Civil War Daily Gazette

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

‘Confederate Politics’

The Failed Confederate Plot to Burn New York City


November 25, 1864 (Friday) Though news of Sherman’s swath being cut through Georgia had not filtered too far beyond the state, Philip Sheridan’s gutting of the Shenandoah Valley was as terrifying as it was loathed. Most in the South could do nothing, save fume and rant. A few, however, plotted their retaliation. It all started in October, when Jacob Thompson, former United States Secretary of the Interior (under Buchanan) devised a plan to set New York City ablaze. President Jefferson Davis had sent Thompson to Canada earlier in the year as a sort of head of the Confederate Secret Service. It was he who tried to orchestrate plots to free the prisoners on Johnson’s Island. Thompson was a veritable fountain of failed plots. Still, he continued. At his headquarters in Toronto, he met with escaped prisoner Robert Cobb Kennedy, folding him into a plan already stewing. It was originally suggested and planned by Col. Robert Martin, and funded by not only Thompson, but Confederate Senator Clement Clay. The idea was for a group of eight,… Read More

‘By the Spectacle of Our Divisions’ – Davis Stamps Out Some States Rights Fires


November 17, 1864 (Thursday) With William Tecumseh Sherman about to march through Georgia, the state’s senators were understandably concerned. So much were they, that some wrote and signed the “Resolutions on the Subject of Independence and Peace.” While these were not passed, their very existence undermined the entire concept of a united South. Basically, they put forward that it was the individual states, and not the Confederate government, that should sue for peace. Specifically, they wished that a peace convention would “treat for peace through the medium of a convention of States.” If this idea caught on, Davis and his more-Federal-than-not government would essentially be abandoned. It was not just Georgia’s senators, but Governor Joseph Brown, as well as Confederate Vice-President, Alexander Stephens. And so, a few senators took it upon themselves to inform their President, who, upon this date, wrote a fairly lengthy rebuttal. “The immediate and inevitable tendency of such distinct action by each State is to create discordant instead of united counsels,” wrote Davis at the start of his reply, “to suggest… Read More

Davis Proposes Arming the Slaves Only if Necessary to Win the War


November 7, 1864 (Monday) Throughout the history of the war, Confederate President Jefferson Davis was concerned most with saving territory rather than armies. In trying to save Vicksburg, for example, he sacrificed an entire army, losing the city anyway. His top western generals argued that this philosophy was short-sighted, but Davis pursued this path regardless. And now, when so much territory had been lost, Davis seemed to finally see the error of his ways. In a speech delivered to the Confederate Congress on this date, while he detailed the gains of territory (mostly in Texas and Louisiana), he seemed to have turned a new leaf. The loss of Atlanta could hardly be ignored, and since John Bell Hood’s Army of Tennessee remained a working force, he instead chose to change his mind on these matters. “The truth so patent to us must, ere long, be forced upon the reluctant Northern mind,” said Davis, who must so recently have had it forced upon his own. “There are no vital points on the preservation of which the… Read More

Confederates to Attack Camp Douglas, Free the Prisoners?

Camp Douglas

November 6, 1864 (Sunday) “The city is filling up with suspicious characters,” wrote Col. B.J. Sweet, “some of whom we know to be escaped prisoners, and other who were here from Canada during the Chicago convention, plotting to release the prisoners of war at Camp Douglas.” Benjamin Sweet had overseen the ins and outs of Camp Douglas since early May, and since his reign began, conditions in the prison had deteriorated, as he cut rations, enacted harsher punishments, and general ruled from his Chicago office as a loathsome tyrant. And it was from his Chicago office where he began to become paranoid of a possible prison break. This wouldn’t have been the first attempt by the Rebels to free their comrades, so his suspicions were understandable. However, in a letter written upon this date, he posits that he had “every reason to believe that Colonel [Vincent] Marmaduke, of the rebel army, is in the city under an assumed name….” He went on to name several other officers he believed where following Marmaduke’s supposed footsteps. “I… Read More

The Slaves and Free Negroes Can Be Impressed Just as Any Other Property


October 6, 1864 (Thursday) The Confederate government was doing almost everything in their power to fill up their armies with conscripts, former soldiers, ex-partisan rangers, and pretty well any male who could carry a musket. But the Richmond Enquirer understood that there was an untapped wealth of soldiers within the slave population. Earlier in the war, the Confederate Congress thought it best to fill every available noncombatant role with a black man. This would free up the white man for duty. If fully carried out, this would, calculated the Enquirer, “give ten thousand men to the Army of Northern Virginia.” It reasoned that “the slaves and free negroes can be impressed just as any other property, and the law provides for their support and clothing, and pays the owner soldier’s wages.” Believing this was not going quite far enough, the newpaper asserted that “the question of making soldiers of negroes, of regularly enlisting them and fighting them for their safety, as well as our own, must have presented itself to every reflecting mind.” The editor… Read More

The Only Wartime Photographs Taken of Andersonville Prison


August 17, 1864 (Wednesday) Andrew Riddle was a photographer well before the war, learning the trade in 1846. Five years later, he opened his own studio in Baltimore. In 1856, he moved to Columbus, Georgia and continued his profession, opening a couple of branch studios in Macon and Rome. When the war broke out, he moved his studio to Richmond, but was hardly content in staying in the city. In October of 1862, he was captured attempting to smuggle photographic supplies from Washington. While the supplies were confiscated, he was allowed to go free. Undaunted, a few months later, he was captured yet again for the same offense and sentenced to eight months in prison. Once again free, he returned to Macon, but was conscripted as a private in the engineer corps. The Confederacy used him as a map maker and a photographer – the only official one in the entire South. This was how he found himself at Andersonville on this date. The photographs were taken on the 16th and developed on the 17th… Read More

Longstreet’s Grand Plan to Unite all Western Armies


March 17, 1864 (Thursday) Wintering in Bull’s Gap, East Tennessee did little to please James Longstreet. His corps had taken up a fine defensive position, and waited through February for the Federals in Knoxville to attack him, but he could find no satisfaction. In the long hours spent doing little, Longstreet found the time to contemplate the overall strategic situation for General Lee’s army in Virginia and General Johnston’s army in Dalton, Georgia. There was little chance for either to launch separate offensive strikes. President Davis in Richmond wasn’t blind to this predicament, and called upon Lee, Johnston and Longstreet to submit suggestions that might beat the Federals to the punch. Longstreet, realizing that neither Lee nor Johnston could reinforce the other began to study a third possibility. On March 16, he confusingly detailed his plan in a long and rambling letter to Davis. Fortunately, by the time he wrote his memoirs, he had boiled it down to simplicity. By stripping South Carolina – a state that had started the conflict, but had seen relatively… Read More

Dahlgren Still Alive? The Raid a Complete Success? Unfounded Federal Hope to be Squashed

Lee acting the gentleman.

March 6, 1864 (Sunday) While the Southern press was outraged over Col. Ulric Dahlgren’s plot to assassinate Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his Cabinet before burning Richmond to the ground, the Northern press took a different approach. The New York Times declared the raid a “complete success, resulting in the destruction of millions of dollars of public property.” This was fairly true. Of course the Times did not know that the true and official object of the raid was to free Union prisoners held in Libby Prison and on Belle Isle. It also could not know of Col. Dahlgren’s assassination scheme. News of Dahlgren’s death and plot were slow to come across Union lines. In fact, throughout the day, General Judson Kilpatrick, who had led the raid, was convinced he was still alive. “Colonel Dahlgren, with about 100 men, has been heard from to-day,” he wrote to Alfred Pleasonton, commander of the Army of the Potomac’s Cavalry Corps, “he was then near King and Queen Court-House. I shall send my men to assist him.” Kilpatrick… Read More

‘And They Came, and the Almighty Blessed Them Not’ – Ulric the Hun


March 5, 1864 (Saturday) It ran in every Richmond newspaper – The Last Raid of the Infernals: Their Plan Unveiled. Adjutant-General Samuel Cooper saw to it that the papers recovered from the body of Union Col. Ulric Dahlgren were photographed and published verbatim by anyone with a printing press. The newspapers did just that, penning their own editorials to fan the flame. The Federals had attempted a raid upon Richmond, led by General Judson Kilpatrick. It had failed utterly, but its crowning demerit was that upon the dead body of Col. Dahlgren was found, among his effects, a handwritten paper calling for Jefferson Davis and his cabinet to be assassinated and the city burned – rules of civilized warfare be damned. My all appearances, this was authentic, though nobody could tell how high up the chain of command it went. Was it from Kilpatrick? General Meade? Henry Halleck? Even President Lincoln? It was impossible to say, though that didn’t stop the Richmond press from speculation. For the most part, they held close to Dahlgren, and… Read More

‘…And Jeff Davis and Cabinet Killed.’ – Dahlgren’s Plot Discovered!


March 4, 1864 (Friday) “There,” exclaimed Lt. James Pollard, “you have killed Col. Dahlgren!” After the volley, delivered by a hodge-podge of Rebel cavalry and home guards, a thirteen year old boy named William Littlepage crept through the darkness to the scene of the ambush. Perhaps he was searching for a souvenir of Kilpatrick’s raid on Richmond, or maybe he was simply curious. The first body he came to held a small box of cigars and a notebook with some small amount of loose leaf papers within it. After the boy handed them to his schoolmaster, Edward Halbach, Lt. Pollard warned, “His men were devoted to him, and I would advise you all to take care of yourselves now, for it the Yankees catch you with anything belonging to him, they will certainly hang us all to the nearest tree.” Through the night and early morning of the 3rd, the papers remained unread as no one was apt to strike a flame. The Federals riding with Dahlgren on his flight from Richmond had scurried off… Read More

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