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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This Week in the Civil War: Nov 5-11, 1862

Wednesday, November 5.  President Abraham Lincoln relieved General George B. McClellan as commander of the Army of the Potomac, replacing him with General Ambrose Burnside. After several months of frustration, Lincoln had finally lost patience with McClellan’s lack of action, particularly McClellan’s failure to follow up his partial victory at Antietam and his slow advance against the Confederates in Virginia since then. Also dismissed was corps commander Fitz-John Porter, a pro-McClellan general who was charged with willful disobedience for actions in the Battle of Second Bull Run. Various skirmishes occurred in Missouri, Mississippi, and Virginia.

Thursday, November 6.  The Confederate Army of Northern Virginia was reorganized, as James Longstreet and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson were promoted from major general to lieutenant general and given command of the First and Second Corps respectively. Skirmishing occurred in western Virginia, Kentucky, and Mississippi.

Friday, November 7.  In Virginia, General McClellan was informed that he had been relieved of duty. This ended one of the most controversial military careers of the war. His successor, Ambrose Burnside, had tried to turn down the promotion but accepted it when informed that command would go to Joseph Hooker, whom he detested. McClellan wrote, “Poor Burnside feels dreadfully, almost crazy–I am sorry for him.” Over War Department objections, President Lincoln placed the Mississippi River naval fleet under control of the Navy Department. General Braxton Bragg reorganized his Confederate army by placing one corps under Leonidas Polk and another under William Hardee. General William Rosecrans’s Federal Army of the Cumberland began moving from Kentucky to Nashville. Skirmishing occurred in Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Georgia.

Saturday, November 8.  In Virginia, news spread throughout the Army of the Potomac about McClellan’s dismissal. Most soldiers were fiercely loyal to McClellan, so the news was met with sadness and outrage. In Tennessee, General Ulysses S. Grant’s Federal forces continued a reconnaissance from La Grange. General Nathaniel Banks replaced Benjamin Butler as commander of the Federal Department of the Gulf. Butler had placed New Orleans under dictatorial rule, sparking charges of cruelty and corruption. Banks was informed that “The President regards the opening of the Mississippi River as the first and most important of our military and naval operations.”

Sunday, November 9.  In Virginia, General Burnside assumed command of the Army of the Potomac at Warrenton. Ulric Dahlgren’s Federal cavalry raided Fredericksburg, Virginia. Skirmishing occurred in Missouri, Arkansas, and Tennessee.

Monday, November 10.  In Virginia, George McClellan delivered an emotional farewell address to the Army of the Potomac. Many soldiers wept at the departure of “Little Mac.” Skirmishing occurred in western Virginia and along the Orange & Alexandria Railroad. President Lincoln requested the record on the 303 Indians condemned to death for leading the Sioux Indian uprising in August.

Tuesday, November 11.  In North Carolina, Confederates demonstrated at New Berne. In Virginia, a skirmish occurred at Jefferson.

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