Monday, October 23, 2006

Stones River (Murfreesboro, TN)

Dates: December 30, 1862 to January 2, 1863


Union: Major General William Rosecrans commanding the Army of the Cumberland.

Confederate: General Braxton Bragg commanding the Army of Tennessee.

Prelude: October 1862; Following the Battle of Perryville, KY on October 8, 1862, Bragg had pulled back into Tennessee and began concentrating his forces near the town of Murfreesboro, TN in order to reequip his troops. In November, he had reorganized the two armies in his command, the Army of Mississippi and the Army of Kentucky, into a single Army of Tennessee.

In Memphis, TN, Major General Don Carlos Buell was formally relieved as commander of the Army of the Cumberland for failing to follow up his victory at Perryville with a pursuit of the Confederates. His replacement was General Rosecrans, who immediately came under pressure from Northern officials to take the battle to Bragg.

December 26, 1862; Thomas leaves Nashville with 44,000 men and began moving south, with the corps of Major General Thomas Crittenden on the left, Major General Alexander McCook in the center, and Major General George Thomas on the right. Almost as soon as they left Nashville, the Union forces were getting harassed by Confederate cavalry under Brigadier General Joseph Wheeler. Information about Rosecrans’ advance reached Bragg, who ordered his army to deploy on the roads northwest of Murfreesboro, west of the Stones River, to meet the Federals. Bragg planned to hit Rosecrans’ right flank, swing around the Union rear, and cut off their path of retreat. As the Army of the Cumberland approached the area on December 30, Rosecrans had made his own plan to hit the Confederate right. Each commander had planned an almost identical attack.

It was Bragg who attacked first.

December 31, 1862: 6:00 a.m.: The Confederates open the battle by launching the planned right wing attack. The corps of Major General Joseph Hardee was sent into the Federal right, hitting the division of Brigadier General Richard Johnson and driving those troops back. Bragg was encouraged by the progress and sent the corps of Major General Leonidas Polk to support Hardee.

Rosecrans had waited until his men had breakfast before launching his attack. Around the same time as Hardee’s attack, the division of Union Brigadier General Horatio Van Cleve was sent across Stones River, where they would hit the corps of Confederate Major General John Breckenridge was waiting. As the Federals were across, word came of the attack on their right. Van Cleve was ordered back across and Rosecrans faced an all out assault.
8:00 a.m. The Federal forces began to fall back towards the Nashville Turnpike, however they were not making it easy for the Confederates. Even as the division of Brigadier General Jefferson C. Davis (no relation to the Confederate President) was being pushed back, the division of Brigadier General William Sherman was giving as good as they were receiving. Sherman made a counterattack before having to pull back in order to prevent his command from getting captured. His defense held up Hardee until the Federals could make their defensive line.

12:00 noon: Rosecrans was now practically pinned against Stones River, but it seems he was using his numerical strength to his advantage. McCook held the right of the new line, Thomas in the center, and Crittenden on the left. Two divisions were detailed to secure the left flank in case Breckenridge tried anything.

Polk sent in his corps against the Federal left in an attempt to break that line. Despite repeated charges, the Union brigade of Brigadier General William Hazen withstood several of Polk’s charges all afternoon, but the Union line did not break. Bragg, realizing that both Hardee and Polk have stalled, decided to send in Breckenridge.

4:00 p.m.: Breckenridge sends in his corps not in a single formation, but in several separate attacks. This resulted in each attack getting savaged by Hazen’s defensive line in a wooded area called the Round Forest. Fighting ends as darkness falls.

January 1, 1863: There is no fighting on this New Years Day. Both sides make adjustments in their lines and bury the dead of the previous day’s fighting. Bragg feels that Rosecrans will pull out. Rosecrans has other ideas, despite the 12,000 causalities. He has decided to stay where he is.

January 2, 1863: 3:30 p.m.: Van Cleve was ordered to send his division back across Stones River and occupy a knoll to the east. Breckenridge launches an attack on the knoll, resulting in the Federals getting pushed back across the river. Breckenridge saw an opportunity to break the Union left and gain a position on the far bank. As the Confederates begin to cross, Federal artillery delivered a savage bombardment. This was followed by an assault which forced Breckenridge to pull back. Darkness forces an end to the fighting. The battle is effectively over, but both sides hold their positions.

January 3; 1863: Bragg makes plans to renew the offensive but there is opposition from his other commanders, who counsel retreat. Despite his anger over this advice, showing a lack of confidence in his leadership, Bragg orders the Army of Tennessee to pull back to Tullahoma so they can regroup. That evening, Rosecrans occupies Murfreesboro, but does not order a pursuit.

This was a victory for the Union since Rosecrans was still in control of the field. The other result was that the Confederate Army of Tennessee was not capable of offensive action for a while.

Causalities (dead and wounded)

Union: 12,900

Confederate: 11,700

Nashville, TN

Dates: December 15-16, 1864


Union: Major General George Thomas commanding Union forces at Nashville.

Confederate: General John Hood commanding the Army of Tennessee.

Prelude: Even though his army was savaged at the Battle of Franklin (November 30,1864), Hood still felt that he could continue the offensive. Embolden by the addition of cavalry under Lieutenant General Nathan Forrest as well as another force under Lieutenant General Stephen Lee, Hood figured that he can force the Federals to abandon Nashville and even try to get to the Ohio River. The only thing that was not going Hood’s way was that he did not force Union forces under Major General William Sherman to abandon Atlanta, GA in order to pursue him. Still, Hood believed he could cause a panic in the North. On December 2, his forces would be approaching Nashville.

Thomas had been ordered to assemble a force that would either attack Hood, defend Tennessee, or launch an offensive into Alabama. Knowing that Hood was coming, Thomas decided to see what Hood would do.

December 2, 1864: Hood’s troops begin entrenching south of Nashville. Noticing that the Federals were already entrenched, Hood planned to force a Union attack, repulse that attack, and then follow the retreating Northerners into Nashville.

Thomas was intending to do just that, but he was solving the problems associated with integrating about 12,000 cavalry into his command. Until all of his forces were ready, he was not going to launch a premature attack. This action was taken despite receiving several messages ordering him to take the offensive. Some of these messages were coming from the Commander of Union forces, Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant. Grant was actually considering relieving Thomas if he did not attack. Thomas calmly informed Grant that his forces were ready (they were on December 9) but weather conditions were not satisfactory due to freezing rain. Grant, even though he did not like Thomas, decided to wait.

December 15, 1864: At about 10:00 a.m., with the ground thawed, Thomas chose to strike. He sends Brigadier General James Wilson’s cavalry, supported by infantry under Major General Andrew Jackson Smith, began advancing towards the Confederate left, held by a corps under Major General Benjamin Franklin Cheatham.

11:00 a.m.: a Union Provisional Detachment under Major General James Steedman launches an assault on the Confederate right, but is repulsed. This does distract Hood from the main thrust, which is about to hit his left.

1:00 p.m.: Generals Wilson’s and Smith’s forces are supported by a corps under Major General John Schofield as they approach the Confederate entrenchments. Hood sees this and orders a division to relocate to the left in support of his line.

2:00 p.m.: Another Federal assault, this time in the form of two divisions of Major General Thomas Wood’s IV Corps manages to hit the confederate center.

That assault, combined with massive thrust by Wilson, Smith, and Schofield, succeeds in peeling back the Confederate lines. Hood has no choice but to pull back to a new line, anchored by the Granny White Pike on the west and the Franklin Pike on the east. Hood orders his troops to dig in and to wait for the next morning.

December 16, 1864: 10:00 a.m.: Thomas sees his chance to destroy Hood and decides to take advantage of it. Steedman’s Detachment hits the Confederate right, held by the corps of Major General Stephen D. Lee. The Federals are repulsed at Overton Hill.

12:00 noon: Wilson’s cavalry makes a move that will take them into the Confederate rear. He decides to form a line south of Cheatham’s position.

3:30 p.m.: Another attack by Steedman is repulsed.

4:00 p.m.: Smith’s corps launches an attack on the Confederate line at Shy’s Hill, on the extreme left, and breaks the defensive line.

4:30 p.m.: The Union forces launch a massive attack on the Confederate left. Wilson strikes from the south, Schofield from the west, and Smith from the north. Cheatham’s troops put up a hard defense, but in the end, the entire Confederate left broke apart. Troops began running to the rear. This was soon followed by the center and the right as a fear of getting captured swept the Army of Tennessee. Hood had no choice but to pull out of the area and retreat back to the Tennessee River.

Thomas ordered a pursuit to the fleeing Confederates. This was hampered by Forrest’s cavalry putting up a rearguard defense. Hood manages to get across the Tennessee River, but the force is only a shadow of its former self. The Army of Tennessee is no longer a fighting force in the Confederate Army. Its remnants would be folded into General Joe Johnston’s army that will face Sherman in the spring. Hood would resign his command.

As 1864 was coming to an end, the only major Confederate Army that could stave off the inevitable was General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, and it was under siege at Petersburg, VA.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Franklin, TN

Date: November 30, 1864


Union: Major General John Schofield, commanding a corps of the Army of the Cumberland

Confederate: General John Bell Hood, commanding the Army of Tennessee.

Prelude: On September 1, 1864, the city of Atlanta, GA was finally taken by Union forces under Major General William T. Sherman. Hood, having taken command of the Army of Tennessee just before the city’s fall, pulls back to Palmetto, southwest of Atlanta, to rest, refit, and plan what to do next. The question was, would it be possible to take Sherman on in another head-to-head battle? The state of Confederate forces in 1864 would seem to answer that as a flat no. Hood only had 35,000, while Sherman could field 100,000 easy. Hood decided that it was easier to try and make Sherman’s life a misery by attacking the supply line stretching from Atlanta to Chattanooga, TN. Also, by heading north, Sherman would have to give up his gains in order to chase him. If Hood can get further north, he could actually enter Kentucky, or even make the Ohio River. Or maybe he could destroy the Union forces in Tennessee, then swing east and join General Robert E. Lee and help break the Union lines at Petersburg, VA. And finally, if Sherman pulls fully out of Atlanta, so much the better.

September 29, 1864: Hood orders his army on the march. He begins crossing the Chattahoochee River southwest of Atlanta at Campbelltown.

October 2, 1864: Sherman had found out about what Hood is doing. He orders his army to pursue the Confederates, but leaves XX Corps in Atlanta. Sherman knows he does not need his entire army to defeat Hood.

October 3, 1864: Confederate forces reach Big Shanty (Kennesaw), northwest of Atlanta and proceed to destroy the rail line there.

October, 5 1864: An attempt to take the Federal supply center at Allatoona is repulsed with a loss of about 900.

Hood than decides to swing to the west, heading to Cave Spring to regroup. Then he resumes the march north.

October 13, 1864: Hood’s army reaches Dalton, GA where that forced the surrender of the Federal garrison.

Hood probably believes that it would be suicide to try to attack Chattanooga. He orders his army to march west, into Alabama. Sherman follows but breaks off the pursuit at Gaylesville, AL. He has other plans and they do not include Hood.

October 27, 1864: Hood reaches Decatur, AL on the Tennessee River and makes an attempt to cross it. Conditions prohibit a crossing at this point.

When Sherman returned to Atlanta, he orders the corps of Major Generals D. S. Stanley and John Schofield to head north and join Major General George Thomas’ troops presently in Tennessee.

November 2, 1862: Hood decides that the Tennessee could not be crossed at Decatur and heads west to find a better crossing. One of his corps, under Lieutenant General Stephen D. Lee finds such a crossing at Tuscumbia and manages to secure that and the town of Florence across the river.

Within days, Hood was at the head of a Confederate army pushing into Tennessee. It must have been a sight, seeing Hood on a horse. He had one useless arm from wounds suffered at Gettysburg, and he had lost a leg at Chickamauga. Hood had to be tied to his horse in order to ride. He was also in such pain that he took regular doses of a painkiller called laudanum, a derivative of opium that was very addictive.

During this time, Hood was joined by cavalry under General Nathan Bedford Forrest. This addition swelled his army to about 50,000, making it a potent force indeed.

Hood’s axis of attack was now on the town of Columbia, TN. He must have known that Union reinforcements were on the way and that he would have wanted to stop the Federal troops short of Nashville.

November 29, 1864: Hood reaches the town of Spring Hill, northeast of Columbia, and finds Schofield waiting for him. Hood manages to outflank the Federals, but does not follow up with an all out strike. Most of the day is taken up with skirmishing. That night, Schofield pulls his troops out and march north to Franklin, where he makes a defensive line. It is one of the great surprises of the Civil War that an entire Federal corps could march within 150 yards of Confederate campfires and nothing was done. Some Confederate pickets reported movement, but nothing was done.

November 30, 1864: Dawn arrives to find the Federals in a strong defensive line south of Franklin. Hood realized he was given the slip and orders his army on the march. Before that, he hosts a breakfast with all of his commanders in which he blamed everyone but himself for letting Schofield get away. In a most memorable reaction, Forrest says,”General Hood, if you were a whole man, I’d whip you within an inch of your life!” In the afternoon the Army of Tennessee arrives at Franklin.

Hood places his two corps into line. On the left was the corps of Major General Benjamin Cheatham while the right was covered by the corps of Lieutenant General A. P. Stewart. They were supported by cavalry on the flanks and also by artillery. A flank attack could have cut off Schofield from Nashville. Instead, Hood plans a frontal assault. It seems he was still angry over Schofield getting away, or was it the laudanum that was clouding his judgment. At a council of war, there are objections to the planned assault, which would require the troops to march over two miles before getting into a position to hit the outer defensive line. Forrest suggested going around and blocking the Union line of retreat. Hood finally exclaims, “We will make the fight, and we will make it with honor. You will go in at right shoulder shift, bayonets fixed. You will not fire a shot until you overrun the advance line, then shoot and stab the enemy in the back and go into the woods with them and drive the enemy into the river at all hazards!”

The main reason for the resistance on the part of Hood’s commanders was that the attack force, less than 30,000 with little artillery support, will have to drive off Schofield’s 38,000 soldiers and 60 cannon.

4:00 p.m.: The Confederates began moving forward into the attack. To keep up morale, the regimental bands marched along, playing upbeat music. It must have been a sight to the Union defenders, they were probably aghast at the audacity of the Southerners in making a frontal attack.

The first charge went into a sheet of Union musket fire. As the armies clashed, the farm of Fountain Branch Carter became the center of action. Carter’s son, Theodrick, a Confederate Captain, yells to his troops, “This is my home, I can see my house yonder, and I’m going to be there shortly, and I want every man of my regiment to go with me. Follow me boys, I’m almost home!” Tem minutes later, Captain Carter was dead, having received nine wounds and falling within yards of his home. He had not been home since May, 1861.

There were a few breaks in the Federal line, but reinforcements kept the Confederates from exploiting the breach. The attacking and counterattacking was some of the fiercest in the Western Theatre of the war. During the five hours of fighting, nearly 7000 Confederates became casualties, men that Hood could not afford to lose. He also lost six generals:

Brigadier General States Rights Gist
Brigadier General John Adams
Brigadier General Otho French Shrahl
Brigadier General John C. Carter
Brigadier General Hiram Granbury
Major General Patrick Cleburne

Also lost were 54 regimental commanders. This was a loss of leadership and experience that Hood definitely could not afford to lose.

Schofield made a tactical decision and pulled back to Nashville. His losses were 2236 men. The difference was, the Union could have those ranks refilled within days. There were no replacements for the Confederates.

This battle basically destroyed the fighting spirit of the Army of Tennessee. Even though Hood would keep up the attack (he called Franklin a victory because he still held the field while Schofield left) and face the full power of Thomas’ army, now at Nashville.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Fort Sumter, SC

Dates: April 12-14, 1861


Union: Major Robert Anderson, commanding US Artillery troops in Charleston, SC

Confederate: Brigadier General P.T.G. Beauregard, commanding provisional Confederate Army unit and South Carolina State Troops.

Prelude: Following the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, the State of South Carolina convened a conference in Charleston to discuss breaking the ties that held the state to the United States since 1788. After days of discussion and argument, a declaration was issued on December 20; "We the people of South Carolina, in convention assembled, to declare and ordain, and it is hereby declared and ordained, that the ordinance adopted by us in convention on the twenty third day of May in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty eight, whereby the Constitution of the United States of America was ratified, and also all acts and parts of acts of the General Assembly of this State, ratifying amendments of the said Constitution, are hereby repealed; and the union now subsisting between South Carolina and other States, under the name "United States of America" is hereby dissolved. Done at Charleston the twentieth day of December in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty"

With that, the State of South Carolina became the Republic of South Carolina.

The first thing the government of the new nation wanted to do was to oversee the peaceful transfer of US property to SC control, including forts, arsenals, customs houses, lighthouses, and such. The main problem in getting all this was the outgoing Administration of President James Buchanan. The official position of the Federal government was that it was illegal for South Carolina to secede, but the Constitution was silent on what to do about it. Buchanan decided to wait until Lincoln was inaugurated. After that, it would be Lincoln’s problem.

This inactivity would begin to weigh on the Federal commander of two artillery batteries stationed in Charleston. Major Anderson had received no instructions from Washington, but he was getting demands from local authorities to leave their base at Fort Moultrie, located at the north end of Charleston Harbor. On December 25, Anderson decided to take things into his own hands. Citing an increasingly hostile local population, he ordered his garrison to evacuate Fort Moultrie and relocate to Fort Sumter with all the arms and supplies they could carry. This was done under the cover of night so as to not raise the suspicions of the South Carolinians. Anderson’s last act was to have the flagpole cut down so the locals could not readily raise their Palmetto flag.

Fort Sumter sits in the main channel of Charleston Harbor on a manmade island. The construction had started following War of 1812 and was planned to withstand a large scale assault from the sea, not from land bases. The fort was two stories of masonry (brick) construction. Entrance was by a sally port on the harbor facing side with access to a pier. Both levels had gun ports equipped with heavy artillery. The interior of the fort held barracks, storerooms, powder magazines, and a furnace for heating solid iron balls red hot, good for use against wooden vessels.

When local citizens awoke the next morning, Moultrie was found deserted and a huge US flag flying from Sumter. The reaction was predictable. The local papers such as the Mercury called it “an act of war.”

Reaction in Washington was along the lines of “what was Anderson thinking.” It seems that Anderson had no choice. His command was in what was now considered hostile territory and he had no instructions on how to proceed. Buchanan was not acting and Lincoln could not act until March. Anderson had to act in order to preserve his command. Another factor that troubled Anderson was that he was a Kentuckian, and a slave holder. He may have sympathized with the Southern position, but he was loyal to the Union. At the end of the day, it seems Anderson thought armed conflict inevitable and his command was to become the flash point.

Another factor to consider was the amount of supplies that was brought over. Even if they went on strict rations, the nearly 100 men in the fort could exhaust the food supplies within three months. Also if things came to blows, the powder and ammunition was not sufficient to sustain combat for very long.

In Washington, Buchanan finally decided to support Anderson and ordered the ship Star of the West to depart New York with supplies and reinforcements. Meanwhile, the Charlestonians were fortifying the coastlines surrounding the harbor. Moultrie was occupied and fortified. Other forts such as Johnson, to the south of Sumter, Castle Pinkney, to the west, and Ripley, another island fort. Batteries of artillery were also being erected around the harbor, including one on a floating platform.

January, 9, 1861: Star of the West approaches Charleston when the vessel was fired by gunners at Battery Gregg, at the northern tip of Morris Island. The ship’s captain decided things were too hot for him and ordered a pull back. Anderson did not order any fire in response. He wanted to save his munitions. If he had responded, it is possible that the Civil War could have started that day.

Meanwhile, South Carolina was getting support, as the Star of the West was being fired on, the State of Mississippi voted to secede. Soon, other Southern states were following suit:
Florida on January 10.
Alabama on January 12.
Georgia on January 19.
Louisiana on January 26.
Texas on February 1.

Along with South Carolina, that makes six states breaking from the US, with Arkansas considering secession and Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia taking a wait and see attitude.

February 4, 1861: Delegates from the six seceded states meet in Montgomery, AL to talk about forming a government. At the same time, commissioners are sent to Washington to negotiate the transfer Federal property to the control of the various states.

February 8, 1861: The Montgomery Convention approves a Provision Constitution for a new government called the Confederate States of America. It is almost a word-for-word copy of the US Constitution, except that slavery is codified (a permanent Constitution would be ratified on March11). The next day saw the election of former Senator and former Secretary of War Jefferson Davis as provisional President. He would be inaugurated on February 18.

March 4, 1861: As Lincoln was being inaugurated in Washington, the new Confederate flag was unveiled in Montgomery.

Now that Lincoln was in the White House, he could finally do something about the situation on Charleston Harbor. On March 29, he orders supplies sent to Sumter.

Meanwhile, the Confederate government sent Beauregard to Charleston to take command of all troops in the area, now to be considered in Confederate service.

April 8, 1861: The Federal vessel Harriet Lane departs New York for Fort Sumter with supplies. Lincoln orders an envoy to be sent to SC Governor Perkins to inform him that the fort will only be resupplied, not reinforced. Perhaps Lincoln wanted to keep Sumter as a symbol of Federal defiance in the face of outright rebellion.

April 9, 1861: News of the resupply mission brings about wild reactions in Charleston, with the local papers calling for war. The Confederate government expressed caution. There were not ready for an armed struggle and there was still hope for a negotiated settlement. Time for such a settlement was fast running out.

April 10, 1861: Beauregard receives instruction to force the surrender of Sumter either negotiation or by force.

April 11, 1861: Beauregard sends a message asking Anderson to surrender with promises of safe conduct out of the city. Anderson still has received no instructions from Washington. He does not even know that a resupply mission is on the way. He informs Beauregard that without orders, he can not surrender the fort, but the supply situation will force the issue anyway by April 15.

April 12, 1861: 3:20 a.m. Beauregard sends a message rejecting the April 15 pull out and announces his attention to open fire within one hour if the garrison is not surrendered.

4:30 a.m.: According to legend, Virginia secessionist Edmund Ruffin was given the honor of firing the first artillery shot at Ft Sumter. In any case, one shot from Fort Johnson was the signal for all the other forts and batteries to open fire. An irony in all this was that Anderson was an instructor in artillery at West Point. A one time student of his was a cadet named Pierre Beauregard. Now the student was firing on his teacher.

Shells began to rain down on the fort, smashing bricks and dismounting a few cannon. Others hit the barracks and storehouses. The wooden structures soon caught fire.

7:00 a.m.: Anderson finally orders return fire, but only from the lower casements. A Federal sergeant defies those orders and rushes to the upper casement to fire a few guns that were preloaded. Shells soon began to impact in the coastline. Surprisingly, little damage and no causalities were being inflicted.

The firing continued throughout the night and into the next morning (April 13). The wooden structures in Fort Sumter were burning and conditions were getting dire for the defenders.

April 13, 1861: 12:47 p.m., a cannon shell strikes the flagpole, cutting it in two. The sight on the US flag falling gave the impression that the colors were struck. A rowboat was sent to Sumter (as shells were still falling) with Louis Wigfall, a former US Senator from Texas, on board. The Union defenders were astonished that anyone would come across while all of this fire was going on. Meanwhile, the flag was hoisted back up when the flagpole was repaired.

Wigfall asked to see Anderson but was refused until Wigfall agreed to become a prisoner. Wigfall outlined Beauregard’s terms, all troops evacuate the fort with personal items, all war material left behind, and a salute to the US colors as it was taken down. Anderson, seeing the hopelessness of the situation, and still not knowing that the relief force was approaching, agreed to surrender.

2: 00 p.m., Anderson signals his surrender and the guns fall silent.

April 14, 1861: At Fort Sumter, there is a formal surrender ceremony. Anderson orders a 100 gun salute to the US flag as it comes down. At the 50th firing, a spark lands on a pile of powder bags, causing an explosion that instantly kills Private Daniel Hough, an Irish immigrant who becomes the first of nearly 600,000 to die in the next four years. Several others were wounded. Anderson halts the salute and brings the flag down. Seconds later, the new Confederate flag flies over Fort Sumter as Anderson’s troops board the vessels that was supposed to bring them supplies.

Anderson was hailed as a hero in the north, receiving a commission as a Brigadier General and put to work on recruiting. He would also receive command on the Department of the Ohio, but soon retired due to ill health.

Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers for the army that would need to be formed in order to put down the rebellion. This prompted the secession of Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia.

On April 15, 1865, exactly four years after his surrender, Anderson oversaw the raising the same flag that he took down over Fort Sumter.

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