Saturday, May 31, 2014

150-years-ago -- THE BATTLE OF COLD HARBOR

Battle of Cold Harbor, June 3, 1864
(National Park Service)

[Excerpted from Confederate States Rangers by Michael Dan Jones ( 2013)

General Grant received 40,000 reserves to replace the men he had lost in his futile frontal assaults [at The Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House] and then shifted his army again to try to outflank the Army of Northern Virginia. Lee, as usual, was able to keep one step ahead of his opponent. The Confederate chieftain had his army in place at the next important strategic point first, Hanover Junction, which was the intersection of the Fredericksburg, Richmond and Central railroads. Lee and his men arrived there May 22 and were waiting for Grant and his men, who arrived May 23. Rather than once again batter his army against these strong Confederate fortifications, the Federal chieftain headed his army down the North Ana River to the Pamunkey River, and then by his left flank to the Chickahominy River. Lee kept up his blocking movements every step of the way. By June 1, both armies were at Cold Harbor, which was the site of the bloody Battle of Gaines’ Mill in 1862. Fortunately for the diminished  Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, they approximately held the part of the battlefield held by the Federals in the prior battle, while the Federals had to fight from the old Confederate position. This time Grant decided to make a fight at this position and massed his army there.
All the remaining soldiers of the 10th Louisiana knew was that they were having to do a lot of hard, fast marching. Colonel Monier noted they had to march and  entrench about seven miles from Fredericksburg. Then they reached Hanover Junction May 22 and the next day headed out to the North Ana River. They next returned to their camp at Hanover Junction and worked on fortifying that line until May 28 when they headed for the South Ana River. Over the next few days they came within eight miles of Richmond, passed through Mechanicsville, and had arrived at the old Cold Harbor battlefield by May 29. They began shifting positions until June 1, when heavy skirmishing began. The regiment was also occupied with digging in as strongly as possible.
            The Confederate position was a good one, running from Totopotomy Creek on the left flank to the Chickahominy River on the right. Early’s corps, which included the 10th Louisiana now in Gordon’s division, held the left flank; Anderson’s corps the center and Hill’s corps the right flank. The  Federal corps positions were Burnside (9th) and Warren (5th) in front of the Confederate left flank, Smith (18th) in the center and Wright (6th) and Hancock (2nd) facing the Confederate right flank. On Early’s part of the line, Heth was positioned on the left flank, then Rodes, Gordon and Ramseur on the right. Confederate engineers and soldiers had become skilled at quickly throwing up formidable breastworks. Trenches and rifle pits were reinforced with dirt thrown up on top and reinforced with logs and, in front of the trench line, sharpened stakes slanted outward to impale charging enemies. The Federals did the same and the lines remained stationary on June 1 and 2, with heavy skirmishing all up and down opposing positions.
   Grant had planned to attack  Lee’s position on the morning of June 2, but had to postpone it until the morning of June 3 because of the slowness in getting his units into position. The main thrust of the assault would be made at the center and left of the Confederate line by Smith and Hancock. Grant planned to destroy Lee’s army with a massive frontal assault and then capture Richmond and end the war. The Federal general apparently had learned nothing from this costly frontal assaults at Vicksburg, The Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House. On Early’s front, Warren and Burnside were to make heavy demonstrations to keep those troops from reinforcing Lee’s center and right. While Grant had confidence in his strategy, many of his men didn’t. Some of them wrote their names on pieces of cloth and pinned them to their clothing so their dead bodies could be identified after their lives were wasted in futile charges against the Confederate entrenchments. General Smith of the 18th  Corps noted that Grant’s order to attack was “simply an order to slaughter my best troops.”
            When the bugles sounded at 4:30 o’clock that morning, 50,000 bluecoats of the three army corps  stepped out, or as they would say in World War I, went “over the top” to meet their fate. In the Confederate center and right, the veteran infantrymen in the trenches calmly fired volley after volley at the exposed  enemies rushing toward them. Confederate artillery swept the fields with grapeshot and canister rounds to mow down the Federals. It was a bloodbath perhaps not equaled in scope, scale or intensity in the entire war. On Hill’s corps’ front on the right, at Major General John C. Breckenridge’s part of the line, there was a low, swampy place that had only a picket line along a Sunken Road. The Federals found this weak spot and Federal Colonel John Brooke’s brigade punched through it. Another breach was made by Colonel Nelson Miles’ brigade, but Confederate reinforcements from Confederate Brigadier General Joseph Finegan’s brigade and Confederate artillery soon closed those breaches. The surviving Federals fell back to the safety of a low place in  the ground. Some Yankees came relatively close to the Confederate line, but few returned unscathed. Lee’s engineers had built the defenses in a zig-zag pattern, enabling the Confederates to pour in enfilading fire on the charging Federals, adding to the slaughter.
Brigadier General James Martindale’s division of the 18th Corps hit the Confederate center hard. Among Martindale’s brigades was Colonel Griffin Steadman’s, which included the 11th Connecticut Infantry. This is important to the 10th Louisiana’s story because this was nowhere near Early’s corps or Gordon’s division, to which the Louisiana brigade belonged. They were charging Anderson’s First Corps. Stedman later wrote, “We reached a point within thirty yards of the enemy’s main works; but the fire was too murderous, and my men were repulsed. We left the woods with two thousand men; in
Gen. Evander Law
       (Confederate Veteran)
five minutes we returned, six hundred less.” Stedman led four regiment, the 12th New Hampshire, 11th Connecticut, 8th Maine and 2nd New Hampshire, but within less than 10 minutes it was wiped out as an effective fighting force. Confederate General Evander Law said he had never seen anything to exceed it. He added, “. . . It was not war; it was murder.”
On the Confederate left, there were no serious attacks at all on Warren’s 5th  Corps front, and Burnside’s 9th Corps made only two diversionary attacks on the Heth’s and Rode’s divisions. All attacks on the right were over by 5 o’clock that morning. The battle casualties on the Confederate center and left were horrifying enough. Within the first 20 minutes, some 7,000 men had been killed wounded or missing. Confederate casualties were around 1,000. Lee’s aide Colonel Charles Venable, said that Cold Harbor was the easiest victory the Army of North Virginia had been handed by a Federal commander. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

LNG Plant To Be Built on Battlefield

A Southern California energy company has announced plans to build a $2.4 billion Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) facility on the site of the Battle of Calcasieu Pass, where the blood of heroes and patriots hallowed that ground on May 6, 1864.
        Greg Michaels, Chairman and CEO of Southern California Telephone & Energy, announced recently the acquisition of land located on the Calcasieu Ship Channel for the development of  the LNG facility by its subsidiary SCT&E LNG, LLC( The approximate +/-232 acre site is strategically located on Monkey Island in Cameron Parish, Louisiana.
        In the area acquired by the company is the site of the LeBoeuf  family farm house, that was used as a  hospital during the battle. Men killed in the battle, both Union and Confederate, were buried near the house and wooden markers were placed over their graves. The marked graves were seen and well known in the community well into the 20th Century. At some point, however, the markers were lost, possibly during hurricanes or from natural deterioration and the site currently has no markers or memorialization. The site of the now unmarked cemetery is in the section that was acquired by the California company.
         According to Louisiana State Law, even unmarked and abandoned historic cemeteries are protected from disturbance. The grave site is hallowed ground and the state must protect it.
        The Battle of Calcasieu Pass was fought between two Union blockading gunboats, the U.S.S. Wave and the U.S.S. Granite City, and a small army of Confederates from the Sabine Pass garrison. After a sharp battle of approximately 1 ½  hours, the two gunboats had surrendered and approximately 50 men on both sides were killed or wounded.

       Natural gas will be treated at the Monkey Island site, liquefied, stored, and loaded onto LNG carriers for export to overseas customers in countries that have a free trade agreement (FTA) and/or non-FTA status with the United States. The site will house multiple LNG storage tanks which may be used for LNG bunkering and fueling of transportation ships for distribution of LNG. Now that the land acquisition is complete, SCT&E LNG will submit applications to the Department of Energy (DOE) for permission to export LNG to FTA and non-FTA nations, according to the company.
Pvt. William Kniep, Creuzbaur's Battery
5th Texas Light Artillery, who was among
those who was killed in action during the Battle
of Calcasieu Pass. (Photo Courtesy of the
Kniep family)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


Battle of Spottsylvania Court House
(Library of Congress)
[National Park Service]
Both armies expected more combat on May 7, [1864] but neither side initiated hostilities. Fires blazed through the forest, sending hot, acrid smoke rolling into the air and searing the wounded trapped between the lines - a fitting conclusion to a grisly engagement.
The Battle of the Wilderness [Virginia] marked another tactical Confederate victory. Grant watched both of his flanks crumble on May 6 and lost more than twice as many soldiers (about 18,000 to 8,000) as did Lee. Veterans of the Army of the Potomac had seen this before: cross the river, get whipped, retreat -- the story of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville reprised. But Grant, not Burnside or Hooker, now called the shots.
Late on May 7, the general-in-chief rode at the head of his army and approached a lonely junction in the Wilderness. A left turn would signal withdrawal toward the fords of the Rapidan and Rappahannock. To the right lay the highway to Richmond via Spotsylvania Court House. Grant pointed right. The soldiers cheered. There would be no turning back.
Veterans of the Fifth Corps considered the night march of May 7-8 one of their worst military experiences. "The column would start, march probably one hundred yards, then halt, and just as the men were about to lie down, would start again, repeating this over and over..."
In addition to this frustrating pace, Fitzhugh Lee and his gray troopers harassed the Federals along the route. They felled trees in the roadway, gobbled up stragglers, and orchestrated scores of little ambushes in the dark.
While this drama unfolded on the Brock Road at Todd's Tavern, Maj. Gen. Richard Anderson led a Confederate column on a parallel route a few miles to the west. Anderson assumed command of Longstreet's corps on May 7 and received orders to make for Spotsylvania Court House before dawn on the 8th. Lee had correctly deduced that the tiny county seat would be Grant's next objective because whoever controlled the Spotsylvania crossroads would enjoy the inside track to Richmond.
Anderson searched for a bivouac where his men could rest before their grueling march south, but discovered that the fiery Wilderness offered no practical campsites. Consequently, he put his command in motion without sleep, a fateful decision that saved Spotsylvania for the Confederates.
Warren continued his advance and early on the morning of May 8 spied an open plateau in his front known later as Laurel Hill. The Federals saw only their nocturnal nemesis, Fitz Lee's pesky horsemen, defending the ridge-no match for infantry in a daylight fight. Warren called for an attack. 
The Maryland Brigade led the Yankee charge west of the Brock Road. They swept over the rolling fields with a cheer and approached to within 50 yards of the Confederate position when a roar from artillery and rifles dropped them where they stood. This was not dismounted cavalry but the lead units of Anderson's corps. The Confederates had won the race to Spotsylvania.
The armies flowed onto the battlefield the rest of the day, extending corresponding lines of earthworks east and west of the Brock Road. Ewell's corps filed in on Anderson's right and built their entrenchments in the dark to conform with elevated terrain along their front. First light revealed that Ewell's soldiers had concocted a huge salient, or bulge, in the Confederate line, pointing north in the direction of the Federals. The men called it the "Mule Shoe" because of its shape, but Southern engineers called it trouble. Salients could be attacked not only in front but also from both sides, and as a rule officers liked to avoid them. Lee, however, opted to retain the position trusting that his cannoneers could keep the "Mule Shoe" safe enough.
Grant probed both of Lee's flanks on May 9 and 10 to no avail. About 6:00 p.m., a 24-year-old colonel named Emory Upton formed 12 hand-picked regiments along a little woods path opposite the heart of Lee's defenses. Upton had received permission earlier in the day to assail the west face of the "Mule Shoe" using imaginative tactics designed to penetrate the salient, then exploit the breakthrough. The Yankees padded to the edge of the woods 200 yards from the Confederate line, then burst out of the forest with a yell.
Jedediah Hotchkiss map of Confederate 
fortifications at Spottysylviana, including
"Mule Shoe" (Library of Congress)
The Federals seized four guns, a reserve line of works, and almost reached the McCoull House in the center of the "Mule Shoe" before the Confederates recovered. Southern artillery at the top of the salient stymied Upton's expected support, and a counterattack eventually shoved the Bluecoats back to their starting points. But the boyish colonel's temporary success gave Grant an idea. If 12 regiments could break the "Mule Shoe," what might two corps accomplish?
Grant received his answer on May 12, a day remembered by soldiers from both sides as one of the darkest of the entire war. "I never expect to be fully believed when I tell of the horrors of Spotsylvania," wrote a Federal of his ghastly experience. "The battle of Thursday was one of the bloodiest that ever dyed God's footstool with human gore," echoed a North Carolinian.
The Confederates set the stage for this waking nightmare on the evening of May 11 when they removed their artillery from the "Mule Shoe" under the mistaken impression that Grant had quit Spotsylvania. In truth, Hancock's corps spent the rainy night sloshing into position to launch a massive stroke against the top of the salient. That attack began about dawn and succeeded in capturing most of the "Mule Shoe" and many of its defenders. 
Ironically, the sheer magnitude of Hancock's victory retarded his progress. Nearly 20,000 Yankees milled about the surrendered entrenchments gathering prizes, escorting captives to the rear, and generally losing their organization and drive. This delay provided Lee the opportunity he needed.
The Confederate commander directed his counter offensive from near the McCoull House. Again he attempted to lead his troops in person, but John Gordon scolded him to the rear before the colorful Georgian plunged ahead himself. One by one, additional brigades joined Gordon, and by 9:30 a.m. they managed to restore all but a few hundred yards of the original Southern line.
The Union Sixth Corps now joined the fray, and for the next eighteen hours the most horrifying close-quarters combat ever witnessed on the continent spilled the lifeblood of numberless Americans. The fighting focused on a slight bend in the works west of the apex, known to history as the Bloody Angle. 
A shallow valley sliced close to the Confederate line at this point, providing crucial shelter for swarms of Union assailants. An appalling tactical pattern developed here throughout the day. Federals would leave the cover of the forest, cross the road leading to the Landrum House, and take refuge in the swale. From there they maintained a constant rifle fire and made periodic lunges onto the works at the Bloody Angle.
Two Southern brigades, one from Mississippi and one from South Carolina, bore the brunt of these attacks. They fought behind elaborate log barricades six feet high enhanced by perpendicular traverse walls at 20-foot intervals. The Confederate works resembled three-sided roofless log cabins and their design explains the miraculous endurance of their occupants - that and the heroic desperation of half crazed men whose world consisted of a tiny log pen filled with rain water and slippery with the mangled remains of comrades and enemies.
The equally intrepid attackers varied their efforts to capture the Angle with an occasional innovation. A section of Union artillery advanced to practically point-blank range, blasting the works until all of its horses and all but three of its cannoneers had fallen. The men of a Michigan regiment crawled on their stomachs along the exterior of the trenches until, at a signal, they leapt over the logs and into a profitless melee with the Rebels.
More often the assaults defied precise definition. The battle assumed an unspeakable character all its own, unrelated to strategy and tactics or even victory and defeat. "The horseshoe was a boiling, bubbling and hissing cauldron of death," wrote a Union officer. "Clubbed muskets, and bayonets were the modes of fighting for those who had used up their cartridges, and frenzy seemed to possess the yelling, demonic hordes on either side."
This organized insanity continued past sunset and into the night. Finally about 2:00 a.m. May 13, whispered orders reached the front directing the battle-numbed defenders to fall back to a new position at the base of the "Mule Shoe." When the Bluecoats cautiously approached the quiet trenches at dawn, they found the Bloody Angle inhabited only by those who could not withdraw. "They were lying literally in heaps, hideous to look at. The writhing of the wounded and dying who lay beneath the dead bodies moved the whole mass..."
Completion of Lee's last line rendered control of the salient meaningless. Grant shifted his army to its left amidst days of heavy downpours, searching for a weak link in the Confederate chain. On May 18 he sent Hancock back to the "Mule Shoe" hoping to catch the enemy by surprise. The Southerners were not footed, however, and by midmorning Grant canceled the effort.
A Confederate soldier holding a musket.
(Liljenquist Family Collection/Library of Congress)
Clearly, the Federals could not gain an advantage at Spotsylvania and Grant broke the impasse on May 20 by detaching Hancock on a march south toward Guinea Station. The rest of the Union army followed on the 21st. Lee had no choice but to react to Grant's initiative by maneuvering his army between the Federals and Richmond.
Losses during the two weeks at Spotsylvania added 18,000 names to Union casualty lists; 10,000 to the Confederates'. Lee, though, suffered a disproportionate attrition among the highest levels of his command structure. Finding replacements for private soldiers proved hard enough; developing a new officer cadre proved impossible. The essence of Lee's incomparable martial machine disappeared in the woods and fields of Spotsylvania County and the Army of Northern Virginia never regained its historic efficiency.
Grant, however, played no callous game of human arithmetic at Spotsylvania. He sought a decisive battlefield victory that Lee's tenacious, skillful generalship denied him. But in the end, the Federals' constant hammering against the dwindling resources of their gallant opponents, a process begun in the Wilderness and at Spotsylvania and continued at the North Anna River, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg, would drive the Confederacy into oblivion.
The text for this section was written by A. Wilson Green, former staff historian for Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. It is derived from a National Park Service training booklet.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

150-years-ago The Battle of Calcasieu Pass, Louisiana

The 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Calcasieu  Pass, La.
was commemorated at the Cameron Parish Courthouse Sat.,
May 10. (Photo by Mrs. Susan Jones

       CAMERON, La. - The small but sharp Battle of of Calcasieu Pass, Louisiana was commemorated in ceremonies held Saturday, May 10, at the Cameron Parish Courthouse. The commemoration was sponsored by Captain James W. Bryan Camp 1390, Sons of Confederate Veterans, with the assistance of Calcasieu Chapter 1519, United Daughters of the Confederacy.
      Living history reenactors from across Louisiana and Texas gathered for the event, fired a three-volley salute to honor the men who fought and died in the battle on May 6, 1864 on the southwest coast of Louisiana. John Bridges of KPLC-TV was the master of ceremonies, camp commander Dr. Andy Buckley gave the welcome adress, Tommy Curtis, camp chaplain, the invocation.
      Pledges were given to the U.S. flag and the Louisiana flag as well as the salute to the Confederate flag. Nelson Fontenot read the "Charge of Lt. Gen. Stephen Dill Lee" to the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Former SCV Chief of Heritage Defense brought greetings for the national organization. Others bringing greetings inxcluded Trans-Mississippi Department Councilman Charles Lauret; Louisiana Division 1st Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Adkins; Major Frank Dietz, SCV Mechanized Cavalry; Linda Gramling, state president of the UDC; Mike Broussard, Gen. Louis Hebert Camp, SCV; Corey Bonin, Maj. Franklin Gardner Camp 1421; George Gremillion; and Richard Grant, Maj. Jesse Cooper Camp 1665.
      Dr. Michael Bergeron, M.D., read proclamations  from Lt. Gov. Jay dardenne and State Senator Ronnie Johns. Michael D. Jones, author of The Battle of Calcasieu Pass and the Great Naval Raid on Lake Charles, Louisiana, gave the history of the battle. Camp 1390 Adjutant Luke Dartez sounded the bell as 2nd Lt. Cmdr. Charles Richardson read the name each man, Union and Confederate, who was killed or mortally wounded in the battl. Former Camp Cmdr. Archie Toombs read the history of "Taps," and then Jacob Bridges did a beautiful job of playing the haunting tune. All gathered joined in the singing of "Dixie." Refreshments were provided by Calcasieu Chapter 1519 of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

Battle of Calcasieu Pass

by Michael D. Jones
The Battle of Calcasieu Pass, May 6, 1864, was the only War For Southern Independence battle to be fought in extreme Southwest Louisiana. It brought together two determined foes - Union gunboats bent on “purchasing” stolen livestock and recruiting men - and a scrappy band of Confederates determined to expel the invaders. 
Pvt. William Kneip, Creuzbaur's Battery
5th Texas Light Artillery, killed in action.
(Photo Courtesy of Kneip family)
             One Confederate survivor of the battle, Captain Joseph A. Brickhouse, said years later, “While I would not pluck one feather from the plume of fame worn by Dick Dowling, yet I must say that the Battle of Calcasieu Pass and the victory achieved was in every way equal to that achieved by Dick Dowling and his immortal heroes of Sabine Pass.”
            The Wave and Granite City received orders on April 15 to proceed to Calcasieu Pass to buy 250 head of cattle and 200 horses from Jayhawkers. The brigands had stolen the livestock from area farms. The Wave arrived on April 24 with gold for the purchase. It bombed an abandoned Confederate fort at the mouth of 
the river and was led to anchorage two miles upstream, opposite the home of Duncan Smith, a Union sympathizer. Smith was on board the vessel and acted as guide The Granite City arrived two days later and anchored around a bend, about 300 yards from its companion ship. Many of its crew were experienced gunners and survivors of the Hatteras, which had been sunk the previous year by the C.S.S. Alabama. Granite City disembarked 27 Union infantrymen brought along to round up the livestock. To secure the area, the sailors and soldiers destroyed the bridges over Mud and Oyster bayous and posted pickets around the perimeter. 
            All of this activity was communicated to the Confederate garrison about 40 miles west at Sabine Pass, Texas, by some unknown Southern “Paul Revere.” The local Confederate commanders quickly assembled a force to expel the invaders. The commander of the district, Brigadier General Paul Hebert, in Houston, was alarmed the Yankee gunboats might be the advance scouts of an invasion force and he ordered an attack.
          The Confederate strategy was simple. Advance at night under the cover of darkness and launch a surprise attack. The artillery was to open fire at 1,000 yards, while the infantry and dismounted cavalry advanced to the shore line and open fire on the sailors as they try to man their guns on the ships. The cannons would then move in closer and finish off the vessels.
          On the afternoon of May 4, the foot soldiers crossed the Sabine and commenced their 38-mile march to Calcasieu Pass. The artillery departed Fort Manhassett at Sabine Pass and was ferried across Sabine Lake and into Johnson Bayou on the Louisiana side. Traveling at night on May 5 to conceal their movements, the soldiers rebuilt the bridge over Mud Bayou and by 4:30 a.m. May 6 had reached their destination.
          Aurelia LeBoeuf Daigle was a 15-year-old girl at the time of the battle. Her family’s farmhouse was right in the middle of the carnage. For the rest of her days she recalled how the Confederate soldiers had taken over her house and used it as a hospital.
          Her parents, Louis and Pauline LeBoeuf, were scratching out an existence on the rough terrain when events they had no control over overwhelmed them and drove them from their home.
         The Union ships had made the mistake of letting the Jayhawkers man the picket posts. When the Confederates approached in the darkness, the Union pickets faded away into the marsh, intent on saving themselves and not giving any warning to the waiting prey.
         As the sun peaked above the misty horizon that morning the serene dawn was shattered with the roar of Confederate artillery. On the vessels, the blue-jackets came tumbling out of the hammocks. As they rushed on deck to man their heavy naval artillery, they were met by blistering musketry from the gray-clad sharpshooters. Nevertheless the courageous sailors manned their guns and returned fire with deadly accuracy. The Confederate artillery was caught in a deadly cross-fire between the two ships. One of the Southern artillery pieces was quickly hit. Three artillerymen lay severely wounded. Their cannon was demolished.
          Lt. Charles Welhausen of Creuzbaur's battery commanded two 12-pounders and saved his cannons by ordering them moved in closer, thus avoiding the cross-fire from the ships. The Confederate sharpshooters were completely exposed on the open marsh. They began falling when the veteran Union gunners zeroed in on them. But despite their exposed position, the infantrymen bravely kept peppering the gunboat decks.
          While the Southerners were taking their licks, the Northerners were also receiving punishment. The Granite City’s wheel house was demolished and a cannonball tore into the ship’s hull. Sixteen shells penetrated the vessel’s hull near the water line. No glutton for punishment, Lt. Charles W. Lamson, commander, was to call it quits after he had fired 30 rounds. A white flag was hoisted and a boat lowered to take on the victors. Col. Griffin and his men boarded the ship and took charge. The blue-jackets were seen throwing pistols, swords and guns overboard. Griffin later learned that they had also thrown overboard dead bodies with weights attached to them.
           Lt. Benjamin W. Loring, commander of the Wave, a tenacious fighter, was far from ready to throw in the sponge. Confederate artillerymen tried to shift one of their remaining pieces after Lamson’s surrender but it became stuck in the mud. The remaining two, however, turned their full fury onto the Wave. Although unable to bring all guns to bear due to being anchored, Loring’s gunners continued to wreak havoc among the Confederates with their 32-pound bow gun. Five of Griffin’s men were cut down and victory was tilting to the Union sailors.
           It looked as though the gunboat was going to be able to get up enough steam to escape. But Maj. Felix McReynolds of Griffin’s battalion and Lt. Welhausen were credited with saving the day for the South by bravely rallying their men when things looked darkest. However, throughout the affair, one Confederate stood full length above the prairie, calmly loading and firing. His total disregard for the enemy fire completely unnerved the Yankee gunners and they later were eager to know who the intrepid marksman was that their bullets could not touch.
           The Confederate gunners sent shells through the Wave’s pilot house, engine room and boilers. Then Brickhouse’s gun scored a direct hit on the gunboat’s 32-pounder, splitting the full length of the barrel. A white flag was soon seen flying from the mast. The warship had taken 65 direct hits. Perhaps stalling for time, Loring hesitated in putting over a boat for the victorious boarding party. To show he meant business, McReynolds told his men to fire a warning shot and to prepare to reopen fire. With this, the gunboat’s skipper lowered the boat and surrendered. The crew jettisoned valuables, including the ship’s safe which contained gold to pay for the livestock. The Army detachment, which was camped on shore, surrendered without firing a shot.
            On May 8, ignorant of the battle, Union transport Ella Morse came up the river to meet with the other ships. But when it got close, the Granite City, now manned by Confederate gunners, opened fire. Southern sharpshooters on both banks shot up its decks. The transport carrying a detachment of the 2nd New Orleans Infantry (Union) reversed course and headed back into the Gulf. The ship’s pilot was wounded.
           Two days later, not knowing about the capture, the Union blockader New London sent Ensign Henry Jackson and six men up the pass in a launch to deliver a message to the Granite City. Ensign Jackson saw the Confederate flag flying over the Granite City. Thinking it was some kind of sick joke; he borrowed a musket and fired at the flag. But Confederate sharpshooters returned fire and instantly killed Jackson. The six crewmen were added to the prisoners.
           Lt. Col. Griffin reported that eight of his men were killed in action and 13 wounded. Later, two of Creuzbaur's artillerymen, one of Daly’s cavalrymen and one of Spaight’s infantrymen died of wounds. The Union casualties never have been fully accounted. Lamson admitted to 10 wounded on the Granite City, and two later died. Loring said he had 24 wounded on the Wave, four of whom later died. The Confederates also took a total of 174 prisoners, 16 cannons, the stolen livestock and a large quantity of food on which the weary gray-clad infantrymen delightedly feasted. To their disgust, Creuzbaur's artillerymen were sent back to Sabine Pass before they could join in the feast. Wounded from both sides were taken to Lake Charles and from there to Goosport where they received the best of care in Capt. Daniel Goos’ home.


Monday, May 5, 2014


National Park Service Summary

Near dawn on May 4,1864, the leading division of the Army of the Potomac reached Germanna Ford, 18 miles west of Fredericksburg. The spring campaign was under way and it superficially mirrored the strategic situation prior to the battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. A numerically superior Union force, well-supplied, in good spirits, and led by a new commander, moved south toward the Confederate capital. There, however, the similarities ended.
Ulysses S. Grant now directed the Army of the Potomac, although George Meade technically retained the authority he had inherited from Hooker just before the Battle of Gettysburg. In fact, Grant carried the new rank of lieutenant-general and bore responsibility for all Federal armies. The General-in-chief told Meade, "Lee's army will be your objective. Where he goes, there you will go also."
The Confederates also entered the 1864 campaign brimming with optimism and anxious to avenge their defeat at Gettysburg. As usual, the 62,000-man Army of Northern Virginia found itself vastly outgunned
and scrambling for supplies, but based on past experience, these handicaps posed little concern. Confederate generalship in the post-Jackson era created more serious problems. Lee elevated both A. P. Hill and Richard S. Ewell to corps command following "Stonewall's" death, but neither officer performed particularly well. Only Longstreet provided Lee with experienced leadership at the highest army level. See Lee's Official Reports on Wilderness and Spotsylvania.

Grant also reorganized his forces, consolidating the army into three corps led by Maj. Generals. Gouverneur K. Warren, John Sedgwick, and Winfield S. Hancock. Ambrose Burnside's independent Ninth Corps raised the total Union compliment to 120,000 men.
Union forces negotiated the Rapidan River on May 4. Lee easily spotted the Federal advance from his signal stations. He immediately ordered his forces to march east and strike their opponents in the familiar and foreboding Wilderness, where Grant's legions would be neutralized by the inhospitable terrain. Ewell moved via the Orange Turnpike and Hill utilized the parallel Orange Plank Road to the south. Longstreet's corps faced a longer trek than did its comrades, so Lee advised Ewell and Hill to avoid a general engagement until "Old Pete" could join them.
Although Grant was anxious to confront Lee at the earliest good opportunity, he preferred not to fight in the tangled forests of the Wilderness. On the morning of May 5, he directed his columns to push southeast through the impenetrable woods and into open ground. Word arrived, however, that an unidentified body of Confederates approaching from the west on the Turnpike threatened the security of his advance. Warren dispatched a division to investigate the report. See Warren's Official Report.
The Confederates, of course, proved to be Ewell's entire corps. About noon, Warren's lead regiments discovered Ewell's position on the west edge of a clearing called Saunders Field and received an ungracious greeting. "The very moment we appeared," testified an officer in the 140th New York, "[they] gave us a volley at long range, but evidently with very deliberate aim, and with serious effect." The Battle of the Wilderness was on. See Ewell's Official Report.
Warren hustled additional troops toward Saunders Field from his headquarters at the Lacy House. The Unionists attacked on a front more than a mile wide, overlapping both ends of the clearing. The fighting ebbed and flowed often dissolving into isolated combat between small units confused by the bewildering forest, "bushwhacking on a grand scale," one participant called it. By nightfall a deadly stalemate settled over the Turnpike.
Three miles south along the Plank Road, another battle raged unrelated to the action on Ewell's front. Two of A.P. Hill's divisions pressed east toward the primary north-south avenue through the Wilderness: the Brock Road. If they could seize this intersection quickly, they would isolate Hancock's corps, south of the Plank Road, from the rest of the Union army. Grant recognized the peril and hurried one of Sedgwick's divisions to the vital crossroads.
These Northerners arrived in the nick of time and later, in cooperation with Hancock began to drive Hill's overmatched brigades west through the forest. Fortunately for the Confederates, darkness closed the fighting for the day.
Lee expected Longstreet's corps to relieve Hill on the Plank Road that night. Hill, anticipating Longstreet's arrival, refused to redeploy his exhausted troops to meet renewed attacks in the morning. This miscalculation proved nearly disastrous to the Army of Northern Virginia.
Map of the May 6 charge by the Texas brigade
at the Battle of the Wilderness. (M.D. Jones)

For a variety of reasons, Longstreet had fallen hours behind schedule. Hancock's 5:00 a.m. offensive on May 6 therefore pitted 23,000 Unionists against only Hill's unprepared divisions, and overwhelmed them. A single line of Southern artillery, posted on the western edge of the Widow Tapp's Farm, now provided the sole opposition to Hancock's surging masses. The guns could not survive long unsupported by infantry. Lee faced a crisis. See Hancock's Official Report.
Just then a ragged line of soldiers emerged from the forest to the west. "What brigade is this?" inquired Lee. "The Texas brigade!" came the response. Lee knew the only Texans in his army belonged to the First Corps. Longstreet was up! These troops along with others from Arkansas, Georgia, and Alabama charged the blue ranks before them and halted Hancock's advance at the price of 50 percent casualties in several regiments. See Longstreet's Official Report.
Longstreet took this chance to snatch the initiative. Utilizing the unfinished railroad cut (the same corridor on which Sickles had captured Georgians at Chancellorsville), four Confederate brigades crept astride the Union left flank. The Southerners poured through the woods, rolling up Hancock's unwary troops "like a wet blanket." Union General James Wadsworth fell mortally wounded and the Federals streamed back toward the Brock Road.
Longstreet trotted eastward on the Plank Road in the wake of this splendid achievement, intent upon pursuing the shaken Federals and throwing a knockout punch at his staggered opponents. Then shots rang out from south of the road. Longstreet reeled in his saddle, the victim of a volley fired by Confederate troops about five miles from where Jackson had met the same improbable fate the year before.
Unlike "Stonewall," Longstreet would survive his wound, but the tragedy arrested the Rebels' impetus. Lee personally directed a resumption of the offensive a few hours later and briefly managed to puncture the Federal lines along the Brock Road. Hancock, however, expelled the intruders from his midst and maintained his position by the narrowest of margins.
Lt. Gen. John B. Gordon
Fighting along the Turnpike on May 6 had also been vicious if indecisive. Late in the day, Georgia brigadier John B. Gordon received permission to assault Grant's unprotected right flank. Gordon struck near sunset, capturing two Union generals and routing the Federals. The effort began too late to exploit Gordon's success, however, and Grant reformed his battered brigades in the darkness. For a walking tour of this area see the folder for the Gordon Flank Attack Trail. See also Gordon's Official Report on Wilderness and Spotsylvania.
Both armies expected more combat on May 7, but neither side initiated hostilities. Fires blazed through the forest, sending hot, acrid smoke rolling into the air and searing the wounded trapped between the lines - a fitting conclusion to a grisly engagement.
The Battle of the Wilderness marked another tactical Confederate victory. Grant watched both of his flanks crumble on May 6 and lost more than twice as many soldiers (about 18,000 to 8,000) as did Lee. Veterans of the Army of the Potomac had seen this before: cross the river, get whipped, retreat -- the story of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville reprised. But Grant, not Burnside or Hooker, now called the shots.