Civil War Daily Gazette

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

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‘Until Every Drop of Blood’ – Lincoln Delivers His Greatest Speech

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March 4, 1865 (Saturday) At this second appearing to take the oath of the presidential office, there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement, somewhat in detail, of a course to be pursued, seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention, and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself; and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured. On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil-war. All dreaded it—all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving… Read More

Grant Cannot Talk Peace with Lee

James Longstreet

March 3, 1865 (Friday) In the last week of February, a strange meeting took place between Union General Edward Ord and Confederate General James Longstreet. Along the lines between Longstreet’s men and the Army of the James, between Petersburg and Richmond, the pickets of both sides had more or less given up on the war and engaged in open trade with each other. Rather than simply order it to be ceased, Ord wrote to Longstreet and asked if the two of them might not get together to talk about this. They had been friends before the war, and at the very least, it would be an amicable aside. It was decided that they would meet at noon on the New Market Road. When they met, the talk about the soldiers’ behavior was quickly had, and soon after Ord moved onto his true purpose: peace. He had been thinking much about the failed Hampton Roads peace conference, and came to the conclusion that such matters couldn’t be left up to politicians. They should be held, thought… Read More

Custer Captures Jubal Early’s Entire Command

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March 2, 1865 (Thursday) Through the long night, Confederates under Jubal Early made their retirement to Waynesboro, leaving Staunton behind them. There, they established a thin line of defenses on either side of the road, just west of the town. “My object, in taking this position,” wrote Early after the war, “was to secure the removal of five pieces of artillery for which there were no horses, and some stores still in Waynesboro, as well as to present a bold front to the enemy, and ascertain the object of his movement, which I could not do very well if I took refuge at once in the mountain.” All told, he had in his band little more than 1,500. Whatever bold front he hoped to present would have to be very bold indeed. “I did not intend making my final stand on this ground,” he continued, ” yet I was satisfied that if my men would fight, which I had no reason to doubt, I could hold the enemy in check until night, and then cross… Read More

Philip Sheridan About to Fall Upon Early Once More

Henry Capehart

March 1, 1865 (Wednesday) It was on the day previous when solid word reached Jubal Early that the Yankees north of him in the Shenandoah Valley were on the move. “Said to be [Winfield Scott] Hancock, with 20,000 men,” wrote Jedediah Hotchkiss in his diary. Through the day, Early and his Confederates moved supplies and sustanence from Staunton, where he had been headquartered, and scouts reported the enemy at Harrisonburg, twenty-five miles north. Early ordered the men to rise early the next day and to be ready to move at dawn. “My own headquarters were at Staunton,” wrote Early after the war, “but there were no troops at that place except a local provost guard, and a company of reserves, composed of boys under 18 years of age, which was acting under the orders of the Conscript Bureau.” Though the Confederate reports of Hancock leading 20,000 infantrymen were incorrect in almost every way, Early had no means with which to defend himself against even 10,000 cavalry under Philip Sheridan, trotting now toward Staunton. When confirmation… Read More

The Unchangeable Determination to Conquer or Die

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February 28, 1865 (Tuesday) Through the harsh winter, General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia had experienced a hemorrhage of desertions. At its peak, scores, even hundreds of men were putting the war behind them. While Lee prescribed more executions for those caught in the act, he also hoped to stem the tide. Following the failure of the Hampton Roads peace conference, it became clear to many Southerners that the Federals were more than willing to see this to the bitterest of ends; that only full and unconditional surrender would be accepted. As far as their new country was concerned, there was nothing left to lose. There came then a new movement of reaffirmation, with entire regiments pledging themselves once more to the cause. The tide of deserters was never stopped, but perhaps these pledges, these resolutions and oaths resworn, were enough to keep those who remained fast in the trenches. Often the thought handed down to the men was that the differences between North and South were irreconcilable. There could never be hope of peace… Read More

‘My Orders Were to Destroy…’ – Dispatches from Sheridan’s March

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February 27, 1865 (Monday) From General Philip Sheridan’s Report: On the morning of February 27, 1865, we marched from Winchester up the Valley pike, with live days’ rations in haversacks, and fifteen days’ rations of coffee, sugar, and salt in wagons, thirty pounds of forage on each horse, one wagon for division headquarters, eight ambulances, and our ammunition train; no other wagons, except a pontoon train of eight boats, were permitted to accompany the command. My orders were to destroy the Virginia Central Railroad, the James River Canal, capture Lynchburg if practicable, and then join Major-General Sherman wherever he might be found in North Carolina, or return to Winchester; but in joining General Sherman I must be governed by the position of affairs after the capture of Lynchburg. The command was in fine condition, but the weather was very bad, as the spring thaw, with heavy rains, bad already come on. The valley and surrounding mountains were covered with snow which was fast disappearing, putting all the streams nearly past fording. On our first day’s… Read More

The Ill-Prepared Jubal Early Prepares for Battle

Jubal Early

February 26, 1865 (Sunday) The Shenandoah Valley was a desolate place through this long, harsh winter. Jubal Early remained in command, but his command, like the supplies, forage and hope, was dwindled to a shadow of its former self. General Lee had stationed Early in the Valley with a small command trusting that the Federals would believe it to be much larger than in truth. Some of his troops had been sent back to Lee, while others were shuffled off into West Virginia and southwest Virginia. Other companies were dispersed for the season. This left Early with two small brigades, a smaller battalion, and a dozen or so pieces of artillery – about 1,600 men. They encamped themselves near Fisherville, a small railroad town between Staunton and Waynesboro. The late February thaw had commenced, and with that came rumors that the enemy was preparing to move. Early had sent north pickets to New Market and even beyond the Federal lines. Crossing swollen streams and fords, they gleaned these rumors to be true. Philip Sheridan was… Read More

Johnston Back in Command – Feeling Hopeless

Joe Johnston!

February 25, 1865 (Saturday) Joe Johnston was not meant to be a savior. He had served better than most through the war, but had lost command of both the Army of Northern Virginia in 1862 and the Army of Tennessee in 1864. Now, with P.G.T. Beauregard about to collapse from exhaustion, he was placed in command of the troops scattered throughout the Carolinas. On the 22nd, Johnston was ordered south, and told by General Lee to “concentrate all available forces and drive back Sherman.” Replying from North Carolina on the same day, Johnston plainly stated: “It is too late to expect me to concentrate troops capable of drivign back Sherman.” Still, he followed ordered and found himself in Charlotte, North Carolina on this date. When he arrived, he took a tally of his forces available for this potential concentration. Under General William Hardee was 8,000 at Cheraw, South Carolina, seventy-five miles southeast of Charlotte. Braxton Bragg had, perhaps, 5,000 which had been holding Fort Anderson and Wilmington. Once those fell, they retreated 100 miles north… Read More

Lee Complains of Desertions and Prepares to Evacuate Richmond

Confederate deserters crossing Union lines.

February 24, 1865 (Friday) Corrispondance, as was so often the case between two parties, cross in the sending. Such was the case with Confederate Secretary of War John Breckinridge and General Robert E. Lee. Breckinridge started by asking Lee plainly if preparations should be made to evacuate Richmond. Lee had spoken openly about the possible necessity for weeks now. With the spring campaign season stirring, it couldn’t hurt to ask. Before Lee received Breckinridge’s question, he wrote to the Secretary with an equally pressing issue: desertion. “I regret to be obliged to call your attention to the alarming number of desertions that are now occuring in the army. Since the 12th instant they amount in two divisions of Hill’s corps, those of Wilcox and Heth, to about 400. There are a good many from otehr commands. The desertions are chiefly from the North Carolina regiments, and especially those from the western part of that State. “It seems that the men are influenced very much by the representations of their friends at home, who appear to… Read More

Of Realism and Optimism in Confederate Richmond

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February 23, 1865 (Thursday) For the Southern command, this was not a day for optimism. Sherman’s army was steamrolling through South Carolina, slashing and consuming a swath before them. Wilmington, North Carolina had fallen, and there seemed to be nothing at all that could stop Sherman from uniting with Grant. But still, through this, General Lee was practical, if not somewhat optimistic. Writing to Jefferson Davis, Lee informed the president that he had “directed all the available troops in the Southern Dept to be concentrated, with a view to embarrass, if they can not arrest Shermans progress.” At the very least, Lee wanted the forces in the Carolinas to unite and stop Sherman from joining with General Schofield, who had just taken Wilmington. Lee believed that Sherman could be heading to the coast, where he would be supplied and even reinforced. If they could only keep him from receiving more sustenance, they might be able to get out of this alive. The Confederates in those reaches seemed to Lee to be “much scattered,” but he… Read More

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