After his successes at Jackson, Champion Hill and Big Black River, Grant assumed that Confederate morale might be low enough that Vicksburg could be taken by assault and avoid a time consuming siege. In that he was mistaken. The Confederates lacked the strength to defeat him in open battle. but they had both the strength, and the morale, to hold Vicksburg. The first assault by Grant occurred on May 19, 1863 and was aimed at the Stockade Redan. (more…)
Something for the weekend. The New York Volunteer sung by Bobby Horton who has waged a one man campaign to bring Civil War music to modern audiences. New York supplied more troops to the Union than any other state. Some 400-460,000 New Yorkers wore Union blue during the War in 27 regiments of Cavalry, 3 regiments of United States Colored Troops, 15 regiments of artillery, 8 engineer regiments and an astounding 248 infantry regiments. The New York Volunteers took a back seat to men from no other state in the Union in providing manpower to win the War.
The decisive battle of the Vicksburg Campaign, and one of the decisive battles of the War, the battle of Champion Hill led to the siege of Vicksburg, and once it became a siege, with the Union able to bring endless reinforcements to reinforce Grant during the siege via the Mississippi, the fall of Vicksburg became merely a matter of time. Pemberton with 22,000 men had planned to attempt to attack Union supply columns coming from Grand Gulf, south of Vicksburg, to Raymond, Mississippi. Receiving repeated orders that he move on Clinton, Mississippi instead, he counter-marched and took up a defensive position against the advancing Federals at Champion Hill.
Here is Pemberton’s description of how the battle began, taken from his official report: (more…)
After crossing the Mississippi, Grant set about the process of isolating Vicksburg from the remainder of the Confederacy by seizing the capital of Mississippi, Jackson, defeating the Confederate forces there, and destroying the rail links with Vicksburg. This would make it much more difficult for a Confederate force to attack his army once he put Vicksburg under siege. It was a strategy that Johnston, who was in overall command of the theater of operations for the Confederacy lacked the resources to combat. With 6,000 troops in Jackson, he decided to withdraw which he did on May 14th, after brief resistance. giving Grant a free hand to wreck the rail lines. (more…)
The gentlemen killed and the gentlemen died,
But she was the South’s incarnate pride
That mended the broken gentlemen
And sent them out to the war again,
That kept the house with the men away
And baked the bricks where there was no clay,
Made courage from terror and bread from bran
And propped the South on a swansdown fan
Through four long years of ruin and stress,
The pride–and the deadly bitterness.
Stephen Vincent Benet, John Brown’s Body
Something for the weekend. Written in 1863 by Captain G. W. Alexander, The Southern Soldier Boy is a fitting tribute to the ragged warriors of the Confederacy who maintained an unequal struggle for four years and the women who loved and sustained them. During the War it was popularized by actress Sally Partington, the toast of Richmond, who would sing the song as part of the play The Virginia Cavalier. The above version is by Bobby Horton, who has waged a one man crusade to bring Civil War music to modern audiences. (more…)
“I have but to show him my design, and I know that if it can be done it will be done. Straight as the needle to the pole he advances to the execution of my purpose.”
Robert E. Lee on Stonewall Jackson
Of Thomas Jonathan Jackson, nicknamed Stonewall by General Barnard Bee at the battle of Bull Run, it was said he lived by the New Testament and fought by the Old. Certainly throughout his life he was a convinced Christian. As a young man he would attend services of various Christian denominations. In Mexico, during his service in the Mexican War, he attended mass, although he did not convert to Catholicism. Instead he eventually became a Presbyterian. His Bible was his constant companion, and he would often speak of God and theological matters in private conversation.
Jackson in his professional life was a soldier. Just before the Civil War he was a professor of natural and experimental philosophy (science) and artillery instruction at the Virginia Military Institute. As a teacher he made a good soldier. His lectures were rather dry. If his students seemed to fail to grasp a lecture, he would repeat it the next day, word for word.
His home life was a mixture of sorrow and joy. His first wife died in childbirth along with their still-born son, a tragedy that would have crushed many a man less iron-willed than Jackson. His second marriage, like his first, was happy, but heartache also haunted it. A daughter died shortly after birth in 1858. A second daughter was born in 1862, Julia, shortly before Jackson’s own death in 1863. His wife would spend a widowhood of 52 years, dedicated to raising their daughter, cherishing the memory of her husband, and helping destitute Confederate veterans. For her good works she became known as the Widow of the Confederacy. Their daughter Julia would marry and have children before her early death of typhoid fever at age 26. Her two children had several children and there are many living descendants of Jackson.
He and his second wife established and taught a Sunday school for black slaves. At the time it was against the law in Virginia to teach slaves to read, but apparently that is precisely what Jackson and his wife did. One of the last letters he ever posted was his regular contribution he mailed off throughout the war for the financial support of the Sunday school for slaves he and his wife had founded. (more…)
Peter Paul Cooney was born in County Roscommin, Ireland in 1822. He went with his family to America at the age of 5. Raised on a farm in Monroe, Michigan. Studying at Notre Dame it was perhaps fated that he would become a Holy Cross priest, although he wasn’t ordained until the age of 37. When the Civil War broke out Father Cooney was at Notre Dame. Although at 39 he was rather old for a military chaplain, he enlisted in the 35th Indiana Infantry, nicknamed the First Indiana Irish, and served 44 months, the entire War, with the 35th.
In a regiment of brave mostly Irishmen, Father Cooney stood out. After the battle of Murphreesboro the Colonel of the regiment, Bernard F. Mullen wrote:
To Father Cooney, our chaplain, too much praise cannot be given. Indifferent as to himself, he was deeply solicitous for the temporal comfort and spiritual welfare of us all. On the field he was cool and indifferent to danger, and in the name of the regiment I thank him for his kindness and laborious attention to the dead and dying.
After the battle of Nashville, Brigadier General Nathan Kimball summed up the chaplain:
Of Father Cooney, chaplain of the Thirty-fifth Indiana, I commend him as an example of the army chaplin; meek, pious, and brave as a lion, he worked with his brave regiment in the valley of the shadow of death, affording the ministrations of his holy religion to the wounded and dying, and giving words of encouragement to his fellow soldiers.
Before battles, Father Cooney would stand before the regiment, lead the men in prayer and give them mass absolution. The commander of the Army of the Cumberland, Major General William S. Rosecrans, a fervent Catholic convert, was so taken by this that he ordered the Protestant chaplains in the Army to do likewise!
Father Cooney noted in his letters home to his brother that Protestant soldiers would often attend Mass, especially before a battle, and some of them converted. He believed that the courage of Catholic soldiers in the Army helped break down prejudice against the Faith that some of their Protestant fellow soldiers had originally harbored.
I have been for the last two months very busy in preparing the men to complete their Easter duty, otherwise I would have written oftener, to you. Our division consists of about twelve thousand men and there are Catholics in every regiment. Protestants attend the sermons by thousands in the open field. I have baptized many of them and prejudice against to the Church is gone almost entirely.
A short time ago I baptized and gave his first Communion to the Major General commanding our division. He is now a most fervent catholic and his example is powerful over the men of his command. I have every assistance from him in anything that I require for the discharge of my duties. He is extremely kind to me. (more…)
“And Thou knowest O Lord, when Thou didst decide that the Confederacy should not succeed, Thou hadst first to remove thy servant, Stonewall Jackson.”
Father D. Hubert, Chaplain, Hay’s Louisiana Brigade, upon the dedication of the statue of Stonewall Jackson on May 10, 1881 in New Orleans
Something for the weekend. After the 150th anniversary of Chancellorsville only Stonewall Jackson’s Way, sung by Tennessee Ernie Ford, seems appropriate. The song is a fitting evocation of the man, who, if he had not been mortally wounded at Chancellorsville, might well have with Lee brought about a war ending victory for the Confederacy at Gettysburg. I fully agree with Father Hubert that the death of General Jackson was probably a necessary factor in the defeat of the Confederacy. As a military team he and Lee were able to accomplish military miracles and with his death the Confederacy could still rely upon the endless courage of their ragged warriors and the brilliance of Lee, but the age of military miracles in the Civil War ended with the passing of Jackson.
The song was taken from a poem found on the body of a dead Confederate sergeant after the First Battle of Winchester, May 25, 1862: (more…)
After the brilliant flank attack of Jackson on May 2, 1863 which wrecked the Union 11th Corps, Lee still faced a daunting situation as morning dawned on May 3. Hooker had been reinforced by Reynolds Corps overnight which made good his losses and Lee’s Army of approximately 43,000 faced 76,000 troops under Hooker. His forces were also divided with Jackson’s Corps, now temporarily commanded by General Jeb Stuart after Jackson’s wounding, located behind the right of the Union army. If this were not a bad enough situation, Lee still had Sedgwick south of Fredericksburg with 40,000 men confronting the 11,000 of Early. If Sedgwick attacked, Lee could be facing an attack from his rear. Unbeknownst to Lee, in the wake of the flank attack of Jackson, Hooker had sent an urgent message to Sedgwick ordering him to attack immediately.
The first thing Lee had to do was to reunite his army confronting Hooker. Lee in his official report details how this was done: (more…)
When the blue-coated
Unprepared ranks of Howard saw that storm,
Heralded by wild rabbits and frightened deer,
Burst on them yelling, out of the whispering woods,
They could not face it. Some men died where they stood,
The storm passed over the rest. It was Jackson’s storm,
It was his old trick of war, for the last time played.
He must have known it. He loosed it and drove it on,
Hearing the long yell shake like an Indian cry
Through the dense black oaks, the clumps of second-growth pine,
And the red flags reel ahead through the underbrush.
Stephen Vincent Benet, John Brown’s Body
The plan having been made for the flank attack against Hooker, it remained for Jackson to execute it. For a very long day he and his corps marched along the front of Hooker’s massive army’s front and into the rear of the right of his army. Numerous reports came to Hooker from Union units reporting movement by a large number of Confederates to their front. Hooker, now firmly ensconced in the pleasant land of wishful thinking, chose to interpret these reports as evidence that Lee was retreating. Hooker had his army sit idle that day, the day when he could have crushed Lee with overwhelming numbers.
Lee described Jackson’s march in his official report of the battle on September 21, 1863: (more…)