Here are some of the events of the Civil War that were happening 150 years ago today. Sources are numbered according to the list at the bottom of this post.
Also see the AmericanCivilWar.com articles, “What Happened In the Civil War January 1862.” There is also much day-by-day information in journals from people on both sides of the war at Daily Observations From The Civil War and some news stories of the day at Civil War Daily Gazette.
If you’re into firearms, here is an in-depth article on Civil War handguns, written for reenactors. It’s interesting that ordinary soldiers, North and South, were unlikely to have them, as they were issued to cavalrymen or officers.
In writing my story about Enoch Wilkins, who had been a drummer boy in the CSA, it came to me that his handgun had been won from a retired Texas Ranger while crossing the plains; before that, he had had none.
That was just instinctive, or a lucky guess, perhaps backed up by accuracy in films like Gettysburg that show officers using them.
Military events: General Albert A. Johnston to the CSA War Department: “Movements on my left, threatening Fort Henry, have the objective of capturing Nashville. I have detached 8,000 men to make Clarksville secure and drive the enemy back. The road through Bowling Green is indispensable to the enemy as they must have river or railroad means of transportation to invade with a large force. A reserve at Nashville is needed for me to maintain my position. The country must be aroused to make the greatest effort. Our people do not comprehend the magnitude of the danger that threatens. To suppose that the enemy will suspend active operations on the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers during the winter months is a delusion. All the resources of the Confederacy are now needed for the defense of Tennessee.” (1)
General Halleck gives General Grant permission to visit him. While treating Grant curtly during his subsequent visit, Halleck is starting to think of sending Grant back to Fort Henry. (1)
Supply: Lincoln to Secretary of War Stanton: “The Secretary of War has my authority to exercise his discretion in the matter within mentioned.” Lincoln’s endorsement is on a letter from Stanton, January 24, 1862, reading as follows: “In my opinion the success of military operations and the safety of the country require some changes to be made in the Bureau of Ordnance, and perhaps some others, in order to secure more vigor and activity; and I desire to have your sanction for making them.” (6) James McPherson notes in Battle Cry of Freedom that Stanton “swept into the [US] War Department with a new broom,” and made it much more efficient. He also notes that “the Ordnance Department was the one bright spot of Confederate supply,” in large part thanks to Josiah Gorgas.
Military events: The “hero of Fort Sumter,” General Beauregard (CSA) is transferred from General Joe Johnston‘s forces along the eastern lines westward to become General Albert Johnston’s second in command. (8)
General Burnside’s expedition finally gets a break: “From time to time we made efforts to cross the fleet from the inlet into over what was called the swash**, which separated it from the inlet. We had been led to believe that there (sic) eight feet of water upon the swash, but when we arrived we discovered to our sorrow that there were but six feet; and as most of our vessels, as well of the naval fleet which we found at Hatteras Inlet on our arrival, drew more water than that, it was necessary to deepen the channel by some process. The current upon the swash was very swift, a circumstance which proved to be much in our favor. Large vessels were sent ahead, under full steam, on the bar when the tide was running out, and then anchors were carried out by boats in advance, so as to hold the vessels in position. The swift current would wash the sand from under them and allow them to float, after which they were driven farther on by steam and anchored again, when the sand would again wash out from under them. This process was continued for days, until a broad channel of over eight feet was made, deep enough to allow the passage of the fleet into the sound. On the 26th, one of our largest steamers got safety over the swash and anchored in the sound, where some of the gun-boats had preceded them.”
**Dictionary.com notes that “swash” is used in the Southeast for a channel of water through or behind a sandbank. Per Wikipedia, Burnside was born in Indiana, but his father was from South Carolina.
Politics: A committee of New York Germans calls on President Lincoln to protest the treatment of General Franz Sigel. (6) There’s no explanation of what treatment they were protesting, but this entry in the Wikipedia link is illuminating: “Sigel had developed a reputation as an inept general, but his ability to recruit and motivate German immigrants kept him alive in a politically sensitive position. Many of these soldiers could speak little English beyond “I’m going to fight mit Sigel”, which was their proud slogan and which became one of the favorite songs of the war. They were quite disgruntled when Sigel left the corps in February 1863 and was replaced by Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard, who had no immigrant affinities. Fortunately for Sigel, the two black marks in the XI Corps’ reputation—Chancellorsville and Gettysburg—would occur after he was relieved.”
Lincoln must have listened to the New Yorkers, for Sigel was around a few months later for his finest hour, as we will see later on in this 1862 timeline.
Military/political events: In Washington, President Lincoln apparently rejects General McClellan’s plans for army operations in Virginia by issuing “President’s General War Order No. 1: Ordered that the 22nd day of February 1862, be the day for a general movement of the Land and Naval forces of the United States against the insurgent forces. That the Army of the Potomac be ready for a movement on that day.” (1)
Military events: Flag Officer Foote to General Halleck: “Commanding General Grant and myself are of opinion that Fort Henry on the Tennessee River, can be carried with four iron-clad gunboats and troops to permanently occupy. Have we your authority to move for that purpose when ready?” General Grant to General Halleck: “With permission, I will take Fort Henry, on the Tennessee, and establish and hold a large camp there.” (1)
(1) AmericanCivilWar.com timeline
(2) Library of Congress timeline
(3) Smithsonian Civil War Timeline
(4) “Battle Cry of Freedom” by James McPherson
(5) University of North Carolina “Civil War Day by Day”
(6) The Lincoln Log timeline.
(7) The Burnside Expedition, by General Burnside.
(8) Blue and Gray Timeline.
Categories: American Civil War