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The Siege of Petersburg -1864

The battle and eventual siege of the City of Petersburg,Virginia was the longest single battle in American history. Lasting from June 1864 to April 1865 the two armies, Union and Confederate, faced each other across a no-mans-land of trenches at Petersburg that would come to resemble the battlefield of the Europe some fifty years later.

During the ten month siege there would be six major battles, eleven engagements, fifty skirmishes, six assaults and four expeditions before the Union were able to break the defenses around Petersburg.

US Grant's modest Head Quarters at City Point. It was from here in 1864 and 1865 that Grant would issue the orders the would end the Civil War.

US Grant’s modest headquarters at City Point,Va. It was from here in 1864 and 1865 that Grant would issue the orders the would end the Civil War.

Culminating in the Battle of Five Forks, Union troops finally break the defenses around the City in April 1865 – the Confederacy was collapsing…

Click the link below to see the story and images from the first five months of the siege. Together with the battlefield images will be coverage of the reenactment of the Battle of New Market Heights in Henrico County Virginia commemorating the fighting around Petersburg in 1864. In late 2014 and early 2015 I’ll be returning with additional posts on this drawn out battle and further explorations of the Petersburg/Richmond area battlefields.

The Siege of Petersburg

The Atlanta Campaign

The State of Georgia was nearly untouched by the war in 1864 and served as an enormous bread basket for the Confederacy. The City of Atlanta had become a large manufacturing center, its’ rail yards linked the southern and western states in rebellion to the rest of the Confederacy.

Little Kennesaw Mountain from Big Kennesaw, Ga 2014

Little Kennesaw Mountain from Big Kennesaw, Ga 

In the spring of 1864 William Tecumseh Sherman united several Union armies in the western theater for his coming operations in Georgia forming one of the largest armies in American History. Sherman and his 100,000 man army began to march toward Atlanta from their base in Chattanooga, later to be called the Atlanta Campaign.

Click the link below to see what remains of the Atlanta Campaign battlefields and images from the 150th anniversary reenactment of the Battle of Resaca, Georgia in May 2014.

The Atlanta Campaign

North Anna River to Cold Harbor

“As Grant began to disentangle his army from the lines at Spotsylvania and march by his left flank, he hoped to use some of his men to pin down Lee’s army while marching others to the North Anna River and the railroad line at Hanover Junction about 25 miles away.

Reenactors construct Civil War era earthworks in Mosley, Virginia 2014

Reenactors construct Civil War era earthworks in Mosley, Virginia 2014

If he could accomplish that by beating Lee’s army to those spots, he would have captured one of Lee’s most natural supply lines while depriving the Army of Northern Virginia from using the North Anna River as a defensive line.”*

North Anna to Cold Harbor

(*) The Overland Campaign – Charles River Editors

Bloody Spotsylvania

As the Union Army began to dig-in at Spotsylvania US Grant famously wired Washington saying, “I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer”.

This statement sent shock waves through the North.  In three years of war one Union general after the next had been bested by Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia. It seemed that Lee had finally met his match.

Morning fog shrouds the Bloody Angle on the Battlefield at Spotsylvania 2014

Morning fog shrouds the Bloody Angle on the Battlefield at Spotsylvania 2014

The fighting near Spotsylvania Courthouse in Virginia became known as Bloody Spotsylvania because of the fighting that happened there on May 12th 1864.  On that date 20,000 Union troops attacked the Confederate earthworks at Spotsylvania – 22 hours later the fight ceased in what became the longest stretch of combat in the entire Civil War.

See the link below for images and stories from Spotsylvania:

Bloody Spotsylvania

The Overland Campaign

In May of 1864 US Grant began a concerted campaign to bring the rebellion to an end.  Setting the Army of the Potomac in motion in northern Virginia, Grant also set Sherman loose in Georgia for an all out asphyxiation of the Confederacy.

Confederates prepare for the Union assault at Spotsylvania 2014

Confederates at Spotsylvania Courthouse 2014

In the spring of 1864 prospects for the Confederacy were looking dim, but southerners had one hope.  In the fall of 1864 there would be a presidential election.  If the northern people could be made to believe that the war could not be won on the battlefield then their newly elected leader would have to sue for peace.

In this final stretch of the war the rebels would fight with desperation and the Union troops would find that a lot more blood would have to be spilt before it was all over…. See the link below for an outline of the Overland Campaign:

The Overland Campaign of 1864

The Battle of the Wilderness

“On May 5th 1864 the rival armies marched into the heart of the Wilderness and began a fight that lasted until the end of the war.”

The Wilderness Battlefield 2014

The Wilderness Battlefield 2014

The fighting in the Virginia Wilderness in the spring of 1864 was the beginning of US Grant’s Overland Campaign.

See the link below for the story and images of the Wilderness Battlefield and battle reenactments in Virginia in spring 2014.

The Battle of the Wilderness

Sun set over the Union encampment in Spotsylvania County Virginia 2014

Sun set over the Union encampment in Spotsylvania County Virginia 2014

Winter 1863-1864

By the winter of 1863-1864 the American Civil War was entering it’s third year and there seemed to be no end in sight.  As the armies went into their winter camps the soldiers and the public at large were growing tired of the war.

The conflict that many predicted would last at most a couple of months had dragged on.  But at the beginning of 1864 the country would need to steel itself –  for the harshest and bloodiest fighting of the war was still to come.

CWPP_007_4x5

The gulf between the antagonists had become impassable….and the South saw one hope on the horizon.  In the coming year the Northern people were going to have a presidential election.  “If by November, the northern people had been made to feel that the war was too painful and discouraging to carry on any longer, they would vote Mr. Lincoln out of the White House.  Then there might be an independent Confederacy.”*

Link to: Winter 1863-1864

Charleston and the Islands – 1863

The Battle of Fort Wagner was fought on Morris Island near Charleston South Carolina in 1863 and is infamous for the assault on the Confederate held bastion by the Union’s 54th Massachusetts regiment.  The 54th were a brand new regiment recruited in Boston and composed entirely of volunteers…and all former-slaves or free-black men.

Confederate reenactors defend "Fort Wagner" at Boone Hall Plantation, SC 2013

Confederate reenactors defend “Fort Wagner” at the historic Boone Hall Plantation in South Carolina

One hundred and fifty years later a reenactment of this famous Civil War battle occurred outside of Charleston at the historic Boone Hall Plantation.

Just a few miles away, the City of Charleston is considered America’s “friendliest” city and continues to be a wonderfully preserved antebellum metropolis.

The pristine salt marshes and islets of Sullivan Island, James Island and Morris Island, the harbor’s forts and South Carolina’s colonial and civil war era histories are explored here.  Click the link below to see pinhole camera images of Charleston and the Carolina low country in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Fort Wagner.

Battle of Fort Wagner

Coastal guns at Fort Moultrie, Sullivan Island, SC 2013

19th century coastal guns at Fort Moultrie on Sullivan Island in South Carolina 2013

Clarksville, TN

Clarksville, Tennessee 2013

An old train trestle spanning the Red River shrouded in morning fog. Clarksville, TN 2013.

An old train trestle spanning the Red River shrouded in morning fog. Clarksville, TN 2013.

I had the honor last week of being in Clarksville Tennessee making a presentation of the Civil War 150 Pinhole Project to the Society of Tennessee Archivists.

The Society of Tennessee Archivists have been busy over the last few years collecting artifacts and oral histories from Tennesseans for the State’s Archive on the Civil War Sesquicentennial.

The Civil War 150 Pinhole Project and Society of Tennessee Archivists collided, so to speak, at Shiloh, Tennessee in 2012.  I happen to meet archivists Lori Lockhart and Carol Roberts on the battlefield while working on the project and we quickly realized that we had similar goals.

The Poston Building in Clarksville's Public Square.  2013

The Poston Building in Clarksville’s Public Square. 2013

The Society of Tennessee Archivists and archivists in general are interested in and practiced in the collection, archiving and storing of historical artifacts for future generations.  My approach and the project’s collection of pinhole battlefield photographs, following the timeline of the sesquicentennial, piqued their interest.

The the confluence of the Cumberland and Red Rivers in Clarksville, TN 2013

The the confluence of the Cumberland and Red Rivers in Clarksville, TN 2013

Arriving in Clarksville prepared with a presentation and slide show of pinhole images for STA’s annual conference, I utilized my free time exploring Clarksville and middle Tennessee’s 19th century landscape with the pinhole cameras.

Clarksville and the Civil War

The State of Tennessee played an enormous role in the American Civil War.  The state hosted more battles during the war then any other aside from Virginia.  From the banks of the Mississippi at Memphis to Knoxville in the east evidence of the War can be found throughout the State.

The Cumberland River at Fort Defiance Clarksville Tennessee, 2013.

The Cumberland River at Fort Defiance in Clarksville Tennessee, 2013.

Clarksville in the 1860’s was a vital communications and transportation center for the Confederacy.  Situated at the confluence of the Cumberland and Red Rivers, Clarksville was a major producer of tobacco and agricultural goods but became an important source of iron, it’s local foundries producing cannon, artillery shells and musket balls for the Confederate army in the early days of the war.  In the 1860s the Memphis, Clarksville and Louisville Railroad served the City; its old wood trestles still span the City’s waterways today.

Earthen fortifications and trenches at Fort Defiance, Clarksville, TN 2013.

Evidence of Civil War era fortifications and trenches at Fort Defiance in Clarksville, TN 2013.

Clarksville’s location at the confluence of the Cumberland and Red Rivers made it a strategic point during the war.  The Confederates in preparing for the City’s defense constructed Fort Sevier, now called Fort Defiance, on a hill that commands the two rivers.  Today the earthen walls of it’s fortifications are still plainly visible and is the site of Clarksville’s Civil War Interpretive Center at Fort Defiance.

Union Ironclads would have filled the view here in 1862. The Cumberland River at Fort Defiance Clarksville TN, 2013.

Union Ironclads would have filled the view here in 1862. The banks of the Cumberland River at Fort Defiance in Clarksville TN, 2013.

Union gunboats and ironclads filled these rivers in 1862 capturing the fort and occupied Clarksville throughout the rest of the war.  After the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863, Clarksville became a Federal recruitment center for the induction of free blacks and former slaves into the Union army.

Stones River Battlefield

I also had a chance, thanks to the Government Reopening!, to see the Battlefield at Stones River just south of Nashville in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.  The Battle at Stones River or Murfreesboro, occurred on December 31st 1862 through January 2nd 1863.  The three day battle at Stones River was the sixth bloodiest contest in the Civil War with a total of 24,000 casualties.  The two western commanders, the Union’s William Rosecrans and the Confederacy’s Braxton Bragg, slugged it out here in Murfreesboro, a prelude to their fateful and more decisive meeting at Chickamauga, GA in September 1863.

Morning fog envelopes the Battlefield at Stones River in Murfreesboro, TN, 2013

Morning fog envelopes the Battlefield at Stones River in Murfreesboro, TN, 2013

The Battlefield at Stones River is wet and swampy with a collection of open fields and cedar forests dotted with distinctive limestone outcroppings.

A section of the forest here was dubbed, “The Slaughter Pen” the limestone rocks from which the soldiers fought are plainly visible today.

"The Slaughter Pen" limestone outcroppings amongst the cedars on the Battlefield at Stones River. 2013

“The Slaughter Pen” limestone outcroppings amongst the cedars on the Battlefield at Stones River. 2013

A foggy morning mist seemed to heighten the somber, quiet feeling of this comparatively small and intimate battlefield.

The Stones River National Cemetery across the street from the Battlefield is a mournful replica of the National Cemeteries found in places like Shiloh and Gettysburg.  Thousands of small white markers, worn over time, arrayed in unending rows.  A sign along a path laments,

“The muffled drums sad roll has beat the soldiers last tattoo. No more on life’s parade shall meet that brave and fallen few”….

National Cemetery at Stones River Battlefield. 2013

National Cemetery at Stones River Battlefield. 2013

I made a point of thanking the Park Rangers at the Stones River Battlefield for their service and dedication through the recent government shutdown.  I said, “Welcome back!” they retorted, “We never left….”

I love the National Park Service.

I would like to thank David Sowell, President of the Society of Tennessee Archivists, for his kind invitation to attend and present my work at their annual conference in Clarksville. Special thanks goes to archivists Lori Lockhart and Carol Roberts who have the designation of being the very first “fans” of the Civil War 150 Pinhole Project.  Our fateful meeting at Shiloh led to this unexpected opportunity to travel back to Tennessee and further explore this wonderful state and it’s plethora of civil war history.

Morning fog shrouds a train trestle spanning the Red River in Clarksville, TN 2013.

Morning fog shrouds a train trestle spanning the Red River in Clarksville, TN 2013.

Chickamauga

The Battle at Chickamauga in September 1863 was the seconded bloodiest encounter of the Civil War.  In the deep woods of Tennessee and north west Georgia the country’s two warring armies maneuvered in the dense mountainous terrain colliding along a meandering creek called the Chickamauga.

Click the link below for pinhole camera images of the Battlefield at Chickamauga and Chattanooga as well as the 150th anniversary reenactment of the Battle of Chickamauga in Georgia’s historic McLemore’s Cove.

Link to the Battle of Chickamauga

Guns along Snodgrass Hill on the Battlefield at Chickamauga, Ga 2013.

Guns along Snodgrass Hill on the Battlefield at Chickamauga, Ga 2013.

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