Civil War Daily Gazette

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

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Use the Spade for Protection – The Siege of Petersburg Begins


June 18, 1864 (Saturday) Through the grays of predawn there was silence and waiting, broken only by the curses of General Charles Griffin and the chiding of his commander, Gouverneur K. Warren. “Let us all try to keep our tempers more,” said Warren, “and not swear so much. I know I give way myself; but it is unworthy.” There were scattered shots, but more than anything, there was a cutting silence. General Meade had ordered an assault upon the enemy’s works before Petersburg. Nothing had yet to materialize. The Federal troops advanced, heads down and low, toward the Confederate works before them. The day previous, their comrades had met with death and severity, and were now strewn on the ground over which they strode. But as they drew closer, they could at least see that the enemy’s works were abandoned, held now only by bodies gazing hollow towards the heavens, covered in blood and some unrecognizable, even to glory. Along the way, several groups of Rebels pickets were caught sleeping and sent to the rear.… Read More

‘To Do All We Can’ – Meade Attacks Petersburg, Lee Denies It’s Meade


June 17, 1864 (Friday) Through the night the reports filtered into General Meade’s headquarters – Lee’s army was on the move, south toward Petersburg. Soon, rather than 14,000 Rebels dug in behind the entrenchments, there would be upwards of 40,000. And soon, it would be General Lee at their helm, rather than P.G.T. Beauregard. If ever there was a time for immediate action, it was now. And Meade sent forward the Ninth Corps under Ambrose Burnside. The attack was to be made at night, but it wasn’t until just before the sunrise that they went forward. When finally they came, they numbered only a division. But there was success. A mile of embattled Rebel lines fell. 600 prisoners were taken, four pieces of artillery, and 1,500 rifles. “The division had been quietly brought within 100 yards, in a ravine, during the night, and advanced with empty guns in their hands,” recalled E. Porter Alexander after the war. “One of our gunners alone was awake, and saw them, and discharged his cannon, which was the only… Read More

‘It Is All in the Cruise’ – The Coming Siege of Petersburg


June 16, 1864 (Thursday) P.G.T. Beauregard had no choice but to gamble. Reinforcements from General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia were only a dream, and he had ten miles of earthworks to defend against the coming Federals. With his 14,000, there was no way he could hold them. And so he shifted everything to Petersburg. There came no orders for him to do so. It was not on the advice of Jefferson Davis or of Robert E. Lee. It was Beauregard, and this was his day. “About four and a half miles of the fortified lines (extending from half a mile east of the Jerusalem plank-road westwardly to the Appomattox) were entirely unprotected,” wrote the General after the war, “except by a few pickets of cavalry stationed there to give me timely notice of any danger threatening in that direction.” These four and a half miles did not include the Bermuda Hundred line, which he had abandoned late the previous night. This was also done on his own, as the Confederate War Department fell silent… Read More

‘Petersburg Could Have Been Easily Captured’


June 15, 1864 (Wednesday) While most of Grant’s Army had crossed the James River the day previous, the Eighteenth Corps, commanded by “Baldy” Smith, had taken transports down the Pamunkey River and then up the James. They had arrived at Bermuda Hundred in the waining hours of the 14th. Bermuda Hundred was a peninsula between the James and Appomattox Rivers, located between Richmond and Petersburg. It was also home to Benjamin Butler’s Army of the James, which had been bottled up and rendered impotent by the Rebels under P.G.T. Beauregard, defending Petersburg, itself south of Richmond. The standoff was a stalemate and neither side could attack the other. During the fighting before Cold Harbor, Grant had ordered Baldy Smith’s Corps to join him from Butler’s realm. This gave Beauregard room to breath and he rested easy until Smith’s return. “Return of Butler’s forces sent to Grant,”wrote General Beauregard to Richmond, “renders my position more critical than ever, if not reinforced immedaitely; for the enemy could force my lines at Bermuda Hundred Neck, capture Battery Dantzler,… Read More

‘This Has Been a Dear Visit’ – The Death of General Polk


June 14, 1864 (Tuesday) When last we left Generals William Tecumseh Sherman and Joe Johnston in Georgia, the latter had taken up positions in the mountains north of Marietta, while the former shadowed, unable to mount the attack he wanted. At the first, Johnston’s lines were long but thin, and he found them too much so. Through June 13th, the day previous, Johnston held council with his corps commander, Leonidas Polk, seeking a means by which to shorten his lines. This would, he hoped, strengthen his position, but also allow him to keep John Bell Hood’s Corps in reserve so that he might attack portions of Sherman’s line if the opportunity arose. “The rains continued to pour,” wrote Sherman in his memoirs, “and made our developments slow and dilatory, for there were no roads, and these had to be improvised by each division for its own supply-train from the depot in Big Shanty to the camps.” To General Henry Halleck, the army’s Chief of Staff in Washington, Sherman wrote late on the 13th: “We have… Read More

A Rather Slow, Stupid Affair – Lee Loses Grant

Charles City Court House, Va. Taken on this date by Timothy O'Sullivan.

June 13, 1864 (Monday) The Confederates in the ranks understood it plainly. The day previous, their commanders – all of them – were summonsed to General Lee’s headquarters. This could only mean a move, a strike. And at 3am, through the dark folds of the predawn, left the tramping of 8,000 men. “Our whole Corps,” wrote the topography Jedediah Hotchkiss in his journal, “under command of Lt. Gen. Early, for some distant expedition. [Robert] Rodes’ Division moved in front. We started from our camp, a mile west of Gaines’ Mill, and went via Mechanicsville and Meadow Bridge to the Brooke Turnpike, then up the Plank Road to Goodall’s Tavern were we turned down the Old Mt. Road and went to he banks of the South Anna, near Auburn Mills, where we encamped.” It was a march of twenty-five miles, and it was in the opposite direction of a movement, perhaps large, made by the Federals. Hotchkiss, who first stopped in Richmond, noted that Union troops had crossed the Chickahominy at Long Bridge. Early’s Corps and… Read More

Lee Sends Early to the Valley; Grant Slides Left Yet Again


June 12, 1864 (Sunday) While a defeated Philip Sheridan wandered his way back to the Army of the Potomac, General Grant made the final preparations for yet another slip around Robert E. Lee’s right flank. But due to Sheridan and word from the Shenandoah Valley, Lee was conflicted. General David Hunter’s Army of the Shenandoah had by now grown to around 20,000. Lee’s incredibly small force in the Valley numbered only a fraction of that total. Dispatching John Breckinridge’s column did little to help the cause, as he had no more than 3,000 under his command. In a letter to Jefferson Davis written the day previous, Lee expressed his desire to drive the enemy out of the Shenandoah, but admitted that it would take an entire corps from his already thin army to do it. The larger question was, however, Grant. Lee believed that Grant was about to stab toward the James River, getting around his right flank. He was correct in this, but seemed fairly certain that he could do little to prevent it,… Read More

The Influences of a Pardonable Zeal – Clash at Trevilian Station


June 11, 1864 (Saturday) Two divisions of Federal cavalry rode west from Cold Harbor, holding close to the north bank of the North Anna. They were helmed by General Philip Sheridan, who planned to march them upstream to cross at a ford near Trevilian Station on the Virginia Central Railroad. Once upon the line, they planned to destroy it farther west toward Gordonsville, Charlottesville, and the gaps leading into the Shenandoah Valley. This would cut off any supplies coming to General Lee’s army from that direction. Once accomplished, he was to join with David Hunter’s column in the Shenandoah Valley. Hunter, by Grant’s orders, was to come across the Blue Ridge Mountains and join the Army of the Potomac, using Sheridan as an escort. But Sheridan’s movements were hardly secret. His men began on June 7th, and two days later, a division of Confederate cavalry, led by Wade Hampton, set off in pursuit. Hampton moved his own division as swiftly as possible, trying to slide between Sheridan and the intended targets. Another division, this under… Read More

Another Victory for Forrest


June 10, 1864 (Friday) Ten days had now passed since General Samuel Sturgis set out from Memphis with a mixed array of 8,000 cavalry and infantry. His object – his only stated goal – was to kill or cripple the Confederate forces under Nathan Bedford Forrest. To William Tecumseh Sherman, Forrest had been a regular worry. Sherman’s supply lines stretched long through western Tennessee. Keeping them operational was becoming less of a concern, but was still a line a battle or two might warrant. To this end, Sturgis was dispatched, and for over a week, he and his men slogged through the muddy roads of northern Mississippi. Almost immediately, they were spotted, and word came to Forrest of their route, though the Federal intentions were still a mystery. By the 6th of June, Forrest had entered Tupelo and learned that Sturgis was nearing Corinth. This column, believed Forrest, was another corps bound for Sherman’s lines north of Atlanta. Through pouring rains, both columns marched. On the 8th, Sturgis came upon the town of Ripley, and… Read More

The Pause in the Operations – Lee Misreads Grant


June 9, 1864 (Thursday) “The indications are that Grant, despairing of a direct attack, is now seeking to embarrass you by flank movements,” wrote Jefferson Davis to General Lee on this date. The day previous, Davis had joined Lee at the front, together observing the lines of the enemy. When he returned to Richmond, he assessed what he saw and concluded that Grant was going to run around Lee’s right flank once more. Lee was being stretched thin. Though he had necessarily contracted his lines at Cold Harbor, he had to deal with the defeat in the Shenandoah Valley. For this, he had already detached John Breckinridge’s troops, now numbering many less then they had when first arriving. But there was also the Union cavalry under Phil Sheridan. General Grant had dispatched the cavaliers to destroy the Virginia Central Railroad running from the Shenandoah Valley to north of Richmond. He was to begin at Louisa Court House [near Greenwood on the map], ravaging westward toward Charlottesville and the Valley. While Sheridan left on the 7th,… Read More

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