Chronological History of the American Civil War

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Sunday, April 20, 1862 : Seventy miles south on New Orleans, Fort Jackson and Fort St. Phillip on the Mississippi River were proving bigger hindrance than expected to Federal progress toward New Orleans. Today, the problem was not the forts themselves, but obstructions to navigation which the forts protected.

Flag Officer Farragut sent parties ashore from USS Itasca to sneak in and blow the obstructions up. The bomb failed, but the landing parties did enough damage that a gap was created. French chemist named Louis Pasteur (pictured), today completed his first pasteurization test. He will be best known to the general public for inventing a method to stop milk, beer, and wine from causing sickness, a process that came to be called pasteurization, but he had also created the first vaccines for rabies and anthrax. His experiments supported the germ theory of disease, in which everyone in this era did not support.

Monday, April 21, 1862 : After three days of bombardment and being hit by over 4,000 rounds Forts Jackson and St. Philip were still functioning. Last week, the Confederate Congress had passed the young nation’s first draft law. It provided for buying substitutes, but had no exemptions except for physical disability. Today, this oversight was corrected. Excused from military service were hospital employees, druggists, ministers, miners and foundrymen, boat pilots, educators and (needless to say) government officials. Confederate Congress also legitimized guerrilla organizations fighting for the Southern Cause, such as Virginian, John Singleton Mosby (The Gray Ghost & his Mosby Raiders) along with William Quantrill and his raiders in Missouri. Tuesday, April 22, 1862 : The Chicago Times report: “Life in the midst of death; the birth of Baby Empress; The Empress. . . left Pittsburg Landing, Tuesday noon, with 357 patients. . . On board was also a party of nurses and other assistants from St. Louis. During the passage a number of amputations were performed, and ten of the patients died. In the midst of the scene of suffering and death, a woman on board, the wife of a missing soldier who was in the fight at Pittsburg, gave birth to a female infant. The woman accompanied or closely followed her husband to Pittsburg, and, on the second day of the fight, while the conflict was raging around here, was engaged in searching for him on the battlefield. While thus employed she received a gunshot wound—a flesh wound only—in the breast. Failing, at last, to find her husband, in despair she took passage on the Empress. Her child received the name of the steamer. The missing father is said to be a Polander or Norwegian, with a long name, which our informants find it impossible to remember.” Wednesday, April 23, 1862 : Testing on the prototype machine guns, known as “coffee mill” guns, because of the lever that was cranked to operate it, had been ongoing for some time. Col. John Geary, of the 28th PA Infantry, was in charge of the project, and today, he sent the two he had been experimenting with back to the Washington Arsenal. Despite the fact that these weapons had been purchased by President Lincoln’s direct order, Geary’s report stated that they were “inefficient, and unsafe to the operators.” Thursday, April 24, 1862 : Admiral Farragut had been trying to bomb the Confederates out of the forts 75 miles below New Orleans for a week now, without success. On this night he set out to run past them anyway. The barricades, chains stretched across the river, had been damaged enough that ships could slip past, and they did until the moon rose and they were discovered. All but three small vessels got through anyway. Friday, April 25, 1862 : Yesterday, his fleet eliminated the problem of the Mississippi downstream forts by running past them in the night. Today, Admiral David Farragut, with eleven ships, pulled up to the docks of New Orleans. He didn’t tie up, for the excellent reason that the waterfront was on fire, set by the people of the town. The unfinished gunboat CSS Mississippi came floating past, burned to keep her from the Yankees. Fort Macon in North Carolina falls to the Union with 450 captured defenders. Saturday, April 26, 1862 : Yorktown, Virginia continues to defend itself, but the townspeople know it is only time.

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