Civil War Daily Gazette

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

‘Battles, Campaigns & Raids’

The Affable Grant Joins the Army of the Potomac

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March 24, 1864 (Thursday) It had been two weeks since General Grant visited the Army of the Potomac. And on this date, he arrived again – as its new permanent resident. After being appointed General-in-Chief, Grant had some idea that he would remain in the West, headquartered at Nashville. After coming East, however, he saw that his place would be with General George Meade’s army. He returned to Nashville to set things in order and get William Tecumseh Sherman established in Grant’s old job in the West, and returned to the East prepared to end the war. Upon arriving at his new headquarters in Culpeper Court House, Virginia, Grant called upon Chief of Staff Henry Halleck to send him a “map with the lines marked showing the territory now occupied by our forces.” Grant was referring to a copy of Colton’s New Guide Map to the United States and Canada that he and Halleck had perused a day or so previous. “The red lines,” explained Halleck, “show approximately our lines of defense at the beginning… Read More

Frederick Steele Finally About to Move

Steele: I'd just rather not.

March 22, 1864 (Tuesday) Even before the loss of nearly all of his cavalry, Confederate General Richard Taylor was planning on a retreat. This was, more than anything, at the behest of department commander, Kirby Smith. Hoping to swap territory for the time needed to concentrate his forces, Smith wanted Taylor to fall back upon Shreveport. This would hopefully enable troops from Texas and Arkansas to add to Taylors numbers. Though his headquarters was in Shreveport, Kirby Smith was pretty convinced that Louisiana wasn’t worth saving; that Arkansas was the place to make the stand. “The only field for great results in this,” he had written to Taylor on the 13th, “is the District of Arkansas, and a concentration must be made there this summer for the recovery of the Arkansas Valley.” But that was well into the future. For the time being, Smith had ordered the Arkansas troops to Louisiana. There had been a bit of recent drama in the command structure under Kirby Smith. Theophilus Holmes had been the district commander, which placed… Read More

Federals at Henderson’s Hill Capture all of Richard Taylor’s Cavalry

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March 21, 1864 (Monday) Union General Nathaniel Banks had yet to arrive in Alexandria, Louisiana. Neither had any of his infantry made an appearance, the closest troops being all of two days away. The cavalry of Albert Lee, however, had shown up, joining with General A.J. Smith’s troops from the Army of the Tennessee. Lee’s scouts had reported that the Rebels under Richard Taylor, who had until recently occupied Alexandria, had a presence at a plantation forty some miles up the Red River. Confederate cavalry had been seen the day previous much closer, and General Smith ordered one of Lee’s brigades to deduce that they were about. The brigade selected was helmed by Thomas J. Lucas, who had, until recently, commanded an Indiana Mounted Infantry regiment. They were to leave at 5am, accompanied by a battery of artillery and two day’s worth of rations. When Lucas’ brigade arrived, they were placed under the overall command of General Joseph Mower. Along with the cavalry, General Smith decided to send two full brigades of infantry from Mower’s… Read More

Federals Finally Almost Ready to Leave Alexandria

Albert Lee will suss it out.

March 20, 1864 (Sunday) While the Yankees ransacked Alexandria, Louisiana, the town’s former Confederate resident, General Richard Taylor was regrouping to the north. After the Northern troops took Fort DeRussy, Taylor, along with two divisions of his troops. Taylor had thrown his first division, under John Walker, toward the fort prior to the Federal advance. For a time, they were separated from their comrades, but were now rejoining them about forty miles to the north. Greeting them was the division under Alfred Mouton, a Southern aristocrat who barely managed to graduate West Point before becoming a vigilante. When the war started, he was elected colonel of a Louisiana regiment, rising quickly to lead a brigade, before utterly failing in an independent command. And so at the brigade level he languished until Taylor placed him at the head of his new division. With his infantry still coming together, General Taylor needed to see how close the Federals were to attacking. To assess the danger, on this date, he called upon Col. William Vincent and the 2nd… Read More

Grant to Call Upon McClellan and Buell in the Coming Campaign?

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March 19, 1864 (Saturday) General William Tecumseh Sherman came as fast as he could to Nashville, following General Grant’s March 14th behest. By steamboat and rail, Sherman traveled from Memphis to Cairo to Louisville, and finally to Nashville, reaching his destination on the evening of the 17th. Grant himself had just returned from Washington, and it was the first time they saw each other since Grant was promoted to commander of all armies. Grant found himself incredibly busy, and hardly had a moment to greet his old comrade, let alone discuss with him what was to happen next. Sherman would be filling Grant’s shoes. This placed Sherman in command of the Military Division of the Mississippi, which encompassed the Departments of Ohio, Cumberland, Tennessee and Arkansas. On the 18th, the day after his arrival in Nashville, Sherman took official command of the Military Division. There was some sort of ceremony which involved more awkward posturing in which Grant would be presented a sword. Perhaps to share in the embarrassment, Grant stopped by Sherman’s new headquarters… Read More

Davis Reject’s Longstreet’s Plan – Grant Announces His Intensions

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March 18, 1864 (Friday) General George Meade kept in near-daily contact with Chief of Staff, Henry Halleck, keeping him abreast of the latest reports from scouts, spies and escaped slaves. It was the latter that on this date brought the news that James Longstreet was back in Virginia, apparently meeting with General Lee and Confederate President Jefferson Davis. This was, of course, fairly accurate information, though by this date, Longstreet was preparing to return to his corps in East Tennessee. Prior to leaving, however, Longstreet, Lee and Davis did indeed meet to discuss Longstreet’s plan to unite all Western armies with his own corps, as well as 20,000 troops from South Carolina. Even Lee believed that the war would be decided not in the East, but in the West. At the meeting, Longstreet learned that General Joe Johnston, commanding the Army of Tennessee in northern Georgia, thought his plan was ridiculous, and wanted, instead, for Longstreet to move from East Tennessee down to Georgia. In his original plan, Longstreet wanted P.G.T. Beauregard to command not… Read More

‘It Looks to Me Like a Big Steal’ – The Federals Occupy and Ransack Alexandria

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March 16, 1864 (Wednesday) The Federals occupied Alexandria, Louisiana without firing a shot. According to their own reports, this feat seemed hardly important at all. “Arrived in Alexandria, La.,” read one itinerary. “Landed at Alexandria, La., and went into camp.” read another. To them, Alexandria was “rather a big village than a city.” But the occupation of this big village meant that Fort DeRussy, the “Gibralter of the West” had fallen. Confederate commanders Richard Taylor and Kirby Smith were counting upon the fort to hold at least until reinforcement could be sent forward. It was not to be. As some Union troops under General A.J. Smith remained at the fort to dismantle their prize, another column, under General Joseph Mower, had boarded transports and were whisked up stream with several of Admiral David Dixon Porter’s gunboats. The boats had approached the town the day previous, being held up by a log dam thrown out into the river by General Taylor’s Rebels. With nobody left to guard it, however, the obstruction was quickly dismantled and the… Read More

General Grant Wants Ganeral Banks to Prioritize

Look, Banks, you're important, but not THAT important.

March 15, 1864 (Tuesday) Maj. Gen. N. P. Banks, Commanding Department of the Gulf, New Orleans: Enclosed herewith I send you copy of General Orders, No. 1, assuming command of the armies of the United States. You will see from the order it is Any intention to establish headquarters for the present with the Army of the Potomac. I have not fully determined upon a plan of campaign for this spring, but will do so before the return of our veteran troops to the field. It will, however, be my desire to have all parts of the Army, or rather all the armies, act as much in concert as possible. For this reason I now write you. [...] U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant- General. General Grant had left Washington, DC as swiftly as possible, and by this time had arrived back at his old headquarters in Nashville. This was, as he explained to General Banks, only a temporary visit. His new home was in the field in Virginia. This did not, however, mean that he felt… Read More

Fort DeRussy Falls to the Yankees

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March 14, 1864 (Monday) “It will be unsafe to linger here,” warned General John G. Walker, commander of the Confederate Fort DeRussy. For two days, reports of Yankees landing at Simmsport, thirty miles south, and an immense naval fleet had caused him more than a small bit of concern. “I feel most solicitous for the fate of Fort DeRussy,” he wrote to his commander, Richard Taylor, “as it must fall as soon almost as invested by the force now marching against it.” General Taylor, who was headquartered in Alexandria, fifteen miles up the Red River, wasn’t having it. “If the force of the enemy landing at Simmsport is such as to admit of your fighting him with the least hope of success,” he began, “the sooner you attack him the better.” Taylor advised to hit the Yankees before their entire force, which Walker deemed to be 18,000 (though it was about half that), was fully on land. The force at Fort DeRussy was around 3,000. Taylor gave some instructions for a retreat, but cautioned that… Read More

‘To Amuse the Fort’ – Largest Federal Fleet in the West Steams Toward Rebs

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March 12, 1864 (Saturday) Very little seemed to be going right, which couldn’t have been all too surprising. Three Federal columns were to step off at different times from points hundreds of miles apart to converge on the same spot at the same instance. Throw in the largest Naval fleet ever gathered in the West, and it’s a wonder anything at all went right. General Nathaniel Banks had conceived of a plan, based upon ideas from then General-in-Chief Henry Halleck, to attack up the Red River, a tributary to the Mississippi. He was then to capture Alexandria, Louisiana, and move on to Shreveport. Banks believed that he would be aided by Generals William Tecumseh Sherman and Frederick Steele, but Halleck’s orders to both were vague, and nobody seemed to have a firm grasp on what to do or when. As Banks planned and stalled, Sherman’s column, coming from Vicksburg, was given to Andrew Jackson Smith, as Sherman was now filling General Grant’s old shoes, and James McPherson was filling Sherman’s. Due to rains, nobody was… Read More