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OPENING OF THE YEAR 1864: MILITARY EVENTS, ETC
Military operations at the opening of the year 1864 — General condition of affairs, preparations for the spring campaign, etc. — Mr. Lincoln's call for 200,000 men — Matter how arranged — Action of Congress on the enrollment question, etc. — Proceedings of rebel Congress on conscription, finances, etc.—Jeff. Davis's proclamation — Tone and temper of the rebels — Gen. Gillmore's expedition into Florida— Its objects — Gen. Seymour in command — Advance of the troops — Seymour's unhappy decision — Disaster at Olustee
— Sherman's expedition into the interior of Mississippi — Sets out February 3d, and advances to Meridian
— Waits for cavalry force — Gen. Smith's advance from Memphis — Failure to join Sherman—Result of the expedition — Mobile threatened by Farragut — Gen. Palmer's march upon Dalton, Georgia — Result— i Cruel treatment of our officers and men in prison at Richmond — Expedition set on foot by Gen. Butler— Rebel attempts upon Newbern — Wistar's movement — Kilpatrick's cavalry expedition — In sight of Richmond, March 1st — Forced to return by way of the Peninsula — Colonel Dahlgren's attempt and his ill success, death, etc. — Rebel charges against him — The prospect ahead.
During the early months of the year 1864, military operations were not carried on to any great extent. The winter season, except in the far South, was unfavorable, of course, to the entering upon work of any magnitude; the time, consequently, was mainly spent in preparation for the severe and even deadly struggle which the spring campaign clearly indicated. The ground was now much narrower than it was a year ago. In Tennessee, Arkansas, on the line of the Mississippi, and in Louisiana, there was good hope of being able speedily to include all these regions amoug the loyal supporters of the Constitution and laws of the land. A large and important work, it is true, remained to be done to the west of the Mississippi, before the whole territory could be fully restored to its rightful allegiance in the Union, and constant vigilance had to be maintained at the various posts on the frontier and on
the Mississippi, to protect the border states of the West from invasion, and to maintain the needed communications of the army; but these services, though requiring earnest care and attention, and involving various contests with i guerrilla and other forces, were rather in the ordinary routine of regular duty, | and did not attract public at
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tention to any particular extent. Expectation, in the loyal states, no less than in those still under the control | of the rebel leaders, was mainly centred! upon the armies of Meade and Lee in Virginia, and Grant and Johnston in the vicinity of Chattanooga; for it was evident, from the p-esent position of affairs, that the campaigns of the spring would be of great and decisive importance, and would tax the energies and resources of the government to their fullest extent. The rebel authorities, too, conscious of their doubtful condition, were straining every nerve to re
sist the onward progress of the Union arms, by accumulating stores, gathering in of conscripts, strengthening their armies, etc.
On the 1st of February, 1864, President Lincoln issued an order for 200,000 men, in addition to the 300,000 called for in October, 1863, and appointed the 10th of March for a draft of such portion of this 500,000 as should not then be furnished by the states according to their several quotas. Strenuous efforts, by bounties and by means of furloughs to the old regiments in the field, whose terms of service were about to expire, were made, and resulted in largely supplying the men called for, so that the draft ordered for March was dispensed with. In fact, so successful did the movements for recruiting prove, that, on the 14th of March, President Lincoln (in addition to the two calls above noted), "in order to supply the force required to be drafted for the navy, and to provide an adequate reserve force for all contingencies," ordered a further enlistment of 200,000 men, appointing the 15th of April as the period when any deficiencies should be made good by a draft. By an act of Congress, passed in February, amendatory of the Enrollment Act of the previous year, the measure was strengthened by various provisions, checking frauds and evasions, and otherwise rendering the enactment more efficient. Clergymen, and ministers of the Gospel in general, were still liable to draft; but a provision was made by wrhich members of religious denominations who should, on being drafted, declare themselves conscien
tiously opposed to the bearing of arms, and be prohibited from doing so by the rules and articles of faith and practice of said religious denominations, were to be considered non-combatants and assigned to duty in the hospitals, or the care of freedmen, or be relieved on payment of the stipulated sum of $300."
As we have stated on a preceding page, every nerve was now to be strained by the rebel leaders to prepare for the coming campaign. Their congress met, and at the beginning of February passed a new and stringent conscription act. It was provided by this, that all white men, residents of the states under their control, betweeen the ages of seventeen and fifty, should be in the military service for the war. All in the service between eighteen and fortyfive were to be retained during the war. Those between seventeen and eighteen, and between forty-five and fifty, were to form a reserve for state defence and detail duty. An act imposing additional taxes was also passed at this session, and another, in accordance with Secretary Memminger's and Jeff. Davis's recommendation, providing for the funding of the outstanding treasury notes or currency of the states in confederate bonds. This conversion was, in great measure, rendered compulsory by the refusal of the rebel authorities to receive the currency after an early day in payment of public dues, and by the imposition of a tax on the notes not funded. By another act, February 16th, the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus was suspended in certain specified cases, and it was to con
tinue in force for ninety days after the next meeting of the rebel Congress. An address was issued at the close of the session, February 18th, 1864, to the people of the insurgent states, containing the usual topics of consolation and encouragement, and striving to excite them to renewed efforts in carrying on the war, especially by furnishing supplies to support 'and equip the rebel armies. Jeff. Davis, also, sent forth a proclamation to the soldiers in the field, in which he took his usual lofty tone, asserting, on the one hand, in regard to the loyal states, that "debt, taxation, repetition of heavy drafts, dissensions occasioned by the strife for power, by the pursuit of the spoils of office, by the thirst for the plunder of the public treasury, and above all, the consciousness of a bad cause, must tell with fearful force upon the overstrained energies of the enemy." On the other hand, he was equally confident in asserting that " assured success awaits us in our holy struggle for liberty and independence, and for the preservation of all that renders life desirable to honorable men." *
Although no great military movements were undertaken during Febru
* Certain resolutions were adopted by the rebel congress, and a manifesto issued relative to the existing war with the United States. The tone and temper of this document were similar to those of Davis, quoted above: "For ourselves we have no fear of the result. The wildest picture ever drawn by a disordered imagination comes short of the extravagance which would dream of the conquest of 8,000,000 of people, resolved with one mind to die freemen rather than live slaves, and forewarned of the savage and exterminating spirit in which this war has been waged upon them, and by the mad avowals of the supporters of the worse than Egyptian bondage that awaits them in the event of their subjugation."
ary or March, yet several expeditious of less consequence were set on
foot for the purpose of checking the enemy's designs in the south and south-west. About the middle of December, 1863, Gen. Gillmore had obtained permission to send an expedition into Florida, in order to cut off rebel supplies, to procure an outlet for cotton, \ lumber, and other productions of the country, and to gather in for the army recruits from among the negroes. He also, in January, 1864, in accordance with Mr. Lincoln's request, inaugurated I measures for restoring the state of Florida to her allegiance under the terms of the president's proclamation (p. 397). Having organized an expedition for the purpose above stated, Gillmore dispatched from Port Royal! on the 5th of February, a force of about 6,000 cavalry, infantry and artillery, \ under command of Gen. Seymour. They entered the St. John's River on the Vtb, and the next day effected a lauding at Jacksonville, without opposition, the few rebel soldiers there having taken to flight immediately. Seymour was directed to move forward his mounted force to Baldwin, some twenty miles distant, on the Central Railroad. The advance, under Col. Henry, pushed forward into the interior, on the night of the 8th of February, passed by the enemy, drawn up in' line of battle at Camp Finnegan, seven miles from Jacksonville, surprised and captured a battery, three miles in the rear of the camp, about midnight, and reached Baldwin about sunrise the next morning. The enemy absconded, sunk the steamer St Mary's, and burned 270 bales of cotton
A few miles above Jacksonville. About 100 prisoners and eight pieces of artillery were captured, together with other valuable property, to a large amount. On the 10th, a portion of the force was sent forward to Sanderson, twenty miles further on the railroad, where a quantity, of commissary stores were found in flames, the enemy having just withdrawn to a further station at Lake City, where the rebel commander, Finnegan, had gathered the fragment of his command. On the 14th, the main body of Seymour's command was concentrated at Baldwin, having suffered very few casualties, and taken considerable spoils.
Gillmore, on the 16th of February, returned to Port Royal, leaving Seymour iu command of the expedition, with a clear understanding, on Gillmore's part, that no forward movement was to be made without further instructions, and until certain important defences were well advanced. Seymour, however, desirous of pushing on, left camp, on the 18th of February, advanced on the line of railroad sixteen miles, and the next day reached Barber's Station, about forty-five miles from Jacksonville. Early on the morning of Saturday, the 20th, the troops were in motion, the light cavalry in advance, and reached Sanderson at noon, from whence, without halting, they advanced toward Olustee, a station on the railroad, ten miles beyond, where it was expected the rebels would be found; but skirmishing began about two o'clock, P.m., before reaching Olustee. Unfortunately the troops had no opportunity of rest, and after a tedious march of sixteen
j miles, over a road of loose sand or bog and mud, weary and hungry, they were in an ill condition to enter into battle. Nevertheless, the batteries were placed in position as speedily as possible, under the adverse circumstances, and the men entered, with their usual spirit, into the fight. The rebel force was much larger in number than Seymour's, and having the advantage of choice of position and previous preparation, made sad havoc with our men. The battle lasted over three hours, when Seymour retired, leaving the dead and severely wounded on the field. By slow marches, without molestation from the rebels, the troops were brought back to the camping-ground near Jacksonville, on Monday afternoon, February 22d. Our loss in killed, wounded and missing, was very heavy, numbering between 1,200 and 1,500; the rebel loss was put down at about 800. Jacksonville was held by our troops, and various minor raids were made from thence; but no important military operations took place, and the proposed effort, as noted above, to reconstruct the state government, was abandoned after the disaster at Olustee.*
At the close of January, 1864, Gen. Sherman was ordered to take command of an important expedition into the interior of Mississippi. His force sonsisted of two corps, under McPherson and
* "Few disasters were encountered daring the war so utterly inexcusable. It was Braddock's defeat repeated after the lapse of a century. Our soldiere fought as well as men ought to fight; they were abundantly able to have routed the enemy; they were simply sacrificed by a leader brave to rashness, and possessing every soldierly quality but the ability to plan and direct the movements of an independent force."-Greeley's "American Conflict," vol. ii., p. 532.
Hurlbut, estimated at 30,000 men, with sixty pieces of artillery. On the 3d of February, Sherman* set out from Vieksburg in light marching order, and moved westwardly. On the 5th, the advance came up with a body of rebel cavalry, in the vicinity of Canton, putting them to flight with slight loss. The next day the command entered Jackson, and the rebels were driven across Pearl River. After that, the expedition encountered little or no opposition of any moment. Sherman pushed rapidly forward through Brandon to Morton, where two divisions of Polk's corps had made disposition for battle. They, however, retreated before our force, which reached Meridian, on the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, 150 miles from Vicksburg, on the 14th of February, the rebels continuing their retreat in an easterly direction. Here Sherman remained for a week, waiting the arrival of Gen. Smith's cavalry force, making, during the time, to use his own words, "the most complete destruction of the railroad ever beheld, south below Quitman; east to Cuba Station ; twenty miles north to Lauderdale Springs, and west all the way back to Jackson." The state arsenal at Meridian was destroyed, with its valuable machines for repairs of arms, and its ordnance stores; also several military buildings and grist mills. Provisions of various
* Under date of January Slst, Gen. Sherman addressed a long and interesting letter to Major Sawyer, assistant adjutant-general of the Army of the Tennessee, in which he spoko at large of the condition of the inhabitants in rebellion, and how they were to be treated. The letter is marked by Gen. Sherman's straightforward coninon sense, and clearness of expression.
kinds were found for the use of the army.
Meanwhile, Gen. W. S. Smith, who had been ordered to report to Shermau at Meridian, and was expected to reach that point by the 14th of February, did not leave Memphis till the 11th, in consequence of delay in the arrival of part of his force. Having with him sorat 7,000 men, he advanced southerly on the Mobile Railroad by Okolona to West Point, where his further progress was arrested by a combined rebel force under Forrest, Chalmers, and others. There was some heavy fighting in this vicinity, the enemy charging both in the rear and the advance, and five howitzers were lost. Thus closely pres sed bv superior numbers. Smith „ .
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resolved upon a retreat, crossed the Tallahatchie in safety, by forced marches, at New Albany, and reached Memphis on the 25th of February, having done much injury to the railroad, destroyed a large quantity of rebel stores, a million bushels of corn, cotton gins, etc., and brought away a great number of negroes and some 300 prisoners. The expedition, however, failed of one of its most important objects, viz., making a junction with Sherman.
In consequence of this failure, Sherman was unable to follow up his successes, above noted, by extending his march farther, and accordingly retired slowly from Meridian, bringing his force, in excellent condition, to Canton, ncrth of Jackson. On the 27th of February he reached Vicksburg.* It had been
* In a brief dispatch, sent by Gen. Butterfield to Washington, under date of March 11th, the ■esult of