History: American Civil War for Kids - Ducksters

- Battle of the Wilderness. The Battle of the Wilderness was the first battle of Lieut. Gen. 's 1864 Virginia Overland Campaign against General and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. The battle was fought May 5-7, 1864. The battlefield was the Wilderness of Spotsylvania, an expanse of impenetrable scrub growth and rough terrain that encompassed more than 70 square miles of Spotsylvania County in central Virginia. A number of battles were fought in the vicinity between 1862 and 1864, including the bloody Battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863. It is often said that the Wilderness and Chancellorsville were fought in the same spot, but the 1864 battle was actually fought a few miles to the west, and only overlapped the old battlefield along the Brock Road on the Union army's left flank. On May 2, 1864, the Army of the Potomac, nominally under the command of Maj. Gen. , but taking orders from Grant, crossed the Rapidan River at three separate points and converged on the Wilderness Tavern, which ironically was the concentration point for the Confederates one year to the day earlier when they launched their devastating attack on the Union right flank at Chancellorsville. But Grant chose to set up his camps to the west of the old battle site before moving southward. Unlike the Union army of a year before, Grant had no desire to fight in the Wilderness. On the other hand, for Lee, who was massively outnumbered as usual (65,000 men to Grant's 123,000), accosting Grant in the Wilderness was imperative for the same reason as a year ago—in a battle contested in the tangled woods, the value of artillery was limited. Lee's artillery possessed fewer guns than Grant's, and those they had were of lower quality. While waiting for the arrival of Lieut. Gen. 's First Corps, which had been posted 25 miles (40 km) to the west to guard the crucial railroad junction of Gordonsville, Lee pushed forward his Second Corps, commanded by Lieut. Gen. , and the Third Corps under the command of Lieut. Gen. , in an effort to engage Grant before he moved south. The Confederates were able to do this, and on May 5, both Ewell, on Lee's left flank, and Hill on the right, clashed with Union soldiers. On the left, Ewell met up with the V Corps under the command of Maj. Gen. , and fought it to a standoff. For much of the day, Ewell's 20,000-man corps actually held a slight numerical advantage on this part of the field. But on the right, Hill was hit hard and driven back by the Union II Corps under Maj. Gen. and a division from the VI Corps. He held his ground, however. On May 6, Hancock, now commanding close to 40,000 men, resumed the attack on Hill's corps, while heavy Union reinforcements on Ewell's front prevented Lee from sending Second Corps men to aid Hill. By late morning, Hancock had driven Hill's corps back more than two miles and inflicted heavy casualties. With the Third Corps in dire straits, Lee began to look desperately for Longstreet, whose arrival had been expected hours before. At around noon, Longstreet and the 20,000-man First Corps arrived at last, and its timing was perfect. Hancock's men were tired and disorganized from six hours of fighting. When Longstreet hurled his forces at the Union attackers, they recoiled and within two hours, the situation was totally reversed. Not only had Longstreet regained all the ground lost, he had advanced one mile beyond that, forcing Hancock to regroup along the Brock Road. At a crucial moment in the fighting, Longstreet attacked through the cut of an unfinished railroad that had divided the Union forces in two, increasing the confusion. However, Longstreet did not have enough men to complete his victory, and the fighting soon petered out near the Brock Road. As the fighting wound down on this part of the battlefield, Longstreet was badly wounded and did not return to the Army of Northern Virginia for several months. (Ironically, Longstreet was the victim of friendly fire, just as fellow general had been nearby a year previously.) The IX Corps (under ) moved against the Confederate center, but was repulsed. Just as this phase of the battle was ending, a division of the Second Corps under Maj. Gen. launched one final assault on the Union right, partially turning the Army of the Potomac's flank and taking close to 1,000 prisoners. But darkness fell before the Confederates had a chance to press their advantage, and with that, the battle came to a close. Union generals and Alexander Hays were killed. Confederate generals John M. Jones, Micah Jenkins, and Leroy A. Stafford were killed. On May 8, Grant ordered the Army of the Potomac to resume its advance, and a few days later, the two armies clashed again 10 miles to the southeast, at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House. The battle is usually described as a draw; a better way of describing it would be as a tactical Confederate victory, but a strategic victory for the Union army. At the end of the battle, Grant withdrew his force, which is normally how the loser in a Civil War battle is determined. However, unlike his predecessors since 1861, Grant did not retreat back to the safety of Washington, D.C., but continued in his campaign. Lee inflicted heavy casualties on Grant, but they were a smaller percentage than the casualties his army suffered. And unlike Grant, Lee had very little opportunity to replenish his losses. Understanding this disparity, part of Grant's strategy was to wage a war of attrition. The only way that Lee could escape from the trap that Grant had set was to destroy the Army of the Potomac while he still had sufficient force to do so, and Grant was too skilled to allow that to happen.

 - France Proclaims Neutrality. Napoleon III declares French neutrality in the Civil War.

- Battle of Franklin. The Second Battle of Franklin (more popularly known as The Battle of Franklin) was fought at Franklin, Tennessee, on November 30, 1864, as part of the Franklin-Nashville Campaign. It was one of the worst disasters of the war for the Confederate States Army. While the Union army left the field after the battle, the Confederate army paid a horrible price for it. Franklin followed the Battle of Spring Hill of the previous day. The Confederate Army of Tennessee, commanded by General , had failed to destroy part of the Union force in Tennessee, allowing the Union Army of the Ohio, commanded by Maj. Gen. , to escape. Hood had hoped to destroy Schofield before he could link up with the Army of the Cumberland, commanded by Maj. Gen. , farther north in Nashville, Tennessee. That combined Union force would be over 60,000 men, almost twice as large as Hood's army. As the armies met at Franklin, Hood had approximately 38,000 men to Schofield's 32,000. Schofield's advanced guard arrived in Franklin at about 6:00 a.m., after a forced march north from Spring Hill. Brig. Gen. Jacob Dolson Cox, a division commander temporarily commanding the Union XXIII Corps (and later governor of Ohio), immediately began preparing strong defensive positions around breastworks originally constructed for the First Battle of Franklin in 1863. The defensive line formed approximately a semicircle around the city, from northwest to southeast; the other half of the semicircle was the Harpeth River. Schofield's decision to defend at Franklin with his back to a river seems odd. The reason was that he had insufficient pontoon bridges available to cross the river; the bridges had been left behind in his advance to Spring Hill due to lack of wagons to transport them. Now he needed time to repair the permanent bridges spanning the river and calculated that the breastworks were well positioned and adequate to delay Hood's inevitable assault. By noon the Union line was ready. Clockwise from the northwest were the divisions of Maj. Gen. Nathan Kimball (from the IV Corps), Thomas H. Ruger (XXIII), and Cox (XXIII). Two brigades of the IV Corps division under George D. Wagner were forward, screening the Confederate approach. Thomas J. Wood's IV Corps division was posted north of the Harpeth. Schofield planned to withdraw across the river by 6:00 p.m. if Hood had not arrived by then. Hood's army arrived at 3:00 p.m. He was noted for his aggressive, sometimes reckless battlefield leadership. Over the objections of his top generals, he ordered a frontal assault in the dwindling afternoon light against the Union forces, now strongly entrenched behind three lines of breastworks. Many historians believe that Hood, still angry that the Federal army had slipped past his troops the night before at Spring Hill, acted irrationally in ordering the attack. The Confederates attacked on the southern end of the Union line, with Benjamin F. Cheatham's corps on the left of the assault, Alexander P. Stewart's on the right. Hood's attack initially enveloped Wagner's forward brigades, which fled back to the main breastworks. Blue and gray troops were intermingled, which made the Union soldiers defending the line reluctant to fire on the approaching masses. This caused a weak spot in the Union line at the Carter House as an inexperienced regiment, just arrived from Nashville, broke and fled with Wagner's troops. The Confederate divisions of , John C. Brown, and Samuel G. French converged on this spot. An heroic counterattack by the brigade of Emerson Opdycke and two of Cox's regiments sealed the gap after thirty minutes of fierce hand-to-hand combat. Over and over the Confederates smashed headlong and futilely into the Union line. Just before dark, the division of Maj. Gen. arrived and it had no more luck than its predecessors. By 9:00 p.m. the fighting subsided. The overall attack had been awesome, described by some as a tidal wave, and known as the "Pickett's Charge of the West". But it was actually much larger than than the famous charge at Gettysburg. In the East, 12,500 Confederates crossed a mile of open ground in a single assault that lasted about 50 minutes. In Franklin, some 20,000 marched into the guns across two miles and conducted seventeen distinct assaults lasting over five hours. Across the river to the east, Confederate cavalry commander Maj. Gen. attempted to turn the Union left flank, but the Union cavalry under repulsed his advance. Schofield, who spent the battle in Fort Granger (just across the Harpeth River, northeast of Franklin), ordered a nighttime withdrawal to Nashville, starting at 11:00 p.m. Although there was a period in which the Union army was vulnerable, straddling the river, Hood was too stunned to take advantage of it. The Union army reached the works of Nashville on December 1. The devastated Confederate force was left in control of Franklin, but its enemy had escaped again. Typically, a Civil War battle is deemed a victory for the army that forces its opponent to withdraw, but Hood's "victory" came at a frightful cost. More men of the Confederate Army of Tennessee were killed in five hours at Franklin than in two days at the Battle of Shiloh. The Confederates suffered 6,252 casualties, including 1,750 killed and 3,800 wounded. Their military leadership in the West was decimated, including the loss of such skilled generals as Patrick Cleburne. Fifteen Confederate generals were casualties (6 killed, the rest wounded and/or captured), and 65 field grade officers were lost. Union casualties were 189 killed, 1,033 wounded, 1,104 missing. The Army of Tennessee was all but destroyed at Franklin. Nevertheless, Hood immediately advanced against the entire Union Army of the Cumberland, firmly entrenched at Nashville with the Army of the Ohio, leading his battered forces to further, and final, disaster in the Battle of Nashville.


American Civil War - New World Encyclopedia

- Election of Jefferson Davis.  is elected president of the Confederate States of America.

- Second Battle of Bull Run (Second Manassas). On June 26, 1862, the Army of Virginia was formed under the command of Maj. Gen. . Maneuvering following the Battle of Cedar Mountain on August 9 brought the armies to positions across the Rappahannock River. On August 22, received information that Pope expected to be reinforced from the Virginia Peninsula within five days, bringing his forces to 130,000 men. Facing 75,000 men to his 55,000, Lee decided to split his forces and send half on a wide flanking movement. On August 25, Confederate forces under Maj. Gen. began a sweeping march around the right of Pope's army, crossing the Rappahannock at Hinson's Mill Ford and reaching Salem (now Marshall) on the Manassas Gap Railroad during the evening. Turning his column eastward, he resumed his march in the morning and crossed Bull Run Mountain at Thoroughfare Gap and reached Gainesville in the late afternoon, where cavalry forces under Maj. Gen. joined the column. With evening approaching, the head of Jackson's column cut the Orange and Alexandria Railroad at Bristoe Station, four miles west of the Union supply depot at Manassas Junction. During the night, Jackson's forces marched to the junction and seized the supply depot. On August 27, Pope moved to intercept Jackson from the southwest, while , the Union general-in-chief in Washington, D.C., directed Federal forces in Alexandria to move against Manassas Junction and Gainesville from the east. During the morning Jackson's forces fended off the advance of Union forces northeast of the junction near Bull Run Bridge on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. Meanwhile at Bristoe Station, Jackson's rearguard under Maj. Gen. held off Pope's advance forces under Maj. Gen. until late in the afternoon. With Pope's army approaching from the west, Jackson decided to destroy the remaining supplies in Manassas Junction and to withdraw his command northward during the night to the site of the previous year's battle of First Bull Run. August 28: The engagement began as a Federal column, under Jackson's observation near Brawner Farm, moved along the Warrenton Turnpike. In an effort to prevent Pope from moving into a strong defensive position around Centreville, Jackson risked being overwhelmed before could join him. Jackson ordered an attack on the exposed left flank of the column and, in his words, "The conflict here was fierce and sanguinary." The fighting continued until approximately 9 p.m. (some sources say midnight), at which point the Union withdrew from the field. Losses were heavy on both sides. Pope believed he had trapped Jackson and sought to capture him before he could be reinforced by Longstreet. Pope's dispatch sent on the evening of the 28th to General stated, in part, "General has intercepted the retreat of the enemy and is now in his front . . . Unless he can escape by by-paths leading to the north to-night, he must be captured." August 29: Jackson had initiated the conflict with the goal of holding Pope in the area until arrived with the remainder of the Army of Northern Virginia. Jackson formed his line of battle near Warrenton Turnpike, generally along the excavation for an unfinished railroad line. Beginning about 10 a.m., the Union forces launched a series of assaults against Jackson's position. The fighting was intense and casualties were heavy on both sides. The battle continued until Federal forces withdrew. Longstreet's corps arrived on the field at approximately 11 a.m. and took up positions on Jackson's right. His arrival apparently went unnoticed by Pope until late in the afternoon when a portion of Longstreet's command repulsed a Union advance. August 30: Early that morning, Jackson's troops pulled back from forward positions gained while repulsing the assaults. Pope viewed this as evidence of a retreat and, although he was now aware that Longstreet had joined Jackson, was determined to push forward. Following skirmishing throughout the day, Pope moved against Jackson's position in force at about 3 p.m. Jackson described the assault, "In a few moments our entire line was engaged in a fierce and sanguinary struggle with the enemy. As one line was repulsed another took its place and pressed forward as if determined by force of numbers and fury of assault to drive us from our positions." While the Union forces were engaged with Jackson, Lee ordered Longstreet forward. When massed Confederate artillery devastated a Union assault by 's command, Longstreet's wing of 28,000 men counterattacked in the largest, simultaneous mass assault of the war. Longstreet's forces, led by 's brigades, drove forward and crushed the Union left flank as Jackson repulsed the assault. The Union forces were driven from the field in disorder back to Bull Run. Only an effective Union rearguard action prevented a replay of the First Manassas disaster. Pope's retreat to Centreville was precipitous, nonetheless. The next day, Lee ordered his army in pursuit. This was the decisive battle of the Northern Virginia Campaign. Once again the Union Army retreats to Washington.