Civil War Daily Gazette

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

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‘We Cannot Control the Elements’ – The Pursuit of Hood that Wasn’t

George Thomas!

December 21, 1864 (Wednesday) Though the victory of George Thomas’ Federals at Nashville was complete, the pursuit was not going nearly as well as hoped. Weather was much to blame, but was not wholly responsible. Though the rains poured and wagons churned the ice-crusted roads, the Rebels had been able to slip out of harm’s way, crossing the Duck River at Columbia. But they had bridges and the luxury of only slightly flooded streams. By the time the columns from the north descended upon the river, the bridges had been either dismantled or destroyed, and the flooding was much more intense. Even crossing Rutherford Creek, just north of Columbia and the Duck, was a near impossibility. The train of pontoons which would be strung together to form a bridge was lagging, so the cavalry under James Wilson did their best to fashion a footbridge of their own. This too was impossible until they found the abutments of railroad bridge, which they employed to their ends. Once complete, the Federals crossed only to realize that they… Read More

Savannah Evacuated by Rebels!

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December 20, 1864 (Tuesday), Several days ago, William Tecumseh Sherman had demanded the surrender of Savannah along with its garrison. There was no hope in fending off the Union host now nearly surrounding the city, but William Hardee, commanding the Rebel forces within, refused, hoping to buy himself a few days reprieve to come up with a plan of evacuation. This he did on the 19th, and on this date, it was enacted. Beginning with the dawn, a string of wagons crossed a floating bridge recently laid across the Savannah River, along the causeway north into South Carolina – their only route of escape. The garrison troops from all of the outlying forts had been brought into the city the night before, leaving behind skeleton crews to spike the heavy artillery and dump whatever ammunition could not be carried with them. Nothing was to be set on fire or detonated as that would tip their hand to the Federals. The last thing they wanted to deal with was an assault, which would certainly come if… Read More

‘Not Yet Passed Through All Their Sufferings’ – Hood’s Retreat to Columbia

Hood: A new state government? Seriously?

December 19, 1864 (Monday) They had escaped. It was the only word for it. The retreat wasn’t orderly. It wasn’t by file into line. It was every man for himself, running mad to the Franklin Pike before that too was severed and they were all killed or captured. Still, some units held together just enough to form a rear guard, barring the Federals from sweeping down from Nashville. Mostly, however, it was the dark which brought an end to the brawl. And it was the dark that gave General John Bell Hood time enough to staunch the bleeding. It was cavalry, for the most part, that handled the fighting for both armies. James Wilson’s Federals continued to hit the Rebels thrown together by James Chalmers and S.D. Lee, actually fielding some infantry. The bulk of the Confederate cavalry, however, remained near Murfreesboro, under Nathan Bedford Forrest. Soon they too would join the rout. Though the retreat had been chaos, through the night and to the morning and afternoon of the 17th, some semblance of order… Read More

Beauregard and Hardee Prepare to Leave Savannah; Lee Refuses to Help

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December 18, 1864 (Sunday) William Hardee, commanding the Confederate troops in Savannah, was buying time. Knowing he could not possibly withstand the onslaught of Sherman’s army, he had nevertheless refused to surrender the city. And still, while he remained in Savannah, there was still some small hope that she might be saved. But saving a city at all costs, regardless of the number of men lost, was no longer the Southern policy of war. “It is hoped Savannah may be successfully defended,” wrote Inspector-General Samuel Cooper from Richmond. “But the defense should not be too protracted, to the sacrifice of the garrison. The same remarks are applicable to Charleston.” Cooper was writing to General P.G.T. Beauregard, Hardee’s superior, who was now himself back in Savannah. Fearing that Richmond would continue with the absurd policy of holding ground rather than saving lives, he was relieved to see the change of heart. And so rather than pretending they could do more with less, he began to oversee the plan for evacuating Savannah. Like pieces on a quickly… Read More

Sherman Demands the Surrender of Savannah – But there’s a Grant-sized Problem

Dear Grant, Yeah, I'll be right there... sure... no problem at all.  (Hey Bill, little help here?)

December 17, 1864 (Saturday) William Tecumseh Sherman was in a quandary. His army had burned its way across Georgia and planted itself four miles outside of Savannah, which it now besieged. With the taking of Fort McAllister, Sherman opened up a direct line of supply with the naval vessels in the Atlantic. This also gave him a chance to get caught up on mail, which had been shipped from Washington via the Navy suspecting that Sherman would appear before Savannah. While the soldiers of Sherman’s army received letters and packages from home, also in these bags was something incredibly disappointing from General Grant. “I have concluded that the most important operation toward closing out the rebellion will be to close out Lee and his army,” wrote Grant in a letter to Sherman dated December 6th. Sherman had laid waste to the railroads of the south, and Grant figured that it would take at least three months for the Confederates to get them once more in working order. “In that time,” Grant continued, “I think the… Read More

‘Although Exposed to a Murderous Fire’ – The Battle of Nashville Concludes

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December 16, 1864 (Friday) “I shall attack the enemy again tomorrow, if he stands to fight,” wrote General George Thomas in Washington after the previous day’s battle, “and, if he retreats during the night, will pursue him, throwing a heavy cavalry force in his rear, to destroy his trains, if possible.” In response, General Grant replied that he had been on his way to Nashville, apparently to personally oversee the attack the he believed Thomas would not make, but “detailing your splendid success of today, I shall go no farther.” His advice was stern: “Push the enemy now, and give him no rest until he is entirely destroyed.” But the Confederates under John Bell Hood were not yet defeated. Though Thomas wrote home telling that he “whipped” the Rebels, they were not at all whipped. In a line stretching between two high hills, Peach Orchard Hill (also called Overton’s) and Compton’s Hill (later called Shy’s Hill), Hood’s command again entrenched. His embattlements around Peach Orchard Hill, on the Rebel right, curved about its summit, presenting… Read More

‘But the Enemy Were Not Checked’ – The Battle of Nashville

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December 15, 1864 (Thursday) John Bell Hood’s Army of Tennessee was stretched into somewhat of a half-circle, trying as it might to curl around the Federal-held city of Nashville. His men had dug in, and were in the process of improving the embattlements and redoubts when the morning of this day broke. Hood’s right was held by Benjamin Cheatham’s Corps, and the center by Stephen Lee’s. It was Alexander Stewart’s Corps that made up the left, refusing its line away from the city and the Federals with a series of several redoubts, still under construction. It was an army numbering no more than 30,000 men, most of whom were suffering the ill effects of the recent cold. The Confederate defenses were faulty at best. Hood, as was often the Confederate strategy throughout the war, attempted to cover as much ground as he possibly could. Specifically, the trenches covered seven roads and railroads leaving Nashville to the south. With some cavalry and skirmishers extended on the left, four others were within his lines. Late the night… Read More

‘The Enemy Will Be Attacked’ – Thomas Finally Ready to Assault Hood

Federal outer line, Nashville, 1864

December 14, 1864 (Wednesday) Since the first week of December, General George Thomas’ forces inside the defenses of Nashville had been ready to advance upon those of John Bell Hood’s doing their best to beseige the city. Washington and General Grant had both been on his back, urging him to attack. Grant even went as far as to releive him from command, until he learned that Nashville had been set upon by an ice storm, and he gave Thomas another chance. “During the time of the ice blockade,” wrote Jacob Cox, commanding a division of the Twenty-third Corps, “the slopes in front of the lines were a continuous glare of ice, so that movements away form the roads and broken paths could be made only with the greatest difficult and at a snail’s pace. Men and horses were seen falling whenever they attempted to move across country. A man slipping on the hillside had no choice but to sit down and slide to the bottom, and groups of men in the forts and lines found… Read More

‘Fighting Gallantly to the Last’ – Fort McAllister Falls

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December 13, 1864 (Tuesday) Through design or chance, it was General Sherman’s old division, the Second from the Fifteenth Corps, which was to assault Fort McAllister, south of Savannah, Georgia. It was this fort that stood between the Federal right and the naval fleet off of the city. Once this fell, the lines would be open and the late march would truly and finally be to the Sea. Commanding this division was General William Hazen, a lifelong military man, West Point class of ’55. But he was new to commanding a division, and apart from the march itself, this would be his first battle at their helm. Sherman, however, trusted him. More importantly, he trusted his old veterans who had marched with him through Shiloh and Vicksburg. The night previous, Sherman personally gave orders to Hazen to assault Fort McAllister. He knew it to be a formidable post if approached from the sea, but it was hardly built to withstand an assault from the land. After seeing Hazen off, Sherman rode ten miles to an… Read More

Sherman Sets His Mind on Fort McAllister

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December 12, 1864 (Monday) Major George W. Anderson had found himself upon an island quickly and obviously flooding. Commanding Fort McAllister, just south of Savannah, with but 200 men, he fully understood that his hour was soon up. Nearby support, though small, had been withdrawn by General William Hardee, commanding the city’s defenses. “I was thus thrown upon my own resources for all information relating to the strength and designs of the enemy,” wrote Anderson after the war. His own resources amounted to a few artillerymen acting as scouts, whom he sent out to discover the Federal position. This had been going on a few days, but on this date in particular, Anderson joined them. It was not long before they were confronted by a column of Union troops moving on the fort. “We were hotly pursued by their cavalry,” he continued, “and had barely time to burn the barns of Messrs. Thomas C. Arnold and William Patterson, which were filled with rice. The steamtug Columbus — lying about three miles above the fort —… Read More

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