Drama, Gossip, and Petty Politics Still Alive in Washington

May 19, 1865 (Friday) Of late, Naval Secretary Gideon Welles’ diary entries had been short, a few sentences at best. But on this date, he returned to his windy and meandering ways, writing gossip, complaining, and recording the general drama of the time. Preston King tells me he has a letter from Senator Dixon, speakingRead More

So Remorselessly Kindled – Charleston Burns and Falls

February 18, 1865 (Saturday) From the official report of Lt. Col. Augustus G. Bennett, Twenty-First U. S. Colored Troops: On the morning of February 18 I received information that led me to believe the defenses and lines guarding the city of Charleston had been deserted by the enemy. I immediately proceeded to Cumming’s Point, fromRead More

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

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.Read More

The Aftermath at Fort Fisher

January 16, 1865 (Monday) “I am mortified at having to report the unexpected capture of Fort Fisher,” wrote Braxton Bragg to General Lee, “with most of its garrison, at about 10 o’clock to-night. Particulars not known.” Bragg was writing at 1am, shortly after learning that Fisher had fallen. Copies of the message went not justRead More

A Stupendous Disaster – The Fall of Fort Fisher

January 15, 1865 (Sunday) On Sunday the fire of the fleet reached a pitch of fury to which no language can do justice,” wrote Confederate General William Whiting, commanding at Fort Fisher. “It was concentrated on the land front and fort. In a short time nearly every gun was dismounted or disabled, and the garrisonRead More

‘But a Question of Time’ – Fort Fisher’s Fate is Sealed

January 14, 1865 (Saturday) Following the utterly botched attempt to take Fort Fisher and Wilmington, North Carolina by Benjamin Butler, the Union was not ready to abandon the idea. Grant had replaced Butler with General Alfred Terry, sending him with the same troops who had tried before, along with an additional brigade. This brought theRead More

Grant Requests the Removal of Butler – Just to be Safe

January 4, 1864 (Wednesday) The troops of General Alfred Terry stood by the docks at Bermuda Hundred for nearly a day before the first transports finally arrived. They had no real idea to where they were headed, but the general suspicion was to reinforce General Sherman in Savannah. This was, however, not the case. MostRead More

‘I Cannot Go Myself…’ – Grant to Try Fort Fisher Once Again

January 2, 1865 (Monday) Grant had taken control of the new Wilmington/Fort Fisher expedition, narrowing down the reasons for its failure to Benjamin Butler. For a short time, he even considered accompanying the troops down the coast, but quickly canned the idea for the same reason. Butler had been bypassed in this new assault, butRead More

Stanton’s ‘Very Pleasant’ Mood – Also, Something to Sneeze About

December 31, 1864 (Saturday) The day previous, General Grant informed Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles that Secretary of War Edwin Stanton had a message for him (Welles) from him (Grant). Grant had something big in the works for Fort Fisher, but didn’t really want to deal with Welles in its planning. Instead, Grant wroteRead More

‘By Secrecy the Enemy May Be Lulled’ – Grant Plans Once More

December 30, 1864 (Friday) Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy, found himself in a quandary. Though the army wasn’t his branch, his navy had been drawn into the drama surrounding the debacle that was the almost-battle of Fort Fisher. General Benjamin Butler had landed a few thousand troops and then decided to call off theRead More