This Week in the American Civil War: May 25-31, 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 May 25, 1864

Federal Major General Joseph Hooker drove towards the Confederate position at New Hope Church, Georgia, but the defenders repulsed the attacks during a fierce thunderstorm. The attack not only resulted in high casualties, but slowed the momentum of Federal Major General William T. Sherman’s campaign.

Thursday May 26, 1864

As darkness fell, Lieutenant General Ulysses Grant and Major General George G. Meade began withdrawing the Army of the Potomac across the North Anna River. The army would then cross the Pamunkey River and head toward Hanovertown, Virginia, far around the right of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.

Further west, in the Shenandoah Valley, Federal Major General David Hunter headed from Strasburg and Cedar Creek toward Staunton, Virginia. Hunter had about 16,000 men and was opposed by Confederate Brigadier General William E. “Grumble” Jones 8,500 men.

As Major General William T. Sherman’s entire Federal army pushed forward slowly, skirmishing was quite heavy. By evening, the two armies were very close to each other and entrenched. The character of the Atlanta Campaign now changed from mainly a campaign of movement and occasional fighting to a war of entrenchments on both sides. The actions were known as “about Dallas” and Burned Church, Georgia, in the official records.

Friday May 27, 1864

Federal Major General Phil Sheridan’s cavalry occupied Hanovertown, Virginia, south of the Pamunkey River, with little opposition. Meanwhile, the infantry corps continued their march from the North Anna River to the Pamunkey. Fighting, mainly by cavalry, erupted at Hanover Junction, Sexton’s Station, Mount Carmel Church, Dabney’s Ferry, Hanovertown, Little River, Pole Cat Creek, and Salem Church. Learning of Federal Lieutenant General Ulysses Grant’s advance, Confederate General Robert E. Lee began moving back on his shorter lines from his position near Hanover Junction, heading south and then eastward.

On the New Hope Church-Dallas line in Georgia, there was some shifting of positions and heavy fighting, especially near Mount Zion Church. Major General Oliver O. Howard’s Federal corps attacked at Pickett’s Mills northeast of New Hope Church and was repulsed with fairly heavy losses in the difficult and heavily wooded country. 

Saturday May 28, 1864

Confederate General Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia, hurrying from the North Anna River, arrived north of the Chickahominy River and Mechanicsville. then, moving southeast toward Cold Harbor, Lee again got in front of Federal Lieutenant General Ulysses Grant’s army, which was crossing the Pamunkey River near Hanovertown. Fighting, mainly between cavalry forces, occurred at Aenon Church, Jones’s Farm, Crump’s Creek and Haw’s Shop, as well as along the Totopotomoy Creek. Although Lee was in front of Grant, both he and Confederate President Jefferson Davis had cause for concern. Davis told Lee that General P.G.T. Beauregard, south of Richmond, was strengthening his defenses but was outnumbered at least two-to-one.

In Georgia, Confederate Joseph E. Johnston, hoping to disrupt Federal plans for a shift to the left, ordered Lieutenant General William J. Hardee to make a reconnaissance in force against Federal Major General James B. McPherson near Dallas. In a sharp contest, the Confederates suffered heavily and pulled back.

In Missouri, Confederates sacked Lamar and skirmishes broke out at Warrensburg and Pleasant Hill. Action flared near Little Rock and at Washington, Arkansas, and at Pest House opposite Port Hudson, Louisiana.

Far from the scene of the American  Civil War, Maximilian of Hapsburg landed at Vera Cruz to take the throne of Mexico, backed by France’s Napoleon III and opposed by Mexican leader Benito Juarez.

Sunday May 29, 1864

    The Federal Army of the Potomac marched towards Richmond south of the Pamunkey River, meeting little opposition. But Confederate General Robert E. Lee, a bit father on, was preparing his lines.

In Georgia, there was mostly shifting of positions and sharp skirmishing. At night, Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston opened up his artillery and outposts were pushed near Federal Major General James B. McPherson’s works. The lines were close everywhere and irregular fire was commonplace in the Georgia woodlands. Also commonplace was the mounting number of casualties, not part of a big battle, but the inevitable attrition of a large campaign.

Monday May 30, 1864

In Virginia, fighting broke out at Matadequin Creek, Old Church, Shady Grove, Armstrong’s Farm and at Ashland. Federal Lieutenant General Ulysses Grant’s main force arrived along Totopotomoy Creek and faced Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s line north of the Chickahominy River. At White House, on the Pamunkey River, Federal Major General William F. Smith brought two corps of reinforcements to Grant, who was now nearly as close to Richmond as Major General George B. McClellan was in 1862 but again the Confederates barred the way. Fighting was heavy as the Federals felt out the Confederate line, determining where it lay.

In Georgia, the lines still held around New Hope Church and Dallas and the skirmishing and sharpshooting continued with action near Allatoona and Burned Church.

In South Carolina, a minor Federal bombardment of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor was opened. It lasted until June 5 and consisted of 319 rounds.

Tuesday May 31, 1864

Still determined to get around Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s right flank Federal Lieutenant General Ulysses Grant shifted part of his lines towards Cold Harbor. However, Lee and his Confederates shifted also and were there in front of him, setting the scene for a large battle to come. In the meantime, fighting occurred at Mechump’s Creek, Shallow Creek, Turner’s Farm and Bethesda Church, Virginia. When the month of May began, Grant was north of the Rapidan River. Now he was knocking on the back-door of Richmond.

In Georgia, Federal Major General William T. Sherman had also moved several miles towards Atlanta from far northwestern Georgia, but he, too, confronted a determined and skillful foe. Federals and Confederates had each lost approximately nine thousand troops during the month of May.

Where Minnesota Regiments were the week of May 25-31, 1864 

Active units:

1st Battalion Minnesota Infantry – Moved to White House Landing, New Kent County, Virginia. 

2nd Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Guarded trains in the Cassville, Georgia area during 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 Vicksburg, Mississippi until June 4, 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 duty at Fort Ridgely, Minnesota until June 5, 1864.

9th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – En route from St. Louis, Missouri to Memphis, Tennessee, arriving there June 1, 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 Ridgely until June 4, 1864.

Brackett’s Battalion of Minnesota Cavalry –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 – On line at the Pamunkey River and at Totopotomy Creek 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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