April 30, 1863: Hooker Arrives at Chancellorsville

 

 

 

Fighting Joe HookerHooker arrived at Chancellorsville on the morning of April 30.  He was in high spirits and issued this order to his army:

GENERAL ORDERS No. 47.

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, Camp near Falmouth, Va., April 30, 1863.

       It is with heartfelt satisfaction the commanding general announces to the army that the operations of the last three days have determined that our enemy must either ingloriously fly, or come out from behind his defenses and give us battle on our own ground, where certain destruction awaits him.  The operations of the Fifth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Corps have been a succession of splendid achievements.

       By command of Major-General Hooker:

S. WILLIAMS, Assistant Adjutant General.

(more…)

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Published in: on April 30, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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April 29, 1863: Battle of Grand Gulf

On April 29, 1863 Grant commenced his movement to cross the Mississippi and begin his operations to place Vicksburg under siege.  Grant decided to cross the river south of Grand Gulf, approximately twelve miles south of Vicksburg.  Admiral David Porter led seven gunboats against the Confederate batteries at Grand Gulf.  with the intention of silencing the Confederate guns and then securing the area with troops of Maj. Gen. John A. McClernand’s XIII Corps troops who were loaded aboard transports and barges. The attack by the seven ironclads began at 8 a.m. and continued until about 1:30 p.m.  Uable to silence the batteries, he Union ironclads  and transports retreated. After dark,  the ironclads attacked the Confederate batteries again while the trasnsports and barges ran the batteries to get south of Grand Gulf. After the transports had passed Grand Gulf, they embarked the troops at Disharoon’s plantation and disembarked them on the Mississippi shore at Bruinsburg, below Grand Gulf.  Charles A. Dana, personal represenative of Secretary of War Stanton, reported on the fight at Grand Gulf and the crossing of the Mississippi: (more…)

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April 28, 1863: Marching Towards Chancellorsville

Hooker's Plan

One hundred and fifty years ago the Army of the Potomac was en route to what would be come the battlefield of Chancellorsville.  Hooker was in fine spirits.  He outnumbered Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia 133,000 to 60,000, two of Lee’s divisions being in Southeastern Virginia on detached duty and that would take no part in the battle.  He planned to crush Lee between a Union corps at Fredericksburg led by General Sedgwick and and an attack by six corps led by him from The Wilderness, the rugged wooded terrain that surrounded Chancellorsville, that would fall on Lee’s rear.  E.P. Alexander who fought at Chancellorsville as a Confederate artillery colonel, and who would end the War as a Brigadier General and commander of First Corps artillery, in his two memoirs, Military Memoirs of a Confederate and Fighting for the Confederacy, demonstrated ability as a keen military analyst, and he thought Hooker’s plan was the best, and the best executed up to May 1, of the many plans of campaign by the Army of the Potomac against the Army of Northern Virginia. (more…)

Mister Here’s Your Mule!

Something for the weekend.  Mister Here’s Your Mule!  The Civil War had a great many comic songs and one of the best was Mister Here’s Your Mule which was popular with soldiers on both side.  Written in 1862 by C.D. Benson, the song swiftly became a campfire favorite.

Published in: on April 27, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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The Battle of San Pietro

Probably the most realistic depiction of World War II combat put to film, The Battle of San Pietro, in the public domain, is now considered a minor masterpiece.  At the time of its release in 1945 it was intensely controversial.  Fought between December 8-17 in 1943, the assault of the 143rd Infantry of the 36th Division was filmed by Captain John Huston, who was making films for the Army, a rare case where the Army actually made use of the civilian expertise of one of its soldiers.  Huston’s film shows war in all of its unglamorous horror.  After the Hollywood depiction of war during World War II it came as an unpleasant revelation for viewers.  Army brass were concerned about the film having a depressing effect on the morale of the troops.  Army Chief of Staff, General George C. Marshall, however, came to the defense of the film, thinking that it would make a good training film, underlining to troops why they had to take their training seriously.  The film was used in training and Huston was promoted to major.

Published in: on April 26, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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April 25, 1943: ANZAC Day and Easter

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.

Laurence Binyon

In 1943 Anzac Day, April 25, fell on the same day as Easter.   Anzac Day commemorates the landing of the New Zealand and Australian troops at Gallipoli in World War I.  Although the effort to take the Dardanelles was ultimately unsuccessful, the Anzac troops demonstrated great courage and tenacity, and the ordeal the troops underwent in this campaign has a vast meaning to the peoples of New Zealand and Australia.

New York City saw its first public observance of Anzac Day that year as some 300 Australian airmen and sailors marched in the Easter Parade and were cheered by the crowds lining the parade route.  Anzac Day observances in Australia and New Zealand were muted that year, due to the day falling on Easter, and so many men were away fighting in the War.

American audiences had become familiar with the courage of Anzac troops by viewing the documentary Kokoda Front Line, the video at the beginning of this post, which memorialized the struggle of Australian troops fighting in New Guinea.  Damien Parer, the cinematographer on the film won an Oscar for the film in 1943.  He would die on September 17, 1944, age 32, filming Marines in combat on Peleliu

In Melbourne, Australia on Anzac Day, the US 1st Marine Division marched through the streets in honor of the day to the cheers of their Australian hosts. (more…)

Published in: on April 25, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (3)  
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April 24, 1863: Promulgation of the Lieber Code

Art. 43. Therefore, in a war between the United States and a belligerent which admits of slavery, if a person held in bondage by that belligerent be captured by or come as a fugitive under the protection of the military forces of the United States, such person is immediately entitled to the rights and privileges of a freeman To return such person into slavery would amount to enslaving a free person, and neither the United States nor any officer under their authority can enslave any human being. Moreover, a person so made free by the law of war is under the shield of the law of nations, and the former owner or State can have, by the law of postliminy, no belligerent lien or claim of service.

Francis Lieber led a colorful life.  Born in Berlin in 1798, he enlisted in the Prussian Army in 1815 and was wounded at Waterloo.  Unable to attend a University in Berlin due to his membership in a Liberal group that opposed the Prussian monarchy, he attended Jena University and, a brilliant student, completed his dissertation on mathematics in four months in 1820.  He took time out from his academic career to fight in the Greek War of Independence in which he was severely wounded.  He served as a tutor for the son of the Prussian ambassador in Rome for a year and wrote a book about his experiences in Greece.  Receiving a royal pardon, he returned to Prussia only to run afoul of the authorities again for his Republican beliefs.  Imprisoned, he took advantage of the time to do what any good Romantic of his generation would do, he wrote a book of poetry, Songs of Wine and Bliss.

After his release he fled to England, where he supported himself by acting as a tutor.  Meeting his future wife and marrying her, the Liebers left the Old World to start a new life in the New World in 1827.  There Lieber embarked on an academic career.  In Boston he achieved notoriety for opening a school which gave instruction in swimming, a first in America.  He edited a 13 volume Encyclopedia Americana.  From 1833-1835 he resided in Philadelphia while preparing a plan of education for Girard College.  In 1835 he began a sojourn of 21 years duration at the University of South Carolina teaching history and political economics.  He retained an interest in Germany, and returned for a few months after the revolution of 1848 although his hopes that Germany would take the Liberal path he favored were quickly dashed.

From 1856-1865 he was professor of history and political science at Columbia.  In 1860 he was also appointed a professor of political science at the law school at Columbia, a post he would hold until his death in 1872.

The coming of the Civil War tragically divided Lieber’s family, just as it divided the nation.  One of his sons fought and died for the Confederacy, while his other two sons fought for the Union.  Lieber himself was a staunch advocate of the Union and an opponent of slavery.  He founded and headed the Loyal Publication Society that wrote scholarly pro-Union propaganda during the War.  He first met Lincoln at the White House in 1861 to confer upon him an honorary degree from Columbia.  Thereafter he was called to Washington frequently to consult with Lincoln, Stanton and Seward on questions of international law.

During his academic career Lieber had written many books and articles on law, politics and history that had given him an international reputation.  It is therefore not surprising that Lincoln turned to Lieber to draft a code of Law to govern the Union forces during war-time.  The Code was promulgated in General Order 100 on April 24, 1863. (more…)

Published in: on April 24, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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The Men That Fought At Minden

The twenty-third in my ongoing series examining the poetry of Rudyard Kipling. The other posts in the series may be read here, here , here , here, here , here, here, here, here, here, here, here , here, here, here , here, here, here , here, here, here and here.  In his poems Kipling was fond of the theme of education.  In several poems he tied in education with another great theme of his poetry, the British Army, Kipling being fascinated by the rough and ready process by which soldiers learned how to be soldiers.

One feature of the British Army that has helped make it such a formidable force over the centuries is the pride in regimental history taken by officers and men.  In the poem The Men That Fought at Minden a sergeant, or perhaps a corporal, is using the battle of Minden as an example to tell new recruits what to expect as they learn how to be soldiers.

On August 1, 1759 an Anglo-German army won a striking victory over a larger French army at the battle of Minden in Germany.  The victory was one of the numerous victories won by the British in 1759, the Annus Mirabilis, which included the taking of Quebec.  The following British regiments fought at Minden and are known as Minden regiments:   12th of Foot, 20th Foot, 23rd of Foot, 25th of Foot, 37th of Foot and  51st Foot.  Minden Day is still observed on August 1, when the men of these regiments wear roses in their caps.  Lord George Sackville was cashiered from the British Army due to cowardice that day.  As Lord George Germain he would serve as George III’s Secretary of State during the American Revolution, contributing greatly to the British loss in that War.  The Marquis de Lafayette’s father died at the battle, and sparked in Lafayette a strong desire for revenge on the British that he brought to fruition in the aid that he brought to the American cause in the Revolution.

Kipling published this poem in 1896 as part of his second series of Barrack Room Ballads, poems on the British Army as seen through the eyes of common soldiers.

The noncom in the poem is remarkably ignorant of the actual battle of Minden, but he is no doubt completely accurate in his description of what the recruits can expect as they learn to be soldiers.  He is telling them not to be disheartened by their experiences, and that all soldiers of the regiment start out the same way.  They are part of the chain that stretches back through the history of the regiment, and for most of the soldiers that knowledge they ultimately will take pride in, although probably not as much comfort as they take in the beer mentioned at the end of the poem!  Here is the text of The Men That Fought at Minden: (more…)

Published in: on April 23, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Men That Fought At Minden  
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April 22, 1863: Farragut Complains of New Uniforms

Admiral Farragut

Admiral Farragut throughout his career was fairly outspoken, and on April 22, 1863 he sent a letter to Assistant Secretary of the Navy Gustavus Fox.  Among other topics, Farragut expressed his dislike for the new uniforms for naval officers.  Farragut had served in the Navy for 53 years by 1863, beginning his career as a nine-year old midshipman in 1810 and seeing combat duty in the War of 1812.  Over a half century he had seen many changes in the uniforms of the Navy, and no doubt he was simply sick of what he clearly viewed as frequent and unnecessary changes:

Pray do not let those officers at Washington be changing our uniform every week or two.  I think there should have been but one change made.  As you made a new grade it would have been but right to make a uniform of it, and I wish that uniform [for Rear Admiral] had been simply a broad stripe of lace on the cuff say an inch and a quarter wide with a narrow stripe of a quarter of an inch above it, and a little rosette with a silver star in the centre. The star is the designation of the Admiral and therefore should be visible.  The other uniforms were all well enough but this adding stripes until they reach a man’s elbow, appears to me to be a great error .   In the first place you must count the stripes to ascertain the officer’s rank, which at any distance is almost impossible, and I presume the objects of uniforms are principally for the purpose of recognizing the grades in order to pay the honor due on all official occasions.  It appears to me, however, that the object of the present change of uniform is to blend the grades as much as possible;  or, in other words, to avoid distinctions.  If such is the case, bring us down to the simple blue coat with navy buttons;  but if the grade is to be marked, let it be distinct and unmistakable.  (more…)

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April 21, 1863: Streight’s Mule Raid Begins

In reviewing the history of this ill-fated expedition, I am convinced that had we been furnished at Nashville with 800 good horses, instead of poor, young mules, we would have been successful, in spite of all other drawbacks; or if General Dodge had succeeded in detaining Forrest one day longer, we would have been successful, even with our poor outfit.

Colonel Abel Streight

Streight's_Raid_route

One of the more unsuccessful raids of the Civil War, Colonel Abel Streight’s Mule Raid was filled with high drama and low comedy.  Go here for a first rate video presentation of the raid.

A bookseller in Indianapolis at the beginning of the war, Streight was Colonel of the 51rst Indiana Infantry in 1863.  He hit upon the idea of a raid through Northern Alabama.  With Union loyalist Alabamians as guides, Streight planned to drive through Northern Alabama and on into Northern Georgia to destroy the rail hub of the Western & Atlantic Railroad, which would have cripple the ability of the Confederates to supply their forces in Tennessee.  The raid was not intended as a cavalry raid, most of Streight’s force to consist of mounted infantry, their mounts being used for transportation and not to be fought from.  Streight was given command for his raid of a brigade of 1700 men, consisting of  two companies of the First West Tennessee and First Alabama Cavalry regiments, and the Third Ohio, Fifty-First Indiana and Eightieth Illinois Infantry regiments.

Signs that the expedition was ill-fated began when most of the men were mounted on temperamental, is there any other type?, mules.  Riding a mule can be a trial even for a skilled rider, and most of Streight’s men were novices.  Confederates during the expedition had great fun laughing at the “Jackass Cavalry” as Streight’s men were deemed, and Union morale suffered as a result.  The constant braying of the mules made finding the raiders an easy task for the Confederates during the raid, as well as getting on the nerves of their unfortunate riders.  The slow pace of the mules made certain that any Confederate force mounted on horses was going to be much faster.  Streight recognized the problem with the mules from the outset, and objected to them prior to the raid, to no avail.  To make the fiasco complete, about 200 of Streight’s men had no mounts at all at the beginning of the raid. (more…)