Stars and Stripes Forever

Something for the weekend.  The weekend before the Fourth of July  Stars and Stripes Forever seems called for.  Beyond a doubt the best known composition of John Philip Sousa, it is the National March of the United States.  Sousa wrote it on Christmas Day 1896 and it proved massively popular, especially when it was played during the Spanish-American War.

Let martial note in triumph float
And liberty extend its mighty hand
A flag appears ‘mid thunderous cheers,
The banner of the Western land.
The emblem of the brave and true
Its folds protect no tyrant crew;
The red and white and starry blue
Is freedom’s shield and hope.

Other nations may deem their flags the best
And cheer them with fervid elation
But the flag of the North and South and West
Is the flag of flags, the flag of Freedom’s nation.

Hurrah for the flag of the free!
May it wave as our standard forever,
The gem of the land and the sea,
The banner of the right.
Let despots remember the day
When our fathers with mighty endeavor
Proclaimed as they marched to the fray
That by their might and by their right
It waves forever.

Let eagle shriek from lofty peak
The never-ending watchword of our land;
Let summer breeze waft through the trees
The echo of the chorus grand.
Sing out for liberty and light,
Sing out for freedom and the right.
Sing out for Union and its might,
O patriotic sons.

Other nations may deem their flags the best
And cheer them with fervid elation,
But the flag of the North and South and West
Is the flag of flags, the flag of Freedom’s nation.

Hurrah for the flag of the free.
May it wave as our standard forever
The gem of the land and the sea,
The banner of the right.
Let despots remember the day
When our fathers with mighty endeavor
Proclaimed as they marched to the fray,
That by their might and by their right
It waves forever.

(more…)

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

As June 30th 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…)

June 29, 1862: Battle of Savage’s Station

On June 29, 1862, the bulk of the Army of the Potomac had gathered at Savage’s Station, a supply depot on the James River, preparing to pass over the White Oak Swamp.  Lee had again devised a complex plan of attack that his green army would have difficulty carrying out.  AP Hill’s and Longstreet’s division were ordered east towards Richmond and then southeast to take the Glendale crossroads, eliminating the possibility that they could participate in the attack on Savage’s Station. Holmes’ division was sent even farther south towards Malvern Hill.  Left for an attack on Savage’s Station was Magruder’s division to attack from the west and Jackson’s three divisions north of the Chickahominy above Savage’s Station.

Magruder attacked at 9:00 AM in a skirmish.  His main attack was not launched until 5:00 PM, Magruder realizing he was heavily outnumbered, 14,000 to 26,000.  Jackson did not attack, spending his time repairing bridges over the Chickahominy, and confused by a badly garbled order from Lee that caused him to think that he was ordered to stay north of the Chickahominy.  The battle was a bloody stalemate, with about 1500 casualties.  The Union army continued to retreat abandoning 2500 wounded in Savage’s Station.  Jackson got across the Chickahominy at 2;30 AM on June 30, far to late to participate in the battle or prevent the retreat of the Union army.  It is hard to believe that the Jackson who performed so ineptly in the Seven Days was the same man who had performed so brilliantly in the Valley just a few weeks before.

Here is General Lee’s report on the battle of Savage’s Station which was written on March 6, 1863: (more…)

June 28, 1862: McClellan Orders Retreat to Harrison’s Landing

After the Confederate victory at Gaines Mill on June 27, General McClellan, the commander of the Army of the Potomac completely lost his nerve.  Certain that he was massively outnumbered by the Confederate’s, he ordered the withdrawal of the Army of the Potomac from its positions in front of Richmond to Harrison’s Landing on the James River.  McClellan did not direct this retreat, abandoning the army while he went to a position south of Malvern Hill.  He gave no marching orders for the corps under his command, leaving it to his corps commanders to do so.  Massive mountains of supplies and ordinance were set on fire, and the Union wounded were abandoned after the retreat following the battle of Savage’s Station.  Few episodes have been as shameful in the history of the United States Army, and the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of McClellan.  Instead of acting as the commander of an Army, McClellan was busily attempting to shift the blame for the debacle his inept generalship had created: (more…)

Published in: on June 28, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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June 27, 1862: Battle of Gaines Mill

Continuing on with our look at the Confederate offensive of the Seven Days, we come to the battle of Gaines Mill.  After the battle of Mechanicsville, Lee assembled a Confederate attack force of six divisions, 57,000 men, for the largest Confederate attack of the War, aimed at Porter’s V Corps, McClellan neither sending sufficient units from south of the Chickahominy to reinforce Porter, nor attacking against the weak Confederate forces holding Richmond, McClellan paralyzed by his belief that he was massively outnumbered both north and south of the Chickahominy.

McClellan’s order for Porter to withdraw came just before dawn on the 27th.  Numerous men in Brigadier General McCall’s division were captured by the Confederates due to the precipitate retreat necessary to comply with the order.  Porter picked out a good defensive position on a plateau behind Boatswain’s Swamp to make his stand.   He placed two divisions on the line and two divisions in reserve.

The battle began at 1:00 PM with a series of unsuccessful frontal assaults.  Jackson on the Confederate left was late again and not in position to attack until the general assault of 7:00 PM.  By this time the outnumbered Union troops were weary and the Union line crumpled up, Porter withdrawing in good order to the bridges over the Chickahominy, his corps crossing to the south side at 4:00 AM on June 28.  The battle was a clear-cut Confederate victory, although their casualties of 7,933 were slightly greater than the Union casualties of 6, 833.  The victory could have been greater if Jackson had been in position by 1:00 PM.  A retreat by Porter with eight hours of daylight could easily have ended in the destruction of Porter’s Corps.  As it was, McClellan was completely unnerved by the Confederate victory, and ordered a full retreat of his entire army from Richmond, which Lee and his army had saved.

Here is General Lee’s report on the Battle of Gaines Mill and its aftermath which was written on March 6, 1863: (more…)

Published in: on June 27, 2022 at 12:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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June 26, 1862: Battle of Mechanicsville

The Battle of Mechanicsville, also known as the battle of Beaver Dam Creek. which opened the Confederate offensive of the Seven Days on June 26, 1862 was a tactical fiasco and defeat for the Army of Northern Virginia and a strategic defeat for the Army of the Potomac.

Lee’s plan to attack Porter’s V Corps, the only corps of the Army of the Potomac north of the Chickahominy, defeat it and turn the right flank of the Army of the Potomac went badly awry in execution.  Beginning the poor performance that would plague him throughout the Seven Days, Jackson was four hours late in attacking the north flank of Porter’s corps.  Instead, AP Hill attacked with his division  in futile and bloody frontal assaults which were easily repulsed by Porter.  After Jackson’s arrival, he bivouacked his men, although the sounds of a major attack were clear.  AP Hill renewed his attacks, reinforced by DH. Hill’s brigade, although Lee had ordered no more attacks and was again bloodily repulsed.  Confederate casualties were 1461 with Union casualties half this number.  So a humiliating tactical defeat for the Confederates marked by an inept inability on the part of Lee to put forward a coordinated attack.

However, McClellan turned this day of Confederate defeat into one of victory.  Assuming, as he always did, that he was heavily outnumbered, and fearing that Jackson was positioned to march into his rear and cut off his supply lines, McClellan ordered Porter to retreat, and decided to abandon his supply line which relied upon the rail line north of the Chickahominy, the York and Richmond Railroad, and to rely upon a supply line by water up the James River.  This decision meant that he was going to have to withdraw from his positions in front of Richmond and retreat down the Peninsula.  Few defeats have reaped such rich rewards as Mechanicsville did for the Confederacy.  Here is General Lee’s report on the battle of Mechanicsville which was written on March 6, 1863: (more…)

The Eagle Inside Belongs to US!

 

Something for the weekend.  The Egg song from the musical 1776. (more…)

Published in: on June 25, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Diary of Gideon Welles

 

Called Neptune by President Lincoln, Gideon Welles was perhaps the most effective Secretary of the Navy the nation had, as he oversaw the expansion of the United States Navy from a miniscule force into a force of 84,000 men and more than six hundred ships, the largest fleet in the world in 1865.  His three volumes of diary entries from 1861-1869 are an invaluable source for a behind the scenes look at the Lincoln cabinet.  Welles was not afraid to put down on paper his opinion of the men and events of his time in blunt prose.  Here is his entry for June 25, 1864:

June 25, Saturday. There are some blunders in the finding of the court in Scofield’s case that I do not like. I telegraphed to Wilson, Judge-Advocate, to come here for consultation and explanation, but a telegram just received says he is unable from indisposition.

            The Treasury management is terrible, ruinous. Navy  requisitions are wantonly withheld for weeks, to the ruin of the contractor. In the end the government will suffer greatly, for persons will not under these ruinous delays deal with the government at ordinary current rates. The pay of the sailors and workmen is delayed until they are almost mutinous and riotous. There is no justifiable excuse for this neglect. But Mr. Chase, having committed blunders in his issues, is now desirous of retiring certain paper, and avails himself of funds of creditors on naval account to accomplish this. It is most unjust. The money honestly due to government creditors should not be withheld for Treasury schemes, or to retrieve its mistakes.

            I am daily more dissatisfied with the Treasury management. Everything is growing worse. Chase, though a man of mark, has not the sagacity, knowledge, taste, or ability of a financier. Has expedients, and will break down the government. There is no one to check him. The President has surrendered the finances to his management entirely. Other members of the Cabinet are not consulted. Any dissent from, or doubts even, of his measures is considered as a declaration of hostility and an embarrassment of his administration. I believe I am the only one who has expressed opinions that questioned his policy, and that expression was mild and kindly uttered. Blair said about as much and both [he and I] were lectured by Chase. But he knew not then, nor does he know now, the elementary principles of finance and currency. Congress surrenders to his capricious and superficial qualities as pliantly as the President and the Cabinet. If they do not legalize his projects, the Treasury is to be closed, and under a threat, or something approaching a threat, his schemes are sanctioned, and laws are made to carry them into effect; but woe awaits the country in consequence.

The diaries are available online from google books and they are well worth the time to read for any Civil War scholar.

 

Published in: on June 24, 2022 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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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, 2022 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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June 22, 1865: Last Shot Fired in the American Civil War

 

The Confederate commerce raider CSS Shenandoah, a converted steam merchant ship, steamed out of London on October 8, 1864.  Her skipper was James Iredell Waddell, a veteran of twenty years in the United States Navy prior to the Civil War, and a graduate of Annapolis.  Under Waddell, the Shenandoah would spend the next year at sea taking or sinking 38 ships, mostly New Bedford whaling ships, virtually destroying the American whaling fleet.  The last shot of the War was a blank fired on June 22, 1865 in the Bering Strait, to indicate to a Union whaling ship the wisdom of surrender.  Some of the captured Yankee seamen claimed the War was over, but Waddell assumed they were lying.

Waddell remained unconvinced that the War was over until he encountered a British ship on August 2, 1865.  Fearing imprisonment or worse for his men, Waddell then embarked on an epic three month voyage, pursued by the US Navy, to Liverpool where Waddell surrendered his ship and lowered the Confederate flag for the last time on November 6, 1865.  The Union wished to try Waddell and his men as pirates.  The British decided to parole Waddell and his men, as reported by The Liverpool Mercury on November 9, 1865: (more…)

Published in: on June 22, 2022 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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