Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Battle of Cane Hill

In early 1862 the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas had been fought, resulting in Confederate defeat. Now a Confederate army under General Thomas C. Hindman was advancing to try to regain that lost ground. He moved with 11,000 troops into the northwest corner of the state, where he planned to attack 5,000 Yankees under Brigadier General James G. Blunt, who were 70 miles from any reinforcements. Hindman sent Brigadier General John S. Marmaduke ahead with 2,000 cavalry to hold Blunt in place while the rest of the Confederates came into position.

Blunt, however, did not sit passively and wait for Hindman's plan to work. He headed south, and encountered Marmaduke 35 miles south of where the Confederates had expected. The outnumbered rebels were surprised by the Yankee attack on November 28th, 150 years ago today. Marmaduke ordered Col. Jo Shelby to delay Blunt and cover the retreat of the main Confederate force. Although the fighting stretched for nine hours as Blunt pursued the Confederates for 12 miles, there were few large clashes and the casualties were light. The Union lost 41 killed and wounded, and the South 45.

Although he was successful in driving back Marmaduke's thrust for the time being, the attack left Blunt even further from reinforcements. The campaign would culminate in the Battle of Prairie Grove, just nine days later.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Civil War Thanksgivings of 1862

Thanksgiving in Camp
 Although Thanksgiving as we know it on the fourth Thursday of November. did not come into being until 1863, during 1862 Presidents Davis and Lincoln both appointed times of thanksgiving, although on different days than those to which we are accustomed.

Abraham Lincoln declared a day of thanksgiving on April 10th, 1862, with this proclamation:
It has pleased Almighty God to vouchsafe signal victories to the land and naval forces engaged in suppressing an internal rebellion, and at the same time to avert from our country the dangers of foreign intervention and invasion.
It is therefore recommended to the people of the United States that at their next weekly assemblages in their accustomed places of public worship which shall occur after notice of this proclamation shall be have been received they especially acknowledge and render thanks to our Heavenly Fathers for these inestimable blessings, that they then and there implore spiritual consolation in behalf of all who have been brought into affliction by the casualties and calamities of sedition and civil war, and that they reverently invoke the divine guidance for our national counsels, to the end that they may speedily result in the restoration of peace, harmony, and unity throughout our borders and hasten the establishment of fraternal relations among all the countries of the earth.
In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the city of Washington, this 10th day of April A.D. 1862, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-sixth.
 Davis did the same a few months later, on September 4th, 1862, after the great victory at Manassas:
Once more upon the plains of Manassas have our armies been blessed by the Lord of Hosts with a triumph over our enemies.  It is my privilege to invite you once more to His footstool, not now in the garb of fasting and sorrow, but with joy and gladness, to render thanks for the great mercies received at His hand.  A few months since, and our enemies poured forth their invading legions upon our soil.  They laid waste our fields, polluted our altars and violated the sanctity of our homes.  Around our capital they gathered their forces, and with boastful threats, claimed it as already their prize.  The brave troops which rallied to its defense have extinguished these vain hopes, and, under the guidance of the same almighty hand, have scattered our enemies and driven them back in dismay.  Uniting these defeated forces and the various armies which had been ravaging our coasts with the army of invasion in Northern Virginia, our enemies have renewed their attempt to subjugate us at the very place where their first effort was defeated, and the vengeance of retributive justice has overtaken the entire host in a second and complete overthrow.
To this signal success accorded to our arms in the East has been graciously added another equally brilliant in the West.  On the very day on which our forces were led to victory on the Plains of Manassas, in Virginia, the same Almighty arm assisted us to overcome our enemies at Richmond, in Kentucky.  Thus, at one and the same time, have two great hostile armies been stricken down, and the wicked designs of their armies been set at naught.
In such circumstances, it is meet and right that, as a people, we should bow down in adoring thankfulness to that gracious God who has been our bulwark and defense, and to offer unto him the tribute of thanksgiving and praise.  In his hand is the issue of all events, and to him should we, in an especial manner, ascribe the honor of this great deliverance.
Now, therefore, I, Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States, do issue this, my proclamation, setting apart Thursday, the 18th day of September inst., as a day of prayer and thanksgiving to Almighty God for the great mercies vouchsafed to our people, and more especially for the triumph of our arms at Richmond and Manassas; and I do hereby invite the people of the Confederate States to meet on that day at their respective places of public worship, and to unite in rendering thanks and praise to God for these great mercies, and to implore Him to conduct our country safely through the perils which surround us, to the final attainment of the blessings of peace and security.
Given under my hand and the seal of the Confederate States, at Richmond, this fourth day of September, A.D.1862. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Burnside Demands Fredericksburg's Surrenders

Burnside's Headquarters
When McClellan was removed from command he was replaced by Ambrose Burnside. Burnside had long been a commander in the Army of the Potomac, and although he was a friend of McClellan and did not want the command, he was eventually persuaded to take it. Rather than following McClellan's example of slow movement, Burnside instead would move very quickly. His plan was to move to Fredericksburg, cross the river, and get around Lee's flank. Burnside was successful in arriving at the river before Lee, but his plan went awry in a critical area – the pontoon bridges to actually cross the river did not arrive. He had to remain there waiting for weeks while Lee could slowly decide where he could place his troops. For a while he had to cover many crossings as he did not know where the Yankees would cross, but by the time Burnside actually did cross at Fredericksburg he would have all his troops in position. The failure of Burnside to insure his pontoons arrived on time, or to move on without them, cost him an easy crossing. He wrote:
Had the pontoon bridge arrived even on the 19th or 20th, the army could have crossed with trifling opposition. But now the opposite side of the river is occupied by a large rebel force under General Longstreet, with batteries ready to be placed in position to operate against the working parties building the bridge and the troops in crossing.
Outskirts of the town
On November 21st, 150 years ago today, Burnside demanded the surrender of the town. Fredericksburg was one of the oldest towns in Virginia, and George Washington had lived just across the river. A bombardment of the town would be a catastrophe, deadly to the non-combatants in the town. This crisis was avoided for the moment when the Yankees relented from their treat upon Lee's assurance that he would not occupy the town. However, the citizens knew the armies would come their way sooner or later, and so the exodus from the town began, long lines of women and children leaving the town, carrying with them what good they could. Lee wrote of their conduct:
History presents no instance of a people exhibiting a purer and more unselfish patriotism or a higher spirit of fortitude and courage than was evinced by the citizens of Fredericksburg. They cheerfully incurred great hardships and privations, and surrendered their homes and property to destruction rather than yield them into the hands of the enemies of their country.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

McClellan Removed from Command

Lincoln and McClellan
Lincoln had been dissatisfied with George B. McClellan, commander of the Army of the Potomac, for a long time. McClellan was very slow and cautious on the offensive, always demanding more troops and supplies without energetically putting them to good use. Even when he had been reappointed to command it was only because of the emergency of Lee's invasion of Maryland. After Lee retreated across the Potomac after the Battle of Antietam, Lincoln became more and more frustrated at McClellan's conduct. For weeks the army sat idle on the banks of the Potomac while Lee regrouped his army after a trying campaign.

But Lincoln decided to give McClellan one last chance. Because of the position of the armies, it appeared that the Federals had the chance, if they moved quickly, to get between Lee and Washington, forcing a battle on ground of the Yankee's choosing. However, McClellan failed yet again. Scouts reported that the Confederates had successfully blocked McClellan's road to Richmond. It was time for McClellan to go.


Lincoln's order said:
By direction of the President, it is ordered that Major-General McClellan be relieved from the command of the Army of the Potomac, and that Major-General Burnside take the command of that army. Also that Major-General Hunter take command of the corps in said army which is now commanded by General Burnside. That Major-General Fitz John Porter be relieved from the command of the corps he now commands in said army, and that Major-General Hooker take command of said corps.
He wrote this on November 5th, after the midterm elections, when the Democrats had gained more seats in the House, and the Republicans in the Senate. The message was delivered early on the 7th, two days later.

The man chosen to deliver the message was Brigadier General Catherinus Buckingham, who was working at the War Department. He was entrusted with the task of giving McClellan the message informing him of his removal from command, and another to Ambrose Burnside to convince him to take the post. Buckingham went first to Burnside, who was completely shocked and immediately refused. Burnside said he didn't want the command and did not think he was fit for it. In fact, he had refused it twice before, and McClellan was a friend of his. Finally, after over an hour of discussions, Buckingham was able to convince him to accept the command.

Lincoln and his generals after Antietam

McClellan accepted the order removing him of command with little emotion. There was always some danger that the general being removed, especially one so well loved by the troops as McClellan, would try to stage a rebellion. McClellan would not do that. He would obey the orders from Washington. However, he did not believe he had made any mistakes warranting his removal from command. He wrote to his wife:
They have made a great mistake. Alas for my poor country! I know in my inmost heart she never had a truer servant. I have informally turned over the command to Burnside, but shall go to-morrow to Warrenton with him, and perhaps remain a day or two there in order to give him all the information in my power... Do not be at all worried - I am not. I have done the best I could for my country; to the last I have done my duty as I understand it. That I must have made many mistakes I cannot deny. I do not see any great blunders; but no one can judge of himself. Our consolation must be that we have tried to do what was right; if we have failed it was not our fault.
McClellan and his wife