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

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

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

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

Synopsis

Early in 1863 General Grant was under a cloud, blamed for heavy Union losses at Shiloh, called an undependable drunkard by his detractors. As Grant moved toward Vicksburg, the Lincoln administration needed to know more about what was happening in the remote western theater. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton dispatched a respected newspaperman. Charles A. Dana, ostensibly to straighten out payroll matters but actually to observe Grant and the situation in the army and report back daily. Dana became "the government's eyes at the front". Recollections of the Civil War, drawing largely on his reports and originally published in 1898, is a classic to rank with Grant's Personal Memoirs (also available in a Bison Books edition). Dana's candid assessment of Grant, other officers, and campaign operations carried weight with Lincoln and Stanton and undoubtedly influenced the course of the war. In these pages, Dana is with Grant and General Sherman throughout the siege of Vicksburg, riding into the city "at the side of the conqueror". Later he is with Grant at Spottsylvania, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg. He is with General Roseerans at Chickamauga; he watches General Sheridan's troops scale Missionary Ridge at Chattanooga; he walks through the ruins of Richmond; he attends Lincoln on his deathbed. Finally, he sees Jefferson Davis in chains at Fortress Monroe.

Excerpt

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."

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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