Anna Moffett's Civil War - 9
- 1661 reads
July1863- February 1864
Our Confederate General Lee decided to take the war to the enemy.
On July 1st, a chance encounter between Union & Confederate forces began the Battle of Gettysburg. In the fighting that followed, Meade, for the Union, had greater numbers & better
defensive positions. He won the battle. My son James was in that battle & although he survived, it was no doubt a very hard time for him.
Here is a rough outline of how the battle went.
Day 1 started out well. The combined rebel pressure against the hinge connecting the two Union lines resulted in Union resistance collapsing & a general retreat commenced, the Union forces running pell-mell through the streets of Gettysburg & up to the heights of Cemetery Hill. The rebel forces pursued, but, worn out & disorganized by the battle & without fresh forces immediately at hand, the pursuit petered out on the bottom slopes of the hill as night fell.
On July 2, both armies spent most of the daylight getting set for action: The Union army digging in along Cemetery Ridge which stretched two miles from Cemetery Hill to the Round tops,
& Lee's army maneuvering into attacking position. Around 4 o'clock in the afternoon, Longstreet's corps - & this included my James - attacked the opposing force & crushed it.
While Longstreet's attack was in progress, Richard Ewell's corps launched an effort to route the Union forces holding Cemetery Hill, but his men found the steep hill difficult to climb, the Union fire power too strong & though their front reached the cemetery gate, they were forced to back down. At the climax of Longstreet's battle the Mississippi Brigate charged into a breach in the Union line & was almost into the Union rear when their artillery battery gallped up & annihilated the brigage with canister blasts.
As the day before, the morning of the 3rd passed quietly, with both armies positioned on ridges about a mile apart. The silence was broken around 1:00 p.m., when the rebel artillery, a
hundred guns massed hub to hub, exploded with a thunderous cannonade that lasted until 2 o'clock.
When that was over, a mass of 15,000 of our brave men moved out from the rebel position & began walking toward Cemetery Ridge, past the carnage of the day before. As they walked, great gaps were torn in their line by Union artillery, quickly closed by men from a second line stepping up. At 600 yards out from their goal, they collapsed as the Union defenders let loose volley after
volley of rifle fire. Then the two sides came together: with patches of confederates, led by those from James' unit, overran the stone wall & grappled with the Union cannoneers manning the guns
behind, killing them, turning the cannons & firing into the Union troops until reinforcements swarmed them from the Union rear & drove them back from the guns & over the wall.
We had no choice but to retreat in trickles now across the field, the soldiers turning their backs from the fire as against the wind & walking. As they walked, they found General Lee astride his horse waiting by the side of the road. "Steady men, steady," some of them heard him shout. "We need good men just now, it's not your fault." In fifty minutes of almost hand-to-hand combat at the bloody stone wall, ten thousand men had been killed or wounded. That was the battle of Picket's Charge.
The next day General Lee held his army in line of battle inviting Meade to attack him. Meade rode up & down the lines, counting his casualties, his amunition, conferring & decided the prudent thing to do was stand on the defensive.
With the failure of Pickett's Charge, the battle was over - the Union had won. Lee's retreat began on the afternoon of July 4th. Behind him, this small town of only 2,400 was left with a total (from both sides) of over 51,000 casualties. Over 172,000 men & 634 cannon had been positioned in an area encompassing 25 square miles. Additionally, an estimated 569 tons of ammunition was expended & when the battle had ended, 5,000 dead horses & the other wreckage of war presented a scene of terrible devastation. Our Confederate army that staggered back from the fight at Gettysburg was physically & spiritually exhausted.
Things are going very badly in Charleston & in the war in general. I very much fear for our home & our future.
And poor Alex had to deal with the Union victory at Vicksburg, apparently it was a very bloody battle & coming on top of the defeat at Gettysburg, the troops are very disheartened & it opened up the Mississippi River & effectively cut off the western Confederacy as a source of troops & supplies.
I have heard that my Grandson Andrew Adger & the other cadets were involved in the Confederate evacuation of Morris Island on Sept 2nd. Apparently the Feds had been inching their way across James Island, closer to Charleston. Cadets were on guard duty in Charleston military district & on James Island. Their service was not dangerous, except for occasion shelling of the picket line. Sometimes they escorted prisoners to the camp at Andersonville, Georgia, in railroad cattle cars &
one of their jobs was to scrape the manure from the floors of the cars before the captured Feds were loaded.
On September 19th, Union & Confederate forces met on the Tennessee-Georgia border, near Chickamauga Creek. After the battle, Union forces retreated to Chattanooga & the Confederacy
maintained control of the battlefield.
I had a letter from my grandson, James Adger. His camp at Pocotaligo, was visited by Jefferson Davis. He wrote, "President Jeff Davis stopped at the depot & took a look at us & we satisfied him with 12 rounds of cannon. He is a ugly one eyed old fellow but quite smart."
CHARLESTON MERCURY, November 24
A Badge of Female Disloyalty.-We find the following paragraph in the news columns of the New Orleans Era:
Not to wear crinoline has become a badge of secesh principles in the Southwest. Although hooped skirts are plentiful at Memphis, the rebel women have agreed among themselves not to wear
them. It is their secret sign - their badge - their rebel flag. No longer allowed to flaunt past our brave fellows with their emblems of treason pinned to their dresses & bonnets, they have hit upon this plan. They will wear no more hoops. That is their rebel mark now & one the other day, when asked if such was the reason, tossed up her head & said: "Yes, it is & you Yankees can't make us wear hoops, neither."
We have long since given up with wearing our hoops for practical reasons, rather than political ones
January 30, 1864
The war is so depressing with one bad bit of news following another. I decided to write a bit from letters that Elizabeth has had from her good friend Mrs. Mary Chesnut who is a prolific writer. It will give a somewhat more personal perspective on the war. Her life in Richmond seems very different indeed from ours.
Stonewall Jackson has died & this is what she said about it.
"One more year of Stonewall would have saved us. Chickamauga is the only battle we have gained since Stonewall died, & no results follow as usual. Stonewall was not so much as killed by a
Yankee: he was shot by his own men; that is hard.
"General Edward Johnston says he got Grant a place - esprit de corps, you know. He could not bear to see an old army man driving a wagon; that was when he found him out West, put out of the army for habitual drunkenness. He is their right hand man. He don't care a snap if men fall like the leaves fall; he fights to win, that chap does. He is not distracted by a thousand side issues; he does not see them. He is narrow & sure - sees only in a straight line.
"Yes, as with Lincoln, they have ceased to carp at him as a rough clown, no gentleman, etc. You
never hear now of Lincoln's nasty fun; only of his wisdom. Doesn't take much soap & water to wash the hands that the rod of empire sway. They talked of Lincoln's drunkenness, too. Now, since Vicksburg they have not a word to say against Grant's habits. He has the disagreeable habit of not retreating before irresistible veterans. General Lee & Albert Sidney Johnston show blood & breeding.
They are of the Bayard & Philip Sidney order of soldiers. Listen: if General Lee had had Grant's resources he would have bagged the last Yankee, or have had them all safe back in Massachusetts.
"You mean if he had not the weight of the negro question upon him?"
"No, I mean if he had Grant's unlimited allowance of the powers of war - men, money, ammunition, arms."
“January 5th. - At Mrs. Preston's, met your husband, Elizabeth, with the Light Brigade in battle array, ready to sally forth, conquering & to conquer.
"Came home & found my husband in a bitter mood. It has all gone wrong with our world. The loss of our private fortune the smallest part. He intimates, "with so much human misery filling the air, we might stay at home & think."
"And go mad?" said I. "Catch me at it! A yawning grave, with piles of red earth thrown on one side; that is the only future I ever see."
"January 8th. - Snow of the deepest. Nobody can come to-day, I thought & we would miss going to the play. But they did! My husband inquired the price of a carriage. It was twenty-five dollars an hour! He cursed by all his gods at such extravagance. The play was not worth the candle, or carriage, in this instance. In Confederate money it sounds so much worse than it is. I did not dream of asking him to go with me after that lively overture.
"I did intend to go with you," he said, "but you do not ask me."
"And I have been asking you for twenty years to go with me, in vain. Think of that!" I said, tragically. We could not wait for him to dress, so I sent the twenty-five-dollar-an-hour carriage back for him.
"Yesterday, the President walked with me slowly up & down & our conversation was of the saddest. Nobody knows so well as he the difficulties which beset this hard-driven Confederacy. He has a voice which is perfectly modulated, a comfort in this loud & rough soldier world. I think there is a melancholy cadence in his voice at times, of which he is unconscious when he talks of things as
they are now.
"Two of the President's "people" have left him. I do not think it had ever crossed Mrs. Davis's brain that these two could leave her. She knew, however, that Betsy had eighty dollars in gold & two thousand four hundred dollars in Confederate notes.
"Everybody who comes in brings a little bad news - not much, in itself, but by cumulative process the effect is depressing, indeed.
"January 20th. - & now comes a grand announcement made by the Yankee Congress. They vote one million of men to be sent down here to free the prisoners whom they will not take in exchange. I actually thought they left all these Yankees here on our hands as part of their plan to starve us out. All Congressmen under fifty years of age are to leave politics & report for military duty or be conscripted. What enthusiasm there is in their councils! Confusion, rather, it seems to me!
“Our Congress is so demoralized, so confused, so depressed. They have asked the President, whom they have so hated, so insulted, so crossed & opposed & thwarted in every way, to speak to them, & advise them what to do.
"January 21st. - Both of us were too ill to attend Mrs. Davis's reception. It proved a very sensational one. First, a fire in the house, then a robbery - said to be an arranged plan of the usual bribed servants there & some escaped Yankee prisoners. To-day the Examiner is lost in wonder at the
stupidity of the fire & arson contingent. If they had only waited a few hours until everybody was asleep; after a reception the household would be so tired & so sound asleep. Thanks to the
editor's kind counsel maybe the arson contingent will wait & do better next time.
“Thackeray is dead. I stumbled upon Vanity Fair for myself. I had never heard of Thackeray before. I went into a bookstore for something to read. They gave me the first half of Pendennis. I can recall now the very kind of paper it was printed on & the illustrations, as they took effect upon me.
When I raved over it & was wild for the other half, there were people who said it was slow; that Thackeray was evidently a coarse, dull, sneering writer; that he stripped human nature bare, &
made it repulsive, etc.
"Went to Mrs. Davis's. It was sad enough. Fancy having to be always ready to have your servants set your house on fire, being bribed to do it. Such constant robberies, such servants coming & going daily to the Yankees, carrying one's silver, one's other possessions, does not conduce to home happiness.
"January 25th. - The President walked home with me from church (I was to dine with Mrs. Davis). He walked so fast I had no breath to talk; so I was a good listener for once. The truth is I am too much afraid of him to say very much in his presence. We had such a nice dinner.
"February 1st. - Mrs. Davis gave her "Luncheon to Ladies Only" on Saturday. Many more persons
there than at any of these luncheons which we have gone to before. Gumbo, ducks & olives, chickens in jelly, oysters, lettuce salad, chocolate cream, jelly cake, claret, champagne, etc., were the good things set before us.
"Today, for a pair of forlorn shoes I have paid $85. Colonel Ives drew my husband's pay for me. I sent Lawrence for it (Mr. Chesnut ordered him back to us; we needed a man servant here). Colonel Ives wrote that he was amazed I should be willing to trust a darky with that great bundle of money, but it came safely. Mr. Petigru says you take your money to market in the market basket, & bring home what you buy in your pocket-book.
"February 12th. - My husband had a basket of champagne carried to our house, oysters, partridges & other good things, for a supper after the reception. He is going back to the army to-morrow."
It makes my blood boil to hear about all that they have to eat and spend on shoes, when we are near starving and haven't had anything new to wear for years.
- Log in to post comments
An interesting range of
An interesting range of perspectives here. The horror of walking past the dead towards death, no hoops as a sign of rebellion (really interesting detail around clothing and social change) and the contrast in the Mrs Chestnut's life. All very interesting.
- Log in to post comments
Philip Sidney is not my real
Philip Sidney is not my real name, I just find him so interesting , a gentleman soldier, which Anna would have approved of - and a rebel. I wonder if she liked his heartbreaking descriptions of battle in Arcadia? The girl on the battlefield from your last piece reminded me of Arcadia.
My real name is common and had been taken so I went for my hero's name. I'm actually Helen and not at all heroic...
- Log in to post comments
I did like, 'We have long
I did like, 'We have long since given up with wearing our hoops for practical reasons, rather than political ones'! I wasn't sure what it meant by not being allowed to walk passed their fellows with their emblems of treason?
Very sad reading of the battles, but you've done quite a good job of summarising. Rhiannon
- Log in to post comments
A yawning grave, with piles
A yawning grave, with piles of red earth thrown on one side. yep. that about sums up the conflict.
- Log in to post comments
Packed with interest and so
Packed with interest and so well written again, Jean.
- Log in to post comments