Civil War Daily Gazette

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

‘Battles, Campaigns & Raids’

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

‘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

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

Braxton Bragg Retreats Out of Wilmington

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February 22, 1865 (Wednesday) It had been a strange past few weeks for Braxton Bragg. With General Robert E. Lee elevated to the General-in-Chief of all the Confederates armies, his position as Davis’ military advisor was made more or less redundant. Through the second week of February, he was in Richmond turning over the office to Lee. With that business taken care of, he returned to his old department in North Carolina, arriving in Wilmington on the 21st. Much had changed since he left for Richmond – Fort Anderson’s fall being the deepest cut. “I find all our troops on this side [of] Cape Fear,” he wrote to the capital upon his arrival. “The enemy in force on the west, and our communications south cut. We are greatly out-numbered.” The greatest concern had in Richmond was not necessarily Wilmington, but it played a major role. It was wondered whether the troops under General Beauregard, retreating north from South Carolina, might still be able to pass through Wilmington. While the War Department was left for a… Read More

Wilmington Poised to Fall

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February 20, 1865 (Monday) The day previous, Jacob Cox had lead two divisions against Fort Anderson, just south of Wilmington, North Carolina, causing the fort to be abandoned by the Confederates. Through that evening, he, with one division, gave chase. The Rebels made it across an unfordable creek, burning the bridge that spanned it. Then, from behind their embattlements, lobbed artillery shells into Cox’s lines with no effect but unsettlement. Someone had discovered a flatboat a mile below the old crossing, and Cox determined to use it come dawn. It was now dawn. He ordered General John Casement, commanding one of his three brigades, to ferry his and another brigade over in the scow, while the two remaining brigades held the original position, with one in reserve, at the old crossing and keep the enemy occupied. The lay of the land on the Confederate side of the creek dealt fortune to Cox. The Rebels had anchored their left upon a swamp, placing no pickets on its other side, figuring well that no attack could materialize… Read More

Another Confederate Fort is Abandoned

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February 19, 1865 (Sunday) After the victory at Nashville, General Jacob Cox, often the de facto commander of the Twenty-Third Corps, was given a leave of absence to visit his family in Ohio. In his words, he had “spent a week in a delightful visit with my family after two years of absence from them.” But at the end of January, this was cut short. Originally, the orders were for the corps to join the Army of the Potomac before Petersburg, but once Cox reached Washington, he found his division reassigned to Alexandria for the winter. Since the fall of Fort Fisher, General Sherman had his eye on nearby Wilmington as a base of operations once he burned his way through South Carolina. General John Schofield, Cox’ commander from the Army of the Ohio, was selected as the man for the job. By the end of January, both Grant and Schofield visited Fort Fisher and planned a new campaign. The Twenty-Third Corps would join them shortly, but two other corps would soon be formed. On… Read More

‘Lit Up with the Lurid Hue of a Conflagration’ – Columbia Burns

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February 17, 1865 (Friday) George Stone’s Fifteenth Corps brigade had been selected to first cross the Broad River and enter Columbia, South Carolina’s capital city. Before dawn, they were ready. As there was no bridge, they had to be ferried over in boats. The first two, departing just before 4am, were loaded full with sharpshooters. The rest of the brigade soon followed with Stone among them. They came first upon a small detachment of enemy skirmishers, and then more. Stone made some final preparations and shortly ordered a charge, which cleared the way. “Having driven the enemy in our front,” recorded Stone a few days later, “and noticing a demonstration on his [the enemy’s] right to turn my left, I ordered a halt and commenced throwing up a line of works while waiting for the advance of Brevet Brigadier-General [William] Woods’ brigade to get over. So soon as I discovered this brigade had commenced crossing, I moved for the city, easily driving the regiment of cavalry that disputed our advance.” As they came to about… Read More

Sherman Prepares to Enter Columbia

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February 16, 1865 (Thursday) Only the Congare River separated General Sherman’s four corps from the city of Columbia, the smouldering remains of Lexington to their back. Before them was a burned out bridge, and cavalry could be seen in the streets of the city. Unable to immediately cross, Captain Francis De Gress unlimbered two pieces of artillery and began shelling the town, apparently aiming for the cavalry, but caring little what else he might hit. Sherman, having not ordered the shelling, rode over to him to see why he was firing. De Gress metioned the cavalry and suspected there was also infantry hidden on the other side of the river. “I instructed him not to fire anymore into the town,” wrote Sherman after the war, “but consented to his bursting a few shells near the depot, to scare away the negroes who were appropriating the bags of corn and meal which we wanted, also to fire three shots at the unoccupied State-House.” Sherman stuck around to see the damage. It was also in the morning… Read More

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