Civil War Daily Gazette

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

‘Confederate Politics’

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

dec30longstreetf

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

dec28johnstonf

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

dec26deadf

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

dec23davisf

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

Johnston Receives Instructions and a Load of Bad News

dec18johnstonf

December 18, 1863 (Friday) It was a fine line to walk, and the Confederate Secretary of War, James A. Seddon, walked it well. Two days prior, General Joseph Johnston had been reluctantly appointed commander of the Army of Tennessee, now based out of Dalton, Georgia. Following the defeat at Chattanooga, the disheartened and demoralized troops languished in relative safety south of Ringgold Gap. Their temporary commander, William Hardee, had the day previous, written Richmond of the terrible plight of the army. With this almost in mind, Secretary Seddon gave Joe Johnston his instructions. The fine line was the division between acknowledging the sorry reality and providing some sort of inspiration to the new commander. If Seddon was completely forward, telling Johnston that it was all but hopeless, the General would come into the new command and immediately take the defensive. On the other hand, if Seddon simply ignored all of Hardee’s grievances, Johnston might as well, until their ultimate discovery which could very well leave Johnston with the suspicion that Richmond cared little about the… Read More

Davis Very Reluctantly Appoints Johnston to Command

dec16davisf

December 16, 1863 (Wednesday) This was no easy decision. Confederate President Jefferson Davis respected and practically adored Braxton Bragg. Following the utter debacle at Chattanooga, however, he was not only forced to accept that his pet general was in over his head, but also to accept his resignation. Bragg had tried to resign before, more than likely as a show of humility. Davis, fully understanding that it was all part of the act, had always denied and declined. On December 2nd, David finally did the needful, and the Army of Tennessee was handed to William Hardee. Hardee accepted – there was nobody else around who might take the reigns – but on the condition that it was incredibly temporary. Davis was to find another commander within a month. Davis immediately began to look at his options. He had been in direct and almost daily communication with Robert E. Lee, and though he would have loved to place him at the post, Lee sidestepped the offer and suggested P.G.T. Beauregard instead. Davis had no love at… Read More

Jefferson Davis’ State of the (Dis)Union

dec7wantedf

December 7, 1863 (Monday) The end of the year is often seen as a time to reflect back upon the past twelve months – to honestly view ones accomplishments as well as reverses. For President Jefferson Davis, it was such a time. This date marked the first day of the Fourth Secession of the First Confederate Congress. And it was on this date that Davis addressed the congress with a long message of reflection. Since he last met with this Congress in the Spring, he focused mainly upon the happenings of the summer and fall. “Grave reverses befell our arms soon after your departure from Richmond,” he reminded the assembled. “Early in July, our strongholds at Vicksburgh and Port Hudson, together with their entire garrisons, capitulated to the combined land and naval forces of the enemy. The important interior position of Jackson next fell into their temporary possession. Our unsuccessful assault on the post at Helena was followed, at a later period, by the invasion of Arkansas; and the retreat of our army from Little… Read More

A Conspiracy Gathers Against Bragg

Longstreet: Me? Oh certainly not! It was Hill!

October 4, 1863 (Sunday) For some time now, the ire against Braxton Bragg had been simmering, even growing. Even the victory at Chickamauga could not quell the seething. Bragg did himself no favors by blaming two of his generals (Leonidas Polk and Thomas Hindman) for not following orders, thus marring the success with a strange pall of regret. Now, nearly two weeks after the battle, William Rosecrans’ Federal Army of the Cumberland was holed up in the Tennessee River city of Chattanooga, with Bragg’s Army of Tennessee besieging them. Bragg admitted that there was no way he could successfully attack the city, and so it had devolved into a stalemate, with Rosecrans due to receive myriad reinforcements. Bragg had sent Joseph Wheeler’s cavalry across the Tennessee to play upon Union supply lines. That was working well enough, but to do it, he made himself yet another enemy in Nathan Bedford Forrest. The chorus of officers demanding the removal of Bragg was indeed swelling to a boisterous crescendo. So loud were the cries that they were… Read More

Bragg Begins to Clean House While Richmond Tries to Calm Him

Bragg: I'd fire everyone if I could.

September 30, 1863 (Wednesday) With Union reinforcements coming toward Chattanooga from three different directions, this hardly seemed like the best time for Confederate General Braxton Bragg to plunge his entire command structure into chaos. Yet, that is more or less what he did. Though he had been victorious against William Rosecrans’ Army of the Cumberland at Chickamauga, he was far from pleased with the performances of Generals Leonidas Polk and Thomas Hindman. The former, being a corps commander, received most of his wrath. Hindman, however, was not at all exempt, being, in Bragg’s mind, fully responsible for the debacle at McLemore’s Cove on the 18th. Just two short days after the battle, Bragg demanded that Polk explain why he did not make the morning attack as ordered on the 20th. General Polk put off replying for a few days, prompting Bragg to ask again. While Bragg was trying to oust two of his generals, four of his generals were trying to oust him. Around the 26th, Generals Polk, along with D.H. Hill, James Longstreet and… Read More