Chronological History of the American Civil War

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Sunday, May 18, 1862 : "Blind Tom" Wiggins performs at Camp Magnum, a Confederate Army camp near Fayetteville, North Carolina. One soldier described some of Tom's eccentric capabilities: "One of his most remarkable feats was the performance of three pieces of music at once. He played 'Fisher's Hornpipe' with one hand and 'Yankee Doodle' with the other and sang 'Dixie' all at once. He also played a piece with his back to the piano and his hands inverted." At concerts, skeptics attempted to confirm if Tom's performance of reproducing musically anything he heard were mere trickery; their challenge took the form of having Tom hear and repeat two new, uncirculated compositions. Tom did so perfectly. Tom’s talents were used to raise money for the Southern Cause. He would become the great pianist of his era. Monday, May 19, 1862 : In Virginia, the war was going well enough for

the Federals to make Jefferson Davis wish the capital had stayed in Mississippi. “We are uncertain of everything except that a battle must be close at hand,” he wrote to his wife. In the west, Union forces continued to make progress in the reconquest of the Mississippi River; they got as far as Searcy Landing, Arkansas, today. Tuesday, May 20, 1862 : Lincoln signed the Homestead Act. This act made available 160 acres of government land that would be handed over to a homesteader, if he agreed to improve it for five years. Post-war America greatly benefited from this act as it encouraged many to migrate west. This was opposed by the Southern politicians before the war, for fear of anti-slavery sentiment would come to the territories. Wednesday, May 21, 1862 : Advanced units of the Army of the Potomac (U.S.) were just eight miles from Richmond. However, McClellan (U.S.) was still cautious about attacking the Confederate capital, as he still believed that he did not have enough troops. Thursday, May 22, 1862 : U.S. General Nathaniel Banks had to be tearing his hair, today. He knew Stonewall Jackson (CSA) was in the Shenandoah Valley somewhere, but every time he got to the right place, Jackson wasn’t there anymore. Friday, May 23, 1862 : Isabella Marie Boyd, best known as Belle Boyd or “Cleopatra of the Secession,” was a Confederate spy. She operated from her aunt's hotel in Virginia, and provided valuable information to Confederate General “Stonewall” Jackson. Belle was not blessed with a pretty face, but a good body. She was particularly noted for having the best looking ankles known—and she used them to her advantage. She eavesdropped through a knothole in the floor and learned General James Shields (U.S.) was reducing his troop’s size at Front Royal, Virginia. She rode through enemy lines to get word to “Stonewall” and he raided the town and captured 900 Union troops. She was awarded the Southern Cross of Honor. Saturday, May 24, 1862 : Lincoln ordered that 20,000 Unionist troops be sent to the Shenandoah Valley to destroy the Confederate forces there.

Sunday, May 25, 1862 : In what later would be called “The First Battle of Winchester” today, was fought in and around Frederick County, Virginia, and Winchester, Virginia. This was a major victory in Confederate Army Major General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson's Campaign through the Shenandoah Valley. Jackson surrounded the right flank of the Union Army under Major General Nathaniel P. Banks (pictured) and pursued it as it fled across the Potomac River into Maryland, leaving their huge load of supplies to Jackson. Casualties were lopsided: 400 Southerners out of an army of 16,000; more than 2,000 Federals from a force of 8,000, the vast majority were missing or captured. Hardeman County plantation owner/planter, merchant, and civic leader, John Houston Bills (The Pillars) wrote in his diary: “Pleasant. Lt. Leonidas Bills gets home from his 12 months service in the Army of the Revolution. He is in fine health.”

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