1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/American Civil War
AMERICAN CIVIL WAR (1861–1865). 1. The Civil War between the northern and southern sections of the United States, which began with the bombardment of Fort Sumter on the 12th of April 1861, and came to an end, in the last days of April 1865, with the surrender of the Confederates, was in its scope one of the greatest struggles known to history. Its operations were spread over thousands of miles, vast numbers of men were employed, and both sides fought with an even more relentless determination than is usual when “armed nations” meet in battle. The duration of the war was due to the nature of the country and the enormous distances to be traversed, not to any want of energy, for the armies were in deadly earnest and their battles and combats (of which two thousand four hundred can be named) sterner than those of almost any war in modern history. The political history of the war, its antecedents and its consequences, are dealt with in the articles United States (History) and Confederate States. For the purposes of the military narrative it is sufficient to say that eleven southern states seceded from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America. Jefferson Davis was chosen president of this confederacy, and an energetic government prepared to repel the expected attack of the “Union” states. The “resumption” by the seceding states of the coast defences (built on land ceded by the various states to the Federal government, and, it was argued, withdrawn therefore by the act of secession) brought on the war.
2. Bombardment of Fort Sumter.—South Carolina, finding other means of seizing or regaining Fort Sumter at Charleston ineffectual, ushered in the great struggle by the bombardment of the 12th of April 1861. Against overwhelming odds the United States troops held out until honour was satisfied; they then surrendered the ruins of the fort and were conveyed by warships to the north. At once the war spirit was aroused. President Lincoln called out 75,000 men. The few southern states which had not yet seceded, refused their contingents and promptly joined the “rebels,” but there was no hesitation in the people of the North, and the state troops volunteered in far greater numbers than had been demanded. Nearly the whole of the nation had now definitely taken sides in the quarrel. The Confederacy consisted of eleven states (Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas and Tennessee). All the remaining states and territories stood by the Union, except Missouri, Kentucky and Maryland, in which public opinion was divided. But the first operations of the war brought about the willing or unwilling adhesion of these border states to the Federal cause. Citizens of these states served on either side in the war. The small, but highly efficient, regular army stood by the president, though large numbers of the officers, amongst them many of the best in the service, left it when their states seceded. The navy likewise remained national, and of its officers very few went with their states, for the foreign relations of the navy tended to produce a sentiment wider than local. But the Federal armaments were not on such a scale as to enable the government to cope with a “nation in arms,” and the first call for volunteers was followed by more and more, until in the end the Federals had more than a million men under arms. At first the troops on both sides were voluntarily enlisted, but the South quickly, the North later, put in force conscription acts. Reducing the figures to a three years’ average, the North furnished about 45% of her military population, the South not less than 90% for that term. Even so the Confederacy was numerically, as in every other respect, far weaker, and rarely, after the second year, opposed equal numbers to the troops of the Union. Throughout the critical period of the war, that is, from the beginning of 1862 up to the day of Chattanooga, three distinct campaigns were always in progress. Virginia, separating the two hostile capitals, Richmond and Washington, was the theatre of the great campaigns of the east, where the flower of both armies fought. In the centre, the valleys of the Ohio, the Cumberland and the Tennessee were the battle-ground of large armies attacking and defending the south and south-eastern states of the Confederacy, while on and beyond the great waterway of the Mississippi was carried on the struggle for those interests, vital to either party, which depended on the mighty river and its affluents. Until the end of 1863 the events in these three regions remain distinct episodes; after that the whole theatre of war is comprised in the “anaconda policy,” which concentrated irresistible masses of troops from all sides on the heroic remnants of the Confederacy. In Virginia and the east, Washington, situated on the outpost line of the Union, and separated by the “border” state of Maryland from Pennsylvania and the North, was for some time in great peril. Virginia, and with it the Federal navy yard at Norfolk and the arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, was controlled by the rebels. Baltimore was the scene of a bloody riot as the first Northern regiment (6th Mass.) passed through on its way to Washington on the 19th of April, and, until troops could be spared to protect the railway through Maryland, all reinforcements for the national capital had to be brought up to Annapolis by sea. When that state was reduced to order, the Potomac became the front, and, later, the base, of the Northern armies.
3. Missouri and West Virginia.—Missouri, at the other flank of the line, contained an even stronger Confederate element, and it was not without a severe struggle that the energy of Mr (afterwards General) F. P. Blair, and of Nathaniel Lyon, the Unionist military commander, prevailed over the party of secession. In Kentucky the Unionist victory was secured almost without a blow, and, even at the end of 1861, the Confederate outposts west of the Alleghenies lay no farther north than the line Columbus—Bowling Green—Cumberland Gap, though southern Missouri was still a contested ground. Between the Mississippi and the mountains the whole of the year was spent by both sides in preparing for the contest. In the east hostilities began in earnest in western Virginia. This part of the state, strongly Unionist, had striven to prevent secession, and soon became itself a state of the Union (1863). A force under General G. B. McClellan advanced from the Ohio in June and captured Philippi. This promptitude was not only dictated by the necessity of preserving West Virginia, but imposed by the necessity of holding the Baltimore & Ohio railway, which, as the great link between east and west, was essential to the Federal armies. A month later, an easy triumph was obtained by McClellan and Rosecrans against the Confederates of Virginia at Rich Mountain.
4. First Bull Run.—The opposing forces now in the field numbered 190,000 Unionists and half that number of Confederates; sixty-nine warships flew the Stars and Stripes and a number of improvised ironclads and gunboats the rival “Stars and Bars.” On the 10th of June a Federal force was defeated at Big Bethel (near Fortress Monroe), and soon afterwards the main Virginian campaign began. On the Potomac the Unionist generals McDowell and Patterson commanded respectively the forces at Washington and Harper’s Ferry, opposed by the Confederates under Generals J. E. Johnston and Beauregard at Winchester and at Manassas. The forces of these four commanders were raw but eager, and the people behind them clamoured for a decision. Much against his own judgment, Lieutenant-General Winfield Scott, the Federal general-in-chief, a veteran of the second war with England and of the war with Mexico, felt constrained to order an advance against Beauregard, while Patterson was to hold Johnston in check on the Shenandoah. On the 21st of July took place the first battle of Bull Run (q.v.) between McDowell and Beauregard, fought by the raw troops of both sides with an obstinacy that foreboded the desperate battles of subsequent campaigns. The arrival of Johnston on the previous evening and his lieutenant Kirby Smith at the crisis of the battle (for Patterson’s part in the plan had completely failed), turned the scale, and the Federals, not yet disciplined to bear the strain of a great battle, broke and fled in wild rout. The equally raw Confederates were in no condition to pursue. A desultory duel between the forces of Rosecrans and Robert E. Lee in West Virginia, which ended in the withdrawal of the Confederates, and a few combats on the Potomac (Ball’s Bluff or Leesburg, October 21; Dranesville, December 20), brought to a close the first campaign in the east.
5. Close of the First Year.—In the end Bull Run did more harm to the victors than to the conquered. The Southerners undeniably rested on their laurels, and enabled McClellan, who was now called to the chief military command at Washington, to raise, organize and train the famous Army of the Potomac, which, in defeat and victory, won its reputation as one of the finest armies of modern history. Johnston meanwhile was similarly employed in fashioning the equally famous Army of northern Virginia, which for three years carried the Confederacy on its bayonets. It was not until the people was stung by the humiliation of Bull Run that the unorganized enthusiasm of the North settled down into an invincible determination to crush the rebellion at all costs. The men of the South were not less in earnest, and the most highly individualized people in the world was thus found ready to accept a rigorous discipline as the only way to success. In the autumn, a spirited attempt was made by the Arkansas Confederates to. reoccupy Missouri. Fremont, the Federal commander, proved quite unable to deal with this, and the gallant Lyon was defeated and killed at Wilson’s Creek (August 10). Soon afterwards, after a steady resistance, the Unionist garrison of Lexington surrendered to Sterling Price. But the work of Blair and Lyon had not been in vain, and the mere menace of Fremont’s advance sufficed to clear the state, while General John Pope, by vigorous action in the field and able civil administration, restored order and quiet in the northern part of the state. In the central theatre (Kentucky), the only event of importance was a daring reconnaissance of the Confederate fort at Columbus on the Mississippi by a small force under Brigadier-General U. S. Grant (action of Belmont, November 7).
6. The Blockade.—Meanwhile the Federal navy had settled down to its fourfold task of blockading the enemy’s coast against the export of cotton and the import of war material, protecting the Union commerce afloat, hindering the creation of a Confederate navy and co-operating with the land forces. From the first months of the war the sea power of the Federals was practically unchallenged, and the whole length of the hostile coast-line was open to invasion. But the blockade of 3000 miles of coast was a far more formidable task, and international law required it to be effective in order to be respected. Nevertheless along the whole line some kind of surveillance was established long before the close of 1861, and, in proportion as the number of vessels available increased, the blockade became more and more stringent, until at last it was practically unbreakable at any point save by the fastest steamers working under unusually favourable conditions of wind and weather. As against the civilian enemy the navy strangled commerce; its military preponderance nipped in the bud every successive attempt of the Confederates to create a fleet (for each new vessel as it emerged from the estuary or harbour in which it had been built, was destroyed or driven back), while at any given point a secure base was available for the far-ranging operations of the Union armies. Two hundred and twelve warships or converted merchantmen were in commission on the 1st of January 1862. There had been several coastal successes in 1861, notably the occupation of Hatteras Inlet, North Carolina, by Commodore S. H. Stringham and General B. F. Butler (August 28–29, 1861), and the bombardment and capture of Forts Beauregard and Walker at Port Royal, South Carolina, by the fleet under Commodore S. F. duPont and the forces of General T. W. Sherman (November 7, 1861). Early in 1862 a large expedition under General A. E. Burnside and Commodore L. M. Goldsborough captured Roanoke Island, and the troops penetrated inland as far as Newbern (actions of February 8 and March 14). About the same time Fort Pulaski (the main defence of Savannah, Georgia) was invested and captured. But the greatest and most important enterprise was the capture of New Orleans (q.v.) by Flag-Officer D. G. Farragut and General Butler (April 18–25, 1862). This success opened up the lower Mississippi at the same time as the armies of the west began to move down that river under Grant, who was always accompanied by the gunboat flotilla which had been created on the upper waters in 1861. A slight campaign in New Mexico took place in February 1862, in which several brilliant tactical successes were won by the Texan forces, but no permanent foothold was secured by them.
7. Fort Donelson.—In the early months of 1862 preparations on a gigantic scale were made for the conquest of the South. McClellan and the Army of the Potomac faced Johnston, who with the Army of northern Virginia lay at Manassas, exercising and training his men with no less care than his opponent. Major-General D. C. Buell in Kentucky had likewise drilled his troops to a high state of efficiency and was preparing to move against the Confederate general Albert Sidney Johnston, whose reputation was that of being the foremost soldier on either side. Farther west the troops on both sides were by no means so well trained, yet active operations began on the Tennessee. Here Fort Donelson on the Cumberland, Fort Henry on the Tennessee and Columbus on the Mississippi guarded the left of the Southern line, Sidney Johnston himself maintaining a precarious advanced position at Bowling Green, with his lieutenants, Zollicoffer and Crittenden, farther east at Mill Springs, and a small force under General Marshall in the mountains of eastern Kentucky. The last-named was soon defeated by General James A. Garfield at Prestonburg, and a few days later General G. H. Thomas won his first victory at Mill Springs (Logan’s Cross Roads). Zollicoffer was killed and his army forced to make a disastrous retreat (January 19–20, 1862). The centre of Johnston’s line (Forts Henry and Donelson) was next attacked by General Grant and Flag-Officer A. H. Foote. On the 6th of February Fort Henry fell to Foote’s gunboat flotilla, and Grant then moved overland to Donelson. His troops were raw and possessed no decisive superiority in numbers, and sharp fighting took place when the garrison of Donelson tried to cut its way out. The attempt failed when almost on the point of success, and the Federals, under the excellent leadership of Generals C. F. Smith, Lew Wallace and McClernand, effected a lodgment in the works. The Confederate commanders proved themselves quite unequal to the crisis, and 15,000 men surrendered with the fort on the 16th of February.
8. Island No. 10 and Pea Ridge.—This very considerable success thrust back Johnston’s whole line to New Madrid, Corinth and the Memphis & Charleston railway. The left flank, even after the evacuation of Columbus, was exposed, and the Missouri divisions under Pope quickly seized New Madrid. The adjoining river defences of Island No. 10 in the Mississippi proved more formidable. Foote’s gunboats could, and did, run the gauntlet, but a canal had to be cut right round the batteries for the transports, before the land forces could cross the river and attack the works in rear; when this was accomplished, by the skill and energy of all concerned, the place with its garrison of 7000 men surrendered at once (April 8, 1862). Meanwhile, in the Missouri theatre, the Federal general Curtis, outnumbered and outmanoeuvred by the forces of Price and Van Dorn, fought, and by his magnificent tenacity won, the battle of Pea Ridge (March 7–8), which put an end to the war in this quarter. On the whole, the first part of the western campaign was uniformly a brilliant success for the Federal arms. General H. W. Halleck, who was here in control of all the operations of the Federals, had meanwhile ordered Grant’s force to ascend the Tennessee river and operate against Corinth; Buell’s well-disciplined forces were to march overland from Nashville to join him, and General O. M. Mitchel with a division was sent straight southwards from the same place to cut the Memphis & Charleston line. The latter mission, brilliantly as it was executed, failed, through want of support, to secure a foothold. Had Halleck reinforced Mitchel, that officer might perhaps have forestalled the later victories of Grant and Sherman. As it was, the enterprise became a mere diversion.
9. Shiloh.—Meanwhile Grant was encamped at Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee with an army of 45,000 men, and Buell with 37,000 men about two marches away. Early on the 6th of April A. S. Johnston and Beauregard completely surprised the camps of Grant’s divisions. The battle of Shiloh (q.v.) was a savage scuffle between two half-disciplined hosts, contested with a fury rare even in this war. On the 6th the Unionists, scattered and unable to combine, were driven from point to point, and at nightfall barely held their ground on the banks of the river. The losses were enormous on both sides, Johnston himself being amongst the killed. The arrival of Buell enabled the Federals to take the offensive next morning along the whole line, and by sunset on the 7th, after another sanguinary battle, Beauregard was in full retreat. Some weeks afterwards, Halleck with the combined armies of Grant, Buell and Pope began the siege of Corinth, which Beauregard ultimately evacuated a month later. Thus the first campaign of the western armies, completed by the victory of the gunboat flotilla at Memphis (June 6), cleared the Mississippi as far down as Vicksburg, and compelled the Confederates to evacuate the Cumberland and a large portion of the Tennessee basins.
10. The Peninsula.—Many schemes were discussed between McClellan and President Lincoln before the Army of the Potomac finally took the offensive in Virginia. It was eventually decided that General Banks was to oppose “Stonewall” Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley, Frémont to hold western Virginia against the same general’s enterprise, and McDowell with a strong corps to advance overland to meet McClellan, who, with the main army, was to proceed by sea to Fortress Monroe and thence to advance on Richmond. The James river, afterwards so much used for the Federal operations, was not yet clear, and it was here, in Hampton Roads, that the famous fight took place between the ironclads “Merrimac” (or “Virginia”) and “Monitor” (March 8-9, 1862). McClellan’s advance was opposed by a small force of Confederates under General Magruder, which, gradually reinforced, held the historic position of Yorktown for a whole month, and only evacuated it on the 3rd of May. Two days later McClellan’s advanced troops fought a sharp combat at Williamsburg and the Army of the Potomac rendezvoused on the Chickahominy with its base at White House on the Pamunkey (May 7). J. E. Johnston had, long ere this, fallen back from Manassas towards Richmond, and the two armies were in touch when a serious check was given to McClellan by the brilliant successes of Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley.
11. Jackson’s Valley Campaign.—The “Valley of Virginia,” called also the “Granary of the Confederacy,” was cut into long parallel strips by ridges and rivers, across which passages were rare, and along which the Confederates could, with little fear of interruption from the east, debouch into Maryland and approach Washington itself. Here Stonewall Jackson lay with a small force, and in front of him at the outlet of the valley was Banks, while Frémont threatened him from West Virginia. Jackson had already fought a winter campaign which ended in his defeat at the hands of General Shields at Kernstown (March 23). Banks’s main army, early in May, lay far down the Valley at Strasburg and Front Royal, Frémont at the town of McDowell. Jackson’s first blow fell on part of Frémont’s corps, which was sharply attacked and driven into the mountains (McDowell, May 8). The victor quickly turned upon Banks, destroyed his garrison of Front Royal and nearly surrounded his main body; barely escaping, Banks was again defeated at Winchester and driven back to the Maryland border (May 23–25). These rapid successes paralysed the Federal offensive. McDowell, instead of marching to join McClellan, was ordered to the Valley to assist in “trapping Jackson,” an operation which, at one critical moment very near success, ended in the defeat of Frémont at Cross Keys and of McDowell’s advanced troops at Port Republic (June 8–9) and the escape of the daring Confederates with trifling loss. McClellan, deprived of McDowell’s corps, felt himself reduced to impotence, and three Federal armies were vainly marching up and down the Valley when Johnston fell with all his forces upon the Army of the Potomac. The Federals lay on both sides of the Chickahominy river, and at this moment Johnston heard that McDowell’s arrival need not be feared. The course of the battle of Seven Pines or Fair Oaks (q.v.) bore some resemblance to that of Shiloh; a sharp attack found the Unionists unprepared, and only after severe losses and many partial defeats could McClellan check the rebel advance. Here also fortune was against the Confederates. J. E. Johnston fell severely wounded, and in the end a properly connected and combined advance of the Army of the Potomac drove back his successor into the lines of Richmond (May 31–June 1).
12. The Seven Days.—Bad weather and skilful defence completely checked the assailants for another three weeks, and the situation was now materially altered. Jackson with the Valley troops had stealthily left Harrisonburg by rail on the 17th of June, and was now at Ashland in McClellan’s rear. General Lee, who had succeeded Johnston in the command of the Army of northern Virginia, proposed to attack the Federals in their line of communication with White House, and passed most of his forces round to the aid of Jackson. The Seven Days’ Battle (q.v.) opened with the combat of Mechanicsville on the 26th of June, and the battle of Gaines’ Mill on the 27th. Lee soon cut the communication with White House, but McClellan changed his base and retreated towards Harrison’s Landing on the James river. It was some time before Lee realized this. In the end the Federals were sharply pursued, but McClellan had gained a long start and, fighting victoriously almost every day, at length placed himself in a secure position on the James, which was now patrolled by the Federal warships (June 26–July 1). But the second advance on Richmond was clearly a strategical failure.
13. The Campaign of Perryville.—After the capture of Corinth Halleck had suspended the Federal advance all along the line in the west, and many changes took place about this time. Halleck went to Washington as general-in-chief, Pope was transferred to Virginia, Grant, with his own Army of the Tennessee and Rosecrans’s (lately Pope’s) Army of the Mississippi, was entrusted with operations on the latter river, while Buell’s Army of the Ohio was ordered to east Tennessee to relieve the inhabitants of that district, who, as Unionist sympathizers, were receiving harsh treatment from the Confederate and state authorities. Late in July Braxton Bragg, who had succeeded Beauregard in command of the Confederates, transferred his forces to the neighbourhood of Chattanooga. Tennessee was thenceforward to be the central theatre of war, and too late it was recognized that Mitchel should have been supported in the spring. The forces left south of Corinth were enough to occupy the attention of Grant and Rosecrans, and almost contemporaneously with Lee’s advance on Washington (see below), Price and Bragg took the offensive against Grant and Buell respectively. The latter early in August lay near Murfreesboro, covering Nashville, but the Confederate general did not intend to threaten that place. The valleys and ridges of eastern Tennessee screened him as he rapidly marched on Louisville and Cincinnati. The whole of the Southern army in the west swung round on its left wing as the pivot, and Buell only just reached Louisville before his opponent. The Washington authorities, thoroughly dissatisfied, ordered him to turn over the command to General Thomas, but the latter magnanimously declined the offer, and Buell on the 8th of October fought the sanguinary and indecisive battle of Perryville, in consequence of which Bragg retired to Chattanooga.
14. The Western Campaign.—The Union leader was now ordered once more to east Tennessee, but he protested that want of supplies made such a move impossible. Rosecrans, the victor of Corinth and Iuka (see below), was thereupon ordered to replace him. Buell’s failure to appreciate political considerations as a part of strategy justified his recall, but the value of his work, like that of McClellan, can hardly be measured by marches and victories. The disgraced general was not again employed, but the men of the Army of the Ohio retained throughout, as did those of the Army of the Potomac, the impress of their first general’s discipline and training. Sterling Price in the meanwhile had been ordered forward against Grant and Rosecrans, and Van Dorn promised his assistance. Before the latter could come up, however, Rosecrans defeated Price at Iuka (September 19). The Confederates, not dismayed thereby, effected their junction and moved on Corinth, which was defended by Rosecrans and 23,000 Federal troops. Grant’s other forces were split up into detachments, and when Van Dorn, boldly marching right round Rosecrans, descended upon Corinth from the north, Grant could hardly stir to help his subordinate. Rosecrans, however, won the battle of Corinth (October 3–4), though on the evening of the 3rd he had been in a perilous position. The Confederates fell back to the southward, escaping Grant once more, and thus ended the Confederate advance in the West.
15. Pope’s Campaign in Virginia.—The Army of Virginia under Pope was composed of the troops lately chasing Jackson in the Valley—Fremont’s (now Sigel’s), Banks’s and McDowell’s corps. Halleck (at the Washington headquarters) began by withdrawing McClellan from the James to assist Pope in central Virginia; Lee, thus released from any fear for the safety of Richmond, turned swiftly upon Pope. That officer desired to concentrate his command on Gordonsville, but Jackson was before him at that place, and he fell back on Culpeper. On the 9th of August Banks and Jackson joined battle once more at Cedar Mountain (or Cedar Run); the Federals, though greatly inferior in numbers, attacked with much vigour. Banks was eventually beaten, but he had come very near to success, and Jackson soon retired across the Rapidan, where (the Army of the Potomac having now begun to leave the James) Lee joined him (August 17) with the corps of Longstreet. Pope now fell back behind the Rappahannock without showing fight. Here Halleek’s orders bade him cover both Washington and Aquia Creek (whence the Army of the Potomac was to join him), orders almost impossible of execution, as any serious change of position necessarily uncovered one of these lines. The leading troops of the Army of the Potomac were now landed, and set out to join Pope’s army, which faced Longstreet and Jackson on the Rappahannock between Bealton and Waterloo. On the 24th of August Lee ordered Jackson to march round Pope’s right wing and descend on his rear through Thoroughfare Gap on Manassas and the old battle-ground of 1861. Pope was at this moment about to take the offensive, when a violent storm swelled the rivers and put an end to all movement. On the 26th of August the daring flank march of Jackson’s corps ended at Manassas Station (see Bull Run). Longstreet followed Jackson, and Lee’s army was reunited on the battlefield. By the ist of September the campaign of “Second Manassas” was over. Pope’s army and such of the troops of the Army of the Potomac as had been involved in the catastrophe were driven, tired and disheartened, into the Washington lines. The Confederates were once more masters of eastern Virginia.
16. Antietam—It was at this moment that Bragg was in the full tide of his temporary success in Tennessee and Kentucky, and, after his great victory of Second Bull Run, Lee naturally invaded Maryland, which, it was assumed, had not forgotten its Southern sympathies. But Lee received no real accession of strength, and when McClellan with all available forces moved out of Washington to encounter the Army of northern Virginia, the Confederates were still but a few marches from the point where they had crossed the Potomac. Lee had again divided his army. On the 13th of September Jackson was besieging 11,000 Federals in Harper’s Ferry, Longstreet was at Hagerstown, Stuart’s cavalry holding the passes of the South Mountain, while McClellan’s whole army lay at Frederick. Here extraordinary good fortune put into the enemy’s hands a copy of Lee’s orders, from which it was clear that the Confederates were dangerously dispersed. Had McClellan moved at once he could have seized the passes without difficulty, as he was aware that he had only cavalry to oppose him. But the 13th was spent in idleness, and stubborn infantry now held the passes. A serious and costly action had to be fought before the way was cleared (battle of South Mountain, September 14). On the following day Harper’s Ferry capitulated after a weak defence. Jackson thereupon swiftly rejoined Lee, leaving only a division to carry out the capitulation. On the 16th McClellan found Lee in position behind the Antietam Creek, and on the 17th was fought the sanguinary and obstinately contested battle of Antietam (q.v.) or Sharpsburg. At the price of enormous losses both sides escaped defeat in the field, but Lee’s offensive was at an end and he retired into Virginia. Thenceforward the Confederacy was purely on the defensive. Only twice more did the forces of the South strike out (Gettysburg, 1863; Nashville, 1864), and then the offensive was more of a counter-attack than an advance.
17. Vicksburg in 1862.—The Confederate failures of Corinth, Perryville and Antietam were followed by a general advance by the Federals. It is about this time that Vicksburg becomes a place of importance. Farragut from New Orleans, and the gunboat flotilla from the upper waters, had engaged the batteries in June and July, but had returned to their respective stations, while a Federal force under General Williams, which had appeared before the fortress, retired to Baton Rouge. Early in August, Van Dorn, now in command of the place, sent a force to attack Williams, and on the 5th a hard-fought action took place at Baton Rouge, in which Williams was killed but his troops held their own. At this time the minor fortress of Port Hudson was established to guard the rear of Vicksburg. In November Grant, with 57,000 men, began to move down from the north against General J. C. Pemberton, who had superseded the talented Van Dorn. A converging movement made by Grant from Grand Junction, W. T. Sherman from Memphis, and a force from Helena on the Arkansas side, failed, owing to Pemberton’s prompt retirement to Oxford, Mississippi, and complications brought about by the intrigues of an able but intractable subordinate, McClernand, induced Grant to make a complete change of plan. Sherman was to proceed down the great river, and join the ships from the Gulf before Vicksburg, while Grant himself drove Pemberton southwards along the Mississippi Central railway. This double plan failed. Grant, as he pushed Pemberton before him to Granada, lengthened day by day his line of communication, and when Van Dorn, ever enterprising, raided the great Federal depot of Holly Springs the game was up. Grant retired hastily, for starvation was imminent, and Pemberton, thus freed, turned upon Sherman, and inflicted a severe defeat on that general at Chickasaw Bayou near Vicksburg (December 29). McClernand now assumed command, and on the 11th of January 1863 captured Fort Hindman near Arkansas Post. This was the solitary gain of the whole operation. Meanwhile Vicksburg was steadily becoming stronger and more formidable.
18. Fredericksburg.—McClellan, after the battle of the Antietam, paused for some time to reorganize his forces, some of which had barely recovered from the effects of Pope’s unlucky campaign. He then slowly moved down the east side of the Blue Ridge, while Lee retired up the Valley on the west side of the same range. On the 6th of November the Army of the Potomac was at Warrenton, Lee at Culpeper, and Jackson in the Valley. When on the point of resuming the offensive, McClellan was suddenly superseded by Burnside, one of his corps commanders. Like Buell, McClellan had tempered the tools with which others were to strike; he was not again employed, and in his fall was involved his most brilliant subordinate, Fitz John Porter (q.v.). Burnside was by no means the equal of his predecessor, though a capable subordinate, and indeed only accepted the chief command with reluctance. He began his campaign by cancelling McClellan’s operation, and, his own plan being to strike at Richmond from Fredericksburg, he moved the now augmented army to Falmouth opposite that place, hoping to surprise the crossing of the Rappahannock. Delays and neglect, not only at the front, but on the part of the headquarters staff at Washington, permitted Lee to seize the heights of the southern bank in time. When Burnside fought his battle of Fredericksburg (q.v.) an appalling reverse was the result, the more terrible as it was absolutely useless (December 13).
19. Closing Operations of 1862.—Chickasaw Bayou and Fredericksburg ended the Federal initiative in the west and the east; the Army of the Cumberland under Rosecrans alone could claim a victory. Buell’s successor retained the positions about Nashville, whilst a new Army of the Ohio prepared to operate in east Tennessee. Bragg lay at Murfreesboro (see Stone River), where Rosecrans attacked him on the 31st of December 1862. A very obstinate and bloody two days' battle ended in Bragg’s retirement towards Chattanooga. During these campaigns the United States navy had not been idle. The part played by the gunboats on the upper Mississippi had been most conspicuous, as had been the operations of Farragut’s heavier ships in the lower waters of the same river. The work of Du Pont and Goldsborough on the Atlantic coast has been alluded to above. Charleston was attacked without success in 1862, but from June to August 1863 it was besieged by General Gillmore and Admiral Dahlgren, and under great difficulties the Federals secured a lodgment, though it was not until Sherman appeared on the land side early in 1865 that the Confederate defence collapsed, Fort Fisher near Wilmington also underwent a memorable siege by land and sea. Certain incursions were from time to time made at different points along the whole sea-board. Minor operations moreover, especially in Arkansas and southern Missouri, were continually undertaken by both sides during 1862–1863, of which the battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas (December 7, 1862), was the most notable incident. Meanwhile the blockade had become so stringent that few ordinary vessels could expect to break through, and a special type of steamer came into vogue for the purpose.
20. Capture of Vicksburg.—In 1863 the campaigns once more divided themselves accurately into those of east, centre and west. This year saw the greatest successes and the heaviest reverses of the Union army, Gettysburg and Vicksburg and Chattanooga against Chancellorsville and Chickamauga. Operations began in the west with the second advance upon Vicksburg. One corps of the Army of the Tennessee was detached to cover the Memphis & Charleston railway. Grant, with the other three under Sherman, McClernand and McPherson, moved by water to the neighbourhood of the fortress. Many weeks passed without any success to the Union arms. Vicksburg and its long line of fortifications stood on high bluffs, all else was swampy lowland and intricate waterways. As Sherman in 1862, so now Grant was unable to obtain any foothold on the high ground, and no effective attack was possible until this had been gained. At last, after many trials and failures, Grant took a daring step. The troops with their supplies marched round through a network of lakes and streams to a point south of Vicksburg; Admiral Porter’s gunboats and the transports along with them “ran” the batteries. At Bruinsburg, beyond Pemberton’s reach, a landing was made on the eastern bank and, without any base of supplies or line of retreat, Grant embarked upon a campaign which made him in the end master of the prize. On the 4th of July Pemberton surrendered the fortress and 37,000 men. Grant’s endurance and daring had won what was perhaps the greatest success of the war. General Joseph Johnston with a small relieving army had appeared at Jackson, Mississippi, but had been held in check by General F. P. Blair and a force from the Army of the Tennessee; when Vicksburg surrendered a larger force was at once sent against him, whereupon he retired. In the meanwhile Banks had moved upstream from New Orleans, and laid siege to Port Hudson. Operations were pressed with vigour, and the place surrendered four days after Vicksburg. A Confederate attack on the post of Helena, Arkansas, was the last serious fight on the great river, and before the end of July the first merchant steamer from St Louis discharged her cargo at New Orleans.
21. Chancellorsville and Gettysburg.—In Virginia Burnside had made, in January 1863, an attempt to gain by manoeuvre what he had missed in battle. The sudden swelling of rivers and downpour of rain stopped all movement at once, and the “Mud March” came to an end. A Federal general could retain his hold on the men after a reverse, but not after a farce: Burnside was replaced by General Joseph Hooker, who had a splendid reputation as a subordinate leader. The new commander displayed great energy in reorganizing the Army of the Potomac, the discipline of which had not come unscathed through a career of failure. Lee still held the battlefield of Fredericksburg and had not attempted the offensive, and in April he was much weakened by the detachment of Longstreet’s corps to a minor theatre of operations. Hooker’s operations began well, Lee was outmanoeuvred and threatened in flank and rear, but the Federals were in the end involved in the confused and disastrous battle of Chancellorsville (q.v.). Stonewall Jackson was mortally wounded, but his men and those of Longstreet’s who had remained with Lee defeated Hooker and forced him to retire again beyond the Rappahannock, though he had double Lee’s force. But Hooker could at least make himself obeyed, and when Lee initiated his second invasion of the North a month after the battle of Chancellorsville, the Army of the Potomac was as resolute as ever. On the 9th of June the cavalry combat of Brandy Station made it clear to the Federal staff that Lee was about to use the Valley once more to screen an invasion of Maryland. Longstreet, A. P. Hill and Ewell (who were now Lee’s corps commanders) were at one time scattered from Strasburg in the Valley to Fredericksburg, and Hooker earnestly begged to be allowed to attack them in detail. Success was certain, but the scheme was vetoed by the Federal headquarters and government, whose first and ruling idea was to keep the Army of the Potomac between Lee and Washington. Hooker was thus compelled to follow Lee’s movements. Ewell’s men were raiding unchecked as far north as the Susquehanna, while Hooker was compelled to inactivity before the forces of Hill and Longstreet. The Federal general, within his limitations, acted prudently and skilfully. The Army of the Potomac crossed that river only one day later than Lee, and concentrated at Frederick. But Hooker was no longer trusted by the Washington authorities, and his dispositions were interfered with. Not allowed to control the operations of his own men, the unfortunate general resigned his command on the 28th. He was succeeded by General G. G. Meade, who, besides steadiness and ability, possessed the confidence of Lincoln and Halleck which Hooker had lacked. Meade was thus able to move promptly, Lee was compelled to meet him, and the Army of the Potomac began to take up its position on Pipe Creek, screened by Generals Reynolds and Buford at Gettysburg (q.v.). On the 1st of July the heads of Lee’s columns engaged Buford’s cavalry outposts, and the conflict began. All troops on both sides hurried to the unexpected battlefield, and after a great three days’ battle, the Army of the Potomac emerged at last with a decisive victory. On the 4th, as Pemberton surrendered at Vicksburg, Lee drew off his shattered forces. One third of the Army of northern Virginia and one quarter of the Army of the Potomac remained on the field. Pursuit was not seriously undertaken, and the armies manoeuvred back to the old battle-grounds of the Rapidan and the Rappahannock. A war of manoeuvre followed, each side being reduced in turn by successive detachments sent to aid Rosecrans and Bragg in the struggle for Tennessee. In October Lee attempted a third Bull Run campaign on the same lines as the second, but Meade’s steadiness foiled him, and he retired to the Rapidan again, where he in turn repulsed Meade’s attempt to surprise him (Mine Run, November 26–28, 1863).
22. Chickamauga.—In the centre Rosecrans and Bragg spent the first six months of the year, as it were glaring at each other. Nothing was done by the main armies, but the far-ranging cavalry raids of the Confederates under J. H. Morgan and other leaders created much excitement, especially “Morgan’s Raid” (June 27 - July 26), through Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio, which states had hitherto little or no experience of the war on their own soil. At last the Army of the Cumberland advanced. Rosecrans manoeuvred his opponent out of one position after another until Bragg was driven back into Chattanooga. These operations were very skilfully conducted by Rosecrans and his second-in-command, Thomas, and, at a trifling cost, advanced the Union outposts to the borders of Georgia. Burnside and the new Army of the Ohio had now cleared east Tennessee and occupied Knoxville (September 2), and meanwhile Rosecrans by a brilliant movement, in which he displayed no less daring in execution than skill in planning, once more manoeuvred Bragg out of his position and occupied Chattanooga. But he had to fight to maintain his prize, and in the desperate battle of Chickamauga (q.v.) on the 19th and 20th of September, Bragg, reinforced by Longstreet from Virginia, won a complete victory. Thomas’s defence won him the popular title of the “Rock of Chickamauga” and enabled Rosecrans to draw off his men, but the critical position of the Army of the Cumberland in Chattanooga aroused great alarm.
23. Chattanooga.—Grant was now given supreme command in the west, and the Army of the Tennessee (now under Sherman) and two corps from Virginia under Hooker were hurried by rail to Tennessee. In spite of his good record Rosecrans was deprived of his command. But Thomas, his successor, was one of the greatest soldiers of the war, and Grant’s three generals, all men of great ability, set to work promptly. Hooker defeated Longstreet at Wauhatchie and revictualled Chattanooga (q.v.), and on the 23rd, 24th and 25th of November the three armies attacked Bragg’s position. On the left Sherman made little progress; on the right, however, Hooker and the men from the Potomac army fought and won the extraordinary “Battle above the Clouds” on Lookout Mountain, and on the 25th the Confederate centre on Missionary Ridge was brilliantly stormed by Thomas and the Army of the Cumberland. Grant’s triumph was decisive of the war in the west, and with Burnside’s victory over Longstreet at Knoxville, the struggle for Tennessee was over. Vicksburg, Gettysburg and Chattanooga ended the crisis of the war, which had been at its worst for the Union in this year. Henceforth the South was fighting a hopeless battle.
24. Plan of Campaign for 1864.—Grant, now the foremost soldier in the Federal army, was on the 9th of March 1864 commissioned lieutenant-general and appointed general-in-chief. Halleck, Lincoln and Stanton, the intractable, if energetic, war secretary, now stood aside, and the efforts of the whole vast army were to be directed and co-ordinated by one supreme military authority. Sherman was to command in the west, Grant’s headquarters accompanied Meade and the Army of the Potomac. The general plan was simple and comprehensive. Meade was to “hammer” Lee, and Sherman, at the head of the armies which had been engaged at Chattanooga and Knoxville, was to deal with the other great field army of Confederates under Johnston, and as far as possible gain ground for the Union in the south-east. Sherman’s own plans went farther still, and included an eventual invasion of Virginia itself from the south, but this was not contemplated as part of the immediate programme. Butler with the new Army of the James was to move up that river towards Richmond and Petersburg. Subsidiary forces were to operate on the sea-board, in the Shenandoah Valley and elsewhere. At this time took place the Red River Expedition, which was intended for the subjugation of western Louisiana. The troops of General Banks and the war vessels under Admiral Porter moved up the Red river, and on the 16th of March 1864 reached Alexandria. Skirmishing constantly with the Confederates under Kirby Smith and Taylor, the Federals eventually on the 8th and 9th of April suffered serious reverses at Sabine Cross Roads and Pleasant Hill. Banks thereupon retreated, and, high water in the river having come to an end, the fleet was in the gravest danger of being cut off, until Colonel Bailey suggested, and rapidly carried out, the construction of a dam and weir over which the ships ran down to the lower waters. Eventually the various forces retired to the places whence they had come.
25. The Wilderness Campaign.—Virginia was now destined to be the scene of the bloodiest fighting of the whole war. Grant and Meade, reinforced by Burnside’s IX. Corps to a strength of 120,000 men, crossed the Rapidan on the 4th of May with the intention of attacking Lee’s inner flank, that nearer Richmond. With a bare 70,000 men the Confederate general struck at the flank of Grant’s marching columns in that same Wilderness where Jackson had won his last battle twelve months before. The battle of the Wilderness (q.v.) went on for two days, with little advantage to either side. On his part Grant had lost 18,000 men. Lee had lost fewer, but could ill spare them, and Longstreet had been severely wounded (May 5–6). Grant, astonished perhaps, but here as always resolute, tried again to reach Lee’s right wing, and on the 8th another desperate battle began at Spottsylvania (q.v.) Court House. The fighting on this field lasted ten days, at the end of which Grant had doubled his losses and was as far as ever from success. On the 21st of May, with extraordinary pertinacity, he sent Meade and Burnside once more against the inner flank of the Army of northern Virginia. The action of North Anna ended like the rest, though on this occasion the loss was small. A week later the Federals, again moving to their left, arrived upon the ground on which McClellan had fought two years before, and at Cold Harbor (Porter’s battlefield of Gaines’ Mill) the leading troops of the Army of the James joined the lieutenant-general. Meanwhile the minor armies had come to close quarters all along the line. The Army of the James moved towards Richmond on the same day on which the Army of the Potomac crossed the Rapidan. On the 16th of May Butler fought the indecisive battle of Drury’s Bluff against Beauregard, in consequence of which he had to retire to Bermuda Hundred, whence most of his troops were sent to join Grant. At the same time the Union troops under Sigel in the Shenandoah Valley were defeated at New Market (May 15). General Hunter, who replaced Sigel, won a combat at Piedmont, and marched on the 8th of June towards Lynchburg. The danger threatening this important point caused Lee to send thither General Early with the remnants of Jackson’s old Valley troops. Hunter’s assault (June 18) failed, and the Federals, unable to hold their ground, had to make a circuitous retreat to the Potomac by way of West Virginia.
26. Cold Harbor.—On the 3rd of June at Cold Harbor (q.v.) took place the last of Grant’s “hammering” battles in the open fields. The attack of the Federals failed utterly; not even Fredericksburg was so disastrous a defeat. Six thousand men fell in one hour’s fighting, and the total losses on this field, where skirmishing went on for many days, were 13,000. But Grant was as resolute as ever. His forces once more manoeuvred against Lee’s inner flank, still found no weak spot, and eventually arrived upon the James. The river was crossed, Lee as usual conforming to the movement, and on the 15th of June the Federals appeared before the works of Petersburg (q.v.). Here, and in the narrow neck of land between the Appomattox and the James, was the ganglion of the Confederacy, and the struggle for its possession was perhaps the greatest of modern history. A first assault made at once (June 15–18) failed with a loss of 8150 men. Two sharp combats followed on the 22nd of June and the 2nd of July, as Grant once more began to feel Lee’s right. But the anniversary of Gettysburg saw Lee’s works still intact, and 72,000 men of the Army of the Potomac and the Army of the James had fallen since the campaign had opened two months before. History has few examples to show comparable to this terrible campaign in Virginia. The ruthless determination of the superior leaders had been answered splendidly by the devotion of the troops, but the men of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg were mostly dead or wounded, and the recruits attracted by bounties or compelled by the “draft,” which had at last been enforced in the North, proved far inferior soldiers to the gallant veterans whom they replaced.
27. Petersburg.—There was no formal siege of Lee’s position. A vast network of fortifications covered the front of both armies, whose flank extended far to the south-west, Grant seeking to capture, Lee to defend, the Danville railway by which the Confederates received their supplies. Richmond, though no longer of paramount importance, was no less firmly held than Petersburg, and along the whole long line fighting went on with little interruption. On the 30th of July the Federal engineers exploded a mine under the hostile works, and Burnside’s corps rushed to the assault. But the attempt ended in failure—the first defeat of the Army of the Potomac which could fairly be called discreditable. Still, Lee was losing men, few it is true, but most precious, since it was impossible to replace them, while the North poured unlimited numbers into the Federal camps. The policy of “attrition” upon which Grant had embarked, and which he was carrying through regardless of his losses, was having its effect. About this time Early, freed from the opposition of Hunter’s forces, made a bold stroke upon Washington. Crossing the Potomac, he marched eastward, and, defeating a motley force (action of the Monocacy) which General Lew Wallace had collected to oppose him, appeared before the lines of Washington. The Federal capital was at the moment almost denuded of troops, and forces hastily despatched from the James only arrived just in time to save it. Thereupon the Confederates retired, narrowly escaping Hunter, and the brief campaign came to an end with an engagement at Kernstown. Early had been nearer to the immediate success than Lee had been in 1862 and 1863, but he had failed utterly to relax Grant’s hold on Petersburg, which was becoming daily more crushing.
On the decisive theatre the Federals made their way, little by little and at a heavy cost, to the Weldon railway, and beyond it to the westward. Lee’s lines were becoming dangerously extended, but he could not allow the enemy to cut him off from the west. On the 25th of August there was a battle at Reams Station, in which the Federals were forced back, and the famous II. Corps under Hancock was for the first time routed. But Grant was tireless, and five days later another battle was fought, at Peebles Farm, in which the lost ground was regained. Butler and the Army of the James at the same time won some successes in front of the Richmond works. One more attempt to outflank Lee to the westward was made by Grant without success, before winter came on, and the campaign closed with an expedition, under the direction of General Warren, which destroyed the Weldon line. Grant had not reached Lee’s flank at any point,. and his casualties from first to last had been unprecedentedly heavy, but “hammering” was steadily prevailing where skill and valour had failed.
28. Sheridan’s Valley Campaign.—In the closing months of the year Grant’s brilliant cavalry commander Sheridan had been put in command of an army to operate against Early in the Valley. The Federals in this quarter had hitherto suffered from want of unity in the command (e.g. Banks, Fremont and McDowell in 1862). The Army of the Shenandoah would not be thus handicapped, for Sheridan was a leader of exceptional character. The first encounter took place on the Opequan near Winchester. Early was defeated, but not routed (September 9), and another battle took place near Strasburg (Fisher’s Hill) on the 22nd. Always disposing of superior numbers, Sheridan on this occasion won an important victory without much loss. A combat which took place, at Mount Jackson, during the pursuit, again ended successfully, and the triumphant Federals retired down the Valley, ruthlessly destroying everything which might be of the slightest value to the enemy. Early sharply followed them up, his men infuriated by the devastation of the “Granary of the Confederacy.” At Cedar Creek, during a momentary absence of the Federal commander, his camps were surprised by Early (October 19). The Army of the Shenandoah was routed and driven towards the Potomac. But the gallant stand of the old Potomac troops of the VI. Corps checked the Confederates. Sheridan arrived on the scene to find a new battle in progress. He was at his best at such a moment, and the rallied Federals under his command swept all before them. The victory was decisive, and, the country being now bare of supplies, the Army of the Shenandoah was sent to reinforce Grant, while the remnant of Early’s forces also went to Petersburg. Sheridan’s campaign was a famous episode of the war. It was conducted with skill, though, with twice the numbers of the enemy at his command, Sheridan’s victory was a foregone conclusion. But he had at least shown that he possessed to an unusual degree the real attribute of a great captain—power over men.
29. Sherman and Johnston.—Meanwhile Sherman had fought his Atlanta campaign. General Johnston opposed him almost on the old Chickamauga battle-ground, where the Federal commander, after a brief campaign in Mississippi and Alabama, the result of which was to clear his right flank (February 3–March 6, 1864), collected his armies—the Army of the Tennessee under McPherson, the Army of the Cumberland under Thomas (Hooker’s troops had now become part of this army) and the Army of the Ohio under Schofield. In the celebrated campaign of Atlanta the highest manoeuvring skill was displayed by both the famous commanders. Whilst Grant, with his avowed object of crushing Lee’s army, lost no opportunity of fighting a battle coûte que coûte, Sherman, intent rather on the conquest of territory, acted on different lines. Johnston, than whom there was no better soldier in the Confederate service when a careful defence was required, disposed of sensibly inferior forces, and it was to be expected that the 18th-century methods of making war by manoeuvring and by combats, not battles, would receive a modern illustration in Georgia. Operations began early in May 1864, and five days of manoeuvring and skirmishing about Resaca and Rocky Face ended in Johnston’s retirement to Resaca. A fortnight later the same manoeuvres, combined with constant “tapping” at the Confederate defences, caused him to fall back again. At Adairsville the same process was gone through, and Johnston retired to Cassville, where he offered battle. Sherman was far too wary to be drawn into an action under unfavourable conditions. If each general had been able to obtain a great battle upon his own terms, each would have fought most willingly, for neither desired a useless prolongation of the war. As it was, both declined to risk a decision. Johnston’s inferiority in numbers was now becoming lessened as Sherman had to detach more and more troops to his ever-lengthening communications with Chattanooga. Another manoeuvre brought about a heavy combat near Dallas (Pickett’s Mills and New Hope Church, May 25–27). After a time Johnston fell back, and on the 6th of June the Federals appeared before Marietta (q.v.). Hitherto neither leader had offered a weak spot to his opponent, though the constant skirmishing had caused a loss of 9000 men to Sherman and about two-thirds of that number to the Confederates. At this moment Sherman suddenly changed his policy and sent his troops straight against the hostile entrenchments. The neighbourhood of Marietta witnessed for the next fortnight very heavy fighting, notably at Pine Mountain on the 14th and Kenesaw on the 27th, both actions being frontal assaults gallantly pushed home and as gallantly repulsed. Sherman acted thus in order to teach his own men and the enemy that he was not “afraid,” and the lesson was not valueless. He then resumed his manoeuvring, which was now facilitated by improved weather and better roads.
30. Atlanta.—Johnston in due time evacuated the Marietta lines. On the 7th of July his fortifications on the Chattahoochee river were turned, and he fell back into the Atlanta (q.v.) position, which was carefully prepared, like all the others, beforehand. Here Johnston was deprived of his command. His campaign had not been unsuccessful, for Sherman had never succeeded in taking him at a disadvantage, but the whole of the South, including President Davis and his chief of staff General Bragg, clamoured for a more “energetic” policy, and General J. B. Hood was put in command on the understanding that he should “fight.” The new general, whose bold and skilful leading had been conspicuous on most of the Virginia battlefields, promptly did so. At first successful, the Confederates had in the end to retire. A few days after this battle (called Peach Tree Creek) took place the battle of Atlanta, which was fiercely contested by the veterans of both sides, and in which McPherson, one of the best generals in the Union army, was killed. Still, Hood was again beaten. The Army of the Tennessee, under its new commander General O. O. Howard, fought and won the battle of Ezra Church on the 28th of July, and, Atlanta being now nearly surrounded, Hood was compelled to adopt the Fabian methods of his predecessor, and fell back to the southward. An attack on the Army of the Ohio near Jonesboro concluded the Atlanta campaign, which left Sherman in control of Atlanta, but hampered by the necessity of preserving his communications with Chattanooga and weakened by a total loss of 30,000 men. In this celebrated campaign the American generals rivalled if they did not excel the exploits of Marlborough, Eugene and Villars, under allied conditions.
31. The March to the Sea.—Although General Canby, with a Federal force in the south, had been ordered to capture Mobile early in the year—after which he was to operate towards Atlanta—Mobile still flew the Confederate flag, and Hood, about to resume the offensive, was thus able to base himself on Montgomery in order to attack Sherman in flank and rear. But the Federal commander was not to be shaken off from his prize. He held firmly to Atlanta, clearing the city of non-combatants and in other ways making ready for a stubborn defence. Thomas and the Army of the Cumberland were sent back to guard Tennessee. A heavy attack on the post of Allatoona (to the garrison of which Sherman sent the famous message, “Hold the fort, for I am coming”) was repulsed (October 5). The main armies quickly regained contact, each edging away northwestwards towards the Tennessee and coming into contact at Gaylesville, Alabama, and again at Decatur. General Slocum with Hooker’s old Potomac troops garrisoned Atlanta, and every important post along the railway to Chattanooga was held in force. Sherman had now resolved to execute his plan of a march through Georgia to the sea and thence through the Carolinas towards Virginia, destroying everything of military value en route. With the provisos that if Lee turned upon Sherman, Grant must follow him up sharply, and that Thomas could be left to deal with Hood (both of which could be, and were, done), the scheme might well be decisive of the war. Preparations were carefully made. Fifty thousand picked men were to march through Georgia with Sherman, and Thomas was to be reinforced by all other forces available. There was no force to oppose the “March to the Sea.” Hood was far away on the Tennessee, which he crossed on the 29th of October at Tuscumbia, making for Nashville. Want of supplies checked the Confederates after a few marches, while Schofield was pressing forward to meet them at Pulaski and Thomas was gathering, at Nashville, a motley army drawn from all parts of the west. It was at this same time that Sherman broke up his railway communication, destroying Atlanta as a place of arms, and set out on his adventurous expedition. There was little in his path. Skirmishes at Macon and Milledgeville alone varied the daily routine of railway-breaking and supply-finding, in which a belt of country 60 m. wide was absolutely cleared. On the 10th of December the army, thoroughly invigorated by its march, appeared before the defences of Savannah. On the 13th of December a division stormed Fort McAllister, and communication was opened with the Federal fleet. The march concluded with the occupation of Savannah on the 20th.
32. Nashville.—Hood, at a loss to divine Sherman’s purpose, hastened on into Tennessee amidst weather which would have stopped most troops. Schofield met him on the Duck river, while Thomas was shaping his army in rear. Hood manoeuvred Schofield out of his lines and pushed on once more. At Franklin Schofield had to accept battle, and thirteen distinct assaults on his works were made, all pushed with extraordinary fury and lasting far into the night. Thomas ordered his lieutenant to retire on Nashville, Hood following him up, impressing recruits, transports and supplies, and generally repeating the scenes of Bragg’s march of 1862. The civil authorities and the lieutenant-general also urgently demanded that Thomas should advance. Constancy of purpose was the salient feature of Thomas’s military character. He would not fight till he was ready. But this last great counterstroke of the Confederacy alarmed the whole North. So great was the tension that Grant finally sent General J. A. Logan to take command. But before Logan arrived, Thomas had on the 15th and 16th of December fought and won the battle of Nashville (q.v.), the most crushing victory of the whole war. Hood’s army was absolutely ruined. Only a remnant of it reassembled beyond the Tennessee.
33. The Carolinas.—From Savannah, Sherman started on his final march through the Carolinas. Columbia, his first objective, was reached on the 17th of February 1865. As usual, all that could be of possible value to the enemy was destroyed and, by some accident, the town itself was burned. Sherman, like Sheridan, was much criticized for his methods of reducing opposition, but it does not seem that his “bummers” were guilty of wanton cruelty and destructiveness, at least in general, though the cavalry naturally gave more ground for the accusation than the main body of the army. And the methods of the Confederates had on occasion been somewhat similar. The Confederate general Hardee managed to gather some force (chiefly from the evacuated coast towns) wherewith to oppose the onward progress of the Federals. As commander-in-chief, Lee now reappointed Johnston to command, and the latter soon attacked and very nearly defeated his old opponent at Bentonville (March 19–20). But the “bummers” were no mere marauders, but picked men from the armies that had won Vicksburg and Chattanooga, and, though surrounded, held their ground stoutly and successfully. Advancing once more, they were joined at Goldsboro by the forces lately besieging Fort Fisher (see below), and nearly 90,000 men marched northward towards Virginia, pushing Johnston’s weak army before them. Meanwhile the bulk of the forces at Nashville had been sent to the north-east to close Lee’s escape to the mountains, and in March the final campaign had opened at Petersburg.
34. The Final Campaign.—At last Lee’s men had lost heart in the unequal struggle. Sheridan raided the upper James and destroyed all supplies. Grant lay in front of the Army of northern Virginia with 125,000 men, and when active operations began Lee had no resource but to try and escape to the south-west in order to join Johnston. The western movement was covered by a furious sortie from the lines of Petersburg, which was repulsed with heavy loss. Grant felt that this was a mere feint to screen some other move, and instantly carried the Army of the Potomac to the westward, leaving a bare screen of troops in his lines. On the 29th of March the movement began, followed in rapid succession by the combats of White Oak Road and Dinwiddie Court House and Sheridan’s great victory of Five Forks. At the same time the VI. Corps at last carried the Petersburg lines by storm. Thereupon Lee and Longstreet evacuated the Petersburg and Richmond lines and began their retreat. Their men were practically starving, though their rearguard showed a brave front. The remnant of Ewell’s corps was cut off at Sailor’s Creek, and when Sheridan got ahead of the Confederates while Grant furiously pressed them in the rear, surrender was inevitable (April 8). On the 9th the gallant remnant of the Army of northern Virginia laid down its arms at Appomattox Court House, and the Confederacy came to an end. Johnston surrendered to Sherman at Durham Station on the 26th, and soon afterwards all the remaining Confederate soldiers followed their example. So ended the gigantic struggle, as to the conduct of which it is only necessary to quote, with a more general application, the envoi of a Federal historian, “It has not seemed necessary to me to attempt a eulogy of the Army of the Potomac or the Army of northern Virginia.” The general terms of surrender were that the Confederates should give up all material, and sign a parole not to take up arms again. There were no manifestations of triumph or exultation on the part of the victors, the lot of the vanquished was made as easy as possible, and after a short time the armies melted into the mass of the people without disturbance or disorder. A general amnesty proclaimed by the president of the United States on the 29th of May was the formal ending of the Civil War.
35. Character of the War.—No undisciplined levies could have fought as did the armies on both sides. Grave faults the men had, from the regular’s point of view. They required humouring, and their march discipline was very elastic. But in battle the “thinking bayonets” resolutely obeyed orders, even though it were to attack a Marye’s Hill, or a “Bloody Angle,” for they had undertaken their task and would carry it through unflinchingly. So much may be said of both armies. The great advantage of the Confederate—an advantage which he had in a less degree as against the hardier and country-bred Federal of the west—was that he was a hunter and rider born and bred, an excellent shot, and still not infrequently settled his quarrels by the duel. The town-bred soldier of the eastern states was a thoughtful citizen who was determined to do his duty, but he had far less natural aptitude for war than his enemy from the Carolinas or his comrade from Illinois or Kansas. At the same time the more varied conditions of urban life made him more adaptable to changes of climate and of occupation than the “Southron.” Irish brigades served on both sides and shot each other to pieces as at Fredericksburg. They had the reputation of being excellent soldiers. The German divisions, on the other hand, were rarely as good as the rest. The leading of these men was in the hands, as a rule, of regular or ex-regular officers, who made many mistakes in their handling of large masses, but had been taught at West Point and on the Indian frontier to command men in danger, and administer them in camp. The volunteer officers rarely led more than a division. When given high command at once they usually failed, but the best of them rose gradually to the superior ranks; Logan, for instance, became an army commander, Sickles, Terry and others corps commanders. Cleburne, one of the best division commanders of the South, had been a corporal in the British army. Meagher, the leader of the “Irish brigade” at Fredericksburg, was the young orator of the “United Irishmen.” But Lee, the Johnstons, McClellan, Grant and Sherman had all served in the old army. Most of them were young men in 1861. Stuart was twenty-eight, Sheridan thirty, Grant and Jackson under forty, while some of the subordinate generals were actually fresh from West Point.
36. Strategy and Tactics.—The roughness of much of the country gave a peculiar tone to the strategy of the combatants. Roads were untrustworthy, rivers swelled suddenly, advance and retreat were conditioned and compelled, especially in the case of the ill-equipped Confederates, by the exigencies of food supply. Long forward strides of the Napoleonic type were rarely attempted; “changes of base” were indeed made across country, and over considerable distances, as by Sherman in 1864, but ordinarily either the base and the objective were connected by rail or water, or else every forward step was, after the manner of Marlborough’s time, organized as a separate campaign. Hence field fortifications played an unusually prominent part, time and material being available as a rule for works of solid construction. In isolated instances of more rapid campaigning—e.g. Antietam and Gettysburg—they were of subordinate importance. The attack and defence of these entrenchments led to tactical phenomena of unusual interest. Cavalry could not bring about the decision in such country, and sought a field for its restless activity elsewhere. Artillery had fallen, technically, far behind the infantry arm, and in face of long-range rifle fire could not annihilate the hostile line with case-shot fire as in the days of Napoleon. In a battle such as Chancellorsville or the Wilderness guns were almost valueless, since there was little open space in which they might be used. It thus fell to the infantry to attack and defend with its own weapons, and the defence was, locally, almost inexpugnable behind its tall breastworks. One line of works could be stormed, but there were almost always two or three retrenchments behind. The attacking infantry, who found it necessary to cross a fire-swept zone 1000 yds. broad, had to be used resolutely in masses, line following line, and each carrying forward the wrecks of its predecessor. Partial attacks were invariably costly failures. The use of masses was never put in practice more sternly than by Grant in 1864. At the same time, as has been said, the cavalry arm found plenty of work. The horses were not trained for European shock-tactics, nor did the country offer charging room, and though melees of mounted men engaging with sword and pistol were not infrequent, the usual method of fighting was dismounted fire action, which was practised with uncommon skill by the troopers on both sides. The far-ranging strategic “raid” was a notable feature of the war; freely employed by both sides, it was sometimes harmful, more usually profitable, especially to the South, by reason of the captures in material, the information acquired and the alarm and confusion created. These raids, and the more ordinary screening work, were never executed more brilliantly than by Lee’s great cavalry general, “Jeb” Stuart, in Virginia, but the Federal generals, Pleasonton and Sheridan, did excellent work in the east, as also Wheeler and Forrest on the Confederate, Wilson and Grierson on the Federal, side in the west. The technical services, in which the mechanical skill and ingenuity of the American had full play, developed remarkable efficiency. Whether it was desired to build a railway bridge, disable a locomotive or cut a canal, the engineers were always ready with some happy expedient. On one occasion an infantry division of 8000 men repaired 102 miles of railway and built 182 bridges in 40 days, forging their own tools and using local resources. Many novelties, too, such as the field telegraph, balloons and signalling, were employed.
37. The Union and Confederate Navies.—The naval war had been likewise fruitful of lessons for the future. Though wooden ships were still largely employed, the ironclad even then had begun to take a commanding place, and the sailing ship at last disappeared from naval warfare. Mines, torpedoes and submarines were all employed, and with the “Monitor” may fairly be said to have begun the application of mechanical science to the uses of naval war. The Federal navy was enormously expanded. Three hundred and thirteen steamers were brought into the service. Sloops of an excellent type were built for work on the high seas, of which the celebrated “Kearsarge” was one. Gunboats were constructed so fast that they were called “ninety-day gunboats.” Special reversible paddle steamers (called double-enders) were designed for service in the inlets and estuaries, and sixty-six ironclads were built and employed during the four years. Mississippi river steamers were armed with heavy guns and protected by armour, boiler-plates, cotton bales, &c., and some fast cruisers were constructed for ocean work, one of them actually reaching the high speed of 17.75 m. per hour. The existing Federal navy of 1861 already included some large and powerful modern vessels, such as the “Minnesota” and “Powhatan.” To oppose them the Confederates, limited as they were for means, managed to construct various ironclads, and to improvise a considerable fleet of minor vessels, and, though a fighting navy never assembled under a Confederate flag-officer, the Southern warships found another more damaging and more profitable scope for their activity. It has been said that the blockade of the Confederate coast became in the end practically impenetrable, and that every attempt of the Confederate naval forces to break out was checked at once by crushing numerical preponderance. The exciting and profitable occupation of blockade-running led to countless small fights off the various harbours, and sometimes the United States navy had to fight a more serious action when some new “rebel” ironclad emerged from her harbour, inlet or sound.
38. Fort Fisher.—Many of the greater combats in which the navy was engaged on the coast and inland have been referred to above, and the fighting before Charleston, New Orleans, Mobile and Vicksburg is described in separate articles. One of the heaviest of the battles was fought at Fort Fisher in 1864. This place guarded the approaches to Wilmington, North Carolina. Troops under Butler and a large fleet under Admiral Porter were destined for this enterprise. An incendiary vessel was exploded close to the works without effect on the 23rd–24th of December, and the ships engaged on the 24th. The next day the troops were disembarked, only to be called off after a partial assault. Butler then withdrew, and Porter was informed on the 31st that “a competent force properly commanded” would be sent out. On the 8th of January 1865 General Terry arrived with the land forces, and the armada arrived off Fisher on the 12th. On the 13th, 6000 men were landed, covered by the guns of the fleet, and, after Porter had subjected the works to a terrific bombardment, Fisher was brilliantly carried by storm on the 15th. Reinforcements arriving, the whole force then marched inland to meet Sherman.
39. Other Naval Actions.—Apart from this, and other actions referred to, two incidents of the coast war call for notice—the career of the “Albemarle” and the duel between the “Atlanta” and the “Weehawken.” The ironclad ram “Albemarle,” built at Edwards' Ferry on the Roanoke river, had done considerable damage to the Federal vessels which, since Burnside’s expedition to Newberne, had cruised in Albemarle Sound, and in 1864 a force of double-enders and gunboats, under Captain Melancton Smith, U.S.N., was given the special task of destroying the rebel ram. A naval battle was fought on the 5th of May 1864, in which the double-ender “Sassacus” most gallantly rammed the “Albemarle” and was disabled alongside her, and Smith’s vessel and others, unarmoured as they were, fought the ram at close quarters. After this the ironclad retired upstream, where she was eventually destroyed in the most daring manner by a boat’s crew under Lieutenant W. B. Cushing. Making his way up the Roanoke as far as Plymouth he there sank the ironclad at her wharf by exploding a spar-torpedo (October 27). On the 17th of June 1863 after a brief action the monitor “Weehawken” captured the Confederate ironclad “Atlanta” in Wassaw Sound, South Carolina. This duel resembled in its attendant circumstances the famous fight of the “Chesapeake” and the “Shannon.” Captain John Rodgers, like Broke, was one of the best officers, and the “Weehawken,” like the “Shannon,” was known as one of the smartest ships in the service. Five heavy accurate shots from the Federal’s turret guns crushed the enemy in a few minutes.
40. The Commerce-Destroyers.—Letters of marque were issued to Confederate privateers as early as April 1861, and Federal commerce at once began to suffer. When, however, surveillance became blockade, prizes could only with difficulty be brought into port, and, since the parties interested gained nothing by burning merchantmen, privateering soon died out, and was replaced by commerce-destroying pure and simple, carried out by commissioned vessels of the Confederate navy. Captain Raphael Semmes of the C.S.S. “Sumter” made a successful cruise on the high seas, and before she was abandoned at Gibraltar had made seventeen prizes. Unable to build at home, the Confederates sought warships abroad, evading the obligations of neutrality by various ingenious expedients. The “Florida” (built at Liverpool in 1861–1862) crossed the Atlantic, refitted at Mobile, escaped the blockaders, and fulfilled the instructions which, as her captain said, “left much to the discretion but more to the torch.” She was captured by the U.S.S. “Wachusett” in the neutral harbour of Bahia (October 7, 1862). The most successful of the foreign-built cruisers was the famous “Alabama,” commanded by Semmes and built at Liverpool. In the course of her career she burned or brought into port seventy prizes, fought and sank the U.S.S. “Hatteras” off Galveston, and was finally sunk by the U.S.S. “Kearsarge,” Captain Winslow, off Cherbourg (June 19, 1864). The career of another promising cruiser, the “Nashville,” was summarily ended by the Federal monitor “Montauk” (February 28, 1863). The “Shenandoah” was burning Union whalers in the Bering Sea when the war came to an end. None of the various “rams” built abroad for the “rebel” government ever came into action. The difficulties of coaling and the obligations of neutrality hampered these commerce-destroyers as much as the Federal vessels that were chasing them, but, in spite of drawbacks, the guerre de course was the most successful warlike operation undertaken by the Confederacy. The mercantile marine of the United States was almost driven off the high seas by the terror of these destructive cruisers.
41. Cost of the War.—The total loss of life in the Union forces during the four years of war was 359,528, and of the many thousands discharged from the services as disabled or otherwise unfit, a large number died in consequence of injuries or disease incurred in the army. The estimate of 500,000 in all may be taken as approximately correct. The same number is given as that of the Southern losses, which of course fell upon a much smaller population. The war expenditure of the Federal government has been estimated at $3,400,000,000; the very large sums devoted to the pensions of widows, disabled men, &c., are not included in this amount (Dodge). In 1879 an estimate made of all Federal war expenses up to that date, including pension charges, interest on loans, &c., showed a total of $6,190,000,000 (Dewey, Financial History of the United States).