Civil War Daily Gazette

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

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Such is the Fate of All of Mosby’s Men

John Singleton Mosby

September 23, 1864 (Friday) Though Philip Sheridan’s Army of the Valley was undeniably the victor of the previous day’s battle at Fisher’s Hill, the dawn of this morning found him in an undeniably foul mood. While his infantry had been battling the Rebels for the hill, his cavalry was backing away from a fight in the parallel Luray Valley. Sheridan had planned for his cavalry to race down the Luray and circle round to cut off the Confederate retreat. At the close of the previous day, he wired General Grant that “if they push on vigorously to the main valley, the result of this day’s engagement will be more signal.” Alfred Torbert, commanding the Federal Cavalry, brought with him the divisions of Wesley Merritt and James Wilson, and found the Rebels in their front fading toward the south. With some pursuit, they found them digging in near Milford. The Confederate cavalry’s position was a fine one, anchored on one flank by a mountain and on the other, a creek. There was at first an attempt… Read More

The Dismantling of Jubal Early at the Battle of Fisher’s Hill

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September 22, 1864 (Thursday) Jubal Early’s Confederates now clung to Fisher’s Hill, all hoping that they might hold longer still. They numbered less than 10,000, while before them formed an army nearly four times that reckoning. But to their relief, the enemy seemed only to be in their front and if they could attack at all must do so across an open valley and up a steep incline, all while under what would be the merciless fire of Southern muskets. Along the length of the hill itself, Early had arrayed his four infantry divisions. The right was held by Gabriel Wharton’s Division, while the center was made up of the divisions of John Gordon and John Pegram. The left was Stephen Ramseur’s, though it was not the extreme left. That was held by a small division of cavalry helmed by Lunford Lomax. Their number stretched across Back Road and to the first hillocks of Little North Mountain. Beyond was open and empty territory mostly hidden by a series of small valleys and rises. Lomax’s troopers… Read More

Early Prepares to Defend Fisher’s Hill

Fisher's Hill looking north.

September 21, 1864 (Wednesday) Jubal Early had decided upon Fisher’s Hill, and who might blame him? It was ground with which they were familiar, and he was confident he could hold. However, there were many fewer now than there had been before. “My infantry was not able to occupy the whole line at Fisher’s Hill,” wrote Early in his memoirs, “notwithstanding it was extended out in an attenuated line, with considerable intervals.” So over-extended were they, that much of his cavalry had to be dismounted and formed along side the infantry. But even so, “the line could not then be fully occupied.” Jubal Early’s position was a fine one, but with one flaw. While the Confederate left was as secure as it could be, the hill itself flowed into a series of valleys running perpendicular to their position. Had Early more troops, he certainly would have covered it, blocking those passage ways around his left. Instead, it was there where he placed his cavalry. The troopers under Lunsford Lomax had been blamed for the late… Read More

Sherman Reveals His Plans to March to the Sea

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September 20, 1864 (Tuesday) Since occupying Atlanta, General William Tecumseh Sherman had been busy with everything from prisoner exchanges to dealing with the Rebel cavalry playing upon his lines of supply. But on this date, he was able to write a lengthy letter to General Grant, summing up his feelings and thoughts of the late campaign, as well as the one to come. Sherman did not write concerning just his own army, but of the entire war in general. In an earlier letter, Grant had told Sherman of his own plans for the Army of the Potomac around Petersburg. The army was, as Sherman put it, “steadily being reenforced by a good class of men.” He hoped soon to see Grant’s army grown to “a force that is numerically double that of your antagonist, so that with one part you can watch him [the enemy] and with the other you can push out boldly from your left flank, occupy the South Shore [Side] Railroad, compel him to attack you in position, or accept battle on… Read More

In a Charge So Vigorous – The Battle of the Opequon

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“At light on the morning of the 19th; our cavalry pickets at the crossing of the Opequon on the Berryville road were driven in, and information having been sent me of the fact, I immediately ordered all the troops at Stephenson’s depot to be in readiness to move….” – Jubal Early. Two days previous, General Early had divided his much smaller army in the face of that under Philip Sheridan. Half remained near Winchester, while the other half marched north to Martinsburg. Upon reaching this important railroad town, the Rebels fell upon the line. Early, however, was forced to return to Winchester when he heard that General Grant had parlayed with Sheridan. And an attack was coming, he knew. And on the morning of this date, before his army was fully concentrated, it came. What he heard along the Berryville Road crossing of the Opequon was a division of Federal cavalry under James Wilson throwing themselves against Stephen Ramseur’s Confederate division – about one-fourth of his entire army – and driving them back. Early sent… Read More

Jubal Early Learns of His Blunder

Jubal Early wasn't.

September 18, 1864 (Sunday) Philip Sheridan was now ready to make his move. He knew that Jubal Early’s force was diminished, and believed them to be concentrated just north of Winchester. His plan was to cut off the lines of supply and communication by occupying the Valley Pike running south from the town and force the Rebels to attack him on ground of his own choosing. So certain was he that he gave the order to march and the entire Federal camp began the process of tearing down tents and loading wagons. A supply train from Harpers Ferry had arrived and the men were packing round after round into their cartridge boxes. It was clear to all that there would be battle, but just where and just when was an endless mystery. The orders had the army leaving its encampments after dark at 9pm. This went on through the noon hour, but it was then that Sheridan’s mind was changed. The Confederates had been formed between Winchester and Bunker Hill to the north. But William… Read More

Grant Visits Sheridan While Early Divides His Forces

Grant had his own plans, probably tucked away in his pocket.

September 17, 1864 (Saturday) General Grant had left his headquarters at City Point on the 15th, bound for Philip Sheridan’s army east of Winchester. “My purpose was to have him attack [Jubal] Early, or drive him out of the valley and destroy that source of supplies for Lee’s army,” wrote Grant in his memoirs. He decided not to stop in Washington, preferring to deliver his orders by hand directly to Sheridan. Otherwise, he feared that his orders “would be stopped there and such orders as Halleck’s caution (and that of the Secretary of War) would suggest would be given instead, and would, no doubt, be contradictory to mine.” Grant arrived in Charlestown on the 16th and on this date called Sheridan to his side. They met in the Rutherford House and constructed the next move to be made. “When Sheridan arrived I asked him if he had a map showing the positions of his army and that of the enemy,” recalled Grant after the war. “He at once drew one out of his side pocket,… Read More

‘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 Wright, a Quaker school teacher in Winchester. “I was greatly excited and trouble by this,” continued Wright, “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

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