OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Chapter IX, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9 page 2


Pages: 1 <2> 3

We have now to speak of Sherman's advance into Georgia, and of the great march by which that General cut his way through the heart of the Confederate dominion, dividing its eastern from its western half by a broad belt of plundered and wasted territory. Appointed in March to the chief command of the military division of the Mississippi, he mustered his forces from their winter encampments round Chattanooga, and at the head of an army but little short of 100,000 men of all arms, commenced his forward march on the 6th May. The Confederate General Johnston, posted at Dalton, had barely ' 50,000 men to oppose to this formidable force. The movements, feints, surprises, combats, which followed possess little interest except from the purely military point of view; suffice it to say that Johnston, though resolutely defending every available position, was pushed back, by weight of numbers and skilful strategy, to the lines which covered Atlanta, an important city in the north of Georgia, where the Confederate Government had established extensive workshops and manufactories. In the battle of Kenesaw mountain (June 14) the Southern service lost a valuable officer in Lieutenant-General Polk, formerly the Protestant Episcopal Bishop of Louisiana, who was instantaneously struck dead by a cannon-shot. President Davis considered - erroneously, it would seem - that Johnston had given ground too easily, and sent Hood to Atlanta to supersede him. The change was unfortunate. Hood, a rash, eager, impatient man, vainly flung his troops against Sherman's disciplined and well- handled masses; he was beaten in almost every encounter, and compelled, Sherman having seized the railway in his rear, to evacuate Atlanta (September 5), after destroying engines, stores, and war material to the utmost of his power. But instead of interposing his army between Sherman and the coast, and trusting to being reinforced so as to hold his ground, Hood resolved to transfer his army to a different field of operations, foolishly imagining that the invasion of Tennessee by a beaten army would draw Sherman out of Georgia. The Federal commander followed him for a few days, as he was rapidly marching out of Georgia into Northern Alabama; but since Hood declined battle, Sherman gave up the pursuit, and after taking care that General Thomas (who had been left in command at Nashville, the capital of Tennessee) should have an ample force left at his disposal wherewith to defend that state, returned to Atlanta. The end of Hood's ill-judged enterprise may be told in a few words. Entering Tennessee from Alabama, he first met with serious resistance at Franklin, a few miles south of Nashville, where General Schofield defended himself vigorously in an entrenched position (November 30), but being outnumbered, fell back on Nashville. In this action the brave Irishman, Pat. Cleburne, sometimes called the " Stonewall Jackson " of the West, fell mortally wounded- Thomas had collected at Nashville a force fully equal to that under Hood, and better fed and equipped; and when the latter appeared before the city, the Federal General at once attacked, defeated his adversary in several engagements, and finally drove him out of Tennessee.

Meantime, Sherman, having thoroughly destroyed the railways in his rear, and collected thirty days' supplies for his men, set out from Atlanta (November 11) at the head of a seasoned and efficient army of 65,000 men. The withdrawal of Hood's army had left the way almost open before him, the natural obstacles of bad roads, forests, marshes, and rivers being the chief impediments in his path. The army was divided into two divisions or wings, one under Howard, the other under Slocum; and a skilful use of cavalry on each wing to cover and conceal the march of the main body left the feeble Confederate force remaining in his front in continual uncertainty as to his objective point. At one time they thought he was aiming at Macon; at another time Augusta, a large town on the South Carolina border, appeared to be menaced; and they broke up and moved about their forces accordingly. Milledgeville, the political capital of the state, fell into Sherman's hands on the 23rd November. Pushing steadily forward at the rate of about fifteen miles a day, and subsisting on the resources of the country, his troops arrived in front of Fort M'Alister (December 13), the chief defence of Savannah on the west. The fort, defended by a weak garrison of two hundred men, was easily stormed, and Savannah was immediately invested, communications being now opened between Sherman's army and the Federal blockading fleet in the river. On the night of December 20, Hardee with 15,000 men evacuated the place, and effected a safe retreat into South Carolina. Savannah, one of the most important towns in the Confederacy, with 25,000 bales of cotton in its warehouses and 154 guns mounted on its ramparts, became the prize of the conqueror. Here he remained over a month, resting his troops, and making preparations for the continuation of his march into South Carolina. His losses on the long march from Atlanta to Savannah did not amount to 600 men.

The naval transactions of the year comprise the termination of the destructive career of the Alabama, and the capture of the Mobile forts. Up to the beginning of 1864, one hundred and ninety-three merchant ships, valued with their cargoes at more than thirteen millions of dollars, had been captured by Confederate cruisers; and of these, all but seventeen were burnt after capture.

This was unavoidable, because the Confederate ports were closed by the blockade, and England had, by express proclamation, at the commencement of the strife, prohibited captors from bringing prizes into any British or colonial port. Of these captures, a large share had fallen to the Alabama and her active captain, Raphael Semmes. Being in Cherbourg harbour in June this year, and learning that the Kearsarge, a Federal gun-boat, was off the port, Captain Semmes sent a challenge to her commander, Captain Winslow, which was, of course, accepted. The two ships were pretty equally matched, the Alabama carrying eight guns, the Kearsarge seven, but the heavy 11-inch guns of the latter gave her the advantage. The Alabama sailed out of Cherbourg on the morning of the 19th June, attended by the English yacht the Beer- hound, owned and sailed by Mr. Lancaster. The Kearsarge was waiting about seven miles from shore. The fight began, the ships moving round each other in circles, and lasted for about an hour, when the Alabama, having been hulled several times by the heavy 11-inch shot of her antagonist, was observed to be in a sinking condition. When she was nearly filled with water, Semmes hauled down his flag and the boats of the Kearsarge, assisted by those of the Deerhound, took off him and his crew. In twenty minutes after she struck her colours, the Alabama went down stern foremost. Her practice had been far inferior to that of the Kearsarge, which only had three men wounded, one of them mortally. while of the crew of the Alabama, nine were killed and twenty-one wounded. Captain Semmes was landed from the Deerhound at Cowes, and afterwards claimed as a prisoner of war by the American minister; but the claim was disallowed.

By the summer of 1864, nearly all the ports of the Southern States were effectually sealed against blockade- runners, except Mobile and Wilmington. It was now resolved to attack the first of these. Mobile, the principal sea-port of the state of Alabama, a flourishing and populous city before the war began, stands at the head of the bay of the same name, some thirty miles from the open sea. There is a double entrance into the bay, Dauphine island separating the two inlets; and the approaches were guarded by three large forts - Fort Powell, Fort Gaines, and Fort Morgan. Inside the bay was a Confederate squadron, comprising the formidable ironclad Tennessee, under the command of Admiral Buchanan. Notwithstanding these obstacles, Admiral Farragut, having a fleet of four iron-clads and fourteen wooden ships- of-war (including the stout old Hartford, in which he had run the gauntlet of the forts below New Orleans) at his disposal, and aided by a land force under General Granger, resolved to attempt to fight his way between the heads. On the morning of the 5th August, the fleet steered for the eastern entrance. The leading ship, the iron-clad Tecumseh, struck upon a torpedo, which blew a large hole in her bottom, causing her to go down immediately with the greater part of her crew. But the other ships held on their way undaunted, and, passing between Forts Morgan and Gaines with little loss, encountered, inside the bay, the Confederate squadron, which, after a brave resistance, was overpowered. The Tennessee and Selma were captured, while the remaining vessels either ran on shore or escaped up the bay to Mobile. All the three forts were reduced within a few days with the help of General Granger, and the entrances to Mobile bay were thus effectually closed against the friends or customers of the Confederacy.

The Florida, which escaped out of Liverpool, at an early period of the war, under the name of the Oreto, had like the Alabama, made havoc of Federal commerce for a considerable time. In the October of this year, she was lying in the harbour of Bahia, whither she had gone for repairs, when the U.S. frigate Wachusetts, Captain Collins, suddenly attacked her, at a time when her captain and half her crew were on shore, compelled her to surrender, and towed her out of the bay. The Brazilian Government loudly protested against this flagrant breach of international law, and Mr. Seward promptly disavowed the act, and informed the Brazilian charge d'affaires that the captain of the Wachusetts would be suspended, and the consul at Bahia, who had urged the captain to the act complained of, dismissed. As to the Florida, she could not be restored, having sunk at her anchors in Hampton Roads, " owing to a leak which could not be seasonably stopped; " the fact being that a war transport, by a convenient accident, had run her down.

An unpleasant incident occurred in the autumn, which, but for the firm and moderate attitude of Mr. Lincoln, might easily have involved us in a serious difficulty with the United States. A considerable number of Confederate refugees had gradually gathered in Canada, men rendered desperate by the wreck of their property and the misfortunes of their country. Some twenty-five of these men, in the month of October, crossed the border into the state of Vermont, and entering the little town of St. Albans in the dead of night, attacked and plundered the bank, shooting dead several of the townspeople who endeavoured to arrest their proceedings, and escaping back into Canada. They were soon arrested by the Canadian authorities, and the money was recovered. The case being an important one, it was removed from the jurisdiction of the magistrates of St. John's, the place where the raiders were arrested, to that of the Supreme Court at Montreal, and a writ of habeas corpus was refused. The American consul, Mr. Edmonds, was instructed to demand their extradition, but this was refused on legal grounds, and an investigation was instituted into the affair under the Ashburton Treaty. A number of witnesses were examined, and much time consumed; but in the end Judge Coursol decided that his court had no jurisdiction in the case, and ordered the release of the raiders from custody. The Canadian Government wisely resolved that so flagrant a miscarriage of justice should not be permitted; in fact, their law advisers gave it as their opinion that the Judge's decision was bad in law; and accordingly warrants were issued for the re- apprehension of the criminals. Already, as a precautionary measure, the colonial Government had appointed special stipendiary magistrates to prevent breaches of international law along the frontier. But the news of the Judge's decision, releasing the raiders, had reached New York before the subsequent conduct of the Canadian Government was announced, and it aroused, not unnaturally, great excitement and indignation. Major-General Dix, who commanded in the state of New York, went so far as to issue an order in which he said: -

" All military commanders on the frontiers are instructed in case further acts of depredation and murder are attempted, whether by marauders or persons acting under commissions from the rebel authorities at Richmond, to shoot down the perpetrators if possible while in the commission of their crimes; or if it be necessary, with a view to their capture, to cross the boundary between the United States and Canada, the said commanders are hereby directed to pursue them wherever they may take refuge, and, if captured, they are under no circumstances to be surrendered, but are to be sent to these head-quarters for trial and punishment by martial law."

This order, which the Major-General must have penned while under the influence of excited feeling, was cancelled by President Lincoln. But the President, with the approval of the Senate, gave notice to the British Government that after the expiration of six months, the period stipulated under existing arrangements, the United States would hold themselves at liberty, in view of the insecurity of life and property on the Canadian border, to increase if necessary their naval armament on the Lakes. But in his message to the new Congress (December 6,1864), Mr. Lincoln expressly stated that the colonial authorities of Canada were not deemed to be internationally unjust or unfriendly towards the United States; but that, on the contrary, there was every reason to expect that, with the approval of the home Government, they would take the necessary measures to prevent new excursions across the border. These anticipations were fully justified by the subsequent conduct of the Canadian Government. A strong force of militia was stationed at various points along the frontier, several of the raiders were arrested under the warrant for their re-apprehension, the Court at Montreal reversed its former decision and declared that it had jurisdiction, those captured were tried anew, and at least one of them was adjudged on the evidence to be guilty of robbery, and ordered to be given up to the United States.

A constitutional amendment had been passed by the Senate, on the 8th April, 1864, abolishing and for ever prohibiting slavery throughout the United States, but it had been thrown out by the House of Representatives. The Congress, which met in December, 1864, took up the question again; the amendment was passed by both Houses in January, 1865, and having been afterwards ratified by more than two-thirds of the States, became part of the Federal Constitution.

The usual political agitation in connection with the election of a new President began in the autumn of this year. Mr. Lincoln offered himself for re-election; the Chicago Convention, representing the Democratic party, chose General M'Lellan for its candidate. The Democrats held an essentially false position; they professed to be as firmly opposed to disunion as Mr. Lincoln himself; yet they desired to have peace with the South, and trust to conciliatory and peaceable means to bring about re-union. How baseless and irrational such views were was clearly demonstrated this year, when President Davis, on being sounded, by some Northern men, who had been permitted to pass through the lines of both armies, on the subject of peace, declared that he desired it most fervently, but that it could not be obtained on any other basis than the recognition of Southern independence. Republican candidates were chosen in an overwhelming majority, and Mr. Lincoln was accordingly re-elected President for another term of four years.

<<< Previous page <<< >>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 <2> 3

Pictures for Chapter IX, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9 page 2

Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico
Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico >>>>
French troops in Mexico
French troops in Mexico >>>>
Cathedral of Mexico
Cathedral of Mexico >>>>

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About