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While the general situation on land, especially in Virginia, was so advantageous for the Confederacy, and the grand events of the campaign of 1864 had so far been decided in its favor, there occurred an incident of disaster, which, though distant in point of space, and of but little real importance in the decision of the general fortune of the war, was yet the subject of keen and peculiar regret to the Confederates.
This incident was the loss of the famous privateer Alabama. She had eluded the Yankee naval vessels at the Cape of Good Hope and Straits of Sunda, and returning westward had proceeded to the French port of Cherbourg. Here Captain Semmes of the Alabama was strongly persuaded-probably by those who valued the eclat abroad of the Southern arms more than the substantial interests of the Confederacy, so unequally matched in the war, especially in point of naval power—to risk his vessel in a gratuitous fight with a Yankee steamer lying off the harbor-the Kearsarge. The only object of such a naval duel could be the desire of a certain glory on the part of Captain Semmes, for which he took the unwarrantable risk of sacrificing the only really formidable naval structure of the Confederates. It should have occurred to him that, even in the event of success, he would inflict no appreciable injury upon the enemy's naval power, and would secure nothing more than some of that idle glory which was already cheap with his countrymen.
The ships were about equal in match, the tonnage being about the same--the Alabama carrying one 7-inch Blakely rifled gun, one 8-inch smooth-bore pivot gun, and six 32pounders, smooth-bore, in broadside; the Kearsarge carrying four broadside 32-pounders, two 11-inch and one 28-pound rifle. On the morning of the 19th of June, the Alabama steamed out of the harbor of Cherbourg, for the purpose of engaging the Kearsarge, which had been lying off-and-on the port for several days previously. She came up with the latter at a distance of about seven miles from the shore. The vessels were about one mile from each other, when the Alabama opened with solid shot upon the enemy, to which he replied in a few minutes.
To prevent passing each other too speedily, and to maintain their respective broadsides bearing, it became necessary to fight
in a circle, the two ships steaming around a common centre, and preserving a distance from each other of from a quarter to half a mile. The enemy's shot and shell began to tell upon the hull of the Alabama. Captain Semmes remarked that his shell, though apparently exploding against the sides of the Kearsarge, were doing her but little damage, and returned to solid shot firing, afterwards alternating with shot and shell.
In little more than an hour, the Alabama was ascertained to be in a sinking condition, the enemy's shell having exploded in her sides and between decks, opening large apertures, through which the water rushed with great rapidity. For some few minutes Captain Semmes had hopes of being able to reach the French coast, for which purpose he gave the ship all steam, and set such of the fore and aft sails as were available. The ship filled so rapidly, however, that before she had made much progress the fires were extinguished in the furnaces, and she was evidently on the point of sinking.
Captain Semmes hauled down his colors, when the Kearsarge was within four hundred yards of him. Yet the enemy fired upon the Alabama five times after her colors had been struck. “It is charitable to suppose," says Captain Semmes, "that a ship of war of a Christian nation could not have done this intentionally.”
As the Alabama was on the point of settling, every man, in obedience to a previous order which had been given the crew, jumped overboard and endeavored to save himself. There was no appearance of any boat coming froin the enemy after the Alabama went down. Fortunately, howerer, the steamyacht Deerhound, owned by a gentleman of Lancashire, England, Mr. John Lancaster, who was himself on board, steamed up in the midst of the drowning men, and rescued a number of both officers and men from the water, among them Captain Semmes himself.
The loss of the Alabama in killed and wounded was thirty. There was no life lost on the Kearsarge; and although she had received thirteen or fourteen shots in and about the hull, and sixteen or seventeen about the masts and rigging, she was not materially damaged. In his official report of the fight, Captain Semmes said: “At the end of the engagement, it was discovered by those of our officers who went alongside the enemy's ship with
the wounded, that her midship section, on both sides, was thoroughly iron-coated; this having been done with chain constructed for the purpose, placed perpendicularly from the rail to the water's edge, the whole covered over by a thin outer planking, which gave no indication of the armor beneath. This planking had been ripped off in every direction by our shot and shell, the chain broken and indented in many places, and forced partly into the ship's side. She was most effectually guarded, however, in this section from penetration.”
The loss of the Alabama was a most severe blow to the privateer service of the South. That service had already caused nearly a thousand Yankee vessels to be sold to foreign shipping merchants; and it was officially reported at Washington that 478,665 tons of American shipping were flying other flags. Such bad been the terror inspired by Confederate privateers, of which the Alabama had been, by far, the most formidable. She alone had accomplished a work of destruction estimated at from eight to ten millions of dollars. It was reported that the news of her loss was received on the exchanges of New York and Boston with a joy far livelier than would have been conceived by these commercial patriots, if they had heard of a great victory over Lee's army in Virginia.
Sherman's campaign in Georgia.—How parallel with that in Virginia.—The tasks
of Grant and Sherman compared.-Numerical inferiority of General Johnston's forces. His proposition to the Richmond authorities. – Pragmatism of President Davis and his secretary.- Engagement in Resaca Valley.-General Johnston's designs.-Why be retreated.-His disappointment of a battle at Cassville.-EnGAGEMENT AT NEW HOPE Church.- True theory of the retrograde movement of Johnston.-BATTLE OF KENESAW MOUNTAIN.-Sherman's confession.--Sherman master of the Chattahoochee.—Johnston falls back to Atlanta.—The vexed question of Johnston's retreat.- What it surrendered.-What it secured.-Iis strategia advantages.-The enemy's movements in Virginia and Georgia both in check.Disappointment of the enemy.-Statistics of Yankee recruiting.–Another Confederate success.- Defeat of Sturgis.—" The Avengers of Fort Pillow."— Barbarities of the enemy's summer campaign.--Augmentation of Yankee ferocity.--Its effect on the Confederates.-Offensive operation of the Confederates.- Three projects of invasion.-Early's INVASION OF MARYLAND, &c.-Sigel's retreat.BATTLE OF Monocacy Bridge.-Early loses the great opportunity of 1864.- Results of his expedition.- Engagement at Kernstown.-Morgan's Invasion of KenTUCKY.-His failure.-Price's INVASION OF MISSOURI.-Pilot Knob.--General Ewing's retrcat.--Price retires.
PARALLEL and concurrent with Grant's summer campaign in Virginia, was the more difficult but less deadly campaign of Sherman in Georgia. Grant's point d'appui was on the Rapidan, while Sherman's was at Chattanooga, in Tennessee. The Alleghany Mountains separated these grand movements; a thousand miles of distance intervened between them; communication between them was rare, and, to a certant extent, impossible. There is no doubt that Sherman had the more difficult task to accomplish. He had but a single line of railway to reach his objective point, Atlanta, and this traversed a wild and mountainous country. Grant could change his base at pleasure, or as circumstances required it; he had water communication with the North, and transports within hailing distance; he could run no danger from lack of subsistence or munitions of war. Again, Sherinan, passing through a broken and intricate country, had to guard his flanks and rear, at every step, from cavalry. Grant had only to put an army of occupation in the Shenandoah Valley to close the single defile between the great mountain ridges of Virginia, and thus securely protect his rear from even the possibility of danger. It appears from the official report of General Sherman's
operations, that he had estimated the force required to reach and capture Atlanta, at one hundred thousand men and two hundred and fifty pieces of artillery: he started with ninety-eight thousand seven hundred and ninety-seven men and two hundred and fifty-four guns. This force was divided as follows:--Army of the Cumberland, Major-General Thomas, sixty thousand seven hundred and seventy-three men, one hundred and thirty guns; Army of the Tennessee, Major-General McPherson, twentyfour thousand four hundred and sixty-five men, ninety-six guns; Army of the Ohio, Major-General Schofield, thirteen thousand five hundred and fifty-nine men, twenty-eight guns. Sherman's intention was to make these proportions fifty thousand, thirty-five thousand, and fifteen thousand, but that wretched fiasco known as the Red River Expedition kept back some of McPherson's troops, and, besides ruining itself, did as much as possible towards impeding Sherman. It will be seen
. he was furnished within twelve hundred of the number of men he asked for.
Here again we have the repetition of the story of fearful odds against the Confederates. General Joseph E. Johnston, who had taken command of the Army of Tennessee, had held the Confederate lines in North Georgia, during the winter, with thirty odd thousand men. On the 1st of December, 1864, he enumerated the effective total of the infantry and artillery of the army, including two brigades belonging to the department of Mississippi, as 36,826. The effective total of the cavalry, including Roddy’s command at Tuscumbia, was 5,613.
In the last weeks of February, 1865, General Johnston had proposed to the government at Richmond an offensive movement against the enemy, on the just ground that he was increasing the disproportion of numbers, and would take the Confederates at greater disadvantage than if they were to essay at once a forward movement and try issues with him.
The proposition lingered in the War Department from February to May. General Bragg and President Davis had their own plan of offensive operations. General Johnston in vain