J.E.B. Stuart

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Video Spotlight: Memories of Gettysburg

I recently took my long-time best friend, Maurice Barnes, to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania for the first time. While we had less than 24 hours there, we managed to hit a lot of places. He captured it with his video camera and I used my trusted camera (though I already have over 4,000 photos from previous Gettysburg visits; you can never have enough, right?).

A few weeks after we returned home Maurice surprised me with a video keepsake. It is a compilation of the video he took, along with some photos I took, and a few “fillers” from the Library of Congress. The song he used, “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri, is one that I have listened to when I drive into Gettysburg, and as I drive along the battlefield roads. Words like “one step closer” and “every breath, every hour has come to this” seem fitting in their own ways.

I was so moved by this gift that I asked his permission to share it with all of you. As it turns out, we are launching our own companies today as well, so we are launching this video as our first collaborative project. The dedication he has to me is something he strongly wanted to keep, and I appreciate that. He has always been one of my biggest Civil War Project supporters, and as you will be able to tell from the video, he also has a sincere passion and respect for history. I hope you find it as moving as I do, and it will hopefully give those who have not been to Gettysburg an idea of what it is like, and for those who have been there I hope it captures a small piece of your own experiences:

(If you are on a mobile device, you can watch it here): Memories of Gettysburg

For those of you who want all the specifics on the images shown on the video, you can find them here.

In regards to our two companies: I just launched my company called Visions on Fourth St. It will not just focus on my own creations such as The Civil War Project, but will aim to help others achieve their own vision, whether it be for an event, business start-up, or marketing initiative. The other company, Firefly Productions, is owned by Maurice and his brother Michael. Firefly’s mission is to capture the fire of people, events, places, companies, etc. through a wide range of videography and production services. I think this video is a beautiful representation of the work they produce, and I look forward to doing many more with them in the future.

150 Years Ago: Monday, April 27, 1863

Joseph Hooker U.S. Commanding General, Army of the Potomac Source: Library of Congress

Joseph Hooker
U.S. Commanding General, Army of the Potomac
Source: Library of Congress

How does it look now?“, reads U.S. Commanding General Joseph Hooker. The telegram in his hands is from President Abraham Lincoln, who, like every Spring since the war started, is highly anxious and high strung now that Winter is behind them. With the warmer weather, the Army of the Potomac should be on the move. But at the beginning of each Spring they must deal with rising rivers from the melting snow and consistent rains, which often hinder their movements. The last major move the Union army made in the Eastern theater of war was at Fredericksburg last December, under U.S. Major General Ambrose Burnside. It had resulted in a major loss that has challenged the will of the people in the North to continue the war and has diminished the power of the United States on an international level. With Hooker now in charge, Lincoln has been sending communications that he no longer wants constant maneuvering of positions. He wants a battle and he wants it won. The Union needs a major victory.

It just so happens that Hooker has just begun moving his troops today, in what he considers a major plan to surprise C.S.A. General Robert E. Lee and the majority of his troops in the Fredericksburg area. Hooker is hoping to swing around Lee and cut off their supply lines from Richmond, and to turn the Confederate left flank. Hooker isn’t looking for a repeat battle at Fredericksburg; he was against the move back in December as he saw Lee’s troops on the high ground behind the stone wall protecting them. He has his own plans for success.

After days of waiting for the water levels to lower, Hooker’s Fifth, Eleventh and Twelfth Corps cross the Rappahannock and Rapidan Rivers above Fredericksburg. Union cavalry under Major General George Stoneman begins a long distance raid against Lee’s supply lines that Hooker is hoping will be successful and also preoccupy some of Lee’s troops.

The man who had once been a friend of U.S. Major General Ulysses S. Grant and had met with him on surrender terms back in February 1862 at Fort Donelson, Tennessee is promoted today by C.S.A. President Jefferson Davis. Major General Simon Buckner, who has spent the last six months in command of the District of the Gulf and has been in charge of the defenses in Mobile, Alabama, has been assigned command of the Department of East Tennessee. He will make arrangements to make the move to Knoxville, where he will work closely under C.S.A. General Braxton Bragg, who he has worked with before and dislikes as a General. In fact, Buckner had been one of many to publicly denounce Bragg’s performance during his Fall campaign in Kentucky last year, which resulted in Bragg’s army abandoning any future invasion of Kentucky even after a successful fight in Perryville in October.

Two days ago Grant had given specific orders for his men to be ready to take Grand Gulf, Mississippi fortifications in a strategic move to take the final target of Vicksburg. Yesterday Grant had arrived at U.S. Major General John McClernand’s camp only to find it highly disorganized and not at all working on his orders to prepare for the move today. McClernand had steamers and transports that were still scattered freely along the river and bayous, unable to support the move as planned. The two divisions that were to board the steamers were stuck on land. Instead of following Grant’s orders of preparation, McClernand staged a review of a single brigade for his visiting friend, Illinois Governor Richard Yates. McClernand’s men listen to a long and splendid motivational speech from Yates, followed by one from McClernand. At the end, McClernand has his artillery fire a salute to the Governor using ammunition that was to be saved to fight the enemy per Grant’s orders, as they were in very low supply. McClernand couldn’t have made a more obvious statement to Grant that he did not only disagree with his plan, but disrespected him as a leader. This was not new to Grant, who has been struggling with McClernand for months, with McClernand feeling that he should be the one in charge of the Vicksburg campaign. Though Yates has strong political power, Lincoln has the final say and he believes in Grant’s abilities.

Grant again sends specific, written orders to McClernand as to what he wants done today: McClernand’s troops are to board and await orders to move via steamers to a point opposite Grand Gulf. The Navy will reduce whatever batteries the Confederates have in place, and then McClernand’s men will be ferried to the Mississippi shore, where they are to unload from the steamers and storm up the bluffs, capturing the Confederate fortifications. Men are to take only three days supply of rations; Grant wants everyone traveling light and with only the bare necessities. He needs his men to be able to move quickly.

Instead of following Grant’s orders, McClernand again has other ideas. Instead of taking the troops via water, he wants to take an open road to the same point opposite Grand Gulf, which leads to a little village called Hard Times. Grant allows a reconnaissance party to see if roads are passable, and instead they find Confederate cavalry. As McClernand still does not have enough transports to board his men, Grant seizes the opportunity and orders the last two of McClernand’s divisions to drive the Confederates out and take the village of Hard Times. There will be no move today against Grand Gulf but at least the Union army can accomplish something.

Wanting to create a diversion, Grant turns his attention to his most trusted fellow officer, U.S. Major William T. Sherman, who is the furthest north and closest to Vicksburg. He sends a note to Sherman:

“If you think it advisable, you may make a reconnaissance of Haynes’ Bluff, taking as much force and as many steamers as you like. The effect of a heavy demonstration in that direction would be good so far as the enemy are concerned, but I am loath to order it, because it would be so hard to make our own troops understand that only a demonstration was intended, and our people at home would characterize it as a repulse. I therefore leave it to you whether to make such a demonstration. Publish your order beforehand, stating that a reconnaissance in force is to be made for the purpose of calling off the enemy’s attention from our movements south of Vicksburg, and not with any expectation of attacking.”

The orders Sherman receive give him a lot of leeway and decision making power. But Grant trusts him fully. Sherman immediately swings into action. To cover the road from Milliken’s Bend to New Carthage, he detaches a division under Major General Frederick Steele. Sherman reveals to Steele that “General Grant directs me to control matters at this end.” Sherman knows he has Grant’s trust and that fuels him; it gives him confidence in his own abilities, which is something he lacked at the beginning of the war.

The move Grant wanted to make today against Grand Gulf will have to wait until tomorrow. He only hopes that this delay has not given the Confederates time to repulse their attack. But in typical Grant fashion, he has still made moves and tried to take advantage of the delay as best he can. He understands that public and political perception is very important right now.

C.S.A. Lieutenant General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson sends another battle report to General Robert E. Lee, this time regarding the second Battle of Manassas (known as Bull Run in North) from last August. He once again praises the support of C.S.A. Major General and cavalry officer J.E.B. Stuart for his action on the field. His fondness for Stuart is very obvious; it’s a huge compliment coming from someone who does not often give such high praise so freely. Jackson closes with the following:

For these great and signal victories our sincere and humble thanks are due unto Almighty God. We should in all things acknowledge the hand of Him who reigns in heaven and rules among the armies of men. In view of the arduous labors and great privations the troops were called to endure and the isolated and perilous position which the command occupied while engaged with greatly-superior numbers of the enemy we can but express the grateful conviction of our mind that God was with us and gave to us the victory, and unto His holy name be the praise.

150 Years Ago: Sunday, April 26, 1863

Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson April 26, 1863 Source: Library of Congress

Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson
April 26, 1863
Source: Library of Congress

At a cozy farmhouse in Spotsylvania, Virginia, a photographer from Minnis and Crowell out of Richmond waits for his subject. At first, the subject – C.S.A. Lieutenant General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson – declines the request. But after a convincing talk from his wife Anna, Jackson obliges.

He puts on his best Confederate uniform, which was given to him as a present by C.S.A. Major General and cavalry officer J.E.B. Stuart, and arranges his own hair, which is unusual for him. He does not wear the old, worn VMI forage cap that he often wears in the field. With his hair curled in ringlets, Jackson sits down on a wooden chair in the downstairs hallway that has been set up for him. He sits very still, but just as the photographer takes the photo a strong wind from an open window blows in Jackson’s face, causing him to frown. The end result is a sternness, which his wife Anna dislikes because it’s not the spirited husband she knows and loves. But Jackson’s troops and others in the Confederate army who will later view the photo love it because they feel it represents who he is as a soldier and commander. Strong, determined, serious in battle. It represents the man who was “standing like a stone wall” against the enemy on the Manassas battlefield (known as Bull Run in the North) in July 1861.

In Bardstown, Kentucky, there is a lot of talk in the 2nd Michigan Infantry about the desertion of their brigade postmaster, Frank Thompson. Word has spread that Frank was not “Frank” at all; the gossip is that Frank is actually a young woman and ran off when her alleged lover, Assistant Adjunct General James Reid, was relieved of duty to take his very sick wife back home to Scotland where doctors believe she will be more prone to recover in her native land. Reid is a young, attractive man who had only recently married his wife Anna. He had originally been a Lieutenant in the 79th New York Highlanders, a primarily Scottish group, but was captured in the Battle of Bull Run (or Manassas) in July 1861 and spent six months in a Confederate prison near Richmond. In November 1862, after Major General Ambrose Burnside took command of the Army of the Potomac, the 79th was combined with the 2nd Michigan. It was there that Reid and Frank Thompson met.

The rumors are somewhat correct. “Frank” is indeed a female, (Sarah) Emma Edmonds. She is not the only female who has successfully enlisted in the army as a male. A few months ago a baby had been born to a corporal in a New Jersey regiment, who went into labor while on duty to the complete shock of her comrades. But Emma’s situation – whose real name only a few in the 2nd Michigan know – hits closer to home for them. While there is evidence that Emma and Reid were close, the nature of their relationship is unknown and Reid always remained devoted to his wife Anna. But the two had spent a lot of time together in his tent, alone; and given that Emma had deserted right when Reid left, it fueled speculation of a romantic relationship.

Though it is possible Reid’s departure played some part in Emma’s decision to leave, she is physically sick and emotionally drained. Her physical health has relapsed from the malaria she had contracted earlier in the year, and she felt that if she stayed in Bardstown that medical personnel would discover her secret. She had requested a medical furlough but was denied; she had no choice but to leave. So the week of April 12 she left Bardstown, by foot, and decided to go west to Cairo, Illinois, one of the bigger cities “nearby” – 230 miles away. On April 19 she saw her alias “Frank Thompson” listed on a desertion list, a crime punishable by death if caught. As she continues to Cairo, sick and in fear of being captured, she makes the decision that she will obtain women’s clothes once in town and return to living the life of “Emma.” She will seek out care and be faced with a decision on how to live her life as a female, something she has not done since she enlisted back in June 1861, almost two years ago.

150 Years Ago: Friday, April 24, 1863

Franz (or Francis in U.S.) Lieber Source: Library of Congress

Franz (or Francis in U.S.) Lieber
Source: Library of Congress

Today U.S. General Order No. 100 is published, which provides a specific code of conduct for soldiers and officers when dealing with Confederate prisoners of war and civilians. The idea behind the Orders had come from Francis Lieber, a Prussian immigrant born in Berlin whose three sons are serving in the military, though one had died in the Battle of Williamsburg, Virginia (also known as the Battle of Fort Magruder) almost a year ago on May 5, 1862. He had advised General-in-Chief Henry Halleck on the subject, and President Abraham Lincoln worked on the Order personally along with four generals and Lieber. It consists of 157 articles and establishes policies on the treatment of prisoners, civilians when found to be engaged in guerrilla warfare, exchanges, and flags of truce.

The Orders also address a crisis that was started by Emancipation of slaves in the rebellion (Confederate) states earlier in the year on January 1, which Confederate President Jefferson Davis has insisted is in violation of the customary rules of war. More importantly, Davis has dictated that the Confederate army treat black Union soldiers as criminals, not soldiers, and they are therefore subject to execution or re-enslavement if captured. The Orders, which would also be known as “The Lieber Code” and “Instructions for the Government of Armies of the United States in the Field”, specifically defends the lawfulness of Emancipation under the laws of war and insists that those same laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of color among combatants.

The Orders are the considered to be the first of its kind. Up until today nothing like this has ever been published. It will stand the test of time, as the U.S., Europe and other nations will use it in the future as the foundation for rules of war as it is gradually applied and expanded internationally.

U.S. Major General John Reynold’s men are continuing their mission to Port Conway, Virginia. Along the way his two regiments, the 24th Michigan and 84th New York, completely surprise the Confederate cavalry led by one of their most praised officers, J.E.B. Stuart. Though C.S.A. General Robert E. Lee was used to Union efforts to distract them, he is still alarmed by what occurs. He writes to Stuart that “I am afraid the cavalry was negligent. They gave no alarm; did not fire a shot; lost some public horses and two wagons. The citizens gave the alarm. I desire the matter inquired into.

In the meantime, the U.S. Army of the Potomac remains bogged down due to swollen streams from recent rains. U.S. Commanding General Joesph Hooker cannot move his men until they can cross. So for now they wait in camp, the men unaware of where Hooker will lead them next now that winter is over and they need to be back on the move. What was once thought to be nothing more than a 90 day war has now lasted more than two years, and in the Eastern Theater it seems like little progress has been made in the goals of capturing the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia or obtaining the surrender of Lee’s army.

The Confederacy, like any government during war – including the U.S. government – is having difficulty raising money to keep the war in progress. Pay for the men, food, clothes, weapons, ammunition, etc.; this all costs a great deal of money. Taxes have already been put in place but collection has been difficult. Today a “tax in kind” is enacted that requires each state to collect one-tenth of their citizens agricultural product. The money will go directly to supplying the Confederate army, which has often struggled to keep its men fed, clothed and paid, especially in the western Confederate states.

In the Western Theater, U.S. Major General Ulysses S. Grant has been getting different reconnaissance information on the viability of taking Grand Gulf, Mississippi, about 30 miles from his main target of Vicksburg. Grant decides to view the situation for himself, so he and Admiral David Dixon Porter take a steamer downriver. Upon closer evaluation Grant believes he sees the key to the entire position: the northern-most bluff. Porter had earlier told Grant that he had seen fortifications on that area being constructed by slaves, but Grant notices there is no artillery yet in position that would prevent them from taking the bluff. He gives the order that he wants to make an attack in two days. Porter’s gunboats will take care of any artillery at Grand Gulf (if there is any by then) and Major General John McClernand’s men will be transported there by boats and are charged with taking the bluff. Grant’s vision is clear and he orders his officers to leave their horses and tents behind so they can move swiftly.

Just to reduce their chance of any surprises, Grant gives additional orders to McClernand to send armed reconnaissance south past the ground opposite of Grand Gulf so he can be aware of any Confederate troops or movements there. Grant has spent months trying various ways to get to Vicksburg; he is hoping this is the opening he needs.

150 Years Ago: Sunday December 14, 1862

“From the battle field near Fredericksburg: We crossed the river Thursday night and have been under fire ever since. The Rebels are strongly entrenched, and we have not made much headway. Today has been very quiet with an occasional shell from the Rebels. We tried to keep the Sabbath the best we could. We lay all day in our rifle pits awaiting events. I write this on the battlefield.” — U.S. Corporal Elisha Hunt Rhodes

Yesterday 19-year-old C.S.A. Sergeant Richard Rowland Kirkland’s unit, Company G of the 2nd South Carolina, had spent the day behind the stone wall inflicting heavy casualties against Union troops. As morning came, daylight reveals over 8,000 Union soldiers still on the battlefield in front of them. Many are still alive but there are thousands that are wounded and suffering terribly from pain and a lack of water. Orders have not been given to the men to retreat and no truce has yet been reached to remove the wounded from the field, so the Union troops are stuck on the cold, open field, shielding themselves from occasional Confederate rifle fire and the cold by propping dead soldiers up around them as a “wall” of protection.

"The Angel of Marye's Heights" Memorial at Fredericksburg, VirginiaSource: TCWP

“The Angel of Marye’s Heights” Memorial at Fredericksburg
Source: TCWP

Men from both sides are forced to listen to the painful cries throughout the night and morning, with neither side daring to make a move to help anyone for fear of being shot. By mid-morning Kirkland approaches C.S.A. Brigadier General Joseph B. Kershaw and tells him that he wishes to help the wounded soldiers. At first Kershaw declines the request, but later he relents. Once given permission, Kirkland asks if he could show a white handkerchief, but white flags are used for surrender; this is not a surrender situation so Kershaw declines. Kirkland responds “All right, sir, I’ll take my chances.

Kirkland gathers all the canteens he can carry, fills them with water and then makes his way out into the battlefield. He ventures back and forth several times, giving wounded Union soldiers not only water, but warm clothing and blankets that his fellow Confederates have donated to the cause. Kershaw watches in amazement, thinking that the Union will open fire and the Confederacy will respond in return, leaving Kirkland in the crossfire; but no one fires a shot. Within a very short time it is obvious to both sides as to what Kirkland is doing, and soon cries for water erupt all over the battlefield. Kirkland does not stop until he helps every wounded soldier who asks for him – Union and Confederate – on the hill near the stone wall. He is dubbed “The Angel of Marye’s Heights.”

Despite the horrific results of yesterday’s attacks, U.S. Commanding General Ambrose Burnside wants to continue the attack and has to be talked out of it by the other generals as they refuse to continue the wave after wave of suicidal marches with their men. If his generals won’t do it, Burnside will; he still believes he can break Lee’s lines and offers to personally lead another attack. He is finally talked out of it.

This afternoon Burnside requests a truce to tend to the thousands of wounded soldiers and C.S.A. General Robert E. Lee agrees. Under the cover of darkness and a storm, the Union army starts its withdrawal that will go well into tomorrow.

Lee writes to the Confederate War Department that Fredericksburg has been a victory. So far he counts 1,800 killed or wounded on his side, with 550 Union men captured; he is unsure, however, what the full extent of Burnside’s loss is.

LaSalle "Sallie" CorbellSource: Library of Congress

LaSalle “Sallie” Corbell
Source: Library of Congress

C.S.A. Major General George Pickett writes to his love interest, Sallie Ann Corbell, who has changed her name to LaSalle Corbell but whom Pickett still calls “Sallie.” Pickett has been married twice before and rumor has it that his new girl is just that – a girl who is 14 years old compared to his 37 years of age. It turns out she is 18, but she likes being referred to “Schoolgirl Sallie.” They had first met in 1852 when she was just 9 and recovering from whopping cough, and Pickett was recovering from the loss of his first wife and child. When he can he travels to Suffolk, Virginia to see her. He now writes to her about what he has witnessed these last few days at Fredericksburg:

Here we are, my darling, at Fredericksburg, on the south side of the Rappahannock, half-way between Richmond and Washington, fortified for us by the hand of the Great Father.

I penciled you a note by old Jackerie (headquarters postmaster) on the 12th from the foot of the hills between Hazel Run and the Telegraph Road. In it I sent a hyacinth given me by a pretty lady who came out with beaten biscuit – and some unwritten and written messages from Old Peter (note: James Longstreet) and Old Jack (note: Thomas Jackson), Hood, Ewell, Stuart, and your “brothers,” to the “someone” to whom I was writing.

My division, nine thousand strong, is in fine shape. It was on the field of battle, as a division, for the first time yesterday, though only one brigade, Kemper’s, was actively engaged.

What a day it was, my darling – this ever to be remembered by many of us thirteenth of December dawning auspiciously upon us clad in deepest, darkest mourning! A fog such as would shame London lay over the valley, and through the dense mist distinctly came the uncanny commands of the unseen opposing officers. My men were eager to be in the midst of the fight, and if Hood had not been so cautious they would probably have immortalized themselves. Old Peter’s orders were that Hood and myself were to hold our ground of defense unless we should see an opportunity to attack the enemy while engaged with A.P. Hill on the right. A little after ten, when the fog had lifted and Stuart’s cannon from the plain of Massaponax were turned upon Meade and when Franklin’s advance left the enemy’s flank open, I went up to Hood and urged him to seize the opportunity; but he was afraid to assume so great a responsibility and sent for permission to Old Peter, who was with Marse Robert in a different part of the field. Before his assent and approval were received, the opportunity, alas, was lost!

If war, my darling, is a necessity – and I suppose it is – it is a very cruel one. Your Soldier’s heart almost stood still as he watched those sons of Erin fearlessly rush to their death. The brilliant assault on Marye’s Heights of their Irish Brigade was beyond description. Why, my darling, we forgot they were fighting us, and cheer after cheer at their fearlessness went up all along our lines. About fifty of my division sleep their last sleep at the foot of Marye’s Heights.

I can’t help but feel sorry for Old Burnside proud-plucky, hard-headed old dog. I always liked him, but I loved little Mac, and it was a godsend to the Confederacy that he was relieved.

Oh, my darling, war and its results did  not seem so awful till the love for you came. Now I want to love and bless and help everything, and there are no foes – no enemies – just love for you and longing for you.

Your Soldier

The Lacy HouseSource: Library of Congress

The Lacy House
Source: Library of Congress

When not carrying messages, the Union mounted orderly for Brigadier General Orlando Poe, Emma “Frank” Thompson, assists the ambulance corps with taking the wounded to the Lacy House, where Clara Barton waits to receive them. Since dawn, surgeons have been working frantically in every room, and soon an inch or more of blood covers James Lacy’s beautiful hardwood floors.

On the Western front, U.S. Major General William Tecumseh Sherman is back in Memphis, Tennessee after being charged by Major General Ulysses S. Grant to organize the forces from there and nearby Helena, Arkansas for a move towards Vicksburg, Mississippi. Grant was hoping Sherman would have 40,000 troops, but by Sherman’s count he will have 30,000 to move down the Mississippi River via steamers and should arrive by December 18. Sherman is concerned that the different leaders – himself, Grant, Major General Samuel Curtis and Admiral David Dixon Porter – are too apart from each other but has confidence that when the move comes they will all act in concert to take the difficult city fortified by both land and water.

George B. McClellan sends a quick letter to August Belmont, the leader of the National Democrat party: “I fear that Mr L is busily engaged in breaking the rest of the eggs in the basket! Is this the blackest hour which precedes the dawn?

In Washington, Mary Lincoln attends church services with Illinois Senator Orville H. Browning while her husband stays at the White House looking over maps and discussing military options after what appears to be a defeat at Fredericksburg. President Lincoln is in anguish over the results, yet is still looking for a lot of answers; he has no idea what the cost of the defeat has been.

150 Years Ago: Friday, December 5, 1862

Chandler House, "Fairfield"Source: Library of Congress

Chandler House, “Fairfield”
Source: Library of Congress

In an effort to be closer to his men, C.S.A. Lieutenant General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson moves his headquarters to “Fairfield”, the sprawling farm owned by the Chandler family at Guinea Station, Virginia, which is slowly becoming a main railroad supply hub for the Confederates. The Chandler’s offer Jackson use of their main house but he refuses. They try to persuade him to at least use a small outbuilding located nearby, but he instead chooses to stay in his tent; he doesn’t feel entitled to additional comforts just because of his rank. He prefers to work and sleep in the same conditions as his men.

U.S. Commanding General Ambrose Burnside has ordered Commodore Andrew Harwood to command the Potomac Flotilla, consisting of four gunboats, up the Rappahannock River from the south. Burnside assumes that all of C.S.A. General Robert E. Lee’s forces are within his sights at Fredericksburg; he is wrong. Burnside is unaware of the arrival of Jackson’s corp on December 3, and did not know C.S.A. Major D. H. Hill is as far south as Port Royal. The Confederates, with the help of skillful reconnaissance by cavalry Major General J.E.B. Stuart, have constructed rifle pits and placed a field of artillery overlooking the Rappahannock where Burnside had hoped to cross: Skinker’s Neck. To make his plan even more obvious, Burnside has also ordered the use of Union hot air balloons to oversee the traveling gunboats, which is a clear sign to the Confederates that Burnside is intending to cross his army right where they predicted. As the balloon observers watch from the air, the gunboats are relentlessly fired upon and eventually retreat. Assessing the results, Burnside comes to the conclusion that Lee expects him to cross at Skinker’s Neck and likely has reduced forces at Fredericksburg on the heights behind the city. He will need some time to formulate his plan, but Burnside now feels confident that crossing at the city would be a shock to Lee and will also be his safest bet on getting his army across the river safely.

Fifth Avenue Hotel in New York City, NYSource: Library of Congress

Fifth Avenue Hotel in New York City, NY
Source: Library of Congress

From the 5th Avenue Hotel in New York City former U.S. General George B. McClellan is still dealing with military affairs, though what he addresses today is an old situation that Brigadier General Charles P. Stone still has questions about. Stone had been arrested in February for his conduct in the battle of Ball’s Bluff in October 1861. One could say that the charges against Stone were political and personal; it was during this battle that U.S. Senator and Colonel Edward D. Baker was killed. The death of Baker was devastating to U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, as Baker had been a long time friend from Springfield, Illinois. Congress was enraged that one of their own died in a way that they felt could have been avoided if a more capable leader – and one who was more “pro-Union” – was in charge. The blame fell on Stone, and while he was arrested and held prisoner, no charges were ever brought against him and he was released on August 16 with no explanation or apology. McClellan had tried to re-instate Stone in September as he felt his services were needed, but Secretary of War Edwin Stanton declined the request. Stone is in Washington and is still technically in the military but “awaiting orders.” McClellan writes him today in response to questions Stone had about why he was arrested; he is trying to come to terms as to what happened.

McClellan writes to Stone that he was given the order by Stanton, who informed McClellan that it was based at the solicitation of the Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War and was based upon testimony taken from them (Stone was one of the 39 people who testified). He also writes that “At the time I stated to the Secy that I could not from the information in my possession understand how charges could be framed against you, that the case was too indefinite.” McClellan takes the position that he tried for several days prior to the arrest to approach the Congressional Committee and requested that they fully confront Stone with all the witnesses and testimony against him, as McClellan was “confident that you were innocence of all improper motives, and could explain whatever facts were alleged against you.” It was common for McClellan to do whatever necessary to make himself look good, so whether these statements were truthful or whether McClellan was posturing to make himself out to be a hero is unclear.

From Chattanooga, C.S.A. General Joseph E. Johnston boards a train to Murfreesboro, Tennessee so he can see General Braxton Bragg’s army and assess their situation. In the meantime C.S.A. Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton has his hands full with U.S. Major General Ulysses S. Grant as he continues to push his way south into Mississippi towards Vicksburg.

150 Years Ago: Wednesday, November 12, 1862

In Louisville, Kentucky, a feverish Charles Freeman is discharged from Union service due to “sexual incompatibility.” When admitted to the hospital yesterday the staff discovered that Charles was actually a female; only males are allowed to serve in the military. Mary Scaberry, who had enlisted during the summer as a private in the 52nd Ohio Infantry, is just 17 years old. She will be treated for the fever and then sent back home.

The Army of the Potomac and the people of the United States are still dealing with the news of U.S. General George B. McClellan’s removal from command on November 5. With McClellan now in Trenton, New Jersey per U.S. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton’s orders, General Ambrose E. Burnside is busy assuming command and making plans for a campaign that can be executed quickly. Burnside was intimately involved with McClellan in working on the next move against C.S.A. General Robert E. Lee and his formidable Army of Virginia. Though Burnside was reluctant to take the command, he now faces pressure from U.S. President Lincoln to capture the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia. Lincoln expects to see and approve a plan from Burnside as soon as possible; it’s not an easy demand to meet.

From his headquarters in Virginia, General Lee knows that Burnside will be pressured by the Lincoln administration and the citizens of the Union to push forward and end the war. He is pleased to hear from one of his key generals, Lieutenant-General Thomas J. Jackson, that he is ready to move his troops at any time. Lee writes to Jackson, unsure of Burnside’s next move:

“He has as yet given no indications of his further movement or direction southward. Whether he will cross the Rappahannock or proceed to Fredericksburg I cannot tell. It is easier for you to determine what damage you can inflict on him from where you are. If you can accomplish nothing but maintain control of the Valley, in the apparent and probable need of all our forces southward the force under you is too far from the scene of action. If an advance towards Fredericksburg is discovered, it is plain that you cannot delay any longer, and you must be prepared to move at any time. General (JEB) Stuart has been directed to watch the enemy closely, but you know the difficulty of determining first movements.”

It’s been a very long day for U.S. Major General William T. Sherman, but he takes up the pen once again at 11pm from his headquarters in Union-occupied Memphis, Tennessee and writes a long letter to Judge John Swayne. Part of Swayne’s job is to enforce U.S. Federal law before State or Local laws, especially when it comes to the issue of slavery. Sherman expresses his displeasure to Swayne as he feels he is not following Federal law, as slaves captured by the U.S. military are to be “forever free of servitude.” Swayne is not enforcing this in his courtroom and Sherman takes it upon himself to make a legal argument as to why this needs to change. Sherman, having no legal training, does this because it’s his duty to enforce Federal law. He is not the type of person who can just look the other way, even though he does not have a personal issue against the institution of slavery. Even if it’s a matter outside of the military, Sherman will stand up and let his voice be heard if he feels certain actions weaken the Union cause and what his men in the field are fighting for.

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