Saturday, September 29, 2012

General Jefferson Davis shoots Bull Nelson

Jefferson C. Davis

There were two important Jefferson Davis's in the Civil War. The most famous one was Jefferson Davis of Mississippi, President of the Confederacy. However, there was another one, Jefferson C. Davis, a general in the Union army. Today he is known only for his name, and for an incident which took place 150 years ago today.

Davis had been in the United States garrison at Fort Sumter during the battle which began the war. He was soon promoted to captain and then colonel. He fought at the Battle of Wilson's Creek and was promoted to Brigadier General. However, he fell sick and went on sick leave. But when Bragg invaded Kentucky and there was a treat of an attack on Louisville and Cincinnati, he rose from his sick bed to help with the defenses. Davis had an ongoing feud with William “Bull” Nelson, commanding the Union forces preparing to meet the threat to Louisville, Kentucky. Nelson removed Davis from temporary command of a brigade of Home Guards, so Davis appealed to the governor of Indiana Oliver Morton, and Morton came with him to see Nelson.

At 8:00 am on September 29th Davis met Nelson in the lobby of the Galt house and confronted him, and harsh words were exchanged. The argument culminated with Nelson slapping Davis across the head. Embarrassed, Davis borrowed a revolver from a friend, and as Nelson turned to head down the stairs, he challenged him to a fight. Nelson was unarmed, but nonetheless Davis fired one shot, which killed him.

Davis was immediately placed under arrest for the murder of General Nelson. Incredibly, he was never prosecuted for his crime. He was released from prison and returned to his command, as at the time it seems that the need for experienced commanders was greater than their need to justice to be served to murderers.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Lincoln Issues the Emancipation Proclamation

Lincoln reads the Emancipation Proclamation
150 years ago today Abraham Lincoln issued he most important document of the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation. When Lincoln was elected president he was clearly anti-slavery, but he said he had no intention of interfering with slavery where it existed, only choking it by stopping it's spread into the territories. When the war, came he said that it was only to save the Union, and “if I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it...." At this point, however, Lincoln's intentions are hard to know. He may have been saying this because he actually meant it, or he might have just being trying to gain popular support for emancipating the slaves. We don't know, because although he may be called Honest Abe, he was not actually honest when it came to politics.

Lincoln had been planning for some time to issue an emancipation proclamation, but he had been waiting for a Union victory so that it would not look like a last ditch attempt to win. Antietam, although not as great a victory has he hoped for, gave him the opportunity he was looking for.

Lincoln's proclamation said:
I, ABRAHAM LINCOLN, President of the United States of America, and commander-in-chief of the army and navy thereof, do hereby proclaim and declare that hereafter, as heretofore, the war will be prosecuted for the object of practically restoring the constitutional relation between the United States and each of the states and the people thereof, in which states that relation is or may be suspended or disturbed.
That it is my purpose, upon the next meeting of Congress, to again recommend the adoption of a practical measure tendering pecuniary aid to the free acceptance or rejection of all slave states, so called, the people whereof may not then be in rebellion against the United States, and which states may then have voluntarily adopted, or thereafter may voluntarily adopt, immediate or gradual abolishment of slavery within their respective limits; and that the effort to colonize persons of African descent with their consent upon this continent or elsewhere....
That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any state or designated part of a state, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.
That the Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the states and parts of states, if any, in which the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State, or the people thereof, shall on that day be, in good faith, represented in the Congress of the United States by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such state shall have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such state, and the people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States.
Lincoln said he had authority to do this because it was a war measure. However, the whole war for the preservation of the Union was based upon the principle that the states attempting to secede were really part of the Union. If that is true the president did not have the right do emancipate the property of southerners if he could not do it in peace time.
The Emancipation Proclamation was not a humanitarian document. It only declared the slaves free in territory not under the control of the United States. Therefore, unless the Union army was victorious in the war, the slaves would remain in their servitude. It also gave the Confederates the chance to save their slaves by returning to the Union before January 1st, 1863. or receive compensation for them through an (unconstitutional) act of Congress.
This proclamation had vast impact. It changed the cause of the war in the mind of the world from preservation of the Union into a war to abolish slavery. Everyone was not happy that. Some soldiers, in fact, deserted because they did not want to fight to end slavery. In any event the Union army eventually supported it, as it gave them a higher motive to fight for than to coerce the southern states. The impact in foreign policy was also great. European nations had been considering recognizing the Confederate States. But with the proclamation Lincoln was able to change their perception of the war to one over slavery, and although they might have been willing to aid in the separation of the Union, they would not aid in the preservation of slavery. The Emancipation Proclamation destroyed the south's best hope for victory – foreign recognition. From then on they would have to look to their own armies for victory.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Battle of Boteler's Ford – Day 2

Fitz John Porter
On September 20th the Federals continued to push forward from Boteler's Ford. A bridgehead was established, but they were soon under attack. Lee countermarched A. P. Hill's “Light Division” and sent them forward. The Federals were under heavy attack, and word reached Fitz-John Porter, the Union Corps commander, that his men were outnumbered. He ordered them to withdraw back across the river. However, the colonel of the 118th Pennsylvania, an inexperienced regiment, refused to retire until the orders went through the proper chain of command. The rest of the Yankees were happy enough to retreat, and the 118th was left stranded. As the Confederates attacked, the outnumbered regiment panicked, and the men scattered, scrambling down the cliffs to the river and crossing the forward as fast as possible. The regiment suffered heavily, loosing 269 out of 737. Over these two days of skirmishing, the Yankees lost 363 men, the Rebels 291.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Battle of Iuka

Edward Ord
There were two Confederate armies in Northern Mississippi, 15,000 men under Stirling Price in Iuka, and another army under Earl Van Dorn marching to join him. 150 years ago today Price was under attack. Grant had planned to envelop him by two columns attack on separate roads, Ord in the North and Rosecrans in the South. Ord was to coordinate his movement with the sound of battle to the south. Rosecrans attacked as planned, and Price responded by ordering several charges against the Federal forces. The third attack was successful, and the rebels captured part of a battery of artillery. The battle was turning against the Federals, for Ord was not in position. He had been in his appointed position, but due to a phenomenon called an acoustic shadow he did not hear the sound of fighting. Therefore he did not attack, thinking Rosecrans was not in position. He had seen the smoke of the guns, but had thought it was Price burning his stores in his retreat.
William Rosecrans
Through this providential mishap Price was able by hard fighting to hold his own against Rosecrans. During the night he left Iuke via an unguarded road. He had already been planning to leave, and now well-nigh surrounded he had few other choices. The Federals attempted a pursuit, but the tired Yankee cavalry was outrun and gave up the pursuit. The Union lost 790 men, 144 killed, 598 wounded and 40 captured, the Confederacy 1,516: 263 killed, 692 wounded and 561 captured, as well as a large quantity of stores. However, Price had saved his army, and he would be able to join up with Van Dorn and fight again another day.

Battle of Boteler's Ford – Day 1

When Lee fell back across the Potomac he left behind to guard Boteler's Ford two infantry brigades as a rearguard, as well as 45 cannon under Brigadier General William Pendleton, the army chief of artillery. Around dusk 2,000 Federals advanced across the Potomac at Boteler's Ford. They struck the Confederate rearguard, gaining some success, and capturing four of Pendleton's cannon. Pendleton was a very competent officer. He lost track of his forces and panicked. He woke up Lee at midnight and reported that all of the cannon had been captured. The next day, it was found that only four guns had actually been captured. This incident brought much criticism upon Pendleton, and many jokes about the incident were spread through the army.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Lee Retreats

In the Battle of Antietam Lee's lines had been pressed hard, but had held firm. He decided to remain on the battlefield the next day and hazard a renewal of the battle. However, there was no fighting the next day. Lee was in no condition to fight, and although McClellan had fresh troops available, he was convinced that Lee was planning to attack him. After the a truce to remove the wounded, Lee retreated that night across the river back into Virginia.
Lee's first invasion of the north was over. The campaign had started out with brilliant prospects, but the discovery of Lee's lost orders spurred the usually sluggish McClellan into quick action. Lee was able to capture Harper's Ferry and reunify his army. In the Battle of Sharpsburg or Antietam he beat off uncoordinated Union attacks and McClellan did not continue to press with his superior numbers. Lee retreated across the river, his invasion beaten back. The campaign had turned upon the providential discovery of Special Orders 191. If that event had not happened, the campaign, and perhaps even the war, may well have turned out very differently.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Fall of Munfordville

The Confederates in Kentucky, having begun a siege of Munfordville, again requested the Federals surrender. Union commander Colonel John T. Wilder did not now what to do. With three regiments he was facing an entire Confederate army. So he did something that might seem strange today, but he asked Confederate Major General Simon B. Buckner for advice. Buckner said that he could not advise him what to do, but he could show him around the Confederate works. This did the trick. Wilder, after viewing Confederate attack preparation, had no doubt that an attack would mean certain defeat for him, so he surrendered his garrison of over 4,000 men 150 years ago today.

Battle of Antietam - Conclusion

With Hill's counterattack the Battle of Antietam, or Sharpsburg as it was called by the south, was over. All along the line, the Northerners had pushed the rebels hard. The Confederates had come very close to defeat on the left, center and right, and had to shift reinforcements between positions. However, the attacks were not pressed or coordinated between the sections of the Union army. Burnside on the right took a long time to cross the creek and form his men, allowing A. P. Hill to arrive. McClellan still may have had a chance at victory if he had pressed the attacks. His men who had fought were broken, but he still had plenty of reserves. He had four divisions from Franklin and Porter's corps, 40,000 fresh men, but he refused to send them into the battle. He was afraid that the Confederates would counter attack. He was not willing to take the risk, as he explained in his report:
I am aware of the fact that under ordinary circumstances a general is expected to risk a battle if he has a reasonable prospect of success; but at this critical juncture I should have had a narrow view of the condition of the country had I been willing to hazard another battle with less than an absolute assurance of success. At that moment--Virginia lost, Washington menaced, Maryland invaded--the national cause could afford no risks of defeat. One battle lost and almost all would have been lost. Lee's army might then have marched, as it pleased, on Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, or New York. It could have levied its supplies from a fertile and not devastated country, extorted tribute from wealthy and populous cities, and nowhere east of the Alleghenies was there another organized force able to arrest its march.
If he had attacked, he probably would have destroyed Lee's army. Lee had thrown every unit available into the combat. At times, all that stood before McClellan was a few cannon and stragglers, but McClellan had convinced himself that Lee was reserving 100,000 men to deal him a fatal blow. By failing to press his successes, McClellan turned what should have been a resounding Union victory into a tactical draw.

The Confederates were considering a retreat, not an assault. They had no units or reserves left, but if they could defeat McClellan again, they could launch an offensive into the North with little to stand against them. Lee called a council of war at his headquarters, with Jackson, the Hills, McLaws, Walker, Good, Early and Longstreet. Each commander reported heavy losses, and there was little confidence of being able to hold their ground if attacked. Lee however, decided to rest and stay where he was.

The day after the battle a truce was made to carry for the wounded. The losses had been heavy on both sides. The Confederates lost 2,108 killed, 9,540 wounded and 753 missing. The Federals lost 1,546 killed, 7,752 wounded and 1,018 missing. It remains the bloodiest day in American history. There were bloodier battles in the Civil War, but there have never been this many American battlefield casualties who all fell on a single day.
Union burial party

Battle of Antietam – Burnside's Bridge

As the fighting around the Sunken Road died down on the Confederate right the battle continued. Burnside had been ordered to make a crossing of the creek and assault the Confederate line. Although he started early in the morning, not a man of his command had crossed the bridge before the battles on the left and center had wound down. Burnside had over 12,000 men and 50 cannon. All the Confederates had to stand up to him on the wide front to the right of D. H. Hill was the division of D. R. Jones. He had only 3,000 men and 12 cannon. All the rest of the troops in the area had been rush to the left to meet the attacks of Hooker, Sumner and Mansfield. The only troops positioned to guard the actual crossing was the 400 man brigade of Richard Toombs. The rest of Jones's force was positioned on Cemetery Ridge to the West. Toombs however held a strong position. At this point 100 foot bluffs rose very close to the creek, creating a good defensive position. Burnside focused his efforts to cross the creek on the lower or Rohrback's bridge, which would later be renamed after Burnside. The road ran along the side of the creek towards the bridge, giving the Confederates amble time to pick off advancing bluecoats. The creek at this point is only 50 feet wide, and there were many places Burnside could have sent his men across without being subjected to the Confederate fire. But while he did send a division down stream to look for a crossing point, he still spent much time and blood attempting to force this bridge. Henry Kyd Douglas, a staff officer for Stonewall Jackson, wrote this:
Since early morning General Ambrose E. Burnside with a crops of 13,000 men had been lying on the opposite side of the Antietam, looking for an opportunity to get across a bridge, which is now - is it sarcasm? - called Burnside's Bridge. Why the bridge? It was no pass of Thermopylae. Go look at it and tell me if you don't think Burnside and his corps might have executed a hop, skip and up and landed on the other side. One thing is certain, they might have waded it that day without getting their waist belts wet in any place.
None the less at 10 am Burnside began sending his troops forward in an attempt to capture the bridge. He planned or the 11th Connecticut to cover the bridge with their fire while a brigade from Ohio under Colonel George Crook would charge across. When the 11th Connecticut was opened on by Toomb's men within 15 minutes they were in retreat, having lost 140 men, a third of their strength. Meanwhile Crook's brigade got lost and never made it to the bridge. The attack was a decided failure. Burnside ordered another attack at 10:45, for the 16th New Hampshire and 2nd Maryland to charge down the road along the creek and across the bridge. One man of the 6th New Hampshire recorded the battle:
The road occupied by our troops came down to the creek nearly three hundred yards below the bridge; thence, turning at right angles, it ran along the bank, with only the narrow stream between it and the enemy's position, and then turned again at right angles to cross the bridge. The opposite bank was a steep, high bluff, covered on its stop and sides with forest trees. Behind these trees, and behind barricades of stone and logs, the rebels were strongly posted, their fire covering every inch of ground over which our troops must march to reach the bridge.
The two regiments were formed in a field below where the road came down to the creek, and some sixty or seventy rods below the bridge. ... They fixed bayonets, and moving at the double-quick, passed through a narrow opening a strong chestnut fence ... and charged in a most gallant manner directly up the road toward the bridge. As the attacking party, led by Colonel Griffin, debouched from the field into the road, the rebels, from their intrenched position, redoubled the fury of their fire, sweeping the head of the column with murderous effect. Of the first hundred men who passed through the opening of the fence, at least nine tenths were either killed or wounded. Such sweeping destruction checked, of course, the advancing column, but the men sheltered themselves behind logs, fences, and whatever other cover they could find, and bravely held the ground already gained.
Burnside had again failed the capture the bridge, the Confederate fire was too heavy for his men. All the time McClelling was sending Burnside messages urging him to attack, such as, "Tell him if it costs 10,000 men he must go now.” Burnside became annoyed by these messages. He snapped at one courier, "McClellan appears to think I am not trying my best to carry this bridge, you are the third or fourth on who has been to me this morning with similar orders."

At around 1 o'clock Burnside sent another attack forward. They had better artillery support, and charged straight down the bluff. With a rush they made it across the bridge, and laid down a fire on the Confederates. Toombs decided that it was time to retreat. His men were running low on ammunition, and his flank was being threatened by a division who were crossing the creek downstream. He fell back, having held back an entire corps for many hours with a few hundred men. They had killed or wounded 500 Yankees, loosing only 160 themselves. After forcing Toombs back, Burnside's attack stalled. He spent two hours moving his troops across the bridge and supplying them with ammunition. Although Burnside did not know it, every minute counted. Lee had no troops with which to reinforce Jones's weak division other than artillery. His only hope was for the arrival of A. P. Hill from Harper's Ferry. Every minute Burnside spent in preparing for his attack was another another minute closer to A. P. Hill's arrival. Burnside finally advanced at 3:15. Greatly outnumbered, Jones's men fought hard. They fired as fast as they could into the advancing Federals. A Union soldier wrote of the charge, saying,
The prospect was far from encouraging, but the order came to get ready for the attempt. Our knapsacks were left on the ground behind us. At the word a rush was made for the fences. The line was so disordered by the time the second fence was passed that we hurried forward to a shallow undulation a few feet ahead, and lay down among the furrows to re-form, doing so by crawling up into line. ... The battery, which at first had not seemed to notice us, now, apprised of its danger, opened fire upon us. We were getting ready now for the charge proper, but were still lying on our faces. Now and then a bullet from them cut the air over our head, but generally they were reserving their fire for that better show which they knew they would get in a few minutes. The battery, however, whose shots at first went over our heads, had depressed its guns so as to shave the surface of the ground. Its fire was beginning to tell. ... The suspense was only for a moment, however, for the order to charge came just after. Whether the regiment was thrown into disorder or not, I never knew. I only remember that as we rose, and started all the fire that had been held back so long was loosed. In a second the air was full of the hiss of bullets and the hurtle of grape-shot. The mental strain was so great that I saw at that moment the singular effect mentioned, I think, in the life of Goethe on a similar occasion - - the whole landscape for an instant turned slightly red.
The Confederates put up a good fight, but they had no chance. They were overlapped on their flank and greatly outnumbered. The Federals pushed on, coming over the ridge, sending fugitives running through the streets of Sharpsburg. Burnside's men were only 1200 yards away from  Finally, not a moment too soon, A. P. Hill's column from Harper's Ferry arrived. Hill had started his march that morning. Ignoring for the day Jackson's standing orders to halt ten minutes out of the hour, he pressed the men on, knowing that worn out men at the right moment would be better than rested men too late. Wearing his customary red battle shirt, he urged on men with his sword who faltered by the way. 2000 of his 5000 men had fallen by the wayside, but the rest arrived just in time. Riding onto the field Hill saw a Lieutenant hiding behind a tree. Riding up to the man, he broke the officers sword over his back. When General Lee met him he embraced him, and said, "General Hill, I was never so glad to see you, you are badly needed, put your force in on the right as fast as they come up."
A. P. Hill
Hill began positioning his brigades as soon as they arrived on the field. At around 4 he moved forward striking the Federals hard in the flank. Many of the men were wearing Federal uniforms captured at Harper's Ferry. The green Federal regiments were the size of Hill's brigades, but they were surprised by his attack. Hill's men struck hard, collapsing through the green regiments and pushing them back with rebel yells. Burnside's troops pulled back to the edge of the bridge, and they stayed there for the rest of the battle.
Lincoln meets with McClellan on Antietam Battefield

Battle of Antietam – Bloody Lane

Meanwhile the battle shifted south to the center of the line. Instead of following up on what his men had fought for in the cornfield, McClellan made no efforts to focus his attacks there. Another of Sumner's divisions, under William French, had gotten lost when moving towards disaster and had veered off to the left. There, waiting for them, were D. H. Hill's men. They were in what was called the Sunken Road, or later, Bloody Lane. It was a naturally entrenched position, in which shelter the Confederates could simply meet the Federal attacks. Hill's men had already fought in the defense of the cornfield. But since the battle was now shifting south, they would fight again, this time against different Federals. When French encountered Confederate skirmishers, he eagerly put his men into line for the attack. There was little maneuvering they could make without opening a dangerous whole in the Union line, so they simply charged the road. The attack began around 9:30. As the Federals marched towards the Confederate line, the rebels jeered at them, telling them to go home. "The stillness was literally oppressive,” wrote Colonel John Gordon of the 6th Alabama,
as in close order, with the commander still riding in front, this column of Union infantry moved majestically in the charge. In a few minutes they were within easy range of our rifles, and some of my impatient men asked permission to fire. "Not yet," I replied. "Wait for the order." Soon they were so close that we might have seen the eagles on their buttons; but my brave and eager boys still waited for the order. Now the front rank was within a few rods of where I stood. It would not do to wait another second, and with all my lung power I shouted " Fire !" My rifles flamed and roared in the Federals' faces like a blinding blaze of lightning accompanied by the quick and deadly thunderbolt. The effect was appalling. The entire front line, with few exceptions, went down in the consuming blast. The gallant commander and his horse fell in a heap near where I stood--the horse dead, the rider unhurt. Before his rear lines could recover from the terrific shock, my exultant men were on their feet, devouring them with successive volleys. Even then these stubborn blue lines retreated in fairly good order. My front had been cleared; Lee's centre had been saved; and yet not a drop of blood had been lost by my men. The result, however, of this first effort to penetrate the Confederate centre, did not satisfy the intrepid Union commander.
The Sunken Road from above
French launched several more attacks trying to capture the Sunken Road, but all were failures. Not a man reached the Confederate position. Although he had twice Hill's numbers, French had lost 1,750 men and still could not capture the road. Reinforcements arrived for both sides. Lee decided to send forward his final reserve division under Richard Anderson to join Hill. French was reinforced by the fresh troops of Richardson's divisions. The first attack of an Irish Brigade was unsuccessful, but the next, the fifth brigade to go into the fight, attained more success. Some Federals attained a good position to fire on the Confederate right, and an order was given to bend back the right flank to meet the threat. However, the order was misunderstood, and all of the troops holding the Sunken Road began a retreat. The Confederate situation had been worsened by the loss of several important leaders. Richard Anderson had been wounded soon after arriving on the field, and Colonel Gordon collapsed unconscious after being wounded a fifth time. He may have drowned in his own blood if he had not been for a bullet hole in his cap allowing the blood to drain.
With the Sunken Road abandoned, there was a serious defect in the Confederate line. The Federals had broken through the center, and there was little to oppose their continuing on and rolling up to the right and left. Longstreet was on hand, and he worked desperately with Hill to delay the Federals as long as possible. They found two cannon, but their crew were soon hit by the numerous Federal cannon. So Longstreet's staff dismounted and manned the cannon while Longstreet held their horses. Meanwhile Hill was trying to find any infantry he could lay his hands on. He rallied a few fugitives and created a straggler line, and with this thin line kept the Sunken Road under fire. Hill, watching the Northerners in the road thought that they were about to attack him. Knowing this would be disastrous, he determined to strike first. He asked for volunteers to attempt a charge. None of the men would step forward, until finally one man said he would if Hill would lead them. So grabbing a rifle he set forward with only 200 men. As expected, they made no headway, but for whatever reason the Federals made no movement forward from the Sunken Road. Most of Franklin's fresh corps had arrived, 8,000 soldiers, but Sumner would not let him. Franklin protested, but Sumner told him that they were about to be attacked, and they should not even consider going on the offensive. When a messenger arrived from McClellan with a suggestion to attack, Sumner sent him back saying
Go back, young man, and tell General McClellan I have no command! Tell him my command, Bank's command, and Hooker's command are all cut up and demoralized. Tell him General Franklin has the only organized command on this part of the field!
McClellan came from his headquarters himself to make the decision, and he sided with Sumner. He was too cautious to hazard an attack, and decided that they would just have to hold on to what they gained. He did not understand that he still outnumbered the Confederates, and the rebels were just holding on by a thin thread. No more attacks would be made on the left or center. Both sides had paid dearly for the fight over the Sunken Road. 5,600 men from both sides were either killed or wounded. So many Confederates had fallen in the road that it was said you cold walk from one end to the other on the bodies. After the battle it was given the ominous name of Bloody Lane.

Battle of Antietam - Bloody Cornfield

Confederate Artillery near Dunker Church
Dawn broke at 6:00 on the morning of September 17th 1862. The hollows of the fields around Antietam were filled with mist. The battle had begun hours before with Hooker's Corps moving toward Stonewall Jackson's position. To attack Jackson they would move through a forty acre field of corn that was owned by David Miller. It was bordered on three sides by woods, called West, North and East, while to the South lay Dunker Church. Jackson already knew of Hooker's position and plans. Hooker had advanced a skirmish line the day before, alerting the Confederates. The attack came as no surprise. Colonel Stephen D. Lee had four batteries of artillery posted on the plateau near Dunker Church, and more artillery was placed on the left. In the cornfield was posted the brigades of Jones and Lawton, with more brigades in reserve. Stuart's cavalry was on the left, guarding the flank. As soon as the day dawned an artillery duel began between the cannon on both sides. The fire was terrific from both sides. "Pray that you may never see another Sharpsburg.” Stephen Lee later told a subordinate, “Sharpsburg was artillery hell.”

On the Federal side although Mansfield's corps had not yet arrived, Hooker decided to go forward with his men anyway. He hoped to gain fame and renown for defeating Jackson without the help of Mansfield. Doubleday's division was on the right, Rickett's on the left and Meade's in the rear in reserve. They were heading for the Confederate artillery positioned at the Dunker Church. As they advanced forward they were struck with a crossfire from the Confederate artillery. Men began to fall, and soon after the start of the advance a Union Brigadier General was hit. The Federals soon saw Confederates ahead in the corn, their bayonets glistening in the air. Hooker brought up his artillery, opened fire on the Confederates, and ordered his infantry to charge. On the right of the turnpike the charge was spearheaded by the Iron Brigade, with their tall black hats and famous fighting powers. Under John Gibbon, a North Carolinian, they spearheaded the attack of Doubleday's division. The fighting was very heavy throughout the cornfield. Major Rufus Dawes of the Iron Brigade wrote:
Our lines on the left now came sweeping forward through the corn and the open field beyond. I ordered my men up to join the advance, and commanded: 'Forward - guide left - march!' ... At the front edge of the corn-field was a low Virginia rail fence. Before the corn were open fields, beyond which was a strip of woods surrounding a little church, the Dunkard church. As we appeared at the edge of the corn, a long line of men in butternut and gray rose up from the ground. Simultaneously, the hostile battle lines opened a tremendous fire upon each other. Men, I cannot say fell; they were knocked out of the ranks by the dozens. But we jumped over the fence, and pushed on, loading, firing, and shouting as we advanced. There was, on the part of the men, great hysterical excitement, eagerness to go forward, and a reckless disregard of life, of everything but victory. ... Every body tears cartridges, loads, passes guns, or shoots. Men are falling in their places or running back into the corn. ... After a few rods of advance, the line stopped and, by common impulse, fell back to the edge of the corn and lay down on the ground behind the low rail fence. Another lien of our men came up through the corn. We all joined together, jumped over the fence, and again pushed out into the open field. There is a rattling fusillade and loud cheers. 'Forward is the word' The men are loading and firing with demoniacal fury and shouting and laughing hysterically, and the whole field before us is covered with rebels fleeing for life, into the woods. Great numbers of them are shot while climbing over the high post and rail fences along the turnpike.
The Iron Brigade charges
With Lawton's division crushed by Hooker's attack, he sent a message to Hood asking for his assistance. Lawton, Jones and Starke had all been hit, and Jackson's old division was commanded by a Colonel. Hood's men were in the rear cooking their breakfast, their first hot meal in days. But they were needed in the battle, so throwing away their food they fell into line and moved forward to assist Lawton's men. When they arrived on the field the Federals had broken through all the Confederate brigades in the area, and were pushing towards Dunker Church. But Hood's famous Texans gallantly charged into the enemy. Dawes wrote:
A long and steady line of rebel gray, unbroken by the fugitives who fly before us, comes sweeping down through the woods around the church. They raise the yell and fire. It is like a scythe running through our line. ... It is a race for life that each man runs for the cornfield. A sharp cut, as of a switch, stings he calf of my leg as I run. Back to the corn, and back through the corn, the headlong flight continues.
Hooker's attack was stopped by the gallant charge of Hood's division, supported on the right by D. H. Hill and on the left by Early. However, the fighting was still terrible. Hood was able to drive Hooker to the north end of the cornfield, but at terrible cost to his men. The 1st Texas lost 80% of its strength in the terrible fighting. "Tell General Jackson,” Hood told a courier, “unless I get reinforcements I must be forced back, but I am going on while I can!"
Jackson had no reserves available to throw in to the fight, so he sent a request to Lee. Lee had already sent Walker's division from the right, and sent McLaw's as well. There was always the risk that McClellan would launch an attack on the Confederate right, but that had to be taken. If Jackson's line gave, it would mean disaster for the entire army.
However, Hooker's attack was over. All his strength had been used up. He sent a message to Mansfield, who had now arrived, for him to try his hand at the attack. Joseph Mansfield was an old army soldier, but like many of his men this was his fist battle in war. Mansfield thought that Hooker's men were driving the Confederates, and that he was only coming to complete the victory. Advancing towards the rebel lines, he was surprised when he was fired upon, thinking he were being fired on by his friends. He discovered his mistake, but the Confederate line fired a volley, hitting Mansfield in the stomach. He was brought to the rear, and died the next day. His men continued on under the command of Alpheus Williams. They were able to push Hood's veterans back through the cornfield into the west woods. D. H. Hill wrote in his official report:
[O]ur progress was arrested by a lane, on either side of which was a high, staked fence stretching along our whole front.... The men, being formed along this fence, kept up an accurate and well-sustained fire, which visibly told upon the enemy's ranks; and, although we suffered greatly, as well from musketry in front as from a battery on our left ... not a man was seen to flinch from the conflict. ... [O]ur left being unprotected, we were about to be outflanked, when the order to retire was given and obeyed, the men withdrawing in tolerable order, and fighting as they fell back.

However Walker and McLaws arrived, and throwing their throwing into the fight Jackson was able to keep Williams's corps at bay. Williams was not able to press forward, and requested reinforcements from McClellan. Reinforcements were already coming up in the form the lead division of Sumner's corp. They did not go directly into the cornfield. They came further to the south through the edge of the East Woods, shifting the battle from the Confederate left to center. Sumner, in his eagerness to get his men into battle, made an important mistake. He neglected his flank. He stumbled into Confederates under McLaws and Walker, who happened to be at the right place at the right time. Their volleys tore through Sumner's men, who were virtually unable to defend themselves. Surrounded on three sides, Sumner's men held out for twenty minutes before breaking into a rout. Out of the 5,4000 soldiers who went into the fight, 2,200 fell. One regiment lost over 50% of its 600 men. The corps of Hooker, Mansfield and part of Sumner's after three hours of heavy fighting had gained a foothold on the Dunker Church Plateau, but the Confederates by stripping men from the right had been able to prevent their line from being demolished. The cornfield in which much of the battle had taken place was covered with bodies, fallen down in rows marking the positions of the troops. It was called the Bloody Cornfield. Hooker wrote
In the time that I am writing every stalk of corn in the northern and greater part of the field was cut as closely as could have been done with a knife, and the slain lay in rows precisely as they had stood in their ranks a few moments before. It was never my fortune to witness a more bloody, dismal battlefield.
Jackson lost around 5,000 men. When Hood was asked where his division was, he said “it was dead on the field.” It did not seem as though they could put up much of a defense against another attack. However, the battle was over in Jackson's section of the line. Sumner was badly scared by his reverse, and was wounded in the hand. As ranking officer in the area, he would allow no more attacks, believing that he was about to be over run by a counterattack. As it was, the Confederates were doubting their own ability to resist another attack.

Battle of Antietam – Introduction

Lee and McClellan's armies at Sharpsburg were arrayed for battle roughly along Antietam Creek. The landscape was that of rolling farmland and groves of trees, and Lee was in a strong defensive position, but no where near impregnable. His army was along an approximately four mile long low ridge overlooking the valley containing the creek. Both of his flanks were anchored along the sides of a bend in the Potomac River. Although this meant that he could not be flanked, it also meant that if defeated it would be very difficult to make an orderly retreat. Lee's position could be broken down into three parts, distinguished by recognizable landmarks. On the left was Jackson's Corps around Dunker Church and the Cornfield. In the center was D. H. Hill's division along the Sunken Road, a road bordered by fences which formed a natural trench. On the right was Longstreet's Corps, and the landmark there was what was later called Burnside's Bridge over Antietam Creek. By the time Lee was attacked on the 17th, all of his scattered troops had arrived except for A. P. Hill. His division was on it's way from Harper's Ferry, and would arrive sometime that day.
McClellan, after personally examining the Confederate position, decided to attack the Confederate left. On the right the bridges were overlooked more closely by the bluffs. He hoped to overwhelm the left and then move South down the ridge, driving Lee off the ridge and into the Potomac. He also ordered attacks to be made on the center and right, which would serve as diversions, and could also be turned into a main attack if successful. Fighting Joe Hooker's and Mansfield's corps would attack on the Confederate left, Franklin and Sumner would be available to attack there or in the center, Burnside would attack the right, with Porter in reserve to resist a counter attack. In the afternoon of the 16th McClellan had his troops moving into position. Troops began crossing the creek over the North bridge to get in position for the fight of the next day. McClellan's plans would not be put into coordinated execution. The corps commanders dd not communicate well, and through the rolling nature of the ground they could not do it by sight. At his headquarters in the rear, McClellan exercised little direct control. The battle therefore occurred in three separate phrases, with little connection to each other from the Union perspective.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Armies Moves to Antietam

After McClellan's capture of South Mountain on the 15th, the fall of Harper's Ferry to Stonewall Jackson on the 15th came just in time to redeem the Union fortunes for the campaign. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia was moving on the 16th to concentrate on Sharpsburg, Maryland, along the banks of the Potomac River. McClellen was already in Sharpsburg with his army. However, he refused to attack. Just days before he had been confident that with Lee's Lost Order telling of the division of his army he could, without a doubt, whip Bobby Lee. But now he lost that confidence. Although he should have known Lee's army was divided, he spent the day reconnoitering instead of pushing forward to attack. This mistake meant that instead of crushing a small part of Lee's army, he would have a hart fight the next day against a unified Confederate army.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Siege of Munfordville

150 years ago today the Confederate armies of Bragg and Smith were embarking on an invasion of Kentucky, pursued by Don Carlos Buell's Union army. Today Bragg turned his forces toward Munford, a station of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad where the railroad crossed the Green River. He decided to attack this station, which was held by Union troops, because of an injudicious move by one his his subordinates, who had moved without authorization on the heavily fortified Union stronghold. He had asked Colonel J. T. Wilder of Indiana, who was commanding the fort to surrender. Wilder refused, and beat back a Confederate attack with heavy losses. To avoid discouraging his men with what looked like a defeat Bragg delayed the strategic course of the invasion to attack Munfordville with his whole army. Wilder again refused the demand of surrender, and Bragg, after again failing to capture the city with a direct attack, began a regular siege.

Battle of Harper's Ferry – Day 3

Having spent the previous day dragging the artillery into position on the heights around Harper's Ferry, the Confederate artillery was ready to open fire 150 years ago today. In the morning an artillery barrage of 50 guns opened on the Federals in the town. Dixon Miles realized that the situation was hopeless. He had not received McClellan's message that relief was on the way, and after holding a council of war ordered that the white flag be raised. Many of troops were not happy about this decision, and shouted to Miles, "For ——'s sake, Colonel, don't surrender us. Don't you hear the signal guns? Our forces are near us. Let us cut our way out and join them." "Impossible" Miles replied, "They will blow us out of this place in half an hour."
Harper's Ferry

Just momets later, as the white flag was being raised, Miles was struck in leg by an artillery shell which exploded near by. The men were so disgusted with Miles's conduct that for a while no one would take him to the hospital. He was mortally wounded, and died the next day. Meanwhile, his troops were being surrendered. The Union had lost 44 killed and 173 wounded in the fighting, but now 12,419 men were surrendered along with 13,000 weapons, 200 wagons and 73 cannon. It was the largest surrendered of Federal forces in American history until World War II. Harper's Ferry was lost in large part due to the incapacity of Miles. He failed to hold the high ground and refused to make an attempt to recapture it. This victory was won with little cost to the Confederates. Jackson lost 39 killed and 247 wounded mostly from the fighting on Maryland Heights.

The capture of Harper's Ferry had a vast impact on the campaign. With the Federal victory at South Mountain the day before Lee had decided to abandon his plans for invasion and pull his army back across the river. However, he received a message that changed his mind. "Through God's blessing," Jackson wrote, "Harper's Ferry and its garrison are to be surrendered." With the fall of Harper's Ferry Jackson was free to move, so Lee determined to assemble the army just upriver at Sharpsburg, Maryland, to prepare to fight a battle on Union soil.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Grant Moves on Iuka

After Halleck had been promoted to general in chief of the Union armies and Grant had replaced in command of the Union army in Corinth, Mississippi, Grant had done little more than protect his supply lines. The Confederates, however, were going on the offensive. There were two armies in the area. In conjunction with Bragg's invasion of Kentucky Sterling Price's Army of the West was moving toward Nashville, and Earl Van Dorn with the Army of West Tennessee was moving to join him.
Sterling Price

150 years ago today the Union commander in Iuka, Missisippi, southeast of Corinth, pulled his brigade back, setting the supplies on fire. Price's troops moved in, putting out the flames and saving most of the supplies. His plan was to wait there until he was joined by Van Dorn, and then move on Grant's supply lines. Grant however, would not wait patiently. He saw an opportunity in the division of the Confederate forces. He planned to converge on Price in Iuka before Van Dorn could join him, with two columns attacking both north and south.

Battle of Harper's Ferry - Day 2

On September 13th, 150 years ago yesterday, the Confederates were able to occupy the high ground around Harper's Ferry. The Federals had given them the key to the position, but it would take time to make the most of it. Jackson ordered that guns be placed on the heights, and that none open until they could open fire all at once. This required a lot of hard work dragging heavy guns up the steep mountain sides. It took 200 men per gun to place four Parrott rifles on the summit of Maryland Heights. Walker was able to get his guns on Loudoun Heights placed fairly quickly, and impatient at the slowness of the preparations, opened fire at 1 pm. However, alone these guns were ineffectual and they soon ceased fire. The Federals realized they didn't have much time left. However, no effort was made to recapture the heights. If they had attacked Maryland Heights, it is likely that it would have been successful, as all of the troops there had been withdrawn except for one regiment to join the battle of Crampton's Gap.

Dixon Miles, Union commander, did allow another movement to be made. Colonel Benjamin Franklin “Grimes” Davis, commander of the 12th Illinois Cavalry and other mounted Union units in Harper's Ferry, proposed an attempt to break out. The cavalry would be useless in a siege, but at first Miles dismissed the idea as impractical, but Davis finally convinced him. Davis led his 1,400 cavalry across the Potomac and around the base of Maryland Heights. They had several close calls with rebels, but they were able to avoid detection. On their way back to Union lines they encountered a wagon train. It was Longstreet's reserve supply of ammunition. Unprotected by Confederates, it was an easy prey. They were able to trick the drivers into following them in a different direction, drove off the escort in the rear of the column, and brought the 40 wagons back to Union lines. Up to this point in the east Stuart's Confederate troops had literally ridden circles around the Yankees, but now, without loosing a man, Davis had performed the first great cavalry exploit of the Union army.