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 article about what happened during 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.
The Irish in the American Civil War
This short video has an excerpt from the vastly under-appreciated Gods and Generals (2003), and even though the battle shown is from December 1862, it’s worth more than a thousand of any words I could write to show how supremely messed up America was 150 years ago, and how badly Irish-Americans on both sides were caught up in it all. (Warning: Graphic violence and battlefield scenes are shown.)
Of note, General Burnside was promoted and transferred during 1862; hence the reference in this video is not to his successful expedition along the CSA coast earlier in the year. Here is more information on the Irish in the Civil War.
A word about Gods and Generals. It isn’t a crowd-pleaser, as Maxwell’s Gettysburg was; the long running time and equally long declarations by individuals, recitations of poetry, etc., turned off a lot of people, and I have read comments from experts noting that the battle portrayal at Chancellorsville wasn’t how it actually happened; but the more I read first-person accounts of the war, the more impressive this movie’s transmission of a sense of the actual time is. If the above clip stirs you to track down and purchase a DVD, good! (By the way, I’m not associated with any of the film’s makers or whoever posted the above to YouTube; I just really liked Gods and Generals for its sense of what the war must have been like for those on both sides as they actually experienced it – chaotic, horrible and very, very emotional. But then, I would have enjoyed the original six-hour version, too, and will buy that in the unlikely event it’s ever released.)
Military events: At a cabinet meeting, President Lincoln expresses dissatisfaction at General McClellan’s conduct of the war. In the evening, he calls several cabinet members to the White House and reads War Order No. 3 to them, putting General McClellan in charge of the Army of the Potomac, General Halleck in command of the newly formed Department of the Mississippi and General John Charles Fremont in charge of the new Mountain Department in West Virginia. (6)
Battles: New Bern, North Carolina: General Burnside’s entire amphibious force anchors off the mouth of Slocum Creek, some 14 miles from the city of New Bern. The approach by water to New Bern has been filled with obstacles, but orders are given that night for a landing. (7)
Siege of New Madrid, Missouri: US General Pope gets the siege guns General Halleck has sent, and they are planted in front of Fort Thompson during the night. (11)
One battalion of General Grant’s cavalry skirmishes near Paris, Tennessee. (10)
Military events: In the face of a pending Federal attack and with only 3600 men available to him, as well as supply problems, and with his officers opposed to a night attack on Union forces, General Jackson abandons Winchester, Virginia, leaving the 7th Virginia Cavalry as a rear guard. When the northern troops don’t pursue him after occupying Winchester, Jackson stops at Strasburg to gather supplies and men, increasing his force for the defense of the Shenandoah Valley to 12,000. (9)
In Washington, General George McClellan wakes up believing himself to be General-in-Chief of US forces, only to read in his morning newspaper that, with War Order No. 3, the president has demoted him to command of the Army of the Potomac. (Lincoln did try to keep the news out of the papers, and is sending Ohio Governor Dennison to personally break the news to McClellan, but the National Intelligencer broke the story the morning after the order was finalized.) Once Dennison does arrive, with the news as well as reassurances that McClellan is still in Lincoln’s good graces, the general apparently decides on a plan of action for his peninsula campaign against Richmond and wires US Assistant Secretary of the Navy, down at Hampton Roads/Fortress Monroe: “Can I rely on the Monitor to keep the Merrimac in check, so that I can make Fort Monroe a base of operations? Answer at once.” That evening, McClellan assembles his division commanders and all agree that Monroe would make a good base, but they must wait until morning to get the Secretary’s response. (9)
Union naval forces occupy Jacksonville, Florida. (8)
From a CS soldier in Decatur, Alabama: “A part of our forces have advanced from this place towards Tuscumbia, and the rear corps will go forward as fast as possible in the same direction. What the enemy proposes to do, we do not know with certainty; but, rumor states they are ascending the Tennessee river in considerable form. Their object is most probably, to get a center position and prevent a junction of our forces with those of Beauregard and Bragg.” (5) Indeed, at this time, US generals Smith and Sherman are leading troops up the Tennessee River, while US General Buell will soon set out for Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee, from Nashville to meet up with General Grant’s men. The CS War Department orders General Bragg to leave Florida and come to General Sidney Johnston’s aid in northern Mississippi. (12) Beauregard and Johnston plan to attack Union forces before Grant and Buell can unite their forces and cut the railway junction at Corinth.
“In a period of four weeks, fragments of commands from Bowling Green, Kentucky, under Hardee; Columbus, Kentucky, under Polk; and Pensacola, Mobile, New Orleans, under Bragg, with such new levies as could be hastily raised, all badly armed and equipped, were united at and near Corinth, and for the first time as an army…[of]…about forty thousand of all arms.”
— Jefferson Davis, quoting Bragg’s description of Johnston’s army in “The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government.”
Battles: New Bern, North Carolina: Federal troops spend the morning disembarking from Burnside’s ships. At 1 o’clock, they move out. “About this time the rain began to fall, and the road became almost impassable. No ammunition could be carried except what the men themselves could carry. No artillery could be taken except the small howitzers, which were hauled by the troops with drag-ropes. This was one of the most disagreeable and difficult marches that I witnessed during the war. We came in contact with the enemy’s pickets just before dark, when it was decided to delay the attack until morning. That night a most dreary bivouac followed.” (7)
Siege of New Madrid, Missouri: There is heavy fighting all day, and both Union and Confederate forces score hits. However, CS generals Stewart and McCown and Commodore Hollins, aboard the flagship CSS McRae, decide that the city cannot withstand a siege, and that night Confederate forces evacuate the town during a heavy thunderstorm. Federal forces can’t tell whether it is an evacuation or reinforcement. (11)
Military Events: US General Smith assembles four divisions at Savannah, on the west bank of the Tennessee River at the Great Bend. (12)
President Davis orders General Robert E. Lee to “…conduct military operations of the armies of the Confederacy.” (8)
President Lincoln composes a letter for US Secretary of War Stanton to send to General McClellan regarding the upcoming campaign against Richmond. (6)
Other: For the third time, Grant asks to be relieved (see last week’s post). General Halleck asks Grant to resume command. (10)
Battles: New Bern, North Carolina: New Bern falls in a “sharp, but brief” fight. Federal troops occupy the city in the afternoon. (7) As Burnside’s Expedition progresses, landowners despair and “large numbers” of slaves throughout eastern North Carolina will start escaping and converging on New Bern, setting in motion events that will ultimately lead to the establishment of James City, North Carolina.
Siege of New Madrid, Missouri: General Pope prepares for an assault on New Madrid, but the few remaining CS soldiers in town wave a truce flag, and Pope discovers that the town has been evacuated. Union forces immediate start working to fortify the position. (11)
Military events: US Flag Officer Andrew Foote leaves Cairo for Island No. 10 with a fleet of seven gunboats and 10 mortar rafts. (11)
Other: General Grant agrees to resume command. (10)
Battles: Island No. 10. Flag Officer Foote’s flotilla, having picked up a brigade of infantry under Colonel Napoleon Buford, reaches the island and immediately begins a 22-day bombardment of the island and surrounding batteries, without much effect. General Pope urges Foote to run past the island and join him at New Madrid, where together they can hem the Confederate forces in on the Tennessee Peninsula and cut them off. Foote refuses, believing that a run past Island No. 10 will result in the destruction of his fleet. Meanwhile, CS General McCown asks General Beauregard for help, but Beauregard is focusing on Corinth, Mississippi, and tells McCown to look to General Van Dorn. However, Van Dorn’s troops were scattered during the Pea Ridge/Elkhorn engagement and will take two weeks to regroup. “Finally Beauregard issued a circular outlining his new plan for defense of the river, which in essence a directive on the order of retreat.” (11)
Military events: General Sherman disembarks with his new division at Pittsburg Landing on the west bank of the Tennessee River, and makes a reconnaissance inland to Monterey, Tennessee, almost halfway to Corinth, Mississippi. Shiloh Baptist Church is near Monterey, Tennessee. (8, 12) The plan is to build a force of some 75,000 Union soldiers and to take them into Mississippi to Corinth. (4)
Battles: Island No. 10. Flag Officer Foote leaves bombardment of the island to his mortar rafts and actively engages Confederate forces at Battery 1, known as the Redan, on the Tennessee shore. “Foote ordered the Benton lashed between two of the ironclads, a precaution in case one of the boats became disabled so it would not float downstream into Confederate hands. The three ironclads attacked the Redan bows forward, the mortars and the rest of the fleet joining in as their guns would allow, distance being the determining factor. The Redan, commanded by Captain Edward W. Rucker, was armed with three 8-inch columbiads and three 32-pounders (smoothbore) and was partially flooded. The 32 pounders were not used during the three-hour fight, unable to reach out far enough, but the huge Lady Polk, Jr., a 128-pounder on the island did join in from three miles away along with a rifled 32 in another shore battery. The Benton took three direct hits and the ironclad St Louis was struck several times. The Redan took a tremendous pounding, but the cannoneers stuck with the guns throughout the engagement and eventually Foote retired. Trudeau was elated with his troops performance, and Rucker proclaimed a hero in the Memphis papers; good news from Tennessee was badly needed and repulsing the ironclads qualified.” (11) However, while Battery 1 is being repaired, McCown follows orders, turns command of Island No. 10 to General Walker and leaves, with many troops and artillery, for Fort Pillow.
Military events: General Grant arrives at Savannah, Tennessee, and begins moving his troops to Pittsburg Landing. (10, 12)
(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.
(9) Civil War Daily Gazette timeline.
(10) Grant Chronology, Mississippi State University.
(12) “The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government” (Vol. II), Jefferson Davis.
Categories: American Civil War