Saturday, July 20, 2013

152nd Anniversary of the First Battle of Manassas

Tomorrow is the 152nd Anniversary of the First Battle of Manassas (Bull Run), the first major battle of the American Civil War. In the end, the Union army under the command of US General Irvin McDowell collapsed, with 2,896 Union casualties out of 35,000 men and the Confederate armies of CS Generals P. G. T. Beauregard and Joseph Johnston secured victory with 1,982 casualties out of 33,000 in their two armies.

Capture of Rickett's Battery by Sidney King, 1964AD.

The Union attempt to break the Confederate lines along the Bull Run with a direct attack had failed a few days before at Blackburn's Ford, 18 July 1861, hence the flanking movement around the Confederate left that precipitated the battle of First Manassas.  Here is a link to some images and information about that fight at Blackburn's Ford:

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First Manassas (Bull Run) on the morning of 21 July 1861.  [Map by Hal Jespersen,]

The Union flank march was spotted in the early morning hours of 21 July 1861 from Signal Hill [see below], and the battle would unfold in three general phases: 10AM-11:30AM, Union victory on Matthews Hill; 1PM to 4PM, costly but inconclusive fighting on Henry Hill (though CS General Jackson earns his title of "Stonewall"); 4PM to dusk, the arrival of more Confederate brigades extending the fight to Chinn Ridge, and the Union army collapse.

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The climax of the fight at First Manassas, afternoon of 21 July 1861.  The arrival of more Confederate brigades would extend the fight to Chinn Ridge, and overtax the Union line.  [Map by Hal Jespersen,]

Here are a few web references that might be of use:
Manassas National Battlefield Park

National Park Service Battle Description

Civil War Home Page for First Manassas (with OR)

Below is a link to the marker at Signal Hill. It was from here that Porter Alexander spotted the Union force marching around the Confederate left flank at First Manassas, and sent the message: "Look out for your left, you are turned."

Live well!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Emperor St. Henry II

Holy Roman Emperor and King of Germany Saint Henry II (reigned, 1002-1024AD, crowned Emperor in 1014), was the great grandson of Henry I "the Fowler" and husband of Empress Saint Cunegunda (+1040), a daughter of the Count of Luxembourg.  His father and grandfather both reigned as Dukes of Bavaria, as St. Henry did for a few years.

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Bamberg Cathedral in Bavaria, burial place of Emperor St. Henry II and his wife.

St. Henry is a holy monarch and devoted son of the Church, he was a bright spot in a difficult and turbulent age.  He was a Benedictine Oblate, and, with St. Frances of Rome, one of their patrons.  Already King of Germany since 1002, he was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Benedict VIII in 1014.  It is supposed that he and his Empress lived a Josephite marriage, hence, upon his death, the throne passed to a second cousin twice removed, Emperor Conrad II, in 1024AD.  St. Henry II was buried in Bamberg Cathedral (along with Pope Clement II, reigned 1046-1047AD, too).

Tomb of Sts. Henry II & Cunegunda in Bamberg Cathedral.

He was canonized in 1146 by Blessed Pope Eugene III. 

For more:
Patron Saint Index: Emperor St. Henry II

Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Emperor St. Henry II

Here is the website of Bamberg Cathedral:

Live well!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

150th of the Surrender of Port Hudson, LA

Left: US General Nathaniel Banks; Right: CS General Franklin Gardner

On this day, 9 July, in 1863, a Confederate force of some 6,500 men under CS General Franklin Gardner that had garrisoned Port Hudson, Louisiana surrendered to the Union XIX Corps of US Major General Nathaniel Banks (Union Department of the Gulf).

Map of the siege of Port Hudson, Louisiana.

Port Hudson, along with Vicksburg, Mississippi, had been crucial Southern strongholds on the Mississippi River that denied the Union free use of that river, and tied the Trans-Mississippi of the Confederacy together to the East.

US General U.S. Grant and the Union Army of the Tennessee campaigned against CS General John C. Pemberton at Vicksburg at the same time that Banks moved on Gardner at Port Hudson.

In the Spring of 1863, Union gunboats under US Rear Admiral David Farragut attempted to render the Confederate position indefensible, but failed.  Nathaniel Banks and his infantry would move into position in May 1863 to invest the Southern defenses.

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Contemporary photograph of the earthworks at Port Hudson.

On 22 May 1863, US General Banks invested those Confederate position at Port Hudson, and the 4.5 miles of Southern earthworks were surrounded.

Following the failed frontal assaults of 27 May 1863, the Union army settled into a 48 day siege of Port Hudson.  Another wave of assaults against the Confederates failed on 14 June 1863.

It was, in the end, news of the capitulation of the more important position at Vicksburg that prompted CS General Gardner to finally surrender his position to the Union.  So it was on 9 July 1863.

The Confederates had 7,500 men to start, but lost 750 killed or wounded, 250 died from disease, and 6,500 capitulated to the North.  For the Union, our of a force of 40,000 Banks lost 10,000, evenly split between battle losses and disease, including sunstroke.

President Abraham Lincoln could now proclaim that the Father of the Waters ran unvexed to the sea -- and the Union controlled the Mississippi, cutting the Confederacy in two.

US General Nathaniel Banks would be heard from again, as he would lead a force up the Red River of Louisiana in 1864...

For more on Port Hudson, you might note:
NPS Battle Description

Civil War Daily Gazette Entry on Port Hudson

Port Hudson State Historic Site, Louisiana

Live well!

Monday, July 8, 2013

150th of the Tullahoma Campaign

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Left: US General William Rosecrans; Right CS General Braxton Bragg.

With the decisive Union victories at Gettysburg by the Union Army of the Potomac, and at Vicksburg by the Union Army of the Tennessee, the activity of the third great Northern field army, the Union Army of the Cumberland, during that summer of 1863 is usually forgotten.

US General William S. Rosecrans and his Union Army of the Cumberland (now 50,000 to 60,000 men) had managed to survive the three days at the Battle of Stones River (Murfreesboro), Tennessee at the turn of the New Year, and spent some months preparing to move once again against their old foes, CS General Braxton Bragg and the Confederate Army of Tennessee (now 45,000).  This new campaign to drive the Confederate army out of Middle Tennessee would be known as the Tullahoma Campaign.

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Map of the Tullahoma Campaign.  Attribution: Map by Hal Jespersen,

This was a campaign of maneuver, rather than direct attack.  Rosecrans began his movements of the campaign on 23 June 1863, sending the Reserve Corps of Granger to the West, threatening the Confederate left, all while intending to strike the right.  On 24 June 1863, the Brigade of US Colonel John Wilder dashed forward and seized Hoover's Gap -- its movements earning it the nickname "Lightening Brigade."  His brigade was the spearhead of the Union XIV Corps of George Thomas.  Confederate counterattacks failed to dislodge Wilder.

Here is the NPS description of the Battle of Hoover's Gap:

Six miles away, Union advance troops had seized Liberty Gap.

On 27 June 1863, owing to his difficult position, CS General Bragg ordered his army to fall back and consolidate at Tullahoma, Tennessee.  That same day, the Union Brigade of Wilder seized Manchester, TN.

Rosecrans planned a frontal assault on the Confederate Army at Tullahoma on 1 July, but on 30 June, Bragg ordered a withdrawal south beyond the Elk River.  The positions on the south of that river were not to be held long: on 3 July Bragg ordered a retreat to Chattanooga, and by 7 July 1863, the Confederate Army of Tennessee was encamped around Lookout Mountain.

Rosecrans and the Union Army of the Cumberland had pushed Bragg and the Army of Tennessee from near Murfreesboro to Chattanooga at a loss of under 600 Union soldiers.

In the words of US Major General William Rosecrans:
"Thus ended a nine days' campaign, which drove the enemy from two fortified positions and gave us possession of Middle Tennessee, conducted in one of the most extraordinary rains ever known in Tennessee at that period of the year."

Both Richmond and Washington had concerns, however, in the weeks that followed -- Richmond worried as Bragg had lost Middle Tennessee and would soon fall back from Chattanooga (in August), and Washington pressed Rosecrans to step up and press the pursuit.  His Army of the Cumberland would not move against Bragg at Chattanooga until mid-August.

That September of 1863, however, Bragg would turn and fight, but it would be in North Georgia along a stream known as Chickamauga...

Live well!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

150th of the Surrender of Vicksburg, MS

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Left: Union General U. S. Grant; Right, Confederate General John C. Pemberton.

On this day, 4 July, in 1863, some 150 years ago, the Confederate garrison of General John C. Pemberton surrendered to Union General U.S. Grant, at Vicksburg, Mississippi, in a siege that had begun in May, 1863.  This capitulation, just a day after the defeat of Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg, saw about 29,500 Confederates surrender, and a key stronghold on the Mississippi River fall to Union hands.

Grant's Operations against Vicksburg, leading up to, and including the Siege.  Attribution: Map by Hal Jespersen,

This was a siege that began on 18 May 1863, after Grant and his Union Army of the Tennessee landed in Mississippi, defeated a couple of forces, and maneuvered in position to besiege the city.

Union General Ulysses S. Grant and his Union Army had attempted a number of skemes to strike at the Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi, Vicksburg, during the winter of 1862-1863, but all had failed.  At the end of April 1863, his troops landed on the East, or Mississippi, side of the river, to begin the campaign that would, in the end, secure the city.  At Port Gibson on 1 May (, Grant was able to push past local Confederate forces.  Likewise, on 12 May 1863, at the Battle of Raymond (, US Grant's Army defeated a Confederate force, allowing him to move on Jackson, Mississippi, by 14 May 1863, and forcing the evacuating of the Confederate relief army under Joseph E. Johnston (  These actions not only forced Confederate General John C. Pemberton to withdraw back to Vicksburg, but convinced CS General Joseph Johnston, who was to save the army at Vicksburg, to keep his distance and, in the end, remain irrelevant.  Grant moved west, crashing into a Confederate body on 16 May 1863 at Champion Hill (, and, two days later, commenced the siege of the jewel of the campaign: Vicksburg.

The Siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi.  Attribution: Map by Hal Jespersen,

Finally, after weeks of bitter siege, the rations and supplies of soldier and civilian alike in Vicksburg became intolerable.  Pemberton was determined to cut his way out of the city, but his subordinate generals argued against this idea.  On 2 July 1863, Confederate General John C. Pemberton met with Union General US Grant to discuss terms.  Grant offered only unconditional surrender, as is American custom.  Pemberton declined.  The next day, more reasonable terms were offered, and on 4 July 1863, the Confederate garrison of Vicksburg, Mississippi, some 29,495 men -- in addition to over 3,000 casualties of battle -- surrendered to the Union army.  This was but a day after Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg.

The fall of Vicksburg meant that only Port Hudson, Louisiana, which would fall days later, stood in the way of Union domination of the Mississippi River, and a division of the Confederacy in two.  Coupled with the defeat at Gettysburg, the Southern Confederacy was dealt a blow from which it would never recover.

For more, you might note:
National Park Service Description of Vicksburg

This is the website of the battlefield that, above all others, this blogger needs to visit:
Vicksburg National Military Park

A site which includes the official reports is:

Live well.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

150th Gettysburg: Pickett's Charge

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Left: US Gen. George Meade; Right: CS Gen. Robert E. Lee

Today we mark the 150th Anniversary of the third and final day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, fought between the 75,000-man Confederate Army of Northern Virginia under the command of General Robert E. Lee and the 90,000-man Union Army of the Potomac under the command of Major General George G. Meade.

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The action at Gettysburg on Day 3, 3 July 1863Attribution: Map by Hal Jespersen,

On 3 July 1863, Robert E. Lee launched the famous attack on the center of the Union lines perched on Cemetery Ridge: Pickett's Charge.  The charge was so-named because the lead division of the attack was that of CS General George Pickett of Longstreet's First Corps, Army of Northern Virginia.  Still, two other divisions also participated, that of CS Generals Trimble and Pettigrew, as well.  All told, about 12,000 men would participate in the attack -- and attack that was to target the Union line at the "Copse of Trees" on Cemetery Ridge.

Map of Pickett's Charge.  3 July 1863.  Attribution: Map by Hal Jespersen,

These divisions attacked the II Corps of US General Hancock at about 3PM, after an artillery bombardment that was supposed to soften the Union lines.  At "the Angle" on Cemetery Ridge, some Confederate troops actually managed to jump the stone wall that anchored the Union line here.  This was the "High Water Mark of the Confederacy."

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Pickett's Charge by Forbes.  The Confederate lines are in the foreground, the Union in the distance.

With the failure of Pickett's Charge, the Battle of Gettysburg was over -- and Lee began the process of retreat back to Virginia the next day.

In the end, the three days had seen the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia bend and batter the Union Army of the Potomac, but not break it.  The loss was terrible: some 23,000 Union casualties and 28,000 Confederate casualties.  These were men the South simply could not afford to lose.

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The retreat from Gettysburg.  Attribution: Map by Hal Jespersen,

US General Meade's pursuit of the withdrawing Confederate army would be a point of annoyance for President Abraham Lincoln.  Still, Meade at avoided defeat, and that saved his job.  There would not be another significant battle in the Virginia theatre for the remainder of 1863.  There would be some maneuver, and some bloodshed, in both the Bristow and Mine Run campaigns.  More on those, however, in the Fall.

Tomorrow, we head west, where there was significant news on the Mississippi in 1863.  Coupled with these events in Pennsylvania, they spell disaster for the South and the Confederate cause.

For more on the Battle of Gettysburg, you might note:
National Park Service Description

Official Website of Gettysburg National Military Park

Civil War Home: Gettysburg

Live well.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

150th of Gettysburg: Day 2

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Left: US Gen. George Meade; Right: CS Gen. Robert E. Lee

Today we mark the 150th Anniversary of the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, fought between the 75,000-man Confederate Army of Northern Virginia under the command of General Robert E. Lee and the 90,000-man Union Army of the Potomac under the command of Major General George G. Meade.

On the second day of fighting at Gettysburg, 2 July 1863, General Lee decided to hammer the Union Army of the Potomac where he had found it: on the ridges south of the town of Gettysburg.  The fighting on this day would be fierce, and would center on a few iconic locations.

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Map of the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg.  Attribution: Map by Hal Jespersen,

The Union III Corps, under Daniel Sickles, was supposed to anchor the left of the Union line on Little Round Top, with his men on Cemetery Ridge, but the political general decided to move his force forward into the Peach Orchard and Wheat Field, using Devil's Den as the left end of his line.  These would be the positions pummeled by the First Corps of CS General James Longstreet on the afternoon of 2 July.  General Sickles would lose a leg in the fighting.

A view from the boulder-strewn Devils' Den looking up at Little Round Top.

Hood's Division of Longstreet's Corps attempted to turn the corner on the III Corps, only to find that a portion of US General Meade's old command, V Corps, had been placed on those heights by the Union Army of the Potomac's Chief Engineer, US General Warren, preventing the envelopment of the Union army.  [As an aside, one of the staff officers of General Warren sent to look for units to secure the position was Washington Roebling, who would design Brooklyn Bridge, and whose grandson, Donald Roebling, would design the Marine Corps LVTs of WWII.]  Of course, this action on Little Round Top is most famous for the stand of Joshua Chamberlain's 20th Maine Regiment.  General Warren would be given command of V Corps for his efforts.

The fighting on the left practically destroyed the Union III Corps, and gained the South some ground, but failed to break the Union, or turn the flank.

Meanwhile, on the right of the Union army, Robert E. Lee sent the Second Corps, Army of Northern Virginia, of Richard Ewell, to take Culp's Hill, defended by the Union XII Corps of General Slocum.  The Union would hold here, and the right flank, too, failed to crumble.

Lee had pummeled both flanks, at great loss, and the Union army, while holding, seemed to him compromised.  The next day, he would try to strike the center of the Army of the Potomac, and deal a knock-out blow.

For more on the Battle of Gettysburg, you might note:
National Park Service Description

Official Website of Gettysburg National Military Park

This site also includes the official reports of the battle from the day:
Civil War Home: Gettysburg

Live well.

Monday, July 1, 2013

150th of Gettysburg: Day 1

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Left: US Gen. George Meade; Right: CS Gen. Robert E. Lee

Today we mark the 150th Anniversary of the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, fought between the 75,000-man Confederate Army of Northern Virginia under the command of General Robert E. Lee and the 90,000-man Union Army of the Potomac under the command of Major General George G. Meade.

The route of the invasion and army movements leading up to Gettysburg. Attribution: Map by Hal Jespersen,

In the wake of the defeat of the Union Army of the Potomac at the Battle of Chancellorsville, Robert E. Lee decided, once again, to take the war north of the Potomac River and invade the Union with his Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.  In addition to allowing his army the opportunity for better forage away from the exhausted territory of Northern Virginia, he also sought to draw the Army of the Potomac into the open where he hoped to win a decisive victory.  A crushing victory over the main Union field army on Union territory, and only a stone's throw from the US capital city, would, it was hoped, break the Northern resolve and win Southern independence.

Lee had two significant disadvantages against which he would have to contend during this battle: first, he had lost his right arm, CS Lt. General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson -- and Jackson's Corps was now divided into two Corps, one under CS Gen. Richard Ewell, and the other under CS Gen. A.P. Hill.  The other challenge was that he had lost contact with his cavalry under CS Gen. JEB Stuart.  Stuart, still a bit embarrassed from being surprised at Brandy Station, now attempted to recover his reputation by riding around the Union army -- leaving Lee, however, without the scouting he would need to effectively conduct the campaign.

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Map of the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg.  Attribution: Map by Hal Jespersen,

US General John Reynolds, commanding I Corps, and killed at Gettysburg, 1 July 1863.

On 1 July 1863, elements of A.P. Hill's Confederate Third Corps -- Henry' Heth's division -- marched into Gettysburg, PA, in search of shoes.  Instead, they were met by Union Cavalry under US General Buford, and soon after that, infantry of the Union I Corps under US Gen. John Reynolds.  By the end of the day, portions of both the Confederate Second Corps, of Ewell, and Third Corps, of Hill, had driven the I Corps, of Reynolds (killed in the action), and XI Corps, of Howard, back from Seminary Ridge to a position on Cemetery Ridge south of the town of Gettysburg.  This XI Corps, that was driven back through the town of Gettysburg, was the same XI Corps on the flank of the Union army at Chancellorsville that was scattered by Jackson's flank attack there.

The first day of action, though not initially intended by the Confederates to bring on a major battle, had gone well for the Southern forces, and the next day would bring an escalation of the fight as the rest of the two armies arrived on the scene.

For more on the Battle of Gettysburg, you might note:
National Park Service Description

Official Website of Gettysburg National Military Park

Civil War Home: Gettysburg

Tomorrow, the fight moves to the flanks of the Union army and such iconic locations as Little Round Top, Devil's Den, the Wheatfield, the Peach Orchard, and Culp's Hill...

Live well!