Here’s a look at events in the Civil War 150 years ago this week.
After Okolona, CS General Nathan Bedford Forrest takes a break. He will spend the next two weeks organizing his troops into four brigades and, with one exception next week, things will be relatively quiet for about a fortnight. (8) There is plenty of activity elsewhere, though.
Of note, General Robert E. Lee’s son Custis and nephew Fitzhugh will come to Richmond’s defense, in the process uncovering a possible plot to assassinate the Confederate president and his cabinet!
Cue movie music again…and yet it really happened.
Other: CS General Braxton Bragg becomes CS President Davis’s chief of staff. (5)
Battles: Georgia operations: The First Battle of Dalton. Fighting continues at Buzzard Roost, Rocky Face Ridge and elsewhere. The strong Confederate position at Buzzard Roost stops the Union advance on Dalton. (6 and multiple online unit histories)
Military events: US President commutes the death sentence for all deserters, ordering them instead to be imprisoned for the duration of the war in Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas. (4) Ironically, after Lincoln’s assassination, Dr. Samuel Mudd and three other conspirators will also be sent there.
Mississippi operations: US General Sherman is moving toward Canton, Mississippi. In his memoirs he says,
On the 26th we all reached Canton, but we had not heard a word of General Smith, nor was it until some time after (at Vicksburg) that I learned the whole truth of General Smith’s movement and of his failure. Of course I did not and could not approve of his conduct, and I know that he yet chafes under the censure. I had set so much store on his part of the project that I was disappointed, and so reported officially to General Grant. General Smith never regained my confidence as a soldier, though I still regard him as a most accomplished gentleman and a skillful engineer. Since the close of the war he has appealed to me to relieve him of that censure, but I could not do it, because it would falsify history.
Battles: Georgia operations: The First Battle of Dalton. US General Thomas withdraws, realizing that CS General Joseph Johnston “is ready and able to counter any assault.” (12, including quote)
Military events: Mississippi operations: General Sherman leaves his men at Canton, Mississippi, under General Hurlbut and heads for Vicksburg with a cavalry escort. (16)
Other: Federal prisoners begin arriving at Camp Sumter in Andersonville, Georgia. (5)
Battles: Virginia operations: The Kilpatrick-Dahlgren US cavalry raid on Richmond begins. (19)
Battles: Virginia operations/Kilpatrick-Dahlgren raid: Sending Colonel Ulric Dahlgren and 500 men to approach Richmond from the west, General Kilpatrick and thousands of cavalrymen reach Beaver Dam station and destroy it. They fail to stop an approaching train from reaching Richmond, where the alarm is given. Confederate Home Guard units take positions around the capital and CS cavalry set out from Richmond late in the evening. Sleet, snow, rain and flooding slow everybody down. (19)
Military events: Mississippi operations. General Sherman arrives in Vicksburg, intending to join General Banks in the upcoming Red River campaign but learns that “General Grant insisted on my returning in person to my own command about Huntsville, Alabama, as soon as possible, to prepare for the spring campaign.” (16)
North Carolina operations: “The USS Monticello crept quietly up to the vicinity of Smithville, N.C. and dropped a landing party led by Lt. William Cushing, USN. His mission: capture Gen. Louis Hebert, CSA. Cushing managed to sneak all the way into the general’s quarters, only to find he had left for Wilmington. Cushing reported to his boss, Admiral Lee: ‘..my deep regret that the general was not in when I called.'” (7, including quote)
Other: US President Lincoln signs into law the bill reviving the rank of lieutenant-general (previously only held by George Washington [meaningful rank] and Winfield Scott [honorary only]) and nominates General Grant for the job. (6) (Grant has told Lincoln he will accept the commission if he has a free hand in executing his plans without interference from General Halleck and Secretary Stanton – Lincoln has agreed. )
Battles: Virginia operations/Kilpatrick-Dahlgren raid: Two miles west of Richmond, General Custis Lee turns back Colonel Dahlgren and his raiders. (5) General Kilpatrick may have reached Richmond today, but see note for March 2nd.
Military events: Mississippi operations: Around this date, CS General Abraham Buford is ordered to report to General Forrest’s headquarters in Columbus, Mississippi, with his men, who used to be in three separate Kentucky regiments under General Bragg. They had applied for service as mounted infantry, but Richmond has no horses to give them, so they will make their way to Columbus by foot. (8)
Battles: Virginia operations/Kilpatrick-Dahlgren raid: Kilpatrick reaches the inner lines of Richmond (some sources say this happened on the 1st), but Dahlgren is nowhere to be found. Kilpatrick withdraws. Later in the evening, Kilpatrick considers another attack on Richmond but changes his mind upon the arrival of pursuing Confederate troops under CS General Wade Hampton and instead begins a withdrawal to Union lines at Yorktown, reaching safety on March 4th.
Dahlgren, too, heads for Union lines, but on this day meets cavalry under Fitzhugh Lee at Walkerton, where he is killed and most of his men captured. Papers on Dahlgren’s body, apparently ordering the burning of Richmond and assassination of President Davis and his cabinet, ignite fury in Richmond at the time and continue to spark controversy and conspiracy theorizing today. (The papers themselves eventually made it back into Union hands at the end of the war and were given to Secretary of War Stanton on December 1, 1865 – and no one really knows what happened to them after that.) (19)
Other: The US Congress confirms Ulysses Grant as lieutenant-general. (6)
(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).
(16) Memoirs of W. T. Sherman – The Meridian Campaign.
(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)
(19) Kilpatrick-Dahlgren Raid, Ohio State University.
Categories: American Civil War