should be dishonored if harm should overtake them after their surrender, the acceptance of which constituted, in his judgment, a pledge that they should receive the treatment of prisoners of war.”

Secretary of War James A. Seddon asked Lee for advice since he had greater experience in dealing with prisoners. Seddon wrote in part, “My own inclinations are toward the execution of at least a portion of those captured at the time Colonel Dahlgren was killed. The question of what is best to be done is a grave and important one, and I desire to have the benefit of your views and any suggestions you may make.” Lee responded:

“I cannot recommend the execution of the prisoners that have fallen into our hands. Assuming that the address and special orders of Colonel Dahlgren correctly state his designs and intentions, they were not executed, and I believe, even in a legal point of view, acts in addition to intentions are necessary to constitute a crime. These papers can only be considered as evidence of his intentions. It does not appear how far his men were cognizant of them, or that his course was sanctioned by his Government. It is only known that his plans were frustrated by a merciful Providence, his forces scattered, and he killed. I do not think it, therefore, to visit upon the captives the guilt of his intentions. I think it better to do right, even if we suffer in so doing, than to incur the reproach of our consciences and posterity.”

Davis ultimately agreed, and Dahlgren’s men were not executed.

On Sunday the 6th, a copy of the previous day’s Richmond Sentinel was delivered to Meade’s Army of the Potomac headquarters. From this, Meade received the first definitive news that Dahlgren was dead. He wrote General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck:

“The Richmond Sentinel of March 5 has been received, which announces the capturing at King and queen (county) of a part of Dahlgren’s party, reported 90 men, and that Colonel Dahlgren was killed in the skirmish. I fear the account is true.”

Meade wrote his wife, “You have doubtless seen that Kilpatrick’s raid was an utter failure. I did not expect much from it. Poor Dahlgren I am sorry for.” When Admiral Dahlgren learned of his son’s death, he lamented in his diary, “How busy is death–oh, how busy indeed!”

—–

References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 380-81; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 10424; Faust, Patricia L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 203; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 407; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 6593; Longacre, Edward G., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 202; 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), Q164

Advertisements

The Kilpatrick-Dahlgren Raid Takes a Sinister Turn

March 2, 1864 – Confederates continued pursuing the Federal raiders led by Colonel Ulric Dahlgren, uncovering controversial documentation in the process.

Two Federal forces had unsuccessfully tried to raid Richmond. The main force under Brigadier General H. Judson Kilpatrick rode through Kent Court House on the way to joining Major General Benjamin F. Butler’s Federals at Fort Monroe, on the tip of the Virginia Peninsula. Dahlgren’s 500-man detachment split in two, with Dahlgren leading about 100 men southeast to rejoin Kilpatrick.

Col Ulric Dahlgren | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Major General Fitzhugh Lee, commanding Confederate cavalry in the area, soon learned of Dahlgren’s presence. His Confederates fired on Dahlgren’s men as they crossed the Mattaponi River, but the Federals held them off long enough to get across. The Confederate pursuers used an alternate road to get in front of Dahlgren’s column as it approached Mantapike Hill, between King and Queen County and King William County.

The Confederates waited in ambush as the Federals approached on the night of the 2nd. Dahlgren saw them in the woods and yelled, “Surrender you damned rebels, or we will charge you!” The Confederates instead demanded Dahlgren’s surrender. Dahlgren drew his revolver but it misfired. The Confederates opened fire, and a Federal trooper recalled, “This stampeded us for about 100 yards, every horse in our column turning to the rear.” Another wrote:

“The next instant a heavy volley was poured in upon us. The flash of the pieces afforded us a momentary glimpse of their position stretching parallel with the road about 15 paces from us. Every tree was occupied, and the bushes poured forth a sheet of fire. A bullet grazing my leg and probably struck my horse somewhere in the neck, caused him to make a violent swing sideways.”

Dahlgren was shot five times and killed. The Federals left him behind as they rode off, and the Confederates eventually rounded up about 100 of his men. Most of the survivors from Dahlgren’s force met up with Kilpatrick that night, while some found refuge on the U.S.S. Morse, near Brick House Farm on the York River.

William Littlepage, a 13-year-old boy accompanying the Confederates, searched Dahlgren’s body and found a bundle of papers in his coat pocket. He turned them over to the troopers, who read them the next morning. The three documents included the speech that Dahlgren had planned to give to his men upon entering Richmond, a list of instructions, and a memorandum book.

The instructions included the Federals’ plan to break some 15,000 Federal prisoners of war out of Belle Island and Libby Prison. They also directed the men to disguise themselves in Confederate uniforms, gather “combustible material,” and burn Richmond. And if President Jefferson Davis was found, he must be “killed on the spot.” Dahlgren wrote, “The men must keep together and well in hand, and once in the city it must be destroyed and Jeff Davis and cabinet killed.”

Some historians alleged that the papers had been forged by Confederates, but a handwriting expert verified Dahlgren’s writing a century later. Several prisoners were captured in Confederate uniform carrying turpentine and other material needed to set fires. This made them saboteurs under Articles of War, subject to execution.

The discovery of these incriminating papers and the capture of Federals verifying their authenticity put a sinister twist on the Kilpatrick-Dahlgren raid. Fitz Lee delivered the papers to Davis at Richmond, who shared them with Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin. Davis tried downplaying the issue, showing the secretary the order to kill him and his cabinet and saying, “That means you, Mr. Benjamin.” Davis asked Fitz to file the papers away. But General Braxton Bragg, Davis’s military advisor, recommended to Secretary of War James A. Seddon:

“It has occurred to me that the papers just captured from the enemy are of such an extraordinary and diabolical character that some more formal method should be adopted of giving them to the public than simply sending them to the press. My own conviction is for an execution of the prisoners and a publication as justification; but in any event the publication should go forth with official sanction from the highest authority, calling the attention of our people and the civilized world to the fiendish and atrocious conduct of our enemies.”

Chief of Ordnance Josiah Gorgas agreed with Bragg. But Seddon, along with Davis and General Robert E. Lee, were reluctant to take punitive action against the prisoners. Confederate Adjutant General Samuel Cooper had the documents photographed and sent to the Richmond newspapers; their publication sent waves of shock, panic, and outrage throughout the South. Editors alleged that the plot went all the way up the chain of command to President Abraham Lincoln himself. An article in the Richmond Inquirer declared:

“Should our army again go into the enemy’s country, will not these papers relieve them from their restraints of a chivalry that would be proper with a civilized army, but which only brings upon them the contempt of our savage foe? Decidedly, we think that these Dahlgren papers will destroy, during the rest of the war, all rosewater chivalry, and that the Confederate armies will make war afar and upon the rules selected by the enemy.”

The Richmond Whig asked:

“Are these (Dahlgren’s) men warriors? Are they soldiers, taken in the performance of duties recognized as legitimate by the loosest construction in the code of civilized warfare? Or are they assassins, barbarians, thugs who have forfeited (and expect to lose) their lives? Are they not barbarians redolent with more hellish purposes than were the Goth, the Hun or the Saracen?”

The Richmond Daily Examiner recommended:

“Our soldiers should in every instance where they capture officers engaged in raids characterized by such acts of incendiarism and wanton devastation and plunder, as this last raid has been, hang them immediately. If they are handed over as prisoners of war, they at once come under the laws of regular warfare and are subject to exchange… therefore we hope that our soldiers will take the law in their own hands… by hanging those they capture.”

Dahlgren’s body was brought to Richmond and buried in a shallow grave after being examined by Davis. An editor wrote:

“And they came and the Almighty blessed them not, and Dahlgren is dead and gone to answer for his crimes and several hundred of his partners in the plot concocted so deliberately are now our prisoners. They every one richly merit death…”

The controversy would continue.

—–

References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 20051; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 380-82; Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 10424; Faust, Patricia L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 203; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 913, 915; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 405; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 6593; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 471; Longacre, Edward G., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 202; Thomas, Emory M., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 417; 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), Q164

The Army of Tennessee: A New Commander Appointed

December 16, 1863 – President Jefferson Davis decided to appoint a bitter rival to command the demoralized Confederate Army of Tennessee at Dalton, Georgia.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Lieutenant General William Hardee had replaced General Braxton Bragg as army commander, but Hardee made it clear that he would only accept the job on an interim basis. Thus, Davis had to find a permanent replacement. After considering several candidates, Davis summoned General Robert E. Lee, commanding the Army of Northern Virginia, to Richmond. Lee, who had resisted taking the job, expected to be ordered to take it. As such, he wrote to Major General Jeb Stuart before leaving, “My heart and thoughts will always be with this army.”

Lee left his headquarters for Richmond, where he took up residence in a home his wife rented on Leigh Street. There Lee learned that their Arlington, Virginia, home had been confiscated by Federal authorities under a law passed on February 6 allowing for property seizure if the owner was delinquent in taxes. This was meant to confiscate the property of Confederates such as Lee, who no longer paid taxes to the Federal government.

When Lee met with Davis, they discussed the military situation for nearly a week. During this time, Davis ruled out several candidates for the Army of Tennessee command, such as Adjutant General Samuel Cooper, General P.G.T. Beauregard, and Lee himself. This left just one more full general to consider–Joseph E. Johnston, currently commanding the Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana at Brandon, Mississippi.

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

Johnston had disliked Davis ever since the president ranked him fourth on the list of full Confederate generals early in the war. The men had consistently disagreed over military strategy, with Davis favoring defending vital points in the South and Johnston favoring sacrificing vital points if it meant saving armies to fight another day. This disagreement climaxed earlier this year when Johnston refused to save Vicksburg.

Davis and Lee discussed Johnston’s strengths and weaknesses. Finally, during a dinner with the Davises, Lee announced that he supported placing Johnston in charge of the Army of Tennessee. Although Davis resisted, he noted that other high-ranking generals, including beloved Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk, had also called for Johnston to take over. Appointing Johnston might also appease Johnston’s political allies, including Texas Congressman Louis T. Wigfall and other anti-administration leaders.

Davis held a cabinet meeting on the 16th to discuss the situation. Secretary of War James A. Seddon believed that Johnston could boost the army’s sagging morale, while Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin argued that Johnston’s tendency to stay on the defensive would ruin an army that needed to go on offense now more than ever. As the discussion progressed, most cabinet members gradually shifted to favoring Johnston, and Davis reluctantly agreed.

Davis telegraphed Johnston at Brandon: “You will turn over the immediate command of the Army of Mississippi to Lieutenant General Polk and proceed to Dalton and assume command of the Army of Tennessee… A letter of instructions will be sent to you at Dalton.”

Johnston would inherit a once-proud army that had become a demoralized throng. Desertions were so common that Bragg, prior to relinquishing command, had directed troops to patrol their own comrades rather than guard against the enemy. The command structure was in shambles, with one corps without a commander due to Hardee’s promotion and another tentatively led by Major General Thomas C. Hindman (after Major General John C. Breckinridge left due to charges of drunkenness on duty). Having once boasted 66,000 men, the army now had just 43,094 effectives.

The day after Davis appointed Johnston, Hardee reported that the army was in such poor condition that it was “necessary to avoid a general action.” If the Federals, currently at Chattanooga, moved to confront him, Hardee stated that “a retrograde movement becomes inevitable.” Hardee continued:

“The question of supplies, both for men and animals, presents a source of infinite trouble. This will be still more complicated by a retrograde movement from this point. Our deficiency of supplies would become aggravated to an alarming extent. I am inclined to think that forces are disposed from Mississippi to North Carolina, along different localities, which, if concentrated, would swell the ranks of this command very largely.”

Seddon tried to downplay Hardee’s report in his instructions to Johnston, writing:

“It is apprehended the army may have been by recent events somewhat disheartened and deprived of ordnance and material. Your presence, it is hoped, will do much to inspire hope and re-establish confidence, and through such influence, as well as by the active exertions you are recommended to make, men who have straggled may be recalled to their standards, and others, roused by the danger to which further successes of the enemy must expose the more southern States, may be encouraged to recruit the ranks of your army.”

Through “vigorous efforts,” the government expected Johnston to restore “the discipline, confidence, and prestige of the army,” as well as “its deficiencies in ordnance, numbers and transportation.”

Seddon then turned to the issue of farmers and state governors refusing to cooperate with central government demands to turn over their crops and supplies for the war effort. He warned that Johnston would “find deficiencies and have serious difficulties in providing the supplies required for the subsistence of the army… the discontents of producers and the opposition of State authorities to the system of impressments established by the law of Congress have caused” these difficulties.

To combat this, Johnston was authorized to use “all means to obtain supplies from the productive States,” and “to rouse among the people and authorities a more willing spirit to part with the means of subsistence for the army that defends them.”

Regarding the Federals controlling Tennessee, “It is not desirable they should be allowed to do so with impunity, and as soon as the condition of your forces will allow it is hoped you will be able to assume the offensive. Inactivity, it is feared, may cause the spirit of despondence to recur and the practice of straggling and desertion to increase.”

However, Seddon ultimately left it to Johnston’s “experience and judgment… to form and act on your own plans of military operations,” and he assured “the fullest disposition on the part of the Department to sustain and co-operate with them.”

The next day, Davis wrote Johnston, advising in part, “The difficulties of your new position are realized and the Government will make every possible effort to aid you…” However, what little aid the Confederate government could provide was rapidly dwindling.

—–

References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government: All Volumes (Heraklion Press, Kindle Edition 2013, 1889), Loc 20705-14; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 353; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), p. 887; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 384; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 6557-69, 6581; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 447-48; 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), Q463

The Partisan Ranger Act

April 21, 1862 – The Confederate Congress approved a measure authorizing the organization of guerrilla forces to help combat the Federal invasion.

The 1st Confederate National Flag | Image Credit: RussellHarrison.com

The 1st Confederate National Flag | Image Credit: RussellHarrison.com

Since the war began, partisan rangers (i.e., guerrillas) had operated throughout the Confederacy, but the Confederate government did not officially consider them to be legitimate military units. According to Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin, “Guerrilla companies are not recognized as part of the military organization of the Confederate States, and cannot be authorized by this department.”

However, the tremendous Federal manpower advantage, along with the deepening Federal thrusts into Confederate territory, prompted the government to look for new ways to motivate military enrollment. Virginia had taken the lead the previous month by approving a law creating at least 10 companies of “rangers and scouts” to operate against Federal occupation forces within the state and “give the greatest annoyance to the enemy.”

The Confederate Congress finally approved the Partisan Ranger Act, which consisted of three provisions:

  1. The president could grant commissions to officers to recruit men for partisan companies, battalions, and regiments; those recruited would be subject to presidential approval
  2. The partisans would receive the same uniforms and pay as regular soldiers, and they would be granted rations and other allowances in the same allotments as regular soldiers
  3. The partisans would be compensated by the government for any Federal arms or ammunition that they captured and delivered to the Confederate quartermaster

Within five months of this law’s passage, the Confederate War Department reported that six partisan regiments, nine battalions, and 24 companies had begun operations in various areas of the Confederacy under Federal occupation, including Virginia and the coastal regions. John H. McNeill and John S. Mosby were among the most prominent of the partisan leaders.

This law did stimulate recruitment as hoped. But it encouraged more men to join the irregular units and not the armies, thus ensuring that the armies would continue experiencing manpower shortages.

—–

References

Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 141; Jones, Virgil Carrington (Pat), Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 561; Time-Life Editors, Spies, Scouts and Raiders: Irregular Operations (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 107-08; Wikipedia: Partisan Ranger Act

“Stonewall” Jackson Resumes Command

February 4, 1862 – Virginia Governor John Letcher dispatched Congressman Alexander Boteler to Winchester to persuade Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson to withdraw his resignation from the Confederate army.

Major General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

The day after Jackson submitted his request to either return to the Virginia Military Institute or resign from the army, Boteler, representing a district in the Shenandoah Valley, stormed into the office of Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin with the letter in hand. When Boteler protested the order prompting Jackson’s letter, Benjamin sent him to President Jefferson Davis.

Boteler showed Jackson’s letter to Davis, who said, “I’ll not accept it, sir!” The congressman then met with Letcher, who had not yet received Jackson’s request to help him get his job back at V.M.I. Enraged, Letcher publicly berated Benjamin and his staff and demanded that the secretary not accept Jackson’s resignation. Benjamin agreed. Letcher then sent Boteler to Winchester.

Meanwhile, General Joseph E. Johnston, Jackson’s superior, received his message of January 31 and a second message from Jackson asking Johnston to countermand Benjamin’s order. Johnston, who did not want to lose such a valuable officer, waited a few days before finally forwarding both messages to the War Department. During that time, Johnston wrote a personal letter to Jackson pleading with him to reconsider.

Acknowledging that Jackson was right to resent such an order, Johnston explained that he too had experienced difficulties in dealing with the administration. Nevertheless, “The danger in which our very existence as an independent people lies requires sacrifices from us all who have been educated as soldiers.” He assured Jackson that he was writing “not merely from warm feelings of personal regard, but from the official opinion which makes me regard you as necessary to the service of the country in your present position.”

In forwarding Jackson’s messages to Benjamin, Johnston added a note to the resignation letter stating that he did not “know how the loss of this officer can be supplied.” Johnston also added a note to the second message: “Respectfully forwarded to the Secretary of War, whose orders I cannot countermand.”

Boteler arrived at Jackson’s headquarters on February 6. By that time, Jackson had received many letters from supporters urging him to remain army commander, but he was still determined to resign. Boteler pleaded with Jackson to reconsider; Jackson agreed only if he could be assured that politicians “sitting at a desk 300 miles away” would not interfere with him.

Unable to give such an assurance, the congressman instead told Jackson that he had an obligation as a Virginian to defend his home state. Jackson angrily countered that he and his family had made great sacrifices in this war, and he would always be ready to defend Virginia “even if it be as a private in the ranks.” Eventually Jackson calmed down and realized, “If the Valley is lost, Virginia is lost.” He agreed to withdraw his resignation.

Jackson wrote to Governor Letcher explaining his decision. Still disagreeing with Benjamin’s order, he added that “if the Secretary persists in the ruinous policy complained of, I feel that no officer can serve his country better than by making his strongest possible protest against it, which, in my opinion, is done by tendering his resignation, rather than be a willful instrument in prosecuting the war upon a ruinous principle.”

His statement notwithstanding, Jackson retained his army command, and Benjamin indirectly withdrew his earlier orders. This became a moot point a day later when Federal forces reclaimed Romney, the object of Jackson’s January campaign. Benjamin settled the feud between Jackson and Brigadier General William W. Loring by promoting Loring to major general and transferring him to a command in southwestern Virginia. The secretary received intense criticism for his role in this affair.

—–

References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com (multiple dates); Clark, Champ, Decoying the Yanks: Jackson’s Valley Campaign (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 58-59; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 122; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 224; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 103; Longacre, Edward G., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 740-41; Smith, Dean E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 538; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 447-48

“Stonewall” Jackson Resigns

January 30, 1862 – An order from Confederate Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin prompted Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson to submit his resignation from the Confederate army.

Maj Gen "Stonewall" Jackson | Image Credit: SonoftheSouth.net

Maj Gen “Stonewall” Jackson | Image Credit: SonoftheSouth.net

As Jackson’s superiors received word of the privations suffered by his men at Romney, they questioned the wisdom of keeping them there. Jackson’s superior, General Joseph E. Johnston, sent him a message before even learning of the hardships the troops faced, denying his request for reinforcements and urging him to concentrate his army “to oppose an enemy coming from Harper’s Ferry, Williamsport, or the northwest.” Johnston further opined that it was “imprudent… to keep your troops dispersed as they now are… The enemy might not only prevent your concentrating, but interpose himself between us, which we must never permit.”

On January 29, Johnston received the letter written by Benjamin asking him to look into the rumors about mistreatment in Jackson’s army. Johnston, who knew nothing of this beforehand, responded:

“Without being entirely certain that I understand the precise object of apprehension in the Valley District, I have dispatched the acting inspector general of the department to see and report without delay the condition of Major-General Jackson’s troops.”

That same day, Brigadier General William B. Taliaferro, a brigade commander in Brigadier General William W. Loring’s army at Romney, arrived at Richmond to deliver the protest against Jackson signed by 12 officers. Taliaferro met with President Davis, who had already heard rumors of immense suffering at Jackson’s hands. Davis legitimized Taliaferro’s breaking the chain of command by accepting the petition. Davis then asked to meet with Secretary of War Benjamin:

“It will be necessary to act promptly. Have you been notified of the return of General Jackson to Winchester and the withdrawal of the brigade with which he undertook the service from which he is reported to have retired, leaving only those who were sent to re-enforce him? Will confer with you at your pleasure.”

The men met the next day. Based on the accounts of suffering they had heard, along with rumors of a Federal effort to separate Jackson at Winchester from Loring at Romney, Davis directed Benjamin to telegraph Jackson that evening: “Our news indicates that a movement is being made to cut off General Loring’s command. Order him back to Winchester immediately.”

The rumors turned out to be false. Brigadier General Frederick Lander commanded Federal forces at Cumberland, Maryland, and although he knew that Loring was isolated and wanted badly to attack him, his superiors had ordered him to maintain a defensive posture along the Potomac River.

Jackson was shocked and outraged upon receiving Benjamin’s order on the morning of the 31st. It breached military protocol because not only should such an order have come from Johnston and not Benjamin, but it revealed that Loring had gone over his head to Richmond. Even worse, Jackson knew that rumors of Federals advancing to cut him off from Loring were false. He had considered his Romney campaign a success, and he expected Loring to hold that town as part of a larger plan to retake western Virginia. This order questioned not only his authority, but his competence as a commander.

Adhering to military guidelines, Jackson issued orders for Loring’s forces to abandon Romney and return to Winchester. This left his forward units at Bath unprotected, and they soon withdrew as well. Jackson then replied to Benjamin:

“Your order requiring me to direct General Loring to return with his command to Winchester immediately has been received and promptly complied with.

“With such interference in my command I cannot expect to be of much service in the field, and accordingly respectfully request to be ordered to report for duty to the superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute at Lexington, as has been done in the case of other professors. Should this application not be granted, I respectfully request that the President will accept my resignation from the Army. I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant, T. J. JACKSON, Major-General.”

The response was sent through Johnston, who received it the next day. Jackson then wrote to Virginia Governor John Letcher, asking for his help to return to the teaching job at V.M.I. he had held before the war. The controversy over losing such a valuable commander continued into next month.

—–

References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com (multiple dates); Clark, Champ, Decoying the Yanks: Jackson’s Valley Campaign (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 58-59; Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government (Kindle Edition 2008, 1889), Loc 8053; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 118-19; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 224; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 103; Longacre, Edward G., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 740-41; Smith, Dean E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 538; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 447-48

Beauregard Gets Shipped West

January 26, 1862 – President Jefferson Davis finally succeeded in transferring one of his biggest critics, General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, from Virginia to the Western Theater.

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

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

Beauregard’s victories at Fort Sumter and Bull Run the previous year had made him the Confederacy’s top military hero. But since then, he had become restless as General Joseph E. Johnston’s second-in-command in northern Virginia. Moreover, he had run afoul of the Davis administration.

Davis’s refusal to approve his plan to invade the North in October enraged him, and Beauregard’s official report on the Battle of Bull Run released in November angered Davis in return. Since then, Davis had worked to transfer Beauregard away from the seat of Confederate government at Richmond.

After submitting a revised version of Beauregard’s report to the Confederate Congress (complete with annotations and corrections defending himself), Davis arranged for administration officials to offer Beauregard a position as second-in-command to General Albert Sidney Johnston in Department No. 2 (i.e., west of the Alleghenies). It was hinted that Beauregard could take command of the Confederate army at Columbus, Kentucky, currently led by Major General Leonidas Polk, and help A.S. Johnston defend against the Federal military buildup in Kentucky and Tennessee.

Congressman Roger Pryor, a Beauregard supporter, urged him to accept the transfer. Pryor said that more progress could be made in the West than in Virginia because A.S. Johnston had up to 70,000 men in his department (in reality, Johnston had no more than 45,000). Beauregard thought it over and agreed to go if he received a written pledge that he could return to Virginia after helping A.S. Johnston win in the West. Then, backing off the written pledge condition, Beauregard wrote on the 23rd:

“I am a soldier of the cause and of my country, ready, at this juncture and during this war, to do duty cheerfully wheresoever placed by the constituted authorities; but I must admit that I would be most reluctant to disassociate my fortunes from those of this army, and unwilling to be permanently separated from men to whose strong personal attachment for and confidence in me I shall not affect blindness. In view, however, of the season, and of the bad condition of the country for military operations, I should be happy to be used elsewhere, if my services are considered at all necessary for the public good, whether on the Mississippi or at any other threatened point of the Confederate States.”

Confederate General Robert Toombs urged Beauregard not to accept the transfer for two reasons. First, the “line of the Potomac is by far the most important in the contest. It is at that point, by strong and energetic movements, we will be compelled to disentangle ourselves from our present difficulties. I consider your presence there as of the highest possible importance to the success of these movements.” Second, “once away, you would not, in my opinion, be ordered back” despite any written guarantees to the contrary.

Beauregard shared Toombs’s warning with Pryor, who responded on the 24th: “Don’t think Toombs’s objections valid… May I tell President you will go? Say go.” Beauregard wrote back to Pryor the next day: “Yes, I will go. May God protect our cause.” Pryor, who had assured Beauregard that A.S. Johnston had 70,000 men, also promised to arrange for Beauregard to receive even more men upon arriving at his new command. Beauregard, still awaiting official orders, agreed to be transferred based on these empty promises.

Beauregard notified his current superior, J.E. Johnston: “I have received a telegram from Pryor which says I must go temporarily to Columbus. Much fear is entertained of the Mississippi Valley. I have authorized him to say Yes. I will be back here as soon as possible.”

The official orders arrived on January 26, transferring Beauregard from the Potomac District within the Department of Northern Virginia to Kentucky as A.S. Johnston’s second-in-command. Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin officially notified J.E. Johnston that he could be losing his chief subordinate, but he did not indicate that Beauregard would eventually return. As far as the Davis administration was concerned, Beauregard might be stationed out west permanently.

—–

References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com (multiple dates); Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 117; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 102; Lindsey, David, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 598; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 163; 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. 367; 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), Loc 43689-94