Marches of the Federal armies
Fenwick Y. Hedley, Brevet Captain, United States Volunteers, and Adjutant, Thirty-second Illinois Infantry
It was said of Napoleon
that he ‘overran Europe
with the bivouac.’
It was the bivouac that sapped the spirit and snapped the sinews of the Confederacy
No other war in history presents marches marked with such unique and romantic experiences as those of the Federal
armies in the Civil War
It is worth while to note one march which has received little attention from annalists—one of much importance at the moment, in the meaning it gave to the word ‘discipline,’ and, also, in the direction it gave to the fortunes of the man who was destined to direct all the armies of the Union
Early in the opening war-year, 1861, an embryo Illinois
regiment was on the verge of dissolution.
It was made up of as good flesh and blood and spirit as ever followed the drum.
But the colonel was a politician without military training, and under him the men refused to serve.
There was no red tape to cut, for there had been no muster — in for service.
So the rejected colonel was sent his way, and a plain, modest man, Ulysses S. Grant
by name, was put in his place.
was ordered to Missouri
He declined railroad transportation.
Said he, ‘I thought it would be good preparation for the troops to march there.’
He marched his men from Camp Yates, at Springfield
, to Quincy
, on the Mississippi River
, about one hundred miles, expecting to go as much further, when an emergency order from the War Department required him to take cars and hasten to another field.
So early in the war, such a march was phenomenal.
midsummer, and the men, fresh from school, workshop, and farm, suffered severely.
From the day Grant
assumed command of the Twenty-first Illinois, it gave as good an account of itself as did any in the service.
In the East
, throughout the war, the principal military movements were restricted to a comparatively small territory —the region about the Confederate
, and the approaches thereto.
The chief exception was the Gettysburg campaign
, in 1863, involving a march of somewhat more than two hundred miles. The famous marches in this part of the country were forced ones, short in duration, but involving intense fatigue and hardship, and often compelling troops to go into battle without much-needed rest.
In the hasty concentration at Gettysburg
there were some very noteworthy performances by Meade
The Sixth Corps started from Manchester, Maryland
, at dark, on July 1st. ‘Without halting,’ says General Wright
, ‘except for a few moments each hour to breathe the men, and one halt of about half an hour to enable the men to make coffee, the corps was pushed on to Gettysburg
, where it arrived about 4 P. M. after a march variously estimated at from thirty-two to thirty-five miles.’
Early in the afternoon of May 4, 1864, Grant
to bring the Ninth Corps immediately to the Wilderness
The divisions were stationed along the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, but by the morning of the 6th all were on the battlefield.
Some of the troops had marched over thirty miles. General Grant
says, ‘Considering that a large proportion, probably two-thirds, of the corps was composed of new troops, unaccustomed to marches, and carrying the accouterments of a soldier, this was a remarkable march.’
For hardships and exhaustion few marches exceeded the race from the North Anna
to the Pamunkey
in May, 1864.
Hundreds of men dropped dead from lack of proper precaution in the intense heat.
In the West
, unlike the East
, the principal Union armies were almost constantly in motion, and on long extended lines.
Their field operations, from beginning to end, extended through seven States—Kentucky
, South Carolina
, and North Carolina
, in all of which they fought important battles.
Some of their divisions and brigades operated in Missouri
, and Texas
Operations in the West
opened early in 1861, with St. Louis
and the Ohio River
as primary bases.
By the summer of 1862, armies under Halleck
, under Grant
, and under Buell
had pushed their way hundreds of miles southward.
These operations involved much marching, but, in view of later experiences, were not marked with such peculiar incidents as to claim attention here.
In September, 1862, occurred a march which alarmed the North
much as did Lee
's invasion of Pennsylvania
the following year.
General Don Carlos Buell
's troops occupied points in Tennessee
The Confederates, under General Bragg
, so threatened his rear that he was obliged to abandon his position.
Then ensued a veritable foot-race between the two armies, on practically parallel roads, with Louisville
as the goal.
reached the city just in advance of his opponent —both armies footsore and jaded from constant marching and frequent skirmishing.
An early march, and one well worthy of remark, was that ordered and directed by General Grant
, in the fall of 1862.
The objective point was the rear of Vicksburg
His army moved in two columns—one from La Grange, Tennessee
, under his own personal command; the other from Memphis, Tennessee
, under General Sherman
Their advance reached the neighborhood of Grenada, Mississippi
, having marched a distance of one hundred miles. Further progress was stayed by the capture of Holly Springs, Mississippi
, in their rear, with all its ammunition stores and commissary supplies, by the Confederate
As a consequence, a retrograde march was inevitable.
While southward bound, the Union
troops found just sufficient opposition by the Confederates
under General Pemberton
to keep them engaged, without impeding their progress.
The conditions were now changed.
They were greatly harassed, and at times were obliged to march with the utmost speed to avoid being cut off at an intersecting road in their rear.
Their unusual and protracted privations were experiences such as had been heretofore unknown.
They had set out in the lightest marching order known at that time.
Wagon trains were reduced to carry only ammunition and indispensable food.
No tents were carried except a few for officers.
advanced upon Vicksburg
in May, 1863, the army again ‘marched light,’ and it has been said that the general's only baggage was a package of cigars and a toothbrush.
surrendered on July 4th, and the same day, without entering the city, a large portion of the army marched rapidly away to attack General Johnston
, at Jackson
The distance was little more than fifty miles, but never did troops suffer more severely.
It was a forced march, under an intense, burning sun; the dust was stifling, and the only water was that from sluggish brooks and fetid ponds.
In November, 1863, General Sherman
marched his Fifteenth Corps from Memphis
, a distance of nearly four hundred miles, over almost impassable roads.
When he arrived his men were in a most exhausted condition, yet they were ready to go into action the next day.
Following almost immediately after the march above mentioned, Sherman
moved his men from Chattanooga
to the relief of Burnside
The distance was not great, about one hundred and twenty-five miles, but the troops were utterly worn out by their forced march in the intensely cold mountain atmosphere.
In February, 1864, General Sherman
marched a force of twenty thousand men from Memphis
to Meridian, Mississippi
, a distance of one hundred and fifty miles.
The troops moved in light marching order.
The expedition entailed severe labor upon the men in the destruction of the arsenal and supply depots at Meridian
, and the practical demolition of the railroad almost the entire distance.
's ‘march to the sea’ is unique among marches.
The army had good training for its undertaking.
Its commander had led it from Chattanooga
to the capture of Atlanta
, and had followed the Confederate
Shortly after Sherman
abandoned the pursuit of Hood
, he detached Stanley
's Fourth Corps and Schofield
's Twenty-third Corps to the assistance of Thomas, in Tennessee
This march of nearly three hundred miles was one of the most arduous of the war, though lacking in the picturesqueness of that to the sea; it included the severe battle of Franklin
, and had victorious ending at Nashville
's army marched from Atlanta
and vicinity on November 15, 1864.
The men set forward, lifting their voices in jubilant song.
As to their destination, they neither knew nor cared.
That they were heading south was told them by the stars, and their confidence in their leader was unbounded.
It was a remarkable body of men—an army of veterans who had seen three years of constant field-service.
Through battle, disease, and death, nearly every regiment had been greatly reduced.
He was a fortunate colonel who could muster three hundred of the thousand men he brought into service.
Thirty men made more than an average company; there were those which numbered less than a score.
It was also an army of youngsters.
Most of the older men and the big men had been worn down and sent home.
To each company was allowed a pack-mule for cooking utensils (frying-pans and coffee-pots
), but frequently these were dispensed with, each soldier doing his own cooking after even more primitive fashion than in his earlier campaigns.
All dispensable items of the army ration had been stricken out, the supply being limited to hard bread, bacon, coffee, sugar, and
A three days supply of bread and bacon was issued at intervals to last the soldier ten days, the ‘foragers,’ of whom more anon, being his dependence for all else.
Coffee, the greatest of all necessities to the soldier, was liberally provided, and the supply seldom failed.
The soldier's personal effects were generally limited to his blanket, a pair of socks, and a piece of shelter tent, though many discarded the latter with contempt.
In addition to his gun and cartridge-box with its forty rounds, the soldier carried his haversack, which with his food contained one hundred and sixty rounds of cartridges.
After every occasion calling for expenditure of ammunition, his first concern was to restock, so as constantly to have two hundred rounds upon his person.
The train with each corps had been reduced to the lowest possible number of wagons.
Nothing was transported but ammunition, commissary supplies, and grain for the animals —the latter only to be used when the country would not afford animal subsistence.
In addition, to each regiment was allowed a single wagon to carry ammunition, a single tent-fly to shelter the field-desks of the adjutant and quartermaster, a small mess-kit for the officers in common, and an ordinary valise for each of them.
In case of necessity (not an uncommon occurrence on account of crippled horses and bad roads), some or all of these personal belongings were thrown out and destroyed.
The army marched in four columns, usually ten to fifteen miles apart, on practically parallel roads.
The skirmishers and flankers of each corps extended right and left until they met those of the next corps, thus giving a frontage of forty to fifty miles. As a consequence, the widely dispersed forces were soon ready for handling as a unit.
At a river, two or more corps met, to utilize a pontoon train in common.
The day's itinerary was much the same throughout the march.
Soon after daybreak the bugle sounded the reveille, and the men rolled their blankets and prepared their meal.
hour later, at the call of the assembly, they fell in, and soon took up the line of march, reaching the end for the day in the middle of the afternoon or early evening.
The rear brigade awaited the movement of the wagon train and fell in behind.
It frequently did not reach the halting-place until midnight, and sometimes much later.
The average distance covered daily was something more than sixteen miles.
The men marched ‘at will,’ with little semblance of military order, yet each knew his place.
Good-natured badinage, songs, school-day recitations, discussions as to destination— these served to pass the time.
Seldom was halt made for a noontime meal, the men eating as they marched.
At an occasional halt, some gathered over their cards; some put a few stitches in a dilapidated garment; some beat the sand and dust out their shoes, and nursed their blistered, travel-worn feet.
The evening was pleasantly passed around the camp-fire.
But a day seldom passed without its trials.
Frequently a Confederate force appeared in front; the cavalry advance was driven back, while a regiment or brigade, and a few pieces of artillery, moved rapidly to the front.
A half-hour later the foe had vanished; a grave or two was dug beneath the shadow of the trees; an ambulance received a few wounded men, and the march was resumed.
Again, the rain fell in torrents the day long, and, sometimes, for days.
The men marched in soaked clothing.
The roads were quagmires, and thousands of men labored for hours tearing down fences and felling saplings to make a corduroy road, over which the artillery and wagon trains might pass.
At another time the march lay across or near a railway which could be of much use to the Confederates
The soldiers lined up along its length and, lifting the ends of the ties, literally overturned the iron way. The ties were piled together and fired; the iron rails were thrown upon them, and, after they were well heated in the middle, they were wrapped around trees, or twisted with cant-hooks.
reduced foraging to a system in the West
, and, more especially during his rapid and extended marches, foraging became a necessary means of subsistence for men and animals.
As the general expressed it, ‘No army could carry food and forage for a march of three hundred miles, and there being no civil authorities to respond to requisition, this source of supply was indispensable to success.’
In preparing for his march to the sea, he issued specific instructions for foraging ‘liberally upon the country,’ and these were reasonable in the interest of his men, and humane as regarding the people who were to be foraged upon.
Each brigade commander was to send out a foraging party under a discreet commissioned officer, to gather in from the region adjacent to the route traveled whatever might serve as subsistence for man and beast, also wagons, horses, and mules for conveying the supplies to the troops; the animals were then to be utilized in the artillery and wagon trains to replace those worn out. Entering dwelling-houses was forbidden.
With each family was to be left a reasonable portion of food, and discrimination was to be made in favor of the poor.
As a matter of fact, few soldiers saw or heard of these regulations until after the march was ended.
But, with the remarkable adaptability of the American
soldier, they became on the instant ‘a law unto themselves,’ and in spirit and deed carried out the provisions of their commander, of which they had not heard.
These foraging parties numbered twenty-five to fifty men each.
They set out usually before the troops broke camp, and extended their expeditions three to five miles on either flank.
They brought in their supplies in every manner of vehicle— wagons, carts, and carriages, drawn indiscriminately by horses, mules, oxen, or cows, strung together with harness, rope, or chains; a complete set of harness was seldom found.
The supplies thus obtained were turned over to the brigade commissary for issue in the regular way to the various regiments.
The result was general dissatisfaction.
At no time
was there a sufficiency for all. The men provided a remedy.
Probably every regiment in the army sent out its independent Foragers—a class known in history as ‘Sherman
's Bummers,’ and there were no more venturesome men. They had no official being, but were known to all, from commanding general down, and their conduct was overlooked unless flagrant.
The forager or ‘bummer’ at first was usually afoot; sometimes he rode a horse or mule which had been ‘condemned’ and turned out of the wagon train.
His search at the first farm was for a fresh mount; with this, success was assured.
The forager frequently found a willing ally in the plantation negro, who would guide him to a swamp where animals had been taken, or to a spot where provisions had been buried.
In some instances what appeared to be a grave was pointed out, which would yield treasures of preserves, choice beverages, and jewelry.
Nearly all the inhabitants had gone farther into the interior, taking with them what of their possessions they could; in such cases, the deserted buildings were utterly despoiled.
The few people who remained were old men, women, and children.
To these the forager was usually respectful, even sympathetic, and in some instances he laid the foundations for a personal friendship which exists to this day. But with all his good nature, the forager was diplomatic, and he so skilfully directed his conversation that he frequently acquired knowledge of sources of supply at the next plantation, and even of movements of the Confederate
soldiery, which was esteemed of value at headquarters.
If the foragers were fortunate, the meal of their squad or company was incomparable—turkeys, chickens, smoked meats, sweet potatoes, preserves, sorghum, and not infrequently a jug or keg of whisky.
The cellars of some abandoned mansions yielded even richer store—cobwebbed wine-bottles dating back to the '30's.
Thus lived Sherman
's army for eighteen days on its march
But this season of feasting was followed by a dismal fortnight of almost famine on the outskirts of Savannah
, before entrance to the city was obtained.
In the subsequent march through the Carolinas, foraging was resumed as in the interior of Georgia
, but, except in a few favored localities, the provisions were neither so plentiful nor so choice.
The forager experienced a startling transformation in April of 1865.
The war was over.
's men were marching from Raleigh, North Carolina
, for the national capital to be disbanded.
The citizens no longer fled at their approach, but flocked to the road to see them pass.
Among them were scores of Lee
's or Johnston
's men, still clad in their ‘butternut’ uniforms.
The forager's occupation was gone, and he was now in his place in the ranks, and he stepped out, now and again, to buy eatables, paying out ‘Uncle Sam's greenbacks.’
's last two campaigns may be called a march in three acts.
The march to the sea began at Atlanta
and ended at Savannah
, a distance of three hundred miles, consuming eighteen days. After a period of rest began the march through the Carolinas, ending at Goldsboro
, four hundred and twentyfive miles, in the words of Sherman
, ‘concluding one of the longest and most important marches ever made by an organized army,’ and culminating in the close of hostilities with the surrender of General Johnston
After a few days the march to Washington
was begun, a further distance of three hundred and fifty miles, and May 24, 1865, the troops marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in presence of applauding thousands, then to be at once disbanded and never to assemble again.
The total distance marched between Atlanta
, in less than six months, was about one thousand miles. General Sherman
claimed for his army, in its various marches, beginning at Vicksburg
and ending at Washington
, a total of twenty-eight hundred miles, including the many detours.
With the veteran armies
The well-disciplined ‘regulars’—a scene of April 3, 1864: men who demonstrated the value of training at gaines' mill: the eleventh ‘U. S.’
in their trim Camp at Alexandria.
They stand up very straight, these regulars who formed the tiny nucleus of the vast Union armies.
Even in the distance they bear the stamp of the trained soldier.
At Bull Run the disciplined soldiers showed a solid front amid the throng of fugitives.
At Gaines' Mill, again, they kept together against an overwhelming advance.
It was not long, however, before the American volunteers on both sides were drilled and disciplined, furnishing to Grant and Lee the finest soldiery that ever trod the field of battle.
There were surprisingly few regulars when 1861 came.
The United States regular army could furnish only six regiments of cavalry, sixty batteries of artillery, a battalion of engineers, and nineteen regiments of infantry.
The American volunteers, however, soon acquired the soldierly bearing
Of the 3,559 organizations in all branches of the service in the Union armies, the States furnished 3,473.
The Eleventh Infantry in the regular army was organized at Fort Independence, Boston Harbor, by direction of the President, May 4, 1861, and confirmed by Act of Congress, July 29, 1861.
It fought throughout the war with the Army of the Potomac.
This photograph was taken at Alexandria, Va., a month before the Wilderness.
The regiment participated in every important battle of the Army of the Potomac, and was on provost duty at Richmond, Va., from May to October, 1865.
The regiment lost during service eight officers, 117 enlisted men killed and mortally wounded, and two officers and eighty-six enlisted men by disease.|