Recollections of the Civil War: With the Leaders at Washington and in the Field in the Sixties

By Charles A. Dana | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

Charles E. Rankin

The Secretary of War is absent and the President is sick, but both receive your dispatches regularly and esteem them highly, not merely because they are reliable, but for their clearness of narrative and their graphic pictures of the stirring events they describe. (151-52)

So wrote Peter H. Watson, first assistant secretary of war, to Charles A. Dana in late November 1863 after Grant's army had broken out of Chattanooga and sent Braxton Bragg's Confederates in flight toward Atlanta. Watson could not have better summarized the style and value of the reports Dana provided Abraham Lincoln and his war secretary, Edwin M. Stanton. Dana served neither as a regular army officer nor as one of the war's famous newspaper "specials." Instead, he served in the War Department, as Lincoln said, "as the eyes of the government at the front."1

Dana saw Admiral David D. Porter run the Vicksburg batteries, was with Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman through the siege of that river fortress, and "rode into Vicksburg at the side of the conqueror" when Confederate commander John C. Pemberton surrendered the city to Grant on 4 July 1863. Dana was with Rosecrans at Chickamauga in September and fled along with thousands of troops when Confederates broke the Union right. In November, he watched Philip Sheridan's soldiers scale Missionary Ridge at Chattanooga and later in the war conferred the major general's commission to Sheridan after the general's smashing victory at Cedar Creek. Dana supervised War Department put

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