Here are some of the events of the Civil War that were happening 150 years ago this week. Sources are numbered according to the list at the bottom of this post.
“I want a call . . . “
The area between Richmond and Malvern Hill is only about 16 miles long. During the Seven Days’ Battle, according to Civil War Home, 20,614 Confederate and 15,849 Federal soldiers died there.
Military events: Peninsula Campaign: Seven Days Battle. The Army of the Potomac retreats from its strong position at Malvern Hill, through a rainstorm, to Harrison’s Landing at Berkeley Plantation and to Westover Plantation, where it can be protected by naval gunboats on the James River. While at Harrison’s Landing, General Daniel Butterfield establishes the bugle call “Taps.” CS General Jeb Stuart’s force shells General McClellan’s forces with a single gun, and Stuart reports to General Lee that McClellan hasn’t occupied a bluff overlooking Harrison Landing. However, McClellan will move troops to the bluff before Lee can arrive. (2, 11)
Western Theater: As the Union fresh and salt-water fleets meet on the Mississippi and begin intermittent shelling of Vicksburg’s defenses, CS General Earl Van Dorn assumes command of the Military District of the Mississippi, while US Flag Officer William D. Porter, recently recovered from injuries and returned to service with the Western Flotilla, bemoans the lack of Federal infantry: “Ships cannot crawl up hills 300 feet high, and it is that part of Vicksburg which must be taken by the Army.” (12) The ships have another problem: it’s summer, and the river level is dropping.
President Lincoln is concerned about Tennessee and sends a telegram to General Halleck to say it would be nice if Halleck could send McClellan some reinforcements, but he is not to do it at the cost of delaying the Chattanooga expedition. He also asks if Halleck could pay him a “flying visit,” but the general replies that his health is not good and the Confederates have been attacking them: “Under these circumstances I do not think I could safely be absent from my Army, although being somewhat broken in health and wearied . . . a trip to Washington would be exceedingly desirable.” (5)
Battles: On the James River, the USS Maratanza and CSS Teaser engage in battle. A shell destroy’s the Teaser’s boiler, and the crew is forced to abandon the ship. Aboard the Teaser, its new Union owners discover electric mines ready to be laid in the river, as well as an observation balloon for spying on the Army of the Potomac. The silk for the balloon is rumored to come from dresses donated by Richmond belles. (13) It’s actually very colorful silk dress material, $514 worth, which would be something around $11,682 today per this calculator (though that’s a very uncertain conversion, since these were Confederate dollars and it was wartime).
Military events: US General Ambrose Burnside sails from North Carolina with a corps of two divisions, heading for Newport News, where he can reinforce the Army of the Potomac at Harrison’s Landing, if needed. (14)
Other: With a visit from his Commander-in-Chief pending, General McClellan, at Harrison’s Landing, composes a letter setting forth his “general views concerning the state of the rebellion.”
Battles: Hill’s Plantation/Cache River/Cotton Plant/Round Hill, Arkansas. Their victory here allows the Union forces to move on to Helena, a strategically located town on the Mississippi River near Vicksburg.
Military events: Early in the morning, Lincoln arrives at Fortress Monroe and interviews General Burnside. (5) Secretary of War Stanton appointments General John A. Dix to head the newest round of talks with the Confederates to work out a prisoner exchange agreement. General Dix is also interviewed by Lincoln today at Fortress Monroe. The president then heads up the James River and reaches Harrison’s Landing around 6 p.m., where he is cheered by the troops. Later in the evening, General McClellan gives Lincoln his letter (known as the Harrison Bar Letter). The president reads it at once but makes no comment. (5)
In the western theater, Flag Officer Farragut receives a telegram from Washington asking him to immediately send 12 schooners to reinforce the James River Flotilla in Virginia. (12)
(2) Encyclopedia Virginia: “Seven Days’ Battle”
(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) Civil War Home’s “The Peninsula Campaign.”
(11) “The Battles for Richmond, 1862.” National Park Service.
(12) Conquest of the Lower Mississippi. BrownWaterNavy.org.
Categories: American Civil War