Chronological History of the American Civil War

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Monday, May 26, 1862 : As General Nathaniel Banks’ men continued to scurry for cover in Harpers Ferry, their victorious foes were making an inventory of the contents of the supply wagons Banks had left behind. An imposing list it was too: 9,000 rifles, half a million rounds of ammunition, several pieces of artillery. And then there was the food! Wagonloads of bacon, bread, sugar, and salt were counted. There were even several small herds of cattle. Stonewall Jackson’s men ate well this night. John Houston Bills continued in his diary: “Felix, servant of Lt. Leon Bills died this day from diseases contracted in the Army in the service of his Master. He was a faithful servant, honest & intelligent.” Tuesday, May 27, 1862 : General Nathaniel Banks humiliation at the hands of Stonewall Jackson had been going on for some time now. Today, the remains of his force staggered across the Potomac towards Harper’s Ferry. Banks thought they would be safe there, but Jackson was headed that way too. Meanwhile at Hanover, Virginia, the South took a to the defensive and lost some ground. Only a few miles from Richmond, this inched the Union even closer to the Confederate capital. Wednesday, May 28, 1862 : Since long before the Revolutionary War, it had been the tradition in British naval service to issue sailors a ration of a pint of rum per day at sea. This tradition had carried over to American sailors. Not willing to leave a good thing alone, Asst. Navy Sec. Fox wrote today to a senator, “I beg you for the enduring good of the service, to abolish the spirit ration and forbid any distilled liquors being placed on board any vessel belonging to the United States, excepting of course the Medical Department. All insubordination, all misery, every deviltry on board ships can be traced to rum.” Tragically, the forces of enforced temperance would eventually prevail. Thursday, May 29, 1862 : Two very large armies had been gathered at Corinth, Mississippi. Inside the town was Confederate General P. G. T. Beauregard, charged with defending the city. Just outside the city was a Union army of considerable size under General Halleck, (U.S.) who stubbornly refused to leave and had the city essentially under siege. Beauregard, deciding that this stalemate was accomplishing nothing, began pulling his men out tonight and heading for Tupelo. He ordered the front lines to stay in place, and make loud noises so Federals wouldn’t realize the retreat was occurring. Today, John Houston Bills writes in his diary: “ War matters look horrible. Corinth being evacuated, bridges on M & C road being burned by our Cavalry, Tuscumbia & Muddy bridges & 7 trains left between as we are informed.” Friday, May 30, 1862 : Again, John Houston Bills continues to write: “Fayette County all in a blaze. Cotton being burned by our Cavalry - Tom Jones, W Gregg, Tom Taylor & many others burned out. I look for them soon.” General Nathaniel Banks’ had suffered nothing but humiliation at the hands of Stonewall Jackson, retreating constantly before his advance, until his back was against the wall in Harpers Ferry. It would look like tactical brilliance, though, if the Union forces of Fremont (U.S.) and Halleck (U.S.) could sneak in behind Jackson (CSA) and cut him off from the Shenandoah Valley. Jackson, being no fool, started to fall back today, fighting a nasty skirmish at Port Royal to keep his line of retreat open. Saturday, May 31, 1862 : It looked like a great opportunity as McClellan (U.S.) had split the Army of the Potomac, with three corps north of the Chickahominy River and two left on the south side. General Joseph Johnston (CSA) launched what was to be a crushing attack on the two at Seven Pines, or Fair Oaks, Virginia. The attack was bungled, not starting at all until early afternoon, then done by separate units instead of as a whole. The separated Northerners, hearing the sound of gunfire, raced to their comrades aid. Johnston ended the day failed and severely wounded. Robert E. Lee would now assume the command of the Army of Northern Virginia. Total number for both armies were 84,000 total with estimated casualties total US 790 dead 3,594 wounded; CS 980 dead, 4,749 wounded. John Houston Bills’ entry for May 31st, “Officers & men all off south from Grand Junction. We are left to the mercy of the Federals - Trains have Ceased to run. No mails. We are left in the dark.” Sunday, June 1, 1862 : Now with Robert E. Lee (CSA) in command of the Army of Northern Virginia, on this the second day of a battle called “Fair Oaks” or “Seven Pines” he discontinues the fight. In total, the Confederates lost 8,000 men killed, wounded or missing and the Unionists lost nearly 6,000 men in total. Hardeman County plantation owner/planter, merchant, and civic leader, John Houston Bills (The Pillars) wrote in his diary: “Rain in the afternoon. We had a quiet sabbath in the absence of Soldiers.”

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