This year marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, The War Between The States, The Second War Of Rebellion, or whatever you want to call it. We have a black president. Something neither the North or South would have seen coming a 150 years ago. It's a historical time to be alive, but then again, what century isn't. This year and the ones to follow will be filled with tributes, re-enactments, salutes to brave men, and history, history, history. I'm looking forward to seeing some of the events happening around where I live. But that's not what this is all about. I've taken an old history paper and punched it up, and used some language my teachers wouldn't have approved of, and turned it into this. I hope you find it at least entertaining. You may notice some preference for the "home" team, so to speak. Can't help it. I'm from the South and proud of it. I'm also an American and even prouder of that. Though with the dumb-as-a-bag-of-rocks politicians in Washington these days, and with the things they do and the shit that comes out their mouths, sometimes it's hard to be proud. Everything you are about to read is true. If you have doubts, feel free to use Google, Bing, Wikipedia, or whatever you like to check it out. Happy reading and I hope I spelled everything right.
In November 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected as the 16th president of the United States Of America. Five short months later, he was reviled in the South and the States were no longer united. On April 12, 1861, Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston, S.C. From then until the last shot was fired in June of 1865, over 600,000 men lost their lives. All American. It produced more American causalities than both World Wars. (116,708 in WWI, 416,800 in WWII, total: 533,508.) What were the causes? To end slavery, states rights, an industrial economy in the North as opposed to an agricultural one in the South, pick one and let the debates begin. Support for secession was strongly correlated to the number of plantations in the region. States of what was called the Deep South, which had the greatest concentration of plantations, were the first to secede. The upper South slave states of Virgina, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Tennessee had fewer plantations and rejected calls for secession until Fort Sumter was fired on and they were forced to choose sides. The Border States had even fewer plantations and never seceded. The Southern states, and the big plantation owners, said the North was trying to tell them what to do, and it was a violation of their rights. They said they had the right to secede from the Union because the Constitution was a "compact" or an agreement among the states, and could leave at any time. The North said that wasn't what the Founding Fathers had in mind. Their idea, the Founding Fathers, was that it was a "perpetual union" and could not be broken up so easily. Then Lincoln was elected and the shit really hit the fan. The slave states, which had already become a minority in the House of Representatives, were now facing a future as a perpetual minority in the Senate and Electoral College against an increasingly powerful North. Even before Lincoln took office in March 1861, seven slave states had declared their secession and joined together to form the Confederacy. And so on April 12-13, Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter, with no causalities, and the war began. Eleven states formed the Confederate States Of America and twenty three remained loyal to the United States Of America.
The South got off to a good start at the Battle Of First Manassas, Bull Run for our Yankee friends. Major General Irvin McDowell led his Union forces against Confederate Generals Joseph E. Johnston and P.G.T. Beauregard. It was also at this battle that General Thomas J. Jackson picked up the nickname, "Stonewall" for standing his ground. Basically, the Union forces got their asses whupped, and run back to Washington. So, McDowell was out, and George B. McClellan was in as commander of the Union forces. General Johnston was wounded and in his place, Confederate President Jefferson Davis appointed General Robert E. Lee. Business was about to pick up. Lee was the son of famous Revolutionary War General, "Light Horse" Harry Lee. He was married to Mary Custis, great granddaughter of Martha Washington. You might have heard of her husband, George? To call Robert E. Lee a brilliant tactician would be kind of an understatement. You could call him wily and you wouldn't be wrong. You could call him careful, and you still wouldn't be wrong. In fact, he was so careful at the start of the war, his men called him "Granny Lee". Southern newspapers said he was a poor choice because he wouldn't be "aggressive" enough. In the Spring of 1862 when McCellan attacked Virginia on the peninsula between the York and James Rivers to the southeast of Richmond, McCellan thought Lee was too careful as well. McCellan reached the gates of Richmond in what is called the Peninsula Campaign. Then Johnston stopped him at the Battle Of Seven Pines, and old Bobby Lee, with his top subordinates James Longstreet and "Stonewall" Jackson, whupped McCellan in the Seven Days Battles and forced him to retreat. Then to add a little icing to the cake, Lee, Longstreet, and Jackson were instrumental in kicking the Yankee's ass AGAIN at the Battle Of Second Manassas, Bull Run II for Yankee friends once again. Lee got a bit cocky and led his army into it's first Northern invasion. In September of 1862, Lee met McCellan again in the Battle Of Antietam near Sharpsburg, Maryland. This was to become the bloodiest day in American history. Outnumbered 2 to 1 Lee fought the Union Army to a standstill. He continued to skirmish with McCellan while withdrawing his battered forces. The Confederates won, but it's considered a Union victory because Lee was stopped. At any rate, after failing to destroy Lee's army, McCellan was out and Major General Ambrose Burnside, from whom we get the name "Sideburns", was in. He didn't last long. He met the Confederates at the Battle Of Fredericksberg, December 11-15. On December 13, 1862, Burnside led over 12,000 Union troops to their death by being another Union General to underestimate Lee, Longstreet, Jackson, and the other Confederate Generals. Burnside was replaced by General Joseph Hooker, who was embarrased and badly beaten, at the Battle Of Chancellorville.
In a way, the Battle Of Chancellorville was a turning point for Bobby Lee. His Corps commanders have been described as Jackson being the advocate of aggressive tactics and Longstreet as the advocate of defensive tactics. Together they were described as Jackson being the hammer and Longstreet the anvil of the Army Of Northern Virginia. Jackson had command of an entire Corps, and wielded it with great success. Those men loved him and would march further, faster, and longer than any other Corps in the Army Of Northern Virginia. After scouting for himself with his Corp commanders, Jackson went to work. His tactics and envelopment of the Union Army's right wing are still studied and taught around the world today. He silently moved his men to within a few hundred feet of the Yankees. Then giving the famous "Rebel Yell", they attacked. many of the Yankee troops were captured without a shot being fired. The rest fled in a rout with Jackson and his Corp in full pursuit. Only darkness stopped the action. Jackson and his commanders were returning to camp on May 2, 1863, when they were thought be Yankees and fired on by the 18th North Carolina Infantry Regiment. His own men who were horrified and sickened when they learned of their mistake. Jackson was hit by three bullets. Two in his left arm and one in the right hand. His arm had to be amputated. His wounds were severe but he could have recovered had he not come down with pneumonia. He died on May 10, 1863. Near the end, he said he was content to die this day as "It's the Lord's Day; my wish is fulfilled. I have always desired to die on Sunday." His final words were: "Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees." When Lee was informed that Jackson had been badly wounded and had lost his left arm, Lee is to have said: "General Jackson has lost his left arm, but I fear that I have lost my right." He was right. Jackson had a knack for understanding Lee's orders better than anyone else. He picked up on what modern doctrine calls the "end state". Lee trusted Jackson to carry out his "end state" requirements, sometimes subtle, and sometimes left unsaid, but something his subsequent Corps commanders couldn't do. Thus we come to a little town in Pennsylvania called Gettysburg.
After whuppin' the Yankees at Chancellorville, Lee led the Army Of Northern Virgina on a second invasion of the North. His plan was to strike into the North, draw the Union after him, then swing back and attack Washington. There is room for doubt that he actually intended to capture Washington. Rather, he wanted to put some pressure on the city and scare the shit out the politicians. The odds were in his favor that if he did that, they would turn on Lincoln and either force him out of office or force him to end the war. It was already far bloodier than anyone expected. Some pressure, in the form of the Army Of Northern Virginia at the gates of the city might be the very thing that was needed to end the war.
On July 1, 1863, the leading elements of Lee's army ran into Union Calvary under the command of Brigider General John Buford. These leading "elements" were the former Corps of "Stonewall" Jackson, now divided into two seperate Corps. The Second Corp, under the command of Lt. General Richard S. Ewell and the newly formed Third Corps, under the command of Lt. General A.P. Hill. There was also a Calvary Division under the command of Major General J.E.B. Stuart. There will be no more mention of General Stuart until later.
Now, you remember how I told you about Jackson being able to grasp Lee's orders and cut to the "end state"? It's about to bite Bobby Lee in the ass. When Ewell and Hill ran into Buford the battle was engaged. It wasn't necessarily what Lee wanted, but since the two armies had found each other, what the Hell. Let's git 'er done. But it didn't get done. Ewell and Hill drove Buford and his Calvary, along with two Corps of Infantry that had shown up, back through the streets of Gettysburg and into the hills just to the south of town. Lee sent discretionary orders to Ewell that the heights, Cemetery Hill and Culp's Hill, were to be taken "if practicable". Those two little words would be the beginning of the end for the Confederacy. Jackson would have grasped at once what Lee's "end state" was, and would have set up to accomplish it. Jackson would have seen that Lee wanted and needed to take the high ground the way the Army Of Northern Virginia had at Marye's Heights at Fredricksburg. Ewell chose not to attack and for all intents and purposes, the Battle Of Gettysburg was lost right there. Now, let's take a moment here to do us some speculatin'. Suppose that old "Stonewall" had NOT been wounded and later died at Chancellorville. So let's take a look at the battle's beginnings.
On June 26, 1863, Major General Jubal A. Early had occupied the town of Gettysburg. They destroyed some stuff, railroad cars, a covered bridge, some telegraph lines, and tore up some rail tracks. They left the next morning. This was the time that Lee let Stuart take his Calvary in a sweep around the Yankee's east flank. He took his own sweet time getting back and deprived Lee of something he needed very badly...reconnaissance. When the battle really got started, Lee had no idea who he was facing or how many troops. Bad form on Stuart's part. On June 30, 1863, Major General Henry Heth sent a brigade from A.P. Hill's Third Corp, North Carolinian's under the command of Brigadier General J. Johnston Pettigrew back towards Gettysburg. In his memoirs after the war General Heth said he sent Pettigrew to search for supplies, mainly shoes. Instead, they found Buford and his Union Calvary. The next morning, July 1, 1863, General A.P. Hill sent a "reconnaissance in force" to see what and who he had out in front of him. There is some doubt that Lee really wanted to get into a fight at that time. But the Yankees were there, the Rebels were there, and so the fight started. Now if Jackson had not been dead, then Ewell and Hill would have been under his command instead if commanding. When Ewell and Hill pushed Buford back through town and onto the hills, Jackson would have, most likely, taken the hills and the Army Of Northern Virginia would have controlled the heights.
You have to wonder what would have been the outcome of the battle if the Rebels had the position the Yankees did. You'll have to go to Wikipedia and search for the battle and see the maps of the positions, and reverse them. Our country may have been forever changed if the positions were reversed. And let's not forget about the shoes. If the Rebels hadn't needed shoes, Heth wouldn't have sent Pettigrew to "search for supplies...mainly shoes." The two armies may have passed each other by, if they did run into each other, it would have probably been a series of skirmishes to allow the armies to get some distance. Lee didn't make a lot of mistakes, but choosing to stand his ground and fight was a big one. Letting Stuart go off and leaving himself blind was another. Basically, up to that point, Lee and his army had been fighting a defensive war. The type of actions that James Longstreet excelled in. In fact, Longstreet almost begged Lee to break off and find better ground on which to fight. But Lee was determined to meet them. He felt if he could destroy or severely cripple the Union army at Gettysburg, he could continue on to Washington and force the end of the war. He seemed to forget in the heat of battle the South couldn't take the kind of punishment they took at Gettysburg and hope to win. The Union forces took the field with 93,921, give or take, troops. The Rebels had 71,699, give or take, troops. The Yankees had almost 23,000 more men. When the battle was over, the Yankees had lost 23,055 men. The Rebels had lost 23,231. just a shade more than the Yankees. But the Yankees were left with 70,866 men to the Rebels 48,468. The Yankees still had a 22,398 man advantage over the Rebels. And at this stage of the war, the South was running out of men.
On July 4, 1863, Lee retreated back to Virgina. Left behind at Gettysburg were the bodies of between 46,000 and 51,000 men. Almost 60,000 died in the ten years we were involved in Vietnam. Almost that many were lost in just three days of fighting. Down in Vicksburg, Mississippi, the garrison there had surrendered to a Major General named Ulysses S. Grant. We'll be hearing more from him in a bit. Speaking of hearing from people, we haven't heard from J.E.B. Stuart. He let Lee down in a big way as well. In those days the Calvary was the eyes of the infantry. Before the battle took place, J.E.B. Stuart was already missing from the field. Stuart was known for being a master of reconnaissance and the use of Calvary in support of offensive operations. He was, for all intents and purposes, the trusted eyes of Lee and the Army Of Northern Virginia. Stuart was off on a "glory ride", as his detractors and the Southern press said. But it could have been that Stuart, for all his brilliance at Calvary tactics, was another commander who failed to grasp Lee's "end state". At any rate, he wasn't where Lee needed him and so the Army Of Northern Virginia was left stumbling in the dark. Stuart didn't catch to the army until the second day of battle and didn't take part. The next day, he met with one of his few stellar performances. He was ordered to disrupt the Union lines of communication at the same time that Pickett's Charge got under way. He was halted and his mission failed when his Calvary was beaten back by Union Calvary under the command of Major Generals David Gregg and George Armstrong Custer, who a few years later made a REALLY bad decision that led to his death and the men of the 7th Calvary at Little Big Horn. Pickett's Charge failed. And the men slowly moved off the field of battle. The next day, the Army Of Northern Virginia made it's way back to the safety of Virginia. But soon, even Virginia wouldn't be safe for Lee or the army. While the Rebel armies were able to kick some serious ass in the East, out in what was called the Western Theater, they didn't fare so well and a General by the name of U.S. Grant was making a name for himself.
At the beginning of 1864, Lincoln, against advice from people who said Grant was a drunk, a fool, or just plain crazy, Lincoln declared: "I can't get rid of this man. He fights!" and made Grant commander of all Union armies. Among his first orders were for Major General William Tecumseh Sherman to capture Atlanta, Georgia and then march to the sea. He was to destroy everything in his path. At Nuremberg, he would have said he was "just following orders". People who's ancestors had to watch as their homes, mills, fields, crops, and livestock were taken from them or burned, grew up hearing tales of Sherman's cruelty and he is hated and reviled to this day. People have never really understood that. But since the winners write the history books, some things are played down or ignored. You kinda have to be from here to get it. He then ordered General Phillip Sheridan to march the length of the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia and destroy it the way Sherman did in Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. He's another one with without a lot of fans in the South. Grant and his Army Of The Potomac would take on Lee and his Army Of Northern Virginia. Grant got off to a rocky start.
Grant tried to maneuver past Lee in the east and fought several battles during that attempt. His plan of attack was called the "Overland Campaign". The first of these battles was the Battle Of The Wilderness, fought on May 5-7, 1864. Both sides suffered heavy losses, and it may have been where the seeds of Grant's war of attrition were planted. The battle was tactically inconclusive as Grant disengaged his forces and moved on. The reason? Grant was getting bogged down in the dense undergrowth of the wilderness around Spotsylvania. On May 7, he moved his army to the southeast. He wanted to leave the wilderness and move on Spotsylvania Court House. The Battle Of The Wilderness is considered a draw. But...you could call it a tactical victory for the Rebels, and you could call it a strategic victory for the Yankees. Lee had inflicted heavy losses on Grant, but had taken some heavy losses himself. And Lee couldn't replenish his losses the way Grant could. The only way for Lee to win was to crush the Army Of The Potomac, and Grant was too smart to let that happen. Also when Grant withdrew, something the loser had always done in the past, instead of running back to Washington, Grant continued with his campaign. The writing on the wall was faint, but it was beginning to show a bit.
The second battle of Grant's "Overland Campaign" was the Battle Of Spotsylvania, or in the 19th century spelling, Spottsylvania Court House. On May 8, Union forces tried to dislodge the Confederates from Laural Hill, a position that was keeping them from Spotsylvania Court House. They couldn't do it. On May 10, Grant ordered attacks all along the Confederate line of earthworks that stretched for over 4 miles, including a prominent point called the "Mule Shoe". On May 12, Grant ordered the 15,000 men under the command of Major General Winfield S. Hancock to assault the "Mule Shoe". At first, Hancock was successful. The Confederate leadership rallied the men and threw the Yankees back. Major General Horatio G. Wright attacked the western edge of the "Mule Shoe", and it came to be called the "Bloody Angle". The fight lasted almost 24 hours with most of the fight being hand to hand. It was some of the most intense fighting of the entire war. Grant repositioned his forces and sent General Hancock against the line once more on May 18. Again, there was no progress. Again it was a tactical victory for the Rebels and a strategic one for the Yankees. On May 21, Grant once again disengaged and moved toward North Anna River for a series of fights between May 23-26. Again, a tactical victory for Lee and a strategic one for Grant. So far Grant and Lee had met 3 times with the battles considered a draw. The Yankee newspapers were not pleased with Grant's performance so far. It was about to get worse. Grant moved his army towards the final battle of his "Overland Campaign". A crossroads called Cold Harbor. The writing was getting more plainer.
It was a race to see who could get there first. Lee won. Grant and his Army Of The Potomac swung, once again, around the flank of Lee's army. Union Calvary took control of the crossroads at Old Cold Harbor, which was about 10 miles to the northeast of the Confederate capitol of Richmond, Virginia. Lee and his Army Of Northern Virginia were all that stood between Grant and the Rebel capitol. The fight commenced on May 31st, 1864. It ended on June 12th. It is remembered as American history's bloodiest and most lop-sided fights.
On May 31, Union Calvary took control of the crossroads. They held it until the Union Army arrived. So far, both the armies of Grant and Lee had taken heavy casualties, but now both armies had received reinforcements. On the evening of June 1st, the Union VI Corps and the XVII Corps got there and assaulted the Confederate earthworks to the west of the crossroads with some success. On June 2nd, both armies arrived. The Confederates immediately started building an elaborate series of fortifications 7 miles long. Dawn on June 3td, the Union forces attacked the southern end of the Rebel works and were easily repulsed with heavy casualties. They then tried an assault on the northern end of the works with the same results. Union casualties were very heavy and Grant did not attack again from June 4th until June 12th, when Grant disengaged and marched his troops southeast across the James River to attack Petersburg which was the site of a crucial rail junction south of Richmond.
For nine days the Union and Rebel armies faced each other in trench warfare. In some places the armies were only yards apart. It was a bloody look at what Allied forces would face in WWI only 53 years in the future. Though I doubt any of the troops would have cared about that. Sharpshooters worked continuously, as they would in WWI. The Yankees bombarded the Rebels with artillery, and the Rebels returned the favor with mortars. There were no more direct assaults, but the casualties were fierce. The trenches were bad, but in the middle, between the lines, thousands of Yankee troops were suffering with no food, water, or medical help. Grant didn't want to ask for a formal truce. That would have acknowledged the fact he had lost the battle. After days of hemming and hawing, Grant finally asked Lee for a 2 hour cease fire. It was too little too late. By then, the majority of the wounded were now bloated corpses. The Yankee newspapers howled for his head, which Lincoln wasn't going to do. Grant finally realized that he couldn't get anywhere facing Lee head-on, so he sent some Calvary units to raise a little Hell in the Shenandoah Valley. He was hoping to get Lee to commit some troops to ensure the Yankees didn't disrupt his supply lines. Lee did just that, and Grant slunk away on June 12th. Grant had suffered 12,475 killed or wounded and Lee lost 3,765 killed or wounded. The Battle Of Cold Harbor was to be the last victory for General Robert E. Lee and the Army Of Northern Virginia. The writing was now plain to see.
Grant moved his army to attack Petersburg and once again threaten Richmond. Lee moved into position to defend Petersburg and the Rebel capitol. Grant and Lee faced each other for 9 months of more trench warfare. The fight lasted from June 9, 1964, when Union Calvary and Union troops began to threaten, until March 25th,1865, when Lee finally had to retreat. Also during this time, Sherman had marched to the sea, raping, burning, destroying, and desecrating everything in his path, and had turned to continue his march north through South Carolina and North Carolina. He was to apply pressure on Lee's lines from the south.
On April 1st, 1865 Lee had to abandon Petersburg and Richmond and retreat with his army. Richmond fell to the Union XXV Corps, which was comprised of black troops. It must be noted here that the black troopers comported themselves far, far better than the white troops. The black troops had every reason to treat the people of Richmond harshly, and the fact they didn't do so speaks very well of them. The white troopers, on the other hand, were scum. They raped, they brutalized, they stole, they burned, and acted less like men and more like animals. Another reason why some Southerners are in their 20's before they realize that "damn" and Yankee" are two separate words. The writing was now carved so everyone could read it loud and clear.
Lee moved his army as far and as best he could, but he, and the South, were out of men, supplies, and time. He moved his army to just outside Appomattox Court House, where he surrendered on April 9th, 1865. He dressed in his finest uniform, mounted his horse Traveller, and rode to meet Grant, who looked like shit. His uniform was dirty, he needed a bath and a shave, and when he saw Lee, he did have the good grace to be embarrassed by his looks. A few weeks later the last of the Confederate forces had surrendered. Lee had rejected the idea of continuing on in a guerrilla war. He felt if the troops lay down their weapons, the North and South could be reconciled faster. He might have been right, but we'll never know. Just 5 days later, John Wilkes Booth put a bullet into the back of Lincoln's head on April 14, 1865. Lincoln died early the next morning, and whatever plans he had for the peaceful reconciliation between North and South died with with him.
The next ten years saw the Union jam "reconstruction" down the South's throat. This may be where the argument about state's rights really started and then grew to be one of the "reasons" for the Civil War. The Union "officials" sent to oversee reconstruction in the South were less than stellar individuals. Sons, friends, and cronies of Union politicians were sent to see to the South's return to the Union. One old Confederate vet said: "...it was like having the Yankees attack again, only this time we couldn't shoot back." The Republican "regimes" were accused of being corrupt, thieves, and worse. Reconstruction saw the rise of the Ku Klux Klan in response to the Republicans and other "carpetbaggers". No matter how you look at it, one thing is clear, it took decades for the South to get back on it's feet. Most of it's wealth was lost in the war. Income for Southerners dropped to less than 40% of that of the North. It took until 1945 for the South to be on a more or less equal footing with the North. And no, I'm not making any of this up. Do a little Googeling, check out Wikipedia, and see for yourself.
Also take some time, if the damn gas prices will allow, and visit some of the Civil War Battlefields. If you live in North Carolina,