Chronological History of the American Civil War

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Friday, May 24, 1861 : General Benjamin Butler (pictured) uses the term "contraband" to describe slaves who have crossed into the Northern camps. He refuses to return three slaves to their master, a Confederate colonel. This would be the first of hundreds of thousands of such “contraband” to cross Union lines during the war. Colonel Elmer Ephraim Ellsworth of the 11th New York Fire Zouaves is killed in the Marshall House Inn in Alexandria, Virginia, after he and his men removed a Confederate flag. He is generally regarded as the first officer killed while on duty in the American Civil War. For Confederates the summer and fall of 1861 was a time of jubilation and optimism. Young men rushed to link up with the army units forming in their counties and towns. The soldiers elected their company officers and after being inspired by their neighbors and families set off to Confederate training camps such as Camp Trousdale in Sumner County. For Union sympathizers the same months brought harassment from local

Confederates, arrests, and violence. Many Unionist men fled the state to Kentucky and other points north, where hundreds enlisted in the armies forming to invade the South. In the end, approximately 31,000 Tennesseans will join the Federal forces, more soldiers than all the other Confederate states together will provide to the Union side. Monday, May 27, 1861 : The Louisville Journal reports on an assembly in Elizabethton, Tennessee, where devoted Union supporters enthusiastically cheer anti-Confederate speeches by Andrew Johnson and Congressman Nelson. Tuesday, May 28, 1861 : Confederates seize the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad from Point of Rocks to Cumberland in Virginia. Hardeman County plantation owner/ planter, merchant, and civic leader, John Houston Bills (The Pillars) writes in his journal: “Slightly cloudy this morning, but a pleasant day. Capt. M. T. Polk’s Company of Artillery gets off today. Several companies from Mississippi came on the train. Immense crowds of both sexes at the depot, when our boys get off, the Wail of grief from Mothers, sisters, and wives of the departing soldiers; beggars all description. All sympathize in the common grief.” Thursday, May 30, 1861 : At a convention in Knoxville, a group of Unionists

denounces Tennessee's secessionist actions. The following day, P. G. T. Beauregard (pictured) ordered to assume command of the Alexandria Line of Army of Northern Virginia. June of 1861 will witness the first major casualties of the American Civil War, though nothing like the American Civil War was to experience in the years to follow. During the month of June 1861, Memphians were preparing for war and the destruction and death it would bring. The Southern Mothers Hospital is organized in Memphis. Starting out with only 30 patients in a borrowed building

on 2nd and Union and later moving into the Irving Block building before merging with the Overton Hospital, it will become the hospital most recognized for female involvement, at a time when many women are entering the nursing profession in order to help with the war effort. Saturday, June 1, 1861 : John Houston Bills tells us: “Capt. M.T. Polk’s Company ordered off from Jackson to Union City today.”

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