Chapter 21 The Furnace of the Civil War . Bull Run Ends the “Ninety-Day War”.
Chapter 21 The Furnace of the Civil War
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When President Abraham Lincoln called for 75,000 militiamen onApril 15, 1861, he and just about everyone else in the North expected a swift war lasting about 90 days, with a quick suppression of the Southto prove the North’s superiority and end this foolishness.
On July 21, 1861, ill-trained Yankee recruits swaggered out toward Bull Run to engage a smaller Confederate unit. They expected one big battle and a quick victory for the war.
The atmosphere was like that of a sporting event, as spectators gathered in picnics to watch.
However, after initial success by the Union, Confederatereinforcements arrived and, coupled with Stonewall Jackson’s lineholding , sent the Union soldiers into disarray.
The Battle of Bull Run showed the North that this would not be a short, easy war and swelled the South’s already too-large ego.
“Tardy George” McClellan and the Peninsula Campaign
Later in 1861, command of the Army of the Potomac (name of the Union army) was given to 34 year old General George B. McClellan, an excellent drillmaster and organizer of troops, but also a perfectionistwho constantly believed that he was outnumbered, never took risks, and held the army without moving for months before finally ordered byLincoln to advance.
At this moment, President Lincoln took McClellan’s expected reinforcements and sent them chasing Stonewall Jackson, and after“Jeb” Stuart’s Confederate cavalry rode completelyaround McClellan’s army, Southern General Robert E. Lee launched a devastating counterattack—the Seven Days’ Battles—on June 26 to July 2 of 1862.
The Second Battle of Bull Run, or, as it was called by the Confederacy, the Battle of Second Manassas, was fought August 28–30, 1862. It was the culmination of an offensive campaign waged by ConfederateGen.Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia against UnionMaj. Gen.John Pope's Army of Virginia, and a battle of much larger scale and numbers than the First Battle of Bull Run (First Manassas) fought in 1861 on the same ground.
The Union blockade started with many leaks at first, but it clamped down later.
Britain, who would ordinarily protest such interference in the seas that she “owned,” recognized the blockade as binding, sinceBritain herself often used blockades in her wars.
Blockade-running, or the process of smuggling materials through theblockade, was a risky but profitable business, but the Union navy also seized British freighters on the high seas, citing “ultimatedestination” (to the South) as their reasons; the British relented, since they might have to do the same thing in later wars (asthey did in World War I).
The biggest Confederate threat to the Union came in the form of anold U.S. warship reconditioned and plated with iron railroad rails: theVirginia (formerly called the Merrimack), which threatened to break theUnion blockade, but fortunately, the Monitor arrived just in time tofight the Merrimack to a standstill, and the Confederate ship wasdestroyed later by the South to save it from the North.
The lessons of the Monitor vs. the Merrimack were that boats needed to be steam-powered and armored, henceforth.
Jefferson Davis was never so close to victory as he was that day,since European powers were very close to helping the South, but afterthe Union army displayed unexpected power at Antietam, that help faded.
Antietam was also the Union display of power that Lincoln needed toannounce his Emancipation Proclamation, which didn’t actuallyfree the slaves, but gave the general idea; it was announced on January1, 1863. Lincoln said the slaves would be free in the seceded states(but NOT the border states as doing so might anger them into secedingtoo).
Now, the war wasn’t just to save the Union, it was to free the slaves a well.
This gave the war a moral purpose (end slavery) to go with its political purpose (restore the union).
The Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves in not-yet-conqueredSouthern territories, but slaves in the Border States and the conqueredterritories were not liberated since doing so might make them go to theSouth; Lincoln freed the slaves where he couldn’t and wouldn’t free the slaves where he could.
At first, Blacks weren’t enlisted in the army, but as men ranlow, these men were eventually allowed in; by war’s end,Black’s accounted for about 10% of the Union army.
Until 1864, Southerners refused to recognize Black soldiers asprisoners of war, and often executed them as runaways and rebels, and in one case, at Fort Pillow, Tennessee, Blacks who had surrendered weremassacred.
Afterwards, vengeful Black units swore to take no prisoners, crying, “Remember Fort Pillow!”
Regiments of the Union Army were overwhelmingly not Black, and this was the case for a good part of the war. This changed significantly with, among other things, the announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation and the organization of an "experimental" all-Black regiment, the 54th Massachusetts. This regiment was formed in March 1863, nearly two full years into the war, and organized by Robert Gould Shaw, a young (white) abolitionist. Among the recruits, who were mostly from Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, were Charles Douglass and Lewis N. Douglass, sons of the former slave and famous abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
After a few months of training exercises, the 54th Massachusetts got their orders: They were to report to Hilton Head, South Carolina, where they arrived in early June. A month later, they saw their first combat action in a skirmish on nearby James Island. They saw the most severe action—and earned most of their fame—from the part they played in an attack on Fort Wagner, Georgia, on July 18.
The fort was heavily defended, with both cannons and sharpshooters. Nonetheless, the order came for the 54th Massachusetts to lead the way in storming the fort. They did just that, advancing through a withering storm of enemy fire. Many soldiers made it over the wall and into the fort. The vast majority, however, died in the attempt. That day, 281 men died, among them Colonel Shaw, who died urging his men to continue the advance.
One member of the 54th Massachusetts who survived that day was Sergeant William Carney. He refused to let the flag of his regiment fall to the ground or be captured by the enemy. He was shot multiple times but survived and was later awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
The heroism of the Black men who fought that day was relayed throughout the North (and South). Recruiting of Blacks in the North increased markedly. The 54th Massachusetts was reinforced, and they fought several more times during the war, mostly in the South. One of their main successes was as part of the siege of Charleston.
With the end of the Civil War, the 54th Massachusetts was disbanded, in August 1865.
According to Northern newspapers, and according to a U.S. Congressional hearing into the events, Confederate troops continued to kill Union soldiers as they attempted to surrender -- especially the ones that were black. "The blacks and their officers were shot down, bayoneted and put to the sword in cold blood -- the helpless victims of the perfidy by which they were overpowered," the New York Times reported. Because of such accounts, the incident became known as the Fort Pillow Massacre. "Remember Fort Pillow" thus became a rallying cry for many in the North, and for black Americans who heard the story.
“Fighting Joe” Hooker (known for his prostitutes) was badly beaten at Chancellorsville, Virginia, when Lee divided hisoutnumbered army into two and sent “Stonewall” Jackson to attack the Union flank, but later in that battle, Jackson’s ownmen mistakenly shot him at dusk, and he died.
Lee now prepared to invade the North for the second and final time,at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, but he was met by new General George G.Meade, who by accident took a stand atop a low ridge flanking a shallowvalley and the Union and Confederate armies fought a bloody and brutalbattle in which the North “won.”
In the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3,1863), General GeorgePickett led a hopeless, bloody, and pitiful charge across a field thatended in the pig-slaughter of Confederates.
"Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that this nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate…we cannot consecrate…we cannot hallow…this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us...that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion, that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
In February 1862, the Union Army captured Fort Henry on the Tennessee River. This left the river undefended, and during the next few weeks the Union Army and Navy began working their way upstream with little resistance. Eventually, the commanders decided that they would try to take over Corinth, a small town in northeast Mississippi where two railroads intersected. The Union ground forces were divided into two parts. One, led by General Ulysses S. Grant, set up camp across the river and nine miles upstream from Savannah, Tennessee. There wasn't much there except for a few farms and a small church called Shiloh (a Hebrew word that means place of peace). Grant's forces waited for another army, led by General Don Carlos Buell, that was coming down from Nashville. The plan was for the two armies to join, then march together on Corinth.By the way, General Grant had absolutely no idea that his troops might be attacked while it camped near Shiloh. If he had, they would have dug trenches and gotten ready for an attack. But he didn't, so they drilled and relaxed while they waited for Buell.
Confederate General Albert S. Johnston had other ideas. Knowing what the Union generals had in mind, General Johnston decided to attack the Union army before dawn on April 6. It wasn't easy to move an army through the soggy marshes, thickets and flooded streams near the river; because of this, it took longer for the Confederate Army to attack than first planned. But they still had the element of surprise, and in the early part of the battle they forced the Union army back. Many Union soldiers were eating breakfast when the attack came. After they abandoned their camps, many of the attacking Confederates stopped to eat the food that the Union troops left behind.The Confederate army earned every yard. One regiment from Mississippi started across a valley with 425 men; by the time they reached the other side they only had a little more than 100.When General Grant arrived from Savannah, he found his troops retreating and panicking. Some of them were cowering below a cliff on the riverbank, having seen enough of a real battle.
There was, however, one place where the Union Army held fast. A Union general named Benjamin Prentiss ordered his men to defend a sunken road with a field in front of it. For nearly seven hours Confederate soldiers came in waves to attack the Union men along the road. The barrage of bullets that they encountered was so great that the attacking troops started calling the area the "Hornet's Nest."
There were eight separate Confederate charges over the course of five hours, and it is believed that around 2,400 Confederates were killed or wounded in the process. Then the Southern army set up big guns and started firing those toward the Sunken Road. Finally, at about 5:30 that afternoon, General Prentiss surrendered his remaining 2,200 troops (about half the ones he had started with). But in the process Prentiss's men bought time for the larger Union force closer to the Tennessee River, at a place called Pittsburg Landing. They had time to regroup and reorganize.
While the fighting at the "Hornet's Nest" was taking place, something else occurred that may have turned the Battle of Shiloh. General Johnston was shot in the leg by a musket ball and bled to death. He almost certainly would have lived had he had any medical attention, because a simple tourniquet around his leg would have kept him alive. But the men who were with the general at the time (which included Tennessee Governor Isham Harris) didn't realize that the general was hurt until several minutes after he was shot, and they didn't know any first aid anyway. Johnston thus became the highest ranking general from either army killed during the Civil War.
The night of April 6 was a sad night. Thousands of soldiers from both armies lay on the battlefield dead or injured; there were so many bodies that entire fields were covered with them. There is, on the battlefield, a small pond. So many injured men crawled here to drink from it that night that the water turned red, and it became forever known as the Bloody Pond.
Nightfall was, however, a good thing for the Union Army. Here, at Pittsburg Landing, the Union Army received badly needed reinforcements that night from General Buell. And, by the way, the arrival of troops by way of boat brings up a rather important point about the Battle of Shiloh. The Union troops had gunboats and troop ships to support them with gunfire and bring them reinforcements. The Confederate troops had no naval presence during this battle.
On the night of April 6 it rained and Grant originally tried to spend that night in a cabin by the river. But the cabin had been turned into a field hospital, and the cries of the wounded kept him awake, so the general walked out and slept while leaning against an oak tree that used to be here.
By the next morning, the reinforced Union Army was a lot larger than the Confederate Army. General Grant then ordered his troops to advance and recapture the territory that they had lost the day before. And they largely did just that. By the middle of the day the Confederate Army retreated back towards the South, having lost thousands of their comrades, but having gained a large number of Union prisoners.
After Grant cleared out Tennessee, General William Tecumseh Shermanwas given command to march through Georgia, and he delivered, capturingand burning down Atlanta before completing his infamous “March tothe Sea” at Savannah.
His men cut a trail of destruction one-mile wide, waging“total war” by cutting up railroad tracks, burning fieldsand crops, and destroying everything.
Grant was a man who could send thousands of men out to die just sothat the Confederates would lose, because he knew that he could affordto lose twice as many men while Lee could not.
In a series of wilderness encounters, Grant fought Lee, with Grant losing about 50,000 men.
At Cold Harbor, the Union sent soldiers to battle with paperspinned on their backs showing their names and addresses, and over 7,000died in a few minutes.
The public was outraged and shocked over this kind of gore anddeath, and demanded the relief of General Grant, but U.S. Grant stayed.Lincoln wanted somebody who’d keep the “axe to thegrindstone,” and Grant was his man.
On April 14, 1865, Abraham Lincoln was shot in the head by John Wilkes Booth and died shortly after.
Before his death, few people had suspected his greatness, but hissudden and dramatic death erased his shortcomings and made peopleremember him for his good things.
The South cheered Lincoln’s death at first, but later, his death proved to be worse than if he had lived, because he would have almost certainly treated the South much better than they were actually treated during Reconstruction.