The American Civil War 150th Anniversary – February 26 to March 3, 1862

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 article about what happened in February and March 1862 in the west (to the Mississippi River)and the east (along the coast). 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.

Blockade runners and legal niceties

In Battle Cry of Freedom, James McPherson explains, that in addition to the obvious practical considerations, it was vital politically for the Confederacy to convince Britain and other European powers that the North’s blockade of its ports was ineffective.

Blockade runner 'Teaser' off Fort Monroe, Virginia, 1864.

Blockade runner 'Teaser' off Fort Monroe, Virginia, 1864. (Library of Congress)

International law after the Crimean War stated that a port blockade “in order to be binding [that is, respected by all signatories of the law], must be effective.”  During the Napoleonic wars in Europe, the neutral US had used this point to trade with all sides.

In 1861 and early 1862, Southern ministers to European capitals argued that the blockade could be easily run; therefore, it was ineffective and illegal.

In February 1862, McPherson says, the Confederate commissioner to Paris made the mistake of saying that “although a very large proportion of the vessels that attempted to run the blockade…had succeeded in passing, the risk of capture was sufficiently great to deter those who had not a very adventurous spirit from attempting it.”

That was all it took.  Eight days later, Britain’s foreign minister said that the blockade was legal under international law, so long as it was maintained by ships “sufficient really to prevent access to [a port] or to create an evident danger of entering or leaving it.”

The Confederacy continued successful blockade running, as cargo manifests from later in the war show, but it never gained the crucial support it needed from abroad to have the blockade declared illegal and therefore broken.

February 26

Military events:  Burnside Expedition:  At Roanoke Island, orders are given to start getting ready to embark for New Bern, North Carolina.  (7)

General McClellan and Union brigades cross the Potomac to Harper’s Ferry. (9)

Missouri/Kansas: Union soldier Luman Harris Tenney: “Went down and saw Brownell and the other wounded boys. All getting along well. Guarded against Quantrell [sic]. The boys, about two hundred, saddled and went out to meet the wagons. Met them and escorted them in. Quantrell captured two horses. Another night alarm.” (12) More on Quantrill’s Raiders here.

Civil War reenactment, Socorro, Feb. 2010

Civil War reenactment, Socorro, Feb. 2010 (Civil War Hartys )

Battles: General Sibley’s Confederate Army of New Mexico captures Socorro after lobbing a few shells into town. While his men enjoy a rest and plentiful supplies, the general must decide whether to go back and try to take Fort Craig or head north to Fort Union. (9)

(Disclosure: In that image, they are actually reenacting the Battle of Valverde, but they did it on February 26. Check out the whole Civil War Hartys’ post for many excellent images!)

Other: The CS Congress reportedly has secretly authorized martial law in Richmond and a few other places. The news is that the army is to fall back from Manassas. (9)

President Lincoln, by military order pursuant to an act of Congress, takes over the Internet of its time: the telegraph lines. (6)

February 27

Other: General Grant spends the day at Nashville and returns to Fort Donelson in the evening. (10)

During a conference about General McClellan and Harper’s Ferry, President Lincoln remarks, “The general impression is daily gaining ground that the General does not intend to do anything.” (6)

Union gunboat Carondelet at Island No. 10.

Union gunboat Carondelet at Island No. 10. (Library of Congress)

February 28

Battles: New Madrid and Island #10: General Pope, commander of the Union Army of the Mississippi, sets out overland from Commerce, Missouri, to attack New Madrid in an effort to break the new Confederate strong point on the Mississippi, Island #10, defended by General Beauregard’s Confederate Army of the Mississippi. (1, 11)

Other: In Washington, Ford’s Theater closes for renovations. (8)

President Lincoln interviews Gen. McClellan on the failure of the program at Harper’s Ferry. (6) I am not sure what this note in the Lincoln Log means (see the 26th, above) but it might have to do with the president’s irritation that his general is “fiddling” with a “subplan” to take General Jackson’s HQ in Winchester instead of advancing down the Peninsula on Richmond.

February 29

Sorry – you’ll have to wait until 1864/2014!

March 1

Battles: New Madrid and Island #10: Skirmish near Sikeston, Missouri. (11)

Military events: General Halleck, unaware his general has gone to Nashvhille, orders Grant to Fort Henry, to advance on the Tennessee River and a railroad bridge in Eastport, Mississippi, as well as railroad connections in Corinth, Mississippi; Jackson; and Humboldt, Tennessee. In the meantime, Halleck, as part of an ongoing campaign against Grant, has been complaining about him to General McClellan. (1, 10)

March 2

Battles: New Madrid and Island #10: Skirmish near New Madrid, Missouri. (11) In the aftermath of Union successes at Fort Donelson and Nashville, and the evacuation of Bowling Green, CS General Leonidas Polk completes his withdrawal from Columbus, the “Gibraltar of the West,” and heads for New Madrid. (8) More background and information.

Other: General McClellan responds to General Halleck’s complaints and authorizes Grant’s arrest. (10)

March 3

Battles: New Madrid and Island #10: General Pope’s forces reach New Madrid and start the siege. CSA General John McCown, garrison commander, defends both New Madrid and Island #10 from fortifications, launching a sortie led by General Thompson of the Missouri State Guard as well as bringing up heavy artillery for defense. (1, 11)

Politics: President Lincoln appoints Tennessee Senator Andrew Johnson as military governor of Tennessee. (8)

Andrew Johnson in 1860.

Andrew Johnson in 1860. (Library of Congress)


(1) 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.

(9) Civil War Daily Gazette timeline.

(10) Grant Chronology, Mississippi State University.

(11) The Battle of New Madrid and Island #10.

(12) Daily Observations from the Civil War.

Categories: American Civil War

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