Civil War Daily Gazette

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

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Brilliant Confederate Vicotry at Sabine Pass, Texas

The battle at Sabine Pass

September 8, 1863 (Tuesday) Following the surrender of Vicksburg and Port Hudson, Union General Nathaniel Banks believed that the next logical move would be against Mobile, Alabama. His force, consisting at the time of only the XIX Corps, was based out of New Orleans. The problem was that July and August saw the expiration of service for thirty or so of his regiments. Conscription was filling in some of the gaps, but he needed more men. According to Washington, however, he also needed a better plan. Both President Lincoln and General-in-Chief Henry Halleck had their mind set on Texas, but for some fairly unexpected reasons. A few days back, Confederate commander of the Trans-Mississippi Department, Kirby Smith, had tried to convince France to help out the Southern Cause by protecting the Mexican border (and thus opening up and defending shipping lanes against the Federal blockade). France had recently moved into Mexico and Smith thought it a fine way to persuade Napoleon III to pitch in for the Confederacy. As it turned out, not only was… Read More

The Forgiven Killing of Marsh Walker

Marsh Walker

September 7, 1863 (Monday) The Union forces under Frederick Steele inches their way closer to Little Rock, Arkansas, the Confederates were literally at each others’ throats. Specifically, the rift between Generals John Marmaduke and Marsh Walker had deteriorated from resentment to the apparent inevitable. By September 5th, Steele had decided to try and outflank the Confederates. The Rebel left was too strong, as reconnaissance soon discovered, but the right flank, nestled up against the Arkansas River, seemed to be merely hanging there, waiting to be hit. If his cavalry, which made up nearly half of his command, could find a way around it, there would be more or less clear roads all the way into Little Rock. The problem was the river. General John Davidson, heading the Federal Cavalry, could find no crossable ford. Davidson called for a pontoon bridge, but that would take time. Time was exactly what the Rebels needed. Not that it really would help, but being attacked later certainly seemed better than sooner. Besides, there was that spat between Marmaduke and… Read More

Confederates Abandon Battery Wagner

Battery Wagner

September 6, 1863 (Sunday) Since resuming their push towards Batteries Wagner and Gregg, the Federal troops had gotten to within earshot of the Rebel forts on Morris Island, guarding the way to Charleston Harbor. They had dug their trenches, and crept ever closer to the besieged works. Fearing the inevitable, Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard, commander of the Southern troops at Charleston, had begun slipping his men off the island on the 2nd. It wasn’t a general withdrawal, he was merely trying to limit casualties. If the batteries were taken, he would lose men to not only bullets, but the white flag as well. The Federal Navy had been continuously bombarding Wagner and Gregg for days now. And for days, it was clear that something big was in the planning. The Union troops under General Quincy Gillmore had twice assaulted Wagner, and had twice been defeated. Now, however, if they tried a third attack, it might well end differently. It was true, General Gillmore had been planning a third assault, not only against Wagner, but against… Read More

Kirby Smith Tries to Convince France to Help the Trans-Mississippi Confederacy

Kirby Smith is going to go on about this for quite some time.

September 5, 1863 (Saturday) For the most part, the Confederacy had long ago given up hope that either France or England would weigh in on their side. To be sure, England was still giving nominal aid through blockade running and a final attempt to build a few rams for the Rebels, but for the most part, the South knew they were on their own.1 That is, all but Kirby Smith, Confederate commander of the Trans-Mississippi Department. Smith, however, had a slightly different angle, as was true with many things into which he threw himself. In writing to John Slidell, the Confederate envoy to France – the same envoy who was captured by Federal authorities in the early war – Smith focused upon Mexico. It might seem a bit of a stretch, contacting Slidell to talk to France about Mexico, but it was clearly worth the effort. What did Mexico have to do with the Confederate Department of the Trans-Mississippi? For that matter, what did France have to do with either? To shorten the lengthy story,… Read More

‘My Position is to Some Extent Embarrassing’ – Delay and Confusion near Chattanooga

Negley: Have a bit of patience, Phil.

September 4, 1863 (Friday) Lookout Mountain was over them; not so much towering as looming. Its sharp slopes may as well have been walls which William Rosecrans’ Federal Army of the Cumberland had to scale. By the morning of this date, nearly all of his force had crossed the Tennessee River. They had clawed and scrambled their way along too-narrow paths, up and over Sand Mountain, which seemed equal parts sand and boulders. It was toil and hellish labor to reach the top, and though it was more or less level, the ground turned almost purely to deep sand. Before their descent, the troops took in the beautiful sight of Lookout Mountain, but knew they must conquer it as well. Only then could they fall upon the left flank of Braxton Bragg’s Confederate Army of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Though most of Rosecrans’ Army had crossed the river, they were not all massed in one column. Several days past and forty miles up the Tennessee, Thomas Crittenden’s XXI Corps had feigned a crossing on Bragg’s right.… Read More

The Long Rest of Meade’s Army

Meade: Enjoy your rest, boys, I'm super sure that come autumn, there will be lots more dying.

September 3, 1863 (Thursday) Since last we checked in with George Meade’s Union Army of the Potomac, little had changed. His troops had followed General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia south to the Rappahannock, and then stopped. Neither side wished to attack the other, both believing their foes to have entrenched in fine defensive positions. Though the soaring heat of August, President Lincoln and General-in-Chief Henry Halleck, strongly urged Meade not to move the troops or animals much, if at all. With the divisions and corps lining the river, Meade set to work on the day-to-day tasks associated with running an army. This included everything from trying to figure out how many wagons to take along with them to how to deal with newspapers in the camps. In the middle of August, as the head died down though slightly, Meade dispatched thousands of troops to New York City and elsewhere to quell the riots over conscription. It was because of the conscription, however, that his army’s numbers did not dwindle, hovering around 76,000. These conscriptions,… Read More

Longstreet: ‘Our Best Opportunity for Great Results is in Tennessee’

Lee: We definitely need to help Bragg. And by "we," I, of course, do not mean "me."

September 2, 1863 (Wednesday) Nobody in Richmond doubted that Braxton Bragg, attempting to defend Chattanooga, Tennessee from the Federal Army of the Cumberland under William Rosecrans, was in a world of trouble. The Yankees had been crossing the Tennessee River for days upon days, placing two corps on Bragg’s far left. Meanwhile, another of Rosecrans’ corps was hovering on the right, as Ambrose Burnside’s Army of the Ohio had descended from Kentucky upon Eastern Tennessee. Bragg was receiving some reinforcements, but against two Union Armies, would it be enough? These were tough problems with difficult solutions that probably had to be devised weeks ago. So dire was the outlook and so far reaching the consequences that seemingly everyone in the South would be effected. Everyone, it seems, apart from General Robert E. Lee. Lee’s lieutenant, James Longstreet, commanding a corps in the Army of Northern Virginia, understood that if the railroad hub of Chattanooga fell, it would open the gates to Atlanta. Already the South was cut in two with the loss of the Mississippi.… Read More

Sumter and Wagner Still Gallantly Held! – Beauregard Needs More Slaves

Fort Sumter during the bombardment.

September 1, 1863 (Tuesday) Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard had quite a bit of pride in what he and his men were accomplishing. Fort Sumter and Battery Wagner (along with an array of other forts and batteries) protected Charleston from the Federals pounding at the gate. Union troops under Quincy Adams Gillmore had twice attacked Wagner, and were twice defeated. Admiral John Dahlgren’s fleet of ironclads, along with Gillmore’s artillery, had spent the past week and a half bombarding both Sumter and Wagner, and though they were battered, the Rebels were holding. But how long they might continue to hold was still in great debate. Life in Sumter was hellish, but the troops under Alfred Rhett endured. They were on an island all to themselves, and though they expected that the Yankees might eventually land upon it to take the fort, they felt more or less certain that the only way Sumter would fall would be through an intense battle. Things were quite a bit different in Battery Wagner, itself much like a fort. Most obvious,… Read More

Bragg Learns His Folly – Doesn’t Do Much About It

This strange looking Longstreet fellow would like to go west, please.

August 31, 1863 (Monday) Braxton Bragg, Confederate commander at Chattanooga, had been beside himself. He had lost track of most of the Federal Army of the Cumberland, which had been poised to cross the Tennessee River above the city, and perhaps even below it. Because he was unsure of his enemy’s location or where the Federals were headed, he issued a surprising number of contradictory orders. Bragg’s initial plan, if it could in truth be called a “plan,” was to allow the Federals to cross the river, and then jump on them. Soon after such boasting, he lamented that Chattanooga would surely fall. All the while, he was sending brigades here, and divisions there. Bragg even ordered Simon Buckner’s troops, retreating from Knoxville, to attack the enemy, before countermanding the idea, leaving them dangling somewhere off on his far right. Even D.H. Hill, who commanded an entire corps, had been jostled around by Bragg’s slow confusion. First, he was to widely disperse his men, obviously to search out the Yankee crossings of the Tennessee. Then,… Read More

Scouting, Crossing and Shotguns – Confederates Resist Federal Probes toward Little Rock

Col. Robert Newton

August 30, 1863 (Sunday) The campaign in Arkansas had devolved into almost constant skirmishing as Union General Frederick Steele pushed towards Sterling Price’s Confederates near Little Rock. The standoff at Bayou Meto, three days since, had ended in a Rebel victory, in that Reed’s Bridge, which crossed the waterway was burned, and the Federals could not pass. Leading the Northern van was the cavalry of General John Davidson, who had tangled with John Marmaduke’s and Marsh Walker’s Southerners at the bridge on the 27th. The day after, both sides seemed to take a step back, but on the 29th, it was business as usual, with all involved sending patrols and skirmishers in every direction. Miraculously, few, if any, of the foes met by chance. That, they saved for this date. There were two main roads into Little Rock from the northeast. The more northerly, upon which the burned bridge once laid, had been tried by the Federals and found to be not much to their liking. The more southerly road was not a road at… Read More