Comic History of the United States - Bill Nye

Bull Run and Other Battles

On the 21st of July, 1861, occurred the battle of Bull Run, under the joint management of General Irwin McDowell and General P. G. T. Beauregard. After a sharp conflict, the Confederates were repulsed, but rallied again under General T. J. Jackson, called thereafter Stonewall Jackson. While the Federals were striving to beat Jackson back, troops under Generals Early and Kirby Smith from Manassas Junction were hurled against their flank. McDowell's men retreated, and as they reached the bridge a shell burst among their crowded and chaotic numbers. A caisson was upset, and a panic ensued, many of the troops continuing at a swift canter till they reached the Capitol, where they could call on the sergeant-at-arms to preserve order.

As a result of this run on the banks of the Potomac, the North suddenly decided that the war might last a week or two longer than at first stated, that the foe could not be killed with cornstalks, and that a mistake had been made in judging that the rebellion wasn't loaded. Half a million men were called for and five hundred million dollars voted. General George B. McClellan took command of the Army of the Potomac.

The battle of Ball's Bluff resulted disastrously to the Union forces, and two thousand men were mostly driven into the Potomac, some drowned and others shot. Colonel Baker, United States Senator from Oregon, was killed.

The war in Missouri now opened. Captain Lyon reserved the United States arsenal at St. Louis, and defeated Colonel Marmaduke at Booneville. General Sigel was defeated at Carthage, July 5, by the Confederates: so Lyon, with five thousand men, decided to attack more than twice that number of the enemy under Price and McCulloch, which he did, August 10, at Wilson's Creek. He was killed while making a charge, and his men were defeated.

General Fremont then took command, and drove Price to Springfield, but he was in a short time replaced by General Hunter, because his war policy was offensive to the enemy. Hunter was soon afterwards removed, and Major-General Halleck took his place. Halleck gave general satisfaction to the enemy, and even his red messages from Washington, where he boarded during the war, were filled with nothing but kindness for the misguided foe.

Davis early in the war commissioned privateers, and Lincoln blockaded the Southern ports. The North had but one good vessel at the time, and those who have tried to blockade four or five thousand miles of hostile coast with one vessel know full well what it is to be busy. The entire navy consisted of forty-two ships, and some of these were not seaworthy. Some of them were so pervious that their guns had to be tied on to keep them from leaking through the cracks of the vessel.

Hatteras Inlet was captured, and Commodore Dupont, aided by General Thomas W. Sherman, captured Port Royal Entrance and Tybee Island. Port Royal became the depot for the fleet.

It was now decided at the South to send Messrs. Mason and Slidell to England, partly for change of scene and rest, and partly to make a friendly call on Queen Victoria and invite her to come and spend the season at Asheville, North Carolina. It was also hoped that she would give a few readings from her own works at the South, while her retinue could go to the front and have fun with the Yankees, if so disposed.

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


These gentlemen, wearing their nice new broadcloth clothes, and with a court suit and suitable night-wear to use in case they should be pressed to stop a week or two at the castle, got to Havana safely, and took passage on the British ship Trent; but Captain Wilkes, of the United States steamer San Jacinto, took them off the Trent, just as Mr. Mason had drawn and fortunately filled a hand with which he hoped to pay a part of the war-debt of the South and get a new overcoat in London. Later, however, the United States disavowed this act of Captain Wilkes, and said it was only a bit of pleasantry on his part.

The first year of the war had taught both sides a few truths, and especially that the war did not in any essential features resemble a straw-ride to camp-meeting and return. The South had also discovered that the Yankee peddlers could not be captured with fly-paper, and that although war was not their regular job they were willing to learn how it was done.

In 1862 the national army numbered five hundred thousand men, and the Confederate army three hundred and fifty thousand. Three objects were decided upon by the Federal government for the Union army and navy to accomplish,—viz., 1, the opening of the Mississippi; 2, the blockade of Southern ports; and 3, the capture of Richmond, the capital of the Southern Confederacy.

The capture of Forts Henry and Donelson was undertaken by General Grant, aided by Commodore Foote, and on February 6 a bombardment was opened with great success, reducing Fort Henry in one hour. The garrison got away because the land-forces had no idea the fort would yield so soon, and therefore could not get up there in time to cut off the retreat.

Fort Donelson was next attacked, the garrison having been reinforced by the men from Fort Henry. The fight lasted four days, and on February 16 the fort, with fifteen thousand men, surrendered.

Nashville was now easily occupied by Buell, and Columbus and Bowling Green were taken. The Confederates fell back to Corinth, where General Beauregard (Peter G. T.) and Albert Sidney Johnston massed their forces.

General Grant now captured the Memphis and Charleston Railroad; but the Confederates decided to capture him before Buell, who had been ordered to reinforce him, should effect a junction with him. April 6 and 7, therefore, the battle of Shiloh occurred. Whether the Union troops were surprised or not at this battle, we cannot here pause to discuss. Suffice it to say that one of the Federal officers admitted to the author in 1879, while under the influence of koumys, that, though not strictly surprised, he believed he violated no confidence in saying that they were somewhat astonished.

It was Sunday morning, and the Northern hordes were just considering whether they would take a bite of beans and go to church or remain in camp and get their laundry-work counted for Monday, when the Confederacy and some other men burst upon them with a fierce, rude yell. In a few moments the Federal troops had decided that there had sprung up a strong personal enmity on the part of the South, and that ill feeling had been engendered in some way.

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


All that beautiful Sabbath-day they fought, the Federals yielding ground slowly and reluctantly till the bank of the river was reached and Grant's artillery commanded the position. Here a stand was made until Buell came up, and shortly afterwards the Confederates fell back; but they had captured the Yankee camp entire, and many a boy in blue lost the nice warm woollen pulse-warmers crocheted for him by his soul's idol. It is said that over thirty-five hundred needle-books and three thousand men were captured by the Confederates, also thirty flags and immense quantities of stores; but the Confederate commander, General A. S. Johnston, was killed. The following morning the tide had turned, and General P. G. T. Beauregard retreated unmolested to Corinth.

General Halleck now took command, and, as the Confederates went away from there, he occupied Corinth, though still retaining his rooms at the Arlington Hotel in Washington.

The Confederates who retreated from Columbus fell back to Island No. 10 in the Mississippi River, where Commodore Foote bombarded them for three weeks, thus purifying the air and making the enemy feel much better than at any previous time during the campaign. General Pope crossed the Mississippi, capturing the batteries in the rear of the island, and turning them on the enemy, who surrendered April 7, the day of the battle of Shiloh.

May 10, the Union gun-boats moved down the river. Fort Pillow was abandoned by the Southern forces, and the Confederate flotilla was destroyed in front of Memphis. Kentucky and Tennessee were at last the property of the fierce hordes from the great coarse North.

General Bragg was now at Chattanooga, Price at Iuka, and Van Dorn at Holly Springs. All these generals had guns, and were at enmity with the United States of America. They very much desired to break the Union line of investment extending from Memphis almost to Chattanooga.

Bragg started out for the Ohio River, intending to cross it and capture the Middle States; but Buell heard of it and got there twenty-four hours ahead, wherefore Bragg abandoned his plans, as it flashed over him like a clap of thunder from a clear sky that he had no place to put the Middle States if he had them. He therefore escaped in the darkness, his wagon-trains sort of drawling over forty miles of road and "hit a-rainin'."

September 19, General Price, who, with Van Dorn, had considered it a good time to attack Grant, who had sent many troops north to prevent Bragg's capture of North America, decided to retreat, and, General Rosecrans failing to cut him off, escaped, and was thus enabled to fight on other occasions.

The two Confederate generals now decided to attack the Union forces at Corinth, which they did. They fought beautifully, especially the Texan and Missouri troops, who did some heroic work, but they were defeated and driven forty miles with heavy loss.

October 30, General Buell was succeeded by General Rosecrans.

The battle of Murfreesboro occurred December 31 and January 2. It was one of the bloodiest battles of the whole conflict, and must have made the men who brought on the war by act of Congress feel first-rate. About one-fourth of those engaged were killed.

An attack on Vicksburg, in which Grant and Sherman were to co-operate, the former moving along the Mississippi Central Railroad and Sherman descending the river from Memphis, was disastrous, and the capture of Arkansas Post, January 11, 1863, closed the campaign of 1862 on the Father of Waters.

General Price was driven out of Missouri by General Curtis, and had to stay in Arkansas quite a while, though he preferred a dryer climate.

General Van Dorn now took command of these forces, numbering twenty thousand men, and at Pea Ridge, March 7 and 8, 1863, he was defeated to a remarkable degree. During his retreat he could hardly restrain his impatience.

Some four or five thousand Indians joined the Confederates in this battle, but were so astonished at the cannon, and so shocked by the large decayed balls, as they called the shells, which came hurtling through the air, now and then hurting an Indian severely, that they went home before the exercises were more than half through. They were down on the programme for some fantastic and interesting tortures of Union prisoners, but when they got home to the reservation and had picked the briers out of themselves they said that war was about as barbarous a thing as they were ever to, and they went to bed early, leaving a call for 9.30 A.M. on the following day.

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


The red brother's style of warfare has an air about it that is unpopular now. A common stone stab-knife is a feeble thing to use against people who shoot a distance of eight miles with a gun that carries a forty-gallon caldron full of red-hot iron.