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05/1/15

Surrender at Bennett Place

This entry is part 6 of 6 in the series The Carolinas Campaign

The final chapter in the Carolinas Campaign and coincidentally in the Civil War in the East took place at Bennet Place (also known as Bennett Farm), near Durham, North Carolina over the space of ten days in mid to late April 1865.

After the Battle of Bentonville which took place in eastern North Carolina from March 19th to the 26th, the defeated Confederate Army of the South retreated to Raleigh, the North Carolina State Capital. Unable to secure the city, Lt. Gen. Joseph E. Johnston ordered his army further west to Greensboro.

Bennett Place Historic SiteBy April 13th, Confederate cavalry under Generals Wade Hampton III and Joseph Wheeler clashed with Union cavalry commanded by General Judson Kilpatrick in the area of Morrisville, North Carolina, about 20 miles south of Durham. The Confederate force was frantically trying to transport their remaining supplies and wounded by rail westward toward the final Confederate encampment in Greensboro.

Kilpatrick, an aggressive young commander, used artillery on the heights overlooking Morrisville Station and cavalry charges to push the Confederates out of the small village leaving many needed supplies behind. However, the trains were able to withdraw by the 15th with wounded soldiers from the Battle of Bentonville and the Battle of Averasboro.

After the engagement at Morrisville, Johnston sent a messenger through the Union lines with a message for Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, the Union Army Group commander. In it Johnston requested a meeting with Sherman in order to discuss a truce between the armies.

Johnston had met with Confederate President Jefferson Davis who wished to continue the struggle, even to disbanding the army and continuing with guerrilla warfare. It is believed that Johnston, like Robert E. Lee, was not interested in fighting on under that basis. Both men felt that the South would suffer greater if that occurred.

The two men met at Bennett Place on April 17th. Johnston was escorted by a detachment of about 60 troopers of the 5th South Carolina Cavalry Regiment, traveled east along the Hillsborough Road toward Durham Station. This unit had been in near continuous combat since June of 1862.

Sherman road west from Morrisville with an escort of about 200 cavalrymen from the 9th and 13th Pennsylvania, 8th Indiana and 2nd Kentucky Cavalry. Like their Southern counterparts, the Union units all had a long list of battles fought both in the Eastern and the Western Theaters.

The two generals met near the farm of James and Nancy Bennett. It being the most convenient place with the most privacy, the two men availed First meeting between Joesph Johnston and William Shermanthemselves of the Bennett’s hospitality and sat down to discuss a truce.

James and Nancy Bennett were like many families who suffered tremendously during the four years of war. They lost three sons: Lorenzo, who served in the 27th North Carolina, buried in Winchester, Virginia; Alphonzo, who is currently unaccounted for in the family history; and their daughter Eliza’s husband, Robert Duke, who died in a Confederate Army hospital and is buried in Lynchburg, Virginia.

The first day’s discussion (April 17) was intensified by the telegram Sherman handed to Johnston, informing of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. They met the following day, April 18, and signed terms of surrender. Unfortunately, they were not only more generous than those that General Grant gave to General Lee but they also included non-military conditions that were not under the purview of a purely military surrender.

Sherman’s original terms matched those of that Grant gave to Lee but Johnston, influenced by President Davis, pressed him for political terms, including the reestablishment of state governments after the war. The authorities in Washington immediately rejected them. Sherman notified Johnston that the truce would expire on the 26th if there was no formal surrender in the interim.

Johnston responded by agreeing to the purely military terms and signed the surrender document on April 26th. The surrender disbanded all active Confederate forces in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, totaling 89,270 soldiers, the largest group to surrender during the war.

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.”

 

 

 

10/23/13

Confederate Soldiers’ Diaries

This entry is part 10 of 10 in the series Southern Diaries, Letters and Memoirs

Louis LeonLike the Union soldiers Confederates also kept diaries of their service to the South. Perhaps, the most famous is Sam Watkins’ “Company Aytch, or the Side Show to the Big Show” that detailed his four years of service in the Army of Tennessee.

Like his counterparts, Watkins showed us a soldier’s life at the ground level. Many of the diaries kept by his fellow soldiers give us a similar perspective.

Louis Leon, a Jewish Southerner, was a soldier from Charlotte, North Carolina who served in the 1st North Carolina Regiment and the 53rd North Carolina Regiment from the start of the war until the end. He saw action at Big Bethel and Gettysburg. He was captured in May 1864 and spent almost a year in a prisoner of war camp.

Leon had kept a diary and in 1913 at the age of 72 published his Diary of a Tar Heel Confederate Soldier with Stone Publishing Company in Charlotte, North Carolina. The preface of his work lays out his reason for publishing the work.

This diary was commenced for the fun of writing down my experience as a soldier from the Old North State. I never thought for a moment that I would put it in print; but now that I am getting old and have read so many histories written by our officers, but have never seen in print a history written by a private.

I know that my diary is truly the life of the man behind the gun, therefore I make bold to publish it. I am sure my experience was that of other privates, and a true history of my companies and regiments, as well as the Brigade, Division, and even Corp that I belonged to. I am certain that the men of ’61 to ’65 who read this will recall most vividly the camping, marching, fighting and suffering they endured in those never-to-be-forgotten days of long ago. And to the younger generation of Southern-born it will show how we endured and suffered, but still fought on for the cause we know was right.

His narrative provides an overview of a soldier’s itinerant routine over a four-year span, during which time the basic need for sleep, food, and clothing became as important as the battles he fought and survived. Several incidents stand out from his routine chronicling, including his references to the hospitality of Southerners toward Confederate soldiers, his involvement in the Battle of Gettysburg, his unhappiness at being guarded by African Americans while he was a prisoner of war, and his description of the eleven months he spent as a prisoner of the Union Army.

Leon first saw action at the Battle of Big Bethel. Here is his entry for that day.

June 10 – At three o’clock this morning the long roll woke us up. We fell in line, marched about five miles, then counter-marched, as the Yankees were advancing on us. We got to our breastworks a short time before the Yankees came, and firing commenced. We gave them a good reception with shot and shell. The fight lasted about four hours. Our company was behind the works that held the line where the major of the Yankee regiment, Winthrop, was killed. After he fell our company was ordered to the church, but was soon sent back to its former position.

 This is the first land battle of the war, and we certainly gave them a good beating, but we lost one of our regiment, Henry Wyatt, who was killed while gallantly doing a volunteer duty. Seven of our men were wounded. The Yankees must have lost at least two hundred men in killed and wounded.

By December, they were back in North Carolina and Leon describes the weather:

December 18 – We marched through town and lay all night in an open field without tents. It is certainly bitter cold. The only fires we could make were from the fence rails, as the woods were too far for us to get to.

Louis Leon saw action at Culp’s Hill on July 3, 1863. He describes the failure of the Confederate attacks up the steep slope.

July 3-When under a very heavy fire, we were ordered on Culps Hill, to the support of Gen. A. Johnson. Here we stayed all day – no, here, I may say, we melted away. We were on the brow of one hill, the enemy on the brow of another. We charged on them several times, but of course, running down our hill, and then to get to them was impossible, and every time we attempted it we came back leaving some of our comrades behind.

I know that our company went in the fight with 60 men. When we left Culps Hill there were 16 of us that answered to the roll call. The balance were all killed and wounded. There were 12 sharpshooters in our company and now John Cochran and myself are the only ones that are left. This day none will forget, that participated in the fight. It was truly awful how fast, how very fast, did our poor boys fall by our sides – almost as fast as the leaves that fell as cannon and musket balls hit them, as they flew on their deadly errand. You could see one with his head shot off, others cut in two, then one with his brain oozing out, one with his leg off, others shot through the heart.

Captain George Douglas Wise, a native of the Eastern Shore, was a Richmond lawyer who left his law practice to join his five brothers in service. George Douglas WiseWise was the nephew of former Governor Henry Wise who was a general in the Confederate States Army. At first Wise was assigned to a Kentucky regiment but then became an aide to his uncle. He spent the rest of the war on the western front as adjutant to Major General Carter L. Stevenson.

The diary begins on February 15, 1865 and ends with General Robert E. Lee’s farewell address to the troops on April 10, 1865. During his service Wise was a respected staff officer who not only wrote and delivered orders but also was called upon the deliver confidential communications. including most famously, the last desperate dispatches of General John Pemberton to General Joe Johnston, begging for aid as the siege of Vicksburg wore down his troops. Pemberton wrote,

“My men have been thirty-four days and nights in trenches without relief; and, as you know, are entirely isolated. What aid am I to expect from you? The bearer, Capt. G.D. Wise, can be confided in.”

Captain Wise recounted the losses after the Battle of Franklin. He considerably underestimated the Confederate losses. In actuality they lost 6,252 killed, wounded, missing or captured. The losses among the leadership were devastating with fourteen Confederate generals (six killed or mortally wounded, seven wounded, and one captured) and 55 regimental commanders among the casualties.

Dec. 5th [1864] Our loss at the battle of Franklin in killed, wounded & prisoners not more than 3,500, seventeen general officers lost. Witnessed upon the field a scene which touched my heart: as I rode among the dead I heard a soldier lamenting in tears the fall of his comrades – his words as I remember them – were ‘here they lie cold & dead; my colonel – the best in the world & my Brigadier General are both dead” – tears ran down his cheeks & he called out in tones of sorrow to his passing comrades “my brave colonel is dead.” He called the name of Col. Young: a gentleman of that name commanded the 10th Texas Regt. in Granbury’s Brig.

Wise wrote about the rumors of General Lee’s surrender on April 11th.

April 11th, [1865] Tuesday On the Hillsborough road 3 miles from Raleigh [NC] Arrived here about 3 o’c. after a march of about 15 miles, starting at 6 am. Passed through the capital of North Carolina – beautiful city. Gloomy rumors afloat in Raleigh – such as that Lee has been compelled to capitulate. Bad rumors always fly about on swift wings. The evacuation of Richmond & the fact that we receive no tidings from our great chief are enough to give birth to a batch of just such stories. I fear that many noble fellows have fallen, but I cannot believe that our noble leader with his army is lost to us.

Wise’s final entry concerns the assassination of President Lincoln and the surrender by General Joseph E. Johnston at Durham Station, North Carolina.

April 26th [1865], Greensboro [NC] Wednesday Tuesday 18th heard that Mr. Lincoln had been killed in Ford’s Theatre Washington City by a person unknown, who, after the deed leaped upon the stage & cried sic simper tyrannis, Its South is avenged. The killing occurred 11th April & Johnson was inaugurated 12th in his private room at the Kirkwood house. Same night Mr. Seward was attacked in his own room & stabbed several times. Two of his sons wounded same night, one supposed mortally. It is reported that Mr. Seward will recover. Ordered to move to-day at 10 o’c. am – will march ten miles to-day. Genl. Lee surrendered at Appomattox C.h. 9th April – paroles dated 10th. Richmond evacuated 2d April. The officers & soldiers were paroled to return to their homes, there to remain undisturbed.

George Wise returned to Richmond where he built a successful criminal law practice and entered local politics. He was elected to the United States Congress in 1880 where he served fourteen years. An eloquent speaker who never feared an adversary. When he died in 1908, his obituary identified him as “one of the best-known characters in recent Virginia history.”

04/30/13

The St. Albans Raid

This entry is part 10 of 12 in the series Spies of North and South

The St. Albans RaidSt. Albans, Vermont is the last place one would expect to have a raid by Confederates during the latter part of the American Civil War. But on October 19, 1864, the quiet Vermont, border town was the site of a Confederate attempt to rob three town banks in the name of the Confederacy.

The idea of the raid originated in early 1864 when the Confederate Congress passed a bill that authorized a campaign of sabotage against “the enemy’s property, by land or sea.” The bill established a Secret Service fund—$5 million in U.S. dollars—to finance the sabotage.

As an incentive, saboteurs would get rewards proportional to the destruction they wreaked. One million dollars of that fund was specifically earmarked for use by agents in Canada. For some time, agents there had been plotting far more than across-the-border sabotage. They believed that their plans for large-scale covert actions could win the war.

Canada was then a British possession and was officially known as British North America. Though neutral and against slavery, the British support had been towards the Southern Confederacy, mainly due to King Cotton, a commodity that British mills craved.

There were a number of Confederate agents stationed in Canada. Some were native Southerners, like Captain Thomas Henry Hines, who had ridden with Morgan’s Raiders in guerrilla sorties into Kentucky and Tennessee. Others were disaffected Northerners who were opposed to the war and were known as “Copperheads.”

Confederate Raiders of St. AlbansThe Confederates especially recruited sympathizers from Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, where an estimated 40 percent of the population was Southern-born. Among them were military officers in civilian clothes and politicians, such as Jacob Thompson who had been Secretary of the Interior under President James Buchanan and Clement Clay, former U.S. Senator from Alabama. They were ostensibly “commissioners” sent to Canada with vaguely defined public roles as their cover.

Other politicians involved in plots were George N. Sanders, who had taken part in Confederate operations in Europe, and Clement L. Vallandigham, who had been a powerful member of Congress from Ohio. He claimed he had 300,000 Sons of Liberty ready to follow him in an insurrection that would produce a Northwest Confederacy.

After an aborted attempt to free Confederate prisoners on Johnson’s Island, near Sandusky, Ohio in Lake Erie, and at Fort Douglas in Chicago failed miserably, Confederate authorities in Canada came up with a new plan. Using escaped Confederate prisoners-of-war, they would infiltrate the small Vermont town of St. Albans, rob the three banks there and burn the town to the ground. The ostensible reason was retribution for Union attacks in the South.

The commander of the raid was Bennett H. Young, a Confederate cavalryman who had been captured  at the Battle of Salineville in Ohio ended Morgan’s Raid the year before. Young had escaped to Canada and then made his way back the South. Here he proposed raids on American border towns to rob banks in order to raise money for the depleted Confederate treasury. He was commissioned a lieutenant and returned to Canada.

In Canada the former cavalryman recruited other escaped prisoners and planned a raid on St. Albans, a small town about 15 miles south of the border. Eventually, he had 20 other raiders and in October, 1864, his plan commenced.

On October 10th, Young and two others checked into a local hotel, saying that they had come from St. John’s in Canada East for a “sporting vacation.” Every day, two or three more young men arrived. By October 19, there were 21 cavalrymen assembled.

At 3:00 PM on the 19th, the Confederate raiders struck, simultaneously robbing three local banks. They quickly collected $208,000. As the banks were being robbed, eight or nine of the Confederates held the townspeople prisoner on the village green as their horses were stolen. One towns person was killed and another wounded. Young ordered his men to burn the town down, but the four-ounce bottles of Greek fire they had brought failed to work, and only one shed was destroyed.

The raiders then made their way across the border back to Canada, where they were arrested by British authorities. A Canadian court decided that the soldiers were under military orders and that the officially neutral Canada could not extradite them to the United States. The Canadian court’s ruling that the soldiers were legitimate military belligerents and not criminals, as argued by American authorities, has been interpreted as a tacit British recognition of the Confederate States of America. The raiders were freed, but the $88,000 the raiders had on their person was returned to Vermont.

The leader of the raid, Bennett H. Young, was excluded from President Andrew Johnson’s amnesty proclamation. He would not return home until 1868. He spent time studying in Ireland and Scotland. After returning home, he became a prominent attorney in Louisville, Kentucky. His philanthropic works were legion. Young founded the first orphanage for blacks in Louisville, a school for the blind, and did much pro bono work for the poor. He also worked as a railroad officer, author, and National Commander of the United Confederate Veterans.

04/29/13

The Confederate Secret Service

This entry is part 9 of 12 in the series Spies of North and South

Confederate cipher wheelUnlike the Union government, the Confederate government did not find it necessary to organize a large force of detectives and spies for other than purely military purposes. They organized the Confederate Secret Service and employed it for purposes they considered purely military.

Meanwhile, the Union government had a need to send out agents in pursuit of bounty jumpers, men who were fraudulently discharged, traders in contraband goods, and contract fraudsters. This use of capable individuals throughout the North prevented their use against the Confederacy.

The Southern government had no such need and employed spies primarily to discover the movement of Union troops and supplies. Generals depended largely on the information they brought, in planning attack and in accepting or avoiding battle. It is indeed a notable fact that a Confederate army was never surprised in an important engagement of the war. They may have been overmatched on many occasions but were never surprised.

The Confederates used a systems of couriers between Richmond and a number of northern cities, including Washington, Baltimore, New York and Boston. Agents in these cities would insert personal ads in the newspapers using cipher code. Once the papers inevitably reached Richmond the ciphers were decoded and the information was routed the proper location.

Part of the Confederacy’s advantage was that the war was primarily conducted on Southern soil. The Confederates were able to intercept a great many Union couriers who were carrying particularly sensitive information. On July 4, 1861 Confederate pickets captured a Union courier who had the complete returns (rosters) of General Irvin McDowell’s Army of Virginia.

“His statement of the strength and composition of that force,” relates General P.G.T. Beauregard, in Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, “tallied so closely with that which had been acquired through my Washington agencies… that I could not doubt them… I was almost as well advised of the strength of the hostile army in my front as its commander.” 

Using this valuable information General Beauregard was able to position his troops accordingly and win the First Battle of Manassas. In the opening of the war, at least, the Confederate spy and scout system was far better developed than was the Federal.

As the war unfolded the use of spies, scouts and agents became more localized. Individual commanders used their own cadres of spies rather than receiving information the long way around from Richmond. This system was also used by the Union armies and was the most efficient use of military intelligence gathering.

In his Valley Campaign of 1862, General Stonewall Jackson achieved a brilliant series of victories. However, it is a known fact that although Jackson was a brilliant tactical commander the services of the scouts and spies under Colonel Turner Ashby played a key role in locating the Union forces. Meanwhile, the Union commanders had no such advantage.

As the war moved into 1864, the Confederate government felt the need to conduct secret operations in the North. Jefferson Davis called upon several prominent Southerners to conduct secret negotiations for peace with prominent Northerners, including Horace Greeley. However, their correspondence with Greeley became public and the negotiations failed.

The Confederate government attempted to use the Sons of Liberty, sometimes called the Copperheads, against the Union government. Led by Clement Vallandigham who had been exiled to the South in 1863, the Sons of Liberty were seen by the Confederate government as a counterweight to the Union central government.

The Sons of Liberty would detach the states of Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio from the Union, if the Confederate authorities would, at the same time, move sufficient forces into Kentucky and Missouri to hold those lukewarm Federal States. These five states would then form the Northern Confederacy, compelling the Union government to stop the war.

The date for the general uprising was several times postponed, but finally settled for the 16th of August. Confederate officers were sent to various cities to direct the movement. Escaped Confederate prisoners were enlisted in the cause. Jacob Thompson, a Southern agent, furnished funds for perfecting county organizations. Arms were purchased in New York and secreted in Chicago.

The Confederate plot was revealed and many prominent members of the Sons of Liberty were arrested. The garrison at Camp Douglas, Chicago, was increased to seven thousand. The strength of the allies was deemed insufficient to contend with such a force, and the project was abandoned. The Confederates returned to Canada.

Throughout the fall and winter of 1864, the Confederate Secret Service conducted a series of operations in the North. St. Albans, Vermont is the last place one would expect to have a raid by Confederates during the latter part of the American Civil War. But on October 19, 1864, the quiet Vermont, border town was the site of a Confederate attempt to rob three town banks in the name of the Confederacy. It would end with the raiders being arrested by Canadian authorities and some of the stolen funds returned to the Vermont banks.

Then there was the attempted capture of the USS Michigan which was guarding Johnson’s Island and the release of the prisoners incarcerated there. It ended in failure with the execution of the Captain John Y. Beall of the Confederate navy for piracy and spying.

There was an attempt to fire the city of New York by Confederate agents and the Sons of Liberty on November 25, 1864. The incendiary “Greek Fire” that had been supplied to Confederate agents failed to ignite properly. The Confederates fled the city and returned to Canada. However, Robert Cobb Kennedy was captured and hanged on March 25, 1865.

Every Confederate plot in the North was fated to fail. The Federal secret service proved to be more than a match for the Sons of Liberty and the Confederates. The Confederate’s objectives included the cutting of telegraph wires, the seizure of banks, the burning of railroad stations, the appropriation of arms and ammunition and the freeing of thousands of Confederate prisoners from Camp Douglas in Chicago. Their operations were foiled by the Union secret service. Some 106 men were captured, tried and convicted of a variety of crimes.

The operations around Chicago were the last conducted in the North by the Confederate Secret Services. The agents either returned to Canada or made their way South where they arrived just in time for the surrender of the Confederacy and the end of the war.

 

 

 

04/19/13

Confederate Spies: Rose O’Neal Greenhow

This entry is part 5 of 12 in the series Spies of North and South

Rose O'Neal Greenhow with her daughter RoseOne of the most renowned Confederate spies of the early Civil War years was Rose O’Neal Greenhow of Washington, D.C. Mrs. Greenhow who was 48 or 49 when the war began (her birth year is given as 1813 or 1814), was a Washington socialite who moved in the very highest circles of society.

Rose Greenhow’s early life was not the easiest. She was born at Port Tobacco, Maryland as as Maria Rosetta O’Neal. Both of her parents died by the time that she was a teenager. She was invited to live with her aunt, Maria Ann Hill, who ran a stylish boarding house at the Old Capitol building in Washington.

Through the assistance of her aunt, Rose met a number of personages and frequented capital society. In 1935 she married Dr. Robert Greenhow. He taught her history and gave her access to government documents through his work in the U.S. Department of State.

The Greenhow’s had eight children but only four of them lived beyond infancy. Soon after her namesake last child was born, her husband died. Meanwhile one daughter moved West and another died.

Rose Greenhow’s sympathies were always with the Confederacy due to her friendship with John C. Calhoun. Soon after the war began, she was recruited by then-Union officer Thomas Jordan. He supplied her with a 26-symbol cipher for creating encoded messages. Jordan resigned his U.S. Army commission in May 1861 and received a captain’s commission in the Confederate States Army. He would end the war as a brigadier general after which he joined the Cuban Liberation Army.

On July 9, 1861, and July 16, 1861, Greenhow passed secret messages to Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard containing critical information regarding military movements for what would be the First Battle of Bull Run, including the plans of Union General Irvin McDowell. Assisting in her conspiracy were pro-Confederate members of Congress, Union officers, and her dentist, Aaron Van Camp. Confederate President Jefferson Davis credited Greenhow’s information with securing victory at Manassas.

Greenhow’s spying career was shortlived. On August 23, 1861 Allan Pinkerton, head of the recently-formed Secret Service, apprehended Greenhow and placed her under house arrest. Leaked information was traced back to Greenhow’s home, and upon searching for further evidence, Pinkerton and his men found maps of Washington fortifications and notes on military movements.

On January 18, 1862, Greenhow was transferred to Old Capitol Prison. Her daughter, “Little Rose”, then eight years old, was permitted to remain with her. Greenhow continued to pass along messages while imprisoned. She was said to have sent one message concealed within a woman visitor’s bun of hair. Passers-by could see Rose’s window from the street. The position of the blinds and number of candles burning in the window had special meaning to the “little birdies” passing by. Greenhow also on one occasion flew the Confederate Flag from her prison window.

Rather than continue her incarceration, the Union government deported her to Richmond, Virginia where she was hailed as a heroine by Southerners. Jefferson Davis welcomed her home and enlisted her as a courier to Europe. From 1863 to 1864, Greenhow traveled through France and Britain on a diplomatic mission for the Confederacy. While in Britain, Greenhow wrote her memoirs, titled My Imprisonment and the First Year of Abolition Rule at Washington, which sold well there.

In September 1864, Greenhow left Europe to return to the Confederate States, carrying dispatches. She traveled on the Condor, a British blockade runner. On October 1, 1864, the Condor ran aground at the mouth of the Cape Fear River near Wilmington, North Carolina, while begin pursued by a Union gunboatUSS Niphon.

Fearing capture and further imprisonment, Greenhow fled the grounded ship by rowboat. A wave capsized the rowboat, and Greenhow, weighed down with $2,000 worth of gold in a bag around her neck from her memoir, royalties intended for the Confederate treasury, drowned.

 

02/15/13

The Battle of Pleasant Hill

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series The Red River Campaign

The Battle of Pleasant Hill was a continuation of the fighting at Mansfield the day before. The two sides were essentially composed of the same forces and the same leadership as there was at Mansfield with Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks leading the Union forces and Lt. Gen. Richard Taylor leading the Confederates. Pleasant Hill was located about 16 miles southeast of Sabine Cross Roads, the scene of the previous day’s fighting.

During the overnight period the Union forces were reinforced, giving them a total of about 12,000 men while the Confederates slightly outnumbered them with about 12,100. Union reinforcements included Maj. Gen. Andrew J. Smith, commanding detachments of XVI and XVII Corps. They arrived from Grand Ecore late on the April 8, around nightfall, and encamped about 2 miles from Pleasant Hill.

Map of the Battle of Pleasant HillConfederate reinforcements had arrived late on the April 8. Churchill’s Arkansas Division arrived at Mansfield at 3.30 PM and Parson’s Missouri Division (numbering 2,200 men) arrived at Mansfield at 6 PM. Neither of these Divisions participated in the Battle of Mansfield. However, both would play a major role during the Battle of Pleasant Hill.

Click map to enlarge

Historian John D. Winters of Louisiana Tech University in his The Civil War in Louisiana described the scene along the road from Mansfield to Pleasant Hill as being “littered by burning wagons, abandoned knapsacks, arms, and cooking utensils. Federal stragglers and wounded were met by the hundreds and were quickly rounded up and sent to the rear. 

On the morning of the April 9, Maj. Gen. William Franklin ordered the baggage train to proceed to Grand Ecore. It left Pleasant Hill at 11:00 AM, and included many pieces of artillery. Most of Franklin’s Cavalry (commanded by Brig. Gen. Albert Lindley Lee) and the XIII Corps left with it. This included the Corps D’Afrique commanded by Colonel William H. Dickey (wounded on April 8) and Brig. Gen. Thomas E. G. Ransom‘s detachment of the XIII Corps, now under the command of Brig. Gen. Robert A. Cameron. Ransom had been wounded on the April 8.

The baggage train made slow progress and was still only a few miles from Pleasant Hill when the major fighting began later that day. Brig. Gen. Charles P. Stone, Chief of Staff, and others, attempted to get Cameron to return to Pleasant Hill throughout the day, but he failed to do so. Cameron stated that he never received any written orders to return. Banks didn’t appear to have been fully aware of the exact orders Cameron had received from Franklin.

The Union side lost 18 pieces of artillery at the Battle of Mansfield. These were now turned on the Union forces the next day at Pleasant Hill. Confederate Brig. Gen. Jean Jacque Alexandre Alfred Mouton was killed during the Battle of Mansfield and was replaced by Brig. Gen. Camille J. de Polignac.

Confederate Trans-Mississippi Department commander Lt. Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith, who was at Shreveport, received a dispatch from Taylor that reached him at 4:00 AM, April 9. It informed him of the Battle of Mansfield. Smith then rode 45 miles to Pleasant Hill, but did not reach there in time for the battle, arriving around nightfall.

Dr. Harris H. Beecher, Assistant-Surgeon, 114th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, present at the battle, described the village of Pleasant Hill as “a town of about twelve or fifteen houses, situated on a clearing in the woods, of a mile or so in extent, and elevated a trifle above the general level of the surrounding country.”

In 1864, the countryside in this part of Louisiana mostly consisted of pine forests and scrub oaks. According to Banks, “The shortest and only practicable road from Natchitoches to Shreveport was the stage road through Pleasant Hill and Mansfield (distance 100 miles), through a barren, sandy country, with less water and less forage, the greater portion an unbroken pine forest.”

According to Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks’ Report of the Battle, “The enemy began to reconnoiter the new position we had assumed at 11 o’clock on the morning of the 9th, and as early as 1 or 2 o’clock opened a sharp fire of skirmishers, which was kept up at intervals during the afternoon.”

At about 5:00 PM, the Confederates attacked along the entire Union line. The Confederates had little success on the Union right but did push the Union defenders back in the center and on the left. The defenders succeeded in halting their retreat and in turn regained their former positions. They were able to stabilize their lines and then drive the Confederates from the field. The entire battle lasted about two hours with heavy casualties on both sides.

The experience of Confederate Brig. Gen. Hamilton P. Bee illustrates the heavy fighting. Bee advanced with  two regiments in columns of four riding swiftly down the Pleasant Hill road toward the enemy lines. The Confederate forces were suddenly attacked at close range by Federals concealed behind a fence. Winters describes the scene, accordingly: “Men toppled from their saddles, wounded horses screamed in anguish, and for a moment pandemonium reigned.”

Bee’s men took temporary shelter . . . in a series of small ravines studded with young pines until they recovered from the shock of the unexpected attack. Bee rallied his men but in the process had two horses shot from under him. Colonel [Xavier B.] Debray was injured when he fell from the saddle of his dead horse. . . . Debray was able to withdraw his men safely to the rear leaving, however, about a third of them killed or wounded on the front.

Banks ordered a withdrawal from Pleasant Hill at about 1:00 AM on April 10th. Bee reported that he was in possession of the field the following morning. “The day has been passed in burying the dead of both armies and caring for the Federal wounded, our own wounded having been cared for the night before.” After the Battle of Pleasant Hill, Banks and his Union forces retreated to Grand Ecore and abandoned plans to capture Shreveport, by then the Louisiana state capital.

Pleasant Hill was an exceedingly bloody affair with the Union forces sustaining 1,369 casualties (150 killed, 844 wounded, 375 missing or captured). The Confederates lost 1,629 including 1,200 killed or wounded and 429 missing or captured.

12/20/12

The Confederate States Army Structure and Ranks

This entry is part 9 of 10 in the series The Organization of the Armies

The Confederate States Army was a “cousin” of the Union Army and used much of the same structure that their opponents used. In their fight to gain independence, the Confederates felt that ‘reinventing the wheel’ would be counterproductive and made very few changes in adopting the basic  United States Army structure and rank system.

Like the Union counterparts, regiments were raised and equipped by the southern states. Governors, like their northern counterparts, appointed colonels and other officers to lead them. The Confederate States Army, however, at the start of the war placed regiments from the same states in their brigades.

Looking at the Confederate Order of Battle from Antietam, there were some deviations from this rule but by and large brigades were made up of regiments from the same states. As the war progressed and new regiments were raised back in the home states, every effort was made to follow this rule.

The Confederate States Army experimented with combined arms units that were called legions. These units consisted of battalions of infantry, artillery and cavalry. Wade Hampton of South Carolina raised a legion which was named Hampton’s Legion. Originally, the Legion comprised six companies of infantry, two of cavalry, and one of light artillery.

Cobb’s Legion of Georgia was another such attempt at the combined arms concept. the Legion comprised seven infantry companies, four cavalry companies, and a single battery. The concept of a multiple-branch unit was never a practical application for Civil War armies and, early in the war, the individual elements were assigned to other organizations.

As their Union counterparts, the Confederates grouped several brigades in many cases with organic artillery into divisions. Early in the war, the Confederate States Army in the eastern theater experimented with brigades reporting to the commanding general.

At the First Battle of Manassas the two Confederate generals,  Joseph E. Johnston and P. G. T. Beauregard, each had an Army grouping of brigades. One of the brigades had six regiments of infantry, three cavalry units and two artillery formations.

As their Union counterparts were to realize, this was an inefficient structure. The Confederates grouped their brigades in divisions for greater efficiency both in the field and while in bivouac. Various supply and support units worked more efficiently in this arrangement.

By Seven Pines at the end of May 1862, General Joseph Johnston had a Right Wing with three divisions, A Left Wing with  two divisions and a Reserve of two divisions. After General Robert E. Lee assumed command when Johnston was wounded, the eventual structure of corps command units began to emerge. By Fredericksburg, Lee had change the ‘Wings” to Corps and split his army into two corps with separate reserve artillery and cavalry formations.

A word about Confederate ranks: Commanding generals were simply known as general, corps commanders were lieutenant generals, division commanders were major generals and brigades were commanded by brigadier generals. By comparison the Union Army were quite stingy with the lieutenant general designation with Ulysses S. Grant becoming the first lieutenant general in early 1864.

During the Civil War, the Confederate States Army had a total of 18 lieutenant generals while the Union Arm only had two, Grant and Winfield Scott, who received the rank of brevet lieutenant general in 1865.

The Confederate Army eventually had seven full general officers. The first five included by order of seniority Samuel CooperAlbert Sidney JohnstonRobert E. LeeJoseph E. Johnston, and P.G.T. Beauregard. Over the course of the war Edmund Kirby Smith and Braxton Bragg joined their ranks. When  John Bell Hood assumed command of the Army of Tennessee in July 1864, he assumed the temporary rank of full general.

 

 

07/6/12

The Confederates Advance into Tennessee

This entry is part 2 of 10 in the series The Franklin-Nashville Campaign

The Confederates Advance

into Tennessee

After their defeat at Atlanta, the Confederate Army of Tennessee, commanded by General John Bell Hood, had retreated to Palmetto, Georgia. After meeting with Confederate President Jefferson Davis, the Confederate strategy called for Hood to advance across Georgia, into Alabama and ultimately into Tennessee. The objective was to circumvent Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman’s army group and disrupt his supply lines back to Chattanooga.

Sherman remained in Atlanta for the rest of September 1864 and into October. He began the planning for his famous March to the Sea. Part of this called for a secure supply line to Atlanta via the Western & Atlantic Railroad, the line used in the Andrews Raid (commonly referred to as the Great Locomotive Chase), which took place  on the morning of April 12, 1862.

Map of the Franklin-Nashville CampaignHood headed to the northwest with his 40,000 man army on September 29, 1864. Along the way, Hood skirmished with Union cavalry under Brig. Gens. Judson Kilpatrick and Kenner Garrard in a raid on the railroad near Marietta. Hood moved fast and managed to elude Union reconnaissance parties. This partly due to the lack of training that the Union cavalry had received.

Click Map to enlarge.

Hood’s forces captured Union garrisons at Big Shanty (present-day Kennesaw) with its garrison of 175 men, and the following day Acworth, with an additional 250. Leaving one division at Atlanta, Sherman took his army of 55,000 and began to pursue Hood.

On October 5th, a Confederate division (approximately 3,276) under  Maj. Gen. Samuel G. French attacked a Union garrison under Brig. Gen. John M. Corse at Allatoona, Georgia. The Federal troops (approximately 2,025 men) occupied strong defensive positions in two earthen redoubts on each side of a 180 feet, 65 feet deep railroad cut and many of the men, including the entire 7th Illinois, were armed with Henry repeating rifles.

After a two-hour bombardment, French sent a demand for surrender, which was refused. The Confederates commander then sent his three brigades forward to assault the Union fortifications. The battle lasted two hours and it appeared that the Union garrison might have to surrender. However, a false report that Union reinforcements were on their way forced French to withdraw.Battle of Allatoona Pass

This small affair was fairly bloody with the Union force sustaining 706 total casualties while the Confederates took 897 total casualties. French was unsuccessful in seizing the railroad cut and Federal garrison, regretting in particular that he was unable to seize the one million rations stored there, or to burn them before he retreated.

Hood moved his forces on and on October 12th, demanded the surrender of the 700-man Union garrison at Resaca, Georgia. The Union commander, Col. Clark R. Weaver, refused Hood’s ultimatum to surrender, which warned that no prisoners would be taken. Weaver replied “In my opinion I can hold this post. If you want it, come and take it.”

Hood declined to attack the Union position because he believed that it would be too costly, instead bypassing the city, moving north, and continuing the destruction of the railroad.

After the surrender of the Union garrison at Dalton, Georgia, one of the uglier incidents of the war took place. Some 600 of the Union soldiers were African-Americans. The Union commander, Col. Lewis Johnson, demanded that they be treated as prisoners-of-war but General Hood replied that “all slaves belonging to persons in the Confederacy” would be returned to their masters.

Hubbard Pryor, 44th USCTThe African-Americans were marched to the railroad and forced to tear up the rails. Six were shot for refusing to work or being unable to keep up. Col. Lewis Johnson later wrote that the abuse his men received “exceeded anything in brutality I have ever witnessed.” Johnson and his white officers were paroled the following day, but some of his black soldiers were returned to slavery.

Hood now began to plan his long-term strategy. Up to now his troops had destroyed 24 miles of track but Sherman employed upwards of 10,000 men and the line was back in service by October 28th.

Hood realized that he would need to engage Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas’ Army of the Cumberland before Sherman joined forces with him to have any chance of success. After defeating Thomas, he planned to move into Kentucky to replenish both his troops and their supplies. If Sherman followed him, he would engage him in Kentucky. After defeating Sherman, he would then move through the Cumberland Gap and aid Robert E. Lee at Petersburg.

On October 21st, General P.G.T. Beauregard, Hood’s immediate superior, reluctantly approved Hood’s plan, although he had his doubts with the daunting logistics of it.

Meanwhile, Sherman had received preliminary approval for the March to the Sea. In order to secure his rear, Sherman decided to assist Thomas in the destruction of Hood’s army. He ordered the IV Corps under Maj. Gen.
David S. Stanley to Chattanooga and the XXIII Corps under Maj. Gen. John Schofield to Nashville, as well as Maj. Gen. Andrew J. Smith‘s XVI Corps from Missouri to Nashville.

 

 

06/21/12

The Confederates Retreat to Atlanta

The Confederates Retreat

to Atlanta

From May 17th until June 22nd, General Joseph E. Johnston and his Army of Tennessee fought a series of engagements with Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman‘s army group as both forces moved south to Atlanta. Sherman continued to press the numerically-inferior Confederates by movements to either flank of the Confederate army. This forced Johnston to continually withdraw closer to the Union army’s objective, Atlanta.

On May 17th, the two sides met briefly at Adairsville, just northeast of Rome, Georgia. The Confederate forces had moved south and crossed the Oostanaula River after the Battle of Resaca. Johnston considered the Calhoun area a good location to draw the advancing Union forces into a costly assault. After some scouting, he realized that there was better terrain further south near Adairsville.

Map of the Atlanta CampaignThe Union army group was divided into three columns and advanced on a broad front. Arriving at Adairsville, Johnston realized that the terrain was unsuitable for the defense that he had in mind. Johnston changed his strategy when he realized that Sherman’s force was divided. The strategy centered on the idea that he could attack one of the Union columns and cause it considerable damage.

Click Map to enlarge.

During the night of May 17–18, Johnston sent William J. Hardee‘s Corps to Kingston, while he fell back toward Cassville with the rest of his army. His hope was that Sherman would believe that most of the Confederate army was at Kingston, giving Hardee the opportunity to hold off the Union forces at Kingston while the greater part of the Confederate army destroyed the Union column at Cassville.

As in most military plans, Johnston’s did not survive contact with the enemy. Sherman reacted as Johnston had hoped but Union units were not in the location that the Confederates expected but on their flank. Realizing that he could not maneuver with them there, Maj. Gen. John B. Hood fell back to rejoin Leonidas Polk‘s force.

The two Confederate corps fell back to a line to a new line east and south of Cassville, where they were joined by Hardee who had been pushed out of Kingston. Johnston positioned his forces on a ridge, hoping that Sherman would assault his defensive line, confident that he could repulse the oncoming Union army.

On the night of May 20th, the Confederates held a council of war. Johnston recalled that Polk and Hood expressed a view that they could not hold their positions in the face of a determined Union assault. Johnston  yielded to these demands, even though he thought the position to be defensible. Hood had a different recollection at odds with Johnston’s, that the line could not be held against an attack but that it was a good position from which to move against the enemy.

Rather than force his corps commanders into a battle that they thought was unwinnable, Johnston ordered a withdrawal across the Etowah River.Sherman observing his troops The continual withdrawals were wearing on the Confederates who were anxious to stand and fight.

At New Hope Church, the greater part of the Confederate army met and defeated Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker‘s XX Corps on May 25-26, 1864. Sherman, rather than meeting Johnston at Allatoona Pass, decided to move to his left flank. Johnston countered this maneuver by moving his command to the area around New Hope Church.

Not realizing that Johnston’s entire force was there, Sherman sent Hooker’s Corps to the attack. Hooker divided his unit into three columns, one for each of his divisions. They were able to push the Confederate advance elements back about three miles, until they reached Johnston’s main line.

Due to the difficult terrain, Hooker was unable to coordinate his attacks and his men suffered terribly, particularly from shrapnel and canister fire from the Confederate artillery. In total the Union force suffered a total of 1,665 casualties against 350 Confederate casualties.

The advancing Union forces suffered another bloody nose at Pickett’s Mill on May 27th. Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard and his IV Corps was ordered to attack Johnston’s seemingly exposed right flank. The smaller Confederate force of two brigades was ready for the attack and Howard’s force was repulsed with 1,600 total casualties to 500 for the Confederates.

Battle of Pickett's MillThe Union Army of the Tennessee had set up a defensive line in and around Dallas, Georgia, held by the XV Corpsunder Maj. General John A. Logan. From May 26th until June 4th, Hardee’s Corps attempted to breach this defensive line. At two different points along the line, significant fighting erupted. The Confederates were repulsed in all of their attempts suffering at least 3,000 total casualties while their Union counterparts reported 2,400 casualties.

Meanwhile, Sherman continued to look for a way around the Confederate lines. On June 1st, his cavalry occupied Allatoona Pass, securing railroad supply for the Union army. Sherman ordered a movement east to the railroad and Johnston was forced to follow him.

As the two armies maneuvered for terrain advantage, there was a break in the fighting until June 22nd when they met at Kolb’s Farm at the southern end of the Confederate Kennesaw Mountain defensive line.

Looking for a weak spot in the line, Sherman maneuvered his forces to fix Johnston in place. He ordered Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas to send Hooker to the southern end of the line. He was to be supported by the single corps of the Army of the Ohio.

The Union attack was anticipated by Johnston and he ordered Hood’s Corps to counter it. Hood was an overly aggressive commander and believing that he only faced a small enemy force, ordered his full corps of 11,000 to advance.

Hooker was ready for the Confederate attack. His troops had prepared a strong defensive line of infantry and artillery. The Confederate attack began at about 3:30 PM and was led by Maj. Gen. Carter L. Stevenson‘s Division. They were able to push the Union skirmishers back to their mainMap of the Battle of Kolb's Farm line but in the process suffered considerable casualties.

Once they emerged from the woods into the open ground, Union artillery caused even more casualties. Falling back, they took cover in a ravine but were subjected to enfilade fire from Union artillery. Stevenson’s Division held on until nightfall, then withdrew east.

Maj. Gen. Thomas C. Hindman‘s Division had been ordered to attack north of the Dallas Road. He fared even worse with his troops forced to march across a patch of marshy ground. Once Union artillery found the range, Hindman ordered the withdrawal of his division. It was said that the artillery alone repulsed the Confederates.

The Battle of Kolb’s Farm was a Union victory with the Confederates suffering between 1,300 to 1,500 total casualties while the Union forces sustained 300 to 500 casualties. Like many of the battles and engagements during the Atlanta Campaign, casualty reports are sometimes incomplete and vary by the source. The Union army now found itself facing the formidable natural defenses of Kennesaw Mountain.


 

06/6/12

The Battle of Chantilly

This entry is part 6 of 6 in the series The Northern Virginia Campaign

Today, the Chantilly, Virginia battlefield ( the Confederates called it Ox Hill) is almost unrecognizable as such but on September 1, 1862 it was the site of a violent struggle. On the Confederate side was the Second Corps of Maj. Gen. Stonewall Jackson, accompanied by Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart. On the Union side were two brigades from the IX Corps under the command of  Brig. Gen. Isaac Stevens and Maj. Gen. Philip Kearny‘s division from the III Corps. The Confederate forces had more than a 3-to-1 advantage.

Maj. Gen. John Pope’s Army of Virginia had fought a three day battle with General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia that lasted from August 28 until August 30, 1862. The Union army had been defeated and Pope ordered a withdrawal east to Centreville. Both armies spent August 31st reorganizing their forces.

Map of the Battle of ChantillyPope seemed to be a shattered who couldn’t make a decision. He called an unusual council of war and accepted his general’s advice to pull further back into the Washington defenses. However, he received an order from General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck him to attack and Pope made preparations to comply.

Meanwhile, Lee  ordered Jackson with Stuart leading the way to circle to Pope’s right and get behind the Union presence at Centreville. Jackson’s objective was the capture of Germantown, Virginia where Pope’s only two escape routes, the Warrenton Pike (modern U.S. Route 29) and the Little River Turnpike (modern U.S. Route 50), converged.

At first, Pope discounted information that Confederate cavalry was at Germantown but when other scouts reported seeing Confederate infantry marching east down the Little River Turnpike, Pope realized that the Confederates were in his rear. He immediately called off the advance and instead directed his army to retreat to Washington.

September 1st dawned with rain. Jackson’s men were tired and hungry and made poor progress. After a brief, three-mile march, they occupied Ox Hill in Fairfax County. Jackson took a nap ans his cavalry spent the greater part of the day skirmishing with Union infantry and cavalry. At about 3:00 PM, Stevens arrived with his two brigades and almost immediately Stevens ordered an attack against the Confederate center.

At first, the Union attack was successful, routing a Confederate brigade. But the Confederates counterattacked and in the fighting Stevens with General Isaac Stevenskilled by a bullet in the head at about 5:00 PM. His troops were driven back.

At about the same time a severe thunderstorm began, limiting the visibility. The fighting was reduced to the bayonet as ammunition became wet. Kearney arrived at about this time and deployed his division. He ordered Brig. Gen. David B. Birney‘s brigade on Stevens’s left to attack across the field. Birney’s attack stalled with hand-to-hand fighting against Maj. Gen. A.P. Hill‘s division.

It was at this point in the battle that Philip Kearny was killed when he mistakenly rode into Confederate lines. Birney took command of all Union troops and ordered a withdrawal back across the field. Union total casualties at the Battle of General Philip KearnyChantilly were 1,300 while the Confederates sustained 800 casualties.

The Union army withdrew to Germantown and Fairfax Court House that night, followed over the next few days by retreating to the defenses of Washington. The Confederate cavalry would attempt a pursuit but failed to cause significant damage to the Union army.

Pope was relieved of command and his units were absorbed into the Army of the Potomac. Lee had neutralized the threat of Pope’s army and turned north, crossing into Maryland on the way to his fateful meeting with George McClellan at Antietam.