Civil War Daily Gazette

A Day-By-Day Accounting of the Conflict, 150 Years Later

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‘I Want to See Miss Wright the Unionist’

Tom Law meeting Rebecca White in the school house.

September 16, 1864 (Friday) “On the 16th of September I was sitting in my school room during the noon recess,” told Rebecca Wright after the war, “when the door opened, and an intelligent looking negro entered the room, and softly close the door behind him. “‘I want to speak to Miss Wright,’ he said. “‘I am Miss Wright,’ I replied, ‘but there are two of us, myself and my sister. Perhaps thee wants to see my sister Hannah.’ “‘No, I don’t,’ he answered. ‘Your sister is not on our side. I want to see Miss Wright the Unionist. I have a letter for her from Gen. Sheridan.’” Completely in the dark about the position and number of Jubal Early’s force before his, Philip Sheridan had turned to scouts and then finally, on the recommendation of George Crook, commanding a corps in his army, he sent a messenger named Tom Law, with a letter to Rebecca White, a Quaker school teacher in Winchester. “I was greatly excited and trouble by this,” continued White, “but I took… Read More

“…And Still Love the Old Flag” – Sheridan Calls Upon Black People and Women for Information

Sheridan and Laws

September 15, 1864 (Thursday) “I have nothing new to report for yesterday or today,” wrote Phil Sheridan to General Grant. “There is as yet no indication of Early’s detaching.” Jubal Early’s Army of the Valley had been, in Sheridan’s mind, too strong to attack, but rumors held that an entire division would soon be leaving the Shenandoah Valley to return to General Lee’s main body in Petersburg. A Union soldier who had escaped capture in Winchester told of Confederate pontoon boats that had passed through the town, but Sheridan questioned his reliability. And yet, he tried to uncover Early’s movements. “Have you any information from your scouts from Culpeper or other points south?” he asked his cavalry commanders. “[General Richard] Anderson, who is temporarily in command of Longstreet’s corps, is still here. It seems strange that he should remain, with only one division of the corps here.” That was indeed strange. Anderson had left one division with Lee and another along the route to the Shenandoah Valley. With him was Kershaw’s Division, but neither he… Read More

‘We Will Fight You To the Death’ – Hood and Sherman Embarrass Themselves

Turns out I'm kind of a bastard!

September 14, 1864 (Wednesday) From all indications, the prisoner exchange would be small, but it was something – especially for the 4,000 soldiers who would be swapped. “I agre upon the terms of your letter of the 12th to the exchange of the 2,000 prisoners captured by both armies,” wrote Confederate General John Bell Hood to William Tecumseh Sherman. But he had a grievence. Sherman wished to give back “the men captured in Atlanta who are soldiers of the Confederate Army,” but were on some sort of labor duty within the city. “I can make no agreement to exchange, not knowing whether they are exempts, or what they are,” concluded Hood, “but for every many regularly in the C.S. service, whether detailed or not, I will exchange man for man.” The place was set – Rough and Ready, outside of Atlanta, and Hood sent word to Andersonville prison to prepare to release the last 2,000 Union soldiers there received. Sherman did the same, sending to Chattanooga word of the exchange. The staff officers of the… Read More

Yankee Cavalry Captures an Entire Rebel Regiment


September 13, 1864 (Tuesday) The day previous, William Averell’s cavalry scouts learned much of the enemy’s position near Bunker Hill, just north of Winchester, Virginia. In writing to Philip Sheridan, Averell described the findings: A negro woman came in on the direct road from Winchester, who lives near the Gerrardstown road, last evening with a pass signed by command of Major-General Lomax, dated yesterday. She had been arrested on Saturday, charged with giving information to us. She says she left General Lomax’s headquarters yesterday; he was one mile and a half north of Winchester on this pike. Early’s headquarters were at Stephenson’s Depot; Breckinridge’s, six miles this side of Winchester, division encamped on both sides of the road in line, but with no breast-works; Wharton, half a mile north of Breckinridge, at Reeder’s, encamped on both sides road; Rodes’ division three miles south of Bunker Hill, t. e., nine miles from Winchester. If true, and there was really no reason to doubt this woman, Jubal Early had arrayed his army along the Valley Pike, mostly… Read More

Sherman and Grant Plan their Next Moves

Have a seat, Cump.

September 12, 1864 (Monday) “The exodus of people is progressing and matters coming into shape,” wrote William Tecumseh Sherman to General Grant. Sherman had ordered a week-long truce in order to empty the city of Atlanta of civilians. This not only saved a few lives (in the mind of Sherman, at any rate), but more importantly, it allowed the Federal army time to plan its next move without the probability of enemy involvement. Sherman’s ordered evacuation pertained to all civilians, no matter where their sympathies might lie. Those loyal to the North could go north, and those loyal to the South could go south – but mostly, they just had to leave. The efforts to exchange prisoners had made some headway, with Sherman suggesting that both sides simply exchange the last 2,000 prisoners taken. A neutral camp would soon be established at the town of Rough and Ready. But that wasn’t really such a big deal to Sherman. He was looking ahead and trying to figure out what Grant wanted him to do. On the… Read More

‘I Regret to Inform You, an Exchange of Prisoners Impossible’

Confederate prisoners from Atlanta at Chattanooga.

September 11, 1864 (Sunday) This was not going well at all for John Bell Hood. In the campaign leading up to and including the fall of Richmond, the Confederates had lost upwards of 13,000 missing or captured. Many of these men were now prisoners of war. Likewise, the Rebels had captured many Federals, and Hood was of the mind to propose an exchange. Hood’s proposal was simple, with “the exchange to be made man for man.” He suggested that both he and General Sherman send staff officers to work out the details. Initially, Sherman agreed, but feared “most have already gone North” to Union prisoner camps. Nevertheless, he promised to figure out how many were still around, and to send an officer to the town of Rough and Ready to talk thinks over with Hood’s. The next day, Sherman wrote Chief of Staff Henry Halleck in Washington, telling him about the exchange. “I have about 2,000 on hand, and will exchange if he will make a fair deal.” One of the stipulations was that Hood… Read More

Sheridan Still Waiting for Early

Just keep on trying, Lunsford Lomax!

September 10, 1864 (Saturday) Philip Sheridan had been on the defensive for some time now, believing the Confederates before him near Winchester too strong to attack. This he did with the sanction of General Grant, who had believed that perhaps the Confederates were leaching troops away from the Shenandoah Valley to bolter their lines near Petersburg. But now he could see this was not so. “I would not have you make an attack with the advantage against you,” he wrote the day previous, “but would prefer just the course you seem to be pursuing – that is, pressing closely upon the enemy, and when he moves, follow him up, being ready at all time to pounce upon him if he detaches any considerable force.” This strategy could effectively hold Jubal Early’s entire Army of the Valley in place, barring it from being any use at all to General Lee. Conversely, however, it also meant that most of the Shenandoah Valley still remained in Southern hands. This was not ideal, but Grant had larger plans. “We… Read More

“Blue Pill is a Good Man” – Lt. Col. Lyman’s Short Fight with Malaria

Theodore Lyman

September 9, 1864 (Friday) As most who study the Civil War for even the shortest lengths of time eventually learn, there was more to it than bullets and politics. There was also illness. Two-thirds of the men who died in the war died from disease. That means that roughly 450,000 soldiers died not from battle, but from sickness. Contaminated water was the largest culprit, but other diseases, such as typhoid, pneumonia, measles, tuberculosis, malaria, and various venereal diseases were in abundance. None of these were curable, save one – measles. And still, thousands died. One such poor fellow to fall victim to disease was General George Meade’s aide-de-camp, Theodore Lyman, who has left us two wonderful accounts of his time in the army. The first is a diary that was written each day, while the other is a series of letters compiled from the diaries. While living in the fetid waters around Petersburg, Lyman contracted malaria, though at the time nobody understood how. What precisely caused malaria was then anybody’s guess. Some did argue that… Read More

McClellan Accepts his Presidential Nomination


September 8, 1864 (Thursday) While Grant stewed outside Petersburg, and Sherman squeezed out Atlanta, there was another General about to make his mark. George McClellan had more or less disappeared from public life after being dismissed from the Army in the autumn of 1862. But he was not wholly absent. It might have taken some time, but in July of 1864, McClellan made clear his intention to run against Abraham Lincoln in the coming election. With every Union setback, calls sprang anew for the reinstatement of General McClellan, yet Lincoln would never entertain such a thing. For his part, McClellan made himself available for not only military duty, but to the Democratic Party, should they need him. For a time, there was even an effort to place him in command of something if only he would give up his political aspirations. This he refused to entertain and by early September, when the Democratic National Convention was held in Chicago, he was nominated to run for President. While the Democratic Party’s platform did not specifically mention… Read More

Sherman Orders Atlanta to be Emptied

Sherman's troops destroying the railroad.

September 7, 1864 (Wednesday) “If the people raise a howl against my barbarity and cruelty, I will answer that war is war, and not popularity-seeking. If they want peace, they and their relatives must stop the war.” – William Tecumseh Sherman. General Sherman had seen to the occupation of several major Southern cities thus far in the war. Memphis, Vicksburg, Natchez and New Orleans had all fallen, and he had learned from these prior exercises. The object was never to simply occupy a location, but to defeat the Confederate army. Yet, when the bulk of his own forces had to move forward, he was compelled to leave behind at least a fully division to garrison the town. Anything less might be overrun by the populace. But with Atlanta, Sherman decided to try something new. “I peremptorily required that all the citizens and families resident in Atlanta should go away, giving to each the option to go south or north, as their interests or feelings dictated,” he wrote in his memoirs. “I was resolved to make… Read More