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.
On March 25, 1862, Flag Officer David Farragut wrote:
I am now packed and ready for my departure to the mouth of the Mississippi River. The last vessel, the Miami, takes me down. I spent last evening very pleasantly with General Butler. He does not appear to have any very difficult plan of operations, but simply to follow in my wake and hold what I can take. God grant that may be all that we attempt. I have now attained what I have been looking for all my life—a flag—and, having attained it, all that is necessary to complete the scene is a victory. If I die in the attempt, it will only be what every officer has to expect. He who dies in doing his duty to his country, and at peace with his God, has played out the drama of life to the best advantage.
Farragut wasn’t alone in his attitude. This sense of duty was found both North and South, in privates as well as generals, in early 1862. It shows the huge social difference between our time and theirs that we have to overcome – or at least recognize – when trying to get a sense of what was going on in America back then.
As Gerald Linderman points out in Embattled Courage, the industrialization and urbanization that molded humanity in ways we take for granted nowadays were only just beginning, and “conduct remained subject to standards both broad and precise, measures of comportment thought as easily applicable to the pursuits of war as to those of peace.”
Too, I think, Shiloh hadn’t happened yet when Farragut headed south. Most Americans probably still saw the ongoing unpleasantness as – depending on whose side you were on – a limited war in which the Yankees would eventually give up and leave citizens of the Confederacy free to build their new country as they saw fit/the rebels would eventually see the error of their ways, give up and be welcomed back as fellow countrymen. This attitude would soon change.
At first, Confederate forces throw back the attacking federals with artillery fire, but eventually Pyron and his men are forced to retreat. (1)
Battles: Glorieta Pass: There is no fighting today as both sides are reinforced. (1)
Battles: Glorieta Pass: Attacks and counterattacks continue all day. Finally, Confederate forces leave the field, with at least one commander thinking he has won. However, the Union forces have destroyed all of his supplies and the Confederates must fall back to Santa Fe, “the first step on the long road back to San Antonio, Texas.” There will be no more Confederate advances in the Southwest. (1)
Other: President Davis shocks everybody by proposing conscription, which has never existed in America up to this point. (8)
Battles: Siege of Fort Macon: A company of Union soldiers crosses the North Carolina Sound and lands unopposed on Bogue Banks. Federal artillery follows after this landing force, and the guns are hidden as they are set up, to be brought out into the open only when they fired. Confederate defenders of Fort Macon are aware of the activity but can’t afford to spend ammunition on unseen targets. Meanwhile, Federal forces are establishing hand-car passage between New Bern and Beaufort. (2, 7)
Military events: In Corinth, Mississippi, armies of Kentucky, Alabama and West Florida are merged into the CS Department of the Mississippi. (8) Jefferson Davis described the army’s new recruits this way:
It was a heterogeneous mass, in which there was more enthusiasm than discipline, more capacity than knowledge, and more valor than instruction. Rifles, rifled and smooth-bore muskets — some of them originally percussion, others hastily altered from flint-locks by Yankee contractors, many with the old flint and steel — and shot-guns of all sizes and patterns, held place in the same regiments. The task of organizing such a command in four weeks, and supplying it, especially with ammunition, suitable for action, was simply appalling. It was undertaken, however, with a cool, quiet self-control, calling to his aid the best knowledge and talent at his [General Bragg’s] command, which not only inspired confidence, but soon yielded the natural fruits of system, order, and discipline.
CS General Beauregard has drawn up plans for a march by four different corps to converge and deploy for an attack on Grant’s army April 4th. (4)
Other: The B&O Railroad, free of Confederate control, reopens its line from Baltimore to the Ohio River. (8)
President Lincoln introduces Dorothea Dix to the medical director of the Military Hospital at Winchester, Virginia, saying, “Please receive her kindly, and avail yourself of her services among the sick and wounded soldiers.” (6)
Battles: Island No. 10: Captain Henry Walke of the USS Carondelet is ordered by Flag Officer Foote to attempt the run past the island “on the first foggy or rainy night,” as General Pope has been frantically urging for days now. Foote isn’t convinced it can be done, but Walke is willing to try it and Foote commends the ship “to the care and protection of God.”
Military events: Headquarters of the US District of the Tennessee army are officially transferred from Savannah to Pittsburg Landing, although General Grant remains at Savannah to meet General Buell’s arrival with the Army of the Ohio. Grant’s men do not entrench at Pittsburg Landing because their general doesn’t expect to fight there and doesn’t want to rob them of their aggressive spirit. (4, 10)
Battles: Island No. 10/First Battle of Union City. US Colonel Napoleon Buford and his men disembark from the gunboat fleet and surprise Confederate troops at Fort Brown, north of Union City, Tennessee. The garrison is captured. (11)
Battles: Island No. 10. A heavy thunderstorm hits the area, and a tornado tracks near Island No. 10, sinking one Confederate ship and damaging two Federal vessels. Under cover of the storm, Union forces led by Colonel George Roberts sneak into Battery No. 1 and spike its guns. They escape without injury. (13)
Military events: General Grant sends General Sherman and his untested Federal recruits out to take Confederate batteries along the Tennessee River in Eastport, Mississippi and Chickasaw, Alabama, but Sherman finds the batteries have been abandoned. (10)
Other: President Lincoln visits General McClellan in Alexandria, Virginia, before the general sets off for the peninsula. (6)
(2) Wikipedia: “Siege of Fort Macon”
(3) Encyclopedia Virginia: “The Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862”
(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.
(13) “The USS Carondelet: A Civil War Gunboat in Western waters,” Myron Smith and W. Douglas Bell.
(14) “The Sword of Lincoln: The Army of the Potomac,” Jeffrey Wert.
Categories: American Civil War