History of the United States
Volume III


Chapter XVIII
Campaigns of '62

The Federal forces now numbered about four hundred and fifty thousand men. Of these nearly two hundred thousand, under command of General mcClellan, were encamped in the vicinity of Washington. Another army, commanded by General Buell, was stationed at Louisville, Kentucky, and it was in this department that the first military movements of the year were made. On the 9th of January Colonel Humphrey Marshall, commanding a force of Confederates on Big Sandy River, in Eastern Kentucky, was attacked and defeated by a body of Unionists, led by Colonel Garfield. Ten days later another and more important battle was fought at Mill Spring, in the same section of the State. The Confederates were commanded by Generals Crittenden and Zollicoffer, and the Federals by General George H. Thomas. After a hot engagement, in which both sides lost heavily, the Confederates suffered a defeat which was rendered more severe by the loss of Zollicoffer, who fell in the battle. The possession of the Mississippi River was of the utmost importance to the Federals. The people of the West were particularly desirous of holding this great artery of trade. To secure it meant the cutting of the Confederacy in twain. The opening of this river now became one of the prime purposes of the North. But the borader States were filled with Confederate forces. Southern Kentucky was still held by the South, and to clear these States of the opposing armies met with a hearty response from the people of the Central West.

The next operations were on the Tennessee and the Cumberland. The Tennessee River was commanded at the southern border of Kentucky by Fort henry, and the latter by the more important Fort Donelson, ten miles south of the Tennessee line. At the beginning of the year the capture of both these places was planned by General Halleck. Early in February Commodore Foote was sent up the Tennessee with a flotilla of gunboats, and at the same time General Grant was ordered to move forward and cooperate in an attack on Fort henry. Before the land forces were well into position the flotilla compelled the evacuation of the fort, the Confederates escaping to Donelson. Eighty-three prisoners and a large amount of stores were captured.

The Federal gunboats now dropped down the Tennessee, took on supplies at Cairo, and then ascended the Cumberland. Grant pressed on from Fort Henry, and as soon as the flotilla arrived began the siege of Fort Donelson. The defenses were strong, and well manned by more than ten thousand Confederates, under General Buckner. Grant's entire force numbered nearly thirty thousand. On the 14th of February the gunboats were driven back with considerable loss, Commodore Foote being among the wounded. On the next day the garrison, hoping to break through Grant's lines, made a sally, but met a severe repulse. On the 16th Buckner was obliged to surrender. In the early morning General Buckner, seeing that he could not hold out much longer, sent a note to Grant offering to capitulate. Grant sent him the laconic reply demanding "Unconditional surrender," and added, "I propose to move immediately upon your works." His army of ten thousand men became prisoners of war, and all the magazines, stores, and guns fell into the hands of the Federals. It was the first decided victory which had been won by the national arms. The imediate result was the evacuation of Kentucky and the capital of Tennessee by the Confederates. The way to the western South was now open to the Federals. General Grant, an unknown tanner from Illinois, suddenly found himself famous.

After his success at Fort Donelson General Grant ascended the Tennessee as far as Pittsburg Landing. In the beginning of April a camp was established near Shiloh Church, a short distance from the river; and here, on the morning of the 6th, the Union army was suddenly attacked by the Confederates, led by General Albert S. Johnston and Beauregard. The attack was a surprise to Grant. He had not taken proper precaution to protect his army.

On Sunday morning there burst through the woods in front of the Union camp a magnificent line of battle. The onset was at first successful. Grant, who had spent the night at Savannah some miles away, hastened to the battlefield. All day long the battle raged with tremendous slaughter on both sides. The Federals were forced back to the river, and but for the protection of the gunboats would have been driven to destruction. Night fell on the scene with the conflict undecided; but in this desperate crisis General Buell arrived from Nashville with strong re-enforcements. On the following morning General Grant assumed the offensive. The contest reopened at daybreak. The Confederates yielded slowly before the heavy impact of the Federal columns as they pressed against them. General Johnston had been killed in the battle, and Beauregard, on whom the command devolved, was obliged to retreat to Corinth. The losses in killed, wounded, and missing in this dreadful conflict were more than ten thousand on each side. There had never before been such a harvest of death in the New World. It is in this battle of Shiloh that we first find General W. T. Sherman taking a prominent part.

Events of importance were also taking place on the Mississippi. When the Confederates evacuated Columbus, Kentucky, they proceeded to Island Number Ten, a few miles below, and built strong fortifications commanding the river. On the western shore was the town of New Madrid, which was held by a Confederate force from Missouri. Against this place General Pope advanced with a body of Western troops, while Commodore Foote descended the Mississippi with his flotilla to attack the forts on the island. Pope was entirely successful in his movement, and gained possession of New Madrid. The land forces then cooperated with the gunboats, and for twenty-three days Island Number Ten was vigorously bombarded. on the 7th of April, when the Confederates could hold out no longer, they attempted to escape; but Pope had cut off retreat, and the entire garrison, numbering about seven thousand, was captured. The Mississippe was thus opened as far down as Memphis, and that city was taken by the fleet of Commodore Davis on the 6th of the following June.

In the beginning of the year General Curtis had pushed forward through Missouri, entered Arkansas, and taken position at Pea Ridge, among the mountains in the northwestern angle of the State. Here he was attacked on the 6th of March by an army of more than twenty thousand Confederates and Indians, under command of Generals McCulloch, McIntosh, and Pike. After a hard fought battle, which lasted for two days, the Federals were victorious. McCulloch and McIntosh were both killed and their men obliged to retrest toward Texas. This contest settled the matter of Missouri joining the Confederacy. From this time on there was no fear of this northern slave State leaving the Union.

On the next day after the conflict at Pea Ridge an event occurred at Fortress Monroe which changed the character of naval warfare. It was to be the world's first battle of the ironclads. Captain John Ericsson, of New York, had invented and built a peculiar war vessel with a single round tower of iron exposed above the water-line. Meanwhile, the Confederates had raised the Uited States frigate Merrimac, one of the sunken ships at the Norfolk navy yard, and had plated the sides with an impenetrable mail of iron. This done, the vessel was sent to attack the Union fleet at Fortress Monroe. Reaching that place on the 8th of March, the Merrimac began the work of destruction, and before sunset two valuable vessels, the Cumberland and the Congress, were sent to the bottom. During the unequal contest the shore batteries poured volley after volley on the sides of the Merrimac, but they glanced harmlessly tino the water. During the night, however, Ericsson's strange ship, called the Monitor, arrived from New York, and on the following morning the two ironclad monsters turned their terrible enginery upon each other. After fighting for five hours, the Merrimac was obliged to give up the contest and to return badly damaged to Norfolk. The timely arrival of this "Yankee Cheese-box on a Raft," as it was called, not only saved the other Union vessels, but proved the salvation of the wooden ships elsewhere. With such a powerful leviathan of war the blockade of the Southern coast could easily have been lifted. Such was the excitement produced by this novel sea fight that for a while the whole energies of the navy department were devoted to building monitors.

Early in 1862 a strong land and naval force, commanded by General Ambrose E. Burnside and Commodore Goldsborough, was sent against the Confederate garrison of Roanoke Island. On the 8th of February the squadron reached its destination; the fortifications on the island were attacked and carried, and the garrisons, nearly three thousand strong, taken prisoners. Burnside next proceeded against Newbern, North Carolina, and on the 14th of March captured the city after four hours of severe fighting. Proceeding southward, he reached the harbor of Beaufort, carried Fort Macon, at the entrance, and on the 25th of April took possession of the town.

On the 11th of the same month Fort Pulaski, commanding the mouth of the Savannah River, surrendered to General Gillmore. By this important capture the chief emporium of Georgia was effectually blockaded. But these reverses of the Confederates were trifling in comparison with that which they sustained in the loss of the city of New Orleans. Early in April a powerful squadron, commanded by General Butler and Admiral Farragut, entered the Mississippi and proceeded as far as Forts Jackson and St. Philip, thirty miles above the gulf. The guns of these forts, standing on opposite shores, completely commanded the river, and obstructions had been placed in the channel. The forty-seven vessels comprising the Federal fleet were brought into position and a furious bombardment of the forts was begun. From the 18th to the 24th of April the fight continued without cessation. At the end of that time the forts were but little injured, and Farragut undertook the hazardous enterprise of running past the batteries. In this he succeeded, breaking the chain across the river and overpowering the Confederate fleet above the obstructions. The Union fleet had thrown 16,800 shells. The roar of the artillery had literally shaken the earth. Just before dawn of the 24th the grand finale of this five days' artillery duel occurred. Fire rafts had been floated down to burn the Union ships. Amid the lurid flames of these fire ships and the gleams from the shrieking shells as they hurtled through the air, Farragut, the hero of the battle, unperturbed, directed the movements of the vessels. On the next day he reached New Orleans with a portion of his fleet, and took possession of the city. The citizens of New Orleans could hardly believe that their city had actually been taken. When they fully realized it there was indescribable excitement. Panic reigned everywhere. Immense quantities of cotton were burned, and it is said the flames could be seen thirty miles away. General Butler became commandant, and the fortifications were manned with fifteen thousand Federal soldiers. Three days afterward Forts Jackson and St. Philip surrendered to Admiral Porter, who had remained below and prosecuted the siege. The control of the lower Mississippi and the metropolis of the South was thus recovered by the Federal government.

The Confederates were not going to give up Kentucky without a struggle. From East Tennessee they invaded the State in two strong divisions, the one led by general Kirby Smith and the other by General Bragg. On the 30th of August Smith's army reached Richmond, attacked a force of Federals stationed there, and routed them with heavy losses. Lexington was taken, and then Frankfort; and Cincinnati was saved from capture only by the extraordinary exertions of General Wallace. Meanwhile, the army of General Bragg had advanced from Chattanooga to Mumfordsville, where, on the 17th of September, he captured a Federal division of four thousand five hundred men. From this point the Confederate general pressed on toward Louisville, and would have taken the city but for a forced march of General Buell from Tennessee. The latter arrived with his army only one day ahead of Bragg, but that one day gave the Unionists the advantage, and the Confederates were turned back. From the North came re-enforcements for Buell's army, swelling his numbers to a hundred thousand. In the beginning of October he again took the field, the Confederates slowly retiring to Perryville. At this place, on the 8th of October, Bragg was overtaken, and a severe but indecisive battle was fought. The retreat was then continued to East Tennessee, the Confederates sweeping out of Kentucky a train of four thousand wagons laden with the spoils of the campaign.

In September there were some stirring events in Mississippi. On the 19th of the month a hard battle was fought at Iuka between a Federal army, commanded by Generals Rosecrans and Grant, and a Confederate force, under General Price. The latter was defeated, losing, in addition to his killed and wounded, nearly a thousand prisoners. General Rosecrans now took post at Corinth with twenty thousand men, while General Grant, with the remainder of the Federal forces, proceeded to Jackson, Tennessee. Perceiving thsi division of the army, the Confederate generals Van Dorn and Price turned about to recapture Corinth. Advancing for that purpose, they came on the 3d of October upon the Federal defenses. Another obstinately contested battle ensued, which ended, after two days' fighting and heavy losses on both sides, in the repulse of the Confederates.

In the mean time, General Grant had removed his headquarters from Jackson to La Grange. His purpose was to cooperate with General Sherman, then at memphis, in an effort to capture Vicksburg. The movement promised to be successful, but on the 20th of December General Van Dorn succeeded in cutting Grant's line of supplies at Holly Springs, and obliged him to retreat. On the same day General Sherman, with a powerful armament, dropped down the river from Memphis. Proceeding as far as the Yazoo, he effected a landing, and on the 29th of the month made an unsuccessful attack on the Confederates at Chickasaw Bayou. The assault was exceedingly disastrous to the Federals, who lost in killed, wounded, and prisoners more than three thousand men. The enterprise was at once abandoned, and the defeated army returned to the fleet of gunboats in the Mississippi.

The closing conflict of this year's operations in the West was the great battle of Murfreesborough. After his successful defense of Corinth General Rosecrans was transferred to the command of the Army of the Cumberland. Late in the fall he made his headquarters at Nashville, and there collected a powerful army of forty-seven thousand. Meanwhile, General Bragg, on his retirement from Kentucky, had thrown his forces into Murfreesborough. Thus the two generals found themselves face to face, and but forty miles apart. Late in December, Rosecrans moved forward to attack his antogonist, and on the evening of the 30th came upon the Confederates strongly posted on Stone's Ridge, a short distance northwest of Murfreesborough. On the following morning Bragg advanced to the attack, and a furious battle ensued, continuing until nightfall. Such was the success of the Confederates that the Union army was brought to the verge of ruin. Only the heroism of General Thomas and Rosecrans kept the army from being utterly shattered. But during the night Rosecrans rallied his forces, arranged his batteries, and at daybreak was ready to renew the conflict. On that day there was a lull, both generals preparing for the final struggle. On the morning of the 2d of January Bragg's army again rushed to the onset, gained some successes at first, was then checked and finally driven back with heavy losses. The main loss fell upon the division of Breckinridge. Two thousand of his men were lost within twenty minutes. Bragg, however, withdrew his shattered columns in good order, then abandoned Murfreesborough and filed off toward Chattanooga. In this desperate engagement the losses amounted to more than ten thousand on each side.

In Virginia the campaigns of 1862 were even more grand and destructive than those in the West. The first stirring scenes of the year were enacted in the Shenandoah Valley. Desiring to ccupy this important district, the Federal government sent forward a strong division under General Banks, who pressed his way southward, and in the last days of March occupied the town of Harrisonburg. In order to counteract this movement, the gallant Stonewall Jackson was sent with a force of twenty thusand men to pass the Blue Ridge and cut off Banks's retreat. At Front Royal, on the Shenandoah, just before the gap in the mountains, the Confederates fell upon a body of Federals, routed them, captured their guns and all the military stores in the town. Banks succeeded, however, in passing with his main division to Strasburg. There he learned of the disaster at Front Royal, and immediately began his retreat down the valley. Jackson pursued him hotly, and it was only by the utmost exertions that the Federals gains the northern bank of the Potomac.

The Confederate leader, though completely victorious, now found himself in great peril. For General Fremont, at the head of a strong force of fresh troops, had been sent into the valley to intercept the retreat of the Confederates. It was now Jackson's time to save his army. With the utmost celerity he sped up the valley, and succeeded in reaching Cross Keys before Fremont could attack him. Even then the battle was so little decisive that Jackson pressed on to Port Republic, attacked the division of General Shields, defeated it, and then retired from the scene of his brilliant campaign to join in the defense of Richmond. All during the autumn and winter of 1861 the Army of the Potomac lay inactive, as far as campaigns were concerned, in ths camps about Washington. The bitter lesson taught the Unionists at Bull Run was bearing fruit. Under the leadership of General George B. McClellan, this raw, untrained body of men was to be welded into a fighting machine that should bear the brunt of three years of terrible campaigning. No better man could have been found for the task than this popular general, fresh from his victories in West Virginia. In these months of drill, McClellan transformed this disorganized and disheartened mass of men that returned from Bull Run into an army that at a later day under the tenacious Grant could beat down the walls of petersburg. Public opinion was, however, getting restless. The press was demanding that this magnificent army, consisting of the flower of the North, should now get out and do something. At last the army was ready to move.

On the 10th of March the grant Army of the Potomac, numbering nearly two hundred thousand men, under command of General McClellan, set out from the camps about Washington to capture the Confederate capital. The advance proceeded as far as Manassas Junction, the Confederates falling back and forming a new line of defense on the Rappahannock. At this stage of the campaign McClellan, changing his plan, embarked a hundred and twenty thousand of his men for Fortress Monroe, intending from that point to march up the peninsula between the James and the York. This transfer of the army with all its accouterments was a stupendous undertaking, requiring great skill. The celerity and ease with which it was done does credit to the splendid discipline of McClellan's army. By the 4th of April the transfer of troops was completed, and the Union army left Fortress Monroe for Yorktown. The road over which the Union army passed was through the low tidal belt of Virginia. The soldiers suffered instensely and the progress was necessarily slow as they trudged over the boggy marshes of the Peninsula. Yorktown was garrisoned by ten thousand Confederates, under General Magruder; and yet with so small a force McClellan's advance was delayed for a whole month. When at last, on the 4th of May, Yorktown was taken by siege, the Federal army pressed forward to Williamsburg, where the Confederates made a stand, but were defeated. Four days afterward, in an engagement at West Point, at the confluence of the Mattapony and Pamunkey, the Confederates were again driven back. The way to Richmond was now open as far as the Chickahominy, ten miles north of the city. The Union army reached that stream without further resistance, and crossed at Bottom's Ridge.

Meanwhile, General Wool, the commandant of Fortress Monroe, had not been idle. On the 10th of May he led an expedition against Norfolk and captured the town; for the Confederate garrison had been withdrawn to aid in the defense of Richmond. On the next day the celebrated ironclad Merrimac was blown up to save her from capture by the Federals. The James River was thus opened for the ingress of natinal transports laden with supplies for the Army of the Potomac. That army now advanced toward Richmond, and when but seven miles from the city was attacked on the 31st of May by the Confederates at a placed called Fair Oaks or Seven Pines. Here for a part of two days the battle raged with great fury. At last the Confederates were driven back; but mcClellan's victory was by no means decisive. Richmond was but six miles away. The spires of the city were in plain view, and but for the swampy valley of the Chickahominy the city could have easily been taken. The Confederate loss was largest, amounting to nearly eight thousand in killed and wounded; that of the Federals was more than five thousand. Among the severely wounded was General Joseph E. Johnston, the commander-in-chief of the Confederates. Two days after the battle his place was filled by the appointment of General Robert E. Lee, a man of military genius, who, until its final downfall, remained the chief stay of the Confederacy.

There was now a period of inactivity except for the establishment of the supply depot. President Lincoln had promised McClellan the army of forty thousand under General McDowell. To make a junction with the force that was coming to his help, McClellan had extended his right wing. But Lincoln changed his plans. McDowell did not come and McClellan found himself with his army divided by the sluggish Chickahominy. The Army of the Potomac was now on the retreat and the battles that followed, taken collectively, are known as the Seven Days' Fight before Richmond. These mark the places where McClellan's army turned at bay to beat back the pursuers. McClellan now formed the design of changing his base of supplies from White House, on the Pamunkey, to some suitable point on the James. The movement was one of the utmost hazard, and before it was fairly begun General Lee, on the 25th of June, swooped down on the right wing of the Union army at Oak Grove, and a hard-fought battle ensued without decisive results. On the next day antoher dreadful engagement occurred at Mechanicsville, and this time the Federals won the field. But on the following morning Lee renewed the struggle at Gaines's Mill and came out victorious. On the 28th there was but little fighting. On the 29th McClellan's retreating army was twice attacked--in the morning at Savage's Station and in the afternoon in the White Oak Swamp--but the divisions defending the rearguard kept the Confederates at bay. On the 20th was fought the desperate but indecisive battle of Glendale or Frazier's Farm. On that night the Federal army reached Malvern Hill, on the north bank of the James, twelve miles below Richmond. Although this position was protected by the Federal gunboats in the river, General Lee determined to carry the place by storm. Accordingly, on the morning of the 1st of July, the whole Confederate army rushed forward to the assault. All day long the furious struggle for the possession of the high grounds continued. Not until nine o'clock at night did Lee's shattered columns fall back exhausted. For seven days the terrific roar of battle had been heard almost without cessation. No such dreadful scenes had ever been acted on the American continent.

Althoug victorious on Malvern Hill, General McClellan, instead of advancing at once on Richmond, chose a less hazardous movement, and on the 2d of July retired with his army to Harrison's Landing, a few miles down the river. The great campaign was really at an end. The Federal army had lost more than fifteen thousand men, and the capture of Richmond, the great object for which the expedition had been undertaken, seemed further off than ever. The losses of the Confederates had been heavier than those of the Union army, but all the moral effects of a great victory remained with the exultant South.

McClellan's purpose was to move against Richmond from this point, but his plans were disapproved of at Washington and he was ordered to bring his army back to that city.

General Lee, perceiving that Richmond was no longer endangered, immediately formed the design of invading Maryland and capturing the Federal capital. The Union troops between Richmond and Washington, numbering in the aggregate about fifty thousand, were under command of General John Pope. They were scattered in detachments from Fredericksburg to Winchester and Harper's Ferry. Lee moved northward about the middle of August, and on the 20th of the month Popu, concentrating his forces as rapidly as possible, put the Rappahannock between his army and the advancing Confederates. Meanwhile, General Banks, while attempting to form a junction with Popu, was attacked by Stonewall Jackson at Cedar Mountain, where nothing but desperate fighting saved the Federals from complete rout.

No sooner had Pope gotten his forces well in hand than jackson shot by with his division on a flank movement, reached Manassas Junction, and made large captures of men and stores. Pope with great audacity threw his army between the two divisions of the Confederates, hoping to crush Jackson before Lee could come to the rescue. On August 28th and 29th there was terrible but indecisive fighting at Manassas Junction, the old Bull Run battleground, and Centreville. At one time it seemed that Lee's army would be completely defeated; but Pope's re-enforcements were withheld by General Fitz-John Porter, and on the 31st of the month the Confederates bore down on the Union army at Chantilly, fought all day, and won a victory. Generals Stevens and Kearny were among the thousands of brave men who fell in this battle. On that night Pope, withdrew his broken columns as rapidly as possible, and found safety within the defenses of Washington. His wish to be relieved of his command was immediately complied with; his forces, known as the Army of Virginia, were consolidated with the Army of the Potomac, which had now returned from the peninsula below Richmond; and General McClellan was placed in supreme command of all the divisions about Washington.

General Lee prosecuted his invasion of Maryland. Passing up the right bank of the Potomac, he crossed at Point of Rocks, and on the 6th of September captured Frederick. On the 10th Hagerstown was taken, and on the 15th a division of the Confederate army, led by Stonewall Jackson, came upon Harper's Ferry and frightened Colonel Miles into a surrender by which the garrison, nearly twelve thousand strong, became prisoners of war. On the previous day there was a hard-fought engagement at South Mountain, in which the Federals, led by Hatch and Doubleday, were victorious. McClellan's whole army was now in the immediate rear of Lee, who, on the night of the 14th, fell back to Antietam Creek and took a strong position in the vicinity of Sharpsburg. Then followed two days of skirmishing and maneuvering, which terminated on the 17th in one of the great battles of the war. From morning till night the struggle continued with unabated violence, and ended, after a loss of more than ten thousand men on each side, in a drawn battle. This is said to be the bloodiest day in American history. But to the Confederates, who were greatly inferior in numbers, the result was almost as disastrous as defeat. McClellan did not press his advantage, and Lee withdrew his forces from the field and recrossed the Potomac in safety. His campaign of only a month had cost him nearly thirty thousand men, and his proposed invasion of the North was at an end for this time.

General McClellan, following the retreating Confederates, again entered Virginia, and reached Rectortown. Here he was superseded in the command of the Army of the Potomac by General Burnside, who at once changed the plan of the campaign and advanced against Fredericksburg, on the Rappahannock. Here the two armies in full force were again brought face to face with only the river between them. Burnside's movement was fatally delayed by the non-arrival of his pontoons, and it was not until the 11th and 12th of December that a passage could be effected. Meanwhile the heights south of the river had been thoroughly fortified, and the Union columns were hurled back in several desperate assaults which cost the assailants the dreadful loss of more than twelve thousand men. Thus in gloom and disaster to the Federal cause ended the great campaigns of 1862.


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