The American Civil War 150th Anniversary – April 30 to May 6, 1862

Cohoes Civil War memorial

Cohoes Civil War memorial, April 30, 2012.

At the start of this project last summer, upon first seeing the Cohoes Civil War memorial while riding a bus, I knew next to nothing the Civil War.

Of course, I’m just picking up a little knowledge about it now, but in an organized fashion at least. In this series of posts, we are now following the sound of the guns, at least for the major battles.

But what of the people, and their politics, their passions?

Not done yet

This memorial to the Civil War in Cohoes dates back to 1910, when those veterans would have been roughly in their sixties. That is a good age for looking back on one’s life, and it is a fitting memorial for the triumphant side to have erected during that turn-of-the-century age of hope and confidence.

Such a spartan, concrete memorial – rather cold and boring to 21st century eyes – must have been painfully beautiful to those who put it there, a substantial and celebratory marker of the end of a fiery annealing process they had lived through that gave this country its present form.

Now, a hundred years later, the American flag ripples in an ever-changing wind out of sight of the image above but near the war monument.

Those veterans wouldn’t recognize our world today. It is still difficult to look back at theirs, and at the war they fought.

Who were those people? Was that the last generation of Americans to feel passionate idealism honestly and deeply in ways that we dare not allow ourselves today, for fear of igniting a similar inferno? Or is it all just history, not too relevant to our time, and over and done with?

Obviously, there is a still a ways to go here.


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. 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.

April 30

Military events: General Grant is named General Halleck’s second-in-command but retains command of the Army of the Tennessee. (8)

May 1

Military Events: US General Benjamin Butler’s infantry arrives and takes possession of New Orleans and issues a proclamation. (6, 12)

General Irvin McDowell

General Irvin McDowell (Source: National Archives and Records Administration via Wikipedia at )

Battles: Shenandoah Campaign: Under the mistaken impression that CS General Jackson has left the Valley, President Lincoln withdraws General Banks from Harrisonburg to Strasburg and orders General Shields’ division to join forces with General Irvin McDowell at Fredericksburg (note: some dates at this link are at variance with those reported from the “Lincoln Log” below [May 5-6]). The way is now open for General Jackson to advance on Union forces at the village of McDowell. (2 – yes, there were two McDowell’s: the general, from Ohio, and the village in Highland County, Virginia)

Peninsula Campaign/Siege of Yorktown: President Lincoln to General McClellan: “Your call for Parrott guns from Washington alarms me—chiefly because it argues indefinite procrastination. Is anything to be done?” (5)

May 3

Battles: Peninsula Campaign/Siege of Yorkstown: It is clear that McClellan will soon start a bombardment. Over the night of May 3-4, Confederate forces withdraw from the the city so quietly that Union forces don’t realize they have gone until the 4th. (10)

Other: CS General Lovell issues General Order No. 17 at the request of the Confederacy’s Secretary of War: All cotton, foreign or domestic, is to be burned.

May 4

Military events: The USS Kensington arrives at New Orleans and is ordered to head upriver with two mortar schooners. (12)

May 5

Battles: Peninsula Campaign: The Battle of Williamsburg. US General George McClellan/CS General James Longstreet. (1)

Other: In the evening, President Lincoln, Secretaries Stanton and Chase and several others leave Washington via the Miami for Fortress Monroe.(5)

May 6

Other: President Lincoln and his party arrive at Fortress Monroe. After briefly meeting with the US commander there and visiting Flag Officer Goldsborough, they spend the night on board the Miami. (5)

Stereograph of contrabands near Yorktown, 1862.

Stereograph of contrabands near Yorktown, 1862. (Library of Congress)



(2)  Encyclopedia Virginia: “The Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862

(3)  “Battle Cry of Freedom” by James McPherson

(4) University of North Carolina “Civil War Day by Day”

(5) The Lincoln Log timeline.

(6) Blue and Gray Timeline.

(7) Civil War Daily Gazette timeline.

(8) Grant Chronology, Mississippi State University.

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

(10) “The Siege of Yorktown.

(11)  The Rebellion Record. Frank Moore, Edward Everett (1867)

(12)  Conquest of the Lower Mississippi.

(13) The Sherman letters.

(14) Daily Observations From the Civil War

Categories: American Civil War

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