Civil War Daily Gazette

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

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Meade Believes the Rebels to be in Full Retreat

Cutler just doesn't know.

October 9, 1863 (Friday) Just what it was all about, General George Meade could not yet tell. He had ridden to Cedar Mountain, hoping the clear morning skies would give him some idea where Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was moving. He had expected a march. His scouts and intelligence told him as much. But which direction they took, he could not tell. While he was there, reports came in from his cavalry picketing Meade’s right flank along the Rapidan River. Though Meade did not move infantry to bolster his right, he called upon David Gregg’s Cavalry Division to reinforce Judson Kilpatrick’s, who had issued the warnings along the river. The third division, under John Buford, Meade planned to send forward with orders to cross the river and scout the remnants of the former Rebel camps. Buford was to communicate with John Newton’s I Corps, who had also been ordered to cross. Together, they were to follow what Meade believed to be the Confederate retreat. Buford would not receive the instructions until the… Read More

‘Their Army is Very Much Demoralized’ – Lee Starts His Offensive


October 8, 1863 (Thursday) For over a week now, General Robert E. Lee had known that two Federal corps had been stripped from the Army of the Potomac and sent west as reinforcements for Chattanooga. Though he was worried about what it meant for Braxton Bragg, commanding the Confederates besieging the city, for himself, he sensed a fine opportunity. On the 3rd, two days after being convinced that the Union Army before him had been diminished, he met with his two corps commanders, A.P. Hill and Richard Ewell (James Longstreet had went west with most of his corps to aid Bragg). It was at this meeting that he announced his plan. General George Meade, commanding the Army of the Potomac, had established his line near Culpeper. While two divisions of his cavalry guarded the Rapidan River, the I and VI Corps held the space between the river and the town. Surrounding the town were his three remaining corps, each holding their own patch of high ground. Lee wanted to launch an offensive that would turn… Read More

‘My Gallant Brigade Was Cut To Pieces And Slaughtered’ – The Battle Wheeler Never Wanted

Joseph Wheeler

October 7, 1863 (Wednesday) General Joseph Wheeler, far behind enemy lines in Tennessee, had ordered Henry Davidson, commanding one of his dispersed divisions, to fall back upon the center of his line should the enemy get too close. These were simple orders, and Wheeler felt that they should be simple enough to follow. The enemy, commanded by Generals Robert Mitchell and George Crook, were encamped seven miles north of Shelbyville. Davidson’s Division was two miles south and across the Duck River. With scouts thrown out, Wheeler believed that Davidson should have nine miles worth of warning before the enemy hit him. And, of course, the enemy wasn’t supposed to get close enough to do anything of the sort. Col. George Hodge, commanding a brigade under Davidson, was ordered on the morning of this date to march for Farmington, which was two miles behind Wheeler’s center, and so two miles away from where Wheeler actually wanted them. Just as they started off, Davidson rode up and informed Hodge that the Federals were coming down the Shelbyville… Read More

Wheeler Burns a Swath through Tennessee

George Crook and his very respectable whiskers.

October 6, 1863 (Tuesday) The Rebel Cavalry under General Joseph Wheeler were still crossing the Tennessee countryside virtually unopposed. After they sacked the town of McMinnville on the 3rd, they moved northwest the next day towards Murfreesboro, which they reached on the afternoon of the 4th. Though Wheeler had few Yankees in his front, roughly 2,000 Federal cavalrymen under General George Crook were in pursuit. Crook arrived in McMinnville on the morning of the 4th to find it in ruins. He did not tarry long, but started his men on the road to Murfreesborough. After a march of only two miles, he ran into Wheeler’s rear guard left behind by the Rebel to slow the chase. Crook, not wishing to be delayed, ordered a saber charge, which dispersed the Confederates in their front. For four miles they charged, pushing the rear guard back into the main Rebel column near Readyville. There, Wheeler threw out more troops to keep the Federals at bay before turning his attention to other matters. Thus far, Crook’s pursuit seemed more… Read More

‘What Boat Is That?’ – David Strikes its Goliath

David attacks the New Ironsides

October 5, 1863 (Monday) Since we last checked in on Fort Sumter and Charleston Harbor, little had changed. The Federal Navy continued to periodically bombard Sumter, which was little more than a pile of mortar, while the infantry had largely packed its bags. The Confederates held on, while waiting for at least two strange naval projects to come to fruition. The (now) more famous submarine Hunley was still a work in progress, but the torpedo boats, like the David were ready. Unlike a submarine, the torpedo boats were not fully submersible. They did, however, sit so low in the water that they may as well have been. The object of both was the same – to deliver an unsuspected explosive right against the side of an enemy ship, preferably without damaging the vessel carrying said explosive. To accomplish this, the David, which was little more than a discarded locomotive boiler with an engine, was fitted with a fourteen foot spear. The barb of this spear was tipped with an explosive (the torpedo), which rested six… 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

The Surrender and Humiliation of McMinnville, Tennessee

Joseph Wheeler

October 3, 1863 (Saturday) Confederate Cavalry under General Joseph Wheeler had been sent across the Tennessee, upriver from the Federal Army of the Cumberland, more or less besieged at Chattanooga. They had not crossed without the knowledge of William Rosecrans, commanding the Union army, and while he had sounded the alert and even dispatched cavalry and infantry, they were still gathering when Wheeler struck. The Rebels had crossed at Cotton Point, and continued through the town of Washington, before traversing Walden’s Ridge at Smith’s Crossroads. Having entered the valley of the Sequatchie River the previous day, they stopped for the night at Pikeville. The previous day, General Wheeler divided his forces. While he overtook a large wagon train, driving off the guards, killing the mules and burning the wagons, another column was en route to McMinnville, which, under the command of General Henry Davidson, they reached on the morning of this date. The town was held by Major Michael Patterson and the 4th Tennessee Infantry (US), who took full command of the town on the… Read More

‘You Played the Part of a Damn Scoundrel’ – Forrest Unloads on Bragg; Wheeler Catches Some Wagons

Forrest: Sure does sound like something I'd say.

October 2, 1863 (Friday) Braxton Bragg was certain about a few things. He knew that William Rosecrans’ Union Army of the Cumberland was in a fine defensive position at Chattanooga. He was sure that Federal reinforcements were quickly coming. And he understood that all he could probably do was disrupt the North’s supply line, hoping to cut off Rosecrans from not only reinforcements, but to starve him into submission. For the lines to be cut, he would need cavalry. The most likely choice would have been Nathan Bedford Forrest, who had already made a name for himself in such work. In fact, he had already ordered Forrest’s Cavalry Corps to make haste for East Tennessee to keep an eye upon Ambrose Burnside, reporting his movements back to Bragg. Soon after, Bragg changed the orders, but Forrest still discovered that Burnside wasn’t moving at all, that he was still more or less in the Knoxville area (much to the chagrin of every Yankee from Rosecrans to Lincoln). Forrest skirmished with the Federals here and there, but… Read More

Lee is Convinced, but Undecided; Rosecrans Out?

Lee's got that ol' horse sense now.

October 1, 1863 (Thursday) General Robert E. Lee was now certain. For several days, he had pondered the rumors that two Federals corps had been detached from the Army of the Potomac and sent west to reinforce William Rosecrans at Chattanooga. He had batted around a handful of possibilities, including the idea that General George Meade had himself been reinforced. There was even speculation that a column of troops had been dispatched to the Peninsula as a sort of diversion for whatever it was that Washington was planning. Even as late as the previous day (the 29th), Lee had doubts. The scout who brought him the news, he did not fully trust. “None of the [other] scouts have yet seen the troops in motion,” Lee wrote to President Davis, “nor can any material change be observed in their camps at our front.” After Lee had sent the letter to Davis, he heard further reports, and by the morning of this date, he was convinced. “I consider it certain that two corps have been withdrawn from… 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