Saturday, December 31, 2011


As tomorrow the Year 2012 begins, on this blog we will begin our study of 1862. 1862 was a very important year in the Civil War. Expect to see a lot more posts on this blog, as the war expands to more fronts, and historic battles take place one after the other, from the battle of the Ironclads, the Monitor and Merrimack, to Jackson's brilliant campaign in the Shenandoah Valley, to the fierce defense of Richmond in the Seven Days campaign and the Confederacy will launch their first invasion of the North. New heroes will rise, and battles will be won and lost that will change the course of the war. I would love for you to comment or email me with any suggestions you might have. Feel free to subscribe by email or RSS feed and join us for this journey over the next year.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Trent Affair Resolved

William Seward, Secretary of State
Over a month ago a United States warship stopped a British vessel and forceably removed two Confederates, Mason and Slidell which were going to Europe as ambassadors, in violation of international law. The English were outraged when they heard the news, and it seemed if the United States did not release the two men, England would be willing to go to war to defend their honor. The Duchess of Argyll said the capture was “the maddest act that ever was done, and, unless the [United States] government intend to force us to war, utterly inconceivable." The United States ambassador in England wrote to Lincoln,
The passions of the country are up and a collision is inevitable if the Government of the United States should, before the news reaches the other side, have assumed the position of Captain Wilkes in a manner to preclude the possibility of explanation. … Ministers and people now fully believe it is the intention of the [U.S.] Government to drive them into hostilities.
The Confederacy's best chance for victory would be to have European nations as Allies, as the French helped the Americans during the War for Independence. But after several cabinet meetings, the United States finally unanimously decided to free the prisoners. The actions of Captain Wilkes, who had captured the prisoners, were disavowed and Mason and Slidell were released, 150 years ago today.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Battle of Dranesville

Since the battle of Balls Bluff in October there had been no major movement by either side. However, from time to time small groups were sent out to probe the enemy's lines and forage for supplies. One hundred and fifty years ago today, J.E.B Stuart went on one of these raids towards Dranesville, VA. He led 4000 troops: a brigade of infantry, 150 cavalry troopers and a 4 gun battery.
Union Artillery
The Federal General Ord was in the area with 5,000 troops from the 3rd Brigade of Pennsylvania reserves. As Stuart approached Dranesville from the South, he found the Federals occupying the ridge he intended to hold east of the town. The artillery on both sides opened fire. The Federal guns had a better position, and quickly overpowered the Confederate artillery. Both sides formed up their infantry and the Confederates began to make progress on the center of the line. A South Carolina regiment came upon a body of troops from Kentucky hidden in a thicket. Both sides exchanged volleys, and several were hit before the friendly fire was stopped.

The Union General Reynolds who was arriving planned to strike the Rebels on the flank, which would have driven them from the field very easily. But before the flank attack struck, Stuart pulled his infantry back, having brought his wagons to safety and knowing that they had no hope of victory with more Northern troops on the way. Ord wrote this of his victory:
“My artillery slaughtered them – while they were cooped up & jammed in a road which I raked. It was the old story – they had an ignoramus for a general, a fool for an artillery capt’n, took it for granted we would run, made no reconnaissance, posted their artillery just where I would have place it to smash it soonest….”
Although Stuart had gotten the worst of this battle, he would soon prove to be one of the Confederacy's most able generals. This was the North's first victory in the east. The Confederates suffered 230 casualties, while inflicting only 71.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Battle of Allegheny Mountain

150 years ago today Union and Confederate forces met on Allegheny Mountain in West Virginia. Col. Edward Johnson of the 12th Georgia was stationed on Allegheny Mountain with 1200 men to defend a strategic road. They were attacked at dawn on the 13th by a force of 1300 men under Brigadier General Milroy.

Johnson was alerted to the advance of the Federals up the mountain by his pickets, and had time to form his men up. Along most of the front they had been able to construct field entrenchments. The fighting continued fiercely throughout the morning and early afternoon, with the Southerners getting the worst of it because their positions were more exposed. On the right the Confederates by hard fighting began to gain the upper hand. One officer reported:

By this time the extreme right had been forced back, but ... they ... moved upon the enemy, who, taking advantage of some fallen trees, brush, and timber, poured upon them a terrific fire. Our men were checked, but not driven back. They did not yield an inch, but steadily advanced, cheered and led by their officers. Many of the officers fought by the side of their men and led them on to the conflict. I never witnessed harder fighting. The enemy, behind trees, with their long-range arms, at first had decidedly the advantage, but our men soon came up to them and drove them from their cover. I cannot speak in terms too exaggerated of the unflinching courage and dashing gallantry of those 500 men who contended from 7.15 a.m. until 1.45 p.m. against an immensely superior force of the enemy, and finally drove them from their positions and pursued them a mile or more down the mountain.

One soldier remembered this sight he got of Johnson:

I had a splendid position in this battle and could see the whole fight without having to take any part in it, and I remember how I thought Colonel Johnson must be the most wonderful hero in the world, as I saw him at one point, where his men were hard pressed, snatch a musket in one hand and, swinging a big club in the other, he led his line right up among the enemy, driving them headlong down the mountain, killing and wounding many with the bayonet and capturing a large number of prisoners...

After the battle, the Union forces reported a victory over superior numbers, but the Confederates remained undefeated holding their same position on Allegheny Mountain. For this hard fight Johnson was promoted to Brigadier General and gained the nickname Allegheny Johnson. This was a very bloody fight for the lower number of forces engaged. The Northerners suffered 20 killed 107 wounded and 10 missing, while the Confederates had 20 killed, 98 wounded and 28 missing.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Lincoln's Annual Address

On December 3rd, 1861, Lincoln issued is Annual Address, the equivalent of the State of the Union. He addressed many specific actions that had been taken, in this year, the most disastrous for the American Union. You can read the complete speech here. He closed saying this:
There are already among us those who if the Union be preserved will live to see it contain 250,000,000. The struggle of to-day is not altogether for to-day; it is for a vast future also. With a reliance on Providence all the more firm and earnest, let us proceed in the great task which events have devolved upon us.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

England Protests the Trent Affair

Lord Lyons, the British Ambassador
When news was received in England of the Trent affair, where an British neutral ship was stopped by an American warship, and Confederate ambassadors on board were forcibly removed, they were outraged. It was an affront to their nation's honor, they, already looking favorably to the South, might be willing to join her if the United States did not apologize. This letter was sent to the British ambassador in Washington:
It thus appears that certain individuals have been forcibly taken from on board a British vessel, the ship of a neutral power, while such vessel was pursuing a lawful and innocent voyage—an act of violence which was an affront to the British flag and a violation of international law.

Her Majesty's Government bearing in mind the friendly relations which have long subsisted between Great Britain and the United States are willing to believe that the U. S. naval officer who committed the aggression was not acting in compliance with any authority from his Government, or that if he conceived himself to be so authorized he greatly misunderstood the instructions which he had received; for the Government of the United States must be fully aware that the British Government could not allow such an affront to the national honor to pass without full reparation, and Her Majesty's Government are unwilling to believe that it could be the deliberate intention of the Government of the United States unnecessarily to force into discussion between the two Governments a question of so grave a character and with regard to which the whole British nation would be sure to entertain such unanimity of feeling.

Her Majesty's Government therefore trust that when this matter shall have been brought under the consideration of the Government of the United States that Government will of its own accord offer to the British Government such redress as alone could satisfy the British nation, namely, the liberation of the four gentlemen and their delivery to your lordship in order that they may again be placed under British protection and a suitable apology for the aggression which has been committed.