Here’s a look at events in the Civil War 150 years ago this week.
As noted last week, General Banks’ Red River campaign is unfolding (and falling apart) throughout this time. Apart from the few major battles, I can’t really devote the space to everything that was happening and going wrong there – please refer to the sources below for that. It’s also covered extensively in The Longest Day, if you happen to have that reference book.
Battles: Forrest’s Second West Tennessee Raid: Union City, Tennessee. The 500-man force that CS General Nathan Bedford Forrest sent under Colonel William Duckworth to take Union City, Tennessee, invests the city. After light skirmishing, the 500 Union soldiers withdraw into a strong fortifications. Duckworth doesn’t have artillery, but perhaps he knows that the US commander, Colonel Hawkins, once was Forrest’s prisoner, so he tries a bluff, demanding the surrender of the position in Forrest’s name. Hawkins is shaken but asks for a meeting. Since Forrest is somewhere else – moving on Paducah, Kentucky, with a division – Duckworth keeps things going by peremptorily saying that Forrest is not in the habit of meeting enemy officers of inferior rank so he will instead send Colonel Duckworth with the power to arrange terms, etc. It works – the Union men surrender at 11 a.m. Meanwhile, a 2000-man US force reaches the area that afternoon but turns back after hearing of the disaster, taking with them a small garrison at Hickman because of the threat posed by Forrest’s men. (3, 24)
Military events: General Grant establishes his field headquarters with the Army of the Potomac at Culpeper Court House, Virginia. Over the next few weeks, the “leaner, meaner” army will get in shape for a hard campaign season, while Grant plans his coordinated spring operations. (6, 23)
“Lt. Commander Flusser, US Navy, was not a happy man today. Intelligence reports were coming in from North Carolina indicating that the long-anticipated completion date had arrived early for the ramship CSS Albermarle. This formidable vessel featured a double layer of iron plating, instead of one as was usual in ironclads. The ‘torpedoes’ (more like floating mines) were being pulled out of the river below Hamilton, N.C., to allow her to go to sea.” (7, including quote)
Other: “Confers with John Hay; reviews report on political situation in Florida.” (4, including quote) Hmmm, maybe there’s something reports about Hay following in the wake of US troops, issuing loyalty oaths to get a Republican state government in time to send delegates to the 1864 national convention (see February 7).
Battles: Forrest’s Second West Tennessee Raid: Paducah, Kentucky. General Forrest, his escort and a division reach Paducah, Kentucky, in the afternoon, surprising the Union 665 mixed white and black troops, including units of the US 16th Kentucky Cavalry, 122nd Illinois Infantry and the 1st Kentucky Negro Artillery, under Colonel Stephen Hicks of the 40th Illinois who Wyeth (source 8) calls a brave and resolute officer.
Hicks and his men withdraw into Fort Anderson – a large enclosed earthwork on the west side of town that’s designed for just such an emergency. (General Sherman had inspected it in January, per source 16, and specifically mentioned Colonel Hick, “who had been with me and was severely wounded at Shiloh.) Two Federal gunboats under Lieutenant Commander James Shirk are at the ready on the nearby Ohio River.
After an hour-long gunfight, Forrest sends the following note to Colonel Hicks:
Having a force amply sufficient to carry your works and reduce the place, and in order to avoid the unnecessary effusion of blood, I demand the surrender of the fort and troops, with all public property. If you surrender, you shall be treated as a prisoner of war; but if I have to storm your works, you may expect no quarter.
Major-General, Commanding Confederate Troops.
Per Wyeth, “Forrest had no intention of making a needless sacrifice of his troops in an assault. His object was to hold the Federals there until he could remove all the supplies and horses which could be obtained in Paducah.”
However, Hicks replies…
I have this moment received yours of this instant, in which you demand the unconditional surrender of the forces under my command. I can answer that I have been placed here by the Government to defend this post, and in this, as well as all other orders from my superiors, I feel it to be my duty as an honorable officer to obey. I must, therefore, respectfully decline surrendering as you may require.
Colonel, Commanding Post
…and it’s on. A free-for-all then commences, with the Confederates advancing three times and being repulsed, losing a brigade officer in the process (he was decapitated during an authorized charge, probably by a gunboat shell). Much civilian property is destroyed, as the Confederates hole up in buildings near the fort. (3, 8, 24; notes are from Wikipedia)
Naval operations: The CSS Alabama leaves Cape Town, South Africa, and heads westward. “Just outside the harbor, she passed Yankee steamer Guag Taug enroute to China. Since the ship was inside local waters, Semmes decided to permit her to pass in order to avoid trouble with the British.” (9, including quote)
Battles/Military events: Forrest’s Second West Tennessee Raid: Fort Anderson, continued. Forrest attacks again and is repulsed. He then offers a truce to exchange prisoners, but Hicks declines. The Confederates withdraw southward from Paducah, taking with them some 50 prisoners and about 400 horses and mules, as well as lots of supplies for men and horses. Northern newspapers, in covering the affair, unwisely mention that Forrest missed 140 horses in Paducah. Meanwhile, Forrest returns to Trenton. A portion of Forrest’s division is sent to Mayfield, Kentucky, where the men are allowed to disband, visit their homes, and get some clothing and supplies, returning to service at Trenton on April 3 (no one deserts). Meanwhile, more of Forrest’s Mississippi force, under General Chalmers, is moving up into Tennessee over this period (3, 8, 24).
Military events: General James McPherson assumes command of the Army of the Tennessee. (6)
Battles: Battles: Skirmish at Columbus, Kentucky, part of Forrest’s Second West Tennessee Raid. (13)
Military events: President Lincoln has a War Department conference with Generals Grant and Halleck and Secretary of War Stanton. (4)
Battles: Forrest’s Second West Tennessee Raid: Skirmish near Bolivar and Somerville, Tennessee. (8) Per the History Net, “[CS] Colonel James J. Neely struck [US Colonel Fielding] Hurst‘s trail between Somerville and Bolivar, Tenn., on March 29 and, in Chalmers’ retelling, ‘met the traitor Hurst at Bolivar, after a short conflict, in which we killed and captured 75 prisoners of the enemy, drove Hurst hatless into Memphis’ and captured ‘all his wagons, ambulances [and] papers,’ as well as ‘his mistresses, both black and white.’ As events at Fort Pillow would soon prove, Hurst had gotten off lightly with the mere loss of his hat and girlfriends.”
Military events: Red River Campaign: “Admiral David D. Porter had the assignment of getting the naval forces in location for an advance on Shreveport, La. The difficulty was that there was a set of rapids at Alexandria, La., that were difficult to get over in the best of times. These were not such times, as the water level was low due to a prolonged drought. Porter got the Army transports past, but not the Navy gunboats. A hospital ship was so torn up that it sank.” (7, including quote)
Military events: “The battles get the attention, but the battles happened when and where they did largely because of the efforts of scouting expeditions. These missions typically lasted several days but could stretch into weeks. Several began today: a Federal reconnaissance left from Lookout Valley, Tenn., proceeding to McLemore’s Cove, GA; other missions worked around Woodville and Athens, Ala.; Columbus, Clinton and Moscow, Ky.” (7, including quotes)
(2) Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson (2003 – see side bar for link).
(3) The Campaigns of Lieut.-Gen. N.B. Forrest, and of Forrest’s Cavalry by Thomas Jordan, J. P. Pryor (1868).
(4) The Lincoln Log timeline.
(6) Grant Chronology, Mississippi State University.
(8) Life of Lieutenant-General Nathan Bedford Forrest, by John A. Wyeth (1908/2011).
(9) Captain Raphael Semmes and the CSS Alabama, US Naval Historical Center.
(11) The Siege of Charleston, “The State.” (South Carolina)
(13) The Longest Night: A Military History of the Civil War.” (2002) David J. Eicher.
(15) The Pictorial Book of Anecdotes and Incidents of the War of the Rebellion…, Richard Miller Devens (1866).
(17) The Louisiana Native Guards: The Black Military Experience During the Civil War. James G. Hollandsworth, Jr., 1995.
(18) A. Lincoln, A Biography, Ronald C. White, Jr. (2009)
(21) Red River Campaign, Civil War Trust.
(22) Confederate Strategy, Fort Tyler Association.
(23) The Sword of Lincoln, the Army of the Potomac. Jeffrey Wert (2005)
(24) An Unerring Fire: The Massacre at Fort Pillow. Richard Fuchs (2002)
(25) Black Artillerymen from the Civil War through World War I (PDF), Roger D. Cunningham.
Categories: American Civil War