Friday, December 28, 2007
Sherman in Atlanta
Confederate General John B Hood withdrew drom Atlanta on September 1, 1864, leaving the beleagured city to the Union forces of Major General William T. Sherman.
Hood regrouped his Army of Tennessee, now 35,000 strong. It was his intent to disrupt Sherman's lines of communications particularly along the railroads into and out of Atlanta.
Sherman decided to pursue Hood, leaving a token force in Atlanta and dispatching Major General George H. Thomas with a division to defend the strtegically important city of Nashville.
The two armies clashed on Snake Creek Gap but Hood withdrew further west to Gadsden, Alabama. Sherman surmised that Hood was trying to pull him further and further away from Atlanta, so he returned to Atlanta to plan his campaign - the "March to the Sea" through Georgia. He left Thomas at his rear.
Hood then positioned his forces of 18 brigades of infantry, drawn up in a line of battle across two miles of open field
Monday, December 24, 2007
Reporting the Civil War
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Boston's distinguished man of letters, followed the war news with interest. Holmes wrote; "We must have something to eat, and papers to read. Everything else we can do without...Only bread and newspapers we must have."
To satisfy the public appetite for news a small army of Northern correspondents was organized. So thorough was their coverage that opposing generals sometimes learned more from enemy newspapers than from intelligence reports. General William T. Sherman, carrying on his own private war with the newspapers, grew apoplectic on the subject. "Reporters print their limited and tainted observations as the history of events they neither see nor comprehend," he wrote in agitated fury.
The Civil War also saw the dawn of pictorial journalism. Vivid eyewitness sketches by Alfred and William Wand, Henri Lovie, Winslow Homer and Edwin Forbes turned up in Harper's and Leslie's, bring the experiences of war vicariously to thousands who would never see a battlefield.
The best known photographers, Mathew Brady and Alexander Garner and others were recording the tragic scenes of the great conflict as well. Hundreds upon hundreds of period photographs survive and can be found in the collection held by the Library of Congress. Most of the scenes, of necessity, were taken of battlefields after the battle was fought.
Horace Greeley, the incomparable eccentric, was a leading figure in his own right. Across the nation Greeley's Tribune was the family news source. Horace was not above advising the President if he deemed it necessary. Lincoln often invited reporters to the White House, in fact. "I am always seeking information," he explained, "and you newspapermen are so often behind the scenes at thew front I am frequently able to get ideas from you which no one else will give."
The South had few, if any, professional reporters in the field. Most small Southern newspapers relied on soldiers sending letters for the war news. The newspaper Editors would recruit soldiers from hometown units to periodically send back letters reporting on the movements of a particular regiment or graphically detailing the events of a battle they had participated in. But whether amateur or professional, reporters reported and the news was printed. The citizens hungered for news of the war, both North and South and relished reading any scrap of information on the events of the war.
All photographs shown above, courtesy of the Library of Congress
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Sherman Occupies Atlanta
Confederate General John B. Hood withdrew from Atlanta on September 1, 1864, leaving the beleaguered city to the Union forces under Major General William T. Sherman.
Hood regrouped his Army of Tennessee, now 35,000 strong, south of Atlanta. He skirted the city moving into position to the north with the intent of disrupting Sherman's lines of communications, particularly along the railroads out of Atlanta.
Sherman decided it was time to pursue Hood to stop the harassment. Leaving only a token force in Atlanta and dispatching Major General George H. Thomas with a division to defend the strategically important Tennessee city of Nashville.
Sherman and Hood clashed on October 15th at Snake Creek Gap but Hood withdrew farther west to Gadsden, Alabama. Sherman surmised that Hood was trying to pull him further and further away from Atlanta, so he broke off the pursuit and returned to Atlanta to plan his campaign - the "March to the Sea" through Georgia. Sherman left Thomas to hold Hood to his rear.
When General John B. Hood became aware that Sherman had split his forces and returned to Atlanta, he revised his plans. As ambitious as it was, he intended to march on Nashville. Unfortunately for Hood, he delayed the crossing of the Tennessee River until November 21st. By that time, Sherman had decided that Thomas needed to be reinforced and he dispatched Major General David S. Stanley's IV Corps from the Army of the Cumberland, Major General John M. Schoefield's XXIII Corps from the Army of Ohio and three divisions of XVI Corps of the Army of Tennessee, a total of 60,000 men.
Gen Schoefield feared that he would be isolated from Nashville if Hood moved to cut him off, so he evaded Hood and reached the comparative safety of Franklin;s fortifications. by dawn on November 30th.
Hood with s force of 40,000 reached Franklin by mid-day of the 30th. The Union force numbered only 26,000 but they had established a strong defensive position behind fortifications. Hood positioned his force of 18 brigades of infantry in a line of battle across two miles of open field, for a frontal assault of the Union fortifications. It was a tragic repetition of the fatal charge at Gettysburg but on an even larger scale.
"For the moment," a Federal officer wrote, " We were spellbound with admiration, although...we knew that in a few brief moments, as soon as they came within firing range, all that orderly grandeur would be changed to bleeding, writhing confusion..."
Five Confederate generals were killed. Six others wounded, one mortally, and another captured. Altogether the Confederates suffered 7,000 casualties among their ranks. The Union army only 2,300 casualties. While the wounded and dying Rebels lay on the battle field, moaning in agony, the Union force slipped out under the cover of night and withdrew to Nashville.
General Hood stubbornly continued toward Nashville in pursuit and put up breastworks fronting the entrenched Federal lines. Snow, freezing rain and sleet paralyzed everything for awhile. But when the weather cleared and the thaw came, the Federal force emerged and in 2 days of fighting, sent Hood reeling. The Army of Tennessee had become a disheartened and disorganized rabble of half armed and barefoot men. The survivors made their way south to Mississippi.
Sunday, December 02, 2007
Lincoln Faces Re-Election
Despite the fact that the Nation was at war, Lincoln faced re-election in the autumn of 1864. Lincoln, of course, was a Republican or Union, as the Republican party called itself in 1864. His opponent, General McClellan, the erstwhile commander-in-chief of the Union army, who had stood on the sidelines since his departure as commander-in-chief in late 1862.
Allen Pinkerton, President Lincoln and Maj. Gen. John A. McClelland
There were a number of issues that marked the campaign, the concerns over prisoners of war and how best to achieve peace with the South. Lincoln felt that peace could only be achieved through victory, while the Democrats sought peace through negotiation.
A major factor in the public's war weariness was the presence of many thousands of Northern soldiers in Southern prison camps, where living conditions were atrocious and the death rate was alarmingly high. In the initial years of the war the opposing governments had operated on a system of prisoner exchanges, by which prisoners would be periodically repatriated on a man-for-man basis. But by 1864 the system had broken down, and when Grant took control, he had no intention to put it in repair. With pitiless logic, Grant argued that to resume exchanges would simply reinforce the Confederate army. Union soldiers in Southern prison camps would have to stay there, and if they died like flies, that was regrettable but unavoidable.
The Presidential campaign of 1864 was, all in all, about the most crucial political contest in American history. It was a campaign in which what men said made very little difference. Speeches were of small account. It ultimately came down to what the men in uniform did that mattered most. If the war was alleged to be a failure on election day, then the Republicans, or Union Party would go down in defeat. If however, if on election day the war were clearly being won, the Democratic campaign would come to nothing. Everything depended on the fighting men. If they were winning, then Lincoln would win. He would not win otherwise.
Although General McClelland, the former commander-in-chief of the Union army was running against Lincoln, the troops in the field voted four to one for Lincoln. This was a higher percentage than Lincoln enjoyed among civilians. Lincoln carried all the states voting with the exception of Kentucky, Delaware and New Jersey.
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