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Did the Federals fight against superior numbers? an Historical paper

prepared by
John Shirley ward, of Los Angeles, California.
This is not an idle question. The historian has not yet definitely settled it. The ‘superior numbers’ of the Confederates figure largely in the reports of nearly all the great battles. Grant at Shiloh says he fought against ‘overwhelming numbers;’ McClellan at Richmond says he fought against ‘great odds;’ Keyes in his report of battles around Richmond says, “The Confederates outnumbered us during the greater part of the day, four to one;” Rosecrans says at Stone's river he fought against ‘superior numbers,’ and at Chickamauga he says his army withdrew from the field ‘in the face of overpowering numbers;’ McClernand at Shiloh, said that the ‘Union forces were probably less than one-half the enemy,’ and Pope, with his usual modesty, at the second Bull Run, speaks of the ‘enormously superior force of the enemy.’

The stereotyped report of ‘overwhelming and overpowering’ numbers which came up from every lost battlefield called out from Mr. Lincoln one of his best anecdotes. An old Illinois friend of Mr. Lincoln who had two sons in the Army of the Potomac, called [239] to see him at the White House in the summer of 1862, and feeling a parental solicitude about the safety of his sons and their chances of success, asked Mr. Lincoln how many men he thought Jeff. Davis had in the field. Lincoln responded that ‘Jeff. Davis had 3,000,000 men in the field.’ This startled the old man. After regaining his composure he asked Mr. Lincoln how he knew this fact. Mr. Lincoln replied by saying, ‘I have 1,000,000 of men in the field, and whenever one of my generals gets whipped down in Virginia he always says that the Rebels had three men to his one. Yes, sir, I have 1,000,000 in the field and Jeff. Davis has 3,000,000.’

We have said that no correct history of the civil war has yet been written. Most of the histories now before the public were written before all the official facts from both sides had been published. The histories of the civil war up to this time have been written with pens dipped in the battle-blood of the fierce conflict, and at the high tide of personal and national prejudice. The Roman Empire found no historian till Gibbon arose and gave his immortal history 1,383 years after its fall. Some Plutarch or Gibbon will yet arise who will evolve the truth from the tomes of contradictory evidence now published, and give us a history which shall honor alike victor and vanquished.

In order to properly discuss the question, ‘Did the Federals fight against superior numbers?’ it is necessary to compare the resources of the two governments. The seceding States in 1861 had, in round numbers, a population of 8,000,000, about 4,000,000 of which were slaves. The non-seceding States had a population of 24,000,000. This gave the Union side about three to one of the aggregate population. The Confederate States had a seaboard from the Potomac to the mouth of the Rio Grande in Texas, and, having no navy, was exposed as much to naval attacks as those by land. They were, in fact, a beleaguered fortress, girdled on one side by a line of battleships, and on the other by a line of bayonets. In fact, the morning drum-beat of the Federal navy was heard in an unbroken strain from Fortress Monroe to where the Mexic sea kisses the Mexic shore. During the war six hundred vessels stood sentinel along the Confederate coast. The South having been cut off from the outside world by the blockade, and being an agricultural country, had neither navy-yards nor shops for the manufacture of cannon and small arms, and in the first battles her soldiers were often armed with shot-guns till they could capture better arms from the enemy. [240]

There were enlisted in the Federal army during the war 2,778,304 soldiers, which was about twelve per cent. of her population; while, according to Federal statistics, the enrollment in the Confederate army was only 690,000, which was about seventeen per cent. of the population. The Confederates, on the estimates made by General Wright, agent for collection of Confederate statistics, deny that they ever had 690,000 enrolled, as the Army of the Confederacy. ‘Absent and present,’ was as follows for each year: January, 1862, 318,011; January, 1863, 465,584; January, 1864, 472,781; January, 1865, 439,675. (‘Battles and Leaders,’ Vol. IV., p. 768.)

Taking the Federal enlistment at 2,778,304, and the number of Federals on the pay-roll May 1, 1865, at 1,000,516, it would give about thirty-seven per cent. of the enlistment present. This would give, on the same basis, about 222,000 Confederates under arms. This would preserve the ratio of 600,000 to 2,778,304 enlistments, and the general ratio of population, 8,000,000 to 24,000,000. The difference between the Confederate reports of January 1, 1865, 439,675, and the number paroled after the surrender, 174,000, is accounted for by the heavy losses of the Confederates by death and desertion between January i, 1865, and the date of parole.

We now propose to select twelve of the greatest battles of the civil war, not that they are all decisive battles, but because they represent the largest forces engaged on both sides, and because the official record and ‘Battles and Leaders’ furnish us reliable statistics as to the actual forces on or near these battlefields. They are Shiloh, Stone's river, Chickamauga, Richmond, second Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, The Wilderness, Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor.

Shiloh was the first great battle-test between the opposing armies of the West. Grant was there with the veterans of Donaldson and Henry. Sherman, with his splendid division on the right, while to his left were McClernand, Prentiss, Wallace (W. H. L.), Hurleburt and Stuart, with the division of Lew Wallace only five miles away, and Nelson's division of the Army of Ohio across the river at Savannah, not more than seven miles from the field of battle.

Albert Sydney Johnson, the Confederate commander, began forming his line of battle the day before about noon, and by 5 P. M. of the 5th his line was ready for action, though on account of the lateness of the hour the battle was postponed till the next morning. At 5 o'clock the next morning, April 6, 1862, the battle opened by an [241] assault along the entire Federal front with the corps of Hardee, Bragg and Polk. It is not our intention to attempt a description of the bloody tragedy. Sherman's lines were broken, Prentiss with his brigade was captured, Hurleburt and McClernand and Wallace were driven in utter rout. At 6 o'clock P. M. the Confederates occupied every camp of the Federals except the one guarded by the gunboats on the bank of the Tennessee. The Federal army, which had fought with splendid gallantry that day, cowered that night on the river bank, no longer an army, but a disorganized mass of fugitives, many of whom were trying to cross the river on logs and such driftwood as the river afforded. (See report of McCook, Crittenden and Buell.) It is said that in the afternoon of Waterloo, when Napoleon's battalions had captured La Ha Saynte, and Wellington felt that the day would be lost, that, looking up to the sun, then seeming to stand still in the afternoon sky, he exclaimed, in the anguish of a grand despair, ‘Oh, that night or Blucher would come!’ Blucher, with his fifty-two thousand Prussians, came, and Wellington was saved. Is it not probable that on that fatal Sunday afternoon at Shiloh, when the very streams ran crimson, that Grant's prayer was, ‘Oh, that night or Buell would come’? Buell, with his army of veterans, was then crossing the Tennessee, Nelson's division of which landed on the western bank in time to take part in the closing fight of the evening. These soldiers, seeing the soldiers of Grant cowering armless on the bank of the river begging for any kind of transportation across the Tennessee, feeling the inspiration born of a forlorn hope,

Came as the winds come
     When forests are rended,
Came as the storms come
     When navies are stranded,

and, with the courage of the true American soldier, hurled themselves into the deserted breastworks of Grant's fled army. During the night of the 6th the broken fragments of Grant's army were reorganized and united with Buell's twenty-one thousand five hundred and seventy-nine fresh troops, and the battle was renewed at 5 A. M. on Monday, the 7th. The Federals now took the offensive, and by 2 o'clock P. M. had driven back the Confederates from the positions captured by them the day before. The Confederates retired in good order, and no effort was made till the next day to [242] pursue them, and they were allowed to take their own time to get back to Corinth. The first day's fight was a decisive victory for the Confederates; the second day victory perched on the banners of the Federals.

We give below the strength of General Grant's army as compiled by the War Department, giving the last returns of the various commands made just before the battle: Grant's army, present for duty, 49,314; total present, 38,052. Deducting Lew Wallace's division of 7,771 effectives, which was only five miles away, guarding the right flank, and for some cause did not participate in the first day's fight, and General Grant's effectives are 41,543.

General Johnston's army at Corinth, on the 3d of April, when he began the march to Shiloh, twenty-three miles distant, numbered, total effectives of all arms, 38,773. Of course many of these dropped out in the march, and were not present in the fight.

Summary—In the first day's battle, Federals, 41,543 effectives, with Lew Wallace's division of 7,771 within five miles, and the gunboats, Tyler and Lexington, with four twenty-pound parrot guns in, and a battery of rifle guns. First day, Confederates, 38,773 effectives. Second day, Federals same as first day, except losses, with Wallace's division of 7,771, and Buell's 21,579 added. Second day, Confederates the same as first day, less their losses on first day.

It is supposed from the most accurate statistics which can be gotten as to the loss, in both armies, the first day, that three-fourths of the entire loss occurred on that day. The Federal loss (‘Battles and Leaders’ Vol. I, p. 538.) was 3,049; three-fourths of this would be 9,783, for the loss of the first day. Deducting this amount from the 41,543 effectives of the first day, and it would give 31,760 effectives, to which add Wallace's 7,771 and Buell's 21,579, and the grand total of effectives for the battle of Monday would be 61,110.

Applying this same rule to the Confederates, the result would be as follows: The Confederate loss was 10,699; three-fourths of this amount, viz., 8,025, deducted from 38,775 effectives, would leave 30,748 Confederates for the field on Monday. This gave Grant, on Monday, 61,110; Beauregard, on Monday, 30,748; difference in favor of Grant, 30,362. This was two to one against the Confederates, lacking 386. Verily, did the Federals fight against ‘superior numbers’ at Shiloh?

This battle made Grant and Sherman famous, and Buell, the Blucher of the occasion, was soon retired into obscurity.

We do not propose to discuss in this article the generalship displayed [243] on either side. This is a matter for the future. But were we to allow ourselves to speculate on this question we would be constrained to ask the American people how it was that General Grant, who up to this time had never achieved a single success except by vastly superior numbers, should have been accepted as the Moses to lead the Union forces to victory and final triumph.

On December 31 and January 1-3, 1862-1862, the Federal army, commanded by General Rosecrans, met the Confederates, commanded by General Bragg, at Stone's river, or Murfreesboro. The fight lasted a part of two days, the Confederates withdrawing from the field, but carrying off their dead and wounded and artillery. The last returns of Rosecrans' army before this battle were as follows: Present for duty—Centre corps, 29,682; right wing, 13,779; left wing, 13,061; unattached forces, 9,748; total, 66,270.

Rosecrans, in his official report (Official Records, Vol. XX, p. 196), says: ‘We moved on the enemy with the following force: 46,940. We fought the enemy with 43,400.’ Thus it will be seen that 3,540, or seven and one-half per cent, of those who ‘moved on’ the enemy did not participate in the battle.

The Confederates had ‘present for duty’ at this battle, 37,712. Allowing them the seven and one-half per cent. granted the Federals between the number that ‘moved on’ the enemy and those actually engaged in the fight, would give them a credit of 2,828, which would reduce their number actually engaged to 34,884. It would then stand—Federals actually engaged in the fight, 43,400; Confederates, 34,884; difference in favor of Federals, 8,516.

This was one of the bloodiest conflicts of the war, and superb gallantry was shown on both sides. We ask again: ‘Did the Federals fight against superior numbers’ at Stone's river?

The official losses reported on each side were as follows: Federals—Killed, 1,730; wounded, 7,802; captured, 3,717; total, 13,249. Confederates—Killed, 1,294; wounded, 7,945; captured, 1,029; total, 10,266. Losses of Federals over Confederates, 2,983.

The two great armies of the West nerved themselves for a trial of their strength on the field of Chickamauga on the 19th and 20th of September, 1863. The soldiers in both armies had had their baptism of blood at Shiloh and Stone's river and Gettysburg, and were veterans indeed. The Federals were commanded by General Rosecrans, while his divisions were commanded by such distinguished officers as Thomas, McCook, Crittenden, Sheridan, Negley, Granger and Steedman. The Confederates were commanded by General [244] Bragg, with Cleburne, Cheatham, Stewart, Walker, Bushrod Johnson, Hindman, Law, Preston, Breckinridge and Forrest as division commanders. It was to be a battle of the Titans.

Rosecrans hung his fine army as a massive iron gate across the valley leading into Chattanooga. Thomas, whose pathway had always been lighted with the star of victory, was on the left, Crittenden in the center and McCook on the right.

Bragg placed his right wing under Polk, with D. H. Hill second in command, while Longstreeet commanded the left wing. The battle opened along the whole line on the 19th, and the Confederates were successful along their entire front, except on the Federal left, where Thomas seemed to have his wing of this great iron gate anchored in the everlasting rocks. Cleburne threw his division against him only to recoil. Cheatham and Breckinridge hurled their veterans on his breastworks only to retire with great loss. The iron gate was ajar on the right, on the center, but its left was as solid as the grand mountains overhanging it.

The second day the battle opened furiously. The divisions of Walker, Preston, Cheatham and Cleburne foamed themselves away on Thomas, but he stood like a rock. Longstreet, commanding Bragg's left wing, massing his divisions, making his right division the pivot, wheeled his entire wing to the right against McCook and Crittenden. This was a conflict of giants. McCook's splendid corps is soon ground to powder. A Confederate division wedges itself in between Crittenden and his command, and strikes it in the rear, and it vanishes and falls back, part of it in the rear of Thomas and part of it on the nearest road to Chattanooga. Rosecrans leaves the field and sends word to Thomas to do the best he can to save himself. McCook and Crittenden follow Rosecrans to Chattanooga looking for their lost commands.

The Federal right and center are now massed as a support to Thomas. Longstreet presses open the iron gate tills it hangs on only one hinge, and that hinge was Thomas. Thomas' corps was now girdled with a line of victorious bayonets, while

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volleyed and thundered,

till at last, overwhelmed and beaten, he sullenly retires, fighting as he goes, till he is safe behind the hills of Chattanooga. [245]

Rosecrans, in his report of September 10, 1863, the last made before the battle, has 63,143 effectives, after deducting all detachments which were absent. (Official Records, Vol. XXX, p. 169.)

In order to get absolutely correct statistics of Bragg's army in this battle, the writer has gone through the regimental, brigade and division reports made at the time, and they show that Bragg had effectives of all arms, 53,124. Summarized, it is as follows: Federals 63,143; Confederates, 53,124; Federal excess, 10,019.

The losses were, Federals killed, 1,656; wounded, 9,749; captured, 4,774; total, 16,179. Confederates killed, 2,389; wounded, 13,412; captured, 2,003; total, 17,804.

The abstract of returns for Rosecrans' army on September 20, the day after the great battle of the 19th, is as follows: Present for duty, 67,877; present equipped, 60,867.

If Rosecrans had 60,867 equipped for duty on the morning of the 20th, after the great losses of the day before, it is not possible that he had more than 63,143 at the beginning of the fight?

At 5.40 P. M. on the 22d General Rosecrans telegraphed to Mr. Lincoln from Chattanooga that ‘we are about 30,000 brave and determined men.’

Rosecrans' army had occupied Chattanooga several weeks before the battle of Chickamauga, and was just as much in possession of Chattanooga before the battle of Chickamauga as after that event. In his congratulatory address to his army, after they had been driven back on Chattanooga after two days of bloody battle, he says: ‘When the day closed you held the field, from which you withdrew in the face of overpowering numbers to occupy the point for which you set out—Chattanooga.’

Had Napoleon, when reaching Paris after the disastrous rout of Waterloo, issued to the survivors of the Old Guard an address congratulating them on the fact that they occupied ‘the point for which they set out—Paris,’ would not the world have considered it an unpardonable satire on their heroism?

The scene now shifts to Virginia. General McClellan with the best organized army seen since the days of Napoleon, advances on Richmond. He advances till the spires and towers of the capital city are in full view of his beleaguering army. The front of every division and corps is girdled with abattis and breastworks. Chickahominy is an entrenched camp from Mechanicsville to Malvern Hill. The authorities at Washington urged McClellan on, but he would [246] not move till he had the best organized army of the world to sustain him. There must be no mistake about capturing the Rebel capital.

On the 26th of June the battle opened on the right wing of McClellan at Mechanicsville by an attack by A. P. Hill on the breastworks of Fitz John Porter. Soon the roar of artillery is heard round the flank of Porter and in his rear. It was the wizard of the Valley of Virginia, who but a few days ago had defeated in quick succession McDowell, Shields and Fremont. It was the guns of Stonewall Jackson. Porter made a brave fight, but no troops could stand long with A. P. Hill assailing them in the front and Stonewall Jackson in the rear. They fell back on their next supports, and when these supports were driven away they continued to fall back for seven long, bloody days, leaving baggage, artillery and equipments to the victors, till Malvern Hill is reached, and there they check the Confederates, inflicting on them great loss, till their trains and artillery had so far passed that they could fall back to Harrison's Landing on the James river, some thirty miles further from Richmond than they were on the first morning of battle. The losses in these battles were enormous on both sides. The Confederates were, in the main, poorly armed, and as they assailed the enemy behind breastworks their loss was much larger than the Federals.

Comte-de-Paris, in his ‘Civil War in America,’ Vol. II, p. 76, gives us General McClellan's army report for June 20, 1862, six days before the battle opened, and his total ‘present’ was 156,838, while his ‘present for duty’ was 115,102. This seems a great disproportion between ‘present’ and ‘present for duty,’ but we accept this as the number that were engaged in battle under General McClellan.

From the most accurate statistics obtainable from the Confederates, General Lee's army ranged between 82,000 and 85,000, no estimate from regimental returns making it over 85,000.

General McClellan, in his letter to the Secretary of War July 3, 1862, says, ‘it is impossible to estimate our losses, but I doubt whether there are to-day more than 50,000 men with their colors.’

If the report of General McClellan of June 20, 1862, is correct, then here are 115,102 Federal soldiers who, after fighting seven days against 82,000 to 85,000 Confederates, find themselves thirty miles further from Richmond than when the battle commenced. Verily, this was not one of the battles when the Federals fought against superior numbers. [247]

The scene shifts, and Stonewall Jackson's corps is again on the historic field of Bull Run, the field which only thirteen months before gave him his immortal sobriquet, ‘Stonewall.’ He had been guilty of a piece of Napoleonic rashness, which was the marching of his corps, in forty-eight hours, fifty-six miles, and quietly taking a position on the enemy's line of communication at Manassas, having Pope's army of 60,000 to 70,000 and Rapidan river between his own little army and that of General Lee, while to the north of him and distant only a few miles, lay the garrison of Washington city, 40,000 strong. After having destroyed many army supplies he begins to retreat, assailed as he was by all of Pope's available army. He fights a great battle on the 28th, holding the surging masses of the enemy at bay till nightfall. The next day Pope's entire army girdled him as with a zone of fire, but at this fateful moment a very sunburst of glittering bayonets pours through Thoroughfare Gap and adjacent hills, and the banner which floats over them is that of Longstreet. The field was an open one, and nerved, perhaps, by the memories of the First Bull Run, prodigies of valor were performed by both armies, but at the close of the day Pope's veterans had fretted themselves away against Jackson's ironsides and Longstreet's ‘Hearts of Oak,’ and, routed, riven, they flee, and the bulk of that proud army finds itself, in less than forty-eight hours, safe under the guns of Washington.

General Pope had in this battle 63,000 effectives (See ‘Battles and Leaders,’ Vol. II, pp. 499-500), while on the same authority Lee's army numbered 54,000.

Federal loss, killed, 1,747; wounded, 8,452; captured, 4,263; total, 14,462. Confederate loss, killed, 1,553; wounded, 7,812; captured, 109; total, 9,474.

August melts itself away, and Indian summer hangs its veil of film-like witchery over the hills of ‘Maryland, my Maryland.’ Pope has been replaced, and McClellan controls the united armies of the James and the Potomac. Lee's army, after a series of minor conflicts, finds itself brought to bay on the plateau between the Antietam and the Potomac. It is a glorious battlefield for armies of equal strength. It was full of danger to the smaller army, with a great river in its rear in case of disaster. McClellan comes to retrieve the disasters of Richmond, and to infuse new life in the vanishing morale of Pope's disheartened army. It is an open field and a fair fight. It was a conflict between two chiefs who had walked face to [248] face the fiery edge of battle on the banks of the Chickahominy. Hooker's veteran division assailed with intrepid daring Lee's right, but as Gibraltar has dashed for ages the Mediterranean wave, so dashed Lee the assaulting column. Then McClellan's oncoming hosts fling themselves with reckless courage on Lee's center, but ‘as roll a thousand waves to the rock, so Swaran's hosts came on; as meets a rock a thousand waves, so Inisfail met Swaran.’ The sun rises to the zenith, and Lee's army still holds its front of flame defiant to McClellan's hosts. Burnside occupies the Federal left, but a dangerous bridge across the Antietam has to be crossed ere he can have an equal chance in the fight. But only after being held in check, with enormous slaughter, for four and a half hours by 219 men of Toombs' brigade, by a heroic dash he crosses the bridge and pushes Lee's column back into the edge of the village of Sharpsburg. But Lee, anticipating this movement, sends five brigades, under A. P. Hill, from his left and center, and Burnside is hurled back with great loss. 'Tis the bloodiest day in the ides of Maryland. The September frost had already painted the forest with crimson-war had that day left her carmine footprints on her soil. It is a drawn battle. Lee remained on the battlefield till the night of the 18th, and then quietly withdrew and crossed the Potomac into Virginia.

General McClellan had on and near this battlefield 87,164 troops, and General Lee had 40,000. (See ‘Battles and Leaders,’ Vol. II, p. 603.)

In the eighteen days of the Maryland campaign, which includes Harper's Ferry, Lee's army, never larger than 40,000, fought the battles of South Mountain, Crampton's Gap, Harper's Ferry, Sharpsburg (Antietam), and Shepherdstown, losing in killed, wounded and captured, 11,172; while McClellan, with an army of 87,000, lost, killed, 2,662; wounded, 11,719; captured, 13,494, a total of 27,875. (See Vol. 1, p. 810, for Confederate loss, and the same volume for Federal loss.)

Lee retires his army to Fredericksburg, on the south bank of the Rappahannock, and McClellan moves his army to the other side. Both armies go into winter-quarters. McClellan's head, like Pope's, has fallen under the official axe of the War Department, and Burnside is now the commander. Burnside's army crossed on pontoons and made several heroic attempts to storm Marye's Heights, but were driven back with great slaughter.

Burnside on December 13th, had 116,683 present; Lee, on December [249] 13th, had 58,500 present (See ‘Battles and Leaders,’ Vol. III, p. 143); difference in favor of the Federals, 58,183. Burnside lost, killed, 1,384; wounded, 9,600; captured, 1,769; total, 12,653. Lee lost, killed, 458; wounded, 4,743; total, 4,201.

Burnside has failed to capture Fredericksburg, and his head goes into the War Department's official waste basket, and ‘Fighting’ Joe Hooker takes command of the Federal forces. His forces from May 1-3, 1863, were 130,000, with 404 pieces of artillery, while Lee's were 60,000, with 170 pieces of artillery. (See ‘Battles and Leaders,’ Vol. III, p. 233.)

General Hooker's abstract of returns for April 30th, when his advance on Lee began, was as follows: Present for duty, 157,990; present equipped, 133,708; artillery, 404 pieces.

General Couch, commander of the second corps, and second in command to Hooker, estimates Hooker's seven corps at 113,000, ready for duty, not counting 1,000 cavalry and reserve artillery, and 400 cannon, and his estimate of General Lee's army was 55,000 to 60,000, not including cavalry (‘Battles and Leaders,’ Vol. III,) and on page 161 of this volume he says Hooker's artillery ‘was equal to any in the world.’

Hooker takes the greater part of his army, leaving Sedgwick 30,000 strong to threaten Fredericksburg, and marches up the northern bank of the Rappahannock and crosses his army to attack General Lee in the rear. His army has crossed successfully the Rappahannock, and he issues the following congratulatory address, being general order No. 47: ‘It is with heartfelt satisfaction that the commanding general announces to the army that the operations of the last three days have determined that our enemy must either ingloriously fly or come out from behind their defences and give us battle on our own ground, when certain destruction awaits him.’ (Italics ours.) On May 1st, after the successful crossing of his troops, Hooker says, ‘I have Lee just where I want him. He must fight me on my own ground.’ At 2 P. M. of the same day he said, ‘Lee is in full retreat toward Gordonsville. I have sent out Sickles to capture his artillery.’

This flank movement of Hooker made Lee remove the larger part of his army to the rear of Fredericksburg in order to confront the forces of Hooker. Lee had come out from his defences. Lee then occupied a position between the two great wings of Hooker's army, either of which was numerically able to crush him. It was a position [250] of great danger. Hooker presses his grand army down to Chancellorsville, with his right commanded by Howard. Lee confronts him at Chancellorsville, and in the meantime Stonewall Jackson works himself around and strikes, like a thunderbolt, Howard's right wing and doubles it back. Hooker's center is held at bay by Lee, but in the meantime Sedgwick crosses his 30,000 troops over the Rappahannock, and attacks the fortifications in rear of Fredericksburg and captures them, and then advances on Lee. Lee, having checked and to some extent routed Hooker's right and center, withdraws a portion of his troops and assails Sedgwick. After a bloody fight, Sedgwick is driven back across the Rappahannock. Hooker is disabled by a shock of cannon ball, and he turns his army over to General Couch and retires across the river. He had ‘Lee just where he wanted him,’ but circumstances made it necessary for him to find safety on the northern bank of the Rappahannock. Soon his whole army crossed to the northern bank, and thus ended Hooker's ‘On to Richmond.’

The losses in this great battle were as follows: Federals—Killed, 1,606; wounded, 9,762; captured, 5,919; total, 17,287. Confederates—Killed, 1,649; wounded, 9,106; captured, 1,708; total, 12,463. (See ‘Battles and Leaders,’ Vol. III. p. 233.) Summarized, it is as follows: Federals, 130,000; Confederates, 60,000. Federal loss, 17,287; Confederate loss, 12,463. Excess of Federal army, 70,000; excess of Federal loss, 4,884.

This campaign on the rear of Lee was a brilliant conception on the part of Hooker. Hooker had in this campaign 10,000 more soldiers than Wellington had on the field of Waterloo, and 48,000 more than marshalled under the banner of Napoleon. Wellington, with his 120,000, crushed Napoleon with his 72,000. Hooker, with his 130,000 fled, leaving Lee, with his 60,000, master of the field. The battle-cloud lifts itself from Chancellorsville and the Wilderness, but not for long, as the coming May will rebaptize these fields with the blood of slaughtered thousands.

Two months from the day when Hooker's splendid army was driven by Lee across the Rappahannock, these same armies confronted each other on the heights of Gettysburg. Hooker's official head has gone to sleep in the waste-basket of decapitated generals, with those of Pope, McClellan and Burnside, and General Meade, a brave and cautious soldier, commands all the forces for the defense of the capital at Washington. Lee's army is there, but the wizard of [251] the Valley of Virginia, whose cyclonic stroke had pulverized Hooker's right at Chancellorsville, and who, on his many battlefields, had known no other song than the shout of victory, had ‘crossed over the river.’ The South, to her remotest borders, ‘gave signs of woe’ over his death, and Lee had spoken of him as his ‘right arm,’ while a northern poet, in a poem of exquisite beauty, calls him ‘a light—a landmark in the clouds of war.’

These great armies met by an accidental collision around the village of Gettysburg, the Federals having possession of the commanding heights of Seminary Ridge, Cemetery Hill, Little and Big Round Top. Too many able pens have already wasted their wealth of expression in describing this great conflict for us, in the brief limits of this article, to attempt a description of this great battle. It is our province to fairly portray the numbers and resources of the combatants.

According to abstracts of returns for General Meade's army, June 30th, the day before the battle, he had, including the reinforcements which reached him during the battle, 101,679 effectives. In an editorial note of the volume in which this abstract is found—viz: ‘Battles and Leaders,’ Vol. III-is the following in regard to General Lee's strength: ‘It is reasonable to conclude that General Lee had under his command on the field of battle, from first to last, an army of 70,000.’

General Meade's abstract of June 30th, for ‘present equipped,’ was 98,150. This would give General Meade 28,150 in excess of General Lee. The student of history in the far-off future, when reading of how Pickett's and Pettigrew's men charged unflinchingly through this valley of the shadow of death, into the very entrenched works of Cemetery Hill and then melted away as wreaths of vapor before a July sun, will meditate on what ‘might have been’ if Stonewall Jackson had been there with 21,500 fresh soldiers, the number necessary to have equalized the strength of the opposing armies. General Lee, in his report, says the battle closed after the repulse of Pickett and Pettigrew's charge on the afternoon of July 3d. Lee then fell back to his line of the morning. The order to recross the Potomac was given the night of July 4th, twenty-four hours after the fight was over, and Ewell's corps did not leave Gettysburg till late in the afternoon of the 5th, full forty-eight hours after the close of the battle on the 3d. (See Report of General Lee, ‘Official Records,’ Vol. XXVII, pages 313-325.) Lee carried back into Virginia seven pieces [252] more of artillery than he carried with him into Pennsylvania. (See Report of Lieutanant-Colonel Briscoe, Chief of Ordnance, ‘Official Record’ Vol. XXVII, page 357.)

At ten minutes past 4 o'clock P. M. on the 4th General Meade says that he ‘would make a reconnoisance the next day (5th) to see where the enemy was,’ and in that telegram reports his effectives, ‘exclusive of cavalry, baggage guards, ambulance attendants, etc., as 55,000.’ Now, supposing the cavalry corps which was present at Gettysburg, 12,653, had lost as many as 653, it would leave 12,000 to be added to the 55,000, making 67,000 outside ‘baggage guards and ambulance attendants,’ to which add 23,003, losses in the battle, and it gives General Meade 90,003 as present in the fight or on the field. Even on this basis, General Meade had 20,000 more soldiers present on the field than had General Lee.

While the Federals reaped the material as well as the moral fruits of that victory, yet the fact that a part of Lee's army lingered around Gettysburg for two days after the battle, and that it was ten months before Meade's army was ready for an advance on Richmond, shows at what a great cost the victory was achieved. The personal loss of friends on both sides at Gettysburg was so great, and the wounds are yet too fresh for us to contemplate without passion that field of slaughter; but the coming bard in the far-off years will tell how the Tennesseans, Alabamians, Virginians and North Carolinians charged with Pickett and Pettigrew, Armistead and Garnett, into the very ‘gates of hell’ on Cemetery Hill.

Ten months after the battle of Gettysburg these same armies confront each other on the Rappahannock. Meade's head has joined company with McClellan, Pope, Burnside and Hooker, and General Grant, who, with the aid of Porter's fleet with 300 cannon and 75,000 men, had, between November 1, 1862, and July 4, 1863 overrun the State of Mississippi and captured Vicksburg, whose largest force within the campaign had only been 40,000, was there as commander; not as a general of a particular army, but as generalissimo of the armies of the United States.

General Grant, perhaps because he did not wish to follow in the footsteps of McClellan, adopted the overland route to Richmond by way of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor. He crossed the Rappahannock with 118,000 veteran troops, while General Lee confronted him with 62,000. (See ‘Battles and Leaders,’ Vol. IV, page 179.) [253]

General Grant's tactics were to flank Lee out of all his fortifications and to interpose his army between him and Richmond. Having numerically a vastly superior army, he could simply leave Lee in his fortifications and beat him in the race to Richmond.

When Grant had crossed the river and began his flanking, Lee struck his right flank and, in a battle of two days in which great endurance and courage were shown by both armies, Grant was beaten, with a loss of 2,246 killed, 12,037 wounded and 3,383 captured; a total loss of 17,666. Grant then moved his army towards Richmond, and Lee confronts him at Spotsylvania, and a two days battle ensues, and Grant retires with a loss of 2,725 killed, 13,416 wounded, and 2,258 captured; a total loss of 18,399. In the meantime Sheridan makes two raids on Richmond. After the repulse at Spotsylvania, Grant is met at North Anna, where his loss is 591 killed, 2,734 wounded and 661 captured; a total loss of 3,986. Grant then moves by the left flank, intending to assault Richmond by way of Cold Harbor, but on arriving at that point Lee is there, and there occurred one of the bloodiest battles of the war, in which in less than one hour of actual battle Grant lost 1,884 killed, 9,077 wounded, and 1,816 captured; a total loss of 12,737.

Grant had lost in the battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania and North Anna, 40,051, and had when he reached Cold Harbor, 103,875, and was there reinforced with Smith's corps 12,500 strong, which made his effective force at that battle 116,375. As his original army when he crossed the Rappahannock was 181,000, and he had lost before reaching Cold Harbor 40,051, then he had left his original army, 118,000, less 40,051, which is 77,949; but as his report at Cold Harbor before the fight was 103,875 plus 12,500 Smith's corps, making 116,375, he must have received, after crossing the Rappahannock, 38,426 reinforcements.

Grant's army, then, from the day he left the Rappahannock up to and including the fight at Cold Harbor, was 156,426, leaving Butler's army south of the James, depleted only by Smith's corps of 12,500. Lee's army on the Rappahannock was 62,000, to which add 14,400 reinforcements, makes his entire force, up to and including the fight at Cold Harbor, 76,400, against Grant's 156,426.

Grant's losses, beginning at the Wilderness, including the Sheridan's two raids and the battle of Cold Harbor, were as follows: Killed 7,620, wounded 38,342, captured 8,967; making an aggregate loss of 54,929 between May 5th and June 3d; and in Butler's army, [254] which was simply a wing of Grant, the loss within the same time was—killed, wounded and captured—6,215.

Summarized, Grant's losses for thirty days were as follows: Killed 8,254, wounded 42,245, captured 10,645; total, 61,144. (See Battles and leaders, Vol. IV, pp. 184, 185.)

The battle of Cold Harbor was fought on June 3, 1864. We give below the monthly returns of the effectives of Grant's and Lee's armies for each month thereafter up to December 31, 1864:

June 30107,41954,751
July 3177,32157,079
August 3158,92334,677
September 3076,77535,088
October 3185,04647,307
November 3086,72356,424
December 31110,36466,533
(‘Battles and Leaders.’ Vol. 3, pp. 593, 594.)

From June 3d, not including Cold Harbor, Grant's loss was, to December 31, 1864, 47,554. (‘Battles and Leaders,’ Vol. 4. p. 593.)

If grant's effectives were, on December 31st, 110,364 and he had sustained between June 3d and that date a loss of 47,554, he must have had an army, between those dates, of 157,918. If to this we add the losses between the Rappahannock between May 5th to and including Cold Harbor on June 3d, 61,244, the sum total of Grant's army from May 5th to December 31st was 219,162. In other words, Grant, after a campaign from May 5th to December 31st, had an army of 219,162 soldiers and having on hand December 31 only 110,364, he must then have lost during that time 108,798.

Since the days of the coalition against Napoleon no grander army ever appeared than that controlled by Grant in his advance to Richmond. Major-General Webb, United States army, in his ‘Through the Wilderness’ (‘Battles and Leaders,’ Vol. III, p. 152), says: ‘Grant's army, 118,000 men, properly distributed for battle, would have covered a front of twenty-one miles, two ranks deep, with one-third of them held in reserve, while Lee with 62,000 men similarly disposed would cover only twelve miles. Grant had a train which, he states in his “Memoirs,” would have reached from the Rapidan to Richmond, or sixty-five miles.’ [255]

At the end of thirty days General Grant found himself, after a loss of 54,929, within ten miles of Richmond, a point which he might have reached without the loss of a man. War's appetite for slaughter was gorged in this brief campaign, and while we do not propose to discuss the generalship of the overland route to Richmond, the friends of those who fell at the Wilderness and Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor must sometimes feel that they were the victims more of a political prejudice than of a military necessity.

Lee's entire army, from the Rappahannock and including Cold Harbor was 76,400. If his losses were as great as Grant's, that is, 54,929, then he would have had only 21,471 of his original army left. This campaign had reduced the result of the war to a mathematical problem. Grant's army was the upper millstone, two inches thick, and Lee's was the nether-stone, one inch thick. The friction being the same, it required little mathematical knowledge to divine the result.

For the benefit of the future historian, we compile the following statistics issued by the Adjutant-General's Office of the United States July 15, 1885:

Total enlistments in Union army2,778,304
Deducting Indians3,530
Deducting Negroes178,975182,505
Total enlistment of white men2,595,799

The seceding States of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia (then including West Virginia) furnished to the Federal army 86,009 white troops, while the slave-holding States, Kentucky, Maryland and Missouri, which never formally seceded, furnished to the Federal army 190,430 white soldiers, and the negro population of the various States furnished 178,975 negro troops. Summarized, it is as follows:

White soldiers furnished to Federal army by seceded States,86,009
White soldiers furnished to Federal army by non seceding slave States190,430
Negro troops178,975
Total troops furnished United States army by slave-holding States455,414


The largest muster-roll of the Southern Confederacy (See ‘Battles and Leaders’ Vol. IV, page 768) was on January 1, 1864, and was 472,781. Deducting 455,414, troops furnished by the Southern States to the Federal army, from 472,781 on the Confederate roll January I, 1864, it would be as follows:

Troops on Confederate muster-roll January I, 1864472,781
Troops furnished by Southern States to Federal army455,414

In other words, the Southern States contributed to the Federal army within 17,367 as many soldiers as the Confederacy had on its rolls January 1, 1864.

Efforts have been made to get the number of foreigners enlisted in the Federal army, outside of those who were previously naturalized, but no accurate statistics have been found on that subject. It may safely be estimated at 144,586.

General Wright, agent for the United States Government for the collection of Confederate statistics, gives 600,000 as the greatest number of soldiers enlisted in the Confederate service.

Tabulated, it would be as follows:

Total Confederates enlisted600,000
Federals from Southern States276,439
Foreigners (estimated)144,586

Above we have given the ‘estimated’ number of foreigners enlisted as soldiers in the Federal army. Later statistics show the nationality of all foreigners who fought for the Union as follows: Germans, 176,800; Irish, 144,200; British Americans, 53,500; English, 45,500; other foreigners, 74,900; total, 494,900. It will be seen that our estimate of 144,586 was really far below the actual facts.

Thus it will be seen that the Federals had an army fully as large or larger than the entire Confederate enlistments without drawing a man from the Northern or non-slaveholding States.

The Federal army in its report for May 1, 1865, had present for duty 1,000,516, while it had ‘present equipped’ 602,598. [257]

The Confederates on April 9, 1865, had 174,223 who were paroled, which added to their prisoners then in Federal prisons, 98,802, made an army of 272,025. Thus it stood at the time of the surrender— Federals, 1,000,56, and Confederates, 272,025.

That it may not appear that we have taken a one-sided view of the number of Federals to overcome a given number of Confederates, we append the conclusions, written many years after the war, by a brave and distinguished Federal General—Don Carlos Buell—copied from his article, ‘Battles and Leaders,’ page 51, Vol. III, entitled ‘East Tennessee and the Campaign of Perryville,’ which is as follows:

‘A philosophical study of our civil conflict must recognize that influences of some sort operated fundamentally for the side of the Confederacy in every prominent event of the war, and nowhere with less effect than in the Tennessee and Kentucky campaign. They are involved in the fact that it required enormous sacrifices from 24,000,000 of people to defeat the political scheme of 8,000,000; 2,000,000 of soldiers to subdue 800,000 soldiers; and, descending to detail, a naval fleet and 15,000 troops to advance against a weak fort manned by less than 100 men, at Fort Henry; 35,000 with naval co-operation to overcome 12,000 at Fort Donelson; 60,000 to secure a victory over 40,000 at Pittsburg Landing (Shiloh); 120,000 to enforce the retreat of 65,000 intrenched, after a month of fighting and manoeuvering at Corinth; 100,000 repelled by 80,000 in the first peninsular campaign against Richmond; 70,000, with a powerful naval force to inspire the campaign, which lasted nine months, against 40,000 at Vicksburg; 90,000 to barely withstand the assault of 70,000 at Gettysburg; 15,000 sustaining a frightful repulse from 60,000 at Fredericksburg; 100,000 attacked and defeated by 50,000 at Chancellorsville; 85,000 held in check two days by 40,000 at Antietam; 43,000 retaining the field uncertainly against 38,000 at Stone's river; 70,000 defeated at Chickamauga and beleaguered by 70,000 at Chattanooga; 80,000 merely to break the investing line of 45,000 at Chattanooga; 100,000 to press back 50,000 (afterwards increased to 70,000) from Chattanooga to Atlanta, a distance of 120 miles; 500,000 to defeat the investing line of 30,000 at Nashville; and finally, 120,000 to overcome 60,000 with exhaustion after a struggle of a year in Virginia.’

We are not discussing the question of ‘which is the better soldier.’ There are logical reasons why it took three or more Federals to [258] overcome one Confederate. It was not for want of courage on the part of the Federal soldier. The men who laid their lives on the sacrificial altar in front of Marye's Heights, the men who stormed the ‘Bloody Angle’ at Spotsylvania, were certainly brave men, vet the fact stands uncontested that the Confederates, with 600,000 held at bay for four years the Federals with 2,778,304.

Colonel Dodge, in the August (1891) number of the Century, speaks of the subduing of the South as having been ‘well done and in a reasonable time.’ When we remember that the coalition against Napoleon in 1814 invaded France in January, and in sixty days they had her capital in their possession and Napoleon was in exile; when we remember that the next coalition against France was made on March 25, 1815, and that in less than ninety days Napoleon was a prisoner, and France was at the feet of the allies; when we remember that in the Franco-Prussian war the German army in less than six months from the declaration of war sang the songs of their Fatherland under the shadows of the Tuilleries, we may think the subduing of the South may have been well done, yet we do not think that in point of time it was a great military achievement.

Some of the readers of this article may ask why it was ever written. We answer frankly, it was written simply to focalize the facts of history so they might be accessible to those who had not the time to go through many volumes of official records to find them.

The current history of the day, as taught in our public schools, has impressed the children of those who sustained the ‘Lost Cause’ as though the history of their ancestors would not bear criticism. These children have heard nothing but the songs of the victors, and it is due them that they should have the facts of history as presented by the official records, to prove to them that though the children of the vanquished, yet they are descended from heroes.

We say to the victors, Raise your Arc de Triomphe and write in letters of gold, Vicksburg, Gettysburg, Appomattox, and our children will pass with uncovered heads under its shining arch; but let them, as they look up through their tears at the obverse side of this arch, see written, ‘Federal enlistments, 2,778,304; Confederate enlistments, 600,000,’ and this is all they ask.

It is the truth which makes a man free. In this article we have spoken unstintingly of the gallantry of the Federals on many hard-fought fields, and have not spoken, except incidentally, of the bravery and endurance of the Confederates. [259]

The North, after four years of bloody battle, with an enlistment of 2,535,799 white soldiers, calling in her dire extremity for 178,795 negroes to help her subdue an army never numerically one-fourth as strong, by this act placed the capstone on the arch of Confederate valor, and with this we are satisfied.

The Union Army has the glory of success, but the gallantry and endurance of the Confederates will be the inspiration of the epic of the coming years.

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