This Week in the American Civil War: April 13-19, 1864

MN150Logo_OL_FNLInformation courtesy of the

Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force

(www.mncivilwar150.com and “Minnesota Civil War 150” on Facebook)

 

Major Highlights for the Week

Wednesday April 13, 1864

Admiral David Dixon Porter, with his Federal gunboats, reached Grand Ecore, Louisiana, on the Red River, despite the rapidly falling water level and continued enemy harassment. Major General Nathaniel P. Banks’s Federal retreat continued with no hope of renewing the campaign.

In Arkansas, skirmishing broke out at and near Richland Creek, and on the Spring River near Smithville.

Confederate Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s men skirmished again at Columbus, Kentucky, after yesterday’s Fort Pillow Massacre.

Thursday April 14, 1864

Confederate Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s cavalry continued operations in the Ohio River valley, skirmishing again at Paducah, Kentucky. Small Union gunboats help repulse the attack.

Skirmishing also occurred at Bayou Saline, Dutch Mills and White Oak Creek in Arkansas; Taylor’s Ridge, Georgia; and near Booneville, Kentucky.

In Washington, D.C., President Abraham Lincoln reviewed sixty-seven courts-martial cases and issued several pardons.

Friday April 15, 1864

On the Red River, the U.S.S. Eastport struck a torpedo or mine and was severely damaged.

At Knoxville, Tennessee, Governor Andrew Johnson vociferously supported emancipation at a large pro-Union meeting.

Skirmishing occurred near Camden and Roseville, Arkansas; near Presidio del Norte, New Mexico Territory; at Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Greeneville, Tennessee and at Bristoe Station and Milford, Virginia. 

Saturday April 16, 1864

A report on U.S. prisoners since the beginning of the war showed that the Federals had captured 146,634 Confederates.

The U.S. transport vessel General Hunter was destroyed by a torpedo in St. John’s River, Florida.

Skirmishing occurred at Camden and Liberty Post Office, Arkansas; on the Osage branch of King’s River in Arkansas; Rheatown, Tennessee; Salyersville, Kentucky and at Catlett’s Station, Virginia.

Sunday April 17, 1864

     Lieutenant General Ulysses Grant ordered that no further exchanges of prisoners should be made until the Confederates balanced Federal releases. He also pronounced that “no distinction whatever will be made in the exchange between white and colored prisoners.” The move injured the South, with its shortage of manpower, far more than the North, but Grant received criticism from both sides for his actions.

Confederate land forces, soon to be joined by the C.S.S. Albemarle, a Confederate ram vessel, began an attack on Plymouth, North Carolina. The Confederates were under Brigadier General Robert Frederick Hoke.

Skirmishing occurred at Beaver Creek, North Carolina; Ellis’s Ford, Virginia; Holly Springs, Mississippi; Limestone Valley and at Red Mount in Arkansas.

Monday April 18, 1864

BATTLE OF POISON SPRINGS, ARKANSAS

Confederate attacks continued at Plymouth, North Carolina. Other action included skirmishing near Decatur, Alabama and Citrus Point, Virginia.

At Poison Springs, Arkansas, Major General Sterling Price’s Confederates, under direct command of Brigadier General John S. Marmaduke, including the 1st and 2nd Choctaw Regiments, hit the Federals and a foraging train. After a heavy engagement, the Federals withdrew, abandoning 198 wagons. However, Marmaduke’s men were accused of murdering African-American soldiers of the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry. Marmaduke and other white officers claimed that the accusations of illegal killings were overblown, and blamed any murders that might have happened on the Choctaw troops who, in the words of one Confederate soldier, admitted that they did “kill and scalp” some of the black troops. Marmaduke was hailed in the Confederate press for what was publicized as a significant Southern victory.

Tuesday April 19, 1864

The C.S.S. Albemarle joined in the Confederate attack on Plymouth, North Carolina, by ramming and sinking the U.S.S. Smithfield, damaging another wooden gunboat and driving off others. Confederate troops had surrounded the town and believed that surrender was near.

In other fighting, skirmishes occurred at Leesburg, Virginia; Marling’s Bottom, West Virginia; King’s River, Arkansas; Charleston, Missouri; Waterhouse’s Mill and Boiling Springs, Tennessee.

Confederate troops carried out operations against pro-unionists in Marion County, Alabama.

An enabling act to permit Nebraska Territory to join the Union was approved after passage by the U.S. Congress.

Where Minnesota Regiments were the week of April 13-19, 1864 

Active units:

1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty at Fort Snelling prior to mustering out of Federal service on April 29, 1864.

2nd Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty at Ringgold, Georgia until April 29, 1864.

3rd Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On garrison duty in Little Rock, Arkansas until April 28, 1864.

4th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty in Huntsville, Alabama until June 22, 1864.

5th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty at Alexandria, Louisiana until May 13, 1864.

6th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty at various Minnesota outposts for garrison duty until June 9, 1864.

7th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty in Paducah, Kentucky until June 19, 1864.

8th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On frontier duty at various points in Minnesota: Anoka, Princeton, Monticello, Kingston, Manannah, Paynesville, Fort Ripley, Sauk Center, Pomme de Terre, Alexandria and Fort Abercrombie until May 1864.

9th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Stationed at Rolla, Jefferson City, LaMine Bridge, Warrensburg, Independence, Knob Noster, Kansas City, Waynesville and Franklin with headquarters in Jefferson City until May 15, 1864.

10th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On garrison and provost duty at Benton Barracks, Missouri until April 21, 1864.

2nd Regiment Minnesota Cavalry – On duty at Fort Snelling and at frontier posts throughout Minnesota until May 24, 1864.

Brackett’s Battalion of Minnesota Cavalry – On duty at Fort Snelling until May 1, 1864.

Hatch’s Independent Battalion of Cavalry – Companies A, B, C and D on frontier duty in Pembina until May 5, 1864.

1st Minnesota Light Artillery Battery – On duty in Cairo, Illinois until April 28, 1864.

2nd Independent Battery Minnesota Light Artillery – Veterans were on furlough through June 5, 1864. Non-veterans attached to Battery I, 2nd Illinois Light Artillery and moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where they escorted cattle and horses to the army in the field until July 14, 1864.

3rd Independent Battery Minnesota Light Artillery – Various sections of the battery were stationed at Fort Snelling, Fort Ridgely, Fort Ripley and Pembina until June 5, 1864.

2nd United States Sharpshooters, Company A – On duty around the Rapidan River, Virginia until May 4, 1864.

Inactive units: 

1st Regiment Minnesota Cavalry “Mounted Rangers” – Formally mustered out of service on December 7, 1863. Inactive.

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Biography: Major General Thomas Green, CSA (1814-1864)

Major General Thomas Green, CSA (1814-1864)

Major General Thomas Green, CSA (1814-1864)

Born in southwestern Virginia, Tom Green moved at a young age with his family to middle Tennessee. Like many Southerners of his generation, Green traveled to Texas to participate in its revolution against Mexico in 1835-1836. He participated as a private of artillery in the decisive battle of San Jacinto on 21 April 1836. Green relocated permanently to Texas in 1837, settling in LaGrange. He briefly entered elected politics in 1839, but soon showed a greater talent and inclination for his appointments as engrossing clerk for the Texas House of Representatives and secretary of the Senate. His longest held position was that of clerk of the Texas Supreme Court, a position he assumed in 1841. By all accounts, the well-read and intellectual Green was extremely popular in all these positions.

In the frequent recesses during court and legislative sessions, Green participated in many of the campaigns of the Republic of Texas. As a volunteer ranger, he rode on two successful expeditions against the Penateka Comanches. As a volunteer officer in the army of the republic, he raised mounted companies and served as a staff officer in campaigns against Mexican incursions. During the Mexican-American War, Green served as a company commander in Colonel John Coffee Hays’s 1st Texas Mounted Rifles, where he served with distinction in the Monterrey campaign.

When that regiment disbanded in October 1846, Green returned to Texas and domestic pursuits. He married Mary Chalmers, the oldest daughter of a prominent Austin editor, in January 1847. Within months of the wedding, both of her parents died, prompting the couple to adopt her six siblings and raise them as well as six children of their own. Green, now responsible for a sizable family, put his energy into his twenty-year career as clerk of the Supreme Court, where he became a protege of Justice John Hemphill, an outspoken advocate of states’ rights.

When secession occurred in 1861, Green sprang to the call. He received appointment as a general in charge of a militia district, but left that post to assume command of the 5th Texas Mounted Volunteers in late summer 1861. Green’s first campaign was with Brigadier General Henry Hopkins Sibley in New Mexico. Green earned the victory at the battle of Val Verde on 21 February 1861, but showed mediocre leadership during the rest of the campaign, and rumors began circulating that he was a boon companion of the notoriously drunk General Sibley. At the battle of Peralta on 15 April, Federal troops surprised Green’s command in the midst of a fandango at a captured estate, shaking the Texans badly. By the time the 5th Texas returned to Texas at the end of the disastrous campaign, Green’s reputation had clearly suffered.

Passed over for promotion, and eager to salvage his good name, Green fought the rest of the war with a vengeance. At the battle of Galveston on 1 January 1863, he made sure that his command, now designated the 5th Texas Cavalry, played a prominent role, and he received many of the laurels for the stunning victory. After reinforcing General Richard Taylor’s army in Southwestern Louisiana in March 1863, Green earned a reputation as a tenacious fighter. In the Bayou Teche campaign in April, Green’s rear-guard tactics led Taylor to recommend him for promotion, which the Confederate Congress confirmed.

Placed at the head of the disgraced Sibley’s old brigade, Green led the 4th, 5th and 7th Texas cavalries in a number of ferocious battles in the summer of 1863. Most of the time, Green was the de facto commander of a small cavalry division that included the brigade of his brother-in-law Colonel James P. Major. On 23 June, as Taylor attempted to relieve pressure on the besieged garrison of Port Hudson across the Mississippi, Green proved instrumental in the capture of Federal general Nathaniel P. Banks’s depot at Brashear City, Louisiana. The Texan led a poorly coordinated assault on Fort Butler at Donaldsonville on 28 June, resulting in heavy casualties among his command. Afterward, Confederates bypassed the fort, and field artillery and sharpshooters harassed shipping on the Mississippi, temporarily interrupting Banks’s communications with New Orleans. After the fall of Port Hudson on 8 July, U.S. troops moved to contain Taylor. Green soundly drubbed them at the battle of Cox’s Plantation on 13 July, allowing Taylor to abandon the Bayou Lafourche country in good order with his important captures intact.

Green earned two more battlefield successes in 1863 and emerged as Taylor’s most reliable – and aggressive – subordinate. On 12 September, he led his brigade, Major’s brigade, and a brigade of Texas infantry under Colonel Joseph Spaight in a well-executed ambush of a Union brigade-sized outpost at Sterling’s Plantation on Bayou Fordoche. When General Banks launched an offensive toward Alexandria that same month, Green’s troops harassed the advance. When the Federals withdrew in November, Tom Green’s Texans jumped a Union brigade at Bayou Borbeau on 2 November, leading to its destruction. After a year of active campaigning, Taylor ordered Green’s command to protect the Texas coast for the winter.

Early in 1864, Green received greater responsibilities while leading his men in the decisive campaign for Louisiana. Confederate authorities promoted Green to major general, and Taylor appointed him to lead all of the cavalry in his department. In March, General Banks launched his land and riverine Red River campaign toward Shreveport, Louisiana, prompting Taylor’s superior, Lieutenant General Edmund Kirby  Smith, to summon all available troops to the state to aid it in the defense. Green, his old command, and an additional small division of Texas cavalry responded. The Confederates under Green skirmished actively with Union troops before joining Taylor’s main body of troops just south of Mansfield. On 8 April, the Confederates turned on Banks’s army and routed it. The following day, at Pleasant Hill, Louisiana, Confederate assaults against the battered Federal troops achieved nothing, but did convince Banks to retreat to safer ground. Green immediately ordered a pursuit by his mounted troops.

Green led a large part of his mounted command to the banks of the Red River, hoping to capture Union transports passing back down toward Natchitoches. While Green was coordinating an attack on the Union navy at Blair’s Landing on 12 April 1864, sailors aboard the U.S.S. Osage fired a round of grapeshot at a conspicuous Confederate officer within easy range of their guns. One of the projectiles hit Green in the upper forehead, killing him instantly.

- Donald S. Frazier

[Source: Heidler, David S. and Jeanne T. Heidler. Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social and Military History. W.W. Norton & Co. 2002. pp. 877-878]

He is buried at Oakwood Cemetery in Austin, Texas, per FindAGrave.

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On this date in Civil War history – Fort Pillow Massacre – April 12, 1864

Fort Pillow location mapFort Pillow was located on the east bank of the Mississippi River, 40 miles north of Memphis, Tennessee. Constructed by Confederate General Gideon Pillow in 1861, it overlooked the river, and its principal function was to control river traffic on the Mississippi. On 12 April 1864, the fort became the site of one of the most controversial events of the American Civil War: the Fort Pillow massacre.

The fort consisted of a dirt parapet, approximately 6 to 8 feet high, and formed a 125-foot semicircle. Built on a steep bluff that descended rapidly to the Mississippi, the fort faced east. To the north, a small stream, Cool Creek, entered the river. To the south, a small town consisting of storage buildings and bunkhouses sat in a ravine below the fort.

Capture of Fort PillowThe fort was protected by three semicircular lines of defense. The outer line spanned about two miles and ran from the small town to the south of the fortress to Coal Creek on the other side of the fort. The second line was approximately 600 yards inside the outer lines. The final line was the fort itself. The terrain around the fort was hilly with numerous ravines. The fort was manned by 580 Union soldiers; 285 belonged to the 13th Tennessee Cavalry, while 292 were African-American soldiers who were part of either the 6th U.S. Heavy Artillery or the 6th U.S. Colored Light Artillery. Major Lionel F. Booth commanded the fort, with Major William F. Bradford second in command.

Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest, CSA

Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest, CSA

On the morning of 12 April, Confederate troops under Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest, who had been conducting raids throughout western Kentucky and Tennessee, surrounded the garrison on three sides. The Confederates had quickly seized the small town south of the fort and a ravine north of it. After waiting for his ammunition to be replenished, Forrest sent out a flag of truce at 3:30 that afternoon and demanded the garrison’s immediate surrender. He told the Federals that if they surrendered, they would be treated as prisoners of war, but, if they refused, they would be shown no quarter. Major Booth had been killed by sniper fire, so the decision fell to Major Bradford, who asked Forrest for 1 hour to deliberate. Suspecting that the Federals were stalling to procure the assistance of a Union gunboat (the New Era) on the Mississippi, Forrest gave Bradford 20 minutes to decide.

Entrance to Fort Pillow State Park

Entrance to Fort Pillow State Park

When Union forces refused to surrender, Forrest launched a vigorous assault on the fort. With good position and superior numbers, the Confederates quickly overwhelmed the Union forces. What made the assault on Fort Pillow infamous, however, was the manner in which it was conducted. As Confederate soldiers gained the parapet, panic seized Union soldiers, who hastily retreated down the bluff. Many Union soldiers jumped into the Mississippi River, hoping to swim to the New Era. Other Union soldiers laid down their weapons and attempted to surrender. Confederate troops, however, did not acknowledge surrender and subjected the garrison to a merciless fire of bullets. Many Union soldiers were gunned down after they had thrown away their weapons. Black soldiers were the especial target of Confederate wrath. Not only did the Confederate government refuse to recognize African-Americans as bona fide soldiers, the average Confederate soldier was particularly threatened by the sight of former slaves wearing Union blue. Cries of “No quarter” and “kill the damned niggers” punctuated the confusion. Countless accounts told of black soldiers gunned down or bayoneted in the most brutal fashion.

When Forrest finally gained control of the situation and ordered his forces to cease firing, close to 50 percent of the Federal troops had perished. The death rate for black troops, however, was significantly higher than for white soldiers (64 percent compared with 31 percent). In addition to high casualties, stories of all sorts of atrocities quickly spread throughout the North. These included such gruesome acts as live burials, the killing of women and children who were in the town south of the fort, and wounded soldiers being set on fire.

National Park Service historian emeritus Ed Bearss discusses the battle and massacre at Fort Pillow.

National Park Service historian emeritus Ed Bearss discusses the battle and massacre at Fort Pillow.

Northern public opinion was outraged, and in a public speech shortly after the massacre, President Lincoln threatened retaliation if the allegations were proved true. In Congress, the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War was directed to investigate the Fort Pillow massacre. After interviewing dozens of witnesses, the committee published a report in early May that charged that the Confederates were indeed guilty of many of the reported atrocities.

While the Lincoln administration threatened retaliation and discussed various options in cabinet meetings, nothing came of such threats. In the end, the administration realized that Richmond authorities would never recognize African-American soldiers as legitimate, and to avenge Fort Pillow would result in a cycle of meaningless reprisals.

Although reports of the massacre were not without exaggeration, particularly the accounts of live burials and the slaughter of women and children, most historians believe that soldiers, particularly African-Americans, were needlessly butchered. While historians sympathetic to Forrest argue that there was no “official” surrender of the garrison, there can be little doubt that many soldiers tried to surrender and were killed after they had thrown down their weapons. While Forrest may not have explicitly ordered the massacre, given the well-known attitude of Confederate soldiers toward African-American soldiers, Forrest understood what the outcome of an attack would be. Indeed, for numerous African-American soldiers, Fort Pillow became the rallying cry. There are numerous accounts of black troops going into battle crying “Fort Pillow.” Instead of unnerving black soldiers, as the Confederates had intended, the massacre at Fort Pillow had the opposite result.

- Bruce Tap

[Source: Heidler, David S. and Jeanne T. Heidler. Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social and Military History. W.W. Norton & Co. 2002. pp. 746-748]

Union and Confederate casualties from the Fort Pillow Massacre can be found here.

Additional resources:

River Run Red: The Fort Pillow Massacre in the Civil War by Andrew Ward

Fort Pillow, a Civil War Massacre, and Public Memory by John Cimprich

The River Was Dyed with Blood: Nathan Bedford Forrest and Fort Pillow by Brian Steel  Wills

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On this date in Civil War history: April 9, 1864 – Battle of Pleasant Hill

Map denoting the village of Pleasant Hill where the battle was fought on April 9, 1864.

Map denoting the village of Pleasant Hill where the battle was fought on April 9, 1864.

Pleasant Hill was the last major battle of the Red River campaign of 1864. Persistent if not talented, Union Major General Nathaniel P. Banks still held onto his scheme to take Shreveport, Louisiana, despite his loss to Confederate Major General Richard Taylor at Mansfield on 8 April. By rejoining his Red River Expeditionary Force with Admiral David D. Porter’s gunboat fleet and Brigadier General Thomas Kilby Smith’s detachment of XVII Corps at the Red River, he believed he could salvage his expedition. Under cover of darkness during the night of 8-9 April, Banks evacuated his rear guard positions for Pleasant Hill, some fourteen miles to his rear. To mask his withdrawal, two divisions under Brigadier Generals W.H. Emory and J.A. Mower remained behind.

Although significantly outnumbered, the aggressive Taylor pressed his pursuit in expectation of destroying Banks’s forces. At dawn Taylor, accompanying Major General Thomas Green’s cavalry, led two brigades of Brigadier General Thomas J. Churchill’s division under Mosby M. Parsons and James C. Tappan in pursuit of the Federals’ rear guard. Having suffered heavy losses the day before at Mansfield, Major General John G. Walker’s and Brigadier General Camille de Polignac’s Divisions brought up the Confederate rear.

Marker denoting the location of the village of Pleasant Hill

Marker denoting the location of the village of Pleasant Hill

Arriving at Pleasant Hill’s outskirts at about 9 A.M., Taylor was somewhat surprised to find the Federals forming a line of battle. As Taylor waited for Churchill’s Division to come up, reconnaissance forays by Brigadier General Hamilton P. Bee’s cavalry confirmed that Banks’s troops were indeed occupying formidable defensive positions. Attackers would be forced to cross an open field in the face of fire from skirmishers concealed in a ravine that, in turn, fronted a low plateau on which Banks had placed his artillery and main infantry positions. Still, Taylor remained firmly convinced that he could exploit the momentum from the morale advantage he had gained from his success at Mansfield.

Battle flag from a regiment of Walker's Texans

Battle flag from a regiment of Walker’s Texans

Taylor’s troops, however, were exhausted. Polignac and Walker’s men had fought a pitched battle the previous day and Churchill’s had marched forty-five miles in thirty-six hours. Reluctantly, Taylor was forced to allow his troops, now reinforced to some 13,500 men, two hours’ rest before opening his attack. At 3 P.M., disregarding his opponent’s superior position and numbers, Taylor set his attack in motion. Pinning his strategy on Churchill’s relatively fresh troops, he ordered his two divisions southward in a flanking maneuver. Within an hour and a half, Churchill’s force, led by Tappan and Parsons, stood in line of battle across the Sabine Road. Taylor’s plan called for Churchill’s troops to launch a decisive attack on the Union southern flank, rolling it upon itself. As the enemy line collapsed, Walker was then to throw his division at Banks’s center while Bee’s Texas Cavalry was to exploit any breakthrough with a mounted saber attack. Polignac’s survivors, who had borne the worst of the fighting at Mansfield, were to rest as reserves on the Confederate far left.

Map from the book "History of Iowa" showing the positions of Iowa regiments during the Battle of Pleasant Hill.

Map from the book “History of Iowa” showing the positions of Iowa regiments during the Battle of Pleasant Hill.

Confederate attack opened at 4:30 P.M. as Taylor’s artillery commander, Major Joseph Brent, ordered his gunners to pull their lanyards and the infantry stepped off into a hail of Union fire. Parsons and Tappan achieved initial success on the Confederate right as they overwhelmed the brigade of Colonel Lewis Benedict who was killed in the fighting. Taylor saw less success on his left as Union troops repulsed savage assaults by Walker’s infantry and Bee’s ill-fated cavalry charge. After over an hour of desperate and costly fighting, Churchill’s command under Parsons and Tappan was making headway on the Confederate right but the Confederate assaults on the Union center had made little progress. As Walker’s brigade commanders struggled to maintain their momentum, Taylor ordered up Polignac’s Division. Polignac formed his line between General Thomas Green’s now dismounted cavalry under Brigadier General James Major and Walker’s left brigade under Colonel Horace Randal. Meeting Polignac’s, Walker’s and Green’s combined onslaught, Colonel William T. Shaw’s 2nd Brigade of Brigadier General A.J. Smith’s XVI Corps 3rd Division, which had broken every assault Taylor had thrown against them, finally was exhausted and grudgingly gave way in the center. At the same time, the Federal left collapsed under pressure from Churchill’s two brigades. Churchill’s advantage, however, was short-lived. Just as he sensed victory, a determined counterattack by veteran regiments of A.J. Smith’s XVI Corps emerged from the woods to slam into Parson’s right flank. As Parson’s troops gave way, the momentum shifted to the Federals as Mower led the Union center forward. The Federal counterattack crushed Taylor’s critical flanking movement and with it hopes of adding a second victory to Mansfield. Although Taylor continued to press the Union center, fatigue, disorganization and the approaching nightfall soon dictated the battle’s end.

Despite having won a tactical victory at Pleasant Hill, a demoralized Banks withdrew under cover of night to Grand Ecore and eventually on to Alexandria. Taylor, although disappointed in not having destroyed Banks, contented himself with having finally driven the Federals from western Louisiana. Both sides had suffered heavily during the two days’ fighting. Federal records added 152 killed, 859 wounded and 495 captured at Pleasant Hill to the losses of the previous day at Mansfield. Taylor estimated his total losses at 2,200.

- Jeff Kinard

[Source: Heidler, David S. and Jeanne T. Heidler. Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social and Military History. W.W. Norton & Co. 2002. pp. 1528-1529]

Battle of Pleasant Hill Reenactment Website

Muskets and Memories: A Modern Man’s Journey through the Civil War (contains a chapter dedicated to the Battle of Pleasant Hill and the 32nd Iowa Infantry’s role in the engagement)

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On this date in Civil War history: April 8, 1864 – Battle of Mansfield/Sabine Crossroads

Also known as the battle of Sabine Crossroads, this clash was the decisive battle in northwestern Louisiana that effectively halted the Union’s Red River campaign of 1864. In early 1864, Federal commanders devised the invasion of Texas by way of the Red River in Louisiana. Major General Nathaniel Banks assumed command of the Red River Expeditionary Force and by late March had taken the strategic town of Alexandria in central Louisiana. Banks next planned to push up the Red River to Shreveport, headquarters of the Confederate commander of the Trans-Mississippi Department, General Edmund Kirby Smith. There he planned to link up with a force under Major General Frederick Steele for the final drive into Texas.

mansfield-battlefieldRather than risk a disastrous defeat, Smith, with fewer than 10,000 available troops under Major General Richard Taylor, ordered Taylor to fall back toward Shreveport. As a reluctant Taylor grudgingly marched his small force northward toward the village of Mansfield, Banks made a fateful decision. Two roads led north to Shreveport. The longer hugged the riverbank, thus offering his troops the protection of the guns of Admiral David D. Porter’s gunboat fleet steaming up the river. Banks, however, eager to reach Shreveport as quickly as possible, chose the more direct overland route. Although the road passed through Mansfield and Pleasant Hill, occupied by Taylor’s main force, Banks evidenced little concern, convinced that the Confederates were unwilling to fight. On 6 April the Federal army abandoned the protection of the river to march through the “howling wilderness” of northwestern Louisiana.

371px-MansfieldMapFromBanksOfficaReportTaylor soon decided to ignore Smith’s orders and confront Banks near Mansfield, a small village south of Shreveport. During the early morning hours of 8 April, Taylor formed his 5,300 infantry into a line at Sabine Crossroads, a strategic intersection three miles southeast of Mansfield. Partially concealed in the edge of a pine forest, Brigadier General James T. Major’s dismounted cavalry anchored the left of the line next to Brigadier General Alfred Mouton’s division as Major General John G. Walker’s Texas Division formed on the right. Twelve artillery batteries and 3,000 cavalry brought Taylor’s strength to about 8,800.

Ignoring warnings from his cavalry commander, Brigadier General Albert L. Lee, Banks continued to Sabine Crossroads. Although the Federals numbered nearly 18,000, their deployment was dictated by the narrow road, barely wide enough for a single wagon. Lee was particularly concerned over the placement of the supply trains. His own, numbering three hundred wagons, stretched three miles to the rear and blocked both retreat and reinforcements. Still, Lee continued his advance and, pushing back Confederate skirmishers, reached Honeycutt Hill, a low wooded ridge, late in the morning. Supported by two infantry brigades, Lee’s forces numbered some 4,800 men.

Sabine Crossroads signBy noon Union and Confederate troops faced one another across a broad field from positions along opposing tree lines. As more Union troops and artillery arrived, the afternoon began to unfold into a series of probing cavalry actions interspersed by artillery duels. Shortly after 4 p.m. an impatient Taylor finally ordered his men forward. Crossing the field under a “murderous fire of artillery and musketry” Mouton’s and Walker’s Divisions crashed into the Federal positions, which soon crumbled in the ensuing hand-to-hand fighting. Mouton was killed in the assault and command of his division passed to the commander of his Texas Brigade, the French-born Brigadier General Camille de Polignac. As Polignac and Walker continued their attack, the Union resistance collapsed and soon deteriorated into a route with Confederate troops enveloping both flanks. Panicked troops poured to the rear along the already wagon-jammed road, abandoning their transports to the advancing Confederates.

The timely arrival, however, of Brigadier General William H. Emory’s division some three miles to the rear of the initial battle saved Bank’s force from complete disaster. Shortly before dusk he expertly deployed his troops along Chapman Hill, a steep ridge fronted by an orchard known as Pleasant Grove. Despite repeated Confederate attacks, Emory held his position, thus protecting the remainder of the Federal train and the troops trapped by the narrow road.

Mansfield_State_Historic_Site_IMG_2486Taylor was convinced he won a decisive victory. The action had cost Banks 113 killed, 581 wounded, and 1,541 missing – a total of 2,235 men. In addition, the Confederates captured hundreds of small arms, twenty artillery pieces, nearly 1,000 draft animals, and 250 wagons.

Taylor’s losses were also heavy – approximately 1,500 of his original 8,800 men. Yet the battle of Mansfield had shaken Banks and convinced him to terminate his invasion plans and return to Alexandria. Although the Federals would win the battle the following day at Pleasant Hill, the Red River campaign had failed at Mansfield.

- Jeff Kinard

[Source: Heidler, David S. and Jeanne T. Heidler. Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social and Military History. W.W. Norton & Co. 2002. pp. 1248-1249]

Resources:

Civil War Trust’s Battle of Mansfield page

Friends of Mansfield Battlefield

Dark and Bloody Ground: The Battle of Mansfield and the Forgotten Civil War in Louisiana

Muskets and Memories: A Modern Man’s Journey through the Civil War

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This Week in the American Civil War: April 6-12, 1864

MN150Logo_OL_FNLInformation courtesy of the

Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force

(www.mncivilwar150.com and “Minnesota Civil War 150” on Facebook)

 

Major Highlights for the Week

Wednesday April 6, 1864

As states which had seceded and become part of the Confederacy were militarily defeated, there followed a time of political reorganization in each. Those who held office were required to take an oath of loyalty to the Union or they were to be replaced. Louisiana passed their new state constitution on this date, little changed, but it abolished slavery.

After the Federal troops captured Natchitoches, Louisiana during the Red River Campaign, military leaders were putting the plans together for the next 75 miles of river to Shreveport.  However, with a low river, many of the transports and gunboats couldn’t make it further upriver. Brigadier General Charles P. Stone, acting as chief of staff for Major General Nathaniel P. Banks, advised Brigadier General A.J. Smith to select shallow draft boats for troop movements.

Thursday April 7, 1864

Confederate Lieutenant General James Longstreet, who was detached from the Army of Northern Virginia and spent the last few months in Kentucky and North Georgia, was recalled to Virginia.

Confederate cavalry continued to harass Major General Nathaniel Bank’s Federals as they approached Mansfield, Louisiana as part of the Red River Campaign.

Friday April 8, 1864

BATTLE OF SABINE CROSSROADS

By a vote of 38 to 6, the U. S. Senate approved the 13th Amendment and sent it to the states for ratification.

Confederate Major General Richard Taylor’s 14,000 troops from the District of West Louisiana and the Trans-Mississippi Department clashed with 12,000 Federals of the XIII and XIX Corps of Major General Nathaniel Banks’s Army of the Gulf at Mansfield, Louisiana at Sabine Crossroads. Even though the Confederates had the numerical advantage and launched several charged on the Union lines, they were repulsed by Brigadier General William H. Emory’s Federals just prior to nightfall. Confederates sustained an estimated 1,000-man loss, while the Federals had 113 killed, 581 wounded and 1,541 captured or missing, along with losses of 20 artillery pieces, 156 wagons and a thousand horses and mules that were killed or captured. More than half of the Federal casualties came from four regiments in the XIII Corps. 

Saturday April 9, 1864

BATTLE OF PLEASANT HILL

Federal forces regrouped 16 miles away at the village of Pleasant Hill during the night, following the previous day’s battle at Sabine Crossroads. Both Confederate Major General Richard Taylor and Federal Major General Nathaniel P. Banks received reinforcements during the overnight period, each side having around 12,000 troops. Skirmishing began in the early afternoon, but the main Confederate attack didn’t begin until 5 p.m. The Federal defenders withstood several attacks over a two-hour period and slowly regained the advantage. Even though the battle was a tactical victory for the Federals, Banks withdrew his forces to Grand Ecore, Louisiana, effectively ending the campaign. The Federals lost 150 killed, 844 wounded and 375 missing for a total of 1,369. Confederate losses are estimated at 1,200 killed or wounded and 426 prisoners for a total of 1,626. The 32nd Iowa Volunteer Infantry, cut off from the rest of the Federals, suffered severe losses.

Sunday April 10, 1864

     Federal Major General Nathaniel P. Banks began withdrawing his troops from Pleasant Hill back to Grand Ecore, Louisiana, ending the Red River Campaign. Major General Frederick Steele’s troops departed Louisiana for Little Rock, Arkansas.

Confederate Lieutenant General Kirby Smith took command of the Confederate forces around Pleasant Hill and ordered Lieutenant General Richard Taylor to withdraw his forces back to Mansfield, Louisiana.

Admiral David Dixon Porter and his 17 ironclads and other supply ships steamed back up the Red River to rejoin Banks. The trip was halted a mile above Loggy Bayou, Louisiana, where local Confederates took the vessel New Falls City, and wedged it sideways across the stream. The perpetrators of the deed left a poster on the vessel’s mast inviting the Federals to attend a fancy ball in Shreveport. Porter admitted that he appreciated the humor.

Monday April 11, 1864

On the water, Admiral David Dixon Porter’s gunboats were subjected to small-arms and artillery fire from the banks of the Red River. This was hard to avoid as the water was getting very low, making maneuvering difficult.

Tuesday April 12, 1864

FORT PILLOW MASSACRE

One of the bleakest and tragic moments in American military history occurred on the Mississippi River near Henning, Tennessee. Confederate Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest led an assault on the 600-man Federal garrison at Fort Pillow. Forrest had three horses shot from under him as the garrison was overrun in a series of assaults. As the Federal troops, most of them from two African-American regiments, surrendered, Forrest’s men massacred them in cold blood. The Confederate lost 14 killed and 86 wounded out of 2,500 engaged, while the Federal’s sustained losses of approximately 350 killed and mortally wounded, 60 wounded, 164 captured and missing for an aggregate total of 574 of the 600 engaged.

A brief engagement occurred near Blair’s Landing in Red River Parish, Lousiana. Confederate Major General Tom Green led his cavalry division on a raid at the landing where he discovered grounded and damaged Federal transports and gunboats. Green’s troops were met by Federal Brigadier General Thomas Kilby Smith’s XVII Corps provisional division and sailors from Admiral David Dixon Porter’s Mississippi River Squadron. Even though the Federals repulsed the attack, they sustained seven killed or wounded to the Confederates 200 aggregate losses. Green was among the killed when he was decapitated by a naval artillery shell.

Where Minnesota Regiments were the week of April 6-12, 1864 

Active units:

1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty at Fort Snelling prior to mustering out of Federal service on April 29, 1864.

2nd Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty at Ringgold, Georgia until April 29, 1864.

3rd Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On garrison duty in Little Rock, Arkansas until April 28, 1864.

4th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty in Huntsville, Alabama until June 22, 1864.

5th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty in Nathaniel Bank’s Red River Campaign and fought in the battle of Pleasant Hill.

6th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty at various Minnesota outposts for garrison duty until June 9, 1864.

7th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty in St. Louis, Missouri until April 20, 1864.

8th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On frontier duty at various points in Minnesota: Anoka, Princeton, Monticello, Kingston, Manannah, Paynesville, Fort Ripley, Sauk Center, Pomme de Terre, Alexandria and Fort Abercrombie until May 1864.

9th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Stationed at Rolla, Jefferson City, LaMine Bridge, Warrensburg, Independence, Knob Noster, Kansas City, Waynesville and Franklin with headquarters in Jefferson City until April 14, 1864.

10th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On garrison and provost duty at Benton Barracks, Missouri until April 21, 1864.

2nd Regiment Minnesota Cavalry – On duty at Fort Snelling and at frontier posts throughout Minnesota until May 24, 1864.

Brackett’s Battalion of Minnesota Cavalry – On duty at Fort Snelling until May 1, 1864.

Hatch’s Independent Battalion of Cavalry – Companies A, B, C and D on frontier duty in Pembina until May 5, 1864.

1st Minnesota Light Artillery Battery – Veterans were on furlough. Non-veteran members of the battery were en route from Vicksburg, Mississippi to Cairo, Illinois, where they were rejoined by furloughed members on April 17, 1864.

2nd Independent Battery Minnesota Light Artillery – Veterans were on furlough through June 5, 1864. Non-veterans attached to Battery I, 2nd Illinois Light Artillery and moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where they escorted cattle and horses to the army in the field until July 14, 1864.

3rd Independent Battery Minnesota Light Artillery – Various sections of the battery were stationed at Fort Snelling, Fort Ridgely, Fort Ripley and Pembina until June 5, 1864.

2nd United States Sharpshooters, Company A – On duty around the Rapidan River, Virginia until May 4, 1864.

Inactive units: 

1st Regiment Minnesota Cavalry “Mounted Rangers” – Formally mustered out of service on December 7, 1863. Inactive.  

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This Week in the American Civil War: March 30 – April 5, 1864

MN150Logo_OL_FNLInformation courtesy of the

Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force

(www.mncivilwar150.com and “Minnesota Civil War 150” on Facebook)

 

Major Highlights for the Week

Wednesday March 30, 1864

Fighting occurred at Greenton, Missouri; along with Mount Elba and Big Creek, Arkansas. The Federals also captured a Confederate outpost at Cherry Grove, Virginia.

Thursday March 31, 1864

Skirmishing at Natchitoches, Louisiana was the highlight of the day in Major General Nathaniel Banks’s Red River Campaign. Other action occurred at Arkadelphia, Arkansas; Palatka, Florida; the forks of the Beaver River in eastern Kentucky; and at Spring Island, South Carolina.

Friday April 1, 1864

Skirmishing broke out at Plymouth, North Carolina; and at Arkadelphia and Fitzhugh’s Woods near Augusta, Arkansas.

The U.S. transport vessel Maple Leaf sank after hitting a torpedo or mine in the St. John’s River in Florida.

Saturday April 2, 1864

Though there was no major fighting between the Union and Confederate forces at this time, the number of small skirmishes increased. Limited engagements now broke out at Cleveland, Tennessee; Grossetete Bayou and Crump’s Hill, Louisiana; Okolona, Antoine and Wolf Creek, Arkansas; Cedar Creek and Cow Ford Creek near Pensacola, Florida. The Confederates destroyed the lighthouse at Cape Lookout Light, North Carolina.

Sunday April 3, 1864

     Skirmishing on the Red River occurred at Grand Ecore, Louisiana, while more skirmishing occurred elsewhere at Cypress Swamp, Tennessee; Ducktown Road, Georgia; Clinton, Mississippi; Clarksville, Arkansas; Elkin’s Ferry on the Little Missouri River, in Missouri; and at Fort Gibson, Indian Territory.

Monday April 4, 1864

Major General Philip Sheridan succeeded Brigadier General David McM. Gregg as commander of the Army of the Potomac’s cavalry. Gregg was filling in for Major General Alfred Pleasonton, who was temporarily dispatched to Missouri.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a joint resolution saying that the nation would not permit the establishment of a monarchy in Mexico. This was intended to thwart the plans of France’s Napoleon III, who considered placing Maximilian of Hapsburg on the throne in Mexico.

Several changes in Federal corps commanders helped set the stage for renewed operations now that the winter was ending.

Skirmishing occurred at Charlestown and Roseville, Arkansas; and at Campti, Louisiana on the Red River.

The New York Sanitary Commission Fair opened today. Eventually, it would raise $1.2 million to be used for the needs of the soldiers.

Tuesday April 5, 1864

The low levels of the Red River were hampering Federal Major General Nathaniel Banks’s expedition. Confederate forces, refusing to be engaged in quantity, fell away before the Federal troops arrived. However, Banks’s main force fought a small skirmish at Natchitoches, Louisiana.

Elsewhere, skirmishing occurred at Marks’s Mills and Whiteley’s Mills, Arkansas; Quicksand Creek, Kentucky; Blount’s Creek, North Carolina; and in the swamps of the Little River near New Madrid, Missouri.

Where Minnesota Regiments were the week of March 30 – April 5, 1864 

Active units:

1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty at Fort Snelling prior to mustering out of Federal service on April 29, 1864.

2nd Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty at Ringgold, Georgia until April 29, 1864.

3rd Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On garrison duty in Little Rock, Arkansas until April 28, 1864.

4th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty in Huntsville, Alabama until June 22, 1864.

5th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty in Nathaniel Bank’s Red River Campaign and fought in the battles of Grand Ecore and Campi.

6th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty at various Minnesota outposts for garrison duty until June 9, 1864.

7th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty in St. Louis, Missouri until April 20, 1864.

8th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On frontier duty at various points in Minnesota: Anoka, Princeton, Monticello, Kingston, Manannah, Paynesville, Fort Ripley, Sauk Center, Pomme de Terre, Alexandria and Fort Abercrombie until May 1864.

9th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Stationed at Rolla, Jefferson City, LaMine Bridge, Warrensburg, Independence, Knob Noster, Kansas City, Waynesville and Franklin with headquarters in Jefferson City until April 14, 1864.

10th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On garrison and provost duty at Benton Barracks, Missouri until April 21, 1864.

2nd Regiment Minnesota Cavalry – On duty at Fort Snelling and at frontier posts throughout Minnesota until May 24, 1864.

Brackett’s Battalion of Minnesota Cavalry – On duty at Fort Snelling until May 1, 1864.

Hatch’s Independent Battalion of Cavalry – Companies A, B, C and D on frontier duty in Pembina until May 5, 1864.

1st Minnesota Light Artillery Battery – Veterans were on furlough. Non-veteran members of the battery were en route from Vicksburg, Mississippi to Cairo, Illinois, where they were rejoined by furloughed members on April 17, 1864.

2nd Independent Battery Minnesota Light Artillery – On duty at Rossville, Georgia April 11, 1864 when the veteranized battery was on furlough.

3rd Independent Battery Minnesota Light Artillery – Various sections of the battery were stationed at Fort Snelling, Fort Ridgely, Fort Ripley and Pembina until June 5, 1864.

2nd United States Sharpshooters, Company A – On duty around the Rapidan River, Virginia until May 4, 1864.

Inactive units: 

1st Regiment Minnesota Cavalry “Mounted Rangers” – Formally mustered out of service on December 7, 1863. Inactive.  

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This Week in the American Civil War: March 23-29, 1864

MN150Logo_OL_FNLInformation courtesy of the

Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force

(www.mncivilwar150.com and “Minnesota Civil War 150” on Facebook)

 

Major Highlights for the Week

Wednesday March 23, 1864

Federal columns moved south from Little Rock, Arkansas to join Major General Nathaniel Banks’s expedition up the Red River. If successful, the two-pronged advance would go far towards breaking up the Confederacy west of the Mississippi River. They engaged in a skirmish on the Benton road towards Camden, Arkansas.

Lieutenant General Ulysses Grant returned to Washington after his conferences with Major General William T. Sherman and other generals in the Western Theatre, to prepare for a general advance of all Union armies.

In the Army of the Potomac, Major General Gouverneur K. Warren assumed command of the Fifth corps from Major General George Sykes.

In Washington, a number of “radical” Congressmen pushed for the removal of Major General George G. Meade as commander of the Army of the Potomac.

Thursday March 24, 1864

Skirmishing took place at Goodrich’s Landing, Louisiana; Oil Trough Bottom, Arkansas, and Union City, Tennessee.

President Abraham Lincoln and Lieutenant General Ulysses Grant conferred at the White House during the evening hours.

Friday March 25, 1864

Federal outposts at Paducah, Kentucky were driven in sharply as Confederate cavalry attacked the important Ohio River city. Although they occupied part of Paducah, two attacks were repulsed at Fort Anderson. Unable to destroy or capture the Federal garrison, the Confederates withdrew in the morning.

Other fighting occurred at Rockport, Dover, White River and in Van Buren County, Arkansas; and McClellansville, South Carolina.

Federal Brigadier General David Gregg superseded Major General Alfred Pleasonton as command of the cavalry in Virginia, while Pleasonton was dispatched to Missouri on a temporary basis. 

Saturday March 26, 1864

Lieutenant General Ulysses Grant was back in Virginia and established his permanent headquarters with the Army of the Potomac at Culpeper Court House.

Major General James B. McPherson assumed command of the Army of the Tennessee under departmental commander Major General William T. Sherman.

Skirmishes occurred near Black Jack Church, North Carolina; Quitman, Long View and Mount Elba, Arkansas.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis argued with the governors of North and South Carolina over enforcement of policies of the Confederate States of America regarding trade along with troop procurement and allocation.

President Abraham Lincoln explained  that amnesty did not apply to prisoners of war, but only to those free and at large who voluntarily came forward and took an oath of allegiance.

Sunday March 27, 1864

     Skirmishing occurred at Livingston, Mississippi; Louisville, Tennessee; Columbus, Kentucky and at Deepwater Township, Missouri.

Monday March 28, 1864

About a hundred Copperheads (anti-war Democrats) vented long-pent-up feelings by attacking Federal soldiers on furlough in Charleston, Illinois. By the time the fighting ended by troop reinforcements, five men were killed and more than twenty wounded. It was one of the more severe anti-war outbreaks in the north.

Skirmishing occurred on the Eel River, California; New Hope, Kentucky; Obey’s River, Tennessee; Bloomery Gap, West Virginia; along with Danville and Mount Elba, Arkansas.

Tuesday March 29, 1864

Scenes of battle this day were at Caperton’s Ferry, Alabama; Monett’s Ferry and Cloutierville, Louisiana on the Red River; Bolivar, Tennessee; Roseville, Long View and Arkadelphia, Arkansas. Union scouts moved from Lookout Valley to Deer Head Cove, Georgia; and from Bellefonte to Burrowsville, Arkansas.

While criticisms of Federal Major General George G. Meade’s handling of the Gettysburg campaign had been appearing in the press, possibly written by other officers in the battle, President Abraham Lincoln dissuaded him from formally requesting a court of inquiry.

Where Minnesota Regiments were the week of March 23-29, 1864 

Active units:

1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty at Fort Snelling prior to mustering out of Federal service on April 29, 1864.

2nd Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty at Ringgold, Georgia until April 29, 1864.

3rd Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On garrison duty in Little Rock, Arkansas until April 28, 1864.

4th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty in Huntsville, Alabama until June 22, 1864.

5th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty in Nathaniel Bank’s Red River Campaign.

6th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty at various Minnesota outposts for garrison duty until June 9, 1864.

7th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty in St. Louis, Missouri until April 20, 1864.

8th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On frontier duty at various points in Minnesota: Anoka, Princeton, Monticello, Kingston, Manannah, Paynesville, Fort Ripley, Sauk Center, Pomme de Terre, Alexandria and Fort Abercrombie until May 1864.

9th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Stationed at Rolla, Jefferson City, LaMine Bridge, Warrensburg, Independence, Knob Noster, Kansas City, Waynesville and Franklin with headquarters in Jefferson City until April 14, 1864.

10th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On garrison and provost duty at Benton Barracks, Missouri until April 21, 1864.

2nd Regiment Minnesota Cavalry – On duty at Fort Snelling and at frontier posts throughout Minnesota until May 24, 1864.

Brackett’s Battalion of Minnesota Cavalry – On duty at Fort Snelling until May 1, 1864.

Hatch’s Independent Battalion of Cavalry – Companies A, B, C and D on frontier duty in Pembina until May 5, 1864.

1st Minnesota Light Artillery Battery – On duty at Vicksburg, Mississippi until April 4, 1864.

2nd Independent Battery Minnesota Light Artillery – On duty at Rossville, Georgia April 11, 1864 when the veteranized battery was on furlough.

3rd Independent Battery Minnesota Light Artillery – Various sections of the battery were stationed at Fort Snelling, Fort Ridgely, Fort Ripley and Pembina until June 5, 1864.

2nd United States Sharpshooters, Company A – On duty around the Rapidan River, Virginia until May 4, 1864.

Inactive units: 

1st Regiment Minnesota Cavalry “Mounted Rangers” – Formally mustered out of service on December 7, 1863. Inactive.  

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Minnesota Makes Do Without a Civil War Battlefield

By JOHN HANC

A version of this article appears in print on March 20, 2014, on page F24 of the New York edition with the headline: Making Do Without Civil War Battlefield.

Fort Snelling in St. Paul, where Minnesotans left for the Civil War, and where some returned. Credit Minnesota Historical Society

Fort Snelling in St. Paul, where Minnesotans left for the Civil War, and where some returned. Credit Minnesota Historical Society

ST. PAUL — THE Civil War seems a long way from St. Paul: 1,100 miles to Manassas; 1,000 miles to Gettysburg. Even the nearest battlefields, in Missouri, are hundreds of miles away.

So if you’re the Minnesota Historical Society, how do you give the ever-popular subject of the war a local twist in your offerings — particularly during the war’s 150th anniversary, which is being marked with museum exhibits around the country on almost every conceivable aspect?

Danielle Dart, a public programs specialist with the society, which is based in St. Paul, came up with this idea: Instead of examining the brave deeds of Minnesotan soldiers during the war (already the focus of an exhibit in the spring of 2013), talk about what happened when they returned home.

Last summer, “St. Paul After the Civil War,” led by Ms. Dart, joined a lineup of existing tours, or crawls, as the society calls them. While it might not be quite as popular as the pub and food crawls that allow participants to eat and drink their way through the history of the city, the Civil War tour was a success, and it will be offered again this summer. Using a 28-passenger, air-conditioned bus, with Ms. Dart narrating, the three-hour tour, which cost $45, including lunch, was a near sellout all six times it was offered.

Henning von Minden was a cavalry officer during the war. Credit Minnesota Historical Society

Henning von Minden was a cavalry officer during the war. Credit Minnesota Historical Society

“We wanted to do something Civil War-related, but we knew there were no battles in St. Paul,” said Ms. Dart, 47, who has been running tours for the society since 2007. “So we thought about what happened to these men when they came home from the fighting.”

Minnesota became a state only in 1858 — three years before the war began. “This was our debut on the national stage,” Ms. Dart says. “Minnesota went big for Lincoln in 1860.” The state’s governor, Alexander Ramsey, was in Washington when Fort Sumter was fired upon. He immediately offered President Lincoln 1,000 volunteers — supposedly securing the state’s position as the first to officially offer a volunteer regiment to the Union cause, a point of pride to Minnesotans to this day.

The starting point for the tour is Fort Snelling, built in 1819 on the banks of the Mississippi and now a historic site operated by the society.

The fort is famous for its role in the Dakota War or Sioux Uprising of 1862, but it is also “the Civil War portal for Minnesota,” says Matt Cassady, a program specialist at Fort Snelling, who welcomed a reporter retracing the tour route with Ms. Dart last autumn. “For 25,000 of these men, this is where it started, and for those who survived, this is where it ended.” About 20,000 Minnesotans returned; 2,500 of them were grievously wounded, most with missing limbs.

Here on the exposed parade ground and drafty barracks of Fort Snelling is where adjustment to civilian life began. “Men would form up, get their last pay and then sit and wait for the paperwork to be drawn up,” Ms. Dart said. Once discharged, “they were on their own.”

Most would amble up Fort Road, now West Seventh Street, which the tour takes back into the city. In 1865, St. Paul was barely 25 years old, and while the economy of the river town had boomed in the war, to most Americans it might as well have been a colony on the moon.

“Before the war, Minnesota is seen as this remote, far-off place, this outpost on the edge of the American empire,” says historian Mary Lethert Wingerd of St. Cloud State University. “I think what the Civil War does do, at least for people here, is to substantiate Minnesota’s place as part of the nation.”

While such overarching themes are interesting to ponder, they are hard to build a tour around. Ms. Dart instead decided she would focus on half a dozen men whose stories she researched in the society’s archives, on websites, in census records and in old city directories.

We meet, for example, Albert Siebers, a 19-year-old teamster from Minneapolis. Seriously wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg, he returned to Minnesota for a year, then went off to become a cowboy in California. He died in 1907, at age 64, in an accident while part of a construction crew on the Roosevelt Dam in Arizona.

“Some of these men were very peripatetic, very restless after the war,” Ms. Dart says.

The tour arrives in St. Paul’s West End, one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods. Ms. Dart points out 262 Banfil Street, a blue, two-story Greek-revival house with a white front porch. This was once the home of Henning von Minden, a cavalry officer. Ms. Dart learned from her research that about 10 other German immigrants like Mr. von Minden lived within blocks of this house and volunteered for the Union army as well. As was common in other parts of the country, they very likely enlisted together in a surge of patriotism for their new country.

The West End is also where many of the veterans settled. “This would have been a middle-class neighborhood,” Ms. Dart said. “They had gas lighting not long after the war, and sidewalks.”

Suddenly the Civil War doesn’t seem quite so remote.

“There’s something compelling about saying ‘this is where that man lived,’ ” says Charles F. Bryan Jr., former president and chief executive of the Virginia Historical Society, and now a consultant who has been involved with many Civil War-related programs. “It’s a very creative way to organize a tour like this.”

Not all of the men we meet are heroes. Ms. Dart pulls up in front of 256 Goodrich Avenue.

The home is that of John Miner. A police officer after the war, he had registered for the draft in two neighboring states but never reported for duty. Other houses on the same block belonged to men who had served.

“Imagine a veteran living next door to this guy who may have run away from the draft,” she said, adding that she saw the topic as a discussion point for future tours. Ms. Dart continues her tour through the nooks and crannies of old St. Paul, ticking off the names of soldiers who lived or worked here and there or whose names adorn street signs. There are 14 streets in St. Paul named after Civil War veterans.

One never accorded that honor was Alfred Gales, an escaped slave who fell in with the 3rd Minnesota in Arkansas and became the unit’s cook. “When they mustered out, he came with them,” she said. “He met his wife and lived the rest of his life in St. Paul.”

He also changed his name legally to Alfred Miller. “I make a point of mentioning that on the tour,” Ms. Dart says. “I think it’s important that he chose a name other than his slave name once he could.”

The tour includes Oakland Cemetery, where many of the veterans are buried, and the towering Civil War memorial, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in St. Paul, erected in 1903. The tour ends at the Minnesota Veterans’ Home, originally called the Old Soldiers Home, in Minneapolis’s Minnehaha State Park — a government-funded precursor to the Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals of today — where some of the veterans ended their days.

Summer tours include a picniclike lunch, with food from a local 1876 cookbook.

“Luckily for tourgoers,” Ms. Dart says, “late-19th-century picnic foods are remarkably similar to our own. Chicken salad and egg salad sandwiches, fresh fruit and carrot cake.” But even here, Ms. Dart seeks to make the experience as vivid as possible, regardless of the lack of a battlefield.

“Maybe next year,” she jokes, “I’ll have everyone try hardtack.”

Tours will be offered this summer. Dates and information are at www.minnesotahistorycenter.org/crawls.

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This Week in the American Civil War: March 16-22, 1864

MN150Logo_OL_FNLInformation courtesy of the

Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force

(www.mncivilwar150.com and “Minnesota Civil War 150” on Facebook)

 

Major Highlights for the Week

Wednesday March 16, 1864

Federal troops occupied Alexandria, Louisiana, a salient Red River town. Elsewhere, fighting broke out at Annandale and Bristoe Station, Virginia; Confederates raided the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad near Tullahoma, Tennessee; and skirmishing broke out at Palatka, Florida and Santa Rosa, Texas.

Major General Sterling Price took command of the Confederate District of Arkansas, succeeding Lieutenant General Theophilus Holmes.

Thursday March 17, 1864

At Nashville, Tennessee, where he was conferring with Major General William T. Sherman, Federal Lieutenant General Ulysses Grant formally assumed command of the armies of the United States and announced that his headquarters would be in the field with the Army of the Potomac “until further orders.”

Fighting was confined to skirmishes as Manchester, Tennessee; near Blue Rock Station, California; and at Corpus Christi, Texas.

Friday March 18, 1864

Arkansas voters ratified a pro-Union constitution which ended slavery in the state.

Federal Major General William T. Sherman officially assumed command of the Military Division of the Mississippi.

Fighting occurred at Monticello and Spring Creek, Arkansas. 

Saturday March 19, 1864

The Georgia legislature expressed its confidence in Confederate President Jefferson Davis and resolved that the Confederate government should, after each victory, make an offer of peace to the North based on independence of the South and self-determination by the border states.

Minor fighting occurred with action at the Eel River, California; Beersheba Springs, Tennessee; on the Cumberland River in Kentucky; at Laredo, Texas; and Black Bay, Arkansas.

Sunday March 20, 1864

     Skirmishing flared at Arkadelphia and Roseville Creek, Arkansas; while fighting occurred at Bayou Rapides, Louisiana on the Red River.

The famed raider, C.S.S. Alabama, arrived at Cape Town, South Africa.

Monday March 21, 1864

President Abraham Lincoln approved an act of Congress enabling the territories of Nevada and Colorado to become states, despite their relatively small populations.

Skirmishing continued at Reynoldsville, Tennessee; Moulton, Alabama; Velasco, Texas; and at Henderson’s Hill, Louisiana.

Tuesday March 22, 1864

Heavy snow fell in Richmond, Virginia.

Federal Major General Lew Wallace superseded Brigadier General Henry H. Lockwood in command of the Middle Department with the headquarters in Baltimore.

Fighting erupted at Bald Spring Canyon on Eel River, California; Langley’s Plantation in Issaquena County, Mississippi; Fancy Farms, Kentucky; Corpus Christi, Texas; and Winchester, Virginia.

Where Minnesota Regiments were the week of March 16-22, 1864 

1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty at Fort Snelling prior to mustering out of Federal service on April 29, 1864.

2nd Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty at Ringgold, Georgia until April 29, 1864.

3rd Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On garrison duty in Little Rock, Arkansas until April 28, 1864.

4th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty in Huntsville, Alabama until June 22, 1864.

5th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Took part in the battle at Henderson’s Hill, Louisiana as part of the Red River Campaign.

6th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty at various Minnesota outposts for garrison duty until June 9, 1864.

7th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty in St. Louis, Missouri until April 20, 1864.

8th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On frontier duty at various points in Minnesota: Anoka, Princeton, Monticello, Kingston, Manannah, Paynesville, Fort Ripley, Sauk Center, Pomme de Terre, Alexandria and Fort Abercrombie until May 1864.

9th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Stationed at Rolla, Jefferson City, LaMine Bridge, Warrensburg, Independence, Knob Noster, Kansas City, Waynesville and Franklin with headquarters in Jefferson City until April 14, 1864.

10th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On garrison and provost duty at Benton Barracks, Missouri until April 21, 1864.

1st Regiment Minnesota Cavalry “Mounted Rangers” – Formally mustered out of service on December 7, 1863. Inactive. 

2nd Regiment Minnesota Cavalry – On duty at Fort Snelling and at frontier posts throughout Minnesota until May 24, 1864.

Brackett’s Battalion of Minnesota Cavalry – On duty at Fort Snelling until May 1, 1864.

Hatch’s Independent Battalion of Cavalry – Companies A, B, C and D on frontier duty in Pembina until May 5, 1864.

1st Minnesota Light Artillery Battery – On duty at Vicksburg, Mississippi until April 4, 1864.

2nd Independent Battery Minnesota Light Artillery – On duty at Rossville, Georgia until March 21, 1864 when the battery was veteranized.

3rd Independent Battery Minnesota Light Artillery – Various sections of the battery were stationed at Fort Snelling, Fort Ridgely, Fort Ripley and Pembina until June 5, 1864.

2nd United States Sharpshooters, Company A – On duty around the Rapidan River, Virginia until May 4, 1864.

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