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General Robert E. Lee, as war took its toll. This part of my site is a continuing essay on the lives of General R.E. Lee and his surviving Lieutenants, Generals James Longstreet, J.E.B. Stuart, A.P. Hill, Richard Ewell, and George Pickett as they continued the fight. After Gettysburg, the South was far from capitulation, many battles remained and General Lee's brilliance continued to frustrate the Union Generals sent against him.



As the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, returned to their home soil, General Lee learned that Vicksburg had fallen into Union hands. As if this news was not bad enough, he also received word that his wounded son W.H.F.(Rooney) Lee had been captured and taken to Fortress Monroe on the Peninsula. Rooney Lee had not been able to travel with the army on its second invasion of the North. In stead, he had to stay behind to heal his wounds. His younger brother had been with him and had narrowly escaped capture, himself.

Rooney Lee was later moved to the prisoner of war camp at Fort Lafayette, New York...farther away from any possible rescue.


Fortress Monroe, Hampton, Virginia
The year of 1863, would quickly prove to be trying for General Lee, his Army, and the Confederate states as a whole. Union forces were trying to conquer the port city of Charleston, S.C.; also Wilmington, N.C. was in danger. If this port was to fall, it would close a major source of much needed supplies to the already taxed armies of the South.

The war in the west continued to go bad for the South. General Lee was asked to send what help he could. His decision to send General Longstreet's Corps to aid in the defense of Chatanooga, Chickamaugua, and Knoxville, Tennessee...greatly weakened the Army of Northern Virginia. Leaving only 46,000 troops to fend off any future attacks by the Union Army of the Potomac.

There were a few skirmishes between the opposing armies, Bristol Station and at Kelly's Ford, kept the months of October and November busy and both sides on alert. There were victories in the west, at Chickamagua. Followed by defeats at Chatanooga. Ulysses Grant was still making his presence known along the Mississippi River and was quickly rising to the attention of his leaders in Washington.

As the year of 1863 drew to a close, the Confederate Army was desparately short of provisions. Not only were the soldiers without supplies and substanence, so were its animals. Horses and mules, the transportation and working animals were also starving. General Lee was continuously asking for his governments help, with very little being done. He wrote, "A regular supply of provisions to the troops in this army is of great importance....unless there is change, I fear the Army can not be held together." These were desparate times, both for General Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia.

A bright spot came in the spring of 1864, Rooney Lee was exchanged for a Union prisoner and returned to the South for further service, to the joy of his Father, General Robert E. Lee. However, that joy was short lived as the General knew that with spring came a renewed effort by the Union army.


General Ulysses S. Grant, the last adversary that General Lee would face. General Ulysses Grant was called to Washington in March of 1864, where he received his promotion to Lieutenant General and given command of all the Union armies. At first it was thought by General Lee that General grant would continue his campaigns in the west. This was a misconception, one General Lee would soon learn was wrong.

General Grant, a bold and audacious commander, would soon become General Lee's next adversary, joining a long list of Union General officers that were assigned to defeat the "Last Knight" of the South.


As a precaution against the coming spring campaigns, General James Longstreet and his Corps were ordered to return from Tennessee and back to Virginia. During his time in Tennessee, he had not gotten any better in his morose and melancholy manner caused by the loss at Gettysburg. He was glad to be back with his mentor, General Lee and was looking forward to that association. However, he did make the mistake of misjudging the new commander of the Army of the Potomac. He wrote General Lee, "I do not think he is any better than Pope...his chief strength is in his prestige." An opinion that would be proved wrong but at a price that would prove to be very high, both for the Union troops under General Grant's command, as well as the Confederates under the command of General Lee and his Lieutenants.

General Grant knew that the population of the Northern states had grown very tired of this war. In fact, there were many movements among these states to end the war, by giving the Confederacy its independence or otherwise. His task was monumental yet simple...defeat the armies of Lee in Virginia and of Johnston in the west.

Grant's plan was bold and decisive, while he moved on Richmond from the north, General Butler was to move on Petersburg from the east. At the same time, General Sherman was to move on General Johnston in Georgia. While all this was to be going on, Union General Sigel was to go into action in the Shennandoah Valley to occupy the Confederate forces there.


Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston. Union General Franz Sigel.
Union General William T. Sherman. The Army of the Potomac was well equipped and numbered at least 100,000. A formidable number, considering that General Lee's army numberered a mere 60,000 men. General Sherman was also in command of approximately 100,000, against the 62,000 of General Johnston's. The outlook looked pretty bleak for the Southerners, but they knew the land, how to get from one place to another in short order, and was dedicated to defending their homes against an invading army, from the north.


The Army of the Potomac started on the march 03 May 1864, towards Richmond. They were moving through a wilderness area near Chancellorsville, where this same army was so soundly beaten just a year before. On 05 May 1864 General Lee put his army in motion, to intercept the Union columns before they were within range of Richmond. General Lee wanted to avoid a fight until his reinforcements under General Lonfstreet arrived. However, forward elements of the Union army made contact with those of Confederate General Ewell.

This battle was to be known as the Battle of the Wilderness. A two day, running fight which the Union troops under General Grant, were winning. They had forced the entrenched Confederate troops of General A.P. Hill, from their earthworks and were beginning to force them from the field, when General Longstreet arrived with his reinforcements. Accompanying General Longstreet was several regiments of Texans, who were used as shock troops to break a thrust by Union infantry.

These Texans had come to the field just in time. General Lee was determined to rally his troops and was ready to lead the attack, himself. He had tried to no avail, to rally the retreating, panicked troops of his trusted Lieutenant, General Hill. As he looked about him, he noticed these new soldiers had formed an arc around him, forcing him away from the firing of musketry and the danger of the fight about them. The common soldier held General Lee in great esteem, these Texans were no different. They insisted that he leave this place of great danger and hollered as one, "Lee to the rear! General Lee to the rear!" When he realized that they were trying to protect him, he asked of what unit they wer, "We're from Texas, General Hood's division!"

General Longstreet, having joined General Lee...was able to convince his Commander that it was unsafe for him so close to the front and General Lee reluctantly moved to relative safety behind the lines.

General Longstreet, always the battlefield commander, was gravely wounded as a bullet passed through the base of his throat and into his shoulder. A lesser man would not have survived such a wound, General Longstreet was to return to command before the end of the year.

It was during this battle that General Lee learned of General Grant's determination to win. His willingness to risk the lives of his men and his equipments, to secure a victory. Obviously, General Lee could not afford such a war of attrition. The Union army had relatively unlimited resources of men and materiel. General Lee held no such advantage and was not under any dillusion that he could trade General Grant one for one.

General Lee was sure that he must be able to conserve as much of his materiel and troops, as was within his power to do so. He knew that he must protect Richmond, with all that he had. Richmond, the capital of the Confederate States, was thought to be too close to the Union states and talk was afoot to move the Capital to a safer place.

On 07 May 1864, General Grant who was not going to make the same blunders as his predecessors, was to continue his march on Richmond. General Lee, learning of the Union army's movement, quickly sent General Anderson...replacing the wounded General Longstreet, to head off General Grant at Spotsylvania Courthouse.

The next morning, the Union army found General Anderson and his troops entrenched across the road in the shape of a 'V'. On 10 May 1864, the Union forces attacked what was quickly named the "Bloody Angle", and were successful at first but had to relinquish the field by dark. Dawn, 12 May 1864..the battle continued. this time the Union troops were victorious in dislodging the Confederates from their entrenched positions. Fighting went on into the night.

Spotsylvania, actually a sprawling battle that lasted twelve days, fighting all along the lines of the opposing armies. At one point, over 12,000 men were killed or wounded, fighting over one square mile of the battleground. General Grant continuously moving to the left, probing for a weak spot in the Confederate lines, while still moving towards Richmond.

Casualties were extremely high on both sides, General Grant was suffering 2,000 casualties a day. The Confederates were sending seemingly unending wagon trains to Richmond, carrying their wounded.

General Lee continued to bare more and more of the direct command of his army, General Longstreet was wounded, General Jackson was gone, General A.P. Hill was continuously ill, and General Ewell was still indecisive.


At the time of this fight, General Philip H. Sheridan, anxious to engage the enfamous Cavalry of General J.E.B. Stuart, nearly begged his commander General Joe Hooker to allow him to seek and engage his enemy counterpart. After gaining permission, General Sheridan moved on Richmond with nearly 10,000 cavalrymen. General Stuart's forces made contact with the Union invaders at Yellow Tavern.

 Union General Philip H. Sheridan.
General J.E.B. Stuart's grave with temporary wooden marker. On 11 May 1864...another tragedy occurred to the Confederate Cause. General Stuart, while leading a charge, aginst Union General Sheridan, was mortally wounded. The evening of 12 May 1863, he succumed to his wounds. General Lee had lost his "eyes of the Army", and upon notification was heard to comment, "I can scarcely think of him without weeping."


General James Ewell Brown Stuart
General J.E.B. Stuart, a tragic loss to the Confederacy, a personal loss to General Lee.
Sporadic fighting continued in and around the battlefield of Spotsylvania, until the evening of 18 May 1864, when weather conditions prevented the two opposing armies form attacking one another. The next day, 19 may 1864, General Ewell was given permission to probe the Union positions, he was once again quickly beaten back. On 20 May 1864, General Grant decided to discontinue his frontal attacks and once again moved his army to the left, south towards Richmond.


General Lee, ever watching the moves of his adversary, followed and parried, cutting off the Union advance on 23 May 1864. Reinforcements arrived under the command of General Breckinridge, returning from the Shennandoah Valley. General Breckinridge had fought and defeated Union forces under General Sigel, at New Market. Remembered for the brave fighting of Virginia Military Institute (VMI) students, assisting the outnumbered Confederate forces in defending the Valley.


General John C. Breckinridge
By the end of May, the Confederate lines stretched over a five mile front, on one end was Old Cold Harbor and the other end was New Cold Harbor. On 01 June 1864, General Lee established his headquarters near the ruins of Gaines Mill. Here he watched and waited the next move of General grant and the Union invaders.

At 4:30 AM, 03 June 1864, General Grant started his attack. The land in front of the Confederate positions, was swampy and bog like. The Union soldiers had great difficulty moving through it, and in just a matter of minutes, the air was full of flying lead and shrapnel. In just one half hour, 7,000 Union troops were killed or wounded. A Confederate officer noted, "the Union dead covered more than five acres of ground about as thickly as they could be laid."

Later in the day, General Grant once again ordered an assult against the expertly prepared Confederate positions. The badly mauled troops of General grant, stayed right where they were. They were coldly refusing to be slaughtered in a sensless frontal assult.

The two opposing armies stayed in position opposite one another until on 12 June 1864, General Grant began another massive move of his army. He started southward towards Petersburg, admitting that he had failed in both of his main objectives...destroy General Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, and to cease the Confederate capital of Richmond.

15 June 1864, found General Grant in front of earthworks around the city of Petersburg. After a blunder of an attack by Union General W.J. Smith, where he breached the Confederte lines but failed to follow it up and allowed the Confederate reinforcements to be brought to line, the two armies settled in for seige warfare.


Confederate Defensive Works at Petersburg
Earthworks like these, would prove to be nearly impentrable during the seige of Petersburg.
General Lee put his army to work to strengthen the fortifications around the city as well as extending them to the west. Trying to take these fortifications would prove to be fruitless for General Grant's soldiers. They then built earthworks of their own to beseige the city of Petersburg.


Large guns were brought to the Union lines, mortars that could lob shells high over the Confederate earth works and into the trenches. Sharpshooters were placed in positions to take shots at anyone showing themselves. It would prove to be a long seige.


The Dictator, mortars like these were used to bombard the city of Petersburg and the trenches of teh Confederate lines.
There were 18,000 inhabitants of Petersburg. These citizens braved the seige, going about their daily business, even though the Union guns would often shell the city streets. These shells would tear great holes in the roads and sometimes buildings and private homes. Yet, the people of Petersburg continued without despair.

Finally, Union Colonel Henry Pleasants of the 48th Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment, made up almost entirely of coal miners, suggested a mine be constructed under the Confederate positions. He suggested a tunnel of 500 feet, at the end of which he would have placed a large bomb of gun powder to explode through the Confederate lines.


Confederate Major General William Mahone. Pleasants gained permission for his unnusual idea, his miners digging through and underneath the Confederates at a point known as Elliott's Salient. At 4:45 AM, the morning of 30 June 1864, the bomb was exploded. This explosion opened a crater in the center of the Confederate line, 500 yards wide. Union troops confusedly entered the crater and began to try and broach the Confederate stronghold. However, the Union troops attacking the breach were so badly organized and badly handled, it quickly became a slaughter. Confederate General William Mahone quickly poured men into the breach, his artillery zeroing in on the Union troops there, the crater quickly became a "cauldron of Hell". By 1:00 PM, the breach was mended,nearly 1,000 Union troops surrendered.


The seige continued as before, monotonous days of shelling, sniping and probing of one anothers lines, became the normal routine of the day. However, the war was raging outside of Petersburg. General Lee received constant updates as to how the fate of other Confederate armies throughout the South.

Union Admiral Farragut had taken Mobile Bay on 5 August 1864, the Mississippi was soon to follow. Atlanta hads been lost and General Sherman was continuing his "March to the Sea", towards Savannah. In Virginia, General Sheridan was devistating the lower Valley. Burning and destroying the food basket of the Confederacy.


One of General Sheridan's officers commented, "The time had come to fully peel this land." On 19 September 1864, General Sheridan's army moved on Winchester, VA. The Confederates, under the command of General Jubal Early, put up a good fight and the battle came to a temporary stalemate. But, General Sheridan was not like Sigel, Banks and other predecessors, he was a fighter and a leader. He rode to the front and cheered, prodded and coaxed his men into action. General Early's men were broken and routed. They tried to make a stand a few days later at Fisher's Hill, but were beaten decisively.


Confederate General Jubal Early.
The Valley now belonged to General Philip Sheridan and the Union. The Confederate hold on the Shennandoah Valley was broken forever. As General Sheridan had promised, he gave General Early "the worst licking he ever had!" As he moved to join Grant outside of Petersburg, his army burned the Valley behind them. A Confederate soldier described the devastation as, "great columns of smoke which nearly shut out the sun by day, and the red glare of bon fires which crackled mockingly in the night air."

By late November 1864, the war found General Hood, now commanding the Army of Tennessee, moving northward towards Nashville. General Sherman was moving southward towards Savannah. Sherman had left Atlanta in flames and with nearly 60,000 men was an unstoppable force as he laid waste to the rest of the state. He had promised to "make Georgia howl", and he did his best to fulfill this promise.

General Hood was moving towards Nashville and Union General Thomas' 50,000 man army. As he crossed the Tennesse at Muscle Shoals, Union General Schofield, commanding two corps of Union soldiers, retreated in front of him. General Hood moved to outmaneuver General Schofield and cut his retreat off, destroying his Army in total. However, his command structure became snarled, he failed to take advantage of one opportunity after another and General Schofield was able to escape the trap.

On 30 November 1864, General Hood overtook the Union army at Franklin, Tennessee. Angered with his supporting Generals, for their perceived intentional disobedience, he ordered a massive frontal attack of 18,000 men. It was a magnificant failure. In just a few hours, General Hoods army suffered 6,252 casualties, including the deaths of five Confederate Generals.

Back in Petersburg, General Grant was worried that General Hood qwould leave his assults on General Thomas and begin moving northward towards Virginia. He was unable to understand just how well General Thomas had his situation under control. On 16 December 1864, General Thomas soundly defeated General Hood's army of Tennessee and they were in a headlong retreat southward, across the Tennessee River. No longer an effective force, General Hood was relieved of his command and by bits and pieces his command was dispersed to serve in other areas.

Sherman had moved within sight of Savannah on 10 December 1864, and finally took the city on 24 December 1864. He sent a telegram to President Lincoln offering him the city as a Christmas present.

As 1864 came to a close, the Confederacy essentially consisted of the Carolinas and the southern portion of the state of Virginia. The end was drawing near, even the staunchest Confederate supporter coud see it coming.


SOURCES:

  1. Battle of Antietam; The Official history by the Antietam Battlefield Board, George R. Large and Joe A. Swisher, c. 1998.
  2. Battle of Gettysburg, A Guided Tour, Edward J. Stackpole and Wilbur Nye c. 1998.
  3. Blood and Sacrifice, The Civil War Journal of a Confederate Soldier, Richard A. Baumgartner; Editor c.1998.
  4. The Century War Book, reprint edition of 1978 by Arno Press, Inc., ISBN 0-405-11123-1, "A condensation of The Century War Series, published from Nov. 1884 to Nov. 1887 in The Century Magazine".
  5. The Civil War Source Book,Philip Katcher c. 1992.
  6. Lee's Lieutenenats; A Study in Command, Douglas Southall Freeman c. 1980.
  7. Never Call Retreat, Bruce Catton, c. 1965 Doubelday and Company, Inc.
  8. Gettysburg: The Final Fury, Bruce Catton, c. 1974 Doubleday and Company, Inc.
  9. A Battlefield Atlas of the Civil War, Craig Symonds, c. 1983 Nautical and Aviation Publishing Co. of America, ISBN 0-933852-49-5
  10. Capsule History of the Eighteenth Georgia Infantry, The Harold B. Simpson Hill College Confederate Research Center and Museum, Hillsboro, Texas
  11. Roster of the Confederate Soldiers of Georgia, 1861 - 1865, Index, Brightwell, pg. 425 (also see Vol 2, pg. 678)
  12. The Battle of Fredericksburg Civil War Series, William Marvel, c. 1993 Eastern National Park and Monument Association
  13. The Battles for Richmond Civil War Series, William J. Miller, c. 1996 Eastern National Park and Monument Association
  14. The Battle of Gettysburg Civil War Series, Harry W. Pfanz, c. 1994 Eastern National Park and Monument Association
  15. Richmond Battlefields, A history and Guide to Richmond National Battlefield Park, Joseph P. Cullen, c. 1992 Division of Publications, National Park Service


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