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Michael W. O’Brien
Understanding the Civil War
Michael W. O’Brien Table of Contents
Introduction .................................................... 2 The Road to War ............................................ 2 How They Fought ........................................ 10 The War in the East ..................................... 13 The War in the West .................................... 32 The Political War in the North ................... 45 The Political War in the South ................... 49 The Generals - Union .................................. 51 The Generals - Confederate ........................ 57 Conclusion .................................................... 64
Editors Note - Understanding the Civil War is rather unorthodox in its approach to the Civil War. First of all, it presents the military action without including the names of the officers in charge; the officers are presented at the end of the book. The author firmly believes that it is easier to understand what happened before learning who made it happen. Secondly, most books on the Civil War cover the events in chronological order. This book separates the political war from the military war and further separates the military war in the East from the military war in the West. While this approach might seem unusual to the academic, the result is a Civil War primer that is surprisingly easy to understand.
The Civil War has captured the imagination of the American people like no other event in American history. 65,000 books have been written on the subject. The biggest reason for this fascination is the size of the catastrophe. 620,000 soldiers died in the Civil War. What could push a nation into such a bloody calamity? Some historians argue that by 1860 the northern and southern sections of the United States had become very different societies. Others argue that, when factors like common language and common history are considered, the similarities outweigh the differences. Whoever is right, one fact remains. Northerners and Southerners thought they were different, and they were willing to fight about that difference whether it was real or imagined. Southerners thought they were fighting the American Revolution all over again. As they saw it, the North had no right to tyrannize the South just as Britain had no right to tyrannize the American Colonists. Just as the North was playing the part of Britain, Abraham Lincoln was playing the part of the tyrant King George III. Southerners were fighting for the right to self government, as were the American Colonists. The difference was the type of government for which they were fighting. The Confederate States of America not only excluded 4 million black Americans from the citizenship, they held them in slavery. During the war, the Northern states decided that destroying this type Abraham Lincoln of government was worth the fight.
The Road to War
Slavery has been associated with civilization since the beginning of recorded human history. Household slavery was the most common form. In household slavery, wealthy individuals in many societies brought slaves into their homes to help with the domestic chores. These slaves added little to the overall wealth of the society and were often sought after as status symbols for the well off. Household slaves often had extensive rights. Household slaves never represented more that 20% of any society. In 1050, 10% of the population of England were household slaves. The other form of slavery, productive slavery, was rather rare and much more severe. In productive slavery, ways were found to put slaves to work producing products that made the society wealthy. Societies organized in such a manner were made up of at least 20-30% slaves, and they spent much of the societies’ energy getting and keeping slaves. The first major slave society was Greece. In 400 BC,
33% of Athens were slaves. Many historians believe that it was the work of slaves that gave the Greeks time to create the high culture that was the beginning of western civilization. Rome was the next major slave society (200 BC to 400 AD). Roman conquest sent soldiers who would otherwise be home farming to distant lands. Roman armies captured enemy soldiers and sent them home to do the farm work. The product that the Roman slaves produced was the food that fed the empire. Rome was about 30% slave. Slave societies were also present in the Middle East. The Baghdad caliphate, from 600-900 AD, was about 50% slave. Slaves captured in battle and imported from Africa grew sugar cane and made this society wealthy. One of the best known slave societies was the Caribbean sugar colonies. European colonial powers began to import African slaves to their Caribbean colonies in the 1500’s to work their hugely profitable sugar cane plantations. Plantation owners usually stayed in England, preferring to employ overseers to manage large numbers of black slaves. In 1730, Jamaica was 90% slave. Similar societies appeared in Central and South America. Brazilian coffee plantations created a society that was 50% slave. Perhaps the best known of the slave societies was the southern United States from 1619-1865. Most of the work in the early American colonies was done by indentured servants. These white immigrants, mostly from England, agreed to work for a specified period of time to pay for their trip to the New World. However, as early as 1619, English settlers in Jamestown, Virginia were purchasing African slaves from Dutch traders. Early settlers to the South used slaves as well as indentured servants to grow tobacco, sugar cane, and cotton, taking advantage of the fertile soil and warm climate. Towards the end of the 1600’s the colonists were prospering, and the price of slaves was low. Consequently, the slave population grew and the plantation system began to take shape. By 1725 there were 75,000 slaves in the South, and the population of South Carolina was 65% slave. By 1775, one in six Americans was a black slave. When the colonies were securing their independence from England and organizing a new nation, slavery was a major stumbling block. The cooler climate and less fertile soil in the North made large scale farming impractical. That part of the county naturally graduated toward manufacturing and trade. In the South, however, slavery had become such an integral part of Southern life that it was difficult, if not impossible, to get rid of. The founding fathers were embarrassed by slavery, but they did not know what to do about it. They outlawed slavery in the country’s northwest frontiers but allowed it to expand in the southwest frontiers. After much torturous debate, slavery was actually written into the Constitution of the United States in three important ways. First, permission was given to slaveholders to cross state boundar3
ies to retrieve their escaped slave property. Second, southern states, who gave their slaves virtually no rights whatsoever, could count those slaves as three fifths of a person to increase that state’s political power in the new federal congress. Finally, the Constitution called for the importation of new slaves to end by 1808. North and South were growing into very different societies but, in 1776, the advantages of common currency, national defense, and common markets overcame sectional differences. Even then slavery cast a long shadow, and the nation that took pride in being a beacon of liberty was rapidly becoming the largest slave holding country in the world. Many people understood the contradiction, but it seemed that nothing could be done about it. Thomas Jefferson said that slavery was like holding a “wolf by the ears,” explaining that it was a bad idea to hold on and a bad idea to let go. There was a huge amount of racism in the United States in the 1800’s, but slavery was primarily an economic problem. Slavery was actually diminishing in the South when two things happened. First, there was a textile revolution in Europe which greatly increased the demand for cotton. Second, in 1794 Eli Whitney invented a machine that could remove seeds from raw cotton. This machine allowed slaves to process cotton 1,000 times faster than before. All of a sudden, Southerners could get rich growing cotton. They began investing in more slaves and more land to grow more cotton. Ambitious men soon understood that the fastest way to get rich in the South was to become a slave-owning, cotton planter. While, in 1860, only 25% of Southerners owned slaves, they had a disproportionate share of the money and power. While the economy in the North was based on manufacturing and small scale farming, the economy of the South was based on slaves working on large plantation farms. World opinion was turning against slavery, but the South would not give it up easily. The entire social and economic system of the South depended on slavery. Southerners were faced with a dramatic dilemma. They could accept the blatantly unjust system from their forefathers or be financially ruined. Some radicals in the South accepted the unjust system of slavery wholeheartedly. These “fire eaters,” as they were called, attacked the system of free labor in the North, calling it “wage slavery.” They claimed that their black slaves were better treated than poor people in the North working long hours for low pay. They even proposed expanding their slave empire into the Caribbean. Serious consideration was given to annexing Cuba, with its 400,000 slaves, and bringing it into the Union as a slave state. The North and South had become different civilizations even though they had language, race and religion in common. The North was a progressive society moving rapidly towards the industrial age. The South resisted
change, preferring to maintain and defend its slave-based, plantation system. These two economic systems, free labor capitalism and slave labor agriculture, are practically opposites. It was proving very difficult, if not impossible to operate a country where both systems existed. Southerners saw Northern industrialists as cold hearted people who cared only about making money. Northerners saw Southern planters as throwbacks to English lords, cruel and exploitive. They also believed that the South was holding the country back. In the early 1800’s moral opposition to slavery began to grow in the North. Small, but well organized groups were formed with the express purpose of abolishing slavery in the South. One of the most influential of these Northern abolitionists was William Lloyd Garrison. In 1831 he began publishing his anti-slavery newspaper, The Liberator. Garrison hired a brilliant and articulate former slave named Frederick Douglass to help him in his fight against slavery. Douglass had a powerful influence on the Abolition movement and went on to be an adviser to Abraham Lincoln. Although many in the North came to oppose slavery, few could Frederick Douglass imagine how the country would work with 4 million freed slaves. Some feared their jobs would be threatened. Suggestions were made to send freed slaves back to Africa. The United States founded Liberia on the western coast of Africa in 1822 for this express purpose. Liberia became an independent nation in 1847. While the Civil War was blamed on issues such as states’ rights, failure of the political party system, sectional differences, economic considerations, and bungling politicians, all of these causes are rooted in slavery. Almost all historians agree that without slavery there would have been no Civil War. In the early 1800’s a British inspired anti-slavery movement led to emancipation in many New World countries. Chile freed its slaves in 1823, Mexico in 1829, Trinidad and British Guiana in 1833, Peru 1854, Puerto Rico in 1873, Cuba 1880, and Brazil in 1888. Emancipation in these countries was accomplished, for the most part, without bloodshed. Emancipation in the United States would come in 1865, and it would be a calamity of monumental proportions. A great power struggle began early in the 1800’s between the slave holding states and the free states. The South had fewer people, so they concentrated on control of the Senate where representation by states is equal. In 1819 there were 11 free and 11 slave states resulting in parity in the Senate. As states were added from the western frontier, this parity would be challenged. In 1820 Missouri came in as a slave state and Maine as a
free state. Since Missouri extended well north of what had been considered the traditional south, the debate was bitter. The aging Thomas Jefferson said that the arguments over slavery in Missouri sounded like “a fire bell in the night” to the country. This led to the Compromise of 1820 which established the southern border of Missouri (36’ 30’’) as the division between slave and free. This compromise would hold for 30 years. States were admitted to the Union two at a time, one free and one slave, to keep the balance of power in the Senate in tact. Southerners lived in fear of slave uprisings. In 1801, slaves in the French colony of Saint-Dominique attacked and killed their white overseers and renamed the country Haiti. Although there were minor slave uprisings in the South in 1800, 1822, and 1832, the phenomenon was surprisingly rare. Racial appearances always played a role in American slavery. Whites could escape slavery and blend in with the local white population. American Indian slaves could escape west to Native American tribes where they would blend in. Black slaves had nowhere to go in the sense that, if they made it to the North, they were easily recognizable as either freed or escaped slaves. There was no free black society where they could blend in. Southern politicians began to understand that if they did not establish certain Southern states’ rights, the North, with its larger population would simply vote slavery out of existence. In 1833, South Carolina tried to declare a recently passed federal tariff null and void in the state. John C. Calhoun, the powerful senator from South Carolina was the architect of this defiance. In an eerie anticipation of future events, President Andrew Jackson sent warships into Charleston harbor and troops to the state border. A compromise was reached and bloodshed was avoided. In 1846 the United States responded to a border dispute between Mexico and the territory of Texas, resulting in the Mexican War. In what many considered a land grab for new slave states, General Winfield Scott led an army south and captured Mexico City. Almost every significant general who fought in the Civil War on both sides gained valuable combat experience fighting in Mexico. The Mexican War increased the size of the United States by 25%, bringing in the land that would become California, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, and Wyoming. This westward expansion and the possibility of new states would force the North and South to deal with their differences on the issue of slavery. Bitter arguments over slavery in the new territory produced the Compromise of 1850. This
piece of federal legislation brought California in as a free state and, to appease the South, significantly strengthened the fugitive slave laws. Emboldened by these new laws, slave catchers staged audacious raids into the North. Daring slave escapes and captures became big news. In 1851 Harriet Beecher Stowe published her novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The book dramatized slaveholders’ disregard for the sanctity of family life. In the novel, slave children are separated from parents and slave masters lust after young female slaves. It is difficult to overestimate the effect Uncle Tom’s Cabin had on the country. The Abolitionists seized it, preaching its themes relentlessly. When Lincoln was later introduced to Mrs. Stowe he commented “so you are the little woman that wrote the book that started this great war.” The Compromise of 1850 also introduced the idea of popular sovereignty. Popular sovereignty was an attempt to transFrom Uncle Tom’s Cabin fer the responsibility for slavery from the federal government to the people in the territories. Territorial residents would decide whether or not they wanted slavery. Popular sovereignty turned out to be an underhanded way of reversing the Compromise of 1820. Under this long standing compromise, no slavery was allowed north of 36’ 30.” (Missouri’s southern border). Now, settlers north of this line (as later in Kansas) could vote in slavery. This would have dire consequences. By the 1850’s the North had a large population and legislative majority, even in the Senate, but the Southern minority was constantly manipulating and intimidating the North. Out of this political frustration in the North was born the Republican Party. Republicans believed that all people, including slaves, should have that chance to finish life ahead of where they started. Republicans pointed to one of their own, Abraham Lincoln, as the perfect example of a person who had risen from lowly beginnings to a position of power. Although many Republicans were abolitionists, Lincoln was not. He thought slavery was wrong, but protected by the Constitution. Lincoln believed that if slavery was contained in the South and not allowed to spread west, it would slowly die away. This became a popular position among Northerners in the 1850’s. An act of Congress in 1854 opened up the territory of Kansas
to popular sovereignty. This meant that the people in Kansas could decide for themselves if they wanted to be a free or a slave state. Because of the slavery issue, the normal rough and tumble politics on the frontier got out of hand. As pro and anti slave forces poured into the state a mini civil war erupted. Over 200 people were killed and “Bloody Kansas” became a common headline in eastern newspapers. Eventually Kansas came into the Union as a free state, but the violence had begun. After blood was shed in Kansas the pace of North-South confrontations began to increase. In 1856 Preston Brooks from South Carolina attacked and almost killed Charles Sumner from Massachusetts on the floor of the Senate. In 1857, in the Dred Scott case, the Supreme Court ruled that black slaves were property and could never be citizens of the United States. Disappointed abolitionists realized that the problem of slavery was not going to be resolved in the courts. In 1858 Abraham Lincoln ran against Stephen Douglas for a senate seat from Illinois. The country was captivated by a series of seven well-publicized debates between the two candidates. In a completely candid and truly remarkable Lincoln / Douglas Debate discussion of race relations, the candidates outlined their positions. Douglas would typically claim that more rights for black slaves would eventually lead to the mixing of the races. In a typical response, Lincoln said “I do not understand that because I do not want a Negro woman for a slave I must necessarily want her for a wife.” Lincoln lost the election, but he had deeply moved the country. He would be heard from again. In 1859 a small group of men attacked a federal gun factory at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia in an attempt to steal guns to start a slave rebellion. The attack was led by a radical abolitionist named John Brown. Brown had killed five pro-slavery men in Kansas in 1855 but never stood trial. After Kansas he had hatched a plan to start a slave rebellion. Bank rolled by wealthy Boston abolitionists, Brown gathered together a John Brown small band of radicals. Their attack on Harper’s
Ferry was ill conceived and doomed to failure. The fighting lasted only three minutes and Brown was wounded and taken prisoner. Ten days later, Brown and his men were tried and sentenced to death. On his way to the gallows John Brown was reported to have said “I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty country will never be purged away but with blood.” His words acted like a lightning rod. Northern abolitionists saw Brown as a martyr and a saint and took up his cause as sacred. Southerners thought Brown’s attack represented the beginning of a Northern plot to end slavery by force. They blamed the Black Republicans and began to join militias. The presidential election of 1860 was the most important election in American history. The Democratic Party split over the issue of slavery and nominated two different candidates. This gave the Republicans a golden opportunity. When the leading candidates deadlocked at the Republican convention, Abraham Lincoln was elected as a compromise candidate. Lincoln ran on a platform of no slavery in the territories. This was simply unacceptable to the South and many Southern leaders called for Southern states to leave the Union if Lincoln was elected. Northerners had heard this talk before and many thought the South was bluffing. In November of 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States. He received virtually no votes in the South. He was not even on the ballot in most of the slave states. Fifty years of negotiation and compromise had come to an end. While some Southern states were dead set on leaving the Union after Lincoln was elected President, it was very unclear what the rest of the South would do. The South was split into three basic regions. The Lower South (South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas) had the largest population of slaves and was the most committed to slavery. The Middle South (Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas) was leaning toward secession, but taking a “wait and see” approach. Slavery was legal in the Border South (Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky, and western Virginia) but less common. The Border South had stronger ties to the North than did the rest of the South. Abraham Lincoln was elected President in November of 1860, but he would not take office until March of 1861. A firestorm of political activity would take place in those five months. One of the first questions to come
up after the elections was “what would happen to United States military bases in a state were that state to secede?” There were many such bases in the South and no one knew what would happen to them. When South Carolina actually seceded on December 20, 1860 a small garrison of United States troops moved from a weak fort in the Charleston harbor to the stronger Fort Sumter. This modest event became a news item and newspapers throughout the North and South wrote about it. People in the North cheered the patriotism of the soldiers while people in the South began talking about taking the fort by force. In January of 1861, President Buchanan sent a ship carrying relief supplies to Fort Sumter. It never reached the fort because it was fired on by South Carolina militia guarding the Charleston harbor. This event was also reported in the newspapers. Fort Sumter was becoming the center of the attention. In February, the rest of the Lower South seceded, declaring themselves an independent nation. Some of the United States military bases in these states were surrendered voluntarily, some were forced to surrender and others were left alone for the time being. However, most Americans, North and South, continued to concentrate on the fate of Fort Sumter. Lincoln took office in March of 1861 and was told that Fort Sumter had about six weeks of supplies left. He had to make a decision. He could surrender the fort, reinforce the fort with additional troops, or simply resupply the fort with more food. In a clever political move, Lincoln decided to send non-military supplies to the fort. If the South Carolinians fired on ships carrying food they would clearly look like the aggressors. When the South Carolina authorities heard that supply ships were on the way, they decided to attack the fort directly. On April 12, 1861 rebel batteries opened fire on Fort Sumter. The outcome was never in doubt. The garrison in the fort was outnumbered and out-gunned. After a 36-hour artillery bombardment, Fort Sumter surrendered to the South Carolina forces. The war had begun. The day after the surrender of Fort Sumter, Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to put down the rebellion. In reaction to Lincoln’s call for troops, the Middle South joined the Lower South in secession. This brought the number of Confederate states to eleven. Practically no one at the time could imagine the devastating destruction and loss of life that these events would set off.
How They Fought
When the Civil War began, each side had certain advantages that increased their chances for victory. The Union had a larger population, a stronger economy, and a professional military. The North had a population of 22 million giving it a five to two edge over the South in manpower. 80% of the countries bank deposits were in the North. Even though the United
States Army had only 16,000 men at the beginning of the war, it gave the North an organizational core from which to build a large army. The Confederate advantages were initiative, “home court” advantage and geography. If neither side did anything, the South would win its independence. To win, the North had to attack the South. The North would also have to venture onto Southern soil, and people fight harder protecting their homes. Finally, geography favored the South. The Appalachian Mountains divided the potential battle ground into an eastern theater and a western theater. In the East the rivers ran west to east, creating natural barriers for the invading Northern Fredericksburg Battlefield armies. In the West, the vastness of the territory created a manpower problem for the North. The Civil War was the first conflict to use railroads to move armies and supplies. The extensive and well maintained Northern railroad system was a huge advantage for the Union. While the North may have had the greater advantages, most historians agree that the South had a better chance to win than their forefathers did in the American Revolution. Casualty rates in the Civil War were shockingly high. In the famous bloodbath known as the Charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimean War, the British suffered 37% casualties. In the Civil War 62 Union and 53 Confederate units recorded casualties of 50% or more in a single engagement. Civil War battle tactics were way behind the times. Armies fought like they did 60 years before in the Napoleonic Wars, where men marched in tight lines and fired in unison. Attacking in small groups firing individually, and using available cover to reload, would have been more effective. The reason they did not do this is because battlefield communication was primitive and officers could not control small group attacks. The real problem came with the changing technology. At the beginning of the war, the range of a musket was about 100 yards. Early in the war, rifled muskets that had an effective range of 300 yards were introduced. Similar improvements increased the range and accuracy of artillery. This changed everything. Cavalry became obsolete as an attacking force. Swords became useless relics. By the end of the war, the firepower of a Civil War army was five times that of a Napoleonic army. To get close to an enemy, an army had to subject itself to a murderous barrage of musket and cannon fire. This gave a tremendous advantage to the defender. Many Civil War generals were slow to understand the technological changes and continued to order
frontal attacks on fortified positions. As technology revolutionized shipbuilding during the war, iron replaced wood and steam replaced sail. The Northern navy grew from 42 ships in 1861 to 641 in 1865. The Union used this advantage in Naval power to blockade Southern ports and attack on western rivers. The blockade started out ineffective but, as the war progressed, its increased efficiency had a significant effect on the Southern war effort. Union ironclads on the Mississippi, Tennessee and Cumberland rivers played a big role in Union successes in the West. While the South could not build ships at the rate that the North could, they did much with little. A small group of ironclads and commerce raiders Battle on the Mississippi River did a surprising job of offsetting some of the Northern naval advantage. Technological changes in medicine came too late for the Civil War soldier. Doctors did not yet understand that infection could be prevented by cleaning wounds and applying sterile dressings. As a result, Civil War soldiers were eight times as likely to die of their wounds as their World War I counterparts. More then twice as many men died of disease than of battle wounds. Little was known of the causes of dysentery, typhoid and malaria. These diseases and others took a terrible toll. In previous wars, women who cared for men in military camps were seen as prostitutes. This began to change during the Civil War, and nursing became one of the first honorable professions for working women. Early in the war, captured soldiers were treated well. An effective prisoner exchange system meant that few soldiers spent much time in prisons. However, in 1863 the exchange system broke down. Prisons on both sides began to fill up and conditions deteriorated. The Confederate prison camp at Andersonville, Georgia was the worst, but there were appalling conditions in Northern prison camps as well. Understanding what happened in the Civil War is a daunting task. This task is made more difficult by the huge numbers of soldiers that participated. There were more than 1,000 generals that fought in the Civil War. Separating the events of the war from the people that made it happen makes the subject much easier to understand. The War in the East and the War in the West sections discuss the events of the war. The main characters of the war are found in The Generals section.
The War in the East
Overview - 1861: The first engagement in the East took place just south of Washington at Manassas Junction, Virginia. The Confederates scored a decisive victory. 1862: After a long delay to grow and train their army, the Federals came down the coast in boats and slowly moved up the peninsula to within six miles of Richmond. They were stopped at the Battle of Fair Oaks. The Rebels created a diversionary attack in the Shenandoah Valley and defeated a larger Union force. They then pushed the Federals away from Richmond and off the peninsula in a series of battles known as the Seven Days Battles. The Rebels then came north and defeated a reorganized Union army at 2nd Manassas. Continuing north, they crossed the Potomac River and invaded Maryland, but were stopped at Antietam. The Rebels then retreated to defensive positions in Virginia. After some delay, the Federals followed the Rebels south. 1863: The Union suffered two humiliating defeats, one at Fredericksburg, and one at Chancellorsville. Seizing the opportunity created by these two decisive victories, the Confederates again invaded the North. They were dealt a crushing defeat at Gettysburg. Gettysburg was followed by a nine month lull in the fighting in the East. 1864: In the spring, the reorganized and reinforced Federals launched the Overland Campaign against the Rebels. Continuous fighting for 45 days drove the Rebels from the Rappahannock River to the Richmond defenses. For the next nine months the Rebels struggled desperately to keep from being surrounded. 1865: In April, the Confederate Army collapsed and surrendered. For three months after Fort Sumter, there was very little fighting. The North began to surround the South with its naval power. The United States and the newly formed Confederate States both worked at a fever pitch to train the many volunteers that flowed into the military camps. Political pressure began to grow in the North for the army to do something about the Rebels to the south. On June 29, 1861 orders came down from Washington for the Union Army to capture Richmond before the Confederate Congress could convene there. The Federals had two armies in the Northern Virginia theater. 35,000 troops were coming south from Washington and another 18,000 were fifty miles up the Potomac River at Harper’s Ferry. In a similar manner, the Confederates had 20,000 troops southwest of Washington at an important railroad junction called Manassas and an additional 12,000 at Winchester, near Harper’s Ferry. The main Union force moved south out of Washington in an attempt to surprise the Rebels at Manassas Junction, but the green troops were so slow that surprise was impossible. The Union battle plan was to fake a frontal attack, then swing west to attack the Rebels left flank. The attack began early on the morning
of July 21 and civilians came out from Washington to watch the battle. The flanking movement was successful and the Federals pitched into the rebel left flank. There was great confusion with similar uniforms and flags making it sometimes difficult for both sides to tell friend from foe. While the battle took the appearance of two armed mobs lurching at each other, the Federals began to push the Rebels back. Just as the Federals were beginning to make serious progress, Confederate reinforcements began arriving from Winchester. The rebel forces there had given the Federals the slip, marched down to the railroad and boarded east bound trains for the Manassas battlefield. The Federals had made a major error by not pinning the Confederates down at Winchester. By 4:00 in the afternoon, the Union Army had pushed the Rebels all the way back to Henry House Hill. There the Confederates made a determined stand. It was at this time that the full impact of the Confederate reinforcements were felt. When the Rebels launched a massive counterattack, the Federal Army dissolved. As the Union soldiers fled back towards Washington they encountered frightened civilians clogging the roads. Panic was epidemic. The demoralized Union Army was a tempting target, but the Rebels were as disorganized in victory as the Federals were in defeat. Had the Confederates maintained better order in the ranks, they might have taken Washington. The Rebels lost 2,000 while the Federals lost 2,700, making 1st Manassas the largest battle to that date in United States history. Furthermore, important lessons had been learned on both sides. While the Confederate military leadership realized that its soldiers must be better trained to march and fight more effectively, they were convinced that Southerners could out fight Northerners. This sense of confidence would continue for the next two years. The devastating loss at 1st Manassas shocked the North into the realization that the rebellion would not be easily put down. Lincoln called for 500,000 more volunteers. Both sides began to understand the potential size of this escalating conflict. No general on either side had commanded more than 1,000 troops in battle. Armies would grow to 100 times that size. Many generals would fail because they had too little experience, the armies were too large, and the tactics too outdated. After the calamity of 1st Manassas, The United States settled into the serious business of building a large and effective army. Patriotism ran high
and soon the army swelled to 100,000. As summer turned to autumn, concern began to grow as to when this huge army would march south against the Rebels. Winter came and still nothing happened. By the end of winter Abraham Lincoln had had enough. He ordered the Union Army to move against the Confederates. The Union generals were reluctant to repeat the mistake of last summer by moving directly south towards the rebel army camped at Manassas. They finally devised a plan to take the army by boat down the Potomac River to the mouth of the Rappahannock River. They would try to flank the Rebels by sea. Lincoln did not like the idea because it appeared to leave Washington vulnerable to attack. It was decided that 35,000 troops would be left to protect the capital and the Peninsula Campaign (as it became known) began. Moving the Union Army by sea was an enormous undertaking. 400 boats were contracted to transport men, horses, and vast amounts of equipment and supplies down the Potomac. It was a clear demonstration of the economic strength of the Northern states. The Confederates soon learned what the Federals were up to and they responded by moving their army from Manassas south to the Fredericksburg area. This move effectively denied the Rappahannock as a beach head for the Federal invasion. At the same time a Confederate ironclad gunboat named the Virginia was terrorizing the sea lanes that the invasion was supposed to use. The development of the Union ironclad, the Monitor, removed the threat from the Virginia and the Union could now make better use of the waterways. Instead of landing at the mouth of the Rappahannock they would go further down the Virginia coast to Fort Monroe. Fort Monroe was on the peninsula between the York and the James Rivers. The operation went smoothly and 100,000 Union troops landed on the peninsula. The Peninsula Campaign had begun. The object of the campaign was to capture Richmond, the Confederate capital. By early March, the Union Army was a mere 60 miles away, advancing slowly up the peninsula. The first obstacle they encountered was a small force of Rebels near the old Revolutionary battlefield of Yorktown. 17,000 Confederates held up 100,000 Federals for a month. When the Rebels finally did retreat, they fought rear guard actions which further slowed the Union advance. This gave the main Confederate Army at Fredericksburg time to move south to the Richmond defenses. In the slow movement
towards Richmond, both armies showed a reluctance to fight. The Union came to within six miles of Richmond. Things had been going badly for the Confederacy in the West, and now a huge army was at the doorstep of their capital. It was a dark time, indeed, for the South. The rebel army had no where else to retreat to and the Confederate president, Jefferson Davis, was angrily calling for action. The Southern generals noticed that the Union Army was divided by the flooded Chickahominy River. It would be difficult to reinforce from one side to another. The Battle of Fair Oaks began on May 31, 1862 when the Rebels attacked the part of the Union Army south of the river. The Confederates maneuvered and fought ineffectively but still managed to push the Federals back. The next day, Union reinforcements were able to cross the river and help regain much of the ground the Federals had lost on the previous day. When the battle ended the two armies were pretty much right where they started. Fair Oaks was a disjointed and bloody affair costing both sides 5,000 casualties and deciding nothing. As this drama was playing out in front of Richmond, military operations were under way in the Shenandoah Valley 100 miles to the northeast. The Confederates knew that the Federals wanted to send the army guarding Washington south to help in the Peninsula Campaign. To prevent this, the Rebels created a disturbance in the Shenandoah Valley. (This valley is a narrow expanse of fertile land separated from tidewater Virginia by the Blue Ridge Mountains.) While the rebel army sent to cause this disturbance numbered only 17,000, it had a superior knowledge of the geography and the loyalty of local scouts an spies. The Confederates were opposed by 62,000 Federal troops separated into three poorly coordinated armies. The 1862 Shenandoah Valley Campaign began on March 22 and lasted 11 weeks. In that time this small rebel band defeated all three of the larger Union Armies. They marched 630 miles, inflicted 7,000 casualties (suffering only 3,100) and captured huge amounts of weapons and supplies. The goal of keeping Federal reinforcements from reaching the Peninsula Campaign was accomplished in legendary fashion. A change in command in the Confederate forces guarding Richmond brought a new offensive strategy. Fortifications around the city were
strengthened so they could be held by fewer men. This would free up 60,000 Rebels for an attack on the 30,000 Federals north of the Chickahominy River. The gamble was that the 75,000 Federals south of the river would not attack and overwhelm the 27,000 Rebels guarding Richmond. The victorious Confederate army in the Shenandoah Valley had been brought south on a forced march to lead the attack. Confederate military leadership had better information on enemy strength and position then did the Union. Also, at this time in the war the rebel cavalry was better than Federal cavalry. This fact was dramatically demonstrated when a detachment of Confederate cavalry rode completely around the Union Army. The Seven Days’ Battles began one month after the inconclusive Battle of Fair Oaks. On June 26 the Rebels attacked the Union forces north of the Chickahominy River at Mechanicsville. The attacks were unsuccessful, but the Federals retreated. The next day a massive Confederate assault broke the Union lines at Gains Mill. Success came at a high price as the Rebels lost 9,000 men in six hours of fighting. The famous rebel army from the Shenandoah Valley fought poorly, probably due to exhaustion. On June 29 the Federals held off the Rebels at Savage Station and, again retreated, this time to Frayser’s Farm. Not only was the Union Army retreating from battlefields where they had done well, they were retreating south towards the James River. Their supply line ran north to the Pamunkey and York Rivers where large siege cannons waited to be shipped down to the front for the anticipated siege of Richmond. By retreating south to the James, the Federals were admitting defeat in the middle of the battle. On June 30, the Union Army held off the Confederates at Frayser’s Farm, then retreated to a strong position at Malvern Hill. On July 1, the Rebels launched a disjointed attack against Malvern Hill. Federal cannons pulverized the attacking Confederates resulting in a solid Union Victory. The Rebels had been hurt badly and there was some discussion about a Union counterattack. However, once again the order was given to retreat, this time to Harrison’s Landing. The Union army had failed on the Peninsula and 100,000 federal troops were bottled up at Harrison’s Landing southeast of Richmond. There was, however, federal activity in northern Virginia. The three small Union armies that had been defeated in the Shenandoah Valley Campaign were reorganized into a unified command numbering 50,000 soldiers. This army
began a slow advance towards Richmond taking the same route that had failed the summer before. It occurred to the Confederates that they needed to deal with this army before it was reinforced with troops returning from the Peninsula. The Rebels split their army in two. Half guarded Richmond as the Federals left the Peninsula, and half marched north to deal with the new threat. The Confederates encountered the federal advance guard at Cedar Mountain on August 9 and an inconclusive battle was fought. By this time, the Rebels at Richmond became convinced that the Federals were leaving the Peninsula for good; and they hurried north. The two armies began to concentrate on the same battlefield where they had fought the summer before. The Rebels executed a flanking movement that managed to get behind the Federals and they captured the Union supply depot at Manassas Junction. Enraged, the Federals turned to attack the raiders. The Battle of 2nd Manassas began on August 29 when the Union army launched a disjointed attack against the northern part of the Confederate army. Union communication and intelligence was poor and reinforcements from the Peninsula were slow to arrive. When the Rebels fell back slightly in an orderly retreat, the Federals saw it as a rout. Meanwhile, the rest of the Confederate army arrived on the battlefield. When the battle was renewed the next day the Confederates counterattacked and crushed the Union left flank. In a repeat performance from the year before, the Federals beat a hasty retreat back into the defenses of Washington. Casualties at 2nd Manassas were 5 times that of 1st Manassas. In less than a month, the Confederates had pushed the Federals from the defenses of Richmond to the defenses of Washington. For the first time in the war there were no Union forces in the state of Virginia. The Confederates were, however, not done with their counter-offensive. Immediately after the Battle of 2nd Manassas, the Confederates began to plan an invasion of Maryland. This plan was arrived at by a process of elimination. The Rebels could not advance towards Washington because the city defenses were too strong, and they did not want to retreat after a victory. They could not stay where they were because the land of northern Virginia was so picked over that there was a serious shortage of food for men and animals. Furthermore, the Confederates believed that a victory on Northern soil might encourage Britain or France to recognize their new country or even intervene on their side. In September of 1862, 60,000 Confederates crossed the Potomac River into Maryland.
Although the morale of the Union Army was low, there were still 110,000 Federal troops to protect Washington. Unfortunately, 12,000 of these troops had been carelessly positioned up river at Harper’s Ferry. Once the Confederates were across the river, they split their army in two. Part of the army was sent up river to bag the Federals at Harper’s Ferry. This strategy would not only match superior numbers against a weaker foe, it would open up a possible avenue of retreat through Harper’s Ferry and down into the Shenandoah Valley. The northern part of the Confederate Army had little trouble capturing the 12,000 Federals at Harper’s Ferry. They would have had little trouble uniting with the southern half of the army in a timely manner were it not for a most unusual and unfortunate event for the Rebels. While advancing through a recently abandoned rebel campsite, Union soldiers found the Confederate battle plans wrapped around several cigars. When the documents made their way up to senior command, they had a huge impact on the upcoming battle, and perhaps the entire war. The Federals had discovered that the Rebels were dangerously spread out and very vulnerable to attack. They had a golden opportunity to crush the Rebels if they moved fast. Even then, it took the Union Army 18 crucial hours to get in motion. When the Confederates realized what was happening they sent word to the forces at Harper’s Ferry to return immediately. They also sent a detachment east to a gap in South Mountain to slow the Union advance. The initial Federal delay and brave fighting by outnumbered Rebels in the mountain pass gave the Confederate Army some time to gather together and, perhaps, save themselves. On September 16, the Federal Army broke through South Mountain and advanced toward a Confederate Army hastily arranged behind Antietam Creek. The Battle of Antietam began early in the morning of September 17 and would be the bloodiest day in American history. The Federal plan was to attack across the entire rebel line, but poor coordination created three separate battles. A massive federal attack on the Confederate left flank was held off by the slimmest of margins. There was a cornfield in the middle of the fighting that was literally carpeted with bodies. A Union attack on the center pushed the Rebels back to a sunken road. A determined stand by the Rebels on the road created what became known as “Bloody Lane.” At a terrible cost, the Federals did finally take “Bloody Lane,” but they could advance no further. On the rebel right, the Federals managed to capture a key bridge across Antietam Creek after three costly attempts. Throughout the day, rebel reinforcements from Harper’s Ferry kept arriving at critical moments. On the Union side, commanders cautiously held back reserves, failing to capitalize on Federal breakthroughs. The
Federals came very close to scoring a significant victory at Antietam, but the important fact was, they did not lose. At the end of the day, 23,000 Americans lay dead or wounded on the battlefield. This casualty rate was four times that of D-Day in World War II. While Antietam was considered half a Union victory, the Confederate Army was not driven from the field. The Rebels waited a day, and when the Federals did not renew the attack, they began an orderly retreat across the Potomac River. By not pursuing the Rebels, the Union Army lost a chance to destroy the Confederate Army. Before the Battle of Antietam, a negotiated settlement of the war was a real possibility. Such a settlement would probably have phased out slavery over a period of time with compensation paid to slave holders. After Antietam, Abraham Lincoln released a statement that the war was now about freeing the slaves. This statement, known as the Emancipation Proclamation, was a fascinating document for what it said and did not say. It freed the slaves in the territory held by the Confederated States of America. It did not free the slaves in the Border States or the parts of the CSA captured by Union Armies. Lincoln, through the Emancipation Proclamation, was saying that the North can not defeat the South until the slaves, which are helping the CSA wage the war, are freed. Ideas about restoring the old Union were gone, and the North would now attempt to destroy the South and build a new country on the ashes. After the Battle of Antietam, the Confederate Army retreated back into Virginia. It began to establish a long line of winter camps all across the northern part of the state. Lincoln urged his generals to march south and engage the enemy, capitalizing on the Union success at Antietam. It was decided that another campaign against Richmond would be launched, this time going through Fredericksburg where the army could be supplied from the Potomac River. In mid-November 30,000 Federal troops set out for Fredericksburg. The plan was to capture the town before the Rebels could respond. The Union Army won the race to Fredericksburg but could not get across the river. Because of a mix up in orders, the pontoon bridges had not arrived. By the time the bridges were delivered to the front, there were 75,000 Rebels dug in on the high ground south of town. Instead of adjusting their plans, the Federals plowed ahead. As the Union engineers began to lay the bridges in place, they were fired on from the town by rebel sharpshooters. When the frustrated Union Army finally got across the river, they vented
their anger by looting and destroying much of Fredericksburg. The Battle of Fredericksburg began on December 13 when the Federals attacked along a five mile front. The Federals found a seam at Prospect Hill and momentarily broke through the Confederate line. Reinforcements never arrived, and the Rebels effectively sealed the break. The lead Federal unit in the attack suffered 40% casualties. Had the Union break been supported properly it might have carried the day; and the calamity to the North might never have happened. When the Union attack in the south faltered, the action shifted to the north end of the battlefield. Here, there was 600 yards of clear and open ground from the south edge of the town to a stone fence. Behind the fence was a sunken road where the rebel infantry stood four deep. Behind the road the ground rose to form a plateau named Marye’s Heights. Confederate artillery had been concentrated on this high ground completing the near perfect defensive position. While examining this terrain before the battle, one rebel gunner said “A chicken could not live on that field when we open on it.” The Federals launched 14 hopeless attacks against the powerful Confederate position at Marye’s Heights. These attacks on the stone wall at Fredericksburg were some of the bravest and most tragic in the history of warfare. Not one Federal soldier got close to the wall, and the bodies of the dead and wounded were stacked up like cord wood all across the battlefield. By the end of the day the Union had lost 12,700 men while the Rebels had lost only 5,300. The Federals were badly beaten at Fredericksburg, but many Union soldiers had not gotten in the fight. As the Union Army retreated and reorganized, pressure mounted from Washington to renew the offensive. Encouraged by the unusually dry weather in January, the Federals started to move again. Just as the army got into motion heavy rains came, turning the roads into rivers of mud. Many Federal units not only couldn’t move ahead, they couldn’t get back to where they started. Lincoln was so disgusted by the spectacle that he, once again, replaced senior command. In the next three months the new Union commanders repaired army morale. Rations, pay, and leave were improved, which lowered desertions. The winter of ‘63 was hard on Confederate forces in Virginia. Supplies were so low that two rebel divisions were sent to North Carolina where food and fodder were more plentiful. In April the roads began to dry, signaling the beginning of the campaigning season. The Federals outnumbered the
Confederates 130,000 to 60,000. The Federals were intent on not making the same mistake they had last December. There would be no frontal attacks. The Confederate Army occupied 25 miles of carefully prepared defenses around Fredericksburg. The Union plan was to fake an attack on Fredericksburg and then swing around the Confederate left to attack their western flank. 40,000 Federals menaced Fredericksburg while 70,000 went west to cross the Rappahannock near the rebel left. Rebel commanders quickly determined that the Fredericksburg attack was a ploy. They seemed to understand the Federal plans better than the Federals themselves. The Confederates split their smaller army, leaving only 10,000 to face the 40,000 Federals at Fredericksburg. The rest hurried west to meet the main Union offensive. When the Union Army crossed the river, they entered into an area known as the Wilderness. The Wilderness was a dense forest with tangled underbrush which was not a good place for a large army to fight a smaller army. As the Federals marched out of the Wilderness near Chancellorsville, they began to meet rebel resistance. Instead of pushing the entire army out into the open, the Union generals ordered a retreat back into the woods to set up defenses. This was a mistake. By this time in the war, the Union cavalry had improved greatly. However, most of the cavalry had been sent on an ineffectual raid towards Richmond. Again, the Union Army was without vital information about their enemy that their cavalry should have been providing. The Federals retreated back into the Wilderness because they did not know where the Rebels were and what they were up to. When the Federals paused in their defenses, it gave the Rebels time to devise a daring plan. Because of good cavalry work, the Confederates knew that the Union center was strong and that the Union left was anchored to the river. However, the Union right was not well guarded. A successful attack could be launched from the West if the Rebels could just get there. Local scouts convinced Confederate commanders that they could lead a strike force down little known roads through the Wilderness. Early in the morning of May 2, the Rebels split their army for a second time sending 30,000 troops on a flanking movement to the West. This left the small force at Fredericksburg, the small force left at Chancellorsville, and the flanking force all very vulnerable to attack. The Federal commanders let this golden opportunity go by as if they were paralyzed. The Union forces on the right flank knew there was rebel activity in their area. They should have guessed that a Confederate attack was coming from the West, especially when rabbits and squirrels broke out of the dense woods. The Battle of Chancellorsville began on May 2 at 5:00 PM when the gray coats emerged from the tangled undergrowth. They crushed the
Federals, almost splitting the Union army in two. Only the coming of darkness saved the Union right from complete annihilation. That night, the Federals had a chance to reorganize and counterattack the next morning, but they were stunned. The next day the Federals attacked back at Fredericksburg. Union forces stormed Marye’s Heights where so many Federals had fallen four months before. On the third attack Marye’s Heights fell and the defending Rebels retreated west towards Chancellorsville. The Federals fought so ineffectually at Chancellorsville that the Confederates withdrew 21,000 from that front to meet the coming Union advance from the East. At Salem Church, the Rebels stopped the Union advance and the Battle of Chancellorsville came to an end. The Federals had been poorly led again. Large parts of the Union Army that retreated across the Rappahannock had never gotten into the battle. The Union suffered 17,000 casualties to the rebel 13,000. When Lincoln received the news of the defeat he said “My God, My God, What will the country say? ” After the humiliating defeats at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville Federal morale was low, but the will to fight had not been broken. Many people began to wonder which would give out first, Union morale or Confederate resources. The Rebels had been doing well in the East but poorly in the West. Senior command considered sending forces west to help in the defense of Vicksburg. Instead, the decision was made to invade the North for a second time. One of the important considerations in this decision was the fact that the Maryland and Pennsylvania countryside would provide badly needed food for the hungry Confederate Army. In addition, the Rebels decided that the war could not be won by defensive action alone. They came to believe that only offensive action into the North itself would break the Union’s will to fight. On June 9, the Union cavalry slipped across the Rappahannock on a reconnaissance mission. They ran directly into the main body of the Confederate cavalry setting off the Battle of Brandy Station. Civil War cavalry was used to gather information on the enemy while keeping the enemy from doing the same. Brandy Station was an old fashioned fight
on horseback on a grand scale. The Union cavalry fought well proving that the Confederate cavalry was no longer the dominant force it had once been. After the battle, perhaps to redeem itself, the rebel cavalry took off on another long ride around the Union Army. The timing was bad because at just that time, 76,000 Confederate troops pulled out of their Fredericksburg defenses heading north. The rebel invasion would be conducted without its cavalry screen. Confusion also reigned on the Federal side. On June 28, Lincoln fired his army commanders. This was the fourth change in seven months for the Union Army. The Confederate Army marched up the Shenandoah Valley and crossed the Potomac River into Maryland. They thought they had given the Federal Army the slip, but without cavalry they could not be sure. By July 1, the rebel army was spread out some fifty miles from the Potomac River into Pennsylvania on its way to Harrisburg. Eventually, the Rebels learned through spies that the Federals were much closer than they thought. The order was given to draw the Confederate Army together into battle formation. Because there was no cavalry, a rebel infantry division was sent on a reconnaissance mission toward the town of Gettysburg. There they discovered a Union cavalry force occupying the town. Both armies rushed their soldiers forward, setting the stage for the greatest battle ever fought in the western Hemisphere. The Battle of Gettysburg began when Union cavalry occupied the high ground northwest of the town. Armed with new rapid firing rifles they dismounted and fought effectively. When the order was given for the Confederate Army to concentrate, a large body of Rebels were just north of Gettysburg. As they marched south, they drove the Federals off the high ground and back into the town. Eventually, there were 24,000 Rebels pushing 19,000 Federals slowly south. While this was going on, Union forces were arriving and occupying the high ground south of Gettysburg. Had the Rebels pushed the attack more vigorously, they might have gotten to that high ground before the Federals dug in. By the end of the First Day the Rebels had won a decisive victory, but the Union Army held a strong position south of town. As the Second Day began, the Federal line was in the shape of a fish hook. It started at Culp’s Hill curved around through Cemetery Hill, straightened down through Cemetery Ridge and ended at the two round topped hills in the south. This position made it easy for the Federals to
move reinforcements from one flank to the other. The Confederates decided to attack the Union left flank first. Success here would be followed by an attack on the right at Culp’s Hill. The problem was that the rebel position was so extended that the left did not know what was happening on the right. The Union corps defending the left flank had advanced into the peach orchard near the Emmitsburg Road. Just when the Union command realized that this position was exposed, the Rebels attacked. Bloody fighting in the wheat field produced six attacks and counterattacks. As the Union corps began to collapse, both sides noticed that Little Round Top was not occupied. If the Rebels could capture that high ground, they might be able to roll right up Cemetery Ridge and drive the Union Army from the field. The race for Little Round Top was on, and the Federals got there first. The 20th Maine regiment positioned themselves on the hilltop and attempted to anchor the extreme left of the Union line. They suffered 50% casualties in 40 minutes, but they held the hill. The Union left was being pushed back through a rocky area known as Devil’s Den, but Union reinforcements kept arriving at critical times. The attack on Culp’s Hill in the north that was supposed to pin the Federals down was late in coming and ineffective. The Rebels had come very close to crushing the Union left on the second day, but their attacks had been disjointed. The Federals effectively shuffled forces around all day to fill weak points. When night came, the Union Army still occupied their strong defensive position on the high ground. The Union commanders decided to remain where they were to see if the Confederates would attack the next day. Two day casualties totaled 35,000, the highest in the war, and there was still one more fateful day to go. The Confederates had come very close to breaking the Union Army on the second day. They reasoned that the Federals had weakened the center to support the attacks on their flanks. The Rebels decided to hit the middle of the Union line. The Federals were not expecting an attack on their center, but they dug in all night just in case. Early in the morning of the Third Day the Confederates launched another half-hearted attack on the northern hills. When that attack failed, they turned their attention to Cemetery Ridge. At 1:00 PM, 150 Confederate cannons began a two hour barrage of the Union center that was the biggest cannonade of the war. It had little effect on the well-protected Federals who hunkered down in their trenches and waited for the coming attack. The Union artillery saved their
ammunition for the infantry charge. At 3:00 PM, 15,000 Confederates marched in perfect formation across the three quarters of a mile of open ground towards the Union fortifications. The true role of artillery in the Civil War was as infantry killers. “Pickett’s Charge,” as the attack became known, proved this point. Grape and canister loads tore huge holes in the rebel lines before the muskets opened up. It was an unwise, even reckless, decision and the whole bloody affair was over in 30 minutes. In that short period of time the attacking rebel forces took 50% casualties. Historians debate why the Confederates fell into this frontal attack trap that they were so good at setting. Many believe that they were simply overconfident. In three years of fighting in the East, the South had never lost a major battle. Only at Antietam had the Union fought them to a draw, and the Federals had the Confederate battle plans. The Rebels were so anxious to destroy the Union Army once and for all that they made a big mistake. The next day (July 4) the Confederate Army began its long and torturous march home. The recently appointed Union commanders were so stunned by their sudden victory that they did not pursue. More than 50,000 men fell at Gettysburg. The Union had lost 23,000 (25%) while the Confederacy lost 28,000 (33%). After the battle, the retreating Rebels learned that Vicksburg had fallen. The dream of an outright Confederate military victory was gone. Now, the South’s only hope was to wear down the North in a defensive struggle. The war would last another two years. After Gettysburg, very little happened in the East for the next nine months. Both armies had been badly hurt at Gettysburg, and they began to rebuild their forces. The Northern military machine was in high gear and the army came back rapidly. Things were much different on the Confederate side. It is estimated that 75,000 soldiers deserted the rebel army after Gettysburg and Vicksburg. The Southern economy was in shambles and the Southern railroad system was almost totally unable to deliver supplies to the army. Desertions due to hunger thinned the ranks, but the men that stayed were hard core veterans. Signs were pointing towards a Union victory, but Northern war weariness was still a factor. Lincoln did not push his generals for action in the East after Gettysburg because he had very little trust in them. In contrast, Lincoln put great trust in his brilliant generals in the West because they were accomplishing every military goal set for them. Lincoln did not want an eastern calamity to
derail Union momentum in the West. The Union and Confederate armies in the East took up positions on opposite sides of the RappahannockRapidan River line and occupied themselves with small cavalry clashes and occasional infantry skirmishes. When cold weather arrived, the armies went into winter camps. Spring brought a new focus to the Union war effort. New leadership was brought to the eastern army from the West and plans were made for the upcoming campaign season. The 1864 Federal battle plans were three fold. 1.) The main army would march straight south towards Richmond. 2.) A smaller army would be sent up the James River to threaten Richmond from the south. 3.) A third Federal army would be sent into the Shenandoah Valley to deny supplies from that area to the Confederates. All three operations began around the first of May. The first part of the plan to fail was the James River expedition. On May 5, 30,000 Federals landed south of Richmond and began to very slowly move north towards the city. A week later they were attacked by a rebel force at Drewry’s Bluff. The Union Army retreated and foolishly entrenched. The Confederates anxiously constructed matching defenses, effectively sealing the Federals on the Bermuda Hundred Peninsula. It was as if a bottle had been firmly corked. The second part of the plan to fail was the Shenandoah Valley campaign. On May 15, 6,500 Union soldiers were attacked and defeated by a smaller rebel force at New Market. In the battle, a spirited attack was made by young cadets from the Virginia Military Institute. These two failures put added pressure on the main Union Army which was beginning the bloody phase of the war known as the Overland Campaign. The main bodies of the two armies had been facing each other across the Rappahannock-Rapadan River line for nine months. Not only had the Union Army been reinforced to a strength of 120,000, successful Generals from the West had been brought in to take command. The Confederate Army had gone through a rough winter and was down to 65,000. Supply trains could not be counted on to reach the front, so the army was scattered to better live off the land. The Overland Campaign began on May 4, 1864 when the Union Army crossed the Rapadan River looking for the Rebels. This campaign would be considerably different than what had come before. There would be three major battles in the next six weeks, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor. In addition, there would be significant
fighting every day between the major battles. For 45 continuous days soldiers would be marching, digging, and fighting. Again, the Union Army was trying to capture Richmond, but its primary goal was now to destroy the Confederate Army. This was all out war. The Federals came through the same wilderness area where the Battle of Chancellorsville had been fought one year before. In this dense forest, artillery did little good and cavalry was useless. The Confederates saw this as an equalizing factor in ‘64, just as they had in ‘63. The Battle of the Wilderness began on May 5 when the Rebels attacked the Federals in the deep woods, just like Chancellorsville. The Confederates hit both Union flanks effectively. The Federals were barely able to hold them off. On the second day, the Union Army launched a counterattack that almost broke the rebel line. Only the arrival of rebel reinforcements saved the day. Gun flashes set off brush fires and at least 200 fallen men burned to death. Both sides periodically stopped the fighting to retrieve their wounded, or the fire would have claimed more lives. The Confederates might have gotten the better of the fight at the Wilderness, but the Federals refused to see it as a setback. Orders were given for a flanking move south to Spostylvania Courthouse. Federal morale improved when the soldiers realized that, instead of retreating, they were going forward. This Federal pattern of fighting and flanking to the southeast would be repeated throughout the Overland Campaign. After the Wilderness, both armies moved rapidly south to Spostylvania. Having slightly less ground to cover, the Confederates arrived first and blocked the roads to Richmond. By this time in the war, shovels were almost as important to soldiers as rifles. The Battle of Spotsylvania began on May 10, when the Federals launched massive attacks on the rebel left and center. The Federals found a weak spot in the Confederate defenses known as the “mule shoe.” They punched a hole in it and drove the Rebels back. The Confederates were in serious trouble and they fought desperately to plug the hole. Their counterattack created what became known as the “bloody angle” at the “mule shoe.” For the next 20 hours, the two armies fought at close quarters, sometimes hand-to-hand, in some of the bitterest fighting of the war. The Rebels never recaptured the “mule shoe,” but they held on long enough to construct another defensive line south of the break. When the Union Army realized that they were not going to carry the defenses at Spotsylvania, they
disengaged and started another flanking move. Spotsylvania, like the Wilderness, produced large casualties on both sides with no clear-cut winner. While all of this was going on, the Confederate cavalry was harassing the western flank of the Union Army. By May 10 the Federals had had enough and sent 12,000 horsemen to deal with the rebel cavalry problem. The Federals rolled over the once invincible Confederate cavalry at Yellow Tavern, scoring an impressive victory. In the process, the Federals destroyed 1.5 million Confederate rations and freed 400 Union prisoners. There was fighting on the North Anna River followed by a Union flanking movement. There was fighting at Totopotomy Creek followed by another Union flanking movement. Although they were defending effectively, it was clear that the Confederate Army had never been pushed to this degree. The Federals kept looking for a road to Richmond that was not defended by the Rebels. Finding one would force the Rebels to come out of their defenses and fight the Federals in the open. The Confederates would fight, then fall back a little ways and dig new trenches. As the two giant armies wrestled their way southward, they entered the old Seven Days battlefield from the 1862 Peninsula Campaign. They concentrated for another major battle at a place called Cold Harbor. The three day Battle of Cold Harbor began on June 1 when the Union attacked. By the morning of June 3, the Federals thought they had the Rebels whipped, and they launched a massive attack across open ground. The Confederates delivered rapid musket and cannon fire from entrenched positions. On this day, the results were horrific. 7,000 Union soldiers fell at Cold Harbor in 30 minutes, the fastest kill rate of the war. It was the most costly maneuver ever made by a Union Army. The tragedy at Cold Harbor caused the Federals to change strategy. Directly attacking Richmond was costing too many lives, so they decided to go for the railroads and cut the city off. In one of the most impressive maneuvers of the war, the Federal Army marched southeast, crossed the James River, and doubled back towards the railroad town of Petersburg. For several days the Confederates were fooled. When they finally realized what was happening they rushed reinforcements south. The Union Army beat the Rebels to Petersburg, but they hesitated to attack the lightly held defenses of the city. Past experience with frontal attacks had made the Federals reluctant to attack even defenses held with skeleton crews. In a week, the rebel defenses were strong and the opportunity to capture Petersburg had passed. The Overland Campaign had come to an
end. The Federals had taken 50,000 casualties in six weeks compared to only 32,000 for the Confederates. However, those numbers represent 46% of the rebel army compared to 41% of the Union Army. The Federals had neither captured Richmond nor destroyed the Confederate Army, but they had hurt the Rebels badly and pinned them down in a deadly trap. Beginning in June of ‘64 the Federals began a campaign to encircle the Rebels and cut their supply lines. When Vicksburg had been completely cut off from outside supplies, the city had held out for only six weeks. The Confederates knew that to be surrounded was to lose, so they fought for every inch. Old fortifications from the Peninsula Campaign were reoccupied and improved. Elaborate systems of trenches and breastworks connected the forts. The Federals continually attacked both ends of the rebel defenses, extending the trench works 20, 30, then 40 miles. In July, the Federals cut the Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad. In August, they captured the Weldon Railroad. This left Richmond with only one railroad link to the rest of the south. This was the Southside Railroad that ran to Danville, and the Confederates fought desperately to hold it. As the trench line got longer and longer, the rebel forces got thinner and thinner. The Union Army grew with reinforcements, while the Confederate Army shrank due to desertions. This dangerous circle game lasted for nine months. One of the strangest events of the war happened along the Petersburg trench line in July of 1864. The Union Army was terribly frustrated. They wanted to end the war, but they could not get to the Rebels because of the fortified trenches. A group of Federal soldiers had been Pennsylvania coal miners before the war. They were given permission to dig a 500 foot trench to the rebel line. They then stacked 8,000 pounds of black powder into the end of the shaft. Blacks had begun enlisting in the Union Army in large numbers after Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation. A black unit had been specially trained to charge around the hole immediately following the explosion. At the last minute untrained white troops were substituted for the black troops. Union commanders had become concerned about political fallout if the black troops suffered high casualty rates. When the powder was set off, it ripped out 175 feet of rebel entrenchments hurling men and debris hundreds of feet into the air. The Union attack that followed was poorly coordinated and there was mass confusion. Many of the Federals marched into the gigantic hole created by the explosion instead of around it. The Rebels soon recovered from their initial shock and brought rifles and cannon to the edge of the hole. The Union soldiers were shot like fish in a barrel. What started out as a potentially decisive breakthrough ended up as a humiliating Union failure. The Federals took 4,000 casualties. The Union Army was trying to encircle Richmond and starve the Reb30
els out. The Confederates were receiving huge amounts of food and fodder from the Shenandoah Valley. In June of ‘64, the Federals sent an army into the valley to stop the supplies at the source. The army was ordered to “eat up (the Shenandoah Valley) clear and clean so that crows flying over it...will have to carry their own provisions.” The hungry Confederates could not survive without this vital supply source, so they sent their own army into the Valley to retain control there. The Rebels were so successful against the Federals that their mission was enlarged. Now, in an effort to take the pressure off Richmond, the rebel army in the valley went north to threaten Washington. This Confederate Army of about 15,000 marched north to the Potomac River, crossed over into Maryland, and was at the outskirts of Washington on July 11th. Abraham Lincoln was actually shot at when he went to inspect the city defenses. Embarrassed and enraged, the Federals rushed troops back to Washington to defend the city. This rebel army was not strong enough to take the city, but the fact that it threatened to do so was a great morale booster for the South. With reinforcements pouring into Washington the Confederates retreated. However, the Federals were not going to let these Rebels off easily. A powerful force of 45,000 was sent to hunt the Rebels down. On October 19, ‘64 the Federals soundly defeated the Rebels at the Battle of Cedar Creek, giving the Union undisputed control of the Shenandoah Valley. The Federals went on to destroy 2,000 grain filled barns, 70 grain mills and most of the railroads. Total war had come to the Shenandoah Valley. As cold weather came late in 1864, the Confederate situation was becoming desperate. Although they fought effectively to keep the circle from closing around them, they suffered greatly from hunger and desertions. In February alone, the Confederates lost 8% of their army to desertion. The question became not so much would they collapse, but when. In contrast, the Federals had spent the winter strengthening their army, and their numbers had grown to 110,000. The end game came in early April when the Federals moved south and west of Petersburg to threaten the remaining railroads supplying the Confederates. It was now clear to the Rebels that they needed to pull out of their defenses, evacuate Richmond and make a run for it. They attempted to create a diversion for their retreat by attacking Fort Stedman on the Union line. The attack bought the Rebels some time but it cost 5,000 casualties. Fort Stedman was the first day of a six day fighting retreat for the Confederates. Jefferson Davis and his Cabinet boarded the last train to Danville before the line was cut. With the way to Danville now blocked the Confederate Army marched west towards Lynchburg. The Union Army relentlessly pursued the Rebels, and the Union Cavalry swung around to Appomattox Courthouse to cut off their retreat. Hungry, exhausted and
surrounded, the Confederate Army had no choice but to surrender. Approximately 18,000 rebel troops laid down their arms at Appomattox. The war in the East and, indeed, the Civil War had come to an end.
The War in the West
Overview - 1862: In February the Federals came down the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers and punched a gaping hole in the Confederate line of defense. They captured Nashville and continued up the Tennessee River. The Rebels fought back with a surprise attack at Shiloh, but the Union recovered and fought them to a draw. The Federals then attacked up and down the Mississippi River, capturing New Orleans and Memphis, but failing to capture Vicksburg. Union forces were overextended in the West and the Rebels took advantage. In October, they launched an invasion of Kentucky, but were stopped at Perryville. Federal forces chased the Rebels back into Tennessee and fought the inconclusive battle at Stones River. They then turned their attention to Vicksburg. 1863: In perhaps the most brilliant campaign of the war, the Federals captured Vicksburg and cut Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas off from the rest of the Confederacy. The Rebels fought back in eastern Tennessee, scoring a stunning victory at Chickamauga. A resilient Union army recovered and, one month later, crushed the Rebels at Chattanooga. 1864: In May, the Federals set off towards Atlanta, capturing and burning it in September. What was left of the rebel army marched north and was completely destroyed at Nashville in December. The Union army marched from Atlanta to the sea, waging total war. 1865: The Federals turned north and marched into the Carolinas. They were in Goldsboro, NC when the war ended. Fighting broke out in Missouri in 1861. In September of that year, confederate forces came up the Mississippi River and captured Columbus, Kentucky. The state of Kentucky was trying to remain neutral in the war. This act of aggression on the part of the South forced Kentucky to join the Union side. Federal forces moved quickly across the Ohio River from Cairo, Illinois to Paducah, Kentucky. The Rebels faced the daunting task of defending a 500 mile line from Columbus to the Cumberland Gap.
The Rebels had 70,000 troops spread out along this line and were opposed by 100,000 Federals. The Union Army had the choice of attacking down the Mississippi or going for Nashville. The Mississippi was protected by strong forts at Columbus, New Madrid, and Island #10. Nashville seemed to be the better target. The Confederates held a strong position at Bowling Green, Kentucky, which protected Nashville from attack down the railroad from the northeast. However, the western approach to the city, from the Cumberland River, was lightly guarded. In addition, since both the Cumberland River and the Tennessee River were so close together near the Mississippi, an attack could be coordinated down both rivers at the same time. The Federals had constructed seven, shallow water gunboats in St. Louis that were perfect for fighting on the rivers. The Confederates had no comparable navy, giving the Union a distinct advantage on the rivers. The Federals began their campaign for control of the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers by capturing Paducah, on the Mississippi near the mouths of the rivers. This was the first major campaign of the Civil War. The Confederates had constructed two river forts; one on the Cumberland and one on the Tennessee. These two forts were near the KentuckyTennessee border, only 12 miles part. The Federals had discovered that both forts were weak, especially the Tennessee River fort. The Battle of the River Forts began on Feb 6, 1862 when the Federals, accompanied by the seven Union gunboats, came up the Tennessee River and attacked the fort. A cold rain slowed the army, but actually helped the gunboats by raising the river. The poorly constructed fort actually flooded, and the gunboats were able to batter the fort into submission without the help of the army. Most of the 2,600 man rebel garrison escaped 12 miles west to the Cumberland River fort. The Federal gunboats then steamed down the Tennessee and back up the Cumberland to attack the other fort. The army marched the 12 miles west and surrounded the Cumberland River fort. On February 14 the Federals seemed to have the Rebels in a trap, and the attack began. The next day the Confederates launched a spirited counterattack in an attempt to break free. Just as the attack began to gain momentum, it was called off; and the Rebels returned to their defenses. Poor leadership and bitter cold had put the Rebels in a hopeless situation, and 17,000 Confederates surrendered. The effect of the loss of the two river forts was stunning. The Federals had punched a huge hole in the middle of the Confederate line and the whole defensive line fell apart. The Federals steamed up the Cumberland River and captured Nashville on February 23. Columbus, Clarksville and Bowling Green were evacuated, and all Confederate forces retreated south to the railroad center of Corinth, Mississippi. They had lost Kentucky and half of Tennessee. The Union Army steamed up the Tennes33
see River in hot pursuit. Two Union armies converged upon Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River, 22 miles north of Corinth. The army that had captured the river forts came up the Tennessee and arrived on March 11. The Union Army that had occupied Nashville came down the railroad to Columbia, Tennessee and marched overland towards Pittsburg Landing. The two armies, when combined, would have 75,000 troops. The Confederates were also concentrating their forces in the area. Reinforcements poured into Corinth from Memphis, Columbus, Murfreesboro and Tupelo, bringing Confederate strength to 40,000. The Rebels determined that, if they moved fast, they could strike the Federals at Pittsburg Landing before the other army arrived. The Confederate commanders devised a battle plan that was too complicated for their green troops to execute and two critical days were lost. The Battle of Shiloh began April 6, 1862 when the Rebels launched their surprise attack. The Union Army should have known what the Confederates were up to, but their cavalry was not on patrol, their pickets were too close to camp, and they were not dug in. The rebel attack succeeded all across the line. As the Federals retreated they came across a sunken road and field with a picket fence. As the Union left and right continued to disintegrate, this center began to stiffen. Here 4,500 Federals held off 18,000 Confederates in fighting so bitter it was given the name, the Hornet’s Nest. After 10 hours of fighting the Rebels lined up 62 cannon and fired point blank into the Hornet’s Nest. The 2,200 Federals that survived ended up surrendering. Although the Federals lost this key center position, they gained valuable time to reorganize the rest of the Union Army. They then fought a more organized retreat back towards the Tennessee River. As the Federals approached Pittsburg Landing, they began to receive artillery support from the powerful cannons mounted on the Union gunboats on the river. Encouraged by this support, the retreating Federals regrouped and organized a defensive perimeter. At 6:00 PM, believing they had accomplished much, the Rebels called off the attack. That night, unknown to the Confederates, the Union Army from Nashville arrived at the battlefield. The next morning the Federals launched a dramatic counterattack, pushing the Rebels back and recapturing the Hornet’s Nest. As the Federals advanced, they came across the dead and dying from yesterdays fighting. For many soldiers it was an unnerving experience. The Confederate Army was pushed back all the way to their Corinth forti34
fications. The Federals decided not to attack the Rebels at Corinth and the Battle of Shiloh ended. It had been the first great battle of the Civil War, and the 20,000 casualties (25%) it had produced were simply overwhelming. It had been a bloodbath without precedent, and there was great suffering on both sides. Neither side was prepared to bury its dead, let alone care for the wounded. Although the Confederates had fought bravely, they had failed to drive the Federals out, and their hopes for winning back Tennessee were dashed. A month after Shiloh, typhoid struck the Confederate Army at Corinth, and they abandoned the city. The Federals used Corinth as a staging ground to march against Memphis, and the city fell on June 6. The Federals had come up the Tennessee River to engage the Rebels at Shiloh. At the same time the Union began a systematic attack on rebel positions up and down the Mississippi River. Their first target was Island Number 10 (the tenth island south of Cairo, Illinois). When the Confederates abandoned Columbus, Kentucky, they moved their heavy artillery to Island Number 10. The fort had 50 cannon protecting a double hairpin turn in the river. If the federal gunboats could run by the fort, they could cut off the island from supplies coming up the river from the south. The Federals were reluctant to expose their whole flotilla to the fort’s guns, so they dug a channel in the river to bypass the fort. The lighter boats were taken down the channel while the heavier boats ran by the fort successfully. On April 7 (the same day as the Battle of Shiloh) the Federals captured Island Number 10, taking 7,000 prisoners. It was another significant victory for the Union. With a population of 150,000, New Orleans was by far the largest city in the Confederacy. Because the Federals had been preoccupied with coming down the Mississippi from the north early in the war, New Orleans had been largely ignored. When the North learned that gunboats were being built in the city, New Orleans became a serious target. Ship Island lay 12 miles off the coast at the mouth of the Mississippi. In September of 1861, the Federals captured the island to use as a staging ground for an attack against New Orleans. The threat continued to grow, but the city was stripped of its defensive manpower to fight at Shiloh. In April, a powerful Union flotilla started up the Mississippi supported by 15,000 troops. The two forts protecting New Orleans from the south were bombarded for five days. Again, the plan was to get by the forts and cut supplies coming from New
Orleans. On the night of April 24th, the Union flotilla started by the forts in single file. When the 90 cannons in the forts opened fire, the Union responded with twice that number. The Confederates sent flaming barges down the river to catch the Union boats on fire. They were, however, largely ineffective. Many of the obstructions that the Rebels had placed in the river were washed away by a very swift current. Though the rebel batteries caused great damage to the Union fleet, almost all of the boats got through. Cut off from the mainland, the forts surrendered. Just two weeks after Shiloh, the Federals captured New Orleans. The city would remain in Union hands for the rest of the war. The Union victory at New Orleans was followed by success up and down the Mississippi. Fort Pillow fell on June 5. Union ram boats destroyed a makeshift Confederate flotilla near Memphis, and that city fell on June 6. Baton Rouge and Natchez were captured in August. From February to August 1862, the Federals had captured 50,000 miles of Confederate territory, put 30,000 rebel soldiers out of action, captured two state capitals and the largest city in the South, and gained control of a thousand miles of rivers. Only the Confederate fortress at Vicksburg eluded their grasp. As the summer of 1862 wore on, the Union steamroller in the West ran out of gas. In many ways, the Federals were victims of their own success. All of the territory they had won had to be occupied, which required huge numbers of soldiers. The vastness of the geography gave the Confederate cavalry great opportunities to raid Union supply convoys. The Federals had an army in northern Mississippi trying to take Vicksburg and an army in middle Tennessee trying to take Chattanooga. The Rebels, who were concentrated around Corinth, Mississippi, saw an opportunity. They left half of their army in Corinth to guard the approaches to Vicksburg. The other half was sent on an improbable railroad journey to Chattanooga. The Rebels considered Kentucky to be part of the Confederacy, even though the state had never seceded. They decided to invade Kentucky in an attempt to rally its citizens to the rebel cause. In August, two Confederate armies began marching north, one from Chattanooga, the other from Knoxville. The invasion of Kentucky happened at the same time as the invasion of Maryland, and both took the Federals off guard. In September, the Rebels captured Frankfort, the capital of Kentucky and installed a pro-Confederate governor. As they saw it, this allowed them
to legally draft Kentuckians into their army. The Confederates had brought 15,000 muskets north with them to arm the new recruits. The recruits never came. For the most part the Kentuckians were not interested in joining the rebel cause nor even supplying the rebel armies. What the Confederacy had thought would be a campaign of liberation turned out to be a raid into unfriendly territory. Whatever it was, the Federals were in hot pursuit. Having been resupplied and strengthened at Louisville, the Federals advanced towards the Rebels at Frankfort. Oddly, the two rebel armies had still not joined forces and the Federals meant to hit them before they did. There was a drought going on in Kentucky at the time and the armies were looking for water as much as they were for each other. The Battle of Perryville began on the morning of October 8, 1862 when scouts from both sides bumped into each other at a watering hole. At 10:00 AM the Rebels launched a spirited attack on the federal left flank. For hours the Federals struggled to contain the Confederate attack. Finally, at 4:00 PM the Union launched its counter attack, but lack of support and darkness limited its success. The next morning the Federals initiated an attack all across the line, only to find the Rebels gone. Realizing they were outnumbered, the Confederates had retreated during the night. They had fought well at Perryville but, because of their retreat, the battle is seen as a Union victory. The Rebels marched back into Tennessee having failed to bring Kentucky into the rebellion. The Rebels retreated south and took up positions at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, 30 miles southeast of Nashville. It took a change in command to get the Union army moving in pursuit. The Federals moved to Nashville and began to plan an attack on the Rebels at Murfreesboro. On December 26th the Federals marched out of Nashville towards the Confederates. Confederate cavalry went to work immediately, causing havoc with Union Round supply and communications. The three day Forest Battle of Stones River began on December 31, 1862. Both sides had drawn up the same battle plans to turn the enemies right flank. Murfreesboro The Confederates struck first pushing the Federals back three miles. The rebel artillery
d nd E a RR LE A R VIL OG S SH NO N E NA TTA I IK AT NP CH RN TU LE IL VI
ones R. Sto
could not be brought forward to support the Confederate breakthrough because of the rough terrain. This gave the Federals time to regroup and stop the rebel attack. The second day saw only skirmishing as the Union moved to higher ground. On the third day, the Rebels attacked a position in the Union line known as the Round Forest. They carried the position only to be driven back by a federal counterattack. Losses on both sides were extremely heavy. The next day, frustrated by federal refusal to give ground and fearing reinforcements from Nashville, the Confederates retreated towards Chattanooga. Stones River had been sheer butchery. Of the 72,000 soldiers that fought in the battle, 21,500 had been killed wounded or captured. This casualty rate of 31% was higher than any other battle in the Civil War. The cost of Stones River caused both sides to rethink their tactics as they continued the war in east Tennessee. Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas provided large amounts of food and supplies for the Confederate war effort in the West. As long as the Rebels held Vicksburg they could ferry those supplies across the Mississippi River to feed their hungry armies. The Federals knew that if they could capture Vicksburg, they could cut Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas off from the rest of the Confederacy. In the Union campaign against Vicksburg, nature would prove to be as big an enemy as the Rebels themselves. The Federals had failed in their attempt to take the city via the river because of its geographic location. Vicksburg was perched on high ground above the river where artillery was strategically placed. This created an impregnable defense from river attack. In November of 1862, the Federals had a 32,000 man army in Memphis and a 42,000 man army in Jackson, Tennessee. They devised a plan to take both armies south to join forces north of Vicksburg for a massed attack. The Union army in Memphis started down the Mississippi River while the other army marched overland toward Vicksburg. As the Union army to the East moved from Tennessee into Mississippi, it ran into serious problems. As their supply lines became longer and longer it became more and more vulnerable to attack from Confederate cavalry. By mid-December, the situation had become intolerable, and the army began to retreat back to Tennessee. So thoroughly had their supply and communication lines been cut, that no one even knew that they had turned back. The other Union army had come down the river and landed at Chickasaw Bluffs, north of Vicksburg. When it became apparent that the other army was not coming, they decided to launch the attack by themselves. On December 28, the Federals attacked the Rebels at Chickasaw Bayou. Having only one Union army to deal with, the Confederates were able to concentrate their forces. The Union attack was easily repelled, and the Federals took heavy losses. The Federals had found it impossible to take Vicksburg from the river.
Now they were finding that it was also a difficult place to even get to by land. The wetlands of Mississippi and Louisiana proved to be an enormous obstacle. After the defeat at Chickasaw Bayou, the Federals spent four months trying to get an army on the dry ground east of Vicksburg with enough food and ammunition to fight. They tried many roundabout routes through the swamps and bayous. They even tried digging a canal past the fortifications like they had successfully done at Island #10. Everything failed, and they were forced to consider radically different approaches to the problem. The Federals could march down the Louisiana side of the Mississippi River and cross over to dry ground south of Vicksburg. The problem with this plan was that it was practically impossible to supply the troops during such a march. While it appeared that the local people had little to eat themselves, they were actually hiding large quantities of food. They did not want to sell their food to the Rebels for worthless Confederate money. The Federals decided to make the march and take the food they needed from the locals. In April 1863 the Federals started down the western bank of the Mississippi living off the land. As they moved, they built bridges over the bayous, some over 600 feet long. They diverted the Rebels attention away from this main thrust by creating skirmishes north of the city. They also launched a major cavalry raid of their own east of Jackson. The Mississippi River was a mile wide south of Vicksburg. The army would have to be ferried back to the eastern shore by boat. Since the Union navy was north of the city, it would be necessary to run the boats by the guns at Vicksburg. It was a huge gamble. On the night of April 16 seventeen union boats attempted to slip by the Vicksburg defenses. As the cannons on the high bluffs opened up bonfires were lit on the shore to help the rebel gunners. Two of the Union boats were sunk, but the other 15 made it by Vicksburg. On April 30 the Union Army had successfully crossed the Mississippi to dry ground south of the city. The Confederates were taken off guard, having one army in Vicksburg and another in Jackson. The Federals headed northeast moving fast and effectively. They split the two armies, then moved east and burned the city of Jackson. They then turned back towards Vicksburg. The Union Army outmaneuvered the Confederates and, on May 16, defeated them at the Battle of Champion’s Hill. They repeated their success the next day at the Big Black River, driving the Rebels back into the Vicksburg defenses. Retreating back into
the city defenses was an unwise strategy for the Confederates. Cut off from all supplies they could only wait for help that would never come. Impatient for a victory, the Federals launched two all out attacks on the heavily fortified city. Both attacks were repulsed with heavy Union losses. The Federals then settled in for a siege. The residents of the city dug caves into the hillsides to escape the constant Union bombardment. As the days wore on and the supplies disappeared, people were reduced to eating dogs and cats. The siege lasted for six weeks. On July 4, 1863, one day after Gettysburg, Vicksburg surrendered. 30,000 Rebels were captured; and Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas had been severed from the Confederacy. After the fall of Vicksburg, attention was refocused on middle Tennessee. The bloody battle of Murfreesboro had produced a long standoff lasting from January to June 1863. In the spring of that year, Lincoln began to put pressure on the Union army at Murfreesboro to move against the Rebels. Chattanooga was the logical goal because it was an important railroad hub and a natural staging ground for a push towards Atlanta. Lincoln also knew that eastern Tennessee was a hotbed of pro-Union sentiment and by taking Chattanooga, Knoxville might also fall. There was a pattern emerging in the West of Union advances and corresponding Confederate retreats. This pattern was extended on June 24 when the Federals began the Tullahoma Campaign. In a mere two weeks the Federals, executing a series of skillful flanking movements, pushed the Confederates 100 miles southeast to Chattanooga. This Union army accomplished a significant military objective with virtually no bloodshed. As the Federals approached Chattanooga, Knoxville fell. The Federals then made a brilliant move across the Tennessee River and threatened to trap the Rebels inside Chattanooga. The Confederates were forced to retreat 15 miles south, where they camped beside a creek called Chickamauga. Meanwhile, Jefferson Davis was growing tired of Confederate armies constantly retreating in the West. Since there was a lull in the fighting in the East, Davis and his advisers decided to send 12,000 veteran eastern troops to reinforce the rebel army at Chattanooga. Moving 12,000 men from Virginia to Tennessee on the defective southern railroad system was a remarkable accomplishment. When completed, the Rebels would have a rare numerical advantage at Chattanooga, 70,000 to 57,000. On the morning of September 19, Union and Confederate cavalry skirmished across Chickamauga Creek and the Battle of Chickamauga had begun. The area of first contact acted like a magnet and soon both armies were fully engaged. The Confederates launched effective frontal assaults all across the battle line, but failed to break the Union ranks. The first day ended in a standoff. That night the last of the eastern reinforcements arrived, and the Rebels
readied themselves for the next days fighting. The rebel attacks the next morning were making little headway when a very odd thing happened. In the heat of the battle the Federals got confused and tried to plug an imaginary hole in their right flank, creating a real one. At that exact moment the 12,000 man division from the East attacked that very spot. The effect was spectacular. The federal right was completely crushed and driven from the field. As the federal soldiers ran for their lives, the rest of the Union army got caught up in the panic. The Federals were soon in full chaotic retreat back towards Chattanooga. Only a desperate and determined rear guard defense saved the Union army from total destruction. Chickamauga was the second largest battle of the war, with almost 35,000 casualties. It was a huge victory for the South, but it had come at a costly price (18,500 casualties). The Federals had narrowly avoided destruction by retreating back into Chattanooga. When the Confederates did not pursue, the Federals had time to fortify the city. The Rebels then began to surround the city in an attempt to cut off all supply. They were trying to do to the Federals what had been done to them at Vicksburg. Displaying excellent leadership, the Federals launched an all out effort to save the army in Chattanooga. In some fancy railroad work of their own, the Federals rushed food and reinforcements to the embattled city. A supply route was established through the Confederate perimeter known as the “cracker line.” Slowly the threat subsided, and the Union army began to grow in size and morale. As the Union army in Chattanooga was getting stronger, the Rebels were getting weaker. In early November the Confederates dispatched 12,000 badly needed troops on a failed attempt to recapture Knoxville. The remaining 45,000 Rebels were dug in on Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge just south of the city. The Battle of Chattanooga began on November 23 when the Federals marched south out of the city and attacked Lookout Mountain. The mountain was an imposing geographic feature rising 1,100 feet in the air. Because of a low lying cloud cover, the many newspaper reporters on hand named the attack “the Battle above the Clouds.” Perhaps because of its fortress like appearance, Lookout
Mountain was lightly guarded by the Rebels. To everyone’s surprise the Federals scaled the mountain and dislodged the Rebels with little trouble. The Federals lost less then 500 men in the attack. In contrast, the federal attacks against both ends of Missionary Ridge ran into serious trouble. The Union decided to make a diversionary attack against the middle to draw manpower away from the rebel flanks. The federal units involved in the fake attack were the same soldiers that had been humiliated two months earlier at Chickamauga. As the 25,000 federal troops marched against the Confederate center, it reminded some veterans of Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg. The outcome could not have been any different. Their orders were to take the first line of rifle pits at the base of the ridge and stop. When the objective was accomplished, they continued the attack and captured the second line. Without orders, the Federals continued up the ridge, capturing the crest and driving the Confederates down the back side. It simply defied all logic. A frontal attack against a well-fortified enemy on high ground had not only succeeded, it had driven a Confederate Army from the field for the first time in the war. It was a crushing defeat for the South. The badly mauled Confederate army retreated 25 miles south to Dalto, Georgia and went into winter camps. Union forces in the West had pushed the Rebels completely out of Tennessee and had established Chattanooga as a powerful staging ground for a push into Georgia in the spring. A dagger was now pointed at the heart of the Confederacy. During the winter of 63-64 Chattanooga was turned into a giant Federal railroad depot. Soldiers, horses, and supplies flooded into the city in preparation for the spring campaign against Atlanta. On May 7 the Atlanta Campaign began when the Federals moved south out of Chattanooga. At the same time the Union forces in the East began the Overland campaign against Richmond. 100,000 well equipped Federals crossed over into Georgia opposed by 53,000 ragged Confederates. Neither army would have the taste for the slam bang combat found in the eastern campaign. For the next ten weeks, the two armies would play a dangerous, but cautious chess game over the 100 miles between Chattanooga and Atlanta. The Rebels knew that their army was no match for the Federals in open combat, so they conducted a delaying action while the Confederate cavalry
struck at the ever lengthening Union supply lines. From Dalton to Resaca to Cassville the Federals skillfully maneuvered southward. The Rebels would block a main road or valley, dig in, and dare the Federals to launch a frontal attack. When the Federals flanked their fortification they would then retreat and block another road or valley. As they retreated, the Rebels tore up the railroad tracks. The Federals repaired the tracks as fast as they were wrecked. As the Union Army marched southward, slaves were freed, and Southern morale shrunk. At Cassville, the Confederates launched an unsuccessful counterattack, then fell back 12 miles to Altoona Pass. The Federals avoided the trap at Altoona Pass and launched a full frontal attack on the rebel defenses at Kenasaw Mountain. Temperatures reached 100 degrees and men fainted and vomited from heat exhaustion. The attack failed and 3,000 Federals fell, but the Rebels were again forced out of a strong position. As the federal supply lines lengthened, more men were required to defend them. This sapped strength from the Union offensive. Jefferson Davis was growing frustrated by the constant retreating of his army. When the Rebels dropped back to Peachtree Creek, 4 miles north of Atlanta, Davis fired the commanding general. The new rebel leadership was more aggressive and attacked the Federals at Peachtree Creek. The attack was repelled with heavy losses, and the Rebels retreated back into the Atlanta defenses. The Federals did not want to attack the strong city defenses so, in a familiar tactic, they went for the railroads. Lessons from Vicksburg were well learned and when the last railroad fell on Sept 1, the Confederates abandoned the city. While the Federals wanted very badly to capture Atlanta, they did not want to waste troops occupying it. They decided to force all of the citizens out of the city and burn it to the ground, to end its usefulness to the Southern war effort. The Federals were now waging total war in an attempt to break the Southern citizen’s will to fight. It is difficult to overestimate what a positive effect the fall of Atlanta had on Northern morale. There had been little good news in the East, and the fall presidential election was fast approaching. The North was ecstatic. While the Union army had captured Atlanta and greatly weakened the Confederate army, it had not destroyed it. The Rebels had circled around Atlanta hoping to complete the job of severing the Union supply line to Chattanooga. They hoped to lure the Federals back into the mountains where they were more vulnerable. The Federals did not want to chase this rag tag band of Rebels all over the South, so they sent 32,000 troops to Nashville to protect Tennessee. The rest of the Union army stayed in Atlanta. Realizing that they could not lure the Federals back into the mountains, the Confederates hatched a desperate plan. They decided to march north and attack
the Union army at Nashville. If they could capture Nashville, they would continue north through Kentucky, gathering recruits, and maybe even go east and rescue Richmond. The plan was preposterous, but 30,000 Rebels began moving north. At Franklin, Tennessee, 15 miles south of Nashville they ran into heavily fortified Union positions. On the morning of November 30, the Rebels attempted a reckless head on assault. The result was shocking. The Confederates took 7,000 casualties, more than the Federals had lost at Cold Harbor and three times the Union losses. Six Confederate generals fell at Franklin. When the Federals withdrew to their Nashville fortification, the stunned rebel army somehow followed. Confederate commanders were afraid that if they called for a retreat, their whole army would desert, so they camped and waited for the Federals to attack them. When the Battle of Nashville finally began on the morning of December 15th, the result was decisive. 55,000 Federals swept the 25,000 man rebel army from the field. Thousands of Rebels surrendered, and the last major Confederate army in the West went out of existence. With part of the army gone to Nashville to protect Tennessee, the main federal army in Atlanta planned a bold move. Union armies in the West had learned that protecting supply lines was an agonizing process. They had also learned that local farmers throughout the South had food and provisions for the taking. The decision was made to march east from Atlanta to Savannah living off the locals and destroying everything in sight. The two armies that had been hammering at each other for 4 months were now marching in opposite directions. The Confederates headed north into Tennessee and, on November 15, the Federals began their “march to the sea.” In the fall of 1864 everyone knew that the North was winning the war. However, the Confederates would not stop fighting. In an attempt to make the South surrender the Federals decided to make war against the civilian population. All Southern resources that could contribute to the war effort in any way would be targeted in an attempt
to break Confederate morale. The Union army set off on the 285 mile trek from Atlanta to Savannah to “make Georgia howl” as one General put it. The army made about 10 miles a day in a path 50 to 100 miles wide. As the army moved, the cavalry scouted the land ahead. When the main body of Federals arrived they took the provisions they needed from houses, barns and fields and burned many of the large plantations. One Union soldier described it as “the most gigantic pleasure excursion ever planned.” Officers were supposed to decide what got burned. The Union army itself was well-disciplined but stragglers, deserters and looters often were not. When houses were burned, there was much suffering. The campaign had occurred right after the fall harvest so there was much food to be had. It became apparent that rebel soldiers were not starving because there was no food in the South. The problem was that the Southern transportation system had collapsed, and there was no way to get the food to the front. As the Federals marched deeper into Georgia, freed and escaped slaves flocked to the army. The Federals approached Savannah in mid-December, and the 10,000 man rebel garrison fled the city. The army marched into Savannah on December 22 and gave the city to Lincoln as a Christmas present. The Federals stayed in Savannah for a month to rest and resupply. In early February they burned Savannah and marched north into South Carolina. Swampy terrain and torrential rain slowed the Federals very little. Since South Carolina was the state that had started the rebellion, great revenge was taken there. Charleston was sacked and Columbia was burned to the ground. The Federals overall plan was to march north to Virginia and help capture Richmond. As they continued unopposed through the South, Jefferson Davis worked desperately to organize a defense. 10,000 men from defeated Confederate armies were gathered together in North Carolina and waited for the Federals. In March, the Union army moved into North Carolina and captured Fayetteville. At Bentonville they were attacked by the rag tag rebel army and they brushed them aside. The Federals did not pursue the retreating Confederates because they knew the end was near. The Union stopped at Goldsboro, completing the 700 mile march. Three weeks after Appomattox, Confederate forces in North Carolina surrendered.
The Political War in the North
Northern politics during the Civil War were skillfully dominated by Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was born in Kentucky in 1809. His family moved to Springfield Illinois where Lincoln became a successful lawyer. He served in the Illinois state legislature and one term in the United States Congress. Lincoln came to the attention of the nation in 1858 when he ran unsuccessfully against Stephen Douglas for the United States Senate. Two
years later he surprised everyone when he won the Republican nomination for President as a compromise candidate. Lincoln won the Presidency in a bitterly divided election. When Lincoln arrived in Washington early in 1861, very little was known about him. Hardly anyone believed that he could effectively run a country that was literally falling apart. Lincoln, however, possessed unique skills. He had the ability to work with difficult but talented people. Lincoln put together a cabinet of brilliant and capable people. It did not matter to him that some of his cabinet members were former political rivals. This group of men with whom Lincoln surrounded himself would effectively run the country, freeing Lincoln to concentrate on the war. Lincoln was not a military man like his Southern counterpart, Jefferson Davis. He was, however, very intelligent. He listened to his military advisers and learned fast. Lincoln’s first major challenge as President was to keep as many slave states as possible from joining the Confederacy. He stood a decent chance with Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky, Missouri, and the western part of Virginia. Lincoln knew that the main cause of the war was slavery. He also knew that if he talked about freeing slaves in the Border South, those states might leave the Union. For the first year of the war, Lincoln insisted that he had no intention of interfering with slavery where it existed. When his generals freed slaves in conquered Southern territory, Lincoln would override their orders. He did everything possible to maintain or win the loyalty of the border states. Due to Lincoln’s clever political maneuvering, no border slave state joined the rebellion. This denied the Confederacy the services of 3.5 million people. Had the Border States joined the rebellion, the Confederate fighting force would have been increased by 45% and manufacturing capacity by 80%. There are two extra stars in the Confederate flag that represent states (Kentucky and Missouri) that never seceded. Lincoln’s greatest opposition came from the “Peace Democrats,” better known as Copperheads. Copperheads were Northerners who wanted to let the South go in peace. The southern parts of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois had relatively strong ties to the South, and they were a hotbed for Copperhead activity. These Peace Democrats were led by a brilliant defense attorney named Clement Vallandigham. Vallandigham served in the United States Senate and ran for Governor of Ohio in 1863. During the campaign, Vallandigham openly encouraged Union soldiers to Clement desert. He was arrested, tried by a military court, and Vallandigham convicted of sedition. This made Vallandigham a pow46
erful martyr figure for the anti-war movement. Wisely grasping the political implications, Lincoln had Vallandigham released form prison and banished to the South. The Copperhead movement lost its momentum in the summer of 1863 when the Union scored dramatic victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg. The Democratic Party had an equal number of “War Democrats.” The “Peace” and “War” Democrats were united in their opposition to freeing the slaves. Lincoln also had to deal with the Radical Republicans who opposed slavery on moral grounds from the very beginning. Based in New England, the Radical Republicans exercised power that exceeded their numbers. Early enthusiasm for the war produced plenty of volunteers to fill the Union ranks. However, as the war dragged on and the casualty lists grew, fewer and fewer stepped forward. This forced Lincoln to institute a draft. The draft was never expected to bring large numbers of soldiers into the army. Many Northern men volunteered to avoid the stigma of being drafted. If a potential draftee volunteered, he was paid a bounty of $100, which was almost half a year’s salary in the 1860’s. Wealthy men could avoid military service by paying a substitute to fight for them. Prominent Americans like J.P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, and Grover Cleveland avoided military service by paying a substitute. Poor Irish and German immigrants were lured into the army by bounties and substitute payments. Many Northern men simply did not want to fight to free black slaves. When the draft began, there was rioting throughout the North. The New York City draft riots in July of 1863 were the worst in the nation’s history. The 200,000 Irish immigrants living in New York feared that freed slaves would take their jobs and being forced to fight for their freedom was too much. The city erupted in riots that killed 1,000 people and had to be put down by troops returning from the Gettysburg battlefield. The war was expensive to fight, and the North struggled to meet the cost. The Lincoln administration taxed, borrowed, and printed money to pay for the war. While there was significant inflation in the North it never reached the chaotic level it did in the South. The war provided a dramatic stimulus to the Northern economy. Manufacturing and farm production expanded greatly and exports doubled. Because of the lack of manpower, new, labor saving machines were introduced to factories and farms and women joined the work force. Many Northern men made fortunes during the Civil War. While Lincoln knew that slavery was the central issue behind the war, he downplayed its importance. He knew that the Border South, and most of the North did not want to fight a war to free the slaves. Lincoln began to change his mind because of happenings on the battlefields. As Northern
armies began to advance into the South, large numbers of escaped slaves crossed the lines and surrendered to Union forces. These slaves had been supporting the rebel armies, building their fortifications and growing their food. It eventually occurred to Lincoln and his generals that it would be easier to defeat the Confederacy if they took away their slave labor. After the half victory at Antietam, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation which freed all of the slaves in the unconquered rebel territories. This Presidential order was an attempt to win the war by denying the Rebels their slave labor. Now it was disloyal not to want to free the slaves. This changed everything. The war was no longer about bringing the South back into the Union on negotiated terms. It was about bashing the South to pieces and bringing it back into the Union however the North pleased. The Emancipation Proclamation also changed the way Europeans thought about the war. In many ways, the American Civil War resembled class conflict in England. The North stood for elected government, equal rights, and free labor. The South stood for aristocracy, privilege, and slave labor. The upper classes of England were for the South while the lower classes were for the North. Slavery was outlawed in Europe and very unpopular. When the Emancipation Proclamation made it clear to Europeans that the war was really about slavery, even the upper classes withdrew their support for the South. By issuing the Emancipation Proclamation Abraham Lincoln had outmaneuvered the South and denied them European support. The proclamation also opened the door for black soldiers. Blacks had always wanted to fight but racism had kept them out of the army. Resentment against former slaves in uniform lessened as casualty lists grew. Eventually, 180,000 black soldiers and 20,000 black sailors fought for the North. Blacks in uniform represented 10% of the Union fighting force. Lincoln later reflected “use of colored troops...the heaviest blow yet dealt to the rebellion.” After the Battle of Gettysburg, thousands of bodies were buried in shallow graves. As the rains began to expose these bodies it became apparent that federal money would be needed to construct a proper cemetery. The project was finished early in November of 1863 and Abraham Lincoln came to speak at the dedication. There he delivered the Gettysburg Address, perhaps the most famous speech in American history. In his brief address he abandoned talk of a union of states, choosing instead to speak about the hopes and dreams of a completely united nation. As the election of 1864 neared, the war was going badly for the North. Although it appeared they were winning, Union armies were stalled on both the eastern and western fronts. The volume of killing with no apparent success was hurting Lincoln’s re-election chances. The Copperheads gained strength from the negative reaction to the Emancipation Proclamation and
the growing casualty lists. Lincoln was convinced that if he lost, an antiwar Democrat president would negotiate peace with the South that might leave slavery intact. His opponent was George B. McClellan, a brilliant but indecisive general that Lincoln had fired for lack of initiative. His campaign strategy was simple. Lincoln characterized the Democrats as disloyal, and prayed for victories on the battlefield. His prayers were answered when Union forces captured Atlanta. Lincoln’s election victory margin was significant. He used the political momentum of his election to pass the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which outlawed slavery everywhere in the United States. The amendment was passed January 13, 1865. As the war was coming to an end, discussion began as to how to bring the Southern states back into the Union. Lincoln favored a liberal plan that would be easy on the South. The Congress wanted to inflict punishment on the South for its experiment in rebellion. The sides were coming towards a compromise when, on April 19th, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by an Southern sympathizer named John Booth. Eventually, the harsher plan was adopted, and the South was divided into military districts governed by Union military officers. The process of uniting the Southern states with the rest of the country was bitter, and the task was not completed until 1877. John Booth
The Political War in the South
The central figure in the political war in the South was the President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis. Davis was born in a Kentucky log cabin, like Lincoln, but his family moved to Mississippi when he was young. His father became wealthy as a slave owning cotton planter. Davis was educated at West Point. When South Carolina seceded Davis was a senator from Mississippi. Although he did not campaign for the post, he was unanimously elected President of the Confederate States. While Davis was a man of great intelligence, courage and energy, his enemies saw him as inflexible, thin skinned and humorless. He did not have Abraham Lincoln’s unique ability to work with difficult people. All in all, given the very difficult position he was put into, Jefferson Jefferson Davis Davis performed quite admirably.
To fight an effective war, the South needed to form a strong union among the Southern states. This was, however, exactly what they were fighting against. States rights were written into the Confederate constitution, making it difficult for a central authority to prosecute a war. Southern governors would often oppose the war effort. Governor Zebulon Vance, of North Carolina, hoarded 100,000 Confederate uniforms while southern armies shivered in rags. Governor Joseph Brown of Georgia made 10,000 Georgians second lieutenants in the state militia to keep them out of the Confederate Army. When anything went wrong, the states blamed Davis’s government in Richmond. Much of the bitterness in Confederate politics was caused by the fact that there were no political parties in the South during the war. As nasty as party politics can become, it gives a platform for politicians to fight fairly. Without political parties, disagreements became personal vendettas. The Confederate Congress in Richmond was ineffective, bureaucratic and susceptible to drunken brawling. It was incapable of levying taxes and shaping economic policy in the young, struggling nation. The Confederacy never did bring political power under control of a single authority. Some of the blame goes to Jefferson Davis and the Congress, but the independent nature of the southern people was also to blame. As the war began, the economic challenges facing the Confederacy were immense. Having few resources with which to work, Southerners set up gun factories, gun powder mills and foundries for casting cannon. By 1863 the Confederacy was self-sufficient in the production of guns and munitions. They were less successful with supplying their armies with uniforms and shoes. Early in the war Southern farmers switched from cotton to food production. Food became plentiful, but getting it to where it was needed was a Tredegar Iron Works serious problem. The Southern railroad system fell apart and almost all of the wagons and draft animals were in the army. Armies in Virginia often went hungry, and there were bread riots in Richmond. With most of the men away in the army, Southern women struggled to keep family farms going. Thousands of pitiful letters were written begging husbands to come home. As the war dragged on, the blockade of Southern ports made everything more difficult. Jefferson Davis and the Confederate Congress did a poor job of administrating the Southern economy. In the beginning, they paid for the war through taxes and borrowing. When these two methods failed, they began to print more money. This led to run away inflation. Goods cost ten times as much at the end of the war as they did at the beginning.
Slavery itself changed during the war. With most of the men away in the army, slaves were less vigorously overseen, and they did less work. More slaves worked off the plantations in war production or army work. These factors weakened the underpinnings of the slavery system while the war was going on. As Union armies penetrated deeper into the South, they became magnets for runaway slaves. These armies literally carried freedom with them and eventually one out of seven slaves crossed Union lines. The Confederacy had its share of problems getting men for its armies. After the dramatic losses in the West in the spring of 1862, the South began to draft men into military service. Wealthy Southerners could pay substitutes to fight for them. Planters who owned 20 slaves or more were exempted from the army. This led many Southern soldiers to say that it was a “rich man’s war, poor mans fight.” Jefferson Davis’s enemies used this unpopular draft as a weapon against him. They accused the Confederate government of trampling on individAntietam Battlefield ual rights. This inability of Southern politicians to work together for independence, and worry about liberty later, was one of the main reasons they lost the war. While politicians squabbled, most ordinary soldiers made tremendous sacrifices for the South. Despite all of the distractions to the Southern war effort, the Confederacy put an incredibly high percentage (80%) of its eligible men in uniform
The Generals - Union
Ulysses S. Grant (1822-85) – Ulysses S. Grant was born into a working class family in Point Pleasant, Ohio. His given name was Hiram Ulysses Grant, but a clerical error at West Point made him Ulysses S. Grant. The error proved hard to change and he eventually accepted the name. His friends called him Sam. After fighting in the Mexican War, Grant languished in remote western posts, separated from his family, where he sometimes drank excessively. Throughout his life, Grant depended on his wife Julia to provide the stability he needed to function effectively. He resigned from the army in 1854, in part, to be with his family. Grant then spent six frustrating years knocking around from job to job. When the war broke out, Grant enlisted in the army and began to rise through the ranks. Early in 1862, Grant commanded a small but strategically im51
portant army in the West. He managed to punch a gaping hole in the southern defenses at the Battle of the River Forts. It was the first major victory for the North, and the newspapers began calling Grant “Unconditional Surrender” (as in US Grant) because of the terms he demanded. Grant became famous overnight. When the Rebels retreated up the Tennessee River, Grant followed them. Surprised by a rebel attack on the first day of the Battle of Shiloh, Grant was saved by the arrival of the army from Nashville, led by Don Carlos Buell. On the second day of the battle, he rallied his troops and scored a victory. When criticism of Grant for unpreparedness at Shiloh reached Lincoln, he said “I can not spare this man. He fights!” From Shiloh, Grant went on to Vicksburg where he masterminded one of the great battles of history. At Vicksburg, Grant captured a huge rebel army and split the Confederacy in two. He then went on to Chattanooga where he broke a seemingly hopeless siege and scored another stunning victory. Promoted to general-in-chief of the army, Grant was sent east to fight Robert E. Lee in Virginia. Grant’s Overland Campaign against Lee was very costly, but effective. Grant drove Lee back into Richmond and strangled his army into surrender. Grant became the preeminent Northern war hero. After the war, Grant capitalized on his popularity by winning the presidential election of 1868. As president, Grant was out of his element. His administration was marred by scandal and corruption. William Tecumseh Sherman (1820-91) – William Tecumseh Sherman was born and raised in Ohio where his father-in-law and brother were both U. S. Senators. Sherman was educated at West Point and was superintendent of the Louisiana Military Academy when the Civil War broke out. He resigned his position and joined the Union Army. Sherman fought bravely at the Union loss at 1st Manassas and was promoted to a higher command in the West. In Kentucky he had what many modern historians refer to as a brief nervous breakdown. When he recovered, Sherman was assigned to duty under Ulysses S. Grant, beginning the chief military partnership of the Civil War. Grant and Sherman dominated Confederate forces in the West, highlighted by victories a Shiloh, Vicksburg and Chattanooga. When Grant went east to take control of Union forces in Virginia, Sherman took over as commander in the West. Sherman drove Confederate forces from Chattanooga to Atlanta and, when he captured the city in the Battle of Atlanta on September of 1864, he saved the fall election for Abraham Lincoln. In his famous March to the Sea, Sherman
destroyed all civilian property and supplies that could be used to support Confederate armies. He then marched north and was in North Carolina when the war came to an end. After the war, Sherman became Commander-in-Chief of the army, managing operations against American Indians in the West. Sherman has been called the first modern general because he understood that armies survived because of the support of civilian populations. Modern warfare would target civilian populations as well as enemy armies. Justifying his belief in tough and intensive war on all fronts, Sherman said “War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it.” George H. Thomas (1816-70) – George H. Thomas was from Virginia, but he fought for the Union in the Civil War. Early in the war he was sent to Kentucky to command an independent force. He fought under Don Carlos Buell at Shiloh and Perryville and under William Rosecrans at Stones River and the Tallahoma Campaign. At the Battle of Chickamauga, Thomas saved the Union army from possible annihilation by organizing a stiff, rear guard defense. For this heroism he was given the nickname “The Rock of Chickamauga.” Fighting under Sherman in the Atlanta Campaign, Thomas again distinguished himself with his leadership at the Battle of Peachtree Creek. When John Bell Hood circled around the Union army in Atlanta and headed back to Tennessee, Thomas was sent to deal with him. The two armies met at the Battle of Nashville, which was the most one-sided engagement of the war. Thomas defeated Hood so completely that Hood’s army would never again take the field. The Battle of Nashville ended major hostilities in the West, and the war would soon end. After the war, Thomas stayed in the army, becoming the Military Commander in the Pacific. Phillip H. Sheridan (1831-88) - In 1861 Phillip Sheridan was an obscure desk lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He did not get his first combat assignment until May of 1862. Fighting in the West under Don Carlos Buell, Sheridan distinguished himself at Perryville and Stones River. He rose from captain to major-general in six months. Under the command of Grant at the Battle of Chattanooga, Sheridan led the incredible charge up Missionary Ridge. When Grant went east, he took Sheridan with him, placing him in charge of Union
cavalry in Virginia. Sheridan fought in the Wilderness Campaign and led the cavalry raid on Richmond that killed J.E.B. Stuart. When the Confederates again invaded the Shenandoah Valley in 1864, Grant sent Sheridan to root them out. At the Battle of Cedar Creek, Sheridan rallied his routed troops and turned defeat into victory by the force of his personality. He then destroyed everything of military value in the valley. He explained that, even a crow flying over the place would have to carry his own provisions. At the end, Sheridan led the attack that cut Robert E. Lee off at Appomattox. After the war, Sheridan served as military governor of Texas and Louisiana, before being transferred west to fight Indians. When William T. Sherman retired as general-in-chief of the army, Sheridan assumed the position. He was head of the army until shortly before his death in 1888. William S. Rosecrans (1819-98) – William S. Rosecrans first fought under George B. McClellan in Western Virginia in 1862. Rosecrans did much of the planning for the successful campaign, but McClellan got the credit. When McClellan was promoted, Rosecrans refused to follow him to Washington, taking a command in Mississippi instead. Rosecrans won battles at Iuka and Corinth, Mississippi before being promoted to a command in Kentucky. He stopped Braxton Bragg’s invasion of Kentucky at Perryville. Promoted to command the Army of the Cumberland in the ensuing Tallahoma Campaign, Rosecrans pushed Bragg’s rebel army all of the way south to Chattanooga. Bragg was reinforced and attacked Rosecrans at Chickamauga, crushing his army. Rosecrans was relieved of his command and ended up in charge of military operations in Missouri for the rest of the war. After the war, Rosecrans held numerous public positions including U.S. Congressman and Minister to Mexico. George B. McClellan (1826-85) – A native of Philadelphia, George B. McClellan was president of a railroad company when the war broke out. His early success in western Virginia made him the first Northern war hero. After the defeat at 1st Manassas McClellan became commander of the Army of the Potomac. McClellan excelled in training soldiers to fight, but was reluctant to commit them to battle. His insubordination was a constant source of frustration for Abraham Lincoln.
Lincoln finally pressured McClellan into beginning the Peninsula Campaign against the Rebels. Moving slowly and cautiously up the Peninsula, McClellan failed to capture the rebel capital. He was eventually driven off by Robert E. Lee. Demoted but not fired, McClellan played a small part in the Battle of 2nd Manassas. Facing a desperate situation when Lee invaded Maryland, Lincoln reinstated McClellan. Armed with superior numbers and the rebel battle plans at Antietam, McClellan could manage no better than a draw. When he failed to pursue the retreating Lee, Lincoln fired him for good. McClellan never received another military command. He ran as a War Democrat against Lincoln in the 1864 presidential campaign and was soundly defeated. After the war, he served as governor of New Jersey. While McClellan was a brilliant organizer of men, he was a poor field commander. Had he been more effective leading men in battle, the war might have ended much sooner and many lives might have been saved. George Gordon Meade (1815-72) – George Gordon Meade was born in Spain, son of a U.S. Naval agent. When the war broke out, Meade was assigned to the East where he stayed throughout the conflict. He fought under George H. McClellan in the Peninsula Campaign and was severely wounded at the Seven Days’ Battles. He recovered from his wounds in time to fight in the Battle of 2nd Manassas. Meade distinguished himself with his leadership at Antietam and scored the only Union breakthrough at Fredericksburg. Meade fought at Chancellorsville and took over command of the army three days before Gettysburg, when Joseph Hooker suddenly resigned. Although Meade designed the sound defensive strategy that won at Gettysburg, his victory is often attributed to poor decisions on the part of the Rebels. Meade was praised for the badly needed Union victory, but soundly criticized for not pursuing Robert E. Lee after the battle. When U.S. Grant came east, Meade became his subordinate. Both men adapted to the difficult situation and Meade performed his duties effectively during the Wilderness Campaign and the end game at Richmond. After the war, Meade stayed in the army, serving as a Military District Commander in the South and Commander of the Division of the Atlantic. Ambrose E. Burnside (1824-81) – Ambrose E. Burnside was better known for his whiskers (sideburns) than for his military career. He fought at 1st Manassas and directed attacks against the North Carolina coast.
His success in North Carolina first brought him to the attention of Abraham Lincoln. Fighting under McClellan at Antietam, Burnside was slow to capture a critical bridge (Burnside’s bridge). He twice declined a promotion to command in the East, accepting only after McClellan left for good. Pressured into bold action, Burnside was responsible for the costly and humiliating defeat at Fredericksburg. When his next campaign bogged down in the mud a month later, Lincoln fired him. Reassigned to the West, Burnside served as the commander of the Department of Ohio, where he ordered the arrest and oversaw the banishment of Clement Vallandigham. He later successfully defended Knoxville against a rebel army led by James Longstreet. When Burnside returned to the East, he fought under George Meade in the Wilderness Campaign. At Petersburg, he was relieved of his command for his role in the Battle of the Creator fiasco. After the war, Burnside was active in Rhode Island politics, serving as governor and U.S. Senator. Burnside was a man who knew his limitations and accepted senior command grudgingly. After bitter disappointments, he willingly accepted lesser roles in a loyal and positive manner. Joseph Hooker (1814-79) – Joseph Hooker served as a subordinate officer in the East, fighting in most of the major battles. His nickname “fighting Joe” came from a misprint in a newspaper article. Hooker never liked it. He played a major role in the Union half victory at Antietam. After the Union disaster at Fredericksburg, Hooker publicly criticized his commanding officer, Ambrose E. Burnside. Abraham Lincoln took a chance and promoted Hooker to replace Burnside. A good administrator, Hooker rapidly improved army morale and discipline. Advancing his army south, he met Lee at Chancellorsville. Lee completely “out generaled” Hooker and dealt him a costly and humiliating defeat. Two months later he was removed from command after quarreling with Lincoln and senior commanders. Transferred to the West, Hooker fought effectively at Chattanooga, capturing Lookout Mountain in the “battle above the clouds.” He served under Sherman in the campaign against Atlanta, but resigned when he was passed over for promotion. The legend that prostitutes got their name “hookers” from the general is untrue. While
Hooker was a hard drinking, ladies man, they were called that before Hooker’s time. Benjamin Franklin Butler (1818-93) – Benjamin Butler was the best known of the Northern political generals. Although he was a Democrat, the was a strong Unionist. Butler had no military experience at all, but he rose to high command because of his public following and his friends in high places. He organized his own contingent of Massachusetts militia, which were the first Union soldiers to arrive in Washington after Fort Sumter. Assigned command of Fort Monroe in Virginia, Butler was one of the first to realize how important slave labor was to the Confederate war effort. He was a failure as a military commander, so he was sent to New Orleans to administer the newly captured city. He outraged the city’s inhabitants when, among other things, he threatened to treat the women of New Orleans as prostitutes. Butler was removed from his position when the South began to use his outrageous behavior as effective war propaganda against the North. In the spring of 1864, Butler used his connections to become head of the Army of the James. He was defeated by P.T.G. Beauregard at Bermuda Hundred, south of Richmond. U.S. Grant had little use for Butler’s military skills, and he fired him when Butler’s expedition against Fort Fisher in North Carolina failed. After the war, Butler was a powerful political force in the radical Republican Congress and he spearheaded much of the reconstruction legislation. He was Governor of Massachusetts from 1883-84, and he ran unsuccessfully for President in 1884.
The Generals - Confederate
Robert E. Lee (1807-70) – Robert E. Lee was the most successful Confederate general and one of history’s greatest military leaders. Without Lee’s brilliant leadership, the Civil War might have been much shorter. Lee was commanding troops in Texas when the war broke out. He was offered command of the Union army, but chose to stay loyal to his home state of Virginia. Early in the war, Lee served as military adviser to Jefferson Davis in Richmond. When Joseph Johnston was wounded at Fair Oaks, Lee took the field. Taking heavy casualties at the Seven Days’ Battles, Lee managed to push the Federals off the Peninsula
and save Richmond. Marching north, Lee vanquished John Pope’s army at 2nd Manassas and invaded Maryland. When Lee’s battle plans fell into Union hands, he could only fight the Union army to a draw at Antietam. Retreating south, Lee went on the defensive. At Fredericksburg, Lee demonstrated his defensive brilliance in a lopsided Confederate victory. Fredericksburg was followed by Chancellorsville, Lee’s masterpiece. Displaying an uncanny ability to read the mind of his opponent, Lee completely out maneuvered and out fought the Federals. When Lee invaded the North for a second time, his offensive came do a dramatic halt at Gettysburg, the largest battle in the Civil War. Some blame Lee’s stunning defeat at Gettysburg on his own overconfidence, while others blame the poor performance of his subordinates. Both were factors. Another cause considered less often was how well the Federals fought. After Gettysburg, Lee’s armies did not have the strength to win offensive victories. Fighting U.S. Grant in the Wilderness Campaign, Lee inflicted heavy casualties, but lost many men himself. During the winter of 64-5, Lee fought hunger and desertion in his army. In the spring, Lee was forced to abandon his trenches around Petersburg and run for it. Finding himself trapped at Appomattox, Lee was forced to surrender what was left of his army. Lee was gracious in defeat, refusing to approve guerrilla type fighting after the surrender. After the war, Lee served as president of Washington College (later renamed Washington and Lee) until his death. Admirers of Robert E. Lee often see him as the epitome of the noble and strong Southern gentlemen. The fact that Lee was a slave holder is often left out of the legend. What is not in dispute is the fact that Robert E. Lee came to represent a way of Southern life that was overtaken by the modern world. James Longstreet (1821-1904) – James Longstreet was a highly regarded officer in the regular army when the war began. Born in South Carolina, he cast his lot with the Confederacy. He fought well at 1st Manassas and commanded half of Lee’s army during the Peninsula Campaign. An excellent combat officer whom Lee often referred to as ”my war horse,” Longstreet played pivotal roles in the rebel victories at 2nd Manassas, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chickamauga and The Wilderness. Longstreet proved ineffective as an independent commander when he failed to capture the city of Knoxville. He was with Lee at the surrender at Appomattox. Longstreet’s most controversial role during the war was commanding the Confederate right flank at Gettysburg. He openly ques58
tioned Lee’s offensive strategy during the battle. In retrospect, Longstreet’s plan to flank the Federals and force them to attack was a better idea. The disagreement became a full blown controversy after the war when Longstreet joined the Republican Party and supported U.S. Grant for President. Southern Lost Cause writers (like Jubal Early) revisited Longstreet’s conduct at Gettysburg and blamed him for the defeat. Longstreet benefited greatly from his affiliation with the Republicans and served in many important public positions in his long, post-war career. Thomas Stonewall Jackson (1824-63) – Stonewall Jackson is often considered one of the most brilliant battlefield commanders in American history. His military genius, odd personality quirks, and religious fanaticism make him one of the most compelling characters of the Civil War. After a five year military career, Jackson accepted a teaching position at the Virginia Military Institute. When the war broke out, he resigned and joined the Confederate army. Jackson fought at 1st Manassas where he and his brigade earned the nickname “Stonewall.” In May and June of 1862, Jackson commanded 17,000 troops in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. With high motivation and clever military strategy, Jackson’s small army defeated 60,000 Federals. After the victory, Jackson hurried south to join Robert E. Lee in the Peninsula Campaign. He performed poorly on the Peninsula, probably due to exhaustion. At 2nd Manassas, Jackson played a major role in the destruction of John Pope’s Union army. When Lee decided to invade Maryland, Jackson was sent to capture Harper’s Ferry. Jackson’s march from Harper’s Ferry to reinforce Lee at Antietam probably saved the Confederate army. His troops played a major role at Fredericksburg, holding off a ferocious Union assault. At Chancellorsville, Jackson made a daring, flanking attack that crushed the Union right. After the battle, Jackson was personally scouting the Union lines for a possible night attack when he was accidentally shot by his own sentries. He died seven days later. Robert E. Lee was shocked and disheartened by Jackson’s death, and the entire South mourned. Some attribute Lee’s defeat at Gettysburg to Jackson’s absence from command. J.E.B. Stuart (1833-64) – A native Virginian, James Ewell Brown Stuart was only 27 years old when the war started. As a cavalry officer, he had fought Indians on the frontier and maintained order in “Bloody” Kansas. Stuart fought in every major battle in the eastern theater. During the war,
cavalry was used to screen the army and scout the enemy; and Stuart was brilliant at this. Twice, he rode completely around George B. McClellan’s army on reconnaissance missions, making dramatic headlines. At Chancellorsville, Stuart played a pivotal role in Stonewall Jackson’s amazing flanking attack. When Jackson was killed, Stuart temporarily took over his command. Two low points in his career occurred during the Gettysburg Campaign. Stuart was surprised by Union cavalry at Brandy Station and could only fight to a draw. As Robert E. Lee moved his army north towards Pennsylvania, he wanted Stuart to screen his army from Union detection. Stuart misinterpreted Lee’s orders and rode around the Union army. Lee was without critical information on the enemy for seven days. It is doubtful if Lee would have attacked so forcefully at Gettysburg had he known the true strength of the Federals. Jeb Stuart was killed during the Wilderness Campaign when Phillip Sheridan’s cavalry attacked him at Yellow Tavern. Stuart was confident, flashy, and flamboyant. He understood the influence that positive newspaper reporting could have on Confederate morale, and he made the most of it. Stuart was a favorite of Robert E. Lee and his death (at the age of 31) was a bitter blow to Lee and the entire Confederacy. John Bell Hood (1831-79) – John Bell Hood was a career military officer who fought under Robert E. Lee in Texas before the war. He commanded the Texas Iron Brigade, which first distinguished itself during the Peninsula Campaign. Hood was then promoted to command a division under James Longstreet. After the victory at 2nd Manassas, Hood got into an argument with a fellow officer; and Longstreet had him arrested. As the Battle of Antietam began, Hood’s Texas Brigade demanded their commander’s return. Robert E. Lee intervened and returned Hood to active duty. Hood fought brilliantly at Antietam. At Gettysburg, Hood directed the attack against the Union position at Little Round Top. He was severely wounded in the attack, loosing the use of his left arm. The loss of Hood during the battle probably effected the outcome. When Hood recovered, he was sent west with Longstreet to fight at Chickamauga. Hood’s division broke the Union lines, but he was again severely wounded, this time loosing his leg. Returning to duty in the spring of 1864, Hood fought
under Joseph Johnston against Sherman in the Atlanta Campaign. When Jefferson Davis fired Johnston for constantly retreating, Hood took over the command. In his typical, aggressive style, Hood launched four major attacks against Sherman. All four assaults failed, and Hood had to abandon Atlanta to save his army. Hood then circled around the Union position cutting supply lines in an attempt to get Sherman to pursue him. When Sherman failed to take the bait, Hood marched his army towards Nashville. In December of 1864 at Nashville, George H, Thomas destroyed Hood’s army. John Bell Hood’s military career was over, and he resigned soon after the battle. His bravery and aggressiveness were legendary, but in top command, he was reckless. Robert E. Lee referred to Hood as “all lion, no fox.” After the war, Hood moved to New Orleans where he married and fathered 11 children. Nathan Bedford Forrest (1821-77) – Nathan Bedford Forrest grew up poor in middle Tennessee where he received no formal education. He became wealthy as a planter and slave trader; and when the war broke out, he was one of the richest men in the South. Having no military training, Forrest quickly became a top cavalry officer and was the only bright spot at the rebel loss at the River Forts. He fought at Shiloh, again distinguishing himself with a spirited rear guard defense that covered the Confederate retreat. At the first Battle of Murfreesboro, Forrest defeated a Union army twice his size and captured nearly the entire force. Forrest’s cavalry caused U.S. Grant to significantly revise and delay his Vicksburg Campaign. At Chickamauga, he led the pursuit of the retreating Union army and captured hundreds of prisoners. After the battle Forrest threatened to kill his commanding officer Braxton Bragg for discontinuing the pursuit. When senior Confederate command realized Forrest was serious, they hastily re-assigned him to Mississippi. Raiding all over northern Mississippi, western Tennessee, and Kentucky, Forrest attacked Fort Pillow in April of 1864. The massacre of black troops at Fort Pillow became a major incident of the war. Forrest continued his successful cavalry raiding through the summer and fall of 1864. He then joined John Bell Hood’s disastrous Nashville Campaign. At Nashville, he fought bravely and effectively in the losing effort. In four years of war, Forrest had been wounded seven times, had 29 horses shot out from under him and had personally killed 31 men. Forrest never lost a battle until the end of the war, when he was hopelessly outnumbered. Many believe that had his military genius been discovered
sooner, things might have gone far better for the Confederacy in the West. After the war, Forrest rebuilt his lost fortune through railroading and planting. He became the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan in 1867, but resigned when he saw things getting out of hand. Jubal Anderson Early (1816-94) – After a brief military career Jubal Early began to practice law in Virginia. He opposed secession but accepted a commission in the Confederate army when war broke out. Early fought in most of the battles in the eastern theater. He was promoted for his capable leadership at Antietam. Early saved the day at Fredericksburg when he plugged the hole that George G. Meade had punched in the south part of the rebel line. At Chancellorsville, he fought an effective delaying action at Marye’s Heights, giving Lee and Jackson enough time to destroy Joe Hooker’s army. Early played a significant part in the Gettysburg drama. He replaced Richard S. Ewell at corps command during the Wilderness Campaign. Early’s most important military contribution took place in the Shenandoah Valley in 1864. Lee sent Early into the valley to take the pressure off Petersburg and Richmond. The campaign went so well, that Early marched to within three miles of Washington, threatening the Northern Capital. Grant was furious and sent Phillip Sheridan to deal with Early. With a superior force, Sheridan defeated Early and drove the Confederates out of the Shenandoah Valley for good. When the war ended, Early fled the country, settling in Toronto, Canada. He returned to Virginia in 1869 to continue his practice of law. Early was an excellent writer and led the bitter Lost Cause movement which blamed the Confederate defeat on James Longstreet’s actions at Gettysburg. Braxton Bragg (1817-76) – Braxton Bragg had retired from the army and owned a sugar plantation in Louisiana when the war started. His first assignment was commanding the Confederate gulf coast defenses. Bragg fought at Shiloh and moved up in the command structure when Albert Sidney Johnston was killed. Soon after, P.G.T. Beauregard became ill, and Bragg took over command of the Army of Tennessee. In August of 1862, Bragg invaded Kentucky and won a tactical victory at Perryville. His invasion ultimately failed when he retreated back
into Tennessee. At Stones River, Bragg fought William S. Rosecrans to a draw, but retreated again to a position south of Chattanooga. Reinforced at Chickamauga, Bragg routed Rosecran’s army and laid siege to Chattanooga. U.S. Grant then broke the siege and defeated Bragg at Chattanooga. A close personal friend of Jefferson Davis, Bragg was transferred to Richmond were he became military adviser to the President. Proving ineffective in that position, Bragg returned to minor field command late in the war. Braxton Bragg was a quarrelsome man who was difficult to get along with. His friendship with Davis is probably the reason he served in such high command. After the war, Brag moved to Texas and became a railroad inspector. P.G.T. Beauregard (1818-93) – Pierre Gustave Toutant de Beauregard was a creole (a descendant of early French settlers) from Louisiana. He was superintendent of West Point when the war broke out. Beauregard commanded the rebel forces. In Charleston harbor that forced the surrender of Fort Sumter. Beauregard and Joseph Johnston headed the victorious Confederate armies at 1st Manassas. Transferred west, he assumed command during the Battle of Shiloh when Albert Sidney Johnston was killed. No friend of Jefferson Davis’s, Beauregard was removed from command after Shiloh when he became ill. From 1862-64 Beauregard competently defended Charleston against Union attack. During the Wilderness Campaign, Robert E. Lee called upon Beauregard to help in the defense of Richmond. He defeated Benjamin Butler in the Bermuda Campaign south of Richmond, delaying the inevitable. Towards the end of the war, he served under Joseph Johnston in the Carolinas. After the war ended, Beauregard returned to Louisiana and managed railroads and ran the Louisiana lottery. Joseph E. Johnston – Joseph Johnston was a general in the U.S. Army and the highest ranking officer to resign to join the Confederacy. He commanded half of the rebel army at 1st Manassas and he shared the credit for the victory. Johnston hated President Jefferson Davis, and their feud complicated military strategy for the South throughout the war. Johnston led the Army of Northern Virginia in the Peninsula Campaign against George B. McClellan. He was badly wounded at Fair Oaks in July 62 and replaced by Robert E. Lee. After a four month recovery, Johnston returned to duty as
commander of the Confederate forces in the West. He was, at least, partially responsible for the loss of Vicksburg. Johnston replaced Braxton Bragg after the rebel defeat at Chattanooga. He retreated in front of William T. Sherman all the way to Atlanta, where he was replaced by John Bell Hood. Joseph Johnston was a competent, sometimes overly cautious, commander. In February of 1865, Johnston commanded what was left of the rebel forces in North Carolina. He surrendered to William T. Sherman soon after Appomattox. After the war, Joe Johnston served as a United States congressman and railroad commissioner. He died at the age of 84 when he caught pneumonia at William T. Sherman’s funeral.
The American Civil War took an incredible toll in terms of human life. 620,000 soldiers died. Of all the men in uniform during the war, one in three were dead by 1865. The Northern economy, which boomed during the conflict, continued to expand after the war. The Southern economy was devastated. Regional industries were destroyed, 40% of Southern livestock were dead, Southern railroads lay in ruins, and thousands of acres of farmland were overgrown in weeds. In 1860, the average Southerner was 70% as wealthy as the average Northerner. By 1865 that had shrunk to 40%. Many Confederate veterans were homeless and jobless. Four million freed slaves faced an uncertain future. Little thought had been given to how best to handle this gigantic social upheaval. The power and influence of the federal government had been greatly increased by the Civil War. After the war, Northern Republicans painted the Democrats as disloyal during the conflict to gain political power. Gradually, Northerners lost interest in the war, secure in their belief that their cause had been just. The South had a much more difficult time moving on from the conflict. The humiliation of their defeat and the enormity of their sacrifice required deeper soul searching. Many Southerners came to embrace the “Myth of the Lost Cause” to make sense of the war. In this myth, Robert E. Lee is idealized as the perfect product of the antebellum South, slavery is downplayed as a cause of the war, and the defeat is blamed on disloyal Southern generals (like James Longstreet). It is surprising how common belief in the “Lost Cause” is even today. Twenty five years after the conflict, veterans from both sides started coming together for Civil War reunions. In these gatherings, emancipation and black participation in the war were virtually eliminated. Some people believe that the prevalence of these attitudes explain why it was 100 years after the Civil War before black people came to receive equal protection under the law.
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