Grant and the Wounded of Cold Harbor

Sunday, May 7, AD 2017

Ulysses S. Grant was a great man and a great general, but he did make mistakes.  At Cold Harbor, Virginia he made two very big mistakes.  He made foolish assaults on Lee’s heavily entrenched lines on June 3, 1864 which cost the lives of 1844 Union soldiers compared to the lives of 83 Confederate troops who fell in this battle.  This was the lesser of his mistakes.

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4 Responses to Grant and the Wounded of Cold Harbor

  • Given that Lee was a military engineer, Grant was foolish in ordering a rush. He was playing to one of Lee’s strengths.

  • Civil War generals were slow in understanding how quickly firepower had increased.

  • I am a contrarian when it comes to the brilliance of Lee. He disregarded strategic realities, especially later in the war when some sort of political solution was not remotely possible. Even with disparities like these, the south could never beat the north, Lee should have (surely did) know it, and fought battles that were mathematical losers no matter how elegant his maneuver. Grant finally got it, and could have fought the Confederacy literally to the last man standing. Indeed, Lee’s very brilliance merely extended the war and cost lives usually attributed to Grant. Not that Lee was not brilliant in what he pulled off, usually at a disadvantage.

  • “the south could never beat the north,”

    It didn’t have to my Bruin friend, it merely had to outlast the North, and it came close to doing that, largely because of Lee’s success in blocking the Union conquest of Virginia. But for the iron determination of Lincoln, the North probably would have tossed in the towel in 1864 after Grant ran up 50,000 Union casualties in a month in the Overland Campaign. Lincoln was above all a shrewd politician, and in August 1864 he thought he was not going to be re-elected, and he was probably right. Thanks to Sherman taking Atlanta and Sheridan’s victories in the Valley Lincoln was re-elected, but that election could easily have gone the other way if the stalemate that Lee had placed on Grant’s drive against Richmond had been replicated for another two months in the rest of the Confederacy.

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Grant: Man of Contradictions

Sunday, October 4, AD 2015

Fate has a way of picking unlikely material,
Greasy-haired second lieutenants of French artillery,
And bald-headed, dubious, Roman rake-politicians.
Her stiff hands were busy now with an odd piece of wood,
Sometime Westpointer, by accident more than choice,
Sometime brevet-captain in the old Fourth Infantry,
Mentioned in Mexican orders for gallant service
And, six years later, forced to resign from the Army
Without enough money to pay for a stateroom home.
Turned farmer on Hardscrabble Farm, turned bill-collector,
Turned clerk in the country-store that his brothers ran,
The eldest-born of the lot, but the family-failure,
Unloading frozen hides from a farmer’s sleigh
With stoop-shouldered strength, whittling beside the stove,
And now and then turning to whiskey to take the sting
From winter and certain memories.
It didn’t take much.
A glass or two would thicken the dogged tongue
And flush the fair skin beneath the ragged brown beard.
Poor and shabby–old “Cap” Grant of Galena,
Who should have amounted to something but hadn’t so far
Though he worked hard and was honest.
A middle-aged clerk,
A stumpy, mute man in a faded army overcoat,
Who wrote the War Department after Fort Sumter,
Offering them such service as he could give
And saying he thought that he was fit to command
As much as a regiment, but getting no answer.

So many letters come to a War Department,
One can hardly bother the clerks to answer them all–
Then a Volunteer colonel, drilling recruits with a stick,
A red bandanna instead of an officer’s sash;
A brigadier-general, one of thirty-seven,
Snubbed by Halleck and slighted by fussy Frémont;
And then the frozen February gale
Over Fort Henry and Fort Donelson,
The gunboats on the cold river–the brief siege–
“Unconditional surrender”–and the newspapers.

Major-General Grant, with his new twin-stars,
Who, oddly, cared so little for reading newspapers,
Though Jesse Grant wrote dozens of letters to them
Pointing out all the wonders his son had done
And wringing one dogged letter from that same son
That should have squelched anybody but Jesse Grant.
It did not squelch him.  He was a business man,
And now Ulysses had astonished Galena
By turning out to be somebody after all;
Ulysses’ old father was going to see him respected
And, incidentally, try to wangle a contract
For army-harness and boom the family tannery.
It was a great surprise when Ulysses refused,
The boy was so stubborn about it.

Stephen Vincent Benet, John Brown’s Body

 

 

 

I am glad to announce that Dale Price is back to regular blogging at Dyspeptic Mutterings.  I am glad to announce that because I have ever stolen borrowed blogging ideas from him.  Here is his review of H.W. Brand’s bio of Grant:

 

The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses Grant in War and Peace is an excellent biography of one of America’s most consistently-underrated historical figures. 

University of Texas history Professor H.W. Brands does a fine job of illuminating Grant’s early life and struggles, not only with the bottle but with his failings as a provider–both despite his best efforts. As he does so, Brands presents the determined character that enabled Grant to overcome these failures and rise to become the most beloved general since Washington, and the most popular President of the 19th Century (at least in terms of electoral success).

The description of Grant’s military tenure during the Civil War is very solid, demonstrating that he was the best strategic thinker on either side, and no slouch as a tactician. Brands points out–correctly–that Grant’s casualty rates were lower as a proportion of men in combat than Lee’s despite being on the offensive much more often. That said, I still think Lee was slightly better as a tactician, especially considering that the quality of leadership in the Army of Northern Virginia declined drastically over time, and that of the Army of the Potomac increased with the rise of men like Sheridan and Ord.

None of that was a particular surprise to me, given my other reading. The real eye-opener for me was Brands’ revisionist (and I use that term advisedly) assessment of Grant’s two terms as President. Far from the failure “everyone knows” it to be, Grant’s Presidency had a remarkable number of achievements: the Fifteenth Amendment, the squelching of the attempt to corner the gold market, the settling of claims against England stemming from the giving of commerce raiders to the Confederacy and, most crucially, Grant’s dedication to civil rights for freedmen. In enforcing the Ku Klux Klan Act and related civil rights legislation and appointing determined attorneys general like Amos Akerman (who had been a Colonel for the Confederacy!), Grant was the President most devoted to civil rights and racial equality until the arrival of Lyndon Johnson. Furthermore, Grant presented the most humane policy toward the Indian tribes by an American president up to his time.

Where this reassessment (slightly) fails is in providing a thorough explanation of *why* Grant’s reputation as President went to and remains mostly in the dustbin at this late date. To be sure, Brands’ treatment of 1872-1880 is not all praise–Grant is rapped for his too-restrictive handling of the Panic of 1873, America’s first industrial depression, which cast a shadow over much of his tenure. Though, in Grant’s defense, his restrictive approach to increasing the money supply was well-within the mainstream of 1870s economic thought.

Interestingly enough, the economic doldrums did not damage his personal popularity much (as opposed to damaging the GOP)–he came close to winning a nomination for a third term in 1880, and almost certainly would have won that election, too. 

All in all, the coverage of Grant’s presidency is an eye-opener which should act as a welcome rebuttal to the Good General/Bad President canard that unjustly haunts him.

Finally, Brands deftly handles Grant’s last battle–a race against time to finish his memoirs as he was dying of throat cancer. As he did through his military career, Grant won this battle through dogged determination, dying a few days after he finished them, ensuring that his wife and family would be well-provided for. The Mutt-and-Jeff friendship that arose between Grant and Mark Twain is also well-drawn. Brands also includes a hilarious anecdote of Twain’s one “battle” on behalf of the Confederacy in 1861 that left me–and my wife–laughing out loud. I am morally certain Twain would approved.

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April 21, 1865: Stanton to Grant: Hostilities to Be Resumed

Tuesday, April 21, AD 2015

 

 

 

 

 

Sherman and Johnston

 

For all his world weary cynicism, General Sherman was a complete innocent when it came to political matters, in which he had little interest.  He demonstrated this by the terms of the memorandum of agreement which he entered into with General Johnston on April 18, 1865:

T. SHERMAN, Major-General commanding.

HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI
IN THE FIELD, RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA, April 18, 1865.

Lieutenant-General U. S. GRANT, or Major-General HALLECK, Washington, D. C.

GENERAL: I inclose herewith a copy of an agreement made this day between General Joseph E. Johnston and myself, which, if approved by the President of the United States, will produce peace from the Potomac to the Rio Grande. Mr. Breckenridge was present at our conference, in the capacity of major-general, and satisfied me of the ability of General Johnston to carry out to their full extent the terms of this agreement; and if you will get the President to simply indorse the copy, and commission me to carry out the terms, I will follow them to the conclusion.

You will observe that it is an absolute submission of the enemy to the lawful authority of the United States, and disperses his armies absolutely; and the point to which I attach most importance is, that the dispersion and disbandment of these armies is done in such a manner as to prevent their breaking up into guerrilla bands. On the other hand, we can retain just as much of an army as we please. I agreed to the mode and manner of the surrender of arms set forth, as it gives the States the means of repressing guerrillas, which we could not expect them to do if we stripped them of all arms.

Both Generals Johnston and Breckenridge admitted that slavery was dead, and I could not insist on embracing it in such a paper, because it can be made with the States in detail. I know that all the men of substance South sincerely want peace, and I do not believe they will resort to war again during this century. I have no doubt that they will in the future be perfectly subordinate to the laws of the United States. The moment my action in this matter is approved, I can spare five corps, and will ask for orders to leave General Schofield here with the Tenth Corps, and to march myself with the Fourteenth, Fifteenth, Seventeenth, Twentieth, and Twenty-third Corps via Burkesville and Gordonsville to Frederick or Hagerstown, Maryland, there to be paid and mustered out.

The question of finance is now the chief one, and every soldier and officer not needed should be got home at work. I would like to be able to begin the march north by May 1st.

I urge, on the part of the President, speedy action, as it is important to get the Confederate armies to their homes as well as our own.

I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,

W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General commanding.

Memorandum, or Basis of agreement, made this 18th day of April, A. D. 1865, near Durham’s Station, in the State of North Carolina, by and between General Joseph E. JOHNSTON, commanding the Confederate Army, and Major-General William T. SHERMAN, commanding the army of the United States in North Carolina, both present:

1. The contending armies now in the field to maintain the statu quo until notice is given by the commanding general of any one to its opponent, and reasonable time–say, forty-eight hours–allowed.

2. The Confederate armies now in existence to be disbanded and conducted to their several State capitals, there to deposit their arms and public property in the State Arsenal; and each officer and man to execute and file an agreement to cease from acts of war, and to abide the action of the State and Federal authority. The number of arms and munitions of war to be reported to the Chief of Ordnance at Washington City, subject to the future action of the Congress of the United States, and, in the mean time, to be needed solely to maintain peace and order within the borders of the States respectively.

3. The recognition, by the Executive of the United States, of the several State governments, on their officers and Legislatures taking the oaths prescribed by the Constitution of the United States, and, where conflicting State governments have resulted from the war, the legitimacy of all shall be submitted to the Supreme Court of the United States.

4. The reestablishment of all the Federal Courts in the several States, with powers as defined by the Constitution of the United States and of the States respectively.

5. The people and inhabitants of all the States to be guaranteed, so far as the Executive can, their political rights and franchises, as well as their rights of personal property, as defined by the Constitution of the United States and of the States respectively.

6. The Executive authority of the Government of the United States not to disturb any of the people by reason of the late war, so long as they live in peace and quiet, abstain from acts of armed hostility, and obey the laws in existence at the place of their residence.

7. In general terms–the war to cease; a general amnesty, so far as the Executive of the United States can command, on condition of the disbandment of the Confederate armies, the distribution of the arms, and the resumption of peaceful pursuits by the officers and men hitherto composing said armies.

Not being fully empowered by our respective principals to fulfill these terms, we individually and officially pledge ourselves to promptly obtain the necessary authority, and to carry out the above programme.

W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding Army of the United States in North Carolina.

J. E. JOHNSTON, General,
Commanding Confederate States Army in North Carolina.

The agreement had been masterminded by Breckenridge, a canny politician and former Vice-President of the United States.  If accepted, the agreement would have short-circuited Reconstruction and basically re-established state governments in the Confederate States as if the War had never occurred.  Lincoln would not have accepted this, and in the wake of his assassination the terms were angrily repudiated by Washington as indicated by this letter from Stanton to Grant:

 

War Department, Washington City, April 21, 1865

Lieutenant-General Grant.

General:

The memorandum or basis agreed upon between General Sherman and General Johnston having been submitted to the President, they are disapproved.  You will give notice of the disapproval to General Sherman, and direct him to resume hostilities at the earliest moment.

The instructions given to you by the late President, Abraham Lincoln, on the 3d of March, by my telegraph of that date, addressed to you, express substantially the views of President Andrew Johnson, and will be observed by General Sherman.  A copy is herewith appended.

The President desires that you proceed immediately to the headquarters of Major-General Sherman, and direct operations against the enemy.

Yours truly,
Edwin M. Stanton,
Secretary of War.

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April 9, 1865: Lee Surrenders

Thursday, April 9, AD 2015

 

 

And so the Civil War ended.  Oh, not immediately.  The surrender process throughout the Confederacy would take until June, and skirmishes would be fought.  But with the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, no one, except perhaps Jefferson Davis, north or south, doubted that the Civil War had ended with a Union victory.  At Appomattox Lee and Grant, with the ways in which they both behaved at this all important event in American history, planted the seeds of American reunification.

Lee, as ever noble, viewed surrender as a painful duty, and trusted in Grant to give just terms.  Grant, who would forbid the firing of cannon salutes in celebration of the surrender, gave as his main term that the Confederates simply go home and get on with their lives, agreeing to them taking with them a horse if they claimed one to help with the spring planting, and specifying that Confederate officers would retain their side arms so that he would not have to accept Lee’s sword in token of surrender.

The best account of the surrender is Grant’s, contained in his memoirs:

When I had left camp that morning I had not expected so soon the result that was then taking place, and consequently was in rough garb. I was without a sword, as I usually was when on horseback on the field, and wore a soldier’s blouse for a coat, with the shoulder straps of my rank to indicate to the army who I was. When I went into the house I found General Lee. We greeted each other, and after shaking hands took our seats. I had my staff with me, a good portion of whom were in the room during the whole of the interview.   
  What General Lee’s feelings were I do not know. As he was a man of much dignity, with an impassible face, it was impossible to say whether he felt inwardly glad that the end had finally come, or felt sad over the result, and was too manly to show it. Whatever his feelings, they were entirely concealed from my observation; but my own feelings, which had been quite jubilant on the receipt of his letter, were sad and depressed. I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse. I do not question, however, the sincerity of the great mass of those who were opposed to us. 
  General Lee was dressed in a full uniform which was entirely new, and was wearing a sword of considerable value, very likely the sword which had been presented by the State of Virginia; at all events, it was an entirely different sword from the one that would ordinarily be worn in the field. In my rough traveling suit, the uniform of a private with the straps of a lieutenant-general, I must have contrasted very strangely with a man so handsomely dressed, six feet high and of faultless form. But this was not a matter that I thought of until afterwards.   
  We soon fell into a conversation about old army times. He remarked that he remembered me very well in the old army; and I told him that as a matter of course I remembered him perfectly, but from the difference in our rank and years (there being about sixteen years’ difference in our ages), I had thought it very likely that I had not attracted his attention sufficiently to be remembered by him after such a long interval. Our conversation grew so pleasant that I almost forgot the object of our meeting. After the conversation had run on in this style for some time, General Lee called my attention to the object of our meeting, and said that he had asked for this interview for the purpose of getting from me the terms I proposed to give his army. I said that I meant merely that his army should lay down their arms, not to take them up again during the continuance of the war unless duly and properly exchanged. He said that he had so understood my letter. 

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16 Responses to April 9, 1865: Lee Surrenders

  • Well that was certainly considerate of Grant to allow them to keep their horses.After reading the book “Killer Angels” I got the impression Gen. Lee knew the war was lost after the battle of Gettysburg. Would you agree with that assessment, Donald?

  • I think that Lee from the onset of the War was skeptical about the chances of the Confederacy. However, he was enough of a soldier to know that nothing was certain in War. My guess is that after the re-election of Lincoln, Lee, like most Confederates, thought the War was lost.

    At the time of the Gettysburg Campaign Lee noted in a letter to Davis the rising power of the Northern peace movement and recommended attempting to start negotiations, assuming that once such negotiations started it would be hard to restart the War. If Lee had shattered the Army of the Potomac at Gettysburg, I think that is the path history might have taken, with a despairing North overruling Lincoln’s determination to carry on with the War.

    The Civil War is an endless field of might have beens.

  • Thanks, I was not aware of everything going on in the background. In his book, Michael Shaara describes Lee as one resigned to accepting God’s will if he were to lose at Gettysburg.

  • I’m a southern girl (Virginian) living in Alaska and we always considered General Lee our most revered leader. I was just telling my husband that it’s a testament to his personal character and military acumen that he’s admired even by those who beat him.

    I was very sheltered about the Civil War, growing up in southwestern Virginia. It wasn’t until I went to college with “Yankees” from Pennsylvania and New York that I realized many outside the south saw the “War of Northern Aggression” as a battle between the immoral southern slave owners and the virtuous northern liberators. To us, the war was always about states’ rights and self-determination; VMI’s 1861 class ring has “Let Virginia choose” inscribed prominently on it. Given the disturbingly unfettered power of our federal government today, I find myself wishing that the Confederacy had had the foresight to take the moral high ground of its own volition…can you imagine what would have happened if the south had issued the Emancipation Proclamation?

    Thanks for the walk down memory lane with these letters…it’s always cool to read the original sources. My 5 kids and I read them tonight while enjoying BBQ chicken, baked macaroni and cheese, fried pickles, and buttermilk biscuits in memory of the 150th anniversary of the surrender.

  • BTW, I recently read that Pius IX actually supported the Confederacy and sent Jefferson Davis a letter of support and a signed photograph of himself. And that Lee kept a framed picture of the pontiff in his home until death, saying that the Vatican was “one of the Confederacy’s only friends in the world.” Have you ever heard of this? I’m an adult convert to the Church and would love to confirm this if it’s true.

  • Pius IX may have privately leaned to the Confederacy, thinking, erroneously, that it was an illiberal state (actually it was more liberal, in the 19th century use of the term, slavery aside, than any other state in the world except for the US), but he never publically supported the Confederacy. Pio Nono sent Davis a framed picture of himself after the War when he was in captivity. Lee did keep a framed picture of Pius IX in his house and probably did say he was the only foreign head of state who had been friendly to the Confederacy. The posts linked below have more information:

    http://the-american-catholic.com/2010/08/13/jefferson-davis-and-pio-nono/

    http://the-american-catholic.com/2010/08/03/jefferson-davis-and-the-crown-of-thorns/

  • Dawn, point was, the federal government had no authority to suppress a practice that was viewed as immoral but nevertheless accepted by a number of states.

    It would be like today, if the federal government believed that abortion was wrong (and it *is*), moral disapproval of a state law is not a constitutional rationale to authorize invading states to get rid of the law.

    Lincoln clearly knew he had no constitutional authority to “abolish slavery” and had to rely on the “Union forever” rationale to justify invading states. Only later, when war support in the North was flagging, did Lincoln advance abolition as a war aim. Since he knew abolition was unconstitutional as a war justification, it was clearly a political decision to advance abolition as a war aim (even though Lincoln clearly personally did oppose slavery).

    We have to be careful to cede to the federal government authority to impose its moral views on states by force. We’ve already seen it happen with abortion; it was no more justified then than it is now.

    Pius IX likely viewed favorably the Catholic notion of subsidiarity represented in the South ordering its own affairs; the South’s religious tolerance as opposed to the Knownothing anti-Catholic intolerance pervasive in the North; and the agrarian nature of their society (as opposed to the often dehumanizing emerging industrialization movement in the North).

  • “Pius IX likely viewed favorably the Catholic notion of subsidiarity represented in the South ordering its own affairs; the South’s religious tolerance as opposed to the Knownothing anti-Catholic intolerance pervasive in the North; and the agrarian nature of their society (as opposed to the often dehumanizing emerging industrialization movement in the North).”

    No, he simply viewed the Confederates as opposed to the Liberals who were toppling his rule of the Papal States. He was wrong in that, but acuity in secular matters was never a strong point for Pio Nono. When he first came to the Papal throne he was regarded as a liberal. Metternich stated at the time he had planned for everything except a liberal Pope! When liberals began to agitate for reforms greater than he was willing to tolerate, Pio Nono embraced his inner reactionary. Pio Nono knew little about conditions in America, as attested by American clerics serving at the Vatican during his long reign.

  • Thanks so much for clarification… I don’t know what was more enjoyable to me–reading your other blog post or reading the spirited comments about it!

  • The South was not the primary destination for most of the Irish, Italian, German and Slavic Europe Catholic immigration of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It therefore stands to reason that there would be more Southerners who have a connection to the Civil War than those in the North.

    Arguing about the causes of the War will never end, but I have a hard time sharing the admiration of General Lee simply for the cause he supported and fought for.

    The federal government we endure today is something I consider to be an effort first started by Wilson and accelerated by FDR, who used the Great Depression as an opportunity to expand federal government power and that is just what he did.

    The South had the better generals but could never match the North in manpower or industrial output. Great Britain was not going to recognize the Confederacy as she had abolished slavery in its Empire and besides, Lincoln threatened the UK with an invasion of Canada if the UK got involved.

  • Saying that you can’t admire General Lee because he fought for the side that supported self determination re: slavery would seem to make it difficult to admire anyone outside of modern, fully enlightened Catholics. After all, I don’t recall St. Paul openly stating that slavery is a mortal sin against the inherent dignity of the person enslaved, so perhand he’s not to be admired, either? What about all of the Old Testament prophets and saints like Abraham, who owned slaves themselves? Given Lee’s lack of experience with the darkest horrors of American slavery, I can’t see why his support for his home state–to retain an institution that he erroneously believed to be moral as long as the masters followed Paul’s exhortation to be fair and generous with their slaves–this doesn’t, to me, negate the man’s overall integrity and by virtually all accounts of those who knew him, honorable character. I suppose I don’t subscribe to the idea that one has to have believed and lived with complete righteousness to be someone I admire…especially since we are all sinners. I also tend to make allowances for those not blessed with the gift of sacramental grace; if more is expected of those to whom more (grace) is given, then it seems reasonable to make allowances for men like Lee and Jackson, who arguably lived more righteous lives than many of us do today who are blessed with access to the sacraments and a more enlightened understanding of the Gospel.

  • Dawn, your argument is a straw man. It appears that you have taken almost as a personal slap in the face my criticisms of General Lee and by extension the Confederate Army. I stand by my statement that General Lee’s incursion into Pennsylvania where the Confederate Army kidnapped free black American men and sold them into slavery is an inexcusable evil.

    I’m from Western Pennsylvania, not southern Virginia. Neither the Revolutionary War nor the Civil War made their ways here. As far as I know the first ancestor of mine that made it to the US came to Allegany County, Maryland (Cumberland) in 1866 (a rarity – a Catholic Scot) so I have no ancestors who fought in the Civil War. I grew up in Ohio and Ohio does not commemorate General Sherman at all. There is no General Sherman Day.

    I am 100% sure that General Lee, Jackson, Longstreet, Pickett and Johnston lived far more moral personal lives than, for example, the overblown dimwits who end up on the covers of celebrity rags that infest supermarket checkout lines.

    I don’t care that St. Paul did not write opposition to slavery in his letters and that didn’t make it right for the Confederacy to make slavery an institution.

    Queen Isabel the Catholic, the greatest Catholic queen ever short of the Queen of Heaven, despised slavery and forbid it in Castille and in the realms discovered by Columbus. This was almost 400 years before the Civil War.

    I understand the point of view of Virginians (mostly those outside of the Washington suburbs that I escaped) who cherish their Commonwealth’s past and its most famous men – Washington, Jefferson, Lee and others.

    General Lee has nothing on Jan III Sobieski and Josef Pilsudski. Lee fought the Union Army and lost. Sobieski crushed invading Turks and Pilsudski whipped the Soviet Army.

    Lee did do the right thing by reaffirming his allegiance to the United States after the war. So did Longstreet.

    As we approach Divine Mercy Sunday, I wish all of “yunz” “sto lat”.

  • Penguins Fan, I really don’t take anything criticizing Lee et al personally. I’m not related to the man, just find much to admire about him. I don’t in any way condone the sins committed by Lee or any human being. I simply don’t think that his mistakes eclipse his admirable qualities. You’re free to disagree, of course, but I do challenge the idea that anyone who supported slavery is by necessity to be dismissed and/or reviled.

  • “Queen Isabel the Catholic, the greatest Catholic queen ever short of the Queen of Heaven, despised slavery and forbid it in Castille and in the realms discovered by Columbus. This was almost 400 years before the Civil War.”

    Of course she also expelled the Jews from Spain and was a big supporter of the Inquisition. I happen to admire her greatly, but the historical record is the historical record. The same with Lee. Compared to most Southerners of his day he was enlightened in his views regarding slavery which he regarded as an unmitigated evil. He regarded secession as nothing but rebellion. He was a good man just as Isabella was a good woman. They were also both children of their times just as we are children of ours. Future generations will probably condemn and praise current prominent figures about issues that might well surprise us if we could see centuries from now. In assessing people of the past it is often best to use the standards of their time and place, while not forgetting to mention both the good and evil of those times and places, but not ascribing to one man or woman the invention of either the good or the evil. Rare indeed are the pure saints or pure monsters of history, and common indeed are flawed, sinful men and women, usually striving to do their best and often failing. When someone achieves greatness despite these flaws, and shows nobility, that deserves remembrance and celebration.

  • I plead guilty to partial thread drift in bringing up one of my favorite historical leaders, Queen Isabel. We can debate the expulsion of Jews and the Inquisition another time.

    Back to General Lee – no doubt he was likely the most skilled military mind of his time anywhere in the world. His troops loved him. His leadership caused the South to fight on even after he likely realized it was a lost cause, which probably happened after Gettysburg.

    His cause is something I find wrong.

  • “His cause is something I find wrong.”

    As do I PF, although one should recall that Lee said after the War that he rejoiced in the ending of slavery as a result of the War and acted in a manner that it was clear that those were not mere words. Additionally he constantly admonished Southerners to lay aside all rancor and become good citizens of the one nation. Lee was an American hero and not merely because of his military genius.

April 8, 1865: Lee Rejects Guerrilla Warfare

Wednesday, April 8, AD 2015

On April 8, 1865 the last hope of escape for Lee’s army flickered out.  Union cavalry under Custer seized the critical supplies waiting for the Confederates at Appomattox Station.    Lee’s line of march to the west was now blocked as parts of three Union corps were making forced marches to reinforce Custer and would arrive on the morning of the ninth.  On the eighth Grant and Lee exchanged these letters:

APRIL 8, 1865

General R. E. LEE:

Your note of last evening, in reply to mine of same date, asking the condition on which I will accept the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, is just received. In reply I would say that, peace being my great desire, there is but one condition I would insist upon, namely, that the men and officers surrendered shall be disqualified for taking up arms again against the Government of the United States until properly exchanged. I will meet you, or will designate officers to meet any officers you may name for the same purpose, at any point agreeable to yell, for the purpose of arranging definitely the terms upon which the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia will be received.

U.S. GRANT,
Lieutenant-General.

________
 
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
APRIL 8, 1865

Lieut. Gen. U.S. GRANT:

I received at a late hour your note of to-day. In mine of yesterday I did not intend to propose the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, but to ask the terms of your proposition. To be frank, I do not think the emergency has arisen to call for the surrender of this army, but as the restoration of peace should be the sole object of all, I desired to know whether your proposals would lead to that end. I cannot, therefore, meet you with a view to surrender the Army of Northern Virginia, but as far as your proposal may affect the C. S. forces under my command, and tend to the restoration of peace, I should be pleased to meet you at 10 a.m., to-morrow; on the old stage road to Richmond, between the picket-lines of the two armies.

R. E. LEE,
General.

 

It was becoming clear to the officers of the Army of Northern Virginia that surrender loomed and most of them were heartsick at this fact.

 

We Americans today view the Civil War as part of our history.  If different decisions had been made at the end of that conflict, the Civil War could still be part of our current reality.  Just before the surrender at Appomattox, General Porter Alexander, General Robert E. Lee’s chief of artillery, broached to  Lee a proposal that the Army of Northern Virginia disband and carry out a guerrilla war against the Union occupiers.  Here history balanced on a knife edge.  If Lee had accepted the proposal, I have little doubt the stage would have been set for an unending war between the North and the South which would still be with us.  Douglas Southall Freeman, in his magisterial R. E. Lee, tells what happened next, based upon Alexander’s memoirs, Fighting for the Confederacy :

“Thereupon Alexander proposed, as an alternative to surrender, that the men take to the woods with their arms, under orders to report to governors of their respective states.

“What would you hope to accomplish by that?” Lee queried.

It might prevent the surrender of the other armies, Alexander argued, because if the Army of Northern Virginia laid down its arms, all the others would follow suit, whereas, if the men reported to the governors, each state would have a chance of making an honorable peace. Besides, Alexander went on, the men had a right to ask that they be spared the humiliation of asking terms of Grant, only to be told that U. S. “Unconditional Surrender” Grant would live up to the name he had earned at Fort Donelson and at Vicksburg.

Lee saw such manifest danger in this proposal to become guerillas that he began to question Alexander: “If I should take your advice, how many men do you suppose would get away?”

“Two-thirds of us. We would be like rabbits and partridges in the bushes and they could not scatter to follow us.”

“I have not over 15,000 muskets left,” Lee explained. “Two-thirds of them divided among the states, even if all could be collected, would be too small a force to accomplish anything. All could not be collected. Their homes have been overrun, and many would go to look after their families.

“Then, General,” he reasoned further, “you and I as Christian men have no right to consider only how this would affect us. We must consider its effect on the country as a whole. Already it is demoralized by the four years of war. If I took your advice, the men would be without rations and under no control of officers. They would be compelled to rob and steal in order to live. They would become mere bands of marauders, and the enemy’s cavalry would pursue them and overrun many sections they may never have occasion to visit. We would bring on a state of affairs it would take the country years to recover from. And, as for myself, you young fellows might go bushwhacking, but the only dignified course for me would be to go to General Grant and surrender myself and take the consequences of my acts.”

Lee paused, and then he added, outwardly hopeful, on the strength of Grant’s letter of the previous night, whatever his inward misgivings, “But I can tell you one thing for your comfort. Grant will not demand an unconditional surrender. He will give us as good terms as this army has the right to demand, and I am going to meet him in the rear at 10 A.M. and surrender the army on the condition of not fighting again until exchanged.”

Alexander went away a humbler man. “I had not a single word to say in reply,” he wrote years afterwards. “He had answered my suggestion from a plane so far above it, that I was ashamed of having made it.”

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April 7, 1865: Surrender Correspondence Begins

Tuesday, April 7, AD 2015

Appomattox_Campaign_Overview

 

April 7, 1865 was a day of intense frustration for Robert E. Lee.  Hoping to feed his army with rations waiting at Farmville,  Union troops prevented that, crossing the Appomattox at bridges that Lee had ordered to be burned.  His army had no choice but to continue on its hungry way, the nearest rations being at Appomattox Court House some twenty-five miles away.  Longstreet in his memoirs recalled that dismal day.

 

I heard nothing of the affair at Sailor’s Creek, nor from General Lee, until next morning. Our work at Rice’s Station was not very serious, but was continued until night, when we marched and crossed the Appomattox at Farmville without loss, some of Rosser’s and Mumford’s cavalry following.  We crossed early in the morning and received two days’ rations,–the first regular issue since we left Richmond,–halted our wagons, made fires, got out cooking utensils, and were just ready to prepare a good breakfast. We had not heard of the disasters on the other route and the hasty retreat, and were looking for a little quiet to prepare breakfast, when General Lee rode up and said that the bridges had been fired before his cavalry crossed, that part of that command was cut off and lost, and that the troops should hurry on to position at Cumberland Church.

I reminded him that there were fords over which his cavalry could cross, and that they knew of or would surely find them. Everything except the food was ordered back to the wagons and dumped in.

Meanwhile, the alarm had spread, and our teamsters, frightened by reports of cavalry trouble and approaching fire of artillery, joined in the panic, put whips to their teams as quick as the camp-kettles were tumbled over the tail-boards of the wagons, and rushed through the woods to find a road somewhere in front of them. The command was ordered under arms and put in quick march, but General Lee urged double-quick. Our cavalry was then engaged near Farmville, and presently came a reckless charge of Gregg’s troopers towards parts of Rosser’s and Mumford’s commands. Heth’s division of infantry was sent to support them. As the balance of the command marched, General Lee took the head of the column and led it on the double-quick.

I thought it better to let them pass me, and, to quiet their apprehensions a little, rode at a walk. General Mahone received the attack of part of the enemy’s Second Corps, like Gregg’s cavalry making reckless attack. The enemy seemed to think they had another Sailor’s Creek affair, and part of their attack got in as far as Poague’s battery, but Mahone recovered it, and then drove off an attack against his front. General Gregg and a considerable part of his command were captured by Rosser and Mumford. At Cumberland Church the command deployed on the right of Poague’s battery, but Mahone reported a move by part of Miles’s division to turn his left which might dislodge him. G. T. Anderson’s brigade of Field’s division was sent with orders to get around the threatening force and break it up.  Mahone so directed them through a woodland that they succeeded in over-reaching the threatened march, and took in some three hundred prisoners,[211] the last of our trouble for the day. General Lee stopped at a cottage near my line, where I joined him after night; the trains and other parts of his army had moved on towards Appomattox Court-House.

Just after sunset, a letter from General Grant arrived:

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April 6, 1865: Battle of Sailor’s Creek

Monday, April 6, AD 2015

Appomattox_Campaign_Overview

One last battle between the old adversaries the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia.  While moving towards the Appomattox River to cross it on his march to the west, Lee was intercepted by a large Union force under Sheridan.  Ewell’s corps, the rearguard of the army, was surrounded and after hard fighting surrendered.  Lee lost one quarter of his army.  Union casualties were slightly in excess of 1,000 while Confederate casualties were 7,700, mostly prisoners.

 

 

Major General William Mahone relates this poignant moment with General Lee:

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April 2, 1865: Third Battle of Petersburg

Thursday, April 2, AD 2015

1280px-Petersburg_Apr2

 

 

 

With Union victory at Five Forks, General Lee desperately shifted troops to the west to protect the Southside Railroad.  Grant, realizing that Lee was thinning his lines around Petersburg and Richmond to protect the railroad, ordered a general assault against the Confederate fortifications.

The VI Corps achieved  a major breakthrough up the Boydton Plank Road.  Lee telegraphed Secretary of War Breckenridge:

I see no prospect of doing more than holding our position here until night. I am not certain I can do that. If I can I shall withdraw to-night north of the Appomattox, and, if possible, it will be better to withdraw the whole line to-night from James River. I advise that all preparations be made for leaving Richmond tonight. I will advise you later according to circumstances.

The II Corps to the left of the VI Corps and the XXIV Corps to the right of the VI Corps also achieved breakthroughs.  Union casualties were about 4,000 compared to 5000 Confederate, most of whom were taken prisoner.  The siege of Petersburg and Richmond was at an end as Lee moved his army out of his lines and began the march to the west that would end at Appomattox Court House.

 

 

Here is General Longstreet’s account of the Third Battle of Petersburg in his memoirs:

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5 Responses to April 2, 1865: Third Battle of Petersburg

  • Don, I appreciate how you have tied these battle accounts to our current calendar. I think it really accomplishes the goal you stated in the first article, of relating these events to the passion of Holy Week.

    Some aspects are so sad. My in-laws have a similar event in their history: my wife’s maternal grandmother’s first fiancé died in combat in the U.S. Army on November 10, 1918.

  • Thank you Tom. Being killed in a war is bad enough, being killed when it is almost over is a fathomless tragedy.

  • Unrelated but significant topic – today is the tenth anniversary of the death of Pope St. John Paul II. It’s worth a minute or two of time to sit back and reflect.

  • This post was of particular interest to me because of a bit of family history. My great-grandfather by this time was a senior (possibly THE senior) NCO of the 11th North Carolina Regiment (Heth’s Division, A.P. Hill’s Corps). About 50 years later, he wrote down his memorys of his service and his account of this final Federal assault on the Peterburg line is both vivid and amusing. Evidently, the Federal troops approached so quietly that the Confederates in his portion of the line weren’t aware of the assault until their oppenents were almost on top of them, so they “skedaddled” in a hurry. He recounts that, prompted by a reluctance to finish the war at Point Lookout or some other prison hellhole, he was running so fast that he passed some Yankee bullets going the same way. He and others were consequently out of contact with their unit for a day or two, but rejoined it before the fight a Saylor’s Creek and were present for the capitulation at Appomattox Court House on the 9th.

Palm Sunday One Hundred and Fifty Years Ago

Sunday, March 29, AD 2015

The chiefs and the captains meet,
Lee erect in his best dress uniform,
His dress-sword hung at his side and his eyes unaltered.
Chunky Grant in his mudsplashed private’s gear
With the battered stars on his shoulders.
                                         They talk a while
Of Mexico and old days.
                       Then the terms are stated.
Lee finds them generous, says so, makes a request.
His men will need their horses for the spring-ploughing.
Grant assents at once.
                      There is no parade of bright sword’s
Given or taken.  Grant saw that there should not be.
It is over, then. . . .
                       Lee walks from the little room.
His face is unchanged.  It will not change when he dies.
But as he steps on the porch and looks toward his lines
He strikes his hands together once with a sound. . . .

In the room he has left, the blue men stare at each other
For a space of heartbeats, silent.  The grey ride off.
They are gone–it is over. . . .

The room explodes like a bomb, they are laughing and shouting,
Yelling strange words, dragging chairs and tables outdoors,
Bearded generals waltzing with one another
For a brief, wild moment, punching each others’ ribs,
Everyone talking at once and nobody listening,
“It’s over–it’s done–it’s finished!”
                                      Then, order again.
The grey ghost-army falls in for the last time,
Marching to stack its arms.
                           As the ranks move forward
The blue guns go to “Present.”  Gordon sees the gesture.
He sweeps his sabre down in the full salute.

There are no cheers or words from blue lines or grey.
Only the sound of feet. . . .
It is over, now. . . .
                      The arms are stacked from the war.
A few bronzed, tattered grey men, weeping or silent,
Tear some riddled bits of cloth from the color-staffs
And try to hide them under their uniforms.

Stephen Vincent Benet, John Brown’s Body

 

 

 

 

I have always thought it appropriate that the national nightmare we call the Civil War ended during Holy Week 1865.  Two remarkably decent men, Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant, began the process of healing so desperately needed for America on Palm Sunday, April 9, 1865 at Appomattox.  We take their decency for granted, but it is the exception and not the rule for the aftermath of civil wars in history.  The usual course would have been unremitting vengeance by the victors, and sullen rage by the defeated, perhaps eventually breaking out in guerilla war.  The end of the Civil War could so very easily have been the beginning of a cycle of unending war between north and south.  Instead, both Grant and Lee acted to make certain as far as they could that the fratricidal war that had just concluded would not be repeated.  All Americans owe those two men a large debt for their actions at Appomattox.

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3 Responses to Palm Sunday One Hundred and Fifty Years Ago

  • Family members were divided and battled amongst themselves in this “civil” war. The recognition of Almighty God was equally planted in the hearts of both leaders, so I wonder if the timing was a “surrender of sorts” to His Divine authority as another form..higher form of surrender was about to be recalled throughout the nation, divided, in her churches. Just pondering aloud.

  • In the Civil War, in the Catholic Church, I do not know of decent men from the Bergoglio – Kasper camp. None of them seem to care at all about our souls. They seem to care about our groins and our feelings.

    I have had much more than enough of them.

    When they are willing to slap a proud adulterer in the face, in public, and require them to repent or to face formal excommunication, I will secure my sword in its scabbard. Until then, it is war….at least from me.

    Karl

  • Stay on the topic of the post please.

March 29, 1865: Battle of Lewis Farm

Sunday, March 29, AD 2015

General Chamberlain

Battle of Lewis Farm

1280px-Petersburg_Mar29-31

 The Appomattox Campaign began on March 29, 1865, with Grant moving the V and II corps to the west to outflank Lee’s lines, while Sheridan and his troopers were sent south to rip up the rail lines linking Petersburg and Richmond to what remained of the Confederacy.  Lee, with that preternatural sixth sense he seemed to often possess regarding the intentions of his enemies, had moved his cavalry, along with infantry under Major General George Pickett to the west to beat off Union attempts to outflank his army.

The first Union objective was to cut the Boydton Plank Road.  After crossing Gravelley Run stream, the leading brigade of the first division of the V corps ran into Confederate fortifications.  The brigade was led by Brigadier Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, the heroic officer who had commanded the 20th Maine during its stand on Little Round Top at Gettysburg. In a fierce action of several hours duration, Chamberlain held his position only falling back as Union reinforcements arrived.  The reinforcements caused the Confederates to retreat to their White Oak Line.  Union casualties were 381 to 371 Confederate.

Late in the afternoon Sheridan’s cavalry occupied Dinwiddie Court House without opposition.  The end of the day saw the vital, for the Confederates, Boydton Plank Road cut in two locations, and the Confederate right dangerously exposed.  Here is Chamberlain’s account of the fighting:

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The Peacemakers

Saturday, March 28, AD 2015

The Peacemakers

 

A historic meeting occurred between Lincoln, Grant and Sherman on March 27-28, 1865 at City Point, Virginia.  Sherman had no idea that President Lincoln was going to be there, he having traveled by sea from North Carolina to coordinate with Grant the final campaign of the War.  This meeting was memorialized in the 1868 painting The Peacemakers, which was suggested by Sherman:

In Chicago about June or July of that year, when all the facts were fresh in my mind, I told them to George P. A. Healy, the artist, who was casting about for a subject for an historical painting, and he adopted this interview. Mr. Lincoln was then dead, but Healy had a portrait, which he himself had made at Springfield some five or six years before. With this portrait, some existing photographs, and the strong resemblance in form of [Leonard Swett], of Chicago, to Mr. Lincoln he made the picture of Mr. Lincoln seen in this group. For General Grant, Admiral Porter, and myself he had actual sittings, and I am satisfied the four portraits in this group of Healy’s are the best extant. The original picture, life-size, is, I believe, now in Chicago, the property of Mr. [Ezra B. McCagg]; but Healy afterwards, in Rome, painted ten smaller copies, about eighteen by twenty-four inches, one of which I now have, and it is now within view. I think the likeness of Mr. Lincoln by far the best of the many I have seen elsewhere, and those of General Grant, Admiral Porter, and myself equally good and faithful. I think Admiral Porter gave Healy a written description of our relative positions in that interview, also the dimensions, shape, and furniture of the cabin of the “Ocean Queen”; but the rainbow is Healy’s—typical, of course, of the coming peace. In this picture I seem to be talking, the others attentively listening. Whether Healy made this combination from Admiral Porter’s letter or not, I cannot say; but I thought that he caught the idea from what I told him had occurred when saying that “if Lee would only remain in Richmond till I could reach Burkesville, we would have him between our thumb and fingers,” suiting the action to the word. It matters little what Healy meant by his historic group, but it is certain that we four sat pretty much as represented, and were engaged in an important conversation during the forenoon of March 28, 1865, and that we parted never to meet again.

The original painting was destroyed in a fire, and what we have now is a copy found in 1922, lying forgotten in a family storehouse in Chicago.  Harry Truman, ironically a proud card carrying member of Sons of Confederate Veterans, purchased the copy of the painting for the White House in 1947.

Here is Sherman’s recollections of the meeting from his Memoirs:

 

The railroad was repaired to Goldsboro’ by the evening of March 25th, when, leaving General Schofield in chief command, with a couple of staff-officers I started for City Point, Virginia, in a locomotive, in company with Colonel Wright, the constructing engineer. We reached Newbern that evening, which was passed in the company of General Palmer and his accomplished lady, and early the next morning we continued on to Morehead City, where General Easton had provided for us the small captured steamer Russia, Captain Smith. We put to sea at once and steamed up the coast, reaching Fortress Monroe on the morning of the 27th, where I landed and telegraphed to my brother, Senator Sherman, at Washington, inviting him to come down and return with me to Goldsboro. We proceeded on up James River to City Point, which we reached the same afternoon. I found General Grant, with his family and staff, occupying a pretty group of huts on the bank of James River, overlooking the harbor, which was full of vessels of all classes, both war and merchant, with wharves and warehouses on an extensive scale. The general received me most heartily, and we talked over matters very fully. After I had been with him an hour or so, he remarked that the President, Mr. Lincoln, was then on board the steamer River Queen, lying at the wharf, and he proposed that we should call and see him. We walked down to the wharf, went on board, and found Mr. Lincoln alone, in the after-cabin. He remembered me perfectly, and at once engaged in a most interesting conversation. He was full of curiosity about the many incidents of our great march, which had reached him officially and through the newspapers, and seemed to enjoy very much the more ludicrous parts-about the “bummers,” and their devices to collect food and forage when the outside world supposed us to be starving; but at the same time he expressed a good deal of anxiety lest some accident might happen to the army in North Carolina during my absence. I explained to him that that army was snug and comfortable, in good camps, at Goldsboro’; that it would require some days to collect forage and food for another march; and that General Schofield was fully competent to command it in my absence. Having made a good, long, social visit, we took our leave and returned to General Grant’s quarters, where Mrs. Grant had provided tea. While at the table, Mrs. Grant inquired if we had seen Mrs. Lincoln. “No,” said the general, “I did not ask for her;” and I added that I did not even know that she was on board. Mrs. Grant then exclaimed, “Well, you are a pretty pair!” and added that our neglect was unpardonable; when the general said we would call again the next day, and make amends for the unintended slight.

Early the next day, March 28th, all the principal officers of the army and navy called to see me, Generals Meade, Ord, Ingalls, etc., and Admiral Porter. At this time the River Queen was at anchor out in the river, abreast of the wharf, and we again started to visit Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln. Admiral Porter accompanied us. We took a small, tug at the wharf, which conveyed us on board, where we were again received most courteously by the President, who conducted us to the after-cabin. After the general compliments, General Grant inquired after Mrs. Lincoln, when the President went to her stateroom, returned, and begged us to excuse her, as she was not well. We then again entered upon a general conversation, during which General Grant explained to the President that at that very instant of time General Sheridan was crossing James River from the north, by a pontoon-bridge below City Point; that he had a large, well-appointed force of cavalry, with which he proposed to strike the Southside and Danville Railroads, by which alone General Lee, in Richmond, supplied his army; and that, in his judgment, matters were drawing to a crisis, his only apprehension being that General Lee would not wait long enough. I also explained that my army at Goldsboro’ was strong enough to fight Lee’s army and Johnston’s combined, provided that General Grant could come up within a day or so; that if Lee would only remain in Richmond another fortnight, I could march up to Burkesville, when Lee would have to starve inside of his lines, or come out from his intrenchments and fight us on equal terms.

Both General Grant and myself supposed that one or the other of us would have to fight one more bloody battle, and that it would be the last. Mr. Lincoln exclaimed, more than once, that there had been blood enough shed, and asked us if another battle could not be avoided. I remember well to have said that we could not control that event; that this necessarily rested with our enemy; and I inferred that both Jeff. Davis and General Lee would be forced to fight one more desperate and bloody battle. I rather supposed it would fall on me, somewhere near Raleigh; and General Grant added that, if Lee would only wait a few more days, he would have his army so disposed that if the enemy should abandon Richmond, and attempt to make junction with General Jos. Johnston in North Carolina, he (General Grant) would be on his heels. Mr. Lincoln more than once expressed uneasiness that I was not with my army at Goldsboro’, when I again assured him that General Schofield was fully competent to command in my absence; that I was going to start back that very day, and that Admiral Porter had kindly provided for me the steamer Bat, which he said was much swifter than my own vessel, the Russia. During this interview I inquired of the President if he was all ready for the end of the war. What was to be done with the rebel armies when defeated? And what should be done with the political leaders, such as Jeff. Davis, etc.? Should we allow them to escape, etc.? He said he was all ready; all he wanted of us was to defeat the opposing armies, and to get the men composing the Confederate armies back to their homes, at work on their farms and in their shops. As to Jeff. Davis, he was hardly at liberty to speak his mind fully, but intimated that he ought to clear out, “escape the country,” only it would not do for him to say so openly. As usual, he illustrated his meaning by a story:

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4 Responses to The Peacemakers

  • I have a young friend, with a master’s in history who writes a history blog. Here him tell it, our Founding Fathers were racists and Lincoln the least honorable of men. This perversion of history is not new, but reading this recalls what injustice is being done to the memory of good men by our illiberal, progressive liberals.

  • Donald, I have spent the last week (literally day & night) helping to pass a bill through the AR Senate Ed Committee that will require relevant review of the origins of our country to the year 1890 at the high school level. The goal of the bill is provision for instruction in high school social studies/history classes in proper context & for mastery. It allows for the complete freedom of individual classroom teachers to meet the needs of their students/classes as they see fit. Our AR Dept of Ed has created social studies standards, for implementation across the state in July of this year, that literally allow for the teaching of the beginnings of US History to the year 1890 in the 5th Grade. Then 4-7 years later, they ask high school students to use analysis, comparison & contrast, & synthesis level thinking based on those same concepts. Of course the bureaucrats at large are responding to a push from the liberal college level down into the high school level that is an attempt to decrease any emphasis the great things that made our country free and how it continues to (relatively) be free–anywhere they possibly can. The usual suspects in the liberal media have gone beserk spreading misinformation even to the point of posting links to the wrong bill. They are doing all they can to kill the bill. The state educational bureaucrats are livid that we want our children learning things such as what you have posted here in context and for mastery. They have explicitly stated that they “want to teach modern American history.” An ADE assistant commissioner was reduced to blubbering over & over to the Sen Ed Committee, “what do you want us to leave out? There is too much to teach!” expecting us to accept that in the last 8 years it has suddenly become impossible for high school teachers to teach all of American history. And we know why that is. One liberal has specified on line that she does not want American Exceptionalism taught–won’t define for me what that term means for her but wants to be sure that the horrid genecidal things our country has done is taught to our students so there is what she calls balance. Anyway, I am preaching to the choir. Pray for us, please in our fight to give future Arkansans enough knowledge to maintain their freedoms. The bill goes to the full senate tomorrow and then on to the House Ed Committee which is a true lions den. The ADE has agreed to put any changes of educational standards up to public comment in the future, however Ibwould not hold my breath waiting for that to happen. Thank you for this beautiful post about the Civil War period. I thouroughly enjoyed it.

  • Barbara, Please come to Colorado and get elected to the legislature!

  • Harry Truman proud member of SCV…
    .
    …When Harry’s mother (Mama) first came to the White House, she was very concerned that she would have to sleep in the Lincoln Room, (as her other son Vivian had erroneously told her). Told Harry that she would sleep on the floor before she’d occupy the same bed as Lincoln.
    .
    BTW, I was gonna post all that until Barbara’s post, which made everything else seem so small. But, oh well, there it is.

Grant Plans His Attack

Friday, March 27, AD 2015

General Ulysses Grant

 Grant, a failure all of his life except for war, marriage and his last valiant race with the Grim Reaper to finish his memoirs and provide for the financial security of his family;  seemingly a dull plodder, but possessed of iron determination and an uncanny ability to never let the trees obscure the forest;  happily married and a firm believer in God, but subject to bouts of depression, usually when his wife was absent, when he would grasp for the bottle;  the shabby little man who won the greatest war in American history. 

 

 

On March 24, 1865 Grant sent out his movement order for the Army of the Potomac and the Army of the James.  Grant planned a vast move to the west to force Lee to come out of his entrenchments to avoid Grant outflanking him on his right.  While this was going on, Sheridan would strike with the Union cavalry to sever the rail lines linking Richmond and Petersburg to the dwindling remainder of the Confederacy.  Grant planned for the movement to begin on March 29, 1865, taking advantage of the good weather that had dried the roads.  The Appomattox campaign was about to begin.

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One Response to Grant Plans His Attack

  • Longstreet, who knew Grant well, told Lee that he would fight him everyday. Some men seem made for a purpose. And Grant was a superb horseman and a good mathematician. Just a country boy from Ohio.

March 12, 1865: Letter From Sherman to Grant

Thursday, March 12, AD 2015

Sherman2

 

 

With his invasion of North Carolina underway, Sherman took time after the capture of Fayetteville, North Carolina to bring Grant up to speed with his immediate plans:

HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, IN THE FIELD,
FAYETTVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA, Sunday, March. 12, 1865.

Lieutenant-General U. S. GRANT, commanding United States Army, City Point, Virginia.

DEAR GENERAL: We reached this place yesterday at noon; Hardee, as usual, retreating across the Cape Fear, burning his bridges; but our pontoons will be up to-day, and, with as little delay as possible, I will be after him toward Goldsboro. A tug has just come up from Wilmington, and before I get off from here, I hope to get from Wilmington some shoes and stockings, sugar, coffee, and flour. We are abundantly supplied with all else, having in a measure lived off the country.

The army is in splendid health, condition, and spirits, though we have had foul weather, and roads that would have stopped travel to almost any other body of men I ever heard of.

Our march, was substantially what I designed–straight on Columbia, feigning on Branchville and Augusta. We destroyed, in passing, the railroad from the Edisto nearly up to Aiken; again, from Orangeburg to the Congaree; again, from Colombia down to Kingsville on the Wateree, and up toward Charlotte as far as the Chester line; thence we turned east on Cheraw and Fayetteville. At Colombia we destroyed immense arsenals and railroad establishments, among which wore forty-three cannon. At Cheraw we found also machinery and material of war sent from Charleston, among which were twenty-five guns and thirty-six hundred barrels of powder; and here we find about twenty guns and a magnificent United States’ arsenal.

We cannot afford to leave detachments, and I shall therefore destroy this valuable arsenal, so the enemy shall not have its use; and the United States should never again confide such valuable property to a people who have betrayed a trust.

I could leave here to-morrow, but want to clear my columns of the vast crowd of refugees and negroes that encumber us. Some I will send down the river in boats, and the rest to Wilmington by land, under small escort, as soon as we are across Cape Fear River.

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16 Responses to March 12, 1865: Letter From Sherman to Grant

  • Since Fayetteville is my hometown and I have relatives in Charleston and other parts of the Carolinas, I felt a need to offer a few remarks. My Scottish ancestors came to Fayetteville in 1753.

    Sherman didn’t put in his letter than his men stole everything in sight from non-combatants, leaving them to starve to death. He stole their livestock, their vegetables, their clothes, their guns, and would have poisoned their wells if he had thought about it. Any black man that resisted him and didn’t want to leave their homes were taken in chains. The South didn’t lose the war due to lack of courage and stupidity on the part of generals; they lost it because they ran out of men to fight it. They didn’t have the never-ending supply of immigrants coming into Boston and NY that immediately became soldiers. Almost always out-numbered the Southerner won battle after battle against Federal forces. The country that the Founding Fathers envisioned ended when Lee had to surrender to Grant. The dying institution of slavery in the South was finally “over”, and now every state government and every citizen of every state are slaves to the centralized government in Washington, DC. The union of “free and independent states” over for good. Welcome to the Socialist States of America, courtesy of Lincoln, who Karl Marx greatly admired and for good reason.

  • “Any black man that resisted him and didn’t want to leave their homes were taken in chains.”

    Actually Sherman’s army was frequently impeded by black slaves desperate to escape to freedom. Sherman viewed them as a nuisance and that is why he issued Special Field Order #15 to settle them on land as farmers.

    https://almostchosenpeople.wordpress.com/2015/01/16/january-16-1865-special-field-order-no-15/

    The idea that the Union army was kidnapping blacks in chains is fanciful to say the least. The Confederate army on the other hand did precisely that on occasion:

    https://cwemancipation.wordpress.com/2013/06/30/enslaving-the-free-the-gettysburg-campaign/

  • “Welcome to the Socialist States of America, courtesy of Lincoln, who Karl Marx greatly admired and for good reason.”

    http://the-american-catholic.com/2011/06/07/you-may-be-a-neo-confederate-if/

  • Not a neo-confederate, just an ancestor of many Confederate soldiers, and not a one of them owned slaves. They fought because their State was invaded. Back then you an an alligiance to your state, not Washington politicians. In the case of NC it only reluctantly left the Union after Lincoln asked them to take up arms against their brother states, which was a gross violation of the Constitution. Slavery didn’t have one thing to do with the state severing ties with the Union.

  • “They fought because their State was invaded.”

    They fought because the states making up the Confederacy seceded in order to protect slavery. There was no other reason for secession. As for taking up arms against brother states, South Carolina had determined that was going to occur by firing on Fort Sumter.

  • The Southern states wanted slavery preserved as an institution. This cannot be debated, argued or ignored. They started the war, financed the war, waged war and lost the war. The South was plunged into an economic depression that lasted for decades. Freed slaves got freed from servitude but received none of their God given rights after the war.

    How many times must it be said that war is an ugly thing, one of the ugliest of things, but in the end, it is what Clausewitz said – an extension of politics? South Carolina started it and they are damned lucky Sherman did not turn all of South Carolina into a smoldering, burned down abandoned wasteland.

    I find it interesting that WWII ended 80 years after the Civil War. Eighty years ago this month, Stalin’s troops had rolled through Poland and were in Germany proper, seeking to crush Berlin. The Allies had crossed the Rhine and were on their way in Germany as well. Preparations for the Okinawa invasion were under way and the Bomb was nearing completion.

  • We have had this discussion before ad nauseum. For the average soldier in the field on either side, the war was not about slavery.

    Don your saying that was their motivation for fighting does not make it so. I would fight right now to keep my friends & loved ones safe. And you would as well most likely.

  • PS. Many were “drafted” in the war & had little choice but to fight. Regardless of the reason. And while I understand the reasoning & reality of why Serman did what he did in re: to the noncombatants in the South, as I had a great grandma with 10 children to feed who had everything of use taken from her by the Union army, I don’t like it one bit.

  • I would not fight Barbara either to preserve slavery or to destroy the Union and that was what the War was all about. Take slavery out of the equation and there would have been no Civil War.

  • Mr. McClarey, in a previous post you made this argument. At the time of the American Revolution, the British government closed down the port of Boston. You argued such action was sufficient justification for the thirteen colonies to declare independence from Britain. During the Civil War, the Lincoln administration blockaded every coastal state from Virginia to Texas. Would this have been sufficient justification for the Southern states to secede?

  • “At the time of the American Revolution, the British government closed down the port of Boston. You argued such action was sufficient justification for the thirteen colonies to declare independence from Britain.”

    Britain took its actions during a time of peace. President Lincoln imposed the blockade during a time of War. No secession, no War and no blockade.

  • Barbara and Don are both right. Most soldiers did not fight over slavery, though some did — likely more on the north than south I believe. And but for slavery, there would not have been a war. But Don, you know quite well what a weak causal link the “but for” test is. Now to be clear, the case for slavery as proximate cause is not exactly weak — it is just not quite a slam dunk either.

  • Most of the Southern soldiers were not slaveowners. I get that. I accept that.

    The men who started the Confederacy, itched for the war, financed it and started it were slaveowners. They wanted to spread slavery all the way to the Pacific and south to Panama. Ken Burns’ documentary claimed the Confederacy wanted to go as far south as Brazil.

  • “Barbara and Don are both right. Most soldiers did not fight over slavery, though some did — likely more on the north than south I believe.”

    An interesting story about a New York town that seceded at the lInk below.

    http://southernnationalist.com/blog/2011/06/15/new-york-town-that-seceded-supported-the-confederacy/

    “I would not fight Barbara either to preserve slavery or to destroy the Union and that was what the War was all about.”

    That is an easy arm chair quarterback comment after the fact. Being in the middle of your home town being shelled with homes being bombed & onfire & death/destruction–including your own property and those of your loved ones–could give a slightly different perspective. Also, if you had been drafted, Don, you would have either fought or risked being shot/hung. By the way, there are confederate soldiers graves all over some of the hills in southern Illinois because I have seen them.

  • Mr. McClarey, Britain’s blockade of Boston and the Lincoln administration’s blockade of coastal Southern states have the same effect – killing civilians. Civilians will die of famine because food can’t reach them. Sick people will die for lack of medicine. That was the whole point of the Declaration of Independence. When the British government showed that it preferred to have its subjects die instead of seeing them become independent, it lost its legitimacy.

  • “Britain’s blockade of Boston and the Lincoln administration’s blockade of coastal Southern states have the same effect – killing civilians.”

    Please. Massachusetts had quite a few other ports and none of the other ports in the colonies were blockaded. No one died of starvation due to the British blockade of Boston. Likewise no one died of starvation as a result of the blockade of the Confederate ports. The Confederacy was self-sufficient in food, and if there had been no Union blockade no food, other than luxury items, would have been imported in any case.

February 3, 1865: Hampton Roads Conference

Tuesday, February 3, AD 2015

Hampton Roads Conference

The Hampton Roads Conference between President Lincoln and three representatives of the Confederacy, led by Lincoln’s old friend, and fellow former Whig, Vice President Alexander Stephens, was an exercise in pointlessness, as Lincoln and Stephens both knew it would be.  Lincoln was willing to negotiate on anything except Union and the end of Slavery, the two items that the Confederate emissaries lacked any authority to concede.  The only result of the conference was that Lincoln agreed to release from captivity a nephew of Stephens, a Confederate POW.  (Stephens did not request this until he was pressed by Lincoln as to whether there was anything he could do of a personal nature for him.)  The war would go on and both Lincoln and Davis could tell their peoples that negotiations had been attempted and that only success on the battlefield could lead to peace.  Here are the comments of Grant on this curious incident in the War:

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Grant on the Fort Fisher Fiasco

Monday, December 29, AD 2014

Fort Fisher

 

 

Examples of gross military incompetence were not rare in the Civil War.  Perhaps the most outstanding example is the bungling of Major General Benjamin Butler in his handling of the first assault on Fort Fisher, the fort that guarded the last major port open in the Confederacy, Wilmington.  Grant in his Personal Memoirs gives us the details:

 

I selected General Weitzel, of the Army of the James, to go with the expedition, but gave instructions through General Butler. He commanded the department within whose geographical limits Fort Fisher was situated, as well as Beaufort and other points on that coast held by our troops; he was, therefore, entitled to the right of fitting out the expedition against Fort Fisher.   

 
  General Butler conceived the idea that if a steamer loaded heavily with powder could be run up to near the shore under the fort and exploded, it would create great havoc and make the capture an easy matter. Admiral Porter, who was to command the naval squadron, seemed to fall in with the idea, and it was not disapproved of in Washington; the navy was therefore given the task of preparing the steamer for this purpose. I had no confidence in the success of the scheme, and so expressed myself; but as no serious harm could come of the experiment, and the authorities at Washington seemed desirous to have it tried, I permitted it. The steamer was sent to Beaufort, North Carolina, and was there loaded with powder and prepared for the part she was to play in the reduction of Fort Fisher.   

 
  General Butler chose to go in command of the expedition himself, and was all ready to sail by the 9th of December (1864). Very heavy storms prevailed, however, at that time along that part of the sea-coast, and prevented him from getting off until the 13th or 14th. His advance arrived off Fort Fisher on the 15th. The naval force had been already assembled, or was assembling, but they were obliged to run into Beaufort for munitions, coal, etc.; then, too, the powder-boat was not yet fully prepared. The fleet was ready to proceed on the 18th; but Butler, who had remained outside from the 15th up to that time, now found himself out of coal, fresh water, etc., and had to put into Beaufort to replenish. Another storm overtook him, and several days more were lost before the army and navy were both ready at the same time to co-operate.  

 
  On the night of the 23d the powder-boat was towed in by a gunboat as near to the fort as it was safe to run. She was then propelled by her own machinery to within about five hundred yards of the shore. There the clockwork, which was to explode her within a certain length of time, was set and she was abandoned. Everybody left, and even the vessels put out to sea to prevent the effect of the explosion upon them. At two o’clock in the morning the explosion took place—and produced no more effect on the fort, or anything else on land, than the bursting of a boiler anywhere on the Atlantic Ocean would have done. Indeed when the troops in Fort Fisher heard the explosion they supposed it was the bursting of a boiler in one of the Yankee gunboats.    

 

 

 
  Fort Fisher was situated upon a low, flat peninsula north of Cape Fear River. The soil is sandy. Back a little the peninsula is very heavily wooded, and covered with fresh-water swamps. The fort ran across this peninsula, about five hundred yards in width, and extended along the sea coast about thirteen hundred yards. The fort had an armament of 21 guns and 3 mortars on the land side, and 24 guns on the sea front. At that time it was only garrisoned by four companies of infantry, one light battery and the gunners at the heavy guns less than seven hundred men with a reserve of less than a thousand men five miles up the peninsula. General Whiting of the Confederate army was in command, and General Bragg was in command of the force at Wilmington. Both commenced calling for reinforcements the moment they saw our troops landing. The Governor of North Carolina called for everybody who could stand behind a parapet and shoot a gun, to join them. In this way they got two or three hundred additional men into Fort Fisher; and Hoke’s division, five or six thousand strong, was sent down from Richmond. A few of these troops arrived the very day that Butler was ready to advance.  

 
  On the 24th the fleet formed for an attack in arcs of concentric circles, their heavy iron-clads going in very close range, being nearest the shore, and leaving intervals or spaces so that the outer vessels could fire between them. Porter was thus enabled to throw one hundred and fifteen shells per minute. The damage done to the fort by these shells was very slight, only two or three cannon being disabled in the fort. But the firing silenced all the guns by making it too hot for the men to maintain their positions about them and compelling them to seek shelter in the bomb-proofs.    

 
  On the next day part of Butler’s troops under General Adelbert Ames effected a landing out of range of the fort without difficulty. This was accomplished under the protection of gunboats sent for the purpose, and under cover of a renewed attack upon the fort by the fleet. They formed a line across the peninsula and advanced, part going north and part toward the fort, covering themselves as they did so. Curtis pushed forward and came near to Fort Fisher, capturing the small garrison at what was called the Flag Pond Battery. Weitzel accompanied him to within a half a mile of the works. Here he saw that the fort had not been injured, and so reported to Butler, advising against an assault. Ames, who had gone north in his advance, captured 228 of the reserves. These prisoners reported to Butler that sixteen hundred of Hoke’s division of six thousand from Richmond had already arrived and the rest would soon be in his rear.  

 

 

 
  Upon these reports Butler determined to withdraw his troops from the peninsula and return to the fleet. At that time there had not been a man on our side injured except by one of the shells from the fleet. Curtis had got within a few yards of the works. Some of his men had snatched a flag from the parapet of the fort, and others had taken a horse from the inside of the stockade. At night Butler informed Porter of his withdrawal, giving the reasons above stated, and announced his purpose as soon as his men could embark to start for Hampton Roads. Porter represented to him that he had sent to Beaufort for more ammunition. He could fire much faster than he had been doing, and would keep the enemy from showing himself until our men were within twenty yards of the fort, and he begged that Butler would leave some brave fellows like those who had snatched the flag from the parapet and taken the horse from the fort.  

 

 

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4 Responses to Grant on the Fort Fisher Fiasco

  • Interesting that Butler latched onto the same idea Burnside used to disastrous effect a few months earlier at Petersburg, the idea that a massive explosion would create a hole in the defenses of the enemy which could be quickly exploited by federal troops. Butler is also the general that squandered the opportunity to likely end the war a year earlier when he landed in strength a half mile from where I’m writing, at Bermuda Hundred south of Richmond. If he had advanced boldly, there would have been no stopping him. His over-caution, however, gave the defenders of Richmond the opportunity to bottle him up on the Bermuda Hundred peninsula for the remainder of the war.

  • As a general Butler was a disaster from the beginning of the war to the end Tom. The Confederates had a song satirizing Butler’s incompetence and he deserved every syllable of it.

  • As a general, Butler was rather incompetent. If the Federal government had had a few more like him, the South might have won the war. Of course, we had our incompetent generals too. If we could have traded Bragg for one of the better Union generals . . . .

  • The Army of Tennessee was a fine force that never had a commander worthy of it after Albert Sidney Johnston died at Shiloh, with the possible exception of Joe Johnston.

October 27, 1864: Battle of Boydton Plank Road

Monday, October 27, AD 2014

BoydtonPlankRoadPreludeNPSMap

 

The last significant military operation at Petersburg in 1864, the battle of Boydton Plank Road, was  part of the efforts of the Army of the Potomac to cut the Confederate South Side Railroad that supplied Petersburg and Richmond from the west. This was no small operation, consisting of Winfield Scott’s corps, reinforced by infantry divisions from other corps and a cavalry division.

On October 27, 1864 Hancock crossed Hatcher’s Run creek and moved around the Confederate right flank heading for Burgess Mill.  General Henry Heth, commanding A.P. Hill’s corps due to the illness of Hill, interposed two divisions to stop Hancock.  Hancock made good progress when Meade ordered a hault to the offensive, concerned about a five mile gap developing between the Union left and Hancock.

Hancock retreated to Hatcher’s Run, only to find the ford now being held by Confederate cavalry.  Heth now went on the offensive, hoping to bag Hancock’s corps, isolated as it now was from the rest of the Union army.

Hancock kept calm, beat off the Confederate attacks and retreated across Hatcher’s Run during the night.  Union casualties were 1700 to 1300 Confederate.  Grant in his memoirs summed up this action and the closing down of operations around Petersburg for the remainder of the year:

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2 Responses to October 27, 1864: Battle of Boydton Plank Road

  • Don, I have to say that I find your Civil War posts both fascinating and informative. In what was a titanic conflict (John Terraine described it as ‘the first of the three Great Wars of the Industrial Revolution’) we tend to focus too much on the ‘main events’. Your filling in the details of the lesser-known, but often important actions is illuminating.

    Contrary to popular myth, the war was extensively studied in European military academies (Sandhurst in particular) and was of course observed at first hand by European officers, some of whom took an active part in it. Moltke’s derogatory comment is well known, yet the Germans were anxious to learn lessons from it.

  • Thank you John, that is high praise indeed from someone as well versed in military history as you are. I have been reading about the War for a half century and I still encounter facts monthly that I was unaware of.

August 18, 1864: Capture of the Weldon Railroad

Monday, August 18, AD 2014

Petersburg_Aug18-19

 

 

On August 17, 1864 Grant was heartened when he received a telegram of support from President Lincoln.  Go here to read about it.  Grant remarked to his staff after reading the telegram:   “The President has more nerve than any of his advisors.”

Lincoln had advised Grant:  Hold on with a bull-dog gripe, and chew & choke, as much as possible.  Unbeknownst to the President, Grant already had underway an operation to do just that.  Major General Gouverneur K. Warren was ordered by Grant to take his V corps, supported by units of the IX and II corps and a small cavalry division, and move to the left to capture a section of the Weldon railroad, the main supply line for the Confederate forces at Richmond and Petersburg, which led south to Wilmington, the last major port of the Confederacy.

By 9:00 AM on August 18, 1864, Warren had brushed aside Confederate pickets and reached the Weldon railroad at Globe Tavern.  He deployed a division of his corps to destroy track, held another division in reserve and set another brigade, deployed in line of battle, north to guard against Confederate attempts to retake the railroad.  A.P. Hill, launching his attack at 2:00 PM used two divisions from his corps to retake Globe Tavern, but Warren counterattacked and recovered the ground he lost, his troops entrenching as night fell.

On the 19th, the IX corps reinforced Warrens V corps while the Confederates received three brigades of Major General William Mahones’ division along with “Rooney” Lee’s cavalry division.  Mahone, cementing his reputation, after the part he played in retaking the Crater, as one of the best generals for the Confederacy in 1864, launched a slashing flank attack that captured two Union brigades.  A Confederate frontal assault by Major General Henry Heth was easily repulsed, and the fighting ended with a IX corps counterattack leading to hand to hand fighting as nightfall brought a  close to the day’s fighting.

Torrential rains on the 20th prevented large scale combat.  Warren withdrew on the night of the 20-21 to a new fortified line.  Confederate attacks failed to dislodge him, and the battle of Globe Tavern ended with the Union in permanent possession of several miles of the Weldon railroad which necessitated the Confederates to bring in supplies to Petersburg and Richmond thirty miles from the nearest section of the Weldon railroad not under Union control.  Union casuaties were 4, 296 to 1,620 Confederates but the noose had been tightened around Petersburg and the Confederacy.

Here are the comments of General Grant on this operation in his Personal Memoirs:

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