150 Years Ago
Fall weather is turning roads to mud and the grass is dying, poor road conditions coupled with increased demand for forage force armies to build winter encampments. Men usually build log huts with floors using tents for the roof. Smoke vents through a chimney built of small barrels and mud. These camps follow the organization of the army: regiments within brigade within division within corps. A regimental camp has company streets, officer’s quarters, stables and sinks. Suttlers quickly set up store selling everything a solider could want that the army can/will not supply. Both sides spread these camps as far from each other as possible. Trees and fences disappear into camp’s fires. Available grass disappears as animals graze. Cavalry camps are often well in the rear of the infantry and artillery camps to supply the horses with grass. Units shift into and out of their camp for picket duty or responding to alarms. During the war, Northern Virginia will almost become a wasteland striped of fences, trees, grass and even small farm buildings. Check the net for a photograph of the winter camp of the 6th NY Heavy Artillery to see what the men lived in.
Ulysses S. Grant with 30,000 men is at Grand Junction planning to march on Holly Springs via La Grange. From there, using the railroad, Grant plans to advance overland to Vicksburg.
John H. Morgan completes his second Kentucky raid.
William C. Quantrill is active in Boone and Jackson counties in Missouri.
Nathan B. Forrest is active in the Nashville area.
Democrats are winning elections in New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Wisconsin. Republican victories in California and Michigan allow them to keep control of the House of Representatives even with a loss of 27 seats.
On the first, General Braxton Bragg assumes command of all forces in the Department of East Tennessee. The Army of Mississippi and the Army of Kentucky combine to form the Army of Tennessee. Bragg will spend most of the month concentrating his army near Tullahoma.
On the third, 3 companies of what will become the 1st SC Volunteers, Lt. Colonel Oliver T. Beard commanding, are part of landings in Florida and Georgia. This is the first “Colored” unit committed to combat during the war. Formed from runaway slaves the regiment officially enters Federal service on January 31, 1863. On February 8, 1864, the government designates them the 33rd USCT. The 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry formed from free Northern Negros will enter Federal service on March 13, 1863.
Lincoln fires McClellan for the last time on the 5th. Never a good working relationship, Lincoln recognized McClellan could train and inspire an army. However, Lincoln felt he could not lead them to victory. The finial break occurs as Lincoln feels McClellan allowed the Army of Northern Virginia to “get away” after Antietam. Lincoln will feel the same way about Mead after Gettysburg always over estimating an army’s ability after a major battle. Both feel the other lied to them about troop assignments During the Peninsula Campaign.
On the 7th, “Little Mac” issues a formal far well to the Army of the Potomac. Under orders from Secretary of War Stanton, McClellan reports to Trenton to wait for orders.
Ambrose E. Burnside takes command after objecting he is not a good choice. He understands Washington is demanding action even if the normal campaign season has ended. Burnside accepts command to keep “Fighting Joe” Hooker from being named commander. Hooker’s “bar room and bawdy house” reputation is one of many reasons why many reasons why officers of the “old army” officers disliked him.
On the sixth, orders promote James Longstreet and Thomas J. Jackson to lieutenant general. Longstreet, listed first on the order, is senior. Longstreet commands the I Corps and Jackson commands the II Corps in the Army of Northern Virginia. The next day, Leonidas Polk and William J. Hardee become corps commanders in the Army of Mississippi.
Nathaniel P. Banks replaces Benjamin F. Butler as commander of the Department of the Gulf at New Orleans.
Burnside assumes command of the Army of the Potomac on the ninth. Colonel Ulric Dahlgren’s raid on Fredericksburg shows the city’s defenses are weak. Burnside starts planning an advance on the city.
Anti-McClellan forces purge Fitz John Porter for actions at Second Manassas. “Fighting Joe” Hooker takes command of the V Corps on the tenth. In 1878, the Schofield commission clears Porter of all charges concluding his actions may have saved Pope’s army from destruction. Eight years later, President Arthur and a special act of Congress reinstate his commission, without back pay, and Porter retires after one day on active duty.
On the 13th, Grant occupies the important rail junction of Holly Springs.
On the 14th, Burnsides reorganize the Army of the Potomac into 3 Grand Divisions of two Corps each. Joseph Hooker commands the Right Grand Division, Edwin V. Summer commands the Center Grand Division and William B. Franklin commands the Left Grand Division. The army is ordered to prepare for an advance on Fredericksburg.
The same day, George W. Randolph gives Jefferson Davis his resignation as secretary of war.
Starting on the 15th, The Army of the Potomac feints toward Warrenton turns advances on Falmouth. 40 miles in two days hard marching puts them across the river from Fredericksburg. Lee loses contact with Burnside during this march and is surprised when he appears on the 17th. All of this is lost because Washington fails to get the necessary pontoon bridges to the army. Burnside refuses to cross the Rappahannock River without proper bridges. Over the next three weeks, the pontoon bridges and the Army of Northern Virginia will move to Fredericksburg. When the bridges arrive on the 30th, Burnside is looking at a radically changed situation but Washington still wants action.
At the Washington Navy Yard, Lincoln is lucky to escape injury when an experimental rocket explodes during a demonstration.
On the 20th, Bragg’s Army of Tennessee is organized into three corps commanded by Edmund Kirby-Smith, Leonidas Polk and William J. Hardee.
Joseph E. Johnston becomes the commander of all CSA forces in North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and eastern Louisiana. In making this assignment, on the 24th, Jefferson Davis specifies he must guide Pemberton and protect Vicksburg.
On the 26th, the Army of Tennessee occupies Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Having been forced out of Kentucky and Nashville, Bragg is determined to control central Tennessee.
Federal General James G. Blunt defeats John S. Marmaduke at Crane Hill, Arkansas. 100 miles from the nearest reinforcements, Blunt cannot pursue. This isolation induces a movement by Thomas C. Hindman to attack Blunt. The Battle of Crane Hill, November 28, is another defeat for the Confederacy in the Trans-Mississippi.
On November 29, Winfield S. Hancock, George G. Meade, John F. Reynolds, John M. Schofield and Daniel E. Sickles are appointed major general of volunteers. The US Army maintains a series of rank that creates problems during and after the war. The CSA uses all four general ranks allowing for discreet levels at army, corps, division and brigade. The US Army is not allowed to do this. Grant is the only Lt. General, normally a corps commander, appointed during the war. Major Generals, normally a division commander, may command an army, corps, division or nothing at all depending on assignment. Brigadier Generals and Colonels may command anything from a division to a regiment depending on the situation.
To complicate matters, most promotions during the war are “of Volunteers”, meaning this is a war rank not the regular army rank. A regular army promotion means that after the war, that is your rank. Brevet rank is awarded to officers for bravery in place of medals. Brevet rank carries the pay and privileges but not the command of that rank. It is possible to be a Colonel of Volunteers, a Brevet Major with the regular army rank of Captain. Congress approves all promotions of general officers. The number is controlled by law and Congress maintains the ceiling with vigor.
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