Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Lincoln Issues Another War Order

Lincoln's General War Order four days ago did not have its intended effect – to prod McClellan into action. So 150 years ago today he issued Special War Order No. 1, which was aimed directly at McClellan.
Ordered, That all the disposable force of the Army of the Potomac, after providing safely for the defense of Washington, be formed into an expedition for the immediate object of seizing and occupying a point upon the railroad southwestward of what is known as Manassas Junction; all details to be in the discretion of the General in Chief, and the expedition to move before or on the 22d day of February next.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Lincoln Issues a War Order

After his inability to get McClellan to attack the Confederate forces in Virginia, Lincoln resorted to issuing his "General War Order No. 1" 150 years ago today in an attempt to get him to move. He ordered all Union troops to move upon the South on February 22nd, George Washington's birthday. The complete order said this:
Ordered, That the 22d day of February, 1862, be the day for a general movement of the land and naval forces of the United States against the insurgent forces; that especially the army at and about Fortress Monroe. the Army of the Potomac, the Army of Western Virginia, the army near Munfordville, Ky., the army and flotilla at Cairo, and a naval force in the Gulf of Mexico be ready to move on that day.

That all other forces, both land and naval, with their respective commanders, obey existing orders for the time and be ready to obey additional orders when duly given.

That the heads of Departments, and especially the Secretaries of War and of the Navy, with all their subordinates, and the General in Chief, with all other commanders and subordinates of land and naval forces, will severally be held to their strict and full responsibilities for prompt execution of this order.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Jackson Attempts to Resign from the Army

After his Romney expedition, Stonewall Jackson had left Loring and his division in Romney for the winter. The officers of Loring's division wrote a petition to the Secretary of War, going over Jackson's head, and asked that Jackson be ordered to withdraw them, since they believed they would be cut off by Union forces. Judah Benjamin, Secretary of War, ordered Jackson to do so. Jackson obeyed the order, but immediately resigned his commission:

Hon. J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War:

SIR: Your order requiring me to direct General Loring to return with his command to Winchester immediately has been received and promptly complied with.
With such interference in my command I cannot expect to be of much service in the field, and accordingly respectfully request to be ordered to report for duty to the superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute at Lexington, as has been done in the case of other professors. Should this application not be granted, I respectfully request that the President will accept my resignation from the Army.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Major-General, P. A. C. S.

Johnston, Confederate commander in Virginia and the governor of Virginia urged Jackson not to resign, and Jackson finally agreed, although he did say, “If the Secretary persists in the ruinous policy complained of I feel that no officer can serve his country better than by making his strongest possible protest against it, which, in my opinion, is done by tendering his resignation, rather than be a willful instrument in prosecuting the war upon a ruinous principle."

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Battle of Logan's Crossroads

The overall Confederate commander in the West was General Albert Sidney Johnston. His troops were placed along a wide defensive line, and they were not strong at any point. The commander in East Kentucky was General George Crittenden with 4,000 men. Union General George Thomas, a Virginian who had remained with the Union, was sent with almost 6000 men to drive Crittenden across the Cumberland River. One of Crittenden's subordinates, Brigadier General Zollicoffer had placed his troops on the northern bank of the river to be closer to the Federals, even though the southern bank was a much better defensive position. Crittenden decided to launch a night attack against the advancing Thomas to enable him to pull back to safety.
First phase of the battle
When they reached the Union forces at dawn on January 19th, the Confederates were cold, tired, and way behind schedule. Many carried flintlocks, which were useless because of the rain. However, they launched a heavy attack and at first drove back the Union forces. General Zollicoffer was killed by the Union troops when he got confused in the fighting and thought they were his men. Crittenden was able to rally his men and lead them forward, but they were struck on the left flank by arriving Union forces. The Southerners were driven into a rout, and they lost 12 cannon, 150 wagons and 1000 animals. Lt. Col. Kise of the 10th Indiana wrote this in his report:
The whole regiment, from right to left, was now warmly engaged, and slowly but surely driving the enemy before them, when I ordered a “charge bayonet,” which was promptly executed along the whole line. We soon drove the enemy from his place of concealment in the woods into an open field 200 yards from where I ordered the charge. When we arrived at the fence in our front many of the enemy were fo und lingering in the corners, and were bayoneted by my men between the rails. I pressed onward, and soon beheld with satisfaction that the enemy were moving in retreat across the field, but I suddenly saw them halt in the southeast corner of the field on a piece of high ground, where they received considerable re-enforcements and made a last and desperate effort to repulse our troops. In the mean time the gallant Colonel McCook, with his invincible Ninth Ohio Regiment, came in to our support, and for twenty or thirty minutes a terrific struggle ensued between the two opposing forces. I never in all my military career saw a harder fight. Finally the enemy began to waver and give back before the shower of lead and glittering steel brought to bear on his shattered ranks, and he commenced a precipitate retreat under a storm of bullets from our advancing forces until his retreat became a perfect rout.
Although this was the second largest battle in Kentucky during the war, the casualties were pretty light. The North lost 40 killed and 200 wounded, the South 125 killed and 400 wounded. Crittenden was removed from command on charges of drunkenness. This was a common accusation for unsuccessful generals during the Civil War, and we will certainly hear of it again.

Second phase of the battle

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

John Tyler Dies

John Tyler
One hundred and fifty years ago today John Tyler, former President of the United States, died in Virginia. He was elected as Vice President, and was the first Vice President to assume the role of President when the President died. He was unpopular because he upheld the Constitution and many people said that he was not really President, burning him in effigy and calling him “His Accidence.” He left the Union with his state Virginia, and was elected to the Confederate House of Representatives, although he was not able to serve before his death. He has been the only President of the United States to die as a citizen of a foreign nation, as well as to be the only President not to be officially mourned by the nation.

Friday, January 13, 2012

McClellan and Lincoln Argue Over Strategy

Lincoln and McClellan
McClellan, commander of the Northern armies, had been sick for the past weeks with typhoid fever, and so Lincoln decided to call a council of war to take matters into his own hands, since he could not see McClellan. Lincoln wanted to commence operations in Virginia as soon as possible, but McClellan did not think the army was prepared. McClellan was enraged when he heard of Lincoln's meetings behind his back. He left this record of the meeting:
I mustered strength enough on Sunday morning (Jan. 12 1862) to be driven to the White House, where my unexpected appearance caused very much the effect of a shell in a powder-magazine. It was very clear from the manner of those I met there that there was something of which they were ashamed.
They next day they met again, and McClellan was asked to explain his plans. He responded thus:
To this I replied, in substance, that if the President had confidence in me it was not right or necessary to entrust my designs to the judgment of others, but that if his confidence was so slight as to require my opinions to be fortified by those of other persons it would be wiser to replace me by some one fully possessing his confidence; that no general commanding an army would willingly submit his plans to the judgment of such an assembly … incapable of keeping a secret, so that anything made known to them would soon spread over Washington and become known to the enemy.
The clashes between Lincoln and McClellan would continue over the coming months, with McClellan continually resisting what he saw as a premature attack before he was ready.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Burnside's North Carolina Expedition Sets Out

Roanoke Island Positions
One hundred and fifty years ago today a Federal expedition set out for Roanoke Island on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. After General Butler captured Forts Hatteras and Clark in August, McClellan convinced Lincoln to authorize an expedition to invade North Carolina from the sea. General Ambrose Burnside was chosen as commander. He recruited his own regiments from the Northern coastal states, which were called the Coast Division. He set out 150 years ago today to join with the Northern forces off North Carolina to prepare to attack Roanoke Island.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

New Union Secretary of War

Simon Cameron
On January 11, 1862, Simon Cameron resigned as the Union Secretary of War. He had been a political appointee to reward him for helping Lincoln get elected, and he was famous for his corruption. As the story goes one congressman emphasized this to Lincoln by saying, “I don't think he would steal a red hot stove.” When Cameron protested and demanded he retract his statement, the congressman said, “I believe I told you he would not steal a red hot stove. I will now take that back.” He resigned 150 years ago today because of his known corruption and inability to organize the logistics of the army. Lincoln replaced him with Edwin Stanton, who although he did not always work well with Lincoln, was competent and a good organizer.
Edwin M. Stanton

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Romney Abandoned by Northern Troops

On the march, a part of Jackson's troops were driven back by a Union force and two cannons were captured, but none the less the Federals abandoned Romney and left it for Jackson to occupy. Because of bad weather and the discouragement it caused his troops, Jackson decided to remain in Romney during the winter and not attempt an advance into Maryland. He wrote of the campaign:
God, who has so wonderfully blessed us during this war, had given great success to the efforts for protecting loyal citizens in their rights and recovering and holding territory in this district which had been overrun by the enemy. It is true that our success caused much exposure and suffering to the command. Several nights the troops had to bivouac, notwithstanding the inclemency of the weather, their tents not coming up on account of the bad condition of the roads, yet every command, except part of General Loring’s, bore up under these hardships with the fortitude becoming patriotic soldiers.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Admiral Farragut Appointed

One hundred fifty years ago today Admiral David Farragut was appointed to command a force to capture New Orleans, Louisiana. Farragut was born in 1801 in Tennessee, and was named James by his parents. At the age of 7 he was adopted by Commodore David Porter, and his name was changed to David. At the age of 9 he entered the navy as a midshipman, and by twelve he captained a ship back to port which had been captured during the war of 1812. On the way back to port he quelled a mutiny among the crew. By the time of the Civil War he had attained the rank of captain. He did not resign to follow his native state, he remained with the Union he had served all his life. Some doubted his loyalty since he had spent years in the South and his wife was from Norfolk, VA, so he was placed on the retirement board. But through the influence of his brother, Admiral David Porter, he was appointed to command an expedition to capture New Orleans 150 years ago today.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Romney Expedition

Mort Kuiser's depiction of the march to Romney

One hundred and fifty years ago today Stonewall Jackson, Confederate commander in the Shenandoah Valley, set out on an expedition towards Romney, West Virginia. He planned to use his 11,000 men from his old brigade and Loring's division to attack the enemy forces in what is now West Virginia, and drive them from the state. On the first night of the advance they hit bad winter weather, and the troops suffered greatly. One officer wrote, "The road was almost an uninterrupted sheet of ice, rendering it almost impossible for man or beast to travel, while by moonlight the beards of the men, matted with ice, glistened like crystals…"