Civil War Daily Gazette

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

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‘I Certainly Expected He Would Fight’ – Lee Retreats Across the Rapidan

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November 8, 1863 (Sunday) “The loss of this position made it necessary to abandon the design of attacking the force that had crossed at Kelly’s Ford, and the army was withdrawn to the only tenable line between Culpeper Court House and the Rappahannock, where it remained during the succeeding day.” – General Robert E. Lee. Lee had been taken by surprise the previous day. Meade’s Army came up quickly, overwhelmed the pickets on the north side of the Rappahannock, and, after a bloody struggle in the early dark, forced the Confederates back across the river. At Kelly’s Ford, however, three entire corps had crossed, and the rest of the Union Army was sure to follow. A fog had settled thickly in the small valley, allowing Lee to slip away with little notice. He established a new line of battle a mile and a half beyond Brandy Station, guarding the town of Culpeper. Unable to see across the river, Federals near the railroad crossing could not tell whether the enemy that had been in their front… Read More

The Darkness Was Favorable to the Attack – Meade Takes the Rappahannock!

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November 7, 1863 (Saturday) General George Meade knew the duty before him, and continued to search for a way to get at the enemy. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was nestled along the south bank of the Rappahannock River, while his own Army of the Potomac had been slowly moving south from Warrenton and along the Orange & Alexandria Railroad, rebuilding the line as they went. Meade had been cautious. For weeks, he had tried to convince President Lincoln and General-in-Chief Henry Halleck to let him move the entire army to the heights above Fredericksburg. They refused, and he needed to find a way to get at Lee from the front. With the Rappahannock between the two armies, Meade probed for a weakness in Lee’s lines, but found little to inspire. At any rate, on the 5th, he began to quicken the pace, ordering corps commanders to ready their troops for the coming campaign. He had planned to test Lee’s resolve the following day by a reconnaissance in force, but a storm kicked… Read More

The Battle of Droop Mountain – “The Entire Command Followed the Enemy Until Dark

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November 6, 1863 (Friday) Lost in the hustle of Grant’s campaign against Bragg in the west, and Meade’s stuttering movements against Lee in the east was the continuing struggle in West Virginia. Since the Gettysburg Campaign, most of the fighting was scattered and small, punctuated by several larger skirmishes. Union forces in the area were commanded by General William Averell, who had been a young staff officer during the First Battle of Manassas. Two years later, he was in command of an entire division of cavalry in the Army of the Potomac, but was dismissed by General Joe Hooker during the great purging after Chancellorsville. Soon, he was in command of the 4th Separate Brigade (technically of the VIII Corps) in West Virginia. His 5,000 troops were brave and courageous, but lacked discipline. Averell’s Confederate counterpart, John Echols, was also at the Battle of First Manassas, leading a regiment under Stonewall Jackson. Following Jackson’s Shenandoah Valley Campaign, Echols was transfered to West Virginia, taking over for William Wing Loring as department commander. For a time,… Read More

Grant to Sherman: Cross the Tennessee and Hurry Eastward!

Those are very words Sherman wanted to hear.

November 5, 1863 (Thursday) Making their way from Memphis, Tennessee to Chattanooga, General William Tecumseh Sherman and his small Army of the Tennessee were tasked with repairing the railroad as they went. And as he went, he had to leave small commands of troops behind as guards, which further dwindled his forces. But by the end of October, he was in Tuscumbia, Alabama, and ready to repair the next 135 miles of track, when he received an urgent call from General Grant at Chattanooga. “Drop all work on Memphis & Charleston Railroad,” read the message, “cross the Tennessee, and hurry eastward with all possible dispatch toward Bridgeport, till you meet further orders from me.” Since the railroad from Memphis was of vital importance, this message was indeed serious. When Grant had written the order, he had just surveyed Brown’s Ferry and had given his approval of Baldy Smith’s and Hooker’s attacks. Things were heating up and now was when he needed Sherman. To this, General Sherman quickly complied. For a spell, the march was more… Read More

‘Anxiously Endeavoring to See My Way Clear’ – Meade Searches for Holes in Lee’s Defenses

How are you, railroad?

November 4, 1863 (Wednesday) As it had been seen, on the first of this month, General George Meade wrote to General-in-Chief Henry Halleck proposing two designs for attacking General Lee’s Army now arrayed along the south bank of the Rappahannock. The first was by his right flank, but it was a route he did not favor, as it would cause him to abandon his lines of supply. The second, while necessarily more hazardous, involved moving his base of operation to Aquia Creek. There, he would take Fredericksburg by surprise and fall upon Lee’s right flank. But when General Halleck received Meade’s letter, he shared it with President Lincoln. “He does not see that the proposed change of base,” relayed Halleck, “is likely to produce any favorable result, while its disadvantages are manifest.” This manifestation was, of course, still fresh in his head. The year before, he approved a similar course for the army while under the helm of Ambrose Burnside. Its failure was evident from the start, but culminated in the bloody battle of Fredericksburg.… Read More

Thus Expose Both to Failure – Bragg Divides His Army

James Longstreet to his the long road.

November 3, 1863 (Tuesday) Often, when councils of war are called, the commanding general and his assembled subordinates have yet to make any concrete decision upon which path to follow. Ideas are brought to the table, suggestions and corrections are made, intelligence is presented, and by the end of the small congress, a final choice lay before them. Such was not the case with Braxton Bragg, commanding the Confederate Army of Tennessee, which had, until recently, besieged the Federal Army of the Cumberland at Chattanooga. Even as early as October 31st, when he sent his three corps commanders, James Longstreet, John Breckenridge, and William Hardee, to the crest of Lookout Mountain to scout for a possible attack, Bragg’s mind was made up about his next move. There had been a near coup against him, and many of the officers involved were ushered out of his army. However, General Longstreet, instrumental in pushing forward the agenda to replace Bragg, remained. President Jefferson Davis had, before the latest debacle at Brown’s Ferry, suggested that since the enemy… Read More

Lincoln Asked to Say “A Few Appropriate Remarks” at Gettysburg

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November 2, 1863 (Monday) Shortly following the battle of Gettysburg, Governor Andrew Curtain of Pennsylvania ventured to the battlefield. By the time he arrived, the armies had passed on, leaving their dead and wounded behind them. Those who still clung to life or were in a state of convalescence were sheltered in Camp Letterman, east of town. He, like anyone might be, was moved and wished to do something to commemorate the Union dead. Before returning to his duties in Harrisburg, Governor Curtain appointed David Wills, a Gettysburg lawyer, with the task of seeing what he could do. Wills, in his walks of the fields and hills that had, until July, been peaceful and beautiful, witnessed macabre displays of bodies half buried in hastily dug graves. What organization there existed would soon be lost to the ravages of weather and time. So that these men who fought would not be forgotten, he took it upon himself to come up with a plan to gather the remains in one place. On July 24, not even three… Read More

Meade Looks South as Lee Rounds Up Deserters

General Lee will hunt you down.

November 1, 1863 (Sunday) When last we visited General George Meade and his Army of the Potomac, President Lincoln was urging him to attack General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, just across the Rappahannock. Since that time, Meade had given up on his idea of shifting the army to Fredericksburg, and was slowly moving south along the Orange & Alexandria Railroad. For the most part, his infantry kept a sluggish pace, while his cavalry corps lined the river and kept an eye upon the Confederates, who still had troops on the northern side, though only near the former railroad bridge. The Rebels were tasked with bringing over as much of the iron confiscated from the railroad as possible. With such a guard as Jubal Early’s Division, the Union cavalry were little more than spectators. The destroying of the railroad was actually a defensive measure undertaken by Lee. Without the railroad, Meade’s troops could not quickly receive either supplies or reinforcements. This would force Meade to hold his army back and away from the Rappahannock. Hopefully,… Read More

It Was Decided That An Attack Was Impracticable – Bragg’s Last Chance

Bragg: Soon he will be gone!

October 31, 1863 – Halloween (Saturday) Confederate President Jefferson Davis was worried most about two things – recovering East Tennessee, which was now held by 20,000 or so Federals under the command of Ambrose Burnside, and getting James Longstreet and his corps back to General Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia. Of course, until he knew better, he figured that things were going fairly well for Braxton Bragg, who had been besieging the Union Army of the Cumberland at Chattanooga. On the 29th, Davis put forth the idea that if Bragg could maintain the siege, Longstreet might be detached to expel Burnside, “and thus place him in position, according to circumstances, to hasten or delay his return to the army of General Lee.” Lee, according to Davis, had gained “some recent successes over the enemy; but Meade’s great and increasing numbers renders it very desirable to General Lee’s troops should be returned to him at the earliest practicable day.” David handed Bragg myriad ideas in his letter of the 29th. Mostly, however, he seemed… Read More

Turn Out the Guard – Supplies Stream into Chattanooga

Federal steamer arriving at Brown's Ferry.

October 30, 1863 (Friday) “Turn out the guard for the commanding general,” came the call as Ulysses S. Grant came ashore at Brown’s Ferry shortly following the battle. “Never mind the guard,” came his terse reply, as the sentinels were dismissed back to their camps. From the other side of Lookout Creek, the Confederate pickets called the same: “Turn out the guard for the commanding general, General Grant.” They faced their small line north, and saluted their enemy’s commander. No doubt amused, Grant returned the salute. Generals Grant and George Thomas surveyed the battlefield, making minor adjustments to Joe Hooker’s new lines of defense, but were more than pleased with the state of things. “The river was now opened to us from Lookout Valley to Bridgeport,” wrote Grant in his memoirs, explaining why opening the “Cracker Line” was essential. The Tennessee River was impassible between Brown’s Ferry and Kelley’s Ferry. There was, however, smooth waters between the supply depot at Bridgeport and Kelley’s Ferry, which was connected via “a good wagon-road, which runs through a… Read More

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