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)

This Week in the Civil War: Nov 12-18, 1862

Wednesday, November 12.  Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee along Stone’s River and Virginia near Suffolk.

Thursday, November 13.  In Mississippi, Federal troops captured the vital railroad depot at Holly Springs. Skirmishing occurred in Tennessee near Nashville and Virginia at Sulphur Springs. In Tennessee, General Braxton Bragg began moving his Confederate Army of Tennessee north from Chattanooga to join Confederates under General John Breckinridge at Murfreesboro. President Abraham Lincoln assigned Attorney General Edward Bates to enforce the Confiscation Act.

Friday, November 14.  President Lincoln approved General Ambrose Burnside’s plans to reorganize and move the Army of the Potomac toward Richmond. The army was divided into three “Grand Divisions”: the Right Grand Division under General Edwin V. Sumner, the Center Grand Division under General Joseph Hooker, and the Left Grand Division under General William B. Franklin. In Virginia, skirmishing occurred at several points. In Tennessee, General Bragg began concentrating his Confederates around Tullahoma. In New Orleans, a proclamation was issued allowing for the election of U.S. congressmen from portions of Louisiana under Federal military occupation.

Saturday, November 15.  In Virginia, General Burnside led his first action as commander of the Army of the Potomac by beginning an advance from Warrenton toward Fredericksburg. In Tennessee, Federal forces began a five-day reconnaissance from Edgefield Junction to Clarksville. Confederate President Jefferson Davis accepted the resignation of Secretary of War George W. Randolph. Randolph had grown increasingly annoyed by Davis’s micromanagement of the War Department. President Lincoln called for an “orderly observance of the Sabbath” by the military.

Sunday, November 16.  In Virginia, General Burnside shifted his headquarters from Warrenton to Catlett’s Station as his Army of the Potomac continued toward Fredericksburg. The Federals were closely watched by General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, and a skirmish between the armies occurred at U.S. Ford on the Rappahannock River. In Arkansas, Federal forces began a five-day expedition from Helena to Arkansas Post.

Monday, November 17.  In Virginia, General Sumner’s Right Grand Division reached Falmouth, opposite the Rappahannock from Fredericksburg. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia and Missouri. President Davis appointed General G.W. Smith as acting secretary of war following George Randolph’s hasty resignation.

Tuesday, November 18.  In Virginia, Federal and Confederate armies continued advancing on Fredericksburg. In Tennessee, Federal and Confederate armies continued concentrating at Nashville and Tullahoma. Skirmishing occurred in Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, and North Carolina.

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