Thursday, April 10, 2014

It Wasn't A Mire Diversion

The First Battle of Franklin was fought in Williamson County, Tennessee on April 10th 1863, taking place near where the more famous battle of the same name would happen in 1864.

On April 10th 1863 Confederate Major General Earl Van Dorn advanced his cavalry, about 6,000 strong, north from Spring Hill, Tennessee, towards Franklin, Tennessee.  His force would run into skirmishers of Union Major General Gordon Granger.  Granger had received a report of an attack to his north in Brentwood, Tennessee, and thought Van Dorn’s attack was a mire diversion.  When Granger learned that there was no threat to Brentwood, he decided to drive Van Dorn.  When the Union commander sent orders, he found that one of his subordinates had already initiated an attack.

The 4th United States Cavalry under the command of the Brigadier General David S Stanley came in behind Van Dorn’s troopers by crossing the Harpeth River at Hughes’ Ford.  The Union troopers captured Freeman’s Tennessee Battery, but loose it when Confederate Brigadier General Nathan Bedford Forrest made a counterattack.  Finding Union cavalry in his rear, Van Dorn withdrew back to Spring Hill, leaving the Union in control of the area.  This battle cost the Confederates 137 and the Union 100 casualties.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Final Fight

The Battle of Appomattox Court House, the final engagement for the Confederate General Robert E Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia, was fought April 9th 1865.

Confederate Major General John B Gordon’s Corps and General Fitzhugh Lee’s cavalry formed at Appomattox Court House and attacked Union General Philip H Sheridan’s cavalry at dawn on April 9th 1865, pushing the first line, commanded by Union Brigadier General Charles H Smith back.  Hitting the second line of Union cavalry commanded by Brigadier General George Crook slowed Gordon’s advance.  The Confederate continued their advance and reached the crest, where they found the entire Union V Corps in line.  The Confederate cavalry seeing the Union force withdrew and moved off toward Lynchburg, Virginia.  Union General Edward O C Ord’s soldiers advanced on Gordon’s men, as the Union II Corps started a movement to the northeast on Confederate Lieutenant General James Longstreet Corps.

It was at this point, with Lee’s army surrounded on three sides, that one of Lee’s staff; Colonel Charles Venable rode in for an appraisal of the situation.  Gordon told him to "tell General Lee I have fought my corps to a frazzle, and I fear I can do nothing unless I am heavily supported by Longstreet's corps."  It was upon receiving this news that Robert E Lee said, "Then there is nothing left for me to do but to go and see General Grant and I would rather die a thousand deaths."  Lee rode out with three of his aides shortly after to meet with Union General Ulysses S Grant to arrange for surrender.  This last action at Appomattox Court House caused the Union 260 and the Confederates 440 more casualties.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A French Louisianian Confederate

Confederate General Jean Jacques Alfred Alexandre Mouton was killed leading a charge April 8th 1864 during the Battle of Mansfield.

Jean Jacques Alfred Alexandre Mouton was born February 10th 1829 in Opelousas, Louisiana, the son of Alexandre Mouton, a former Governor of Louisiana.  He attended St Charles College in Grand Coteau, Louisiana, and following his graduation, received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.  His trip north would be the first time Mouton was exposed langue and customs other than French.  He was an average student and struggled with English, but graduated from the Military Academy in 1850, ranking 38 out 44.  Shortly after graduating Mouton resigned his commission and took a post as an assistant engineer for the New Orleans, Opelousas and Great Western Railroad.  In 1853 Mouton left this position to become a grower of sugar cane in Lafayette Parish, Louisiana.  He was also at that time a Brigadier General in Louisiana State Militia.

When the Civil War started Mouton organized a company from Lafayette Parish, and was elected the Captain of the company which would become part of the 18th Louisiana Infantry.  He would be elected Colonel of the 18th, and set to making them a disciplined regiment.  One of his soldiers said of Mouton, "As a drillmaster, he had few, if any, equals. I have seen him drill the regiment for an hour in a square, the sides of which were equal to the length of his line of battle, without once throwing a company outside or recalling a command when given. He was a strict disciplinarian and allowed no deviation from orders either by officers or soldiers."  The first action for Mouton and the 18th was at the Battle of Shiloh, where they took on Union General William Tecumseh Sherman’s troops and where Mouton was wounded.  Back in Louisiana, Mouton and 18th took part in the Battle of Labadieville.  Mouton’s Louisiana brigade was part of Confederate force that kept the Union out of the Bayou Teche area of Louisiana.

At the Battle of Mansfield Mouton’s men were the lead unit in the Confederate attack.  It was while in the lead that Mouton was shot and killed on April 8th 1864.  He was buried on the battlefield, but in 1874 Mouton’s body was moved to St John’s Cemetery in Lafayette, Louisiana.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Like The Fires Of Hell

On April 7th 1863 nine Union ironclads neared Fort Sumter to attack the Confederate held structure.

Nine Union ironclads, outfitted with the heaviest cannon to be used in naval warfare up to that time, steamed slowly into Charleston Harbor on April 7th 1863.  They were moving in for an attack on Fort Sumter.  At about 3 pm the Fort under the command of Confederate Colonel Alfred Rhett opened up on the Union ships, in what one Union man said was like "the fires of hell were turned upon the Union fleet. The air seemed full of heavy shot, and as they flew they could be seen as plainly as a base-ball in one of our games."

The Confederate batteries in the Forts of Charleston Harbor fired off more than 2,200 rounds during the battle, while the Union ironclads only fired 139 shots.  The Union guns hit Fort Sumter 55 times during the fight, leaving the Fort pretty much intact.  The ironclads didn’t make out as well during the roughly hour long battle, one of the ships, the USS Keokuk received over 90 hits, and it was only with dedication and skill that her sailors and commander Alexander C Rhind, kept her afloat until the next morning.  Among the remaining ironclad there were disabled guns, and damaged smokestacks and turrets.  Union Rear Admiral Samuel Francis DuPont who led the fleet, withdrew ships and did not renew the fight.

The Union side reported 23 casualties, while the Confederates in the Forts had 14.  The Confederates were even able to salvage one of the Dahlgren guns from the wreck of the Keokuk, which would be mounted on the Fort. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Grand Army

The Grand Army of the Republic [the GAR] was founded April 6th 1866 in Decatur, Illinois.

When the Civil War came to an end the veterans wishing to stay in contact created many organizations.  These groups were created at first for sake of camaraderie and their shared experiences, but later became a political power.  The eventual leaders  of the organizations was the GAR which was founded by Benjamin F Stephenson in Decatur, Illinois on April 6th 1866.

The GAR, which welcomed both black and white Union veterans, quickly became an arm of the Republican Party.  They worked towards voting righted for all black Union veterans.  In the 1880’s the GAR began to work on federal pensions and with the founding of old soldiers’ homes.

The members of the GAR wore military style uniforms at meetings.  The organization could be found in every one of the State as well as several foreign countries.  At the state level the GAR groups were known as “Departments”, at the local level they were called “Posts”.  “Posts” were numbered consecutively as they formed, with the rule that each of the “Posts” be named for an honored deceased person.  The GAR even had one woman who was a member, Sarah Emma Edmonds, who had fought in the Civil War as part of the 2nd Michigan Infantry under the name of Franklin Thompson.  In the 1890’s the GAR had about 490,000 members, all honorably discharged Union veterans.  They held National Encampments, annually from 1866 to 1949.  These Encampments were multiday events with formal dinners and memorial services.  The last Commander of the GAR was Theodore Penland of Oregon, and last member was Albert Woolson of Duluth, Minnesota who was 109 years old when he died in 1856.

If you’re interested in reading more, check out the web site A Brief History of the Grand Army of the Republic

Saturday, April 5, 2014

A Mounted Attack With Sabers Drawn

A part of the Appomattox Campaign, the Battle of Amelia Springs was fought April 5th 1865.

A force of Confederate cavalry under the overall command of Major General Fitzhugh Lee, and made up of the units of Brigadier Generals Martin Gary and Thomas T Munford, and Major General Thomas L Rosser attacked a brigade of Union cavalry on April 5th 1865.  The Union brigade was led by Brigadier General Henry E Davies, and was returning from scouting mission, where they burned Confederate supply wagons near Paineville, Virginia.  With the two cavalry units meeting up close to Painesville a running fight began continuing through Amelia Springs, Virginia and almost reaching Jetersville, Virginia.  The attacks were made in a mounted combat style with drawn sabers.  Jetersville is about 6 miles from where Confederate General Robert R Lee’s troops were concentrating.

When Davies’ troops closed in on Jetersville they were able to rejoin with other Union forces.  The Confederates gave up the chase and returned to Amelia Springs.  Total casualties were about 250, with the Union reporting about 158 total casualties, with about 30 killed.

There was also a fight that night between two Union divisions commanded by Brigadier General Nelson A Miles and Major General Gershom against the Confederate rear guard near Amelia Springs commanded by Major General John B Gordon.  The Confederates held off the Union attack and Lee’s army continued their march.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Only One Battle

Union Colonel Alfred M Wood enlisted on April 4th 1861 in the 84th New York Infantry, also known as the 14th Brooklyn.

Alfred M Wood was born April 19th 1825.  On April 13th 1858 he was made the Colonel of the 14th New York Militia.

When the Civil War started Wood enlisted in Brooklyn, New York on April 4th 1861 for three years’ service in the 84th New York Infantry, which is better known as the 14th Brooklyn.  He was wounded and captured at the First Battle of Manassas; where Wood led his regiment in two attempts to capture Henry Hill.  It was during this attack that Confederate General Thomas J Jackson, whom the 14th was charging against, gave the Regiment its nick name of the “Red Legged Devils”.  Wood would be exchanged and returned to duty.  Do to the wounds he received at Manassas, Wood was discharged on October 18th 1861.

Wood became the Mayor of the city of Brooklyn in 1864.  After the war ended he spent a great deal of time helping the veterans of his old regiment the 14th Brooklyn.  Wood died July 28th 1895, and is buried in the Greenfield Cemetery in Uniondale, Nassau, New York.

If you would like to read more about the life of Alfred M. Wood this is a good site.