Fantasy Football - Footballguys Forums
timschochet

The American Civil War Timeline- 150th Anniversary

Recommended Posts

The March to Cedar Mountain

Jackson hoped to make a rapid march across the Rapidan, pounce on the isolated divisions, and withdraw Valley-style before Pope could concentrate against him. So far it had not worked that way, however - primarily because Stonewall was still Stonewall. A.P. Hill was kept as much in the dark to his chief's instructions as fellow division commanders Winder and Ewell had ever been. "I pledge you my word," the latter told an inquiring chaplain before the movement got under way, "I do not know whether we march north, south, east, or west, or whether we march at all. General Jackson has simply ordered me to have my men ready to move at dawn. I have been ready ever since, and have no further indication of his plans. That is almost all I ever know of his designs." When secrecy was involved, no one - not even Robert E. Lee, of whom Jackson had said: "I am willing to follow him blindfolded" - was going to change him. The result, as Lee had feared, was mutual resentment and mistrust.

Not only did Jackson not "consult" with his red-haired lieutenant, whose Light Division was as large as the other two combined; he rode him unmercifully for every slight infraction of the rules long since established for the Army of the Valley. Consequently, glad as he had been to get away from Longstreet, Hill began to suspect he had leaped from the frying pan into the fire. Resentment bred confusion, and confusion mounted quickly toward a climax in the course of the march northward against Pope.

Having reached Orange in good order the first day, August 7, Jackson issued instructions for the advance across the Rapidan tomorrow, which would place his army in position for a strike at Culpeper the following day. The order of march would be Ewell, Hill, Winder; so he said; but during the night he changed his mind and told Ewell to take an alternate road. Uninformed of the change, Hill had his men lined up next morning on the outskirts of town, waiting for Ewell to take the lead. That was where Jackson found him. Angry at the delay, he rebuked him and passed Winder to the front. The result was further delay, and a miserable showing, complicated by Federal cavalry probing at his wagon train.

Ewell made barely eight miles before sundown, Winder about half that, and Hill was less than two miles out of Orange when the army halted for the night. Jackson was furious. So was Hill. Ewell fretted. Winder was down with a fever, riding in an ambulance despite doctor's orders that he leave the field entirely. Several men had died of sunstroke, and the rest took their cue from their commanders, grumbling at the way they had been shuffled about in the dust and heat.

Overnight, Jackson's wrath turned to gloom. The fast-stepping Army of the Valley, formerly such a close-knit organization, seemed to be coming apart at the seams. Rising next morning to resume the march, he informed Lee "I am not making much progress...today I do not expect much more than to close up [the column] and clear the country around the train of the enemy's cavalry. I fear that the expedition will, in consequence of my tardy movements, be productive of but little good."

Ewell had the lead; Winder was in close support; Hill was marching hard to close the gap. The morning wore on, hot as yesterday. Noon came and went. Presently, up ahead, there was the boom of guns, and word came back to Jackson that the Federals were making a stand, apparently with horse artillery. He rode forward for a brief reconnaissance.

This was piedmont country, rolling, heavily wooded except for scattered fields of grain. The bluecoats did not appear to be present in strength, but their was no telling: Jackson decided to wait for Hill before advancing. Off to the right was Cedar Mountain, obviously the key to the position. Ewell was told to put his batteries there and his infantry below them, along the northern base; Winder would take position on the left in order to overlap the Yankee line when the signal was given to go forward.

There was no hurry. It was now past 2 o'clock and Culpeper was eight miles away: too far, in any event, for an attack to be made on it today. Jackson went onto the porch of a nearby farmhouse and lay down to take a nap.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This poem was found on the body of a Confederate sergeant after the First Battle of Winchester, May 25, 1862.

Later that year two men set it to music, and it became one of the most popular patriotic songs of the Confederacy.

(click for YouTube video)

Come, stack arms, men! Pile on the rails,

Stir up the camp-fire bright;

No matter if the canteen fails,

We'll make a roaring night.

Here Shenandoah brawls along,

There burly Blue Ridge echoes strong,

To swell the brigade's rousing song

Of "Stonewall Jackson's way."

We see him now, -- the old slouched hat

Cocked o'er his eye askew;

The shrewd, dry smile, the speech so pat,

So calm, so blunt, so true.

The "Blue-Light Elder" knows 'em well;

Says he, "That's Banks, -- he's fond of shell;

Lord save his soul! we'll give him hell,

That's "Stonewall Jackson's way."

Silence! ground arms! kneel all! caps off!

Old "Blue Light's" going to pray.

Strangle the fool that dares to scoff!

Attention! it's his way.

Appealing from his native sod,

"Hear us, hear us Almighty God,

Lay bare Thine arm; stretch forth Thy rod!"

That's "Stonewall Jackson's way."

He's in the saddle now. Fall in!

Steady! the whole brigade!

Hill's at the ford cut off; we'll win

His way out, ball and blade!

What matter if our shoes are worn?

What matter if our feet are torn?

"Quick-step! we're with him before morn!"

That's "Stonewall Jackson's way."

The sun's bright lances rout the mists

Of morning, and, by George!

Here's Longstreet struggling in the lists,

Hemmed in an ugly gorge.

Pope and his Yankees, whipped before,

"Bayonets and grape!" hear Stonewall roar;

"Charge, Stuart! Pay off Ashby's score!"

In "Stonewall Jackson's way."

Ah! Maiden, wait and watch and yearn

For news of Stonewall's band!

Ah! Widow, read, with eyes that burn,

That ring upon thy hand.

Ah! Wife, sew on, pray on, hope on;

Thy life shall not be all forlorn;

The foe had better ne'er been born

That gets in "Stonewall's way."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Battle of Cedar Mountain

Meanwhile the artillery duel continued, the Unions guns firing accurately and fast. This was clearly something more than a mere delaying action staged by cavalry; there was infantry out there beyond the woods, though in what strength could not be told. Manifestly weak, pale as his shirt - he was in fact in shirt sleeves - Winder had left his ambulance, ignoring the doctor's protests, put his troops in line, extending the left as instructed, and then had joined his batteries, observing their fire with binoculars and calling out corrections for the gunners. It was now about 4 o'clock.

An officer went down beside Winder, clipped on the head by a fragment of shell; another was eviscerated by a jagged splinter; a third was struck in the rump by the unexploded ricochet and hurled ten feet, though he suffered only bruises as a result. Then came Winder's turn. Tall and wavy-haired, he kept his post, and as he continued to direct the counterbattery fire, calm and cool-looking in his shirt sleeves, with the binoculars held to his eyes, a shell came screaming at him, crashing through his left arm and tearing off most of the ribs on that side of his chest. He fell straight back and lay full lengfth on the ground, quivering spasmodically.

"General, do you know me?" a staff lieutenant asked, bending over the sufferer in order to be heard above the thunder of the guns.

"Oh yes," Winder said vaguely, and his mind began to wander. The guns were bucking and banging all around him, but he was back at home again in Maryland. In shock, he spoke disconnectedly of his wife and children until a chaplain came and knelt beside him, seeking to turn his thoughts from worldly things.

"General, lift up your heart to God."

"I do," Winder said calmly. "I do lift it up to him."

Carried to the rear, he died just before sundown, asking after the welfare of his men, and those who were with him were hard pressed for a comforting answer. By then the full fury of the Union assault had crashed against his lines, which had broken in several places. Jackson's plan for outflanking the enemy on the left miscarried; it was he who was outflanked in that direction. The sudden crash of musketry, following close on the news that Winder had been mangled by a shell, brought him off the farmhouse porch and into the saddle.

He rode hard toward the left, entering a moil of fugitives who had given way in panic when the bluecoats had emerged roaring from the cover of the woods. Drawing his sword - a thing no one had ever seen him do before in battle - he brandished above his head and called out hoarsely: "Rally, brave men, and press forward! Your general will lead you! Jackson will lead you! Follow me!"

This had an immediate effect, for the sight was as startling in its way as the unexpected appearance of the Federals had been. The men halted in their tracks, staring open-mouthed, and then began to rally in response to the cries of their officers, echoing Stonewall, who was finally persuaded to retire out of range of the bullets twittering round him. "Good, good," he said as he turned back, Winder's successor having assured him that the Yankees would be stopped.

Whether this promise could have been kept in the face of another assault was another matter, but fortunately by now the battle was moving in the opposite direction: A.P. Hill had arrived with the Light Division. Opening ranks to let the fugitives through, Little Powell's veterans swamped the blue attackers, flung them back on their reserves, and pursued them northward, though the gathering twilight. So quickly, after the manner of light fiction, had victory been snatched from the flames of defeat, if not disaster.

Animated Map of the Battle

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Cedar Mountain - after the math

Thankful as Jackson was for the deliverance provided by the Light Division, he was by no means satisfied. Banks had escaped him once before, in the Valley; he did not intend to let him get away again. A full moon was rising, and he ordered the chase continued by its light. Whenever resistance was encountered he passed his guns to the front, shelled the woods, and then resumed the pursuit, gathering shell-dazed prisoners as he went. Four hundred bluecoats were captured in all, bringing the Federal losses to 2381; Jackson himself had lost 1276.

At last, however, receiving word from his cavalry that the enemy had been heavily reinforced, he called a halt within a half dozen miles of Culpeper and passed the word for his men to sleep on their arms in line of battle. He himself rode back toward Cedar Mountain, seeking shelter at roadside houses along the way. At each he was told he was welcome but that wounded filled the rooms. Finally he drew rein beside a grassy plot, dismounted stiffly, and lay face down on the turf, wrapped in a borrowed cloak. When a staff officer asked if wanted something to eat: "No," he groaned, "I want rest: nothing but rest," and was soon asleep.

Sunday, August 10, dawned hot and humid, the quiet broken only by the moans and shrieks of the injured, blue and gray, presently augmented by their piteous cries for water as the sun rose burning, stiffening their wounds. Surgeons and aid men passed among them, and burial details came along behind. The scavengers were active, too, gleaning the field of arms and equipment; as usual, Old Blue Light wanted all he could lay hands on. Thus the morning wore away, and not a shot was fired.

Aware that Sigel and McDowell had arrived to give Pope two whole corps and half of a third - King was still away at Fredericksburg, where Burnside was on call - Jackson would not deliver a Sabbath attack; but he was prepared to receive one, whatever the odds, so long as there were wounded men to be cared for and spoils to be loaded into his wagons. That afternoon, as always seemed to be the case on the morrow of a battle, the weather broke. There were long peals of thunder, followed by rain. Jackson held his ground, and the various details continued their work into the night.

Next morning a deputation of Federal horsemen came forward under a flag of truce, proposing an armistice for the removal of the wounded. Jackson gladly agreed; for King's arrival that night would give Pope better than twice as many troops as he himself had, and this would afford him additional time in which to prepare for the withdrawal he now knew was necessary. While the soldiers of both armies mingled on the field where they had fought, he finished packing his wagons and got off a message to Lee: "God has blessed our arms with another victory." When darkness came he lighted campfires all along his front, stole away southward under cover of their burning, and recrossed the Rapidan, unmolested, unpursued.

One man derived particular pleasure from the battle and its outcome. A.P. Hill, still fuming because of the undeserved rebuke he had received on the outskirts of Orange the day before, had marched to the sound of the firing and reached the field to find his tormentor face to face with disaster. After opening his ranks to let the fugitives through - including hundreds from the Stonewall Brigade itself - he had launched the counterattack that saved the day. Revenge was seldom sweeter; Hill enjoyed it to the full.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In Washington, Lincoln's patience with McClellan had drained away. On August 3, the administration had ordered the abandonment of the peninsula operation and the transfer of the Army of the Potomac to northern Virginia. Stunned by the dispatch, McClellan telegraphed recently appointed Chief of Staff Henry W. Halleck, stating that the order had 'caused me the greatest pain I ever experienced.' He requested 40,000 troops, with half coming from the western theater, to enable him to deliver a rapid and heavy blow toward Richmond.

Halleck was amazed, and went to Lincoln with the problem. Lincoln was not amazed at all. In fact, he found the telegram very much in character. If by some magic he could reinforce McClellan with 100,000 troops, he said, Little Mac would be delighted and would promise to capture Richmond tomorrow; but when tomorrow came he would report the enemy strength at 400,000 and announce he could not advance until the got another 100,000 reinforcements.

Halleck urged McClellan to comply with the order to transfer his army from the Peninsula with speed. McClellan, however, reacted slowly, as was his custom; the army did not begin the withdrawal from Harrison's Landing until the 14th, with McClellan protesting to the very end.

Lee monitored the situation as well as he could. When he discovered McClellan's abandonment of the lines at Harrison's Landing, Lee rushed Maj. Gen. James Longstreet and four divisions to Jackson on August 13; on that day Lee learned from an English deserter that McClellan was moving down the peninsula, a fact confirmed by D.H. Hill the following day. Longstreet and the van of the troops arrived at Gordonsville on August 15 (Lee left Richmond the same day to join them) ; by then only Porter's Corps had left Fortress Monroe and gone northward. Lee had won the initial leg of the race. If the Confederates could strike Pope before units of the Army of the Potomac arrived, the Southerners had a chance for victory.

Lee acted at once, endeavoring to trap Pope between the Rapidan and Rappahannock rivers, which formed a V laid on its side about nine miles west of Fredericksburg. Across the open end of the V, at an average distance of twenty miles from the apex, ran the Orange & Alexandria Railroad, leading back to Manassas Junction, the Army of Virginia main supply base. While the infantry of the Army of Northern Virginia was being concentrated behind Clark's Mountain, masked from observation from across the Rapidan, the cavalry would swing upstream, cross in the darkness, and strike for Rappahannock Station. Destruction of the railroad bridge at that point, serving Pope's supply line and removing his only chance for a dry-shod crossing of the river in his rear, would e the signal for the infantry to emerge from hiding and surge across the fords in its front.

Pope's army, caught off balance, would be tamped into the cul-de-sac of the two rivers and mangled.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am in a travel status today, unable to access the hard copy resources I normally rely upon. Late tonight or tomorrow I will post the First of Battle Rappahannock Station (modern day Remington...FYI, the Second BoRS occurred in November, 1863).

Jackson's flank march to Manassas Junction wil be followed by the Battle of Brawner's Farm, and then (finally) we'll be ready to discuss the two-day battle known as Second Manassas.

timschochet - if you have anything on the prickly relationship between Adams and Lord Palmerston, or the equally troublesome relationship of Davis and Gov Brown, I think now would be a good time to discuss that.

In the meantime, I have come across a fine article on J.E.B. Stuart and the raid on Catlett's Station. While militarily these events meant little, they loom large in the legend of the Confederate dragoon.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Plume Hat

part 1 of 3

A battlefield was a strange place for the reunion of old friends. The contorted bodies of men who had fallen in combat two days earlier littered the ground around the small group of picnickers who, being soldiers, were able to enjoy their outing despite its macabre setting.

The last time any of the men in the circle of friends had seen each other in peacetime, they had all been obscure, middling officers in the U.S. Army. Now, all wore stars–some on gray uniforms, others on blue. The most famous among them by far was James Ewell Brown Stuart, who little more than a year earlier had been a U.S. Army lieutenant. By the time of the meeting he was a Confederate major general and the most renowned cavalryman on American soil.

With Stuart that blistering afternoon were three Union brigadier generals: George Hartsuff, George Bayard, and Samuel Crawford. Availing themselves of the burial truce after the August 9, 1862, Battle of Cedar Mountain, they had crossed the battlefield to seek out their old army chum. Crawford and Bayard brought a basketful of lunch, a surgeon offered a bottle, and all the officers offered exaggerated descriptions of their wartime exploits (which for Stuart had been considerable, for the Yankees decidedly slim). Stuart proposed a toast to Hartsuff: 'Here's hoping you may fall into our hands; we'll treat you well at Richmond!' Hartsuff laughed, 'The same to you.'

Inevitably talk turned to the late battle, in which the Federals had suffered a bloody defeat. Stuart suggested the incorrigible Northern press would find a way to contort Union defeat into glorious victory. Crawford exclaimed that not even the reckless New York Herald could find a way to construe this battle as a victory. Stuart offered a bet: Crawford would owe him a new hat if the Northern press proclaimed the Battle of Cedar Mountain a Union triumph.

A few days later a parcel arrived in Stuart's camp. It was from Crawford. In it were a copy of the New York Herald and a new plumed hat.

Stuart instantly incorporated the new hat into the rakish wardrobe that had become his trademark and rode off with the rest of Confederate General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia to confront Union Major General John Pope. Only eight weeks had passed since Pope arrived in Virginia to take command of a new Union host, the curiously named Army of Virginia. Pope had so far accomplished little in his new role, except to instill rage in the people of the Old Dominion. Under his hand, Federal troops looted central Virginia farms and arrested civilians; for the first time, the hardships of war invaded Southern parlors. Richmond newspapers labeled Pope 'an enemy of humanity.'

Robert E. Lee had vowed to'suppress' the 'miscreant' Union general–strong rhetoric from the usually reserved Lee. He aimed not only to rid Virginia of Pope's noxious policies, but to eliminate the military threat posed by his ever-growing army. Major General George B. McClellan's Union Army of the Potomac was evacuating the Virginia Peninsula. If McClellan's brigades and batteries managed to join with Pope's in northern or central Virginia, the Confederates would face daunting, perhaps unbeatable odds. Lee needed to beat Pope before the junction of the two Union armies occurred.

On August 17, 1862, just a week after the Battle of Cedar Mountain, Lee believed he had Pope just where he wanted him. Lee discovered Pope's army wedged into the 'V' formed by the convergence of the Rapidan and Rappahannock Rivers, the Rapidan in his front, the Rappahannock to his rear. Lee proposed a plan that had potential to destroy the Union army: Stuart's cavalry would lead the advance across the Rapidan below Pope's left on the morning of the 18th and ride hard for the bridge at Rappahannock Station, Pope's main retreat route. Jackson and Long-street would follow and assail Pope's left flank. With Stuart astride his escape route, Pope would have no choice but to fight at great disadvantage or watch his army scatter.

After receiving his instructions on the evening of the 17th, Stuart rode a few miles with his staff to Verdiersville, a lonely crossroads populated only by a ramshackle hotel and a house owned by a family named Rhodes. At the Rhodes house, Stuart hitched his horse and waited for Brigadier General Fitzhugh Lee's brigade of cavalry to arrive from Beaver Dam Station on the Virginia Central Railroad, about 30 miles east. Fitzhugh Lee's troopers were already hours late, and Stuart considered their presence critical to the next morning's advance. So anxious was he to hear from them that he dispatched a staff member, Major Norman Fitzhugh, down the road to give early word of their approach. With that, Stuart carefully arranged his new hat, cloak, and other accouterments on the porch of the house and went to sleep. He slept soundly, unaware that Union cavalry was at that moment riding toward the Verdiersville crossroads.

By sheer chance, two regiments of Union horsemen on reconnaissance had struck Raccoon Ford on the Rapidan during a brief lapse in Confederate coverage that evening. Shielded by darkness, they advanced undiscovered into Confederate lines south of the river. During their ride so far, the Yankees had encountered only two Confederates, but one of them proved to be an important catch: Major Fitzhugh, Stuart's lookout. Major Fitzhugh was an important prize for the Federals; in his satchels were General Lee's orders for the destruction of Pope's army the next day.

With Major Fitzhugh tucked in the rear of their column, the Federals kept riding. In the dim predawn light they neared Verdiersville along the Orange Plank Road–the very road by which Stuart expected Fitzhugh Lee to arrive that morning.

At the Rhodes house, the rumble of horses' hooves awoke newly paroled Lieutenant Samuel Gibson. Gibson rushed to awaken a young captain named John Singleton Mosby, who, like Stuart, lay sleeping on the porch. It was probably Lee's troopers, said Gibson. Mosby roused Stuart, then rode with Gibson down the Orange Plank Road to meet the approaching column. Stuart, bareheaded and anxious to see the wayward Fitzhugh Lee, followed to the Rhodes's gate. 'There comes Lee now!' he exclaimed. Behind him, his Prussian orderly, Heros von Borcke, puttered around the yard. In the house lay a teenage aide, Lieutenant Chiswell Dabney, still reposing.

Unwarily, Mosby and Gibson rode through the misty morning until they could see the shadowy figures of cavalrymen a few hundred yards away. But the distant cavalrymen spotted Mosby and Gibson first, approached quickly to within pistol range, then fired. 'We knew they were not our friends,' wrote Mosby. Yankees!

Mosby later recorded that neither he nor Gibson had their weapons, so 'there was nothing for us to do but wheel and run–which we did–and used our spurs freely.' The Federals charged behind them. The commotion alerted Stuart, von Borcke, and Dabney. Stuart mounted his horse (leaving his cloak and new hat on the porch), bolted across the yard and leaped the rear fence. Without so much as a glance backward, he galloped toward some nearby woods.

Von Borcke mounted and rode in the opposite direction, through the front gate (which Mrs. Rhodes held open for him), and into the road among the rampaging Yankees. 'I came directly upon the major commanding the enemy detachment, who placed his pistol at my breast and ordered me to surrender,' von Borcke remembered. The Prussian slapped his own horse's head to change his direction and spurred away. The sudden movement startled the Yankee major, who flinched, giving von Borcke the wrinkle of time he needed to escape. At least a few Federals thought von Borcke was Stuart. One Union officer lamented, 'The Gen. himself [stuart] escaped through the stupidity of a Major, he being afraid to shoot him.'

Stuart, however, was already in the woods. Mosby, Gibson, and von Borcke were leading the Federals on a wild, mile-long chase westward on the Plank Road. Only one Confederate had yet to make his escape: 18-year-old Chiswell Dabney.

Dabney had rushed out of bed with the first shots; like the others he left all his belongings behind. Then his unique problems began. The night before he had tied his horse to the Rhodes's fence with a hard knot. Now, with Yankees closing on him, he struggled to free his horse–probably with a good deal of muttered swearing, and surely with the vow he would never again tie his horse so. Precious seconds passed. Federals swirled past on the road and through the yard. The knot finally yielded. Dabney leapt onto his unbridled horse and followed Stuart's course over the back fence and into the woods.

From the timber he and the general watched as the Federals milled about the Rhodes house. The Yankees seized Dabney's pistols, bridle, and saber. Mosby, von Borcke, and Gibson lost similar caches. But Stuart lost most painfully of all. Lying on the porch–easy prey for the Yankees–were his cloak, haversack, and, most notably, his new plumed hat. Few scenes of the war so humiliated Stuart: the Yankees made off with the very symbol of the Confederacy's 'Bold Dragoon.'

The rest of that day Stuart rode with his head wrapped in a bandanna–perfectly stylish for most cavalrymen, but too common for Stuart. From the ranks came anonymous, jocular, but stinging inquiries: 'Where's your hat?'

Von Borcke later confessed, 'We could not look at each other without laughing, despite our inner rage.' The jibes were more than Stuart could bear. To his wife he declared, 'I intend to make the Yankees pay for that hat.' Four days later he would get the chance.

By far the most important outcome of the adventure at Verdiersville was the Federals' capture of Major Fitzhugh and the orders from Robert E. Lee. Thus forewarned of the Confederates' plan for him, Pope chose discretion and retreated behind the Rappahannock, where he could operate with a formidable river in his front and without one at his back. Lee followed and on August 20 commenced a dangerous dance with Pope, searching for a way to get at the troublesome Yankee across the river or at least trap him on the open ground to the east.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Catlett's Station

part 2 of 3

On the evening of August 21, Stuart suggested a plan that might give Lee the opportunity he sought. The cavalier would take 1,500 men, cross the Rappahannock above Pope's right, ride to the Union rear, and cut the main Union supply line along the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. Stuart had built his reputation on such operations, and this one seemed to offer especial pro-mise. Such a raid, if successful, could force Pope to retreat from the river; it would also give Stuart an opportunity to avenge the loss of his trappings at Verdiersville. Lee approved Stuart's proposal the morning of the 22d. At 10:00 a.m., adorned in a hat given him by a sutler from Georgia, Stuart led his column north. His first stop: Warrenton.

Since spring the people of Warrenton had suffered the presence of the 'vile Yankees' in their town. Just how obnoxious the Yankee presence had been could be measured by the delirium with which the residents greeted their Confederate liberators. 'We were received most enthusiastically,' wrote the young Dabney, 'the ladies nearly going into hysterics with joy & telling us never to take a prisoner.' The women'showered us with flowers and refreshments of all kinds,' recorded von Borcke. A memorable afternoon it was for Stuart's troopers.

At Warrenton, Stuart chose the next and climactic stop on his tour to the rear of Pope's army: Catlett's Station. There he would burn the railroad bridge over Cedar Run. This bridge was an important link in Pope's supply line. Its destruction would disrupt the flow of supplies for days–perhaps long enough to force Pope to yield his position on the river.

As Stuart's men rode out of Warrenton at about 5:00 p.m., bad luck descended on them in the form of torrential rains. 'It seemed like a solid mass of water,' wrote one man. Another remembered that the men were soon 'as wet as water could make us.' With sunset, the rains descended even harder, and thunder rolled across the landscape. Stuart called it 'the darkest night I ever knew.'

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Stuart's Revenge

Part 3 of 3

About 8:00 p.m. the column approached Catlett's Station. Stuart sent Captain William Blackford of his staff to have a look. 'I rode all around the outskirts of their encampment,' remembered Blackford, 'and found a vast assemblage of wagons and a city of tents, laid out in regular order and occupied by the luxuriously equipped quartermasters and commissaries….' More importantly, Blackford found 'no appearance of any large organized body of troops.' (His assessment was right. Of the perhaps 500 Yankees at Catlett's Station, fewer than 200 were armed.) Neither did the Yankees have pickets around the camp's perimeter.

Still better news came from a servant who had mindlessly wandered into Stuart's lines. According to a witness, the man than told Stuart that 'General Pope's headquarters train was there with all of his official papers, the army treasure chest, and all the personal baggage of the General and his staff.' (Pope himself was at his headquarters several miles away.) 'Here was a chance for revenge for the loss of the hat and haversack at Verdiersville,' Blackford concluded. The captured servant even offered to guide Stuart's troops to the booty. Stuart accepted his tender, but put him under guard nonetheless, with the promise of 'kind treatment if faithful, and instant extermination if traitorous.'

The Confederates quietly subdued the few pickets who guarded the camp. Then Stuart unveiled his plan. The 9th Virginia Cavalry under Colonel W.H.F. 'Rooney' Lee (Robert E. Lee's son) would lead the assault into the main camp north of the railroad; another column would ravage the camp south of the tracks. To the men of the 4th Virginia Cavalry, under Colonel Williams C. Wickham, would go the most important task. They would burn the bridge over Cedar Run.

The Confederates took a few minutes to arrange themselves on the edge of the Union camp, their rustling obscured by falling rain and rolling thunder. Stuart rode the line, telling his men to give 'their wildest 'Rebel Yell." Then he turned to his bugler: 'Sound the charge, Fred.'

The bugler managed barely a note before the dreaded 'yell' and the beat of hooves obscured his call. In the Union camp a few Federals reacted to the yell with glee, or only slight annoyance. One Yankee exclaimed, 'There must be reinforcements coming on the Railroad.' Another yelled, 'There must be good news!' And yet another poked his head out of his tent and yelled, 'Hold on you —- —-, you are shooting this way!'

The Confederates of course ignored such entreaties. They careered through the camp'scattering out pistol balls promiscuously right and left,' recorded a jolly staff officer. 'Supper tables were kicked over and tents broken down in the [Federals'] rush to get out, the tents catching them sometimes in their fall like fish in a net.' Yankees scattered from their tents toward the woods, some barely dressed, and all thoroughly scared. Chiswell Dabney claimed, 'Never have I seen any thing like it[;] men were perfectly frantic with fear.' The scene made veteran Confederates 'laugh until they could scarcely keep their saddles,' remembered Blackford.

But there was more than merriment to Stuart's mission. As the Confederates moved through the first camp, each column broke off for its assigned mission. Rooney Lee's 9th Virginia received a 'withering' volley from a handful of Yankees on the platform at the depot, but it stayed the gray horsemen only briefly. The band of Federals quickly disappeared into the darkness.

Rounding the corner of the depot, Blackford heard 'the labored puffing' of a Yankee locomotive trying to escape. 'I rode up alongside of the locomotive and ordered the engineer to shut off the steam,' Blackford recorded, 'but he would not.' Blackford fired into the engine and threw his leg over the pommel of his saddle to jump aboard. But before he could leap, his horse plunged into a ditch, throwing him hat over boots. The train escaped to spread word of the Rebel raid.

Not far from Blackford, the Prussian aide von Borcke endeavored to cut the telegraph. Unable to climb the pole himself (von Borcke was widely noted for his size), he asked for a volunteer. A slim teenager stepped forward. Despite a steady patter of enemy bullets, von Borcke hoisted the boy onto his shoulders and watched as 'he scooted up the pole with the agility of a squirrel and cut the wire amid the jubilant cheers of my men.'

Elsewhere, Colonel Thomas Rosser led a column toward the Union camp south of the tracks, but the commotion north of the station had alerted the Yankees south of it, and they had extinguished their lights. Pelted by rain, surrounded by pitchy blackness, and obstructed by the rail sidings and invisible ditches, Rosser's men lost order. Confused, wet, and attracted by the sure booty they had just left behind in the main Union camp, they gave up the effort.

A quarter-mile west of the Union camps, Colonel Wickham and his 4th Virginia Cavalry attempted what Stuart called 'the great object of the expedition.' By now the rain had returned to its former condition; it fell, remembered Blackford, 'not in drops but in streams, as if poured from buckets.' Still, Wickham's Virginians swarmed over the bridge in a futile effort to ignite the wooden supports. That failing, they tried to cut the bridge down, but the Yankees intervened. A ragged line of Pennsylvania troops formed on high ground west of the stream and distracted the bridge-breakers with a steady supply of bullets. With the waters of the creek rising fast and the demolition of the bridge both unlikely and dangerous, Stuart reluctantly called off the mission.

For a few more precious minutes the Confederates plundered the station, while frightened Yankee teamsters and staff officers watched from the surrounding woods. 'I was so frightened,' admitted one Federal, 'I could not have spoken if I tried.' Another wrote, 'We laid in the woods and could hear all that was going on, the cursing and swearing, the breaking open of trunks, boxes, desks & safes.'

Confederate privates filled their haversacks with booty of all sorts, including canned lobster and whiskey. The presence of spirits worried many officers, but, as Blackford wryly recalled, 'the importance of restraint was appreciated, and none took more than they could carry.'

By 3:00 a.m. the Union camp had been thoroughly rifled, and Stuart ordered his command to reform and start back toward the Rappahannock. It did so with an impressive haul of booty: 300 prisoners, 500 horses and mules (most of which escaped before the Confederates reached the Rappahannock), and more clothes than horsemen could reasonably expect to carry. Stuart's captures went beyond supplies and prisoners, though. His troopers had also found the Yankee army's payroll safe, which contained a half-million dollars in greenbacks and $20,000 in gold to fund the Confederate war effort. Most important of all, however, were the papers from Pope's headquarters wagons. They would tell Robert E. Lee much about the condition of the Union army and Pope's intentions, and would confirm Lee's suspicion that McClellan's army would soon arrive at Pope's side. The information helped spur Lee to action and influenced his planning of what would become the Second Manassas Campaign.

Despite the valuable prizes it netted, when the Catlett's Station raid is measured against what Stuart hoped to achieve at the outset, it must be judged at least a partial failure. The bridge over Cedar Run stood intact, and Pope's supplies continued to flow unhindered. Indeed, though embarrassing to the Yankees, the raid did not affect their operations at all. It would take efforts far grander than Stuart's to force Pope off the Rappahannock.

If Stuart felt disappointment over the raid, his spirits were lifted by one final discovery that emerged from the take at Catlett's Station. Amid the Union headquarters baggage was a fancy hat and dress uniform coat. Inside the coat was the owner's tag: 'John Pope, Major General.' During the raid, the coat had rapidly made the rounds of the Confederate cavalrymen, who derived great amusement from their find. On the ride back to camp, Fitzhugh Lee came across some friends and bade them to wait a moment–he had something to show them. He disappeared behind a tree and soon emerged wearing both the hat and coat, 'which reached nearly to his feet…. This masquerade was accompanied by a burst of jolly laughter that might have been heard for a hundred yards.'

Soon the coat made it to Stuart's hands. Here, at last, was payback for the humiliating loss of his hat and cloak to Pope's marauders at Verdiersville. Stuart promptly sent it off to Governor John Letcher in Richmond as a prize of war. For the next several weeks it would be one of the Confederate capital's great attractions, for Letcher hung it in the state library for all to see.

Before sending the coat away, Stuart could not resist one last bit of merriment. To John Pope he wrote a message and sent it through the lines:

General.

You have my hat and plume. I have your best coat. I have the honor to propose a cartel for the fair exchange of the prisoners.

Very Respectfully

J.E.B. Stuart

Maj. Genl. C.S.A.

John Pope never responded, but J.E.B. Stuart had his revenge.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

timschochet - if you have anything on the prickly relationship between Adams and Lord Palmerston, or the equally troublesome relationship of Davis and Gov Brown, I think now would be a good time to discuss that.

I do, but the timeline I'm following has it as part of the Emancipation Proclamation discussion, which comes after Antietam.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

BobbyLayne is taking his time, as he should, with the Eastern battles. Therefore, at this point we're going to diverge a little bit. I'm going to let BobbyLayne continue the main narrative of the Eastern battles: 2nd Manassas, the Maryland campaign, Antietam, Fredericksburg, leading to the momentous summer of 1863. In the meantime, I am going to resume the narrative about England, and emancipation, and after that, I will take up the Western campaign again, from the fall of 1862 to the Spring of 1863. After that, I plan on discussing in detail what McPhearson calls "The Fire In The Rear", about troubles in both Union and Confederacy behind the lines. This will all take a great deal of time. If BL is not done by the time I finish all of this, I will go back and detail the remainder of the Eastern battles as best I can.

Naturally there will be a little bit of overlap in the timeline and I may refer to some results of battle that BL has finished with yet. But that's OK; we're all going in the same direction. If anyone else wants to contribute, please do so. Otherwise, enjoy!

Edited by timschochet

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

England Part One

The course of the war in the summer of 1862 revised Confederate hopes for European diplomatic recognition. Lee's offensives convinced British and French leaders that northern armies could never restore the Union. These powers contemplated an offer of mediation, which would have constituted de facto recognition of Confederate independence. Influential elements of British public opinion grew more sympathetic to the Southern cause. The Palmerston government seemed to shut its eyes to violations of British neutrality by Liverpool shipbuilders who constructed rebel cruisers to prey of the American merchant marine. The long-awaited cotton famine finally took hold in the summer of 1862. Louis Napoleon toyed with the idea of offering recognition and aid to the Confederacy in return for southern cotton and southern support for French suzerainty in Mexico.

Of all the occurrences, the building of commerce raiders was the only one that generated tangible benefits for the Confederacy. Liverpool was a center of pro-southern sentiment. The city had been made by the slave trade, and the sons of those who acquired fortunes in the traffic now seemed to instinctively side with the rebels. Liverpool shipyards built numerous blockade runners. In March 1862 the first warship that the southern agent James D. Bulloch had ordered was also nearing completion. The ship's purpose as a commerce raider was an open secret, owing to the tenacious detective work of the U.S. consul at Liverpool, Thomas H. Dudley.

This combative Quaker was a match for Bulloch. Dudley hired spies and informers who assembled evidence to prove the ship's Confederate destination; Bulloch countered with forged papers showing that the vessel, named the Oreto, was owned by a merchant of Palermo. At issue was the meaning of Britain's Foreign Enlistment Act, which forbade the construction and arming of warships in British territory for a belligerent power. Remaining within the letter of the law while violating its spirit, Bulloch took delivery of the ship without arms, sent it to the Bahamas, and transported the guns from England in another vessel. The sleek warship took on her guns at a deserted Bahamanian Cay and began her fearsome career as the Florida. She destroyed 38 American merchant vessels before the Union navy captured her by a subterfuge in the harbor of Bahia, Brazil, in October 1864.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

BobbyLayne is taking his time, as he should, with the Eastern battles. Therefore, at this point we're going to diverge a little bit. I'm going to let BobbyLayne continue the main narrative of the Eastern battles: 2nd Manassas, the Maryland campaign, Antietam, Fredericksburg, leading to the momentous summer of 1863. In the meantime, I am going to resume the narrative about England, and emancipation, and after that, I will take up the Western campaign again, from the fall of 1862 to the Spring of 1863. After that, I plan on discussing in detail what McPhearson calls "The Fire In The Rear", about troubles in both Union and Confederacy behind the lines. This will all take a great deal of time. If BL is not done by the time I finish all of this, I will go back and detail the remainder of the Eastern battles as best I can.

Naturally there will be a little bit of overlap in the timeline and I may refer to some results of battle that BL has finished with yet. But that's OK; we're all going in the same direction. If anyone else wants to contribute, please do so. Otherwise, enjoy!

Thanks for jumping in, timschochet - travel + regional conference kept me too busy to post, so its thoughtful of you to keep the momentum going. I think hope concurrent postings won't be too confusing for readers.

I'm going to cut & paste an article today on the skirmishing along the Rappahannock (usually called the First Battle of the Rappahannock), and discuss, off the cuff, Lee's plans. I think I also have a map of flank march (August 25-26) which might be helpful. For the raid on Manassas Junction (August 27) and the Battle of Brawner's Farm (August 28) I need to refer to materials I have at home, and hopefully I can get to that this evening.

Thanks to everyone for their patience and understanding.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The capture of J.E.B. Stuart's plume hat, while a tremendous blow to his ego, was not nearly as calamitous as the loss of Lee's orders that Fitz Lee was carrying when he was captured. Warned of Lee's plans, Pope withdrew his army across the Rappahannock to foil the Rebel leader's plan to pin his force between the two rivers.

Similarly, the loss of Pope's frock coat was inconsequential compared to his dispatch book falling into the hands of the Army of Northern Virginia. Just as the Union commander had learned of Lee's plans, now the Confederate leader knew the disposition of the Federal armies. While Lee could enjoy the humorous aspect of Pope's baggage being placed on public display, the true value of the raid on Catlett's Station is it confirmed that Pope was rapidly being reinforced. It also demonstrated the vulnerability of the Union left flank.

Lee had to find way to get at Pope and the Army of Virginia before he completed his concentration with the Army of the Potomac. Longstreet favored moving around the Union army's right flank to fall upon the rear of Pope's Army of Virginia, but his superior wanted to get between Pope and Washington City - and hopefully, between Pope's three corps and the disembarkation point of the various Army of Potomac corps now headed for northern Virginia. If Lee could not attack Pope quickly, he risked facing nearly 130,000 Federal infantry once the concentration was complete.

The First Battle of Rappahannock Station, also known as Waterloo Bridge, White Sulphur Springs, Lee Springs, or Freeman's Ford, took place from August 22 to August 25, 1862, in Culpeper County and Fauquier County, Virginia, as part of the Northern Virginia Campaign of the American Civil War.

Over several days, August 22 to August 25, the two armies fought a series of minor actions along the Rappahannock River, including Waterloo Bridge, Lee Springs, Freeman's Ford, and Sulphur Springs, resulting in a few hundred casualties. Together, these skirmishes pinned Pope's army along the river. Lee was unable to force a crossing, and owing to the river being swollen from recent rains, Pope was also unable to throw his force across the Rappahannock. Cognizant that time was not the Rebels ally - with each passing hour, Pope was closer to being reinforced by McClellan's Army of the Potomac coming up on transports from the Peninsula - Lee decided to adopt Longstreet's plan.

Defying all known military logic, Lee was going to divide his forces in front of a numerically superior foe, in a long shot gamble that he would thus be able to fall upon the rear of his foe. It continued the pattern established during the Seven Days - Lee was displaying an audacity that few generals have ever possessed, but given his underdog status, it was in fact the best course of action. Uppermost in his mind at all times was control of the initiative. Whatever the result may be, he was going to force General Pope to react to him, rather than wait and react to whatever course of action the Federals had in mind.

In choosing Jackson (and Stuart's cavalry) for a rapid flank march, Lee was allowing the hero of the Valley to do what he and his troops did best - move rapidly undetected, raid the Union supply line, and prevent the Federals from bringing a full-scale battle. Jackson was a master of hit and run tactics in this type of movement. The plan had the added benefit of utilizing Longstreet's natural defensive abilities. There was of course great risk in the movement. Lee would be leaving scarcely half his force in Pope's front. If the Union army chose to force a crossing, or if they could trap the flanking column, neither Confederate wing commander would be able to come to the aid of the other in time to prevent disaster.

Jackson's Flank March

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

England Part Two

The attitude of the British toward the American Civil War is a topic that historians continue to hotly debate to this day. The crucial year was 1862, which we are now discussing. Several concurrent events contributed to conflicting attitudes, and we will be taking a look at each of the following:

The influence of Henry Hotze

Class conflict, John Stuart Mill, and Karl Marx

Benjamin Butler and upper class British hostility toward Yankees

Lord Palmerston's criteria for recognition of the Confederacy

Louis Napoleon's attitude

The impact of Antietam

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Henry Hotze

Born in Switzerland, living most of his life in Alabama, Hotze arrived in London early in 1862, and was probably the most effective propagandist for the South in England during the American Civil War. 27 years old and boyish in appearance, Henry Hotze nevertheless possessed a suavity of manner and a style of witty understatement that appealed to the British upper classes. He gained entry to the highest circles on Fleet Street (home of British journalism) and was soon writing pro-Confederate editorials for several newspapers. Hotze also recruited English journalists to write for the Index, a small newspaper he established in May 1862 to present the southern viewpoint.

Hotze attempted to minimize the slavery issue and instead appeal to what would more likely rouse British sympathies in favor of the Confederacy. He did an excellent jobvin stirring up English prejudices against the bumptious Yankees. To liberals he insisted that the South was fighting not for slavery but for self-determination. To conservatives he presented an image of a rural gentry preserving its liberties against a rapacious northern government. To businessmen he promised that an independent Confederacy would open its ports to free trade, in contrast with the Union government which had recently raised tariffs yet again. To the textile industry he pledged a resumption of cotton exports.

This last prospect had a powerful appeal, for the cotton famine was beginning to pinch. In July 1862 the supply of raw cotton in Britain stood at one-third the normal level. Three quarters of the cotton-mill workers were unemployed or on short time. Chancellor of the Exchequer William E. Gladstone feared an outbreak of rioting unless something was done to relieve the distress. Gladstone favored British intervention to stop the war and start the flow of cotton across the Atlantic. He predicted that "so great a pressure may be put upon the government (that) they will find it difficult to resist.

Jefferson Davis's ploy of withholding cotton appeared to be bearing fruit. Lee's victories on the field only increased the sentiment among those Englishmen who felt recognition of the Confederacy was inevitable, and then Benjamin Butler made it seem, for a time during the summer of 1862, almost all but assured.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Benjamin Butler

Throughout the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln firmly believed that the fever that had spread over southerners, making them want independence, was a temporary phenomenon. Unlike many of his northern counterparts, Lincoln did not want to "punish" the South, though he was eager to do whatever was necessary to win the war. But after that victory, Lincoln envisioned a peaceful reconstruction very different from what actually happened, thanks in great part to his assassination.

This causes me to wonder, therefore, what Lincoln thought of Benjamin Butler's role as military governor of occupied New Orleans, because it represented the exact opposite of what Lincoln claimed to have wanted. Butler's heavy hand caused many complaints, but on May 15, 1862, he gave an order that not only antagonized the entire South, it also intensified British upper class alienation from the North. Exasperated with southern women behaving in a rude fashion toward Yankee soldiers, Butler decreed that any woman who persisted in the practice of doing so "shall be regarded and held liable to be treated as a woman of the town plying her avocation." Butler had issued this maladroit order after considerable provocation, climaxed by a woman who dumped the contents of a chamber pot from a French-Quarter balcony on Fleet Captain David Farragut's head. Butler conceived of his order as a means of humiliating southern civilians into decent behavior; southerners and Europeans chose to intepret it as a barbarous license for northern soldiers to treat refined ladies as prostitutes.

In an extraordinary statement to the House of Commons, Palmerston branded Butler's conduct "infamous. Sir, an Englishman must blush to think that such an act has been committed by one belonging to the Anglo-Saxon race." Tensions between the North and England were now at the breaking point.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is going back to the beginning of this thread, but here is an article published in Friday's Charlestons Post & Courier. This references the 1860 Democratic Convention held in Charleston.

The Civil War began in Charleston — at a convention

One hundred and fifty years ago today, at high noon on April 23, 1860, the Democratic Party opened its national convention in Charleston.

The Democratic Party was then the majority party in American politics. The president, James Buchanan, was a Democrat.

His predecessor, Franklin Pierce, was a Democrat. 'There are radical and inextinguishable feuds in the Democratic Party,' the reporter Murat Halstead wrote, 'and they must come out here and now.'

Indeed, 'no American political convention has ever held so much meaning for a party and nation,' one historian wrote about the convention in Charleston.

The Republican Party was in its infancy. The Old Whig Party of Henry Clay had collapsed, and anti-slavery, 'Free Soil' men created a new party, the Republican Party, led by John Fremont, Henry Seward, the influential senator from New York, and Salmon Chase, the senator from Ohio.

The powerful senator from Illinois, Stephen A. Douglas, who had defeated that upstart Abraham Lincoln for a Senate seat from Illinois, was in line to be nominated for president in Charleston.

He would then go on to preserve the Union by accommodating Southerners and pacifying Northerners on the burning, all-consuming issue of slavery.

But it was not to be.

As Roy Nichols noted, 'The imps of Satan must have chuckled with devilish glee' to learn that the Democratic Party was to meet in Charleston.

A bitter fight was to ensue between out-and-out secessionists who wanted to break away from the Union and moderate Democrats — North and South — who wanted to somehow figure out what to do about the controversy over slavery.

The convention was held in Institute Hall, a large, hot, inefficient cavernous building at 134 Meeting Street. (The building is gone). Delegates came from all over the nation and stayed at Hibernian Hall, the Mills House, the Charleston Hotel and on steamships, which brought delegates from New York, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.

The hall was hot. The antagonistic delegates were equally hot.

Southerners insisted on their absolute right to take slaves into the Western territories.

Northern and Western delegates would not agree to force slavery on the territories.

The 'irrepressible conflict' shattered the convention.

The fire-eating secessionist William Lowndes Yancey from Alabama made a dramatic speech, the highlight of the convention, in which he said:

'Ours is the property invaded; ours are the institutions which are at stake; ours is the peace that is to be destroyed; ours is the honor at stake — the honor of children, the honor of families, the lives, perhaps, of all. ... Bear with us, then, if we stand sternly upon what is yet that dormant volcano, and say we yield no position here until we are convinced we are wrong.'

Northern and Western Democrats refused to countenance the unconditional expansion of slavery. 'Gentlemen of the South,' George Pugh of Ohio thundered, 'you mistake us — you mistake us — we will not do it.'

Halstead reported, 'This thing is a hopeless jumble.' Lincoln called it 'the Charleston fandango.' On April 30, when the convention voted against the Southern position, 165-138, most of the Southern delegates walked out. The Northern and Western delegates could not believe it.

The next day some delegates left. It was becoming increasingly clear that the convention was a debacle. The Democratic nomination would not be worth much in the 1860 election. Roy Nichols observed that Charlestonians filled the gallery to 'see the first act of the great tragedy which was to have so many of its scenes in their city.'

Charleston had played its first critical role in bringing about the Civil War by disrupting the Democratic Party Convention. Douglas would not be nominated in Charleston. The nation was awestruck by the virtual destruction of the majority party. Many Charlestonians celebrated. 'There was a Fourth of July feeling in Charleston last night — a jubilee,' Halstead reported.

Douglas predicted that 'in less than 12 months we should be at war.'

'Douglas's prophecy was chillingly sound,' Dr. Faye Jensen wrote. 'The Split of the Democratic Party was a harbinger for the dissolution of the nation.'

Robert N. Rosen is author of "Confederate Charleston, an Illustrated History of the City and the People during the Civil War" and president of the Fort Sumter-Fort Moultrie Trust (info@fortsumtertrust.org), which is coordinating the Civil War sesquicentennial in the Lowcountry.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've come to a point in both the discussions about emancipation and British-Yankee-Confederate relations (which are intertwined) where it makes no sense to continue until relating the Eastern battles through Antietam. The outcome of those battles are crucial to understanding these issues. I've been waiting on BobbyLayne because his details of each battle is stuff I don't have access to and it's so outstanding. But he's under time constraints; therefore, I've decided to continue with the narrative at my own pace and let BL fill in the details as he sees fit. His details will therefore probably always be behind the main narrative I am relating, but in order to keep this thread moving I think that's the best way to do it.

If anyone else besides BL wants to fill in details of a battle or other issue related, please do so. I'm going to simply continue to move forward with the overall narrative at my own pace, at the rate of 1 to 2 posts a day (sometimes more if I get overly ambitious.) For those of you who have been following this thread, thanks for your patience!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

2nd Manassas, Part 3

The night of August 29, a few Confederate brigades pulled back from advanced positions to readjust their line. Having made several wrong guesses about the enemy's intentions during the past few days, Pope guessed wrong again when he assumed this movement to be preliminary to a retreat. He wanted so much to "see the back of our enemies"- as he had professed always to have done in the West- that he believed it about to happen. He sent a victory dispatch to Washington and prepared to pursue the supposedly retreating rebels.

But when Pope's pursuit began next day the bluecoats went no more than a few hundred yards betfore being stopped in their tracks by bullets from Jackson's infantry still holding their roadbed trenches. The Federals hesistated only momentarily before attacking in even heavier force than the previous day. The exhausted southeners bent and almost broke. Some units ran out of ammunition and resorted to throwing rocks at the Yankees. Jackson was forced to swallow his pride and call on Longstreet for reinforcements. Longstreet had a better idea. He brought up artillery to enfilade the Union attackers and then hurled all 5 of his divisions in a screaming counterattack against the Union left, which had been weakened by Pope's shift of troops to his right for the assaults on Jackson. Once Longstreet's men went into action they hit the surprised northerners like a giant hammer. Until sunset a furious contest raged all along the line. The bluecoats fell back doggedly to Henry House Hill, scene of the hardest fighting in that first battle in these parts 13 months earlier. Here they made a twilight stand that brought the rebel juggernaut to a halt.

I want to point out before continuing that it seems to me that Longstreet's attack was key to the Confederate strategic victory at 2nd Manassas, and this result was key to Lee's invasion of Maryland, which in turn gave the Confederates their greatest chance to win the American Civil War, as we shall see. I bring this up because Longstreet is so reviled among Southerners, mainly for his performance at Gettysburg and actions after the war. Somehow they seem to forget about 2nd Manassas, which almost led to victory.

That night Pope- all boastfulness gone- decided to pull back toward Washington. On September 1 two blue divisions fought a vicious rearguard action at Chantilly, only 20 miles from Washington, against Jackson's weary corps which Lee had sent on another clockwise march for one final attempt to hit the retreating Union flank. After warding off this thrust in a drenching thunderstorm, the beaten-down bluecoats trudged into the capital's defenses. During the previous 5 days they had suffered 16,000 casualties out of a total force of 65,000, while Lee's 55,000 had lost fewer than 10,000 men. Lee's achievement in his second strategic offensive was even more remarkable than in his first. Less than a month earlier the main Union army had been only 20 miles from Richmond. With half as many troops as his two opponents (Pope and McClellan), Lee had shifted the scene to 20 miles from Washington, where the rebels seemed poised for the kill.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Road to Antietam Part 1

Behind Union lines all was confusion. When news of the fighting (2nd Manassas) reached Washington, Secretary of War Staunton appealed for volunteer nurses to go out to help with the wounded. Many government clerks and other civilians responded, but a portion of them- a male portion- turned out to be worse than useless. Some were drunk by the time they reached the front, where they bribed a few ambulance drivers with whiskey to take them back to Washington instead of the wounded. To this shameful episode should be contrasted the herculean labors of Herman Haupt, who sent trains through the chaos to bring back wounded men, and the sleepless work of numerous women nurses headed by Clara Barton.

The despair of that dark night spread through the North during the first half of September. "The nation is rapidly sinking just now," wrote a New York diarist. "Stonewall Jackson (our national bugaboo) about to invade Maryland, 40,000 strong. General advance of the rebel line threatening our hold on Missouri and Kentucky. Cincinnati in danger...Disgust with our present government is certainly universal." Army morale also plunged. Although the men had fought well, they knew they had been mishandled. And they knew whom to blame: Pope and McDowell. Baseless rumors of treason rose against McDowell- for no other reason, perhaps, than that this luckless general had commanded the army at first Bull Run and commanded its largest corps in the reprise. Pope and McDowell in turn blamed McClellan and Porter for lack of cooperation and refusal to obey orders.

The administration was inclined to agree with Pope. Lincoln considered McClellan's behavior "unpardonable." He "wanted Pope to fail," the president told his private secretary. The cabinet almost unaminously favored McClellan's dismissal. But the president instead merged Pope's army into the Army of the Potomac, put McClellan in charge of the defense of Washington., sent Pope to Minnesota to pacify Indians, and relieved McDowell of command and ultimately exiled him to California. Stanton and Chase remonstrated greatly against the retention of McClellan. Lincoln himself was "greatly distressed" by having to do it. But while McClellan "had acted badly in this matter" said the president, he "has the Army with him...We must use what tools we have. There is no man in the Army who can lick these troops of our ours into shape half as well as he...If he can't fight himself, he excels in making others ready to fight."

Lincoln's judgment was confirmed by an extraordinary incident that occurred during during the dispirited retreat of Pope's troops toward Washington on September 2nd. As an Army veteran later described it:

The weather was cold and rainy. Everthing bore a look of sadness in unison with our feelings. Here were stragglers plodding through the mud, wagons wrecked and forlorn; half-formed regiments, part of the men with guns and part without, while everyone you met looked as if he would like to hide his head somewhere from all the world.

Suddenly an officer with a lone escort rode by and a captain came running back to the bivouac. "Colonel! Colonel! General McClellan is here!" he shouted. "Little Mac is back here on the road!" Enlisted men caught the sound! From extreme sadness we passed in a twinkling to a delirium of delight. A Deliverer had come. Men threw their caps high into the air, and danced and frolicked like school-boys. Shout upon shout went out into the stillness of the night; and as it was taken up along the road and repeated by regiment, brigade, division, and corps, we could hear the roar dying away in the distance. The effect of this man's presence upon the Army of the Potomac was electrical, and too wonderful to make it worth while attempting to give a reason for it.

Within days McClellan had the army ready for field service again. And there was no time to spare, because Lee was coming.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Road to Antietam Part 2

Robert E. Lee had decided to lead his ragged but confident veterans across the Potomac for an invasion of the North. Most northerners saw this as a calamity. But Lincoln viewed it as an opportunity to cripple Lee's army far from its home base. He told McClellan to go after Lee, and "destroy the rebel army, if possible."

Lee and Jefferson Davis realized this could happen, but after weighing the alternatives they had decided that the possible gains outweighed the risk. The Army of Northern Virginia could not attack the formidable Washington defenses. It could not stay where it was, in a fought-over region denuded of supplies at the end of a long and precarious rail line. Men and horses were worn down by the relentless marching and fighting of the past 10 weeks; their "uniforms" were rags; some of them lacked shoes. The safe course was to pull back toward Richmond to rent and refit.

But Lee was not the man to choose the safe course. Though weary, his army was flushed with victory and the enemy was unnerved by defeat. Lee sensed that this was the North's low-water mark. Kirby Smith and Bragg were marching into Kentucky. Van Dorn and Price were preparing to invade Tennessee. This was no time for the Army of Northern Virginia to rest on its laurels. It must take the war into the North and force the Lincoln government to sue for peace. Maryland like Kentucky beckoned with the prospect of joining her sister slave states. Lee's hungry warriors could feed themselves from the fat farms of Maryland and Pennsylvania while drawing the enemy out of war-ravaged Virginia during the harvest season.

At the very least, Lee could cut the B & O Railroad and- if things went well- burn the Pennsylvania Railroad bridge over the Susquehanna at Harrisburg, thereby severing Washington's main links with the West. A sucessful invasion might induce European powers to recognize Confederate nationhood. It might encourage Peace Democrats in the upcoming northern elections. A "proposal of peace" backed by southern armies on northern soil, wrote Lee to Davis on September 8, "would enable the people of the United States to determine at their coming elections whether they will support those who favor a prolongation of the war, or those who wish to bring it to a termination."

For political as well as military reasons, therefore, Lee started his army splashing across the Potomac fords 35 miles above Washington on September 4. It was a gamble, but it was a good one: it would prove to be the South's best shot at winning the war. And they actually might have done so, with consequences to world history that are absolutely fascinating, except for a fluke mistake which demonstrates that sometimes truth can be stranger than fiction.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Road to Antietam Part 3

Reinforced by 3 divisions called from Richmond, the Army of Northern Virginia numbered 55,000 men before it crossed the river. But from a variety of causes- exhaustion, hunger, sickness from subsisting on green corn, torn feet from marching barefoot on stony roads- stragglers fell out by the thousands during the next few days. A Virginia woman who lived in a Potomac River town described these stragglers:

When I say that they were hungry, I convey no impression of the gaunt starvation that looked from their cavernous eyes. All day they crowded to the doors of our houses, with always the same drawling complaint: "I've been a-marchin' and a-fightin' for six weeks stiddy, and I ain't had narthin' to eat 'cept green apples an green cawn, an I wish you'd please to gimme a little to eat."...I saw the troops march past us every summer for five years, and I know something of the appearance of a marching army, both Union and Southern. There are always stragglers, of course, but never before or after did I see anything comparable to this...That they could march or fight at all seemed incredible.

Most of the soldiers, however, were in high spirits as they entered Frederick on September 6 singing "Maryland, My Maryland." But like Bragg's army in Kentucky, they received a less enthusiastic welcome than they had hoped. This was the unionist part of Maryland. And these rebels did not inspire confidence. One resident of Frederick described them as "the filthiest set of men and officers I ever saw; with clothing that had not been changed in weeks. They could be smelt all over the entire enclosure." Although the men behaved with more constraint toward civilian property than Union soldiers were wont to do, their purchases of supplies with Confederate scrip did not win popularity. Despite the cool reception, Lee doggedly followed President Davis's instructions and issued an address "To The People of Maryland":

We have come with the deepest sympathy for the wrongs that have been inflicted upon the citizens of a commonwealth allied to the States of the South by the strongest social, political, and commercial ties...to aid you in throwing off this foreign yoke, to enable you again to enjoy the inalienable rights of freeman.

The silent response of Marylanders was eloquent. It constituted the first failure of the invasion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah, I don't know what's going on in this thread, I haven't read a single post or anything, but, this is of no interest to me and I won't be participating in whatever you people are discussing in here. Whatever.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah, I don't know what's going on in this thread, I haven't read a single post or anything, but, this is of no interest to me and I won't be participating in whatever you people are discussing in here. Whatever.

Gee, thanks for the post.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah, I don't know what's going on in this thread, I haven't read a single post or anything, but, this is of no interest to me and I won't be participating in whatever you people are discussing in here. Whatever.

:thumbup:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We're just getting to the good stuff. Don't let videoguy poop on our parade.

I've walked the Antietam battlefield a couple of times and hope to be able to lend a few insights as to how geography affected the flow of battle.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Road to Antietam Part 4

Although Lee expected his army to live largely off the land, he needed to open up a minimal supply line through the Shenandoah Valley, especially for ammunition. But the Union garrison at Harper's Ferry blocked this route. Known as "the railroad brigade," this unit had the duty of protecting the B & O and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. When the Confederate invasion cut these arteries east of Harper's Ferry, McClellan urged Halleck to transfer the garrison to the Army of the Potomac, which was marching from Washington to intercept Lee. But Halleck refused- an unsound strategic decision that unwittingly baited a trap for Lee.

To eliminate this garrison in his rear, Lee detached almost two-thirds of his army and sent them in 3 columns (the largest under Jackson) to converge on the heights overlooking Harper's Ferry. Planning to net the 12,000 bluecoats there like fish in a barrel, Lee intended to reunite his army for a move on Harrisburg before McClellan could cross the South Mountain range that protected the rebel flank. For the third time in three campaigns Lee was dividing his army in the presence of a larger enemy. To an officer who expressed concern about this, Lee replied:

Are you acquainted with General McClellan? He is an able general but a very cautious one. His army is in a very demoralized and chaotic condition, and will not be prepared for offensive operations- or he will not think it so- for three or four weeks. Before that time I hope to be on the Susquehanna.

But instead of 3 to 4 weeks, Lee would end up having only 3-4 days before the enemy would be upon him. To be sure, McClellan with 70,000 men (soon reinforced to 80,000) was moving cautiously in search of Lee's 50,000 (which he estimated at 110,000). But the bluecoats were no longer demoralized (see post #1222), and on September 13 their non-gambling commander hit the all-time military jackpot. In a field near Frederick two Union soldiers found a copy of Lee's orders, wrapped around three cigars lost by a careless southern officer, detailing the objectives for the 4 separate parts of his army. This fantastic luck revealed to McClellan that each part of the enemy army was several miles away from any of the others and that the two largest units were 20 or 25 miles apart with the Potomac between them. With his whole force McClellan could push through the South Mountain passes and gobble up the pieces of Lee's army before they could reunite. McClellan recognized his opportunity; to one of his generals, he exulted:

Here is a paper with which if I cannot whip Bobbie Lee, I will be willing to go home.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Road to Antietam, Part 5

I want to stop here and discuss this accidental discovery of Lee's orders because it is so momentous. I am certainly no military history expert, but I have read quite a bit, and I can find no historical parallel to the discovery of Lee's orders in cigar wrappings. The United States broke the Japanese code during World War II and learned of the Japanese intention to attack Midway in the summer of 1942; this allowed the U.S. Navy to send its available carriers and obtain a great victory which changed the course of that war. But in that case, the Americans were trying to break the code all along; in this case, it was wholly accidental, just stupidity on the part of some unknown Confederate officer.

How momentous was this discovery? We'll be examining the great battle which resulted shortly, but many historians regard it as the key event of the American Civil War. In point of fact, there is a very good argument to be made that had Lee's plans not been discovered, the South would have won the war. I am not enough of an expert on these matters to make this assertion; however, it was a time when everything was in the balance. As I have documented, British recognition of the Confederacy would never again be this close. As I have also documented, Lincoln's emancipation of the slaves was in a desk drawer, waiting on a Union victory to be revealed. If McClellan doesn't find these orders, PERHAPS Lee defeats him in a key battle. PERHAPS this causes the British to recognize the South, leading to an end to the blockade, and the creation of a new Southern nation. PERHAPS. But never again, not even at Gettysburg, would the South be this close to victory.

The question of what would have happened otherwise is the series of a large number of "what-if" books, the most prominent probably being a series of novels by alternative history author Harry Turtledove. There are 11 books in this series, examining the results of a Confederacy from its beginnings to the end of World War II. Turtledove's premise for this, stated in the first few pages of his first volume, How Few Remain, is that a Confederate colonel, having realized his error of wrapping his cigars with Lee's orders, picks them up and puts them in his pocket. From this rather quiet "what-if" moment comes a southern victory, followed by 70 + years of a United States divided in two. World War I is fought between North and South, bloody trenches and all. And after the South loses that war, a Hitler character rises in the Confederacy rather than in Europe, and instead of killing the Jews, he naturally exterminates African-Americans in a concentration camp in Texas. A rather absurd, yet absorbing and awfully fun series of books.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Road to Antietam Part 6

McClellan did not want to move rashly- after all, those rebels still outnumbered him. Instead of setting his troops in motion immediately, McClellan made careful plans and did not order the men forward until daylight on September 14, 18 hours after he had learned of Lee's dispositions. As things turned out, this delay enabled Lee to concentrate and save his army. A pro-Confederate citizen of Maryland had witnessed McClellan's response to the finding of the lost orders and had ridden hard to inform Stuart, who passed the information along to Lee on the night of September 13. Lee ordered troops to block the passes through South Mountain. Next day two Union corps fought up-hill against D. H. Hill's Confederate division defending Turner's Gap. Taking heavy losses, Hill's hardy band hung on behind stone walls and trees until Longstreet came up with reinforcements and held off the Federals until nightfall. Withdrawing after dark, these outnumbered rebels had given Lee an extra day. Meanwhile another Union corps under William B. Franklin had smashed through Crampton's Gap 6 miles to the south and after a sharp firefight with 3 Confederate brigades. Despite great numerical superiority, Franklin advanced timidly southward toward the forces besieging Harper's Ferry and failed to arrive in time to save the Union garrison at the Ferry.

Although the half of Lee's army north of the Potomac had warded off disaster, the invasion of Maryland appeared doomed. The whole Union army would be across South Mountain next day. The only apparent Confederate option seemed to be retreat into the Shenandoah Valley. But when Lee received word that Jackson expected to capture Harper's Ferry on September 15, he changed his mind about retreating. He ordered the whole army to concentrate at Sharpsburg, a Maryland village about a mile from the Potomac. Lee had decided to offer battle. To return to Virginia without fighting would mean loss of face. It might endanger diplomatic efforts to win foreign recognition. It would depress southern morale. Having beaten the Federals twice before, Lee thought he could do it again- for he still believed the Army of the Potomac to be demoralized.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Road to Antietam Concluded

Lee's estimate of northern morale seemed to be confirmed by Jackson's easy capture of Harper's Ferry. The Union garrison was composed mostly of new troops under a second-rate commander- Colonel Dixon Miles, a Marylander who had been reprimanded for drunkeness at First Bull Run and whose defense of Harper's Ferry was so inept as to arouse suspicions of treason. Killed in the last exchange of fire before the surrender, Miles did not have to defend himself against such a charge. As Jackson rode into town dressed as usual in a nondescript uniform and battered fatigue cap, one of the disarmed Union soldiers said, "Boys, he's not much for looks, but if we'd had him we wouldn't have been caught in this trap!"

The various Confederate units that had besieged Harper's Ferry marched as fast as possible for Sharpsburg 15 miles away. Until they arrived on September 16 and 17, Lee had only 3 divisions in line with their backs to the Potomac over which only one ford offered an escape in case of defeat. During September 15 the Army of the Potomac began arriving at Antietam Creek a mile or two east of Lee's position. Still acting with the caution befitting his estimate of Lee's superior force, McClellan launched no probing attacks and sent no calvary reconnaissance across the creek to determine Confederate strength.

On September 16 the northern commander ahd 60,000 men on hand and another 15,000 within 6 miles to confront Lee's 25,000 or 30,000. Having informed Washington that he would crush Lee's army in detail while it was separated, McClellan missed his second chance to do so on the 16th while he matured plans for an attack on the morrow. Late that afternoon- as 2 more Confederate divisions slogged northward from Harper's Ferry- McClellan sent 2 corps across the Antietam north of the Confederate left, precipitating a sharp little fight that alerted Lee to the pont of the initial Union attack at dawn next day.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Battle of Antietam Part 1

Antietam (called Sharpsburg by the South) was one of the few battles in the war in which both commanders deliberately chose the field and planned their tactics beforehand. Instead of entrenching, the Confederates utilized the cover of small groves, rock outcroppings, stone walls, dips and swells in the rolling farmland, and a sunken road in the center of their line. Only the southernmost of 3 bridges over the Antietam was within rebel rifle range; this bridge would become one of the keys to the battle. McClellan massed 3 corps on the Union right to deliver the initial attack and placed Burnside's large 9th Corps on the left with orders to create a diversion to prevent Lee from transferring troops from this sector to reinforce his left. McClelllan held 4 Union divisions and the calvary in reserve behind the right and center to exploit any breakthrough. He also expected Burnside to cross the creek and roll up the Confederate right if opportunity offered. It was a good battle plan and if well executed it might have accomplished Lincoln's wish to "destroy the rebel army."

But it was not well executed. On the Union side the responsibility for this lay mainly on the shoulders of McClellan and Burnside. McClellan failed to coordinate the attacks on the right, which therefore went forward in three stages rather than simultaneously. This allowed Lee to shift troops from quiet sectors to meet the attacks. The Union commander also failed to send in the reserves when the bluecoats did manage to achieve a breaththrough in the center. Burnside wasted th morning and part of the afternoon crossing the stubbornly defended bridge when his men could have waded the nearby fords against little opposition. As a result of Burnside's tardiness, Lee was able to shift a division in the morning from the Confederate right to the hard-pressed left where it arrived just in time to break the third wave of the Union attack. On the Confederate side the credit for averting disaster belonged to the skillful generalship of Lee and his subordinates but above all to the desperate courage of men in the ranks. "It is beyond all wonder," wrote a Union officer after the battle, "how such men as the rebel troops can fight on as they do; that, filthy, sick, hungry, and miserable, they should prove such heroes in fight, is past explanation."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Battle of Antietam Part 2

The fighting at Antietam was among the hardest of the war. The Army of the Potomac battled with grim determination to expunge the dishonor of previous defeats. Yankee soldiers were not impelled by fearless bravery or driven by iron discipline. Few men ever experience the former and Civil War soldiers scarcely knew the latter. Rather, they were motivated in the mass by the potential shame of another defeat and in small groups by the potential shame of cowardice in the eyes of comrades. A northern soldier who fought at Antietam gave as good an explanation of behavior in battle as one is likely to find anywhere:

We heard all through the war that the army was 'eager to be led against the enemy'. It must have been so, for truthful correspondents said so, and editors confirmed it. But when you came to hunt for this individual itch, it was always the next regiment that had it. The truth is, when bullets are whacking against treetrunks and solid shot are cracking skulls like egg-shells, the consuming passion in the breast of the average man is to get out of the way. Between the physical fear of going forward and the moral fear of turning back, there is a predicament of exceptional awkwardness.

But when the order came to go forward his regiment did not falter:

In a second the air was full of the hiss of bullets and the hurtle of grape-shot. The mental strain was so great that I saw at that moment the singular effect mentioned, I think, in the life of Goethe on a similar occasion- the whole landscape for an instant turned slightly red.

This psychological state produced a sort of fighting madness in many men, a superadrenalized fury that turned them into mindless killing machines heedless of the normal instinct of self-preservation. This frenzy seems to have prevailed at Antietam on a greater scale than in any previous Civil War battle. "The men are loading and firing with a demonical fury and shouting and laughing hysterically," wrote a Union officer in the present tense a quarter-century later as if that moment of red-sky madness lived in him yet.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Battle of Antietam Part 3

Joseph Hooker's Union 1st Corps led the attack at dawn by sweeping down the Hagerstown Pike from the north. Rebels waited for them in what came to be known as the West Woods and The Cornfield just north of a whitewashed church of the pacifist Dunkard sect. "Fighting Joe" Hooker- an agressive, egotistical general who aspired to command the Army of the Potomac- had earned his sobriquet on the Peninsula. He confirmed it here. His men drove back Jackson's corps from the cornfield and pike, dealing out such punishment that Lee sent reinforcements from D.H. Hill's division in the center and Longstreet's corps on the right. These units counterpunched with a blow that shattered Hooker's corps before the Union 12th Corps launched the second wave of the northern attack. This attack also penetrated the Confederate lines around the Dunkard Church before being hurled back with heavy losses, whereupon a third wave led by a crack division of "Bull" Sumner's 2nd Corps broke through the rebel line in the West Woods. Before these bluecoats could roll up the flanks, however, one Confederate division that had arrived this morning from Harper's Ferry and another that Lee had shifted from the inactive right near Burnside's bridge suddenly popped out in front, flank, and rear of Sumner's division and all but wiped it out with a surprise counterattack. Severly wounded and left for dead in this action was a young captain in the 20th Massachusetts, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

For 5 hours a dreadful slaughter raged on the Confederate left. 12,000 men lay dead and wounded. 5 Union and 5 Confederate divisions had been so cut up that they backed off as if by mutual consent and did no more serious fighting this day. In the meantime Sumner's other 2 divisions had obliqued left to deal with a threat to their flanks from Confederates in a sunken farm road southeast of the Dunkard Church. This brought on the midday phase of the battle in which blue and gray slugged it out for this key to the rebel center, known ever after as Bloody Lane. The weight of numbers and firepower finally enabled the blue to prevail. Broken southern brigades fell back to regroup in the outskirts of Sharpsburg itself. A northern war correspondent who came up to Bloody Lane minutes after the Federals captured it could scarcely find words to describe this "ghastly spectacle" where "Confederates had gone down as the grass falls before the scythe."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Battle of Antietam Part 4

Now was the time for McClellan to send in his reserves. The enemy center was wide open. "There was no body of Confederate infantry in this part of the field that could have resisted a serious advance," wrote a southern officer. "Lee's army was ruined, and the end of the Confederacy was in sight," added another. But the carnage suffered by 3 Union corps during the morning had saken McClellan. He decided not to send in the fresh 6th Corps commanded by Franklin, who was eager to go forward. Believing that Lee must be massing his supposedly enormous reserves for a counterattack, McClellan told Franklin that "it would not prudent to make the attack. So the center of the battlefield fell silent as events on the Confederate right moved toward a new climax.

All morning a thin brigade of Georgians hidden behind trees and a stone wall had carried on target practice against Yankee regiments trying to cross Burnside's bridge. The southern brigade commander was Robert A. Toombs, who enjoyed here his finest hour as a soldier. Disappointed by his failure to become president of the Confederacy, bored by his job as secretary of state, Toombs had taken a brigadier's commission to seek the fame and glory to which he felt destined. Reprimanded more than once by superiors for inefficiency and insubordination, Toombs spent many of his leisure hours denoucing Jefferson Davis and the "West Point clique" who were ruining army and country. For his achievement in holding Burnside's whole corps for several hours at Antietam- and being wounded in the process- Toombs expected promotion, but did not get it and subsequently resigned to go public with his anti-administration exhortations.

Edited by timschochet

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Battle of Antietam Part 5

In the early afternoon of September 17 two of Burnside's crack regiments finally charged across the bridge at a run, taking heavy losses to establish a bridgehead on the rebel side. Other units found fords about the same time, and by mid-afternoon 3 of Burnside's divisions were driving the rebels in that sector back toward Sharpsburg and threatening to cut the road to the only ford over the Potomac. Here was another crisis for Lee and an opportunity for McClellan. Fitz-John Porter's 5th Corps stood available as a reserve to support Burnside's advance. One of Porter's division commanders urged McClellan to send him in to bolster Burnside. McClellan hesitated and seemed about to give the order when he looked at Porter, who shook his head. "Remember, General," Porter was heard to say, "I command the last reserve of the last army of the Republic." This warning reminded McClellan of the danger from those phantom reserves on the other side, so he refused to give the order.

Meanwhile Lee looked anxiously to the south where his right flank seemed to be disintegrating. Suddenly he saw a cloud of dust in the distance that soon materialized as marching men. "Whose troops are those?" Lee asked a nearby lieutenant with a telescope. The lieutenant peered intently for what seemed like an eternity, then said, "They are flying the Virginia and Confederate flags, sir." Sighing with relief, Lee observed: "It is A.P. Hill from Harper's Ferry." Indeed it was. Having remained behind to complete the surrender arrangements, Hill had driven his hard-fighting division up the road at a killing pace in response to an urgent summons from Lee. These troops crashed into Burnside's flank in late afternoon just as the Yankees seemed about to crumple Lee's right. Surprised and confused, the Union attackers milled around, stopped, and retreated. The surprise was compounded by the captured blue uniforms many of Hill's men were wearing, which caused 4 Union flank regiments to hold their fire for fatal minutes.

We'll get to the final results of this momentous battle, and it's ultimate effect on the war, in the next few posts. But to sum up what we have covered so far: McClellan could have won this battle and destroyed Lee's army if he had not committed his troops piecemeal. By doing so, he allowed Lee's forces, though smaller in numbers and equipment, to match each threat as it came. This allowed Lee to save the Army of Northerrn Virginia, and as a result prolong the war for nearly three more years.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Battle of Antietam, Concluded

Night fell on a scene of horror beyond imagining. Nearly 6,000 men lay dead or dying, and another 17,000 wounded groaned in agony or endured in silence. The casualties at Antietam numbered 4 times the total suffered by American soldiers at the Normandy beaches on June 6, 1944. More than twice as many Americans lost their lives in one day at Sharpsburg as fell in combat in the War of 1812, the Mexican War, and the Spanish-American war combined. After dark on September 17 the weary southern corps and division commanders gathered at Lee's headquarters to report losses of 50% or more in several brigades. Scarcely 30,000 Confederates remained alive and unwounded. Lee nevertheless stayed in position next day almost as if to dare McClellan to renew the assault. McClellan refused the dare. Although 2 more fresh Union divisions arrived in the morning, he was still hypnotised by a vision of Lee's limitles legions. The armies remained quiet during the 18th, and that night Lee yielded to necessity and ordered his troops back to Virginia. McClellan mounted a feeble pursuit, which A.P. Hill brushed off on September 20, and the Confederates got clean away into the Valley.

McClellan wired news of a great victory to Washington. "Maryland is entirely freed from the presence of the enemy, who has been driven across the Potomac. No fears need now be entertained for the safety of Pennsylvania." Forgotten were Lincoln's instructions to "destroy the rebel army." Secretary of the Navy Welles may have echoed the president's opinion when he wrote two days after the battle: "Nothing from the army, except that, instead of following up the victory, attacking and capturing the Rebels, they are rapidly escaping across the river. Oh dear!" In letters to his wife, McClellan expressed pride in his achievement and pique at such fault-finding:

Those in whose judgment I rely tell me that I fought the battle splendidly & that it was a masterpiece of art...I feel that I have done all that can be asked in twice saving the country..,I feel some little pride in having, with a beaten & demoralized army, defeated Lee so utterly...Well, one of these days history will I trust do me justice.

History can least record Antietam as a strategic Union success. Lee's invasion of Maryland recoiled more quickly than Bragg's invasion of Kentucky. Nearly one-third of the rebels who marched into Maryland became casualties. When an unwary regimental band struck up "Maryland, My Maryland" after the retreat across the Potomac, men in the ranks hissed and groaned. Seeing the point, the musicians switched to "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny". At Whitehall and the White House the battle of Antietam also went down as a northern victory. It frustrated the Confederate hopes for British recognition and precipitated the Emancipation Proclamation. The slaughter at Sharpsburg therefore proved to have been one of the war's great turning points.

Next up: emancipation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One of the reasons casualties were so heavy in the Sunken Lane was topography. It stretched east to west, a short ways south of a small hillcrest, with the Union attack coming from the north on the opposite side of the crest. Advancing by brigade, and sometimes only by a regiment or two, the Federals remained out of sight to their counterparts until they reached the top of the hillock, at that point barely 100 yards from the Confederate brigades, prone in the lane behind a fence. At that point, the southernors got in the first punch, pouring devastating volleys into them and turning back the first few lines of attack.

It wasn't until the Irish Brigade came up and made a stand, suffering terrible casualties in the process, that they bought enough time to expose the road's weakness as a defensive strongpoint: it wasn't very long. While the Irish Brigade slugged it out at high cost, the flanks of the Union advance overlapped both ends of the lane and suddenly the shoe was on the other foot. Federal troops poured their own fire down the length of the road and, finally, with the dead piled up in heaps, the Confederates were forced to retreat.

It was yet another moment of opportunity that McClellan failed to exploit. Instead of pursuing and possibly splitting the Rebel line in half, fighting slowly ground to a halt in the critical Bloody Lane sector.

Edited by roadkill1292

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Topography also played a part in the first phase of the fight, in the cornfield. The cornfield is pretty flat and both lines had open fields of fire, though the Confederate line, facing north, had at least part of a fence for cover. Even though it was September, the corn itself was not very tall like modern strains and offered little protection for Meade's and Hooker's corps. This was a straight up slugfest with both lines having good sight lines and casualties in the field were frightful. But to the east, there's a little tree cover before the ground begins sloping down to Antietam Creek and it allowed Wright's(?) Division to move up undetected and hit the southern flank and roll it up regiment by regiment. Some of the Georgia and Louisiana regiments on the eastern flank were virtually wiped out as fighting units by this flank attack.

This attack pushed the Confederates completely out of the cornfield but then the advance actually went too far. On the western edge of the field, the woods get heavy again. Federal units lost contact with one another in the trees and then were hit by a southern counterattack from two sides (Jackson?). Disorganized, blinded by smoke and confused by the multi-directional counterattacks, Union units were torn apart, much by friendly fire. Casualties were severe and hundreds were taken prisoner in the woods.

Edited by roadkill1292

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Emancipation Part One

On September 22, 5 days after the battle of Antietam, Lincoln called his cabinet into session. He had made a covenant with God, said the President, that if the army drove the enemy from Maryland he would issue his Emancipation Proclamation. "I think the time has come," he continued, "I wish it were a better time. I wish that we were in a better condition. The action of the army against the rebels had not been quite what I should have best liked." Nevertheless, Antietam was a victory and Lincoln intended to warn the rebel states that unless the returned to the Union by January 1 their slaves "shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free." The cabinet approved, though Montgomery Blair repeated his warning that this action might drive border-state elements to the South and give Democrats "a club...to beat the Administration" in the elections. Lincoln replied that he had exhausted every effort to bring the border states along. Now "we must make the forward movement" without them. "They will acquiesce, if not immediately, soon." As for the Democrats, "their clubs would be used against us take what course we might."

The Proclamation would apply only to states in rebellion on January 1. This produced some confusion, because the edict thus appeared to "liberate" only those slaves beyond Union authority while retaining in bondage all those within the government's reach. A few disappointed radicals and abolitionists looked upon it this way. So did tories and some liberals in England. The conservative British press affected both to abhor and to ridicule the measure: to abhor it because it might encourage a servile rebellion that would eclipse the horrors of the 1857 Sepoy uprising in India; to ridicule it because of its hypocritical impotence. "Where he has no power Mr. Lincoln will set the negroes free; where he retains power he will consider them as slaves," declared the London Times. "This is more like a Chinaman beating his two swords together to frighten his enemy than like an earnest man pressing forward his cause."

But such remarks missed the point and misunderstood the president's prerogatives under the Constitution. Lincoln acted under his war powers to seize enemy resources; he had no constitutional power to act against slavery in areas loyal to the United States. The Proclamation would turn Union forces into armies of liberation after January 1- if they could win the war. And it also invited the slaves to help them win it. Most antislavery Americans and Britons recognized this. "We shout for joy that we live to record this righteous decree," wrote Frederick Douglass, while William Lloyd Garrison considered it "an act of immense historical consequence." Lincoln himself recognized this; privately he wrote:

With this proclamation, the character of the war will be changed. It will be one of subjugation...the old South is to be destroyed and replaced by new propositions and ideas.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Emancipation Part 2

Would the army fight for freedom? Few soldiers were abolitionists, but they nevertheless wanted, according to an Indiana colonel, to "destroy everything that in aught gives the rebels strength, including slavery, so this army will sustain the emancipation proclamation and enforce it with the bayonet." General-in-Chief Halleck explained his position in a letter to Ulysses Grant:

The character of the war has very much changed within the last year. There is now no possible hope of reconciliation...We must conquer the rebels or be conquered by them. Every slave withdrawn from the enemy is the equivalent of a white man put hors de combat.

But would McClellan and officers of the Army of the Potomac go along with this? Much Republican opposition to McClellan stemmed from the belief that he would not. And indeed, the general's first response to the Proclamation indicated indecision. He considered it "infamous" and told his wife that he "could not make up my mind to fight for such an accursed doctrine as that of a servile insurrection." McClellan consulted Democratic friends in New York, who advised him to submit to the President's proclamation and quietly continue doing his duty as a soldier. But, when some of McClellan's associates stirred up trouble by publicly denouncing the decision, including Fitz-John Porter, McClellan on October 7 issued a general order reminding them of the necessity for military subordination to civil authority. "The remedy for political errors, if any are committed," concluded McClellan with an artful reference to the imminent elections, "is to be found only in the action of the people at the polls."

Democrats scarcely needed this hint. They had already made emancipation the main issue in their quest for control of Congress. The New York Democratic platform denounced the Emancipation Proclamation as "a proposal for the butchery of women and children, for scenes of rape, arson, and murder." (I take back what I wrote in another thread recently about extremism in today's politics. Yankee23fan chided me at the time for not paying close enough attention to the history of American politics, and in retrospect he was absolutely right.) Lincoln's suspension of habeu corpus to enforce the militia draft (more on this later) hurt the Republicans. "A large majority", declared an Ohio editor, "can see no reason why they should be shot for the benefit of N-words and Abolitionists." Subsuming all these issues was this war itself. After a year and half of trial, and the death of thousands, there was no forseeable end. This remained true even after northern armies turned back Confederate invasions at Antietam, Perryville, and Corinth. None of these battles was a clear-cut Union victory.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Emancipation Part 3

On New Year's Day Lincoln ended all speculation. The Proclamation he signed that day exempted the border states along with Tennessee and Union-controlled portions of Louisiana and Virginia. (To forestall army objections and also for military reasons, Lincoln had removed McClellan from command of the Army of the Potomac two months before.) To meet the criticism that that the preliminary Proclamation had invited slaves to revolt, the final edict enjoined them to "abstain from all violence." But in other respects this Proclamation went beyond the first one. Not only did it justify emancipation as an "act of justice" as well as a military necessity, but it also sanctioned the enlistment of black soldiers and sailors in Union forces.

Here was revolution in earnest. Armed blacks were truly a southern nightmare. The idea of black soldiers had been around since the beginning of the war, when northern blacks in several cities had volunteered for the Union army. But on the principle that it was "a white man's war", the War Department had refused to accept them. Despite the service of black soldiers in the Revolution and the War of 1812, Negroes had been barred from state militias since 1792 and the regular army had never enrolled black soldiers. The navy, however, had taken them from the outset, as fireman, coal heavers, cooks, and stewards. Black leaders, abolitionists, and radical Republicans pushed for the enlistment of black soldiers. This would not only help the North win the war, they said; it would also help free the slaves and earn equal rights for the whole race. Frederick Douglass made the point succintly:

Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letters, U.S.; let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pocket, and there is no power on earth which can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship.

The Emancipation Proclamation envisaged a limited role for black soldiers "to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places," instead of to fight as front-line troops. But reality had a way of surpassing policy. Massachusetts was about to get into the act.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Emancipation Proclamation

January 1, 1863

A Transcription

By the President of the United States of America:

A Proclamation.

Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:

"That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.

"That the Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State, or the people thereof, shall on that day be, in good faith, represented in the Congress of the United States by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such State shall have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State, and the people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States."

Now, therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief, of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion, do, on this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and in accordance with my purpose so to do publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days, from the day first above mentioned, order and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof respectively, are this day in rebellion against the United States, the following, to wit:

Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, (except the Parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the City of New Orleans) Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth[)], and which excepted parts, are for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.

And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.

And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defence; and I recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.

And I further declare and make known, that such persons of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.

And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighty-seventh.

By the President: ABRAHAM LINCOLN

WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Emancipation Part 4

The Colonel of the 1st South Carolina Volunteers was Massachusetts's Thomas Wentworth Higginson, whose pen was at least as mighty as his sword. After taking part of his regiment on a minor raid along a South Carolina river in January 1863. Higginson wrote an enthusiastic report to the War Department which, as intended, found its way into the newspapers:

Nobody knows anything about these men who has not seen them in battle. No officer in this regiment now doubts that the key to the successful prosecution of the war lies in the unlimited employment of black troops.

As a result of Higginson's raid, Governor Andrew of Massachusetts squeezed permission from the War Department to raise a black division. Commissioning prominent abolitionists as recruiters and officers, Andrew enlisted enough men from northern states for two regiments, the 54th and 55th Massachusetts, the first of which became the most famous black regiment of the war (and the subject of the film Glory; more on them later.)

The recruitment of black soldiers did not produce an instaneous change in northern racial attitudes. Indeed, to some degree it intensified the Democratic backlash against emancipation and exacerbated racial tensions in the army. The black regiments reflected the Jim Crow mores of the society that reluctantly accepted them: they were segregated, given less pay than white soldiers, commanded by white officers some of whom regarded their men as "n-words" and intended for use mainly as garrison and labor battalions. One of the first battles these black troops had to fight was for a chance to prove themselves in combat.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Now, therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief, of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion

Cunning little political move here.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Emancipation, concluded

The southern response to emancipation and the enlistment of black troops was ferocious- at least on paper, and sometimes in fact as well. Upon learning of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, General Beauregard called for "execution of abolition prisoners (i.e., captured Union soldiers) after 1st of January...Let the execution be with the garrote." Jefferson Davis's message to Congress on January 12, 1863, pronounced the Emancipation Proclamation "the most execrable measure in the history of guilty man." Davis promised to turn over captured Union officers to state governments for punishment as "criminals engaged in inciting servile insurrection." The punishment for this crime, of course, was death.

Sober second thoughts prevented the enforcement of such a policy. But the South did sometimes execute captured black soldiers and their officers. Even before official adoption of black enlistment by the Union government, southerners got wind of the premature efforts along this line in occupied in Louisiana and South Carolina. From Confederate army headquarters on August 21, 1862, came a general order that such "crimes and outrages" required "retaliation" in the form of "execution as a felon" of any officer of black troops who was captured. When a rebel commando raid seized 4 blacks in Union uniforms on a South Carolina island in November, Secretary of War James A. Seddon and President Davis approved their "summary execution" as an "example" to discourage the arming of slaves. A month later, on Christmas Eve, Davis issued a general order requiring all former slaves and their officers captured in arms to be delivered up to state officials for trial. On May 30, 1863, the Confederate Congress sanctioned this policy but stipulated that captured officers were to be tried and punished by military courts rather than by the states.

Though the South did not actually do this, considerable evidence indicates that captured officers were sometimes killed on the field or immediately thereafter. Black prisoners of war were sometimes shot "while attempting to escape." A Confederate colonel whose regiment captured a squad of black soldiers in Louisiana reported that when some of them tried to escape, "I then ordered every one shot and with my Six Shooter I assisted in the execution of the order." A North Carolina soldier wrote to his mother that after a skirmish with a black regiment "several were taken prisoner and afterwards either bayoneted or burnt. The men were perfectly exasperated at the idea of negroes opposed to them and rushed at them like so many devils."

Rumors and reports of several such massacres vexed Union authorities through the rest of the war and forced them more than once to threaten retaliation. This was one reason for the hesitation to use black troops in combat, where they ran a heightened risk of capture. The Confederate refusal to treat captured black soldiers as legitimate prisoners of war contributed to the eventual breakdown in prisoner of war exchanges that had tragic consequences for both sides.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Road to Fredericksburg, Part 1

Although disappointed by McClellan's failure to thrash Lee at Antietam, Lincoln expected the Army of the Potomac to push after the rebels and fight them again while they were far from home. Lincoln visited the army in early October and urged McClellan to get moving before the Confederates could be reinforced and refitted. Upon returning to Washington, the president had Halleck send McClellan an order: "Cross the Potomac and give battle...Your army must move now while the roads are good."

But McClellan as usual protested that he could not act until his supply wagons were full and his soldiers reorganized. Halleck threw up his hands in despair. He knew that the Army of Northern Virginia was in worse shape than the Army of the Potomac. "I am sick, tired, and disgusted" with McClellan's inactivity, wrote Halleck in October. "There is an immobility here that exceeds all that any man can conceive of it." Lincoln was also becoming exasperated. He wrote the general on October 13:

Are you not over-cautious when you assume that you can not do what the enemy is constantly doing? You argue that your men could not march 20 miles a day and fight without full stomachs and no shoes. Yet the rebels have marched with little food and no shoes. To wait for full supplies ignores the question of TIME which can not and must not be ignored. If your army crosses the Potomac quickly and gets between the enemy and Richmond you could force Lee into the open. We should not so operate as to merely drive him away. If we can not beat the enemy where he now is (west of Harper's Ferry) we never can...If we never try, we can never succeed.

But this appeal failed to move McClellan. When little happened for another two weeks except telegrams citing broken-down horses, Lincoln lost patience. "Will you pardon me for asking what the horses of your army have done since the battle of Antietam that fatigues anything?" Such goading only angered McClellan. "The good of the country," he wrote to his wife, "requires me to submit to all this from men whom I know to be my inferior!...There never was a truer epithet applied to a certain individual than that of the 'Gorilla'".

In truth, McClellan had again lost sight of reality. Considering himself the hero of Antietam, he believed he could dictate to the government. "I have insisted that Stanton shall be removed, & that Halleck shall give way to me as Commander in Chief", McClellan informed his wife. "The only safety for the country & for me is to get rid of the lot of them."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Road To Fredericksburg Part 2

The Army of the Potomac finally began to cross its namesake river on October 26, but moved so slowly that Lee was able to interpose Longstreet's corps between Richmond and the bluecoats while Jackson remained in the Shenandoah Valley on McClellan's flank. For Lincoln this was the last straw; he was tired of trying to "bore with an auger too dull to take hold." On November 7 he replaced McClellan with Burnside. To his private secretary Lincoln explained that when McClellan kept "delaying on little pretexts of wanting this and that I began to fear that he was playing false- that he did not want to hurt the enemy." If he let Lee block an advance toward Richmond "I determined to remove him. He did so & I relieved him."

McClellan's farewell to the army was emotional. A few officers muttered darkly about "changing front on Washington" and "throwing the infernal scoundrels into the Potomac". Nothing came of this, however, and nothing in McClellan's tenure of command became him like his leaving of it. "Stand by General Burnside as you have stood by me, and all will be well," he told the men as they yelled their affection for the leader who had created them as an army. Among those who most regretted McClellan's removal was Burnside himself. Although he was one of the few Union generals in the East with marked successes to his credit- along the coast of North Carolina- Burnside considered himself unqualified to command the Army of the Potomac. This conviction would all too soon be confirmed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Battle of Fredericksburg Part 1

Burnside started off well. Instead of continuing straight south, using the vunerable railroad through Manassas as his supply line, he moved the ponderous army of 110,000 men with unwonted speed to Falmouth, across the Rappahannock from Fredericksburg. From there he hoped to cross the river and drive toward Richmond, with his supply line secured by naval control of the rivers flowing into the Chesapeake Bay. The drawback to this strategy was the number of rivers the army would have to cross, beginning with the Rappahannock. By moving quickly, though, Burnside had gotten two advance corps to Falmouth on November 17, before Lee could shift troops to block a crossing. Burnside needed to bridge the river did not show up for more than a week- a delay caused by Burnside's unfortunate knack for issuing unclear instructions and Halleck's misunderstanding of where and when Burnside intended to cross the river. As a result, Lee had most of his 75,000 men dug in along the hills south of the Rappahannock by the time the pontoons arrived.

Lee was willing to sit there all winter, but Burnside could not afford to do so. Lincoln and the public expected an offensive. After thinking it over and concluding that Lee would expect him to cross the river above or below Fredericksburg, Burnside decided that "the enemy will be more surprised by a crossing immediately in our front." Lee was surprised only by the folly of this move. He had Longstreet's corps posted along 4 miles of high ground overlooking Fredericksburg with a sweeping field of fire over the half-mile of open fields that attacking troops would have to cross. As one of Longstreet's artillery officers put it, "a chicken could not live on that field when we open on it." Hoping that the Federals would assault this position, Lee decided to offer just enough resistance to their river crossing to give Jackson's corps time to move upstream and connect with Longstreet to extend the Confederate line another 3 miles.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.