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 IL Y A 150 ANS........... MAI 1862

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MessageSujet: Re: IL Y A 150 ANS........... MAI 1862   Jeu 17 Mai - 6:47

Rebels in Corinth Prepare for the Coming Battle; Butler Takes Over New Orleans

May 2, 1862 (Friday)

“We are about to meet once more in the shock of battle the invaders of our soil, the despoilers of our homes, the disturbers of our family ties,” warned Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard to his veterans of Shiloh. “Face to face, hand to hand, we are to decide whether we are to be freemen or the vile slaves of those who are free only in name, and who but yesterday were vanquished, although in largely superior numbers, in their own encampments on the ever-memorable field of Shiloh.”

Beauregard still clung to the idea that his Army of the Mississippi was somehow victorious at Shiloh, a simple task if one ignores the second day of the battle, which, it appears, he did.

“Let the impending battle decide our fate,” he continued, “and add one more illustrious page to the history of our Revolution, one to which our children will point with noble pride, saying, ‘Our fathers were at the battle of Corinth.’”1

His army of nearly 46,000 held a strong defensive line around Corinth, Mississippi. Generals Hardee, Bragg and Polk commanded the right, center and left of the line. General Van Dorn, still in Memphis, would hold the rear, while General Breckinridge commanded the reserves.

The Federals, commanded by General Henry Halleck, had not moved from the battlefield, twenty miles north. But twenty miles was no more than a day and a half march away. The Union troops had begun to stir and Beauregard knew that a battle was imminent.2

In order to “drive back into Tennessee the presumptuous mercenaries collected for our subjugation,3” General Beauregard would need reinforcements. Van Dorn’s Army of the West, finally having crawled back from the Battle of Pea Ridge, had been in Memphis refitting themselves.

“You may as well begin sending your troops here by brigades at once,” wrote Beauregard to Van Dorn on April 22nd, and again the next day, expressing much the same idea. A few days later, he began to move, and by this date, his men were holding Corinth’s reserve.4

After the the Union ships appeared before New Orleans, General Mansfield Lovell moved out of town with many of his men. Knowing this, Beauregard had been trying to convince him to join in the “shock of battle” soon to come to Corinth. He asked Lovell to send a single regiment to Vicksburg and “come here immediately with balance of forces.”

Lovell agreed, but Beauregard wanted more, asking him to organize Mississippi regiments on his way.5

By the 30th, Lovell knew of the surrender of Forts Jackson and St. Philip, and realized that there was nothing more he could do for Louisiana, aside from burning the cotton, and perhaps the barracks at Baton Rouge so they would not fall into enemy hands.6

On this date, General Lovell was having second thoughts. Though most of the infantry that he had were under-armed militia, he had cobbled together five regiments. He sent one to Vicksburg, but was a little hesitant to bring the rest to Corinth, nearly 400 miles north.

He was actually leaning more towards protecting Vicksburg from the troops coming up from the south under General Benjamin Butler. Even if he were to head to Corinth, he couldn’t make it there any time in the near future. For starters, he had cotton to burn, troops to raise, troops to train and his very own horde of Yankees to deal with.

In the end, however, Lovell was almost willing to help. “If it is impossible for you to get along without the five regiments I have here, I will probably join you,” he wrote to Beauregard on this date, “but I do not like to abandon the state of Louisiana.7

__________________

Butler Takes the Reigns at New Orleans

General Lovell’s worries were well-placed. Union General Benjamin Butler, along with his 4,000 infantry troops, had arrived in New Orleans the previous evening. As they disembarked, they were met with jeers, taunts, insults and countless epithets. These passionate greetings continued as he and his men marched to the Custom House, where they set up their barracks. Butler returned to his ship.

On this date, Butler and his staff commandeered the St. Charles Hotel, turning it into army headquarters. Naturally, an angry crowd gathered in such a boisterous protest that the General’s meeting with the Mayor was interrupted by their shouts. To continue, Butler ordered a regiment to act as a buffer between the gathered crowd and the hotel.

An officer informed Butler that the mob was growing even more restless and the regiment might not be able to control them. Butler snapped back that if they could not be controlled, “open upon them with artillery.” The Mayor was livid at such a notion, and insisted upon addressing the citizens, hoping to calm them. When he told them of Butler’s threat to turn the cannons upon them, many drifted away, while the rest simmered in their fury.

While peering out the window, Butler noticed a man with a scrap of United States flag in his button hole. When he asked around, he discovered this man to be none other than William Mumford, the secessionist who tore down the stars and stripes flying over the Mint.

Getting back to the meeting, the Mayor was balking at Butler’s demands, hoping to outlast him, just as he had outlasted Farragut. However, Butler wasn’t establishing martial law, he was only continuing it (with some obvious variations) from the time when General Lovell had occupied the town with his Confederate force. Nevertheless, the Mayor argued for the removal of Union troops from the city. Butler refused to budge.

“New Orleans has been conquered by the forces of the United States,” Butler reminded the Mayor, “and by the laws of all nations, lies subject to the will of the conquerors.” In a fit of anguish, the Mayor threatened to disband the civil government, giving up all governmental functions to Butler. Butler probably knew that this would never come to pass, that the Mayor was simply blowing off steam, but that is how the meeting, and the day, ended.

The next day, he would release his official proclamation to the people of New Orleans.8


Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 10, Part 2, p482. [↩]
P.G.T. Beauregard; Napoleon in Gray by T. Harry Williams, LSU Press, 1955. [↩]
Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 10, Part 2, p482. [↩]
Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 10, Part 2, p433, 454. [↩]
The Military Operations of General Beauregard, Vol. 1 by Alfred Roman, p571. I can’t seem to find this message in the OR. [↩]
Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 6, p885. [↩]
Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 10, Part 2, p481-482. [↩]
When the Devil Came to Dixie by Chester G. Hearny, LSU Press, 1997. [↩]


Related posts:

Western Virginia’s Rebels; Politicking in Washington; Butler Promoted

Rebels Prepare to Attack Grant; McClellan Loses His First Corps

Preparing to Attack and Defend New Orleans

Unable to Co-operate, the Rebels Try to Prepare for the Union Attack on Fort Jackson

Rebel Flags Hauled Down in New Orleans; Plans in the Shenandoah

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MessageSujet: IL Y A 150 ANS........... MAI 1862   Jeu 17 Mai - 6:45

McClellan Wants More Guns, Lincoln Urges Him to Move; Complaints about Slaves

May 1, 1862 (Thursday)


Through the previous two weeks, both Confederate and Union troops on the Peninsula hunkered down for a siege at Yorktown. General George McClellan, commander of the Union Army of the Potomac, had been reinforced and its ranks now swelled to 112,000. His opponent, General Joe Johnston, commanding the Army of Northern Virginia, 57,000-strong. Though McClellan outnumbered Johnston at nearly two-to-one, he refused to attack. His own reconnaissance put the Rebel numbers somewhere in the neighborhood of 100,000.

General McClellan had come to the Peninsula looking for a siege. President Lincoln allowed him to go, hoping for a quick trip up the Peninsula for an attack upon Richmond. When arrayed before the Rebels at Yorktown, McClellan poked and prodded some, but quickly decided to dig in for the long haul. Fortunately for him, his siege train contained a whole arsenal of immovable seacoast guns that, once installed, were expected to stay where they were planted for the duration.1

Though McClellan practically doubled the Rebel numbers, he was still convinced of victory due to his superiority of artillery. Once completed, his artillery could pummel the Confederate earthworks with 7,000lbs of iron in every volley.

The heavy artillery couldn’t simply be placed, like field artillery. Trenches had to be dug, platforms erected, trees had to be chopped down and roads constructed to hull these eight to ten ton monsters into place. While the soldiers dug, picked and axed their way towards the front, the Rebels along the Yorktown line fired artillery at the sounds of their implements, making a day’s work much hotter than the chilly April would otherwise provide.2

General Johnston had never wanted to fight on the Peninsula. And so, by the third weed of April, he was already making plans to pull back towards Richmond. On the 24th, he asked General Robert E. Lee, acting at President Davis’ military advisor, to have 100 wagons filled with provisions waiting to meet the Richmond-bound army. Three days later, Johnston was becoming increasingly worried that the Federals would, as at Forts Jackson and St. Philip, run the gauntlet up the York River, past Yorktown, rendering their defenses near Yorktown pointless.

“We are engaged in a species of warfare at which we can never win,” wrote Johnston to Lee on the 30th. He also suggested that he move north with his army to cross the Potomac, while General Beauregard somehow crossed into Ohio. The latter was a complete impossibility.3

Johnston certainly had a point. McClellan had built up his artillery to a staggering seventy pieces of heavy artillery. He had everything from two 200-pounder Parrots (which fired a 200lbs shot) to 13-inch mortars. Though not all were yet emplaced, McClellan was able to take in just how much artillery he had to conduct the finest siege ever attempted in the Western Hemisphere. And still, he wanted more.

“Would be glad to have the 30-pounder Parrots in the works around Washington at once,” wrote McClellan to the War Department on the 28th. “Am very short of that excellent gun.”4

On this date, President Lincoln, perhaps rankled that McClellan was suggesting that the defenses around Washington be striped so he could add to his personal artillery collection, replied: “Your call for Parrot guns from Washington alarms me, chiefly because it argues indefinite procrastination. Is anything to be done?”5

Also on this date, Confederate President, Jefferson Davis, finally reacted to Johnston’s desire to abandon the defenses of Yorktown. He was somehow surprised by the announcement that Johnston planned to begin the retreat on the 2nd. He wanted to first remove the Naval Yard at Norfolk, and asked, “will the safety of your army allow more time?” Though he wished for Johnston to hold out a bit longer, he was seriously considering the General’s proposition for an invasion of the North.6

__________________

Confederates Complain About their Slaves

To make a stand and fight, Johnston would need reinforcements. There were none to be had, and so he believed he had to retire towards Richmond. But to retire, he would need more slaves. Some officers were complaining that they couldn’t dig in fast enough because the soldiers had to do all the hard labor themselves. For the amount of work to be done, more slaves were indeed “needed.” General John Magruder, commanding the defenses around Yorktown, suggested the people of Virginia donate their slaves to the cause. “Under these circumstances,” proclaimed Magruder to the denizens of the Peninsula, “I am sure that no patriotic citizen, with the issue truly at heart, would hesitate to respond most cheerfully to the call which I now make, viz, one negro man, with his ax or spade, to be furnished at once by each proprietor.”7

In fact, the lack of slaves, caused the slaves with the army to be overworked and abused so much so that some complained to the Confederate Secretary of War. Magruder responded to these complaints. “It is quite true that much hardship has been endured by the negroes in the recent prosecution of the defensive works on our lines,” Magruder acquiesced, “but this has been unavoidable, owing to the constant and long-coutinued wet weather.” But, he countered, the soldiers “have been more exposed and have suffered far more than the slaves.”

The slaves, said Magruder, “have always slept under cover and have had fires to make them comfortable, whilst the men have been working in the rain, have stood in the trenches and rifle pits in mud and water almost knee-deep, without shelter, fire, or sufficient food.” He admitted that there had been “sickness among the soldiers and the slaves, but far more among the former than the latter.”8

There were other complaints about the slaves, but not in favor of their better treatment. Johnston’s Assistant-Adjutant General, A.G. Dickinson, complained of their moral: “Owing to the demoralized condition of the negroes, it is impossible to get them to work where firing is going on.”9 General D.H. Hill complained that “fifty more negroes here would give a great relief” to his men. He also bemoaned the fact that “a large portion [of his 300 slaves] have reported sick and have left.”10

Concerning the complaints of ill-treatment made to the Secretary of War, Johnston simply asked for 800 more slaves, promising that they “can be returned when others are sent in their place.” And a day later, on this date, Johnston gave Hill permission to keep the slaves that he had so he could “have the work pressed to immediate completion.”11

Even General Lee was complaining that he hadn’t enough slaves. To construct a defensive work along the James River, he requested from Johnston an engineer and “a portion of your negro force.”12

Not only were the Confederates fighting to preserve their rights to keep slaves, they needed the slaves to enable them to make that fight.


The Peninsula Campaign of 1862; A Military Analysis by Kevin Dougherty, University of Mississippi, 2005. [↩]
To The Gates of Richmond by Stephen w. Sears, Mariner Books, 1992. [↩]
Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 11, Part 3, p461, 469, 477. [↩]
Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 11, Part 3, p126. [↩]
Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 11, Part 3, p130. [↩]
Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 11, Part 3, p484-485. [↩]
Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 11, Part 3, p473, 437. [↩]
Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 11, Part 3, p475. [↩]
Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 11, Part 3, p445. [↩]
Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 11, Part 3, p465. [↩]
Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 11, Part 3, p478, 486. [↩]
Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 11, Part 3, p485-486. [↩]


Related posts:

Lincoln Doesn’t Quite Free the Slaves; Lee in WV

McClellan Refuses to Divulge His Plan (If He Even Has One) to Lincoln

General McClellan and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Lincoln to McClellan: “You Must Act”

Lincoln Frees the Slaves in Washington; Davis Signs Conscription Act

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IL Y A 150 ANS........... MAI 1862
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