Civil War Daily Gazette

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

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‘Longstreet’s Command is in Our Front’ – The Battle at Bean’s Station

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December 14, 1863 (Monday) Through the crisp and early morning hours, Union General James Shackelford expected to find Confederate cavalry massing before him. But it was not so. At his cavalry headquarters near Bean’s Station, Tennessee, he received reports that the enemy troops he had briefly skirmished with the day previous had fallen back two or three miles. “The patrols on the roads to the river saw nor heard nothing of the enemy,” he wrote to General John Parke, who commanded Federal infantry, a few miles south in Rutledge. It had been severals days since both armies ceased their movements. James Longstreet, who commanded the Confederates in question, took an account of all he could, considering everything from the weather, the lack of shoes, and the results of an unexpected victory, before deciding to turn back south, march down the road from Rogersville toward Rutledge. His first strike was to be upon Shackelford’s position at Bean’s Station. His men had slept little, being without tents under the deluge of a cold and bitter rain. They… Read More

Longstreet Prepares for Battle – To Take the Offensive

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December 13, 1863 (Sunday) James Longstreet was hardly known for taking the offensive, and his legacy shows that his name became almost synonymous with defensive warfare. And yet, defense was now the last thing upon his mind. He had been ousted from besieging Knoxville by William Tecumseh Sherman’s relief column, and retreated over sixty miles northeast. But there he stopped, resting his army in Rogersville. The Federals, then commanded by Ambrose Burnside, who had been under siege gave chase, but stopped short. For days, both sides questioned what the other might do next. But then for Longstreet, it was decided. He learned that Sherman had returned south to Chattanooga and that the Federal troops at Knoxville and those waiting nearby were all that remained. “I presume that the enemy’s force now in East Tennessee will amount to about 27,000,” wrote Longstreet to President Jefferson Davis on this date. “Mine should reach 20,000.” Longstreet had devised a plan that, if successful, might just force the Federals out of Knoxville. Separating the two armies was the Holston… Read More

Meade Learns of His ‘Semi-Official’ Sustainment

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December 12, 1863 (Saturday) Union General George Meade was nearly certain that he would be soon replaced. Though he had defeated General Lee at the Battle of Gettysburg, his progress since had been seen by many in Washington as slow and lacking in definition. His move north to Manassas during the Bristoe Station Campaign was said to be a retreat, and his most recent attempt at an offensive – the Mine Run Campaign – showed, perhaps, a lack of willingness to fight. Since the late campaign, Meade had heard little from Washington, and nothing of importance. From officers returning after visiting the capital, he heard only rumors. But these rumors were believable. It was said that he was to be replaced as commander of the Army of the Potomac. Some spoke of Joseph Hooker, while still others mentioned George Thomas, who was heralded as the Rock of Chickamauga and now led the Army of the Cumberland. Meade himself believed the latter. In the past, Washington had kept such information away from the commanders. For instance,… Read More

‘The Only Question is Who is to Succeed Me’ – Meade Prepares for the Worst

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December 11, 1863 (Friday) When last we left General George Meade, he had more or less come to terms with the fact that he could do little against General Lee along the Rapidan River. He and his Army of the Potomac slipped to the north and waited for some word from Washington. But this word was long in coming. On the 3rd of December, Meade wrote to his wife. “Two days have now elapsed since I officially announced the return of the army,” said the General, “and yet not a word or line has been vouchsafed me from Washington. I am somewhat at a loss to know what the silence of the authorities means.” Meade had communicated only with General-in-Chief Henry Halleck. He had, for a time, entertained the thought of writing to President Lincoln himself, but gave up the idea, deciding instead to write and submit his official report of the ill-fated Mine Run Campaign. The day following, Meade broke the silence by asking Halleck by wire if he might visit Washington. Before the… Read More

Burnside’s Egress and the Pursuit of Longstreet

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December 10, 2013 (Thursday) Certain things had been moving slowly in Eastern Tennessee for some time now. During the Siege of Knoxville, General Ambrose Burnside, commander of the Department of the Ohio, asked President Lincoln that he be relieved. The request was granted, and on November 16, John G. Foster was placed in command. It would take nearly a month for the new commander to make his appearance. General Foster was no stranger to the Ninth Corps, a unit which was practically synonymous with Burnside. Foster commanded a brigade in the corps in late 1861 (when it was still called Burnside’s Expeditionary Force). By the following summer, Foster took over Burnside’s former position as commander of the Department of North Carolina. He was also no stranger to sieges or to James Longstreet. During the Tidewater Campaign, he led the garrison troops before escaping from the siege and leading a column of relief. From the start of the war, Foster not only had a fine record, but seemed to be able to pick up after Burnside… Read More

Corps d’Afrique Riots at Fort Jackson

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December 9, 1863 (Wednesday) “I’ve had a great deal of trouble with you already,” spat Lt. Col. Augustus Benedict, “and I am going to stop it!” With that, he leveled his fist and struck Harry Williams, a drummer in the 4th Regiment, Corps d’Afrique, stationed at Fort Jackson, Louisiana, south of New Orleans. Benedict then began to whip him, as well as another drummer, Munro Miller. Both were stripped to their shirts and repeatedly struck with a mule whip up to twenty times. The white officers, keeping to their quarters, overheard the pleas of “Don’t! I won’t do it again!” They heard the whip crack and the skin tear. This was punishment for lying to the guard to leave the garrison. Soon afterthe beaten men were released to their companies, the uprising began. Lt. Col. Augustus Benedict had a history of mistreating the troops under his command. It was a usual thing to see him roughly shaking and striking random soldiers. When he was stationed at Fort Saint Philip, he was known to, on several… Read More

Lincoln Addresses Congress – Offers Amnesty to the Rebels

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December 8, 1863 (Tuesday) As Confederate President Jefferson Davis addressed his Congress the previous day, United States President Abraham Lincoln prepared an address on this date to be read to the House and Senate. Like Davis’ address, Lincoln’s was long and encompassing. That is, however, where the similarities ceased. While Davis solemnly spoke of “grave reverses,” Lincoln, being on the other side of those reverses, was of much better cheer. Lincoln began with foreign relations. It was an odd place to start, but there the news was especially good. “The efforts of disloyal citizens of the United States,” he spoke of the Rebels, “to involve us in foreign wars, to aid an inexcusable insurrection, have been unavailing.” Relations with both Great Britain and France were getting better, he explained, citing the joint effort by the former and the United States to ban the African slave trade. “That inhuman and odious traffic has been brought to an end.” After touching on a few issues with Spain and Japan’s “hereditary aristocracy,” he moved onto affairs closer to… Read More

Jefferson Davis’ State of the (Dis)Union

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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

Sherman Enters Knoxville – Surprised Burnside Wasn’t Starving

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December 6, 1863 (Sunday) Late the previous evening, Union General William Tecumseh Sherman, who was still storming northward with the hope of catching the Confederates under General James Longstreet before Knoxville, learned that the Rebels had withdrawn. Ambrose Burnside, who commanded the Federal troops inside the formerly-besieged city, had dispatched Lt. Col. James Lyman Van Buren, a cousin of President Van Buren. Van Buren explained to Sherman that “General Burnside’s cavalry was on [Longstreet’s] heels; and that the general desired to see me in person as soon as I could come to Knoxville.” Sherman’s three corps of troops had been poised to enter Knoxville shortly. Of course, he hoped to catch the Rebels, but now that they had fled, things had changed some. “I am here,” wrote Sherman to Burnside, “and can bring twenty-five thousand men into Knoxville tomorrow; but Longstreet having retreated, I feel disposed to stop, for a stern chase is a long one.” He would come if Burnside insisted, but thought it best to rest most of his troops. “We are all… Read More

Longstreet’s March and Davis’ Decision

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December 5, 1863 (Saturday) “About sundown it began to rain cats & dogs,” wrote E. Porter Alexander, General Longstreet’s Chief of Artillery. He was writing about the night of the 4th, the night that the Confederates besieging Knoxville, Tennessee began their swift departure for the hills to the northeast. Longstreet had learned that William Tecumseh Sherman was bounding his way from Chattanooga with 30,000 troops. Rather than wait for a battle he was almost certain to lose, the Rebel general decided to break off the siege. Rather than attempting to break through to the south to reunite with Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee (where he had never really been wanted), he decided to march north with an eye upon getting back to Virginia. Alexander had limbered the last of his howitzers, shortly after bidding the Yankees a bitter farewell. Soon, they were on the road. “It was a hard night’s march,” he remembered. “Not that the distance covered was great, but the killing feature is perpetual halting and moving, and halting and moving, inseparable from… Read More

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