Civil War Daily Gazette

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

‘Battles, Campaigns & Raids’

‘A Sum of Destruction that Baffles the Pen’ – Sheridan Unleashes Custer

John Meigs, taken in 1863.

October 3, 1864 (Monday) Toward dusk, Lt. John R. Meigs, son of the Quartermaster-General Montgomery Meigs, was riding with two fellow topographers to plot out of the land near the Federal position in the Shenandoah Valley. They rode near the village of Dayton, a few miles southwest of Harrisonburg, and were still very much within Federal lines, the Rebels having been backed up to Brown’s Gap, ten or so miles southeast. While riding and making notes for a geographical survey, they came upon three Confederate scouts. By some accounts, Meigs and his fellows supposed them to be comrades since they were so far behind the lines. By others, it was clear from the start that the men were Rebels. Some tell that the Confederates demanded of the three Federals to surrender, while others say the turn was without warning. In some tellings, Meigs drew his pistol, but in others, he never had the chance. However it happened, how it ended was with the death of Meigs and one other topographer. The third managed to escape,… Read More

‘Carry Out What You Propose’ – Federals Halted South of Petersburg

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October 2, 1864 (Sunday) “Mott is now moving to take position on my left,” wrote General John Parke, commanding the Union Ninth Corps south of Petersburg. “As soon as he is in position I will advance the whole line.” The “whole line” was both the Ninth and Fifth Corps, with the addition of Gershom Mott’s Division from the Second. This was the fourth day of fighting near the Peebles Farm. Despite gaining the first line of Confederate works, the Federals had been unable to punch through to reach the Boydton Plank Road, cutting off one of General Lee’s major supply lines. The day previous, the Rebels had attacked, but it was brushed aside with hardly a mention. And with General Grant wishing for George Meade to make a thrust toward Petersburg, on this morning, it would be the Federals stabbing forward. Through the morning fog, the Fifth Corps’ signal station could see the ground before them was mostly vacant of enemy troops. “They have removed all the guns and most of the force from about… Read More

The Rebels Attack at Dawn!

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October 1, 1864 (Sunday) There had been gains the previous day. The Confederates under Henry Heth had thrown back the attacking Federals, and though works were lost, their progress was cut and on the morning of this date, Heth only wished to do more. Through the gray and muddy predawn hours, Heth formed his men into two columns. By the orders of corps commander A.P. Hill, Cadmus Wilox’s Division would form on the right to attack the Union Ninth Corps, while two brigades from Heth’s own division attacked the Fifth Corps. By 7am, they were in position, facing south and away from Petersburg. The artillery spoke first, and when Heth believed it had done all it could do, he ordered his division forward. The line of blue skirmishers, two regiments strong, melted away before them, but when Heth’s men tried to take the works themselves, they were met with a bloody defeat, and turned back. On the Confederate right, Wilcox advanced close enough only to capture nearly the entire Union picket line in his front.… Read More

Grant Tries the Other Flank

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September 30, 1864 (Saturday) Following the previous day’s loss of Fort Harrison between Richmond and Petersburg, General Lee was quickly pulling entire brigades from the southerly Petersburg lines to retake the works. Their removal began the evening past, and with their egress came the discovery by Federal cavalry. General Meade correctly deduced that the troops that had been reportedly moving toward Richmond, and likely toward Fort Harrison, were from a reserve division under Robert Hoke. This meant that while the Rebels were down several brigades, they were still at full strength along the lines south of the city. These were the lines General Grant wanted Meade to attack. Come the dawn of this date, Grant was ready for Meade to make his move. “You may move out now and see if an advantage can be gained,” wrote Grant to Meade. “It seems to me the enemy must be weak enough at one or the other place to let us in.” And so Meade set out in two columns, marching west from near Fort Wadsworth. Leading… Read More

Grant Surprises Lee North of the James

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September 29, 1864 (Friday) “I hope it will lay no constraint on you,” wrote President Lincoln to General Grant on the morning of this date, “no do harm anyway, for me to say I am a little afraid lest Lee sends re-enforcements to Early, and thus enables him to turn upon Sheridan.” Philip Sheridan had scored a major victory in the Shenandoah Valley, and had backed Jubal Early’s Confederates nearly out of the Valley itself. Lincoln’s fears were justified. If Early were to be reinforced, and if history was any measure, Sheridan would be whipped back to Washington. But Grant was also aware of such late history and made his reply in the early afternoon: “I am taking steps to prevent Lee sending re-enforcements to Early by attacking him here.” This had been in the planning for days. On the 27th, Grant had informed General George Meade, commanding the Army of the Potomac, that on the morning of the 29th, “a movement will take place intended to surprise and capture the works of the enemy… Read More

Davis and Some Political Shuffling for the Battlefield

And John Bell Hood for the win!

September 28, 1864 (Thursday) For Jefferson Davis, this was an important decision. John Bell Hood had done little more than retreat into and then out of Atlanta. But, he followed Joe Johnston who retreated all the way from Tennessee. Many of the officers and troops who were along for both retreats wished for Hood to be replaced by Johnston. However, it had been Davis who had dismissed Johnston and to reinstate him would mean admitting he was to blame. And so, while the decision was important, it was also easy. Hood would remain and Davis would be blameless. This, of course, meant losing William Hardee, an incredibly able general who refused to work under Hood a moment longer. There were a few other changes to be made, as well, but while touring parts of Hood’s department in Alabama, Davis gave Hood the news. “Relieve Lieutenant-General Hardee from duty with the Army of Tennessee,” read Davis’ short message, “and direct him to proceed at once to Charleston, S.C., and assume command of the Department of South… Read More

‘He Contested Every Inch of Ground ‘ – Forrest Returns to Tennessee

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September 27, 1864 (Tuesday) Following his raid into Memphis, Tennessee, Nathan Bedford Forrest did not simply fade into the grays of Tennessee. For a time in late August, he was ushered to Mobile when it was feared that the city might fall, but when the crisis drew to a timely close, he returned to northern Alabama, where he met General Richard Taylor, no longer serving under Kirby Smith in Louisiana. Taylor had become the new department commander of the increasingly unimportant Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana. With literally nothing for the cavalier to do within said department, Taylor proposed sending Forrest back into Tennessee. At first, Forrest seemed to balk, expressing doubts and shying away from any commitment. But before long, he had worked out the details and the fire returned to his eyes. By September 19th, Forrest was with his command at Cherokee Station, from which they crossed the Tennessee River at Florence, Alabama. His first target was the Federal fort in Athens, garrisoned mostly by black infantry soldiers. It was on… Read More

Davis Arrives to Set Hood Straight

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September 26, 1864 (Monday) Things were not going well for John Bell Hood. After taking the reigns of the Confederate Army of Tennessee from Joe Johnston after being sacked by Jefferson Davis, he continually dropped back, retreating through northern Georgia to Atlanta. Not too long after, Hood abandoned Atlanta and retired even farther south. This relative lull following the retreat gave Hood time to reflect upon just which of his generals he wished to be removed. The choice was simple – since he had never liked William Hardee, it was William Hardee who must be relocated. While Hardee was grumpy that Hood had been promoted over his head, Hood blamed not only the loss of Atlanta on Hardee, but also the defeats at Peachtree Creek and Jonesboro. Into this quagmire rode Jefferson Davis, called from Richmond by a few of Hood’s officers who were greatly worried about the army’s morale. Davis understood that he might, yet again, have to decide upon a replacement general to helm the western army. Since Johnston had been the last… Read More

Lee Has High Hopes for Early’s Campaign

Jubal Early

September 25, 1864 (Sunday) “If you feel strong enough,” wrote General Lee to Jubal Early, “better move at once after the enemy and attack him, and if possible destroy him.” This was, of course, a brilliant idea. If Early would destroy Philip Sheridan’s army, the Valley of the Shenandoah would once more be in Confederate hands, and the crops not already destroyed by the Federals could be used to feed the army. But Lee knew how many men Early had – perhaps no more than 15,000 once joined again by Joseph Kershaw’s Division. Sheridan had over twice that number, though of this Lee could not be certain. Two days prior, Lee had urged Early to encourage his troops, warning him “do not bring on battle until Kershaw joins you and your troops are rallied.” To that end, Early had to once more retreat. Since the battle along the Opequon on September 19th, Early had retreated nearly seventy miles south and was now about to march at least ten more. Before the dawn, his small army… Read More

Early Retreats Farther Up the Valley

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September 24, 1864 (Saturday) “The whole of the army is now moving forward,” wrote Philip Sheridan to General Grant. His victory at Fisher’s Hill in the Shenandoah Valley had yielded him twenty pieces of artillery and over 1,000 prisoners of war. Though he was unable to bag Early’s entire force as he has wished, it was discovered that he at least disrupted the Confederate general’s plans to remain at Fisher’s Hill indefinitely. The night previous had seen his vanguard near Mount Jackson, where Early had now moved. With his cavalry in the lead, Sheridan attempted to move around the Confederate left, crossing first the North Fork of the Shenandoah, and attempting to recross it in the rear of the Southerners. But from his position atop Rude’s Hill, Jubal Early could trace all of Sheridan’s movements and was surprised by none. “As soon as it was fully developed,” wrote Early after the war, “I commenced retiring in the line of battle, and in that manner retired through New Market.” For nine miles they marched, and were… Read More