« PreviousContinue »
ments, Rosecrans improved the opportunity afforded by this weakening of Johnston's army, to strike an effective blow. He began to move on the enemy on the 26th of December. McCook, with three divisions, advanced on Triune to attack Hardee, whose corps was believed to be between that place and Eagleville; but it had retreated on McCook's approach, and was pursued until it was found that he had gone to Murfreesboro, where Polk and Kirby Smith's forces were. Thomas and Crittenden also advanced on Nolinsville, Stewart's Creek, and Lavergne. Polk's corps and Wheeler's brigade of cavalry had been stationed at the last-named place, but retired before Crittenden's advance.
On the 28th, being Sunday, the troops, for the most part, rested. Meanwhile, the Rebel purpose of concentrating near Stone River was developed. The enemy's right, under Polk, consisting of the three divisions of Cheatham, Buckner and Breckinridge, rested on the Lebanon pike—the center, under Kirby Smith, extended westward, and the left, commanded by Hardee, rested on the Murfreesboro and Franklin road. On the 29th, the Government forces moved up nearer to the Rebel line, taking position preparatory to assuming the offensive. On the 30th, McCook, on the right, finding his position in danger of being turned by Hardee, advanced his line, under fire from the enemy, to avoid this result. On the 31st, early in the morning, the Rebels suddenly made an attack in heavy force along the entire line of McCook. His forces were driven back with the loss of many prisoners, but the ground was well contested by the division of Davis, especially, and the purpose of turning the right of Rosecrans failed.
The right having thus fallen back, Gen. Rosecrans prepared for an advance of the enemy' upon his center and left, by massing his artillery at the anticipated point of assault, and sent forward Negley's division, sustained by that of Rousseau, to support the broken forces of McCook. This movement stopped further pursuit in that quarter. The Rebels were driven back in turn, with the loss of many prisoners. The forces of Negley and Rousseau, acting under orders, retreated on meeting another wave of battle, and the Rebels advanced in dense numbers,
exulting in their supposed victory, until brought within the deadly fire of the newly-placed batteries of Rosecrans, not hitherto discovered. Leaving immense numbers of dead and wounded on the field, the Rebel forces now turned and fled in confusion, not to be rallied again until much later in the day. The right of Rosecrans had been forced backward more than two miles, and his line was now formed anew, the flanks having better protection.
The Rebels renewed the engagement, about 3 o'clock P. M., by an attack on the center and left of our army. A sharp and destructive conflict continued for two hours, with no advantage to the assailants. Gen. Rosecrans, who was personally in the thick of the fight, had shown rare skill and energy in handling his troops, after his right had been doubled back upon his left. A change of front was successfully accomplished under fire, and a seemingly sure defeat turned into a substantial victory.
The two armies confronted each other during the next three days, without becoming actively engaged. On the 4th of January, Johnston was found to have retreated, and Murfreesboro was promptly occupied by our forces. The Government loss, in killed and wounded, was 8,778, and about 2,800 in prisoners. The Rebel loss is computed by Gen. Rosecrans at 14,560.
This summary of military events, in the East and in the West, embraces what is deemed most important down to the eve of the campaigns of 1863, rendered illustrious by the great victories at Vicksburg, Port Hudson, Gettysburg, and Chattanooga. The first two years of the war, with varying successes in detail, had resulted, on the whole, in decided advantages to the Government arms. Commencing their “Confederacy" with seven States, the conspirators had determined, by intrigue and by the force of arms, to wrest the remaining eight slaveholding States, the Indian Territory, New Mexico, and Arizona, from their allegiance to the Government, and to add this immense region, with its population, to the side of the Davis usurpation. The vigorous campaign of Gen. Canby, in New Mexico, and the victory at Fort Craig, in 1862, hurled back the invaders in that quarter into Texas, while the grand Rebel defeat at Pea Ridge, Ark., under Gen. Curtis, in March of the same year, had put an end to all hopes of any Rebel acquisition in the Territories of the United States. The four slave States of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas, had been swept into the Secession rebellion at the very outset. All the determined efforts to extend the Rebel boundary beyond these States, had proved abortive. On the contrary, the spring of 1863 found Arkansas substantially reclaimed ; New Orleans and a large portion of Louisiana, (including the State capital,) restored to the Government; the Mississippi river reconquered during its entire length, except the comparatively short distance from Vicksburg to Port Hudson, inclusive; the capital of Tennessee, and most of the western and middle parts of the State, occupied by Government garrisons; the western half of Virginia reorganized under a loyal government, and much of Eastern Virginia firmly held; a permanent foothold gained on the coasts of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida; Northern Alabama returning to sentiments of loyalty, under the supporting presence of Government troops ; a blockade, under the active operations of our formidable Navy, pressing heavily upon the rebellious States; and the power of slavery materially crippled, under the effects of the Emancipation Proclamation of the President, deranging the productive interests of the rebellion, and adding a new element of increasing strength to our arms.
To save their waning cause, the Rebels were now putting forth every energy to hold their trans-Mississippi communications, the Red river country and Texas being among their most abundant sources of supplies. To this end, it was necessary to keep their strongholds at Vicksburg and Port Hudson. A land force under Gen. Banks (who had succeeded Gen. Butler as commander of the Department of the Gulf,) and the fleet of Admiral Farragut, began the work of reducing the latter post, on the 8th of May. After severe engagements on land and water, during the next two months, the place being closely invested, Port Hudson was unconditionally surrendered on the 8th of July, with its garrison, numbering 6,223. This event, however, was preceded by the fall of Vioksburg, and may be
regarded as partly the result of the brief and brilliant campaign of Gen. Grant, which terminated in the surrender of that more important stronghold, on the 4th of July.
Running transports past the batteries at Vicksburg, and crossing the river near the mouth of the Big Black, on the 30th of April, with about 40,000 men, Gen. Grant occupied Grand Gulf, which had been forced by Admiral Porter to surrender, after a vigorous bombardment; defeated the enemy near Port Gibson, on the 1st of May; moved rapidly northward to interpose his force between the covering army of Johnston and the troops of Pemberton, advancing from Vicksburg; gained decisive victories at Raymond, on the 12th ; at Jackson, the State capital, on the 14th ; at Baker's Creek, and at Champion Hill, on the 16th, and at Black River Bridge, on the 17th ; finally driving the enemy within his works at Vicksburg. The fact that Jolinston was in his rear, with the prospect of his being heavily reënforced, led Grant to make two attempts to carry the place by storm, on the 19th and on the 22d, but without
The siege lasted until the 4th of July, when Pemberton capitulated, and Grant occupied the place, taking over 30,000 prisoners. This great victory opened the Mississippi to the Gulf, cutting off the territory west of that river from its connection with the remainder of the “ Confederacy "-a practical loss of nearly one-half of the Rebel territory.
In Eastern Virginia, Hooker fought Lee at Chancellorsville, on the 2d and 3d of May, and was repulsed, with heavy losses on both sides, retiring across the Rappahannock. Among the Rebel losses was that of Stonewall Jackson, mortally wounded. Lee now assumed the offensive, advancing through Maryland into Pennsylvania. Gen. Hooker, moving on an interior line, covered Washington and kept his forces in an attitude to strike the enemy with effect. During these movements, Hooker was superseded, on the 28th of June, by Gen. George G. Meade. The battle of Gettysburg was fought on the 1st, 2d and 3d days of July, in which an important victory was gained over Lee, who retreated in all possible haste over the Potomac, glad to escape with the rempant of his army. He had lost heavily, in killed, wounded and prisoners, the latter numbering 13,621. He left 28,178 small arms on the field. His entire loss during this invasion, including numerous desertions, must have approached, if it did not equal, 40,000 men. Meade's total losses, in killed, wounded and missing, numbered 23,186.
The operations before Charleston and other points, attended with less success than was for a time promised, were not without favorable results.
Another disaster to the Rebel cause, and one of the greatest magnitude, followed the advance of Gen. Rosecrans on Chattanooga, and of Gen. Burnside upon Knoxville, in the latter part of August. With no very severe fighting, Burnside occupied Knoxville on the 1st of September, and Cumberland Gap on the 9th. Rosecrans, after the unfavorable battle of Chickamauga, took possession of Chattanooga, on the 21st of September. East Tennessee was thus completely in our possession, and a line of communication of the greatest importance to the enemy was finally severed. On the 19th of October, Gen. Grant, by the President's order, assumed command of the united armies of the Tennessee, the Cumberland, and the Ohio. The subsequent victories of Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge, on the 24th and 25th of November, and the decisive defeat of Longstreet in his bold attempt to recover Knoxville, made this great acquisition entirely secure. The way was thus prepared for assuming the offensive, by an advance into the heart of Georgia.
The rebellion seemed now to have been brought to the verge of final overthrow.