Monday, July 21, 2014

July 21, 1864: "Digging, apparently at some depth, was heard . . .

Major General Bushrod Johnson, C.S. Army
On this day 150 years ago, Bushrod Johnson included a disturbing detail is his daily report from his division's section of the Confederate lines at Petersburg, Virginia. Johnson's men thought they could hear digging deep underground near their positions and Johnson asked for and engineer officer to be sent to investigate.

COLONEL: No change has been observed on the part of the enemy since last report; the sharpshooting slackened yesterday, but toward night became as brisk as usual. General Gracie requests that the engineer be sent to his line to sink a mine, as digging, apparently at some depth, was heard in his front yesterday.

The following casualties are respectfully submitted: Elliott's brigade, wounded, 2. Ransom's brigade, killed, 1. Wise's brigade, killed, 1 (carelessly); wounded, 1. Gracie's brigade, wounded, 5 (2 carelessly). Total, 2 killed and 8 wounded.

The following is a statement of the amount of shells and lead picked up on yesterday: Wise's brigade, 10 shells and 5,300 balls. Elliott's brigade, 10 fuses, 2,300 bullets, 14 solid shot, 100 fragments shells, 5 Wiard shells, 5 shrapnel, and 9 Parrott shells. Ransom's brigade, 15 Hotchkiss shells and some lead.

I am, colonel, respectfully, your obedient servant,


Friday, July 18, 2014

July 18, 1864: Transfer of command in Georgia

In Georgia, the Confederates managed the process of changing army commanders in the middle of a campaign.
ATLANTA, July 18, 1864.

General S. COOPER:

GENERAL: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of my appointment as general of the Army of Tennessee. There is now heavy skirmishing and indications of a general advance. I deem it dangerous to change the commanders of this army at this particular time, and to be to the interest of the service that no change should be made until the fate of Atlanta is decided.




RICHMOND, July 18, 1864.

General HOOD:

Your telegram of this date received. A change of commanders, under existing circumstances, was regarded as so objectionable that I only accepted it as the alternative of continuing in a policy which had proved so disastrous. Reluctance to make the change induced me to send a telegram of inquiry to the commanding general on the 16th instant. His reply but confirmed previous apprehensions. There can be but one question which you and I can entertain-that is, what will best promote the public good; and to each of you I confidently look for the sacrifice of every personal consideration in conflict with that object. The order has been executed, and I cannot suspend it without making the case worse than it was before the order was issued.


(Same to Generals Hardee and Stewart.)

NEAR ATLANTA, July 18, 1864.

General S. COOPER,


Your dispatch of yesterday received and obeyed. Command of the Army and Department of Tennessee has been transferred to General Hood. As to the alleged cause of my removal, I assert that Sherman's army is much stronger compared with that of Tennessee than Grant's compared with that of Northern Virginia. Yet the enemy has been compelled to advance much more slowly to the vicinity of Atlanta than to that of Richmond and Petersburg, and has penetrated much deeper into Virginia than into Georgia. Confident language by a military commander is not usually regarded as evidence of competency.


July 18, 1864: The Diary of Judith White McGuire

On this day 150 years ago, the people of Richmond waited for news from Jubal Early's raid into Maryland while the siege at Petersburg ground on relentlessly.
July 18, 1864.

Since the last note in my diary we have been pursuing our usual course. The tenor of our way is singularly rough and uneven, marked by the sound of cannon, the marching of troops, and all the paraphernalia of grim visaged war; but we still visit our friends and relatives, and have our pleasant social and family meetings, as though we were at peace with all the world. The theme of every tongue is our army in Maryland. What is it doing? What will be the result of the venture? The last accounts are from the Washington papers. Early, they say, is before Washington, throwing in shells, having cut the railroads and burnt the bridges. We are of course all anxiety,.and rumour is busier than ever. The army, it is said, has driven innumerable horses, beeves, etc., into Virginia. I trust so; it is surmised that to supply the commissariat is the chief object of the trip. Grant still before Petersburg, sending transports, etc., with troops to defend Washington.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

July 17, 1864: Hood replaces Johnston as commander of the Army of Tennessee

On this day 150 years ago, Jefferson Davis made a fateful decision.
July 17, 1864.

In obedience to orders of the War Department, I turn over to General Hood the command of the Army and Department of Tennessee. I cannot leave this noble army without expressing my admiration of the high military qualities it has displayed. A long and arduous campaign has made conspicuous every soldierly virtue, endurance of toil, obedience to orders, brilliant courage. The enemy has never attacked but to be repulsed and severely punished. You, soldiers, have never argued but from your courage, and never counted your foes. No longer your leader, I will still watch your career, and will rejoice in your victories. To one and all I offer assurances of my friendship, and bid an affectionate farewell.



Tuesday, July 15, 2014

July 15, 1864: Report of the Superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute

The annual report for 1864 to the Board of Visitors of Virginia Military Institute by Superintendent Francis H. Smith.
Head Quarters, Virginia Mil. Institute, July 15, 1864


The Board of Visitors assembles under peculiar circumstance today. On the Sabbath morning of June 12, the beautiful buildings erected by the liberality of the state for her favored military school, were made a mass of ruins by the order of Major General D. Hunter, commanding U. S. Army of Western Virginia, after having been first sacked by his lawless and rapacious soldiery.

The quarters and offices of the Superintendent alone remain; and the order for the destruction of these was only suspended, because the illness of two of my children (one with an infant 48 hours old) did not permit them to be removed without risk of life. After I had left, it became necessary, for the security of my sick children during the shelling, to remove them from the rooms which they occupied to one affording greater protection. This removal, and another when the shelling was over, was made with the aid of my two servants, upon whom my wife was entirely dependent. While the circumstances of others justified no appeal to them for aid, the situation of my family deprived her of the opportunity of rendering assistance to anyone. At the time she was told by the wife of a neighboring officer who had heard from the commanding general that my quarters with the others were to be destroyed, my wife had not the help necessary to remove her children from the house, and was of course without the means of securing one article of her own furniture.

This statement is made to set a rest the baseless rumors in circulation, that my family was required to take the oath; that the rooms they occupied were searched by officials; that the house was tendered to Gen. Hunter as his headquarters to save it from destruction, or that they were called upon, in any way, to compromise their self-respect.

Every species of public property was removed or wantonly destroyed; and among the most serious losses are to be named our valuable library---the accumulated care of twenty-five years--and the philosophical apparatus, so long used by our late distinguished professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy, Lieut. General Thomas J. Jackson. The apparatus and many of the valuable books had been removed to Washington College, under the presumption that this venerable institution might afford a shelter and protection to them. But the work of destruction went on. The college building was sacked; the libraries of both institutions were destroyed, and every particle of philosophical apparatus broken to pieces. Shavings had been prepared to fire the college buildings also, and the design was only prevented by representations from some of the trustees, setting forth the purely civil organization of the college, and that it was the recipient of the bounty of Washington himself.

Our hospital was first rifled of all of its most valuable medical stores, and was then burnt, although one severely wounded cadet and one sick cadet, dependent upon both for comfort and almost for life, had to be removed from the building at great risk, in the midst of the shelling and the rifle balls of the sharpshooters.

The families of Colonels Williamson and Gilham were required by rude officials to vacate their quarters; and although they were allowed the privilege of removing their furniture, in part, through the kind interposition of the Hon. S. McD. Moore, few facilities were afforded them to do so; and the torch was applied while helpless females were endeavoring to save their little stores, and their quarters and many of their personal effects were destroyed . . .

Every public document connected with the operations of the institute, found in my office, and there were many copies of the various annual reports, and registers, was destroyed or removed. My private library was rifled of many of its most valuable and portable volumes, and the portraits of Ex-Governors McDowell, Wise and Letcher, which occupied prominent positions in it, were removed.

The houses of our poorest operatives, including seamstresses, laundresses and laborers, were searched, in common with those of the citizens generally, and some of these persons were left in a destitute and almost starving condition. The kindness of friends in Lexington had opened their houses to receive the trunks and effects of cadets. Such houses were made the peculiar objects of vindictive spoliation.

Our shoe shop was despoiled of all of its leather and unfinished work, and the shoe lasts, implements and benches were there wantonly destroyed. The bell attached to our public clock was taken down and removed, and the beautiful bronze copy of Houdon's Washington (photo at left), by the gifted and lamented Hubard, after being mutilated in the effort to take it from its pedestal, was removed. Report has come in within the last few days, that the enemy being unable to transport this work of art through the mountain passes of Virginia, it was finally broken to pieces and destroyed.

All the regular Negro servants of the institution showed a marked fidelity. Our trusty baker, Anderson, the property of the institute, was stripped of everything; and on being asked whether he had made himself known as belonging to the state, promptly replied, "No indeed---if I had told the Yankees that, they would have burnt me up with the other state property."

I have been particular in the recital I have given of the conduct of the enemy to his institution, because I desire to give permanence to the record of infamy which has immortalized the U. S. Army of Western Virginia here.

The Virginia Military Institute has sought no exemption from those evils which are inseparable from a state of war. In every way, directly and indirectly, in which it could be made tributary to the success of the life-struggle in which our country is engaged, the contribution has been made heartily and in no stinted measure.

The corps of cadets prepared for the field, at Camp Lee, 15,000 men of the army of first Manassas; and every battlefield has been hallowed by the blood of its sons. Every professor and every officer had his appointed work; and each, from the world-renowned Jackson, has discharged his whole duty with earnestness and fidelity. When public expediency required the reopening of the school on the 1st of January 1862, its course of instruction was specially accommodated to make it auxiliary to our struggle. Munitions of war were prepared for the army in the field. The battalion of cadets was kept on a war footing, to resist the raids of the enemy, and has effectively aided in this important duty. Upon the call of the gallant Breckinridge, they were summoned to the battlefield at New Market, and fought with a gallantry which has marked them as the objects of peculiar hatred to the enemy. They were subsequently called, upon the requisition of the secretary of war, to assist in the defense of the capital of our state and Confederacy, and remained near Richmond until the advance of the enemy up the Valley of Virginia under Hunter, again threatened the Virginia Military Institute. They were promptly moved to the support of McCausland, but were unable, from the overpowering weight of numbers, to offer effectual resistance where they most desired to do so, under the walls of the institution itself. It was a painful sacrifice which required them to surrender the home of their cadet life without a struggle. But they were soon reunited to their victorious leader at Lynchburg, and there had the satisfaction of witnessing the discomfiture of the army of Hunter; and once more the standard of Virginia floats from the institute hill. So that in every possible way in which a military school could be made available to our patriotic cause, it has been fully and freely done.

No one, therefore, belonging to the institution can complain that the rules of war should be applied to an establishment marked by such evidences of identification with our revolutionary struggle. It was to have been expected that the cadets should be pursued, that they might be either killed or captured. They asked no immunities from the rigors of war meted to to others. The arms and munitions of war were proper subjects for capture or destruction. Its public buildings might have been held by the enemy as a barracks or hospital, and the school itself dispersed. But modern history is appealed to in vain for a like instance of devastation, as marked the track of the invader here . . .

General Hunter commanded an organized army of the United States, whose professed mission was the "restoration of the Union; " and yet it was by his order, and against the remonstrances (as I understand) of some of his own general officers, that the public buildings of the Virginia Military Institute were committed to the flames; and the threat was made by him that the university of Virginia should soon share a like fate. he is not only responsible for an act deliberately executed, but for the effort clearly manifested to consign to utter destruction every record that could mark the character or history of being of the Virginia Military Institute. Not satisfied with desolation, its walls were polluted with the most obscene language in association with the names of men from Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and Massachusetts . . .

Having joined the corps in Staunton, I there received the orders of the adjutant general directing me to move the cadets to Richmond, to aid in the defense of the capital. Having reported to the governor and secretary of war, in obedience to orders, the cadets were assigned to the command of Maj. Gen. Ransom, and were encamped about two miles from the city limits.

On the 5th June intelligence reached Richmond of the defeat of Gen. W.E. Jones, near Staunton, and of the threatening aspect of affairs in the Valley towards Lexington. On the 6th orders were given to me to proceed to the Virginia Military Institute, if practicable, and take such measures, in cooperation with the confederate forces, or otherwise, as might be best for the defense of the public property at the Institute. The cadets were moved on the 7th, by the Danville rail road, to Lynchburg, reaching Lynchburg at 11 P.M. Learning there that the enemy were advancing upon Lexington, and that Brig. Gen. McCausland was resisting their advance, I moved the cadets immediately, by freight boats, up the canal and they reached Lexington at 3 P.M. on the 9th.

On the 10th a dispatch was received by me from Gen. McCausland, that he had been strongly pressed by the enemy all day, and was then fighting with them on the Brownsburg road, near Brownsburg. By sundown he had been driven to Cameron's farm, two miles from Lexington. I had an interview with Gen. McCausland that night. I told him that if by a determined resistance he could, with the cooperation of the cadets, save Lexington, and with it the public property at the Virginia Military Institute, I was prepared to give him that cooperation at any sacrifice. But if a contest here could only retard the advance of the enemy a few hours, and result in the killing or capturing of the cadets, I was not willing to make such a sacrifice or run such a risk. Gen. McCausland did not think, with the strong force opposing him, that he could save the town; but under his advice, I determined to remain with the cadets on their ground, and hold them in readiness to cooperate with him, could this be done effectively.

On the morning of the 11th the enemy advanced about 8'oclock, and three lines of their skirmishers occupied the hills north of the town. McCausland having burned the bridge over the North river, planted a section of artillery on the magazine hill, and occupied the adjoining cliffs with sharpshooters. An active artillery and musketry fire from sharpshooters soon opened, and continued for several hours. The cadets were not engaged; and after waiting until 1 P.M. and apprehending that the flanks of McCausland would be turned either by Hamilton's cross or Leyburn's fords, I gave orders to Lieut. Col. Ship to move the corps of cadets, by the fair ground road, and cross the North River by the bridge at its mouth. McCausland retired from Lexington about 3, and in about one hour after the enemy entered.

The cadets remained near Balcony Falls from Saturday evening until Wednesday, and rendered good service in guarding the property of refugees, collected from the various counties of the Valley in that vicinity. Apprehending danger from the advance of the enemy into Bedford in pursuit of McCausland, and from a raid into Amherst, I ordered Col. Ship on the 15th to move the cadets by freight boats to Lynchburg. A courier from Gen. Breckinridge at Lynchburg met me on the way, and brought me instructions to move immediately to Lynchburg, and take the north side of the river. As the command had already passed Waugh's ferry, the danger apprehended by General Breckinridge no longer existed, and the cadets reached Lynchburg safely the next morning at 8 o'clock, and I immediately reported to Gen. Breckinridge, and also to the governor and board of visitors. The cadets remained in camp near Lynchburg until after the repulse of Hunter; and on the 24th June, under instructions received from the board of visitors, the cadets were ordered back to Lexington, and reached there on the 25th. Having failed to procure the tents which had been ordered upon the requisition of the adjutant general, the cadets occupied temporarily the buildings of Washington college, which had been kindly placed at their disposal.

Finding, upon examination, that most of our commissary stores had been destroyed or taken by the enemy---that the public property was in a state of utter ruin--I deemed it my duty to place all the cadets who were able to reach their homes, or the homes of their friends, on furlough until the 1st of September, and to make provision to take care of the remainder as well as my means would enable me. Under these orders, all the cadets (except some three or four) are now on furlough.

In the mean time I have employed all the operatives of the institution in gathering up the valuable material found in the ruins, placing the same in a place of security. I have also rented a store in Lexington for the deposit of quartermaster and commissary stores and have been endeavoring to collect such property as may have passed into the hand of parties not entitled to claim or to hold it.

The board will be enabled to see, in the course of their sitting, what has been done in these respects, and will be the better qualified, by personal inspection, to give me instructions in regard thereto.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

July 9, 1864: The Battle of Monocacy

On this day 150 years ago, Union Major General Lew Wallace led a pick-up force of Union forces in an effort to slow down the raiding forces of Confederate Jubal Early. Wallace lost the Battle of Monocacy, but he succeeded in slowing Early down and buying time for the defenses of Washington, DC to be reinforced.
CROSSING OF THE BALTIMORE PIKE AND RAILROAD, July 9, 1864. (Received 11. 40 p. m.)

Major-General HALLECK,

Chief of Staff:

I fought the enemy at Frederick Junction from 9 a. m . till 5 p. m., when they overwhelmed me with numbers. I am retreating with a foot-sore, battered, and half-demoralized column. Forces of the enemy at least 20,000. They do not seem to be pursuing. You will have to use every exertion to save Baltimore and Washington. Colonel Seward, son of the Secretary, is wounded, and is a prisoner. Brigadier-General Tyler is a prisoner. I think the troops of the Sixth Corps fought magnificently. I was totally overwhelmed by a force from the direction of Harper's Ferry arriving during the battle. Two fresh regiments of the Sixth Corps are covering my retreat. I shall try to get to Baltimore.


Major-General, Commanding.