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1864 October 8: First News of the Battle of Chaffin’s Farm and New Market Heights, and the First Battle of Saltville

October 8, 2014

The weekly summary of war news returns in the October 8, 1864, issue of The Polk County Press.

The first item is describing the Battle of Chaffin’s Farm and New Market Heights, also known as Laurel Hill.  It was fought September 29-30, 1864, and there were smaller battles within it at Forts Harrison, Johnson, and Gilmer.  General Ulysses S. Grant‘s report below mentions that General Ord [Edward Ord] was wounded but not dangerously, when in fact he was severely wounded in the taking of Fort Harrison.

The small mention of Union General Philip H. Sheridan, continuing to pursue Confederate General Jubal A. Early refers to the Sheridan’s Shenandoah Valley Campaign. The Battle of Opequon marked a turning point in the Shenandoah Valley in the Union’s favor. Early’s army suffered further defeats at Fisher’s Hill (September 21-22) and Tom’s Brook (October 9). The capture of Staunton happened between those two battles.

The First Battle of Saltville took place October 1-3, 1864, near Saltville, Virginia, between Union General Stephen G. Burbridge’s forces, including the 5th U.S. Colored Cavalry, and both regular and Home Guard Confederate troops. Irregular guerrilla forces under the notorious Champ Ferguson murdered white and black Union soldiers who had been wounded and captured. Ferguson was tried after the War for these and other non-military killings and was found guilty and executed.

The News.

From GRANT’S army we have exciting news.  His entire army has been on the move commencing on the 20th ult.  The following official announcement has been made by Gen. Grant :

Sept. 20, 10:45 A. M. }

Maj. General Halleck [Henry W. Halleck] :

Gen. Ord’s corps advanced this Morning and carried the very strong fortifications and long line of entrenchments below Chapin’s [sic] farm with some fifteen pieces of artillery and from 200 to 300 prisoners.  Gen. Ord was wounded, though not dangerously.  Gen. Birney [David B. Birney] advanced at the same time and carried the New Market road and entrenchments and scattered the enemy in every direction, though he captured but few.— He is now marching toward the Richmond road.  The whole country is filled with field fortifications thus far.

Lieutenant General.

The movement begun with such brilliant success is still in progress.  Heavy fighting has taken place between the armies, and in all engagements except one, our troops have been successful.  The negro troops of the 9th corps, under command of Gen. Paine [Halbert E. Paine], charged a rebel fort near Laurel Hill Church.  After a desperate and hard fought battle they were forced to retire with a loss of about 500 killed and wounded.  The rebels in turn charged the the [sic] works which had been previously captured from them by Gen. Birney, and were repulsed with a loss of 2000 killed, wounded and prisoners.  A cavalry fight toook  [sic] place near Richmond between our cavalry and the rebels under Gen. Wade Hampton.¹  The rebels got whipped with heavy loss.—Our loss in this engagement is stated to be very light.  Gen. Stannard,² we believe a brother to Hon. E. K. Stannard of Taylor’s Falls, was wounded through the arm in one of the recent engagements.  General Birney recently made a reconnoissance [sic] to within two miles of Richmond.  He accomplished the movement without sever loss.

— From Missouri we have news of the invasion of that State by Price with a large force of rebels.  He has captured the Iron Mountain railroad, Pilot Knob, and is in posession [sic] of the State.  He is conscripting all secession sympathizers and murdering union men.  Our army is making movements to meet him, and we shall soon hear better news from that quarter.  [Sterling Price]

— From Sherman’s army we have but little.  He is busy preparing for another campaign, protecting his communications &c.  [William T. Sherman]

— From Sheridan we have news of further victory over Early, and the capture of a large amount of stores and 300 prisoners.  He has captured Staunton, and is still advancing.

— A party of gurrillas [sic] attacked and murdered 33 unarmed veterans at Centrallia, who were returning on furlough.  They were horidly [sic] mutilated by the fiends, and robbed of everything.

— Gen. Burbridge has captured large Salt Works belonging to the rebels, at Barreton, Va.  He took 200 prisoners.

Saltville, page682

Saltville, Virginia, and the Salt Valley, from “Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War³

— The fortifications of St. Louis have been manned and placed under the command of Gen. Pleasanton [sic: Alfred Pleasonton].

— Forrest [Nathan B. Forrest] has made another raid in Tennessee, destroying [sic] several rail road bridges and at last accounts was being pursued by Gen. Rosseau [sic: Lovell H. Rouseau].

— Beauregard has superceeded [sic] Hood in the command of the rebel army in Georgia.  [P.G.T. Beauregard, John Bell Hood]

— The news, taken as a whole, is still encouraging.  Gold has been held at 185 during the week.

— Goods are coming down, and many failures have taken place in the Eastern cities in consequence of the decline in Eastern markets.

— The news from England is that a great commercial panic is raging.  Many heavy failures are reported.

1.  Wade Hampton III (1818-1902) was a Confederate cavalry general from South Carolina. His grandfather, the first Wade Hampton, had been a lieutenant colonel of cavalry in the American Revolution, and his father, “Colonel Wade Hampton,” had been an aide to General Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans. Hampton grew up in a wealthy planter family, and as an adult managed several of the family’s plantations. After his father died in 1858, this Wade Hampton inherited a vast fortune, the plantations, and one of the largest holdings of slaves in the South.
When the Civil War started, he enlisted as a private in the South Carolina Militia, but the governor of South Carolina insisted that he accept a colonel’s commission, despite his lack of military experience. Hampton organized and partially financed the unit known as “Hampton’s Legion,” which consisted of six companies of infantry, four companies of cavalry, and one battery of artillery, all of which he personally supplied weapons for. Hampton fought at the First Battle of Bull Run (where he was wounded), was promoted to brigadier general in May 1862, participated in the Peninsula Campaign and was severely wounded at the Battle of Seven Pines, led a cavalry raid behind enemy lines around the time of the Battle of Fredericksburg, was slightly wounded in the Battle of Brandy Station (the War’s largest cavalry battle), was wounded more than once at the Battle of Gettysburg, was promoted to major general in August 1863, distinguished himself at the Battle of Trevilian Station while defeating Sheridan’s cavalry and lost no cavalry battles for the remainder of the war, conducted the Beefsteak Raid, was promoted to lieutenant general in February 1865, and surrendered at Bennett Place—the site of the largest surrender of Confederate soldiers—on April 26, 1865.
After the War, together with fellow Confederate General Jubal A. Early, Hampton became a proponent of the Lost Cause movement and worked to explain the Confederacy’s loss. He served as the 77th governor of South Carolina (1876-1879), a U.S. senator from South Carolina (1879-1891), and United States Railroad Commissioner (1893-1897). His election as governor was marked by extensive violence by the Red Shirts, a paramilitary group that to work to disrupt elections and prevent black voting in the state.
2.  George Jerrison Stannard (1820-1886) was a farmer, teacher, and foundry operator from Vermont, and was the colonel of the 4th Vermont Militia Regiment just before the Civil War. In June 1861, he was elected lieutenant colonel of the 2nd Vermont Volunteer Infantry. He fought at the First Battle of Bull Run and was subsequently offered command of the 3rd Vermont Infantry but turned it down. During the Battle of Williamsburg he secured a bridge that was crucial to the battle and was subsequently appointed colonel of the 9th Vermont Infantry. During the Maryland Campaign in September 1862, Stannard and the 9th Vermont were part of the Federal garrison that was forced to surrender to Stonewall Jackson at Harpers Ferry, but he was exchanged in January 1863. In March 1863 he was promoted to brigadier general and given command of the 2nd Vermont Brigade. At Gettysburg, on July 3, Stannard’s brigade was one of the principal defenders against Pickett’s Charge. Stannard was wounded too severely to return to field command immediately and he returned to Vermont to recover. When General Charles A. Heckman was captured at the Battle of Proctor’s Creek, Stannard replaced him in command of the 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, XVIII Corps. In the Battle of Cold Harbor, he was wounded in the left thigh but continued to lead his brigade through the Second Battle of Petersburg. He assumed command of the 1st Division, XVIII Corps, during the Siege of Petersburg. He was conspicuous at the Battle of Chaffin’s Farm and his division led the attack on Fort Harrison. Stannard was again wounded, while holding the captured fort against a Confederate counterattack, and his right arm had to be amputated. He received a brevet promotion to major general for his actions during the assault on Fort Harrison. Stannard was then assigned to light duty in Vermont for the remainder of the War.
In 1866, he served briefly as assistant commissioner for the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands in Maryland. He resigned from the Army in June 1866 and worked as a customs official in Vermont. From 1881 until his death, he served as Doorkeeper of the United States House of Representatives.
3.  “Saltville, Virginia,” and “Salt Valley,” from Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War, by Alfred H. Guernsey and Henry M. Alden (Chicago: McDonnell, 1866-68):682; available in the UWRF Archives (E 468.7 .G87 1866).

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