|Siege of Louisville|
|Part of The Second Mexican War|
|United States||Confederate States|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Orlando Wilcox|| Thomas Jackson |
Even before the campaign got under way, US General William Rosecrans' strategic thinking involved pulling at the Confederacy from all directions. Unfortunately, the Army of the Potomac's unexpected defeat at Winchester along with pressure from US president Blane, forced him to accelerate his plans in order to salvage some pride.
Confederate President Longstreet saw the need to look like a nation defending itself from a larger aggressor, pulled Confederate General Thomas Jackson from his advance into Maryland, to replace Brigadier General Peter Turney as commander of the Army of Kentucky in order to prepare for the coming storm in that state. Jackson was annoyed at having been halted at the Potomac, but was willing to take command, so long as it allowed him to give the Yankees a good licking. Jackson knew he'd have to fight a defensive campaign against the numerically superior forces that were attacking him. From his previous encounter at Winchester, he knew that it was now a lot harder for an attacking army to assault defensive positions, so he prepared appropriately.
Crossing the OhioEdit
US General Orlando Wilcox opened the campaign with an army of fifty thousand men. The Army of Ohio consisted of regulars and volunteers, who didn't mix very well together, especially since the volunteers outnumbered the regulars. The attack began from the Confederates who pre-empted the invasion by shelling the barges and boats that had been gathering along the US side of the river. US guns quickly opened up and a considerable artillery duel developed. The CS gunners were forced to take on the US gunners.
After two weeks of preparations, the attack was launched across the Ohio river from three directions in Jeffersonville, Clarksville, and New Albany in the early morning dawn. The Army of Kentucky had used the time wisely, using Negro labourers to build firing pits and earth works around the city of Louisville. However, the defence of the city would rely heavily on the artillery of Major General E. Porter Alexander. Jackson ordered the guns to pound the barges and boats as they crossed the river, but US guns made this difficult. He then ordered two brigades to the waterfront to resist the crossing. US Guns opened up on the waterfront to help with the landing and shortly there after, the Army of Ohio set foot in Kentucky.
With the Army of Ohio on the banks of Kentucky, CS artillery switched targets, from the boats to the men on the shore. While this caused casualties it didn't slow down the advance, and US troops quickly entered Louisville. To Wilcox's surprise, Jackson, whom they now knew was commander of the CS troops chose to fight for the city rather than retreat and engage US forces on open ground. Although German military attache, Alfred Von Schlieffen tried to warn Wilcox that fighting in a city favoured the defenders, Wilcox ignored the advice. Instead, he chose to support the infantry attacking the town with artillery.
The Confederates refused to give. They fought inside every building, forcing the US to shell whole blocks into rubble, and then they fought in the rubble until cleared out by rifle and bayonet. As the fighting progressed, Wilcox funnelled more and more men into the city, headless of casualties. His argument was that the US had far more men it could lose than the CSA. On the CS side, General Jackson was worried about his own casualties, and wondered if he could prevent the Yankees from overrunning the whole of Kentucky once Louisville fell.
During the battle, an eight hour cease fire was called for so that a CS representative could be sent to meet with General Wilcox. The request was agreed on, and a meeting arranged. The Confederacy asked for an end to the war and a return to pre-war borders with no reparations. US President Blane rejected the offer and the fighting resumed.
The Second Ohio CrossingEdit
Now Wilcox listened to Schlieffen and asked for his advice on his latest plan. Since the Confederates were pinned down in Louisville, he wanted to make a feint in at the city while attempting a large flanking manoeuvre from the east. In light of the peace terms offered by the Confederacy, Blane agreed to send Wilcox more reinforcements which he intended to use in this attack.
Unfortunately, Wilcox's planning was mediocre at best, preferring to let God deliver him his victory. The attack opened up with another large artillery barrage, to which the Confederates responded by attacking the boats and barges. Despite this, the US force made it ashore and advanced quickly. However, the defensive lines that negro slaves had built around the city began stalling the advance.
Jackson was now faced with a dilemma. His forces were under attack in both Louisville and to his west. From reports he received about the level of the intensity of the fighting in the city, led him to conclude that, that attack was a feint. Knowing that the attack from the west was the main thrust, Jackson didn't know if he could rush reinforcements there in time to prevent union troops from encircling him. However the brave actions of Second Lieutenant Stuart of the third Virginia helped buy the army some time, as he took command of his regiment (due to casualties of higher ranks) and launched an attack against the Yankees in order to delay and confuse them. It worked. Impressed by his actions, Jackson sent him two regiments and three batteries of artillery to aid in his attack.
The Third Virginia, the Fourth Virginia, the Third Tennessee were backed up by three batteries of the Second Confederate States Artillery. The attack succeeded and by mid afternoon, the line had stabilised. Knowing his men were exhausted, he called off the counter attack he originally planed.
Lull in the FightingEdit
For a while after the attack was stopped, not much happened. While artillery fired at each other, both sides sent raiding parties into the other's trench works. During a Confederate raid, Frederick Douglass was captured, but was handed over the next day under a flag of truce.
Meanwhile, Wilcox and his staff began infighting, and looking for scapegoats instead of focusing on the battle. It was clear to those around him that the General had no notion of how to break the stalemate. During the inter-medium, the Royal and French Navies attacked US coastal cities like Boston, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle. The British and Canadian Armies invaded the US territory of Montana and the state of Maine.
Stonewall Counter AttacksEdit
With enemies attacking from five different sides at once, Jackson knew that without a shadow of a doubt the war was lost for the USA. He now aimed to ram this fact home with a counter attack. He opened the offensive the next day at early dawn on the stalemated flanking front. Artillery opened along the whole front as to confuses the Yankees as to were the attack would come from. Men rushed out of their trenches towards the US positions and the fighting began.
As the sun rose, the fighting had reached the first line of defences and Jackson ordered a battery of guns that had been placed along the southern flank of the Yankees salient to open fire. There had hardly been any action along that section so Jackson chose to attack it. US artillery shifted focus but this time they were too slow to respond. With an assault from the flank and rear, the US salient quickly collapsed.
CS troops rapidly overran the supply dump of the salient and by the end of the day, were standing on the bank of the Ohio. After this disaster, US President Blane called for an unconditional cease fire along all fronts.
Cease Fire and SurrenderEdit
In the ruins of Louisville, both General Jackson and Wilcox met to discuss terms. Jackson wanted the US to withdraw from all of Kentucky while Wilcox refused. Jackson wired Longstreet asking for permission to force the Yankees out, but was turned down in fear it might restart the war. The details dragged on until 1882 rolled around. Finally fed up, the CS government threatened to renew the war again, and this time the US agreed to surrender. After this, all US forces withdrew from Kentucky.
The Siege of Louisville was one of the bloodiest conflicts of the Second Mexican war. It hammered home the folly of attacking head on entrenched fortifications. German military attache, Alfred Von Schlieffen had been greatly influenced by the battle. He would latter apply this military thinking to his own plans for dealing with France. Since the siege had been the major focus of the war, the US Armies defeat here finally brought about the end of the war, but it was the unexpected victory up in Montana that kept the cease fire in place until April of 1882.
After the war, the battle entered popular culture in the CSA, sparking the song "Louisville will be Free".