“I Cannot Spare This Man…He Fights!”

Today in History, May 18, 1863:

Running the Table.

Gen. Grant planned the taking of Vicksburg and Admiral David Dixon Porter’s running of the guns at that fortress city. In the interim between then and today’s date, Grant’s army was taken across the Mississippi from several victories in Louisiana, won five major victories in Mississippi, including taking the capitol of Jackson. He pushed Confederate Gen. John C. Pemberton back to the Big Black River Bridge, which Pemberton burned on the 14th during his retreat to Vicksburg.

Pemberton could no longer face Grant in the field, having lost three quarters of his army. Grant had the bridge rebuilt by the 18th, and the siege of Vicksburg had begun.

Grant made two unsuccessful attempts to take the city and then determined to have no more losses, lay siege to the city. The siege involved entrenchments, mines and bombardment by land based artillery as well as by Admiral Porter’s ships.

The civilians and soldiers in the city had to live underground. By July 4th, his troops and civilians starving and demoralized, Pemberton agreed to surrender. Grant initially demanded his trademark “Unconditional Surrender”, then reconsidered. Even after having lost 3/4 of it’s manpower, Pemberton’s army still numbered 30,000 famished troops. He decided instead to utilize a long respected military method of “paroling” the rebel troops. That meant that they would be freed as long as they never took up arms against the Union again. It would have taken months and a great deal of manpower Grant did not want to expend to move 30,000 prisoners north. The Confederates agreed to the terms. Yet many of them were back in battle against Union troops by Pemberton could no longer face Grant in the field, having lost three quarters of his army. Grant had the bridge rebuilt by the 18th, and the siege of Vicksburg had begun. Grant made two unsuccessful attempts to take the city and then determined to have no more losses, lay siege to the city. The siege involved entrenchments, mines and bombardment by land based artillery as well as by Admiral Porter’s ships. The civilians and soldiers in the city had to live underground. By July 4th, his troops and civilians starving and demoralized, Pemberton agreed to surrender. Grant initially demanded his trademark “Unconditional Surrender”, then reconsidered. Even after having lost 3/4 of it’s manpower, Pemberton’s army still numbered 30,000 famished troops. He decided instead to utilize a long respected military method of “paroling” the rebel troops. That meant that they would be freed as long as they never took up arms against the Union again. It would have taken months and a great deal of manpower Grant did not want to expend to move 30,000 prisoners north. The Confederates agreed to the terms.

Yet many of them were back in battle against Union troops by September. This ended the act of paroling for the remainder of the war.

After Vicksburg and Port Hudson fell in July, President Lincoln proclaimed, “The Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea.” This victory was considered the turning point in the Civil War; Union control of the Mississippi not only allowed US Navy movement and resupply all along it’s course, it effectively cut the Confederacy in half, depriving it of the resources and armies of the west. This battle is also largely the reason Grant was advanced to command of all Union Armies…as Lincoln said, “I cannot spare this man…he fights!” A quality the President found lacking in many of his other Generals.

“The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here…” And Yet…We Do

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Today in History, November 19, 1863:

“I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours, as you did in two minutes.” -Edward Everett, popular orator that spoke with President Lincoln at Gettysburg to commemorate those that died there during the pivotal Battle of Gettysburg earlier in the year.

President Lincoln spoke briefly, and his speech was criticized at the time by some media, but has become legendary for it’s prescience. See below for the full text….

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

NYC Draft Riots

Today in History, July 13, 1863:

Just days after men had died fighting at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Irish immigrants began rioting in New York City against a draft.

The poor immigrants, who had recently come to America to escape the famines in Ireland, and who were living in poverty, were not happy to be drafted into military service when rich men could buy their way out of the draft for $300.

They were also competing directly with black freedmen for jobs, so the riot soon took on a racial component…even a black orphanage was burned.

Those men that had fought at Gettysburg? They had to leave their dead and move quickly to New York City to put down the insurrection. The NYC Draft Riots remain the most damaging in our history.

As an aside, to remain true to history…my favorite President’s father, Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. was one of the wealthy men that bought his way out of service. Making up for that is part of the reason TR gave up a safe position as Under Secretary of the Navy to head up the Rough Riders in Cuba.

Gettysburg

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Today in History, July 4, 1863:

On the same day, half a continent away, Confederate General Robert E. Lee leads his defeated Army of Northern Virginia south away from the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. No official surrender here…Lee’s army would survive to fight another day. While both battles were turning points, they did not spell the end of the South as many believe. There were years of hard, bitter fighting still to come with ghastly losses in life and injury. Gettysburg was, however, the last serious attempt by the South to invade the North.

Vicksburg

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Today in History, July 4, 1863:

Confederate General John C. Pemberton surrenders Vicksburg, Mississippi to Union General Ulysses S. Grant. Pemberton had sent a note asking for terms on the 3rd, and initially Grant gave is usual “unconditional surrender” response. He then thought about what he would do with 30,000 starving Southern troops, who he had lay siege to since May 18th, and granted them parole, accepting the surrender on the 4th.

The capture of Vicksburg effectively cut off of the Confederate states west of the Mississippi (and their supplies) from the South. Grant’s parole of the rebels would come back to bite him, as the Confederacy did not recognize it’s terms and many of them fought again…which came back to bite the Confederacy because as a result the Union stopped trading prisoners.

The South knew the consequences of the loss of Vicksburg.  It would be many, many years before Independence Day was celebrated in Vicksburg again.

Friendly Fire Changes History

Today in History, May 2, 1863:

He was, in today’s vernacular, the epitome of a “nerd”. He had an odd, ungainly walk, was very strict in his interpretations of religion, and either ignored or did not see his contemporaries and his students mocking him and laughing at him behind his back for his awkwardness.

He graduated from West Point, served with distinction in the Mexican-American War, and then became a professor at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI). He was a terrible teacher, and mocking him became a tradition amongst the students.

Then the Civil War came. Thomas Jackson didn’t have any particular political views, but he was true to his “country” of Virginia. So he served, proving to be efficient at training brigades at drill and military movements.

While still considered ungainly, Jackson earned the faith of his men by always being at the front, without guile, without fear. At the First Battle of Manassas (Bull Run for the Union, Confederates called it Manassas), he did the same.

One of his contemporaries from the Mexican-American War, Gen. Bernard Bee, rallied his own men by shouting, “There is Jackson standing like a stone wall. Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer. Rally behind the Virginians!” And they did, and the battle was won.

The awkward Thomas J. Jackson had transformed into the legend of “Stonewall” Jackson and he would soon become the right hand man of Gen. Robert E. Lee. After many battles won, on today’s date, during the Battle of Chancellorsville, Jackson was returning to his camp at night when he was taken for a Yankee soldier and accidentally shot by a sentry. Within a few days, one of the South’s greatest heroes would die of his injuries.

Lee in particular would mourn the loss of a valued lieutenant, and would miss him during battles to come, particularly Gettysburg.