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timschochet

The American Civil War Timeline- 150th Anniversary

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The Battle of Fredericksburg Part 2

In the pre-dawn darkness of December 11, Union engineers began laying 3 pontoon bridges at Fredericksburg and 3 more a couple of miles downstream. Covered by artillery, the downstream bridge-builders did their job without trouble. But in Fredericksburg a brigade of Mississippians firing from buildings and rifle-pits picked off the engineers as soon as it became light enough to see. Federal artillery shelled the buildings (most civilians had been evacuated) but the rebel snipers continued to fire from the rubble. 3 blue regiments finally crossed in boats and drove them away in house-to-house fighting. After the rest of the army crossed, northern soldiers looted the town, smashing "rebel" furniture, pianos, glassware, and anything else they could find in the abandoned houses.

For many of the looters it was the last night of their lives. The battle of Fredericksburg on December 13 once again pitted great valour in the Union ranks and mismanagement by their commanders against stout fighting and effective generalship on the Confederate side. Burnside's tactics called for the left wing under General William B. Franklin to assault the Confederate right commanded by Jackson while the Union right tapped Longstreet's defenses on Marye's Heights behind the town. If Franklin managed to roll up Jackson's flank, the Union probe on the right could be converted into a real attack. Whatever slim prospects this plan had were marred by Burnside's confusing written orders to Franklin and the latter's failure to push ahead with his 50,000 infantrymen when opportunity offered.

The fog lifted at mid-morning on December 13 to reveal the panoply of Franklin's men advancing across the plain south of Lee's hilltop headquarters. These Federals soon assaulted Jackson's position on Prospect Hill. A division of Pennsylvanians commanded by George Gordon Meade found a seam in Jackson's line along a wooded ravine and penetrated the Confederate defenses. Here was a potential breakthrough if supporting troops were thrown in- but Franklin failed to throw them in. Southern reserves double-timed forward and counterattacked, driving the Pennsylvanians out of the woods and into the open until halted by Union artillery. Watching anxiously from his command post, Lee sighed with relief as his men repaired the breach, and said to Longstreet:

It is well that war is so terrible- we should grow too fond of it!

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I'm wondering if I should continue this thread. It really is a lot of work, and I haven't been able to notice anyone reading it for a few weeks now. All discussion of the narrative, which was supposed to be the main point, has vanished. Is anyone still interested? If you are, let me know. If not, no worries, we'll just let it die...

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I'm wondering if I should continue this thread. It really is a lot of work, and I haven't been able to notice anyone reading it for a few weeks now. All discussion of the narrative, which was supposed to be the main point, has vanished. Is anyone still interested? If you are, let me know. If not, no worries, we'll just let it die...

:shrug:I've been checking in. As I said earlier, I am ready to hit some Gettysburgh stuff when it gets there, specifically the speech and the events surrounding it.

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copy/paste is alot of work?

I don't copy/paste anything. My main source is James McPherson's Battle of Cry of Freedom which is not available on internet. I type each line, and there is very severe editing as well. In addition for each battle narrative I use other sources, and try to weave in my own opinion. It does take a good deal of time. I don't mind, so long as people are reading it.

Besides Yankee, are there others still perusing this thread?

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FTR, I was on Culp's Hill this past Sunday. Also cruised up to Barlow's Knoll, which gives you a great perspective of the geography of the north front on Day 1.

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Well, I gave it a couple of days. Nobody bothered other than Yankee and Roadkill, who have both contributed to the threads. Two people are not enough for the effort, sorry. Maybe we'll start up again sometime in the future. It really was a lot of fun at times, especially when the narratives resulted in good discussion. But since nobody's reading this thread, I don't see much of a reason to continue. So we'll stop for now.

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Whatever, I have read every post typed in here as a Civil War buff. Thank you for your efforts, not sure what you wanted here. I like reading other people's narratives or takes on the various battles - so I have enjoyed this thread. If you don't feel appreciated enough so be it. I will miss reading the updates. I can always turn to a myriad of other sources but it was kind of cool to have a couple FBGers driving the narrative.

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Whatever, I have read every post typed in here as a Civil War buff. Thank you for your efforts, not sure what you wanted here. I like reading other people's narratives or takes on the various battles - so I have enjoyed this thread. If you don't feel appreciated enough so be it. I will miss reading the updates. I can always turn to a myriad of other sources but it was kind of cool to have a couple FBGers driving the narrative.

Thank you for reading it. It was not a matter of being appreciated. I was simply hoping for a little more discussion or added commentary, that's all. I may return to it after a few weeks or so- I generally like to finish what I've started, no matter how long it takes.

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Well, for my part I'm probably a little overwhelmed by some of the political nuances going on up to this point (Fredericksburg). But I'd hate to give up on this just as we're getting to Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, the two most interesting months of the war. And it'd be cool to discuss Mr. "F.J. Hooker," as Lee called him, who, despite his failure at Chancellorsville, did some good things in the early months of 1863.

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Whatever, I have read every post typed in here as a Civil War buff. Thank you for your efforts, not sure what you wanted here. I like reading other people's narratives or takes on the various battles - so I have enjoyed this thread. If you don't feel appreciated enough so be it. I will miss reading the updates. I can always turn to a myriad of other sources but it was kind of cool to have a couple FBGers driving the narrative.

Thank you for reading it. It was not a matter of being appreciated. I was simply hoping for a little more discussion or added commentary, that's all. I may return to it after a few weeks or so- I generally like to finish what I've started, no matter how long it takes.
Shiloh was one of my favorites, but I was preoccupied when you hit that battle. Now that you are at Fredericksburg; you are getting close to two of my other favorites (Gettysburgh and Vicksburg). I will more activiely participate in those. In the meantime - slog through Fredericksburgh mercifully (Burnsides attempt at giving away the war). I am interested in reading your take on Chancellorsville. It is during this whole time frame that how political the Union was is brought into focus.

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I enjoy reading but with the infequency of posts its fallen off the 1st page...

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I really enjoyed this as well. I am a buff, but have nowhere near the level of knowledge already presented in this thread by Yankee and B Layne. The discussion is so authoratative, that it makes further commenting somewhat tough (I mean that in a good way - in short, I have little to add.)

Edited by jwb

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Well, I gave it a couple of days. Nobody bothered other than Yankee and Roadkill, who have both contributed to the threads. Two people are not enough for the effort, sorry. Maybe we'll start up again sometime in the future. It really was a lot of fun at times, especially when the narratives resulted in good discussion. But since nobody's reading this thread, I don't see much of a reason to continue. So we'll stop for now.

I enjoyed it while it lasted. :goodposting:

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Well, I have decided to continue with the narrative. I don't like to not finish what I've started. Hopefully other people will help as they have done before, but if not, I'll see it through to the end.

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The Battle of Fredericksburg Part 3

Franklin never got more than half of his men into action and did not renew the attack despite orders from Burnside to do so. Meanwhile the initial probe by the Union right had turned into a series of brigade-size attacks as courageous and hopeless as anything in the war. Wave after wave of blue soldiers poured out of the town toward Marye's Heights. Channeled by ravines, a marsh, and a drainage ditch toward a sunken road fronted by a half-mile long stone fence at the base of the hill, these waves broke 50 yards short of the fence, each one leaving hundreds dead and dying men as it receded. Behind the fence stood 4 ranks of Georgians and North Carolinians loading and shooting so fast that their firing achieved the effect of machine guns. Still the Yankees surged forward through the short but endless December afternoon, 14 brigades in all. "It can hardly be in human nature for men to show more valor," wrote a newspaper reporter, "or generals to manifest less judgment."

When the early twighlight finally turned to darkness the Union army had suffered one of its worst defeats of the war. Nearly 13,000 Federals were casualties- about the same number as at Antietam- most of them in front of the stone wall at the base of Marye's Heights. Fighting on the defensive behind good cover, the Confederates suffered fewer than 5,000 casualties. Distraught by the disaster, Burnside wanted personally to lead a desperation charge by his old 9th Corps next day but came to his senses and withdrew the army unmolested across the river on the stormy night of December 15.

Yet another drive "on to Richmond" had come to grief. Fredericksburg brought home the horrors of war to northerners more vividly, perhaps, than any previous battle. The carpet of bodies in front of the stone wall left an indelible mark in the memories of soldiers who helped bury the dead. Wrote one:

The corpses were swollen to twice their natural size, black as Negroes in most cases. Here lay one without a head, there one without legs...yonder a head and legs without a trunk...with fragments of shells sticking in oozing brain, with bullet holes all over the puffed limbs.

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It's possible, maybe even likely, that Fredericksburg had a major effect on tactics at Chancellorsville, Gettysburg and beyond. After the bloody failure of the frontal assaults, generals on both sides began to maneuver in such a way as to get their opponents to attack their own fixed positions. While Lee remained pretty much a free swinger, using troop movement to find optimal angles from which to launch unexpected attacks, Longstreet, Meade and others saw the advantages of strong defensive positions and maneuvered to obtain them. Lee's tactics prevailed at Chancellorsville but failed at Gettysburg.

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The Battle of Fredericksburg- Aftermath

The terrible cost with nothing accomplished created a morale crisis in the army and on the homefront. Burnside manfully took the blame, but Lincoln himself became the target for much of the criticism. Wrote a newspaper: "He is ignorant, self-willed....incompetent." "If there is a worse place than Hell," said the president upon learning of the disaster at Fredericksburg, "I am in it."

These were dark days in Washington. Strange rumors swept the capital: the whole cabinet would resign, to be replaced by War Democrats; or Lincoln himself would resign in favor of Hannibal Hamlin; or McClellan would be recalled to head a military government; or radical Republicans were plotting a coup to reorganize the cabinet. This last rumor contained some truth. On December 16 and 17, Republican senators met in caucus and with but one dissenting vote decided to urge a reorganization of the cabinet. Seward was the intended victim of this move, which reflected the conflict between conservative and radical Republicans symbolized by a cabinet rivalry between Seward and Chase. Playing a deep game that he hoped might land him a future presidential nomination, Chase had helped create an impression that Seward exercised undue influence over the president. This influence was said to have inhibited the prosecution of vigorous war measures including emancipation, black soldiers, and the appointment of antislavery generals.

Lincoln was "more distressed" by news of the senatorial caucus "than by any event in my life." "What do these men want?" he asked a friend. "They wish to get rid of me, and sometimes I am more than half disposed to gratify them...We are now on the brink of destruction. It appears to me that the Almighty is against us." But the president pulled himself together and handled the affair in a manner that ultimately strengthened his leadership. On December 19 he met with a delegation of Republican senators and listened to speeches "attributing to Mr. Seward a lukewarmness in the conduct of the war." Seward had already offered to resign, but Lincoln did not reveal this. Instead he invited the delegation back next day, when they were surprised to find the whole cabinet (except Seward) on hand. Lincoln defended the absent secretary of state and asserted that all members of the cabinet had supported major policy decisions, for which he as president was solely responsible. Lincoln turned to his cabinet for confirmation. Put on the spot, Chase could only mumble his assent. Deflated and embarrassed, the senators departed. Next day a chagrined Chase offered his resignation. Lincoln was now master of the situation. The senators could not get rid of Seward without losing Chase as well. The president refused both resignations. The stormy political atmosphere in Washington began to clear. Though military prospects remained bleak, Lincoln had warded off a threat to his political right flank- for the time being.

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It all depends on perspective, the author of many narratives don't find Burnside at fault; but I think he was incredibly ignorant and culpable for such devastating losses. He could have struck and divided the Army of Northern Virginia; but instead focused (yet again) on sacking Richmond via fording the Rappahanock at Fredericksburg. One little fault with this plan...there was no cover for the fording troops and the Confederates were entrenched in the heights surrounding the area. It was suicide.

Yet despite heavy losses, and cessation of attacks by more capable leaders such as Joe Hooker; Burnside still wanted to go back in for more losses. Tactically, this was one of the Union's biggest blunders of the war (and there were many so that is saying a lot).

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It all depends on perspective, the author of many narratives don't find Burnside at fault; but I think he was incredibly ignorant and culpable for such devastating losses. He could have struck and divided the Army of Northern Virginia; but instead focused (yet again) on sacking Richmond via fording the Rappahanock at Fredericksburg. One little fault with this plan...there was no cover for the fording troops and the Confederates were entrenched in the heights surrounding the area. It was suicide.

Yet despite heavy losses, and cessation of attacks by more capable leaders such as Joe Hooker; Burnside still wanted to go back in for more losses. Tactically, this was one of the Union's biggest blunders of the war (and there were many so that is saying a lot).

Agreed. We always have the luxury of hindsight... why didn't this guy do this / why did that guy attack over there / wasn't it obvious that the plan would fail, etc etc?

But more than any other battle, Fredericksburg goes way beyond that. It's almost incomprehensable how the Union attacked. I just can't understand it.

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Quote of the day from Fredericksburg -

"Finding that I had lost as many men as my orders required me to lose, I suspended the attack".

--Joe Hooker

Despite the heavy losses, Burnside still wouldn't listen to reason and attempted another abortive crossing of the Rappahannock above Fredericksburg later on in January. At least at that point, when Burnside gave Lincoln the ultimatum of replacing several of his generals or accepting Burnside's resignation...Lincoln chose wisely and got rid of Burnside.

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The Vicksburg Campaign Part One

Like Lincoln, Jefferson Davis also encountered vexing problems during the winter of 1862-63. While Lincoln faced down senators in Washington, Davis traveled to Tennessee and Mississippi to confront generals. In November, Joseph E. Johnston had reported himself ready for duty after recovering from his Seven Pines wounds. Because of his earlier differences with Davis, Johnston became a rallying point for some of the president's critics. Perhaps to confound these critics, Davis on November 24 named Johnston "plenary commander" of a newly formed Department of the West embracing everything between the Mississippi and the Appalachians. Although this new department appeared impressive on paper, Johnston glumly appraised the appointment as an attempt to put him on the shelf with a "nominal and useless" command. This was unfair, because Davis really did want someone to take charge of the strategic problem in the west. Johnston regarded the task as thankless, in part because the Army of Tennessee at Murfreesboro was still riven by dissension between Bragg and his corps commanders, while the new head of the Army of Mississippi at Vicksburg was unpopular because of his nativity.

He was Joseph C. Pemberton, an artillery expert whom Davis had transferred in October from cammand of the defenses of Charleston to those of Vicksburg. A native of Philadelphia who had become an adoptive southerner by marrying a Virginian, the curt and crusty Pemberton had compiled no combat record that justified to Mississippians the assignment of this "Yankee" to defend their state. Indeed, it is hard to understand why Davis appointed him (instead of, for example, sending Johnston to Vicksburg) except as a way of making room for another problem general, Beauregard. The colorful Creole took Pemberton's place at Charleston, where he had become a hero by firing on Fort Sumter and starting the war.

Davis's trip to the west, instead of straightening things out, in some respects made them worse. Without consulting Johnston, Davis ordered a 7,500 man division in Bragg's army transferred to Pemberton. When Bragg and Johnston protested that this would encourage Rosecrans's army at Nashville to attack the weakened Army of Tennessee, Davis responded that Pemberton faced even longer odds and that holding Vicksburg was more vital than defending middle Tennessee. Accompanying Davis to Vicksburg, Johnston disapproved of Pemberton's defensive arrangements and urged a shorter fortified line that could be held by a skeleton force to free most of the army for mobile operations. Johnston also believed that the main Confederate army in Mississippi was too small for success, and urged its reinforcement from across the river even if this meant the temporary loss of Arkansas. Though Davis suggested that the Arkansas commander send troops to Vicksburg, he did not order it- and it was not done. Johnston tried to resign his post. The president persuaded him to stay on, but their lack of mutual confidence and their differing concepts of strategy did not bode well for the future.

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I have been waiting for this one, timschochet. This is one of the most compelling sieges/battles of the entire war. Both from a military as well as a civilian standpoint. I have several interesting books on thisparticular battle so let me know what ancillary material is needed and I will chime in.

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I have been waiting for this one, timschochet. This is one of the most compelling sieges/battles of the entire war. Both from a military as well as a civilian standpoint. I have several interesting books on thisparticular battle so let me know what ancillary material is needed and I will chime in.

That's great. It's going to be split up, though- the campaign began in the winter of 1862-63, but did not conclude until the next summer, after Stones River, Chancellorsville, the New York Riots, and a few other events. I'm going to start it now but probably won't finish it until a lot of that other stuff has been narrated. Feel free to chime in on this or any other subject that interests you.

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I have been waiting for this one, timschochet. This is one of the most compelling sieges/battles of the entire war. Both from a military as well as a civilian standpoint. I have several interesting books on thisparticular battle so let me know what ancillary material is needed and I will chime in.

That's great. It's going to be split up, though- the campaign began in the winter of 1862-63, but did not conclude until the next summer, after Stones River, Chancellorsville, the New York Riots, and a few other events. I'm going to start it now but probably won't finish it until a lot of that other stuff has been narrated. Feel free to chime in on this or any other subject that interests you.
I assumed as much - the winter of '63 is the preamble to the siege that ended coinciding with the end of Gettysburg. Not much to tell about the winter work other than channel digging and disgruntled officers.

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The Vicksburg Campaign Part 2

For the short term Confederate prospects in the West suddenly took a turn for the better. Applying the previous summer's successful formula, rebel calvalry raids on Union supply lines disrupted Grant's first Vicksburg campaign and came close to wrecking Rosecran's drive against Bragg.

After the battle of Corinth in October, Grant had launched an invasion southward along the Mississippi Central Railroad to capture Vicksburg. Establishing a forward base at Holly Springs, Grant with 40,000 men had advanced to Oxford by early December. But one enemy in front and two in the rear threatened his further progress. In front, Pemberton entrenched 20,000 men along the Yalabusha River at Grenada. Behind Grant, 150 miles of railroad offered a tempting target to enemy cavalry. Deep in his rear- all the way back to Illinois, in fact- Grant faced a potential threat from his former subordinate John A. McClermand, a political general who was organizing a separate army to proceed down the Mississippi for its own attack on Vicksburg. A War Democrat from Lincoln's home state, McClermand had managed to persuade the president that he could rekindle the patriotism of Democrats in the Old Northwest if given an independent command. Without informing Grant, Lincoln told McClermand to go ahead. With great energy fueled by dreams of military glory, McClermand recruited and forwarded to Memphis dozens of new regiments during the fall. Grant got wind of this activity and requested clarification of his authority.

General-in-Chief Halleck, who shared Grant's reservations about McClermand, wired Grant that he had full control of all troops in his department. Halleck also ordered the divisions organized by McClermand formed into two corps to be commanded by McClermand and Sherman. When McClermand learned of this, he complained bitterly to Lincoln that a West Point conspiracy had defrauded him of his army. Lincoln upheld Grant and Halleck, however, and advised McClermand for his own good and for the good of the country to obey orders and get on with the war.

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The Vicksburg Campaign Concluded (for now)

McClernand's greatest humiliation occured when he arrived at Memphis on December 28 to find his troops gone. Grant had again outwitted the political general in the game of army politics, whit an unwitting assist from none other than Nathan Bedford Forrest. When Grant learned of the new troops arriving in Memphis he sent Sherman to prepare them for a downriver expedition against Vicksburg in tandem with Grant's overland invasion. This two-pronged drive, if successful, would force Pemberton to divide his outnumbered forces and enable the Federal pincers to close on Vicksburg by land and by river. If McClernand reached Memphis before the river expedition left, he would take command by reason of seniority. Sherman therefore sped his preparations and got off on December 20. Meanwhile Grant's telegram to Illinois informing McClernand of the expedition's imminent departure was delayed because a raid by Forrest had cut Grant's communications.

Grant had little reason to feel thankful to Forrest, however, because this action and another simultaneous cavalry raid by Van Dorn brought Grant's first Vicksburg campaign to grief. Forrest rode westward from central Tennessee in mid-December with 2,000 men. Picking up local guerillas along the way, Forrest outfought, outmanuevered, or outbluffed several Union garrisons and cavalry detachments while tearing up 50 miles of railroad and telegraph line, capturing or destroying great quantities of equipment, and inflicting 2,000 Union casualties. The rebels lost only 500 men, who were more than replaced with new recruits attracted by Forrest's hell-for-leather tactics and inspiring leadership. While this was going on, Earl Van Dorn with another cavalry force of 3,500 rode northward from Grenada, circled behind Grant's army, and wrecked the poorly-defended supply depot at Holly Springs on December 20. For good measure Van Dorn tore up several sections of the railroad and returned to Confederate lines before Union horsemen could catch up with him.

Dangling deep in enemy territory without a supply line, Grant called off his advance on Vicksburg. During the retreat to Tennessee the army lived off food and storage found along the way. Grant was "amazed at the quantity of supplies the contry afforded. It showed that we could have subsisted off the country for months...This taught me a lesson." Grant and Sherman would apply the lesson with spectacular reults in the future, but just now Grant's retreat left Sherman out on a limb. The latter had taken his (and McClernand's) corps up the Yazoo river a few miles north of Vicksburg for an assault on the Confederate defenses overlooking Chickasaw Bayou. This morass of swamps and waterways offered the only route to high and dry ground for an attack on the northside land defenses of Vicksburg itself. Sherman's plans were based on the assumption that Grant's simultaneous advance would preoccupy most of Pemberton's troops. The downed telegraph lines prevented Grant from informing Sherman of his withdrawal. On December 29 Sherman managed to get two-thirds of his 32,000 men across the narrow causeways and through the sloughs for an attack on the bluffs. The 14,000 dug-in defenders knocked them down like tenpins. After losing nearly 1,800 men (to the Confederates' 200), Sherman called it quits. The battered and water-logged bluecoats pulled back to the Mississippi a dozen miles above Vicksburg. News of this repulse added to the gloomy mood in the North.

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Stones River Part 1

Since taking over the Union Army of the Cumberland in late October, William S. Rosecrans had built up supplies and reorganized his troops for an advance. Rosecrans was a study in paradox: a man of bulldog courage, he seemed reluctant to get into a fight; slow and methodical in preparation, he moved quickly once he started; a convivial drinking man, he was a devout Catholic who loved to argue theology with his staff officers. Rosecrans had gotten his job because Buell was too cautious; Lincoln prodded Old Rosy to march against the rebels at Mursfreeboro forthwith if he wanted to keep the job. After exasperating delays, Rosecran's 42,000 men finally moved out from Nashville the day after Christmas for the showdown with Bragg's Army of Tennessee.

Bragg had 8,000 fewer infantrymen than Rosecrans. But the rebel cavalry evened the odds. Forrest and Morgan raided deep behind Union lines while Bragg's remaining cavalry under 26 year old Joseph Wheeler slowed the northern infantry with hit-and-run skirmishes. On December 29, Wheeler took off on a tide completely around the enemy rear where he wreaked havoc on supply wagons and captured part of Rosecran's reserve ammunition. But the Yankees came on relentlessly. On December 30 they moved into line 2 miles northwest of Mursfreeboro to confront Bragg's divisions drawn up astride Stones River. Both commanders formed similar plans for the morrow: to turn the enemy's right, get into his rear, and cut him off from his base. As the two armies bedded down a few hundred yards from each other, their bands commenced a musical battle as prelude to the real thing next day. Northern musicians blared out "Yankee Doodle" and "Hail Columbia" and were answered across the way by "Dixie" and "The Bonnie Blue Flag". One band finally swung into the sentimental strains of "Home Sweet Home"; others picked it up and soon thousands of Yanks and Rebs who tommorow would kill each other were singing the familiar words together.

I have read about these "battle of the bands" before, and not just with regard to Stones River, though it is the most noteworthy of several incidents throughout the war. It is unique (as best as I know) to warfare, it is astonishing, and its the sort of story that you wouldn't find plausible in a novel. It is incredibly moving and sad to me that both sides sang "Home Sweet Home" together, as perhaps they realized what a tragedy this war between brothers really was.

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How far was Grant from Sherman's army when he decided not to attack Vicksburg? Would it have been feasible for Grant to send a courier to Sherman so he'd know Grant was retreating? I have no idea how telegraphs actually work... would Grant even know the telegraph lines were down or is it possible he thought the message was sent and there was just nobody on the other end to receive it?

Aside from the railroad, it seems to me that the biggest advantage in the war (perhaps its even more important now) is the ability to rapidly communicate. It allows one the ability to react to changing conditions and execute a different strategy that can save countless lives.

Thanks for getting this going again Tim! I was really enjoying the read; just don't know enough to contribute to the conversation.

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How far was Grant from Sherman's army when he decided not to attack Vicksburg? Would it have been feasible for Grant to send a courier to Sherman so he'd know Grant was retreating? I have no idea how telegraphs actually work... would Grant even know the telegraph lines were down or is it possible he thought the message was sent and there was just nobody on the other end to receive it?Aside from the railroad, it seems to me that the biggest advantage in the war (perhaps its even more important now) is the ability to rapidly communicate. It allows one the ability to react to changing conditions and execute a different strategy that can save countless lives. Thanks for getting this going again Tim! I was really enjoying the read; just don't know enough to contribute to the conversation.

From what I gather, Nathan Bedford Forrest's calvary had been able to break up all communications from Grant to Sherman.Forrest is really an amazing figure. At this time his forces were active against three different armies: Grant, Sherman, and Rosecrans. He was always in the thick of the fight, a thorn for the larger Union armies.

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How far was Grant from Sherman's army when he decided not to attack Vicksburg? Would it have been feasible for Grant to send a courier to Sherman so he'd know Grant was retreating? I have no idea how telegraphs actually work... would Grant even know the telegraph lines were down or is it possible he thought the message was sent and there was just nobody on the other end to receive it?Aside from the railroad, it seems to me that the biggest advantage in the war (perhaps its even more important now) is the ability to rapidly communicate. It allows one the ability to react to changing conditions and execute a different strategy that can save countless lives. Thanks for getting this going again Tim! I was really enjoying the read; just don't know enough to contribute to the conversation.

From what I gather, Nathan Bedford Forrest's calvary had been able to break up all communications from Grant to Sherman.Forrest is really an amazing figure. At this time his forces were active against three different armies: Grant, Sherman, and Rosecrans. He was always in the thick of the fight, a thorn for the larger Union armies.
Forrest's biggest attribute was to recruit from local militia and form very effective guerilla fighting regiments. Really effective at messing up Union supply lines and comm lines because they knew the area better than the Union troops.

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Stones River Part 2

At dawn on December 31 the southerners struck first, catching the bluecoats at breakfast as they had done twice before, at Donelson and Shiloh. This time their initial success was even greater, as 13,000 rebels massed on the left "swooped down on those Yankees like a whirl-a-gust of woodpeckers in a hail storm," in the words of a Tennessee Private. In several hours of ferocious fighting the graybacks drove back the Union flank 3 miles, but were stopped short of the railroad and turnpike in the Union rear. Rosecrans cancelled his attack on the Confederate right and rushed reinforcements to shore up his own crumpled right. Old Rosy was at his bulldog best in this crisis, riding from one part of the line to another, his uniform spattered with blood from a staff officer beheaded by a cannonball while riding alongside Rosecrans.

The Union army was saved from disaster during the morning by the fierce resistance of Philip Sheridan's division in the right center. Anticipating Bragg's tactics, Sheridan had his division awake and under arms by 4:00 A.M.; when the rebels swept down on them after wrecking 2 other Union divisions, Sheridan's men were ready. They shredded and slowed the rebel attack at heavy cost to themselves as well as the enemy; all 3 of Sheridan's brigade commanders were killed and and more than one-third of his men became casualties in 4 hours of fighting. By noon the Union line had been forced into the shape of a bent jackknife. The hinge was located in a patch of woods along the railroad and turnpike known locally as the Round Forest. Believing this position the key to the Union defense, Bragg ordered the division commanded by John C. Breckinridge- Buchanan's vice president and the southern Democratic presidential candidate in 1860- to go forward in a do or die attack on the Round Forest. They went, many died, but the Yankees held firm amid firing so deafening that many soldiers stuffed their ears with cotton plucked from the fields.

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Stones River, Concluded

The darkness of New Year's Eve descended on a scene filled with the cries of wounded men calling for help. Bragg believed that he had won a great victory and wired the good news to Richmond, where it produced "great exaltation." Bragg's dispatch added that the enemy "is falling back". But this was wishful thinking. During the night Rosecrans held a council of war with his commanders and decided to hold tight. Skirmishes in New Year's Day took a few more lives, but the main action on January 1 was the occupation of a hill east of Stones River by a Union division. On January 2 Bragg ordered Breckinridge to clear this force off the hill. The Kentuckian protested that such an attack would fail with great loss because Union artillery on high ground across the river would enfilade his line. Bragg insisted; Breckinridge's men swept forward with a yell and routed the bluecoats, but then were indeed cut down by 58 Union guns across the river and driven back to their starting point by an infantry counterattack, having lost 1,500 men in an hour. This affair added to the growing tension between Bragg and his generals.

Nonplussed by Rosecran's refusal to retreat, Bragg seemed not to know what to do. But in truth there was little he could do, for more than a third of his troops had been killed, wounded, or captured. The Yankees had suffered 31% casaulties, making Stones River the most deadly battle of th war in proportion to numbers engaged. When Bragg awoke on January 3 to find the enemy still in place and receiving reinforcements from Nashville, he knew that the game was up. That night the rebels pulled back to a new position behind the Duck River, 25 miles to the south. For the second time in 3 months, the Army of Tennessee had retreated after its commander claimed to have won a victory.

THe outcome at Stones River brought a thin gleam of cheer to the North. It blunted, temporarily, the mounting copperhead offensive against the administration's war policy. (Details coming shortly.) The Army of the Cumberland was so crippled by this "victory," however, that Rosecrans felt unable to renew the offensive for several months.

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Here is a schedule of topics I shall be covering next in this thread. Most of these will entail several posts:

Trouble in the South- covering issues of military command, manpower, starvation, corruption, riots.

Trouble in the North- covering issues of miltary command, the Copperhead movement, manpower, corruption, riots.

The Siege of Vicksburg

The Battle of Chancellorsville

The Battle of Gettysburg

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Trouble in the South Part 1

While Washington breathed a sign of relief after Stones River, dissension came to a head in the Army of Tennessee. All of Bragg's corps and division commanders expressed a lack of confidence in their chief. Senior Generals William Hardee and Leonidas Polk asked Davis to put Johnston in command of the army. Division commander B. Franklin Cheatham vowed he would never again serve under Bragg. Breckinridge wanted to challenge Bragg to a duel. Bragg struck back, court-martialling one division commander for disobeying orders, accusing another (Cheatham) of drunkenness during the battle, and blaming Breckinridge for inept leadership.

Davis passed the buck to Johnston by asking him to look into the situation and recommend a solution. Johnston demurred; he reported that many officers were hostile to Bragg but that the enlisted men were in "good condition with high morale." This dubious discovery prompted him to advise Bragg's retention in command. Davis had apparently wanted and expected Johnston to take command himself. But what Johnston wanted, it appeared from his letters to friends, was to return to his own post as head of the Army of Northern Virginia! If the government desired to replace Bragg, he said, let them send Longstreet to Tennessee. And if they thought that Johnston's supervisory role over the whole Western Department was so important, let them put Lee in charge of it and give Johnston his old job in Virginia. In March the War Department virtually ordered Johnston to take command of the Army of Tennessee. But he refused on the grounds that to remove Bragg while his wife was critically ill would be inhumane. Johnston himself then fell ill. So Bragg stayed on and continued to feud with his leading subordinates.

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Trouble in the South Part 2

As in the North, (which we will get to shortly) conscription was a big problem in the South, and it led to class conflict. Desperate for manpower, the Confederate Congress increased the upper age limit from 35 to 45, which severly hurt poor farmers, and then added insult to injury by exempting white men on plantations with more than 20 slaves. This exemption was the result of pressure from planter families, which still ruled the South. Slaves were running away to join the Yankees. In addition, to leave white women alone on plantations to cope with large number of slaves was considered inconceiveable. But since planters only represented 5% of the population, the "20 Negro law" became extremely unpopular. There was a surge of resentment and even rebellion against the national government in Richmond.

Much worse, though, was the inflation caused by the government use of printing press and the starvation that it caused. Without getting into great detail here, by the start of 1863 the Confederacy had paid for so much of the war effort by simply printing out Confederate dollars from Richmond that the currency was practically worthless. This meant that no one could afford to purchase normal goods. Meanwhile the government taxed the farmers heavily. In a dozen or more cities in the spring of 1863, desperate woemn raided shops or supply depots for food. Many riots occured; each followed a similar pattern. Groups of women, many of them wives of soldiers and some armed with knives or revolvers, marched in a body to shops owned by "speculators" and asked the price of bacon or flour. When informed, they denounced such "extortion", took what they wanted, and marched away.

By far the largest and most momentous riot occurred in Richmond.

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Trouble in the South Part 2

Much worse, though, was the inflation caused by the government use of printing press and the starvation that it caused. Without getting into great detail here, by the start of 1863 the Confederacy had paid for so much of the war effort by simply printing out Confederate dollars from Richmond that the currency was practically worthless. This meant that no one could afford to purchase normal goods. Meanwhile the government taxed the farmers heavily. In a dozen or more cities in the spring of 1863, desperate woemn raided shops or supply depots for food. Many riots occured; each followed a similar pattern. Groups of women, many of them wives of soldiers and some armed with knives or revolvers, marched in a body to shops owned by "speculators" and asked the price of bacon or flour. When informed, they denounced such "extortion", took what they wanted, and marched away.

This is something I don't remember ever hearing much about so I looked it up. This is the first link that i found on google. There were a couple of things I found especially interesting:

1) The north borrowed about 65% of its money, got 21% through income taxes, and (if i'm reading it right) printed the rest.

2) The south borrowed about 35% of its money, got 5% via taxes, and printed the rest.

3) Inflation in the north was 80% over the course of the war (which they say is comparable with the domestic rates during World Wars I and II).

4) Inflation in the south was 9000% over the course of the war.

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Trouble in the South Part 2

Much worse, though, was the inflation caused by the government use of printing press and the starvation that it caused. Without getting into great detail here, by the start of 1863 the Confederacy had paid for so much of the war effort by simply printing out Confederate dollars from Richmond that the currency was practically worthless. This meant that no one could afford to purchase normal goods. Meanwhile the government taxed the farmers heavily. In a dozen or more cities in the spring of 1863, desperate woemn raided shops or supply depots for food. Many riots occured; each followed a similar pattern. Groups of women, many of them wives of soldiers and some armed with knives or revolvers, marched in a body to shops owned by "speculators" and asked the price of bacon or flour. When informed, they denounced such "extortion", took what they wanted, and marched away.

This is something I don't remember ever hearing much about so I looked it up. This is the first link that i found on google. There were a couple of things I found especially interesting:

1) The north borrowed about 65% of its money, got 21% through income taxes, and (if i'm reading it right) printed the rest.

2) The south borrowed about 35% of its money, got 5% via taxes, and printed the rest.

3) Inflation in the north was 80% over the course of the war (which they say is comparable with the domestic rates during World Wars I and II).

4) Inflation in the south was 9000% over the course of the war.

Because most of the factories were in the North, bankers were much more willing to loan money based on future considerations. This includes European bankers especially eager to invest in muntions. Some of the greatest fortunes in American history were made during the Civil War. But in the South this was limited due to the blockade on southern goods. A few black marketeers made a lot of money, especially in New Orleans which was open to the North during most of the war due to its early occupation by Federal troops. But overall life in the South was much more miserable than in the North. However, this did not mean the North escaped it's own riots, including the greatest riot in American history, which I will narrate a little later.

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Trouble in the South Part 3

Richmond's population had more than doubled since 1861; many of these were refugees from war torn Virginia. Military operations had desolated many food-producing areas in the state. Lee's army on the Rappahannock, reduced to half-rations by March 1863, competed with the population for dwindling stocks of the previous year's drought-curtailed crops. In late March a freak 9 inch snowfall made roads impassable for several days. Prices for the few goods left on merchants' shelves skyrocketed to famine levels. On April 2 several hundred women- many of them wives of employees at the Tredegar Iron Works- met at a Baptist church and proceeded to the governor's mansion to make known their distress. The governor offered little comfort, and as the delegation moved on it turned into a mob. A middle-aged bystander talked to one of the members, an emaciated girl of 18:

As she raised her hand to remove her sunbonnet, her loose calico sleeve slipped up, and revealed a mere skeleton of an arm. She perceived my expression as I looked at it, and hastily pulled down her sleeve with a short laugh. "That's all that's left of me!" she said. "It seems real funny, don't it? We are going to the bakeries and each of us will take a loaf of bread. That is little enough for the government to give us after it has taken all our men."

Grown to more than a thousand persons, including some men and boys, the mob broke into shops and warehouses. "Bread! Bread!" they shouted. "Our children are starving while the rich roll in wealth." Emboldened by success, some women began to seize clothing, shoes, even jewelry as well as food. A hastily mobilized company of militia marched up and loaded their muskets. A few timid souls left but the majority remained, confident that the militia- which contained friends and perhaps even a few husbands of the rioters- would not fire into the crowd.

At this juncture Jefferson Davis himself arrived and climbed onto a cart to address the mob. He commanded their attention by taking several coins from his pocket and throwing them into the crowd. He then told them to go home so that the muskets levelled against them could be turned against the common enemy- the Yankees. The crowd was unmoved, and a few boys hissed the president. Davis was surrounded by shouting, angry people. But he was not a man without courage, nor was he irresolute. Taking out his watch, Davis gave the rioters exactly 5 minutes to disperse before he ordered the troops to fire. 4 minutes passed in tense silence. Holding up the watch, the president said firmly:

My friends, you have one minute more.

This succeeded. The rioters melted away. Davis pocketed his watch and ordered the police to arrest the ringleaders. Several of these were later convicted and briefly imprisoned. Military officials oredered newspapers to make no mention of the riot in order "not to embarrass our cause or to encourage our enemies." Indeed, the details of the Richmond Bread Riots were not known until after the war.

Meanwhile, the public continued to starve.

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Trouble in the North Part 1

Demoralization reached epidemic proportions in the Army of the Potomac after Fredericksburg. Four generals in the 6th Corps headed by William Franklin went directly to Lincoln with complaints about Burnside's leadership. McClellan's friends were declaring that "we MUST have McClellan back with unlimited and unfettered powers." Men in the ranks were deserting at the rate of 100 or more every day during January. Thousands of otheres were on the sicklist. Jow Hooker, scheming to obtain the command for himself, told a reporter that what the country needed was a dictator. Recognizing that he had lost the army's confidence, Burnside offered to resign- suggesting to Lincoln at the same time that he fire Stanton, Halleck, and several disgruntled generals.

Discord in the Army of the Potomac climaxed with the inglorious "Mud March". Unusually dry January weather encouraged Burnside to plan a crossing of the Rappahannock at fords several miles above Fredericksburg. Success would put the Federals on Lee's flank and force the rebels out of their trenches for a fair fight. Some of Burnside's subordinates openly criticized the move. Franklin "has talked so much and so loudly to this effect," wrote an artillery colonel, "that he has completely demoralized his whole command." As soon as Burnside got his army in motion on January 20 the heavens opened, rain fell in torrents, and the Virginia roads turned into swamps. Artillery carriages sank to their axles, men sank to their knees, mules sank to their ears. Confederate pickers across the river watched this with amusement and held up signs pointing "The Way to Richmond". With his army bogged down in the mud, Burnside on January 22 called the whole thing off.

The mortified and furious commander hastened to Washington and told the president that either Hooker, Franklin, and a half-dozen generals must go, or he would. Lincoln decided to remove Burnside- probably to the latter's relief. But Lincoln astonished Burnside by appointing Hooker as his successor. FIghting Joe was hardly an exemplary character. Not only had he schemed against Burnside, but his moral reputation stood none too high. Hooker's headquarters, wrote Charles Francis Adams, Jr., was "a place where no self-respecting man liked to go, and no decent woman could go. It was a combination of barroom and brothel." But Hooker proved a popular choice with the men. He took immediate steps to cashier corrupt quartermasters, improve the food, clean up the camps and hospitals, and instill unit pride. Morale rose in all branches of the army.

When Lincoln appointed Hooker he also gave him a letter which included the following:

There are some things in regard to which I am not quite satisfied with you. In attacking Burnside you have taken counsel of your ambition in which you did a great wrong to the country, and to an honorable brother officer. I have heard, in such way as to believ it, of your recently saying that both the Army and the Government needed a Dictator. Of course it was not FOR this, but in spite of it, that I have given you command. Only those generals who gain successes can st up dictators. What I now ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship.

Hooker replied confidently that the question was not whether he would take Richmond, but when. Lincoln, while impressed by the improvements to the army when he visited it two months later, was less enthusiastic about the general's cockiness. "The hen is the wisest of all the animal creation," Lincoln remarked pointedly "because she never cackles until the egg is laid."

Edited by timschochet

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Trouble in the North Part 1

Demoralization reached epidemic proportions in the Army of the Potomac after Fredericksburg. Four generals in the 6th Corps headed by William Franklin went directly to Lincoln with complaints about Burnside's leadership. McClellan's friends were declaring that "we MUST have McClellan back with unlimited and unfettered powers." Men in the ranks were deserting at the rate of 100 or more every day during January. Thousands of otheres were on the sicklist. Jow Hooker, scheming to obtain the command for himself, told a reporter that what the country needed was a dictator. Recognizing that he had lost the army's confidence, Burnside offered to resign- suggesting to Lincoln at the same time that he fire Stanton, Halleck, and several disgruntled generals.

Discord in the Army of the Potomac climaxed with the inglorious "Mud March". Unusually dry January weather encouraged Burnside to plan a crossing of the Rappahannock at fords several miles above Fredericksburg. Success would put the Federals on Lee's flank and force the rebels out of their trenches for a fair fight. Some of Burnside's subordinates openly criticized the move. Franklin "has talked so much and so loudly to this effect," wrote an artillery colonel, "that he has completely demoralized his whole command." As soon as Burnside got his army in motion on January 20 the heavens opened, rain fell in torrents, and the Virginia roads turned into swamps. Artillery carriages sank to their axles, men sank to their knees, mules sank to their ears. Confederate pickers across the river watched this with amusement and held up signs pointing "The Way to Richmond". With his army bogged down in the mud, Burnside on January 22 called the whole thing off.

The mortified and furious commander hastened to Washington and told the president that either Hooker, Franklin, and a half-dozen generals must go, or he would. Lincoln decided to remove Burnside- probably to the latter's relief. But Lincoln astonished Burnside by appointing Hooker as his successor. FIghting Joe was hardly an exemplary character. Not only had he schemed against Burnside, but his moral reputation stood none too high. Hooker's headquarters, wrote Charles Francis Adams, Jr., was "a place where no self-respecting man liked to go, and no decent woman could go. It was a combination of barroom and brothel." But Hooker proved a popular choice with the men. He took immediate steps to cashier corrupt quartermasters, improve the food, clean up the camps and hospitals, and instill unit pride. Morale rose in all branches of the army.

When Lincoln appointed Hooker he also gave him a letter which included the following:

There are some things in regard to which I am not quite satisfied with you. In attacking Burnside you have taken counsel of your ambition in which you did a great wrong to the country, and to an honorable brother officer. I have heard, in such way as to believ it, of your recently saying that both the Army and the Government needed a Dictator. Of course it was not FOR this, but in spite of it, that I have given you command. Only those generals who gain successes can st up dictators. What I now ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship.

Hooker replied confidently that the question was not whether he would take Richmond, but when. Lincoln, while impressed by the improvements to the army when he visited it two months later, was less enthusiastic about the general's cockiness. "The hen is the wisest of all the animal creation," Lincoln remarked pointedly "because she never cackles until the egg is laid."

While Hooker was less than a gentlemen; this writeup is FAR too critical of Hooker and FAR to easy on Burnside. Burnside deserved the criticism he was receiving but rather than listen to the other generals he was playing the political game of thinking he was too good to be replaced. After his screw up of trying to ford the Rappahannock yet again in late January - he deserved to be courtmartialed, not just relieved of duty.

As we will find out later Hooker had his own flaws which play out at Chancellorville; but Burnside was inept at best. I guess it all repends on which historians you believe.

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Trouble In The North Part 2,

By 1863 Clement L. Vallandigham had emerged as leader of the Peace Democrats, known by their enemies as the Copperheads. Only 42 years old, Vallandigham indicted the war and set out proposals for peace. To summarize the Copperheads' views: the North could not win. Fredericksburg proved it. The North needed to stop fighting, and accept an armistice, then negotiate conditions under which the South could be returned to the Union. It is important to note here that at no time did the Copperheads argue for the recognition of the Confederacy- they claimed to be unionists. Apparently they seemed to believe that the South could be coerced to return based on an acceptance of slavery. This might have been realistic in 1860, but by 1863, it was impossible: too much blood had been shed. The only way to return the South to the Union was by conquering it. But the Copperheads did not accept this.

d

Personally ambitious for the Presidential nomination, Vallandigham did his best to get arrested, knowing he would become famous by doing so. He gave one speech after another denouncing the war. General Burnside, by May 1 now commander of the Department of the Ohio, had him arrested for treason. He sent a squad of soldiers to arrest Vallandigham at his home in Dayton. Soldiers broke down the door in the middle of the night and hustled Vallandigham away leaving behind his hysterical wife. While his supporters rioted and burned down the office of Dayton's Republican newspaper, a military commission met in Cincinnati on May 6 and convicted Vallandigham of "having expressed sympathy" for the enemy and having uttered "disloyal sentiments and opinions, with the object and and purpose of weakening the power of the Government to supress an unlawful rebellion." Unwilling to go so far as to put Vallandigham before a firing squad, the commission recommended his imprisonment for the war's duration, and Burnside so ordered. Vallandigham filed for a writ of habeus corpus, which was denied by a federal judge who pointed out that Lincoln had suspended the writ in such cases.

These proceedings produced cries of outrage from Democrats and murmurings of anxiety from Republicans. The Vallandigham case did indeed raise troubling constitutional questions: Could a speech be treason? Could a military court try a civilian? Did a general, or for that matter a president, have the power to impose martial law or suspend habeas corpus in an area distant from military operations where the civil courts were functioning?

Lincoln was embarrassed by the arrest. In an attempt to minimize the political consequences, he commuted Vallandigham's sentence from imprisonment to banishment. On May 25 Union cavalry escorted the Ohioan under flag of truce to General Bragg's lines south of Murfreesboro, where the reluctant rebels accepted this uninvited guest. Vallandigham then met with several Confederate congressmen and officers, before making his way to Canada and maintaining his position as the main Copperhead spokesman throughout the duration of the war. Whenever the Yankees lost battles, the Copperheads' popularity rose; whenever the Yankees won, it fell. But during the summer of 1863, there was increased anger from Northerners who had grown sick of the war over a single issue: the draft.

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Trouble in the North Part 3

As the war progressed, both sides needed more manpower to feed into the death machine. The answer was the draft. But you could get yourself an exemption by either (1) paying someone to take your place, or (2) paying, in the North, a $3,00 insurance fee. The effect of this, of course, was that the very rich avoided the draft, and this created a great tension among those not wealthy enough to afford the fee, which was most of the population. Nowhere was this resentment felt as much among Irish immigrants. Mistreated for their Catholicism, the Irish were for the most part opposed to emancipation because they feared that the freedmen would flood the North, competing for jobs. As the war progressed, and African-Americans fled to the big northern cities, the resentment grew. The Irish of Hell's Kitchen had long ago formed gangs (popularized in the film Gangs of New York) and they would be among the leaders in what was now to come.

Shortly after the Battle of Gettysburg the trouble started. Most of the militia and federal troops normally stationed in the city were absent in Pennsylvania chasing Lee's troops when draft officers began a public drawing of names on July 11, 1863. Hundreds of angry men congregated in bars and vowed to attack the officers. They made good this threat, setting off 4 days of escalating mob violence that terrorized the city and left at least 105 people dead. It was the worst riot in American history.

Many of the men and women in the mobs indulged in indiscriminate looting and destruction. But as in most riots, the mobs signled out certain targets. Draft offices and other federal property went up in flames early in the rioting. Rioters tried to attack the offices of Republican newspapers and amanged to burn out the ground floor of the Tribune while screaming for Horace Greeley's blood. Henry Raymond of the Times borrowed three recently invented Gatling guns from the army to defend his building. Rioters sacked the homes of several prominent Republicans and abolitionists. Several Protestant churches and missions were burned to the ground.

But the worst treated were African-Americans. No Black person was safe. Rioters beat several, lynched a half-dozen, smashed the homes and property of hundreds. And in perhaps the worst incident of the entire war era, a mob of men and women surrounded the Colored Orphan Asylum in Lower East Manhattan. The Asylum was the home to children who had escaped slavery, or whose parents had abandoned them, from infants to age 17. The mob, mostly made up of Irish immigrants, gleefully entered the building and killed the matrons working there. A number of babies were then thrown from the second story to the ground below. After this, the mob set the building on fire and surrounding it, shooting anyone who attempted to escape.

Untrained in riot control, New York's police fought the mobs courageously but with only partial success on July 13 and 14. Then the war department rushed several troops in, and order was destroyed. The draft continued, but the riots would eventually lead to significant changes with ended the ability to purchase exemptions. They also created a sore in the history of New York city that would heighten tensions between whites and Blacks there for over a century to come.

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The Siege of Vicksburg Part 1

During the winter of 1862-63, Grant launched 4 separate efforts to flank Vicksburg by water and transport his army to the east bank above or below the city. In this he had the assistance of the gunboat fleet commanded by David Dixon Porter. Midwestern farm boys who had joined the army to fight rebels found themselves dredging tons of mud and sawing off trees 8 feet under water to clear a channel for gunboats and transports. After a great deal of labor, the first two efforts were called off because it looked as if it would go on until doomsday. A third effort through the jungle like Yazoo Delta failed when Confederates hastily built a fort in Greenwood, Mississippi to stop it, causing the Naval commander of the expedition to have a nervous breakdown.

Meanwhile another flotilla commanded by Porter himself and carrying a division of Sherman's troops was working its way through a 200 mile tangle of bayous and tributaries just north of Vicksburg. These boats also encountered obstacles of tree branches, logs, snags, and rabel axemen. Snakes, coons, and wildcats dropped from the trees and had to be swept overboard of sailors with brooms. Immobilized by the jungles tentacles, Porter's gunboats were in a bad spot by March 20, with Confederate infantry converging on them hopeful of capturing the whole lot. Porter swallowed his naval pride and called on the army for help. He sent a contraband with a note to Sherman a few miles back with the transports:

Dear Sherman,

Hurry up, for Heaven's sake. I never knew how helpless an ironclad could be steaming around through the woods without an army to back her.

Sherman disembarked his men to march through waist-deep swamps and drive off the rebels. Porter's paddlewheeled monsters backed ignominously yp in the choked channels, and another effort to flank Vicksburg came to an end. For two months Grant's army had been floundering in the mud, victims of pneumonia, typhoid, dysentery, and a dozen other maladies. Vicksburg stood defiant as ever. Republican editors began to join Democrats in branding Grant an incompetent failure- and a drunkard to boot. Although such complaints came to Lincoln, he refused to throw Grant to the wolves. Lincoln stated:

I think Grant has hardly a friend left, except myself. But what I want is generals who will fight battles and win victories. Grant has done this, and I propose to stand by him.

It would prove to be one of the best decisions the president ever made.

Edited by timschochet

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The Siege of Vicksburg Part 2

A prevalent theme in complaints about Grant concerned his drinking. According to one story, Lincoln deflected such charges with humor, telling a delegation of congressmen that he would like to know Grant's brand of whiskey so he could send some to his other generals. It is hard to separate fact from fiction in this matter. Many wartime stories of Grant's drunkeness are false; others are at best dubious. Grant's meteoric rise to fame provoked jealousy in the hearts of men who indulged in gossip to denigrate him. Subject to sick headaches brought on by strain and loss of sleep, Grant sometimes acted unwell in a manner to give observers the impression that he had been drinking. Even so, while not an alcoholic under the strict definition of the term, Grant was a binge drinker. For months he could go without liquor, but if he once imbibed it was hard for him to stop. His wife and his chief of staff John A. Rawlins were his best protectors. With their help, Grant stayed on the wagon nearly all the time during the war. If he did get drunk (and this is much disputed by historians) it never happened at at time crucial to military operations.

Recognized today as an illness, alcoholism in Grant's time was considered a moral weakness. Grant himself believed it so and battled to overcome the shame and guilt of his weakness. In the end, as at least one scholar has suggested, his predisposition to alcoholism may have made him a better general. His struggle for self-discipline enabled him to understand and discipline others; the humiliation of prewar failures gave him a quiet humility that was conspicuously absent from so many generals with a reputation to protect; because Grant had nowhere to go but up, he could act with more boldness and decision than commanders who dared not risk failure.

Edited by timschochet

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The events I am about to describe in Vicksburg occurred simultaneously to the battles of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. While it is important, in terms of understanding the attitudes of the Union and Confederate leaders, to remember that all this was occuring within the same few months (and that the final results of Vicksburg and Gettysburg were within a day of each other) it would hurt the narrative flow, IMO to jump back and forth between them. Therefore, following the pattern of both McPherson and Foote, I will relate Vicksburg in its entirety, and then narrate Chancellorsville and Gettysburg.

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The Siege of Vicksburg Part 3

Grant's failure during the winter of 1862-63 to get his army on dry land for a drive against Vicksburg bolstered Confederate faith in this "Gibraltar of the West." Believing that the Yankees were giving up, Pemberton on April 11 informed Joseph Johnston that "Grant's forces are being withdrawn to Memphis." Pemberton had earlier sent most of his cavalry to Bragg in Tennessee, where danger appeared more imminent, and he now prepared to dispatch an 8,000-man infantry division to Bragg. On April 16 the Vicksburg Whig gloated that the enemy's gunboats "are all more or less damaged, the men dissatisfied and demoralized...There is no immediate danger here." Civilians and officers celebrated at a gala ball held in Vicksburg that night of April 16. As the dancers swung from a waltz to a cotillion, flashes of light and loud explosions suddenly rent the air. "Confusion and alarm" erupted in the ballroom. Yankee gunboats were running the batteries. Grant had not gone to Memphis; he had only backed up for a better start.

One northerner who had never lost confidence in eventual victory at Vicksburg was Grant. All of his roundabout routes through canals, bayous, and swamps having failed, he resolved on a bold plan to march his army down the west bank of the Mississippi to a point below Vicksburg while sending the fleet straight past the batteries to rendezvous with the troops downriver. There they could carry the army across the mile-wide water for a dry-ground campaign against this Gibraltar from the southeast. Apparently simple, the plan involved large risks. The gunboat fleet might be destroyed or crippled. Even if it survived to ferry Grant's soldiers across the river, they would be virtually cut off from their base, for while the ironclads and even some supply transports might get past Vicksburg downriver with the help of a 4 knot current, they would be sitting ducks if they tried to go back up again. The army would have to operate deep in enemy territory without a supply line against a force of unknown strength which held interior lines and could be reinforced.

Grant's staff and his most trusted subordinates, Sherman and McPherson, opposed the plan. Go back to Memphis, Sherman advised Grant, and start over again with a secure supply line. Grant's reply demonstrated his true mettle. Like Lee, he believed that success could not be achieved without risk, and he was willing to lay his career on the line to prove it. As for returning Memphis, he told Sherman:

The country is already disheartened over the lack of success on the part of our armies...If we went back so far as Memphis it would discourage the people so much that bases of supplies would be of no use: neither men to hold them nor supplies to put in them would be furnished. The problem for us is to move forward to a decisive victory, or our cause is lost. No progress is being made in any other field. We have to go on.

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The Siege of Vicksburg Part 3

Grant's failure during the winter of 1862-63 to get his army on dry land for a drive against Vicksburg bolstered Confederate faith in this "Gibraltar of the West." Believing that the Yankees were giving up, Pemberton on April 11 informed Joseph Johnston that "Grant's forces are being withdrawn to Memphis." Pemberton had earlier sent most of his cavalry to Bragg in Tennessee, where danger appeared more imminent, and he now prepared to dispatch an 8,000-man infantry division to Bragg. On April 16 the Vicksburg Whig gloated that the enemy's gunboats "are all more or less damaged, the men dissatisfied and demoralized...There is no immediate danger here." Civilians and officers celebrated at a gala ball held in Vicksburg that night of April 16. As the dancers swung from a waltz to a cotillion, flashes of light and loud explosions suddenly rent the air. "Confusion and alarm" erupted in the ballroom. Yankee gunboats were running the batteries. Grant had not gone to Memphis; he had only backed up for a better start.

One northerner who had never lost confidence in eventual victory at Vicksburg was Grant. All of his roundabout routes through canals, bayous, and swamps having failed, he resolved on a bold plan to march his army down the west bank of the Mississippi to a point below Vicksburg while sending the fleet straight past the batteries to rendezvous with the troops downriver. There they could carry the army across the mile-wide water for a dry-ground campaign against this Gibraltar from the southeast. Apparently simple, the plan involved large risks. The gunboat fleet might be destroyed or crippled. Even if it survived to ferry Grant's soldiers across the river, they would be virtually cut off from their base, for while the ironclads and even some supply transports might get past Vicksburg downriver with the help of a 4 knot current, they would be sitting ducks if they tried to go back up again. The army would have to operate deep in enemy territory without a supply line against a force of unknown strength which held interior lines and could be reinforced.

Grant's staff and his most trusted subordinates, Sherman and McPherson, opposed the plan. Go back to Memphis, Sherman advised Grant, and start over again with a secure supply line. Grant's reply demonstrated his true mettle. Like Lee, he believed that success could not be achieved without risk, and he was willing to lay his career on the line to prove it. As for returning Memphis, he told Sherman:

The country is already disheartened over the lack of success on the part of our armies...If we went back so far as Memphis it would discourage the people so much that bases of supplies would be of no use: neither men to hold them nor supplies to put in them would be furnished. The problem for us is to move forward to a decisive victory, or our cause is lost. No progress is being made in any other field. We have to go on.

Despite its risks, this was one of the most decisive decisions of the war. By getting below the city and allowing the prelude to the siege; the river was eventually controlled. It is once the boats got down river that the interesting stuff started happening.

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The Siege of Vicksburg Part 4

Grant's first gamble paid off; the gunboats got through. As they floated silently on the current toward Vicksburg on the moonless night of April 16, rebel pickets spotted them and lit bonfires along the banks to illuminate the target for Vicksburg's gunners, who fired 525 rounds and scored 68 hits but sank only 1 of the 3 transports and none of the 8 gunboats. A few nights later, volunteer crews ran 6 more transports past the batteries and got 5 of them through. By the end of April Grant had a powerful fleet and 2 of his 3 corps 30 miles south of Vicksburg ready to cross the river.

To divert Pemberton from challenging the crossing, Grant arranged a calvary raid deep in the rebel rear and an infantry feint above Vicksburg. On the day after Porter's fleet had so rudely interrupted the Vicksburg ball, a former music teacher from Illinois set forth on what would become the most spectacular cavalry adventure of the war. Benjamin Grierson had disliked horses since one kicked him in the head as a child. When the war broke out he had joined the infantry, but the governor of Illinois soon assigned this erstwhile bandmaster to the cavalry. It was a stroke of genius, for Grierson soon became one of the finest horse soldiers in the western theater, where he rose to brigade command in 1862. In the spring of 1863 Grant borrowed a leaf from the enemy's book and ordered Grierson's 1,700 man brigade on an expedition into the heart of Mississippi to tear up Pemberton's supply lines and distract Confederate attention from the Union infantry toiling down the river's west bank.

Combining speed, boldness, and cunning, Grierson's troopers swept through the entire state of Mississippi during the last two weeks of April. They won several skirmishes, killed or wounded 100 rebels, and captured 500 at a cost of 24 casualties. They tore up 50 miles of 3 different railroads supplying Pemberton's army, burned scores of freight cars and depots, and finally rode exhausted into Union lines at Baton Rouge after 16 days and 600 miles of marauding. They had lured most of Pemberton's depleted cavalry plus a full infantry division into futile pursuit- futile because Grierson, having detached smaller units from the main body to ride off in various false directions, was never where the rebels expected him to be. Grierson more than evened the score against Forrest and Morgan. The Yankees rode through enemy territory, while the southern horsemen raided in Tennessee and Kentucky, where friendly natives aided them. And the strategic consequences of Grierson's foray were greater, perhaps, than those of any other calvary raid of the war, and played a vital role in Grant's capture of Vicksburg.

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I am leaving tommorow on vacation for two weeks, until July 5. While I might be making a few posts here and there when I get online, it certainly won't be in this thread. So we'll take time off and resume with more on the battle of Vicksburg in July.

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