Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles

Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles

Gideon Welles served as Secretary of the Navy from 1861-1869, which at that time was a cabinet level office.  Welles had a real insider’s look at the operations of the Lincoln Administration and the military during the Civil War, and he recorded a lot of history–plus his frank opinions–in his diary.

Welles turned the peacetime Navy into an effective fighting force that played a key role in the eventual Union victory.  The Navy secretary had plenty to say in his diary about people and events during his time in the cabinet, and he called ‘em like he saw them, good or bad.

Major General Nathaniel Banks was one of those whom Welles’ had a low opinion.  In the spring of 1864, Banks led the Red River Campaign, a joint army and navy campaign that went up the Red River in Louisiana with objectives of destroying the Confederate army in that region; to occupy eastern Texas; and to confiscate cotton from plantations along the way.   Banks’ army was defeated at the Battle of Sabine Crossroads, near Shreveport, and retreated back down the Red River.  Admiral David Porter commanded the navy fleet on the campaign.  Porter’s fleet nearly was trapped on the river due to low water levels, and was saved by the building of dam that raised the water high enough to allow the fleet to escape.  For the Union, the campaign was a debacle that did little more than cost lives and take essential military resources away from other campaigns. Continue reading “Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles was Not a Fan of General Nathaniel Banks” »

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Gen. Stand Watie CSA

Gen. Stand Watie CSA

Like the rest of the country, the Native American population was divided as which to side to support in the Civil War. This division extended to individual tribes, with the Cherokees being perhaps the best example. Cherokee soldiers fought in both the Union and Confederate armies. The most well known Cherokee, or for that matter, Native American soldier of any tribe on the Confederate side was Stand Watie.

Watie was living in the Indian Territory, modern day Oklahoma, when the Civil War began. He was named Colonel of the 1st Cherokee Mounted Rifles in 1861, and he served throughout the entire war. Several other Native American units from various tribes were organized in Indian Territory for both sides. Though they were occasionally called upon to fight in larger battles in the west–Watie fought in the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas in March 1862–most of the time western Native American units fought in the Indian Territory or Kansas.

Watie was promoted to Brigadier General in 1864, the only Native American in the Confederate Army to achieve that rank (Ely Parker, who served on Ulysses S. Grant’s staff and who was a member of the Seneca tribe, was the only Native American general on the Federal side).

Watie’s mounted infantry and cavalry excelled at conducting raids on Federal supply lines and outposts. As time went on, Watie’s command included pro southern members of other tribes along with Cherokees. On September 19th, 1864, Watie’s command, along with some white Texas cavalry units under Brigadier General Richard Gano, teamed up to carry out an attack on a large Federal supply train and haying operation that was gathering forage for horses. The train consisted of 205 wagons, and left Fort Scott, Kansas on September 12th, bound for Fort Gibson, Indian Territory, and Fort Smith, Arkansas. It was escorted by both white cavalrymen from Kansas cavalry units as well as Union Cherokee cavalry. This successful and destructive raid occurred near Cabin Creek in the Indian Territory, and is often referred to as the Second Battle of Cabin Creek. Here is General Stand Watie’s after action report on this raid, as well as some smaller actions just prior to it: Continue reading “General Stand Watie’s Report on the Battle of Second Cabin Creek September 1864” »

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150 Years Ago in the Civil War

Gen Sherman and Staff at Atlanta

General William T. Sherman and Staff at Atlanta 1864

The end of the Atlanta Campaign was in sight as the month of September opened. At the end of August, Major General William T. Sherman sent six corps around Atlanta and south of the city in an all out effort to cut the last railroad supply lines still open to the city. General John Bell Hood countered with two corps under General William Hardee, and the two sides fought at Jonesborough on both August 31st and September 1st. The greatly outnumbered Confederates were defeated. With his supply lines cut, Hood’s position was untenable, and the Confederate commander pulled his troops out of Atlanta on the night of the 1st. Before doing so, the Rebels destroyed whatever military supplies and equipment that they could not take with them.

Sherman’s victorious army marched in and took possession of Atlanta on September 2nd. the general telegraphed Washington that “Atlanta is ours, and fairly won”. This was a huge victory for the north, and was celebrated as such. It also gave a big lift to Abraham Lincoln’s chances for reelection to a second term as president.

Sherman wasted no time in establishing Atlanta as a military base, and he did not want to be bothered with the burdens of dealing with a civilian population On September 7th, Sherman issued Special Field Order No. 67, in which he ordered the remaining civilian population to leave the city. The expulsion order was met with protests by local officials and General Hood. Sherman wrote a letter to the local officials on September 12th, essentially telling them that the war was the south’s fault and that he would do whatever was necessary to defeat the Confederacy. Continue reading “Atlanta Falls to Sherman’s Army; Battles of Opequon, Chaffin’s Farm and Poplar Springs Church: September 1864” »

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