Monthly Record of Current Events, July 8.
About the 9th of June the Confederate army under General Lee began to leave its position near Fredericksburg, apparently moving in a northwesterly direction. A few days march would take them to the Potomac north of Washington; crossing the river they might turn southward, threatening the capital on its undefended side, and menacing Baltimore and Philadelphia. There was at first no means of ascertaining whether this was the plan of Lee, or whether the movement was only a feint under cover of which large reinforcements were to bo sent to the relief of the besieged garrison of Vicksburg. Events soon showed that an invasion of the North, with the entire force of the Army of Virginia, was intended. In the Valley of the Shenandoah our advanced position was at Winchester, which was held by General Milroy with about 7000 men, and about as many more were scattered at posts in the vicinity. On the 13th the Confederate General Ewell, with a force estimated at 15,000 or 18,000 men, made an attack upon Milroy at Winchester, and carried his outer intrenchments by storm. During the night a council of war was held, and it was resolved to retreat, leaving behind all the ammunition and stores. But the retreating forces had hardly begun their march when they were assailed bv an overwhelming force, and utterly routed. Of the 7000 men only about 2000 succeeded in forcing their way in a body and gaining Harper's Ferry, 32 miles distant, losing every thing except what they carried on their persons. Some others afterward came in; and General Milroy estimated his whole loss at 2000, which is probably below the truth. On the 14th the first body of the Confederate army appear to have crossed the Potomac, and advanced upon Hagerstown, Maryland. On the 10th President Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for an additional force of 100,000 men to repel the invasion. Of these Maryland was to furnish 10,000, Pennsylvania 50,000, Ohio 30,000, and West Virginia 30,000, to serve for six months, unless sooner discharged; and immediately after New York was called upon to furnish 20,000. New York was the first to respond to the call. The Seventh, Eighth, and Seventy-first Regiments left New York on the 17th, followed on the next and subsequent days by other regiments. Most of these were sent to Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania, which appeared to be the immediate point at which the enemy were aiming. Meanwhile other bodies of the enemy had crossed the Potomac, and were spreading themselves in various directions through the border counties of Maryland and Pennsylvania. They occupied Frederick City, the capital of Maryland, Chambersburg, York, Gettysburg, Carlisle, and came within a few miles of Harrisburg on the 29th, seizing horses, clothing, provisions, and every thing which could be of use to them, levying contributions, and inflicting serious damage upon the railroads, but generally abstaining, in pursuance of strict orders, from the wanton destruction of private property. About the 27th the main body of the enemy crossed the river into Maryland at Williamsport, and Leo took up his headquarters at Hagerstown.
In the mean while our Army of the Potomac had broken up from its encampment on the Rappahannock on the 11th and 12th, and marched northward on a line nearly parallel with that of the enemy. Several brilliant skirmishes between cavalry detachments took place, the most important of these being on the 21st, at Middleburg, Virginia, where our cavalry, under General Pleasanton, gained a decided advantage over that of the enemy, under Stuart. It was for a time supposed that a general engagement would take place on the old Bull Run battle-ground. But Lee kept on northward, and succeeded in entering Maryland without encountering our forces. The route of our army was kept carefully concealed, and it was not even known that it had crossed the Potomac until the 27th, when the head-quarters were at Frederick City, which had been abandoned by the enemy. On this day General Hooker was relieved from the command of the army, which was conferred upon General George G. Meade, of Pennsylvania, In his farewell address to the Army, General Hooker says, "In conformity with orders from the War Department, I relinquish the command of the Army of the Potomac. It is transferred to Major-General George G. Meade, a brave and accomplished soldier, who has nobly earned the confidence and esteem of the army on many a well-fought field. Impressed with the belief that my usefulness as commander of the Army of the Potomac is impaired, I part from it, yet not without the deepest emotion." General Meade, on assuming the command, issued the following General Order:
By direction of the President of the United States, I hereby assume command of the Army of the Potomac. As a soldier, in obeying this order, an order totally unexpected and unsolicited, I have no promises or pledges to make. The country looks to this army to relieve it from the devastation and disgrace of a hostile invasion. Whatever fatigues and sacrifices we may be called upon to undergo, let us have in view constantly the magnitude of the interests involved, and let each man determine to do his duty, leaving to an all-controlling Providence the decision of the contest. It is with just diffidence that I relieve in the command of this army an eminent and accomplished soldier, whose name must ever appear conspicuous in the history of its achievements; but I rely upon the hearty support of my companions in arms to assist me in the discharge of the duties of the important trust which has been confided to me.
The Union army being near Fredericksburg, and that of the Confederates near Hagerstown, a glance at the map will show that our forces were interposed
414between the enemy and both Washington and Baltimore. On the morning after assuming command General Meade ordered the main body of his army to march northward into Pennsylvania, in the general direction of Harrisburg. The enemy at about the same time advanced in force in the same general direction. Gettysburg, a nourishing town of about 2500 inhabitants, was the point at which these two great armies would probably come into contact. It is 35 miles southwest of Harrisburg, 114 from Philadelphia, and 75, almost due north, from Washington. If we were defeated here, the enemy might select either of these points of attack, as suited his convenience.
The First and Eleventh divisions, under Generals Reynolds and Howard, readied Gettysburg on the morning of the 1st of July, and found the enemy in force near the town. Reynolds, with the First, attacked him. He was killed early in the action, and the command of the division devolved upon General Doubleday, who seized a strong position, where he was attacked by overwhelming forces. The Eleventh to whose flight at Chancellorsville the loss of that battle has been ascribed, were ordered to the support of the First, and nobly retrieved their reputation. They were still, however, outnumbered, both flanks being turned, when General Howard, who had assumed the command, fell back a short distance from the town, retaining a commanding position. Thus ended the indecisive battle of the 1st. During the night the whole of our army, with the exception of the Sixth Corps, came up, and the whole force of Lee was also concentrated. General Meade took up his positions for the battle which was now inevitable. Skirmishing began early on the morning of the 2d. But it was not till 4 o'clock in the afternoon that the enemy commenced the serious attack by a fierce cannonade upon Cemetery Hill, the key of our position, held by the Eleventh. This was a feint, to cover an assault upon our left, directed by Longstreet and Hill. Our men began to give way when aid was summoned from the right, and the Twelfth was sent. At this moment Sedgwick came up with the Sixth, after a march of thirty-six hours. In spite of their fatigue they rushed into the fight, and the attack was repelled. Sit was now sunset, and the enemy made a determined assault upon our right, now held by the Twelfth, which had been weakened by the supports sent to the left. The First and the Sixth were sent to the right and the assault was checked. Thus the lines of the two armies were continually changing, from dark until half past nine, when the enemy made their final charge upon our right, which was repulsed, and the action ceased. The enemy had, however, gained a little on the right. To General Slocum, who had held this lost ground, was assigned the task of recovering it on Friday, the 3d. The action was commenced at daybreak by a cannonade upon this point, held by the Confederates under Ewell. This was responded to by a series of desperate charges, lasting for six hours. These were of no avail, and at ten o'clock the enemy had been forced back, and Slocum reoccupied his former position. A brief lull now took place, broken at one o'clock in the afternoon by a cannonade upon our centre, which was kept up for two hours, when a furious charge of infantry was directed against this point. This was unsuccessful, and our troops charging in turn drove the enemy back. They abandoned the field, and the battle was over.
This is a mere outline of some of the leading features of the battles of July 1st, 2d, and 3d, as reported by the correspondents of the press. For complete and authentic reports, other than those furnished by the brief and modest dispatch of General Meade, we must await the publication of the official reports. On the evening of the 3d he simply announced, " The enemy opened at 1 P. M. from about 150 guns concentrated upon my left centre, continuing without intermission for about three hours, at the expiration of which he assaulted my left centre twice, being upon both occasions handsomely repulsed, with severe loss to him, leaving in our hands about 3000 prisoners. After repelling the assault indications leading to the opinion that the enemy might be withdrawing, an armed reconnolssance was pushed forward from the left and the enemy found to be in force. My cavalry have been engaged all day on both flanks of the enemy, harassing and vigorously attacking him with great success, not withstanding they encountered superior numbers, both of cavalry and infantry. The army is in fine spirits." The President thereupon, on the morning of the 4th of July, issued a congratulatory address to the country. The series of actions seem to have been the most desperately contested of any during the war, and our victory far more decisive than was claimed in the brief dispatch of the commanding General. Lee retreated toward the Potomac, leaving behind him his dead and wounded, and all the prisoners whom he had captured. A large number of his army remain in our hands as prisoners. Accounts apparently reliable state that more than 10,000 have been sent to Baltimore, and that these are only a part of the total number taken. The loss on either side during this series of battles has not yet been ascertained. The retreat of Lee was toward Hagerstown and Williamsport, by nearly the same route as that upon which he advanced. As we close the Record of the month we have reports, the reliability of which can not be determined, that Lee has been arrested in his retreat by a sudden rise of the Potomac; that our pursuing forces have overtaken him at Williamsport; and that a battle is now going on at that point.
Vicksburg was unconditionally surrendered to our army under General Grant on the 4th of July, after a close investment of seven weeks. The several attacks upon this place, extending over a period of nearly fifteen months, from May, 1862, to July, 1863, form one of the most remarkable chapters in the history of war. We have already recorded the failure of the earlier attempts: the naval attack of June, 1862; the cut-off, commenced by General Williams, of Butler's command, in July, subsequently renewed in January, which, if successful, would have left Vicksburg an inland town; the defeat of Sherman in December; the various efforts to reach the rear of the place, by the Yazoo Pass, the Lake Providence Canal, and the Big Sunflower Bayou. The expedition under Grant, which, after months of preparation, was fully commenced by the landing at Bruinsburg on the 30th of April, and the battles which followed, closing with the formal investment on the 18th of May, the attempt to carry the works by storm on the 21st and 22d, were noted in our last Record. These assaults proved so destructive to the assailants that it was decided to resort to a regular siege by approaches and parallels. These were pushed on with unrelenting perseverance, our works, in spite of the most strenuous opposition of the garrison under General Pemberton, drawing nearer every day, the gun-boats in the river co-operating keeping up an almost constant bombardment. The
415enemy, it was known, were greatly straitened by want of supplies and ammunition, and their only able of relief was that General Johnston would be able to collect an army sufficient to raise the siege by attacking Grant in his rear. This had been so strongly defended that a force of 50,000 men would have been required to make the attempt with any hope of success, and it does not appear that Johnston was able to concentrate half of that number. On the morning of the 4th of July, therefore, General Pemberton proposed to surrender Vicksburg on condition that his troops should be permitted to march out. Grant refused, demanding an absolute surrender of the garrison as prisoners of war. Upon consultation with his officers, Pemberton acceded to these terms. No statement has been forwarded of number of prisoners or of the amount of munitions which fell into our hands. — The siege of Port Hudson has been vigorously pressed by General Banks. An assault on the 14th of June was repulsed. This was signalized by great bravery on the part of a colored regiment, being the first instance in which our troops of this class have been brought under severe fire. The latest accounts from Port Hudson come down to the close of June, when our approaches were close to the main citadel, and a final assault was daily expected. — The 4th of July was also signalized by an assault by the Confederate Generals Marmaduke and Pries upon General Prentiss Helena, Arkansas; they were repulsed, with a loss of 1500 in killed, wounded, and prisoners.
In Tennessee General Rosecrans advanced from Murfreesboro against the enemy, under Bragg, on the 24th of June. After several sharp skirmishes the enemy fell back upon Tullahoma, where it was expected that a stand would be made. Heavy rains impeded the advance of our troops, who reached Tulahoma on the 1st of July, and found that the enemy had hastily abandoned it the night before, leaving behind them strong fortifications, a small quantity of stores, and three siege guns. The result of this advance, thus far, is to drive the enemy completely out of Tennessee, with considerable loss in killed, wounded, and prisoners.
The depredations upon our commerce by the Confederate privateers continue unchecked. During the two years which have passed since the Sumter commenced her operations, fully 150 of our vessels, worth with their cargoes more than ten millions of dollars, have been destroyed. Of these something more than fifty are to be charged to the steamer Alabama, about twenty to the Florida, and a large number to the bark Tawny, whose ravages have been confined to the trading and fishing vessels off our own coasts. We have assurance that the Confederates have now five steamers on the ocean, and there are credible reports of others which have been purchased and fitted out at different ports in the British dominions. Besides these there are known to be several sailing vessels, capable of doing great damage to our mercantile navy. The career of one of these, the Tacony, commanded by Lieutenant C.W. Reed, exhibits a remarkable degree of boldness. It appears that Lieutenant Reed left Mobile, on board the Confederate armed sloop Florida (to be distinguished from the steamer of the same name), on the 16th of January. Up to the 6th of May this vessel captured fourteen of our merchantmen. Among these was the bark Clarence, to which Lieuenant Reed was transferred, with a crew. This vessel made several captures, the last of which, June 6, was the bark Tawny. Finding this vessel swifter than his own, he transferred his whole force to her, burning the Clarence, and set off upon a cruise along our coast, capturing and destroying several vessels. Ascertaining that a full description of the Tacony had been given, and that a large fleet was in pursuit of her, Lieutenant Reed formed the plan of venturing into some eastern port, and cutting out an armed vessel — a steamer if possible. He accordingly burned the Tawny and transferred his crew to the Archer, which he had captured, and sailed without suspicion into the harbor of Portland, Maine. The revenue cutter Caleb Gushing was lying here, provided for a two months cruise, and heavily armed, but with only a few men on board. The Gushing was boarded on the night of June 26, her crew overpowered, and taken out to sea. Two steamers were next day fitted out in chase. They overtook the Cashing, whose captors set her on fire, and attempted to make their escape to shore in boats, but were all captured. There were only 23 men engaged in this daring and almost successful enterprise. — The Confederate navy has sustained a great and almost irreparable loss in the capture of the iron-clad steamer Atlanta. She was originally the Fingal, an English-built iron steamer, which having run the blockade had been for many months shut in at Savannah. During this time she had been cut down, clothed in iron armor, and thus transformed into a battery more formidable than the Merrimac, being supposed to be not only invulnerable, but capable of a sea voyage. On the 17th of June she came out through the Wilmington River into Warsaw Sound. Commodore Du Font, at Port Royal, having been informed of her intention, had dispatched the "Monitors" Weehawken and Nahant to the Sound to oppose her. But so confident were the enemy of the superiority of the Atlanta that she was accompanied by two steamers filled with persons who expected to witness her triumph. When fairly out into the Sound the Weehawken advanced to meet her, followed by the Nahant. The Atlanta opened fire first, without touching her opponents. When within 300 yards the Weehawken opened fire. The first shot, from her 15-inch gun, virtually decided the contest. It broke through the four inches of iron, backed by 24 inches of wood, prostrating 40 of the crew by the mere concussion; three other shots followed, each taking terrible effect. The Atlanta then struck her colors, and her crew, 128 in number, were made prisoners. The action lasted only 15 minutes, and was decided before the Nahant could come up to participate in it. The Atlanta was fitted out for a long voyage. It is supposed that her intention was to destroy our blockading fleet at Port Royal, and then to endeavor to enter the harbor of New York. Had she succeeded in doing this, she would have held that city at mercy. Apart from the immediate results of the capture, this action fully demonstrates the availability of vessels with Revolving Turrets for the purpose of harbor defense.
Mr. Vallandigham has been nominated by a Convention of the Democratic Party for Governor of Ohio. The Convention appointed a Committee to remonstrate with the President against the arrest and banishment of Mr. Vallandigham. The President, in reply, after discussing the general question involved in this transaction, proposed that a majority of this Committee should affix their signatures to a paper containing the following propositions:
1. That there is now a rebellion in the United States, the object and tendency of which is to destroy the national
Union; and that in your opinion an army and navy are constitutional means for suppressing that rebellion.
2. That no one of you will do any thing which, in his own judgment, will tend to hinder the increase or favor the decrease, or lessen the efficiency of the army or navy, while engaged in the effort to suppress that rebellion; and,
3. That each of you will, in his sphere, do all he can to have the officers, soldiers, and seamen of the army and navy, while engaged in the effort to suppress the rebellion, paid, fed, clad, and otherwise well provided and supported.
This document, thus signed, to be published by the President and this publication to be of itself a revocation of the order in the case of Mr. Vallandigham, who, on his return to the United States, would not, however, be suffered to put himself practically in opposition to the position of his friends. The President thought that such a statement from influential gentlemen of Ohio would more than compensate for any possible harm that could arise from the return of Mr. Vallandigham. This gentleman meanwhile, having been sent South, escaping the blockade, reached Bermuda, and thence sailed for Canada. — The Constitutional Convention of Missouri, on the 1st of July, passed an ordinance for the abolition of slavery in that State. Its essential features are that slaves who in 1870 are over 40 years of age are to be held as servants during life; those under 12 till they are 23, those over 12 till the 4th of July, 1876. Other provisions refer to the sale of slaves from the State.