Showing posts with label Oliver O Howard. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Oliver O Howard. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Captain Charles Wright Wills: November 26, 1864 – 12 p.m.

Eight miles east of Oconee River, three miles south of M. & S. R. R.
November 26, 1864, 12 p.m. 

Howard wrote Osterhaus a letter congratulating him on the success in the Griswoldville fight, and had it published to us to-day.


GoRDON, GA., November 23d, 1864.


Mayor General Osterhaus, Com'dg 15th Corps:


I take sincere pleasure in congratulating the Brigade of General Walcutt, of General Wood's Division of the 15th Corps, on its complete sucess in the action of yesterday.


Officers from other commands who were looking on say that there never was a better brigade of soldiers.


I am exceedingly sorry that any of our brave men should fall, and for the suffering of the wounded, the thanks of the army are doubly due to them.


I tender my sympathy through you to the brave and excellent commander of the brigade, Brigadier General Walcutt.


It is hoped that his wound will not disable him.


Very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,


Major General.


P. S. The loss of the enemy is estimated from 1,500 to 2,000 killed, wounded, and prisoners. O. O. H., M. G.

We lay in camp until 4 p.m., when we started, and after three miles of miserable pine swamp we crossed the Oconee on pontoons. It was dark, but I noticed that the current was rapid and the water looked deep. 

I counted 80 steps on the bridge and ten boats under it. I am sure that I to-day saw palm-leaf fan material growing. It is a most singular looking plant. The country this side of the river to our camp is quite level and four-fifths cultivated. All the woods pine, and soil all sand. 

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 326-7

Friday, May 1, 2020

Captain Charles Wright Wills: October 11, 1864

Allatoona Pass, October 11, 1864.

Our corps moved at the setting of the sun, and continued moving until we were all confoundedly tired. I never saw the men so noisy, funny, or in any way or every way feeling half so good. After we had marched about eight miles, one of Howard's staff came back along the line and informed us that Sherman had just notified Howard that Richmond is ours. Everybody believed it, but nobody cheered. They were saving the yells for the confirmation. We camped at 1 a. m. with orders for reveille at 4 and march at 5 a.m.

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 308

Friday, April 10, 2020

Major-General William T. Sherman to Major-General George H. Thomas, October 20, 1864

In the Field, Summerville, Ga., October 20, 1864.
Major-General THOMAS,
Commanding Department of the Cumberland:

GENERAL: I think I have thought over the whole field of the future, and being now authorized to act, I want all things bent to the following general plan of action for the next three months: Out of the forces now here and at Atlanta I propose to organize an efficient army of from 60,000 to 65,000 men, with which I propose to destroy Macon, Augusta, and, it may be, Savannah and Charleston, but I will always keep open the alternatives of the mouth of Appalachicola and Mobile. By this I propose to demonstrate the vulnerability of the South, and make its inhabitants feel that war and individual ruin are synonymous terms. To pursue Hood is folly, for he can twist and turn like a fox and wear out any army in pursuit. To continue to occupy long lines of railroads simply exposes our small detachments to be picked up in detail and forces me to make countermarches to protect lines of communication. I know I am right in this and shall proceed to its maturity. As to details, I propose to take General Howard and his army, General Schofield and his, and two of your corps, viz, Generals Davis and Slocum. I propose to remain along the Coosa watching Hood until all my preparations are made, viz, until I have repaired the railroad, sent back all surplus men and material, and stripped for the work. Then I will send General Stanley, with the Fourth Corps, across by Will's Valley and Caperton's to Stevenson to report to you. If you send me 5,000 or 6,000 new conscripts I may also send back one of General Slocum's or Davis' divisions, but I prefer to maintain organizations. I want you to retain command in Tennessee, and before starting I will give you delegated authority over Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama, &c., whereby there will be unity of action behind me. I will want you to hold Chattanooga and Decatur in force, and on the occasion of my departure, of which you shall have ample notice, to watch Hood close. I think he will follow me, at least with his cavalry, in which event I want you to push south from Decatur and the head of the Tennessee for Columbus, Miss., and Selma, not absolutely to reach these points, but to divert or pursue according to the state of facts. If, however, Hood turns on you, you must act defensively on the line of the Tennessee. I will ask, and you may also urge, that at the same time Canby act vigorously up the Alabama River. I do not fear that the Southern army will again make a lodgment on the Mississippi, for past events demonstrate how rapidly armies can be raised in the Northwest on that question and how easily handled and supplied. The only hope of a Southern success is in the remote regions difficult of access. We have now a good entering wedge and should drive it home. It will take some time to complete these details, and I hope to hear from you in the mean time. We must preserve a large amount of secrecy, and I may actually change the ultimate point of arrival, but not the main object.

I am, &c.,
W. T. SHERMAN,                
Major-General, Commanding.

SOURCE: The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume 39, Part 3 (Serial No. 79), p. 377-8

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Major-General William T. Sherman: Special Field Orders No. 120, November 9, 1864

HDQRS. MIL. DIV. OF THE MISS.,                                  
In the Field, Kingston, Ga.,                
November 9, 1864.

I. For the purpose of military operations this army is divided into two wings, viz, the Right Wing, Maj. Gen. O. O. Howard commanding, the Fifteenth and Seventeenth Corps; the Left Wing, Maj. Gen. H. W. Slocum commanding, the Fourteenth and Twentieth Corps.

II. The habitual order of march will be, wherever practicable, by four roads, as near parallel as possible and converging at points hereafter to be indicated in orders. The cavalry, Brigadier-General Kilpatrick commanding, will receive special orders from the commander-in-chief.

III. There will be no general train of supplies, but each corps will have its ammunition train and provision train distributed habitually as follows: Behind each regiment should follow one wagon and one ambulance; behind each brigade should follow a due proportion of ammunition wagons, provision wagons, and ambulances. In case of danger each army corps commander should change this order of march by having his advance and rear brigade unincumbered by wheels. The separate columns will start habitually at 7 a.m., and make about fifteen miles per day, unless otherwise fixed in orders.

IV. The army will forage liberally on the country during the march. To this end, each brigade commander will organize a good and sufficient foraging party, under the command of one or more discreet officers, who will gather, near the route traveled, corn or forage of any kind, meat of any kind, vegetables, corn-meal, or whatever is needed by the command, aiming at all times to keep in the wagons at least ten days' provisions for the command and three days' forage. Soldiers must not enter the dwellings of the inhabitants, or commit any trespass, but during a halt or a camp they may be permitted to gather turnips, potatoes, and other vegetables, and to drive in stock in sight of their camp. To regular foraging parties must be intrusted the gathering of provisions and forage at any distance from the road traveled.

V. To army corps commanders alone is intrusted the power to destroy mills, houses, cotton-gins, &c., and for them this general principle is laid down: In districts and neighborhoods where the army is unmolested no destruction of such property should be permitted; but should guerrillas or bushwhackers molest our march, or should the inhabitants burn bridges, obstruct roads, or otherwise manifest local hostility, then army commanders should order and enforce a devastation more or less relentless according to the measure of such hostility.

VI. As for horses, mules, wagons, &c., belonging to the inhabitants, the cavalry and artillery may appropriate freely and without limit, discriminating, however, between the rich, who are usually hostile, and the poor or industrious, usually neutral or friendly. Foraging parties  may also take mules or horses to replace the jaded animals of their trains, or to serve as pack-mules for the regiments or brigades. In all foraging, of whatever kind, the parties engaged will refrain from abusive or threatening language, and may, where the officer in command thinks proper, give written certificates of the facts, but no receipts, and they will endeavor to leave with each family a reasonable portion for their maintenance.

VII. Negroes who are able-bodied and can be of service to the several columns may be taken along, but each army commander will bear in mind that the question of supplies is a very important one and that his first duty is to see to them who bear arms.

VIII. The organization at once of a good pioneer battalion for each army corps, composed if possible of negroes, should be attended to. This battalion should follow the advance guard, should repair roads, and double them if possible, so that the columns will not be delayed after reaching bad places. Also, army commanders should study the habit of giving the artillery and wagons the road, and marching their troops on one side, and also instruct their troops to assist wagons at steep hills or bad crossings of streams.

IX. Capt. O. M. Poe, chief engineer, will assign to each wing of the army a pontoon train, fully equipped and organized, and the commanders thereof will see to its being properly protected at all times.

By order of Maj. Gen. W. T. Sherman:

L. M. DAYTON,                   

SOURCE: The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume 39, Part 3 (Serial No. 79), p. 713-4

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Major-General Henry W. Halleck to Major-General William T. Sherman, December 16, 1864

HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY,                     
Washington, December 16, 1864. (Via Hilton Head.)
Major-General SHERMAN:

GENERAL: Lieutenant-General Grant informs me that in his last dispatch sent to you he suggested the transfer of your infantry to Richmond. He now wishes me to say that you will retain your entire force, at least for the present, and with such assistance as may be given you by General Foster and Admiral Dahlgren, operate from such base as you may establish on the coast. General Foster will obey such instructions as may be given by you. Should you have captured Savannah, it is thought that by transferring the water batteries to the land side, that place may be made a good depot and base for operations on Augusta, Branchville, or Charleston. If Savannah should not be captured, or if captured and not deemed suitable for this purpose, perhaps Beaufort would serve as a depot. As the rebels have probably removed their most valuable property from Augusta, perhaps Branchville would be the most important point at which to strike, in order to sever all connection between Virginia and the Southwestern Railroad. General Grant's wishes, however, are that this whole matter of your future action should be entirely left to your discretion. We can send you from here a number of complete batteries of field artillery, with or without horses, as you may desire. Also, as soon as General Thomas can spare them, all the fragments, convalescents, and furloughed men of your army. It is reported that Thomas defeated Hood yesterday near Nashville, but we have no particulars nor official reports, telegraphic communication being interrupted by a heavy storm. Our last advices from you was General Howard's note announcing his approach to Savannah.

Yours, truly,
H. W. HALLECK,                
Major-General and Chief of Staff.

SOURCE: The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume 44 (Serial No. 92), p. 728-9

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Captain Charles Wright Wills: September 8, 1864

Near Eastpoint, September 8, 1864.

We are again in camp for a rest; don't know for how long. What do you think now of the confidence I have so often expressed to you in Sherman and his army? I have every hour of the campaign felt that a failure in it was impossible. The following complimentary orders were issued, as dated immediately after our going into camp at Eastpoint:

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 299-304

Major-General Oliver O. Howard: General Field Orders No. 16, September 10, 1864

East Point, Ga., September 10, 1864.

It is with pride, gratification, and a grateful sense of divine favor that I congratulate this noble army upon the successful termination of the campaign. Your officers claim for you a wonderful record—for example, a march of 400 miles, thirteen distinct engagements, 4,000 prisoners, and 20 stand of colors captured, and 3,000 of the enemy's dead buried in your front. Your movements upon the enemy's flank have been bold and successful: first, upon Resaca; second, upon Dallas; third, upon Kenesaw; fourth, upon Nickajack; fifth (via Roswell), upon the Augusta railroad; sixth, upon Ezra Church, to the southwest of Atlanta, and seventh, upon Jonesborough and the Macon railroad. Atlanta was evacuated while you were fighting at Jonesborough. The country may never know with what patience, labor, and exposure you have tugged away at every natural and artificial obstacle that an enterprising and confident enemy could interpose. The terrific battles you have fought may never be realized or credited, still a glad acclaim is already greeting you from the Government and people, in view of the results you have helped to gain, and I believe a sense of the magnitude of the achievements of the last 100 days will not abate but increase with time and history. Our rejoicing is tempered, as it always must be in war, by the soldier's sorrow at the loss of his companions in arms; on every hillside, in every valley, throughout your long and circuitous route from Dalton to Jonesborough, you have buried them. Your trusted and beloved commander fell in your midst; his name, the name of McPherson! carries with it a peculiar feeling of sorrow. I trust the impress of his character is upon you all to incite you to generous actions and noble deeds. To mourning friends and to all the disabled in battle, you extend a soldier's sympathy. My first intimate acquaintance with you dates from the 28th of July. I never beheld fiercer assaults than the enemy then made, and I never saw troops more steady and self-possessed in action than your divisions which were there engaged. I have learned that for cheerfulness, obedience, rapidity of movement, and confidence in battle, the Army of the Tennessee is not to be surpassed, and it shall be my study that your fair record shall continue, and my purpose to assist you to move steadily forward and plant the old flag in every proud city of the rebellion.

Ass’t. Adj’t. Gen’l.

SOURCES: The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume 38, Part 3 (Serial No. 74), p. 49-50; Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 299-300

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Colonel Allnard B. Nettleton: The Grand Review At Washington, On May 23 and 24, 1865

This historic event, briefly covered in the diary, under dates of May 23 and 24, 1865, had had no precedent in the past and is not likely to have a parallel in future. It marked officially the close of the great war, the restoration of peace, the preservation of the American Republic from destruction, and the gratitude of the American people for a result perpetual and inestimable in its value not only to them but to all mankind.

The troops participating in the Review numbered nearly Two Hundred Thousand Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery, being the veteran soldiers of (1) the Armies of the Potomac and James commanded by Generals Grant and Meade; (2) the Army of the Shenandoah, commanded by General Sheridan, including Sheridan's Cavalry Corps which in full ranks numbered 16,000 troopers; (3) Sherman's Army, which he had led victoriously from the Ohio River, through Kentucky, Tennessee and “through Georgia to the Sea,” and thence through the Carolinas and Virginia to Washington. On the two successive days mentioned this combined host marched the length of Pennsylvania Avenue, and in front of the White House passed in review and saluted President Andrew Johnson and the distinguished group of men mentioned in Major Tenney's diary including Gen. U. S. Grant, Gen. W. T. Sherman, Generals Meade and Sheridan, Howard, Slocum, Logan, and Admirals Farragut and Porter. With these were also the members of the Cabinet including especially Secretary of War, E. M. Stanton and Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles.

This event was the signal for the disbandment and return to civil life of the nearly One Million volunteer soldiers and sailors then on the rolls of the Army and Navy of the United States. This was accomplished progressively and very rapidly, as fast as the troops could be paid off and transported to their homes.

Much to the dissatisfaction of the Second Ohio Cavalry that regiment was retained in service nearly six months after the close of hostilities, being sent to southwestern Missouri to look after some disorderly elements there, as mentioned under dates of May 27 to June 27, 1865, in the diary. — A. B. N.

SOURCE: Frances Andrews Tenney, War Diary Of Luman Harris Tenney, p. 164-5

Friday, July 12, 2019

Diary of Captain Luman Harris Tenney: Wednesday, May 24, 1865

Twelve of us officers went to town with orderlies. Ran guard. Saw Johnson, Stanton, Welles, Speed, Grant, Sherman, Howard, Slocum, Logan, Cadwallader, Sanford, Farragut and several other distinguished men. Grand affair.

SOURCE: Frances Andrews Tenney, War Diary Of Luman Harris Tenney, p. 164

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Captain Charles Wright Wills: May 18, 1864

May 18, 1864.

Our division has had the advance to-day, but no infantry fighting. At noon we get into Adairsville and meet the 4th Army Corps. Saw Generals Howard, Thomas, Sickles and a hundred others. We are camped five miles southwest of town and by the prettiest place I ever saw. The house is excellent, the grounds excel in beauty anything I ever imagined. The occupants have run away. Our cavalry had a sharp fight here this p. m., and on one of the gravel walks in the beautiful garden lies a Rebel colonel, shot in five places. He must have been a noble looking man; looks 50 years old, and has a fine form and features. Think his name is Irwin. I think there must be a hundred varieties of the rose in bloom here and the most splendid specimens of cactus. I do wish you could see it. At Adairsville, night before last, we lost 400 killed and wounded in a skirmish.

Nine a. m. — Rapid artillery firing on our left front. We are waiting for Osterhaus and Morgan L. Smith to get out of the way. Our division has the rear to-day. Our cars got into Adairsville yesterday evening and the last Rebel train left in the morning. Firing on the left very heavy.

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 243-4

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Diary of Gideon Welles: Tuesday, October 20, 1863

Busy when out of the Department in collecting materials and framing the skeleton outlines of my Annual Report. Shall be so occupied for a few weeks to the neglect of my journal, which usually consumes a late evening hour, after company has gone and other labors of the day are laid aside. But the details of an annual report require personal labor and investigation which I cannot delegate to another without revision and my own examination. This takes all my time and really overtaxes me, with current duties.

There was little of interest to-day at the Cabinet. Seward, Chase, and Stanton were absent. Stanton, I am told, has gone to Tennessee.

Lee with his army has disappeared from the front. It is reported that he has torn up the rails and destroyed the bridges as he has disappeared. Meade, we are told, is in pursuit, and the press and others give him great credit for strategy; that is, he knows not what to do, and the papers and correspondents don't know that fact, — this is strategy. He will not overtake Lee if he wants to.

I met General Sickles at the President's to-day. When I went in, the President was asking if Hancock did not select the battle-ground at Gettysburg. Sickles said he did not, but that General Howard and perhaps himself, were more entitled to that credit than any others. He then detailed particulars, making himself, however, much more conspicuous than Howard, who was really used as a set-off. The narrative was, in effect, that General Howard had taken possession of the heights and occupied the Cemetery on  Wednesday, the 1st. He, Sickles, arrived later, between five and six p.m., and liked the position. General Meade arrived on the ground soon after, and was for abandoning the position and falling back. A council was called; Meade was earnest; Sickles left, but wrote Meade his decided opinion in favor of maintaining the position, which was finally agreed to against Meade's judgment.

Allowance must always be made for Sickles when he is interested, but his representations confirm my impressions of Meade, who means well, and, in his true position, that of a secondary commander, is more of a man than Sickles represents him, — can obey orders and carry out orders better than he can originate and give them, hesitates, defers to others, has not strength, will, and self-reliance. My impressions in regard to the late movement by Lee in front are strengthened. Meade's falling back was a weakness. The movement on the part of Lee was a feint to cover his design of sending off troops to some other point, — I think Chattanooga, — where the Rebels are concentrating and the information received to-day that he is destroying the roads as he retreats confirms my opinion. We shall soon learn whether this strategy is Meade's or Lee's. It is now asserted that Meade retreated before one division of Lee's army. This is probably a caricature rumor, and yet perhaps not much exaggeration. Others do not listen to my conjecture that more troops have gone to Chattanooga, yet it is strongly impressed upon me. The Rebels can't afford to be defeated there. Jeff Davis has gone there, and there they must make a stand.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 1: 1861 – March 30, 1864, p. 472-3

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Diary of Gideon Welles: Friday, July 17, 1863

At the Cabinet council Seward expressed great apprehension of a break-up of the British Ministry. I see in the papers an intimation that should Roebuck's motion for a recognition of the Confederacy prevail, Earl Russell would resign. I have no fears that the motion will prevail. The English, though mischievously inclined, are not demented. I wish the policy of our Secretary of State, who assumes to be wise, was as discreet as theirs. He handed me consular dispatches from Mr. Dudley at Liverpool and is exceedingly alarmed; fears England will let all the ironclads and rovers go out, and that the sea robbers will plunder and destroy our commerce. Mr. Dudley is an excellent consul, vigilant, but somewhat, and excusably, nervous, and he naturally presents the facts which he gets in a form that will not do injustice to the activity and zeal of the consul. Seward gives, and always has given, the fullest credit to the wildest rumors.

Some remarks on the great error of General Meade in permitting Lee and the Rebel army with all their plunder to escape led the President to say he would not yet give up that officer. “He has committed,” said the President, “a terrible mistake, but we will try him farther.” No one expressed his approval, but Seward said, “Excepting the escape of Lee, Meade has shown ability.” It was evident that the retention of Meade had been decided.

In a conversation with General Wadsworth, who called on me, I learned that at the council of the general officers, Meade was disposed to make an attack, and was supported by Wadsworth, Howard, and Pleasonton, but Sedgwick, Sykes, and the older regular officers dissented. Meade, rightly disposed but timid and irresolute, hesitated and delayed until too late. Want of decision and self-reliance in an emergency has cost him and the country dear, for had he fallen upon Lee it could hardly have been otherwise than the capture of most of the Rebel army.

The surrender of Port Hudson is undoubtedly a fact. It could not hold out after the fall of Vicksburg. We have information also that Sherman has caught up with and beaten Johnston.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 1: 1861 – March 30, 1864, p. 374-5

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Diary of 1st Lieutenant Lemuel A. Abbott: Monday, September 19, 1864 – Part 14

Who but Sheridan, as at Cedar Creek, Va., Oct. 19, 1864, just a month to a day after his splendid victory at Opequan Creek, Sept. 19, 1864, or Winchester, Va., as now more properly known, could have rallied a defeated and routed army en route to the front and after and so enthused it in the act, simply by dashing, alert and crafty through its broken ranks after a twenty mile race with time from Winchester, with flashing eyes, bared head and waving hat, on a spirited foaming horse, shouting to his men: “Get back into line, men! Get into line, quick! We can lick ’em! We can lick h--1 out of ’em yet!” and do it almost at once, even as brilliantly so as at Winchester a month previous? How often are such things done? Such a man outclasses all others in military history, not excepting Wellington or Marlborough, for such a man as Sheridan is without a peer as a field marshal in the annals of warfare; and had he been found sooner and given greater responsibilities he would not only have surely proved it, but would have more fully electrified the world than he did and have been its idol as a military genius and hero for all time.

He or Grant would never have used such woefully poor judgment as to have assaulted an army equally as valiant, splendidly posted, fully as large, if not larger than their own, across an open, level space without cover quite a mile in extent, as Lee did at Gettysburg on July 3, 1864. If that act showed ability, good judgment, or a military genius, then I am lacking in mature sound judgment, and my lifetime of military training, including my three years and threescore battles or more in the Civil War and in Indian wars, has been in vain. This would be equally true even though the armies had been equal in numbers. General Longstreet's suggestion to Lee to place his army on General Meade's flank between him and Washington would have been a splendid substitute for Pickett's forlorn charge.1 It was abler and just what Grant did with Lee hardly a year later, successfully and repeatedly and forced Lee back to Richmond and Petersburg, as the world now knows, which indicates superior generalship both on Grant's part as well as Longstreet's.

Would either Grant or Sheridan have lost their cavalry for several days, as Lee did, when on such a campaign in an enemy's country or anywhere else?2 Would either, with three such splendid cavalry divisions as Meade, not have used a part of one division if necessary to have patrolled barely seventy-five miles between York, Pa., or the Susquehanna, and the Potomac river, in order to detect any movement by the enemy on Washington? Would this have made the Union Commander, whoever he might have been, timid about moving to any point where battle was offered, fearing a fake attack by Lee in order to cover a movement on Washington or Baltimore? One brigade would have established a line of patrol posts less than a quarter of a mile apart of six men each, which would have detected at once any movement south by Lee, or if preferred, posts one-eighth of a mile apart of three men each.

Would Grant or Sheridan have remained so near a great battle as at Gettysburg, July 1, 1864, and not have furnished an opportunity for another soul-stirring poem like “Sheridan’s Ride”? When they were informed that the enemy had attacked their forces barely three hours’ ride away, would they have loitered a whole day away like dullards, as both army commanders did at Gettysburg?3 Aye! either would have made the ride in two hours or even less, and even though their steeds were as black as night, on their arrival at Gettysburg they would have been as white as snow or as foam could have made them; and, still better, they would not only have known, too, through their cavalry, spies, etc., for we were at home among friends, where Lee's army corps were, but when each broke camp to concentrate at Gettysburg, and their own corps close by them would have been there in season to have met the enemy in at least equal numbers, instead of being outnumbered all day July 1, two to one, as was the case.4 If necessary, too, as at Opequan Creek, Sept. 19, 1864, the different corps would have marched at 2 o'clock instead of 8 o’clock A. M. or even earlier if thought necessary.

Was there any excuse for the Confederates not driving the Union forces from the field in a rout on July first? They would have done so, too, except that their forces were fought in detail, its reserves not even being brought into action when needed.5 Did Ewell take the best advantage of his opportunities? The enemy outnumbered us quite two to one the first day from first to last after the battle commenced, but still at the first dash of two brigades of our Infantry — Wadsworth's Division — against two brigades of the enemy, when Reynolds was killed, we placed hors de combat over half of each of their brigades and captured Archer, a brigade commander; and still the enemy had two brigades in immediate reserve as support, but they were not used.6 This is what I call fighting an army in detail, a total waste of material. In case Sheridan hadn't thrown his support or reserve — Russell's division — into the fight at the right moment at Winchester, Va., Sept. 19, 1864, his results would have been equally as ignominious as his victory was brilliant, because he did use his reserve correctly on that occasion; and so it would have been with the enemy at Gettysburg had it used its reserve. It would probably have captured many of our men and driven the balance of them from the field in a rout, as Sheridan did Early at Winchester, Sept. 19, 1864; there was nothing to prevent it.

Does Lee deserve being classed among the greatest field marshals of modern times for such field marshalship as was displayed at the first day’s fighting at Gettysburg? But, says the incompetent critic who forms his conclusions from gush, policy, favoritism, sentiment, or weakly otherwise, instead of for the sake of truth and correct history, Lee wasn't there! Aye! but wasn't it an alert Commander's—a genius's —business to have been there? What was he in Pennsylvania for or selected and paid for handling such an important matter to the Confederacy for? Who gave the order to concentrate for battle at Gettysburg but he?7 Does not every experienced soldier know that under such circumstances no one can tell exactly at what moment a battle will commence? And would not an alert, sagacious commander have made a forced night ride in order to have been with the first of his forces on the field? Lee knew he was going to fight if the enemy would fight him, but Meade didn't; hence Lee knew exactly what to do.8 A great field marshal would have been more alert — on hand — it seems to me.

Lee commanded in person the second day at Gettysburg, and not only failed to attack early in the morning, when he should, but, as usual, when he did, fought his army in detail using Longstreet's corps largely against two of our corps in turn which, being overwhelmed by numbers, and Meade failing to reinforce them, as he should or not have sent them where he did, they were of course forced back to their proper positions onto the correct line of battle beyond which they should never have been advanced, and with a sagacious, alert, competent commander would not have been except the whole army advanced together in a general assault which it should have done anyway after Wright's brigade was repulsed.9

From first to last in the battle of Gettysburg, I fail to see anything to commend on the enemy's part in any of its generals except in Longstreet; nor on the Union side so far as Meade was concerned, but do in many others, and especially Buford, Reynolds, Doubleday and Howard, each of whom in turn successively commanded our forces in the order mentioned without being routed, against great odds under exceedingly trying circumstances owing to Meade's failure apparently, to fully grasp the situation fourteen miles away. It shows what splendid fighters Buford, Reynolds, Doubleday and Howard's men were to stand off double their number for an entire day, with what help they got from Schurz's men.

That Lee did not grasp the situation is evident or else he would have assaulted our lines early on the morning of July second before Meade's forces arrived on the field. It is said he did give the order to do so, but if he had been a great military genius wouldn't he have seen that it was done? Instead of this owing largely probably, to Meade's lack of alertness and enterprise, Lee from lack of sagacity became apparently dizzy and unbalanced, as was most of his command, because of his apparently misunderstood partial successes, of the first and second days' fights, and was so criminally lacking in good judgment on the third day as to be led into the mistake of ordering Pickett's charge which, for obvious reasons, could only result in calamity to the Southern cause.10 This even an amateur soldier of ordinary judgment should have been able to have foreseen.

1 See Burrage, “Gettysburg and Lincoln,” pp. 29-30.
2 See Burrage, “Gettysburg and Lincoln,” p. 12.
3 See Burrage, “Gettysburg and Lincoln,” pp. 16-17.
4 See Burrage, “Gettysburg and Lincoln,” pp. 19-33.
5 See Burrage, “Gettysburg and Lincoln,” pp. 19-33.
6 See Burrage, “Gettysburg and Lincoln,” pp. 19-33.
7 See Burrage, “Gettysburg and Lincoln,” p. 57.
8 See Burrage, “Gettysburg and Lincoln,” pp. 52-3.
9 See Burrage, “Gettysburg and Lincoln,” pp. 34-45.
10 See Burrage, “Gettysburg and Lincoln,” pp. 34-45.

SOURCE: Lemuel Abijah Abbott, Personal Recollections and Civil War Diary, 1864, p. 197-203

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Diary of John Hay: July 16, 1863

Nicolay leaves to-day for the Rocky Mountains. . .  Had a little talk with the President about Milroy. Says Halleck thinks Schenck never had a military idea and never will learn one. Thinks Schenck is somewhat to blame for the Winchester business. President says, however you may doubt or disagree from Halleck, he is very apt to be right in the end. . . .

Genl Wadsworth came in. He said in answer to Alexander's question, “Why did Lee escape?” “Because nobody stopped him,” rather gruffly.

Wadsworth says that at a council of war of Corps Commanders, held on Sunday the 12th, he was present on account of the sickness of his Corps Commander, he, Wadsworth, being temporarily in command of the Corps. On the question of fight or no fight, the weight of authority was against fighting. French, Sedgwick, Slocum and —— strenuously opposed a fight. Meade was in favor of it. So was Warren , who did most of the talking on that side, and Pleasonton was very eager for it, as also was Wadsworth himself. The non-fighters thought, or seemed to think, that if we did not attack, the enemy would, and even Meade thought he was in for action, had no idea that the enemy intended to get away at once. Howard had little to say on the subject.

Meade was in favor of attacking in three columns of 20,000 men each. Wadsworth was in favor of doing as Stonewall Jackson did at Chancellorsville, double up the left, and drive them down on Williamsport. I do not question that either plan would have succeeded. Wadsworth said to Hunter who sat beside him: — “General, there are a good many officers of the regular army who have not yet entirely lost the West Point idea of southern superiority. That sometimes accounts for an otherwise unaccountable slowness of attack.”

SOURCES: Clara B. Hay, Letters of John Hay and Extracts from Diary, Volume 1, p. 86-8; Tyler Dennett, Editor, Lincoln and the Civil War in the Diaries and letters of John Hay, p. 67-8

Friday, July 29, 2016

Lieutenant Colonel Charles Fessenden Morse: September 18, 1864

Atlanta, Ga., September 18, 1864.

Yours of the 9th was received to-day. Since my last letter, I have kept pretty busy with the affairs of the post, but nothing new or startling has occurred in my line of duty. Our corps, with the Fourth and the Fourteenth, occupy the works near the city. Howard with the Fifteenth, Sixteenth and Seventeenth, is at East Point, and Schofield with the grand Army of the Ohio, is at Decatur. Troops are in comfortable quarters and leaves of absence and furloughs are being liberally granted. There is just now a ten days' truce for sending families South and the exchange of prisoners.

Before the Chicago Convention, I told you my opinion of McClellan. I am willing to acknowledge that I have changed it greatly since his letter of acceptance. His letter, as you say, was patriotic, and would have suited me if it had refused the nomination; but when he closed by saying that he thought his views expressed those of the Convention, he changed, in my opinion, from being an honest, straightforward soldier, into a politician seeking office.

He knew, as well as we know, that a large part of the Convention was for peace and not for war carried on in any way, and as an honest man he had no business to say what he did. It has always been the boast of the Democratic party that whoever their candidate might be, he had to carry out the principles of the men who elected him. The peace men must have shown their hands plainly, and whatever McClellan may say now to disown their support, they will have a baneful influence upon him, if he is elected.

Colonel Coggswell is commanding this post in a manner which reflects great credit upon him; he stands high with Generals Thomas and Slocum; even Sherman has complimented him, and spoken of the appearance of our regiment. He is, I think, one of the best practical soldiers I know; his chances for promotion are very good; I hope, for the sake of the service, his and my own, that he may get it.

It is altogether a good thing for us that we are here in the city; as I said before, it is all owing to General Slocum. His firm and just rule is felt already throughout the corps; men who have shirked, and, to use an expressive word, “bummed” all through the campaign, are getting snubbed now, while those who have done their duty quietly and faithfully are being noticed.

Sherman is an entirely different style of man. He is a genius and a remarkable one, and is undoubtedly the longest headed, most persistent man, not even excepting Grant, there is in this country, but he is too great a man to be able to go into details. He cares nothing, apparently, for the discipline and military appearance of his troops, or at any rate, leaves that for his subordinates to see to; he cares nothing, either, for doing things through regular channels, but will give his orders helter-skelter, any how; this, of course, is an eccentricity of genius, but it is a very troublesome one at times.

SOURCE: Charles Fessenden Morse, Letters Written During the Civil War, 1861-1865, p. 191-2

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Lieutenant Colonel Charles Fessenden Morse: September 11, 1864

Atlanta, Ga., September 11, 1864.

To-day being Sunday, my office is closed, and I have a little time to tell you of some of the events of the last ten days.

September 2d, about eleven o'clock, we received the glorious news that Atlanta had been surrendered to a reconnoitering party from our Third Division. Our First Brigade was immediately sent forward to occupy the place, and about four P. M., the whole corps followed. We entered the city about dark, with bands playing, etc. Our regiment went into camp in the City Hall Park, having been detailed as the provost guard. The next morning, we took possession of the City Hall. I took the court-room for my office; the other rooms were taken for headquarters, guard-rooms, etc. My private room was with the Colonel, in one of the finest houses of the city, opposite our camp, — Brussells carpet, elegant beds and other furniture. The family were very glad to have us occupy the house for their own protection; they are very fine people, and I think have very little sympathy with the South.

Our first few days were terribly hard ones, but now that the army is settled in position and we have reduced things to a system, we are getting along very well; I doubt if to-day there are many cities in the North, of the same size, which are quieter or cleaner than this one. Atlanta is a very pretty place, and less Southern in its appearance than any I have seen. It is quite a new town, and its buildings are generally in good condition; there are, on the principal streets, some fine warehouses, banks and public buildings; the depots are the best I ever saw for railroad accommodations. There are large numbers of elegant residences, showing evidence of a refined population; in a good many cases they are deserted. Our shells destroyed a great deal of property, but I am sorry now that a single one was thrown into the city, for I don't think they hastened the surrender by a day. They did not harm the rebel army, the only casualties being twenty harmless old men, women and children, and two soldiers. There are differences of opinion about this kind of warfare, but I don't like it. General Sherman is going to make this a strictly military point, and has ordered all citizens, North or South, to remove within a limited time; the present population is ten or twelve thousand, so you see it is no small undertaking.

This measure, although it seems almost inhuman, I believe to be an actual military necessity; it is simply one of the horrors of war. We shall send people North who have always lived in a state of luxurious independence, but who will arrive there without a dollar of our money; their only property being their household furniture, etc. The gentleman who owns this house, a Mr. Solomon, is a fine old man; he is seventy-two years old and in poor health. It is a most pitiable sight to see him walking about his house and grounds, bent over with age and suffering, and to think that he must leave his home where he has lived so long. Fortunately, he has a son-in-law in Nashville, who is well off and will take care of him; but, as he says, it is pretty hard for a man of his years, who has been independent all his life, to have to depend on charity now. He had a son, a classmate of General Howard's, who died in the United States service about five years ago.

This is only one of hundreds of cases, but thinking or feeling about them is useless. I shall do what I can to get them off comfortably. There is a sort of armistice here for ten days. Trains of the two armies will meet at a fixed point and transfer their passengers and goods.

Sherman says that we shall wait here till about the end of October, when the corn crop will be ripe, and then go down and gather it. He is the most original character and greatest genius there is in the country, in my opinion.

SOURCE: Charles Fessenden Morse, Letters Written During the Civil War, 1861-1865, p. 188-90

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Major Charles Fessenden Morse: May 20, 1864

Cassville, Ga., May 20, 1864.

I take this, my first opportunity since the fight of the 15th, to let you know that I am alive and well. I will tell you briefly what we have done since my last letter was written from near Ringgold.

May 7th, we marched about seven miles to Trickam P. O., taking up our position in line opposite Buzzard's Roost, which the enemy held in force. On the 8th and 9th we lay quietly in bivouac.

About seven A.M., on the 10th, we were moved off by a circuitous route to the southwest, passing through Snake Creek Gap in the afternoon, and camping at its outlet in the rear of McPhereon's force. During May 12th the whole army, with the exception of the Fourth Corps and Stoneman's cavalry, concentrated in our vicinity. On the 13th everything moved forward towards Resaca, going into position near the enemy, and endeavors were made to bring on a general engagement; nothing more than skirmishing resulted, however.

On the 14th, fighting began early and lasted throughout the day; late in the afternoon we moved to the extreme left, where Howard (who had come down from Dalton) had been heavily engaged and worsted. We double-quicked into line, and opened on the rebels as they were advancing with a yell to take a battery from which they had driven our men; our fire checked them, then drove them back, and we advanced with a cheer, regaining all the lost ground. By the time we had done this, it was eight o'clock and bright moonlight, so our line was halted and strengthened during the night by a strong line of works. Early next morning, our regiment was selected to make a reconnoisance in our front to discover the position of the enemy. This was a very delicate manoeuvre, but was capitally executed by Colonel Coggswell with the loss of only two men; the regiment behaved perfectly, not firing a shot, though under quite a disagreeable fire from skirmishers.

We developed the enemy's line and then returned, having done exactly what we were ordered to do. Soon after our return, our whole corps (now about twenty-two thousand strong), was massed for a tremendous attack on the enemy's right. At one P. M., we moved rapidly forward and became at once engaged; our regiment was in the front line, supported on the left by the Twenty-seventh Indiana and on the right by the Third Wisconsin. We advanced about a half mile and then were stopped by a line of breastworks. Our skirmishers crawled to within a hundred yards of them, and our line formed close in the rear. We were hardly settled in position when the enemy massed quite a body of troops in our immediate front and advanced to the attack, with the evident intention of turning our left, which had become somewhat exposed; our regiment and the Twenty-seventh Indiana marched forward and met them with a cheer half way, and poured a terrible fire into their ranks, following it up with the “Virginia” style of shooting. The enemy seemed perfectly astonished, and fired wild and high; in less than half an hour, we had fairly whipped, with our two regiments, a rebel brigade of five regiments, killing and capturing large numbers of them; our right and left did equally well. Night came on and the fighting ceased. The next morning, on advancing, we found no enemy. Since then, by a series of marches, we have reached this place. Yesterday, we came up with the enemy and had a very lively skirmish; they left during the night. To-day we have been resting. The news from Virginia is grand, but the details terrible. So far, our losses in the regiment have been about thirty killed and wounded, no officers hurt. This is written in haste and with very little idea when it can be mailed.

SOURCE: Charles Fessenden Morse, Letters Written During the Civil War, 1861-1865, p. 164-6

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Captain Charles Fessenden Morse: May 7, 1863

Stafford C. H., May 7, 1863.

I am going to give you, without any introduction, a history of this last campaign against Richmond by the army under the great Joe Hooker. I believe I have seen it and judged it fairly.

On Monday, April 27th, our corps broke camp early in the morning and marched to Hartwood Church, ten miles; there it went into camp for the night. The Eleventh and Fifth Corps also came up there and camped in our vicinity; next morning, we all moved and camped that night near Kelly's Ford. A pontoon bridge was thrown across and the Eleventh was over before daylight Wednesday; the other corps followed rapidly and the advance began towards the Rapidan. The Eleventh and Twelfth marched on the road to Germana Ford, the Fifth on the road to Ely's Ford; all three of the corps were under command of General Slocum. I was detailed, the morning of the advance, as Aide to General Slocum, and another officer was made Acting Provost Marshal. All the companies of the Second Massachusetts were sent to the Regiment. We skirmished all the way to Germana Ford; there we met quite a determined resistance; our cavalry was drawn in and the Second Massachusetts and the Third Wisconsin sent forward to clear the way; they drove everything before them and, by their heavy fire, forced the rebels at the Ford to surrender (about one hundred officers and men). We lost in this skirmish about a dozen killed and wounded.

General Slocum now determined to cross the Rapidan, though there was no bridge and the ford was almost impassable. He sent the First and Third Brigade, (First Division, Twelfth Corps), through the water although it was more than waist deep, also five batteries of artillery, which took position on the other side of the river. A bridge was then constructed, and before daylight Thursday morning, the remainder of the Twelfth and Eleventh Corps were across the river. By eight o'clock, A. M., we were moving again. The rebels kept attacking us on our flank with cavalry and artillery, and any less bold officer than General Slocum would have halted his column and delayed the march; but he kept along steadily, detaching a small force at intervals to repel the enemy. I had the pleasure of superintending, at one of these skirmishes, having in charge the Twenty-ninth Pennsylvania Regiment; we drove the rebels before us for nearly a mile, almost capturing their artillery, taking a large number of prisoners. At about noon, we arrived at Chancellorsville, and found the Fifth Corps already there. We had a small cavalry skirmish, in which Colonel McVicars was killed with about a dozen of his men, but besides that, nothing of importance occurred that day; the troops were formed in line of battle, but were not attacked. Up to this time you see everything had gone well and success seemed certain.

Towards night, General Hooker arrived with his staff, and we heard of the crossing at the U. S. Ford of the Second, Third and First Corps. All the headquarters were in the vicinity of the Chancellor House, a large, fine brick mansion. General Hooker took supper with General Slocum; he didn't seem to be able to express his gratification at the success of General Slocum in bringing the three corps up so rapidly. Then, in the most extravagant, vehement terms, he went on to say how he had got the rebels, how he was going to crush them, annihilate them, etc.

The next morning at ten, the Fifth and Twelfth Corps advanced in order of battle on two parallel roads; we soon met the enemy and skirmished for about two miles, when they appeared in considerable force and the battle began. We were in a splendid position and were driving the enemy when an order came to General Slocum to retire his command to its former position. No one could believe that the order was genuine, but almost immediately, another of General Hooker's staff brought the same order again. Now, perhaps, you don't know that to retire an army in the face of an enemy when you are engaged, is one of the most difficult operations in war; this we had to do. I carried the order to General Geary to retire his division in echelon by brigades, and stayed with him till the movement was nearly completed. It was a delicate job; each brigade would successively bear the brunt of the enemy's attack. Before the last brigades of the Fifth and Twelfth Corps were in position, the enemy made a furious attack on the Chancellor House; luckily, we had considerable artillery concentrated there and they were driven back. The next attack was on our corps, but the enemy were severely repulsed. This about ended the fighting on Friday; we lost, I suppose, about five hundred men.

During the night, the men were kept at work digging trenches and throwing up breastworks of logs. Our headquarters were at Fairview, an open piece of ground rising into quite a crest in the centre. Skirmishing began at daylight next morning and continued without much result to either side, till afternoon, when the enemy began to move, in large force, towards our right, opposite General Howard, Eleventh Corps. This corps was in a fine position in intrenchments, with almost open country in front of them, the right resting on Hunting creek. At about four P. M., the Third Corps, General Sickles, was moved out to the right of the Twelfth and advanced towards Fredericksburgh. The order then came to General Slocum that the enemy were in full retreat, and to advance his whole line to capture all he could of prisoners, wagons, etc. Our right, General Williams’ Division, advanced without much trouble, driving the enemy before it, but the Second Division had hardly got out of the trenches before it was attacked with great determination, yet it steadily retained its position. At about five P. M., a tremendous and unceasing musketry fire began in the direction of the Eleventh Corps. As it was necessary to know what was going on there in order to regulate the movements of the Twelfth Corps, General Slocum and the rest of us rode for our lives towards this new scene of action. What was our surprise when we found, that instead of a fight, it was a complete Bull Run rout. Men, horses, mules, rebel prisoners, wagons, guns, etc., etc., were coming down the road in terrible confusion, behind them an unceasing roar of musketry. We rode until we got into a mighty hot fire, and found that no one was attempting to make a stand, but every one running for his life. Then General Slocum dispatched me to General Hooker to explain the state of affairs, and three other staff officers to find General Williams and order him back to his trenches with all haste.

I found General Hooker sitting alone on his horse in front of the Chancellor House, and delivered my message; he merely said, “Very good, sir.” I rode back and found the Eleventh Corps still surging up the road and still this terrible roar behind them. Up to this time, the rebels had received no check, but now troops began to march out on the plank road and form across it, and Captain Best, Chief of Artillery of our corps, had on his own responsibility gathered together all the batteries he could get hold of, had put them in position (forty-six guns in all) on Fairview, and had begun firing at the rate of about one hundred guns a minute, into the rebels. This, in my opinion, saved our army from destruction. After delivering my message to General Hooker, I went back and tried to find General Slocum, but it was now after eight o'clock and I was unsuccessful in my search, so I took hold and tried to rally some of the cowardly Dutchmen. With the help of one cavalry orderly, I succeeded in forming a good many of them on the left of the new line, but an unusually heavy volley coming, they broke and ran like sheep. After this little episode, I again searched after the General. Towards ten, I found the rest of the staff, and soon after, we came across the General. At about eleven, the fighting stopped, but we were all hard at work getting the men of our corps into position. You see, while our First Division was advancing, the rebels had routed the Teutons and were now occupying our trenches. The Second and Third Brigades got into their former position, but the First made out only to cut through the rebels, losing a large part of its men and taking a position considerably in the rear of its former one. General Sickles fought his way through with the exception of one division and one battery, which were left out in front of our lines that night. The artillery men were hard at work all night, throwing up traverses to protect their guns, and about two in the morning we all lay down on the ground and slept until about four, when daylight began to appear. Our right was now formed by the Third, Fifth and First Corps, about five hundred yards in the rear of our first position. The rebels began the attack, as soon as there was light enough, from the left of our First Division to about the right of the Third Corps. General Birney's Division of the Third Corps was out in front of General Williams; his men behaved badly, and after a slight resistance, fell back into our lines, losing a battery.

The rebels now charged down our First Division, but were met with such a deadly fire that they were almost annihilated. Their second line was then sent in, but met the same fate, and their third and last line advanced. Our men now had fired more than forty rounds of cartridges and were getting exhausted. General Slocum sent almost every one of his staff officers to General Hooker, stating his position and begging for support; Hooker's answer was, “I can't make men or ammunition for General Slocum.” Meantime, Sickles' Corps was holding its own on the right of ours, but it was rapidly getting into the same condition as the Twelfth. The rebels were driven back every time they advanced, and we were taking large numbers of prisoners and colors. All this time while our infantry was fighting so gallantly in front, our battery of forty-six guns was firing incessantly. The rebels had used no artillery till they captured the battery from Birney, when they turned that on us, making terrible destruction in General Geary's line. General Meade, Fifth Corps, now went to Hooker and entreated that he might be allowed to throw his corps on the rebel flank, but General Hooker said, “No, he was wanted in his own position.” On his own responsibility, General Meade sent out one brigade, which passed out in rear of the enemy's right, recaptured a battery, three hundred of our men who were prisoners, and four hundred of the rebels, and took them safely back to their corps.

It was now after seven o'clock. Our men had fired their sixty rounds of cartridges and were still holding their position; everything that brave men could do, these men had done, but now nothing was left but to order them to fall back and give up their position to the enemy. This was done in good order and they marched off under a heavy fire to the rear of our batteries. The rebels, seeing us retreating, rushed forward their artillery and began a fearful fire. I found I could be useful to Captain Best, commanding our artillery, so I stayed with him. I never before saw anything so fine as the attack on that battery; the air was full of missiles, solid shot, shells, and musket balls. I saw one solid shot kill three horses and a man, another took a leg off one of the captains of the batteries. Lieutenant Crosby of the Fourth Artillery was shot through the heart with a musket ball; he was a particular friend of Bob Shaw and myself; he lived just long enough to say to Captain Best, “Tell father I die happy.”

The rebels came up to the attack in solid masses and got within three hundred yards, but they were slaughtered by the hundreds by the case-shot and canister, and were driven back to the woods. Still not an infantry man was sent to the support of the guns. More than half the horses were killed or wounded; one caisson had blown up, another had been knocked to pieces; in ten minutes more, the guns would have been isolated. They, too, therefore, were ordered to retire, which they did without losing a gun. You see, now, our centre was broken, everything was being retired to our second line, the rebel artillery was in position, their line of battle steadily advancing across our old ground. This fire of the batteries was concentrated on the Chancellor House, Hooker's original headquarters, and it was torn almost to pieces by solid shot and was finally set on fire by a shell.

The army was now put in position in the second line; the centre was on a rising piece of ground and protected by a battery of forty or fifty guns. The Fifth Corps was on the right and was the last to fall back out of the woods and it was closely followed by the rebel masses, but these were met by such a tremendous artillery fire that they were actually rolled back into the woods. Our corps was ordered to support first the Third, afterwards the Second and Eleventh. Towards night the enemy made another desperate assault on our centre, but they were again repulsed. Our corps was now ordered to the extreme left to form behind the Eleventh. I believe that General Slocum remonstrated with General Hooker so firmly that he finally got permission to put the Twelfth Corps on the extreme left and to have only one division of the Eleventh in the trenches on his right.

You can easily see that, if the enemy once forced our right or left, our communications would at once be cut and all possibility of retreat prevented. Late that night, we lay down close beside the Rappahannock. By three o'clock next morning, we were awakened by a heavy artillery fire and shells bursting over us. Our guns replied and kept at it for about an hour, when the enemy's batteries were silenced. We now mounted our horses and rode along the lines to look at our position; we found that it was a very strong one and capable of being made very much more so.
We found that the sharpshooters were getting altogether too attentive to our party, so we moved back to our line and had hardly turned away, when a sergeant was shot dead almost on the spot where the general had been standing. All that day, our men were hard at work throwing up breastworks, cutting abattis, etc. No attack was made on us, but throughout that day and night, we heard Sedgwick fighting in the direction of Fredericksburgh.

Tuesday morning, I knew by appearances that a retreat was to be effected, as a large part of the artillery, all the ambulances, etc., were removed across the river, although the men were kept at work making line after line of trenches and breastworks. Just before dark, the order of retreat came, the Fifth and Twelfth Corps being the last to cross. About four o'clock that afternoon it began to rain in torrents. There were originally three pontoon bridges, but before most of the crossing had been effected, the river became so swollen that one of the bridges had to be taken up to piece out the other two; this caused a great delay. At about twelve, I was sent down to the ford to examine into the condition of things; it was a terrible night, the wind blowing a gale and the rain pouring, the road for a mile full of artillery. I found, at the bridge, that not a thing was moving, and learned from General Patrick that the order for retreat had been suspended and everything was to move back to its former position. This order came, remember, when half of the artillery was on the north side of the Rappahannock, the soldiers without a ration and the supply trains ten miles the other side of the river. I ran my horse back to headquarters and made my report; the telegraph was down between U. S. Ford and Falmouth, where General Hooker was. General Slocum wrote a dispatch, saying, that unless the movement was continued, our army would have to be surrendered within twenty-four hours; this was sent by an orderly who was ordered to kill his horse carrying it. Then to prepare for the worst, General Slocum sent one of his aides and myself back to the Ford to get our artillery ready to move back into position, that our corps might, at least, be ready to make a desperate fight in the morning; but at about two-thirty A. M., the messenger returned from General Hooker with orders for the movement to continue.

At about five, one of our divisions began to cross. The two or three succeeding hours were the most anxious I ever passed in my life. A large part of our army was massed on the south side of the river, only two bridges for the whole of it to cross, the river full to the edge of its banks; a very little extra strain would have carried away the upper bridge, and this would have swept away the lower one and all retreat would have been cut off. The rebel artillery began to fire on our troops and bridges, but was silenced by our guns; we had sixty in position on the north side.
It soon became evident that the enemy were not in force in our vicinity, but for all that, it was one of the happiest moments of my life when I saw the last of our corps over the bridge. We all started then for Stafford C. H., where our corps was ordered to its old camp. We arrived at our old headquarters at about two P. M., and found, to our joy, that our wagons had arrived and tents were being pitched. It was not until after we were in comfortable quarters that the terrible fatigue of the last ten days began to tell on us. Since we had left Stafford, we had been without wagons or blankets, with nothing to eat except pork and hard bread, and half the time not even that, and we had averaged each day at least twelve or sixteen hours in the saddle. The moment we touched a seat, we sunk into the most profound sleep and stayed in this condition for several hours. It may seem strange to you that I speak of being happy to get back into our old quarters, but you must remember that we had been through danger and hardship for ten days and had met with constant disappointment and were now safe back again where we were going to have sleep, rest, and food.

Now, let us see what this campaign shows. It seems to me that the plan was a very good one, with the exception of separating Sedgwick with thirty thousand men from the army, and that it was carried out with great success till General Hooker arrived at Chancellorsville. The next thing shown is that the commander of our army gained his position by merely brag and blow, and that when the time came to show himself, he was found without the qualities necessary for a general. If another battle had been fought on Monday, it would have been by the combined corps commanders, and the battle would have been won.

I doubt if, ever in the history of this war, another chance will be given us to fight the enemy with such odds in our favor as we had last Sunday, and that chance has been worse than lost to us. I don't believe any men ever fought better than our Twelfth Corps, especially the First Division; for two hours, they held their ground without any support, against the repeated assaults of the enemy; they fired their sixty rounds of cartridges and held their line with empty muskets till ordered to fall back. The old Second, of course, did splendidly, and lost heavily, twenty-two killed, one hundred and four wounded, ten missing; my company had five killed and eleven wounded. Lieutenant Fitzgerald was killed, Coggswell, Grafton, Perkins, and Powers, wounded. George Thompson had a narrow escape; a grape shot tore one leg of his trousers and his coat almost off and grazed his leg. Our colors got thirty new holes in them and the staff (the third one), was smashed to pieces.*

You cannot imagine the amount of admiration I have for General Slocum, for the gallant way in which he conducted himself throughout the campaign, and his skillful management of his command; then besides all that, we have been so together, that he has seemed almost like my old friends in the regiment.

I have written in this letter a pretty full account of the operations as I have seen them, and I don't believe any one has had a better chance, for during the fighting, I was at different times at every part of our lines, and in communication with General Hooker and other generals.

Our staff casualties were as follows: — Lieutenant Tracy, badly wounded in right arm, his horse shot in four places; one of our orderlies shot and two more horses. I feel thankful to have come out unharmed from so much danger. Tracy was carrying an order to General Williams, when he was hit: somehow, he got outside our lines and was ordered to surrender; he said he thought he wouldn't, turned his horse and ran for it, while the rebels put two volleys after him.

I telegraphed, last Monday, that I was all right; I hope you received the message.

* Actual loss: 31 killed and mortally wounded, 91 wounded, 7 prisoners. Total loss, 129.

SOURCE: Charles Fessenden Morse, Letters Written During the Civil War, 1861-1865, p. 127-39

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Diary of 5th Sergeant Alexander G. Downing: Wednesday, May 24, 1865

This is a very pleasant day, for which we are all thankful. We left for Washington City at 8 o'clock, and crossing the Potomac river over Long Bridge, marched up to the south side of the capitol. Our column was formed on the east side of the capitol, and at 9 o'clock commenced to move forward past the reviewing stand. The Army of the Tennessee was in the advance, with the Army of Georgia following. General Sherman was riding at the head of his army and he passed down the avenue amidst loud cheering.

The following officers were in command of the different departments: Maj. Gen. O. O. Howard was in command of the Army of the Tennessee, Maj. Gen. John A. Logan commanding the Fifteenth Corps, and Maj. Gen. Frank P. Blair commanding the Seventeenth Corps; the Army of Georgia was in command of Maj. Gen. Slocum, with Maj. Gen. J. C. Davis commanding the Fourteenth Corps, and Maj. Gen. Mower commanding the Twentieth Corps.

The reviewing stand was built on the south side of the avenue, and the army was reviewed by the president of the United States and Lieutenant-General Grant, together with members of the president's cabinet. There were about one hundred thousand spectators along the avenue, and there was great cheering while the army was passing. At times there was hearty laughter, when some of Sherman's “bummers” would fall in behind their regiments, displaying some of the articles, as trophies, which they had taken when marching through Georgia and the Carolinas.

We marched out across Rock creek about four miles northwest of the city and went into camp. Our knapsacks were brought around by the supply train.

Source: Alexander G. Downing, Edited by Olynthus B., Clark, Downing’s Civil War Diary, p. 276

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Diary of 5th Sergeant Alexander G. Downing: Sunday, April 29, 1865

Reveille sounded shortly after midnight and we had our knapsacks packed long before daylight. Some of the boys were so happy and excited that they did not sleep much during the night. At 7 o'clock we took up the march, stepping to music as we left our camp. We crossed the Neuse river about noon and after marching twelve miles for the day, went into bivouac. By order of General Howard we are to lay over here until Monday, when we will continue our journey. The Fifteenth Corps is taking a road to our right. General Sherman's headquarters wagons are going through with the Seventeenth Corps. The Thirty-second Illinois Regiment was taken from the Iowa Brigade and was brigaded with the First Brigade of the Second Division of the Seventeenth Corps. Our brigade is the First Brigade of the Fourth Division of the Seventeenth Corps..

Source: Alexander G. Downing, Edited by Olynthus B., Clark, Downing’s Civil War Diary, p. 271