Chronological History of the American Civil War
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Chronological History of the American Civil War
1861 ~ 1865
West Tennessee Perspective
Kenneth E. Savage, Sr.
This book is a composite of a weekly column on the Civil War which I wrote for The County Journal in Bolivar, Tn. from 2011 to 2016 during the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.
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Although the Great American Civil War was fought over 150 years ago, this four year war represented the worst period of time in our nation’s history. This daily chronological history provides you with a detailed history of local, regional and national events as they actually occurred from 1861-1865. We should never forget the costs of such a war to our country. This was the most tragic war that we Americans have ever been asked to fight. It was a war against itself, the North against the South, state against state, and brother against brother. Hopefully, we can learn from history not to repeat our mistakes. Using diary notes, word articles, history books, and some web sites, I try to present the events of this war from a West Tennessee perspective but representing the viewpoints of both the North and the South during this period of time. Being from rural West Tennessee, I had three of my four great, great, grandfathers fight in this war. Two fought for the South and one fought for the North. I try to imagine at times, how hard it was for these men to carry this terrible fight on day after day, year after year in the heat of the summers and cold of the winters, never knowing if you will be the next to die. New generations should all learn more about the Great American Civil War and never should we ever forget the sacrifice both sides made in trying to prove which side was right. Right or wrong, this war cost more American lives than World War I, World War II, and Vietnam all together. In all, more than over 625,000 Americans gave their lives for a cause that all thought was right. Right or wrong, these men died just the same defending that right. Most died off the field of battle from disease and other causes, but this figure was still about 2% of the population of 1860. That is an average of 599 per day for the duration of the war. Most were under the age of 35. The young men of our nation were dying at a rate much too fast. I honor them and the ones that lived through it, regardless of which side they were on. Ken Savage
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1861 - The Civil War Begins
At age eighteen, John Houston Bills (pictured) came to the West Tennessee area in 1818 with Ezekial Polk, the grandfather of James K. Polk, the 11th president of the United States. In 1823, Bills married Prudence Polk McNeal, a cousin of the future president. Bills also began a cotton factoring company with her brother, Ezekiel McNeal, which they called Bills and McNeal, and acquired two plantations, one near Bolivar and the other in Mississippi. John Houston Bills was one of the first commissioners for the new town of Bolivar, Tennessee in the southwestern section of the state in 1824, and with his brother-in-law, became one of the leading industrialists and planters in West Tennessee. He purchased his home, known as "The Pillars", in 1837, from a Philadelphia newspaperman, John Lea, and traveled throughout the eastern United States to furnish it in appropriate style. The mansion is now a historic house museum administered by the local chapter of the Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities. David Crockett had stayed in the home prior to the Bill's ownership, but Bills himself also entertained several notable Tennesseans and southerners at his home, including Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, Sam Houston, Leonidas Polk, and Jefferson Davis. After his first wife, Prudence Tate McNeal died in 1841, Bills continued making trips throughout the eastern U.S. and Europe. In 1845, when James K. Polk became president, Bills became his financial advisor. In 1849, Bills married a widow from Virginia, Lucy Anne Duke. Over the years John Houston Bills grew his family and his fortune. He became a well known man in Tennessee politics. January 1861 Talk of war, state's rights, slavery, and now with Abe Lincoln elected as President of the United States, it was just too much for most to bare in the South. His name did not even make it on most ballots in the South. The South felt they had rights and the North did not want to lose their taxes and trade. Jefferson Davis said, "States are sovereign. There was a time when none denied it. I hope the time may come again." The South felt that they had the right to leave the union and voted to do so, state by state. Monday, January 7, 1861: Tennessee's Governor Isham Harris calls the State Legislature into session to adopt a resolution asking Tennesseans to vote for or against a convention to consider the possibility of secession. He recommends the organization of a state militia and the purchase of arms, and states that “the remedy for the present evils exists only in constitutional amendments.” Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas join South Carolina in seceding from the Union. These seven states form a new southern union, setting up a provisional government called the Confederate States of America. Jefferson Davis of Mississippi is elected President of the Confederacy for a six-year term. Wednesday, January 9, 1861 : The vote on a secession convention fails in Tennessee, nearly four-to- one. Saturday, February 9, 1861 : Tennessee's legislation had voted to reject secession and was to stay in the Union. Tennessee's Governor Isham Harris from Memphis, Tennessee was hoping for a different vote on this subject. Friday, April 12, 1861 : News during this time was slow to come to Hardeman County in Tennessee, but the fight for Fort Sumter, South Carolina had begun. Saturday, April 13, 1861 : The battle is over quickly as Fort Sumter surrenders to the Southern forces.
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Monday, April 17, 1861 : Virginia succeeds from the Union. In 1861, as the nation divided, so did Tennessee. In the state's three grand divisions, Confederates and Unionists fought their own political war to determine which way Tennessee would go as the Confederate States of America took form in neighboring states. West Tennesseans, led by Governor Isham G. Harris, overwhelmingly wished connection with the Confederacy, while in East Tennessee most residents remained loyal to the Union. In the state's middle section, the counties in the Central Basin leaned heavily toward secession, but those on the basin's rim were more undecided in their support, a discrepancy which led to divided communities and divided families and prepared the way for vicious neighbor–against-neighbor guerrilla conflict when the Civil War commenced. John Houston Bills (The Pillars Home ~ pictured) during his lifetime was maybe the wealthest man in Hardeman County in Tennessee. Now at age 61, he was successful as a planter / plantation owner, a
merchant, a postmaster, an officer of the court, and a civic leader. He was also a diarist. He kept a daily record of his life for over twenty eight years in his diary. John Houston Bills’ diary entry for: Tuesday, April 16, 1861 : “Visit Hickory Valley find Scott replanting corn where Cheairs’ Hogs have rooted it up. Too wet to plow. Old Abe Lincoln proclamation of War against the South comes today. He Calls for 76,000 Volunteers to subdue them. Not one of which will he get from the Slave States. Now the south will be a unit. However wrong the leaders may have acted, no one will see the south coerced into submission to such a
Motley Abolition Crew as is headed by Lincoln. I have stood by the ship, the old Constitution as long as a plank remains, but now all is lost & the best government on Earth Sacrificed to unholy prejudices of the North. I hope we be able to build up as good upon the ruins. We shall see.” Wednesday, April 17, 1861 : Hardeman County plantation owner/ planter, merchant, and civic leader, John Houston Bills (The Pillars) wrote in his diary: “Held a town meeting last night and many of us subscribed money to uniform and Arm a company of Volunteers for the Southern service and whip back old Lincoln’s Minions of Antislavery men. Direful news of Civil War confirmed by the paper, today." Virginia secedes from the Union. Friday, April 19, 1861: Rioters in Baltimore, Maryland attacked the 6 th Massachusetts Regiment, the first fully equipped unit to respond to Lincoln’s April 15 th call for troops. Maryland was a slave holding state with deep roots in the South, but will remain loyal to the North. Saturday, April 20, 1861 : After being offered the command of the Northern Army, Robert E. Lee would resign his commission from the U.S. Army, and joins the South in their session. In his entry John Houston Bills wrote today: “Great Military excitement in town. Concession flags everywhere. No less than 4 in my sight. A company flag presented Capt. R.R. Neely Company by the ladies. Speeches by L.M. Brown and R. H. Wood.” Monday, April 22, 1861 , The Richmond Dispatch reports on the rude
treatment of U. S. Vice President, Andrew Johnson (pictured) by a large crowd in Lynchburg, Virginia, as he passed through on his way from Washington to Tennessee – “A large crowd assembled and groaned him, and offered every indignity he deserved, including pulling his nose.” The conductor and others intervene, and Johnson is eventually able to continue on his way.
Wednesday, April 24, 1861 : Hardeman County plantation owner/ planter, merchant, and civic leader, John Houston Bills (The Pillars) writes again in his diary: “Great military excitement in Memphis. The shrill of notes of the fife and noisy kettle drum is heard on every street corner. Recruits are very awkward, but it is apparent we are in a mist of Civil War. But one spirit pervades the public mind… all will resist the forces of Lincoln.”
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Tuesday, April 30, 1861 : The Tennessee State Legislature has convened in secret session. Rumors say they have adopted a secession ordinance, which they will announce after an attack on Washington that is expected to take place on May 4. Wednesday, May 1, 1861 : John Houston Bills (The Pillars) wrote in his diary for: “War news worse. Lincoln has ordered out 80,000 additional troops, the South all in Motion. Troops going to rendezvous in Corinth. 300 pass the junction today, all looked belligerent.” Saturday, May 4, 1861: Again, John Houston Bills adds to his diary: “The war fever unabated. Troubles ahead. Capt. Hancock’s Company ordered to Randolph (TN) where great preparations are making to prevent the Lincoln troops from descending the river.” Monday, May 6, 1861 : Making a speech in Cleveland, Tennessee, Andrew Johnson is threatened by members of the crowd. He claims to be ready for a fight and eventually wins over most of the audience,
telling them, among other things, that Jeff Davis ought to be hanged. Thursday, May 9, 1861 : Jeff Davis (pictured) expands the Confederate Army. He signs a bill authoring the enlistment of up to 400,000 additional volunteers for up to three years or the duration of the war. Tuesday, May 14, 1861 : John Houston Bills writes in his diary: “Rev. M. Gray preaches to the departing soldiers at the Fairgrounds where an immense crowd of anxious friends is assembled to bid farewell to husbands, sons, and brothers. Troops meet at night at the Presbyterian Church. James Wood presents each a Testament.”
Wednesday, May 15, 1861 : The Tennessee General Assembly passes a Military law authorizing the Governor to call up 25,000 men into immediate service, with a reserve corps of 30,000; bear in mind that Tennessee has not officially succeeded from the Union as of this date. Monday, May 20, 1861 : Kentucky declares its neutrality in the War Between the States, while delegates to the North Carolina Secession Convention vote to withdraw from the Union. Tuesday, May 21,1861: Missouri declares its neutrality in the Civil War as Sterling Price signs an agreement with William Harney, essentially handing Missouri over to federal forces. This same day Confederate Congress votes to move its capital from Montgomery, Alabama to Richmond, Virginia. Thursday, May 23, 1861: Virginia ratifies the Secessionist Convention referendum; ex-U. S. Secretary of War, John Floyd of Virginia is commissioned a brigadier general in the Confederate States Army and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson (CSA) strikes the B&O Railroad, capturing 56 locomotives. John Houston Bills of Bolivar, Tennessee writes in his diary, "Capt. J. J. Neely Company of Cavalry parade in front of the Court House. The roll is called by Orderly Sergeant Durrett about 80 answers & more of finely mounted to be mustered into service at Jackson today. An immense crowd of both sexes are present to bid farewell to friends going into “fratricidal” ( one that murders or kills his or her own brother or sister or an individual as a countryman ) war. The scene is awfully impressive and sad to contemplate. My only son is of the number going.”
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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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Monday, June 3, 1861 : The American politician Stephen A. Douglas (pictured) dies from typhoid fever in Chicago, Illinois. He was the Northern Democratic Party nominee for President in 1860. He lost to the Republican Party's candidate, Abraham Lincoln, whom he had defeated two years earlier in a Senate. Also on the same day, The Battle of Philippi—also known mockingly as "The Philippi Races"— was fought in and around Philippi, Virginia (now West Virginia) as part of the Western Virginia Campaign of the American Civil War. It was the first organized land action in the war, but is often treated dismissively as a skirmish rather than a significant battle. The Union forces began firing their artillery, which awakened the sleeping Confederates. After firing a few shots at the advancing Union troops, the Southerners broke lines and began running frantically to the south, some still in their bed clothes, which caused journalists to refer to the battle as the "Races at Philippi". The Union victory in a relatively bloodless battle propelled the young General McClellan into the national spotlight, and he was soon given command of all Union armies. Saturday, June 8, 1861 : By a vote of 108,339 to 47,233, Tennessee decides to secede from the United States. Hardeman County plantation owner/ planter, merchant, and civic leader, John Houston Bills (The Pillars) wrote in his diary: "This is the greatest and perhaps the most important political day of my life. Today, we vote for or against further Union with the government left us by the immoral Washington and other patriarchs of the Revolution. We are pushed into this predicament by bad politicians north and south from the best government on earth; we are compelled to sever ourselves and try to build up another. Civil War is upon us with 100,000 men under arms on each side ready and anxious for the conflict. A war pressed upon us by Lincoln and his bad counselors. We must be a unit in defending the South from northern coercion. The vote here is 155 for dissolving the Union and None against.” Out of the 7000+ votes cast in Shelby County, only 4 are for “no separation” and 5 for Union. Only five West Tennessee counties (Carroll, Decatur, Hardin, Henderson, and Weakley) deliver majority votes for the Union. Tennessee has become the final state to join the Confederacy. Five Border Slave States will ultimately elect not to secede: Missouri, Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware. June 1861 witnessed the first major casualties of the American Civil War, though nothing like the American Civil War was to experience in later years . Monday, June 10, 1861 : Big Bethel, Virginia was the first land battle in present-day Virginia, and arguably the first land battle of the entire war. The Union forces had retained control of Fort Monroe near Washington D.C., at the tip of the Virginia Peninsula (between the York and James Rivers). From Fort Monroe an expedition was planned to capture Little Bethel and Big Bethel, with the intention of expanding the area under Union control. Command of the expedition was give to General Ebenezer W.
Pierce. He was given five regiments, detachments from two more and two guns from the regular Artillery, giving him somewhere between 2,500 and 3,500 men. Facing him was Colonel (later General) John Magruder, (pictured) probably only had between 300 and 400 men, although did have more artillery. The Union expedition went badly wrong from the start. One regiment was not given the watchword (‘Boston’), and inadvertently opened fire on a fellow Union regiment. The two most advanced Union regiments heard the firing, and believing that the Confederates had somehow got behind them, turned round. When the disorganized Union force finally found the Confederates at Big Bethel, Magruder had had time to entrench in a strong position. The by now badly scattered Union forces made a series of futile attacks on the
Confederate position during the morning, before finally abandoning the expedition at about noon. Union losses were 76 (18 killed, 53 wounded and 5 missing), while Confederate losses were only 8 (1 killed and
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7 wounded)! Big Bethel was fairly typical of many early battles – neither side had any significant experience of warfare, and many of the men were new to their regiments (which themselves were new). Other than giving Magruder some valuable experience, the battle had no impact on the position of the two sides on the Peninsula. Tuesday, June 11, 1861 : Counties in western Virginia set up a pro-Unionist government that was recognized by the federal government in Washington DC. This would set the way for “West Virginia” to separate and remain Union.
The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad had taken interest in Harpers Ferry in what would soon become West Virginia, because of its growing economy and federal armory (originally built by George Washington). Friday, June 14, 1861 : Stonewall Jackson's 11,000 confederate Army after destroying 19 of 25 arsenal and armory buildings; blew up Harpers Ferry Bridge. This railroad and turn pike bridge was rebuilt nine times during the civil war. Harpers Ferry was evacuated by rebels in face of McClellan's advance. The Memphis Appeal lists the Tennessee counties in which
a majority voted to remain in the Union. They are Anderson, Bradley, Campbell, Carter, Claiborne, Cocke, Grainger, Greene, Hamilton, Hancock, Hawkins, Jefferson, Knox, Marion, Monroe, Roane, Sevier, Sullivan, Union, Washington, all in East Tennessee; and Decatur, Macon, and Wayne counties farther west. The same edition reports that a state warrant has been issued for the arrest of U. S. Senator Andrew Johnson for treason to Tennessee. The Louisville Journal writes indignantly: “Twenty or thirty Louisville steamboats, bound up from New Orleans, have been seized at Memphis, by order of Gen. Pillow …. Our State can no longer send a boat down the Mississippi and expect her return. Our commerce upon that mighty thoroughfare is annihilated.” Reports arrive of skirmishes in Missouri between Union troops and secessionists. Sunday, June 16, 1861 : Rapid recruiting replaces reverence. By custom, and in some places by law, Sunday was a day of churchgoing, followed by rest. Business was not normally conducted on this day, but these were not normal times. In camps, in barns, in tents, on prairies, mountains and cities, newly recruited troops today were beginning their indoctrination into Army life. Almost none had uniforms, very few had government-issued weapons (although many had simply brought their own from home, these often did not use standard-sized ammunition) and the rations issued were definitely not up to Mother’s standards of cooking. Monday, June 17, 1861 : From William L.B. Lawrence diary: “The Secession Flag now waves in triumph from our State Capitol; it was hoisted today amid much enthusiasm. Farmers are cutting wheat and rye.”
Friday, June 21, 1861 : John H. Winder (pictured) received his commission as Brigadier General in the army of the Confederate States of America today, and possibly the toughest assignment of the war. He was named inspector general of all the military camps in the Richmond area. Among other duties, he was charged with finding uniforms and weapons for the armies, paperwork for discharges for those unfit for service, capturing deserters and caring for the sick and wounded. Later, he was put in charge of the Confederate Bureau of Prison Camps, which included the famed “Andersonville Prison,” officially known as Camp Sumter in Georgia. This post he held until his death on February 7, 1865. During the war, Winder was frequently ridiculed in Northern newspapers, who
accused him of intentionally starving Union prisoners. In their post-war writings, some of the high level leaders of the Confederate government voiced the difficulties of Winder's assignment, saying: President Davis, Secretary Seddon, and Adjutant Cooper
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declared that he was a much-maligned man. He was set to perform a task made impossible by the inadequacy of supplies of men, food, clothing, and medicines. Sunday June 23, 1861 : Today, the Union Army acquired an air force. One Thaddeus S.C. Lowe, who
called himself “professor” although his academic affiliation is unclear, had last week demonstrated his tethered balloon (pictured) to President Lincoln, communicating by telegraph from it. Today, he ascended with an artist and observed the Confederate units around Falls Church, Virginia. The artist sketched the scene, providing the closest thing to aerial photography that the technology allowed. Monday, June 24, 1861 : On this day, Tennessee became the 11th (& last) state to secede from U.S. President Lincoln with a party of five generals and three cabinet members
observes demonstration of "Coffee Mill" gun at the Arsenal at Greenleaf's Point. Lincoln was so impressed with the weapon that he purchased 10 on the spot for $1,300 apiece. The Union Army eventually purchased a total of 54 of the weapons. However, due to antiquated views of the Ordnance Department the weapons were rarely used. Stating it would use too much ammunition. Meanwhile on this day, an agent of the B&O Railroad reports the loss of 48 locomotives and even more gondolas and coal cars, which have been burned by rebel sympathizers in Baltimore. Wednesday, June 26, 1861 : At the Greenville Convention, all East Tennessee counties except Rhea County meet to petition the General Assembly to allow them to secede from the now-Confederate State of Tennessee and remain in the Union. Their request is denied. Thursday, June 27, 1861 : The Memphis Avalanche reports that $2,000,000 has been offered by European buyers as an advance on the cotton crop, and that France and England will soon recognize the Confederacy. Friday, June 28 1861 : The Tennessee General Assembly authorizes a draft of free black men into the Confederate army. Most free black men will manage to evade both the Confederate draft and the local sheriffs compelled to enforce it. In Maryland, cross-dressing Confederates commandeer Chesapeake craft. There are limited accounts of men dressing as women during the very Victorian days of the Civil War, and this is one. This night a party of Confederate sympathizers led by George Hollins and Colonel Richard Thomas decided to make their move to support Secessionism. Disguised in female garb the group boarded the side-wheel steamship St. Nicholas in Chesapeake Bay, Maryland. Seizing the boat from its startled crew, they set forth in search of the USS Pawnee, although exactly what they planned to do if they caught it is unclear. Alas, they could not find the warship, and had to settle for taking three small commercial vessels.
Sunday June 30, 1861 : Today, Raphael Semmes (pictured) had only attained the rank of commander at this early stage of the war. The Confederate States Navy was still in the process of organization; that of the North was in near-complete disarray, having had many of their best officers, ships and naval yards taken into the Confederacy. The North was nevertheless trying to enforce a blockade of Southern ports. Commander Semmes and the CSS Sumter evaded the New Orleans blockade today and set forth as commerce raiders. He would have considerable success; accounting for 18 merchant vessels while eluding Union warships the next 6 months. Monday, July 1, 1861 : Illinois Senator Lyman Trumbull meets with Lincoln for about an hour in the evening, and the two men discuss the war:
"He said to me that he did not know of any law to authorize some things which he had done; but he thought there was a necessity for them, & that to save the constitution & the laws generally, it might be
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better to do some illegal acts, rather than suffer all to be overthrown. He seemed to think there was just as much law for increasing the regular army & the Navy as for calling out the three years' men.” Wednesday, July 3, 1861 : The Memphis Argus announces, “Yesterday Tennessee was admitted into The Confederacy. By proclamation of the President the Confederate laws are extended.” Tennessee takes control of the Nashville end of the L&N Railroad, to the great dismay of Kentuckians, who are now concerned about losing the entire railroad and all its rolling stock to the Confederacy. Thursday, July 4, 1861 : Abraham Lincoln called a special session of Congress on this most sacred of American patriotic holidays, to deal with the extraordinary matter of the secession of states from the American union. He listed the actions taken by the ‘’erring sisters”, and the measures he had taken to control, correct, or at least oppose them. The similarities between this list and the one composed by the Founding Fathers noting the offenses of King George III, are striking. The most important military matter dealt with was the request by the President that the Congress authorize the raising of an army of 400,000 volunteers to prosecute a war to bring the Southern states back into the Union whether they wanted to be there are not. Simon Cameron recommended that Congress supported his idea that volunteers served for three years. Friday, July 5, 1861 : A battle at Carthage, Missouri, ended when Union troops commanded by General Sigel had to withdraw as a result of facing a much larger force. Though casualties were light (13 Union dead and 50 Confederate dead) the withdrawal was a blow to what had been a successful Union advance through Missouri. Sunday July 7, 1861 : After heading further north, Confederate privateer Jefferson Davis captures the Union schooner S. J. Waring about 150 miles east of Sandy Hook, New Jersey. The Federal ship, Resolute , picks up two mines in the Potomac River. Tuesday, July 9, 1861 , and July 16, 1861 : Rose O'Neale Greenhow passed secret messages to Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard containing critical information regarding the First Battle of Bull Run and the plans of Union General Irvin McDowell. Assisting in her conspiracy were pro-Confederate members of Congress, Union officers, and her dentist, Aaron Van Camp. Confederate President Jefferson Davis credited Greenhow's information with securing victory at Manassas for the Confederate Army over the Union Army. The battle will be known as First Bull Run to Northerners and First Manassas to Southerners will be fought on July 21, 1861. Also this same day, Circus entrepreneur P.T. Barnum is seriously injured by a runaway horse. Thursday, July 11, 1861 : Battle of Rich Mountain in Randolph County, Virginia (now West Virginia) begins. Friday, July 12, 1861 : Word comes from Cambridge, Massachusetts, of the death of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s wife, who was fatally burned when her clothing caught fire. Her husband, the famous poet, was badly burned in his efforts to save her. (Because of his facial burns, Longfellow is unable to shave, so will grow the beard which becomes his trademark.) Also on the day in the West, James Butler 'Wild Bill'
Hickok (pictured) was involved in a deadly shootout with the McCanles Gang at the Rock Creek Station, Nebraska. McCanles was known as a local bully and had earlier had an argument with Hickok over the latter "stealing" his mistress Sarah (Kate) Shull. David McCanles, his 12-year-old son (William) Monroe McCanles, and two farmhands, James Woods and James Gordon, came to the station's office to demand payment of an overdue second installment on the property, an event that is still the subject of much debate. David McCanles "called out" Wild Bill from the Station House. Wild Bill emerged onto the street, immediately drew one of his .36 caliber SA Navy revolvers, and, at a 75-yard stand-off distance, fired a single shot into McCanles's chest, killing him instantly. The two men, James Woods and James Gordon, were then killed by other members of the relay station;
one was killed by station employee J.W. Brink with a shotgun blast and the other was hacked to death with a hoe. Hickok was not reported as wounded. During the attack McCanles' son (William) Monroe was able to escape via a dry creek bed. Hickok and his accomplices, the station manager Horace Wellman,
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his wife, and an employee, J.W. Brink, were tried but judged to have acted in self-defense. McCanles was the first man Hickok was reputed to have killed in a fight. Saturday, July 13, 1861 : Confederate Brig. Gen. Robert S. Garnett' Garnett was killed while retreating
from Rich Mountain; he was the first general officer to be killed in the war. Sunday, July 14, 1861 : Horace Greeley (pictured) is best known today for his travel advice (“Go west, young man! and grow up with the country!”) But today, he was being very persuasive by giving the military suggestions. Headlines screamed in Greeley’s New York Tribune today, “FORWARD TO RICHMOND!” General Irwin McDowell was supposed to be putting an end to this ludicrous secession matter, was the attitude. Towards this end he had been given the largest army by far ever assembled by the United States of America, some 35,000 strong. What the revered editor completely overlooked was the fact that this immense army had had so little training that it amounted to little more than an armed mob. Lincoln, with less excuse, felt the same way. When McDowell asked for more time for training, the
President replied “You are green, it is true; but they are green also. You are all green alike.” Most Northerners and Southerners believed the coming conflict would consist of one climactic, winner-take-all battle. Federal troops were enlisted for only 90 days, more than enough time, Northern leaders believed, to rout the Southern army and end the "callow" rebellion. The Union's first goal was Richmond, Virginia, the newly designated capital of the Confederacy and only 100 miles from Washington, D.C. To reach Richmond, the army first had to capture Manassas Junction, an important railway junction 30 miles southwest of Washington. Troops set out for Manassas on July 14, 1861. So naive was the nation about the coming horrors that 200 or so private citizens from Washington, D.C., accompanied federal troops on the march. They hoped to witness and be entertained by this once-in-a- lifetime event. Tuesday, July 16, 1861 : McDowell’s Manassas march is a military mess. It was the largest army ever assembled by the United States of America. Some 1,400 officers, many with field experience in the prewar Army but many lacking this background, marched 30,000 men out of the filthy, stinking training camps they had been residing in around the perimeter of Washington D.C. Unfortunately very little of the men’s training had been in marching or water conservation. They hiked awhile, got tired and sat down, or wandered off to pick blackberries. Nearly everyone drank up the contents of their canteens in the first hours of the march, and then were angry that there was no place to refill them. Knapsacks got heavier with every step, and equipment by the ton was dropped along the roadside. Also that day, the Tennessee General Assembly passes legislation authorizing the use of Confederate funds only, and outlawing the payment of all debts to non-slave- holding states, regardless of when they were entered into. Wednesday, July 17, 1861 : Arriving at Fairfax Court House, McDowell discovers large quantities of supplies left by the retreating Confederates. General Beauregard stationed near Manassas, Virginia with a force of 22,000 men, requests aid to repulse the Federal advance into Virginia. Confederate President Jefferson Davis orders General Joseph Johnston to Manassas. The U.S. Congress authorizes paper money commonly called "Greenbacks." Thursday, July 18, 1861 : Longstreet's Confederate forces push McDowell's Union troops back in skirmishes at Blackburn's Ford, Virginia. Saturday, July 20, 1861 : Confederate state's congress began holding sessions in Richmond, Virginia. Today, Generals on both sides maneuvered their forces and made their plans for a battle to be fought on the fields of north Virginia almost in sight of Washington. From Centerville, from Winchester, from the Shenandoah Valley came the Confederates. Joseph Johnston was their commander, and he planned an attack on the Federal left. Federal commander, McDowell’s men had been retreating from Centerville in terrible heat with little water or rations, likewise planned to attack his enemy’s left. Near the little town of Manassas ran the creek called Bull Run. Washington orders prohibit harboring of fugitive slaves in military camps or permitting such slaves to accompany troops on the march.
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Sunday, July 21, 1861 : This was it. The battle started that would settle, and thereby end, the Civil War. It was near the little town of Manassas, Virginia, where the creek called Bull Run flowed. To the
surprise of Washingtonians, who have come out to watch, Confederate forces (which include the 3rd Tennessee Infantry) win a victory at the First Battle of Bull Run. A brigade of Virginians under a relatively unknown colonel from the Virginia Military Institute, Thomas J. Jackson (pictured), stood their ground and Jackson received his famous nickname, "Stonewall". The Confederates launched a strong counterattack and as the Union troops began withdrawing under pressure, many panicked and it turned into a rout as they frantically ran in the direction of nearby Washington, D.C. The terrified sightseers (“a number of Members of Congress, and even ladies”) flee back to Washington in their carriages as Union forces sustain significant losses. Jefferson Davis observes the costly Confederate victory from Manassas, Virginia.
"By day-break what had been the Union's hopeful army began streaming past, now only a rain-soaked mob" according to John G. Nicolay, Lincoln’s secretary. Both sides were sobered by the violence and casualties of the battle, and they realized that the war would potentially be much longer and bloodier than they had originally anticipated. Total amount of men engaged in battle: 60,680 (US 28,450; CS 32,230) and estimated casualties: 4,700 total (US 2,950; CS 1,750.) New skirmishes are reported in Missouri. The Ohio border is in a state of “continual excitement,” as Union sympathizers flee North to escape persecution. Monday, July 22, 1861 : McDowell receives much of the blame for his loss at Bull Run, and Lincoln sends for Major General George B. McClellan in western Virginia to take command of the Union forces around Washington. In a proclamation, Jefferson Davis accepts Tennessee as a member of the Confederacy. Thursday, July 25, 1861 : There had been attempts at compromises for years, even decades in attempts to reconcile the institution of slavery with the American ideals of freedom for all men. Today the last of these compromise offers passed U.S. Senate by a vote of 30-5. Known as the Crittenden Resolution, it was a statement that the Union was fighting “to defend and maintain the supremacy of the Constitution and to preserve the Union” and not to interfere with slavery . This was a last attempt to fend off more secession. Friday , July 26, 1861 : It is often forgotten that Civil War battles occurred far from Virginia, Georgia and even the Mississippi River. One such action took place today in the wild and barely explored area near Texas then known as Indian Territory. Fort Fillmore, as this outpost was known, was under threat by about 250 Confederate forces under Capt. John R. Baylor. Despite having twice as many soldiers, and a fortified position, Major Isaac Lynde of the 7th U.S. Infantry decided the position was indefensible and pulled out for Ft. Stanton overnight. Saturday, July 27, 1861 : President Lincoln places command of the Federal Army of the Potomac to General George McClelland, who replaces McDowell. Lincoln advises that Union forces push toward Tennessee by seizing Manassas Junction, Virginia, and Strasburg, Kentucky, in the strategically important Shenandoah Valley. Sunday, July 28, 1861 : Confederate forces, many of whom had been Texas cowboys and ranch hands just weeks ago continued their triumphant sweep through what in later years would be known as New Mexico, today taking a fort at St. Augustine Springs, NM, from Capt. John R. Baylor without a shot being fired. Rebel troops also occupied New Madrid, Mo., an important chokepoint on the Mississippi River. Monday, July 29, 1861 : The Memphis Avalanche reports, “We are gratified to learn that Gen. Pillow will in a few days lead a brigade of Tennesseans into some one of the fields of active service …. The known bravery and prowess of this distinguished Tennessee General … give us the assurance that wherever his brigade shall be brought into action, feats of valor will be performed, and services rendered
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to our cause, which will shed imperishable glory alike on the chivalry of Tennessee and on the Southern arms.” Tuesday, July 30, 1861 : Union General Benjamin Butler at Fort Monroe, Virginia asks Secretary of War Simon Cameron to make a determined policy concerning former slaves entering his lines seeking freedom. Butler has 900 in his care and is unclear as to their status as property. While waiting for a reply, Butler’s solution was to declare them “contraband of war” and uses the former slaves to build fortifications around the area. Wednesday, July 31, 1861 : Hamilton Gamble is formally elected governor of pro-Union Missouri.
Thursday, August 1, 1861 : Tennessee votes to adopt the Constitution of the Confederate States of America. A few weeks ago a large party of cowboys, ranch hands and roustabouts had gathered in West Texas to go on a “buffalo hunt”, or so they said. Joined by John Baylor, (pictured) later Lt. Col. Baylor, they started a campaign to chase every Federal out of the area. Today, they announced that all of New Mexico and Arizona south of the 34th Parallel was now Confederate territory. More pro-Union citizens regarded it as an invasion from Texas, and now began to get hostile about it. Friday, August 2, 1861 : Union Major General Benjamin Butler, although not much for battlefield command, usually had considerable talent for efficient administration. This was not much in evidence today as he addressed the
problem of drunkenness among the troops at Ft. Monroe, at Hampton Roads, Virginia. He went about this in a straightforward manner, simply outlawing the sale of intoxicating beverages to the soldiers. This worked about as well as prohibition ever does: booze was found at one time or another stored in gun barrels, cannon tubes, and canteens. Similar prohibitions were tried in other areas by other generals, with pretty much the same results. Saturday, August 3, 1861 : At Hampton Roads, Virginia, John LaMountain makes the first balloon ascent in history from the deck of a Union ship, Fanny , specially fitted for the experiment. The purpose of the ascent is to observe the Confederate battery on Sewell's Point, near Hampton Roads. Congress approves funds for the Department of the Navy to build 3 prototype ironclad ships. Sunday, August 4, 1861 : According to the Chicago Tribune, Confederate General Pillow, with 20,000 Tennessee troops, has moved into southeastern Missouri. Monday, August 5, 1861 : Abraham Lincoln approves a wide variety of bills passed during a special session of Congress including a new issue of bonds, tariff increase and the first real estate tax and income tax. As the mechanisms to collect the tax did not yet exist, an amazingly few people sent the money in voluntarily; the tax was basically ignored. Enlistment increases from 3 months to 2 years. The U.S. Army abolishes flogging. Tuesday, August 6, 1861 : Lincoln signs the First Confiscation Act, authorizing Union seizure of rebel property and ordering Union officers not to return escaped or confiscated slaves who are working or fighting for the rebel forces. The Union establishes a military camp named “Dick Robinson” near Lexington in neutral Kentucky as a show of force. The camp would become a rallying point for the mountaineers of southeastern Kentucky and eastern Tennessee to join the Union forces. Wednesday, August 7, 1861 : The town of Hampton, VA, a small village near Fort Monroe, was burned to the ground today--by a Confederate general. John B. Magruder claimed that he had heard U.S. Gen. Benjamin Butler planned to use the nearly-deserted town as housing for black laborers. Magruder gave the citizens only 15 minutes to flee the town.
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Thursday, August 8, 1861 : For weeks now, Gen. Benjamin Butler had been sending increasingly urgent telegrams from his post at Fort Monroe, VA to Washington, asking what he was supposed to do with the Negroes who were flocking into his camp. Some were freed when Union troops took control of the area where they had lived; some had run away from further South. Under the letter of the Fugitive Slave Law Butler was supposed to send them back to slavery. Today Secretary of War Simon Cameron wrote that slaves from areas in insurrection were to be considered free and Butler could do whatever he liked with them.
Friday, August 9, 1861 : Union General Nathaniel Lyon (pictured) sets off with only 5,400 men to meet Confederate troops approaching Springfield, Missouri with a combined force of nearly 11,000 men. Saturday, August 10, 1861 : General Nathaniel Lyon is killed at Wilson's Creek, Missouri, where he has led 5,400 Union soldiers to meet 11,000 Confederate soldiers and Missouri militia. The Union soldiers put up a valiant fight, but after Lyon's fall at Bloody Ridge, the Federals pull back. Now commanded by Major Samuel Sturgis, the Union soldiers march to Rolla, Missouri, southwest of St. Louis. The casualties were about equal on both sides—1,317 Union and 1,230 Confederate/Missourian/Arkansan.
Though the Confederate allied force won the field, they were unable to pursue the retreating Union forces to Rolla. The Union withdrawal to Rolla concedes a large part of Missouri to secessionist forces. In spite of his defeat, Lyon’s quick and decisive action is credited with neutralizing the effect of secessionist forces in the state. Missouri remains under Union control. The Battle of Wilson's Creek is the second major battle between Union and Confederate forces and the second significant victory for the Confederates following that of Bull Run in Virginia. In Washington, Lincoln meets with General Winfield Scott to smooth out friction between Scott and McClellan. Sunday, August 11, 1861 : The Memphis Daily Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee), “Factory Burnt.—The Normant cotton factory, belonging to P. Miller, located near Bolivar, Tenn., was consumed by fire on Thursday night last. This is a great misfortune now when the South is compelled to manufacture for herself, and owners of such property should guard it with redoubled vigilance. Loss, $25,000, without insurance.” Monday, August 12, 1861 : The Nashville “Union and American” reports the arrest of the Hon. Thomas A.R. Nelson has been arrested in Lee County, Virginia, and is expected to be tried for treason. Nelson was a staunch pro-Union southerner. He was elected to a second term in 1861 on the eve of the Civil War, but was arrested by Confederate authorities before he could take his seat. Apache Indians attack Confederates in Texas and kill 15. Three new wooden gunboats, Tyler , Conestoga , and Lexington , arrive at Cairo, Illinois to cover operations until the ironclads are built. Tuesday, August 13, 1861 : Confederate Secretary of the Navy Mallory reports, that there are no iron ships in England that can carry the weight of big guns, and that he has arranged to contract with two distinguished builders for a gun vessel each. Wednesday, August 14, 1861 : The President and Colonization: The Experiment to be tried in Central America. This afternoon, the President of the United States gave audience to a Committee of colored men at the White House. Having all been seated, the President, after a few preliminary observations, informed them that a sum of money had been appropriated by Congress, and placed at his disposition, for the purpose of aiding the colonization in some country of the people, or a portion of them, of African descent, thereby making it his duty, as it had for a long time been his inclination, to favor that cause. Whether it is right or wrong, I need not discuss; but this physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both, as I think. Your race suffers very greatly, many of them, by living among us, while ours suffer from your presence. In a word, we suffer on each side. Lincoln proposed a relocation of freed blacks to Central America. A new colony would be established there such has been in Liberia in West Africa for freed former African-American slaves. The Chairman of the delegation briefly replied that "they would hold a
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consultation and in a short time give an answer." The President said, "Take your full time -- no hurry at all." The delegation then withdrew. Also this day, the Memphis Daily Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee), “Appeal to the Ladies of Tennessee.” The military and financial board of this State suggested that each lady in Tennessee shall prepare goods for one suit of clothing and knit two pairs of stockings. If this shall be done, every soldier will be amply clothed and provided against the sufferings of a winter's campaign. In Richmond, meanwhile, Jefferson Davis ordered the banishment of all foreign nationals whose home countries did not recognize the Confederate government. In St. Louis, U.S. Maj. Gen. John Charles Fremont declared marshal law. In Washington, the 79th New York volunteer regiment mutinies when its request for furlough is denied. Several of the ring leaders are arrested. Twenty-one members of the 79th who were considered to be the ringleaders of the revolt were sent to the remote Dry Tortugas prison in Florida. Thursday, August 15, 1861 : A further mutiny occurred in the 2 nd Maine Volunteers who were also defending Washington DC. It became clear that a major reorganization was required to take into account the militia status of those defending the capital. General George McClellan assumes command of the Army of the Potomac. The Richmond Whig reports that a large number of Union prisoners are being housed in three large tobacco factories in that city. Friday, August 16, 1861 : President Lincoln prohibits Union states from trading with Confederacy. New skirmishes break out at Fredericktown/Kirkville, in Missouri. Sunday, August 18, 1861 : The Fort Smith Times states that two companies of southern black men have been formed in the neighborhood. They are thorough southern men, not armed but are drilling to take the field, and say that they are determined to fight for their masters and their homes. Lt. Reigart Lowry reported that the “stone fleet” was ready to sail. Old wooden ships were loaded with rock until they were barely able to float, were to be sunk in Albermarle Sound, North Carolina to block Confederate shipping until the new gunboats were ready for the blockade. Monday, August 19, 1861 : Union loyalists attack pro-South newspaper offices in West Chester and Easton, Pennsylvania. The editor of the Essex County Democrat is tarred and feathered for the expression of Southern sympathies. The Congress of the Confederacy allies with the state of Missouri, providing for the establishment of a Confederate state government. Tuesday, August 20, 1861 : Loyalist at the Wheeling Convention approved the separation which consisted of most of the northwestern counties of Virginia, which decided to secede from Virginia after Virginia joined the Confederate States of America. The name of "Kanawha," based on the Kanawha River, was proposed by the convention as the name for the new state. The Memphis Daily Appeal writes, “Summary: Discussion of the new city ordinance requiring each illegal house of ill-fame to hire a policeman at its own expense, or be closed.” Saturday, August 17, 1861 : Witnesses exhibition of J. D. Mills' gun [dubbed by Lincoln "coffee mill gun"] near Washington Monument and advises government to pay double sum mechanics say it is worth if delivered in 30 days. The request gets lost in the bureaucracy.
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