The Civil War This Week: Feb 23-Mar 1, 1865

February 24, 2015 Leave a comment

Thursday, February 23

Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard issued a proclamation urging the residents of Charlotte, North Carolina to volunteer their slave labor to “destroy and obstruct” roads to the city. Beauregard feared that Major General William T. Sherman’s Federal Army of the West would follow up the fall of Wilmington with an attack on Charlotte. However, Sherman only intended a feint toward Charlotte while instead joining Major John M. Schofield’s Federals to the east. As Sherman’s Federals moved closer to North Carolina from the south, heavy rains began causing delays.

Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston received orders to command all troops in Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas, as well as the Army of Tennessee. Johnston was to “concentrate all available forces and drive back Sherman.” President Jefferson Davis opposed Johnston’s reinstatement, but Johnston reluctantly accepted the command. General-in-Chief Robert E. Lee told Davis that Confederate forces in South Carolina were scattered, “but by diligence & boldness they can be united.” Lee expressed confidence in Johnston’s ability to unite them.

Lee responded to Beauregard’s “grand proposal” submitted two days ago. Beauregard had proposed that the Confederacy concentrate 35,000 men to defeat Sherman in North Carolina, then march north to defeat U.S. General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant in Virginia, and then invade Washington to force peace negotiations. Lee stated, “The idea is good, but the means are lacking.”

Grant wrote to Congressman Elihu Washburne of Illinois, “Everything looks like the dissolution of the South. A few more days of success with Sherman will put us where we can crow loud.”

Minnesota ratified the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery. A Federal expedition took place from Yorktown to West Point, Virginia. Other Federal scouts began from Salem and Licking in Missouri.

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Friday, February 24

Robert E. Lee wrote to the Confederate War Department expressing concern about the “alarming number of desertions that are now occurring in the army.”

A Federal scout began from Helena, Arkansas. Skirmishing occurred among William T. Sherman’s Federals in South Carolina under heavy rain. Other skirmishing occurred in Missouri.

Saturday, February 25

Joseph E. Johnston reported to Charlotte and assumed command of all troops in the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, and the Army of Tennessee. He began gathering the scattered forces, but he informed Robert E. Lee that he could only muster 25,000 men: “In my opinion, these troops form an army far too weak to cope with Sherman.” He proposed joining forces with Confederate General Braxton Bragg in North Carolina.

Skirmishing occurred in South Carolina and Kentucky.

Sunday, February 26

A portion of Sherman’s Federal army reached Hanging Rock, South Carolina, but hard rain delayed other units.

A Federal expedition began from Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

Monday, February 27

Major General Philip Sheridan’s 10,000-man Federal army left Winchester, Virginia in a final southward advance through the Shenandoah Valley. Ulysses S. Grant had ordered Sheridan to destroy the Virginia Central Railroad and either join forces with William T. Sherman in North Carolina or return to Winchester. Opposing Sheridan was a meager Confederate force under General Jubal Early.

Skirmishing occurred in South Carolina, Georgia, and Missouri.

Tuesday, February 28

Skirmishing occurred in South Carolina.

Wednesday, March 1

Wisconsin ratified the Thirteenth Amendment, but New Jersey rejected it.

Federal expeditions began from Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Gravelly Springs, Alabama.

Philip Sheridan’s Federal cavalry skirmished near Mount Crawford, Virginia. William T. Sherman’s Federals skirmished at Wilson’s Store, South Carolina. Other skirmishing occurred in Tennessee.

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Primary Sources:

The Civil War This Week: Feb 16-22, 1865

February 17, 2015 Leave a comment

Thursday, February 16

Lead units of Major General William T. Sherman’s Federal Army of the West reached the Congaree River, across from the South Carolina capital of Columbia. Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard (commanding the region) informed General-in-Chief Robert E. Lee that the city’s fall could not be prevented. Confederate cavalry looted Columbia to feed the troops on the assumption that the Federals would pillage the city anyway.

By nightfall, Beauregard’s 10,000 Confederates withdrew toward Chester, leaving Confederates at Charleston vulnerable to attack. Confederate General William Hardee, commanding at Charleston, planned to evacuate that city and join Beauregard.

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Friday, February 17

Mayor T.J. Goodwyn surrendered Columbia to Federal troops. A white flag appeared on the City Hall steeple, bands played, flags waved, and Federal soldiers marched to Capitol square. Some gathered in the new state capitol building and held a mock session of the “state legislature.”

Cotton bales left by retreating Confederates began burning, and by nightfall, flames engulfed Columbia. Sherman blamed the Confederates for starting the blaze, but residents blamed drunken Federal troops, blacks, and released prisoners. Sherman stated, “Though I never ordered it, and never wished it, I have never shed any tears over it, because I believe that it hastened what we all fought for—the end of the war.”

Meanwhile, William Hardee began withdrawing Confederate forces from Charleston. Troops burned buildings, warehouses, storage facilities holding cotton, arsenals, railroad bridges, and shipyard vessels. The evacuation of Charleston necessitated the abandonment of Fort Sumter, which Confederates had defended against Federal conquest since the war began.

Saturday, February 18

The fires died down in Columbia after destroying two-thirds of the city or 84 of its 124 blocks. William T. Sherman added to the ruin by destroying all buildings, railroads, and material considered useful to the Confederate war effort. Columbia suffered the worst fate of any city in the war, and southerners viewed this as a symbol of Federal depredation and atrocity.

The Charleston mayor surrendered the city to Federal troops at 9 a.m. A northern reporter called it a “city of ruins–silent, mournful, in deepest humiliation… The band was playing ‘Hail, Columbia,’ and the strains floated through the desolate city, awakening wild enthusiasm in the hearts of the colored people…”

U.S. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton ordered “a national salute” fired from “every fort arsenal and army headquarters of the United States, in honor of the restoration of the flag of the Union upon Fort Sumter.” Most black Charlestonians welcomed the occupying Federal troops, while most white residents abandoned the city. Federals burned cotton bales and war supplies. The twin falls of Columbia and Charleston devastated the South, and regarding Fort Sumter, Confederate President Jefferson Davis acknowledged, “This disappointment to me is extremely bitter.”

Confederate General-in-Chief Robert E. Lee wrote to Secretary of War John C. Breckinridge, “I fear it may be necessary to abandon all our cities, and preparation should be made for this contingency.”

Radical Republicans in the U.S. Senate blocked a vote on admitting the reconstructed state of Louisiana to the U.S. The Radicals sought to impose a more punitive reconstruction plan on the conquered states instead of President Abraham Lincoln’s moderate policy.

Federal expeditions began from Prince William County and Camp Averell, Virginia. Skirmishing occurred in North Carolina and Kentucky.

Sunday, February 19

Federals advanced on the Confederate defenses west of the Cape Fear River in North Carolina. Confederates abandoned Fort Anderson under heavy fire from Admiral David D. Porter’s Federal fleet and some 8,000 Federal troops. This threatened Wilmington, the Confederacy’s last significant seaport city.

Robert E. Lee wrote to John C. Breckinridge, “(Sherman) seems to have everything his own way. I do not know where his (Beauregard’s) troops are, or on what lines they are moving… Should his strength give way, there is no one on duty in the department that could replace him, nor have I anyone to send there. Genl (Joseph E.) Johnston is the only officer whom I know who has the confidence of the army and the people, and if he was ordered to report to me I would place him there on duty…”

Monday, February 20

Two Federal armies now advanced on North Carolina: Major General John Schofield’s from Tennessee and William T. Sherman’s from South Carolina. Federals outflanked Confederate defenders west of the Cape Fear River, leaving Wilmington open for conquest.

U.S. General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant assigned Major General Philip Sheridan to close the potential escape route for Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia from Petersburg and Richmond. Sheridan was to leave the Shenandoah Valley, wreck railroads supplying Lee’s army, then join William T. Sherman’s Federals in North Carolina.

President Lincoln wrote to Governor Thomas C. Fletcher of Missouri that although there was no organized Confederate military in the state, “destruction of property and life is rampant every where.” Lincoln called for citizens to control the situation.

The Confederate House of Representatives approved recruiting slaves as soldiers after long debate. Robert E. Lee supported this plan, arguing that blacks could be just as good soldiers as whites if induced into enlisting with the promise of freedom after their service. This could also counter the international view of northerners as liberators. Slaveholders had long tried stopping this measure from passing, even though only about 250,000 southerners actually owned slaves.

Federal expeditions began from Nashville and Greeneville, Tennessee. Skirmishing occurred in Florida and Missouri.

Tuesday, February 21

Confederate General Braxton Bragg (commanding in North Carolina) ordered the evacuation of Wilmington as numerically superior Federal forces closed in. The Confederates destroyed or transferred most of their supplies before slipping away under fire.

President Davis wrote to Mobile newspaper editor John Forsyth, “It is now becoming daily more evident to all reflecting persons that we are reduced to choosing whether the negroes shall fight for us or against us…” The Confederate Senate delayed debate on the House-passed bill recruiting slaves as soldiers.

Robert E. Lee shared a plan with John C. Breckinridge to abandon Petersburg and Richmond if necessary. Under the plan, Lee’s army would move westward toward Burkeville and link with other Confederate armies in the South.

P.G.T. Beauregard shared a plan with Davis and Lee: “I earnestly urge a concentration of at least 35,000 infantry and artillery at (Salisbury, North Carolina), if possible, to give him battle there, and crush him, then to concentrate all forces against Grant, and then to march to Washington and dictate a peace…” Meanwhile, Lee requested that Joseph E. Johnston report for command in the Carolinas due to rumors of Beauregard’s failing health.

Lee wrote to his wife, expecting Ulysses S. Grant “to move against us soon,” and William T. Sherman in South Carolina and John Schofield in North Carolina “are both advancing & seem to have everything their own way…” Nevertheless, he vowed “to fight to the last.”

The 55th Massachusetts, a black regiment, received a joyous welcome to Charleston by the city’s black residents. Most white citizens had abandoned the city.

Confederate Lieutenant General James Longstreet and Federal Major General E.O.C. Ord met between the Petersburg lines to discuss picket fraternization and prisoner exchange. The talks turned to overall peace, with Ord suggesting that since the Hampton Roads conference had failed, then perhaps the generals could negotiate an end to the war. Longstreet brought the proposition to Lee, who forwarded it to Richmond. Ord brought the proposition to Grant, who forwarded it to Washington.

Confederate guerrillas raided the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and captured Major General George Crook (recently promoted to command the Federal Department of West Virginia) and his top subordinate, Brigadier General B.F. Kelley at Cumberland, Maryland. The generals were exchanged through special arrangement with Lincoln administration officials, and the event became an embarrassment to the U.S.

A Federal expedition began from Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Skirmishing occurred in Maryland and Florida.

Wednesday, February 22

Federals entered Wilmington without opposition after John Schofield’s successful two-pronged attack. Federal losses since 11 February numbered 200 while they captured 66 pieces of light and heavy artillery. Some 8,000 Confederates withdrew toward North Carolina’s interior. Capturing Wilmington was intended to open another base of supply for operations against Richmond. This also freed Schofield to join William T. Sherman for a northward march across the Roanoke River, the last strong defensive line south of the Appomattox River in Virginia.

Robert E. Lee issued official orders assigning Joseph E. Johnston to command the Confederate Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, as well as the Department of Tennessee and Georgia. Lee and the Confederate Congress had insisted on Johnston’s reinstatement over President Davis’s objections. The Confederacy now had formidable leaders in the Carolinas in Johnston, P.G.T. Beauregard, William Hardee, Wade Hampton, and Braxton Bragg. But they lacked men.

William T. Sherman’s forces continued advancing toward North Carolina with fighting at several points. Sherman appeared to be moving toward Charlotte, but it was just a feint; his real target was Goldsboro farther east.

Robert E. Lee wrote to James Longstreet that if forced to withdraw through Amelia Court House to Burkeville, the Army of Northern Virginia could perhaps strike Grant or Sherman before they could unite.

Lee wrote to Davis that any attempt to “unite with (Johnston) in a blow against Sherman” would “necessitate the abandonment of our position on the James River, for which contingency every preparation should be made.”

Tennessee voters approved the new state constitution, which included abolishing slavery and repudiating all Confederate debts. Kentucky rejected the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery. Operations occurred in Arkansas and Florida.

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Primary Sources:

The Civil War This Week: Feb 9-15, 1865

February 9, 2015 Leave a comment

Thursday, February 9

Major General William T. Sherman’s Federal advance into South Carolina continued, as Major General Henry Slocum’s wing crossed the Salkehatchie River and fighting erupted at several points. Although Sherman’s goal was Columbia, the editor of the South Carolinian in that city assured readers there was “no real tangible cause” for worrying the Federals would target Columbia.

Major General Quincy A. Gillmore replaced Major General John G. Foster as commander of the Federal Department of the South. Major General John Schofield was given command of the Federal Department of North Carolina. Schofield’s forces were advancing from Tennessee to Wilmington, North Carolina where they were to join with Sherman’s Army of the West.

Confederate General Robert E. Lee assumed the role of general-in-chief; he issued a general order stating he would rely on field commanders and that manpower was of supreme importance. He proposed to pardon all deserters if they returned to their ranks within 30 days.

A mass meeting took place at the African Church in Richmond to boost southern morale. Robert M.T. Hunter, who had attended last week’s Hampton Roads conference, declared that U.S. President Abraham Lincoln had “turned from propositions of peace with cold insolence.” Secretary of State Judah Benjamin called on slaveholders to provide 20,000 slaves as soldiers to prove their loyalty to the Confederacy. President Jefferson Davis boasted that “Sherman’s march through Georgia would be his last” and predicted the Federals would seek peace terms by summer. The massive crowd cheered approval.

The pro-U.S. Virginia legislature ratified the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery. A Federal expedition began from Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee.

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Friday, February 10

In South Carolina, fighting increased at Charleston, where Confederates under General William Hardee defended against a portion of William T. Sherman’s advancing column as well as Federal naval forces in the harbor. Meanwhile, Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard established headquarters at Columbia. Learning that Federals had wrecked the railroad connecting Charleston and Augusta, Beauregard wired General D.H. Hill to abandon Augusta and bring his troops to Columbia.

All troops in the Federal Departments of Kentucky and the Cumberland were placed under command of Major General George Thomas, except for posts protecting the Mississippi River.

President Lincoln reported the results of the Hampton Roads conference to Congress. Radicals expressed relief that Lincoln did not give up emancipation as a condition of peace, and most members of Congress praised Lincoln for standing firm.

Confederate Captain Raphael Semmes was promoted to rear admiral and given command of the James River Squadron.

Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens left Richmond for his home at Crawfordville, Georgia. Effectively resigning, Stephens said he would “neither make any speech, nor even make known to the public in any way of the general condition of affairs, but quietly abide the issue of fortune.”

The legislatures of Ohio and Missouri ratified the Thirteenth Amendment. Federal expeditions began from Brashear City and Thibodeaux, Louisiana. Skirmishing occurred in Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Georgia.

Saturday, February 11

William T. Sherman’s advancing Federals divided the Confederate defenders between Charleston on the east and Augusta on the west, with fighting erupting at several points. Confederates abandoned Branchville as Federals wrecked the railroad between Branchville and Charleston.

President Davis wrote William Hardee expressing optimism that if the troops could concentrate, they could repel Sherman from Charleston. However, P.G.T. Beauregard favored evacuating Charleston because the Confederacy could not afford to lose Hardee’s army. They were still unaware that Sherman only feigned an attack on Charleston while truly targeting Columbia.

Robert E. Lee issued a general order pardoning all deserters who returned to the ranks within 20 days. The order included an address to Confederate troops declaring the choice had narrowed “between war and abject submission,” and “to such a proposal brave men with arms in their hands can have but one answer… Let us then oppose constancy to adversity, fortitude to suffering, and courage to danger, with the firm assurance that He who gave freedom to our fathers will bless the efforts of their children to preserve it.”

A Federal expedition began from Bermuda Hundred, Virginia. Skirmishing occurred in Arkansas and Virginia.

Sunday, February 12

Congress confirmed the northern votes cast by the electoral college in the presidential election of last November and declared President Lincoln the winner with 212 votes against George B. McClellan’s 21.

President Lincoln expressed concern that provost marshals in Missouri were selling confiscated property. A Federal expedition began from Forts Riley and Larned, Kansas. Skirmishing occurred in Missouri, Arkansas, and Alabama.

Monday, February 13

Robert E. Lee rejected a petition signed by Vice President Stephens and 17 prominent Confederate senators to reinstate Joseph E. Johnston as commander of the Army of Tennessee. Lee asserted, “The three corps of that army have been ordered to South Carolina and are now under the command of Genl Beauregard. I entertain a high opinion of Genl Johnston’s capacity, but think a continual change of commanders is very injurious to any troops and tends greatly to their disorganization…”

A west Tennessee group expressed objections to military interference in civil affairs. President Lincoln told officers in the region that “the object of the war being to restore and maintain the blessings of peace and good government, I desire you to help, not hinder, every advance in that direction.”

In London, Foreign Minister Lord John Russell protested to U.S. commissioners against the St. Albans raid of 19 October 1864, its aftermath in Canada, and activity on the Great Lakes. A Federal expedition began from Camp Russell, Virginia. Skirmishing occurred in Florida and Missouri.

Tuesday, February 14

William T. Sherman’s Federals crossed the Congaree River and turned more toward Columbia “without wasting time or labor on Branchville or Charleston,” as Sherman reported. Fighting erupted at several points.

President Davis again urged William Hardee to hold Charleston if possible, but left the final decision to Hardee and P.G.T. Beauregard. Arriving at Charleston, Beauregard persuaded Hardee to evacuate before preparing written orders and returning to Columbia this evening.

A Federal expedition began from Donaldsonville, Louisiana.

Wednesday, February 15

William T. Sherman’s Federals approached Columbia and prepared to cross the Congaree River as residents began evacuating the city. Despite inclement weather, high waters, and Confederate resistance, the Federals had advanced an average of 10 miles per day since launching their offensive from Georgia.

William Hardee informed P.G.T. Beauregard that President Davis had urged him to hold Charleston if possible. Beauregard wired peremptory orders for Hardee to evacuate before it was too late.

Delegates at the Missouri constitutional convention voted 29 to 19 in favor of drafting a new state constitution aimed at excluding voters opposed to the abolitionist party. Federal expeditions began from Nashville, Tennessee and Fairfax Court House, Virginia.

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Primary Sources:

The Civil War This Week: Feb 2-8, 1865

February 2, 2015 Leave a comment

Thursday, February 2

As peace talks between U.S. and Confederate officials off Fort Monroe, Virginia faltered, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln wired General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant: “Say to the (Confederate) gentlemen I will meet them personally at Fortress Monroe as soon as I can get there.” Lincoln arrived this evening and boarded the steamer River Queen, where Secretary of State William H. Seward had established headquarters.

Major General William T. Sherman’s Federal forces continued advancing into South Carolina, fighting with small Confederate bands and struggling through the rivers and swamps. Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard held a council of war at Augusta, Georgia to determine how to stop Sherman. Beauregard decided to take command of Confederates at Charleston, while Generals William Hardee and D.H. Hill would take command at Columbia and Augusta, respectively.

Rhode Island and Michigan ratified the Thirteenth Amendment.

Federals operated against Native Americans in the Colorado and Nebraska territories. Skirmishing occurred in Florida.

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Friday, February 3

President Lincoln and Secretary of State Seward met with the three Confederate envoys without secretaries in the salon of River Queen off Hampton Roads, Virginia. The men shared memories of each other before the war, and then Lincoln provided his three conditions for peace. The envoys suggested joining forces to expel the French from Mexico, but Lincoln insisted that no alliance could be made with the Confederacy because his administration did not recognize it as a sovereign country. Lincoln also refused calling an armistice unless the southern states returned to the Union.

Lincoln promised lenient terms if the Confederacy surrendered, including the liberal issuance of pardons. Regarding slavery, Lincoln insisted that the Thirteenth Amendment would not be withdrawn from state ratification, but he suggested compensating slaveholders for their loss up to 15 percent of the slaves’ 1860 value, which was about $400 million. Although the four-hour meeting was cordial, the Confederates refused Lincoln’s terms and the talks ended with no agreements made.

Maryland, New York, and West Virginia ratified the Thirteenth Amendment.

William T. Sherman’s Federal right wing advanced through swamps along the Salkehatchie River in South Carolina, clearing Confederate defenders along the way. Federal expeditions began from Fayette County, Missouri and Fort Larned, Kansas. Skirmishing occurred in Alabama and West Virginia.

Saturday, February 4

President Lincoln returned to Washington after the unsuccessful Hampton Roads conference and reported to his cabinet. Lincoln again told Ulysses S. Grant through Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton that “nothing transpired, or transpiring with the three gentlemen from Richmond, is to cause any change hindrance or delay, of your military plans or operations.”

Major General John Pope assumed command of the Federal Military Division of the Missouri.

William T. Sherman’s Federal left wing struggled to cross the Savannah River, with fighting along the way. Confederate President Jefferson Davis requested that P.G.T. Beauregard, commanding Confederates in Georgia, take overall command in the region and concentrate as many troops as possible.

A Federal expedition began from Winchester, Virginia. Skirmishing occurred in the Nebraska Territory.

Sunday, February 5

The Battle of Hatcher’s Run began outside Petersburg, Virginia when portions of the Federal Army of the Potomac advanced toward the Boydton Plank Road and Hatcher’s Run in a further effort to extend their siege lines southwest of Petersburg and weaken General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate defenses. At church in Petersburg, Lee was informed that President Davis would appoint him to become Confederate general-in-chief tomorrow.

In a cabinet meeting, President Lincoln introduced a plan to offer $400 million to the Confederate states if they stopped resisting Federal authority by April 1 and accepted the permanent abolition of slavery; the money would be used to compensate slaveholders for their loss. Cabinet members unanimously opposed this plan; Secretary of War Stanton argued that it was wasteful and unnecessary since the slaves had already been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation. Treasury Secretary William P. Fessenden asserted that the war must end by force of arms, not by bribing the enemy to quit. Disappointed, Lincoln relented and wrote on the back of the plan’s manuscript, “Feb. 5, 1865. Today these papers, which explain themselves, were drawn up and submitted to the Cabinet and unanimously disapproved by them. A. Lincoln.”

Monday, February 6

The Battle of Hatcher’s Run continued when Confederates moved to stop yesterday’s Federal advance;  Confederate Brigadier General John Pegram was killed in action. The Federals retained control of the Boydton Plank Road, but Confederate reinforcements prevented them from reaching Hatcher’s Run.

The Confederate peace envoys submitted their report on the informal Hampton Roads Conference of February 3 to President Davis, who in turn submitted it to the Confederate Congress. Davis told Senator Benjamin H. Hill, “Nothing less would be accepted than unconditional submission to the government and laws of the United States…” To Congress, Davis noted the Thirteenth Amendment and added, “the enemy refused to enter into negotiations with the Confederate States, or with any one of them separately, or to give our people any other terms or guaranties than those which the conqueror may grant…”

President Davis replaced James Seddon as secretary of war with Major General John C. Breckinridge, the former U.S. vice president. The Senate approved the appointment the same day. Robert E. Lee received orders to assume the duties of the general-in-chief of all Confederate armies in accordance with the act of Congress signed on January 23.

This evening, Virginia Governor William Smith held a meeting at Richmond’s Metropolitan Hall to condemn the treatment the Confederate envoys received at the Hampton Roads Conference. President Davis attended and delivered a speech.

William T. Sherman’s Federal troops fought at various points in South Carolina. Federal expeditions began from Ozark County, Missouri and Fairfax Court House, Virginia. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee.

Tuesday, February 7

The Battle of Hatcher’s Run ended as Federals abandoned their tenuous hold on the Boydton Plank Road and instead extended their lines along the Vaughan Road Crossing and Hatcher’s Run. This compelled Robert E. Lee to defend siege lines 37 miles long with only about 37,000 healthy men. In the fighting near Hatcher’s Run, Federals suffered 1,512 casualties while Confederates lost some 1,000, including General John Pegram.

Maine and Kansas ratified the Thirteenth Amendment. Delaware rejected the measure.

William T. Sherman continued moving through South Carolina with little resistance. Federal expeditions began from Morganza, Louisiana and on the Hernando Road in Tennessee.

Wednesday, February 8

President Lincoln signed a congressional joint resolution disqualifying the Confederate states from representation in the electoral college. However, Lincoln refused to share his opinion on the matter.

Robert E. Lee informed Secretary of War Breckinridge that his forces had fought for nearly 72 straight hours, including during “the most inclement day of the winter… Some of the men have been without meat for three days, and all are suffering from reduced rations and scant clothing, exposed to battle, cold, hail and sleet.” Lee warned, “Taking these facts in connection with the paucity of our numbers, you must not be surprised if calamity befalls us.”

Massachusetts and Pennsylvania ratified the Thirteenth Amendment.

William T. Sherman’s troops fought at various points as they continued advancing into South Carolina. Federals clashed with Natives in the Nebraska Territory. Federal expeditions began from Little Rock and Helena in Arkansas. Skirmishing occurred in Kentucky.

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Primary Sources:

The Civil War This Week: Jan 26-Feb 1, 1865

January 26, 2015 Leave a comment

Thursday, January 26

Confederate General Robert E. Lee reported to his superiors about an “alarming frequency of desertion from this army,” which continued enduring the siege of Petersburg and Richmond in Virginia. Lee also stated that the “ration is too small for men who have to undergo so much exposure and labor as ours.” The Confederates had a paltry food reserve because January rain had flooded the railroad supplying the troops.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis signed a bill into law creating a general-in-chief of all armies. Some expected Davis to veto the bill because it infringed on his duties as commander-in-chief, and Davis had objected to a portion of the original bill reinstating General Joseph E. Johnston to army command. But this revised bill did not specifically name Johnston, so Davis approved with the object of promoting Robert E. Lee to the new general-in-chief post.

Federal expeditions began from Pine Bluff, Arkansas; Plaquemine, Louisiana; and Memphis, Tennessee. Skirmishing occurred in South Carolina and Alabama.

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Friday, January 27

A tremendous fire devastated Savannah, Georgia, which was under Federal military occupation. The fire lasted 18 hours and destroyed 200 homes. Federals and Confederates blamed each other for starting the blaze, which caused much resentment among the residents.

A Federal expedition began from Fort Pinney, Arkansas, and skirmishing occurred in South Carolina and Alabama.

Saturday, January 28

Southern pressure for peace compelled President Davis to appoint three commissioners to hold informal talks with Federal authorities. The envoys were Vice President Alexander Stephens, former Confederate Secretary of State Robert M.T. Hunter, and former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John A. Campbell. Davis instructed them, “In conformity with the letter of Mr. Lincoln… you are requested to proceed to Washington City for informal conference with him upon the issues involved in the existing war, and for the purpose of securing peace to the two countries.”

Confederate Secretary of War James Seddon recommended to President Davis that Robert E. Lee be appointed general-in-chief in accordance with the law Davis had approved two days ago.

Federals operated against Native Americans in Kansas. Federal expeditions began from Bayou Goula, Louisiana and Strawberry Plains, Tennessee. Skirmishing occurred in South Carolina.

Sunday, January 29

The three Confederate peace envoys entered Federal lines at Petersburg under a flag of truce. Major General E.O.C. Ord, the ranking Federal commander, met the envoys and followed War Department instructions to keep them detained at the front lines due to their unexpected arrival.

Skirmishing occurred in South Carolina and Kentucky.

Monday, January 30

U.S. President Abraham Lincoln issued passes for the three Confederate peace envoys to go through the Federal lines to Fort Monroe, Virginia. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton sent a messenger to inform the envoys to await further word about talks.

Major General John Pope was given command of the new Federal Military Division of the Missouri, which was to oversee the separate Departments of Missouri and Kansas.

Federal expeditions began in Virginia and from Thibodeaux, Louisiana. Skirmishing occurred in Missouri, South Carolina, and Kentucky.

Tuesday, January 31

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a constitutional amendment abolishing slavery. Heated debate had occurred throughout this month; Republicans argued that slavery was morally wrong, while Democrats argued that the amendment would compromise the sanctity of states’ rights and upset the balance of power between the federal and state governments guaranteed in the Constitution.

Five Democrats changed their votes from rejection to approval, and they were politically rewarded by the Lincoln administration. The spectators in the galleries cheered the vote and Secretary of War Stanton ordered a 100-gun salute fired to commemorate the event. State legislatures soon began debating and voting on the amendment’s ratification.

President Davis recommended and the Confederate Senate promptly approved Robert E. Lee’s appointment to general-in-chief. Lee wrote to Davis, “I am indebted alone to the kindness of His Excellency the President for my nomination to this high and arduous office,” and thanked Davis for “your indulgence and kind consideration… If I can relieve you from a portion of the constant labor and anxiety which presses upon you, I shall be more than compensated for any present burdens.” The measure came too late to affect the war’s outcome.

President Lincoln sent Secretary of State William H. Seward to talk with the Confederate peace envoys at Fort Monroe. Lincoln instructed Seward to confer with the envoys “on the basis of my letter to F.P. Blair, Esq., on Jan. 18, 1865.” Seward was to demand three conditions for peace: “The restoration of the national authority… No receding, by the Executive of the United States on the Slavery question… No cessation of hostilities short of an end of the war.” The Confederate envoys had been instructed by President Davis to oppose abolition and Union restoration. Since the envoys had arrived at Petersburg two days ago, Federal General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant had returned from an inspection in North Carolina and given them safe conduct through the Federal lines, quartering them on the steamship Mary Martin near his City Point headquarters.

President Davis informed Robert E. Lee that troops were being pulled from the Trans-Mississippi District to oppose William T. Sherman’s Federals and, since Congress had not adopted his manpower recommendations, Davis asked Lee for suggestions “in this, our hour of necessity…”

Federal expeditions began from Morganza and Fort Pike, Louisiana.

Wednesday, February 1

William T. Sherman’s Federals began crossing the Savannah River into South Carolina. The two-pronged advance was to feint toward Charleston while actually targeting the state capital of Columbia. Opposing the Federals was a makeshift Confederate force of state militia, volunteers, and tired veterans under General William Hardee. The Confederate Army of Tennessee, now in Alabama, was also being rushed to help. Despite encountering heavier resistance and winter rains than in Georgia, Sherman’s men still advanced an average of 10 miles per day.

Early today, Ulysses S. Grant received a cipher from President Lincoln regarding the Confederate peace envoys: “Let nothing which is transpiring, change, hinder, or delay your Military movements, or plans.” Later, a War Department messenger arrived at City Point and informed the envoys they would not be allowed to negotiate until they acknowledge the Confederacy was not an independent country. However, Grant intervened and requested that U.S. officials talk with the envoys because “their intentions are good and their desire sincere to restore peace and union…” On his own authority, Grant told the envoys he would send them to Fort Monroe to talk with Secretary of State Seward tomorrow.

President Lincoln signed a congressional joint resolution submitting the proposed Thirteenth Amendment to the state legislatures for ratification. Illinois became the first state to ratify the amendment. Lincoln spoke to a crowd serenading him at the White House: “The occasion was one of congratulation to the country and to the whole world. But there is a task yet before us–to go forward and consummate by the votes of the States that which Congress so nobly began… this amendment is a King’s cure for all the evils. It winds the whole thing up.”

President Davis reluctantly accepted the resignation of Secretary of War James Seddon, who had faced intense criticism throughout the South during his tenure. A Virginia delegation had demanded the removal of all cabinet members, but Davis upheld his right to select his own cabinet. Seddon, a Virginian, took offense with his fellow Virginians grouping him with all other cabinet members in whom they had no confidence. Replacing Seddon was former U.S. Vice President and Confederate Major General John C. Breckinridge.

U.S. Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase admitted attorney John S. Rock to practice before the Supreme Court, making Rock the first black man to do so.

Federals operated against Natives in the Idaho Territory. Skirmishing occurred in Georgia, Missouri, and Florida.

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Primary Sources:

The Civil War This Week: Jan 19-25, 1865

January 19, 2015 Leave a comment

Thursday, January 19

At Savannah, Georgia, Federal Major General William T. Sherman issued marching orders for his army to begin the northward advance into South Carolina. The goal was to reach Goldsboro, North Carolina by March 15.

Sherman planned a feint against Charleston while attacking the state capital of Columbia. The Federals were especially anxious to invade South Carolina since it had been the first state to secede. Meanwhile, Confederate President Jefferson Davis frantically continued coordinating with Generals William Hardee, P.G.T. Beauregard, Richard Taylor, and Braxton Bragg to hurry Confederate troops into the state.

Federal General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant appointed President Abraham Lincoln’s son Robert as a captain and assistant adjutant-general on Grant’s staff. Lincoln had asked Grant to give his son a staff position, if available, as a personal favor. Robert’s main duties were escorting visitors to and from Grant’s City Point headquarters.

On his 58th birthday, Confederate General Robert E. Lee responded to President Davis’s query whether Lee would accept the position of general-in-chief of all Confederate armies: “I must state that with the addition of the immediate command of this army (the Army of Northern Virginia) I do not think I could accomplish any good. If I had the ability I would not have the time… I am willing to undertake any service to which you think proper to assign me, but I do not wish you to be misled as to the extent of my capacity.” However, southern pressure continued mounting on Davis to appoint Lee.

After meeting with Davis, Lee dispatched Confederate cavalry under Brigadier General Matthew Calbraith Butler to South Carolina, “with the understanding that it is to return to me in the spring in time for the opening of the campaign.”

Federal expeditions began from Myrtle Sound, North Carolina; Donaldsville, Louisiana; and Memphis, Tennessee. Skirmishing occurred in Mississippi.

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Friday, January 20

William T. Sherman’s advance units probed into South Carolina, encountering light resistance as they reached Beaufort, 40 miles beyond Port Royal Sound. The Federals occupied Pocotaligo, on the railroad about midway between Savannah and Charleston. The Federal left wing was held up by heavy rain in Savannah.

Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton reported to President Lincoln on his recent visit to Savannah and Fort Fisher.

Skirmishing occurred in Kansas.

Saturday, January 21

William T. Sherman paused at Hilton Head while moving his headquarters from Savannah to Beaufort, South Carolina. Federal troops left Savannah, leaving an occupation force behind. Sherman ignored War Department orders to force Confederate sympathizers out of the city because he did not want to enhance his reputation as a vandal. However, the Federal occupiers deported many families with Confederate ties after Sherman left.

A Federal expedition began from Brashear City, Louisiana.

Sunday, January 22

Prominent statesman Francis P. Blair, Sr. returned to Richmond to deliver President Lincoln’s letter of January 18 to President Davis. In the letter, Lincoln expressed interest in meeting with Confederate agents to discuss a possible peace. But the letters between Davis (“the two countries”) and Lincoln (“our one common country”) reflected the deadlock between the leaders in peace negotiations.

Skirmishing occurred in Arkansas.

Monday, January 23

The Confederate Congress passed a bill providing for appointment of a general-in-chief of all Confederate armies. Many expected President Davis to veto the bill because it not only removed the “commander in chief” title from him, but it also promoted Generals P.G.T. Beauregard and Joseph E. Johnston. Davis pondered whether to approve the bill.

Confederate General Richard Taylor assumed command of the Army of Tennessee, which had dwindled to about 17,000 men after the recent military disasters in Tennessee. A main portion of the army had been sent to the Carolinas to stop William T. Sherman.

A Federal expedition began from Cumberland Gap, Tennessee. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and Louisiana.

Tuesday, January 24

Ulysses S. Grant finally accepted a Confederate request to start a prisoner exchange system. Grant had declined earlier requests to deprive the South of manpower. He changed his position now that returning prisoners of war seemed unlikely to stop the Confederacy’s imminent defeat.

General Nathan Bedford Forrest assumed command of the Confederate District of Mississippi, East Louisiana, and West Tennessee. Forrest had just three cavalry divisions to defend this region.

President Lincoln informed Vice President-elect Andrew Johnson at Nashville that he should be in Washington for the inauguration ceremony on March 4.

President Davis conferred with Vice President Alexander Stephens for the first time since the Confederate government moved to Richmond in 1861. Davis showed him Lincoln’s letter from January 18 and asked his opinion. Stephens, an old friend of Lincoln’s, advised Davis to form a peace commission, “at least so far as to obtain if possible a conference on the subject.”

A Federal expedition began from Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Skirmishing occurred in Arkansas and Louisiana.

Wednesday, January 25

President Davis summoned John A. Campbell, Robert Hunter, and Vice President Stephens to inform them that they had been chosen to be peace commissioners, despite Stephens’s protest against being included. Campbell was a former U.S. Supreme Court justice and Confederate assistant secretary of war (the highest ranking member of the U.S. government to join the secession), Hunter was the Confederate Senate pro tem and former Confederate secretary of state and U.S. senator, and Stephens was a former U.S. congressman.

Davis issued the commissioners instructions: “In conformity with the letter of Mr. Lincoln… you are requested to proceed to Washington City for an informal conference with him upon the issues involved in the existing war, and for the purpose of securing peace to the two countries.”

Confederate cruiser Shenandoah reached Melbourne, Australia and later left for the northern Pacific to harass Federal whaling and fishing fleets.

William T. Sherman’s Federals scouted near Pocotaligo, South Carolina “to amuse the enemy.” A Federal expedition began from Irish Bottom, Tennessee. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and Kentucky.

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Primary Sources:

Honoring Lt Cmdr Edward Lea

January 15, 2015 Leave a comment

SUVCW-105This past Saturday, I was honored to have participated in a memorial service commemorating the 152nd anniversary of the Battle of Galveston, and especially the Federal commander who perished in the fight, Lieutenant Commander Edward Lea, USN.

The service was attended by members of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, Lt Cmdr Edward Lea Camp 2 from Houston, as well as members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, John B. Hood camp #50 from Galveston.

I am the shortest one, third from the right

I am the shortest one, third from the right

Being a member of the Sons of Union Veterans, my camp commander was gracious enough to loan me a coat, kepi, and rifle so that I could join the procession and memorial service with my comrades.

Also attending were members of the Ladies’ Auxiliary of the Sons of Union Veterans, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and the Masonic Harmony Lodge 6 of Galveston. The story of Edward Lea was presented, along with invocations. After the ceremony, the Masons kindly allowed us to use their lodge for our monthly meeting, during which we initiated new officers for our group.

Inducting the 2015 officers

Inducting the 2015 officers

I am very grateful to have been part of this solemn and important event.

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