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On February 27, 1864, the first Federal inmates were brought into Andersonville prison, but the prison was not fully constructed at that time. The name Andersonville was associated with a death trap, since a quarter of the inmates died while in captivity. Henry Wirz ran the camp and, after the war ended, he was executed for brutality and mistreatment of prisoners by those under his command.
The official name of the prison was Camp Sumter. Prior to 1863, Northern and Southern armies had enacted a prisoner exchange syster for those captured. But arguments over the handling of black soldiers caused problems and prison camps had to be hastily constructed by both sides. Andersonville was built with slave labor and was located in the Georgia woods close to a railroad but away from front battle lines. On 16 acres of land, the prison was supposed to include a barracks constructed of wood, but due to inflated lumber prices, Union prisoners were forced to live under open skies, with only makeshift shanties named “shebangs” made of wood scraps and blankets, for shelter. A stream supplied fresh water in the beginning, but it soon grew contaminated with human waste.
The prison was supposed to hold 10,000 men, but after six months, three times that number were imprisoned there. The contaminated creek eroded, becoming a swamp. It took up a great portion of the compound. The prisoners received inadequate rations and most of the time, half of the population were ill. Guards often brutalized inmates and violence existed between prisoners.
Andersonville proved to be the worst among both Union and Confederate prisons.
On January 23, 1864, Harper’s Weekly featured a story about Negro soldiers liberating slaves in North Carolina.
NEGRO SOLDIERS LIBERATING SLAVES.
General Wild’s late raid into the interior of North Carolina abounded in incidents of peculiar interest, from which we have selected a single one as the subject of the illustration on page 52, representing the liberation by the negro battalion of the slaves on Mr. Terrebee’s plantation. As the reader may imagine, the scene was both novel and original in all its features. General Wild having scoured the peninsula between Pasquotank and Little Rivers to Elizabeth City, proceeded from the latter place toward Indiantown in Camden County. Having encamped overnight, the column moved on into a rich country which was covered with wealthy plantations. The scene in our sketch represents the colored troops on one of these plantations freeing the slaves. The morning light is shining upon their bristling bayonets in the back-ground, and upon a scene in front as ludicrous as it is interesting. The personal effects of the slaves are being gathered together from the outhouses on the plantation and piled, regardless of order, in an old cart, the party meanwhile availing themselves in a promiscuous manner of the Confiscation Act by plundering hens and chickens and larger fowl; and after all of these preliminary arrangements the women and children are (in a double sense) placed on an eminence above their chattels and carted off in triumph, leaving “Ole Massa” to glory in solitude and secession.
Thought it would be fun to share the front page of Harper’s Weekly, dating January 9, 1864.
THE REBELS FIRING ON OUR
ON this page we give a graphic sketch of an attack made by rebel sharp-shooters upon our supply-train on the banks of the Tennessee. After the battle of Chickamauga, when our army had retired to its strong-hold at Chattanooga, it was the chief object of the rebels to disturb our communications, and if possible to break up its supply-trains. Of the particular instance given in the sketch the artist was an eve-witness. Upon the crags of Raccoon Mountain, and overlooking the river, were posted a small force of picked men ofLongstreet’s corps, armed with Whitworth rifles. The position was twelve miles in the rear of our works at Chattanooga, and was unguarded. Captain Goree had charge of the attacking party. The only way of reaching the position chosen for attack, and avoiding our scouts, was by taking the Indian trails through the forest heights. No sooner had the position been gained than the rumbling of the approaching train was heard along the river-bank. Thus when the train came up the gorge, preceded by a small infantry escort, and had fairly filled the open space of the road in front of the rebel sharp-shooters, it was entirely at the mercy of the latter. Then the word wok given to fire, and a score of deafening reports leaped from crag to crag; and close upon the fire followed the confusion of a stampede. The teams in front were crippled by dead mules; and those behind, thus blocked in and unable to move forward, were equally cut off from retreat by the inextricably confused wagon in the rear. The escort, after firing a few shots, fled panic-stricken, leaving the train in the hands of the enemy.
THE SIEGE OF CHARLESTON.
ON page 28 we give an illustration representing the effect produced by one ofGilmore’s shells bursting in the streets of Charleston. When Gilmore first began to shell the city it had more noncombatants in it than it has now; it was not believed that the city was within range until the actual reality brought conviction. The illustration is designed to represent the first occasion upon which the city was shelled, and depicts the overwhelming surprise of the citizens. The shelling commenced at midnight, but did little harm beyond terrifying the ladies left in the city. Only a single house was set on fire. In the particular scene presented by the artist a fireman is running through the streets giving the alarm, and a watchman, thoroughly overcome, is taking leave of his senses and his staff in the foreground. The gun burst after a few discharges. The distance was over four miles. At latest dates General Gilmore had recommenced shelling the city, having destroyed twelve buildings, killed one man, and seriously wounded some eight or ten persons. We give also on the same page an illustration representing the interior of Fort Sumter after a continuous bombardment by the batteries on Morris Island. The bombardment was from 200-pound Parrott guns, and eve’ v gun of the fort was dismounted, leaving the garrison to be passive spectators of the gradual demolition of the walls. Nearly the whole parapet of the fort was swept away. The gorge-face presents one mass of ruins, and the casemates scarcely afford shelter to the garrison. Beauregard, it is said, is determined to hold the fort till the last; by the bayonet, if need be.
See entire issue at this site: http://www.sonofthesouth.net/leefoundation/civil-war/1864/longstreets-sharpshooters.htm
On December 22, 1864 from William Tecumseh Sherman sent a short telegram to Abraham Lincoln: “I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the city of Savannah with 150 heavy guns and plenty of ammunition and also about 25,000 bales of cotton.” Lincoln had been out of touch with Sherman for several weeks, ever since the major general had left Atlanta on his March to the Sea. The President found great relief in the brief message.
150 years ago today, December 26, 1864, Lincoln sent his reply. “Many, many thanks for your Christmas gift.” He admitted to being “anxious, if not fearful” when Sherman left Atlanta, but put his trust in the general. “Feeling that you were the better judge, and remembering that ‘nothing risked, nothing gained,’ I did not interfere.” Lincoln added, “the honor is all yours.”
Of course, Georgians did not agree. Savannah surrendered without much fuss, but the March to the Sea, cut civilian support for the Confederacy. And it lives in Southern memory as one of the cruelest campaigns of the Civil War.
Watch a video of the historic letter: William Tecumsah Sherman’s Christmas letter to Abraham Lincoln
G.K. Warren and his troops moved south following the Weldon Railroad toward Stony Creek. The Federal Army’s intent was to destroy much of this vital rail supply line. A.P. Hill’s forces trailed them. Warren’s troops destroyed large sections of the railroad as well as other supplies meant for the Confederate Army. Although much damage was done, the Confederates repaired the railroad heading north to Stony Creek Station by March of 1865.
For more information on this battle, visit these sites:
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On November 14, 1864, 150 years ago today, Union General William T. Sherman started his march across Georgia. His troops torched the industrial section of Atlanta. During the following six weeks, Sherman’s army continued to destroy most of the state and captured the Confederate seaport of Savannah, Georgia.
On Sept. 26, Major General Sterling Price, on orders from Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith, attacked Union pickets who were stationed at Fort Davidson at Pilot Knob, Missouri. Price’s goal was the diverson of Union troops east of the Mississippi River in order to gather Confederate recruits and capture or destroy Federal war materials. He also wanted to capture either St. Louis or Jefferson City in what would be the largest cavalry raid of the war.
General Thomas Ewing Jr. and his 1,450 Union soldiers were forced to defend the small hexagonal earthwork fort. In capturing the fort, Price’s 3,000 unarmed soldiers would be provided with needed weapons. The resulting victory would likely rally sympathizers to the Confederate cause.
The guns of Fort Davidson opened fire the following morning, when rebels appeared between Pilot Knob and Shepherd mountains. Price believed a swift assault would overwhelm the fort. But the Confederate assaults were poorly timed allowing heavy fire directed at the attacking brigades. The Confederates fell back to reorganize, preparing a renewed attack for the next day.
Ewing’s troops were low on ammunition. He didn’t think his Union forces could hold out another day and ordered the fort to be evacuated. At 2:30 a.m. Union troops crept past Confederate guards and an hour later, a small group of soldiers exploded the fort’s powder magazine, destroying any remaining supplies. As a result, General Price had no chance to take either St. Louis or Jefferson City.
The Battle of Pilot Knob battlefield is preserved today as the Battle of Pilot Knob State Historic Site.
For information on my romances set during and after the American Civil War, visit my website: http://susanmacatee.com