A page containing quotes Volume Two of The Civil War: A Narrative from the late Shelby Foote, American writer and historian. Volume Two covers events from Winter 1862 to Spring 1864.
"Gettysburg is described
with such meticulous attention to action, terrain, time and the characters
of the various commanders that I understand, at last, what happened in
the battle... Mr Foote has an acute sense of the relative importance of
events and a novelist's skill in directing the reader's attention to the
men and the episodes that will influence the course of the whole war, without
omitting items which are of momentary interest. His organisation of facts
could hardly be bettered."
~ Volume Two: Fredericksburg
~ Chapter 1: The Longest Journey
~ Chapter 2: Unhappy New Year
~ Chapter 3: Death of a Soldier
~ Chapter 4: Stars in their Courses The Gettysburg Campaign
~ Chapter 5: The Beleagured City Vicksburg
~ Chapter 6: Unvexed To The Sea
~ Chapter 7: Riot and Resurgence
~ Chapter 8: The Center Gives
~ Chapter 9: Spring Came On Forever
~ Return to Volume
One: Fort Sumter to Perryville
~ Continue to Volume Three: Red River to Appomattox
# VOLUME TWO: Fredericksburg to Meridian
[#1 The Longest Journey]
"In the course of this
war our eyes have been often turned abroad. We have expected sometimes
recognition and sometimes intervention at the hands of foreign nations,
and we have had a right to expect it. Never before in the history of the
world had a people for so long a time maintained their ground, and showed
themselves capable of maintaining their national existence, without securing
the recognition of commercial nations. I know not why this has been so,
but this I say, 'put not your trust in princes', and rest not your hopes
in foreign nations. This war is ours; we must fight it out ourselves, and
I feel some pride in knowing that so far we have done it without the good
will of anybody."
- Jefferson Davis
indeed, the recrord of Confederate arms could scarcely have been improved.
Of the three objectives the Federals had set for themselves, announcing
them plainly to all the world by moving simultaneously against them as
1862 drew to a close, Vicksburg had been disenthralled and Chattanooga
remained as secure as Richmond. Davis himself had done as much as any man,
and a good deal more than most, to bring about the result that not a single
armed enemy soldier now stood within 50 airline miles of any one of these
three vital cities.
Of all these various battles and engagements, fought in all these various places, Fredericksburg, the nearest to the national capital, was the largest in number engaged, if not in bloodshed as well as the grandest as a spectacle, in which respect it equalled, if indeed it did not outdo, any other major conflict of the war. Staged as it was, with a curtain of fog that lifted, under the influence of a genial sun, upon a sort of natural amphitheater referred to by one of the 200,000 participants, a native of the site, as "a champaign tract inclosed by hills," it quite fulfilled the volunteers' early-abandoned notion of combat as a picture-book affair.
Though Burnside had so far escaped direct connection with a military fiasco, he had not been unacquainted with sudden blows of adversity in the years before the war... Hard as his financial and personal setbacks had been to take, these had really hurt no one but himself, nor had they seriously affected the 38-year-old general's basically sunny disposition. But now that he had the lives of 200,000 men dependent on his abilities, not to mention the possible outcome of a war in which his country claimed to be fighting for survival, he did not face the likelihood of failure with such equanimity as he had had shown in those previous trying situations... He had become increasingly morose and fretful here on the high left bank of the Rappahannock.
The Union artillery shifted to the rebel batteries, blanketing them so accurately with shellbursts that the fire drew an indirect compliment from Pelham himself, who happened to be visiting this part of the line at the time. "Well, you men stand killing better than any I ever saw," he remarked as he watched the cannoneers being knocked about.
"It is well that war
is so terrible. We should grow too fond of it."
- General Robert E Lee, at the Battle of Fredericksburg
Sunset clsoed a day that had witnessed nothing more than a bit of long-range firing on one side and a great deal of digging on the other. Such spectacle as there was, and it was much, came after nightfall. A mysterious refulgence, shot with fanwise shafts of varicolored light, predominantly reds and blues first a glimmer, than a spreading glow, as if all the countryside between Fredericksburg and Washington were afire filled a wide arc of the horizon beyond the Federal right. It was the aurora borealis, seldom visible this far south and never before seen by most of the Confederates, who watched it with amazement. The Northerners might make of it what they chose by way of a portent (after all, these were the Northern Lights) but to one Southerner it seemed "that the heavens were hanging out banners and streamers and setting off fireworks in honor of our great victory."
The ground in front of the sunken road, formerly carpeted blue, had taken on a mottled hue, with patches of startling white. Binoculars disclosed the cause. Many of the Federal dead had been stripped stark naked by shivering Confederates, who had crept out in the darkness to scavenge the warm clothes from the bodies of men who needed them no longer... No one assigned to one of the burial details ever forgot the horror of what he saw; for here, up-close and life-size, was an effective antidote to the long-range, miniature pageantry of Saturday's battle as it had been viewed from the opposing heights. Up close, you heard the groans and smelled the blood... Not even amid such scenes as this, however, did the irrepressible rebel soldier's wry sense of honour desert him. One, about to remove a shoe from what he though was a Federal corpse, was surprised to see the 'corpse' lift its head and look at him reproachfully. "Beg pardon sir," the would-be scavenger said, carefully lowering the leg; "I thought you have gone above." Another butternut scarecrow, reprimanded by a Union officer for violating the terms of the truce by picking up a fine Belgian rifle that had been dropped between the lines, looked his critic up and down, pausing for a long stare at the polished boots the officer was wearing. "Never mind," he said dryly. "I'll shoot you tomorrow and git them boots."
[#2 Unhappy New Year]
New Year's 1863 was
for Abraham Lincoln perhaps the single busiest day of his whole presidential
life, and it came moreover at dead center of what was perhaps his period
of deepest gloom and perplexity of spirit. Not only was there political
division within his party, and even within his own official family, but
with the possible exception of Rosecrans, whose battle was in mid-career
and appeared worse than doubtful, all his hand-picked commanders had failed
him utterly, through enemy action or their own inaction, in his hopes for
a multifaceted early-winter triumph in which he himself had assigned them
the partys they were to play in putting a quick end to the rebellion. One
by one, sometimes two by two, they has failed him. Burnside and his fellow
generals on the Rappahannock, having blundered into defeat at Fredericksburg,
were engaged in a frenzy of backbiting such as not even the highly contentious
Army of the Potomac had ever known. Grant, according to the New York Times,
remained "stuck in the mud of northern Mississippi, his army of no use
to him or anybody else." Banks, caught in a toil of imported New Orleans
cotton speculators, was stymied by a previously unsuspected fort on the
Mississippi, 250 miles from his assigned objective. And McClernand, from
whom the Commander in Chief had perhaps expected most, was apparently the
worst off of all. He not only had done nothing with army; the last Lincoln
had heard of him, he could not even find him.
Nor had these and other failures of omission and commission gone unnoticed by the country at large, the voters and investors on whose will and trust the prosecution of the war depended. The Democrats, still on the outside looking in, but with substansial gains in the fall elections to sharpen their appetite for more, had seen to that: especially Ohio Representative Clement L. Vallandigham, who was savagely pointing out, from the vantage point of his seat in Congress, the administration's errors. "Money you have expended without limit," he hold Republicans in the House, "and blood poured out like watrer. Defeat, debt, taxation and sepulchers these are your only trophies." Others, less violent but no less earnest, inluding his disaffected former allies, were accusing the President in a similar vein.
The word 'shoddy' was
comparitively new, having originated during the present century in Yorkshire,
where it was used in reference to almost worthless quarry stone or nearly
unburnable coal. Crossing the ocean to America it took on other meanings,
at first being used specifically to designate an inferior woolen yarn made
from fibers taken from wornout fabrics and reprocessed, then later as the
name for the resultant cloth itself... Harper's Weekly magazine told how
"soldiers, on the first day's march or in the earliest storm, found their
clothes, overcoats and blankets scattering to the wind in rags or dissolving
into their primitive elements of duct under the pelting rain."
It followed that the merchants and manufacturers who supplied teh government with such cloth became suddenly and fantastically rich in the course of their scramble for contracts alongside others of their kind, the purveyors of tainted beef and weevily grain, the sellers of cardboard haversacks and leaky tents. No one was really discomforted by all this so far, at least, as they could see except the soldiers, the Union volunteers whose sufferings under bungling leaders in battles such as Fredericksburg and Chickasaw Bluffs were of a nature that made their flop-soled shoes and tattered garments seem relatively unimportant, and the Confederate jackals who stripped the blue-clad corpses after the inevitable retreat. If the generals were unashamed, were hailed in fact as heroes after such fiascos, why should anyone else have pangs of conscience? The contractors asked that, meanwhile raking in profits that were as long as they were quick. The only drawback was the money itself, which was in some ways no mor real than the sleazy cloth or the imitation leather, being itself a shadow of what had formerly been substance. With prosperity in full swing and gold rising steadily, paper money declined from day to day. All it seemed good for was spending, and they spent it. Spending, they rose swiftly in the social scale, creating in the process a society which drew upon itself the word that formerly had been used to describe the goods they bartered 'shoddy' and upon their heads the scorn of those who had made their money earlier and resented the fact that it was being debased. One such was Amos Lawrence, a millionaire Boston merchant. "Cheap money makes speculation, rising prices and rapid fortunes," Lawrence declared, "but it will not make patriots." He wanted hard times back again. Closed factories would turn men's minds away from gain; then and only then could the war be won. So he believed. "We must have Sunday all over the land," he said, "instead of feasting and gambling." For the present though, all that was Sunday about the leaders of the trend which he deplored was their clothes. They wore on weekdays now the suits they had once reserved for wear to church.
"The lavish profusion
in which the old southern cotton aristocracy used to indulge is completely
eclipsed by the dash, parade and magnificience of the new northern shoddy
aristocracy of this period. Ideas of cheapness and economy are thrown to
the winds... To be extravagant is to be extravagant... Six days in the
week they are shoddy businessmen. On the seventh day they are shoddy Christians."
- The New York World
Much of the undoubted ugliness of the era was little more than the manifest awkwardness of national adolescence, a reaction to growing pains. Unquestionably the growth was there, and unquestionably too despite the prevalent gaucherie, the scarcity of grace and graciousness, the apparent concern with money and money alone, getting and spending much of the growth was solid and even permanent. The signs were at hand for everyone to read. "Old King Cotton's dead and buried; brave young Corn is king," was the refrain of a popular song written to celebrate the bumper grain crops being gathered every fall, of which the ample surpluses were shipped to Europe... More than 5 million quarters of wheat and flour were exported to England in 1862, whereas the total in 1858 had been less than a hundred thousand. In the course of the conflict the annual pork pack nearly doubled in the northern states, and the wool clip more than tripled. Meanwhile industry not only kept pace with agriculture, it outran it... The North was fighting the South with one hand and getting rich with the other behind its back, though which was left and which was right was hard to say. In any case, with such profits and progress involved, who could oppose the trend except a comparitively handful of men and women, maimed or widowed or otherwise made squeamish, if not downright unpatriotic, by hard luck or oversubscription to Christian ethics?
The development of the Far West continued no less than 300,000 people crossed the prairies despite the distraction southward, while back East the cities grew in wealth and population, despite the double drain in both directions. Nor were the cultural pursuits neglecteed... Fifteen new institutions of higher learning were founded. Campus life was not greatly different as a whole Interrupted in 1861, for example, the Harvard-Yale boat races were resumed three years later in the midst of the bloodiest season of the war, and not a member of either crew volunteered for service in the army or the navy.
Across the Atlantic,
unfortunately for Confederate hopes of official acceptance into the family
of nations, the Shleswig-Holstein problem, unrest in Poland and the rivalry
of Austria and Prussia gave the ministries of Europe a great deal more
to think about that the intricacies of what was called "the American question".
Aware that any disturbance of the precarious balance of power might be
the signal for a general conflagration, they recalled Voltaire's comment
that a torch lighted in 1756 in the forests of the new world had promptly
wrapped the old world in flames. Russia, by coincidence havign emancipated
her serfs in the same year as the western conflict began, was pro-Union
from the start, while France remained in general sympathetic to the South;
but neither could act without England, and England could not or would not
intervene, being herself divided on the matter. The result, aside from
occasional fumbling and inopportune attempts at mediation mostly on the
part of Napoleon III was that Europe, in effect, maintained a hands-off
policy with regard to the blood now being shed beyond the ocean.
The double repulse, at Sharpsburg and Perryville, of the one Confederate attempt (so far) to conquer a peace by invasion of the North did not mean to Lord Palmerston and his ministers that the South would necessarily lose the war; far from it. But it did convince these gentlemen that the time was by no means ripe for intervention, as they had recently supposed, and was the basis for their mid-November rejection of a proposal by Napoleon that England, France and Russia join in urging a North-South armistice, accompanied by a six-month lifting of the blockade. The result, if they had agreed would have been an immediate diplomatic rupture, if not an outright declaration of war: in which connection the London Times remarked that "it would be chaper to keep all Lancashire in turtle and venison than to plunge into a desperate war with the Northern States of America, even with all Europe at our back." No one knew better than Palmerston the calamity that might ensue, for he had been Minister at War from 1812 to 1815, during which period Yankee privateers had sunk about 2500 English ships, almost the entire marine. At that rate, with all those international tigers crouched for a leap in case the head toger suffered some crippling injury, England not only could not afford to risk the loss of a sideline war; she could not even afford to win one.
Besides, desirable though it was that the flow of American cotton to British sidelines be resumed, the overall economic picture was far from gloomy. The munitions manufacturers were profiting handsomely from the quarrel across the way... And though there were those who favored intervention on the side of the South as a means of disposing permanently of a growing competitor, if by no other way then by assisting him to cut himself in two the poet Matthew Arnold took this line of reason even further, speaking of the need "to prevent the English people from becoming, with the growth of democracy, Americanized" the majority, evem among the hard-pressed cotton operatives, did not. The Emancipation Proclamation saw to that... The workingmen of Manchester, the city hardest hit by the cotton famine, sent him an address approved at a meeting held on New Year's Eve, announcing their support of the North in its efforts to "strike off the fetters of the slave."
Palmerston could have made little headway against the current of this rhetoric, even if he had so desired.
The greatest paradox
of all was that the Confederacy, in launching a revolution against change,
should experience under pressure of the war which then ensued an even greater
transformation, at any rate of the manner in which its citizens pursued
their daily rounds, than did the nation it accused of trying to foist upon
it an unwanted metamorphosis, not only of its cherished institutions, but
also of its very way of life. That way of life was going fast.
Nowhere was the change more obvious than in Richmond... A Charlestonian adminstered the unkindest cut, by writing home that he had come to Richmond and found an entirely new city erected "after the model of Sodom and New York." According to another observer, an Englishman with a sharper ear for slang and a greater capacity for shock, the formerly decorous streets were now decorated with types quaintly designated as pug-uglies, dead rabbits, shoulder-hitters, and "a hundred other classes of villains for whom the hangman has sighed for many a long year."
Richmond saw and duly shuddered; but there was grimmer cause of shuddering than the wrench given its sense of propriety by the whores and gamblers who had taken up residence within its gates. As new-mounded graves spread over hillsides where none had been before, the population of the dead kept pace with the fast-growing population of the living. Though the Confederates in general lost fewer men in battle than their opponents, the fact that they had fewer to lose gave the casualty lists a greater impact, and it was remarked that "funerals were so many, even the funerals of friends, that none could be more than sparsely attended." Even more pitiful were the dying; Richmonders had come to know what one of them called "the peculiar chant of pain" that went up from a line of springless wagons hauling wounded over a rutted road or a cobbled street. You saw the maimed wherever you looked.
Richmond was by no means the only place where such disturbances ('Bread Riots') occured in the course of Holy Week. Simultaneously in Atlanta a group of about 15 well-dressed women entered a store on Whitehall Street and asked the price of bacon. $1.10 a pound, they were told: whereupon their man-tall leader produced a revolver with which she covered the grocer while her companions snatched what they wanted from the shelves, paying their own price or nothing. From there they proceeded to other shops along the streets, repeating the performance until their market baskets were full, and then went home. A similar raid was staged at about the same time in Mobile, as well as in other towns and cities throughout the South... All these were but a few among the many, and there were those who saw in this ubiquitous manifestation of discontent the first crack in the newly constructed edifice of government. If the Confederacy could not be defeated from without, then it might be abolished from within; for the protests were not so much against shortages, as they were against the inefficiency which resulted in spiraling prices. These observers saw the demonstrations, in fact despite the recent successes of southern arms, both East and West as symptoms of war wearines, the one national ailment which could lead to nothing but defeat. The new government could survive, and indeed had survived already, an assortment of calamities; but that did not and could not include the loss of the will to fight, either by the soldiers in its armies or the people on its home front. No one saw the danger more clearly than the man whose principal task aside, that is, from his duties as Commander in Chief, which now as always he placed first was to do all he could to avert it. Recently he had undertaken a 2500-mile year-end journey to investigate and shore up crumbling morale, with apparent success...
Since then, despite continued successful resistance by the armies in the field, symptoms of unrest among civilians had culminated in the rash of so-called Bread Riots, the largest of which had occured in the capital itself and had been broken up only the personal intervention of the President.
...Thus did the Confederacy enter upon its third year of war.
Disenchantment was mainly limited to civilians, but it was by no means limited to the sphere of civilian activities. Illogically or not that is, despute the lopsided triumph at Fredericksburg and Chickasaw Bluffs, the coups at Holly Springs and Galveston, the brilliant cavalry forays into Kentucky and West Tennessee, and the absence of anything resembling a clearcut defeat east of the Mississippi there was a growing impression that victory, on field after field, brought little more than temporary joy, which soon gave way to sobering realizations. The public's reaction was not unlike that of a boxer who delivers his best punch, square on the button, then sees his opponent merely blink and shake his head and bore back in. People began to suspect that if the North could survive Fredericksburg, and the Mud March, Chickasaw Bluggs and the loss of the Cairo... it might well be able to survive anything the South seemed able to inflict. A whole season of victories apparently had done nothing to bring peace and independence so much as one day closer... The Richmond Examiner could call attention to the chilling fact that, aside from Sumter, "Lincoln's pledge once deemed foolish by the South, that he would 'hold, occupy and possess' all the forts belonging to the United States Government, has been redeemed almost to the letter."
In time, paradoxically, the more perceptive began to see that Fredericksburg had indeed been a turning point... for no battle East or West, whether a victory or defeat, showed more plainly the essential toughness of the blue-clad fighting man than this in which he suffered the worst of his large drubbings. But this was an insight that came gradually and only to those who were not only able but also willing to perceive it.
[#3 Death of a Soldier]
Defying Union sea power, Mobile on the Gulf and Wilmington, Savannah, and Charleston on the Atlantic remained in Confederate hands, and of these four it was at at least to Beauregard that the one the Federals coveted most was the last, variously referred to in their journals as "the hotbed of treachery", "the cradle of secession", and "the nursery of disunion." Industrious as always, the general was determined that this proud South Carolina city should not suffer the fate of his native New Orleans, no matter that force the Yankess brought against it.
Beauregard thought it was probably that they would attempt the front-door approach, using their new flotilla of vaunted ironclads to spearhead the attack. If so, they were going to find they had taken on a good deal more than expected; for the harbor defnses had been greatly imrpoved during the nearly two years that had elapsed dince the war first opened here... The ironclads might indeed be incinvible; some said so, some said not; but one thing was fairly certain. The argument was likely to be settled on the day their owners tested them in Charleston harbor.
"The lives of our soldiers
are too precious to be sacrificed in the attainment of successes that inflict
no loss upon the enemy beyond the actual loss in battle."
- Robert E Lee, disappointed with failing to crush the Union army after Fredericksburg
Lee was down to 58,000 effectives and 170 guns, to be used in opposing a good deal better than twice as many of both... Against such odds, and with the knowledge that Hooker would choose the time and place of attack, Lee's only hope for salvation was superior generalship his own and that of his chief subordinates coupled with the valour of his soldiers and the increased efficiency of his army.
"Hooker made the Federal cavalry," an admiring trooper later declared. Formerly parceled out, regiment by regiment, to infantry commanders whose handling of them had been at best inept, whether in or out of combat, the three divisions 11,5000 strong, with about 13,000 horses were grouped into a single corps under Brigadier General George Stoneman... This improvement came moreover at a time of crisis for the gray cavalry on the opposite bank of the Rappahannock. Not only was there a critical shortage of horses in the Army of Northern Virginia; there was also the likelihood that those on hand, survivors for the most part of a year of hard campaigning, would die for a lack of forage. This second danger increased the threat implicit in the first.
After the manner of
most men unfamiliar with sickness, Lee was irritable and inclined to be
impatient with those around him at such times but he never really lost
the iron self-control that was the basis of the character he presented
to the world. Once, for example, when he was short with his adjutant over
some adminstrative detail, that officer drew himself up with dignity and
silently defied his chief; whereupon Lee at once got hold of himself and
said calmly, "Major Taylor, when I lose my temper don't let it make you
angry." Nor did his illness detract in any way from the qualities which,
at the time of his appointment to command, had led an acquaintance to declare:
"His name might be Audacity. He will take more desperate chances, and take
them quicker, than any other general in this country, North and
South." Confirmation of these words had come in the smoke and flame of the Seven Days, in the 50-mile march around Pope with half of an outnumbered army, and in the bloody defense of the Sharpsburg ridge with his back to a deep river.
Such audacity, though ingrained and very much a part of the nature of the man, was also based on the combat-tested valor of the soldiers he commanded. He knew there was nothing he could ask of them that they would not try to give him, and he believed that with such a spirit they could not fail; or if they failed him, it would not be their fault. "There were never such men in an army before," he said this spring... He turned down a plan for the formation of a battalion of honor becayse he did not believe there would be room in its ranks for all who deserved a place there. To him, they were all heroes. One day he saw a man in uniform standing near the open flap of his tent. "Come in Captain, and take a seat," he said. When the man replied, "I'm no captain, General; I'm nothing but a private," Lee told him: "Come in sir. Come in and take a seat. You ought to be a captain."
Longstreet had no high opinion of the abilities of Sam French, who was charged with the defense of Petersburg, that vital nexus of rail supply lines connecting Virginia and the deeper South... Because of Lee's policy of quietly getting rid of men he found unsatisfactory, not by cashiering them but by transferring them to far or adjoining theatres where he considered their shortcomings would cost the country less, Longstreet might have thought he was back with the old Army of the Potomac, as it had been called before the advent of Lee and its transfiguration into the Army of Northern Virginia, so familiar were the faces of many of the officers he found serving under him when he took over his new department. All too many of those faces reflected failure, and all too many others identified men who were inexperienced in combat.
Lincoln apparently felt much the same way about the enlisted men in blue... When (during his Falmouth visit) Lincoln turned without preamble to Major General Darius Couch and asked: "What do you supposed will become of all these men when the war is over?" Couch was somewhat taken aback; his mind had not been working along those lines; but he said later, "It struck me as very pleasant that somebody had an idea that the war would sometime end."
All across the nearly
two-mile width of Jackson's front, the woods and fields resounded with
the rebel yell as the screaming attackers bore down on the startled Federals,
who had just risen to whoop at the frightened deer and driven rabbits.
Now it was their turn to be frightened and driven, too. For the Union
regiments facing west gave way in a rush before the onslaught, and as they
fled the two guns they had abandoned were turned against them, hastening
their departure and increasing the confusion among the troops facing south
behind the now useless breastworks they had constructed with such care.
These last took their cue from them and began to pull out too, in rapid
succession from right to left down the long line of intrenchments, swelling
the throng rushing eastward along the road. Within 20 minutes of the opening
shows, Howard's flank division had gone out of military existence, converted
that quickly from organisation to mob. The adjoining division was sudden
to follow the example set. Not even the sight of the corps commander himself,
on horseback near Wilderness Church, breasting the surge of retreaters
up the turnpike and clamping a stand of abandoned colors under the stump
of his amputated arm while attempting to control the skittish horse with
the other, served to end or even to slow the rout. Bareheaded and with
tears in his eyes, Howard was pleading with them to halt and form, halt
and form, but they paid him no mind, evidently convinced that his distress,
whether for the fate of his country or his career or both, took no precedence
over their own distress for their very lives.
- Describing Stonewall Jackon's flank attack at Chancellorsville
No further damage was possible; the bluecoats were well beyond Lee's reach. At a cost of less than 13,000 casualties he had inflicted more than 17,000 and had won what future critics would call the most brilliant victory of his career, but he was by no means satisfied. He had aimed at total capture or annihilation of the foe, and the extent to which he had fallen short of this was, to his mind, the extent to which he had failed.
"My God it is horrible.
To think of it 130,000 magnificient soldiers so cut to pieces by less
than 60,000 half starved ragamuffins."
- Horace Greeley, on the Battle of Chancellorsville
An Episcopal clergymen in New York could not reconcile the various reports and rumors he recorded in his diary that night. "It would seem that Hooker has beaten Lee and that Lee has beaten Hooker; that we have taken Fredericksburg and that the rebels have taken it also; that we have 4500 prisoners, and the rebels 5400; that Hooker has cut off Lee's retreat, and Lee has cut off Sedgwick's retreat, and Sedgwick has cut off everybody's retreat generally, but has retreated himself although his retreat was cut off... In short, all is utter confusion."
"If there is a worse
place than Hell, I am in it."
- Abraham Lincoln, after the defeat at Chancellorsville
Unquestionably, this latest addition to the lengthening roster of Confederate victories was a great one. Indeed, considering the odds that had been faced and overcome, it was perhaps in terms of glory the greatest of them all; Chancellorsville would be stitched with pride across the crowded banners of the Army of Northern Virginia. But its ultimate worth, as compared to its cost, depended in large measure on the outcome of Stonewall Jackson's present indisposition. As Lee had said on Sunday morning, when he first learned that his lieutenant had been wounded, "Any victory is dearly bought which deprives us of the services of General Jackson, even for a short time."
"You must not wear
a long face. I love cheerfulness and brightness in a sickroom."
- Stonewall Jackson to his wife on his deathbed
Those in the room were
starled to hear him call out to his adjutant, Alexander Pendleton, who
was in Fredericksburg with Lee... In his delirium he was back on the field
of battle, doing the one thing he did best in all the world... Night brought
a return of suffering. He tossed sleepless, mumbling battle orders. Though
these were mostly unintelligible, it was observed that he called most often
on AP Hill, his hardest-hitting corps commander, and Wells Hawks, his commissary
officer, as if even in delirium he strove to preserve a balance between
tactics and logistics... A few minutes before he died, he called out: "Order
AP Hill to prepare for action! Pass the infantry to the front... Tell Major
He left the sentence unfinished, seeming thus to have put the war behind him; for he smiled as he spoke his last words, in a tone of calm relief. "Let us cross the river," he said, "and rest under the shade of the trees."
[#4 Stars in their Courses The Gettysburg Campaign]
It comes from the Bible.
The stars in their courses fought against Sisera. When Deborah or whoever
it was drove his tent peg in his temple, freeing the Jewish people from
this tyrant, she explained that he had been led into this terrible tragedy
that happened to him by the stars. In other words, fate had brought him
there, and the title ties in with Robert E. Lee being led into defeat at
Pickett's Charge by success after success after success, until finally
fate decided to hammer him down, and they did at Pickett's Charge.
- explaining the title of "Stars in their Courses"
Chancellorsville the kind of flashy spectacle the South could ill afford.
Facing what Lincoln called 'the arithmetic', he perceived that four more
such battles, in which the Confederates were outnumbered two to one and
inflicted casualties at a rate of three for four, would reduce Lee's army
to a handful, while Hooker would be left with the number Lee had had at
the outset... The style he preferred had the Confederates taking up a strong
defensive position against which the superior blue forces were shattered,
like waves against a rock... Longstreet listened with disapproval as Lee
announced his intention to launch an offensive in the East. He protested...
but Lee's mind was made up. So Longstreet contented himself with his theory
that the proposed invasion be conducted in accordance with his preference
for receiving rather than delivering attack when the two armies came to
grips, wherever that might be. As he put it later, quite as if he and Lee
had been joint commanders of the army, "I then acceptted his proposition
to make a campaign into Pennsylvania, provided it should be offensive in
strategy but defensive in tactics, forcing the Federals to give us battle
when we were in strong postion and ready to receive them."
Lee heard him out with the courtesy which he was accustomed to extend to all subordinates, but which in this case was mistaken for a commitment. He intended no such thing, of course... trouble was stored up for all involved.
Lee laid his hand on
the dead Jackson's map, touching the regiion just east of the mountains
that caught on their western flanks the rays of the setting sun. "Hereabouts
we shall probably meet the enemy and fight a great battle," he saud, "and
if God gives us the victory, the war will be over and we shall achieve
the recognition of our independence."
One of the place names under his hand as he spoke was the college town of Gettysburg, just over 20 miles away, from which no less than 10 roads ran to as many disparate points of the compass, as if it were probing for trouble in all directions.
In the past 10 months,
the Army of the Potomac had fought four major battles under as many different
commanders Bull Run under Pope, Antietam under McClellan, Fredericksburg
under Burnside, and Chancellorsville under Hooker all against a single
adversary, Robert Lee, who could claim unquestionable victory in three
out of the four; especially the first and the last, of which about the
best that could be said was that the Federal army had sruvived them. Now
it was about to fight its fifth great battle... and it would fight it under
still a fifth commander.
Not that Hooker had not done well in the seven weeks since Chancellorsville. He had indeed: especially in the past few days, when by dint of hard and skillful marching he managed to interpose his 100,000 soldiers between Lee and Washington without that general's knowledge that the blue army had even crossed the river from which it took its name. The trouble was that, despite his efforts to shift the blame for the recent Wilderness fiasco principally onto Stoneman and Sedgwick and Howard's rattled Dutchmen he could not blur a line of the picture fixed in the public mind of himself as the exclusive author of that woeful chapter... There was much in the criticism of Hooker that was unfair but it was generally known that his ranking corps commander, Darius Couch, had applied for and been granted transfer to another department in order to avoid further service under a man he judged incompetent.
Nothing in Fighting Joe Hooker's five-month tenure, in the course of which the army had experienced much of profit as well as pain, became him more than the manner in which he brought it to a close.
What Meade lacked in fact was glamour, not only in his actions and dispatches, but also in his appearance, which one journalist said was more that of a 'learned pundit than a soldier'. Two birthdays short of 50, he looked considerably older, with a 'small and compact' balding head, a grizzled beard, and outsized puches under eyes that were 'serious, almost sad' and 'rather sunken' on each side of what the reporter had charitably described as 'the late Duke of Wellington class of nose'.
Lee groped his way across the Pennsylvania landscape, deprived of his eyes and ears (Stuart's cavalry) and with little information as to the enemy's whereabouts or intentions... Whatever Lee encountered, good or bad, was bound to come as a surprise, and surprise was seldom a welcome thing in war. And so it was. Coincidents refused to mesh for the general who, six weeks ago in Richmond, had cast his vote for the long chance. Fortuity itself, as the deadly game unfolded move by move, appeared to conform to a pattern of hard luck; so much so, indeed, that in time men would say of Lee, as Jael had said of Sisera after she drove the tent peg into his temple, that the stars in their courses had fought against him.
One more item concerned Lee, though few of his lieutenants agreed that it should be so. They were saying that Meade was about as able a general as Hooker, but considerably less bold, and they were exchanging congratulations on Lincoln's appointment of another mediocre opponent for them. Lee, who had known the Pennsylvanian as a fellow engineer in the old army, did not agree. "General Meade will commit no blunder on my front," he said, "and if I make one he will make haste to take advantage of it."
Though Hill was strictly correct in saying that the only bluecoats now in Gettysburg were cavalry, John Buford's two brigades were formidable in their own right, being equipped with the new seven-shot Spencer carbine, which enabled a handy trooper to get off 20 rounds per minute, as compared to his muzzle-loading adversary, who would be doing well to get off four in the same span. Moreover, in addition to having five times the firepower of an equal number of opponents, these two brigades were outriders for the infantry wing under Reynolds, whose own corps was camped tonight within six miles of the town, while those under Howard and Sickles were close behind him.
The Confederates had the advantage of converging on a central point whereas the Federals would be marching toward a point that was beyond their perimeter, but Meade had the advantage of numbers and a less congested road net: plus another advantage which up to now, except for the brief September interlude that ended bloodily at Sharpsburg, had been with Lee. The northern commander and his soldiers would be fighting on their own ground, in defense of their own homes.
Meade had already lost control of events before he made the offer to abide by the decision of the first of his chief subordinates who took a notion that the time had come to backtrack. Even as the circular was being prepared and the engineers were laying out the proposed defensive line behind Pipe Creek, John Reynolds was committing the army to battle a dozen miles north of the headquarters Meade was getting ready to abandon. And Reynolds in turn had taken his cue from Buford, who had spread his troopers along the banks of another creek, just west of Gettysburg; Willoughby Ryan, it was called.
"His death affected
us much for he was one of the *soldier* generals of the army."
- A young Union lieutenant recalls General Reynolds, killed in the opening skirmishes
Lee was aware of Napoleon's remark that at certain edgy times a dogfight could bring on a battle, and it seemed to him that with his infantry groping its way across unfamiliar, hostile terrain, in an attempt to perform the proper function of cavalry, this might well be ones of those times. He was worried and said so.
The Federals were retreating
pell-mell into the streets of Gettysburg, already jammed with other blue
troops pouring down from the north, under pressure from Ewell, as into
a funnel whose spout extended south. Those who managed to struggle free
of the crush, and thus emerge from the spout, were running hard down two
roads that led steeply up a dominant height where guns were emplaced and
the foremost of the fugitives were being brought to a halt, apparently
for still another stand; Cemetery Ridge, it was called because of the graveyard
on its lofty plateau, half a mile from the town square. Another half mile
to the east, about two miles where Lee stood, there was a second eminence,
Culp's Hill, slightly higher than the first, to which it was connected
by a saddle of rocky groun, similarly precipitous and foreboding. These
two hills, their summits a hundred feet above the town, which in turn was
about half that far below the crest of Seminary Ridge, afforded the enemy
a strong position indeed, a natural fortess on which to rally his whipped
and panicky troops, especially if time was allowed for the steadily increasing
number of defenders to improve with their spades the already formidable
advantages of terrain... It was clear that if the tactical advantage was
not pressed, it might soon be lost altogether, first by giving the rattled
bluecoats a chance to recompose themselves, and second by allowing time
for the arrival of heavy reinforcements already on the way. Moreover, both
of these reasons for continuing the offensive were merely adjunctive to
Lee's natural inclination, here as elsewhere, now as always, to keep a
beaten opponent under pressure, adn thus off balance, just as long as his
own troops had wind and strength enough to put one foot in front of the
- The Federals are driven from Seminary Ridge
"I think this is the strongest position by nature on which to fight a battle that I ever saw," Winfield Scott Hancock said, looking east and south along the fishhook line of heights from Culp's Hill to the Round Tops, "and if it meets with your approbation I will select this battlefield." When Howard replied that he agreed that the position was a strong one, Hancock concluded: "Very well sir, I select this as the battlefield." Howard later protested that he had selected and occupied Cemetery Hill as a rallying point long before Hancock got there. This was true; but neither could there be any doubt, when the time came for looking back, that it was the latter who organized the all-round defense of the position, regardless of who had selected it in the first place. Meade had chosen well in naming a successor to the fallen Reynolds.
With the continuing forebearance of the Confederates, who obligingly refrained from launching the attack Hancock had predicted, Federal confidence gradually was restored. Here and there, along the heights and ridges, men began to say they hoped the rebels would come on, because when they did they were going to get a taste of Fredericksburg in reverse... Divisions would arrive in the night, to extend the line southward along the ridge leading down to the Round Tops. Once this had been done, the fishhook would be defended from eye to barb, and if Meade would also send Sykes and Sedgwick, reserves could be massed behind the high ground in the center, where they would have the advantage of interior lines in moving rapidly to the support of whatever portion of the convex front might happen to be under pressure at any time.
The main thing Lee disliked the proposal was that it would require a change in his preferred style of fighting, typified by Manassas, where he had used the nimble Second Corps to set his opponent up for the delivery of a knockout punch by the First Corps, whose speciality was power. Early was suggesting what amounted to a change of stance, which was neither an easy or a wise thing for a boxer to attempt, even in training, let alone after a match was under way, as it was now.
"Oh, generals are apt
to look for the attack to be made where they are."
- General Meade, dismissing the concern of General Sickles
Although Lee's ready
acceptance of the role of attacker seemed to indicate otherwise, the odds
were decidedly with Meade. Sedgwick's arrival completed the concentration
of the Army of the Potomac, which remained some 80,000 strong. Lee, on
the other hand, with Pickett's division and six of the seven cavalry brigades
still absent, had fewer than 50,000 effectives on the field. Moreover,
the tactical deployment of the two forces extended these 8-to-5 odds considerably.
Meade's 51 brigades of infantry and 7 of cavalry were available for the
occupation of three miles of line, which gave him an average of 27,000
men per mile, or better than 15 to the yard roughly twice as heavy a
concentration as the Confederates had enjoyed at Fredericksburg. As for
artillery, Meade had 354 guns and Lee 272, or 118 to the mile, as compared
Nor were number the whole story. If the attacker enjoyed the advantage of being able to mass his troops for a sudden strike from a point of choice along the extended arc, this was largely offset by the defender's advantage of being able to rush his ample reserve along the chord of that arc, first to bolster the threatened point and then to counterattack, so that the problem for Lee was not only to achieve a penetration, but also to maintain it afterwards in order to exploit it, which might prove an even greater difficulty.
...Longstreet had discerned a good deal of this at first galnce; at any rate he had recognized the potentials of disaster, even though he had no access to figures comparing the tactical strengths of the two armies. The two positions were there to look at, Meade's and Lee's.
Thre three-hour-long assault on Cemetery Ridge broke down completely. Hood, McLaws and Anderson some 22,000 men in all had tried their hands in sequence against a total of no less than 40,000 blue defenders. Better than 7000 of the attackers had fallen in the attempt, and all they had to show for this loess of one third of the force engaged was the Devil's Den, plus the Peach Orchard, which had been proved to be practically indefensible in the first place... The truth was, the army had slipped back to the disorganization of the Seven Days, except that here at Gettysburg there was no hardcore tactical plan to carry it through the bungling. There was in fact scarcely any plan at all, Lee's instructions for an attack up the Emmitsburg Road having been rejected out of necessity at the start. This, together with the refusal of the Federals to panic under pressure, as they had done so often before when the graybacks came screaming at them, had stood in the way of victory. And yet, in light of the fact that each of the three attacking divisions in turn had come close to carrying the day, there was more to it than that. Specifically, there was Warren and there was Hancock, both of whom had served their commander in a way that none of Lee's chief lieutenants had served him. Warren had acted on his own to save Little Round Top and the battle, and Hancock had done the same the prevent a breakthrough, first at the lower end and then at the center of Cemetery Ridge, but no one above the rank of colonel had acted with any corresponding initiative on the other side.
This ended the second day of what was already the bloodiest battle of the war to date, with no one knew how much more blood still to be shed on the same field. Their lines drawn helter-skelter in the darkness, the soldiers could sleep; but not the two commanders and their staffs, who had the task of assessing what had been done today, or left undone, in order to plan for tomorrow. In this, the two reacted so literally in accordance with their native predilections Lee's for daring, Meade's for caution that afterwards, when their separate decisions were examined down the tunnel of the years which provided a diminished clarity not unlike that affored by a reversed telescope both would be condemned for having been extreme in these two different respects.
July 3; Lee rose by starlight, as he had done the previous morning, with equally fervent hopes of bringing this bloodiest of all his battles to a victorious conoclusion before sunset. Two months ago today, Chancellorsville had thundered to its climax, fulfilling just such hopes against longer odds, and one month ago today, hard on the heels of a top-to-bottom reorganization occasioned by the death of Stonewall Jackson, the Army of Northern Virginia had begun its movement from the Rappahannock, northward to where an even greater triumph had seemed to be within its reach throughout the past 40-odd hours of savage fighting. Today would settle the outcome, he believed, not only of the battle that went without saying; flesh and blood, bone and sinew and nerve could only stand so much but also, perhaps, of the war; which, after all, was why he had come up here to Pennsylvania in the first place.
"General, I have been
a soldier all my life. I have been with soldiers engaged in fights by couples,
squads, companies, regiments, divisions and armies, and should know as
well as anyone what soldiers can do. It is my opinion that no 15,000 men
ever arrayed for battle can take that position."
- Longstreet to Lee, on the morning of July 3rd
Lee's reply to this was an order for Pickett to be summoned... The objective was clearly defined against the skyline: a little clump of umbrella shaped trees, four-fifths of a mile away on Cemetery Ridge, just opposite the Confederate command post... By way of softening up the objective, the assault would be preceded by a brief but furious bombardment from than 140 guns of various calibers this would be the greatest concentration of artillery ever assembled for a single purpose on the continent, and Lee appeared to have no doubt that it would pave the way for the infantry by pulverizing or driving off the batteries posted in support of the Union center.
Pickett's men were unaware of what awaited them beyond the screening ridge... The sun had burned the early morning clouds away, and though the lack of breeze gave promise of a sultry afternoon, the impression here in this unscarred valley behind Seminary Ridge was of an ideal summer day, no different from any other except in its perfection. "Never was sky or earth more serene, more harmonious, more aglow with light and life," one among the marchers afterwards wrote.
By now it was noon, and a great stillness came down over the field and over the two armies on their ridges. Between them, the burning house and barn loosed a long plume of smoke that stood upright in the hot and windless air. From time to time some itchy-fingered picket would fire a shot, distinct as a single hand-clap, but for the most part the silence was profound. For the 11,000 Confederates maintaining their mile-wide formation along the wooded slope and in the swale, the heat was oppressive. They sweated and waited, knowing that they were about to be launched on a desperate undertaking from which many of them would not be coming back, and since it had to be, they were of one accord in wanting to get it over with as soon as possible. "It is said, that to the condemned, in going to execution, the moments fly," a member of Pickett's staff wrote some years later, recalling the strain of the long wait. "To the good soldier, about to go into action, I am sure the moments linger... it is the nervous anxiety to solve the great issue as speedily as possible, without stopping to count the cost. The Macbeth principle 'Twere well it were done quickly holds quite as good in heroic action as in crime."
The interior flanks of Pettigrew and Pickett had come together on the near side of the fence-lined Emmitsburg Road, beyond which the blue skirmishers fired a volley or two before hurrying back to their own line, some 400 yards up the slope behind them. The resultant crowding of Fry's and Gardner's birgades, which occured before the latter received the order which brought its marchers off the oblique, presented a close-packed target the Union gunners did not neglect from point-blank range on the ridge ahead. "Don't crowd boys!" a rebel captain shouted, his voice as lackadaisical amid the bursting shells as that of a dancing master. There was in fact a certain amount of formal politeness as the two brigades came together, Tennesseans on the one hand and Virginians on the other, under circumstances designed to favor havoc. Southern courtesy had never been more severely tried, yet such protest as was heard was mild in tone. It was here that the classic Confederate line was spoken: "Move on cousins. You are drawing the fire our way."
From close in reare of his advancing troops, Pickett saw his and Pettigrew's lead brigades, crowded in a blunted wedge, perhaps 500 yards in width, surge across the road and its two fences, taking severe losses from the opening blasts of canister loosed by guns that had been silent until now, and begin their climb up the slope toward the low stone wall behind which the blue infantry was crouched. He saw that his men were going to make it, a good part of them anyhow; but he saw too so heavy had their casualties been on the way across the valley, and so heavy were they going to be in storming the wall itself, which extended the length of the front and beyond that unless the survivors were stoutly reinforced, and soon, they would not be able to hold what they were about to gain.
Massed as the attackers were on a narrow front, flailed by canister from both flanks and dead ahead, the men of the five lead brigades were mingled inextricably; few of them had any knowledge of anything except in their immediate vicinity, and very little of that... Sheets of flame leapt out at the charging graybacks as the blue infantry opened fire along the wall, but they held their fire until Garnett passed the word, which was taken up by officers all up and down the front... Uphill sheets of flame flashed in response and blue-capped heads dropped from sight beyond the wall. "Fire! Fire!" they could hear the Federal officers shouting through the smoke and muzzle-flashes.
...Barely more than half of the 11,000 men in the 9-brigade assault force returned to the ridge they had left with such high hopes an hour ago. The rest, some 5000 in all, were either killed or captured. Further allowance for the wounded among survivors... raised the total to about 7500 casualties... Of Pickett's 35 officers above the rank of captain only one came back unhit, a one-armed major, and Pettigrew's losses were almost as grievous in that regard... Moreover the Union infantry force, with half as many troops as came against them, suffered no more than 1500 casualties, barely one fifth of the number they inflicted while maintaining the integrity of their position. "We gained nothing but glory," a Virginia captain wrote home before the week was out; "and lost our bravest men."
Despite the evidence spread before him that the Confederates were in a state of acute distress, and therefore probably vulnerable to attack, the northern commander's words had made it clear that he had no intention of going over to the offensive. No one on the other side of the valley had heard those words, however. If they had, their surprise and relief would have been at least as great as his had been on learning that their attempt to pierce his center had been foiled. This was especially true of Longstreet. A counter-puncher himself, he expected Meade to attack without delay, and he moved at once to meet the threat as best he could.
It was generally felt,
Warren subsequently declared, "that we had saved the country for the time
and that we had done enough; that we might jeopardize all that we had done
by trying to do too much". Such were the opinions of the two surviving
members of the quartet of generals the dead Reynolds and the wounded
Hancock were the other pair who were commonly given credit, then and
later, for having done most to prevent another defeat from being added
to the Union record: a defeat, moreover, which, given the time and place,
some would maintain the Union could not have survived. In point of fact,
the greatest deterrent was the mute buy staggering testimony of the casualty
lists. Including Reynolds, Sickles and Hancock, the three most aggressive
of its corps commanders, a solid fourth of the Federal army had been killed
or wounded or captured... All in all, when they became available, the casualty
figures did much to support the judgment of the responsible commander that,
notwithstanding the tacticald desirability of launching an immediate mass
assault, which was as clear to him as any man on the field, the troops
were in no condition to sustain it.
On the other hand there was testimony from Lee's own ranks that the Confederates were in no condition to resist an assault if one had been made against them... But far from being depressed by the repulse, many along the rebel line had been angered by what they had seen and were eager for revenge; they asked for nothing better than a chance to serve the bluecoats in the same manner, if they could be persuaded to attack. "We'll fight them sir, till hell freezes over," one grayback told an observer, "and then sir, we will fight them on the ice."
Of the 52 Confederate generals who had crossed the Potomac in the past three weeks, no less than 17 barely under one third had become casualties in the past three days. Five were killed outright or mortally wounded... When the lost was lengthened by 18 colonels either killed or captured, many of them officers of high promise, slated for early promotion, it was obvious that the Army of Northern Virginia had suffered a loss in leadership from which it might never recover. A British observer was of this opinion. He lauded the offensive prowess of Lee's soldiers, who had marched out as proudly as if on parade in their eagerness to come to grips with their opponents on the ridge across the way; "But they will never do it again," he predicted. And he told why. He had been with the army since Fredericksburg, ticking off the illustrious dead from Stonewall Jackson down, and now on the heels of Gettysburg he asked a rhetorical question of his Confederate friends: "Don't you see your system feeds upon itself? You cannot fill the places of these men. Your troops do wonders, but every time at a cost you cannot afford."
News that Meade had stopped Lee at Gettysburg sent Lincoln's expectations soaring; he foresaw the end of the war, here and now, if only the victory could be pressed to its logical conclusion with the "literal or substansial destruction" of the rebel host before it recrossed the Potomac. Then came the letdown, first in the form of the northern commander's Fourth of July congratulatory order to his troops, calling for still "greater efforts to drive from out soil every vestige of the presence of the invader." Lincoln's spirits took a sudden drop, "My God, is that all?" he exclaimed, and presently he added: "This is a dreadful reminiscence of McClellan... Will our generals never get that idea out of their heads? The whole country is our soil." His fears were enlarged the following day by word that Lee had stolen away in the night, and no dispatch from Meade, that day or the next, gave any assurance of a vigorous pursuit. Lincoln fretted as much *after* as he had done before or during the three-day battle, so high were his hopes and so great was his apprehension that they would be unfulfilled.
[#5 The Beleagured City Vicksburg]
"The nailhead that
held the South's two halves together."
- Jefferson Davis, on the importance of the city of Vicksburg
When the Hartford and
the Albatross passed Port Hudson and were joined ten days later below Vicksburg
by the steam ram Lancaster, the cattle and cereals of the Transmississippi,
together with the goods of war that could be smuggled in through Mexico
from Europe, became as inaccessible to the eastern South as if they were
awaiting shipment on the moon. As a result of the latest naval development,
which would establish a blockade of the mouth of the Red and deny the rebels
the use of their last extensive stretch of the Mississippi, Farragut had
cut the Confederacy in two. The halves were still unconquered, and seemed
likely to remain so for no one knew how long, but they were permanently
severed one from the other.
This was not to say, conversely, that the Mississippi was open throughout its length to Federal commerce or even to Federal gunboats; that would not be the case until Vicksburg and Port Hudson had been taken or abolished.
- Describing the effects of the Union fleet's run past Port Hudson
It was bad enough that the Yankees were steaming down the Mississippi, but they were also steaming up it simultaneously. Banks had reoccupied Baton Rouge in mid-December and now was giving every sign that he intended to continue the northward penetration, shortening the stretch of river necessarily rebel-held if Holmes was to keep open the supply lines vital to the feeding and reinforcement, if not indeed the survival, of all the armies of the South. Since the loss of the armed ram Arkansas, three months back, the Confederacy had had no vestige of a navy with which to oppose this two-pronged challenge designed for her riving and destruction; the threat would have to be stopped, if at all, not on the river itself, but from its banks. On the east bank the responsibility was Pemberton's, and to help him meet it he had two stout high-ground bastions one hundred airline miles apart, commanding bends of the river at Vicksburg and Port Hudson. On the west bank it was Richard Taylor's, who had nothing: not only no lofty fortresses bristling with heavy-caliber guns emplaced to blow the Union ironclads out of the water, but also no army. In fact, on his arrival from Virginia in late August, he had found that his total force conisted of... fewer than 2000 effectives for the defense of the whole Department of Louisiana. Nonetheless, Holnes had confidence that this second of his three major generals would be ingenious and tireless in his efforts to reduce the nearly immeasurable oddds, and this confidence was not misplaced.
Haste made waste and Grant knew it, but in this case the haste was unavoidable unavoidable, that is, unless he was willing to take the right of having another general win the prize he was after because he was fighting two wars simultaneously: one against the Confederacy, or at any rate so much of its army as stood between him and the river town that was his goal, and the other against a man who, like himself, wore blue. That was where the need for haste came in. The rival general's name was John McClernand. A former Springfield lawyer and Illinois congressman, McClernand was known to have political aspirations designed to carry him not one inch below the top position occupied at present by his friend, another former Springfield lawyer and Illinois congressman, Abraham Lincoln. Moreover, having decided that the road to the White house led through Vicksburg, he had taken pains to see that he travelled it well equipped, and this he had done by engaging the support and backing of the President but also the Secretary of War. With the odds thus lengthened against him, Grant when he belatedly found out what his rival had been up to could see that his private war against McClernand might well turn out to be as tough, in several ways, as the public one he had been fighting for 18 months against the rebels. In the first place, he had not even known that he had this private war on his hands until it was so well underway that his rival had already won the opening skirmish.
Admiral Porter had
doubts as to the over-all wisdom of Grant's plan, as well as fears in regard
to the specific risk the plan required the navy to assume... Unlike Sherman
he made no protest after his initial warning that once the fleet had gone
below it could not come back up again until the batteries had been silenced
in his rear. Instead, he kept busy preparing his crews and vessels for
the passage of bluffs that bristled with 40-odd pieces of artillery, light
and heavy, manned by cannoneers whose skill had improved with every chance
to show it. By April 16 he was ready. Seven armoured gunboats, mounting
a total of 79 were assigned to make the run, accompanied with three army
transports, loaded with stores instead of troops, and a steam ram. At 930,
two hours after dusk gave way to a starry but moonless night, the column
cleared the mouth of the Yazoo, Porter leading aboard the flagship Benton.
The 'run', so called, was in fact more creep than sprint, however, at least
in its early stages; stealth was the watchword up and down the line of
11 boats steaming southward in single file on the dark chocolate surface
of the "great calm river". All ports were covered and all deck lights doused,
except for hooded lanterns visible only from dead astern for guidance.
It was hoped that such precautions would hide the column from prying eyes...
The admiral was leaving as little as possible to chance; but in the event
of discovery he was prepared to shift at once from stealth to boldness...
Grant was there to see the show, and he had his two families with him, one military and the other personal, the former consisting of his staff, the latter of his wife with their two sons... First there was the passage of the hooded and muffled warships, disappearing northward in the direction of the bend that swung them south toward the rebel batteries; then a long wait in the blackness; then, eastward a sudden burgeoning incandescence... the guns came alive on the bluff (Vicksburg Point) and were replied to by those on the brightly lighted river, growling full-throated, jarring the earth and water for miles around, and adding their muzzle flashes to the vivid illumination of the scene. "Magnificient, but terrible," Grant later called the sight... After 90 minutes of uproar, during which Dana tallied 525 shots fired by the Confederates, the bluff was once more dark and silent except for the reflection of fires still buring fitfully on the lower level where the boats had been. How much damage had been done and suffered, no one aboard the Magnolia could tell, although presently it was clear that some at least of the vessels had got post, for the Warrenton batteries came alive downstream, reproducing in miniature the earlier performance. Finallythese too fell silent, which told the watchers exactly nothing, save that the final curtain had come down.
- Admiral Porter runs the Vicksburg bluff
"The men have sense,
and will trust us. As to the reports in the newspapers, we must scorn them,
else they will ruin us and our country. They are as much enemies to good
government as the secesh, and between the two I like the secesh best, because
they are a brave, open enemy and not a set of sneaking, croaking scoundrels."
- William T. Sherman (1863)
"Every day's delay
is worth two thousand men to the enemy."
- Ulysses S. Grant, impatient to advance on Vicksburg
confidence was based on a reappraisal of the situation confronting him
now that Bowen, with his approval, had fallen back across the Big Black
River, which curved across his entire right and center. Not only did this
withdrawal make a larger number of troops available for the protection
of a much smaller area; it also afforded him the interior lines, so that
a direct attack from beyond the arc could be met with maximum strength
by defenders fighting from prepared positions... It greatly facilitated
what Pemberton later called "my great object", which was "to prevent Grant
from establishing a base on the Mississippi River, above Vicksburg." Until
the invaders accomplished this they would be dependent for supplies on
what could be run directly past the gun-bristled bluff, a risky business
at best, or freighted down the opposite bank, along a single jerry-built
road that was subject to all ravages of nature... Pemberton considered
the possible consummation of his design well worth the risk. Having weighed
the odds and assessed his opponent's probable intentions from his actions
in the past, he was content to let the outcome test the validity of his
insight into the mind of his adversary...
But there were flaws in the logic of his approach to the central problem, or at any rate errors in the conclusion to which that logic had led him. His assessment of Grant's intention was partly right, but it was partly wrong: right, that is, in the conviction that what his opponent wanted and needed was a supply base above Vicksburg, but wrong as to how he would go about getting what he wanted... Grant intended to launch an invasion, much as Cortez and Scott had done in Mexico, without a base from which to draw supplies. And so he did. Back in December, returning through North Mississippi to Memphis after the destruction of his forward depot at Holly Springs, he had discovered that his troops could live quite easily off the country by the simple expedient of taking what they wanted from the farmers in their path.
"I was now in the enemy's
country, with a vast river and the stronghold of Vicksburg between me and
my base of supplies. But I was on dry ground on the same side of the river
with the enemy. All the campaigns, labors, hardships and exposures from
the month of December previous to this time that had been made and endured,
were for the accomplishment of this one object."
- Ulysses S Grant, reaching the climax of his Vicksburg campaign
"If you see a head,
- Tipperary maxim, quoted by Union Brigadier General Michael Lawler
Elation over the victory (Union capture of Champion Hill) was tinged with sorrow at its cost. "I cannot think of this bllod hill without sadness and pride," Alvin Hovey was to say, and an Illinois soldier, roaming the field when the fighting was over, was struck by the thought that no moral solution had been arrived at as a result of all the bloodshed. "There they lay," he said of the dead and wounded all around him, "the blue and the grey intermingled; the same rich, young American blood flowing out in little rivulets of crimson; each thinking he was in thr right."
As Pemberton rode westward, accompanied by his chief engineer, young Major Samuel Lockett, Pemberton's distress increased and his confidence reached botton... Lockett tried to reassure the general by reminding him that two fresh divisions stood in the Vicksburg intrenchments, which had been designed to withstand repeated assaults by almost any number of men... "To all of which," the major recalled afterwards, "General Pemberton replied that my youth and hopes were the parents of my judgment; he himself did not believe our troops would stand the first shock of an attack."
For all the Confederates
knew, Sherman might have moved up fast around their flank and beaten them
to their goal. Then up ahead, as Pemberton was to remember it years later,
"the outline of the hill city rose slowly through the heated dust Vicksburg
As word carried down the crooked line of march that the race to Vicksburg had been won, the footsore remnants in the rear flooded down the pike. Sunset made a red glory over the Louisiana bayous, the sky faded to a cool green and it was dark. Pemberton and his aides worked through the night, seeing to the comfort of the troops who'd fought today and yesterday... Dawn gave light by which to check the overlapping fields of fire commanded by the 102 guns, light and heavy, emplaced along the semi-circular landward fortifications. Mid-morning brought reports from scouts that the two companies left at Haine's Bluff were on their way to Vicksburg, having complied with the order to hold out as long as possible. Heavy columns of Federals were close behind.
- The investment of Vicksburg begins
- Union troops, tired of turkey and sweet potatoes, cheer General Grant outside Vicksburg
That night, there was hardtack for everyone, along with beans, and coffee to wash it down. The soldiers woke next morning strengthened for the work that was now at hand. For the first time in history, a major assault was launched by commanders whose eyes were fixed on the hands of watches synchronized the night before.
After the second repulse the defenders (of Vicksburg) were faced with an unpleasant problem. for three days six, in the case of those who had fallen in the first assault Grant's dead an injured lay in the fields and ditches at the base of the Confederate ridge, exposed to the fierce heat of the early Mississippi summer. The stench of the dead and the cries of the wounded were intolerable to the men who had show them down; yet Grant would not ask for a truce for burial or treatment of these unfortunates, evidently thinking that sucha request would be an admission of weakness on his first. Finanlly, Pemberton could bear it no longer. On the morning of May 25 he sent a message through the lines to the Union Commander.
"The Confederate States'
gunboat Cotton is one of the things that were."
- Union General Nathaniel P. Banks, after the gunboat's destruction
The whole fight took
place in a dense forest of magnolias, mostly amid a thick undergrowth and
among ravines choked with felled and falling timber so that it was difficult
not only to move but even to see, a participant was to recall, adding that
what he'd been involved in was not so much a battle or a charge as it was
a gigantic bushwhack.
- Describing the first Union assault on Port Hudson
Four weeks of siege,
highlighted by two full-scale assaults and one abortive night attack, had
cost Banks more than 4000 casualties along his seven concave miles of front.
His men, suspecting that they had inflicted scarcely more than one tenth
as many casualties on the enemy, were so discouraged that the best he could
say of them was that they were in "tolerable good spirits"... Banks reported
that he was down to 14,000 effectives, including the 9-month volunteers
whose enlistments were expiring... Men whose time was up did not "feel
like desperate service", Banks told Halleck, while those who had signed
on for the duration did not "like to lead where the rest will not follow."
Old Brains had a prescription for that, however. "When a column of attack
is formed of doubtful troops," he answered, "the proper mode of curing
their defection is to place artillery in their rear, in the hands of reliable
men, with orders to fire at the first moment of disaffection. A knowledge
of such orders will probably prevent any wavering, and, if not, one such
punishment will prevent any repetition of it in your army."
This was perhaps reassuring, though in an unpleasant sort of way, since it showed the general-in-chief to be consdierably more savage where blue rebels were concerned that he had ever been when his opponents wore butternut or grey.
Grant's immediate attention was fixed on the close-up siege of Vicksburg itself. Six divisions had been added by now to his original twn, giving him a total of 71,000 effectives disposed along two lines, back to back, one snuggled up to the semicircular defenses and the other facing rearward in case Joe Johnston got up enough strength and nerve to risk an attack from the east... Frank Herron's division arrived on June 11 and extended the line still farther southward to the river, completing Grant's nine-division bearhug on Pemberton's beleagured garrison.
One item Grant would
have liked more of was trained engineers. Only two such officers were serving
in that capacity now in his whole army. However, as one of them afterwards
declared, this problem was solved by the "native good sense and ingenuity"
of the troops, Middle Western farmboys for the most part, who showed as
much aptitude for such complicated work as they had shown for throwing
bridges over creeks and bayous during the march that had brought them here...
In all this they were inspired by the same bustling energy and quick adaptability
on the part of the generals who led them; for one thing that characterized
Grant's army was the youth of its commanders the average age was under
promotion had been based on merit.
Grant considered his army more than a match for anything the Confederates could bring against him... One day a staff officer expressed the fear that Johnston was planning to fight his way into Vicksburg in order to help Pemberton stage a breakout; but Grant did not agree: "No," he said, "We are the only fellows who want to get in there. The rebels who are in now want to get out and those who are out want to stay out."
"I have since seen the position at Sevastopol," Sherman wrote years later, "and without hesitation I declare that Vicksburg to have been the more difficult of the two." Skillfully constructed, well sited and prepared for a year against the day of investment, the fortifications extended for seven miles along commanding ridges and were anchored at both extremites to the lip of a sheer 200-foot bluff, north and south of the beleagured city. Forts, redoubts, salients, redans, lunets, and bastions had been erected or dug at irregular intervals along the line, protected by overlapping fields of fire and connected by a complex of trenches, which in turn were mutually supporting. There simply was no easy way to get at the defenders.
Knowing little or nothing at the outset of the five formal stages of a siege the investment, the artillery attack, the construction of parallels and approaches, the breaching by artillery or mines, and the final assault the men told one another that Grant, having failed to go over the rebel works, had decided to go under them instead... Life in the Confederate trenches across the way though the occupants did not call them that; they called them 'ditches' was at once more sedentary and more active... After a couple of weeks of spadework the two lines were within clod-tossing distance of each other at several points, and this resulted in an edgy sort of existence for soldiers of both sides... "Fighting by hand grenades was all that as possible at such close quarters," a Confederate was to recall. "As the Federals had the hand grenades and we had none, we obtained our supply by using such of theirs as failed to explode, or by catching them as they came over the parapet and hurling them back."
The residents of Vicksburg spent much of their time, as one of them said, watching the incoming shells "rising steadily and shiningly in great parabolic curves, descending with ever-increasing swiftness, and falling with deafening shrieks and explosions." ...Children observed the uproar with wide-eyed evident pleasure, accepting it as a natural phenomenon, like rain or lightning, unable to comprehend that men could do such things to one another and to them... Some took to it better than others, in and out of uniform. There was for instance a Frenchman, "a gallant officer who had distinguished himself in several severe engagements," who was "almost unmanned" whenever one of the huge mortar projectiles fell anywhere near him. Chided by friends for this reaction, he would reply: "I no like ze bomb: I cannot fight him back!" Neither could anyone else "fight him back", least of all the civilians, many of whim took refuge in caves dug into the hillsides. Some of these were quite commodious, with several rooms, and the occupants brought in chairs and beds and even carpets to add to the comfort, sleeping soundly or taking dinner unperturbed while the world outside seemed turned to flame and thunder. "Prairie Dog Village," the blue cannoneers renamed the city on the bluff.
Like the men in the trenches, civilians of both sexes were convinced that their tormentors could never take Vicksburg by storm, and whatever their fright they had no intention of knuckling under to what they called the bombs. For them, too, Joe Johnston was the one bright hope of deliverance... But as time wore on, and Johnston did not come, they were made aware of a new enemy. Hunger.... With the last cow and hog gone lowing and squealing under the sledge and cleaver, still another experiment was tried: the substitution of mule meat for beef and bacon. Though it was issued, out of respect for religious and folk preferences, "only to those who desired it." ...Soldiers and civilians alike found something humiliating, not to say degrading, about the practice. "The rebels don't starve with success," a Federal infantryman observed jokingly from beyond the lines about this time, "I think if I had nothing to eat I'd starve better than they do." Vicksburg residents and defenders might well have agreed, especially where mule meat was concerned. Even if a man refused to eat such stuff himself, he found it disturbing to live among companions who did not. It was enough to diminish even their faith in Joe Johnston, who seemed in point of fact a long time coming. Though at the outset the Virginian had sounded vigorous and purposeful in his assurance of assisteance, Pemberton himself by now had begun to doubt the outcome of the race between starvation and delivery.
The meager trickle of dispatches from Johnston left Pemberton in a position not unlike that of a man who calls on a friedn to make a strangler turn loose of his throat, only to have the friend inquire as to the strangler's strength, the position of his thumbs, the condition of the sufferer's windpipe, and just what kind of help he had in mind.
For the Confederates the main problem, or at any rate the most constant one, was hunger; whereas for the Federals it was boredom. "The history of a single day was the history of all others," an officer was to recall.
"Grant is now deservedly the hero," Sherman wrote home in early June... with whom, as presently said, "I am a second self."
It was indeed a Glorious Fourth of July, from the northern point of view; Gideon Welles did not exaggerate in speaking wholesale of a "list of brilliant successes" scored by the Union, afloat and ashore, on this 87th anniversary of the nation's birth. For the South, however, the day was not one of glory, but rather of disappointment, or bitter irony, of gloom made deeper by contrast with the hopes of yesterday, when Lee was massing for his all-or-nothing attack on Cemetery Ridge and Johnston was preparing at last to cross the Big Black River, when Taylor was threatening to retake New Orleans and Holmes was moving into position for his assault on Helena. All four had failed, which was reason enough for disappointment; the irony lay in the fact that not one of the four was aware that on this Independence Eve, so far at least as his aspirations for the relief of Vicksburg or Port Hudson were concerned, he was too late. At 10 o'clock that morning, July 3, white flags had broken out along a portion of Pemberton's works and two high-ranking officers had come riding out of theur lines and into those of the besiegers, who obligingly held their fire. The senior officer bore a letter from his commander, addressed to Grant. "General", it began: "I have the honor to propose to you an armistice for several hours, with a view to arranging terms for the capitulation of Vicksburg."
After 46 days and 45 nights in the trenches, most of the time on half- and quarter-rations, not one of Pemberton's four division commanders believed his troops were in any shape for the exertion required to break the ring of steel that bound them and then to outmarch or outfight the well-fed host of bluecoats who outnumbered them better than 4 to 1 in effectives.
The force of Grant's words Unconditional Surrender was diminished here at Vicksburg, as they had not been at Donelson, by an accompanying verbal message in which Grant said that he would be willing to meet and talk with Pemberton between the lines that afternoon.
"I can assure you sir
you will bury many more of your dead before you enter Vicksburg."
- General Pemberton during negotiations with Grant
The contest (between Grant and Pemberton) was like poker, and Grant played it straight-faced while his opponent continued to sputter, remarking that if Grant "supposed that I was suffering for provisions he was mistaken, that I had enough to last me for an indefinite period, and that Port Hudson was even better supplied than Vicksburg." Grant did not believe there was much truth in this, but he saw clearly enough from Pemberton's manner that his unconditional surrender formula was not going to obtain without a good deal more time or bloodshed... Grant and Pemberton continued their pokerlike contest of wills... If the Confederate played a different style of game, that did not necessarily mean that he was any less skillful. In point of fact at any rate in the limited sense of getting what he came for he won; for in the end it was the quiet man who gave way and the sputterer who stood firm.
According to Grant "the men of the two armies fraternized as if they had been fighting for the same cause." Though that was perhaps an overstatement of the case, there was in face a great deal of mingling by victors and vanquished alike "swapping yarns over the incidents of the long siege." as one gray participant put it and even some good-natured ribbing back and forth. "See here, mister, you man on the little white horse!" a bluecoat called out to Major Lockett, whose engineering duties had kept him on the move during lulls in the fighting. "Danged if you ain't the hardest feller to hit I ever saw. I've shot at you more'n a hundred times!" Lockett took it in good part, and afterwards praised his late adversaries for their generosity toward the defeated garrison. "General Grant says there was no cheering by the Federal troops," he wrote. "My recollection is that on our right a hearty cheer was given by one Federal division 'for the gallant defenders of Vicksburg!'"
I write this now as
a grateful acknowledgement for the almost inestimable service you have
done the country. I wish to say a word further. When you first reached
the vicinity of Vicksburg, I thought you should do what you finally did
march the troops across the neck, run the batteries with the transports,
and thus go below; and I never had any faith, except a general hope that
you knew better than I, that the Yazoo Pass expedition, and the like, could
succeed. When you got below, and took Port Gibson, Grand Gulf, and vicinity,
I thought you should go down the river and join Gen. Banks; and when you
turned Northward East of the Big Black, I feared it was a mistake. I now
wish to make the personal acknowledgement that you were right, and I was
wrong.Yours very truly, Abraham Lincoln.
- Personal letter sent by Lincoln to Grant after Vicksburg's capture
Having failed (at Gettysburg) in his effort to "conquer a peace" by defeating the principal Union army north of its capital, Lee had failed as well in his secondary purpose, which had been to frighten the Washington authorities into withdrawing Grant and Banks from their strangle-hold positions around Vicksburg and Port Hudson, thereby delivering from danger not only those two critical locations but also the great river that ran between them, the loss of which would cut the South in two... Plans for the relief of Pemerton and Gardner... were still in the course of execution when Pickett's and Pettigrew's men came stumbling back from Cemetery Ridge, leaving the bodies of their comrades to indicate the high-water marl of Lee's campaign, which now was on the ebb.
Observing Banks's perverse reaction (to his raid towards New Orleans), General Taylor was obliged to admit that once again, as at Miliken's Bend a month ago, though his tactics had been successful his strategy. Banks refused to co-operate in the completion of the grand design. Taylor had gained much in the brief campaign but he had not accomplished the recapture of New Orleans, which he saw as a cul-de-sac to be avoided, or the raising of the siege of Port Hudson.
If there was haste in Banks method, including parols of all his enlisted prisoners, there was also method in his haste. Albeit they were the sweeter, being his first. Banks was no more inclined than Grant to sit down and enjoy the fruits of his victory at Port Hudson; for just as the latter took out after Joe Johnston as soon as Vicksburg fell, so did the former concern himself with Dick Taylor as soon as Port Hudson followed suit.
It was Banks who had removed the final obstruction to Union control of the Mississippi, following Grant's extraction of "the nail that held the South's two halves together." On July 16, one week after the fall of Port Hudson, the unarmed packet Imperial tied up at New Orleans and began unloading cargo she had brought unescorted from St Louis. For the first time in 30 months, the Father of Waters was open to commerce from Minnesota to the Gulf.
On July 6 Sherman's "Army of Observation" so called from the days of the siege, passed over the Big Black in pursuit of Johnston, who had retired toward Jackson the day before, on learning of Pemberton's surrender. As the rebels withdrew eastward along roads that were ankle-deep in dust, they made things difficult for their pursuers by leading animals into such few ponds as had not dried in the heat, then killing them and leaving their carcasses to pollute the water. It was Johnston's intention not only to delay his opponent by such devices, but also to goad him into attempting a reckless, thirst-crazed assault on the Jackson intrenchments... The crafty Virginian's attempt to discourage and torment his pursuers with thirst was unsuccessful, however, for several reasons. For one, the siege-toughened bluecoats simpy dragged the festering carcasses from the ponds, gave the ponds a few minutes to settle, then brushed the scum aside and drank their fill, apparently with no ill effects at all. For another, the rain soon moved down from the north... Lifted so recently by the greatest victory of the war, their spirits were irrepressible, whether the problem was too little moisture or too much... They gloried in their toughness and took pride in the fact that they never cheered their generals. A surgeon wrote hime that they were "the noisiest crowd of profane-swearing, dram-drinking, card-playing, song-singing, reckless, impudent daredevils in the world." They would have accepted all this as a compliment.
In mid-July and in
accordance with Grant's instructions for the paroled Lt. general to report
to his immediate superior, Pemberton found the Virginian Joe Johnston "sitting
on a cleared knoll on a moonlight night surrounded by members of his staff."
Thus a witness described the scene, adding that when Johnston recognized
the "tall, handsome, dignified figure" coming towards him up the slope,
he sprang from his seat and advanced to meet him, hand outstretched.
"Well, Jack old boy," he cried. "I'm certainly glad to see you."
Pemberton halted, stiid at attention, and saluted. "General Johnston, according to the terms of parole as prescribed by General Grant, I was directed to report to you."
The two men stood for a moment in silence as Johnston lowered his unclasped hand. Then Pemberton saluted once more, punctiliously formal and turned away. They never met again.
[#6 Unvexed To The Sea]
Though it was in large part a reaction to the knowledge that the suffering and bloodshed of the past two years would continue indefinitely pas the point at which he believed they could have been stopped, Lincoln's extreme concern over the fact that one of his two great victories had been blunted was also based on the far that if he did not win the war in the field, and soon, he might lose it on the home front. There appeared to be excellent grounds for such apprehension. Ever since the fall elections, which had gone heavily against him in certain vital regions of the country, the loyal and disloyal opposition had been growing, not only in size but also in boldness.
Lincoln decided to stick with Meade for the time being... Grant would keep, Grant would be there in case he was needed; Grant was Lincoln's ace in the hole. Meanwhile there was the war to get on with, on the political front as well as on the firing line.
"There are those who
are dissatisfied with me. To such I would say: You desire peace; and you
blame me that we do not have it. But how can we attain it? There are but
three conceivable ways. First, to suppress the rebellion by force of arms.
This I am trying to do. Are you for it? If you are, so far we are agreed.
If you are not for it, a second way is to give up the Union. I am against
this. Are you for it? If you are, you should say so plainly. If you are
not for force, nor yet for dissolution, there only remains some imaginable
compromise. I do not believe any compromise, embracing the maintenance
of the Union, is now possible... But to be plain, you are dissatisfied
with me about the negro. Quite likely there is a difference of opinion
between you and myself upon that subject. I certainly wish that all men
could be free, while I suppose you do not... You say you will not fight
to free negroes. Some of them seem willing to fight for you; but, no matter.
Fight you, then exclusively to save the Union. I issued the proclamation
on purpose to aid you in saving the Union. Whenever you shall have conquered
all resistence to the Union, if I shall urge you to continue fighting,
it will be an apt time, then, for you to declare you will not fight to
free negroes. I thought that in your struggle for the Union, to whatever
extent the negroes should cease helping the enemy, to that extent it weakened
the enemy in his resistence to you. Do you think differently? I thought
that whatever negroes can be got to do as soldiers, leaves just so much
less for white soldiers to do, in saving the Union. Does it appear otherwise
to you? But negroes, like other people, act upon motives. Why should they
do any thing for us, if we will do nothing for them? If they stake their
lives for us, they must be prompted by the strongest motive--even the promise
of freedom. And the promise being made, must be kept."
- Abraham Lincoln, public letter read to rally in Illinois (September 1863)
"The signs look better.
The Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea... Peace does not appear
so distant as it did. I hope it will come soon, and come to stay; and so
come as to be worth the keeping in all future time. It will then have been
proved that, among free men, there can be no successful appeal from the
ballot to the bullet; and that they who take such appeal are sure to lose
their case, and pay the cost. And then, there will be some black men who
can remember that, with silent tongue, and clenched teeth, and steady eye,
and well-poised bayonnet, they have helped mankind on to this great consummation;
while, I fear, there will be some white ones, unable to forget that, with
malignant heart, and deceitful speech, they strove to hinder it."
- Abraham Lincoln, public letter read to rally in Illinois (September 1863)
"The campaign is a
failure," a Virginia captain wrote home on his return to native soil, "and
the worst failure the South has ever made. Gettysburg sets off Fredericksburg...
And no blow since the fall of New Orleans had been so telling against us."
News of the loss of Vicksburg, which the strike across the Potomac had
been designed in part to prevent, served to deepen the gloom, especially
for those whose lofty posts afforded them a long-range view of the probable
consequences... Officials in Richmond were staggered by the double blow...
"It seems incredible that human power could effect such a change in so
brief a space," Josiah Gorgas lamented. "Yesterday we rode on the pinnacle
of success; today absolute ruin seems to be our portion. The Confederacy
totters to its destruction." The one exception was Jefferson Davis, who
neither contributed to nor shared in the prevailing atmosphere of gloom
that settled over the capital as a result of the triumphant blows struck
by the Federals east and west. It was not that he failed to appreciate
the gravity of the situation, the extent and intensity of the danger in
both directions. He did... Rather, it was as if defeat, even disaster,
whatever else it brought, also brought release from dread and a curious
lift of the spirit after a time of strain.
Davis saw in ever loss of mere territory a corresponding gain, if only in the sense that what had been lost no longer required defending. Just as the early fall of Nashville and New Orleans had permitted a tighter concentration of the Confederacy's limited military resources and had given its field commanders more freedom of action by reducing the number of fixed positions they were obliged to defend, so might the loss of the Mississippi make the defense of what remained at once more compact and fluid. What remained after all was the heartland... Besides, merely because the far western portion of the country had been severed from the rest, it did not follow that the severed portion would die or even, necessarily, stop fighting.
Grant's slam-bang May campaign in Mississippi offset considerably the brilliance of Lee's triumph over Hooker, but when it was followed by the determined resistance of Vicksburg under siege, the Confederate flame of independence burned its brightest. Moreover, it was at this point that Lee set out on his second invasion of the North. The first, launched just under just under 10 months ago, had come closer to securing foreign intervention than anyone outside the British cabinet knew; now if ever, with the second invasion in progress, was the time for an all-out bid for intervention... The first reports of Gettysburg reached London, followed within the week by news of the fall of Vicksburg; after which there was no hope of a revival of the motion (for British intervention).
[#7 Riot and Resurgence]
As for the danger,
though admittedly it was gteat, Morgan thought it might not prove so extreme
as it appeared. Boldness was sometimes its own best protection, as he had
demonstrated so often in the past, and this was the epitome of boldness.
Once across the Ohio he intended to ride east, through or around Cincinnati,
always keeping within reach of the river, which was reported to be seasonally
low, for a recrossing into Kentucky whenever the pressure on the north
bank grew too great. Or at the worst, if this maneuver proved impractical,
he would continue east and north for a juncture with Lee... This would
be an affair not only for the history books and tactics manuals of the
future, but also for the extension and enlargement of the legends and songs
already being told and sung in celebration of earlier, lesser horseback
exploits by Morgan and his 'terrible' men.
...What had begin as a raid, a foray as of a fox upon a henhouse, had turned into a foxhunt and, hunting or hunted, Morgan was still the fox.
"A noble mass of ruins
over which still float our colors."
- Pierre Beauregard, admiring resilience of Fort Sumter
Always the weight of numbers decided the issue at every point in what was patently a battle not of generals but of soldiers. ("All this talk about generalship displayed on either side is sheer nonsense," Wilder delcared long afterwards, looking back on the Chickamauga nightmare. "There was no generalship in it. It was a soldier's fight purely, wherein the only question involved was the question of endurance. The two armies came together like wild beats, and each fought as long as it could stand up in a knock-down and drag-out encounter. If there had been any high order of generalship displayed, the disasters to both armies might have been less.") What mainly distinguished the conflict from the outset was its fury. An Alabamian described the racket as "one solid, unbroken wave of awe-inspiring sound... as if all the fires of earth and hell had been turned loose in one mighty effort to destroy each other." Fighting deep in the woods, with visibility strictly limited to his immediate vicinity, each man seemed to take the struggle as a highly personal matter between him and the blue or butternut figures he saw dodging in and out of sight, around and behind the clumps of brush and trunks of trees.
In war, as in love indeed, as in all such areas of so-called human endeavor expectation tended to outrun execution, particularly when the letter was given a head start in the race, and nowhere did this apply more lamentably, at any rate from the Richmond point of view, than in the wake of Chickamauga, probably the greatest and certainly the bloodiest of all the battles won by the South in its fight for the independence it believed to be its birthright. Harvey Hill said later that he had "never seen the Federal dead lie so thickly on the ground, save in front of the sunken wall at Fredericksburg." In point of fact, though Hill may not have seen them on his quarter of the field, the Confederate dead lay even thicker.
[#8 The Center Gives]
Meade had been prodded, these past three months since his crossing of the Potomac, more by the superiors in his rear than by the rebels in his front. Lincoln was giving Halleck strategy lectures, and Old Brains was passing them along with interlinear comments which, to Meade at least, were about as exasperating as they were banal. As a result he had become more snappish than ever. Staff officers quailed nowadays at his glance... Meade perceived that he had fallen among lawyers, men who could do with logic and figures what they liked. The President, in his conclusion with regard to the unwisdom of driving Lee back into the Richmond defenses, had merely returned to the point Meade himself had made at the outset, except that now the latter found it somehow used against him. The technique was fairly familiar, even to a man who had never served on a jury, but it was less exasperating for that, and Meade was determined that if he was to go the way of McDowell and McClellan, of Pope and McClellan again, of Burnside and Hooker, he would at least make the trip to the scrap heap under his own power... he would fall, if fall if must, by following his own conscience.
The night was cold and rainy. Grant could see the campfires of the Confederates, gleaming like stars against the outer darkness, above and on three sides of him, as if he stood in the pit of a darkened amphitheater, peering up and out, east and west and south. Chattanooga was said to be an Indian word meaning 'mountains looking at each other' and next morning Grant perceived the aptness of the name. He saw on the left the long reach of Missionary Ridge, a solid wall that threw its shadow over the town until the sun broke clear of its rim, and on the right the cumulous bulge of Raccoom Mountain. Dead ahead, though, was the dominant feature of ths forebidding panorama. Its summit 1200 feet above the surface of the river at its base, Lookout Mountain rose... But for the present what impressed Grant most were the guns posted high on the slopes and peaks and ridges, all trained on the blue army here below.
When Jefferson Davis was welcomed at Chickamauga Station by a crowd of soldiers who called for a speech as he mounted his horse for the ride to army HQ he had declined to address the troops. "Man never spoke as you did on the field of Chickamauga," Davis told them, lifting his hat in return salute, "and in your presence I dare not speak. Yours is the voice that will win the independence of your country and strike terror to the heart of a ruthless foe." Now that he had toured the camps, however, and seen for himself how rife the discontent was, he changed his mind and did what he dared not do... "The hopes of our cause greatly depend upon you, and happy it is that all can securely rely upon your achieving whatever, under the blessing of Providence, human power can effect... But he who sows the seeds of discontent and distrust prepared for the harvest of slaughter and defeat."
A young matron who stood in line for a handshake (with Davis) wrote her soldier brother that she and her friends "were much pleased with the affability of the President. He has a good, mild, pleasant face," she added, "and, altogether, looks like a President of our struggling country *should* look careworn and thoughtful, and firm, and quiet."
To the Confederates, the squat, battered pentagon (of Fort Sumter) was a symbol of their long-odds resistance, and as such it took on a strange beauty. An engineer captain wrote home of the feelings aroused by the sight of its rugged outline against the night sky... "That ruin is beautiful," he declared, and added: "But it is more than this, it is emblematic also... Is it not in some respects an image of the human soul, once ruined by the fall, yet with gleams of beauty and energetic striving after strength, surrounded by dangers and watching, against its foes?"
Unlike Davis, who twice in the past 11 months had visisted every Confederate state east of the Mississippi except Florida and Louisiana, addressing crowds along teh way and calling for national unity in them all, Lincoln in two and a half years aside that is, from four quick trips on army business had been no farther than a carriage ride from the White House. He had made no speeches on any of the exceptional occasions, being strictly concerned with military affairs... Then Lincoln accepted an invitation to attend the dedication of a new cemetery at Gettysburg for the men who had fallen there in the July battle.
The Confederate center
had been pierced. Bluecoats were clustered thickly now on Missionary Ridge,
whooping and yelling in raucous celebration of a sudden, incredible victory
scored less than three miles south of Sherman's all-day no-gain fight for
Tunnel Hill... What one division had done against six, all morning and
most of the afternoon on the far right, five divisions had not managed
to against four in resisting an attack that had lasted barely an hour...
The vaunted southern fighting man had lost a soldier's battle.
..Bragg had lost a great deal more than the scant 15% of his army and a third of all his guns. Guns and men could be replaced; Chattanooga, on the other hand, was now what a northern journalist called "a gateway wrenched asunder." The ray lay open into the heartland of the South, and all that stood between the bluecoats and a rapid penetration was the battered and dispirited remnants of a force they had just driven from a position its commander had deemed impregnable. And in fact he was still of that opinion, believing that all it had lacked was men determined to defend it. Unlike Lee, who at Gettysburg had said, "It's all my fault," Bragg at this stage was not inclined to shoulder even a fraction of the blame for the outcome of the contest.
When it was suggested that Bragg must have considered his position impregnable, Grant agreed with that also, though his commend was accompanied by a smile and a shrewd look. "Well, it *was* impregnable," he said.
[#9 Spring Came On Forever]
Lincoln had learned from long experience that the strain of waiting for news of an expected success was quite as great as waiting for news of an expected failure particularly since experience had taught him, all too often, that anticipated triumphs had a way of turning into the worst of all defeats; Chancellorsville, for instance.
"Patriotism is a pretty
heavy load to carry sometimes."
- A southern diarist
In closing (his address to the Confederate Congress) Davis came back to the South's chief asset, which had won for her the sometimes gruding admiration of the world. "The patriotism of the people has proved equal to every sacrifice demanded by their country's need."
"The people of the
United States, accustomed to freedom, cannot consent to be ruined and enslaved
in order to ruin and enslave us. Moral, like physical, epidemics, have
their allotted periods, and must, sooner or later, be exhausted and disappear.
When reason returns, our enemies will probably reflect, that a people,
like ours, who have exhibited such capabilities, and extemporized such
resources, can never be subdued; that a vast expanse of territory, with
such a population, cannot be governed as an obedient colony. Victory would
not be conquest. The inextinguishable quarrel would be transmitted from
bleeding sire to son, and the struggle would be renewed between generations
yet unborn. To impoverish us would only be to dry up some of the springs
of northern prosperity... The situation is grave, but furnishes no just
excuse for despondency. Instead of harsh criticisms on the Government and
our generals; instead of bewailing the failure to accomplish impossibilities,
we should rather be grateful, humbly and profoundly, to a benignant Providence,
for the results that have rewarded our labors. Remembering the disproportion
in population, in military and naval resources, and the deficiency of skilled
labor in the South, our accomplishments have surpassed those recorded of
any people in the annals of the world. There is no just reason for hopelessness
or fear. Since the outbreak of the war the South has lost the nominal possession
of the Mississippi river and fragments of her territory; but Federal occupancy
is not conquest. The fires of patriotism still burn unquenchably in the
breasts of those who are subject to foreign domination. We yet have in
our uninterrupted control a territory, which, according to past progress,
will require the enemy ten years to overrun."
- Address of Congress to the People of the Confederate States
"The curse of God must
have been on our people when we chose him out of so many noble sons of
the South, who would have carried us safely through this Revolution."
- Pierre Beauregard, on Davis's Presidency
Lee sacrificed a Richmond Christmas with his wife in order to be with his troops and share in their frugal celebration of what had always been for Southerners a combination of all that was best in the gladdest days of the departing year.
In all seasons and
all weathers, stifling heat or numbing cold, the men aboard the Federal
blockaders kept their stations, stood their watches, and patrolled their
designated segments of the highly irregular 3000 miles of coastline between
Old Point Comfort and Matamoros. Not for them had been the thunderous runs
by the frigates and gunboats under Farragut and Porter, during which the
world seemed turn to flame... or the exhilarating chases by the raiders
under Semmes and Maffit, staged hundreds of miles from sight of land and
punctuated with coaling stops in sinful river ports. A sailor who managed
to secure a leave from one of the river fleets was sure to receive at home
a hero's welcome for his share in the humbling of Vicksburg or Port Hudson,
while the CSA Alabama had added an even three dozen Tankiee ships to her
strings of prizes... The men on blockade duty envied blue and gray alike,
not only for the stormy present but also for the future still to come.
...Boredom was the main problem, especially for the crews of the blockaders, who could not see that their day-in day-out service had much to with fighting at all, let alone with speeding the victory... Individual reactions to this monotony, which was scarcely relieved by an unbroken diet of moldy beans, stale biscuits, and sour pork, varied from fisticuffs and insubordination to homosexuality and desertion. Officers fraternized ashore with Negro women, a practice frowned upon by the Navy, and mess crews specialized in the manufacture of outlaw whiskey distilled from almost any substance that would ferment in the southern heat as in fact nearly everything would, including men.
The Confederates had returned to Meridian, or at any rate to the desolation that Sherman had created in its place... Meridian was an example of what the men Jefferson Davis referred to as 'worse than vandal hordes' could accomplish when their commander turned them loose with the admonition than 'vigorous war... means universal destruction'... Yet, sad as it was to survey the charred remains of what once had passed for prosperity in this non-industrial region, sadder by far were the people of those counties through which the blue column had slogged on its way to and from the town that was now little more than a scar on the green breast of the earth. They had the stunned, unbelieving look of survivors of some terrible natural disaster, such as a five-day hurricane, a tidal wave or earthquake: with the underlying difference that their grief had been inflicted by human design and was in fact a deliberate product of a new kind of war, quite unlike the one for which they had bargained for three years ago, back in that first glad springtime of secession. It was, moreover, a war that was still in progress, and somehow that was the strangest, most distressful aspect of all. Their deprivation was incidental to the large design. They were faced with the aftermath before the finish.
Stephen Lee charged the raiders with causing an estimated overall loss of 5 million dollars, of which 'three fourths was private property', and asked rhetorically: "Was this the warfare of the 19th century?" Sherman was not inclined to dispute the statistics, and he had already given his answer to Lee's question. This was indeed the warfare of the 19th century, at any rate as he intended to practice it, and he was not only proud of what had been accomplished by this first large-scale application of the methods that had aroused the South Carolinian's moral indignation.
"Three years ago, by
a little reflection and patience, they could have had a hundred years of
peace and prosperity, but they preferred war; very well. Last year they
could have saved their slaves, but now it is too late... Next year their
lands will be taken... and in another year they may beg in vain for their
lives... To those who submit to the rightful law and authority, all gentleness
and forebearance; but to the petulant and persistent secessionists, why,
death in mercy... Satan and the rebellious saints of Heaven were allowed
a continuous existence in hell merely to swell their just punishment. To
such as would rebel against a Government so mild and just as ours was in
peace, a punishment equal would not be unjust."
- William T. Sherman
"You cannot qualify
war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine
it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and
maledictions a people can pour out. I know I had no hand in making this
war, and I know I will make more sacrifices to-day than any of you to secure
- William T. Sherman
Sherman's notion of how the war could be won was definite enough, but whether it would be fought that way with stepped-up harshness, to and through the finish depended in no small measure on who would be directing it from the top. This was a presidential election year; the armies might have a new Commander in Chief before the advent of the victory, which not even the ebullient Sherman predicted within the 12-month span that lay between his return from Meridian, and the inauguration of the winner of the November contest at the polls.
Despite the encouragement Republicans could draw from their successes at the polls in the past season, the outcome of the contest in November would depend even more on military than on political events of the next eight months, through spring and summer and into fall. For one thing, the fighting would be expensive both in money and blood, and the voters, as the ones who would do the paying and the bleeding, were unlikely to be satisfied with anything less than continuous victory at such prices. The past year had been highly satisfactory in this regard; Vicksburg and Missionary Ridge, even Gettysburg and Helena, were accomplishments clearly worth their cost. But the new year started no better than the old year had ended... A reckoning time was coming, when the voters would have their say.
The nervousness of Congressmen was intensified by a presidential order, providing for the draft, on March 10, of "five hundred thousand men to server for three years or during the war." This call for "500,000" more made necessary by the heavy losses in battle this past year, as well as by the pending expiration of the enlistments of those volunteers who had come forward, two and three years ago, with all the fervour Sumter and McClellan had aroused was graphic evidence of what the campaigns about to open were expected to cost in blood and money, and as such it presented the electorate with a yardstick by which to measure the height and depth of victories and defeats.
Lincoln was thoroughly aware that this war would produce a military hero who eventually would take up residence in the White House, and Grant's appeal in this respect had already reached the stage at which he was being wooed by prominent members of both political parties. They knew a winner when they saw one, and so did Lincoln; and that was the trouble... he was anxious not to promote the interests of a formidable rival... However, Lincoln was told the general had said in January that he not only was not a candidate for any office, but as a soldier he believed he had no right to discuss politics at all. Pressed further, he relented so far as to add that, once the war was over, he might indeed run for mayor of Galena so that, if elected, he could have the sidewalk put in order between his house and the railroad station. Lincoln could appreciate the humor in this (though not the unconscious irony which others would perceive a few years later, when this view of the primary use of political office would be defined as 'Grantism').
Relief in any form would be most welcome, for the strain of frustration these past three years had brought Lincoln all too often to the verge of exhaustion and absolute despair. There was, after all, a limit to how many Fredericksburgs and Chancellorsvilles, how many Gettysburgs and Chickamaugas, even how many Olustees and Okolonas a man could survive.
Opposing the Federal war of conquest (for, rebellion or revolution, that was what it would have to come to if the North was going to win) the Confederacy was fighting for survival. This had been, and would continue to be, Davis's principal advantage over his opponent in their respective capacities as leaders of their two nations: that he did not have to persuade his people of the reality of a threat which had been pnly too apparent ever since the first blue-clad soldier crossed the Potomac, whereas Lincoln was obliged to invoke a danger that was primarily theoretic. In the event that the Union broke in two, democracy might or might not 'perish from the earth' but there could be no doubt at all about what would happen to the South if its bid for independence failed.
However... by suspending habeas corpus, or by ignoring at will such writs as the courts issued, the northern President kept his left hand free to deal as harshly as he pleased with those who sought to stir up trouble in his rear. It was otherwise with Davis. Denied this resource except in such drastic instances as the insurrection in East Tennessee two years ago, he had to meet this kind of trouble with hand fettered. Often he had claimed this disadvantage as a virtue, referring by contrast to the North as a land where citizens were imprisoned... Now though, with the approach of the fourth spring of the war, obstruction and defeatism had swollen to such proportions that conscription could scarcely be enforced or outright traitors prosecuted, so ready were hostile judges to issue writs that kept them beyond the reach of the authorities. Davis was obliged to request of Congress that it permit him to follow procedures he had scorned:
"It has been our cherished
hope, and hitherto justified by the generous self-devotion of our citizens,
that when the great struggle in which we are engaged was passed, we might
exhibit to the world the proud spectacle of a people unanimous in the assertion
and defense of their rights, and achieving their liberty and independence,
after the bloodiest war of modern times, without the necessity of a single
sacrifice of civil right to military necessity. But it can no longer be
doubted that the zeal with which the people sprang to arms at the beginning
of the contest has in some parts of the Confederacy been impaired by the
long continuance and magnitude of the struggle... While brigade after brigade
of our brave soldiers who have endured the trials of the camp and battlefield
are testifying their spirit and patriotism by voluntary reenlistment for
the war, discontent, disaffection, and disloyalty are manifested among
those who, through the sacrifices of others, have enjoyed quiet and safety
at home. Public meetings have been held, in some of which a treasonable
design is masked by a pretense of devotion to State sovereignty, and in
others is openly avowed. Conventions are advocated with the pretended object
of redressing grievances, which, if they existed, could as well be remedied
by ordinary legislative action, but with the real design of accomplishing
treason under the form of law... Having thus presented some of the threatening
evils which exist, it remains to suggest the remedy. And in my judgment
that is only to be found in the suspension of the privilege of the writ
of habeas corpus. It is a sharp remedy, but a necessary one. It is a remedy
plainly contemplated by the Constitution. All the powers of the Government
extraordinary as well as ordinary are a sacred trust, to be faithfully
executed whenever the public exigency may require. Recognizing the general
obligation, we can not escape from the duty in one case more than in another.
And a suspension of this writ when demanded by the public safety is as
much a duty as to levy taxes for the support of the Government. If the
state, of invasion declared by the Constitution to be a proper case for
the exercise of this power does not exist in our country now, when can
it ever he expected to arise? It is idle to appeal against it to the history
of the old Union. That history contains no parallel case. England, whose
reverence for this great writ of right is at least as strong as our own,
and the stability of whose institutions is the admiration of the world,
has repeatedly, within the last hundred years, resorted to this remedy
when only threatened with invasion. It may occasion some clamor; but this
will proceed chiefly from the men who have already too long been the active
spirits of evil. Loyal citizens will not feel danger, and the disloyal
must be made to fear it. The very existence of extraordinary powers often
renders their exercise unnecessary. To temporize with disloyalty in the
midst of war is but to quicken it to the growth of treason. I, therefore,
respectfully recommend that the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus
- Jefferson Davis, Feb 3 1864, address to Congress of the Confederate States of America
No more than a casual glance at the map sufficed to show the gravity of the military situation they would not relax their civil vigilance to face. Shaded, the Federal gains of the past two years resembled the broad shadow of a bird suspended in flight above the Mississippi Valley, its head hing over Missouri, its tail spread down past New Orleans, and its wings extended from Chesapeake Bay to Texas. What shape the present year would give this shadow was far from clear to those who lived in its penumbra.
Davis agreed that the South was limited by necessity to the strategic defensive. Indeed, that had been his policy from the start, pursued in the belief that Europe would intervene if the struggle could be protracted. The difference now lay in the object of such protraction. Foreign intervention would obviously never going to come, but he still hoped for intervention of another kind. In the North, a presidential election would be held in November, and he hoped for intervention by a majority of the voters, who would then have their chance to end the bloodshed by replacing Lincoln with a man who stood for peace. Peace, no matter whether it was achieved in the North or the South, in the field or at the polls, meant victory on the terms the Confederate leader had announced at the outset, saying, "All we ask is to be let alone." In the light of this possibility, the South's task was to add to the war weariness of the North; which meant, above all, that the enemy was to be allowed no more spirit-lifting triumphs especially none like Vicksburg, which had set the church bells ringing beyond the Potomac and Ohio and that whatever was lost, under pressure of odds, must not only be minor in value, but must also be paid for in casualties so heavy that the gain would be clearly disproportionate to the cost, particularly in the judgment of those who would be casting their ballots in November.
In the past calendar year, while the Federal overall strength was declining from 918,211 to 860,737 men, that of the Confederates increased from 446,622 to 463,181 the largest number of men the South had had under arms since the war began... However, one month later, Lincoln issued his call for "500,000" more... That was better than ten times the number Lee had on the Rappahannock covering Richmond, or Johnston had around Dalton, covering Atlanta, and since the loss of either of these cities, in addition to being a strategic disaster for the South, would provide the North with a triumph that would be likely to win Lincoln the election. David was faced at once with the problem of how to match this call with one of his own... The bottom of the manpower barrel was not only in sight, it had been scraped practically clean to provide the army with every available male within the conscription age-range of 18 to 45. One possibility, unpleasant to contemplate since it would expose the government more than ever to the charge that it was "robbing the cradle and the grave", would be to extend the range in either or both directions.
Boston lecturer Wendell Phillips assured a New York audience of its moral superiority over a foe whose only role in life was to block the march of progress... His solution to the problem of how to keep the beaten South from relapsing into "a state of society more cruel than war whose characteristics are private assassination, burning, stabbing, shooting, poisonint" lifted the North's grim efforts to the height of a crusade: "We have not only an army to conquer. We have a state of mind to annihilate."
Arriving in Memphis
Sherman received on March 14 a message from Grant arranging a meeting in
Nashville three days later... In Nashville on the appointed date, invested
with the rank of lt. general and command of all the armies of the Union,
Grant informed him that the Virginia situation required personal attention;
he would be returning there to stay, and Sherman would have full charge
of the West... It was decided the two generals would travel together as
far as Cincinnati on Grant's return trip east... In Cincinnati they checked
into the Burnet House, and there at last, in a private room with a sentry
at the door, they spread their maps and got to work.
"Yonder began the campaign," Sherman was to say a quarter century later, standing before the hotel on the occasion of a visit to the Ohio city. "He was to go for Lee and I was to go for Joe Johnston. That was his plan."
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