150 years ago, October 1862
By James W. Durney
Politically and military, October opens with a fluid situation.
Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation is receiving mixed reviews. The Radical Republicans consider the EP to be “to little, to late”. They wanted an end to slavery not an end to slavery in the CSA. Additionally, they question why it took so long to recognize the real reason for the war. Moderate and conservative Republicans worry about constitutional issues and how the EP will affect the elections. Democrats are saying the Republicans want Negroes to be the political and social equal of “white men”. This is gaining them votes in the larger cities. Within the Army of the Potomac, dissent reaches the point where McClellan issues a General Order reminding the army of their duty to be subordinate to civilian authority on the 7th.
There is no national election day in 1862 local communities hold elections during October and November. Election results from Pennsylvania, Iowa, Ohio and Indiana indicate gains for the Democrats in these key states. The Democrats are winning elections on opposition to the EP and ending the war.
Internationally, Lincoln is waiting to hear from Ambassador Adams on what Great Britain will do. Unemployment is on the rise in their textile industry causing suffering in working class households and draining the government’s resources. The upper class generally favors the Confederacy while others wish to end the war for humanitarian reasons. While Britain accepted the blockade they are not fully supporting either side. The Trent Affair, the Laird Rams, construction of commerce raiders and blockade running are a source of problems between the two nations. The administration worries that Britain, backed by France, will offer to the mediate the war. Southern acceptance of the offer could isolate the North, emboldened the Democratic peace movement and lead to European intervention. On the 5th, news of the North’s victory at Antietam and Lincoln’s issuing the EP effectively ends the possibility of intervention by the British government. On the 30th, Napoleon III suggests France, Russia and Great Britain force mediation or recognizes the Confederacy. Foreign Secretary Lord Russell officially ignores the suggestion killing the idea of European intervention.
Militarily, while the Army of Northern Virginia is “home”, two confederate armies are in Kentucky and a third is operating near Corinth. The British built CSS Alabama under Captain Raphael Semmes is wrecking havoc on US shipping.
Lincoln is disappointed that McClellan did not destroy Lee’s army after Antietam. He prods McClellan to attack insisting something be done. McClellan ignores Lincoln and Halleck until the 26th. After crossing the Potomac, the army advances slowly as Lee falls back to cover Richmond. During this time Lincoln asks the famous “Will you pardon me for asking what the horses of your army have done since Antietam that fatigue anything?” Lincoln and McClellan never had a good relationship or fully trusted each other. However, Lincoln understood that “Little Mac” was the man the Army of the Potomac had to have in September. McClellan is not the most aggressive of generals but Lincoln fails to understand the real issues of chasing a “beaten” army. Lincoln’s expectations will surface again next July after Gettysburg damaging his relationship with Meade.
Braxton Bragg’s army is trying to deal with the problem of Kentucky. In spite of great expectations, men are not rallying to the cause. The wagons of equipment for the new regiments remain full as few join men join his army. After Buell won the race to Louisville, his army rested and referred, on the 2nd they start south. The objective is the provisional Confederate capital at Frankfort. Confederate Governor Richard Hawes cancels inauguration celebrations due to the approach of Buell’s army.
Both armies have limited access to water due to a severe drought. On the 7th, Philip Sheridan’s brigade is ordered to push back skirmishers near Perryville to capture a series of water holes. This causes Bragg to mass his army of 16,000 for an attack. Don Carlos Buell can mass 57,000 men, 25,000 on the field and 32,000 in route. Bragg’s cavalry fails to inform him of the situation, leading him to believe he has a superior force.
On the 8th, Bragg attacks and manages to push the North back almost a mile. Buell’s Army of the Ohio is being beaten by Bragg’s Army of Mississippi. In time, the line stabilizes and holds. Perryville is a costly battle for both sides. The North takes 4,211 causalities, the South’s losses are 3,405, 20% of Bragg’s army. Kirby-Smith’s refusal to work with Bragg, Kentucky’s lack of enthusiasm for the Confederacy and losing 20% of the army at Perryville forces a retreat. The second of the South’s invasions fails. Bragg spends the much of October slowly moving back to Tennessee. There is no vigorous pursuit by the Army of the Ohio.
On the 24th, Don Carlos Buell is removed from command. Buell missed most of Perryville. He refused to believe reports of a large battle and was unable to hear the gunfire due to an acoustic shadow. Buell was not on the field until the battle is almost over. Bragg’s escape, Perryville and being identified as a “McClellan man” contributed to his removal.
Earl Van Dorn and Sterling Price is the third Confederate army during this time. They are tasked with holding Grant in northern Mississippi and keeping reinforcements from being sent to Kentucky or Maryland. Van Dorn, a vain and selfish man is in command. With dreams of grander, he determines to retake the city of Corinth. In late September the two commands unite and advance on William S. Rosecrans. Van Dorn has about 22,000 men to attack a fortified city defended by 23,000. Rosecrans deploys in several mutually supporting lines. All intervals are covered by cannon with predetermined range calculations. If pushed back toward the city, the defensive lines will concentrate while compacting. Five lunettes, large entrenched batteries, support the defensive lines.
On the 3rd, Van Dorn attacks Corinth. His massed infantry, accepting huge losses, push the defenders back toward the city. After a hard day’s fighting, both sides are battered but Rosecrans’ defenses are holding.
The next day, at dawn, Van Dorn continues the attacks. However, his army suffers serious command problems. General Louis Hebert reports sick and is replaced by Martin E. Green a source of some command and control issues during the day. Worse, Mansfield Lovell deciding to save his men from hopeless slaughter becomes a spectator.
Green’s command attacks almost alone. In brutal fighting they manage to overrun a major defensive position and enter the city of Corinth. Unsupported, they are forced out of the city and back into their lines. After about eight hours, Van Dorn concedes defeat and retreats. He has lost 4,200 men in desperate attacks that inflict only 2,520 causalities on the defenders.
This battle ends attempts by the Confederacy to regain western Tennessee. The North is firmly in control and will dictate the direction and pace of operations.
With Don Carlos Buell’s removal, the Army of the Ohio needs a commander. George Thomas declined command prior to the Perryville campaign which removes him from consideration. William S. Rosecrans did good work at Iuka and Corinth. Additionally, he and Grant do not play well together. On the 30th, William S. Rosecrans formally replaces Buell.
The Army of the Ohio will become the Army of the Cumberland.
Bragg’s Army of Mississippi will stay in Tennessee and become the Army of Tennessee.
On the 29th, Jefferson Davis notes that he lacks the resources to defend everything. “Our only alternatives are …. to use our limited resources as effectively as circumstances will permit.”
In September and October 1862, the Confederacy lost the war. Any real hope of European intervention vanished with defeats at Antietam and Perryville. Lincoln issuing the Emancipation Proclamation forced European governments to stand aside or alienate their large anti-slavery population something none of them wished to do.
The North is starting to assemble the commanders that will win the war. Grant, Sheridan, Sherman, Rosecrans, Meade, McPherson and Solcum are gaining top commands in the North’s armies.
From Antietam to Perryville, September 17 to October 8, the South suffered almost 25,000 casualties in 3 battles. This is a force larger than they had on the field at Corinth or Perryville. The best the South did this month is to launch raids by Morgan and Stuart.
On the 31st, Grant starts assembling a 30,000 man army at Grand Junction, objective Vicksburg.
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