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Nearly 26,000 men fought here to determine whether Missouri would remain under Union control, and whether or not Federal armies could continue their offensive south through the Mississippi River Valley. As a result of this victory, Missouri remained under Union control and the Federals continued their offensive.

The bitterly cold weather made matters worse. “I felt like I was dying, I was so chilled,” recalled a (Missouri) state guardsman named Samuel McDaniel. “The snow was all over us, and our clothes frozen on our bodies.” One morning McDaniel’s feet were so swollen he could barely stand up. He called out: “O God, Colonel, shoot me, if you will, but don’t tell me to fall in, I’m nearly dead and cannot walk for the life of me.”

from - Pea Ridge: Civil War Campaign in the West by Wm. Shea & Earl Hess

The following is from the diary of Wallace P. Benson who served in Company H of the 36th Illinois Volunteers.

March 1 – We decamped at eight o’clock and marched nearly west about seven miles and camped near good water. Extremely cold snowing lightly all day. I went to a deserted house and got some books.
March 5 – Cold. We had barely enough provisions to live upon. We had orders at eleven o’clock to be ready at two A.M. to march.

March 6 – Sugar Creek and Pea Ridge, Arkansas
We were called up at twelve o’clock and started out but order was countermanded and we went back to camp and waited until daylight, when we fell in and started on the retreat. Everything passed on quietly until we got near Sugar Creek. 3 o’clock p.m. when an enemy made its appearance. Co. B.E. 6th were overtaken by a swarm of secesh (rebel soldiers) and forced to lay down their arms when the 2nd Missouri went back and charged on them and the boys scattered. Quite a number of the second Missouri were killed, among them one captain. We were fired upon but the fire was returned. Our regiment did not get chance to fire. We took a good position on Sugar Creek and spent the night with but little to eat, making all necessary arrangements for an attack.

March 7 – Leetown, Arkansas – Battle of Pea Ridge
We struck tents early, expecting an attack we were drawn up in order of battle at the rear of our camping ground and stacked arms. But new orders came soon and we were ordered out to the state road. We had not gone far before heavy cannonading commenced in advance of us and we were ordered back. We went to the rear of our cam passing through Leetown into an open field about one quarter of a mile from town and one and one half miles from camp. When we came into the field our cavalry were driven back, having charged the enemy and retaken two pieces of artillery which the enemy had taken before we came on to the field. Nothing could be more exciting. Horses little used to warfare turned before the charge of the enemy and ran with terrible speed back to the open field where we arrived just in time to support them. There was some anxiety lest our regiment would break under such an excitement but they stood firm as a rock.

Our artillery opened upon them (the enemy). As they came out in squads our artillery would drive them back. They soon got tired of such work and tried to out flank us on the right, but were met with terrible slaughter. What remained of Co. B some of Co. E were sent forward as skimishes and Pete Pelican, Co. B,  shot Ben McCullock and took from him a fine gold watch which Col. Greusel bought at quite a cost. They were finally routed just at night. We passed over the field on a back road to the other field of engagement. We passed many dead and dying which was enough to move the strongest heart. We moved around near their right wing and lay down by the fence in silence. Not being allowed a fire we suffered with the cold. It was past midnight that a messenger came for us to come into camp. We were glad to get by a fire once more and although we had no blankets or anything to eat we slept and rested. We arose in the morning and go a few mouths full of meal when the messengers of death came hissing over our heads. We were advancing on the right wing of the enemy when a severe cannonade commenced on both sides. We were marched past our batteries to support them on the left. The shell and ball hummed through the air but no one was hurt. We took our position and lay down. The balls whizzed over our heads but not one man in our whole regiment was killed. The cannonade was most awful, lasting about two hours, when the 16th Missouri advanced on the right. Two of our companies were sent out as skirmishers. The enemy retreated on to a high cliff and kept up the fire. Our company was ordered forward to support Co. K and while passing in front O. Picket, Kimplin, Conroe, Oles Bunker were wounded. The enemy were driven from the bluff. Our regiment rejoined us and we scoured the woods in vain to find a secesh.. There was cheering and shouting when we found they were whipped. They scattered in every direction, leaving any quantity of small arms and I understand we have taken twenty seven pieces of artillery.

Our division followed them on the Springfield Road and we found the houses filled with wounded secesh. We traveled about twelve miles after the fight was over, which had ended about noon. Our team came up but did not bring over 100 blankets and we were left without tent or blankets and but little to eat

March 9 – Keitsville, Missouri
We started forward but stopped at Keyesville and waited some time, when we turned about and marched back where we camped and stopped on account of a rain storm. After this we came forward and camped on the field of battle. A young man came over to tell us that Junius was wounded.

March 10 – The camp was aroused by the secesh, which came in to bury their dead, riding on to come of our cavalry without having up the flag. We were out and into line in a hurry, but the news soon came to go back to our quarters. Were on picket.

March 11 – I went over where the right wing were engaged and to see Junius. Found that he had gone. The dead were nearly all picked up but the ground showed signs of desperate fighting.

March 12 – Very hot. We remained in camp all day for there was a rumor that we were going to march.
March 13 – Sugar Creek by Pea Ridge, Arkansas

We were ordered to march at seven, we knew not where. We camped on Sugar Creek about three miles from the battleground. Rained very hard at night.

March 14 – We remained in camp all day. Considerable difficulty exists between Generals Sigel and Curtis about going ahead.

March 15 – General Sigel still opposes the advance and reported his division unfit for service. Considerable trouble exists in camp, some of the officers resigning. Col. Joslyn and Major Barry offered their resignations.

March 16 – Everything remains quiet since the battle. There is but little to eat.

March 18 – Received orders to march in the night.

March 19 – Keitsville, Missouri
The drum beat at three o’clock, and the boys fell out with reluctance. We were on the march at sunrise, not knowing which way we were bound. When we found that we were going back general dissatisfaction was expressed, but we were all willing to follow General Sigel. We encamped a little after noon four miles from Keatsville. The most of the boys were of the opinion that Price was advancing on us again.

March 21 – Continues to snow, as much snow having fallen as at any time during the winter. We were relieved from picket about 1 o’clock.

March 22 – Very cold. We received a letter from Clymena. Bought a piece of cheese of the suttler about the six of my hand for fifty cents.

March 30 – We were relieved from picket duty. I was quite unwell. Two hundred and forty three of our men came back from Van Buren being all the prisoners they had taken since we left Rolla. Every precautionary measure against an attack being made. Our men that were prisoners confirm the death of Ben McCullock, McIntosh, Slack, Stone, all generals. They report great dissatisfaction in the secesh army and many are going home. Peach trees begin to blossom.

March 31 – A package of our letters were broken open and money taken.

From the Aurora Beacon, 1862   (Pea Ridge)

The following is a portion of a letter from Capt. Sile Miller, of the 36th regiment, to his brothers in this city.  We have been permitted to print the extract below:

After I had assembled the skirmishing party, I was ordered to hold the two companies to support the Peoria Battery, which was just then recapturing two of its guns, the enemy having fled in wild confusion, being pursued by the 36th and two or three other regiments, for one and a half or two miles.  It was McCulloch’s force we fought the first and second days.  We saw no more fighting that night, as it was sundown or nearly.  We remained with the battery, which changed position three or four miles during the night, and started off with it to commence the action the next day, going about three miles on a stiff double quick, having had nothing to eat but raw fat bacon since the morning before. – We came across our own regiment, and were ordered by Col. Osterhaus to join it, and let the battery be taken care of by the division to which it belonged.  Within five minutes afterwards, the shell came over the trees within a few rods of us.  We change position so as to support Welfle's battery, with the whole five regiments of our brigade.  Again the three left companies were ordered forward as skirmishers, B,G, and K, and I was ordered to oversee the deployment.  We came to the brush at the foot of a high hill.  This time our boys got a foothold in the brush.  As the devils were not more than two or three to one, they very soon became aware that well-drilled skirmishers could beat them at their own game of bushwhacking. All the time our own cannon were pouring their contents over our heads upon the top of the hill, Company H, Captain Joslyn, in the meantime reinforce the line.  The 12th Missouri was in a hollow on our right, keeping up a perfect shower of bullets from their French rifles.  The enemy began to fall back.  We assembled on our own regiment, and the whole marched over the hill, which was strewn with dead and wounded.  Great trees were crushed and torn by the cannon shot, rocks were shivered to atoms, and prisoners say it was really what seemed to be a perfect hell.  After marching over the hill,  Maybe you know what joy is, but you do not and never can know the wild delirious ecstasy which crazes the soldier, or rather an army, when they know they have won and put to route an enemy twice or three times their number, whom they have been fighting with various success for three excited, anxious, ALMOST ETERNAL DAYS.  What though their comrades moan and shriek with painful wounds!  What though hundreds of dead are strewn within their very sight!  THE VICTORY IS OURS!  The cost and all else is forgotten.  The great joy and wild delight absorbs all else; ecstasy rules the hour and the man, and gives a life that he never knew before.  As I came off the field, I picked up some loose papers blowing about, and found them to be a part of the contents of the last mail.  I found Lieut. Abe Longworth’s last letter to his wife, and also one to his uncle, and a communication from Chaplain Lyon to some religious paper. which was very steep and precipitous, we rested, and gave regiment after regiment, and General after General, thundering cheers, and were cheered by them in return.

Here is an extract from another officer of the 36th, Lieut. Sam Sherer, of Capt. Jenk’s company.  It is worth reading:

Colonel Nicholas Gruesel
(photo taken after the war)

Courtesy Illinois State Historical Society

I will not forget the glorious 36th, and Old Man (Col. Greusel).  They had just arrived at the scene of action, when a stampede occurred, of the 1st Mo., and 3rd Iowa Cavalry.  They were charging up a lane, and were fired upon from both sides, and in front, which caused their horses to wheel and run, the Butternuts following up; and it was the greatest sight imaginable.  1200 Cavalry going at full dash, some minus hats, arms, and riderless horses – the greatest consternation prevailing.  At this juncture, the Old Man of the 36th came up and said to his regiment: “Officers and men, you have it in your power to make or prevent another Bull Run affair; I want every man to stand to his post, and repulse the movement following up the stampede, and that if they gave back, the whole force was lost; that it was better for all of them to lose their lives, than that an army of 16,000 should be thrown into confusion, suffer defeat and disgrace.”  And his loud, clear voice rang through the woods, “FORWARD!” and I tell you they did!  And fought like Tigers, driving them from the field with heavy loss.     Courtesy of  Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library

From the Aurora Beacon, April 17, 1862   (Pea Ridge)

The following is an extract from a letter written by Capt. Sile Miller, dated April 4th.  It will be read with interest.  The 36th has again been paid off, and over $30,000 been sent to friends at home, under the care of the paymaster.

“Our boys returned from Dixie on Sunday last, hearty, healthy, and happy.  From accounts brought by them, we learn the defeat of the enemy was much more overwhelming than we had supposed.  The route was complete.  Their flight was as rapid and tumultuous as consternation and dismay could make it.  All broke for the woods and over hills, through the woods, avoiding one another and the roads, it seemed a foot-race of 40,000 men to find who should first bless their eyes with the sight of Van Buren.  The boys tell some curious stories.

While the prisoners were being hurried along as fast as they could be marched, a squad of fugitives rushed by them, when one of the boys sung out, “Hallo, stranger! Bull Run No. 2; ain’t it?”  “No, by God sir, this is A No.1 Bull Run!” responded one of the cavalry, bound not to be excelled by the Yankees in anything.  Walker tells with a delicious relish the oath which the Secesh  (secessionists) claim was administered to them by Col. Boernstein, while at Jefferson City.  His oath of allegiance was very impressive and comprehensive, as you see; “you too solemnly schwear that you will subbort der Gonstitution of der United States, and der Ghicago blatform, so help you Cot, if dere be a Cot, Cot tam you!”  The penal clause seems about as good as unconditional.  The Indian force was much larger than we had any idea of before they returned.  Pike had about 5,000, McCulloch 2,000, and McIntosh 2,000.  The Secesh curse them lustily.  They say when a shot from a cannon hit a tree, an old fellow ran up, and standing at a safe distance, peeling his eyes to the size of a saucer, jumped up, striking his heels together, yelled: “Ugh! Shootin’ wagon; shoot twice; shoot start, shoot stop; ugh!” and the old devil skidaddled for his pony, followed by the balance of the tribe, and were next seen in camp at Elm Springs; a good safe distance from the fight.  They killed every man they saw who wore a blue coat, thereby sending to his reward many as good Secesh as they were themselves. – When they came across an artillery horse which had been killed, they began to cut the harness to pieces to get the buckles for ornaments.  Ross, of the Cherokees, wrote to an old man, full blood chief of the Creeks, asking his advice about going to war against the Government, saying he was for peace.  The old man responded that he also was for “peace”, but that he was going hunting for a horse with a tortoise shell in his ear; meaning, I suppose, that peace would be hard for the red man to find.  They were all painted black, which led some who saw them to suppose they were Negroes.

There are a thousand curious things I might tell you which we saw and heard. – Where Price and his force is, I have not even heard anyone guess.  He has gone down the river from Van Buren, certain; but whether to step at Little Rock, or go to Pocahontas, or Memphis, or to reinforce Beauregard, I do not pretend to guess, as I have no means of knowing.  What our next move may be is a mystery.  We are afraid of the terrible silence in relation to Island No. 10, and Corinth, from Potomac and Burnside.  Have we met with great disaster anywhere?  I would give any consideration for a weekly paper, to be put into an envelope and sent through by mail.  It would come if done up as a letter, but papers are not brought through by mail at all.

P.S. – By all accounts given Walker of the time, place, and manner of McCulloch’s death, by rebel officers, there is no longer any doubt but Company B did the job. – Gen. Davis, who has heretofore claimed the credit for his division, now acknowledges that it was as we claim.”     Courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln  Presidential  Library

MARCH 6-8, 1862.--
Battle of Pea Ridge, or Elkhorn Tavern, Arkansas

Report of Col. Nicholas Greusel, Thirty-sixth Illinois Infantry, commanding Second Brigade, First Division.


Camp at Rose Hill, Ark'., March 12, 1862.

“Where every man did his duty it may be unjust to particularize, but while I tender my heartfelt thanks to all my command for their promptness in obedience and for their valor in battle, and especially for the daring and courageous stand which they made on the morning of the 7th, I would respectfully mention the unflinching courage and the collected bravery of Major Wangelin, of the Twelfth Missouri, and the untiring energy and valor of my acting assistant adjutant-general, George A. Willis, and of my aide-de-camp, Lieut. Robert M. Denning, who executed my orders with promptness in the midst of storms of shot and shell. I would also mention the intrepidity and determined boldness of Capt. Silas Miller, Company B, and Capt. Irving W. Parkhurst, Company G, Thirty-sixth Illinois, who led their commands against an overwhelming force of the enemy and brought them off with little loss, and also the brilliant charge made by Companies H and K, Thirty-sixth Illinois, under the command of Capts. Merritt L. Joslyn and J. Quincy Adams, which drove a large force of the enemy like chaff before the wind.”


Colonel, Commanding Second Brig., First Div., S. W. D.



For months, a severe drought affected the area. As Union and Confederate forces maneuvered around Perryville, both man and horse suffered intensely for want of water. Only stagnant pools were available for the thousands of thirsty soldiers. After the Union army left Louisville, some of the first casualties were caused by this dry, hot weather. One Union colonel wrote, "Today we passed two men laying on the roadside having died from sunstroke . . ." The heat was unbearable, and Perryville’s Chaplin River was nearly dry.

On the night of October 7, the Southerners moved an advance unit of Arkansas troops between the dried waters of Bull Run and Doctor’s Creek, located west of town. When Union forces reached the area, a reconnaissance mission proved that small pools of water were available in Doctor’s Creek. The Union command ordered the water, and the heights overlooking it (called Peter’s Hill), secured. At 3:00 a.m. on October 8, Federal troops under Brigadier General Philip Sheridan moved on Peter’s Hill, driving back the Arkansas soldiers. The Battle of Perryville had begun. 

Had the Confederate army won a decisive victory at Perryville, it is probable that the entire course of the Civil War would have been different. As Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Dr. James M. McPherson has written, "It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that the Confederacy would have won the war if it could have gained Kentucky, and conversely, that the Union’s success in retaining Kentucky as a base for invasions of the Confederate heartland brought eventual Union victory." Not only was Perryville the battle for Kentucky, it was a battle for the entire nation.     Courtesy Perryville Enhancement Project


Headquarters On the Battlefield  October   1862  (Perryville)

…It was no doubt the intention of the enemy to break our line, and I cannot give too much credit to our brave men for standing their ground, thus defeating their purpose.  Both officers and men behaved with coolness and deliberation, marching to the front with the steadiness of veterans and firing very regularly, though under the heaviest musketry I ever experienced.  By such bravery the enemy was soon compelled to give way and run in great confusion. 

Great praise is due to Captains Hiscox and Barnett for their bravery during the whole engagement, these batteries working as if on drill or parade.  I cannot express myself with sufficient gratitude for the behaviour of  Capt. Miller commanding the 36th regiment Illinois Volunteers during the whole fight – this regiment suffering most in officers and menin the brigade having 8 officers wounded, 9 privates killed, and 72 wounded, many of them mortally…

N. Greusel,
Col. Commanding 37th Brigade, Army of Ohio 

Courtesy the Lincoln Presidential Library


We found our poor major dead and stripped. Oh, I loved him! What a loss to us! Others were dead, and many wounded; I helped carry off four, and then gave out from exhaustion. This is a strange word for me, but no other expresses it. The moon shone full upon the scene; it is utterly useless to describe the sight, --men and horses dead and wounded, wagon-wheels, army caissons scattered, and the moans and shrieks of the wounded. Oh, may you never see such a sight! I helped carry off one poor fellow with his mouth and lower jaw shot off - stop, stop! I can't say more. We slept till sunrise; I expected to see it rise for the last time, for I supposed at daylight we should pitch in till death or victory were ours; but no, the rebels had fled. We moved on two or three miles, and rest yet. Thank God, we have water! Of our squad only two remain well; Company C, on our left, has no officers left. This morning the loss averaged thirty-five, --quite a reduction. Our colonel has an arm broken, and a wound in the neck. Many were the hairbreadth escapes. The poor horses have had nothing all day except a little water.”

Sgt. Mead Holmes, Jr.
Co. K, 21st Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry

From: A Soldier of the Cumberland: Memoir of Mead Holmes, Jr. (Boston: American Tract Society), 1864

This from Confederate Operations in Canada and New York

by John W. Headley

The sharpshooters of the enemy (Federals) continued their fire while we were halted, but our line was close behind us now, and suddenly the brass bands broke loose and filled the woods full of music, the troops began to cheer and the enemy's artillery began to roar….


From this place to Perryville, some ten miles, nearly every house was a hospital. At one log cabin we found 20 of the 10th Ohio, including the Major and two Captains. At another house were several of the 92nd Ohio; and the occupants were very poor, but doing all in their power for those in their charge. The mother of the family promised to continue to do so, but said, with tears in her eyes, she feared that she and her children must starve when the winter came. As at the other houses on this road, the sick had no regular medical attendance.

...We reached Perryville after dark...

On our arrival we learned that we were the first to bring relief where help was needed more than tongue can tell. Instead of 700, as first reported, at least 2,500 Union and rebel soldiers were at that time lying in great suffering and destitution about Perryville and Harrodsburg. In addition to these, many had already been removed, and we had met numbers of those whose wounds were less severe walking and begging their way to Louisville, 85 miles distant. To these we frequently gave help and comfort by sharing with them the slender stock of food and spirits we had taken with us.

There had been almost no preparation for the care of the wounded at Perryville, and as a consequence the suffering from want of help of all kinds, as well as proper accommodations, food, medicines, and hospital stores, was excessive . . .

From Perryville Report from US Sanitary Commission: Dr. A. N. Read -Inspector, U.S. Sanitary Commission

“…I counted four hundred and ten dead men on a small spot of ground. My heart grew sick at the sight, and I ceased to enumerate them. I continued my visit in an easterly direction, and for more than a mile every-where the same evidences of battle and death were manifest. I noticed at one spot six dead horses, the entire team of a rebel cannon. Turning my steps south toward Perryville, I saw dead rebels piled up in pens like hogs. I reached my home, praying to God that I might never again be called to visit a battlefield.

This is but the first part of the awful dream. For more than ten days after the battle the field hospitals, except Antioch Church and Mr. Goodnight's farm, were being cleared of the wounded; the two above excepted contained about three hundred wounded. All the churches and public buildings, together with most of the private houses, in Perryville, were employed as hospitals. Thousands of the wounded were brought in and made as comfortable as possible. For months attentive surgeons and rich sanitary stores were furnished, together with voluntary contributions from the surrounding country. There was scarcely a house for ten miles that was not encumbered, more or less, with the sick and wounded. All seemed to bear their burdens and contribute of their substance cheerfully to relieve the sufferings of the unfortunate soldier. For months hundreds of wounded died every week.”

[Dr. Jefferson J. Polk, Autobiography of Dr. J.J. Polk (Louisville: John P. Morton) 1867.]

Almost unanimously, Southerners believed they could use cotton to lure England and France into recognizing the Confederacy.

Source: "Historical Times Encyclopedia of the Civil War"

Influenced by the rabidly pro-Southern London Times, most upper-class Englishmen tended promptly to side with the Confederacy. For years the Old South had been close to Great Britain in both business and society.. British aristocrats...thought that the success of the Confederacy would give a much needed check to democracy, both in America and in Europe.  From the outset of the war, therefore, the "great body of the aristocracy" in England was "anxious to see the United States go to pieces." ..Europe's aristocracies had never been happy about the prodigious success of the Yankee democracy. If the nation now broke into halves, proving that democracy did not contain the stuff of survival, the rulers of Europe would be well pleased.

The threat of European intervention was real and immediate....In the summer of 1862, as far as any European could see, the Confederacy was beginning to look very much like a winner, a point which James Mason insistently pressed home with British officialdom. The Northern attempt to capture the Confederate capital had failed, Virginia's soil had been cleared of invaders, and in the East and West alike the Confederates were on the offensive. Minister Adams warned Seward that the British government might very soon offer to mediate the difficulty between North and South, which would be a polite but effective way of intimating that in the opinion of Great Britain the quarrel had gone on long enough and ought to be ended-by giving the South what it wanted.

On October 7 the Chancellor of the Exchequer, William E. Gladstone, made a notable speech at Newcastle in which he remarked that no matter what one's opinion of slavery might be, facts had to be faced: "There is no doubt that Jefferson Davis and other leaders of the South have made an army; they are making, it appears, a navy; and they have made what is more than either-they have made a nation." He added, "We may anticipate with certainty the success of the Southern States so far as regards their separation from the North."

Napoleon's government in many ways was quite cordial to the Confederates, and in the fall of 1862 Napoleon talked with Slidell and then proposed that France, England, and Russia Join in trying to bring about a six-month armistice. To Slidell the Emperor remarked that if the Northern government rejected this proposal, that might give good reason for recognition and perhaps even for active intervention. Neither Britain nor Russia would go along with him, but early in 1863 Napoleon had the French Minister at Washington suggest to Seward that there ought to be a meeting of Northern and Southern representatives to see whether the war might not be brought to a close. Seward politely but firmly rejected this suggestion, and the Congress, much less politely, formally resolved that any foreign government which made such proposals was thereby committing an unfriendly act. Whether Napoleon really expected anything to come of his suggestion is a question; probably he strongly wanted a Southern victory but was afraid to do anything definite without British support. His real interest was in Mexico, where he took advantage of the war to create a French puppet state, installing the Hapsburg Maximilian as Emperor of Mexico in direct violation of the Monroe Doctrine. Propped up by French troops, Maximilian managed to hang on to his shaky throne for several years, and if his control over the country had been firmer, Napoleon would probably have given the Confederacy, from that base, more active support. Shortly after Appomattox the Federal government sent Phil Sheridan and 50,000 veterans to the Mexican border in blunt warning, Seward filed a formal protest against the occupation, and Napoleon withdrew his soldiers. When the French troops left, the Mexicans regained control, and Maximilian was deposed and executed.

Singularly enough, the one European country which showed a definite friendship for the Northern government was Czarist Russia. In the fall of 1863 two Russian fleets entered American waters, one in the Atlantic and one in the Pacific. They put into New York and San Francisco harbors and spent the winter there, and the average Northerner expressed both surprise and delight over the visit, assuming that the Russian Czar was taking this means of warning England and France that if they made war in support of the South, he would help the North. Since pure altruism is seldom or never visible in any country's foreign relations, the business was not quite that simple. Russia at the time was in some danger of getting into a war with England and France, for reasons totally unconnected with the Civil War in America; to avoid the risk of having his fleets icebound in Russian ports, the Czar simply had them winter in American harbors. If war should come, they would be admirably placed to raid British and French commerce. For many years most Americans believed that for some inexplicable reason of his own the Czar had sent the fleets simply to show his friendship for America.

The Emancipation the end, changed the whole character of the war and, more than any other single thing, doomed the Confederacy to defeat. 

The Emancipation Proclamation had locked the Confederates in an anachronism which could not survive in the modern world.

Considering the course of the war as a whole, it must be said that Northern diplomacy was highly successful and that Southern diplomacy was a flat failure.

Source: The American Heritage New History of the Civil War

First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation

Issued by Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation declared "all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free." Although the Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery, it did change the basic character of the Civil War. Instead of waging a war to restore the old Union as it was before 1861, the North was now fighting to create a new Union without slavery. The proclamation also authorized the recruitment of African Americans as Union soldiers. By the end of the Civil War, approximately 180,000 African Americans had served in the Union army and 18,000 in the navy. 

Courtesy Library of Congress

View of Chaos and Destruction


Union forces commanded by General Rosecrans, faced off against Confederate forces, commanded by General Bragg near Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The Confederates struck Union lines first, and succeeded in pushing back the Union flanks. The Union center held. Confederate forces attacked repeatedly, but failed to move Union forces. Bragg expected Rosecrans to to withdraw, but Rosecrans did not comply. When it became clear that Rosecrans was receiving reinforcements from Nashville, Bragg withdrew his forces. Rosecrans declared victory and thus boosted Northern morale.

As a result of this battle, Tennessee was opened up, leading to the spectacular Tullahoma campaign and the capture of Chattanooga, the "Gateway to the South". These successes led to Sherman's devastating Atlanta Campaign and his March to the Sea. President Lincoln later wrote General Rosecrans, " I can never forget….you gave us a hard-earned victory, which, had there been a defeat instead, the nation could scarcely have lived over."

"As it is, it was one of the bloodiest battles on record in proportion to the numbers engaged" - Colonel J.B. Dodge


While the 1864 battle of Franklin has long been considered one of the bloodiest battles of the conflict, the Battle of Stone River, fought December 31, 1862 through January 2, 1863, was said to be even bloodier. But on the eve of the battle, a spontaneous celebration of the human spirit occurred. On that night, Union and Confederate troops were so closely encamped that each regimental band could be heard by both sides. To ease the tension of the approaching encounter, the bands began a spontaneous musical competition. ( The Rebels played "Dixie", while the Union bands countered with "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"; and so it went, back and forth, on and on throughout the night.) However, when one of the bands launched into "Home, Sweet Home" ( a popular song of the day ) competition quickly faded to brotherhood. First one band joined in, and then another, and another until all the musical groups were playing the poignant song in unison. Then men began singing the verses, and soon a massive chorus resounded through the cold, foreboding darkness. By the time the Confederate troops retreated three days later, more than 25,000 of those homesick soldiers had become casualties of war.

from ACCESS Nashville and Memphis

Performing under fire became commonplace for bands under the command of General Phillip H. Sheridan. Sheridan loved music and took a personal interest in his bands. This was shown in the equipment, mounts, and uniforms he accorded his bandsmen. To pay for these privileges, his bands performed at the front during battle playing the liveliest airs in their repertory. General Sheridan paid tribute to Army bands when he remarked, "Music has done its share, and more than its share, in winning this war."

from US Army Bands in History

'Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam
Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home!
A charm from the skies seems to hallow us there
Which seek thro' the world, is ne'er met elsewhere.
Home! Home!
Sweet, sweet home!
There's no place like home.
There's no place like home!
An exile from home splendour dazzles in vain
Oh, give me my lowly thatch'd cottage again!
The birds singing gaily that came at my call
Give me them with the peace of mind dearer than all.
Home! Home!
Sweet, sweet home!
There's no place like home.
There's no place like home!

by John Howard Payne of East Hampton, NY

Colonel J.B. Dodge later recounted two incidents of peculiar import:

When the war broke out a young man, whose mother lived on one of the farms we fought over on the thirty-first, was at school in Virginia. He at once volunteered, got a commission and was assigned to staff duty in the rebel eastern army. He was anxious to get home to see his mother once more; but the opportunity never occurred until just before the battle, when some troops were sent to Bragg by Lee and this young man was sent with them. They arrived at Murfreesboro during the night on the thirtieth, were placed in line and attacked us on the morning of the thirty-first. By one of these peculiar accidents that we cannot account for, the troops he was with crossed his mother's farm, and while making a charge he was instantly killed in the door yard in front of the house, falling almost across the door-step. A sad coming home for him.

One of the most singular sights on the field were the actions of the numberless small birds and rabbits that were driven frantic with terror. The birds would flutter and circle around our heads apparently too bewildered to get out of the way, and flocks of a hundred or more at a time would drop down on the ground and sit there stupefied with fright, while rabbits, of which there were a great number, would hop around more like toads than anything else, and both rabbits and quails would actually crawl up as close as they could to the men where they were lying on the ground in line of battle, and lively firing going on around.

Report of Capt.  Porter C. Olson,  36th Illinois Infantry   Stone River
January 9, 1863.

The skirmishers kept up a sharp fight, the enemy's line retreating and ours advancing. We drove the enemy through the timber and across the cotton-field, a low, narrow strip stretching to the right into the timber. A rebel battery, directly in front of the Thirty-sixth, directed a heavy fire on us. Our skirmishers advanced to the foot of' the hill, near the cotton-field, and here kept up a well-directed fire. We were ordered to support Captain Bush's battery, which was brought into position in the point of timber where our right rested, and opened fire with terrible effect upon the enemy. We remained as a support until nearly dark, when Captain Bush went to the rear, the enemy's battery, or, rather, its disabled fragments, having been dragged from the field. In this day's engagement the regiment lost 3 killed and 15 wounded; total, 18. We occupied the hill during the night

On the morning of December 31, soon after daylight, the enemy advanced in strong force from the timber from beyond the cotton-field opposite our right. They came diagonally across the field. Upon reaching the foot of the hill, they made a left half-wheel and came up directly in front of us. When the enemy had advanced up the hill sufficiently to be in sight, Colonel Greusel ordered the regiment to fire, which was promptly obeyed. We engaged the enemy at short range, the lines being not over 10 rods apart. After a few rounds, the regiment supporting us on our right gave way. In this manner we fought for nearly half an hour, when Colonel Greusel ordered the regiment to charge. The enemy fled in great confusion across the cotton-field into the woods opposite our left, leaving many of their dead and wounded upon the field. We poured a destructive fire upon them as they retreated until they were beyond range.

The Thirty-sixth again took position upon the hill, and the support of our right came forward. At this time General Sill was killed, and Colonel Greusel took command of the brigade. A fresh brigade of the enemy advanced from the direction that the first had come, and in splendid order. We opened fire on them with terrific effect. Again the regiment on our right gave way, and we were again left without support. In this condition we fought until our ammunition was exhausted, and until the enemy had entirely flanked us on our right. At this juncture Major Miller ordered the regiment to fall back. While retreating, Major Miller was wounded, and the command devolved upon me. We moved back of the cornfield to the edge of' the timber, a hundred rods to the right of the Wilkinson pike and 2 miles from Murfreesborough, at 8 a.m. Here I met General Sheridan, and reported to him that the regiment was out of ammunition, and that I would be ready for action as soon as I could obtain it. We had suffered severely in resisting the attack of superior numbers. I had now only 140 men. The regiment fought with great obstinacy, and much is due to Col. N. Greusel for his bravery in conducting the regiment before being called away.


The following is a letter from a soldier to his family describing the Battle of Stone River. It was first published by the Daily Citizen and then later by the Rushville Times in Illinois in 1906.  

Headquarters on The Battlefield
January 5, 1863

Dear Wife and Children:

The great Battle of Stone River is over and I am alive, thank God! I wrote to you last Sunday and told you of the hardships we passed through marching from Nashville to Stuard Creek, where we laid in camp all day Sunday, when I wrote to you last.

Well, I will tell you what I can about the battle. It was the first one that our regiment was in and would be glad if it would be the last one. At 7 o’clock the bugle blew “Fall in!” and we formed in line of battle on one side of the creek, and the “Johnnies” were on the other side. The command was, “Forward, march!” We started in line of battle. The order was forward, and we had to go. We went. The creek was frozen over and we had to wade it that cold morning; but we wouldn’t have cared for that so much if the rebels had not been shooting at us. We wet up to our wastes. We marched all day in line of battle, over bushes, fences, streams. It was a hard day on the Eighty-four. It was a fight all day. The skirmish line firing continually. We camped on the battlefield that night. It was very cold. We had no blankets, nothing but the clothes we had on our backs. I didn’t think so much about the cold as I did about the “Johnnies.” We moved around considerably getting into position. Tuesday the rebels had made a stand here, and every man knew what was coming. The 84th was on picket Tuesday night, Wednesday morning we were relieved and thought we would have a soft nap. Our colonel ordered us out in line and made us a little speech; told us the hard battle was coming and this would be our first battle and to remember what State we were from. He said: “If there was one in the regiment that thought he wouldn’t go through the fight, come to him and he would give him a pass to go to the rear.” I would have given my right arm to go back to the rear that morning, though I would not say so. In less than 30 minutes from the time we broke ranks we were in the fight. The “Johnnies” had surprised McCook on our right. Though they were pressing our men hard we knew from the firing that we would soon be in it. I had time to say a short prayer and thank God. The Lord answered that prayer and I don’t believe there was a man in the regiment but what prayed that morning.

About this time the “Johnnies” were coming, driving our men out; we were demoralized and panic stricken; our hardest struggle was along the pike. The line of battle was about eight miles long and we were in the center. Here I had a little of experience. We were ordered to lay down and fire at will; I could not get my gun to go off; I laid on my back, picking powder in the tube of my gun in order to get it to shoot. In 10 or 15 minutes we were ordered to our feet and forward. Charley Roberts was wounded; I saw him fall; I ran and got hold of his gun and then I was all right.

Our regiment opened a brisk fire upon them as soon as it came into position, which told upon the enemy across the pike, as we could easily see in the course of the next half hour. Col. Grose, our brigade commander, retired to the left of our regiment to make room for the battery, which swept the advancing columns of the enemy as they charged up toward the cedar woods. The regiment immediately on the right of ours fired briskly for awhile and temporarily maintained their position; but in the course of an hour they began to fall back, which gave the enemy a strong position in the thick cedar wood on our right. Now the balls came upon us in a perfect shower from that direction. Our regiment was now terribly exposed, especially on the right, for the enemy was coming in upon us through the thick cedar, giving us a perfect enfilading fire. After enduring in this position, most withering fire for some time, perhaps an hour, and when the enemy were within about sixty yards, the right of the regiment were retired so as to front the enemy, and we again fought desperately, every man working as though his life depended upon his own exertion. The enemy continued to advance and was gradually turning our left flank.

The “Board of Trade” battery was all the while throwing shell and grape and canister over our right, and Mendenhall’s battery over our left, sweeping trees, underbrush and the advancing enemy down at each discharge. The enemy was pouring in upon us a most galling fire as we lay in this position. The balls fell like hail in a hard storm. At last when we were the only regiment remaining west of the pike the order came to retire, which was obeyed promptly.

The “Board of Trade” battery saved us very much as we were falling back, and the officers and men deserve great credit. Our greatest loss was at the ledge of rocks near the pike, and in falling back to the railroad 25 of our regiment fell dead and scores were wounded. Our regiment rallied on the west side of the railroad, where they were under fire for six long hours. We had shot all of our ammunition away and we were released from the front. We marched back to the rear, probably a mile, stacked arms, and we only had 113 guns. Tears rolled down the cheeks of our brave colonel when he found that one half our regiment were killed and wounded. We fell back in the woods, as our services were not needed in front. It was a good time for us. I was the ranking officer in our company; the colonel told me to take charge of the company. I had thrown away my overcoat during the day; it was very cold and we were not allowed any fire that long, cold night, and had no blankets.

This ended the first day’s battle at Stone River. I will give you the names of the killed and wounded in our company, as far as I can: Lieut. Wisdom, Mitchell, Rall, Wortman, Tuggle, Clark, Crane, Pelsor, Roberts, Spear, Shepherd, Slyter, Waters, Edson, Mitchell, Deardorff, Patricks, Parks; 18 wounded in Company A. I can’t give you the names of killed and wounded in the regiment.

Now, I must tell you about brave George Yoken. He was colorbearer. He fell dead at about 10 o’clock. Col. Waters rushed to the spot, grabbed the old flag and brought it off of the battlefield. Our brave colonel sat on his horse in the thickest of the fight as cool as he would be in an ordinary law suit. We were all happily disappointed in our colonel. He was as brave a man as ever rode a horse. Thursday there was not general engagement. Both of the armies moved around for position. There was some skirmishing. On Friday our brigade was sent across the fiver. We had no battery. At 2 o’clock we were attacked by rebels—Breckenridge’s corps. We had made some temporary breastworks and laid behind the works till the “Johnnies” came very close to us. The Eighty-Fourth Ill. And the Sixth Ohio sprang to their feet with a yell, gave them a volley, then loaded and fired at will. The Twenty-fourth Ohio, Thirty-sixth Indiana and Twenty-third Kentucky fell back in considerable confusion. The Eighty-fourth Ill. And Sixth Ohio charged the rebels with a yell that could be heard three miles. The enemy gave back; we advanced and drove the rebels perhaps a mile. Finding our ammunition short, we fell back and went into camp for the night. This was Friday, the second day of January. It rained all night; I told you we had nothing only what we had on our backs. We were not allowed any fire and had to eat only roasted coffee and hard tack.

Wife, now can you imagine what soldiers have to go through? It certainly is not for the $13 a month; no not that, it must be for something else.

Think of a man lying or standing out all night in January during a hard rainy night with not a spark of fire.

The next morning I started over the battlefield; I only went a short distance before I took sick. On turning back I saw the dead rebels lying in heaps.

My God, how long will this unholy war last!

Copyright 1999, 2000 Robin L. Petersen; all rights reserved.
For personal use only. Commercial use of the information contained in these pages is strictly prohibited without prior permission. If copied, this copyright must appear with the information.

Characteristic Letter from Major ‘Sile’ Miller, of the 36th

The following letter was received a few days ago by Jas. G. Barr, Esq., of this city, from his brother-in-law, Major Silas Miller, taken prisoner at Murfreesboro.  The letter is characteristic of the Major, evincing no useless repining at his lot, but like a brave man putting the best face upon what cannot be helped:

                                                            Atlanta, GA., Jan. 6th 1863
Dear Brother:

I have once written to Holmes since our captivity – it may not reach him and I write again.  I am getting along finely.  My leg though highly discolored and somewhat feverish, is able to sustain my weight and make a good walk of it.  My right breast, though handsomely blued, is not painful, and corporeally and decidedly well – very well.  I have heard nothing from Bob as yet, and am very anxious on his account.  Please don’t criticize the style of this epistle; I have not time to find writing material.  When found, poor writing paper is $2 per quire, whiskey $5 to $9 per quart, cards $2.50 per pack, butter $2.25 per lb., molasses 90 cents per quart, and other things in proportion.  You can hardly find paper which has not been manufactured into money.

We are quartered (58 of us) in a room about the size of Concert Hall, and have a “circus” nightly, in which appears the elephant, the giraffe, the Confederate bug, the giant, and last night wound up with a glorious rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” which woke the astonished echoes of the remotest corners of this accursed town.  We have received intelligence of Bragg’s “withdrawal” to Tullahoma.  The faces of our outside friends are somewhat elongated.  Weather wet and cool.  We are in excellent spirits, and want to return to our regiment.

Love to all.  Write to Mother and Bob, and tell them how I am.  Love to the babies.

Good Bye
                Truly,    Sile

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