Sunday, April 28, 2013


(U.S. Army Center of Military History)
Chancellorsville, 27 April - 6 May 1863. In the East, during this period, Federal operations were directed by Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, who replaced Burnside as commander of the Army of the Potomac on 25 January. Hooker effected some reorganization and by late April was ready to assume the offensive with about 134,000 men. Hooker's objective was to destroy Lee's army, about 60,000 strong, which was still holding Fredericksburg. To accomplish this he planned a double envelopment which could place strong Union forces on each of Lee's flanks. The Chancellorsville Campaign began, as planned, with the movement of five corps under Hooker up the Rappahannock and across the river to Chancellorsville, while two corps under Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick crossed below Fredericksburg. Meanwhile Union cavalry made a diversionary raid in Lee's rear. Lee quickly became aware of Hooker 's intentions, and on 1 May boldly launched an attack toward Chancellorsville, leaving on a small force to defend Fredericksburg. In a brilliant display of generalship, Lee outflanked Hooker's force and kept it on the defensive. He also repulsed Sedgwick, who had taken Fredericksburg on 3 May and had advanced west, only to be driven northward across the Rappahannock on 5 May. Lee then turned his full attention to Chancellorsville, but Hooker withdrew his forces across the Rappahannock on 6 May before the Confederates could launch an assault. Federal casualties were 1,575 killed, 9,594 wounded, and 5,676 missing; Confederate casualties were 1,665 killed, 9,081 wounded, and 2,018 missing. Among the Confederate losses was Stonewall Jackson, who was mortally wounded on 2 May.

Encouraged by the victory at Chancellorsville, Confederate authorities decided to attempt another invasion of the North. In early June Lee began moving his units up the Shenandoah and Cumberland Valleys into Pennsylvania, where he was forced by the exigencies of scanty supply to disperse his army over a broad area. Hooker had become aware of Lee's intentions by mid-June, and had promptly started north with his army, crossing the Potomac near Leesburg on 25-26 June. When Lee learned of this he ordered his army to concentrate at once between Cashtown and Gettysburg.

(Battle and Leaders of the Civil War)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

150-years-ago -- Confederate Flag and Seal

The Richmond Daily Dispatch
April 24, 1863

Second National Confederate Flag
(Naval History & Heritage Command )

          The Senate committee, it is understood, has completed their designs of the flag and seal for the Confederacy. The flag is a white field with the well known battle flag of the Army of the Potomac, (Gen. Johnston's flag) in a square of blue at the upper corner, near the staff, and a blue horizontal bar across the centre. 
          Willing to accept almost anything in preference to the present despised parody upon the Yankee flag, we should yet prefer the battle flag itself to the modification of it proposed by the committee. At the beginning of the war, owing to the close resemblance between the Confederate and Federal flags, each party often accused the other of the fraud of holding its eugenicist's flag for the purpose of deception.

Gen. Joseph E. Johnston
         Both parties were mistaken, and each was possibly deluded by the mistake into some unfortunate movement. Gen. Johnston was so thoroughly convinced of the danger of going into battle with a flag too much like that of the enemy that he caused to be adopted in the field the well known battle flag — illustrious for the many victories was beneath its folds. 
          It is simple, neat, and very distinct from a long distance. It answers the purpose of a flag very well, is easily made, and is not obnoxious to any serious objection. We are sure the conflicting counsels of a body of men not deeply skilled in heraldry, will not produce anything too appropriate, and likely to engross to much the public approval and love as the Potomac battle flag. 
         A great many battles must be fought, and a great many victories must be won under another to make it so famous. The change made by the committee is no improvement of it. We trust that at least the blue bar across the committee's flag may be stricken out by Congress. 
         Let us be done with the bar at all events. It would be grateful to the nation, we are sure, if all parties would compromise on the glorious battle flag. It is already consecrated by our best blood, and many of the most brilliant victories in the annuals of war. 
         It should, therefore, be cherished with affection. How can we discard it? With what feeling can we lay it away in the archives as a moment of the nation's glory? Can we hide it away from the eyes of the people! Do what we will with it, it is hardly probable that the army will give it up.
         Congressmen may suggest variations upon it, or may distaste a new banner to the veterans of so many bloody fields; but they will not abandon the flag they have fought and conquered under, and which they have learned to love as the emblem of their triumphs. It must indeed be something better than any yet devised that could reduce them from this invincible battle flag.
        The seal represents the equestrian statue of Washington, after that on the Capitol Square, with appropriate bordering and back ground, and the motto, "Deo duc vincimus" which in English, freely rendered, is, "God being with us, we will conquer." The people care less about the seal than the flag; and we suppose there will be no objection to this. It will certainly be satisfactory in so far as it contains the figure of Washington.
        The Congress has been too long in the making of the flag, certainly. It is to be hoped they will now settle both questions of flag and seal, and end debate about them.
Great Seal of the Confederate States of America
(Georgia Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans)

Thursday, April 18, 2013


Battle of Irish Bend
(Harper's Weekly, May 16, 1863)

National Park Service Summary

          While the other two Union XIX Army Corps divisions comprising the expedition into West Louisiana moved across Berwick Bay towards Fort Bisland, Brig. Gen. Cuvier Grover’s division went up the Atchafalaya River into Grand Lake, intending to intercept a Confederate retreat from Fort Bisland or turn the enemy’s position. On the morning of April 13, the division landed in the vicinity of Franklin and scattered Rebel troops attempting to stop them from disembarking. That night, Grover ordered the division to cross Bayou Teche and prepare for an attack towards Franklin at dawn. In the meantime, Confederate Maj. Gen. Richard Taylor had sent some men to meet Grover’s threat. On the morning of the 14th, Taylor and his men were at Nerson's Woods, around a mile and a half above Franklin. As Grover’s lead brigade marched out a few miles, it encountered Rebels on its right and began skirmishing with them. The fighting became intense; the Rebels attacked, forcing the Yankees to fall back. The gunboat Diana arrived and anchored the Confederate right flank. The Confederates were outnumbered, however, and, as Grover began making dispositions for an attack, they retreated leaving the field to the Union. This victory, along with the one at Fort Bisland, two days earlier, assured the success of the expedition into West Louisiana.

Sunday, April 14, 2013


[Excerpted from "General Mouton's Regiment, the 18th Louisiana Infantry" by Michael Dan Jones,, ]

April 13, 1863

Brig. Gen. Alfred Mouton
           The cannon fire began at exactly seven minutes past 11 o'clock that morning and at 2 o'clock that afternoon enemy gunboats were seen steaming past them on Grand Lake. The intermittent firing continued until 4 o'clock when a furious artillery duel was commenced by the two contending forces. "Cornay, with the St. Mary's Artillery, maddened at the sight of the enemy standing upon his own homestead with their batteries planted upon the playground of his children, sent forth shell after shell, filling the air with their peculiar and indescribable music," [Maj. Silas)  Grisamore said.
            General  [Alfred] Mouton set up his command post on the left in the redoubt where he could get the best view of the enemy's movements. Mouton, along with Colonel Bush and his aides braved the missiles of death that went zipping by them  as the battle progressed. "Gen. Mouton was standing patiently, scrutinizing with his glass every movement in the front," Grisamore recalled. General [Richard] Taylor was viewing the battle on the  Confederate right. "Weitzel and Emory came in sight of our lines before nightfall, threw forward skirmishers, opened guns at long range, and bivouacked; and  our scouts reported the movement on the  lake," Taylor said.
          On  the Confederate left, [Union Col. Oliver] Gooding prepared his brigade for a major assault against Mouton's line at about 2:30 o'clock that afternoon. He was reinforced by two more regiments and the 1st Maine Battery. He advanced the 38th Massachusetts Infantry as skirmishers and deployed the 53rd Massachusetts as the backup line of skirmishers. His main battle line consisted of the 31st Massachusetts, at the right and rear of the right section of the 1st Maine Battery, the 175th New York Infantry to the left rear of the left section of  the battery,  and the 156th New York Infantry on the extreme right in the woods. He also had a detachment of the Louisiana Cavalry (Union) in the rear as a reserve. Gooding then ordered the advance at 3:15 p.m. and hit the Confederates with everything he had. Facing them were the Yellow Jacket Battalion, Crescent Regiment and the 18th Louisiana on the  Confederate left, with [Col. Arthur] Bagby's Texans in the advance post in the woods. The firing was brisk from both sides, first from the 38th Massachusetts and when its ammunition was expended, then the 53rd Massachusetts came up at 5 o'clock and kept up the firing.

Click here.
        At about that same time Gooding ordered the 31st Massachusetts to support the 156th New York in the woods on the Federal right, and the Confederate left began to crumble. Mouton then sent the entire left wing of the 18th Louisiana, along with a detachment of Waller's battalion from the west bank, to reinforce Bagby for what became intense combat in the woods. "The enemy threatening to storm our works, our men fixed bayonets and resolutely prepared to meet and dispute with them to the death the possession of the intrenchments [sic]. They, however, although they could easily have borne us down by superiority of numbers, dared not expose themselves to a hand-to-hand conflict.," Mouton said. By contrast, Gooding said, "The Thirty-first Massachusetts. . . charged and carried a breastwork of the enemy in the wood in front of our right, killing many of the enemy and capturing 86 prisoners, among the latter two lieutenants of the Seventh Texas Cavalry and one of the Eighteenth Louisiana Infantry." The breastworks he was talking  about was the advance line of Bagby in the woods. The lieutenant of the 18th Louisiana captured was either 2nd Lieutenant Lavince Becnel or 1st Lieutenant Louis Becnel.
          On the Confederate right, on the west side of the bayou, Taylor said the fighting was also furious there also, and to bolster the  morale of the troops, some of whom were raw recruits, he mounted the breastwork and walked up and down smoking a cigarette. The heaviest fire was concentrated on the Diana, which became disabled. The gunboat had to be withdrawn for repairs. Taylor kept in contact with Mouton through his staff officers. After the firing ceased for the day, at 9 o'clock that night, he was informed by Colonel Reily that the enemy had landed at Hutchin's Point in full force but had not yet reached Franklin. He said he knew then that he would have to evacuate Bisland. He ordered Mouton to begin preparing for the evacuation of the east bank and Green's regiment would act as the rear guard.

Monday, April 8, 2013

150-years-ago -- An English Picture of Confederate Headquarters.

Robert E. Lee

The  Richmond Daily Dispatch
April 27, 1863
          In visiting the headquarters of the Confederate Generals, but particularly those of General Lee, any one accustomed to see European armies in the field cannot help to be struck with the great absence of all the pomp and circumstance of war in and around their encampments. Lee's headquarters consisted of about seven or eight pole tents pitched with their backs to a stake fence, upon a place of ground so rocky that it was unpleasant to ride over it, its only recommendation being a little stream of good water which flowed close by the General's tent. In front of the tents were some three four wheeled wagons drawn up without any regularity, and a number of horses roamed loose about the field. The savants, who were of course slaves, and the mounted soldiers, called "couriers" who always accompany each General of Division in the field, were unprovided with tents and slept in or under the wagons. Wagons tents, and some of the horses, were marked U. S., showing that part of that huge debt in the North has gone to furnishing even the Confederate Generals with camp equipments. No guard or sentries were to be seen in the vicinity; no crowd of aids-de-camp loitering about, making themselves agreeable to visitors, and endeavoring to save their Generals from receiving those who have no particular business.
          A large farm house stands close by, which, in any other army, would have been the General's residence pro tens, but, as no liberties are allowed to be taken with personal property in Lee's army, he is particular in setting a good example himself. His staff are crowded together two or three in a tent; none are allowed to carry more baggage than a small box each, and his own kit 14 but very little larger. Every one who approaches him does so with marked respect although there is none of that bowing and flourishing of forage caps which occurs in the presence of European Generals; and, while all honor him and place implicit faith in his courage and ability those with whom he is most intimate feel for him the affection of sons to a father. Old General Scott was correct in saying that when Lee joined the Southern cause it was worth as much as the accession of 20,000 men to the "rebels." Since then every injury that it was possible to inflict the Northerners have heaped upon him. His house on the Pamunkey river was burnt to the ground and the slaves carried away — many of them by force — while his residence on the Arlington Heights was not only gutted of its furniture, but even the very relics of George Washington were stolen from it and paraded in triumph in the saloons of New York and Boston. Notwithstanding all these personal losses, however, when speaking of the Yankees, he neither evinced any bitterness of feeling, nor gave utterance to a single violent expression, but alluded to many of his former friends and companions among them in the kindest terms. He spoke as a man proud of the victories won by his country and confident of ultimate success, under the blessings of the Almighty, whom he glow fled for past successes, and whose aid he invoked for all future operations. He regretted that his limited supply of tents and available accommodation would prevent him from putting us up, but he kindly placed at our disposal horses or a two house wagon, if we preferred it, to drive about in.
          Upon leaving him we drove to Rucker Hill, six miles nearer Martinsburg, at which place "Stonewall" Jackson, now of world-wide celebrity, had his headquarters. With him we spent a most pleasant hour, and were agreeably surprised to find him very affable, having been led to expect that he was silent and almost morose. Dressed in his gray uniform, he looks the hero that he is; and his thin, compressed lips and calm glance, which meats yours unflinchingly, give evidence of that firmness and declining of character for which he is no famous. He has a broad open forehead from which the hair is wed brushed back; a shapely nose straight and rather long; thin, colorize cheeks with only a very small allowance of whiskers; a cleanly shaven upper lip and chin; and a pair of fine greyish-blue eyes rather sunken, with ever hanging brown which intensify the keenness of his gaze, but without imparting any fierceness to it. Such are the general characteristics of his face, and I have only to add that a smile seems always lurking about his mouth when he speaks, and that though his voice partakes slightly of that harshness which Europeans unjustly attributes to all Americans, there is much unmistakable cordiality in his manner; and to us he talked most affectionately of England and of his brief but enjoyable adjourn there. The religious pedant seems strongly developed to him and though his conversation is perfectly free from all Puritanical cant, it is evident that he is a person who never loses sight of the fact that there is omnipresent duty ever presiding over the minutest occurrence of life as well as over the most important. As one of his soldiers said to me in talking of him "he is a glorious fellow!" and after him I felt that I had at last solved the mystery of "'Stonewall Brigade," and discovered why it was that it had accomplished such almost miraculous feats. With such a leader men would go anywhere and face any amount of difficulties; and for myself, I believe that, inspired by the presence of such a man, I should be perfectly insensible to fatigue, and reckon upon success as a moral certainty.
        While General Lee is regarded in the light of infallible Love, a man to be reverenced, Jackson is loved and adored with all that childlike and trustful affection which the ancients are said to have lavished upon the particular deity presiding over their affairs. The feeling of the soldiers for General Lee resembles that which Wellington's troops entertained for him — namely, a fixed and unshaken faith in all he did, and a calm confidence of victory when serving under him, but Jackson, like Napoleon is idolized with that intense fervor which, consisting of mingled personal attachment and devoted loyalty, causes them to meet death for his sake and bless him when dying.