March 30, 1865: Prelude to Five Forks

 

By the 30th it became obvious to both sides that the Confederate right at Five Forks was in jeopardy.  Grant discusses this in his memoirs:

The next day, March 30th, we had made sufficient progress to the south-west to warrant me in starting Sheridan with his cavalry over by Dinwiddie with instructions to then come up by the road leading north-west to Five Forks, thus menacing the right of Lee’s line.  

This movement was made for the purpose of extending our lines to the west as far as practicable towards the enemy’s extreme right, or Five Forks. The column moving detached from the army still in the trenches was, excluding the cavalry, very small. The forces in the trenches were themselves extending to the left flank. Warren was on the extreme left when the extension began, but Humphreys was marched around later and thrown into line between him and Five Forks.    
My hope was that Sheridan would be able to carry Five Forks, get on the enemy’s right flank and rear, and force them to weaken their centre to protect their right so that an assault in the centre might be successfully made. General Wright’s corps had been designated to make this assault, which I intended to order as soon as information reached me of Sheridan’s success. He was to move under cover as close to the enemy as he could get.    
It is natural to suppose that Lee would understand my design to be to get up to the South Side and ultimately to the Danville Railroad, as soon as he had heard of the movement commenced on the 29th. These roads were so important to his very existence while he remained in Richmond and Petersburg, and of such vital importance to him even in case of retreat, that naturally he would make most strenuous efforts to defend them. He did on the 30th send Pickett with five brigades to reinforce Five Forks. He also sent around to the right of his army some two or three other divisions, besides directing that other troops be held in readiness on the north side of the James River to come over on call. He came over himself to superintend in person the defence of his right flank. (more…)

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God Save the South

Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other.

Abraham Lincoln

 

Something for the weekend.  God Save the South.  Written in 1861 by George Henry Miles, it served as the unofficial national anthem of the Confederacy.  Strong religious fervor helped sustain the Confederates through four bloody years, just as it would sustain them in the defeat they were about to endure one hundred and fifty years ago.

Published in: on March 28, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on God Save the South  
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Grant Plans His Attack

General Ulysses Grant

 Grant, a failure all of his life except for war, marriage and his last valiant race with the Grim Reaper to finish his memoirs and provide for the financial security of his family;  seemingly a dull plodder, but possessed of iron determination and an uncanny ability to never let the trees obscure the forest;  happily married and a firm believer in God, but subject to bouts of depression when he would grasp for the bottle;  the shabby little man who won the greatest war in American history. 

 

 

On March 24, 1865 Grant sent out his movement order for the Army of the Potomac and the Army of the James.  Grant planned a vast move to the west to force Lee to come out of his entrenchments to avoid Grant outflanking him on his right.  While this was going on, Sheridan would strike with the Union cavalry to sever the rail lines linking Richmond and Petersburg to the dwindling remainder of the Confederacy.  Grant planned for the movement to begin on March 29, 1865, taking advantage of the good weather that had dried the roads.  The Appomattox campaign was about to begin. (more…)

Published in: on March 27, 2015 at 4:30 am  Comments Off on Grant Plans His Attack  
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Lincoln to City Point

Lincoln 1860 and 1865

 

 

Anyone looking at photographs of Lincoln in 1860 and 1865 can’t help but see how much the War aged him.  By March 1865 Grant thought that Lincoln could use some time away from Washington, and suggested to him that he visit Grant at his headquarters at City Point, Virginia on the James River.   Lincoln readily agreed and on March 23, 1865 left for City Point, along with his wife and Tad.  In his last month of life, he would spend eighteen days at City Point. (more…)

Published in: on March 26, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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The Last Confederate Offensive

Fort Stedman

 Few generals in American history have been as aggressive as Robert E. Lee.  Faced with a hopeless military situation in March of 1865, he decided that he had no alternative but to launch an attack.  His starving army was down to 50,000 men, and with the lines around Petersburg and Richmond so extensive, when Grant began to move with an army nearly three times the size of Lee’s it did not take a military genius to realize that he would break Lee’s lines.  However, if Lee could break Grant’s lines first, it might buy Lee time.  Grant would perhaps consolidate his lines around the breakthrough and delay his Spring offensive.  That might give General Joseph E. Johnston sufficient time to march up ahead of Sherman from North Carolina and link up with Lee.  At that time Lee could attempt to defeat Sherman and then Grant seriatim.  The plan relied far too much on hopes and wishes, but other than surrender, it was the best of the bleak options facing Lee.

(more…)

Published in: on March 24, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Last Confederate Offensive  
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March 23, 1865: General Orders Number 14

Acting upon the authorization of the Confederate Congress, the Inspector General of the Confederate Army on March 23, 1865 issued the following order for the enlistment of black troops: (more…)

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Book Haul

books

 

My bride and I attended the book sale of the Normal Public Library in Normal, Illinois on Friday March 20, 2015 to feed my bibliophilia addiction.  For $50.00 my bride and I picked up quite a few books.  She got several books and magazines on crocheting, she being on a crocheting crusade for the past two years.  I have to stay on the move in my house, lest I be covered over in afghans.  I thought there might be some mild interest in the books I picked out, and here they are:

1.  Frontsoldaten by Stephen G. Fritz (1995)-A look at the common frontline soldiers of the Wehrmacht, and a tome that underlines this maxim of the British Army-Those who have not fought the Germans do not know war.

2.  Hard Magic (2011) and Monster Hunter Vendetta (2010) both by Larry Correia.  I have heard good things about science fiction/fantasy author Correia, but these will have been the first of his books I have read.

3.  Hitler’s Renegades by Christopher Ailsby- (2004)-An interesting look at the non-German troops who fought with the Third Reich.  The section on the Spanish Azul (Blue) division was a bit brief for my taste however.

4.  Art in the Third Reich by Berthold Hinz-(1979)-Proof positive that most art produced under the auspices of the Third Reich can be described in two words:  banal kitsch.

5.  The Ancient Near Eastern Tradition by Milton Covensky-(1966)-Part of the Major Traditions of World Civilization, one of those multi-volume looks at world history which were all the rage in the sixties.

6.  The Mughal World by Abraham Eraly-(2007)-A look at life in Mughal India by perhaps the foremost expert on that period.

7.  Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey The River of Doubt by Candice Millard-(2005)-A masterful look at the Amazonian expedition of 1913-14 that almost killed Roosevelt.

8.  History of the Byzantine Empire, vol. II, by AA Vasiliev-(1952)-I have always thought the best Byzantinists have been Russians, and perhaps the greatest of them was Vasiliev who emigrated from Russia in 1925 and who taught in the US for years.

9.  Samuel Pepys Diary by- Samuel Pepys-A Random House edition of selections from the diary of Pepys.  Pepys was something of a rotter but he is never dull.  At random on a page I see three passages.  On the first he thanks God that it has been three years since he had a kidney operation to cut out a stone and that he is still free from pain. (I can empathize with his joy.)  In the next passage he listens to a preacher at church who preaches like a fool.  Finally he visits a friend, notes that his servant girl is pretty and searches her out for a kiss.

10. A History of French Literature by L. Cazamian-(1955)-A book that I trust will remedy my bone ignorance on the subject. (more…)

Published in: on March 22, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Book Haul  
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Concordia Choir: Medley of Civil War Songs

 

 

Something for the weekend.  A medley of Civil War songs, Tenting on the Old Camp Ground, Johnny Has Gone For a Soldier and The Dying Soldier, sung by the choir of my bride’s alma mater, Concordia College of Morehead, Minnesota.  Go Cobbers!

Published in: on March 21, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Concordia Choir: Medley of Civil War Songs  
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Ides of March: Continuing Fascination

 

CASSIUS

Stoop, then, and wash. How many ages hence
Shall this our lofty scene be acted over
In states unborn and accents yet unknown!

BRUTUS

How many times shall Caesar bleed in sport,
That now on Pompey’s basis lies along
No worthier than the dust!

CASSIUS

So oft as that shall be,
So often shall the knot of us be call’d
The men that gave their country liberty.

 

(I posted this on The American Catholic on March 15, and I thought the Shakespeare Mavens of Almost Chosen People might find it interesting.)

 

I think it would have amused the Romans of Caesar’s generation if they could have learned that the assassination of Julius Caesar would eventually receive immortality through a play written more than 16 centuries after the event by a barbarian playwright in the Tin Islands that Caesar had briefly invaded.  It would have tickled their well developed concept of the ludicrous, judging from Roman comedy.

In the above video William Shatner gives a pretty poor rendition of the Mark Antony speech.  Charlton Heston, below, shows him how it should be done:

It is strange the fascination that the assassination of Caesar, more than twenty centuries ago, continues to exert.  Popular historian Barry Strauss has just released a book on the assassination of Caesar, to join the ranks of the many volumes on the subject that came before.  (Strauss is a first rate historian, and I have purchased this book although I have not yet read it.)  Why should this assassination remain of interest?  I think the clue is Dante placing Brutus and Cassius, the chief assassins, in the maws of Satan in his Inferno.  Dante was a partisan of the Empire, and thus the murders of Caesar, the man who gave the dying Republic its final, fatal blow and set the stage for the Empire, were worthy to be placed in the mouths of Satan, along with Judas who betrayed Christ. (more…)

Published in: on March 20, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Ides of March: Continuing Fascination  
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March 17, 1865: Lincoln Comments on Confederate Plans to Enlist Black Troops

 

Last photo of Abraham Lincoln

Making a short speech on March 17, 1865 to the 140th Indiana Infantry regiment, Lincoln commented on the plans of the Confederacy to enlist black soldiers:

FELLOW CITIZENS—It will be but a very few words that I shall undertake to say. I was born in Kentucky, raised in Indiana and lived in Illinois. (Laughter.) And now I am here, where it is my business to care equally for the good people of all the States. I am glad to see an Indiana regiment on this day able to present the captured flag to the Governor of Indiana. (Applause.) I am not disposed, in saying this, to make a distinction between the States, for all have done equally well. (Applause.) There are but few views or aspects of this great war upon which I have not said or written something whereby my own opinions might be known. But there is one—the recent attempt of our erring brethren, as they are sometimes called—(laughter)—to employ the negro to fight for them. I have neither written nor made a speech on that subject, because that was their business, not mine; and if I had a wish upon the subject I had not the power to introduce it, or make it effective. The great question with them was, whether the negro, being put into the army, would fight for them. I do not know, and therefore cannot decide. (Laughter.) They ought to know better than we. I have in my lifetime heard many arguments why the negroes ought to be slaves; but if they fight for those who would keep them in slavery it will be a better argument than any I have yet heard. (more…)

Published in: on March 17, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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