This Week in the Civil War: Oct 15-21, 1862

Wednesday, October 15.  Skirmishing occurred on various fronts. Admiral David Farragut reported that the Federals had secured Corpus Christi, Galveston, and Sabine City in Texas. North Carolina Governor Zebulon Vance requested North Carolinians to provide blankets and clothing, for the Confederate Army.

Thursday, October 16.   Federal General George McClellan conducted two major reconnaissances from Maryland and northern Virginia. Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was positioned in the northern Shenandoah Valley. General Ulysses S. Grant was given command of the new Federal Department of the Tennessee. The Federal militia draft began in Pennsylvania.

Friday, October 17.  In Pennsylvania, Luzerne County troops suppressed protests against the ineffective Federal militia draft. President Abraham Lincoln asked Attorney General Edward Bates to commission David Davis of Illinois as an associate justice on the Supreme Court.

Saturday, October 18.  In Kentucky, John Hunt Morgan’s Confederate raiders defeated Federal cavalry near Lexington, captured the city’s garrison, then moved on to Versailles. Other skirmishing occurred on various fronts.

Sunday, October 19.  Confederate General Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee began moving through Cumberland Gap during their withdrawal from Kentucky. Various other skirmishing occurred.

Monday, October 20.  President Lincoln ordered a fellow Illinois politician, General John McClernand, to organize and lead a force on an expedition to Vicksburg, Mississippi. Since Vicksburg was in the jurisdiction of Ulysses S. Grant’s new military department, this order conflicted with Grant’s command. Lincoln also issued a memorandum reporting that the Army of the Potomac contained 231,997 men, of which 144,662 were fit for duty.

Tuesday, October 21.  Confederate President Jefferson Davis wrote to General T.H. Holmes in Missouri and shared tentative plans for combining various Confederate forces to drive the Federals out of Arkansas and Tennessee, and reclaim Helena, Memphis, and Nashville. President Lincoln requested civil and military authorities in Tennessee to organize pro-Federal elections for local, state, and national officials.

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

This Week in the Civil War: Oct 8-14, 1862

Wednesday, October 8.  In Kentucky, the Battle of Perryville occurred as parts of General Don Carlos Buell’s Federals fought a portion of General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate army. Buell was unaware that a battle was taking place until afternoon due to an atmospheric phenomenon that prevented him from hearing the fighting. Part of Bragg’s force was still in Frankfort. The Federals fought off hard Confederate attacks until Bragg withdrew to the southeast. This was the largest battle fought in Kentucky, and it stopped the Confederate invasion of the state, just as Robert E. Lee’s invasion of Maryland had also been stopped.

Thursday, October 9.  General Jeb Stuart led Confederate cavalry in a reconnaissance and raid into Maryland en route to Pennsylvania. Federal cavalry unsuccessfully tried stopping this ride around General George McClellan’s Army of the Potomac. The Confederate Congress established military courts with defined powers.

Friday, October 10.  Braxton Bragg’s Confederates began their withdrawal from Kentucky. Jeb Stuart’s Confederate cavalry crossed the Potomac River into Maryland on the reconnaissance and raid of the Federal Army of the Potomac. Stuart reached Chambersburg, Pennsylvania by evening. In the Dakota Territory, Dakota Sioux Indians battled miners on the upper Missouri River below Fort Berthold. In Indiana, home guards drove off a band of Confederate guerrillas at Hawesville. President Jefferson Davis asked Virginia to provide 4,500 slaves to complete fortifications around Richmond. Confederate General John B. Magruder was assigned to command the Department of Texas.

Saturday, October 11.  In Pennsylvania, Jeb Stuart’s Confederates drove residents and officials out of Chambersburg and cut telegraph wires, destroyed railroad depots and equipment, seized horses, and burned any supplies they could not take. Stuart then moved southeast toward Emmitsburg, Maryland. The Confederate commerce raider Alabama destroyed the grain ship Manchester. Jefferson Davis signed a bill into law adding more exemptions to the Confederate draft. The most controversial provision exempted an owner or overseer of over 20 slaves. Richmond newspapers began discussing a possible end of the war due to recent Confederate victories.

Sunday, October 12.  Jeb Stuart’s Confederates crossed the Potomac back to Virginia after skirmishing at the mouth of the Monocacy River. General Earl Van Dorn assumed command of all Confederate troops in Mississippi. President Abraham Lincoln asked General Don Carlos Buell for updates in Kentucky; Lincoln was concerned that Buell was not pursuing the withdrawing Confederates fast enough.

Monday, October 13.  The second session of the First Confederate Congress adjourned after approving a bill suspending habeas corpus (with some exceptions) until February 12, 1863. President Lincoln wrote a letter to George McClellan urging him to renew the offensive against Robert E. Lee in Virginia: “Are you not over-cautious when you assume that you can not do what the enemy is constantly doing?” Federal General Jacob D. Cox assumed command of the District of Western Virginia. In Kentucky, Braxton Bragg’s Confederates began moving through Cumberland Gap back to Tennessee.

Tuesday, October 14.  In elections for congressional seats in Iowa, Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania, Democrats gained seats in every state except Iowa. Many cited the Lincoln administration’s war policies and the Emancipation Proclamation as reasons why voters turned against Lincoln’s Republicans. Confederate General John C. Pemberton assumed command of the Department of Mississippi and Eastern Louisiana.

A Soldier’s Letter: John Burnham

Letter from Lieutenant Burnham, 16th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, to his family following the Battle of Antietam dated October 4, 1862.

My Dear Mother and Family,

I received a short note from Lottie enclosing extracts from newspapers about the fight of the 17th or the “Battle of Antietam.” One thing is certain, it was a “big fight,” as the sixteenth found to their severe cost, and although we got the best of it, on the whole I am unable to key myself up to a very high pitch of exultation over the day’s work. We had the best of the fight because we had advanced our position during the day, but it was at heavy cost and the ground gained was contested inch by inch.

There has been no fighting since, and if our army was not pretty badly handled and about used up, I can imagine no earthly reason why we did not go at them the next day with a vengeance. We lay on our arms all day, the day after the battle, and all night the next night, expecting momentarily to be ordered forward, but we were not.

On Friday, we went on the field and gathered the dead and wounded. The rebels held the field in which the 16th were cut up so badly, and we had to leave the dead and wounded on that account over the whole of Thursday. They were there about forty-eight hours, but most of them, the wounded, said the rebs treated them kindly and gave them water. It was very hot weather but fortunately there was a heavy rain on Thursday night and they managed to catch a canteen or two full of water by holding up the corners of their rubber blankets. One of our men, who was unable to get off the field, managed to pull off one of his boots and caught water in that and drank it.

I was on the field from noon until eleven o’clock at night of Friday, giving my personal supervision to the collection of the dead and wounded. You may be assured it was a trying position.

The position we occupy now is a pleasant one and I would like it if we could remain in it. Thus far, since we have been out, we have seen little but the “circumstance of glorious war,” as someone has aptly said. Yesterday we saw a little of the “pomp” for the first time. The army was received by President Lincoln and Gen’l McClellan, and of course we did our share. Our division happened to be the first one reviewed in Gen’l Burnside’s corps. As soon as the ceremony was over, the division and brigade commanders were ordered to dismiss their commands and join the President’s escort.

If we had been in command of the regiment, we should have trotted back to camp, but I was lucky once again and as we stood for the time being in a Brig. Gen’l and Adj. Gen’l’s shoes, respectively, we had the honor of tagging old “Abe” around on his reviewing tour for a couple of hours and taking a look at between fifteen and twenty thousand men. I had seen “Abe” before but I thought him half so homely. He ought to be wise and good and honest.

Lottie wished me to write what were my personal feelings in the fight. You have all heard a great deal about men going into battle and, after the fighting had commenced, forgetting all about what they were doing. This may be the case to some extent, but in my opinion nothing like what is represented. I had no time to think of danger. I am frank to confess that although I had no idea of running away I trembled.

In relation to the condition of the rebels, I can answer that unequivocally I saw as many as five hundred prisoners I should think in one day and I never saw anything like it. Their hair was long and uncombed and their faces were thin and cadaverous as though they had been starved to death. It is of course possible that it is the natural look of the race, but it appeared mightily to me like the result of short fare. They were the dirtiest set I ever beheld. A regiment of New England paupers could not equal them for the filth, lice and rags.

I hope as I always have, that I may have the courage to do my duty well, not recklessly but with simple bravery and fidelity, so that if I fall you may have the consolation of knowing that I not only lose my life in a good cause but die like a man. One thing I wish to say particularly–this romance about men being shot in the back is all a humbug. A mounted officer is as likely to be hit in the back, and more likely to be hit in the side, than in the front, and don’t ever do an officer the injustice to think ill of him for such a wound…

Bless you all. Yours affectionately,


Source: The Brothers’ War by Annette Tapert (Vintage Books, New York, 1988)

Watch Death and the Civil War online

If you happened to miss the television showing of Death and the Civil War, you can watch it online via the PBS website, where you can also order it on DVD. You can also check out my review of the film as well.

Watch Death and the Civil War on PBS. See more from American Experience.

Please be aware that the video is only available until October 17.

This Week in the Civil War: Oct 1-7, 1862

Wednesday, October 1.  In Kentucky, Federals under General Don Carlos Buell reinforced towns along the Ohio River against the advancing Confederates under General Braxton Bragg. Confederate General John C. Pemberton replaced General Earl Van Dorn as commander of the Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana. Pemberton’s main task was to defend the stronghold of Vicksburg on the Mississippi River.

President Lincoln and General McClellan in Maryland

President Abraham Lincoln and advisors traveled to Harpers Ferry to confer with General George B. McClellan. Lincoln had been dissatisfied with McClellan’s lack of activity since the Battle of Antietam 13 days ago. Federal Admiral David Dixon Porter replaced Charles Davis as commander of the new Mississippi Squadron. The Richmond Whig issued an editorial about the Emancipation Proclamation: “It is a dash of the pen to destroy four thousand millions of our property, and is as much a bid for the slaves to rise in insurrection, with the assurance of aid from the whole military and naval power of the United States.”

Thursday, October 2.  President Lincoln set up a tent besides George McClellan’s at Army of the Potomac headquarters and estimated that the army contained 88,095 effectives. Skirmishing occurred at several points in Kentucky and Texas. Confederate troops under Generals Sterling Price and Earl Van Dorn advanced on Corinth, Mississippi.

Friday, October 3.  In Mississippi, the Battle of Corinth occurred as Confederates reached the town from the northwest and attacked the Federals stationed there under General William S. Rosecrans. Confederate General Van Dorn hoped that defeating the Federals at Corinth would compel Federals to withdraw from western Tennessee and Kentucky to meet the threat. After hard fighting and piecemeal Confederate assaults, the Federals withdrew to stronger defenses closer to the city as night fell. In Maryland, President Lincoln continued conferring with George McClellan, referring to the Army of the Potomac as “General McClellan’s bodyguard.” The Confederate commerce raider Alabama captured three more prizes, prompting Federal shippers to plead for more government support.

Saturday, October 4.  In Mississippi, the Battle of Corinth continued as the Confederates resumed attacks on the strong Federal defenses. After unsuccessful attacks and counterattacks, the Confederates finally withdrew to Chewalla, 10 miles northwest from Corinth. Confederate General Van Dorn had succeeded in preventing Federal reinforcements from reaching Kentucky, but he failed to capture Corinth, relieve Federal pressure in Tennessee, or destroy General Rosecrans’s army. In Kentucky, Confederate General Bragg and others attended the inauguration of pro-Confederate Richard Hawes as governor at Frankfort. In Maryland, President Lincoln continued conferring with General McClellan and visited hospitals, camps, and battlefields before returning to Washington.

Sunday, October 5.  In Mississippi, Rosecrans’s Federals ineffectively pursued Van Dorn’s Confederates. However, Federals under General E.O.C. Ord caught up with the Van Dorn at the Hatchie River in Tennessee, and severe fighting occurred until the Confederates withdrew to Holly Springs. This ended the Corinth campaign. In Texas, Federals captured Galveston without a fight and occupied the island. In Kentucky, Bragg’s Confederates began withdrawing from the Bardstown area with Federal General Don Carlos Buell pursuing; Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith remained in the Frankfort area.

Monday, October 6.  Disturbed by George McClellan’s delays, President Lincoln sent him a wire through General-in-Chief Henry Halleck: “The President directs that you cross the Potomac and give battle to the enemy or drive him south. Your army must move now while the roads are good.” In Kentucky, Bragg’s Confederates moved toward Harrodsburg as Buell’s Federals pursued.

Tuesday, October 7.  In Kentucky, Buell’s Federals approached the village of Perryville while the Confederates were divided between Perryville and Frankfort. Federal General Gordon Granger became the commander of the Army of Kentucky, and Federal General E.A. Carr became commander of the Army of the Southwest. Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard absorbed middle and eastern Florida into his southeastern command. In Great Britain, Chancellor of the Exchequer W.E. Gladstone proclaimed that Jefferson Davis and the Confederate leaders “have made a nation,” and he anticipated Confederate success. His remarks were highly criticized in Britain and the U.S.

A milestone and new scholarship on the war

I thought I would take the opportunity of the blog’s 300th post to share with you the interesting contents in the latest issue of the journal Civil War History (not related to this site). The field of environmental history has been an emerging one over the forty years and the Civil War is not outside this field. The fine staff at the journal have put together a review essay and two articles dealing with environmental history of the war, specifically considering an overview of the literature on the field and the war, the nature of the war in the Trans-Mississippi, and preservation at Gettysburg.

I received the issue of the journal in the mail today and I look forward to reading it in detail in the coming weeks, but my brief examination of the article “The Nature of Preservation: The Rise of Authenticity at Gettysburg” by Brian Black shows it to be good both from an environmental history perspective, but also public history, as it touches on the changing landscape of the battlefield in the years after the battle, including the controversy over the battlefield tower that was demolished several years ago. Now with the new interpretive center and further reconstruction of the natural landscape in recent years, this article is quite timely.

I encourage interested readers to consider subscribing to this journal as well as the Journal of the Civil War Era. Civil War History has a long history and track record, being in its fifty-eighth volume, while The Journal of the Civil War Era is the new flagship publication of the Society of Civil War Historians, and has proven to be good in its first few years. Journals are worthwhile, as they contain articles on a variety of topics, which can be more accessible to some than large monographs. Plus, they are great resources for learning about new books in the field through their book reviews.

This Week in the Civil War: Sep 24-30, 1862

Wednesday, September 24.  President Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus and provided for the military trial of “all Rebels and Insurgents, their siders and abettors within the United States, and all persons discouraging volunteer enlistments, resisting militia drafts, or guilty of any disloyal practice, affording comfort to Rebels against the authority of the United States.” The Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation was released to the public through various newspapers. In Pennsylvania, 14 northern governors met at Altoona and approved emancipation, even though the conference had originally been called to criticize the Lincoln administration’s policies on slavery and the war. Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard replaced General John C. Pemberton as commander of the Department of South Carolina and Georgia. Federal General Samuel R. Curtis assumed command of the Department of the Missouri. The Confederate Senate approved a seal for the Confederacy.

Thursday, September 25.  In Kentucky, Federals under General Don Carlos Buell reached the vital city of Louisville ahead of the Confederate advance. Various skirmishes occurred in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia.

Friday, September 26.  Federals conducted an expedition from Helena, Arkansas to Marianna, Tennessee. In the Dakota Territory, skirmishing continued between Federals and Sioux Indians. In Washington, President Lincoln discussed black colonization with his cabinet.

Saturday, September 27.  The Confederate Congress passed the Second Conscription Act, which authorized President Jefferson Davis to draft men between 35 and 45 years old for military service. President Lincoln interrogated Major John J. Key and dismissed him from military service for allegedly saying that the object of the Battle of Antietam was “that neither army shall get much advantage of the other; that both shall be kept in the field till they are exhausted, when we will make a compromise and save slavery.” This reflected the view of many Federal troops, and it highlighted Lincoln’s irritation with Federal General George McClellan’s lack of activity since the battle.

Sunday, September 28.  Skirmishing occurred in Kentucky, Missouri, and western Virginia. President Davis wrote to Confederate General Robert E. Lee of his concern over enrolling conscripts “to fill up the thinned ranks of your regiments.”

Monday, September 29.  Federal General Jefferson C. Davis shot and mortally wounded Federal General William “Bull” Nelson during an argument at a hotel in Louisville, Kentucky. Skirmishing occurred in Kentucky and Virginia. In Mississippi, General Earl Van Dorn’s 22,000-man Confederate Army of West Tennessee began advancing on Corinth.

Tuesday, September 30.  Skirmishes occurred in Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, and western Virginia. Federal expeditions began from the Savannah River in Georgia and from Hilton Head, South Carolina.

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