Tag: Confederacy (page 1 of 2)

Stonewall Jackson Begins Shenandoah Campaign

How the Legend of Stonewall Jackson Began

On 1 January 1862, Confederate General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson began his spectacular Shenandoah Campaign from Winchester, Virginia.  The campaign was designed to keep Union forces to the west from joining in the early war pressure on the Confederate Army’s positions in Richmond, Virginia. Jackson would be successful in this mission with some significant setbacks, but his reputation would grow immensely during this time. Jackson was the sort who would ask much of his troops, but never more than he would give himself. Most of the serious fighting in the Shenandoah would not occur until the Spring, but on 3 January, near the town of Bath in present day West Virginia, Jackson set the tone of his legend to come.

A Hard, Puritanical Man

Jackson was from Clarksburg, Virginia (present day West Virginia), so he was familiar with the terrain and people of the Shenandoah. When some of the troops under Brigadier General William Wing Loring complained to the Confederate leadership about the hard nature of Jackson’s command, Jackson resigned in disgust that the charges were taken seriously. Luckily for the Confederacy, calmer heads, including the Virginia Governor John Letcher and General Joseph E. Johnston, prevailed and Jackson wasn’t questioned further. Jackson was a hard, puritanical man, but only asked of his men what he himself would endure. One story tells of Confederate soldiers waking up near Bath with a dusting of snow on their blankets. They began to complain about Jackson, but they were startled to find Jackson stand up amongst them and shake the snow off his blanket as well. This kind of leadership was what allowed Jackson to literally walk his men’s shoes off and run circles around the Union units during the Shenandoah Campaign throughout the first half of 1862.

Stonewall Jackson Begins Shenandoah Campaign Motorcycle Ride

For a good feel for the northern part of the Shenandoah and the early part of the campaign, try this ride from Winchester, VA to Bath, WV to Romney, WV and back to Winchester.

Battle of Big Sandy River / Middle Creek, Kentucky 10 Jan 1862

Background

On 10 January 1862, Union forces, under Colonel James Garfield, sought to drive out the Confederates, under General Humphrey Marshall, who were recruiting in the vicinity of Paintsville, Kentucky. Garfield was an new Colonel of Ohio volunteers who was to make his name at the Battle of Big Sandy, also known as the Battle of Middle Creek. This fame would eventually propel him to the White House. Marshall, on the other hand, came into the battle with an outstanding reputation from the Mexican War where he led the First Kentucky Cavalry. He was to leave the Battle of Middle Creek with a big question mark over his head.

Battle of the Big Sandy

As Garfield approached from the north, Marshall fell back to Prestonburg along the Middle Creek to take up defensive positions, even though his rebels were not well provisioned. The Confederate cavalry that was to provide a rear screen were surprised by the Federal cavalry as they were breaking camp. The initial rout by the Union forces turned into a bloody pursuit as the recovering Confederates ambushed the pursuing Union cavalry. Garfield pushed on, however, and caught up with the mass of Marshall’s force to the west of Prestonburg. Marshall had taken a strong position and had set a trap along Middle Creek to catch Garfield’s forces as they advanced into a hammer and anvil position. Garfield, who was unsure of Marshall’s positions, sent a small cavalry force into the open area to see where Marshall’s forces were. Marshall fell for the ruse and released the trap too early. Garfield now knew where Marshall had deployed and set to advancing slowly and methodically on the ill-equipped and hungry Confederates. The Battle of Big Sandy was truly one of those Civil War battles where brother fought brother and neighbor fought neighbor. Kentucky units on both sides of the war met in the boggy ground around the creek, sometimes in hand to hand fighting. As the pressure on the Confederates grew into the early evening, Marshall felt he had no choice, but to retire as he feared widespread desertion from his hungry troops.

The overall effect of the Battle of Big Sandy was not decisively in favor of the Union, but the future President James Garfield had made his name in showing that the area could be held by the Union. The fact that eastern Kentucky was now off-limits to the Confederates meant that the Union forces could begin their push into Tennessee with a secure eastern flank.

Battle of the Big Sandy Motorcycle Ride

Check out the scenery on two of Kentucky’s great parkways, the Combs Mountain Parkway and the Hal Rogers Parkway (formerly the Daniel Boone Parkway). Be unique. Be someone who has actually been to the Kentucky Appalachia, rather than a smug jokester about it.

Photo Credit: By American Battlefield Protection Program (National Park Service) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Battle of Logan’s Crossroads – 19 January 1862

Background

After the defeat at the Battle of Middle Creek / Big Sandy on 10 January 1862, the Confederates were definitely on the defensive in eastern / central Kentucky. Kentucky was a key area for the Union to establish dominance, both politically and logistically. The long hoped for push into Tennessee by Ulysses S. Grant would be happening in February 1862, so the importance of clearing Kentucky of any serious Confederate forces was paramount to the Union. Not only would Tennessee be open to attack, but the Union would have direct access to the Cumberland Gap through eastern Kentucky and Tennessee to western Virginia. For the south, this area was also critical for supplies for the Confederacy with such staples as salt and mineral mines for ammunition.

Confederate General Felix Zollicoffer was sent to defend the Cumberland Gap and in the winter of 1861/62, he decided to occupy the area south of present day Nancy, Kentucky for winter quarters. Zollicoffer built defenses along both sides of the Cumberland River. Union General George Thomas wanted to break the remainder of the eastern Kentucky forces under General George Crittenden, Zolicoffer’s senior. When Crittenden determined that Thomas was to attack the area, he took personal command of the position.

As Thomas moved into the area in heavy rain, Zollicoffer and Crittenden thought they might be able to split Thomas’s forces by catching them off guard with the swollen Fishing Creek separating Union camps. Zollicoffer took his troops out of their defensive positions in the middle of the night for a forced march through appalling conditions to attack. The forces met at the Battle of Logan’s Crossroads, also known as the Battle of Fishing Creek (not to be confused of the North Carolina Revolutionary War battle of the same name), near Nancy, KY.

The Battle of Logan’s Crossroads

The Confederates achieved some level of surprise in the attack, but Union pickets and a cavalry patrol provided enough alert for Thomas to get his men moving. Crittenden had some early success, but three factors meant the battle was soon to sway in the Union’s favor. First, at least a regiment of Rebels had old flintlock rifles that would not fire in the deluge, so at least 1/8th of the force had to be sent to the rear. Second, Fishing Creek, although swollen, was not impassable, so Thomas was able to bring full force to bear. Finally, the Yankees had a further forces advancing to join the fray.

As if all of this was not enough, Zollicoffer got lost whilst working the lines and met up with Union Colonel Speed Fry. It is not clear as to whether both confused each other intially as friend or foe, but Fry was on the uptick quicker and recognized Zollicoffer for who he was and shot him in the chest. The loss of Zollicoffer threw panic into the closest Rebel brigade which took flight. Their panic sparked the other brigade and soon the Union rout was on. Crittenden got his troops across the Cumberland in a ragged retreat, but was to later be reprimanded on charges of drunkenness at the battle with aspersions being cast about his commitment to the southern cause. His daddy would not have been proud.

The Union was successful in pushing the line across eastern and south-central Kentucky much further south to near the Tennessee line. The stage was now set for attacking down the western ends of the Tennessee River and Cumberland River in western Kentucky and Tennessee at Forts Henry and Donelson in February 1862.

The Battle of Logan’s Crossroad Motorcycle Ride

Check out the Cumberland Cultural Heritage Highway for beautiful ride around the area of the battle.

Stand Watie Born 12 December 1806

Confederate General Stand Watie was born near Rome, Georgia. He was the son of a full-blooded Cherokee chief and a half-blooded White/Cherokee mother. Watie was part of the Cherokee tribe that voted to move to the Indian Territory. Watie survived the tribe’s Trail of Tears march in the 1830s and became the only Native American to achieve the rank of general during the Civil War.

Stand Watie  – Early Civil War Years

Watie was the Colonel of the 2nd Cherokee Mounted Rifles in the Battle of Pea Ridge or Elkhorn Tavern where they took Union artillery and covered the Confederate retreat at the end of the end of the three day battle. Watie would later lead his Cherokee at the First Battle of Cabin Creek in 1863 and then  on the raid that took the Union steamboat J.R. Williams in 1864.

Stand Watie – Promotion to Brigadier General and Later Civil War Years

Also in 1864, Watie was promoted to Brigadier General and put in command of a brigade of native American troops comprised mainly of Cherokee, but also of other tribes from the Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma). Watie was most famous for the Second Battle (or Raid) of Cabin Creek in northeastern Oklahoma where Watie’s unit raided a Union supply shipment that severely disrupted Union operations in the area. BG Stand Watie was also notable as being the last Confederate General to surrender at the end of the Civil War.

Brigadier General Stand Watie is a good reminder that American History is not nearly as clear cut in terms of identities, alliances, and allegiances as some would try to make us believe.

Motorcycle Ride

Try Oklahoma State Route 82 from around Vinita to Vian to sample the area of operations that Watie worked in. To see the ground of the Second Battle of Cabin Creek, turn west onto Oklahoma State Route 28, near Langley, and go to Pensacola, OK, you will find the battlefield about 3 and a half miles north of Pensacola. The battlefield is near Pensacola, OK. It might make a good ride out from Tulsa, OK (~60 miles), Bentonville, AR (~70 miles), University of Arkansas (~85 miles) or maybe a longer ride from Branson, MO (~150 miles), if you happen to be in any of those places.

Battle of New Hope Church / Hell’s Hole 25 May 1864

In mid May 1864, General William Tecumseh Sherman was picking his way down North Georgia. His counterpart, General Joseph E. Johnston had just reluctantly retreated from Cassville, Georgia to the Allatoona Gorge in the hopes of luring Sherman into a tight killing zone. Johnston’s only worry was that the position at Allatoona was too good. Unbeknownst to Johnston, Sherman knew the position was too strong to attack head on. Sherman had spent a lot of time in the area as a young officer and had spent much time around the Etowah Indian burial mounds nearby. Sherman decided to swing west and go directly after the strategic crossroads around Dallas, Georgia.

After a few days rest, the Union forces moved south. General Joseph Hooker was in the van of the middle column and began a pursuit of a small band of Confederate cavalry which was acting as a screen for Johnston’s forces to the south. “Fighting Joe” Hooker lived up to his name and went fast and hard at the Confederates under General John Bell Hood. Hooker had hoped to catch the Rebels off guard and press home and advantage. Hood had other ideas. Taking his cue from his cavalry screen, Hood had begun entrenchments and selecting defensive positions. The first of Hooker’s assaults led by Brigadier General John W. Geary was thrown back when it encountered an undetected enfilade Confederate position which hit them hard. Hooker persisted with two more Divisions and the battle was enjoined.

Hood’s middle was held by Major General Alexander P. Stewart’s Division and they bore the brunt of Hooker’s onslaught for several hours in the afternoon. The battle raged with such ferocity that Johnston became worried that Stewart might relinquish the position. Stewart, a Tennessean, held firm even though some of Hooker’s men got close. With a fierce thunderstorm brewing and setting in, Hooker made one last throw of the dice and pulled Geary out of reserve through dense wood to push through a perceived advantage. Stewart’s artillery which had been so effective now opened up with even more canister rounds and caused the veteran Geary to claim that it was the hottest he had experienced with his command. The Union forces were praised for the courage and coolness, but the day was no to be theirs. With the drenching from the rain and the gloom of the stormy evening setting in, the Union forces settled down in their positions and awaited daylight. The battle has been called New Hope Church, but the soldiers knew it by “Hell’s Hole.”

The next day would bring probing for weakness all along the line, two days later, the fighting would continue near Pickett’s Mill.

Ride Suggestion

Next time you are buzzing down I-75 from Chattanooga to Atlanta, jump off at Cartersville for a great little circular ride that takes in Allatoona Lake, The New Hope and Pickett’s Mill Battlefields and a couple of mountainous switchback roads near Dallas, Georgia.

Combat Veteran’s Motorcycle Association Conducts Civil War Ride

Combat Veteran’s Motorcycle Association Chapter 27-3 conducted a ride around the Petersburg, Virginia area on 19-20 August 2016. It was organized by a member who works as National Park Service Ranger, Chris Castle, who is a also a combat veteran. Castle conducted historical briefs at several stops. From the article,

The stop locations included, the Battle of the Crater, and Fort Fisher. The ride ended with lunch at a local restaurant. Everyone left with an understanding of the events that occurred during the 292 day campaign, that led to the retreat and eventual surrender of Lee’s army at Appomattox.

However, the article erroneously states,

This weekend also marked the 150th anniversary to the end of the civil war.

The USA Civil War concluded in the spring of 1865… 151 years ago from 2016. General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at the Appomattox Court House in Virginia on 9 April 1865. President Andrew Johnson issued a Proclamation of the end of the war on 9 May 1865 and the last major Confederate forces west of the Mississippi River surrendered on 2 June 1865.

I bet this was a great ride. Good people gathering to learn their nation’s history and a good ride to boot. If you attended, please let me know how it went.

Image Credit: Timothy H. O’Sullivan [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

American Civil War Battle of Fredericksburg (Part 3) 13 December 1862

On the morning of 13 December 1862, the preparations were done and the day of reckoning was at hand. Burnside had decided on taking the nearest hills, but had sent ill-defined orders to his left which resulted in a weak effort to roll up Lee’s right flank.

As the morning progressed, A federal bombardment of the Rebel positions on Prospect Hill preceded the push from Union General Meade. Meade was delayed by the “gallant Pelham,” for a critical half hour. Finally, the main assault was underway and repulsed once, but Meade was determined and found a way to defeat Confederate A.P. Hill through a marshy area. Once Meade was through, he found that the promised left flank movement was far too weak to support his breakthrough. Seeing Meade exposed, Stonewall Jackson threw Jubal Early’s division into counter-attack and drove Meade out. A Union opportunity of great importance had been lost.

Over on Marye’s Heights, it was a turkey shoot as the Confederate’s repelled wave after wave of Union assault. Burnside had been criticized for not being aggressive enough previous to Fredericksburg, so he decided that this would not be the case here. He renewed his attack on Marye’s Heights and on Lee’s right flank. This turned a defeat into a bloodbath. The day was lost to Burnside due to weak orders and dithering in his preparation, not his lack of aggressiveness.

For a motorcycle ride that also takes in the Spotsylvania
battlefield, head west out of Fredericksburg on VA State Route 3, then
head southwest on Virginia State Route 20 at Wilderness and follow VA SR 20 for approximately 50 miles to Charlottesville.

Image Credit – By Kurz & Allison, Art Publishers, Chicago, U.S. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

18 July 1863 – Second Battle of Fort Wagner

Made famous by the 1989 movie Glory. There are no roads to the historical site of Fort Wagner, but you can enjoy two scenic rides nearby to get a feel for the area; Riverland Drive & Fort Johnson Road.
Fort Wagner is here. Looks like the closest road point would be here.

Confederate General Stand Watie Attacks Union Forces at First Battle of Cabin Creek 1-2 July 1863

Confederate General Stand Watie was born near Rome, Georgia on 12 December 1806. Watie, a Cherokee Indian, survived the tribe’s Trail of Tears in the 1830s and became the only Native American to achieve the rank of general during the Civil War.*

On the night of 1st and 2nd July 1863, General Watie led his forces against a Federal supply wagon train at the ford where the Texas Trail intersected Cabin Creek in the Indian Territory (to become Oklahoma in 1907). This skirmish was to be called the First Battle of Cabin Creek. The wagon train was led by Union Colonel James Williams and and originated at Ft. Scott, Kansas. It consisted of the 3rd Indian Home guard and the 1st Kansas colored Volunteer Infantry among various other units, crucially some artillery. The Confederates tried to hold the ford and take the supplies, but were driven off by the Union artillery and several charges by Williams’ forces. The wagon train continued to its destination of Fort Gibson in the Indian Territory. There were other skirmishes on the 5th and the 20th of July 1863, but the Union fended off the Confederates each time. It was not until 19 September 1864 that General Watie and his forces were able to win and secure and union wagon train at the same site in the Second Battle of Cabin Creek.

The battlefield is near Pensacola, OK. It might make a good ride out from Tulsa, OK (~60 miles), Bentonville, AR (~70 miles), University of Arkansas (~85 miles) or maybe a longer ride from Branson, MO (~150 miles), if you happen to be in any of those places. The battle site directions on this site are confusing, but I think the actual battle site and commemorative marker is near here.

General Stand Watie is a very interesting character to me. His Indian name was “Red Fox” which was my call sign in the 2nd Cavalry. See below for a history of his and other Indians’ service in the US Civil War.

Image credit: Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


Union Forces Attack Confederates at Kennesaw Mountain 27 June 1864

In one of his rare failures in the Atlanta Campaign, General William Tecumseh Sherman lost approximately 2,000 to 3,000 men to Confederate General Joseph Johnston’s forces who were in prepared defenses at Kennesaw Mountain (actually Big Kennesaw and Little Kennesaw) just north of Marietta, Georgia. Although it was a costly defeat for the Union forces, it was not long until they were on the march again and at the gates of Atlanta.

Check out the Kennesaw National Military Park. There are some good maps there by Larry Knight (RIP). There is even a trail map of the battlefield, if you are inclined to take a hike. Don’t be put off by the “Calorie Counter” title on the hiking map. Take a cheeseburger with you to give the nannies the vapors.

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