1862: “The Final Result In Our Favor Is Not Doubtful”


February 22, 1862

Fellow-Citizens: On this the birthday of the man most identified with the establishment of American independence, and beneath the monument erected to commemorate his heroic virtues and those of his compatriots, we have assembled to usher into existence the Permanent Government of the Confederate States. Through this instrumentality, under the favor of Divine Providence, we hope to perpetuate the principles of our revolutionary fathers. The day, the memory, and the purpose seem fitly associated. Continue reading

The “Traitorous” Fiddler With A Connection To Jefferson Davis (Guest Post)

David Connon

David Connon

Today, we are pleased to welcome David Connon as a guest author on Gazette665.

David Connon is a historical researcher, speaker, and writer.  He has spent the past six years documenting 75 Iowa residents who left that state and served the Confederacy. Their existence (in a strongly pro-Union state) represents a scarlet ribbon of political dissent.  He shares some of those stories in his blog, Confederates from Iowa:  Not to defend, but to understand. He is a great-great-grandson of two Union veterans.  Mr. Connon has spoken to audiences across Iowa through the Humanities Iowa Speakers Bureau.  During the season, he works as a historical interpreter at Living History Farms.  He has a master’s degree in education from Northern Illinois University.

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General Lee’s Gettysburg: Lessons We Must Learn

General Robert E. Lee

General Robert E. Lee

Did you ever walk on a balance beam when you were a kid? Confidently, you increased the speed of each step – “Mom, Dad, look at me!” And then what usually happened? Well, if you were like most kids, you fell off just as Mom looked your way.

There’s something about pride. The moment we think we’re invincible, something happens to prove we’re not. The Bible talks about this…Proverbs 16:18 – “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

Now imagine you’re the commander of a large army that has really only had one major defeat in the last two years of campaigning. You have some of the most devoted soldiers on the planet and have (make that past tense – had) some of the best “take the initiative” generals in history. Meet Confederate General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia at Gettysburg.

Road to Gettysburg

Having graduated second in his class at West Point without a demerit on his record, holding a distinguished military record from the Mexican War, superintended engineering projects and mischievous cadets, and captured a notorious radical abolitionist, Colonel Robert E. Lee was offered command of the Union army in the spring of 1861. In the end, he decided to follow his home state – Virginia – to the Confederate side and resigned his commission.

Robert Lee had strong familial ties to Virginia. The state had been the Lee Family’s home for several generations and Robert Lee’s father had been a commander for George Washington. Also, his property – inherited by marriage to Mary Custis – was on Virginia soil. But perhaps just as magnetic as his family and his home were his beliefs in the fundamental liberty of a state to control its own business with little interference from the Federal government. State’s Rights was a cornerstone of the Confederacy; it was a cornerstone in Robert Lee’s beliefs, too.

Having cast his lot with Virginia – Lee was commissioned as a Confederate general. His early assignments included a “defense” of western Virginia and overseeing the fortifications of Charleston, South Carolina. Then he became a military advisor to Confederate President Jefferson Davis and when Richmond’s defender – Joe Johnston – was wounded in 1862, Davis put Lee in command of the Army of Northern Virginia.

"Lee - The Enemy Is There" by Mort Kunstler (http://www.mortkunstler.com/html/art-limited-edition-prints)

“Lee – The Enemy Is There” by Mort Kunstler (http://www.mortkunstler.com/html/art-limited-edition-prints)

With his trusted generals Jackson and Longstreet, Lee swept a chain of victories for the Confederacy: Seven Days, Cedar Mountain, Second Manassas, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville. By summer 1863, he was ready to make his second northern invasion, perhaps capturing Washington City and ending the war.

Plans Unravel at Gettysburg

Like his opponent – George Meade – Robert E. Lee didn’t initially intend to fight at Gettysburg. By the time Lee discovered the started battled, quite a few troops had been committed and he thought he could go ahead and sweep the roads clear and get victory. It actually worked…but Union retreated to a strong defensive position. And lack of initiative from Lee’s new subordinate commanders let opportunities slip away.

On July 2, Lee planned simultaneous attacks on both Union flanks. In the age of GPS and radios, it might have worked brilliantly, but in 1863 it devolved to uncoordinated assaults and heavy casualties.

Observing that his enemy’s flanks were strong, Lee guessed that their center was weak. It was a valid, but unconfirmed surmise. Despite the protest of General Longstreet, Lee launched a two hour artillery barraged followed by a “charge” of 15,000 men against the Union line on July 3. The guess and gamble failed.

"It's All My Fault" by Mort Kunstler (http://www.mortkunstler.com/html/art-limited-edition-prints)

“It’s All My Fault” by Mort Kunstler (http://www.mortkunstler.com/html/art-limited-edition-prints)

Ever the leader, Lee tried to comfort his troops…and he prepared to retreat. There would be no capture of Washington City – no Confederate victory.

After Gettysburg

Returning to Virginia, Lee sent a letter of command resignation to President Davis who refused to accept it. Lee was the best general they had to command the Army of Northern Virginia. So Lee stayed and fought defensively through Mine Run Campaign, Overland Campaign, Petersburg Siege, and eventually surrendered at Appomattox.

In the post war years, Robert E. Lee became president of Washington College (now Washington and Lee University) in Lexington, Virginia. Robert E. Lee died on October 12, 1870, and was mourned throughout America.


Remember the balance beam? Remember that moment you’re “invincible”?

I think Lee was very confident – maybe overconfident, maybe “invincible” – as he approached Gettysburg. He was undoubtedly a brilliant tactician and leader. At Gettysburg, his strategies were good, but they were also flawed by lack of information and lack of follow-through by his subordinates.

There have been books written to defend Lee at Gettysburg…and there have been books written to blame him. Neither is my goal. My dad always said if you point your finger to blame, remember there are three fingers pointing back at you.

The better question is: what should we learn from General Lee at Gettysburg?

The negative: be careful of overconfidence.

The positive: when you make a mistake, take responsibility.

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. Your thoughts about Lee at Gettysburg?

The Valley Is Lost and Won – 1864

It’s time to launch into the beginning of the military campaign which resulted in the Union final occupation of the Shenandoah Valley during the American Civil War. (If you missed the introduction last week, you can find it here.)

There were conflicts in the Valley in the spring of 1864 (including the famed Battle of New Market), but we’re going to focus on the situation in the autumn. During the summer Confederate General Jubal Early and his army had marched north and actually fired some shots toward the fortifications protecting Washington City (District of Columbia).

Frustrated by the raid and the audacity of the Confederates, General Ulysses Grant – commander of all Union armies – put General Philip Sheridan in command of the Army of the Shenandoah, which was a combination of infantry and cavalry divisions. Grant gave orders for Sheridan to follow Early “to the death.

Map of the Shenandoah Valley Campaign in Autumn 1864 Attribution: Map by Hal Jespersen, www.cwmaps.com

Map of the Shenandoah Valley Campaign in Autumn 1864
Attribution: Map by Hal Jespersen, http://www.cwmaps.com

1. Sheridan Enters the Valley

In the early autumn Sheridan was ready. A series of relatively small scale battles were fought between August 16 and September 4 in the region between the Potomac River and the town of Winchester. They are traditionally called Guard Hill, Summit Point, Smithfield Crossing, and Berryville. The Battle of Berryville opened the road toward Winchester as the Confederates retreated to that town. (Winchester was the largest town in the northern end of the Valley).

The Confederate defense of the Valley was not going well. Though they had managed to delay the Union army for almost a month, the gray-clad soldiers were still forced to retreat. For many a retreat with total defeat looming on the horizon was something they had never considered.

2. The Decisive Battles

The 3rd Battle of Winchester (sometimes called the Battle of Opequon) was fought on September 19, 1864. The Union attacked, the Confederates defended. Sheridan cleared away wagon trains hindering the advance of his troops, and, ultimately, his army swept the field. The Confederates retreated through Winchester; for many this was the first time their lines had broken into a disorderly retreat. Early lost 1/4 of his army, including the service of five high ranking officers. The Confederates withdrew to Fisher’s Hill, approximately 22 miles to the south.

The Union army followed. In the Battle of Fisher’s Hill on September 21-22, 1864, Sheridan devised several flank attacks and, once again, the Confederates were forced to retreat. At this battle Sheridan had approximately 30,000 troops and the Confederates had less than 10,000. Five Union soldiers received the Medal of Honor for their actions at Fisher’s Hill.

General Early and his army retreated a long 60 miles to the town of Waynesboro, leaving the entire northern area of the Valley open to raids and destruction. Early had tried his best, but there were simply too many enemy soldiers and too many casualties for a continued defense at this time.

3. The Outcome

With many miles of farmland virtually undefended, Sheridan could unleash his cavalry to destroy the crops and cripple the agricultural society by burning mills. This time is Shenandoah history is simply called “The Burning.” Confederate cavalry tried to retaliate using guerilla tactics, but ultimately over 400 square miles of the Valley would be left blackened and desolate.

4. Conclusion

Though the Confederate army desperately resisted, there were outnumbered and overwhelmed. General Sheridan’s relentless “press forward” tactics wore down the already weary Southerners. Sheridan and army gained possession of the Shenandoah Valley and though they would make stubborn attempts, the Confederates would never regain this land.

A former defender of the Valley for the Confederate was General “Stonewall” Jackson. He said, “If the Valley is Lost, Virginia is Lost.” With the Shenandoah Valley firmly in the Union grasp, Virginia and the Confederacy faced numbered days.

Oh, but this isn’t the final conclusion – we still have two more weeks. Next week we’ll discuss The Burning and an unpleasant surprise for Mr. Sheridan, and then conclude with an examination of the total war strategy that the Union employed and its harsh effects on civilians.

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. I’m off to a Civil War Re-enactment this weekend – not attending in living history character, but going on a research trip. I’ll probably share some photos and maybe a short list of new CW facts that I learned. But for now I need to go pack my backpack… see ya’ll later!