The American Civil War 150th Anniversary – April 23-29, 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.

Of note, I’m going to remove those links to The Rebellion Record online, mentioned last week, until I can get them organized better. has articles about highlights during April 1862 in the west (to the Mississippi) and east. 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.

Unidentified Union soldier

Unidentified Union soldier (Library of Congress)

April 23

Battles: Peninsula Campaign: “Now I wish I could tell you just how everything looks here, or better still, that you could just look in and see us. In a deep wooded hollow you might see seven or eight hundred men, their arms stacked in a glistening line down the middle, knapsacks and haversacks lying round and the men lounging in groups smoking, joking or telling stories. Little brush houses are scattered here and there and the sun is just coming up and making everything look so bright and pleasant that it seems more like some holiday gathering than it does like a gathering of men armed to the teeth and ready to engage in deadly conflict at a moment’s notice. This is historical ground. As long ago as 1781 Yorktown was surrendered, and here is the very place it was done.

Unidentified Confederate soldier in shell jacket

Unidentified Confederate soldier in shell jacket (Library of Congress)

“Just back of me is a long bank of earth now overgrown with trees, a breastwork thrown up by Washington’s men, and, if you could creep with me so as to just look over the top of it, and be out of range of secesh bullets, we could see more. Away across a level field three-quarters of a mile off, just in the edge of a wood, you might see a yellow line of earth. That is a rebel fort. Farther to the right is another, and still farther another and a larger one. A few rods from me are two large siege guns, and a little way on the other side a battery of Parrott guns. Now for a little amusement—a heavy report at the rebel fort, a wreath of white smoke curls gracefully up from the yellow bank and a ten-inch shell comes hissing and screaming through the air directly toward our siege guns.

Unidentified Union artilleryman

Unidentified Union artilleryman (Library of Congress)

“The gunners jump aside and fall flat on the ground; the shell strikes a dozen rods behind them and harmlessly explodes. Up they spring, with “All right, boys.” “Give ‘em two for that.” They step to their loaded guns, step back a pace, pull a string, and, Boom! Boom! two reports that make the earth tremble and two shells go screaming back in reply to the rebel missile. They have kept up this cannonading ever since we came here on the 5th, and there is scarcely ten minutes in the day when we do not hear the report of cannon. We are getting used to it so we pay no more attention than to the birds singing, unless the firing is unusually sharp….” (Oliver Willcox Norton)


Confederate artillerymen outside New Orleans, 1862

Confederate artillerymen outside New Orleans, 1862 (Library of Congress)

New Orleans: The Confederacy has been building two ironclads in New Orleans, but both are unfinished. Only one of them – the Louisiana – is deemed by General Johnson Duncan, commander of forts Jackson and St. Philip, and General Mansfield Lovell, in charge of the city’s defense, to be useful in resisting the oncoming Yankee fleet. The Louisiana is moved and anchored above Fort Jackson for the night, perhaps to be sent to a position below Fort Philip the next day to serve as a floating battery.

Meanwhile, Flag Officer David Farragut has organized his Union fleet into three divisions and issued orders to be ready to move out. He spends the afternoon traveling from ship to ship to ensure everything is ready. When night comes, Confederate forces light fires, since General Duncan has seen small white flags set along the bank and assumes (correctly) that these are to align the movement of the fleet as it sails upriver. Farragut sends Lieutenant Caldwell and some men out in a small boat to make sure the passage through the barrier is still open. (9, 14)

Siege of Fort Macon: US General Burnside again asks CS Colonel White to surrender the fort. Colonel White refuses. (2)

Military events: US Secretary of War Stanton, after conferring with President Lincoln, orders General McDowell not to cross the Rappahannock near Fredericksburg. (6)

Mortar steamers attacking Fort Jackson

Mortar steamers attacking Fort Jackson (Library of Congress)

April 24

Battles: New Orleans: At around 2 a.m., Union gunboats intensify their cannonade (some 16,500 rounds will eventually be fired) and Farragut and 17 warships move out. Ten minutes later, both Confederate forts open fire on the leading warships. (14)

McPherson describes the ensuing battle thus: “The forts opened fire with eighty or ninety guns; the ships replied with twice as many; the Confederate ironclad Louisiana, moored to the bank with her engines not yet working, cut loose with as many of her sixteen guns as would bear. Three of the rebel gunboats entered the fray and tried to ram Union warships (one of them succeeded, sinking the ten-gun sloop Varuna) while the civilian captains of the other rebel boats fled upstream or scuttled their craft. Confederate tugs pushed fire-rafts heaped with flaming pine and pitch into the current to float down on Yankee ships. With all this happening in a space of barely a square mile, it was the greatest fireworks display in American history.”

Ultimately, after an hour and a half, Farragut has lost 4 ships and 37 men, with 147 wounded, but the remainder of his fleet passes the barricade and anchors off Quarantine Station, near a Confederate camp which surrenders. Farragut pauses there to bury the dead and repair his ships. (4, 14)

Siege of Fort Macon: General Burnside orders General Parke to begin the bombardment as soon as possible. Under cover of night fall, Parke opens up his batteries for firing. (2)

April 25

Battles: New Orleans: The Union fleet heads upriver for New Orleans. A small Confederate battery about 5 miles from the city fires on the ships but is quickly silenced. The federal naval forces meet burning ships drifting downstream on their approach, and as they arrive at New Orleans, they note a “scene of desolation; ships, steamers, cotton, coal, etc. … all in one common blaze.” The city’s leadership all refuse to surrender, and with angry mobs in the street and parts of the city burning, Farragut decides to hold off occupying the city until General Benjamin Butler’s 18,000-man force can make it upriver past forts Jackson and St. Philip, which are still in Confederate hands. (14)

Fort Macon entrance and moat

Fort Macon entrance and moat in 1940 (Library of Congress)

Siege of Fort Macon: General Parke starts his bombardment of the fort at dawn. Fort Macon’s big guns reply but cannot get many hits because of the dunes. Attracted by the sound of gunfire, four vessels from the Blockading Squadron arrive in the harbor. The water is too rough for them to be able to direct accurate naval fire on the fort, and Confederate guns hit two of the ships, doing little damage and injuring only one man. The walls of the fort are breached, and at around 4:30 p.m., Colonel White orders the white flag raised over Fort Macon. (2)

Military events: Shenandoah Valley Campaign: When US General Nathaniel Banks, the “Bobbin Boy of Massachusetts,” occupies Harrisonburg, Virginia, General Jackson withdraws to Swift Run Gap, from where he can either outflank Banks or move east to john General Joseph Johnson. Generals Lee and Johnston give Jackson the option to launch a heavy attack in the Valley, and Jackson decides to go after the Union troops, led by General Robert H. Milroy, who have occupied the village of McDowell and are threatening Jackson’s supply depot at Staunton. (3)

April 26

Battles: New Orleans: Fighting continues around forts Jackson and St. Philip. (14)

Confederate parole document from 1865

Confederate parole document from 1865 (Virginia Military Institute at )

Siege of Fort Macon: The Confederate flag is lowered over Fort Macon, and its defenders are paroled. After giving their word not to take up arms against the US, they are allowed to leave, with their personal possessions, and return home. Union forces take control of the fort. (2)

April 27

Battles: New Orleans: Fighting continues around forts Jackson and St. Philip. In the evening, the CSS McRae comes up to New Orleans under a flag of truce to land Confederate wounded from the forts. At midnight, troops in Fort Jackson, believing they are about to be overrun by the Yankees, mutiny and refuse to fight any more. (14)

April 28

Battles: New Orleans: Union forces find the McRae has been sunk alongside the city wharf. US Commander Porter, of Farragut’s mortar squadron, receives notes from the commanders of forts Jackson and St. Philip, asking terms for surrender. The captain of the CSS Louisiana sets fire to her. She breaks loose and drifts downriver, finally exploding in front of Fort St. Philip while terms of surrender of the forts are being drawn up on Commander Porter’s flagship. That evening, Portar and his mortar flotilla head back downriver to Southwest Pass, where they will prepare for more blockade duty and wait for Flag Officer Farragut’s fleet to return, at which point they’ll head for Mobile, Alabama. (14)

Military events: US General Halleck sets out for Corinth, Mississippi, “with a force exceeding eighty-five thousand effectives.” (11) (Note: Most online sources I’ve read say Halleck set out on the 29th, but I took Jefferson Davis’s word for it.)

April 29

Battles: New Orleans: Farragut’s marines raise the US flag over the city. (4)

Military events: Shenandoah Campaign: CS General Jackson leaves General Ewell at Swift Run Gap to join General Edward “Old Allegheny” Johnson for the attack on Milroy’s forces in McDowell. (3)

War in the Shenandoah Valley, 1862

War in the Shenandoah Valley, 1862 (Library of Congress)



(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.

(11)”The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government” (Vol. II), Jefferson Davis.

(12) “The Siege of Yorktown.

(13)  The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I.  (US War Department, 1882)  Note: This is an excellent resource; I have only briefly delved into it, so check it out for more details.

(14)  Conquest of the Lower Mississippi.

(15) The Sherman letters.

(16) Daily Observations From the Civil War

Categories: American Civil War

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