This Week in the American Civil War: May 11-17, 1864

Information courtesy of the

MN150Logo_OL_FNLMinnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force

( and “Minnesota Civil War 150” on Facebook)

Major Highlights for the Week

Wednesday May 11, 1864


Six miles north of Richmond at a place called Yellow Tavern, Confederate Major General James Ewell Brown Stuart and his cavalry faced Federal Major General Philip Sheridan’s cavalry force. In a sharp, helter-skelter encounter, Stuart fell from his horse and was mortally wounded. Sheridan’s men drove back Stuart’s troops but the engagement gave the Confederates time to strengthen the defenses of Richmond.

Only a light reconnaissance by Federal Lieutenant General Ulysses Grant by men of Major General Ambrose Burnside’s corps marked the progress in the Wilderness. However, Grant learned about a bulge in the Confederate center and was determined to attack it.

At the Louisiana Constitutional Convention in New Orleans, the reconstructed Federal-leaning state government adopted an ordinance of emancipation without compensation.

Thursday May 12, 1864


One day after falling wounded at the Battle of Yellow Tavern, Confederate Major General James Ewell Brown Stuart died of his wounds. He passed away one year and two days after the loss of iconic Confederate Lieutenant General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson.

A fierce day of fighting at Spotsylvania reopened at 4:30 a.m. straight at the salient of the Confederate lines, by Major General Winfield Scott Hancock’s Second Corps. Approximately four thousand prisoners, including two generals, artillery, small arms and stands of colors were taken from Confederate Lieutenant General Richard Ewell’s corps. All told, 24 Federal brigades attacked only a few hundred yards of entrenchments. For the most part, the main Confederate line held, but eventually they were withdrawn to a new line as their salient was eliminated. It was one of the bloodiest days of the war. Federal casualties are estimated at 6,800 while the Confederates are believed to have lost around 5,000 men in dead and wounded.

In Georgia, Federal Major General William T. Sherman’s army, except for one corps, had passed through Snake Creek Gap and was near Resaca by day’s end.

Friday May 13, 1864

Around Resaca, Georgia, Lieutenant General Joseph E. Johnston took up new positions, joined by Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk’s reinforcements, and faced the advance of Federal Major General William T. Sherman’s army. Fighting broke out at Tilton, Resaca and near Dalton during the course of the realignment.

In Virginia, Federal Lieutenant General Ulysses Grant, having failed to break Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s line at Spotsylvania, continued to move to the south and east. Federal Major General Philip Sheridan’s cavalry left the Richmond area and headed for the James River at Haxall’s Landing.

At Drewry’s Bluff, Federal Major General Benjamin Butler’s troops were struggling to get into position for an attack, thereby giving General P.G.T. Beauregard’s Confederates enough time to arrange their thin line of defenders.

On the Red River, the Federal gunboats and Federal Major General Nathaniel P. Banks’s infantry continued their retreat. The Federal Spring operation across the Mississippi River had been a total failure. 

Saturday May 14, 1864

Federal Major General William T. Sherman’s troops still intended to assault Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston’s lines at Resaca, Georgia, but delays and extensive deployments held down the attack.

In Virginia, Federal Lieutenant General Ulysses Grant continued to shift his troops to the left, as both armies sought to recover from the pounding they had each received at the Wilderness and Spotsylvania. The hard march and heavy rain caused the Federal attack to be called off.

Sunday May 15, 1864


    Threatened in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley from the north by Federal Major General Franz Sigel’s advance, Confederate Major General John C. Breckinridge had gathered everybody he could find, including 247 students from the Virginia Military Academy. The Federal line was across the Valley Pike and towards the north fork of the Shenandoah River. Breckinridge attacked and drove Sigel back by late morning before retreating to Strasburg. The Federal’s suffered 93 killed, 482 wounded and 256 missing for 831 casualties out of 5,500 troops engaged. The Confederates lost 42 killed, 522 wounded and 13 missing for 577 out of approximately 5,000. Of the VMI cadets, 10 were killed and 47 wounded. The courage of the cadets at the Battle of New Market made them a legend, even though they were a small part of the victorious Confederate force.

In front of Resaca, Georgia, fighting broke out between Confederate Lieutenant General John Bell Hood’s corps and Federal Major General Joseph Hooker’s corps. Fighting raged all along the line and at Lay’s Ferry on the Oostenaula River, south of Resaca. Realizing that his forces were in danger of being flanked, Lieutenant General Joseph E. Johnston withdrew from Resaca during the night.

The only fighting in the Spotsylvania, Virginia area of operations was a skirmish at Branch Church.

Monday May 16, 1864


At Drewry’s Bluff and the Fort Darling area on the James River, Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard’s ten brigades attacked in the dense fog of early morning. The Federal right under Major General William French Smith was badly hurt, but Union troops held the center. Heavy fighting on the Federal army under Major General Quincy A. Gillmore was indecisive, but Smith and Major General Benjamin Butler through that they had to withdraw the Union forces due to the danger on the right. Ineptness in top Union command was never more evident than in this campaign. Drewry’s Bluff or Fort Darling could have been disastrous. Over 16,000 Federals faced 18,000 Confederates. There were 390 Union soldiers killed, 2,380 wounded and 1,390 missing for a total of 4,160 lost. Confederates had 355 killed, 1,941 wounded and 210 missing for an aggregate loss of 2,506.

Tuesday May 17, 1864

In Georgia, skirmishing broke out at Adairsville and Rome while the lines continued to shift towards Atlanta.

The Spotsylvania area of Virginia remained relatively quiet, except for the shifting of certain positions, while Federal Major General Benjamin Butler’s Army of the James withdrew completely from the Drewry’s Bluff area. Butler’s army was around Bermuda Hundred, again prevented from threatening Petersburg by geography, Beauregard’s army, and his own ineffectiveness.

The United States Congress passed measures that set up the postal money order system.

Where Minnesota Regiments were the week of May 11-17, 1864 

Active units:

1st Battalion Minnesota Infantry – Created from the remnants of the old 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment, the 1st Battalion Minnesota Infantry, under Colonel Mark W. Downie, left Fort Snelling for Washington, D.C. on May 16. They arrived in Washington on May 30, 1864. 

2nd Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Participated in the Battle of Resaca as part of Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign.

3rd Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty at Pine Bluff, Arkansas until October 10, 1864.

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

5th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty at Mansura, Louisiana until May 18, 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 24, 1864.

9th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Left their outposts at Rolla, Jefferson City, LaMine Bridge, Warrensburg, Independence, Knob Noster, Kansas City, Waynesville and Franklin, Missouri and consolidated at St. Louis, remaining there until May 29, 1864.

10th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Companies E and D were on duty at Island No. 10 until June 15, 1864. The remaining companies were on duty around Columbus, Kentucky until June 19, 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 – Left Fort Snelling May 2 and was on duty at Sioux City, Iowa until June 4, 1864.

Hatch’s Independent Battalion of Cavalry – Companies A, B, C and D moved to Fort Abercrombie. Companies A and B assigned to garrison at Fort Abercrombie.  Company C assigned to garrison at Alexandria and Pomme de Terre. Company D on patrol duty from Fort Abercrombie to Pembina.  Companies E and F on frontier duty. The battalion would remain in these duty locations for the duration of the war – until April 26, 1866.

1st Minnesota Light Artillery Battery – Moved to Rome, Georgia via Clifton, Tenn.; untsvilleHuntsville and Decatur, Ala.; and Big Shanty, Ga. arriving on June 9, 1864 to join the Atlanta Campaign.

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.

1st United States Sharpshooters Company I– Now detached from the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment, in camp at Stevensburg, Virginia awaiting the arrival of the 1st Battalion of Minnesota Infantry at the end of May 1864. 

2nd United States Sharpshooters, Company A – Participated in the assault at the Confederate salient during Grant’s Overland Campaign.

Inactive units: 

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

1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Mustered out of Federal service on April 29, 1864. Inactive.

About civilwarweek

Member - Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force, Civil War reenactor and historian since 1993, holds Bachelor's Degree in History from Concordia University-St. Paul, currently pursuing Master's Degree in History at St. Cloud State University and is author of the forthcoming book, "Muskets and Memories: A Modern Man's Journey through the Civil War."
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