The American Civil War 150th Anniversary – November 5-11, 1862

Here’s a look at events in the Civil War 150 years ago this week in November 1862. They include some high-profile events involving Union generals.

Bye-Bye McClellan

This week, US President Lincoln finally fired General George McClellan. In hindsight, we may wonder why he waited so long to do that, but as I’m starting to learn this year, it was a risky move. McClellan’s soldiers loved him, and he them.

For instance, Acken says of Captain Francis Adams Donaldson’s comments (see source #17 below), “Donaldson’s emotionally charged reaction to the change of commanders, the blame for which he places with Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, may seem extreme, but it probably reflects the general feeling of many of the Peninsula veterans who were still serving in the Army of the Potomac.”

Donaldson indeed has much to say when “feeling more composed” on the 11th, but his letters show in brief the drastic change as the news first hit the army this week (emphasis in the original):

Camp 118th Regt. P.V.
at Snickersville, Va.
November 5th, 1862

. . .

. . . I never saw the army so full of enthusiasm as it now is, everyone anxious to meet the enemy and terminate the war by one grand battle. McClellan seems to have the final termination of the issue well in hand, and when we again meet Genl. Lee’s army, they will suffer a defeat that will end their existence. We all feel confident of this, and should I be correct in this forecast of the future, McClellan will be, as he really is today, the greatest military chieftain of the age.


Camp at Warrington, Va.
November 10th, 1862

Dear Brother:

None of your favors to reply to–Genl. McClellan took leave of us today. The army is in tears–my heart is too full of bitterness to say more at present. Am still in good health, tho’ much depressed–defeat is before us–how can I help feeling badly . . . .

And! now, before I end my song, this free advice I’ll tender:
We soon will use the Rebels up and make them all surrender,
And, once again, the Stars and Stripes will to the breeze be swellin’,
If Uncle Abe will give us back  our darling boy McClellan.

Oh! We’ll follow little Mac
He’ll lead us on to glory, O!
He’ll lead us on to glory, O!
To save the Stripes and Stars.

Nashville RR bridge

Railroad bridge over the Cumberland in Nashville, “Harper’s Weekly,” 1862. (Library of Congress)

November 5

Military Events: Tennessee operations: There are now some 3500 Confederate cavalry under generals Forrest and Breckinridge and 3000 infantry under General Hanson at Lavergne, Tennessee, and around Nashville. US forces at Nashville are isolated, and General Forrest gets permission to attack them on November 6th. (4 – Note that there are discrepancies among various sources about this event.) At daybreak, Morgan and his raiders enter Edgefield, drive off the Union soldiers and seize the Union supplies in several hundred rail cars. Forrest makes an artillery attack, but he and Morgan are unsuccessful. (Source)

US General Halleck promises General Grant 20,000 more men. (8)

November 6

Battles: Nashville. At daybreak, General Forrest attacks Union positions some six miles from the center of Nashville, but the attack is called off by Forrest’s superior, General Breckinridge, at the request of General Bragg. (4)

John Hunt Morgan

John Hunt Morgan, around 1864. (Library of Congress)

According to the L&N Railroad (source #2, below),

[i]n the first week of November, [Morgan] dashed into Edgefield with 200 men to destroy the railroad and pontoon bridges across the Cumberland River. He fought against several companies of Illinois troops, who killed 5 of his men and wounded 19. All that [Morgan] accomplished was to burn the L&N depot before he retreated. Nathan Bedford Forrest simultaneously attacked south Nashville to divert Federal attention from Morgan but with no more success. He tangled with General Negley on the Franklin Pike and handled the Union general pretty roughly until a shortage of ammunition for his fieldpieces forced him to retreat.

Morgan and his men continue southward to Fayetteville, 50 miles south of Murfreesboro. (16)

Military Events: Virginia operations: General McClellan reaches Warrenton. (11)

November 7

Battles: Clark’s Mill, Missouri.

Farewell to the Army

“Farewell to the Army. Warrenton, 1862.” A. R. Waud (Library of Congress)

Military Events: Virginia operations: General McClellan learns that he has been replaced by General Burnside. (11)

On the Mississippi, Federal ships burn two steamers in Bayou Cheval, Louisiana. (12)

November 8

Military Events: US General Nathaniel Banks is put in charge of the newly created “Department of the Gulf, including the state of Texas.” (7)

November 9

Battles: A skirmish, somewhere between Fayetteville and Caneville, Arkansas.

Military Events: Tennessee operations: US General McCook reaches Nashville with his wing of the Army of the Cumberland and gets to work moving supplies forward, restoring telegraph service, rebuilding railroad bridges and reopening the Big South Tunnel at Gallatin. (2)

Virginia operations: General Ambrose Burnside takes command of the Army of the Potomac at Warrenton, Virginia. His plan is to transfer the army to Fredericksburg, rather than move on Culpeper and Gordonsville as McClellan had intended, and then move on to Richmond. (11)

November 10

Military Events: Mississippi operations: Per Anders’ Henry Halleck’s War (source #7 below), General Grant, concerned about Lincoln’s appointment of General McClernand, thus undercutting his own authority and forces, asks:

Am I to understand that I lie still here while an expedition is fitted out from Memphis, or do you want me to push as far south as possible? Am I to have Sherman move subject to my order, or is he and his forces reserved for some special service? Will not more forces be sent here?

November 11

Military events: General Halleck ignores the politics President Lincoln and Secretary of War Stanton are playing with the appointments of generals McClernand and Banks (per Anders) and answers General Grant’s questions with one sentence: “You have command of all troops sent to your department, and have permission to fight the enemy where you please.”

General-in-chief Halleck could have been fired for that. He wasn’t.

Anders calls it “Halleck’s most important contribution to the quelling of the rebellion.” (7)

Generals Grant and Sherman

Grant and Sherman during the war years. (Library of Congress) Perhaps General Halleck’s struggles with McClellan in 1862 taught him to judge an officer, not on appearance, but on results.


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

(14) Campaigns of the Civil War.

(15) Antietam timeline.

(16) The Lexington Rifles/1862.

(17) Inside the Army of the Potomac, the Civil War Experience of Captain Francis Adams Donaldson.

Categories: American Civil War

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