Comic History of the United States - Bill Nye

Still More Fraternal Bloodshed, on Principle

Outing Features Disappear, and Give Place to Strained Relations Between Combatants, Who Begin to Mix Things.

On December 13 the year's business closed with the battle of Fredericksburg, under the management of General Burnside. Twelve thousand Union troops were killed before night mercifully shut down upon the slaughter.

The Confederates were protected by stone walls and situated upon a commanding height, from which they were able to shoot down the Yankees with perfect sang-froid and deliberation.

In the midst of all these discouragements, the red brother fetched loose in Minnesota, Iowa, and Dakota, and massacred seven hundred men, women, and children. The outbreak was under the management of Little Crow, and was confined to the Sioux Nation. Thirty-nine of these Indians were hanged on the same scaffold at Mankato, Minnesota, as a result of this wholesale murder.

This execution constitutes one of the green spots in the author's memory. In all lives now and then an oasis is liable to fall. This was oasis enough to last the writer for years.

In 1863 the Federal army numbered about seven hundred thousand men, and the Confederates about three hundred and fifty thousand. Still it took two more years to close the war.

It is held now by good judges that the war was prolonged by the jealousy existing between Union commanders who wanted to be President or something else, and that it took so much time for the generals to keep their eyes on caucuses and county papers at home that they fought best when surprised and attacked by the foe.

General Grant moved again on Vicksburg, and on May 1, defeated Pemberton at Fort Gibson. He also prevented a junction between Joseph E. Johnston and Pemberton, and drove the latter into Vicksburg, securing the stopper so tightly that after forty-seven days the garrison surrendered, July 4. This fight cost the Confederates thirty-seven thousand prisoners, ten thousand killed and wounded, and immense quantities of stores. It was a warm time in Vicksburg; a curious man who stuck his hat out for twenty seconds above the ramparts found fifteen bullet-holes in it when he took it down, and when he wore it to church he attracted more attention than the collection.

The North now began to sit up and take notice. Morning papers began to sell once more, and Grant was the name on every tongue.

The Mississippi was open to the Gulf, and the Confederacy was practically surrounded.

[Illustration] from Comic History of the U.S.A. by Bill Nye


Rosecrans would have moved on the enemy, but learned that the foe had several head of cavalry more than he did, also a team of artillery. At this time John Morgan made a raid into Ohio. He surrounded Cincinnati, but did not take it, as he was not keeping house at the time and hated to pay storage on it. He got to Parkersburg, West Virginia, and was captured there with almost his entire force.

On September 19 and 20 occurred the battle of Chickamauga. Longstreet rushed into a breach in the Union line and swept it with a great big besom of wrath with which he had wisely provided himself on starting out. Rosecrans felt mortified when he came to himself and found that his horse had been so unmanageable that he had carried him ten miles from the carnage.

But the left, under Thomas, held fast its position, and no doubt saved the little band of sixty thousand men which Rosecrans commanded at the time.

His army now found itself shut up in intrenchments, with Bragg on the hills threatening the Union forces with starvation.

On November 24-25 a battle near Chattanooga took place, with Grant at the head of the Federal forces. Hooker came to join him from the Army of the Potomac, and Sherman hurried to his standard from Iuka. Thomas made a dash and captured Orchard Knob, and Hooker, on the following day, charged Lookout Mountain.

This was the most brilliant, perhaps, of Grant's victories. It is known as the "battle of Missionary Ridge." Hooker had exceeded his prerogative and kept on after capturing the crest of Lookout Mountain, while Sherman was giving the foe several varieties of fits, from the north, when Grant discovered that before him the line was being weakened in order to help the Confederate flanks. So with Thomas he crossed through the first line and over the rifle-pits, forgot that he had intended to halt and reform, and concluded to wait and reform after the war was over, when he should have more time, and that night along the entire line of heights the camp-fires of the Union army winked at one another in ghoulish glee.

The army under Bragg was routed, and Bragg resigned his command.

Burnside, who had been relieved of the command of the Army of the Potomac, was sent to East Tennessee, where the brave but frost-bitten troops of Longstreet shut him up at Knoxville and compelled him to board at the railroad eating-house there.

Sherman's worn and weary boys were now ordered at once to the relief of Burnside, and Longstreet, getting word of it, made a furious assault on the former, who repulsed him with loss, and he went away from there as Sherman approached from the west.

[Illustration] from Comic History of the U.S.A. by Bill Nye


Hooker had succeeded Burnside in the command of the Army of the Potomac, and he judged that, as Lee was now left with but sixty thousand men, while the Army of the Potomac contained one hundred thousand who craved out-of-door exercise, he might do well to go and get Lee, returning in the cool of the evening. Lee, however, accomplished the division of his army while concealed in the woods and sent Jackson to fall on Hooker's rear. The close of the fight found Hooker on his old camping-ground opposite Fredericksburg, murmuring to himself, in a dazed sort of way, "Where am I?" Lee felt so good over this that he decided to go North and get something to eat. He also decided to get catalogues and price-lists of Philadelphia and New York while there. Threatening Baltimore in order to mislead General Meade, who was now in command of the Federals, Lee struck into Pennsylvania and met with the Union cavalry a little west of Gettysburg on the Chambersburg road. It is said that Gettysburg was not intended by either army as the site for the battle, Lee hoping to avoid a fight, depending as he did on the well-known hospitality of the Pennsylvanians, and Meade intending to have the fight at Pipe Creek, where he had some property.

July 1-2-3 were the dates of this memorable battle. The first day was rather favorable to Lee, quite a number of Yankee prisoners being taken while they were lost in the crowded streets of Gettysburg.

The second day was opened by Longstreet, who charged the Union left, and ran across Sickles, who had by mistake formed in the way of Meade's intended line of battle. They outflanked him, but, as they swung around him, Warren met them with a diabolical welcome, which stayed them. Sickles found himself on Cemetery Ridge, while the Confederates under Ewell were on Culp's Hill.

On the third day, at one P.M., Lee opened with one hundred and fifty guns on Cemetery Ridge. The air was a hornet's nest of screaming shells with fiery tails. As it lulled a little, out of the woods came eighteen thousand men in battle-array extending over a mile in length. The Yankees knew a good thing when they saw it, and they paused to admire this beautiful gathering of foemen in whose veins there flowed the same blood as in their own, and whose ancestors had stood shoulder to shoulder with their own in a hundred battles for freedom.

Their sentiment gave place to shouts of battle, and into the silent phalanx a hundred guns poured their red-hot messages of death. The golden grain was drenched with the blood of men no less brave because they were not victorious, and the rich fields of Pennsylvania drank with thirsty eagerness the warm blood of many a Southern son.

Yet they moved onward. Volley after volley of musketry mowed them down, and the puny reaper in the neglected grain gave place to the grim reaper Death, all down that unwavering line of gray and brown.

They marched up to the Union breastworks, bayoneted the gunners at their work, planted their flags on the parapets, and, while the Federals converged from every point to this, exploding powder burned the faces of these contending hosts, who, hand to hand, fought each other to death, while far-away widows and orphans multiplied to mourn through the coming years over this ghastly folly of civil war.

Whole companies of the Confederates rushed as prisoners into the arms of their enemies, and the shattered remnant of the battered foe retreated from the field.

While all this was going on in Pennsylvania, Pemberton was arranging terms of surrender at Vicksburg, and from this date onward the Confederacy began to wobble in its orbit, and the President of this ill-advised but bitterly punished scheme began to wish that he had been in Canada when the war broke out.

In April of the same year Admiral Dupont, an able seaman with massive whiskers, decided to run the fortifications at Charleston with iron-clads, but the Charleston people thought they could run them themselves. So they drove him back after the sinking of the Kennebec and the serious injury of all the other vessels.

General Gillmore then landed with troops. Fort Wagner was captured. The 54th Regiment of colored troops, the finest organized in the Free States, took a prominent part and fought with great coolness and bravery. By December there were fifty thousand colored troops enlisted, and before the war closed over two hundred thousand.

It is needless to say that this made the Yankee unpopular at the time in the best society of the South.

General Gillmore attempted to capture Sumter, and did reduce it to a pulp, but when he went to gather it he was met by a garrison still concealed in the basement, and peppered with volleys of hot shingle-nails and other bric-a-brac, which forced him to retire with loss.

He said afterward that Fort Sumter was not desirable anyhow.

[Illustration] from Comic History of the U.S.A. by Bill Nye


This closed the most memorable year of the war, with the price of living at the South running up to eight hundred and nine hundred dollars per day, and currency depreciating so rapidly that one's salary had to be advanced every morning in order to keep pace with the price of mule-steaks.