The American Civil War 150th Anniversary – March 17-23, 1864

Battery A, 2nd US Colored Light Artillery, on the field later in 1864.  (Source - PDF)

Battery A, 2nd US Colored Light Artillery, on the field later in 1864. (Source – PDF)

Here’s a look at events in the Civil War 150 years ago this week.

In these weeks leading up to the massacre at Fort Pillow, here’s a note on terms for black US troops in the Civil War: I am not sure when the term “United States Colored Troops” should apply for a given unit.

Many black units have the word “Colored” in their name in some references, but others are called “Negro” or “African.”

I’m going to switch over to USCT after the Corps d’Afrique units are absorbed into it later in the April, and in the meantime either just follow the usage of whatever source I’m reading or else simply call them “black.”

Also, General Banks’ Red River campaign is unfolding (and falling apart) throughout this time. Apart from the few major battles, I can’t really devote the space to everything that was happening and going wrong there – please refer to the sources below for that. It’s also covered extensively in The Longest Night (source 13), if you happen to have that reference book.

March 17

Military events: General Grant issues General Orders No. 1, assuming command of the US Armies, with his headquarters in the field. (6)

Brooklyn Sanitary Fair, 1864.  (Library of Congress)

Brooklyn Sanitary Fair, 1864. (Library of Congress)

March 18

Military events: US General William Sherman assumes command of the Department of the Mississippi. (6, 16)

Other: “A number of groups, collectively called the Sanitary Commission was, during the war years, the closest thing the United States had to a department of public health. They supplied clothing, blankets, wholesome food, and care for the sick. Although the leadership of these commissions (and the related but separate Christian Commission) was of course primarily male, most of the workers were women. Like any charitable private group their biggest problem was often fundraising. They held ‘Sanitary Fairs,’ often featuring prominent speakers. President Lincoln said at one today ‘if all that has been said…since the creation of the world in praise of women applied to the women of America, it would not do them justice for their conduct during the war.'” (7, including quote)

March 20

Military events: Forrest’s Second West Tennessee Raid: CS General Nathan Bedford Forrest reaches Denmark, Tennessee, near Jackson, having traveled 150 miles in five days. He sends a battalion toward Memphis to watch Federal movements. (3)

Naval operations: The CSS Alabama arrives at Cape Town, and Captain Semmes protests the confiscation of the CSS Tuscaloosa. (9)

"I think he means Columbus and Paducah" - US General Stephen Hurlbut, March 18th, 1864, on hearing that Forrest is on the move again.  (Source 8, below)

“I think he means Columbus and Paducah” – US General Stephen Hurlbut, March 18th, 1864, on hearing that Forrest is on the move again. (Source 8, below)

March 22

Military events: Forrest’s Second West Tennessee Raid: After sending for all his dismounted men to occupy the Denmark area, Forrest, his staff and two regiments move on to Trenton, Tennessee. (3)

Military event/Other: “Like all charitable groups, the United States Sanitary Commission needed to conduct fundraising in order to carry out its work of providing blankets, treatments, transportation and other services to sick and wounded soldiers. It therefore was today holding a ‘Sanitary Fair’ in Washington. One of the items gathered for auction was an autograph album. This did not hold just signatures, but comments by the notables who wrote therein. In it Abraham Lincoln wrote: I never knew a man who wished to be himself a slave. Consider if you know any ‘good’ thing, that no man desires for himself.” (7, including quote)

General Frederick Steele, USA.

General Frederick Steele, USA. (Library of Congress)

March 23

Military events: Forrest’s Second West Tennessee Raid: Forrest sends Colonel William Duckworth with two regiments, including the 7th Tennessee, and a battalion to capture any US forces in Union City. (3)

Virginia operations: A major reorganization of the US Army of the Potomac is announced in the US War Department’s General Orders No. 115. (23)

Red River Campaign: “On March 23, 1864, Maj. Gen. Frederick Steele marched a combined 8.500-man force of infantry, artillery and cavalry from the Little Rock Arsenal. At roughly the same time, Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Banks’ army departed from New Orleans in conjunction with Rear Admiral David Porter’s naval expedition. Steele and Banks were to push aside the enemy in their respective fronts, then combine forces to seize Shreveport. Steele would garrison that city while Banks forged ahead into northeastern Texas.” (20 7, including quote)

It didn’t work out the way they planned.


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

(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.

(5) Blue and Gray Timeline.

(6)  Grant Chronology, Mississippi State University.

(7) Civil War Interactive.

(8) Life of Lieutenant-General Nathan Bedford Forrest, by John A. Wyeth (1908/2011).

(9) Captain Raphael Semmes and the CSS Alabama, US Naval Historical Center.

(10) This Week in the Civil War.

(11) The Siege of Charleston, “The State.” (South Carolina)

(12) CWSAC Battle Summaries

(13) The Longest Night: A Military History of the Civil War.” (2002) David J. Eicher.

(14) A Brief Naval Chronology of the Civil War (1861-65).

(15) The Pictorial Book of Anecdotes and Incidents of the War of the Rebellion…, Richard Miller Devens (1866).

(16) Memoirs of W. T. Sherman

(17) The Louisiana Native Guards: The Black Military Experience During the Civil War. James G. Hollandsworth, Jr., 1995.

(18) A. Lincoln, A Biography, Ronald C. White, Jr. (2009)

(19) Red River Campaign and Camden Expedition, Encyclopedia of Arkansas.

(20) Red River Campaign and Camden Expedition, Wikipedia.

(21) Red River Campaign, Civil War Trust.

(22) Confederate Strategy, Fort Tyler Association.

(23) The Sword of Lincoln, the Army of the Potomac. Jeffrey Wert (2005)

Categories: American Civil War

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