This Week in the Civil War: Nov 19-25, 1862

Wednesday, November 19.  In Virginia, General James Longstreet’s Confederate corps within General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia established positions in the heights above Fredericksburg after moving from the main Confederate camp at Culpeper. General Ambrose Burnside, commander of the Federal Army of the Potomac, established headquarters across the river from Fredericksburg at Falmouth. A Federal expedition took place from Grand Junction, Tennessee to Ripley, Mississippi as part of General Ulysses S. Grant’s probe of Confederate defenses around Vicksburg, Mississippi. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri.

Thursday, November 20.  In Virginia, Robert E. Lee arrived at Fredericksburg as troops on both sides continued gathering in the area. The Confederate Army of Tennessee was officially established, commanded by General Braxton Bragg and consisting of three corps commanded by Generals E. Kirby Smith, Leonidas Polk, and William Hardee. In Arkansas, a Federal expedition began toward Van Buren and Fort Smith.

Friday, November 21.  Confederate President Jefferson Davis appointed James A. Seddon as secretary of war. Seddon was a prominent Richmond attorney and a former U.S. and Confederate congressman. Braxton Bragg dispatched General Nathan Bedford Forrest to disrupt Ulysses S. Grant’s Federal activities in western Tennessee. In Virginia, Ambrose Burnside called on the mayor of Fredericksburg to surrender or face bombardment. The mayor was allowed 16 hours to remove the women, children, elderly, and infirmed, then requested more time while the Confederate corps under General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson hurried to the town from Winchester. President Abraham Lincoln told a delegation of Kentucky Unionists that he “would rather die than take back a word of the Proclamation of Freedom,” then again urged the adoption of his plan of gradual, compensated emancipation.

Saturday, November 22.  Federal Secretary of War Edwin Stanton released nearly all political prisoners held by the military. In Virginia, 12 Confederate salt works and several vessels were destroyed in Matthews County on Chesapeake Bay. Federal General Edwin Sumner agreed not to bombard Fredericksburg “so long as no hostile demonstration is made from the town.”

Sunday, November 23.  In North Carolina, the Federal steamer Ellis commanded by Lieutenant William Cushing captured two schooners on the New River at Jacksonville. However, Ellis hit a shoal upon returning and Cushing narrowly escaped capture in one of the captured schooners.

Monday, November 24.  Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston was given command of the region of western North Carolina, Tennessee, northern Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and eastern Louisiana. Johnson’s main objectives were to oversee operations by Braxton Bragg in Tennessee and John C. Pemberton in Mississippi. In Tennessee, Bragg began moving his Confederate Army of Tennessee to Murfreesboro, southeast of Nashville. In Maryland, a Federal expedition began from Sharpsburg to Sheperdstown in western Virginia. A Federal expedition began from Summerville to Cold Knob Mountain in western Virginia. President Lincoln wrote to Carl Schurz, “I certainly know that if the war fails, the administration fails, and that I will be blamed for it, whether I deserve it or not.”

Tuesday, November 25.  Confederate General Samuel Jones was given command of the Trans-Allegheny, or Western Department of Virginia. Confederate cavalry crossed the Potomac River and briefly seized the government offices in Poolesville, Maryland. In Arkansas, a Federal expedition began to Yellville.

Primary Source: The Civil War Day by Day by E.B. Long and Barbara Long (New York, NY: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971)

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