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1864 September 24: First News of the Battle of Opequon, the Beefsteak Raid, and Price’s Missouri Raid Begins

September 25, 2014

The following summaries of the news comes from The Polk County Press and The Prescott Journal of September 24, 1864.

The big news of the week is the Battle of Opequon, often called the Third Battle of Winchester.  Both newspapers make mention of it in these small news items.  The battle was fought on September 19, 1864, in Winchester, Virginia, during the Valley Campaigns of 1864.  Confederate General Jubal Early raided the B&O Railroad at Martinsburg, West Virginia.  Meanwhile, Union General Philip Sheridan advanced toward Winchester, crossing Opequon Creek.  When the two forces met, the main assault continued for several hours and casualties were very heavy.  When the Confederate left flank was turned, Early ordered a general retreat.  As you will see in the news item from the Journal, there were serious casualties among the general officers on both sides.

The items about captured cattle refer to what is called the Beefsteak Raid, which took place September 14-17, 1864, as part of the Siege of Petersburg.  Always lacking in supplies, Confederate Major General Wade Hampton led a force of 3,000 troopers on a 100-mile raid to acquire cattle that were intended to feed the Union Army.  Hampton’s force captured 2,468 cattle, along with 11 wagons and 304 prisoners.  The Union did not recover the cattle.

The item on Sterling Price in Missouri is the beginnings of Price’s Missouri Expedition. In September of 1864, Confederate General Sterling Price left Camden, Arkansas, and marched north with his “Army of Missouri” to liberate his home state. If Price was able to seize St. Louis it would be a big blow to President Lincoln’s re-election and a boost to Southern morale. The Army of Missouri was organized into three divisions, led by Generals James F. Fagan, John S. Marmaduke, and Joseph O. Shelby. The first battle of the Expedition will come on September 27 at Fort Davidson, also known as the Battle of Pilot Knob.

From The Polk County Press:

The News.

As will be seen in another column, Gen. Sheridan has achieved a splendid victory over the rebel Gen. Early in the Shenandoah.  This is most cheering news.

— A despatch from Buffalo gives the particulars of another attempt of our Canada “brothers” to release rebel prisoners on Johnson’s Island.  They managed to capture two small steamers, the Philo Parsons and Island Queen.  They also expected the capture the U. S. Steamer Michigan, but this part of the programme failed, and six of the plotters were arrested.  The rebels finding that their plans had fallen run the captured vessels for Canada, and partially destroying them.

— The subscriptions to the different Government loans, come in faster than they can be attended to.  The Government will not be cramped for money.

— Large re-enforcements are going forward to Gen. Grant’s Army of the Potomac, and matters there are looking very favorable.  [Ulysses S. Grant]

— Gen. Grant is now with the army of the Shenandoah.

— The city of Wilmington, Del., has gone largely Union at its city election.  Its first Union victory.

— News from Europe speaks of a great monetary panic.

— Another pirate is at work on the Banks of Newfoundland.

— Another great fire has taken place in Broadway N. Y. City, causing a loss of $250,000.

— Gen. Grant and Admirable [sic] Bailey¹ are both coming to New York, where they will be met by Gens. Dix [John A. Dix] and Franklin [William B. Franklin], and Admirals Porter [David D. Porter] and Stringham [Silas H. Stringham].  The design of the consultation cannot now be made public.

— The Draft has commenced in Minnesota.

— The Eleventh Minnesota were to leave St. Paul, ‘en route’ to Nashville, on Thursday.

— The New York “News” of a very recent date says :  “We are happy to be able to announce that preliminary steps are being taken by the friends of Peace, to call a National Convention of the Democracy to place in nomination candidates for President and Vice President.”

The “Freeman’s Journal” makes the same announcement, declaring that unconditional Peace candidates will be nominated.

Other authorities, and apparently good ones, state that Fernando Wood has pronounced for McClellan [George B. McClellan] and that Vallandigham [Clement L. Vallandigham] has become reconciled, and is about to take the stump again.

If this be true, it would be interesting to know upon precisely what conditions these gentlemen have relinquished their opposition.

— The “Herald’s” Washington special says Secretary Fessenden [William P. Fessenden] will resign his position, and that either Chase [Salmon P. Chase] or Rrobert [sic] J. Walker² will be appointed October 1st.

— The “Tribune’s” Washington special says Gen. Butler [Benjamin F. Butler] has effected an arrangement for exchange of sick and wounded of both armies.

— The “Post’s” Washington special says the commissioners appointed by the Union prisoners in Georgia, to urge an exchange of prisoners of war, have arrived here, and will soon meet the President.

— The rebels made a dash on Harrison’s Landing a few days ago, and captured 3000 head of cattle, but were afterward overtaken and recaptured by a portion of the 5th corps, together with 700 prisoners.

— John Mitchel, the Irish exile, is said to be serving as a conscript private with an ambulance corps in the rebel army.

— The “Herald’s” correspondent in front of Petersburg, with the 9th corps, 13th, says :  “Deserters continue to report great dissatisfaction among the rebel soldiers.  A new regulation has been established, that is, if a rebel soldier advances beyond his post without his musket, he is to be fired upon by his comrades.  If he comes forward with his piece, of course he is likely to be fired on by our pickets.”

— Sterling Price is moving towards Missouri with 5,000 troops, and intelligence of his entrance into the State is hourly expected.  Magruder [John B. Magruder], Shelby and Dobbins4 are co-operating with him, and a portion of their forces are at or near Cape Girardeau.  The village of Iron Mountain was captured by a detatchment [sic] of Marmaduke’s command on Tuesday.

— The Chicago “Times” got up a bran [sic] new sensation lie, to the effect that recruits and substitutes are to be branded on the small of the back with the letter “J.”  Its foundation for the story is the alleged suggestion of some alleged doctor, who is alleged to be in the employ of the War Department.  No such suggestion, if ever made, was ever acted upon, and the whole thing is a despicable rebel canard.  Got up to prevent enlistments and excite resistance to the draft.

From The Prescott Journal:

— The new of the past week is very favorable.  Operations in Grant’s department are going on successfully.  The rebels on Monday captured nearly 6,000 head of cattle from Grant, but they were re-taken and the enemy severely punished.

—Sheridan has won a splendid victory over the rebel Gen. Early in the Shenandoah Valley.  The following dispatch tells the story :


To E. M. Stanton :

I have just heard from the front that Sheridan has defeated the enemy, capturing 2,500 prisoners, five pieces f artillery and five battle flags.  Rebel Generals Gordon and Rhodes [sic] were killed, and three others wounded.5  Our loss was about 2,000.  Gen. Russell, of the 6th corps, was killed.  Gen. McIntosh lost a leg.6  The enemy escaped up the valley under cover of the night.  Sheridan is in Winchester.

(Signed,)     J. D. STEVENSON.
Brig. Gen.

LATER.—Later news give even more favorable accounts of Sheridan’s victory.  He has completely routed Early’s force, taking over 5,000 prisoners.  Seven rebel Generals were killed and wounded.

The Confederate Rout at Winchester, from "Harper's Pictorial History of the Civil War"

The Confederate Rout at Winchester, from “Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War” (see footnote 7)

1.  Theodorus Bailey (1805-1877) was appointed a midshipman in 1818 (at the age of 12 ) and saw his first sea duty  between 1819 and 1821 the frigate he was assigned to cruised to the western coast of Africa to protect the new colony of former slaves established by the United States (now Liberia). Between 1821 and 1827 his tours of duty included protecting shipping from pirates. In 1827 he received a commission as a lieutenant, and in 1833 was assigned to a 3-year cruise around the world searching for shipwrecked and stranded American seamen. From 1838-1840 he served in the New York Navy Yard. After the Mexican War broke out (spring 1846), Bailey received his first command, the sloop Lexington, and led his command in a blockade of the coast around San Blas in Lower California and made a successful raid on the town in January of 1847. In 1849 he was promoted to commander and in 1855 to captain. At the outbreak of the Civil War he joined the Gulf Blockading Squadron with his ship, the Colorado. During the push to take New Orleans  the city went off on 24 April, Bailey commanded one of the gunboat divisions during the fight to pass Forts Jackson and St. Philip. Once that feat had been accomplished, he continued on upriver to demand and receive the city’s surrender on the 25th.
2.  Robert John Walker (1801-1869) was an economist and statesman from Mississippi, who was a passionate defender of slavery who also supported the Union cause during the Civil War. He served as a U.S. senator from Mississippi (1835-1845), the U.S. secretary of the treasury (1845-1849), and the 4th Territorial governor of Kansas (1857). During the Civil War, as financial agent of the United States (1863-1864), he did much to create confidence in Europe in the financial resources of the United States, and was instrumental in securing a large loan from the German Confederation.
Fessenden had only started his service as secretary of the treasury on July 5, 1864, and will remain until March 3, 1865, when he will be succeeded by Hugh McCulloch.
3.  Archibald “Arch” S. Dobbins (1836-ca. 1869) owned a plantation near Helena, Arkansas, before the Civil War. In 1862 Dobbins joined a Confederate regiment commanded by Thomas C. Hindman, who made Dobbins a colonel on his general staff. Following that he was given command of a cavalry brigade that became known as “Dobbins Cavalry” (formally the 1st Arkansas Cavalry). Dobbins’ brigade was assigned to General Lucius M. Walker’s division and fought in major engagements, raids, and skirmishes throughout eastern and northeastern Arkansas. After Walker was killed in a duel with fellow General John S. Marmaduke, Dobbins assumed command of Walker’s division. Dobbins refused to serve under Marmaduke, and Marmaduke had him arrested and court martialed. Despite a guilty verdict, Dobbins never officially surrendered his command and continued to operate his cavalry brigade out of the Helena area.
5.  Union Brigadier General David A. Russell was killed, and Brigadier Generals Emory Upton, George H. Chapman, and John B. McIntosh were seriously wounded.
6.  Confederate Major General Robert E. Rodes and Colonel George S. Patton, Sr. were killed. Major General Fitzhugh Lee, Brigadier Generals William Terry and Archibald Godwin, and Colonel William Wharton were wounded. Patton was the grandfather of World War II’s General George S. Patton, Jr.
Major General John B. Gordon, uninjured in the battle (died in 1904), was forced to leave his wife behind in Winchester as he struggled to keep his troops intact during the full retreat. She managed to escape Union capture.
7.  “The Confederate Rout at Winchester,” from Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War, by Alfred H. Guernsey and Henry M. Alden (Chicago: McDonnell, 1866-68):710; available in the UWRF Archives (E 468.7 .G87 1866).

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