Civil War Daily Gazette

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

‘Battles, Campaigns & Raids’

Johnston Grows Weirdly Optimistic

Indecision has my stamp of approval!

July 1, 1864 (Friday) There were two things impeccably clear to Joe Johnston. First, William Tecumseh Sherman’s host would move along his left and outflank the Rebel position on Kennesaw Mountain. Second, he had no where near enough troops to stop him. In his heart, he knew he needed to retreat. Perhaps he could have send out small strike forces toward Federal interests, but, unlike General Lee in the east, there was no Washington DC or Harper’s Ferry to threaten. In Georgia, he was alone, with only Atlanta at his back. On this date, Confederate Senator Benjamin Hill from Georgia paid Johnston a visit. It was a strange meeting, with Johnston making little sense and vacillating wildly. As he had before, he urged Senator Hill to convince President Davis in Richmond to order Nathan Bedford Forrest’s cavalry to play upon Sherman’s lines of supply. Of his own situation, he explains that Sherman’s army is entrenched and impossible to assail with any hope of victory. Sherman’s army was also so large that it was now wrapping… Read More

No Doubt He is Outnumbered – Richmond Losing Patience with Johnston (Again)

Johnston in profile.

June 29, 1864 (Wednesday) Joe Johnston’s success at Kennesaw Mountain might have been more accurately described as “not a defeat.” While Sherman’s Federals were beaten back with much slaughter, the situation before him was no different than it had been before. He had too few soldiers to man the extended entrenchments, and by all accounts forwarded to him, the Yankees were slowly flowing south, around his left flank. The enemy was now closer to the Chattahoochee River than his own troops. This didn’t exactly mean that the Federals were closer to Atlanta than the army that was protecting it, but if left unchecked that could very well have been the case. Johnston wasn’t helping his case in the least. To some, he boasted that Sherman was losing so many troops that once crossing the Chattahooche, the Federal numbers would have so dwindled that they could not attack Atlanta. In his estimation, Sherman’s forces numbered 75,000 men, having ushered 25,000 of their own to hospitals or death’s door. Johnston, at this time, had about 50,000. To… Read More

Jubal Early Steps Off!

Keep up the buff work, Breck!

June 28, 1864 (Tuesday) Confederate General Jubal Early had disposed of the Federal force under David Hunter, which was now scurrying west through the Kanawah Valley of West Virginia. Early had received notice from General Lee to forget about Hunter and focus on either moving north to threaten Washington or to rejoin the Army of Northern Virginia at Petersburg. Early, once a protege of Stonewall Jackson, chose the former. By the 26th of June, he was in Staunton, gathering provisions and supplies for the march north. There, he sorted his artillery, leaving behind both horses and guns deemed unfit for service. There were 2,000 mounted men, and 10,000 foot soldiers. The cavalry was more or less fit, but fully half of the infantry lacked shoes. General Lee began to question the logic of sending Early on this mission. He was now more or less besieged before Petersburg and could certainly use the 10,000 extra bodies to line myriad embattlements. But Early reassured him that all would be well; that the first instinct was the better.… Read More

The Bloody Cost of Attacking – Sherman Strikes Kennesaw Mountain

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June 27, 1864 (Monday) “I have been unable so far to stop the enemy’s progress by gradual approaches on account of his numerous army and the character of the country, which is favorable to this method,” wrote Confederate General Joe Johnston on this date. “Our best mode of operating against it would be to use strong parties of cavalry to cut his railroad communications. Our own cavalry is so weak compared to that of the Federal army that I have been unable to do it.” Johnston, now back up to Kennesaw Mountain, fifteen miles north of Atlanta, was almost certain he couldn’t stop Sherman’s advance. Mile by mile, his army had been thrown back and the threat of having to defend Atlanta was indeed a real one. But while this retreating meant that there were no Confederate gains, it also denied any substantial victory to the Federals. What Sherman needed was not the capture of Atlanta, but the destruction of Johnston’s army. But this destruction would come at a dear price, if attainable at all.… Read More

The Whole Country is One Vast Fort – Sherman Prepares to Take Kennesaw Mountain

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June 26, 1864 (Sunday) “The weather has a wonderful effect on troops,” mused William Tecumseh Sherman after the war, “in action and on the march, rain is favorable; but in the woods, where all is blind and uncertain, it seems almost impossible for an army covering ten miles of front to act in concert during wet and stormy weather. Still I pressed operations with the utmost earnestness, aiming always to keep our fortified lines in absolute contact with the enemy, while with the surplus force we felt forward, from one flank or the other, for his line of communication and retreat.” And so days upon days of rain finally gave way to a dry, clear heat. On the 22d of June I rode the whole line, and ordered General Thomas in person to advance his extreme right corps (Hooker’s); and instructed General Schofield, by letter, to keep his entire army, viz., the Twenty-third Corps, as a strong right flank in close support of Hooker’s deployed line. During this day the sun came out, with some… Read More

A Little Cup of a Ravine – A Pennsylvania Miner’s New Idea

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June 25, 1864 (Saturday) “I was there at that time,” explained Lt. Col. Henry Pleasants in a calm and collected manner. This former railroad worker and Pennsylvania coal miner sat before the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War in January of 1865. On that day, he thought back to a balmy June half a year past. “I was then commanding the first brigade of the second division of the 9th Corps,” he continued, never mentioning the oddity of a Lt. Col. filling the position of a Brigadier-General. “While commanding the brigade, I frequently had occasion to go to the front line. I noticed a little cup of a ravine near to the enemy’s works.” Seeing this ravine, the mind of Lt. Col. Pleasants backed away from the battlefield to a time a relative peace. “I having been a mining and civil engineer many years before the war, it occurred to me that a mine could be excavated there. I examined the ground, and after I had satisfied myself that it could be done,… Read More

Jubal Early Confronts the ‘Malignant and Cowardly Fanatic’

Early

June 23, 1864 (Thursday) Jubal Early, commanding nearly a third of General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, set out from the defenses at Cold Harbor ten days prior. Lee’s instructions were clear. He was to move first to Lynchburg to save the railroad hub from the Federal troops under David Hunter. But behind the orders was another, more desperate directive – one that perhaps the South might have considered prior to the summer of 1864. If General Grant’s Union horde could be kept from taking Richmond, Early was to storm down the Shenandoah Valley, cross the Potomac River, enter Maryland and stab toward Washington. Lee understood that while Grant wanted to hold the Valley, he wouldn’t exactly be losing sleep if it were reoccupied by the Rebels. However, if the capital was threatened, undoubtedly the Lincoln administration would force Grant to pull back to protect Washington. By the 16th, Early’s 9,000 arrived near Charlottesville – a distance of over seventy miles. Though many of the railroads had fallen victim to Federal cavalry, the rails from… Read More

Run Like the Devil! – Federal Chaos Along the Weldon Railroad

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June 22, 1864 (Wednesday) The plan resembled an incredibly large wheeling movement. The Second and Sixth Corps, under Winfield Scott Hancock and Horatio Wright, were already parallel to the Weldon Railroad, running south from Petersburg. They were to advance west to the rails themselves and then wheel north, effectively boxing the Confederates into the city, their backs against the Appomattox River. By noon, the cavalry vanguard, itself totaling over 7,000 men, had reached the line, severing it seven miles south of Petersburg at Reams Station. But whatever fortune came with the morning, left with the afternoon. The two corps had to hold close to each other. If a gap should form between them, it could easily be exploited with only ruination to follow. The movement was incredibly slow. This was no gallant advance across an open plain. The ground was rough and pitted, with thick undergrowth across it. There were swamps and farms, and visibility was little. Together, the two corps advanced, the Second on the right, the Sixth on the left. But as they… Read More

‘Sorrow Had Fled’ – Lincoln Visits the Army of the Potomac

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June 21, 1864 (Tuesday) “I have determined to try to envelop Petersburg,” wrote General Grant the night previous from his headquarters at City Point, “so as to have the left of the Army of the Potomac rest on the Appomattox above the city. This would string the army in a ring around the city, stretching from Appomattox to Appomattox. It wouldn’t quite be a full envelopment, but the seeds were planted, and it seemed like an achievable reality. The largest share of this date was spent in preparation. The main of the thrust would come from Winfield Scott Hancock’s Second Corps, with Horatio Wright’s Sixth Corps as support. Their objective, apart from the river itself, was the Weldon Railroad, running just before it. As the soldiers of the two corps filed into the positions, they saw before them nothing but open spaces. But what might come the following day was anybody’s guess. They were not merely idle – not all of them. A division was cast forward into the open spaces west of the Jerusalem… Read More

Catching Up with Sherman and Johnston on Kennesaw Mountain

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June 20, 1864 (Monday) William Tecumseh Sherman, of course, wanted to attack – he lived for the advance. But if a position could be taken by maneuver, for the sake of the lives of his men, he was bound to at least attempt it. Joe Johnston’s position on Kennesaw Mountain was strong, “unusually strong,” as Sherman put it. But it was not impossibly so. The Confederate left wasn’t exactly dangling along Noyes Creek, but there was something close to certainty in Sherman that believed it could be turned. Then there was his own left, holding close to the railroad. There, the Army of the Tennessee, helmed by James McPherson, clung to their entrenchments. It had become a terrifying tedium of potshots, small skirmishing and artillery fire. On McPherson’s left, the Rebel cavalry operated, and while they were usually kept busy by their Union counterparts, there was always the chance that they could slip beyond McPherson and fall upon the supply lines. If he could, Sherman would maneuver. But this ground, covered in boulders, underbrush, tangles,… Read More