Civil War Daily Gazette

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

‘Confederate Politics’

The Last Word on the Pickett Murders

The Teflon Pickett

March 3, 1864 (Thursday) Nearly a month had transpired since Confederate General Pickett ordered the execution of two Union prisoners captured during his failed attempt to take New Berne, North Carolina. Since that time, he ordered eighteen more to the same fate, and threatened to go farther. His reasoning was that the men were originally in the Confederate army, had deserted and taken up arms against their country. In truth, the men were never in the official Confederate army, only serving in the state militia until their unit was folded into the regular service. When last we visited this sad situation, neither Union General John Peck, who was commanding in the area, nor General Benjamin Butler, department commander, had caught wind of the mass execution, knowing only of the first two. When Butler read in the southern newspapers about the others, he went around Pickett and wrote to Robert Ould, the Confederate commander in charge of prisoner exchange. By this time, the threats of retaliation were getting out of hand. General Peck had slyly suggested… Read More

Andersonville Prison Opens its Doors

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February 27, 1864 (Saturday) The United States government was in the process of slowing to a stop the practice of exchanging prisoners of war. Though there wouldn’t be an official ban on it until late April of 1864, it was becoming clear that the exchange benefited the Confederates far more than the Federals. Previously, the commanding generals of the two armies would negotiate the exchanges. As the Federal armies grew in number, and as the Rebel armies dwindled, exchanging an equal number soldiers handed the Southern forces a much larger percentage. Also throwing their weight around, the Confederate government balked at dealing with the new director of exchanges – Benjamin Butler. He had demanded, as had President Lincoln, that black troops taken prisoner be treated the same as quite prisoners. This wasn’t something the South was keen upon doing, even threatening to put to death or sell back into slavery anyone captured who was of African descent. Talks between both sides would continue into October 1864, but in the end, the North refused to treat… Read More

Ben Butler Talks Politics with Jeff Davis’ Escaped Slave

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January 23, 1864 (Saturday) “The President’s man Jim – whom he believed in, as we all believe in our own servants – and Betsy, Mrs. Davis’s maid, decamped last night. It is miraculous that they had fortitude to resist the temptation so long.” – Mary Chesnut, January 9, 1864. The first slave that Jefferson Davis ever owned was a man named James Pemberton. He was given as a gift to the young plantation owner in 1823. When Davis joined the army, James went with him, forced to leave behind his wife Julia Ann and their son, Jim Jr. – both of whom were also Davis’ slaves. By all accounts Davis treated James about as well as any one human can treat another human bonded to them in chattel. It wasn’t unusual in cases such as this for the master and slave to form a strange friendship. By 1835, Davis had resigned from the army, and, placing his trust in James, made him the overseer of his plantation, which now held twenty-three slaves. During the Mexican… Read More

Davis Shoots Down Proposal to Free the Slaves

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January 13, 1864 (Thursday) It wasn’t exactly a coup, or even the rumblings of such. But it was revolutionary, at least in thought. General Patrick Cleburne commanded a division in Joe Johnston’s Army of Tennessee. As a military commander, he was well respected by officers both Southern and Northern. History would remember him as the “Stonewall of the West.” But by the end of 1863, it was becoming clear to Patrick Cleburne that the South was losing the war. After much thought given, he concluded that it was due to three specific reasons. First, the Confederate armies were inferior, at least in numbers. Second, the Southern supply chain was running dry – poverty had overtaken the majority of them. Lastly, as Cleburne put it, “the fact that slavery, from being one of our chief sources of strength at the commencement of the war, has now become, in a military point of view, one of our chief sources of weakness.” In a long and open letter written on January 2nd, Cleburne finely detailed specifically how they… Read More

Davis: This Struggle Must Continue

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January 8, 1864 (Friday) By this point in the war, things were not going well for the South. Even the pro-secessionist press was admitting that the year previous was “the gloomiest year of our struggle.” Some, like North Carolina’s Governor Zebulon Vance, were actively talking peace. In a letter written to President Jefferson Davis on December 30, he described the discontent of his state’s citizens. “I have concluded that it will be impossible to remove it,” he wrote, “except by making some effort at negotiation with the enemy.” He conceded that though the Southern philosophy of wanting “only to be let alone” was sound, it seemed “that for the sake of humanity, without having any weak or improper motives attributed to us, we might, with propriety, constantly tender negotiations.” For the most part, Vance admitted to wanting this for appearances. It would look good to other countries, he claimed, and the citizens could take some comfort in knowing that their government seemed to care about them. “Though statesmen might regard this as useless,” concluded Vance,… Read More

The Gloomiest Year of Our Struggle

John Moncure Daniel, editor of the Richmond Examiner.

December 31, 1863 (Thursday – New Year’s Eve) New Year’s Eve is often a time to reflect upon the past twelve months, measuring fortune against fatigue. For the South, it was a bittersweet time, with the victories of Chancellorsville and Chickamauga overshadowed by the death of Stonewall Jackson and Chattanooga. No better account of the Southern view of 1863 might exist than the Richmond Examiner‘s editorial published on this date. True, the Examiner was becoming increasingly anti-Davis, but it still clung with dug-in claws to the idea of an independent Confederate nation. “Today closes the gloomiest year of our struggle,” it began. “No sanguine hope of intervention buoys up the spirits of the confederate public as at the end of 1861. No brilliant victory like that of Fredericksburgh encourages us to look forward to a speedy and successful termination of the war, as in the last weeks of 1862.” Even the latest victories of Mine Run, Virginia and Bean’s Station, Tennessee seemed hollow. “Meade’s advance was hardly meant in earnest,” allowed the paper, “and Bean’s… Read More

James Longstreet Tries to Resign

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December 30, 1863 (Wednesday) During the last few days of the year 1863 the cold of the severest winter of the war came on, and constantly increased until the thermometer approached zero, and on New Year’s dropped below, hanging near that figure for about two weeks. The severe season gave rest to every one. Even the cavalry had a little quiet, but it was cold comfort, for their orders were to keep the enemy in sight. The season seemed an appropriate one for making another effort to be relieved from service, — that service in which the authorities would not support my plans or labors, — for now during the lull in war they would have ample time to assign some one to whom they could give their confidence and aid. But this did not suit them, and the course of affairs prejudicial to order and discipline was continued. It was difficult under the circumstances to find apology for remaining in service. – General James Longstreet, From Manassas to Appomattox But that wasn’t quite how… Read More

Johnston Finds His Army Lacking

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December 28, 1863 (Monday) Both President Jefferson Davis and Secretary of War James Seddon had been led to believe (and hoped) that the Army of Tennessee was in much better shape than it actually was. Apart from wishful thinking and an apparent lack of deductive reasoning, this was due to two people. First, the army had been under the temporary command of William Hardee for a month. In that time, he said things like the army was “ready to fight” and that it boasted a greater number of men than it had before the battle of Missionary Ridge. Both were gross exaggerations. Hardee, however, also oddly cautioned that it was “necessary to avoid a general action” and that supplies were desperately needed. Davis and Seddon both chose to ignore that last part. Second was the wonderfully-named Col. Joseph Christmas Ives, an aide-de-camp sent by Davis to see for himself the state of affairs following the retreat from Chattanooga. Ives’ own assessment – that the losses from Missionary Ridge were not really all that bad, and… Read More

Longstreet Wants to Disband the Partisan Rangers

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December 26, 1863 (Saturday) Partisan Rangers operated independent from any official command structure. Sometimes, they might join in or aide an army in their neck of the woods, but for the most part, they played upon the enemy’s supply lines and generally terrorized the population regardless of their affiliation. Confederate Partisans in Eastern Tennessee were not only a problem for the Unionists, but were quickly becoming an issue for James Longstreet, who was trying to live off the land for the winter thirty or so miles north of Knoxville. Though unofficial, according to Confederate law, the rangers were “entitled to the same pay, rations, and quarters” as any other troops in the service. Additionally, when they raided, they were allowed to keep the spoils of war. First they had to hand over their loot to the local quartermaster, but he would then pay them outright for their findings. They were basically privateers on horseback. This is where Longstreet had a problem. A simple request by General John Vaughn, who commanded a brigade of infantry in… Read More

Ignoring the Facts, Jefferson Davis Writes a Glowing Report of His Western Army

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December 23, 1863 (Wednesday) In the Confederate West, General Joe Johnston had recently been placed in command of Braxton Bragg’s old Army of Tennessee. They were now situated in Dalton, Georgia under the temporary supervision of William Hardee. Johnston was to arrive in several days to formally take over. General Hardee had penned a sad letter, detailing the lack of supplies, low morale, and general unfitness of the army to even hold a defensive position. To Johnston, Secretary of War James Seddon understated Hardee’s warnings, writing only that “the army may have been by recent events somewhat disheartened and deprived of ordnance and material.” If Seddon understated, Jefferson Davis simply lied or was completely deluded. Even though he had Hardee’s letter detailing the contrary, Davis ignored it. Instead, he focused on the word of a staff officer he had sent shortly after the battle of Missionary Ridge, in which Bragg’s army was driven from the field. The report reaching Davis described the army as “still full of zeal and burning to redeem its lost character… Read More

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