Monthly Record of Current Events, January 31.
OUR Record closes on the 31st of January. The capture of Savannah and Hood's retreat Southward from Tennessee concluded the campaign of 1864. Up to that time the war for the Union had been for the most part a repeated series of campaigns along the border, or at important points along the coast, rarely overstepping certain pretty well defined limits. Virginia and Tennessee had been the great battle-grounds, of the war. Two great inroads, however, had been made in the western part of the Confederacy. The capture of Vicksburg in 1863 had secured to the Federal armies undisturbed possession of the Mississippi River to its mouth, and a partial sway over a wide strip of Mississippi on the one side, and of Arkansas and Louisiana on the other. From Cairo to New Orleans the Federal gun-boats paroled the river, absolutely preventing communication between the Confederate armies on either side. From Chattanooga, also, on the southern border of Tennessee, Sherman had advanced through Georgia; in the first stage, and by the rugged marches and severe battles of the summer campaign, transferring his military centre to Atlanta, and in the second stage, by an easy promenade, in the months of November and December, to Savannah on the Atlantic coast. Proceeding upon this second stage, he had left a campaign behind him and a skillful general to decide it; while he was investing Savannah Hood was being defeated and driven from before Nashville. By this movement through Georgia Sherman, if he had not permanently bisected the cis-Atlantic portion of the Confederacy, had at least done so temporarily, by a pretty thorough mutilation of the railroad system centring at Atlanta.
Such was the military situation in the South and West at the close of our last Record. A new era of the war had begun. The Confederacy, by its reverses in the Shenandoah and in Tennessee, had been driven to a purely defensive policy, and, even for the purposes of defense, had been so far exhausted as to be able against three grand armies to oppose but one — namely, Lee's army in Virginia. That army was immediately threatened from City Point, near at hand, and from Savannah, at a distance. The theatre of impending conflict was narrowed down to the territory between the James and Savannah rivers, including the two Carolinas and the southern half of Virginia. On the James was Grant's army, on the Savannah was Sherman's — both well appointed, confident, and efficient. Lee's army confronted the former; the latter had opposed to it, and in the way of its advance northward, only detachments scattered along the coast and at important points in the interior immediately threatened.
So far as General Sherman is concerned, the last month has been one of elaborate preparation. His army — at the beginning of the year numbering sixty thousand, cavalry and infantry — has been strongly reinforced. Efficient corps formerly associated with it in the West have rejoined it. A portion of the Nineteenth Corps, under General Grover, has relieved General Geary's command from duty in Savannah. The campaign about to be entered upon from this point is stupendous in its proportions, and beset with uncommon difficulties, from the nature of the country in which it is to be conducted. The enemy, too, will be able to oppose an obstinate resistance. It is not unlikely that Sherman will have to confront as large an army as he fought in the Atlanta campaign, and it is quite probable that he will again be opposed to General Joseph Johnston. The Confederate Congress, January 21, passed a measure providing for the office of Generalissimo, with the intent that it should be filled by General Lee. A few days before this bill was passed the General Assembly of Virginia recommended to Mr. Davis the appointment of General Lee as General-in-Chief. Mr. Davis replied that whenever it should be found practicable by General Lee to assume command of all the armies of the Confederate States, without withdrawing him from the direct command of the Army of Northern Virginia, he would place him in such command.
This would seem to indicate that Lee may retain his present position; at least, it is known that up to the 31st he had not even been nominated Generalissimo. If this indication be borne out by facts, it is probable that to General Johnston will be given the command of the army of the Carolinas confronting General Sherman. In that event we shall have repeated the tactics of last summer's campaign in Georgia.
In this opening campaign there are two favorable features. The first arises from the number of available bases of operation along or near the coast from Savannah to Fortress Monroe. Of these there are at least four — Pocotaligo, accessible by Broad River; Charleston; Georgetown, at the mouth of the Santee, which river is navigable to Columbia, as the Savannah River is to Augusta; and Wilmington, accessible by Cape Fear River. The other favorable feature is the temper of the people of Georgia and North Carolina in relation to the war, between which two States South Carolina is sandwiched. The disposition of the people of Georgia to submit to the Federal Government has been greatly increased since the occupation of Savannah. The date of occupation was December 21, 1864. Just one week afterward a meeting of citizens was held, under the call of their Mayor, Doctor Richard Arnold, and resolutions were unanimously adopted " to accept peace, submitting to the national authority under the Constitution, laying aside all differences, and burying by-gones in the grave of the past." Sherman's policy toward the citizens was beneficent and judicious. It was known throughout the State that perfect order reigned in Savannah; and that soldiers were in all instances summarily punished for any interference with the citizens. The charge against Sherman's army, that in its march through the State it had been guilty of outrages upon citizens, was retracted by the Georgia papers as totally unfounded in fact. These facts influenced the people of the State, and more especially the southeastern part, where Union meetings were held, and the people prepared to resist Confederate authority. Among other features connected with Sherman's policy in his Department, which comprises all the territory south of Virginia, the order of January 16, providing homes for freedmen, is noticeable. For this purpose he has appropriated the islands south from Charleston, the abandoned rice plantations along the rivers for 30 miles back from the sea, and the country bordering on the St. John River, Florida. In settlements hereafter to be established no white person is to reside, but the negroes are to have the exclusive management of affairs. General R. Saxton was by this order appointed Inspector of Settlements and Plantations.
The first of the above-mentioned bases of operations in the Carolinas and the one nearest Savannah, Pocotaligo, has already been secured. January 14 the Fifteenth and Seventeenth Corps, under Howard, were transferred to Beaufort, and from that point moved upon the place, which was abandoned by the Confederate force, the latter retreating to the north side of the Combahee River. The point thus gained is 50 miles distant from Charleston, and 30 miles from Branchville.
The most important part of the operations against Wilmingion, the naval base nearest to the James, was successfully accomplished by the capture of Fort Fisher on the 10th of the month. After the failure of the first attempt against the fort in December, the fleet returned to Beaufort to refit for a second expedition. General Butler, at, the request of the Lieutenant-General, was removed from command of the army of the James, and General Weitzol took a furlough to get married. There had not been a cordial agreement between the military and naval commanders in the first expedition. In the second, Admiral Porter retained command of the fleet; the military command was assigned to General Alfred H. Terry, a skillful though modest soldier, who had in a quiet way distinguished himself at the capture of Fort Pulaski, in the operations against Morris Island and Fort Wagner, and in the summer campaign of Butler's army north of the James. The force given to General Butler in the first expedition had consisted of 6500 men. Terry's force was the same with the addition of a single brigade, making in all about 10,000 men. Besides these Admiral Porter had over a thousand marines available for the assault. The expedition arrived off Federal Point on the morning of the 13th. In the afternoon the troops were landed with provisions for twelve days. At 7.30 A.M. Porter sent in five monitors — the Monadnock, Mahopac, Saugus, Canonicus, and New Ironsides, the latter taking the lead; and the action commenced within a thousand yards of the fort. The effect of the bombardment was soon seen upon the southern angle of the work: traverses were disarranged, and one after another the guns were silenced. The wooden ships following the Brooklyn formed a second line of attack.
The bombardment from the fleet was continued on the 14th with good effect until sunset, when, says Admiral Porter, "the fort was reduced to a pulp." A reconnoissance was made by Terry, and it was arranged between him and Porter that an assault should be made at three P. M. the next day; the bombardment to continue up to that time. At the time fixed upon for this event, Paine's Division of colored soldiers, carefully intrenched, held the entire width of the beach facing toward Wilmington. This was to confront Hoke's Division, which might approach from Wilmington. This division, in the first expedition, was near at hand on Butler's flank. It did not at this time make its appearance, though it had by way of the river reinforced the garrison of the fort with about one thousand men. The assaulting party was formed in two separate columns — one consisting of the naval brigade, 1200 strong, under Commander K. E. Breese, the other, about 3000 strong, under General Ames. The former advanced against the seaward front of the fort under a terrific fire of grape and canister. The fire of the fleet had broken a way through the stockade guarding the approach to this side by flank, and the advance of the column rushed through to scale the fort. It had been intended that while this was being done a portion of the marine force in the trenches would cover the boarding party with their fire. But this was not done. As the stockade was readied Lieutenants Porter and Preston fell mortally wounded. The assault failed, and the brigade fell back the garrison of the fort, numbering 2300 men, supposed this to be the main column, and that Ames's Division in the woods was intended as a support. But while they were giving their whole attention to this attack, Ames was already entering the eastern side of the fort facing the river. Here began a series of traverses — seventeen in number — on the northeast face. These were immense bomb-proofs, 60 feet in length and 23 in height, between which were mounted the guns on that side. Seven of these had been gained almost by surprise; the top of the eighth was reached, but was regained by the enemy. Here began the fierce contest in the fort which lasted nearly eight hours. The fire of the fleet was successfully directed against the traverses still in the enemy's possession. At four o'clock one half the fort had been gained, and the position was maintained until nine o'clock, when reinforcements arrived, and a final charge drove the enemy from the fort toward the extremity of the point, where the surrender was made. The fight had been severe — hand to hand, musket against musket; and the loss on both sides was great. Of the garrison 1900 men were surrendered, the other 400 being either killed or wounded. Every one of the brigade commanders of Ames's column — Curtis, Pennyhacker, and Bell — had been wounded. The entire loss in the military division was 691, of which 88 were killed and 92 missing. Admiral Porter states his loss at 330. Total loss, 1021. The fort mounted 55 heavy guns, which were captured; among them a 150-pound Armstrong gun, bearing the name of its inventor. The capture of Fort Fisher was immediately followed by the possession of Fort Caswell, commanding the Old Inlet, and all the fortifications near the mouth of Cape Fear River. The capture ofWilmington will probably follow soon, when that city will become the grand base of the Carolina campaign.
The next morning after the capture of Fort Fisher a lamentable accident occurred. By some culpable negligence soldiers were allowed to approach the magazine with lighted candles. This occasioned an explosion, from which upward of 200 casualties resulted, which are included in the above estimate of losses.
The Virginia campaign has developed nothing new. The Shenandoah has ceased to be an important theatre of operations on either side. On the 11th a detachment of the enemy, under General Rosser, advanced to Beverly, in West Virginia, and succeeded in surprising and capturing the small national force stationed at that point. — On New-Year's Day the bulkhead of the Dutch Gap Canal was removed by explosion. The result was hardly satisfactory, as a good portion of the earth returned into the crater formed by the explosion. Six tons of powder were used. This was to have been the final step in a bold scheme for cutting off seven miles of the James River by a canal two hundred yards in length across Dutch Gap — the narrow neck of the peninsula known as Farrar's Island. The work, which was originally General Butler's suggestion, was surveyed August 7, and was under the superintendence of General B. C. Ludlow, assisted by Major Peter S. Michie, chief of engineers on Butler's staff. — On the 23d an attempt was made by the Confederate iron-clads on the James to descend the river past the obstructions off Farrar's Island. It was a bold design directed against General Grant's base at City Point, and against the army north of the river. At least three iron-clads — the Richmond, Virginia, and Fredericksburg — were engaged in the raid. These were accompanied by the Drewry, a small wooden gun-boat mounting one gun. This boat got aground and was blown up. The enemy claims that the Fredericksburg passed the obstructions, but says that, owing to the Richmond and Virginia getting aground, the expedition was given up. It was really the land batteries that prevented the success of this daring raid, the most prominent among them being the Curtis House Battery.
General Hood effected his escape across the Tennessee River December 23 at Bainbridge, eight miles above Florence. He owed his safe retreat to Forrest's cavalry, which effectually covered his rear after the stand made at Spring Hill.
On the 21st, General Grierson started from Memphis with a force 3000 strong for a raid against the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, in General Hood's rear. He destroyed the road in great part from Corinth to Okalona. Ten miles south of the latter point he met with formidable resistance, and instead of proceeding to Meridian, as was his first intention, he turned westward, striking the Mississippi Central Railroad below Granada, destroying 30 miles of it with several locomotives and 50 cars, together with extensive factories. About 700 prisoners were captured, including Brigadier-General Gholson. There were also brought away 1000 negroes and as many horses.
On the 7th, a party of Indians attacked the Overland Mail coach near Julesburg, Colorado, and robbed the express mail. The troops at Julesburg started in pursuit, and a fight ensued, in which 35 Indians and 19 whites were killed.
The great political event of the month was the passage by the House, on the 31st, of the following joint resolution:
"Be it resolved, by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, two-thirds of both Houses concurring, That the
532following articles be proposed to the Legislatures of the several States as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States; when ratified by three-fourths of said Legislatures shall he valid to all intents and purposes as a part of the said Constitution, namely:
"ARTICLE 13. — Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
"Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."
The vote stood 119 for to 56 against — being two votes more in favor of the resolution, than the requisite two-thirds majority. The following members of the Opposition voted in the affirmative: Messrs. Bailey, Coffroth, and M'Allister, of Pennsylvania, Baldwin of Michigan, English of Connecticut, Hutchins of Ohio, Rollins and King of Missouri, Yeaman of Kentucky, Wheeler of Wisconsin, and Ganson, Griswold, Herrick, Nelson, Odell, Radford, and Steele, of New York. There were eight members absent or not voting. Of the votes in the negative only one was from an Administration member — that of Brutus J. Clay of Kentucky. This joint resolution passed the Senate April 8,1864, by a vote of 38 to 6, six members not voting. It came up before the House May 31, and was lost, there being only 95 votes for to 66 against.
The State Convention of Missouri, at St. Louis, on the 11th, passed the following ordinance by a vote of 60 to 4:
"Be it ordained by the people of the State of Missouri, in Convention assembled, that hereafter in this State there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except in punishment of crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted."
Besides the joint resolution above mentioned the following measures have passed the United States Congress: Resolution of inquiry respecting the credits given to the several States on the ground of naval enlistments, and the principle of their apportionment; to which the Secretary of War replied that the number of credits given for naval enlistments from April 17, 1861, to January 24,1864, was 67,687, which had been apportioned to the places where the enlisted men resided. — Joint resolution to give the Government of Great Britain notice of the repeal of the Reciprocity Treaty. — Bill changing the place of holding the United States Circuit and District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia from Richmond to Norfolk. — The Amendatory Loan Bill, providing for no additional loan, but only changing the one already authorized from five-twenties to seven-thirties. — Resolution for the appointment of a Committee to count the votes in the late Presidential election; an amendment was added in the House, excluding from representation in the Electoral College the States of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee. — The Consular and Diplomatic Appropriation Bill: occasion was taken to insert before the word "Mexico" the words "Republic of" instead of " Empire of."
The following measures have passed the Senate: Joint resolution to free the families of colored soldiers. — Bill amending the act denning the pay of army officers so that a brevet rank shall not entitle the holder to any increase of pay. — Resolution to retaliate upon Southern prisoners for the sufferings inflicted upon our own, with amendments restricting its operations so that they shall conform to the law of nations and the usages of civilized war.
In the House, the following have been the principal measures passed: Resolution of inquiry as to the Parrott guns burst in the first bombardment of Fort Fisher, their number, and the cause of explosion; to which the Secretary of the Navy replied that five guns were destroyed, on the Ticonderoga, Junita, Mackinaw, Quaker City, and Yantic. — Bill providing that in any action by or against any executors, administrators, or guardians, in which judgment may be rendered for or against them, neither party shall be allowed to testify against the other unless called to do so by the other. — Resolution of inquiry relative to prisoners confined in Old Capitol and Carroll prisons. — Amendment to the Legislative Appropriation Bill, appropriating, in addition to the $2,000,000 already appropriated, $1,777,000 for procuring dies, stamps, and paper for printing and circulating Treasury Notes. — Post-office Appropriation Bill. — Resolution to reduce the duty on imported printing paper from 20 to 3 per cent. ad valorem, which was reported in the Senate afterward with an amendment to reduce the duty to 15 per cent. — Resolutions of inquiry into the facts relative to the trade with insurrectionary States. — Resolution providing for the publication of President Madison's correspondence.
The House resolution dropping from the Army List all unemployed general officers was indefinitely postponed in the Senate.
The Spanish Cortes were opened December 22. January 7 Marshal Narvaez submitted a bill to repeal the act reincorporating San Domingo in the Spanish monarchy. The bill met with great resistance from the Opposition. The attitude of Spain toward Peru has become moderate, and it is likely that there will be no hostile collision on the Chincha Islands question.
Victor Emanuel has decreed that the Florentine convents shall be appropriated for the use of Government.
The Russian Emperor has issued an ukase extending the abolition of serfdom to Trans-Caucasia, the only province of the Russian empire where that institution still exists.