August 1864

The North:  On August 31, 1864, the Democrats nominated General McClellan as their candidate for president at their convention in Chicago.

Eastern Theater:

The last major engagements in the east before August of 1864 were the Battle of Cold Harbor on the first three days of June, 1864, and then the start of the siege of Petersburg, which began in June of 1864 and continued until April of 1865, with the Battle of the Crater having taken place on July 20, 1864.

After the Battle of the Crater on July 20, 1864, the siege of Peterson turned quiet.  The Confederates quickly repaired the damage to their line caused by the explosion.  On August 1, General Grant ordered General Sheridan to clear the enemy, especially General Early, from the Shenandoah Valley.  On August 7 there was a cavalry battle at Moorefield, West Virginia, in which the Federals captured 420 Rebels.  Two days later, Sheridan prepared to move from Halltown and Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, toward Early's position and Confederate raider Mosby increased his activity in the area.  For several weeks, Sheridan and Early followed eachother around, but did little fighting, other than a rather sharp exchange near Winchester, Virginia.  On August 18, Grant refused a second Confederate request to exchange prisoners; this deprived the South of reinforcements, but condemned many Union prisoners to starvation, because the South could not even feed its own army, let alone its prisoners.  On the same day, a Union corps under General Warren extended the Union line around Petersburg.  The next day, General Hill attacked Warren with some success, but the North still held the important Weldon Railroad.  Hill attacked again on the 21st to try to regain the Weldon Railroad, but the attack failed with heavy Southern losses. 

The next major engagement in the east was the continued siege of Petersburg, which began in June of 1864 and lasted until April of 1865, and in fact was the final major engagement in the Eastern Theater.

Western Theater:

The last major engagement in the west before August of 1864 was the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain on June 27, 1864.

On August 3, 1864, General Sherman sent General A.J. Smith off for another crack at Confederate raider Nathan Bedford Forrest, and Smith left for Oxford, Mississippi.  On the 10th, General Hood sent his cavalry under Wheeler to raid Sherman's supply lines; these activities continuted until September 10, but failed because Sherman already had the supplies he needed, and the raid deprived Hood of cavalry in his defense of Atlanta.  An effort on the 18th to cut Hood's supply line south of Atlanta failed.  On August 21, Forrest captured Memphis, Tennessee, and an attempt to cut off his withdrawal failed.  On August 27, Sherman pulled two corps out of their trenches, and Hood concluded that Wheeler's raid was forcing Sherman to withdraw, when Sherman was really moving in force to cut off Hood's supplies.  On the 30th, one of Hood's two remaining rail lines was cut in two places, and Hood, still thinking that Sherman was withdrawing, ordered an attack at Jonesboro.  The next day, Hood's attack was repulsed with heavy losses, and his final rail line was cut.  That night, Sherman ordered Slocum's corps to attempt to enter Atlanta in the morning.

The next major engagement was the Battle of Atlanta on September 2, 1964.

Naval:  August 3 saw Admiral Farragut prepare for the attack on Mobile Bay; Federal forces attacked Fort Gaines on Dauphin Island.  The Battle of Mobile Bay began at 6:00 a.m. on August 5, with Farragut's fleet attempting to run by the three Confederate forts to attack the Confederate ironclad Tennessee and three wooden gunboats.  The Federal ironclad Tecumseh was sunk by a torpedo just after 7:00, and that is when Admiral Farragut is supposed to have said, "Damn the torpedos, full speed ahead!"  Whether these words were actually spoken can be debated, but the order, given or not, was indeed followed.  Farragut's flagship Hartford led the U.S. fleet past the forts with little further damage, and the Tennessee was repeatedly rammed and shelled until it was disabled and surrendered.  U.S. naval bombardments of the forts led to the surrender of Forts Gaines and Powell in the next few days, and Fort Morgan on August 21.

Source: The Civil War Day By Day, edited by John S. Bowman, 1989.


Official Record of the Month

[Web Editor's note:  This is a bit different type of "Official Record of the Month."  This does not relate to any significant development discussed above.  However, it is probably one of the very few items contained in the Official Records that involves Nebraska, and this is, after all, the website of the Civil War Roundtable of Nebraska, so it seem appropriate.  Though it was prepared in November of 1864, it recounted activities that took place in August of 1864.]

FORT LEAVENWORTH, KANS., November ---, 1864.

     SIR: In compliance with your communication of October 31, 1864, I herewith transmit my report of expedition after hostile Indians:

     I left Fort Leavenworth, Kans., on the 11th of August, 1864, with two pieces of artillery and thirty-five men for Omaha, Nebr. Ter. At Plattsmouth I was ordered to disembark on account of the low stage of water and proceed by land to Fort Kearny, Nebr. Ter. I left Plattsmouth August 17, traveling on what is called the ridge road, but water is so scarce the animals had to be watered with buckets; wood is also scarce, but grass is good. About forty miles west of Plattsmouth I saw the first indications of alarm amongst the settlers on account of the Indian troubles. I met about 200 men, women, and children leaving their houses and their all behind them for fear of their hostilities. I advised them to return, but their terror was too great to allow them to do so. I found the houses on the road all deserted and the fences carried away by passing trains. Those people were, in my opinion, very foolish for leaving, as there was not an Indian to be seen in that section of the country. If they had stopped, collected together, and built a fort on some stream and placed their families there, there would have been no occasion for their leaving and having their property destroyed. I arrived at Junction Branch, on the Platte River, August 22, 1864. Here the three roads from Plattsmouth join--the river road, the ridge road, and the lower road. Here I would note and recommend the lower road as much preferable for traveling to either of the other two. At this point, forty miles east of Kearny, there is an abundance of wood and a plentiful supply of good water and grass. August 24, arrived at Fort Kearny, having traveled the distance of 212 miles in seven days. Here I found Major-General Curtis and Brigadier-General Mitchell organizing and making arrangements for an expedition against hostile Indians.

     I left Fort Kearny September 1 with the command for Plum Creek, thirty-five miles west of Kearny; arrived there at sundown that evening. The road is level along the Platte Bottom, with good grass and water. About half a mile east of Plum Creek are the graves of eleven men, murdered by the Indians on the 8th of August, and the remains of a train they had burned. The number of guns having been increased to five pieces, by one from Saint Joseph, and two at Kearny, two pieces were ordered to report to Captain Gore, commanding General Curtis' escort. One piece was ordered to report to Colonel Livingston, commanding First Nebraska Veteran Volunteer Cavalry, and I was ordered to report to Colonel Summers, commanding Seventh Iowa Cavalry, with two pieces and a detachment of sixteen men. September 3, left Plum Creek and marched in a southwest direction about forty miles, and camped on the Republican River. No wood on the line of this day's march, but good grass and water when we reached the Republican. Crossed the river next morning; crossing bad in consequence of quicksands. Saw where a party of Sioux Indians had camped about ten days previous. Scouts were immediately sent out, but failed to discover in what direction they had gone. We then marched up a ca¤on for about two miles in length, in some places so narrow that a wagon had scarcely room to go through. The hills around here are barren of everything but buffalo grass, which is of a whitish color.  This grass is good for horses, but so short that considerable time is required to collect a sufficient supply for any considerable number of animals.  September 4, we encamped on a creek called Crooked Nose by the Indians; good grass, wood, and water here. Pawnee Indians who accompanied the command as guides and scouts killed some buffalo. As yet we had not discovered any of the hostile Indians.  September 5, marched at 7 a.m., having sent out a pioneer party to make crossings for the wagons and artillery. Camped on the Beaver Creek that night, which is a nice stream with plenty of wood, water, and grass. While here Maj. R. H. Hunt was sent out with a detachment of cavalry and one piece of artillery to look out for Indians. September 6, moved to Prairie Dog Creek; here Maj. R. H. Hunt and his command joined us, having during the previous evening and to-day traveled over 100 miles of the country, but saw no Indians. He found an Indian pony, and saw other signs of them, without discovering them. September 7, reached Solomon's Fork. It is a splendid stream, good wood, grass, and water; from here Captain Wilcox, Seventh Iowa Cavalry, was sent out with his company on scout, and here the command was divided, General Curtis taking the First Nebraska Veteran Volunteer Cavalry, one company Nebraska militia, and a detachment of the Eleventh Ohio Cavalry and one company Eleventh Kansas Cavalry; General Mitchell taking the Seventh Iowa Cavalry and two pieces of artillery and Indian scouts. September 8, General Curtis marched east, and General Mitchell west, to whose command I was attached. We marched up Solomon's Fork about twenty miles; here we encamped  waiting the return of Captain Wilcox's command, which joined us that evening; he saw no Indians, but saw signs; found the place where a large body of them had encamped but a short time previous. Captain Wilcox reports to have seen wagon tracks and  white men's footprints in the sand. September 9, marched in the direction of Medicine Lake, which is about forty miles south of Cottonwood Springs. One of the scouts reported this a favorite place for Indians. September 10, started out at 4 a.m., marched in a northwesterly direction about forty miles, and camped on Prairie Dog Creek, about thirty-six miles above, where the command had previously crossed; good grass, wood, and water.  September 11, marched to Beaver Creek, traveling in a northwest direction. September 12, encamped on Crooked Nose Creek; saw a few buffalo, did not kill any. The horses were now getting into a poor condition from the necessarily long marches and the want of corn. The want of picket-ropes was greatly against the cavalry, who had none, and was soon apparent on their animals. They took their horses out to graze for two or three hours in the evening after they came into camp from a hard day's march, then tied them up to a rope stretched from one wagon wheel to another for the night; this was all they got until next evening. I had lariats for all my horses, and they were all the time in a serviceable condition. September 13, marched to Republican River and camped just below the mouth of Medicine Lake Creek. Captain Murphy, of Seventh Iowa Cavalry, was ordered out from this point with his command on scout. September 14, moved camp to Medicine Lake Creek. It is a stream about ten yards wide, with about four feet depth; the banks high, rocky, and precipitous; good fish in this river. Laid over here until the 14th, until Captain Murphy's command joined us, and to give the horses rest. Captain Murphy joined us 14th with his command; saw no Indians on his scout. September 15, started on march very early this morning; had marched about ten miles when the scouts came charging back, and reported Indians in our front. The general ordered a charge, but as soon as we came in sight of the supposed <ar83_246> Indians they turned out to be an independent company of Colorado rangers, hunting Indians like ourselves. September 16, camped on Medicine Lake. This is a favorite place for Indians to winter their stock. We saw a great many cottonwood trees that had been cut down by the Indians, the bark of the small limbs being eaten by their ponies when the grass is covered with snow. The lake is small,. with high hills around it. The stream that runs from the lake runs in a southeast direction, until it empties itself into the Republican. There is good wood, grass, and water at the lake, and all along the stream. September 17, marched to Fort Cottonwood, Nebr. Ter.; arrived at that post about 10 p.m. The country to the back of Cottonwood is barren. Remained here until September 19. Marched at sundown up the river. I was taken sick and did not accompany the command. September 20, remained at  Cottonwood sick. A party of eight soldiers was sent out to-day to look for plums for sick in hospital; while on this duty they were surprised by a party of Indians sixty to seventy in number; four of them were killed, and their bodies found next day mangled in a horrible manner; the remainder made their way back to camp. This occurred about three miles from camp, and the men belonged to the Seventh Iowa. The commanding officer sent out a company in wagons to follow their trail until the next day, but the country became so broken they had to return, unable to proceed; they were unsuccessful. If they had been mounted they would certainly have overtaken them. This company found three ponies dead where the soldiers encountered the Indians the day previous, and it is almost certain some of the Indians were killed.  General Mitchell returned with his command to Cottonwood September 26. The artillery was left at Cottonwood; I took charge, and remained with the same; and had the horses all reshod. A great many reports reach us of depredations committed by the Indians. Troops are stationed all along the line from Plum  Creek to Julesburg, at distances of fifteen miles apart, chiefly to escort the mail. October 12, received orders from Colonel Livingston, commanding Sub-District of Nebraska, to turn over the guns and equipments in my possession to the commanding officer at Fort Cottonwood, and to report with my detachment to my company headquarters, Fort Leavenworth, and started at 4 o'clock that evening, and reached Gillman's Ranch, fifteen miles east of Cottonwood, where we encamped for the night. October 13, met the coach about 10 a.m. Were told by the passengers that the Indians attacked them the evening previous about sundown, wounding one soldier and one civilian passenger; that afternoon saw an Indian standing on a hill, and in about ten minutes after we first observed him about fifty or sixty Indians came charging out of the hill toward us. I immediately ordered the wagons to halt, brought the men into line, nineteen in number, when the Indians, seeing our force, halted for about five minutes, and then charged back to the hills. There were but seven revolvers amongst the whole party, and without other arms we retired to an old stable on the road and quite near to us. Here remained all night ready to defend ourselves if attacked. About 10 o'clock that night four soldiers of the First Nebraska Veteran Volunteer Cavalry came galloping down the road, and reported that the Indians had attacked a detachment of their company who were in the hills on scout after Indians, and advised us to keep a strict watch and be ready, as there was great danger. The soldiers were on their way to Plum Creek for re-  enforcements. We passed the night without any attack, and on October 14 reached Plum Creek, and found all the troops out after the Indians, with one piece of artillery. October 15, reached Fort Kearny and remained there until the 20th. Here we drew muskets and ammunition sufficient for our protection and defense, and started for Fort Leavenworth on the 20th. Found all the ranches on the Little Blue burned, and to the best of my opinion the owners of these ranches are with the Indians. There was  plenty of wood and water on my route between Kearny and Fort Leavenworth. Made the trip in eight days and a half, arriving at the fort on the evening of the 28th of October, 1864.

     In my judgment the best time and manner to hunt Indians is to start about the middle of May, leave all wagons behind, take mules and pack them; a mule will carry from 250 to 300 pounds; then they can go over the same ground that the Indians do, get on their trail and follow it up until they are caught. In the summer of 1860 four companies of the Fourth [First] U.S. Cavalry, commanded by Major Sedgwick, started from Fort Riley, Kans., after Kiowas, but could not overtake the Indians on account of their being encumbered with wagons; so they left their wagons at Fort Larned and started with pack-mules. The result was that the Indians were overtaken in twenty-five days on the headwaters of the Smoky Hill River, and gave them a severe thrashing.

     As to the utility of artillery my opinion is not favorable. The India.ns fight so scattered and are so seldom found in solid bodies, that artillery cannot be effective. The least possible incumbrance is necessary to rapid movements; and the arrangements which facilitate such movements will most nearly approach success.

     The country through which we passed this summer has a great sameness. This country has a greater altitude than here, and in the highlands is comparatively barren. No grass, wood, or water is to be found of any consequence, except on the creek bottoms, and back from there nothing grows but buffalo grass. The land is also very broken, with deep ravines leading into the streams; and in traveling through the country it is necessary to take one of the ridges to get to the streams. The expedition, although not encountering Indians in numbers, nor accomplishing any great defeat or startling surprises, is not without its effect. The expedition itself will show the determination of the Government to punish them for thieving and murder. And our movements, although rapid, failing to discover them, show how much they were in fear of us, as the country through which we passed was almost cleared of them; they receded as we advanced, and, on the whole, the expedition will have a moral and I trust a lasting influence.

     I have the honor to be, captain, your obedient servant,

               THOS. FLANAGAN,      
1st Lieut. Co. M, 16th Kans. Vol. Cav., Comdg. Detach. of Post Arty.

  Capt. D. J. CRAIGIE,
  Assistant Adjutant-General, Dist. of North Kansas.

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