Chapter 17



There was a perennial hope in the South that the Mid-Western states would disavow the Union, setting up as their own commonwealth, or petitioning to join the Confederacy. This hope - this nightmare, from the Union perspective - was based on the necessity of commerce. Without the Mississippi River, it was hard to see how Mid-Western crops and livestock could be moved to the port of New Orleans, and if the crops could not get to market and be sold, the small Mid-Western farmer would lose everything he owned. There was some truth to this, and the situation was made more volatile by the presence of large numbers of Southern-sympathizing 'Copperheads' in the southern regions of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. But year in and year out this belief went a-glimmering; the Mid-West furnished men, materials and products in vast quantities for the Union armies, and the states did not rebel. Chief among the reasons for this quietude were the iron bands of railroad rails that stretched to and through Chicago, down to St Louis, across Ohio to Cincinnati and Cleveland, and onward over the mighty mountains to the ports of the Atlantic Ocean. The Lincoln administration leaned heavily on the directors of the great railroads to offer favorable rates for Mid-Western farmers, and by reducing rates the railroads reaped a torrent of freight and made millions in profits.

Diplomatic recognition, or even intervention, by Britain or France was another subject of which one heard much speculation and little fact. As willing as Britain might be to see her old colonies humbled, she was unwilling to strike the first blow herself. France - pre-occupied with her Mexican adventure - tantalized our diplomats but delivered nothing. As Jefferson Davis was to say, we were completely on our own.

The bloodshed in Virginia was horrific, and constant. No sooner would one Federal army be thrashed than another - two more! - advanced. General Joseph Johnston fought tenaciously, and if his critics assailed his seeming lack of offensive spirit, they could not dispute his results. The Great Southern and its brother railroads were stretched to the limit - and beyond - in carrying more men, food, equipage and livestock to Richmond, and in freighting out the ghastly mangled wounded, the prisoners, the wretched families torn and amputated by the war.

In the west, the story was not much more pleasant. Missouri was shrouded in smoke, Arkansas wracked by battles from one end of the state to the other. Much of Kentucky and Tennessee lay in ruins, and the accompanying Confederate raids into Union lands provided only small, cold, grim comfort. Despite his near-victory, near-catastrophe at Shiloh, General Grant was promoted and tasked with opening an offensive down the Mississippi River. His immediate objective was Memphis, his ultimate goal New Orleans and control of the Mississippi waterway and its tributaries.

Having driven deep into western Tennessee, his army was halted by the depredations of Confederate cavalry in his rear. Generals Forrest and Van Dorn ran merrily amok among the loaded railroad cars and fat supply dumps, and they forced Grant to withdraw as far as the Kentucky-Tennessee border. Unfortunately, they also pointed out a valuable fact - that Union armies could live off the land, carrying only ammunition - and Grant was not slow to take notice.

His army corps operated like the fingers of a hand, now spreading apart and then clenching into a fist. With grace and poise he hustled his transports and gunboats past Memphis, debouching into northern Mississippi. The Confederate army abandoned Memphis; General Theophilus Holmes was sacked, giving way to the unpopular General Pemberton. Undaunted, Grant took his army back over the river to the Arkansas side, marched and sailed down past Vicksburg on its high bluffs, and crossed back into Mississippi. In this crisis, Jefferson Davis did what had to be done: he convinced his military adjutant and advisor to go west and assume command over all the armies in that theater.

Little was known of General Robert E Lee in those days. His reputation was spotless, and among his peers in the army he was very highly regarded. But his entire service in the War to date had been essentially a staff position, and his one command - the defense of western Virginia - had been a debacle. Those western counties had now been admitted to the Union as the state of West Virginia, a possibly permanent emblem of mockery to the failed commander.

One must conclude he had indeed learned something from that fiasco, first that railroad communications were essential to reinforcement and supply, and secondly that delicately-phrased, deferential requests to subordinates rarely resulted in the desired action. Despite his public assertion that he did not wish the post - did not wish to leave his beloved Virginia - in the late winter of 1862, Robert E Lee came west and established his headquarters in Atlanta. With him came a young officer, newly commissioned and promoted: Lieutenant Franklin Haynes.

The tycoon himself was struggling with the intractable problems of war production and supply. If the Confederacy could put every male into the ranks, free and slave, regardless of age or health, that host would still be outnumbered. Given that some men must remain to guard the slaves, harvest crops, run the factories and drive the trains, the manpower problem was simply incapable of solution. Despite every plea, his trained men were taken away for military service. Slaves, wounded and even women were used in factories and railroad work despite vociferous opposition; there was no other choice save collapse. The workload told upon him; he was more or less constantly ill and believed at one point he had pneumonia and must certainly die. By sheer force of will, the marks of which were grooved upon his face and traced in his thinning, graying hair, John Ephraim Haynes kept the factories running and the trains steaming. It was a triumph of managerial prowess and of unrelenting resolve.

For this prodigious work, he received scathing criticism and constant interference. Everyone complained the rates and fares were too high, that service was too slow, that - Heaven forfend! - the slaves were learning work entirely unsuited to their station. There were complaints of lack of food and medicines, resentment that some railroadmen were exempt from the draft. The Confederate Congress meddled with his hiring policies, attempted to set rates when the currency was inflating by the day, even used militia to commandeer entire trains of foodstuffs. For the better part of six months Haynes battled the Confederate Navy's plan to rip up rails for makeshift gunboat armor; the track in question was the Montgomery line up to the coalfields, without whose production Southern iron production and steam machinery - including its trains and warships - would have ground to a halt.

In his own words: "I felt as if I were shipwrecked with a band of castaways, by the unceasing toil of everyone we might perhaps gather enough food to survive. Instead of giving thanks to the Almighty for their deliverance, these castaways idled away their time playing games upon the sand and complaining they could not dress for dinner!"

Grant's audacious thrust into Mississippi depended upon his ability to move quickly between the separated Confederate forces, attacking each in turn: Pemberton at Vicksburg, and Lee, now assembling a small army near Jackson, Mississippi. Memphis and the rest of the river towns were almost undefended, and would fall to the Union if Vicksburg could be taken. To effect this, Grant stormed ashore at Bruinsburg in the early spring of 1863, routed a strong picket force out of Port Gibson and advanced swiftly inland. Confused by the unexpected maneuver - Pemberton and his staff had been taken in by Sherman's feint north of Vicksburg on the Chickasaw Bluffs - Pemberton attempted to strike behind Grant and cut his supply lines. Failing in this because Grant had no line to cut, Pemberton advanced east as Grant moved north-east. The result was the three-sided Battle of Raymond, with Lee's army on the north-east making up the third leg of the triangle.

Grant fended off Pemberton's clumsy attacks with McPherson's and McClernand's corps, leaving Sherman to harass Lee. Unbeknownst to Grant, Beauregard had dispatched a division under Stonewall Jackson to stiffen Lee's command, and Lee was in no temper to be trifled with. Grant personally directed the assault that wrecked Pemberton's army, then coolly began shifting men east along the Raymond road to the meadows where Jackson's unstoppable force met Sherman's immovable object in some of the fiercest fighting of the War.

Riding forward to observe the battle, Grant's horse was hit and the General, despite his legendary riding skills, was thrown. Unconscious, Grant was carried from the battlefield and command devolved upon McClernand, who made a fatal mistake: in the presence of Robert E Lee, he hesitated. Only the gathering dusk and the disorganization of the Confederate command saved his army from destruction. Pemberton's stragglers retreated north and east to join Lee, McClernand's army marched west to the Chickasaw Bluffs and eventually upriver past Memphis. Grant spent six months on crutches and the remainder of the war commanding in California; McClernand was relieved and returned to politics. If there was a hero on the Union side it was Sherman, whose cool poise undoubtedly saved the army. Known forever after as the 'Red-Headed Devil of Raymond', he was soon to be given a command of his own.

Stonewall Jackson's death eerily echoed Grant's accident: shot by a Confederate sentry in the gathering twilight as the General rode out to survey a line of march for the morrow, the punctured lung and fractured vertebrae saw him dead before dawn. Without Jackson's fire and drive, Lee was unable to push his green troops hard enough to bring the retreating Federals to bay.

Lost in the same fusillade of gunfire was another officer: one Franklin Haynes, Lieutenant of the Army of the Confederate States.



I had seen Haynes vaunt of besting Vanderbilt, exult in forcing DuPont to surrender. I had thought there was nothing in him but avarice, no passion but that of acquisition and control. I was wrong; I saw him, time and again, unable even to speak his son's name, so great was his grief, tears streaming unnoticed on his cheeks as he told me of the days in which he buried his son and watched his wife's health collapse.

The demands of the War were of course unabated, and Haynes told me he felt he could not rest even for a moment. Bridges had to be rebuilt and track relaid, over and over again on some lines, with inadequate tools and untrained, sick and elderly men. Ammunition production was falling as saltpeter was consumed faster than it could be found, tool and die machinery failing when equipment could neither be made nor smuggled through the blockade. This and a thousand other problems occupied him day and night; constant travel meant he was seldom home, and reports of his wife's ailing condition grew daily more ominous.

In his own words: "Against this backdrop of ruin and death, one fact remained: like Atlas bowed under his intolerable burden, the Confederacy endured. By the time the armies went into winter quarters, a few of us had even begun to hope that Southern defiance might - might! - outlast the enemy and somehow prevail. Frail and fragile as were our defenses at every point, they had held. New Orleans, Memphis, Richmond and Texas and Tennessee were still ours. Above the shattered ruins of Louisville, a tattered Confederate flag still lifted to the dawn... In the winter of 1863, we dared to hope."

"I had repaired to Richmond in late November of 1863 for discussions with the President and his advisors. I was referred to, not always jokingly, as the 'Secretary of Rail', and as 'General Locomotion'. General Johnston had fought one too many battles with the President, and had been transferred to command the defenses of Charleston. General Lee now led the Army of Virginia, and desired greatly to lead it into Maryland in the spring. General AP Hill, now in command in the west, preferred any reinforcements come to him instead for a thrust at St Louis. Frail, drawn and visibly tired, President Davis listened attentively but made no decision."

"All of this discussion was rendered moot: we gathered on December 21st to be told the President had arisen in the night murmuring of chest pains and had collapsed upon his desk, draped over stacks of correspondence. With that one stroke our lighthouse was extinguished, our general fallen. Command of the nation must now pass to Robert Barnwell Rhett, and none of us could imagine what might befall our nation, or ourselves."



Chapter 18

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