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Lee To The Rescue

 

by Andy Mateja

The battle of Malvern hill on July 1st 1862 was the last of the famous Seven Days Battles.  It began under new Confederate commander Gen Robt E Lee to remove the pressure on Richmond by Union forces under Mar Gen George B. McClellan and included the arrival of Maj Gen Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson from the Shenandoah Valley and forced the Union commander to alter his strategy and change his base of supply from the Pamunkey River to the James River.  In doing so, the Union army was susceptible to attacks which the aggressive Lee repeatedly took advantage of during the preceding six days

To protect the movement of his army to the new supply base, McClellan concentrated his artillery on Malvern Hill under cover of Federal gunboats on the James River and nearly 90,000 Infantry. Lee’s army arrived to confront McClellan without the usual organization and cooperation it became famous for shortly afterward. Lee had around 80,000 men which his commanders did not want to decimate with frontal attacks against the extremely strong Federal position. Maj Get James Longstreet instead believed 60 pieces of Rebel artillery in conjunction with Maj Gen Stonewall Jackson could create an effective crossfire so allow for a favorable Confederate infantry assault. Malvern Hill’s topography would not allow it. Had the ground been reconnoitered before the attack, The Confederates would have realized the lack of favorable ground for their attack plans.

The Confederate artillery designated to lead off the attack ultimately was mostly disabled by their Union counterpart’s right at the start, but Lee’s stalwart infantry advanced anyway.  Unfortunately without the expected artillery support, the confederates were driven back with heavy losses. Their reinforcements did not arrive in time to support the attack to be of any assistance. The concentration of the Union artillery was very effective in stopping Lee’s forces in its tracks before it fell back ……unsuccessful in breaking the Union line, Rebel losses were over 5000 men, whereas the Union losses were about 3000.

Lee seeing his men cut to pieces by the Federal artillery and realizing his attack had failed, wanted to change his strategy. But being already late in the afternoon the opportunity had passed. The triumphant Union troops were actually better commanded by corp commanders fighting separate battles than by the guidance and directions of their own commanding general ….. George B McClellan.  V Corp commander Maj Gen Fitz-John Porter felt the Union position was a good one and recommended to McClellan that they hold this position which McClellan rejected.

The Union artily mutilated many if the bodies of the attackers.  The next morning after their clear cut victory at Malvern Hill, the Union army nevertheless continued their week long retrograde movement in the rain away from Richmond instead of toward it. While most of the Union troops were willing to continue the fight and to go forward,   they were now exhausted and low on supplies and munitions.

McClellan fell back to Harrison’s Landing under the protection of Federal gunboats. Lee’s forces , ordered to pursuit the withdrawing Union army, were led by Brig Gen JEB Stuart’s Confederate cavalry followed by Maj Gen James Longstreet and Maj Gen AP Hill’s men, which had been held in reserve during the battle.

Some of the retreating Union commanders became convinced under the mistaken impression that the pursuing Confederate cavalry was the spearhead of a much larger flanking force, which turned out to be wrong. Lee gambled and lost at Malvern Hill – McClellan was already retreating and he did not need to be prodding at the cost of 3000 additional Confederate casualties……. Nevertheless, the Rebel capitol of Richmond Virginia was safe…… for now!!!!!

 

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Diversion at Trevilian Station

By Andy Mateja

 

During Lt Gen Ulysses S Grants 1864 Spring Offensive to confront and defeat Gen Robt E Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, Petersburg Virginia was put at the top of the list of desirable Union “objectives”.

After suffering a stinging defeat at Cold Harbor, Grant swung the Army of the Potomac to the south of the Chickahominy and James Rivers to capture Petersburg while Lee’s army was still concentrated around Richmond. Grant however needed a diversion. By dispatching his cavalry westward toward the Shenandoah Valley, Grant surmised that he would draw Confederate cavalry after it, and perhaps do further damage to the Confederate supply lines being sent to Lee’s Army from the valley which was widely considered the “Breadbasket of the Confederacy”.

The man Grant put in charge of this venture was none other than Maj Gen Phillip H Sheridan, who was always spoiling for a fight with the Confederate Cavalry. Since JEB Stuart was a casualty of the previous time he battled the Rebels (at Yellow Tavern in May), Sheridan was confident of success against the newly appointed Confederate Cavalry Leader: Wade Hampton.

Dividing the cavalry into two parts,  Sheridan left the smaller amount for cover Maj Gen George Meade’s Army of the Potomac while he proceeded with 2/3rd of it about 70 miles west of Cold Harbor to destroy as much of the Virginia Central Railroad in the area, including at Trevilian Station.

Sheridan began his move on June 7 with Confederates in mild pursuit and continued every day thereafter to inflict damage on the railroad, reaching the area around Trevilian Station around June 10th, only to be halted by the Confederate quick response and determination.

Confederate Cavalry Commander Wade Hampton was just like Phil Sheridan – eager for a fight with the opposing enemy. He was planning to box Sheridan in between Rebel cavalry forces but Sheridan struck first. When the fighting erupted the coordination between the Confederate forces was slow in occurring, which caused Hampton to slowly withdraw, thereby opening elements of the Virginia Central Railroad to further Union destruction.

The Michigan Brigade under Brig Gen George A. Custer led the attack only to be caught in a trap when the “absent” Confederate forces arrived on the field.  It appeared that Custer’s four regiments were about to be captured in total. Despite being personally wounded, Custer fought his men tenaciously out of the trap.

Unfortunately, Sheridan could not unite with Union forces in the valley that he intended to and his cavalry just continued to tear up lots of Virginia Central track. For the next few days Sheridan continued to demolish the train tracks while he attempted to move forward…… which regrettably for him, Hampton’s Confederate troopers were not willing to allow. Sheridan’s cavalry ultimately returned to their original starting point by backtracking across the North Anna River while leaving 113 wounded Union troopers and many Confederate prisoners behind.

Phillip Sheridan fulfilled his objective of providing a diversion for Grant for his move on Petersburg. However it wasn’t until June 20th (6 days later) when his cavalry finally reached the Union army’s partially abandoned supply line at White House Landing on the Pamunkey River.

The Union forces suffered about 600 casualties, which were quickly replaced….. whereas the Confederate cavalry losses were not. Sheridan DID however prevent Lee with a sufficient amount of rebel troops from blocking Grant’s advance from Cold Harbor to Petersburg in time.

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The New York Draft Riots Of 1863

by Andy Mateja

This is a disgraceful chapter in the annals of the American Civil War

About one week after the Union victory fought at Gettysburg, a riot of major proportions broke out in New York City in an attempt to quell the recently enacted National Conscription Act of July 1863.

Nearly one thousand protestors (many drunk) gathered in front of NY City Hall….cursing and attacking with bats, crowbars  its’ affluent and well to do citizens, along with black free men and former slaves in addition to the Lincoln Administration as a result of this unpopular law.  The rioting lasted 4 days and resulted in almost 1200 dead and injured along with $$ millions of wanton destruction in a Northern city whose population at the time was nearly 814,000 men, women and children !!!

Many New Yorkers supported the Lincoln Administration and many were also “Copperheads” who were opposed to what they called “Mr Lincoln’s War”.  A provision of the new law allowed for a $300 FEE to be paid in order to “hire” a substitute a replacement for someone who was “drafted”.

Many of New York City’s “poor” Irish immigrants did not have $300 and also who feared recently freed Blacks slaves would come and take their jobs away. Buildings were set on fire and firemen prevented from dousing flames while telegraph wires cut downtown. The NY City police force (about 800) were assigned to protect downtown businesses from destruction along with the initial 300 Union troops assigned there (including a few invalid soldiers of which two were beaten to death)

New York Governor Seymour tried to break up the riot with the 11th NY Volunteers opening fire on NY civilian protestors (men AND women) and have Washington put an end to the new Draft…

Thousands of additional Federal troops that had just fought at Gettysburg finally arrived in NYC (13 regiments in all) to disband the rioting protestors which were now estimated at between 20, 000 to 50,000 participants. Ten thousand troops remained in NYC in order for the draft to proceed…..

There were some who believed that there was “fingerprints” of Richmond’s involvement in the New York City Draft Riots but that fact was never proven.

By late summer in 1863 a semblance of order returned to New York City. While most would prefer to reflect on the epic Union Victory at Gettysburg, some will NEVER forget the unspeakable tragedy of a “crowd gone wild” in America’s largest city at the ZENITH of the Civil War……..!!!!!

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Cleburne’s Controversial Slavery Proposal

By Andy Mateja

There was a specially called conference on January 2 1864 for an undisclosed meeting at Gen Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederate Army of Tennessee headquarters consisting of all of this army’s corps and division commanders that took place in Dalton GA.  Gen Pat Cleburne, considered by some as the “Stonewall Jackson” of the Confederate army in the West, was there and presented his special “paper”  …….which was already well received by field officers which many had already signed.

It was considered an Emergency Meeting and was to address the growing military plight of the Confederacy’s shrinking armed forces as they were running out of manpower with no end in sight of the ever growing hardships. The Union army on the other hand was INCREASING in size due to continuing enlistments of foreign immigrants and escaped runaway slaves. It was determined that something MUST be done to avert disaster.

It was becoming obvious to Cleburne that slavery had become a military weakness and truly worthless as organized labor force.  Feeble attempts at conscription for the Rebel field armies was not working. Enlisting slaves was the alternative………if it included guarantee freedom for the slave.   European countries could now be able to support the South and change the focus from freeing slaves to acquiring more territory. In addition, they could deprive Northerners from utilizing slaves in the South as “spies” and future recruits as a new source of manpower for invading Union armies.

The offer of freedom to participating slaves (especially the bravest ones) had to also include their wives and children and also and the legal recognition of marriage. Cleburne was sure slaves would indeed fight under these conditions as there were lots of examples in world history.   Sparta, Santo Domingo and Jamaica were just a few…….  Cleburne believed this proposal to be beneficial and WOULD save the country.

Denouncing the plan include Generals Bates and Patton Anderson. , They believed many of the white Southern troops would oppose arming slaves. Gen. WHT Walker also vehemently opposed Cleburne’s proposal and considered it a traitorous plot. He wanted to send the plan to Confederate President Jefferson Davis in Richmond for further scorn and to include each officer’s as to their opinion also to Richmond before he personally left the room.

Corps commander Gen William Hardee had suggested alternative ways to use blacks in army and withdrew the entire proposal before leaving the room as well. Cleburne reluctantly agreed to this in silence.

But word leaked out over the next few days of this extraordinary Top-Level meeting…..including to Richmond.   Some felt it was a revolting proposal and believed that if the army troops found out, it would dissolve in a couple of weeks. Gen Walker wanted to be sure that a copy of the plan was send to Jefferson Davis in Richmond and Cleburne provided it and personally signed it.

 

Without stating who else attended the original meeting.  Gen. Walker tried to get the other officers to sign it on their own and to include whether they approved or disapproved the proposal. Some of the officers were willing to cooperate with Gen.Walker but most were not.

President Davis and the officials in Richmond opposed Cleburne’s proposal and wanted it kept secret at all costs for fear of a negative backlash if their nations’ civilians found out that the Confederate Generals had even entertained the idea of arming the slaves regardless of the reason.

Jefferson Davis returned his copy of this “Slave emancipation proposal” to Cleburne and ordered all the remaining copies to be burned. Ironically, despite slave owner resistance, Davis did enact a similar plan proposed by Gen Robt E Lee in March 1865 after it was too late to have any meaningful effect …….

The “Rising Star” of Patrick Cleburne’s military career was forever extinguished after this unfortunate political experience.  Sadly Cleburne’s own life was cut short a few months month later as one of the tragic casualties during the Battle of Franklin TN……….

By Andy Mateja

There was a specially called conference on January 2 1864 for an undisclosed meeting at Gen Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederate Army of Tennessee headquarters consisting of all of this army’s corps and division commanders that took place in Dalton GA.  Gen Pat Cleburne, considered by some as the “Stonewall Jackson” of the Confederate army in the West, was there and presented his special “paper”  …….which was already well received by field officers which many had already signed.

It was considered an Emergency Meeting and was to address the growing military plight of the Confederacy’s shrinking armed forces as they were running out of manpower with no end in sight of the ever growing hardships. The Union army on the other hand was INCREASING in size due to continuing enlistments of foreign immigrants and escaped runaway slaves. It was determined that something MUST be done to avert disaster.

It was becoming obvious to Cleburne that slavery had become a military weakness and truly worthless as organized labor force.  Feeble attempts at conscription for the Rebel field armies was not working. Enlisting slaves was the alternative………if it included guarantee freedom for the slave.   European countries could now be able to support the South and change the focus from freeing slaves to acquiring more territory. In addition, they could deprive Northerners from utilizing slaves in the South as “spies” and future recruits as a new source of manpower for invading Union armies.

The offer of freedom to participating slaves (especially the bravest ones) had to also include their wives and children and also and the legal recognition of marriage. Cleburne was sure slaves would indeed fight under these conditions as there were lots of examples in world history.   Sparta, Santo Domingo and Jamaica were just a few…….  Cleburne believed this proposal to be beneficial and WOULD save the country.

Denouncing the plan include Generals Bates and Patton Anderson. , They believed many of the white Southern troops would oppose arming slaves. Gen. WHT Walker also vehemently opposed Cleburne’s proposal and considered it a traitorous plot. He wanted to send the plan to Confederate President Jefferson Davis in Richmond for further scorn and to include each officer’s as to their opinion also to Richmond before he personally left the room.

Corps commander Gen William Hardee had suggested alternative ways to use blacks in army and withdrew the entire proposal before leaving the room as well. Cleburne reluctantly agreed to this in silence.

But word leaked out over the next few days of this extraordinary Top-Level meeting…..including to Richmond.   Some felt it was a revolting proposal and believed that if the army troops found out, it would dissolve in a couple of weeks. Gen Walker wanted to be sure that a copy of the plan was send to Jefferson Davis in Richmond and Cleburne provided it and personally signed it.

 

Without stating who else attended the original meeting.  Gen. Walker tried to get the other officers to sign it on their own and to include whether they approved or disapproved the proposal. Some of the officers were willing to cooperate with Gen.Walker but most were not.

President Davis and the officials in Richmond opposed Cleburne’s proposal and wanted it kept secret at all costs for fear of a negative backlash if their nations’ civilians found out that the Confederate Generals had even entertained the idea of arming the slaves regardless of the reason.

Jefferson Davis returned his copy of this “Slave emancipation proposal” to Cleburne and ordered all the remaining copies to be burned. Ironically, despite slave owner resistance, Davis did enact a similar plan proposed by Gen Robt E Lee in March 1865 after it was too late to have any meaningful effect …….

The “Rising Star” of Patrick Cleburne’s military career was forever extinguished after this unfortunate political experience.  Sadly Cleburne’s own life was cut short a few months month later as one of the tragic casualties during the Battle of Franklin TN……….

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