Civil War Daily Gazette

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

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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

‘The Whole Army Will Move Direct On the Enemy’ – Sherman Plans to Attack Longstreet

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December 4, 1863 (Friday) James Longstreet’s little army had caught wind that Federal troops under William Tecumseh Sherman were streaming toward Knoxville to break the siege. Not desiring such a battle, General Longstreet quickly packed up his force and retreated northeast. Even by the dawn, the besieged Union troops under Ambrose Burnside still believed that Longstreet was in force before them. Fresh from the victory at Chattanooga, Sherman was dispatched with upwards of 30,000 men by General Grant to rescue Burnside. Leading the elements of three corps, they had arrived at the Tennessee River and expected soon to do battle with Longstreet’s Rebels. For the approach to Knoxville, Sherman arranged his army into three wings. The Fourth Corps under Gordon Granger, made up the right. The center was under Frank Blair and his Fifteenth Corps, while the left was held by the Eleventh Corps, helmed by Oliver Otis Howard. An additional division, under Jefferson C. Davis (from the Fourteenth Corps), was the reserve. “The whole army will move direct on the enemy at Knoxville and… Read More

The Siege of Knoxville (Soon to Be) Broken!

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December 3, 1863 (Thursday) I desperately wish that I could have covered the Knoxville Campaign in a better fashion. I apologize to all of the Western enthusiasts. It must be tough that the East steals all the thunder. – Eric Things had not gone well for James Longstreet over the past month. As Braxton Bragg’s Confederate Army of Tennessee was trying its best to besiege the Union army at Chattanooga, Longstreet was detached to make sure Ambrose Burnside’s Army of the Ohio was kept out of the fray. This resulted in the Siege of Knoxville, though it hardly lived up to its name. In an attempt to actually besiege Burnside, on November 23, Longstreet took some heights southwest of the city. Though it was on the other side of the Tennessee River, he hoped that his artillery could soften up Fort Sanders, a key position in the Federal defenses. Nearly a week later, Longstreet changed his mind, ordering an infantry assault rather than an artillery bombardment. But Longstreet hesitated. Day after day, he called off… Read More

‘…And Trust That I May Be Allowed to Participate’ – Davis Finally Relieves Bragg

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December 2, 1863 (Wednesday) When last we left Confederate General Braxton Bragg, he was in command of the Army of Tennessee, retreating south. He had lost the Battle of Chattanooga – a feat that few expected he could accomplish. They had retreated thirty some miles southeast to Dalton, Georgia, crossing the muddied Ringold’s Gap – though not without a nip at the heels from elements of General Grant’s Army of the Tennessee. Once in Dalton, on November 27th, Braxton Bragg began to take account of the battle and immediately relieved John Breckinridge. Prior to the battle, Bragg had wanted to retreat, but Breckinridge, a corps commander, was apparently convincing enough to persuade the general to fight it out. Camp rumor had it that Breckinridge was on a long bender and inebriated for several days straight. Bragg contended that he had to place the drunken officer under the care of a division commander in order to get him to Dalton. True or not, Breckinridge was quickly, though only shortly, unemployed. The very next day, Bragg turned… Read More

‘My Conscious is Clear. I Did the Best I Could’ – Meade Withdraws His Army

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December 1, 1863 (Tuesday) Once again the morning was defined by bitter cold, and though the ground was frozen, the wind had calmed and a stillness fell across Mine Run – the gulf between the Union and Confederate armies. General Meade had weighed his options, of which he had several. He could attack General Lee’s Army in a frontal assault, but due to how well the Rebel Army had entrenched, he viewed success as impossible. The previous day, he had tried to attack Lee’s right flank, but General Gouverneur K. Warren, leading the assault, called it off fearing it too was impossible. Warren had suggested bringing the entire army into the flank attack, but Meade declined as it would have cut his own supply line. From the start, Meade had wanted to base the Army of the Potomac out of Fredericksburg. Now that it was clear he was to retreat, he only wished that it could be in that direction, where he saw “substantial advantages” for his army. General-in-Chief Henry Halleck, however, would have none… Read More

‘I At Once Decided Not To Attack’ – Warren Effectively Ends the Campaign

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November 30, 1863 (Monday) The Federal artillery pierced the sharp morning air, bringing its terrible heat to the biting wind. It was 8am, and as General Meade ordered, the guns opened early, heralding the coming infantry assault. The attack was to be led by Gouverneur K. Warren, commanding the II Corps and several divisions of the III. It had been Warren’s idea, and was seconded by Meade without so much as a look at the ground over which the advance would come. Warren had perceived that the Rebel right flank was vulnerable and spent the day previous maneuvering his troops into position near the head of Mine Run. General Warren had placed his men well, covering his flanks and leaving an entire division in reserve. “I was thus prepared for strong and repeated assaults,” he wrote in his report, asserting that “no part escaped our observation.” But this was through the night and in the dark. Come the first morning light, Warren saw a much different picture. The Rebel flank before him had been strengthened… Read More

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