June 30, 1862: Battles of Frazier’s Farm and White Oak Swamp

As June 3oth dawned the Union army was in full retreat to the James.  By noon, one-third of the Army of the Potomac had reached the James, while the other two-thirds was strung out on roads leading to the James between Glendale and White Oak Swamp.  This presented a tempting target to General Lee.  Ordering Jackson in the north to cross White Oak Creek and press the Union rear guard, the remainder of the Army of Northern Virginia, some 45,000 men, would attack two miles southwest at Glendale, and inflict what Lee hoped would be a crushing defeat on the Union forces marching to the James.  It was a good plan that fell down almost completely in execution.

Jackson, with that strange lethargy that marred all his operations in the Seven Days, spent all of the day north of White Oak Creek, launching feeble assaults which were easily repulsed by the Union VI Corp under General William Franklin.

The Confederate attack at Glendale fared little better.  Huger’s division failed to participate in the offensive,  slowed by felled trees and the failure of Huger to take an alternative route.  Holmes and Magruder launched a weak attack against the V Corps of General Fitz John Porter, the attack being broken up by Union artillery fire, supplemented by naval bombardment.

At 4:00 PM the divisions of Longstreet and A.P. Hill attacked at Glendale with the fighting centering on Frazier’s Farm, held by the Pennyslvania Reserves division of the V Corps under General George McCall.  Hard fighting continued until 8:30 PM.  The Union line held, and the Union army continued its retreat to Malvern Hill on the James.  The battle resulted in similar casualties for both sides:  Confederate 3,673 and Union 3, 797.  A golden opportunity to do severe damage to the Union army had been missed due to the poor execution which was a hallmark of the inexperienced Confederate command structure during the Seven Days.  Here is General Lee’s report written on March 6, 1863: (more…)

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Published in: on June 30, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on June 30, 1862: Battles of Frazier’s Farm and White Oak Swamp  
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America the Beautiful

Something for the weekend.  A bit early for the  Fourth of July:  America the Beautiful.   The lyrics were originally written in 1893 by English professor Katharine Lynn Bates in her poem Pike’s Peak.  The music was supplied by a hymn tune of Samuel A. Ward in 1904 and the most popular American patriotic hymn was born.

Here is Ray Charles’ immortal version:

 

June 28, 1919: Treaty of Versailles Signed

 

A century ago the Treaty of Versailles was signed.  It turned out to be a twenty year truce prior to the onset of World War II, but none of the signatories of course knew that at the time.  At 198 pages it is a bloated document, never a good sign.  It rambles along for 440 articles.  Go here to glance at it.  Perhaps the man who understood the implications of the Treaty of Versailles best was Marshal Ferdinand Foch, Supreme Commander of the Allied Armies, in 1918 in France and Italy, who thought it was too lenient on Germany.  As the treaty was being signed, he remarked:  “This is not peace. This is an armistice for twenty years.”   Foch died in 1929 at age 77, a decade before he would have learned how much of a prophet he was.

 

Published in: on June 28, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on June 28, 1919: Treaty of Versailles Signed  
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June 27, 1864: Battle of Kennesaw Mountain

Kennesaw_Mountain

I have heard men say that if they ever killed a Yankee during the war

they were not aware of it. I am satisfied that on this memorable day,
every man in our regiment killed from one score to four score, yea,
five score men. I mean from twenty to one hundred each. All that was
necessary was to load and shoot. In fact, I will ever think that the
reason they did not capture our works was the impossibility of their
living men passing over the bodies of their dead. The ground was piled
up with one solid mass of dead and wounded Yankees. I learned afterwards
from the burying squad that in some places they were piled up like cord
wood, twelve deep.
Private Sam Watkins, Company H, First Tennessee Infantry

 

Throughout his maneuvers to slow Sherman’s drive on Atlanta, General Joseph Johnston often occupied strong positions that he hoped Sherman would assault.  At Kennesaw Mountain on June 27, 1864 he got his wish.

Following the battle of Pickett’s Mill on May 27,1864, go here to read about it, the Union and Confederate armies would spend June with Sherman attempting to find some way to outflank or make his way through the defensive lines constructed by Johnston to defend Marietta, Georgia, and his rail supply line.

 

atlanta_campaign_17-27

Sherman having successfully turned his initial line, Johnston fell back on a previously prepared fortified line astride Kennesaw Mountain, an immensely strong position, on June 18-19.  Sherman’s attempt to turn the left of Johnston’s position came to a halt at the Battle of Kolb’s Farm on June 22.  Here Hood, in a foreshadowing of dark days to come for the Confederate Army of Tennessee, had his corps attack without adequate reconnaissance and incurred heavy losses of 1500 to 250 Union.  Nonetheless, Sherman’s flanking movement was stopped.

Growing impatient, on June 27 Sherman launched the last frontal assault of his career.  Assuming that Johnston had stretched his line too thin, Sherman attacked the Confederate center.  The attack began with a furious cannonade at 8:00 AM involving 200 cannon.  The Union attack went in and was bloodily repulsed with 3000 Union casualties to 1000 Confederates.  The fighting was over by 10:45 AM.  Sherman twice urged General Thomas to renew the assault.  Thomas flatly refused, saying “One or two more such assaults would use up this army.” 

The aftermath of the battle was anti-climactic.  The armies stood facing each other for five days, until July 2, 1864 when Sherman again attempted to outflank Johnston’s left, this time with success, Johnston retreating to prepared lines at Smyrna.  Here is Sherman’s account of the battle in his memoirs:

 

On the 23d of June I telegraphed to General Halleck this summary, which I cannot again better state:

We continue to press forward on the principle of an advance against fortified positions. The whole country is one vast fort, and Johnston must have at least fifty miles of connected trenches, with abatis and finished batteries. We gain ground daily, fighting all the time. On the 21st General Stanley gained a position near the south end of Kenesaw, from which the enemy attempted in vain to drive him; and the same day General T. J. Wood’s division took a hill, which the enemy assaulted three times at night without success, leaving more than a hundred dead on the ground. Yesterday the extreme right (Hooker and Schofield) advanced on the Powder Springs road to within three miles of Marietta. The enemy made a strong effort to drive them away, but failed signally, leaving more than two hundred dead on the field. Our lines are now in close contact, and the fighting is incessant, with a good deal of artillery-fire. As fast as we gain one position the enemy has another all ready, but I think he will soon have to let go Kenesaw, which is the key to the whole country. The weather is now better, and the roads are drying up fast. Our losses are light, and, not-withstanding the repeated breaks of the road to our rear, supplies are ample.

During the 24th and 25th of June General Schofield extended his right as far as prudent, so as to compel the enemy to thin out his lines correspondingly, with the intention to make two strong assaults at points where success would give us the greatest advantage. I had consulted Generals Thomas, McPherson, and Schofield, and we all agreed that we could not with prudence stretch out any more, and therefore there was no alternative but to attack “fortified lines,” a thing carefully avoided up to that time. I reasoned, if we could make a breach anywhere near the rebel centre, and thrust in a strong head of column, that with the one moiety of our army we could hold in check the corresponding wing of the enemy, and with the other sweep in flank and overwhelm the other half. The 27th of June was fixed as the day for the attempt, and in order to oversee the whole, and to be in close communication with all parts of the army, I had a place cleared on the top of a hill to the rear of Thomas’s centre, and had the telegraph-wires laid to it. The points of attack were chosen, and the troops were all prepared with as little demonstration as possible. About 9 A.M. Of the day appointed, the troops moved to the assault, and all along our lines for ten miles a furious fire of artillery and musketry was kept up. At all points the enemy met us with determined courage and in great force. McPherson’s attacking column fought up the face of the lesser Kenesaw, but could not reach the summit. About a mile to the right (just below the Dallas road) Thomas’s assaulting column reached the parapet, where Brigadier-General Barker was shot down mortally wounded, and Brigadier-General Daniel McCook (my old law-partner) was desperately wounded, from the effects of which he afterward died. By 11.30 the assault was in fact over, and had failed. We had not broken the rebel line at either point, but our assaulting columns held their ground within a few yards of the rebel trenches, and there covered themselves with parapet. McPherson lost about five hundred men and several valuable officers, and Thomas lost nearly two thousand men. This was the hardest fight of the campaign up to that date, and it is well described by Johnston in his “Narrative” (pages 342, 343), where he admits his loss in killed and wounded as

Total …………. 808

This, no doubt, is a true and fair statement; but, as usual, Johnston overestimates our loss, putting it at six thousand, whereas our entire loss was about twenty-five hundred, killed and wounded.

 

Published in: on June 27, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on June 27, 1864: Battle of Kennesaw Mountain  
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The General Armstrong

 

Britannia certainly ruled the waves in 1814.  Everyone knew that, except, perhaps, the mad Americans.  Their navy, insignificant in numbers compared to the Royal Navy, had put up quite a fight during the War of 1812 and won a series of ship to ship duels that had injured the pride of the British nation.  Their privateers had damaged British commerce by hunting British merchantmen throughout the Seven Seas.  Therefore, it can come as little surprise to learn that when Captain Lloyd of the Royal Navy led a squadron into the port of Fayal in the Azores on September 26, 1814 he immediately commenced combat operations when he spotted an American privateer, The General Armstrong,  a schooner of 14 guns, also in the port, even though the port was controlled by a neutral power, Portugal.

Although vastly outnumbered by the English squadron, Captain Samuel Reid, the skipper of The General Armstrong, had no intention of giving up without a fight.  The British initially attempted to seize the schooner with four boats filled with Marines and sailors.  Reid opened fire with his guns and drove them off.  The British tried again after dark.  Around midnight the British sent 12 large barges with mounted cannon and filled with 400 men against the schooner.  The British reached the schooner, shouted “No quarter” and boarded her.  The heavily outnumbered Americans fought back ferociously, beating off the attack  and killing most of the attackers.

The next morning the British began to attack the schooner with long range gunnery.  Still The General Armstrong fought on, holding its own in this lop-sided contest.  Ultimately the Americans scuttled The General Armstrong and escaped on shore.  Few injuries to the pride of the Royal Navy were greater than this contest with one American privateer. (more…)

Published in: on June 26, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The General Armstrong  
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June 25, 1863: Mine Exploded at Vicksburg

I have always been somewhat bemused by the fact that vast attention is paid to the Battle of the Crater at the seige of Petersburg on July 30, 1864, while the mine explosion at Vicksburg on June 25, 1863 tends to be overlooked in popular memory of the War.  Both efforts were unsuccessful, both mine explosions producing a breach in the Confederate lines that Union troops were ultimately unable to exploit, with Confederate troops rallying and sealing the breach.  It is true that the Battle of the Crater was a much larger operation involving four times the explosives with divisions involved as opposed to regiments at Vicksburg.  The use of black troops in the Battle of the Crater and the slaying of some Union prisoners and their officers by Confederate troops, also helped ensure maximum press coverage.  Still it is surprising to me how little attention is paid to the Vicksburg mine even in fairly extensive histories of the War.  Here is Grant’s memories of the mining operations at Vicksburg in his Personal Memoirs: (more…)

Published in: on June 25, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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The British Are Coming

 

 

Each year as the Fourth of July approaches my thoughts turn to the American Revolution.  What a truly remarkable struggle it was, a turning point in the affairs of Man we are still too close to in time to truly fathom.  I just began reading Rick Atkinson’s The British Are Coming, the first volume in his trilogy on the Revolution and I am bowled over by it.   Atkinson achieved notoriety with his Liberation trilogy, looking at the US Army in North Africa and Europe in World War II and it was quite good.  However, I was unprepared for the level of historical insight I am finding in his latest work.  I have read over the years hundreds of books on the American Revolution and I thought that I had little to learn about that conflict, but Mr. Atkinson is showing me that I was in error.  An example is at the beginning where he skillfully, and concisely, lays forth the preparations that the British government was making for war in the winter of 1774-1775.  Now I knew these facts, but seeing them laid out as he does brings home how inevitable Lexington and Concord were.  The British government had decided that military force was going to be needed to bring the American colonies to heel, and once that decision was made war was inevitable.

In his majestic give me liberty or give me death speech of March 23, 1775 Patrick Henry made a statement that has seemed to future generations prophetic:

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

However, based upon the preparations of  the British Crown for war against its own subjects, Patrick Henry was merely stating what any intelligent observer in America in early 1775 would have realized: war was coming, and very, very soon.

And that is the great strength of Atkinson’s work.  He rescues the Revolution from antiquarian study, and makes the readers see it as contemporaries saw it who lived through those grand and awful days.

The writing is in the grand style, mercifully free from the cant of the contemporary academy that makes so many current historical works almost unreadable.  A sample:

“The second consequence was epochal and enduring:  the creation of the American Republic.  Surely among mankind’s most remarkable achievements, this majestic construct also inspired a creation myth that sometimes resembled a garish cartoon,  a melodramatic tale of doughty yeomen resisting moronic, brutal lobsterbacks.  The civil war that unspooled over those eight years would be both more grander and more nuanced, a tale of heroes and knaves, of sacrifice and blunder, of redemption and profound suffering.  Beyond the battlefield, then and forever, stood a shining city on a hill.”

That passage can stand in quality of expression on America’s founding with this passage by Stephen Vincent Benet in his The Devil and Daniel Webster:

And he began with the simple things that everybody’s known and felt–the freshness of a fine morning when you’re young, and the taste of food when you’re hungry, and the new day that’s every day when you’re a child. He took them up and he turned them in his hands. They were good things for any man. But without freedom, they sickened. And when he talked of those enslaved, and the sorrows of slavery, his voice got like a big bell. He talked of the early days of America and the men who had made those days. It wasn’t a spread-eagle speech, but he made you see it. He admitted all the wrong that had ever been done. But he showed how, out of the wrong and the right, the suffering and the starvations, something new had come. And everybody had played a part in it, even the traitors.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough.  Get it and read it cover to cover.  You will thank me.

Published in: on June 24, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The British Are Coming  
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June 23, 1865: Confederate General Stand Watie Surrenders

 

Confederate General, and Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, Stand Watie surrendered on June 23, 1865, the last Confederate general to surrender his brigade.  He and his men had fought throughout the Indian Territory and the Trans-Mississippi theater, participating in more battles than any other Confederate unit in the theater, and waging a guerrilla war against Union supply lines and outposts.  Here are the terms of the articles of surrender: (more…)

Published in: on June 23, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on June 23, 1865: Confederate General Stand Watie Surrenders  
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Columbia the Gem of the Ocean

 

Something for the weekend.  Written in 1843, by Thomas a Becket, yeah, the name is correct, with lyrics by David Shaw, Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean was probably the most popular patriotic ballad of the Nineteenth Century.  A fitting song as we draw closer to the Fourth of July. (more…)

Published in: on June 22, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Columbia the Gem of the Ocean  
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The Face of Lincoln

 

The things you find on the Internet!  From 1955, a look at the career of Abraham Lincoln by Professor Robert Merrell Gage as he sculpts a bust of the Great Emancipator.  This film won an Academy Award for best live action short film.  Head of the Department of Sculpture at the University of Southern California, his first commissioned work as a sculptor was a statue of Lincoln that is now on the grounds of the Kansas State Capitol.  He passed away at age 88 in 1981.

 

Published in: on June 21, 2019 at 3:45 am  Comments Off on The Face of Lincoln  
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