The American Civil War 150th Anniversary – August 20-26, 1862

Here is a belated look at events of the Civil War 150 years ago, this week in August.

Four Regiments, Four Firsts for Black Americans

African Americans have served in all US wars, with the first all-black military units formed in Rhode Island and Massachusetts in 1776.

Morris_W._Morris as Mephistopheles

Morris W. Morris, in his later acting career under the name Lewis Morrison, seen here as Mephistopheles in “Faust.” (Wikipedia)

On August 22, 1862, in New Orleans, US General Butler issued an order authorizing military service for blacks. From this came the 1st Regiment, Louisiana Native Guards (USA), the second black US regiment ever organized. Some 10 percent of those who volunteered had formerly served in the brief-lived 1st Louisiana Native Guards (CSA), the first North American military unit to have black officers.

Of note, Jamaican-born Morris W. Morris, who was Jewish, served as an officer in both the CSA and USA Louisiana Guards. He was the only black Jewish officer to serve in either Army.

First black US regiment: The 1st South Carolina (African Descent) (formed earlier in the year) at the order of General David Hunter. The order was rescinded by Lincoln and the unit disbanded on August 10, 1862, although the first hundred men who had enrolled were allowed to stay with the army and provide military protection to contraband camps.

First official black US regiment: The 1st Louisiana Native Guards (USA). Perhaps Butler got away with his order because New Orleans was so far from Washington and Lincoln had other things on his mind; in any case, after the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation was released, the 1st Louisiana Native Guards became the first black regiment actually mustered into the Union army.

I believe the 1st South Carolina was re-formed and mustered in on January 31, 1863, after the Emancipation Proclamation had taken effect.

William Carney

William Carney, with his Medal of Honor, ca. 1900 (Library of Congress)

First Medal of Honor action for a black US soldier: The 54th Massachusetts (the Glory regiment) was authorized on March 13th 1863; the fight at Fort Wagner, partly shown in Glory, was the first action in which a black soldier, Sgt. William Carney, was awarded the Medal of Honor, although he had to wait until 1900. I don’t know who wrote the text at this site, which came up while I was researching the above, but it sums up quite well how I also feel about the way Glory overlooked Sergeant Carney.

August 20

Military Events: Confederate Heartland Offensive: US Colonel Heffren and 300 men are leading civilian prisoners gathered up in Gallatin, Tennessee, back to Nashville along the L&N rail line when they realize Morgan’s Raiders have cut them off by burning a trestle. Heffren takes an overland route, and as the line of soldiers and their prisoners gets strung out during the journey, Morgan starts picking off Union soldiers and rescuing prisoners. The Confederates show no mercy, even if the Federals try to
surrender. “There were so many of them,” Morgan said, “that when they threw down their arms we couldn’t shoot them all.” Morgan also orders attacks on the new Union stockades along the way, successfully capturing them all. Forty prisoners are rescued but 20 are still in custody by the time Heffren and his remaining men reach Edgefield, where 20 men of the 50th Indiana under Captain H. N. Arkinson repulse three Confederate attacks in three hours. Exhausted, Morgan and his men return the 40 rescued civilians to their families in Gallatin and spend the night there. (2)

Emancipation: President Lincoln discusses colonizing Negroes on Chiriqui land tract with M. T. Goswell of Baltimore, agent for Chiriqui Real Estate Company. (5)

August 21

Military Events: Manassas/Second Manassas Campaign: From Gordonsville, Lee President Davis in Richmond for confirmation that McClellan’s army has left the Peninsula. All Davis can report is that McClellan has withdrawn from Harrison’s Landing at least as far as New Kent Court House. Meanwhile, General Jackson crosses a part of his force over the Rappahannock at Beverly’s Ford; but the Union army forces him back to the south bank. (2)

General Richard W. Johnson

General Richard W. Johnson (Library of Congress).

Confederate Heartland Offensive: US General Richard W. Johnson and his 800-man force who have been pursuing Morgan for a long time move to Gallatin, but Morgan is alert and at first leads his men out of town, but at his first sight of the Johnson’s cavalry decides to fight them. The Raiders dismount and break the Union charge, then advance. The Federals fall back, dig in but then panic and flee when the Raiders charge. Johnson asks for a truce so the dead can be buried, but Morgan demands his surrender. Johnson refuses and heads for Cairo, pursued by the Confederates; the Federals make a stand, but most of them break and run, with only 75 men standing firm. They, as well as Johnson, are captured by Morgan. (2)

August 22

Military Events: Manassas/Second Manassas Campaign: General Jackson moves upriver and crosses part of his force over the Rappahannock at Freeman’s Ford, the rest at Sulphur Springs. Union troops try to oppose the Freeman’s Ford crossing unsuccessfully. The Sulphur Springs crossing is unopposed, since that would force Pope to advance to Sulphur Springs, abandoning his railroad and risking his connection with McClellan’s forces who are marching towards him from Aquia Creek. Meanwhile, US General Heintzelman’s troops are delayed, but of more importance, General Jeb Stuart raids Catlett Station, behind Union lines, overnight and gets General Pope’s coat (a nice trade for Stuart’s captured hat earlier this month!) and Pope’s dispatch book. Thus Lee learns that McClellan will arrive soon. Stuart’s raid also disrupts telegraph communication between Pope and Washington (and almost everybody else). (7, 14)

Pickets of the Louisiana Native Guard (USA)

“Pickets of the First Louisiana “Native Guard” guarding the New Orleans, Opelousas and Great Western Railroad/From a sketch by our special artist,” 1863. (Library of Congress)

Emancipation: In New Orleans, General Benjamin Butler issues a general order authorizing the enrollment of black troops. Within two weeks, more than 1,000 men will enlist in the 1st Louisiana Native Guard (USA).

Lincoln answers Horace Greeley’s editorial, “The Prayer of Twenty Millions”: “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it.” (5) Both the editorial and Lincoln’s reply may be read here.

August 23

Military Events: Manassas/Second Manassas Campaign: Heavy rains have flooded the Rappahannock, securing the US Army of Virginia’s rear, and General Pope decides to advance on Confederate forces at Sulphur Springs. The attack is not strong, allowing Jackson’s men to hold long enough to get a bridge built across the Rappahannock. (14) Meanwhile, the first troops of the Army of the Potomac arrive, a division under the command of General John Reynolds (remember him from the movie Gettysburg?). Throughout this period, General-in-Chief Halleck is furious that his telegrams to Pope are leaking to the press. (7, 14)

Battles: “Combat occurred in or near Four Mile, Hickory Grove and Wayman’s Milll, Missouri; Bayou Sara, Louisiana; Big Hill, Kentucky; Greenville, Mississippi; Trinity, Alabama, and Fort Donelson, Tennessee; Moorefield in western Virginia. In Virginia proper things were hottest, with fighting at Rappahannock Station, Beverly Ford, Fant’s Ford, Smithfield, Sulphur Springs, and on the railroad between Harper’s Ferry and Winchester. A train was captured by Confederate forces.” (13)

August 24

Military Events: Manassas/Second Manassas Campaign: The rest of Porter’s Army of the Potomac corps, as well as General Philip Kearney’s division of Heintzelman’s corps, arrive to reinforce Pope’s Army of Virginia. General McClellan himself arrives at Aquia Creek after a stop at Fortress Monroe. Meanwhile, General Lee, having learned of Pope’s position from the general’s dispatch book, and worried about the impending arrival of McClellan’s army, orders Jackson to move as if heading for the Luray Valley in the Shenandoah, but to actually march around the Union right flank and attack Pope’s supply lines on the O&A Railroad at Manassas Junction, while Longstreet holds Pope on the Rappahannock line. (7, 14)

On the Mississippi, a US boat crew is shot at from someone in Bayou Sara, Louisiana. The gunboat fires on the town in retaliation. (12)

Off the Azores, the CSS Alabama is commissioned.

Semmes and Kell on the CSS Alabama

Captain Raphael Semmes and his executive officer, Lieutenant John Kell on the “CSS Alabama” in August 1863. (Wikipedia)

August 25

Military Events: Manassas/Second Manassas Campaign: General Sumner’s corps and Hooker’s division of Heintzelman’s corp arrive to reinforce General Pope. Union observers detect Jackson’s march in the morning; Pope receives the word around noon but doesn’t change his operations plans or protect his right flank and rear. He does order General McDowell to crossing of the Rappahannock with his corps on the 26th. (14)

August 26

Military Events: Western theater: Skirmish near Rienzi. (19) This may have been the skirmish for which Colonel Philip Sheridan named his famous horse (here is more information on Sheridan’s Rienzi/Winchester and other horses of Civil War leaders). From the Official Records:

HEADQUARTERS, Rienzi, Miss., August 28, 1862.

COLONEL: I have the honor to inclose a report from Colonel Sheridan, commanding Second Brigade, Cavalry Division, of skirmish with and pursuit of a party of guerrillas on the 26th instant, on the Rienzi and Ripley road.

From a deserter and the prisoners taken I learn that eleven companies, under Falkner, left Ripley on Sunday, the 24th instant, and passed north near Corinth, avoiding all roads and traveling principally nights. They skulked and spied about through the woods, captured 7 of our men, who had straggled out from Corinth, and then approached this place with great caution, supposing it to have been evacuated except by a small cavalry force.

That morning three battalions of our cavalry had gone on a scout to the southeast, south, and southwest, and it is probable that Falkner’s party had been apprised of this through spies. This led them to suppose our camp was vacated and that they would be able to dash in and destroy it. The result of their audacity you will learn from the accompanying report. . . .

Manassas/Second Manassas Campaign: General McDowell sees Longstreet’s strength and decides not to cross the Rappahannock, with Pope’s approval. Around noon, word reaches Pope that Confederates have passed through Thoroughfare Gap in strength. Pope does nothing in reaction to the report. (His claim that he did react to this news in the after-action report is false, according to (14).) Stuart’s cavalry reaches Jackson late in the afternoon. Lee orders Longstreet’s artillery to fight a prolonged duel with Union artillery across the Rappahannock, which holds Pope’s army in place while Jackson moves around behind it. Late that afternoon, the Union withdraws from the Sulphur Springs area, and Lee orders Longstreet to move to join Jackson. Longstreet’s march begins that evening. Meanwhile, at sunset, while US generals Pope and Halleck are trying to sort out if Confederate forces have gone into the Shenandoah, General Jackson’s corps reaches the Union supply line at Bristoe Station, near the now nearly 1-year-old battle field of Bull Run/First Manassas. Pope quickly learns of their presence, as they prevent Pope’s trains from running on the line and destroy the railroad bridge over Broad Run. From local citizens, Jackson learns of a huge Federal supply stockpile several miles up the railroad at Manassas Junction. He sends a brigade led by General Trimble and supported by Stuart’s cavalry, who take the junction before Pope can react to the loss of Bristoe Station, thus setting in motion events that will culminate in the battle of Manassas/Second Manassas. (7, 10, 14)

Confederate Heartland Offensive: General Bragg and his army leave Chattanooga, with General Leonidas Polk in command of the right wing and General William Hardee leading the left. When General Buell hears about it, he orders all widely scattered elements of the Army of the Ohio to converge on Nashville; he is mistaken. Bragg is actually heading for Glasgow, Kentucky. (2)

Soldiers guarding damaged O&A rail road rolling stock, August 1862.

Soldiers guarding damaged O&A rail road rolling stock near Manassas Junction, August 1862. (Library of Congress)


(1)  The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.

(2)  Morgan’s Raiders and The L&N Railroad in the Civil War, by Dan Lee.

(3)  Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson

(4) The Campaigns of Lieut.-Gen. N.B. Forrest, and of Forrest’s Cavalry by Thomas Jordan, J. P. Pryor

(5) The Lincoln Log timeline.

(6) Blue and Gray Timeline.

(7) Henry Halleck’s War: A Fresh Look at Lincoln’s Controversial General-In-Chief, by Curt Anders

(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 Eastern Theater: 2nd Manassas, Antietam and Fredericksburg.

(11)  The Army of Northern Virginia in 1862, by William Allan (1892)

(12)  Conquest of the Lower Mississippi.

(13) Civil War Interactive.

(14) Chronology of the Second Manassas Campaign.

(15) A Year of Glory, August 1862, part 2.

(16) The Strategy of Robert E. Lee, by J. J. Bowen (1914).

(17) Campaigns of the Civil War.

(18) Confederate Invasion of Kentucky, Late 1862 and The Battle of Perryville.

(19) Corinth Civil War Timeline.

Categories: American Civil War

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