The Background of the Fredericksburg Campaign

Initial movements to FredericksburgThe Fredericksburg campaign was one of the first campaigns to be fought in the winter. Now, Stonewall Jackson had maneuvered in the Shenandoah Valley during the winter but up to this point in the war no one had fought a full-fledged battle yet. The campaign took place from December 11 to December 15th 1862.

The Union Army was a massive force of some 114,000 men. They were positioned on the north side of the Rappahannock around the town of Falmouth. The army was commanded by Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside, who had succeeded Maj. Gen. George McClellan. He had been removed by President Lincoln after failing to aggressively pursue the defeated Confederates after the bloody Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862.

Burnside’s force was divided into three Grand Divisions plus a Reserve. The Army of the Potomac was comprised of 120,000 men, of whom 114,000 would be engaged in the coming battle:

Opposing the Union Army of the Potomac was the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, commanded by General Robert Robert E. Lee. His army had nearly 85,000 men, with 72,500 engaged. His organization of the army into corps was approved by an act of the Confederate Congress on November 6, 1862.

The two armies at Fredericksburg represented the largest number of armed men that ever confronted each other for combat during the Civil War.

Burnside’s plan called a crossing of the river using pontoon bridges. His original plan called for a crossing in mid-November but because of bureaucratic bungling the bridges didn’t arrive according to his plan. On November 14, the 50th New York Engineers reported the pontoons were ready to move, except for a lack of the 270 horses needed to move them. Unknown to Burnside, most of the bridging was still on the upper Potomac. Communications between Burnside’s staff engineer Cyrus B. Comstock and the Engineer Brigade commander Daniel P. Woodbury indicate that Burnside had assumed the bridging was en route to Washington based on orders given on November 6.

Meanwhile General Sumner strongly urged an immediate crossing of the river to scatter the token Confederate force of 500 men in the town and occupying the commanding heights to the west. Burnside became anxious, concerned that the increasing autumn rains would make the fording points unusable and that Sumner might be cut off and destroyed, ordering Sumner to wait in Falmouth.

Robert E. Lee in March 1861Meanwhile, the Confederate defenders arrived in force and fortified key positions above and around the town. By November 23, all of Longstreet’s corps had arrived and Lee placed them on the ridge known as Marye’s Heights to the west of town, with Anderson’s division on the far left, McLaws’s directly behind the town, and Pickett’s and Hood’s to the right.

He sent for Jackson on November 26, but his Second Corps commander had anticipated the need and began forced-marching his troops from Winchester on November 22, covering as many as 20 miles a day. Jackson arrived at Lee’s headquarters on November 29 and his divisions were deployed to prevent Burnside crossing downstream from Fredericksburg: D.H. Hill’s division moved to Port Royal, 18 miles down river; Early’s 12 miles down river at Skinker’s Neck; A.P. Hill’s at Thomas Yerby’s house, “Belvoir”, about 6 miles southeast of town; and Taliaferro’s along the RF&P Railroad, 4 miles south at Guinea Station.

The pontoons did not arrive until November 25th, much too late to steal a march on the Confederates. However, Burnside was only facing half of Lee’s army. He might have been able to attack Longstreet and defeat him before Jackson arrived. Once again he squandered his opportunity. The full complement of bridges arrived at the end of the month, but by this time Jackson was present and Longstreet was preparing strong defenses.

Thus, the stage was set for for a bloody winter battle.


Explosives by Gabriel Rains during the Civil War

The American Civil War generated many new technologies and inventions. Gabriel Rains was one such innovator.

A drawing done by Rains in the early 1860s illustrating Civil War torpedo technology. Image from the American Civil War Museum.

On June 17, 1864, Brigadier General Gabriel Rains was appointed chief of the newly created Torpedo Bureau of the Confederate army.

Born in New Bern in 1803, Rains graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1827. He began experimenting with mines, then called “torpedoes.” in 1839, during the Seminole War. At the outbreak of the Civil War he resigned his commission and offered his services to the Confederacy.

His younger brother, George Washington Rains, was also a brigadier general in the Georgia Militia, and the two were known as “the Bomb Brothers” for their creation and use of land mines, torpedoes, booby traps, and other explosives.

Rains was wounded during the Battle of Seven Pines, and was singled out by Maj. Gen. Daniel Harvey Hill for a successful flanking maneuver that turned the tide of battle in favor of the Confederates. Rains was then placed in command of the conscription and torpedo bureaus at Richmond.

Rains continued to develop his “infernal machines” for use on land and in waterways throughout the war. Many officers in both the Union and Confederate armies thought torpedoes constituted an improper form of warfare, but Rains defended his use of explosive devices as a means to discourage a night attack by an enemy, to defend a weak point of a line and to check enemy pursuit.

While in service in Richmond, Rains began to formulate plans for the torpedo defense of Confederate ports. Impressed with the plans, President Jefferson Davis directed him to put his plans into operation. Rains was first sent to Vicksburg, Mississippi, and then to Charleston, South Carolina and Mobile, Alabama.

Rains’s torpedoes were a great success, providing an effective deterrent to Union naval attack and sinking about 58 Union vessels in all.

Image from the Library of Congress

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The Last Confederate Surrenders

General Richard TaylorAfter the surrender of General Joseph E. Johnston to Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman at Bennett Place, North Carolina it became clear that it was just a matter of time that the remainder of the Confederate armies would surrender. Gen. Johnston’s surrender was the largest for the Southern armies with 89,270 soldiers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. His surrender was finalized on April 25, 1865.

Lt. General Richard Taylor was a brother-in-law of Jefferson Davis and also a son of President Zachary Taylor. He was given command of the Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana. After John Bell Hood’s disastrous campaign into Tennessee, Taylor was given command of the Army of Tennessee. Taylor had a total of only 12,000 men in his command.

With the closing of April 1865, knowing full well that all hope was lost for the Confederacy, Gen. Taylor agreed to meet with Union Maj. Gen. E.R.S. Canby for a conference a few miles north of Mobile, Alabama. After learning of the surrender of Lt. Gen. Robert E. Lee’s army near Appomattox, Virginia, Canby and Taylor established a truce on April 29th. Two days after the initial truce was established, Taylor received additional news which told of Maj. Gen. Johnston’s surrender to Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman in North Carolina, and of President Jefferson Davis’s capture in Georgia.

With pressure to broker a favorable peace for his army, Taylor elected to surrender rather than initiate a campaign of guerrilla warfare. On the 4th of May at Citronelle, Alabama, Taylor surrendered the last Confederate Army east of the Mississippi. Under the terms of surrender, officers retained their sidearms, and mounted men their horses; all other property and equipment, however, was to be turned over to the Federals. Confederate soldiers under Taylor’s command were paroled, began their long and sad journey’s home, and the war east of the Mississippi was finally over.

The last sizable Confederate Army left in the field was that of the Trans-Mississippi Department commanded by Lt. Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith. Smith’s main area of operation was west of the General Edmund Kirby SmithMississippi in Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Louisiana, present day Oklahoma, and as far west as the New Mexico Territory. Upon hearing the news of the crippling major surrenders in the Eastern Theater – Lee surrendering the Army of Northern Virginia on the 12th of April and Gen. Johnston the Army of the Tennessee on the 26th – Smith, nevertheless, desired to continue his fight for Confederate Independence.

He remained resolute even as his relatively small 20,000 man force began to melt away into the Texas brush. In a last ditch effort to morale, Smith took a stagecoach on the 18th of May bound for Houston in hopes of mustering more men. Along the way however, the remnants of his army further dissolved when Lt. Gen. Simon B. Buckner, acting in Smith’s name, surrendered the Trans-Mississippi Department on the 26th of May. Finally reaching Houston on the 27th and realizing that he had virtually no troops left to command, Smith reluctantly agreed to surrender his forces and did so officially on June 2nd in Galveston Harbor aboard the Fort Jackson. Thus ended all major and organized Confederate military resistance in North America.

The very last force to surrender was led by Brig. Gen. Stand Watie. He was a leader of the Cherokee Nation and a brigadier general of the Confederate Army. During the Civil War Watie served as Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation (1862–1866). By then, the majority of the tribe supported the Confederacy. A minority supported the Union and refused to ratify his election.

Fearful of the Federal Government and the threat to create a State (Oklahoma) out of most of, what was then, the semi-sovereign “Indian Territory”, a majority of the Cherokee Nation initially voted to support the Confederacy for pragmatic reasons, though less than a tenth of the Cherokee owned slaves. Watie organized a regiment of cavalry. In October 1861, he was commissioned as colonel in the 1st Cherokee Mounted Rifles.

Although he fought Federal troops, he also led his men in fighting between factions of the Cherokee and in attacks on Cherokee civilians and farms, as well as against the Creek, Seminole and others in Indian Territory who chose to support the Union. Watie is noted for his role in the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, on March 6–8, 1862. Under the overall command of General Benjamin McCulloch, Watie’s troops captured Union artillery positions and covered the retreat of Confederate forces from the battlefield after the Union took control. However, most of the Cherokees who had joined Colonel John Drew’s regiment defected to the Union Side. Drew, a nephew of Chief Ross, remained loyal to the Confederacy.

Stand WatieHe was promoted to brigadier general by General Samuel Bell Maxey on May 10, 1864, though he did not receive word of his promotion until after he led the ambush of the steamboat J. R. Williams on July 16, 1864. He commanded the First Indian Brigade of the Army of the Trans-Mississippi, composed of two regiments of Mounted Rifles and three battalions of Cherokee, Seminole and Osage infantry. These troops were based south of the Canadian River, and periodically crossed the river into Union territory.

Among the battles in which he participated were Wilson Creek, Bird Creek, Pea Ridge, and Cabin Creek. In the battle of Cabin Creek, the Confederates routed the Federals and captured about three hundred wagons loaded with supplies, thus, for a time, enabling the destitute Indian Confederates to continue in the war. The total value was estimated at about $1 million. The Confederate Army put Watie in command of the Indian Division of Indian Territory in February, 1865. By then, however, the Confederates were no longer able to fight in the territory effectively.

On June 23, 1865, at Doaksville in the Choctaw Nation, Watie signed a cease-fire agreement with Union representatives for his command, the First Indian Brigade of the Army of the Trans-Mississippi. He was the last Confederate general in the field to surrender.


The Two Surrenders of Joe Johnston

Sherman and Johnston meetAfter the Battle of Bentonville General Joe Johnston retreated with his defeated army to Raleigh, the state capital and then to Greensboro, North Carolina. It was here that Johnston met with Confederate President Jefferson Davis to discuss further actions.

Meanwhile, Sherman had advanced to Raleigh which fell to his army on April 13th. The day before, seeing that Raleigh’s capture was imminent, Governor Zebulon B. Vance crafted plans to surrender the city, with the hope of sparing it from the destruction suffered by other southern capitals captured by Sherman’s army.

Vance appointed commissioners to carry a notice of surrender to Sherman’s headquarters. Among them was former governor David L. Swain. The commissioners delivered the notice but were delayed overnight.  Unaware of the delay, Vance left Raleigh and gave additional instructions for the surrender with Raleigh’s mayor William Harrison.

At the southern edge of Raleigh, Harrison and others met Union cavalry commander General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick. While Swain waited at the Capitol, they offered the surrender of Raleigh, promising no military resistance in exchange for protection of the city. The agreed-upon terms were almost undone by a lone Texas cavalry officer who fired on Kilpatrick’s men. In the scuffle that followed, Kilpatrick’s men captured and hanged the officer. When order was restored, Union soldiers occupied and secured Raleigh.

Davis wanted to continue the struggle but Johnston demurred when he was informed of the surrender of Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia. Johnston dispatched a courier under a white flag to ask General Sherman for a meeting between the lines at a small farm known as Bennett Place near present-day Durham, North Carolina. Johnston, escorted by a detachment of about 60 troopers of the 5th South Carolina Cavalry Regiment, traveled east along the Hillsborough Road toward Durham Station. Sherman was riding west to meet him, with an escort of 200 men from the 9th and 13th Pennsylvania, 8th Indiana and 2nd Kentucky Cavalry.

Over the course of two days, April 17th and 18th, Johnston and Sherman negotiated the surrender of the Army of Tennessee and all remaining Confederate forces still active in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. It was the largest surrender of the war, totaling 89,270 soldiers. President Davis considered that Johnston, surrendering so many troops that had not been explicitly defeated in battle, had committed an act of treachery.

The difficulty in reaching a surrender agreement lay in part in Johnston’s desire, influenced by President Davis, for more than the purely military surrender that Major General Sherman offered. Sherman’s original terms matched those offered by Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant to General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House, Virginia. Johnston along with General John C. Breckinridge, also serving as Secretary of War for the Confederacy, insisted on resolutions of political issues, including the reestablishment of state governments, return of some weapons to state arsenals and civil rights after the war.

Sherman, in accordance with Lincoln’s stated wishes for a compassionate and forgiving end to the war, agreed on terms that included these political issues.However, Sherman’s terms of surrender were more generous than Grant had given to Lee and the cabinet had rejected them with the concurrence of the new President, Andrew Johnson. Union officials in Washington, angry over the recent assassination of Lincoln on April 14, outright rejected them, several of whom, including Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, vehemently and publicly criticized Sherman for agreeing to the terms. Grant personally met with Sherman to discuss the situation with him.

Upon learning that the original terms had been rejected, Jefferson Davis ordered Johnston to disband his infantry and escape with his mounted troops. Johnston disobeyed these orders and agreed to meet with Sherman at the Bennett Farm again on April 26, 1865. In the largest surrender of Confederate troops during the war, Sherman and Johnston signed new surrender terms identical to the generous ones that Grant had extended to Lee.

After the surrender, Sherman issued ten days’ rations to the hungry Confederate soldiers, as well as horses and mules for them to “insure a crop.” He also ordered distribution of corn, meal, and flour to civilians throughout the South. This was an act of generosity that Johnston would never forget; he wrote to Sherman that his attitude “reconciles me to what I have previously regarded as the misfortune of my life, that of having you to encounter in the field.” Johnston, himself, was paroled on May 2nd.

Johnston’s Narrative of Military Operations, published in 1874, was highly critical of Davis and many of his fellow generals, continuing his grievance about the unfairness of his ranking as a general and attempting to justify his career as a cautious campaigner. The book sold poorly and its publisher failed to make a profit.

Although many Confederate generals were critical of Johnston, the memoirs of both Sherman and Grant put him in a favorable light. Sherman described him as a “dangerous and wily opponent” and criticized Johnston’s nemeses, Hood and Davis. Grant supported his decisions in the Vicksburg and Atlanta Campaigns.

Joseph E. Johnston died on March 21, 1891 after having stood bare-headed in cold and rainy weather at the funeral of his old foe and later friend William T. Sherman where he was an honorary pallbearer. When he was urged to put on his hat he replied: “If I were in his place and he were standing here in mine, he would not put on his hat.”



The Last Campaign of the Army of Tennessee (Part Two)

battle of averasboroOn February 23, Confederate general-in-chief Robert E. Lee ordered Johnston to take command of the Army of Tennessee and other Confederate units in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida, and to “concentrate all available forces and drive back Sherman.” Johnston managed to concentrate in North Carolina the Army of Tennessee commanded by Lt. Gen. Alexander P. Stewart, Maj. Gen. Robert Hoke’s division from the Army of Northern Virginia, troops from the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida commanded by Lt. Gen. William J. Hardee, and cavalry under the command of Lt. Gen. Wade Hampton. Johnston’s army was called the Army of the South.

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The Battle of Averasboro (alternately Averasborough)

Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman was moving his army north towards Goldsboro in two columns. The right column (Army of the Tennessee) was under the command of Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard and the left column (Army of Georgia) was under Maj. Gen. Henry W. Slocum. Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston sent Lt. Gen. William J. Hardee’s corps to attack Slocum’s left wing while it was separated from the rest of Sherman’s forces. Slocum’s troops had crossed the Cape Fear River at Fayetteville and were marching up the Raleigh plank road.

On the afternoon of March 15, Brig. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick’s cavalry came up against Lt. Gen. William Hardee’s corps—consisting of Taliaferro’s and McLaw’s infantry divisions and Wheeler’s dismounted cavalry—deployed across the Raleigh Road near Smithville. After feeling out the Confederate defenses, Kilpatrick withdrew and called for infantry support.

During the night, four divisions of the XX Corps arrived to confront the Confederates. At dawn, March 16, the Federals advanced on a division front, driving back skirmishers, but they were stopped by the main Confederate line and a counterattack. Mid-morning, the Federals renewed their advance with strong reinforcements and drove the Confederates from two lines of works, but were repulsed at a third line.

By late afternoon, the Maj. Gen. Jefferson C. Davis’s Union XIV Corps began to arrive on the field but was unable to deploy before dark due to the swampy ground. Outnumbered and in danger of being flanked Hardee withdrew during the night after holding up the Union advance for nearly two days.

The Confederates had not held up the Union Army as long as they had hoped. Each side suffered about 700 casualties; however, these were losses the Federals could afford while the Confederates could not.It should be noted that the Confederates were outnumbered five to one.

The Battle of Bentonville

After the Battle of Averasboro the Union Army continued to move the short distance north. Sherman continued to have his army group divided into two wings. Confederate maps erroneously showed that the two wings were twelve miles apart, which meant each would take a day to reach the other. Johnston planned to concentrate his entire army to defeat Slocum’s wing and to destroy its trains before it reunited with the rest of the Union column; the attack was planned for “as soon after dawn tomorrow [March 19] as possible”

The Confederate attack commenced on March 19, as Slocum’s men marched on the Goldsboro Road, one mile south of Bentonville. Hoke’s division under Bragg’s command deployed on the Confederate left facing west, while Stewart’s army deployed on the Confederate right facing south. Slocum was convinced he faced only enemy cavalry and artillery, not an entire army. In addition, Sherman did not believe that Johnston would fight with the Neuse River to his rear. Therefore, Slocum initially notified Sherman that he was facing only light resistance near Bentonville and did not require aid.

Slocum attempted to brush aside the Confederates by attacking with the 1st Division of Brig. Gen. William P. Carlin with support from the 3rd Division of Brig. Gen. Absalom Baird, both from the battle of bentonville-overviewXIV Corps but this attack was driven back. Slocum then deployed his divisions in a defensive line, with Carlin’s division on the left, Baird’s division in the center, Brig. Gen. James D. Morgan‘s 2nd Division on the right, and a XX Corps division in support, in order to delay the Confederates long enough to allow the rest of his wing to arrive.

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None of the divisions, except for Morgan’s, constructed strong breastworks, which were further compromised by a gap in the center of the Union line. Lafayette McLaws’ division from Hardee’s command was approaching the Confederate positions at the time of the Union attacks. Due to Bragg’s concern about a flanking attack on Hoke’s left, McLaws was ordered to deploy on the Confederate left flank. About noon, Hardee arrived with the division of William B. Taliaferro, which was deployed behind the Army of Tennessee. Hardee was then took command of the Confederate right wing.

At 3 p.m., Confederate infantry from the Army of Tennessee launched an attack and drove the Union left flank back in confusion, nearly capturing Carlin in the process and overrunning the XIV Corps field hospital. Confederates under Maj. Gen. D.H. Hill filled the vacuum left by the retreating Federals and began enfilading the Union troops remaining along the front.

Morgan’s division was nearly surrounded and was being attacked from three sides, but the Confederate attacks were uncoordinated and therefore unsuccessful in driving them from the position. Hardee, using Taliaferro’s division and Bate’s corps from the Army of Tennessee, attacked the Union positions near the Harper house but were repulsed after multiple assaults. McLaws arrived after Taliaferro and Bate were repulsed and attacked but was repulsed as well. After a heated engagement, Union reinforcements arrived and checked Hill’s assault. Fighting continued after nightfall as the Confederates tried without success to drive back the Union line. About midnight, the Confederates withdrew to their original positions and started entrenching.

Slocum had called for aid from Sherman during the afternoon attacks, and Howard’s wing arrived on the field late on the afternoon of March 20, deploying on Slocum’s right flank and extending the Union line towards Mill Creek. Johnston responded to Howard’s arrival by pulling back Hoke’s division so it ran at a right angle to Stewart’s left flank, and deploying one of Hardee’s divisions on Hoke’s left. Confederate cavalry protected the Confederate flank to Mill Creek in a weak skirmish line. Only light skirmishing occurred on this day. Johnston remained on the field, claiming that he stayed to remove his wounded, but perhaps also in hope of enticing Sherman to attack again, as had happened at Kennesaw Mountain.

On March 21, Union Maj. Gen. Joseph A. Mower, commanding the division on the Union right flank, requested permission from his corps commander to launch a “little reconnaissance” to his front, which was granted. Mower instead launched an attack with two brigades on the Confederate left flank, which was defending Mill Creek Bridge. Mower’s men managed to come within one mile of the crossing before Sherman peremptorily ordered them to pull back. In his memoirs, Sherman admitted that this was a mistake and that he missed an opportunity to end the campaign then and there, perhaps capturing Johnston’s army entirely. Among the Confederate casualties was Hardee’s 16-year-old son, Willie. Hardee had reluctantly allowed his son to attach himself to the 8th Texas Cavalry just hours before Mower’s attack.

The Confederates suffered a total of nearly 2,600 casualties: 239 killed, 1,694 wounded, and 673 missing. About half of the casualties were lost in the Army of Tennessee. The Union army lost 194 killed, 1,112 wounded, and 221 missing, for a total of 1,527 casualties.

During the night of March 21 until the following dawn, Johnston withdrew his army across Mill Creek and burned the bridge behind him, leaving behind a cavalry detachment as a rearguard. The Union army failed to detect the Confederate retreat until it was over. Sherman did not pursue the Confederates, but continued his march to Goldsboro, where he joined the Union forces under Terry and Schofield. Johnston cancelled any movement to Petersburg with the surrender of Robert E. Lee at Appomattox. Johnston and Sherman sparred with each other through the rest of March and to the middle of April.




The Last Campaign of the Army of Tennessee (Part One)

General Joseph E. JohnstonContrary to popular belief the American Civil War did not end with the surrender of Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia. In fact, the war did not end with a bang but rather it ended with no less than five surrenders that stretched from Appomattox to Galveston.The second surrender was that of the Army of Tennessee by General Joseph E. Johnston at Bennett Place near Durham Station, North Carolina.

Joseph Johnston resumed command of the Army of Tennessee on February 25, 1865. He had been relieved by Jefferson Davis of the very same army on July 17, 1864. Johnston may not have been the most daring commander of the war but he didn’t throw away his soldiers like his successor John Bell Hood.

He was given command of two military departments: the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, and the Department of North Carolina and Southern Virginia; he assumed command of the latter department on March 6.

These commands included three Confederate field armies, including the remnants of the once formidable Army of Tennessee, but they were armies in name only. The Tennessee army had been severely depleted at Franklin and Nashville, lacked sufficient supplies and ammunition, and the men had not been paid for months; only about 6,600 traveled to South Carolina. Johnston also had available 12,000 men under William J. Hardee, who had been unsuccessfully attempting to resist Sherman’s advance, Braxton Bragg’s force in Wilmington, North Carolina, and 6,000 cavalrymen under Wade Hampton.

Facing him were the armies of General William Tecumseh Sherman who had defeated him at Atlanta and was responsible for his subsequent firing by Davis. After The March to the Sea and the successful capture of the port of Savannah, Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman set out on his final march: the Carolinas Campaign. His goal was to link up with the armies of General-in-chief Ulysses S. Grant around the besieged city of Petersburg. Sherman’s army would close the back door of a possible escape for the Army of Northern Virginia.

Sherman had reconfigured his force into three wings.  The Army of the Tennessee, under Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard, the Army of the Ohio under Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield, and two corps, General William T. Shermanthe XIV and XX, under Maj. Gen. Henry W. Slocum, which was later formally designated the Army of Georgia, comprised his command. Reinforcements arrived regularly during his march north, and by April 1 he commanded 88,948 men.

The Confederate forces opposing Sherman’s veteran formations would be unable to do anything but slow him down in local fighting. They were unable to stand up to the vastly superior Union force. It does them credit that they even made the attempt, testifying to their courage and determination to defend their home states.

Sherman divided his army into separate columns as he did on the March to the Sea. In this way he hoped to confuse the Confederate defenders as to his initial objective which was Columbia, South Carolina. At the start of the campaign the wings commanded by Slocum and Howard set off by land from Savannah. Slocum was to the west of Howard and protected his left flank from the Confederate armies that hovered along their route. Schofield’s force was to join them for the North Carolina phase of the campaign.

Sherman’s plan was to bypass the minor Confederate troop concentrations at Augusta, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina, and reach Goldsboro, North Carolina (also spelled Goldsborough), by March 15. The town was a major rail junction and because of that, Goldsboro played a significant role, both for stationing Confederate troops and for transporting their supplies. The town also provided hospitals for soldiers wounded in nearby battles.

As Sherman’s force moved north their goal of destroying the Confederacy’s base of supplies became clearer. If Sherman made Georgia howl, as he had promised, South Carolina was punished as a nest of traitors. Their advance on the state capital of Columbia had a clear reason. For many Union soldiers it was a matter of personal vengeance. A Federal soldier said to his comrades, “Here is where treason began and, by God, here is where it will end!” The Union forces set out from Savannah at the end of January. The march through the Carolinas would be for 425 miles and take 50 days.

On February 17th Sherman accepted the surrender of Columbia after General Wade Hampton’s cavalry withdrew from the city. The victorious Union troops were overwhelmed by throngs of liberated Federal prisoners and emancipated African Americans.

The Union troops consumed the ample supplies of liquor in the city. Fires were started and the high winds spread the flames throughout the center of Columbia. Most of the central city was destroyed, and the city’s fire companies found it difficult to operate in conjunction with the invading Union army, many of whom were also trying to put out the fires.

The Burning of Columbia, SCThe burning of Columbia has been a divisive issue ever since. Sherman said that his troops did not burn the city but he wasn’t sorry that it happened. On the following day, Union troops finished the job by destroying virtually anything of military value in Columbia, including railroad depots, warehouses, arsenals, and machine shops.

Meanwhile, along the North Carolina coast, the city of Wilmington, the Confederacy’s last ocean port fell on February 22nd to Union troops under Maj. Gen. Jacob Cox. The city fell about a month after the fall of Fort Fisher. This freed Maj. Gen. John Schofield to join Sherman’s army for the final push in North Carolina. The Union armies in North Carolina planned a converging attack on the key rail junction of Goldsboro (also spelled Goldsborough).

The first battle took place on March 7, 1865 at what became known as Wyse Fork. Confederate General Braxton Bragg commanded 8,500 men who were entrenched along Southwest Creek near Kinston, North Carolina. Bragg has positioned his force not only to block Cox’s force of 12,000 but also to threaten a vital cross road and the New Bern-Goldsboro Railroad.

Cox understood the importance of the position and moved forward the divisions of Brig. Gen. Innis N. Palmer to protect the railroad and Maj. Gen. Samuel P. Carter to protect the roads. Bragg’s forces were also reinforced by veterans from the Army of Tennessee and the North Carolina Junior Reserves, all under the command of General D.H. Hill.

Reinforced, Bragg went on the offensive and sent a division under North Carolina native Robert Hoke into the Union left flank. Hoke’s attack hit a New England brigade in Carter’s division, capturing an entire regiment. Hill joined the advance with the Junior Reserves but they panicked and refused to go any further. Hill left them behind and moved on with his veterans, hitting the Union brigade and defeating it.

Disaster threatened the Union flank when Bragg stopped Hill’s advance and sent him far to the north to counterattack a Union threat. When Hill arrived he found no Federals in sight. At this time Cox, who had been away from the front lines, returned and moved up his reserve division under Maj. Gen. Thomas H. Ruger to plug the gap between Palmer and Carter.

On March 10th, Hoke again threatened a flank attack but this time the Union forces were prepared for it with artillery and repulsed it within an hour. Hill attempted an attack against the Union center but it to was repulsed by the strong Union artillery. Meanwhile, the remaining elements of the XXIII Corps had arrived from Wilmington and Bragg order a general withdrawal. Once all of the Union forces arrived they then began to move on Goldsboro.

The Battle of Wyse Fork is considered a Union victory because they held the field. Total Union casualties were 1,101 while Confederates sustained 1,500 total casualties. This was a minor battle but it proved to both sides that the Confederates were still capable of offensive maneuvering. It is considered the second-largest land battle to be fought in North Carolina.

Like many battles in the American Civil War, the Battle of Monroe’s Crossing has several names. It is alternately known as the Battle of Fayetteville Road. The most interesting name given to this engagement is Kilpatrick’s Shirttail Skedaddle. It is also known as the Battle of Kilpatrick’s Pants.

The Union cavalry commander on the scene was Brig. Gen. H. Judson Kilpatrick. He was a dashing cavalry officers in the mold of his West Point classmate, George Armstrong Custer. The 28-year old Kilpatrick had the distinction of being the first United States Army officer to be wounded in the Civil War, struck in the thigh by canister fire while leading a company at the Battle of Big Bethel, June 10, 1861.

Kilpatrick had camped his division at Monroe’s Crossing, in Cumberland County, North Carolina. His force of 1,850 men had set up a poorly guarded camp with many of the troopers sleeping. Kilpatrick himself was was in bed with a young Southern woman he had met while going through Columbia.

The Confederate force of 3,000 cavalrymen consisted of  Lt. Gen. Wade Hampton‘s and Maj. Gen. Joseph Wheeler‘s Divisions, who were joined together for the first time. One of there objectives was the capture of Kilpatrick himself. They had selected a squad of troopers for this task. Kilpatrick managed to flee the chaotic scene in his nightshirt, hiding for a period in a nearby swamp before regaining his composure and reorganizing his troops.

The Union cavalry was initially routed but quickly recovered and counterattacked. They eventually forced the Confederate cavalrymen to withdraw from their camp, recovering all of their captured equipment and supplies. THe Union force sustained 183 total casualties, while the Confederate had 80 casualties.

The Battle of Monroe’s Crossroads gained the additional time needed for the Confederate infantry to conduct an organized crossing of the Cape Fear River at Fayetteville unmolested by the advancing Federals. With their troops and equipment east of the Cape Fear, the Confederates burned the bridges as Union forces entered the city.

Map of the Carolinas Campaign






The First Confederate Surrender

Appomattox Campaign Overview

Everyone thinks that the Confederacy’s military struggles ended with Robert E. Lee’s surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox on April 9, 1865. But did you know that various Confederate armies continued to fight on for several more months?

The most famous Confederate surrender took place at Appomattox, Virginia when General Robert E. Lee surrendered what was left of his once-formidable Army of Northern Virginia. His army had suffered a series of debilitating defeats in his headlong retreat from his siege lines around Petersburg.

The Appomattox Campaign began on March 29th when Grant seized upon Lee’s attack on Fort Stedman by sending a joint infantry and cavalry force of 21,000 men to strike the Confederate right flank and capture the South Side Railroad. Union general Gouverneur K. Warren’s Fifth Corps engaged Confederate troops under Bushrod Johnson in the battles of Quaker Road (Lewis Farm) on March 29 and White Oak Road on March 31. Union general Philip H. Sheridan’s cavalry, meanwhile, continued farther southwest. On March 31, Sheridan maneuvered beyond the Confederate right flank but was defeated at Dinwiddie Court House by Confederates led by George E. Pickett and W. H. F. “Rooney” Lee.

On April 1, the arrival of Warren’s Fifth Corps at Pickett’s rear caused the Confederate general to fall back to an intersection known as Five Forks. There, in what has come to be known as the “Waterloo of the Confederacy,” Sheridan and Warren overwhelmed Pickett’s forces, losing fewer than a thousand men compared to Confederate casualties of about 3,000.

Warren, a hero of Gettysburg, was nevertheless relieved of his command by Sheridan after the battle. Pickett, whose name was similarly carved into history at Gettysburg, was, like Warren, humiliated at Five Forks. He was famously absent during the battle, attending a shad bake.

Petersburg fell the next day, as did the South Side Railroad, which was captured after the Battle of Sutherland’s Station. General A.P. Hill was killed that day by a Union bullet through his heart. A Sheridan at Five Forksstubborn defense at Fort Gregg allowed Lee’s army to escape to the west, and he ordered the evacuation of the capital that night.

The parts of Lee’s army that were spread out defending Richmond, Bermuda Hundred and Petersburg retreated on pre-determined routes where they reassembled at Amelia Court House. Lee hoped to move along the Richmond and Danville Railroad to link forces with Joseph E. Johnston’s Army of Tennessee, which was moving north from North Carolina. Lee then hoped that the two armies could take the offensive against General Sherman.

On April 3, Confederate cavalry general Rufus Barringer was captured after his brigade was routed by forces under George A. Custer at Namozine Church. On April 4th Lee arrived at Amelia Court House to Find that the rations that his troops needed were not there. Lee paused here to collect supplies from the surrounding area and wait for the arrival of forces led by General Richard S. Ewell and his son, General Custis Lee. The local farmers had very little to spare and the delay proved costly allowing Grant’s pursuing forces to draw near.

Lee’s march resumed on April 5th and when the Confederates encountered Union blocking forces at Jetersville they maneuvered toward Farmville in an attempt to outflank the Union troops and resupply his own. He did so under continuous pressure: Union cavalry general Henry Davies captured a Confederate wagon train at Painesville before being driven away by Confederate cavalry under Fitzhugh Lee, Robert E. Lee’s nephew. In order to get ahead of his Union pursuers, Lee ordered a night march, but the tired and hungry Confederate soldiers fell out of their ranks to search for food. Some simply went home.

On April 6, a Union force attempted to capture High Bridge near Farmville and prevent Lee from crossing the Appomattox River. It was defeated and captured whole by Confederate cavalry. Still, dangerous gaps began to develop in Lee’s retreating forces, the result of constant attack by Union cavalry.

At Sailor’s Creek, the Union cavalry managed to exploit such a gap, cutting off two Confederate corps under generals Richard H. Anderson and Richard S. Ewell as the Union Sixth Corps arrived to their rear. Ewell’s men repulsed an initial charge by the Sixth Corps but surrendered when overwhelmed by the second. At the same time, Union cavalry charged Anderson’s men at Marshall’s Crossroads until his two divisions, led by Pickett and Bushrod Johnson, disintegrated.

The Union forces had overwhelmed the defending Confederates, capturing 7,700 men and depriving Lee of roughly one-fourth of his army. Among the prisoners were six Confederate generals including Richard S. Ewell, Joseph Kershaw, and Custis Lee, the commanding general’s son.

Confederate surrender at Sailor's CreekWhat remained crossed the Appomattox River during another night march and, on April 7, arrived in Farmville, where rations awaited them. Union forces followed so quickly, however, that the Confederates had to close the supply trains and cross the river north of Farmville and fight off Grant’s pursuing forces at the Battle of Cumberland Church.

Lee’s forces were now almost surrounded. His men were tired and hungry and Lee knew it. He began a three day correspondence with General Grant that included an exchange of messages through the lines.

On the afternoon of April 8, the main Confederate column halted northeast of Appomattox Court House, while the reserve artillery and the ambulance and wagon trains approached Appomattox Station, several miles farther west. There, trains arrived from Lynchburg containing, among other supplies, 120,000 rations needed to feed Lee’s army. But at about four o’clock in the afternoon, Custer’s Union cavalry division captured the trains and then, in three assaults, overran the reserve artillery, securing twenty-five cannon, a thousand prisoners, and some one hundred wagons. They also blocked Lee’s line of retreat.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Lee, Union infantry marched more than thirty miles into positions to Lee’s south and west. That night, the Confederate general held a council of war with Longstreet, Gordon, and Fitzhugh Lee. Together, they determined to attempt a breakout from the looming encirclement.

At 7:50 on the morning of April 9, Gordon’s corps, supported by Fitzhugh Lee’s cavalry, attacked Colonel Charles Smith’s Union cavalry brigade, which blocked Lee’s line of retreat on the stage road. Although initially successful, the assault faltered as Union infantry arrived on the field. Gordon sent word to Lee that “my command has been fought to a frazzle … I can not long go forward.” Receiving the message, Lee said, “There is nothing left for me to do but to go and see General Grant, and I would rather die a thousand deaths.”

The next day General Robert E. Lee surrendered his force and the war in Virginia was virtually over. But other Confederate forces fought on.

Confederate surrender at Appomattox

General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain’s description of the last parade of the Army of Northern Virginia:

The momentous meaning of this occasion impressed me deeply. I resolved to mark it by some token of recognition, which could be no other than a salute of arms. Well aware of the responsibility assumed, and of the criticisms that would follow, as the sequel proved, nothing of that kind could move me in the least. The act could be defended, if needful, by the suggestion that such a salute was not to the cause for which the flag of the Confederacy stood, but to its going down before the flag of the Union. My main reason, however, was one for which I sought no authority nor asked forgiveness. Before us in proud humiliation stood the embodiment of manhood: men whom neither toils and sufferings, nor the fact of death, nor disaster, nor hopelessness could bend from their resolve; standing before us now, thin, worn, and famished, but erect, and with eyes looking level into ours, waking memories that bound us together as no other bond;—was not such manhood to be welcomed back into a Union so tested and assured?

Instructions had been given; and when the head of each division column comes opposite our group, our bugle sounds the signal and instantly our whole line from right to left, regiment by regiment in succession, gives the soldier’s salutation, from the “order arms” to the old “carry”—the marching salute. Gordon at the head of the column, riding with heavy spirit and downcast face, catches the sound of shifting arms, looks up, and, taking the meaning, wheels superbly, making with himself and his horse one uplifted figure, with profound salutation as he drops the point of his sword to the boot toe; then facing to his own command, gives word for his successive brigades to pass us with the same position of the manual,—honor answering honor. On our part not a sound of trumpet more, nor roll of drum; not a cheer, nor word nor whisper of vain-glorying, nor motion of man standing again at the order, but an awed stillness rather, and breath-holding, as if it were the passing of the dead!

As each successive division masks our own, it halts, the men face inward towards us across the road, twelve feet away; then carefully “dress” their line, each captain taking pains for the good appearance of his company, worn and half starved as they were. The field and staff take their positions in the intervals of regiments; generals in rear of their commands. They fix bayonets, stack arms; then, hesitatingly, remove cartridge-boxes and lay them down. Lastly, — reluctantly, with agony of expression, — they tenderly fold their flags, battle-worn and torn, blood-stained, heart-holding colors, and lay them down; some frenziedly rushing from the ranks, kneeling over them, clinging to them, pressing them to their lips with burning tears. And only the Flag of the Union greets the sky!


Renaming Army Forts in the South

Fort Gordon signThe campaign to purge all elements of the Confederacy from American life continues apace. First, it was the Confederate Battle Flag that was targeted. Their reason: Dylann Roof had been photographed with a Confederate Battle Flag.

It should be noted that most of the liberal leftists involved in this campaign are non-Southerners.

A vocal group of liberals forced retailers like Walmart, Amazon, eBay and Sears to announce bans on the sale of Confederate flag merchandise. This is amid an intensifying national debate over the use of the controversial flag. Well, that hasn’t seemed to work. It has spawned a cottage industry of flag makers to step in and fill the void.

Then, we had the license plate controversy. A number of Southern states have license plates with the logo of the Sons of Confederate Veterans on it. The liberal left saw this as affront to non-Confederate backers. Several states under political pressure are removing these offending license plates from circulation.

Then, the same group began to agitate for the removal of monuments honoring Confederate war heroes. In my home state of Virginia there is a law that prevents the removal or destruction of any war memorial, irregardless of the war that they commemorate, so our monuments are safe.

However, in other Southern states the battle has been joined with the liberal left agitating for the removal of these monuments. Communities across the South are grappling with this situation on a daily basis. This group of deconstructionists are attempting to re-write history to their liking.

Then we have the Jefferson-Jackson dinners sponsored by the Democrat Party. There have been calls to change the name of this event. The reason: both men were slaveholders.

Even though both men were presidents. Even though Jefferson was the primary writer of the Declaration of Independence. Even though Jackson led the force that turned back the British invasion of New Orleans. These facts are far outweighed by the simple fact that both men were slaveholders in the eyes of the liberal left.

The latest attack on all-things Confederate is the complaint that a majority of the Army posts in the South are named for Confederate generals.

There are 10 U.S. military bases that are named after Confederate figures: Fort Lee, Fort Hood, Fort Benning, Fort Gordon, Fort Bragg, Fort Polk, Fort Pickett, Fort A.P. Hill, Fort Rucker and Camp Beuregard.

The Pentagon has announced that there are no plans to rename any bases. Following the national debate on the Confederate flag, the Pentagon said Wednesday it did not expect military bases named after Confederate leaders to see those names replaced.

The Pentagon emphasized Wednesday that it is up to the individual military services to name their bases and said that is not likely to change.

“As of now, there is no discussion of adjusting the naming policy,” said Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren.

Warren made the comments in response to questions from reporters about the Army having in the past named several bases in the South after Confederate generals.

But the left will not give up. Here is a quote from one irate columnist on the Daily Kos.

Why are so many US Army posts named after confederate generals?
What the hell is up with THAT??!!

Why are federal facilities named after rebels?
In the tradition of naming Army posts after people who killed American soldiers, I suggest  renaming Ft Benning to Ft Tojo, Ft Ord to Ft Rommel,  Ft Lewis/ Mchord to Ft Ho Chi Minh/ Mao and Ft Leonard Wood to Ft Saddam

Expect this anti-Confederate mania to continue for some time.



Navy Divers work in virtual darkness to raise CSS Georgia

US-Navy-Divers-Savannah-Ves-jpgSAVANNAH, Georgia (CNN)Imagine working in a world the color of Irish coffee, where you cannot see much beyond your hand. Where a constant force pushes you away from your task and upends you if you stay too long. And walking? Jagged pieces of iron and piles of debris await at every turn.

That is the office environment of a U.S. Navy team this summer as it salvages a Civil War ironclad vessel in the Savannah River. The team battles back against the underwater challenges, using years of experience and training. The goal: to retrieve artifacts and larger pieces while getting men out of the water before, as diver Cody Bumpass said, they are “literally flying in the current.”

“If you don’t know what you are doing, it could be a little scary,” said Bumpass, a Navy diver 1st class.

For Virginia-based Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2, the recovery of the CSS Georgia, scuttled by its Confederate crew in December 1864, requires a mixture of old-school techniques and the latest in technology.

Reminiscent of intrepid divers in Jules Verne’s 1870 classic “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,” the divers wear large helmets, full body suits and are attached to tethers, called “umbilicals,” that carry vital air and communication from the mother ship — in this case a salvage barge about 40-45 feet above.

When they make a discovery, divers run their gloved fingers around an item and give a description that is relayed to archaeologists assisting in the recovery.

Everything is built on safety and trust. Team members rotate jobs, from tending and feeding the “umbilicals” to divers, to handling communications and to supervising the dive team. It’s the ultimate form of “I’ve got your back.”

Those on the barge also watch for the massive container vessels that ply the Savannah River. They want divers to be at least 50 feet away from the ships’ churning propellers and wake.

“You can actually feel a bit of the suction pull you off (the site),” said Bumpass. “They are huge ships, and they are moving a lot of water. It just comes down to safety.”

Conversely, those supporting the divers must trust the underwater workers to give them a real-time feel for what’s below and whether they have time or the right conditions to salvage that item.

On one dive, for example, an object found on the river floor was described as looking like a bicycle spoke. It turned out to be some kind of wheel or damper.

Surprises on the river bottom

The CSS Georgia is not really a shipwreck, per se. That’s because previous salvage operations, including one shortly after the Civil War’s end, removed much of the ironclad. Dredging operations in the late 1960s further scattered the vessel, and the chain anchoring a red channel marker — or buoy — constantly shifts items.

That means there can be surprises. A part of the vessel may not be where archaeologists expect it to be, and jumbles of iron complicate the search.

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jason Potts, the Navy’s on-scene commander, said the salvage work can be exhausting. Divers drop items into baskets or rig them to a crane that lifts them to the barge, which floats a few miles east of downtown Savannah, near Old Fort Jackson.

Communication, through a wire bundled in the “umbilicals,” is vital.

“We are listening to their respiratory pattern. We may hear a little gurgling in their diving apparatus, indicating water intrusion in their helmet,” said Potts. “We know each other well. We are listening to the tone of their voice … the words they are saying. We are listening to their opinions, we are listening to the factual information. We are listening to every single word they say and every breath they take to make sure they are safe on the bottom.”

A recent midday dive, like all such operations, included a rigorous predive protocol. Two divers, one dubbed “green” and the other “red,” sat on metal benches under a small awning shielding them from the summer sun. A standby diver who would be sent below if one fell into serious trouble sat between the pair. The third diver hasn’t been needed thus far on this mission.

The diving supervisor asked a series of readiness questions, including the status of air and other gauges, and tugged on the divers’ gear before they stood up.

“Be safe while you guys are down there,” said Senior Chief Navy Diver Steve Askew. “The same for topside.”

With that, the divers took a long stride from the edge of the barge and plunged into the water.

“Once you take a step off that ledge, it is go time,” said Bumpass.

Divers receive extensive safety training

The $15 million removal of the CSS Georgia, under the direction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is the first visible sign of a long-anticipated state and federal harbor project. The aim is to deepen the channel to a uniform 47 feet so massive cargo ships can reach Savannah’s port from the Atlantic Ocean without relying on the tide.

Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2, brought in after six months of archaeological dives by Army Corps contractors, has been in the water since the end of June and should wrap up its work in about three weeks.

The divers in March returned from a six-month combat support deployment that was based in Bahrain. Divers performed ship husbandry and conducted salvage and harbor clearance operations. Its previous salvage operations include the space shuttles Challenger and Columbia, the Minneapolis bridge collapse, USS Cole, Swissair Flight 111 and TWA Flight 800.

Work can be dangerous: Two members of Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2 died in February 2013 while training at a pond in Maryland.

Divers are trained to learn the effects of pressure, especially in deeper depths, and have equipment topside to deal with any emergencies, such as arterial gas embolism.

At its home in Virginia, the unit trained extensively for the CSS Georgia project.

Working with an explosive ordnance disposal, or EOD, team from the Navy’s Kings Bay base near St. Marys, Georgia, Navy divers were tasked with salvaging the ship’s four remaining cannons, artillery rounds, the propeller, engine and other components and the casemate, which is the sloped, armor-coated structure that housed the CSS Georgia’s guns.

The cannons, which include a massive 9-inch Dahlgren and two Brooke rifles, were lifted last month and are undergoing conservation at Texas A&M University.

Dive teams often use scuba gear, meaning they have fins, air tanks and can move pretty nimbly around vessels that are being maintained or salvaged. That’s impossible here, given the heavy current and little to no visibility.

“Everyone was excited to see the cannons,” said Senior Chief Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Richard Bledsoe of Kings Bay’s EOD Mobile Unit 6. “Everyone was stoked to be a part of something that’s been stuck in the water for 150 years. One day, they will be at a museum they can take their families to see and tell them the story they were part of.”

The team took advantage of the USBL, an underwater acoustic positioning system that has helped divers find items.

EOD divers have retrieved more than 130 artillery shells and explosive bolts.

The length of time the guns and shells have been in the water has increased the likelihood that water penetrated fuses and saturated black gunpowder. Still, the EOD and salvage divers treated the cannon as if they might have a round jammed into the barrel to prevent future use and injure those who tried to fire the gun. Archaeologists are not yet certain whether that occurred.

Physical training comes in handy when it comes to lifting artillery projectiles that weigh between 65 and 90 pounds.

Divers found about 60 rounds for the Dahlgren gun, but they were considered less potentially hazardous because a flame is required to light the fuse. The Brooke rounds, shaped like a bullet, were more problematic because they are “impact sensitive.” In other words: Don’t drop them.

“They knew to carry them in a nose-up attitude,” said Bledsoe.

‘No Confederate ghosts’

Every sunken vessel has a story, and that of the CSS Georgia includes some mysteries.

Researchers have no blueprints or proven photos of the Confederate ironclad, and they aren’t sure how it was put together or even its size.

The ironclad was underpowered and not able to engage in maneuvers against enemy warships. So it became part of the city’s formidable defenses, which included obstructions and torpedoes, or floating mines. The CSS Georgia, in essence, was a stationary, floating gun battery, with as many as 10 large guns.

It never, however, had an opportunity to fire in anger. It was sunk by its own crew so it would not fall into the hands of Union troops that would soon take Savannah.

There was no loss of life. “There are no Confederate ghosts with us,” quipped Lt. Liza Dougherty, public affairs officer for Virginia-based Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group Two. Dougherty’s duties have included posting real-time social media updates on the project.

Officials do know that a businessman, shortly after the Civil War, contracted with the U.S. government to salvage the wreck as part of an effort to clear the shipping channel.

Jim Jobling, a project manager with Texas A&M University’s Conservation Research Laboratory, said the absence of fastener bolts and other components in some artifacts is evidence of salvaging.

Records indicate that the businessman, apparently in a dispute with the government over his work and payment, may have dumped portions of the wreck back into the river.

Gordon Watts, a longtime diver and owner of Tidewater Atlantic Research, said experts are hampered because so much of the CSS Georgia was taken in previous salvage operations. Watts is assisting the Army Corps of Engineers on the archaeological side of the operation and sits next to the Navy communications operator on the barge, helping provide direction and feedback to divers.

Watts co-wrote an archaeological evaluation that provides the framework used by all the gee-whiz technology on the barge. Technicians use a map that shows where parts of the CSS Georgia are believed to rest. More than 1,500 artifacts were retrieved by contract divers before the Navy team began lifting the heavier items.

Advanced technology guides dive teams

The barge features air-conditioned pods, where contractors and Navy personnel constantly monitor the sonar, GPS and other equipment.

The sonar system provides a 3-D, real-time image of what the divers are doing. Moving dots on some computer screens show the location of the divers and the I-beam used to lift some items. One of the divers carries a tracking beacon and crew members can follow the divers with an image of the plume made by their bubbles.

Divers are entirely dependent on the directions sent from the barge. “Face your umbilical and back up to your left,” may be one command. “We tell them, ‘You are almost on it,'” said Watts.

Watts, who first dived the CSS Georgia in the 1980s, said this is the first time all the available technology and electronic mapping have been combined in such a way.

Watts, 70, with experience at the USS Monitor and the CSS Alabama wreck sites, said the CSS Georgia had inadequate power, a limited hull design and a top-heavy casemate made of 24-foot long pieces of railroad iron, rather than preferred rolled plate.

“That produced a much higher and heavier casemate,” said Watts. The local builders and Confederate navy wanted to get the vessel into the water as quickly as possible and cutting the railroad iron would have been time-consuming.

Jobling said they are confident there is enough casemate left to show a sloped side, corner and gun port for museum display.

It takes time and patience to find all the pieces that remain.

Archaeologists and the Navy were surprised so much timber remained with the iron rails making up the casemate. They tried a couple of approaches before fashioning a device resembling a guillotine to cut through the armor and wood. Sections weighing about 10,000 pounds are then lifted to the surface.

The outer suits the Navy divers wear allow them to walk on the bottom to reach an artifact. Divers carry about 150 pounds of extra weight on their boots, belts and elsewhere to reduce their buoyancy. This time of year the water is mild — in the low to mid-80s — and divers typically work in a “slack tide,” the window each day when there is little movement in the tidal stream.

Because of the relatively shallow depth, divers are able to use surface air.

“You don’t want to foul your umbilical around yourself or cut yourself,” said Watts. “You have to move pretty carefully when you are down there.” The added weight makes it impossible for a diver to rise to the surface — their tenders hoist them slowly up to a ladder on the edge of the barge.

To an observer, it’s tempting to look at the helmet (which is mounted with a camera), outer suit and support system and compare such diving to being on the moon.

“In a bizarre way, it is kind of like space because you are in a hostile environment,” said Watts. Neither individual would survive without a complex support system. “In space, you can see what you are doing. Here you are blind, and feeling (by hand) with the ability to conceptualize things.”

An underwater brotherhood

Bumpass, 31, of Austin, Texas, has a ready smile and a can-do work ethic.

He described how he and Spencer Puett slowly moved part of a hawsepipe, a part of the anchor chain system, across the river floor to the waiting basket.

“I’m pretty sure it’s 3,000 pounds, but they said 200,” Bumpass said with a laugh.

Diver 1st Class Kurt Eberle, 32, of Racine, Wisconsin, said divers are competitive and want to be on the best team. “Everyone likes to poke fun at each other. It boosts morale, also builds competition and a healthy work ethic.”

One example was a line uttered at the dive station when the crew hadn’t heard from the divers in a while. “Are they getting their mail down there?”

Six months of dive school whet the appetite for excelling in the unit’s tasks, which include ship maintenance and repairs, salvage and force protection. As Watts said, divers know they have to respect the environment in which they work and understand the limitations of their equipment.

“Everyone up there takes this dead seriously,” he said.

Eberle said the work requires a well-rounded individual with expertise in many subjects and the ability to roll with the punches.

“It takes hard work and strong desire to be among the Navy’s 1,000 divers. Many try. Not that many make it,” said Potts.

And, always, there has to be trust.

“Trust in sending that person down below the water line to accomplish the mission,” said Potts. “To repair a ship, you consider the fact that we send our divers down to replace 55,000-pound propellers on a submarine, and we send that submarine to sea to go out and support our combatant commanders on that one person’s or two people’s word that that ship is ready to go. That’s an immense amount of trust.”


The Back-to-Africa Movement

MonroviaBefore there was a full-blown abolition movement. Before John Brown led his band of abolitionists in Kansas and Harpers Ferry. Before the Confederate states seceded and fired on Fort Sumter, there was a Back-to-Africa movement that encouraged those of African descent to return to the African homelands of their ancestors. Lost in the devastation of four years of civil war is the story of the Back-to-Africa movement of the antebellum period.

In the period before the Civil War the the black population in the United States increased dramatically. Many of these African Americans were freed people seeking a better life. Many Southern freed blacks migrated to the industrial North to seek employment while others moved to surrounding Southern states for the same reasons.

In many cases they were met with hostility and fear by whites. Many whites in the North had never met a person of African descent and they didn’t know how to live with them. In the South there was the fear of slave revolts especially in light of the violent and bloody affairs that had taken place prior to Nat Turner’s Revolt in 1831. Some historians have found records of approximately two hundred and fifty revolts and conspiracies in the history of American Negro slavery. Others have found as many as 313.

In Southampton County, Virginia, Turner and about 70 armed slaves and free blacks set off to slaughter the white neighbors who enslaved them. They killed between 55 and 60 white people before they were captured. The white retribution was fearful. Turner and 21 of his followers were hanged. Another 16 were sold away from the region. When the state of Virginia reacted with harsher laws controlling black people, many free blacks fled Virginia for good.

Many whites felt very strongly that those of African descent should return to Africa.  In Virginia (now West Virginia), one proponent of the Colonization movement, Solomon Parker of Hampshire County, was quoted as having said: “I am not willing that the Man or any of my Blacks shall ever be freed to remain in the united states…. Am opposed to slavery and also opposed to freeing blacks to stay in our Country and do sincerely hope that the time is approaching when our Land shall be rid of them.”

Riots spread throughout the nation in the early years of the 19th century, usually in urban areas where there had been recent migrations of blacks from the South. In 1819 alone there are records of some 25 riots around the country with many killed and injured. The Back-to-Africa movement was seen as a solutions to these problems by both sides.

In 1811, Paul Cuffee, “a black man who was a wealthy man of property, a petitioner for equal rights for blacks” began to explore the idea of black people returning to their native land as he was convinced that “opportunities for the advancement of for black people were limited in America, and he became interested in African colonization.” With the help of some Quakers in Philadelphia he was able to transport 38 blacks to Freetown, Sierra Leone, in 1815.

Blacks often viewed the movement with suspicion, especially among the middle-class, and worried that the Colonization movement was a ploy to deport freed African Americans to keep them from making efforts against slavery. Shortly after the foundation of the American Colonization Society, for example, 3,000 free blacks gathered in a church in Philadelphia and issued forth a declaration stating that they “will never separate ourselves voluntarily from the slave population of the country” and black leaders such James Forten who had previously supported the Colonization Movement found their minds changed by mass black resistance to the idea.

The Society was an early advocate of the idea of resettling American-born blacks in Africa. Founded in 1816 by Charles Fenton Mercer, it was made up of two groups: “philanthropists, clergy and abolitionist who wanted to free African slaves and their descendants and provide them with the opportunity to return to Africa. The other group was the slave owners who feared free people of color and wanted to expel them from America.” Notable members of the American Colonization Society included Thomas Buchanan, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, Abraham Lincoln, James Madison, Daniel Webster, John Marshall, and Francis Scott Key.

Since its inception, the American Colonization Society struggled to garner support from within free black communities; however, during the late 1840s and early 1850s, the creation of an independent Liberian state splintered the nearly uniform voice against colonization. After the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which provided the United States government ample power to recapture fugitive slaves, many black leaders promoted immigration and colonization to a nation that would provide and protect their rights.

Despite this, several black critics were outspoken against the Back-to-Africa movement and the activities of the American Colonization Society. A report from a free black political conference in New York warned: “all kinds of chicanery and stratagem will be employed to allure the people [to the colony]…the independence of its inhabitants; the enjoyment and privileges of its citizens, will be pictured forth in glowing colors, to deceive you.” The discussion between Society’s proponents and anticolonizationists did not stop blacks from migrating to Liberia despite numerous challenges.

According to the Encyclopedia of Georgia History and Culture, “as early as 1820, black Americans had begun to return to their ancestral homeland through the auspices of the American Colonization Society” and by 1847, the American Colonization Society founded Liberia and designated it as the land to be colonized by all black people returning from the United States of America. By the decline of the Back to Africa Movement, the American Colonization Society migrated over 13,000 blacks back to Africa.

THe Back-to-Africa movement began to decline after the Civil War but revived again in 1877 at the end of the Reconstruction as many blacks in the South faced violence from groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. Interest among the South’s black population in African emigration peaked during the 1890s, a time when racism reached its peak and the greatest number of lynchings in American history took place.

Ex-slave repatriation or the immigration of African American, Caribbean, and Black British slaves to Africa occurred mainly during the late 18th century to mid-19th century. In the cases of Liberia and Sierra Leone both were established by former slaves who were repatriated to Africa within a 28-year period.