Civil War Daily Gazette

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

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General Lee Begs for More Table Scraps from Richmond

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January 27, 1865 (Friday) “I have the honor,” began Lee to the Confederate Secretary of War, “to call your attention to the alarming frequency of desertions from this army.” It had become an epidemic. Over the course of three days, fifty-six men had deserted A.P. Hill’s Corps alone. Lee had called together his generals and together they tried to figure out why their army was hemorrhaging soldiers. Lee came to the conclusion that “the insufficiency of food and non-payment of the troops have more to do with the dissatisfaction among the troops more than anything else.” Lack of food most certainly played the biggest role, and other officers agreed. “These desertions are becoming amazingly numerous,” reported Lt. Col. J.H. Duncan of the 16th Mississippi. He submitted that it was “the insufficiency of rations” that caused the men to leave. “Our men do not get enough to eat.” He was certain that “unless something is done soon to remove this evil… the number of desertions will be greatly increased during the winter.” This was hardly the… Read More

Confederates in Georgia Being Starved from Within

January 26, 1865 (Thursday) With William Tecumseh Sherman’s massive army still lumbering north from Savannah, the Confederates were trying to pull troops from anywhere they could. Local militias had been consolidated in Charleston and Augusta, and reserves from other states had been fed into the lines. The regular troops, however, were few and far between. Though there certainly weren’t men enough to go around, many who were in Sherman’s path were unwilling to join with the main army. D.H. Hill, commanding at Augusta, complained to Hardee about a curious problem now developing. “Major Macon, of the tithe department, reports that stragglers from the cavalry, local cavalry companies, and recruiting came for broken-down horses are absorbing very largely the tithes of the State,” Hill began. This tithing was actually a tax which had previously yielded the Confederates much in food and supplies. Major Macon was basically a tax collector for the Quartermaster of the Confederate army. Hill knew that he could not fight Sherman, but entrusted his cavalry to play upon lines of supply and generally… Read More

Lee Orders the Confiscation of Citizen’s Arms

Take your pick!

January 25, 1865 (Wednesday) General Robert E. Lee would have done almost anything to aid his army, and he expected the public to do just the same. He wished to field more cavalry, and while horses seemed to be in supply enough, arms and tack were not. He knew that the people of Virginia had them, and Lee expected them to be given over willingly or simply taken. To arm and equip an additional force of cavalry there is need of carbines, revolvers, pistols, saddles, and other accouterments of mounted men. Arms and equipments of the kind desired are believed to be held by citizens in sufficient numbers to supply our wants. Many keep them as trophies, and some with the expectation of using them in their own defense. But it should be remembered that arms are now required for use, and that they cannot be made so effectual for the defense of the country in any way as in the hands of organized troops. They are needed to enable our cavalry to cope with… Read More

The Prisoner Exchange Restarted – Black Prisoners Now Included

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January 24, 1865 (Tuesday) The exchange of prisoners had broken down in late 1863 for several reasons. First, it more greatly aided the South than the North, as far as percentages were concerned. Second, the South refused to treat black prisoners as equal to white prisoners. Instead, they often sold them back into slavery or returned them to their owners. But now things were changing. The Confederacy was kicking around the idea of forcing their own slaves into the army, dangling the promise of emancipation over them should they win the war. While the details were still in the development stage, this very idea cast a new light on exchanges. Originally, the South refused to exchange captured black soldiers because they didn’t believe black people were in fact soldiers. But now that they were in the process of making them so, some saw this as an opportunity to restart the prisoner exchange. And so on this date, Robert Ould, the Confederacy’s exchange commissioner, proposed that “all of them [prisoners] be delivered to you in exchange,… Read More

‘On the Eve of an Internal Revolution’ – Davis to Send Peace Commissioners

Francis Preston Blair, Sr.

January 23, 1865 (Monday) Francis P. Blair, Sr. was back in Richmond, visiting again with old friends and personally delivering a message to Jefferson Davis, himself a comrade, from President Lincoln. Writing to Blair, but looking directly at Davis, Lincoln had scrawled on the back of a letter: “You having shown me Mr. Davis’s letter to you of the 12th instant, you may say to him that I have constantly been, am now, and shall continue, ready to receive any agent whom he, or any influential person now resisting the national authority, may informally send to me with a view of securing peace to the people of our one common country.” His return sparked interest and suspicion, especially from Confederate Vice-President Alexander Stephens. “Blair is back again,” he said to a friend. “What he is doing I do not know but presume the President is endeavoring to negotiate with him for negotiation – that same thing which on 17 Nov. seemed to him so absurd.” The 17th of November stuck in Stephens mind as it… Read More

‘We Have the Same Genius to Guide Us’ – Sherman’s Headquarters Leaves Savannah

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January 22, 1865 (Sunday) “But for bad weather we should have left Savannah at least two days ago, by land,” wrote General Sherman’s Judge Advocate, Henry Hitchcock, in a letter home. “As it is, a steady and heavy rain compelled delay, and today the General and his staff embarked on this steamer, en route for Beaufort, S.C., and thence – ?” Henry Hitchcock had been a lawyer before the war. Graduating from Yale in 1848, he soon settled in St. Louis, where he also was the editor of the St. Louis Intelligencer. By the mid 50s, Hitchcock had established himself firmly within the ranks of the city’s finest young lawyers. When the war came, he did not immediately join. Rather, he supported Lincoln through the 1860 election, and even joined the Missouri Secession Convention as a Unionist in the hopes of keeping his adopted state true. When he wound up on the losing end, he was appointed to the provisional state government, where he rallied against slavery. By September of 1864, however, he decided to… Read More

Confederates Try to Peg Sherman’s Next Move

D.H. Hill

January 21, 1865 (Saturday) The Confederates gathering to oppose General Sherman’s army had more questions than answers. Even with scouts sent by infantry and cavalry, their findings provided little in the way of intelligence, what to speak of comfort. The basic conception of Sherman’s plan, as the Rebels understood it, was that he would attack Augusta, Georgia or Charleston, South Carolina. Augusta, now commanded by D.H. Hill, had been untouched on Sherman’s trek to Savannah. Since it was a supply center, it was an obvious target. Confederate Secretary of War James Seddon understood this and instructed Hill in “the removal of cotton, whether of the Government or of private individuals, from Augusta.” He wished for him to take it as far north had he could. “To promote removal and to be prepared for contingencies,” he continued, “make preparations to burn whatever cotton may be in the city in event of its evacuation or capture. It must not fall into the hands of the enemy.” While Richmond was entertaining the probability that Sherman would strike for… Read More

‘They Have Not, it Would Seem, Been Humbled Enough’ – Gideon Welles on Southern Arrogance

Gideon Welles

January 20, 1865 (Friday) Secretary of War Edwin Stanton had just returned from a visit with William Tecumseh Sherman in Savannah. On this date, he dropped by the Cabinet meeting to let the others know what he saw. Naval Secretary Gideon Welles kept a record of the event, recalled in his typical sass and pomposity. Stanton gave an interesting detail of his trip to Savannah and the condition of things in that city. His statements were not so full and comprehensive as I wished, nor did I get at the real object of his going, except that it was for his health, which seems improved. There is, he says, little or no loyalty in Savannah and the women are frenzied, senseless partisans. He says much of the cotton was claimed as British property, they asserting it had the British mark upon it. Sherman told them in reply he had found the British mark on every battle-field. The muskets, cartridges, caps, projectiles were all British, and had the British mark upon them. I am glad he… Read More

Sherman Issues Orders to March into South Carolina

General Sherman

January 19, 1865 (Thursday) William Tecumseh Sherman had wished to begin his march north through the Carolinas in mid-January, but only if the weather cooperated. In preparation of such a tramp, he began soon after he arrived to disperse the four corps of his army. Through the early portions of the month, a division from the Twentieth Corps had moved itself across the Savannah River, entering into South Carolina. They eventually settled in Hardeeville, about ten miles northeast of the city. The entire Seventeenth Corps, helmed by Frances Blair, Jr., was loaded onto transport ships and ferried to Beaufort, forty miles north. After some time, they continued on to Pocotaligo, fifteen miles farther. John Logan’s Fifteenth Corps was following behind – some by water, others by land. These two corps made up the Right Wing, under Oliver Otis Howard. Sherman’s Left Wing, still commanded by Henry Slocum, was still mostly in Savannah, save for the division in Hardeeville. Both the 14th Corps, under Jefferson C. Davis, as well as Alpheus William’s Twentieth Corps, were ordered… Read More

‘One Common Country’ – Lincoln Reject’s Davis’ Proposal

That would be one, not two, Jeff.

January 18, 1865 (Wednesday) Francis P. Blair Sr. had just returned from Richmond. There, he had spoken with a few Confederate congressmen, as well as the Vice-President, Alexander Stephens. His main purpose for going, however, was to meet with Jefferson Davis, which he did twice. Blair and Davis had a long history together, which “began as far back as when I was a schoolboy at Lexington, Kentucky,” recalled Davis, “and he a resident at that place. In later years we had belonged to the same political party, and our views had generally coincided. There was much, therefore, to facilitate our conference.” Both held each other not only in high respect, but as close friends. For instance, Varina Davis had greeted Blair with: “Oh you Rascal, I am overjoyed to see you,” or so the story goes. The Davis’ even sent baby clothes for Blair’s grandson home with the patriarch. Blair arrived back in Washington on the 16th, reporting to Lincoln that night the results of the meeting with Davis. Lincoln made no comments, but wrote… Read More

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