Monday, May 12, 2014

Civil War - 150 Years ago this week - May 11-17, 1864

May 11,1864-General J.E.B. Stuart's 4,500 cavalrymen are attacked by a larger Union force under General Philip Sheridan's command at Yellow Tavern, just six miles north of Richmond. Fighting lasts from about 11:00 AM until 4:00 PM with neither force gaining the advantage. General George Custer masses for a charge on the Confederate left and scatters General Lunsford Lomax's brigade. General Stuart leads a sharp counterattack and drives Custer back to his original line but Stuart is mortally shot in the abdomen and dies the next day.

May 11,1864-General Grant enters battle near Spotsylvania Court House despite heavy losses the previous day. Grant's entire II Corps commanded by General Winfield Hancock assaults in column, fully expecting to take the "Mule Shoe". General Lee concludes from reports that Hancock is trying to flank his left and orders cannons to be moved from the Mule Shoe, which becomes vulnerable.

May 11,1864-General Franz Sigel is surprised by General John D. Imboden's cavalry at Port Royal. Imboden takes 464 Union prisoners but Sigel continues down the Shenandoah Valley.

May 12,1864-In fighting that lasted more than twelve hours, General Grant and General Lee lose over 28,000 men. The "Bloody Angle" at Spotsylvania Court House enters the history books. The fact that General Lee technically won, suffering fewer losses, attests to the value of earthen works against a larger adversary.

May 12,1864-General Benjamin Butler's 15,000 man Army of the James leaves their defensive works and move into position at Drewry's Bluff, Virginia.

May 12,1864-General John C. Breckenridge moves to Staunton, Virginia with 5,500 men. His force is made up of regular army soldiers, militia men, and cadets from Virginia Military Institute.

May 12,1864-General Joseph E. Johnston begins a pattern of advance and retreat in advance of General W.T. Sherman's forces. The move from Dalton, Georgia to Resaca is the first in a series of similar moves, all the way to Atlanta.

May 12,1864-The first anti-torpedo (mine) unit is established on the James River by Admiral Samuel P. Lee with the USS Stepping Stone, Delaware, and Tritonia put on 24 hour patrol.

May 13,1864-General Sheridan withdraws from the Richmond area.

May 13,1864-At Drewry's Bluff, Confederate General Robert F. Hoke's 15,000 men are nearly captured by Benjamin Butler's Army of the James but Butler suspends his attack. This tactical blunder, one of several in Butler's questionable leadership career, prompts General Beauregard to counterattack, sending Butler all the way back to Bermuda Hundred.
May 13,1864-Union forces send 1,140 more rounds into the ruble of Fort Sumter where defiant soldiers continue to hold out.

May 13,1864-Dalton, Georgia is occupied by Union forces as they move through Snake Creek Gap. They fail to trap Johnston's Confederate force which moves some 13 miles south of Resaca.

May 14,1864-North of New Market, Virginia, General Sigel's Union forces skirmish General Imboden's Confederates.

May 14,1864-The Resaca Battle takes place with few measurable gains for either side. General George H. Thomas's Division drives General Hood's advance against the Union left back to the starting point.

May 15,1864-The Battle of Reseca resumes as General Joseph Hooker engages General John B. Hood on the Union left. A confusing, costly battle results in heavy losses on both sides in excess of 11,000 men over the two days.

May 15,1864-At New Market, Virginia General Breckenridge occupies a defensive position when General Sigel advances. The fight opens with an artillery dual but Breckenridge orders a Confederate charge, driving Sigel back through New Market to the cheers of the town residents. Union artillery again opens from high ground and stops Breckenridge. A gap opens in the Confederate line and 264 VMI Cadets advance to fill in. The Union troops fall back across the Shenandoah River to Strasburg. Ten VMI Cadets are killed and 47 wounded among total losses for both sides of 1,361.

May 16,1864-In heavy fog at Drewry's Bluff, General Beauregard launches an attack. Due to the fog, a flanking movement to turn General William Smith's XVIII Corps right is undetected. The Confederates are rebuffed but Benjamin Butler withdraws behind fortifications and is unable to effectively move on Richmond or Petersburg as he is bottled up on the Bermuda Hundred Peninsula.

May 16,1864-General Grant again suffers heavy casualties when General Richard Ewell charges across open ground at Spotsylvania Court House. Ewell has 29 cannon in support. General Grant disengages and marches southeast toward Richmond, deciding General Lee's position is too strong.

May 17,1864-General Johnston abandons Resaca and moves toward Kingston, Georgia. General Sherman follows.