Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Recap: Death grip for 'Anaconda Grant'

     The following newspaper account of Stoneman's Raid was published May 13, 1865, in the Nashville Union. It was reprinted from the Cincinnati Commercial, which printed it around May 10.
     It is signed by Nemadia, which probably is a pseudonym for one of Stoneman's staff officers, possibly Capt. Frank H. Mason of the 12th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry. Whoever wrote it admired Gen. Stoneman.
     My newspaper brethren will appreciate his reference to "hapless members of the press" at Salisbury's infamous Confederate prison. More recently, Salisbury has been the home of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame, which I think is progress (though Steve Spurrier might disagree).
     This story covers only the first 24 days of the raid, through Salisbury. Stoneman departed April 16 and returned to Nashville via Knoxville, while Gen. Alvan Gillem, Gen. Simeon Brown and Gen. William Palmer commanded the rest of the raid.
     [Brackets indicate a change or addition I've inserted for clarity. Otherwise, I've tried to preserve the language and style of the original article.]


The Stoneman Raid.
The Plan of the Expedition.
Destruction of Railroads.
The Capture of Salisbury.
Property Destroyed.
 "Stoneman's raid complete—successful in every respect," were the quick uttered sentences of Captain W.F. Ammon, A.A.G., as he rode up last night to Brigadier General [William H.] Gibson's heaquarters, with orders and dispatches, and about twelve hours afterward, Major General Stoneman and Staff arrived.
 It will be seen that in difficulties surmounted, rapidity of execution, perfection of detail, amount of property available for war purposes destroyed, and particularly in its general effects on the two great rebel armies, Lee’s and Johnston’s, this raid stands forth pre-eminent and unsurpassed—of incalculable service to the early triumph of our armies. This movement was not intended to be simply an independent foray for the destruction of property, or the protection of East Tennessee, but as one of the coils which Anaconda Grant was weaving around the eastern armies of the Confederacy. Sherman, Meade, and Sheridan were surely progressing toward the performance of their parts in the great programme, and now the avenues to escape must be closed, which accomplished, the net would be closed, and surrender or entire destruction would be inscribed on the colors of Lee and Johnston.

 The plan of Gen. Stoneman, when he was placed in command of the District of East Tennessee, was to occupy the mountain passes of Carter County, with infantry and artillery, then at the head of his cavalry division, Brigadier General A.C. Gillem commanding, to slash rapidly forward, threaten Salisbury, North Carolina, and, having caused a concentration of the rebel forces at that point, to turn toward Greensboro and Danville, everywhere giving the impression that he was intending to cut the North Carolina Railroad, and then effect and junction with Sherman, while in reality he would march upon the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad and effectively destroy it, so that Lee could not use it as a means of retreat when he should be forced to forsake the protecting fortifications of Richmond. At the same time, all depots of provisions, the lead mines at Wytheville, and all the munitions of war, would be taken care of. This accomplished, he would turn to North Carolina, and cut the railroad between Danville, Greensboro, Salisbury, and Charlotte, and if possible, capture Salisbury, which had been made a large depot of supplies, machinery, &c.
 To carry out these plans, he ordered General Davis Tillson, commanding 4th Division, Department of the Cumberland, to concentrate his command at the mouth of Roane’s Creek, and to occupy and fortify that point, Taylorsville [Mountain City], Deep and Watauga Gaps, and Boone, North Carolina. The railroad being in running condition only as far as Morristown, General Tillson had to march his men from that point to Roane’s Creek. General Stoneman, having assured himself that everything was in readiness, could not wait the slow movements of infantry and supply trains, but 

from all lines of communications on the night of the 26h of March, and at 11 a.m. on the 28th, arrived at Boone, North Carolina, where a force of home guards were found arrayed to dispute and delay his further progress. But Major Keogh, Aid-de-camp, charged valiantly into town with the advance, capturing sixty prisoners, and killing eight of the Watauga Home Guards, an organization which has many crimes to answer for, as the bleaching skeletons of many of our officers and soldiers who escaped from rebel prisons and arrived safely among these mountains which were to them as Pisgah’s Mount to Moses, only to fall as victims to these fiends, attest. During the melee Major Bascom, Chief of Staff, captured Captain A. J. Pritcher, 37th North Carolina, who claimed to be a paroled prisoner, but, on searching a stable where he attempted to conceal himself, an order was found informing him that he was exchanged, and directing him to report to his command for duty.
 At Boone the force was divided. The 1st brigade, Col. Palmer, 15th Pennsylvania Cavalry, commanding, passed through Deep Gap to Wilkesboro, while the 2nd brigade, Col. and Brevt. Brig. Gen. Brown, and the 3rd brigade, Col. J. K. Miller, moved to the same point through Watauga Gap, on their way to destroying Patterson’s Mills, a large manufacturing establishment at work for the Confederates. This movement caused great excitement at Saulisbury, as was afterward learned from captured dispatches. 
 Troops were telegraphed for in all directions, and soon they had concentrated eight thousand men at that point. Detained three days, by high water, from crossing the Yadkin, Gen. Stoneman fully assured the rebels, by sending detachments toward different points on the North Carolina railroad, that it was his intention to cut that road, and join Sherman. To prevent this they had changed their troops from point to point, as everywhere, at the appearance of a detachment, it was supposed to be the advance of the main body, and being so reported from, and from so many directions almost simultaneously, the rebel commanders were soon completely mystified, and at last, one afternoon, were amazed to find a force approaching Salisbury. Certainty as to Stoneman’s plans again succeeded doubt, and Salisbury was rapidly prepared to greet the “Yanks” with showers of shot and shell. But the morning dawned, and Stoneman and his cavalry had disappeared like the mists of evening, but whither he had gone none knew, nor could the commanding officer at Salisbury discover the direction he had taken for two days. 
 The river having become fordable, at dusk the command “saddle up” given, and all that night the column moved rapidly on, halted at daybreak to feed, then up and away again through Wilkes, Yadkin, and Surry counties it dashed, to Huntsville [Hillsville], Virginia, where it arrived April 3. They were entirely unlooked for in this quiet inland town, and the advance guard heralded the approach of Stoneman and his raiders by charging through the town at an early hour.
 At this point, Colonel John K. Miller, 13thn Tennessee cavalry, with a portion of his brigade, was detached, and ordered to proceed to Wytheville on the Tennessee and Virginia Railroad, while the main column moved to Jacksonville [Floyd], where a detachment under command of Major Wagner, 15th Pennsylvania cavalry, was ordered to strike the railroad at Salem, and move eastward as near to Lynchburg as possible. A little after midnight, April 4, General Stoneman, with the main body, dashed into
where he encountered but little resistance. Immediately proceeding to the telegraph office, which the operator, in his haste to save himself, had left in perfect order, the General took possession, and succeeded in “calling” the Lynchburg operator, who at first was a little suspicious and answered back, “How are you, Yanks?” The reply was made, “You must be drunk, there are no Yanks any where around here.”
 Lynchburg—“What has become of the Yankees you have been telegraphing about all day as approaching?”
 Christiansburg—“Oh that was nothing but country rumors, and were found to be false.” Lynchburg was soon satisfied, and then proceeded to give the Christiansburg operator a lecture for sending rumors over the line, as they generally turned out false, ending it by saying that “during the day is has been reported through town that Sheridan was coming this way, but no one believes it now.” He then sent several messages, military and civil, one of the military messages of considerable interest to the General, as it informed him of the intended movements west of him. The line refused to work soon after, and it was judged that it had been cut, and, as all supposed, it afterward proved true, that Major Wagner had arrived near Salem, and was tearing up the road and burning bridges. At daylight parties were sent in both directions along the line of the road to burn the ridges and ties, and destroy all stores they might find. 
 A considerable quantity of Quartermaster’s and Commissary stores, found in the town, were used and destroyed. During the day dispatches were received from Colonel Miller and Major Wagner announcing their success, and news came that Richmond had fallen. Never, was troops in better spirits, and never did men work with a heartier will at the labor of destruction. The stronghold of treason had at length succumbed to the indomitable Grant. Lee, and his army, the pink of Southern chivalry, was in full retreat. They were fast rendering his principal line of communication useless and irreparable, and were using and destroying the stores which had been gathered together for the use of the great army of Virginia, and if they met with no serious mischance, would be able to return to North Carolina and destroy the only railroad remaining, by which he and Johnston could either retreat or obtain supplies. The capture of Lee and his army seemed inevitable, and with the Potomac Army would they share the laurels which the grateful nation would bestow upon the conquerors of the finest army the rebels had ever placed in the field. Glory enough for one day. Every stick added to the blazing piles, which were last contorting the iron rails into all sorts of fantastic shapes, each falling bridge, each flaming storehouse hurried on the destruction of Lee’s army, hastened the day of peace, and the return to the home fireside, so the work went on with shout and cheer, and gladsome song.
 Colonel Miller entered

at daybreak. After a sharp skirmish with the garrison, he immediately detached parties to Max Meadows to destroy the large depot of supplies, and on the railroad in both directions, to burn the bridge and ties. These detachments were successful, and during their absence the main force were engaged in similar duties in the town, their labors resulting in the total destruction of the large railroad depot, which was crowded with supplies of various descriptions, four cars laden with salt, and in various parts of the town large quantities of harness, tobacco, powder, corn, hay, cotton, cloth, and a great number of wagons. Hundreds of bales of fine Kinniknick tobacco were broken and scattered in the streets. About three o’clock P.M., General Echols advanced on the town with a considerable force of infantry and cavalry, and, as the destruction of property, rather than of life, was Col. Miller’s role, he fell back to Porter’s Ford, on New River, where he successfully resisted the further advance of Echols, who, finding that further advance was impracticable, retired, leaving Colonel Miller to rejoin General Stoneman without molestation.
were similarly successful. Maj. Wagner proceeded from near Salem to within four miles of Lynchburg, burning every bridge and for miles rendering not only the road but the rails entirely useless, by burning the ties and bending the rails; while Colonel L. S. Trowbridge, with the 10th Michigan Cavalry, performed like service from Wytheville to Salem. The plan had succeeded. Stoneman’s force had struck the road in three different places, more than eighty miles apart, and within twelve hours time of one another, had destroyed the road and all stores, and as they had finished their work, the morning of the sixth saw them en route for their
which was continued through Jacksonville [Floyd] and Taylorsville [Stuart], Virginia, and Danbury, Germantown, and Mocksville, towards Salisbury, North Carolina. From Germantown, Colonel Palmer with his brigade was sent to cut the North Carolina Railroad, which was done in the most complete manner, burning several large bridges, and tearing up and destroying the track. The Deep River bridge which was one of the bridges destroyed, was of great length and height, and competent engineers state that even with the best of facilities, it would not be rebuilt in less time than four weeks. This bridge alone completely severing the communication between Raleigh, Greensboro, and Salisbury.

 The main body approaching within about three miles of Salisbury, found the enemy strongly posted on the opposite side of Grant’s Creek with about 3,000 infantry and cavalry, and with fourteen pieces of artillery in position, which were under the command of Col. Pemberton, formerly Lieutenant General. As fast as the column came up, the troops were put in position, and an immediate attack commenced, as Stoneman has great confidence in getting the first blow. The creek had steep banks, and was only passable in two or three places. 
 Parties were sent to cut the roads leading to Morgantown [Morganton] and Charlotte, and the attention of the enemy well engaged in front. General Gillem directed the 11th Kentucky cavalry to the extreme right, to cross over and take possession of the road to Morgantown, and Major Keogh, Aid-de-camp, accompanied them. Soon after they had started, General Stoneman regarding their success as essential, ordered Captain F. Morrow, Assistant Adjuntant General, to go and see, in person, to the execution of the orders given to the 11th Kentucky Cavalry, and overtaking them, he and Major Keogh led the regiment sharply forward, and made an attempt to cross the creek. Major Keogh rode boldly down into the creek, but was met by such a fierce fire that he could not cross, and the steep bank prevented him from getting out, he had to ride for some distance up the creek, constantly exposing himself to a fierce fire. Hearing a train moving out from Salisbury, they moved quickly to the right, and succeeded in capturing it; among the passengers was the widow of the late Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk, as they afterwards learned. Destroying the train, they kept on to the right, and crossing the creek, found the enemy in readiness to receive them. Near a mill, a large number of rebels were concealed behind a fence, who greeted their approach with a deadly volley. Captain Morrow was struck just below the knee with a rifle ball, and Private Aldrich, orderly to Major Keogh, lost his leg. Major Keogh did not give them time to reload, but with a loud “hi-hi,” dashed forward and scattered them right and left, and in a few minutes was up with the artillery, who were surprised, and, for a time, evidently supposed them to be rebs, instead of hated Yanks.
 While these things were transpiring on the right, the General had about thirty men dismounted, and, superintending their crossing of the creek himself, ordered Lieut. Col. [Israel C.] Smith, of the 10th Michigan cavalry, and A. A. I. G. on Gen. Gillem’s staff, to charge the enemy, which was done in gallant style, putting the rebels to flight, leaving two of their pieces behind. Col. Smith, in person, captured the first piece of artillery. At this time, hearing the attack on the right, the whole rebel line broke, and our forces commenced a vigorous pursuit, driving them through town, killing and capturing many of them.
 The town was entered at 8 o’clock and about twelve hundred prisoners with nineteen pieces of artillery and large stores were the fruits of their victory. The work of destruction first commenced at the prison, where so many of our brave soldiers had languished and died. The filth and misery of rebel prisons have been so often delineated by abler pens than ours, that we will not attempt to add our mite thereto, as the last act in the Salisbury drama of prison life has been played, and Stoneman has let fall the drop curtain over the smoldering ruins of those walls, which echoed and re-echoed to the suppressed sighs and groans of gallant patriots. The “jaws of hell” have been broken, and will no more open to receive either sufferers for liberty’s sake, or hapless members of the press. 
 One of the papers was out with a morning edition, stating it was reported that Stoneman was approaching Salisbury, and exhorting all to fight for their country and their homes. Some wag of a typo among our cavalry got up a small extra, and continued the editorial, showing the different stages of uncertainty, fear, and final exit of the editor. 
 Two fine armories were found in running order, and the old factory buildings, formerly used as prisons, were filled with splendid machinery, recently shipped from Richmond. All machinery, printing offices, and large quantities of materials and stores of various kinds, were destroyed, of which no account could be taken. The value of machinery alone must have been very great, as it was of the finest description, and in large quantities. We are under obligations to Captain H. S. Chamberlain, chief Quartermaster, for the following
10,000 stands of arms
1,000,000 rounds of ammunition, small
10,000 rounds of ammunition, artillery
6,000 pounds of powder
3 magazines
6 depots
10,000 bushels of corn
75,000 suits of uniform clothing
250,000 blankets, English manufacture
20,000 pounds leather
6,000 pounds bacon
100,000 pounds salt
20,000 pounds sugar
27,000 pounds rice
10,000 pounds saltpeter
50,000 bushels wheat
80 barrels turpentine
15,000,000 Confederate money
A lot of medical stores, which the Medical Director said was worth over one hundred thousand dollars in gold.
 The work of destruction completed, the command left Salisbury, and with thirteen pieces of artillery and the prisoners, proceeded to Statesville. At this place, Palmer’s brigade moved toward Lincolnton, and General Gillem, with two brigades, proceeded to Morgantown [Morganton], while the General, staff, and escort returned to this place, where they arrived at 3 o’clock today.

Thus, since March 21, has General Stoneman’s headquarters moved five hundred and ninety-four miles, and the greater portion of his troops have marched much further. His command has crossed Stone Mountain once, and the Blue Ridge thrice—forded the Yadkin, Dan and Roanoke Rivers several times each—destroyed all the bridges and supply depots for eighty-six miles, and burned the ties and bent the rails for twenty-five miles along the line of the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, cut communications between Danville and Greensboro, from Greensboro to the Yadkin River, and, from Salisbury toward Charlotte, to damage the North Carolina Railroads, the months of labor and large expenditure of materials will be required to make it available for use—captured Salisbury with a large number of prisoners and stores, and is now more in position to advance against Charlotte, or harass the flanks of an army moving through the Carolinas either to the north or south. During the expedition the torch has been applied to several large manufactories and nearly ten thousand bales of cotton. Five engines and trains have been destroyed and over 1,000 hale and hearty negroes, ready to grasp the musket in defense of the Stars and Stripes, have been sent to Knoxville. An immense number of horses and mules have been captured, so that the command is now better mounted than when it started. The men and animals have been subsisted from the supplies gathered at the tithing depots established by the Confederate government, and when the quantity found was greater than they needed, it has either been burned or given to starving women and children.

 Of Major General Stoneman it is unnecesay to speak, as his antecedents as a successful cavalry officer are well known to his admiring countrymen, and we are well aware we give utterance to a popular sentiment when we say, it is hoped that the Government will reward his distinguished services by appropriate promotion in the regular army.
 Gen. A. C. Gillem, who will be recollected from his defeat of John Morgan, gained greater reputation than ever. 
 Colonel W. J. Palmer, 15th Pennsylvania Cavalry, has often been notified by his commanding generals, and particularly so in the Thomas and Hood campaign, where he captured nearly the whole of Hood’s wagon train. He has added fresh laurels to his name during this campaign, and we predict that the “star” will be at length bestowed upon him.
 Major Keogh and Captain R. Morrow, who so greatly distinguished themselves in the taking of Salisbury, have frequently been commended in official reports. The former has served since the commencement of the war with distinction He was for sometime a staff officer in the Potomac Army, where he share in some of the hardest-fought battles. The latter a native of East Tennessee, furnished valuable information to our forces, and accompanied General Burnside to East Tennessee as Volunteer Aid.
 Major G.M. Bascom, A. A. G., and Chief of Staff, a native of Ohio, was one of the first to volunteer at the commencement of the war and has served with great credit.
 Captain W. F. Ammon, A. A. G., commanded the escort during the raid, and, as usual, was foremost in every enterrise that needed dash and daring.
 Lieutenant Colonel Israel C. Smith, 10th Michigan Cavalry, and A. A. I. G., on General Gillem’s staff, has been, for the past year, on duty in East Tennessee, where he has gained an enviable reputation as a cavalry officer. His charge at Flat Creek, with seventy-five men, upon Wheeler’s whole division, will long be remembered. But we cannot mention, individually, all who deserve to be so noticed, for every officer and man performed his duties in a manner creditable to himself. 

NEXT: Our final daily issue: Stop the presses! The longest raid is over 

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