1864: “Our Preparations For The Spring Campaign”

April 18/64

Chaplain Beugless has gone to Washington to meet his wife. Surgeon Carr is to take a lot of sick soldiers to Washington tomorrow and will be gone ten days. Yesterday the 18th, the 6th Corps was reviewed by Lieut. Gen. U.S. Grant, and the display was fine and the weather delightful. The lines were formed near our camp, each Regiment in “Column of Division.” All the Batteries and wagon trains were in line. General Grant is a short thick set man and rode his horse like a bag of meal. I was a little disappointed in the appearance, but I like the look of his eye. He was more plainly dressed then any other General on the field. After the review Generals Grant, Meade, Sedgwick, Hancock, Warren, Wheaton, Eustis and several others with their staffs rode through our camp. I had the pleasure of saluting for the first time the Lieut. General and received his acknowledgement. We are making our preparations for the spring campaign which cannot be delayed much longer. I have had a fine ride today in search of flowers.

April 21/64

The Regiment has been practicing at the targets today. The weather is delightful, and I have enjoyed a good long ride with Lt. Col. Read (now in command of the 2nd) and Chaplain Beugless. I called on General Wheaton. We are now in the 4th Brigade 2nd Division 6th Corps. I have been pistol firing from the back of my horse. She did not like it very well but soon became accustomed to the sound.

April 26/64

Last night Chaplain Beugless preached his last sermon at our Chapel as the roof of canvas is to be taken off and sent to Washington. The subject of the sermon was “Our duty in the coming campaign.” It was really a fine discourse and was listened to with much attention by the audience. We are getting ready to move, and fighting will begin soon. I hope Gen. Grant will be as successful in the East as in the West. Some of the officers whose time is up in June are already talking of home, but as I am in for the war I am not interested. I want to see the end of the war as I saw the beginning. Last night I called upon General Alexander Shaler and had a very pleasant visit with him.

Elisha H. Rhodes, Private Journal, April 18-26, 1864.

(Source: All For The Union: The Civil War Diary and Letters of Elisha Hunt Rhodes;edited by Robert Hunt Rhodes, 1985, pages 141-143)
General Ulysses S. Grant (1864)

The New General

We’ve written about General Ulysses S. Grant taking command in previous weeks. This time we get a glimpse of a soldier’s view of the new commander. Rhodes – an officer in the 2nd Rhode Island – was not impressed by Grant’s appearance, but he sensed a determination in this general had been lacking in previous ones.

As reflected in a later entry, Rhodes and other soldiers who had fought in the east had some concerns about the new lieutenant general coming from the western theater. They had faced Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia, Grant had not. Still, his reputation for victory had certainly preceded him and the eastern soldiers waited to see how their new campaign and fights would unfold that spring of 1864.

The Spring Campaigns – A Review

Grant’s plans as commander of Union armies called for continuing pressure on all points of the Confederacy.

  1. General Meade would head south through Central Virginia and engage the Army of Northern Virginia (Overland Campaign)
  2. General Butler would land on the Virginia peninsula and head for Richmond (Bermuda Hundred Campaign)
  3. General Sigel would advance up (south) the Shenandoah Valley to threaten a rail line and Lee’s flank (New Market Campaign)
  4. General Banks would advance along the Red River in the deep South.
  5. Later, General Sherman would press through southeastern Tennessee and into Georgia.
Elisha Hunt Rhodes

Those were the plans the “common” soldiers and officers didn’t know. The plans looked good on maps and paper, but how they would turn out became the long stories and casualty lists of 1864.

Historical Musings

The units finally got their official reviews. (In an earlier featured primary source, General Barlow had been reporting about the coming event.) Then there were some practical activities going on in the camps.

Target practice, training his horse, and taking long rides are of particular interest to note. Also, packing away winter items and taking the sick to base hospitals also signaled the coming campaign.

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

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