Sunday, September 14, 2014

Civil War - 150 Years ago this week - September 14-20, 1864

September 14,1864-The Confederate forces in the Shenandoah Valley are weakened when General Richard H. Anderson's corps leaves General Early's army to rejoin General R.E. Lee at Petersburg, Virginia.

September 14,1864-General Wade Hampton's Confederate Cavalry rides southwest then southeast and finally northwest toward Coggins Point, Virginia on the Rowdy River. There are about 4,000 head of cattle at Coggin's Point being herded by Union guards. The roundabout Confederate approach is to confuse the Union guards.

September 15,1864-General Hampton's force arrives at Blackwater Creek, Virginia, undetected after riding 18 miles on a circuitous route.

September 16,1864-General Hampton engages and defeats a group of Federal troops herding cattle and leads over 2400 head back to Petersburg. They also take 300 prisoners.

September 16,1864-Rebecca West, a Union spy in Winchester, Virginia, observes the departure of General Joseph Kershaw's Confederate Cavalry with 12 cannon as they detach from General Early's army. She relays the intelligence to General Sheridan and then confers with General Grant concerning strategy at Charlestown, Virginia. The transfer of forces back to Richmond induces General Sheridan to attack immediately.

September 17,1864-John C. Fremont, nominated as a candidate for President at the spring convention of Radical Republicans dissatisfied with President Lincoln's conduct of the war, withdraws from the race. Fremont fears a Democratic victory, leading to recognition of the Confederacy or, at least, the re-establishment of slavery. While still disappointed with the war's progress, he swings his support to Lincoln and pledges to work for emancipation.

September 17,1864-General Jubal Early, outnumbered three to one, advances toward Martinsburg, Virginia, to cut the Baltimore & Ohio RR.

September 18,1864-When his Confederate troops encounter enemy cavalry, General Early falls back toward Winchester again. The 12,000 man Southern force is widely scattered and poorly positioned defensively. General Sheridan decides to attack first thing the next morning.

September 18,1864-General John M. Schofield orders Union cavalry commanded by General Stephen Burbridge to depart Mount Sterling, Kentucky to Saltville on the Virginia border. This diversionary force is to mask the major raid under the command of General Alvan C. Gillem moving from Tennessee into southwestern Virginia.

September 19,1864-General Sheridan attacks the Confederates in Winchester. Bottlenecks develop as the Union troops try to cross the Opequon River and the Confederates outnumber the attackers for a time. By afternoon, the Union is at full force against the Southern breastworks and General Early's troops are forced into a full retreat. The Confederates suffer 3000 men killed or wounded, leaving many on the field. An additional 2000 are taken prisoner. This major victory causes jubilation in the North, especially in the Republican party seeking the re-election of President Lincoln. Republican James Garfield later writes "Phil Sheridan has made a speech in the Shenandoah Valley more powerful and valuable to the Union cause than all the stumpers of the Republic can make."

September 19,1864-The "Lake Erie Conspiracy" takes place as two Confederate agents launch their plan to capture the USS Michigan and free Confederate prisoners being held at Johnson's Island in Sandusky Harbor. The plan fails when Confederate agent Charles H. Cole, aboard the USS Michigan as a plant, is discovered when he signals the boarding party. The other boat is scuttled by Confederate Navy Captain John Yates Beall who is later captured and hanged.

September 20,1864-General Early regroups his scattered forces at Fisher's Hill, Virginia. While he has a strong natural defensive position, he is short of manpower to man it effectively. Union cavalry continues the pursuit.

September 20,1864-President Jefferson Davis travels from Richmond to Georgia to bolster Southern morale in the state.