Civil War Daily Gazette

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

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Johnston Retreats; Sherman Overestimates the Flight

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May 13, 1864 (Friday) As the Rebels in the Army of Tennessee fought off attack after attack from Sherman’s Yankees upon Rocky Face Mountain, west of Dalton, Joe Johnston, their commander, worried still about Resaca to the south. On the 9th, the Federal Army of the Tennessee had marched through Snake Creek Gap, west of the town. They were poised to take it, as it was held only by cavalry, but hesitated and withdrew. Had James McPherson, commanding the Union flank attack, succeeded, Johnston’s line of retreat toward Atlanta would be severed, and his army would have been forced to flee to the east and almost certain disaster. But they had slide back against Snake Creek Gap, and remained for days. In the meanwhile, Johnston dispatched John Bell Hood with three divisions to hold Resaca. The day following, Hood reported to Johnston the good tidings that McPherson’s army had fallen back. But what might it mean? Was it a faint to draw his attention and troops away from Sherman’s other forces – the Armies of… Read More

‘General, the Line is Broken’ – The Bloody Angle

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May 12, 1864 (Thursday) Through the night there had been noises. General Allegheny Johnson took it as a sign and sent word to Richard Ewell that the Federals were massing for an early morning assault. “The position could not be held without the artillery,” he insisted. And though Ewell at first balked, before the dawn, before any attack could be launched, he fortified Johnson’s lines along the Mule Shoe with the needed guns. All along the Rebel lines, the stirring grew. “Nothing was said by our officers,” wrote M.S. Stringfellow, a chaplain in the 13th Virginia, “but there was a nameless something in the air which told each man that a crisis was at hand. Orders were given in low tones. The dim, shadowy outlines of the different commands as they took their positions under the sombre shades of the pines, gave a weird effect to the scene.” And just before dawn, they came. At first there was distant cheering, and the terrifying trample of feet, the clinking of accouterments; all imperceptible through the dark,… Read More

‘I Had Rather Die Than Be Whipped’ – The Death of General Stuart

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May 11, 1864 (Wednesday) We have now ended the sixth day of very heavy fighting. The result to this time is much in our favor. But our losses have been heavy, as well as those of the enemy. We have lost to this time 11 general officers, killed, wounded, and missing, and probably 20,000 men. I think the loss of the enemy must be greater, we having taken over 4,000 prisoners in battle, while he has taken but few, except stragglers. I am now sending back to Belle Plain all my wagons for a fresh supply of provisions and ammunition, and propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer. – General Ulysses S. Grant to Chief of Staff Henry Halleck, May 11, 1864 General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia had withstood the previous day’s piecemeal assaults in fine fashion, mastering even the breakthrough at the Mule Shoe with what he considered small casualties. Grant was overestimating the killing effect his own army was having upon the enemy. But… Read More

‘Eat Up Every Damned One of Them!’ – Federal Confusion at Spotsylvania

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May 10, 1864 (Tuesday) “General Sedgwick is shot through the head,” exclaimed a staff officer of the Sixth Corps, as he rode upon Meade’s headquarters the day previous. “And my God! I’m afraid he is killed!” When General George Meade, commanding the Union Army of the Potomac learned the news that one of his three corps commanders had been slain, there was little he could do but place a subordinate, Horatio Wright, in his stead. The rest of the day was spent engaged in little battle, but rather in the positioning of troops and the digging of entrenchments. Since coming out of the Virginia Wilderness, both the Confederate and Union armies had bent their courses south to Spotsylvania, a race which was boldly won by General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia on the 8th. By the dawn of this date, the lines were more or less settled. Lee’s forces had formed an interior line resembling a large “L.” Where the two sides joined was necessarily a salient, soon known as “the Mule Shoe.” The Federal… Read More

Disappointment at Snake Creek Gap; The Death of John Sedgwick

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May 9, 1864 (Monday) “…and the enemy seemed quiescent, acting purely on the defensive.” – William Tecumseh Sherman Sherman’s bold stroke had begun, as he sent three armies in three columns against Joseph Johnston’s Army of Tennessee at Dalton, Georgia. Johnston had arrayed his forced atop Rocky Face Mountain west and northwest of the city. Two days previous, the Union Army of the Cumberland had taken the first of a series of ridges leading to the Rebel defenses. But now, before the Rebel host, their roll was diversionary. As one column seemed to threaten an attack, another, mostly unseen by Johnston, marched south, skirting Rocky Face Ridge, to Snake Creek Gap. This pass was fifteen miles below Dalton and led to Resaca. If the latter town was held, Johnston’s lines of retreat would be cut and, perhaps after a siege, his army would be captured or destroyed. Leading this spirited column was James McPherson, commander of the Army of the Tennessee. On the 8th they arrived at Snake Creek Gap, a three mile long pass,… Read More

But Lee, By Accident, Beat Us to Spotsylvania

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May 8, 1864 (Sunday) “My object in moving to Spottsylvania was two-fold: first, I did not want Lee to get back to Richmond in time to attempt to crush Butler before I could get there; second, I wanted to get between his army and Richmond if possible; and, if not, to draw him into the open field. But Lee, by accident, beat us to Spottsylvania.” – General Ulysses S. Grant The Rebels had expected the Union Army of the Potomac to slide north, recrossing the Rapidan River, believing that they had closed the door to Richmond once again. At the forefront of Lee’s mind was how to replace James Longstreet, his Old Warhorse, who had been wounded in the neck and shoulder on the 6th. He ultimately settled upon Richard Anderson, after considering Jubal Early and “Allegheny” Johnson. Anderson had been a division commander in Longstreet’s Corps before the reorganization following the death of Stonewall Jackson. For all, May 7 was filled with mystery, each side in a near panic to discover the mind of… Read More

‘The Sound Died Away’ – Sherman Takes Tunnel Hill

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May 7, 1864 (Saturday) “Neither life nor virtue is sacred from these northern barbarians; the old and infirm perish by their bloody hands, while lovely women – our wives and daughters – are reserved for a fate even worse than death. Strike, men of the south and exterminate such polluted wretches, such living demons!” – from a Southern newspaper, warning of Sherman’s march toward Atlanta. General William Tecumseh Sherman had arrived in Chattanooga over a week past, wishing to direct in person the confluence of three armies against Joe Johnston’s Confederate Army of Tennessee at Dalton, Georgia. Over the week, George Thomas’ Army of the Cumberland was readied at Ringgold, northwest of the Rebels, while John Schofield’s Army of the Ohio took position to the north at Red Clay. Lastly, James McPherson’s Army of the Tennessee was long in coming, but by May 5th, it was filing through the streets of Chattanooga. For them, Sherman had a less-suspected plan, though actually, in its conception, it was Thomas’. Dalton, Georgia was ringed to the west and… Read More

Give Those Men the Cold Steel – The Wilderness, Day Two

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May 6, 1864 (Friday) An insurgency such a the Confederate Rebellion can claim victory from almost any battle in which they are not the outright vanquished. Should the fight dry out to a bloody stalemate, they could even then bugle triumphant as the dominant power was turned back. A more solid case might be made in this direction now that General Ulysses S. Grant had altered his army’s ultimate objective. No longer were they “on to Richmond,” but, as he told General Meade, commanding the Army of the Potomac, “Lee’s army will be your objective point. Wherever he goes, there you will go also.” But General Robert E. Lee, commanding the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, was unaware of the shift. Grant was, he believed, determined to take Richmond. To Lee on this morning, he needed a victory. And for that, he needed to hang on. The previous day’s fighting had ended in a draw, each side pulling back a ways as darkness fell. For General Grant, the problem was Ambrose Burnside. Not knowing the… Read More

By the Blessing of God We Maintained our Position – The Wilderness, Day One

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May 5, 1864 (Thursday) It was a predawn breakfast for both armies, seemingly hesitant to pitch into the other. The day previous, General Meade’s Army of the Potomac, under the direct guidance of General Grant, had crossed the Rapidan, attempting to bring itself upon the right flank of the Army of Northern Virginia. But General Lee was swift to counter and with the Federals none the wiser, he was advancing all three of his corps. Richard Ewell’s Corps marched east along the Orange Turnpike, while A.P. Hill’s advanced along the parallel Orange Plank Road. As they plunged themselves into the Wilderness west of Chancellorsville, Longstreet’s Corps was hurrying north from Gordonsville in the hope that the Federal host would turn to face Lee’s advance, so his own might fall upon the Union left. By noon, he was to arrive. The armies had established their encampments, in places, but two miles apart. The nearest Northern corps, the Fifth, was helmed by Gouverneur Warren. He, like the other corps commanders, had been instructed to direct his supply… Read More

‘If He Comes This Way’ – Lee’s Army Moves to Strike

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May 4, 1864 (Wednesday) For nearly six hours, the Confederates upon the heights of Clark’s Mountain knew the Union host was marching. They had done their duty, sending word to General Robert E. Lee, who in turn ordered Richard Ewell’s Corps to be ready to move at dawn. The sun had now appeared in the east, illuminating as red-orange against the barrels of the Northern enemy, winding from the Rapidan before them. The roads were blue with marching. Below the signal station, the sounds of scattered fire drifted with the mild air, as Jeb Stuart’s cavalry backed away from the fords. They were ordered not to engage, but to scout their positions, the roads and the paths taken by the Federals now issuing from the river. “From present indications everything seems to be moving to the right, on Germanna and Ely’s Fords roads, leaving cavalry in our front,” came the 9:30am signal to General Ewell. And once General Lee was made aware, he understood that his prediction had come true. General Grant’s Union army was… Read More

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