Civil War Daily Gazette

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

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Washington Reacts to Rebels in the Valley

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January 5, 1864 (Tuesday) “It now appears that Lee has detached a large force and sent them into the valley,” wrote Union General Benjamin Kelley. From his headquarters in Cumberland, Maryland, he had been overseeing the Department of West Virginia, but mostly focusing upon the growing number of Rebel cavalry in the Shenandoah Valley. He had sent several raids south, and was finding not only cavalry, but infantry as well – a lot of infantry. He was convinced that it was all of General Richard Ewell’s Corps; that Robert E. Lee had sent away nearly half of his army for the winter. “If General Meade would send a strong cavalry force into the Luray Valley, it would be an important movement to us,” he wrote to Washington on the 3rd of January. He feared for the railroad and an outpost of his troopers at Petersburg, West Virginia, along the South Branch of the Potomac River, forty or so miles southwest of Romney. Under Col. Joseph Thoburn, the 1st (West) Virginia Cavalry had been assisting General… Read More

“Otherwise, I Will Go Myself” – Davis on Lee’s Anticipated Refusal

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January 4, 1864 (Monday) Since the fall of New Bern, North Carolina, the Confederates had been trying to figure out ways to get it back. It wasn’t really that it was so heavily guarded by Federal troops so as to make it unassailable, it was more so that North Carolina wasn’t really a front in the war. It wasn’t Virginia or Tennessee, Mississippi or even Arkansas. The true prize of New Bern was in its reported storehouses. These were dearly needed by General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Lee knew this and proposed to President Jefferson Davis that a brigade from George Pickett’s Division be sent south to retake the town and its spoils. In Virginia, it was clear that no campaigning would take place across the cold winter, and Lee now believed that even though the other two divisions of James Longstreet’s Corps were languishing in eastern Tennessee, he had enough troops to spare. On this date, Davis made his reply. Lee had also brought up some other issues, such as the lack of… Read More

Grant Visits Knoxville – Hopes to Attack Longstreet

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January 3, 1864 (Sunday) General Grant had left his headquarters in Nashville before the end of December. Arriving by rail at Chattanooga, he took a steamer up the Tennessee River to Knoxville. It had been hoped that James Longstreet’s Corps, detached from the Army of Northern Virginia, would have been driven back into their home state by General John Foster’s Federal forces. And yet, Longstreet remained, apparently going into winter quarters thirty miles to the north near Russellville. Arriving on New Year’s Eve, Grant stayed in Knoxville for two days, as the temperatures dropped below zero each night. Though Grant spoke little about it, he was planning a major offensive. He consulted locals about the terrain of the area and was clearly mulling something over in his mind. On the 2nd, Grant visited the Army of the Ohio, arrayed along Strawberry Plains, between Knoxville and Longstreet’s Division. There, he saw for himself the poor condition of the troops. They were living in abject poverty and most were still in their summer clothes – it was… Read More

I Can Now Spare Troops for the Purpose – Lee Proposes an Offensive

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January 2, 1864 (Saturday) “The time is at hand,” wrote General Robert E. Lee to Jefferson Davis from his headquarters along the Rapidan River, “when, if an attempt can be made to capture the enemy’s forces at New Berne, it should be done. I can now spare troops for the purpose, which will not be the case as spring approaches.” New Bern, North Carolina had fallen to the Federals nearly two years prior. Ambrose Burnside, leading his joint expedition to the Hatteras coastal area, captured a slew of Rebel forts and towns. Since then, the fighting had devolved into minor skirmishes and guerrilla affairs. In the spring of 1863, there was an attempt by D.H. Hill to retake some of the ground, but little came of such exercises. Lately, however, increasing Union raids had depleted the eastern counties of forage and slaves. Before all was there lost, Lee was determined to act. “If I have been correctly informed,” he continued, “a brigade from this army, with Barton’s brigade (Pickett’s division), now near Kinston, will be… Read More

Besieging the Presidential Doors – New Year’s Day at the White House

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January 1, 1864 (Friday – New Year’s Day) It was a cold start to the New Year. A nor’easter had poured its rains upon the capitol the night previous, and temperatures plummeted, even freezing water pipes. The morning blew bright. Each January 1st found the Lincolns greeting a plethora of guests at the White House. With each passing year, the gathering grew to the almost riotous proportions of 1864. President and Mrs. Lincoln arrived, he in a suit, she in a purple velvet dress with white satin flutings. The president had contracted a slight case of what was then called varioloid – a mild form of small pox. In truth, he his malady was likely full-blown, but reported to the public as almost trivial. Now, however, he was in fine shape. Reporter and friend, Noah Brooks, noted “his complexion is clearer, his eyes less lack-luster and he has a hue of health to which he has long been a stranger.” Beginning at 11am, Lincoln was greeted by foreign ministers, “covered with stars, garters, and medals… 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

Sherman: ‘We Should Enflict Exemplary Punishment’

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December 29, 1863 (Tuesday) “Should you wish to communicate with me, telegraph at Lancaster, Ohio” -William Tecumseh Sherman, December 21, 1863 And they did. General Sherman found the rare opportunity to go home for Christmas – the first time in over twenty years. His oldest son had recently died, and his presence was sorely needed. He understood that his time at home did not sever his ties from his duty or army. He arrived at home on Christmas Day, and the next found him scrawling messages to General-in-Chief Henry Halleck. “I will be at Cairo [Illinois] and down the Mississippi by January 2, and strike Grenada and Shreveport, if the admiral [David Dixon Porter] agrees,” wired Sherman. “I left my command ragged, but in splendid fighting order.” In a longer letter written the same day, Sherman went into greater, and much more macabre detail. “I propose to send an expedition up the Yazoo, above Yazoo City,” he began, “to march back to the Grenada road and do a certain amount of damage, and give general… 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

The Very Picture of a General – Johnston Arrives

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December 27, 1863 (Sunday) The Confederate Army of Tennessee was in Dalton, Georgia because that’s where its former commander, Braxton Bragg, had stopped it. Also, it was where the pursuing Federal columns under General Grant had ceased their hue and cry. For the winter, it seemed, Dalton was to be a place of relative safety. But for truly how long? Braxton Bragg had resigned and William Hardee was placed in temporary command. After a bit of hemming and hawing, President Jefferson Davis selected Joe Johnston to permanently replace Bragg. Davis strongly disliked Johnston, but even more strongly disliked P.G.T. Beauregard – practically the only other officer who could replace Bragg. And so it was with a heavy heart that Davis handed the position to Johnston. The military situation was rather bleak. The beaten army was in short supply of everything from shoes to ammunition. Morale was crashing and desertions were on the rise. Though this was well known, Davis chose to ignore it, sending Johnston a rose-tinted message with instructions to prepare for an offensive… Read More

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