Civil War Daily Gazette

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

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General Grant Wants Ganeral Banks to Prioritize

Look, Banks, you're important, but not THAT important.

March 15, 1864 (Tuesday) Maj. Gen. N. P. Banks, Commanding Department of the Gulf, New Orleans: Enclosed herewith I send you copy of General Orders, No. 1, assuming command of the armies of the United States. You will see from the order it is Any intention to establish headquarters for the present with the Army of the Potomac. I have not fully determined upon a plan of campaign for this spring, but will do so before the return of our veteran troops to the field. It will, however, be my desire to have all parts of the Army, or rather all the armies, act as much in concert as possible. For this reason I now write you. […] U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant- General. General Grant had left Washington, DC as swiftly as possible, and by this time had arrived back at his old headquarters in Nashville. This was, as he explained to General Banks, only a temporary visit. His new home was in the field in Virginia. This did not, however, mean that he felt… Read More

Fort DeRussy Falls to the Yankees

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March 14, 1864 (Monday) “It will be unsafe to linger here,” warned General John G. Walker, commander of the Confederate Fort DeRussy. For two days, reports of Yankees landing at Simmsport, thirty miles south, and an immense naval fleet had caused him more than a small bit of concern. “I feel most solicitous for the fate of Fort DeRussy,” he wrote to his commander, Richard Taylor, “as it must fall as soon almost as invested by the force now marching against it.” General Taylor, who was headquartered in Alexandria, fifteen miles up the Red River, wasn’t having it. “If the force of the enemy landing at Simmsport is such as to admit of your fighting him with the least hope of success,” he began, “the sooner you attack him the better.” Taylor advised to hit the Yankees before their entire force, which Walker deemed to be 18,000 (though it was about half that), was fully on land. The force at Fort DeRussy was around 3,000. Taylor gave some instructions for a retreat, but cautioned that… Read More

Lincoln Suggests that Blacks Be Allowed to Vote

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March 13, 1864 (Sunday) As Nathaniel Banks’ Army of the Gulf was readying itself to plunge into the heart of Louisiana, and while troops under A.J. Smith and the largest western fleet ever assembled were steaming up the Red River to do the same, in Washington, President Lincoln was concerned about more than just the military situation in Louisiana. Lincoln had issued on December 8, 1863 a proclamation for amnesty that, with just ten percent of the population true to the Union, would allow a state to reform their government. They could elect new (Unionist) delegates and a governor, basically starting from scratch. In Louisiana, Unionist sentiment was also higher than many other parts of the South. One of the most prominent Unionists was Michael Hahn. At the outbreak of the war, Hahn was thirty years old. Though he was born in Bavaria on the Rhine, his mother, who was by then widowed, whisked him and his four siblings away to start a new life in America. They stayed in New York for a few… Read More

‘To Amuse the Fort’ – Largest Federal Fleet in the West Steams Toward Rebs

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March 12, 1864 (Saturday) Very little seemed to be going right, which couldn’t have been all too surprising. Three Federal columns were to step off at different times from points hundreds of miles apart to converge on the same spot at the same instance. Throw in the largest Naval fleet ever gathered in the West, and it’s a wonder anything at all went right. General Nathaniel Banks had conceived of a plan, based upon ideas from then General-in-Chief Henry Halleck, to attack up the Red River, a tributary to the Mississippi. He was then to capture Alexandria, Louisiana, and move on to Shreveport. Banks believed that he would be aided by Generals William Tecumseh Sherman and Frederick Steele, but Halleck’s orders to both were vague, and nobody seemed to have a firm grasp on what to do or when. As Banks planned and stalled, Sherman’s column, coming from Vicksburg, was given to Andrew Jackson Smith, as Sherman was now filling General Grant’s old shoes, and James McPherson was filling Sherman’s. Due to rains, nobody was… Read More

‘We Ought to Beat Him’ – Confederates Prepare the Red River

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March 11, 1864 (Thursday) As Union troops under General Nathanial Banks gathered to the south, more, under A.J. Smith were about to leave Vicksburg. To the north, from Little Rock, Arkansas, still another column under Frederick Steele was poised to step off. These machinations did not go unnoticed by Confederate General Richard Taylor, son of President Zachary Taylor, headquartered in Alexandria, Louisiana. Since the fall of Vicksburg, Taylor’s small band of perhaps 7,000, which he had dubbed the Army of Western Louisiana, had been on the defensive, waiting for the Federals to make their move. Expecting a stab up the Red River in early 1864, he was surprised that instead General Sherman plunged into Mississippi, capturing Meridian. All believed that Sherman’s next move would be upon Mobile, Alabama. When Sherman’s men returned to Vicksburg, Taylor figured that they would be rested until the spring campaign season. In the meantime, Taylor busied himself by almost literally scorching the earth on the approaches to Alexandria. Wagons were confiscated, as were horses, mules, and slaves. Males of fighting… Read More

General Grant Visits His New Home

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March 10, 1864 (Thursday) General Grant had been in Washington long enough to realize that he no longer wished to be in Washington. Following two days of embarrassing ceremonies where the rank of Lieutenant-General was graced upon him, he wanted to return to Nashville. First, however, he wished to visit George Meade’s Army of the Potomac, headquartered near Brandy Station, Virginia. Grant and Meade had known each other slightly prior to this, having both served under Zachary Taylor during the Mexican War. While Meade stuck mostly to overseeing lighthouses along the eastern seaboard, Grant had struck for the West, serving as quarter-master in Washington Territory before being forced to resign while stationed at Fort Humboldt, California mostly likely due to his indulgence in drink. Neither had seen the other, however, since the 1840s. The rain poured upon him as he detrained at Brandy Station. A Zouave regiment was there to greet him, and a band played “The General’s March,” as he sloshed his way to to exchange pleasantries with General Meade, who had grown increasingly… Read More

Grant Appointed Lieutenant-General in Washington

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March 9, 1864 (Wednesday) “General Grant,” began the President, “the nation’s appreciate of what you have done, and its reliance upon you for what remains to do in the existing great struggle, are now presented with this commission constituting you Lieutenant-General in the army of the United States.” Lincoln had called General Ulysses S. Grant to Washington, and, following an incredibly awkward introduction the night previous, he was formally bestowing the rank held before by only George Washington. A small audience had assembled themselves at 1pm in the Cabinet chambers. The entire Cabinet was assembled – which was itself something of an anomaly. General-in-Chief Henry Halleck, whose job Grant would be echoing, stood beside Edwin Stanton, the Secretary of War. “With this high honor,” continued Lincoln, “devolves upon you, also, a corresponding responsibility. As the country herein trusts you, so, under God, it will sustain you. I scarcely need to add that with what I hear speak for the nation goes my own hearty personal concurrence.” When they spoke the night before, Lincoln told Grant… Read More

‘This is General Grant, is It?’ – Lincoln and His General Finally Meet

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March 8, 1864 (Tuesday) It had been brewing for some time now. General Grant had been ordered to Washington on March 3rd, two days after the Senate reinstated the rank of Lieutenant-General. Rather than simply promiting him in the field, President Lincoln wanted to meet his new general, whose rank would hand him command of all the Federal armies. Leaving the morning after his summons, it took four days to wander his way by rail from Nashville to Louisville, Cincinnati to Pittsburgh, Harrisburg to Baltimore, and finally to Washington. He traveled simply, taking with him the essentials, as well as “Baldy” Smith, and his son, Fred. Grant had promised Smith a position in the Army of the Potomac, and Fred, who had just recovered from a life-threatening illness. When his small party arrived at the depot, not a soul was there to meet him. This was in stark contrast to the throngs who greeted him at every stop along the way. They made their way to Willard’s Hotel, staying in one of the cheap rooms… Read More

The Red River Campaign (Almost) Begins

General Banks' bad hair day.

March 7, 1864 (Monday) William Tecumseh Sherman’s thrust to Meridian, Mississippi was over, and his men returned to Vicksburg. Though destructive and rather perplexing to the Confederates, more than anything, it seemed more like something to do while waiting for the next campaign. All along, Washington had wanted Sherman to worth with General Nathaniel Banks on the other side of the Mississippi to wash out the Confederate army under Richard Taylor from Louisiana. Now that Sherman’s men were back, it was time to look at this idea once more. Both Banks and Sherman had eyed Mobile, Alabama as a much more interesting target, but soon Banks was the banging the drums of war against the Red River Valley. This was General-in-Chief Henry Halleck’s doing. Halleck’s plan was for Banks’ 15,000-storng Army of the Gulf, to march north along Bayou Teche, while 10,000 men from Sherman’s Army of the Tennessee were floated up the Red River. They would meet in Alexandria and fall upon Shreveport. A third column under Frederick Steele would move out from Little… Read More

Dahlgren Still Alive? The Raid a Complete Success? Unfounded Federal Hope to be Squashed

Lee acting the gentleman.

March 6, 1864 (Sunday) While the Southern press was outraged over Col. Ulric Dahlgren’s plot to assassinate Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his Cabinet before burning Richmond to the ground, the Northern press took a different approach. The New York Times declared the raid a “complete success, resulting in the destruction of millions of dollars of public property.” This was fairly true. Of course the Times did not know that the true and official object of the raid was to free Union prisoners held in Libby Prison and on Belle Isle. It also could not know of Col. Dahlgren’s assassination scheme. News of Dahlgren’s death and plot were slow to come across Union lines. In fact, throughout the day, General Judson Kilpatrick, who had led the raid, was convinced he was still alive. “Colonel Dahlgren, with about 100 men, has been heard from to-day,” he wrote to Alfred Pleasonton, commander of the Army of the Potomac’s Cavalry Corps, “he was then near King and Queen Court-House. I shall send my men to assist him.” Kilpatrick… Read More

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