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U.S. Civil War Turn 6 (Liberation of Charleston, Bragg's retreat, Hooker's advance toward Richmond)

Early Summer, 1862


With Curtis stymied in Missouri, McClellan absorbed in nothing other than the 20 miles in the vicinity of D.C., and Butler's Army of Northeastern Virginia utterly destroyed, Lincoln decided to promote Grant following his successful capture of Charleston, and to have him return to Washington to take command of the Army of the Potomac in order to face off with Lee's ever more imposing Army of Northern Virginia. Grant's lieutenant Sherman would be assigned to the newly re-constituted Army of the Cumberland, and Butler, following his disasterous performance, was ordered to take command of the forces in Charleston and complete what seemed to be the simple assignment of finishing the siege of Fort Sumter.


Unfortunately for the Union, things were not to proceed so easily. The wire went down recalling Sherman, but due to a brawl which broke out when the telegraph operator's husband showed up to accuse his wife of adultery with one of her coworkers, the order informing Grant to prepare for Butler's arrival never got sent.


When Butler arrived in South Carolina and took command, it took Grant a few days to make the necessary arrangements and bring Butler up to speed on the local dispositions and enemy capabilities. These few days were to prove fatal to the Union cause in the southern heartland. Stonewall Jackson was again sent to check the federal advance along the coast (in fact, after this campaign, his fellow rebels would start referring to him as "Seawall" Jackson). In special orders direct from President Davis himself, Jackson learned that in addition to the immense symbolic value held by Charleston and Fort Sumter as the home of the rebellion, the fort was also home to an ironclad being constructed (to be named the "Secession"), which was hoped would challenge the Union blockade. As such, relieving the fort before the federals could capture the dreadnaught was of utmost importance to the Confederacy.

Upon rendezvousing with the retreated Charleston garrison, Jackson immediately sent out a brigade down towards Port Royal which captured hundreds of Union wagons cut the federal supply line to the besieging force running down to the coast. Mere hours after hearing that the supply train full of coffee, beans, and ammunition would never arrive, Jackson's corps arrived as if from nowhere and assaulted the Union entrenchments. Utilizing a path through the swampy area that the Union thought was impassable, Jackson's soldiers managed to roll up the Union line, and send the federal troops (along with Grant - who was due to leave the next morning) fleeing along the coast to the northeast. Charleston was free, and Fort Sumter - along with the Secession - had been saved.

After botching another assignment mere days after taking command, Butler had something of a nervous breakdown. He decided to stay in the swamp for some time, convinced that Jackson was always on the verge of another brutal assault. The Union troops managed to round up decent fare from the countryside and set up reasonable defensive position, but the suspected rebel assault never came. After a heated debate with Grant, Butler called for a council of war with his division commanders, and they unanimously let him know that indeed they all thought him incompetent to lead, and would prefer if Grant were to assume command. After realizing he had lost the support of not only the soldiers, but also the officers, Butler sent a message by courier down the Santee river to Lincoln asking to be relieved. Lincoln gladly agreed, and a week later Butler was to head down the Santee back to Washington, leaving Grant in charge of what appeared to be (and in fact, was) a hopeless situation.


With his troops starving - and only one third of his original command left following the battle of Charleston and a month of disease and desertion while in the South Carolina swamps - Grant embarked on an ambitious cross-country march, hoping to reach Beaufort, N.C. and live off the fertile land along the way. Unfortunately for Grant, starving Union deserters had let Jackson know exactly what Grant's plans were. Jackson intercepted Grant at Florence, and after a brief battle, Grant was forced to surrender all of his remaining force into Confederate custody (the papers - both North and South - were to mock him as "Unconditional Surrender" Grant for the remainder of the war, after having his second independent command captured by the rebels).




While things were bad in South Carolina for the Union, they were looking even worse in Kentucky. A.S. Johnston's formidable Army of Tennessee had command over virtually the entire state, and a new pro-confederate state legislature was being assembled to announce the formal secession of Kentucky. Rosecrans was put in charge of the newly re-formed Army of the Cumberland, and told to make sure this did not happen.

Bragg was sent to command the Army of Tennessee, with Nathaniel Bedford Forrest in charge of the cavalry, and reinforcements arrived to the army by rail from the deep south. Rosecrans feared to face the rebels head on, but the supply lines through middle Kentucky were wide open, and so Sherman was given orders to take command of the XV corps stationed at Evansville along with Stanley's cavalry division and to cut the Confederate army's supply, forcing them to retreat back south.


In short order, Sherman crossed the Ohio far upstream from Henderson and Morgan's cavalry and in under a week was at Elizabethtown, where he captured two locomotive, 50 cars of rolling stock, and tore up 20 miles of rails, preventing any hope of getting supplies up to the Confederates in Louisville and Frankfurt, and dashing the hopes of putting together a formal declaration of secession.

Bragg saw how precarious the situation was - both for his army, and the unguarded city of Nashville. As soon as he could get the rebel army together, he marched southwest, hoping to catch Sherman before he wrecked any further havoc. Before Bragg arrived in Elizabethtown, Sherman had already marched further south, wrecking the rail connection in Bowling Green, and camping outside that town less than 50 miles the capital of Tennessee.

Even though it would leave Louisville and Frankfurt to the mercy of Rosecrans, Bragg immediately marched his troops in a wide sweep, crossing the Green downstream from Bowling Green and reaching Sherman's encampment near nightfall. After a minor skirmish and realizing that his single corps was facing down the entire Army of Tennessee, Sherman arranged a night withdrawal, so that when Bragg's assault commenced the next morning, they found nothing but empty entrenchments.

After the long march down from Frankfurt, Bragg decided to give his men a day's rest before heading out to pursue the Union XV corps any further.




The Confederates were to run into more trouble down in Florida. Kirby Smith thought to march his now rested division into Jacksonville with no resistance, having reports the Burnside's troops in Olustee were busy raiding the countryside and terrorizing southern women. But it was not to be.

After completing the fortifications in Mobile in near-record time in the spring (fast enough to beat Jackson's rail deployment), engineer James Wilson was to be given an even more imposing task. Using guns from a squadron of naval blockaders, Wilson managed to create an impressive series of fortifications around Jacksonville in the 48 hours it took Smith to rest his men and reconnoiter the city. Smith was convinced that this must be some sort of ruse, but when he sent a few brigades forward to probe the works he found them stoutly defended and called off the attack. Overnight, the Navy had arrived with two division of troops fresh from New England and general Thomas, dashing Smith's hopes of liberating the city.

Rather, Smith realized that between the fresh troops under Thomas and Burnside's division at Olustee, he was now badly outnumbered, and decided to reinforce his entrenchments at Fernandina in preparation for a Union assault. While Burnside did manage to return to Jacksonville, the Union infantry (unlike the engineers) were hardly a rapid strike force. Burnside was wary of assaulting Confederates in a well-defended position, and sent back to Washington for reinforcements.





Out past the Mississippi, Richard Taylor was sent to command the Missouri militia in Springfield until Van Dorn could come to his aid.

Curtis, now running low on supplies, attacked the well-entrenched troops at Springfield. The bloody frontal assault was successful, but at a heavy price - over a third of his command was either killed or wounded in the battle. While Van Dorn did not arrive in time to help with the defense, he did arrive in time to find Curtis's exhausted and starving troops looting the city. Curtis's men fought valiantly, holding off the attacking Confederates for the better part of the day, but when the ammunition began running low, a fierce assault by Van Dorn himself broke the Union line, and sent the defenders fleeing rapidly out of town it utter disorganization. What remained of Curtis's command either surrendered or disappeared into the countryside. Southwest Missouri was to remain in firm Confederate control - for the time being.




With dry roads, and the Army of Northeastern Virginia no more, Lee saw an opportunity to march north and fight the Union on its own ground. To counter Lee's threating movements in Virginia, Lincoln sent Joseph Hooker, in command of the Union I Corps, by rail to western Maryland, near Grafton, so that he could cover Lee whichever side of the mountains he might approach on.

Lee wasn't about to let Sigel's XI corps - the last remnant of the Army of Northeastern Virginia, escape. Lee pinned Sigel's main force with A.P. Hill's Corps, while he sent Beauregard on a flanking maneuver. The flanking force rolled up the Union line like a wet rug, and Sigel's corps - the fraction that escaped - was sent fleeing. While Sigel was hoping to combine with Hooker in order to make a stand against the rebels near the state line, Fighting Joe had decided his best bet was to head for central Virginia, in the hopes that Lee might have to abandon his adventures in West Virginia and head back to defend the Confederate capital.

Hooker picked up the garrison at Harper's ferry and headed out of the Shenandoah toward Richmond, causing Longstreet to fall back before the superior force. Lee, as always, had his eye on the prize, and didn't take the bait. After wiring back to Richmond telling them to improve the capital fortifications as much as possible, he ran down Sigel's exhausted XI corps, forced a quick surrender, and then headed through the mountains after Hooker.

After Lee's long march north and then east, the path was open for Pope's withering division in southwest Virginia to return to the safety of West Virginia in range of Union supply wagons, but instead he pushed further down the rail line toward Tennessee, sacking Wytheville along the way.


Meanwhile Hooker, seeing the path to Richmond open before him, at the last minute had a crisis of confidence, and decided not to assault the Richmond works. Instead, he veered off to Fredericksburg, which he captured after driving off nothing more than some local militia, Longstreet having drawn his men further back toward the capital to help in its defense, if they had been needed. Lee headed off straight after Hooker, but after receiving word that the federals would not be assaulting Richmond, decided to chase Stoneman's cavalry division out of Manassas, liberating the vital rail hub and also placing him in an excellent position to strike either Hooker's force in Fredericksburg, or to march north into either Maryland or Pennsylvania.



With the July sun beating down, making for restless men and dry roads, and furthermore with Grant "the butcher" having just arrived back in Washington to take command of the Union forces, it was clear that in the coming months the fields and valleys of Virginia were soon to run red with blood.







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