Here’s a look at events in the Civil War 150 years ago this week.
General William T. Sherman isn’t mentioned below but will feature prominently next week, and so you should know that this week the general is in Memphis, conferring with General Hurlbut about the upcoming campaign (20):
…I found General Hurlbut, and explained to him my purpose to collect from his garrisons and those of McPherson about twenty thousand men, with which in February to march out from Vicksburg as far as Meridian, break up the Mobile & Ohio Railroad, and also the one leading from Vicksburg to Selma, Alabama. I instructed him to select two good divisions, and to be ready with them to go along.
Also, per Sherman, at this time 150 years ago it was so cold that ice was making travel on the Mississippi between Cairo and Memphis dangerous and there were concerns that the river would freeze! (Note: Although the 1864 US Congress is on record stating that the river doesn’t freeze below Cairo, it can, in fact, get pretty icy at Cairo and Memphis.)
Battles: Skirmish at Ely’s Ford, Virginia. (15)
Military events: At CS General Leonidas Polk’s headquarters in Jackson, Mississippi, General Nathan Bedford Forrest is formally assigned a cavalry department that includes all commands in West Tennessee and North Mississippi. Forrest also picks up arms and ammunition for his men while at headquarters. (3)
“Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, operating out of Dalton, Ga., was becoming increasingly surrounded, and felt his force was in danger at its present location. His options, however, were severely constrained when he got a telegram from President Davis, informing him that any fallback or withdrawal would have devastating political as well as military consequences. “I trust you will not deem it necessary to adopt such a measure,” Davis wrote. He was not the only president communicating with men in the field today: Abraham Lincoln sent a telegram to Nathaniel Banks in New Orleans [actually it was a letter], prodding him to move more quickly to reestablish civil government in Louisiana. Former Confederates, of course, were ineligible to serve.” (7, including quote)
Military events: East Tennessee operations: Looking to push Confederates out of their winter quarters as well as needing forage, US cavalry advance on Dandridge, near the East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad. (18)
Indian Ocean operations: The CSS Alabama captures and burns the Emma Jean. (10)
“Following in the footsteps of W.R. Browne and the USS “Restless”, Acting Master Sherrill and his USS Roebuck took over the task of terrorizing the salt suppliers of South Florida, or at least making life miserable for the parties transporting the valuable preservative. On this day, patrolling in Jupiter Inlet, Sherrill used small boats to pursue the British sloop “Young Racer”. This vessel, tragically for her captain, crew and owners, lived up to neither half of her name, and was overhauled in a short time. Before she could be captured, though, she was set on fire by her crew. Overloaded with salt, she sank rapidly.” (7, including quote)
Battles: Skirmishes at Flint Hill and Petersburg, Virginia. (15)
Military events: East Tennessee operations: CS General Longstreet, having fallen back from Dandridge, brings up reinforcements to meet the Federal advance and threaten US positions in New Market. (18)
Other/Military Events: “Southern newspapers in this year were becoming nearly propaganda outlets for the Confederacy and the war effort. Exhortations for the people to stand fast, and gird for the struggle to come, were necessary. Off the public stage, Confederate Sec. of the Navy Mallory assigned Cmdr. James Cooke, CSN, to command the massive new warship CSS “Albermarle”, which was nearing completion in Halifax, N.C. Lincoln, on the other hand, was attending more and more to plans for re-incorporating states into the Union as soon as possible after they were occupied by Federal forces.” (7, including quote)
Battles: Battle of Dandridge, day 1. (18) More information.
Skirmish at Blue Springs, Tennessee. (15)
Battles: Battle of Dandridge, day 2. (18)
Other: “Ironclad gunboats were the first item and also the last item on the “want” list of Admiral David Farragut on this day. He wrote to Admiral D.D. Porter, pointing out that for the upcoming assault on Mobile Bay, Ala,: ‘…I am anxious to know if your monitors, at least two of them, are not completed and ready for service; and, if so, can you spare them to assist us? If I had them, I should not hesitate to become the assailant instead of awaiting the attack. I must have ironclads enough to lie in the bay to hold the gunboats and rams in check in the shoal water.’ In the event that this correspondence should sound a bit less formal than was the custom in military circles at this time, there is a good reason for this: Farragut and Porter were brothers in every way but blood. When Farragut was orphaned at an early age he was adopted by Porter’s father, also named David D., and the two were raised together.” (7, including quote)
Other: “In the days of the original popular votes in the Southern states to secede from the Union, there had been definite sectional divisions of opinion in many states. The coastal part of Virginia, for example was strongly secessionist, while the western mountain regions felt so strongly the other way that the state of West Virginia eventually resulted. Similar sentiments existed in western North Carolina, northwestern Georgia and eastern Tennessee, and it was beginning to cause serious problems for the Confederacy, especially since the draft laws had been extended and strengthened. Draft-dodging was a problem even in the face of patrols to seek them out, along with deserters. Now open public meetings were beginning to be held to protest the draft.”
Military events: General Grant recommends a campaign in North Carolina to cut Confederate supply lines to Richmond. (6)
Other: “Much is often made of the disadvantages the “agricultural, pastoral” south faced in fighting the “industrialized, technological” North during the Civil War. This should not be taken to extremes, however. The Confederacy certainly had manufacturing capabilities, and moreover had some very ingenious persons employed in the war effort to use creativity in weapons design. One such was nasty little item devised around this time: the “coal torpedo.” It was a hollow lump of cast iron, the hollow part of which was packed with gunpowder and sealed. This was then milled, ground and painted until it looked like a perfectly ordinary lump of coal. All that was required was for a passerby at a Union naval fueling station to drop this into a coal pile about to be loaded onto a ship. When the bomb was shoveled into the ship’s boiler it didn’t even need a fuse to turn it into a devastating explosive. Not enough were made to have much of an effect, although one would come close next year in City Point, Va.” (7, including quote)
(2) Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson (2003 – see side bar for link).
(3) The Campaigns of Lieut.-Gen. N.B. Forrest, and of Forrest’s Cavalry by Thomas Jordan, J. P. Pryor (1868).
(4) The Lincoln Log timeline.
(6) Grant Chronology, Mississippi State University.
(9) Life of Lieutenant-General Nathan Bedford Forrest, by John A. Wyeth (1908/2011).
(10) Captain Raphael Semmes and the CSS Alabama, US Naval Historical Center.
(12) The Siege of Charleston, “The State.” (South Carolina)
(13) Friends of the Hunley.
(15) The Longest Night: A Military History of the Civil War.” (2002) David J. Eicher.
(17) The Pictorial Book of Anecdotes and Incidents of the War of the Rebellion…, Richard Miller Devens (1866).
(18) Battle of Dandridge, Wikipedia.
(19) Rosser’s Raid.
(20) Memoirs of W. T. Sherman – The Meridian Campaign.
Categories: American Civil War