The American Civil War, day by day - Page 59 - Politics | PoFo

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February 6, Friday

Minor fighting occurs at Dranesville, Millwood, at Wiggenton’s Mill on Aquia Creek, Virginia; there is a Federal scout in the vicinity of Fort Pillow, Tennessee.

Secretary of State Seward informs the French government that Napoleon III’s offer of mediation has been refused by the North.

The Federal IX Corps under W.F. Smith is transferred from the Army of the Potomac to Newport News, Virginia, to increase the threat to Richmond from the east.
February 7, Saturday

North of Vicksburg, the waters of the Mississippi River are still flowing swiftly through the gap blown in the levee separating the river from the Yahoo Gap, the current too strong for safe navigation. But Grant’s Federal forces can wait no longer, and today 4,500 Union soldiers—a number of whom have been transported the 350 miles upriver from Vicksburg so they can make this 350-mile voyage back down again—board small vessels and begin venturing into the gap. They are headed toward Moon Lake, another former bend of the Mississippi now located about a mile from the river. The current grabs the craft and whirls them around like toy skiffs in a washtub, flinging them through the pass amid floating logs and debris, and slamming them into trees. “It was luck, not management, that half the little army was not drowned.”

Three blockade runners successfully break through the Federal cordon and arrive at Charleston, South Carolina.

Skirmishing breaks out at Olive Branch Church, Virginia; Edenton, North Carolina; and near Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

Major General S.P. Heintzelman assumes command of the recreated Federal Department of Washington.
February 8, Sunday

The circulation of the Chicago Times is suspended by military order for allegedly disloyal statements, only one of numerous such incidents in the North. The order will later be rescinded.

There is a skirmish near Independence, Missouri, and an affair near Camp Sheldon, Mississippi.
February 9, Monday

There is an affair near Moscow, Tennessee, and a skirmish near Somerville, Virginia.

The Confederate Southwestern Army is extended to embrace the entire Trans-Mississippi Department.
February 10, Tuesday

There is skirmishing at Old River, Louisiana; Batchelder’s Creek, North Carolina; Sarcoxie Prairie, Missouri; and Chantilly, Virginia. In addition there is an affair near Camp Sheldon, Mississippi; a three-day Federal expedition from Beverly into Pocahontas County, West Virginia; and, until the sixteenth, operations in Westmoreland and Richmond counties, Virginia.
February 11, Wednesday

The Federal commanders attempting to use the Yazoo Pass to approach Vicksburg had hoped to catch the Confederates napping, but once again Pemberton shows that he is an able soldier. The Federal vessels have scarcely entered the flooded stream when they begin to encounter obstacles put there by Confederate work parties. Huge trees, some of them four feet in diameter and weighing twenty tone, have been felled across the channel. The Federals face stretches where for miles there is an entanglement so thick the troops could cross it from bank to bank. Removing such barricades appears at first glance to be a major engineering operation, but in fact it is achieved in the simplest way possible. Soldiers drag the trees out of the way with rope cables, 500 men to a cable. Other obstacles impede progress. Some of the river bends are so tight that the vessels are unable to maneuver past them under their own power and have to be hauled around them with hawsers. The trees are so thick in places that their branches interlock over the channels to form woody tunnels. The troop carriers are regular river boats, with high, fragile superstructures and towering smokestacks that are extremely vulnerable to such overhead obstructions. With all this, the expedition’s forward movement is excruciatingly sluggish. The men are rewarded after four days of terrible labor by getting forty miles on their journey.

The Confederate commissioner to Great Britain James M. Mason addresses a Lord Mayor’s banquet in London in his continuing drive for British recognition of the Confederacy.
February 12, Thursday

Action remains limited except for skirmishes near Smithfield and Charles Town, West Virginia; three-day Federal expeditions from Belle Plain to Mattoc Creek, Currioman and Nomini bays, Virginia, and from Pratt’s Landing to Heathsville, Virginia. There is also a two-day Union expedition from Batchelder’s Creek and a skirmish on the fourteenth at Sandy Ridge, North Carolina.

On the Red River, Queen of the West destroys a train of twelve army wagons, plus seventy barrels of beef and ammunition and stores from another wagon train. USS Conestoga captures two steamers on the White River, Arkansas.

CSS Florida captures and later destroys the clipper ship Jacob Bell in the West Indies. Cargo is valued at over $2,000,000 (over $52.7 million today).
February 13, Friday

US gunboat Indianola under George Brown passes the Vicksburg batteries at night with two barges without being struck, despite the efforts of the Confederates.

There is a skirmish near Washington, North Carolina; and a two-day Federal expedition from La Grange, Tennessee, to Mount Pleasant and Lamar, Mississippi; as well as a skirmish at Dranesville, Virginia.

At the White House in Washington, Mrs. Lincoln entertains the famous midget General Tom Thumb and his diminutive bride.
February 14, Saturday

On the Red River, Queen of the West captures the Confederate New Era No. 5. A few hours later, while engaging the Confederate batteries at Gordon’s Point, the Queen goes aground (misdirected, her crew will claim, by a treacherous pilot). The steam pipe is severed and the vessel has to be abandoned; there are wounded men aboard who cannot be moved, so Colonel Ellet is unable to destroy his vessel. Those that can, escape mainly by floating to the US army steamer De Soto on cotton bales. The commander, Charles Ellet, puts his crew on the captured New Era No. 5 and burns De Soto before retreating downriver toward the Mississippi.

There are affairs in Virginia near Union Mills, and on the Hillsborough Road, and a scout to Leesburg. From this day to the twenty-sixth there is a Federal expedition to Greenville, Mississippi, and Cypress Bend, Arkansas, with several skirmishes.
February 15, Sunday

Below Natchez on the Mississippi, Charles Ellet on New Era No. 5 meets another vessel sent down by Admiral Porter, the Indianola.

A day of skirmishing at Arkadelphia, Arkansas; and in Tennessee at Auburn, Cainsville, and Nolensville.

In Washington, President Lincoln is worried about the expedition being planned to attack Charleston.
February 16, Monday

The US Senate passes the Conscription Act.

Skirmishing breaks out at Bradyville, Tennessee; Yazoo Pass, Mississippi; and near Romney, West Virginia. At Yazoo Pass the action is part of the delaying operations of Confederates opposing Grant’s plan to move gunboats and men down the Yazoo and to the rear of Vicksburg by the backdoor.
February 17, Tuesday

posts itself at the mouth of the Red River on the Mississippi below Vicksburg in its operations against the Confederate riverboats.

Confederate guerrillas attack the Federal boat Hercules, and Federals burn Hopefield, Arkansas, near Memphis in retaliation. Two Federal expeditions operate for four days, one from Murfreesboro to Liberty, Tennessee, another from Memphis against guerrillas harassing the rear of the advancing Federals. Still another five-day Federal expedition operates from Lexington to Clifton, Tennessee.

In Chicago the order restricting circulation of the Chicago Times for its allegedly Copperhead sentiments is rescinded by Grant.

President Lincoln, concerned over the raiding in the rear of Federal armies and against their communications, suggests to General Rosecrans that counterraids be made.

Again Virginia and the armies along the Rappahannock are plagued by heavy snow.
February 18, Wednesday

General Beauregard, in command at Charleston, warns Confederates against anticipated attacks on either Charleston or Savannah and cries, “To arms, fellow citizens!”

Two divisions of Longstreet’s corps from the Army of Northern Virginia are ordered to move from Fredericksburg to east of Richmond to protect the capital from Federal threats via the Peninsula or south of the James.

There is an affair near Moscow, Tennessee, and until March 5 operations in central Kentucky with several skirmishes.

A Democratic convention at Frankfurt, Kentucky, is broken up by Federal authorities, as members are said to be pro-Confederate.
February 19, Thursday

Skirmishing breaks out as Grant’s army continues reconnaissance and scouts north of Vicksburg. Main fighting is near the Coldwater and Yazoo rivers. There is a skirmish at Leesburg, Virginia; a four-day Federal scout in Barton and Jasper counties, Missouri; a skirmish near Rover, Tennessee; and a Union expedition from Indian Village to Rosedale, Louisiana.

At Liverpool and Carlisle in Britain two mass meetings support Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

General Johnston had no more returned to Mobile, Alabama, after his inspection of Bragg’s Army of Tennessee at the end of January than he received instructions from Confederate Secretary of War James A. Seddon to go back to Tullahoma, order Bragg to Richmond, and take personal command of the army. Once again, however, a seemingly clear-cut course of action soon becomes muddled. Arriving in Tullahoma, Johnston finds Bragg distraught by the illness of his wife, who is believed to be dying. Johnston considerately delays the execution of his orders, but then finds his own health failing; by the time Bragg is able to return to duty, Johnston is unfit for it. Declaring himself unable to serve in the field, Johnston goes off to recover and leaves Bragg in command by default.

In the weeks after the battle at Stones River, Bragg has managed—as usual—to avoid unpleasant realities. He rejects responsibility for his defeat and places the blame on his commanders, especially Cheatham, Breckinridge, Polk, and Hardee. He does not see that his sour, suspicious nature has infected an army that has fought well and deserves better. Bragg simply turns his back on Murfreesboro and goes on with drilling and training his men. In his eyes, the battle just delays the opportunity to deal the army a crippling blow. He knows that Rosecrans will have to take Chattanooga in order to control Tennessee and invade Georgia from the west. and when the Federals move against Chattanooga, Bragg and the Army of Tennessee will be waiting for them.

Besides the situation with the Army of Tennessee, President Davis also continues to be anxious about the Vicksburg situation.
February 20, Friday

There is skirmishing near Fort Halleck, Dakota Territory, between Federal troops and Amerinds; and in Tennessee on the Shelbyville Pike.

The Confederate Congress act providing for issuance of bonds for funding treasury notes is approved.

Currency and coins in small denominations being very scarce in the North, merchants are issuing personal notes of one, two, and three cents’ value.
February 21, Saturday

Two Federal gunboats attack Confederate batteries at Ware’s Point on the Rappahannock in Virginia; there is a Federal reconnaissance from Franklin on the Lewisburg, Columbia, and Carter Creek roads, Tennessee.

A public reception is held at the White House in Washington, where the social life has been increasing of late.
February 22, Sunday

On this anniversary of the birth of George Washington, ground is broken at Sacramento, California, for the Central Pacific Railroad.

There is fighting at Tuscumbia, Alabama, and on the Manchester Pike, Tennessee.
February 23, Monday

President Lincoln receives the resignation of Simon Cameron, former Secretary of War, as minister to Russia.

There is an engagement at Fort Caswell, North Carolina, and an affair at Athens, Kentucky.

Union meetings are held at Cincinnati, Russellville, Kentucky, and Nashville, Tennessee.
February 24, Tuesday

The Confederates have quickly made the most of the captured Queen of the West, repairing her and returning her to action. Now, along with a second ram and two gunboats, she sails downriver and encounters the Indianola. A violent close quarter melee ensues. The Indianola is rammed seven times, and so badly damages that she has to be beached by her crew, who then surrender the partially sunk vessel. The action is a serious blow to Union operations below Vicksburg.

The Yazoo Pass expedition, intended to move through the Yazoo, Coldwater, and Tallahatchie rivers to the rear of Vicksburg, is well under way.

There is a skirmish near Strasburg, Virginia.

Arizona Territory is organized by the United States as separate from New Mexico Territory.
February 25, Wednesday

The Federal Congress completes passage of the Conscription Act. President Lincoln signs an act setting up a national bank system and national currency, and a Currency Bureau of the Treasury is established with a Comptroller of the Currency. In addition, an act to prevent correspondence with the “present pretended rebel government” is approved.

Off St. Thomas in the West Indies, USS Vanderbilt seizes the British merchantman Peterhoff as a blockade runner. The capture has been ordered by Acting Rear Admiral Charles Wilkes, “star” of the Trent Affair, from his West India Squadron flagship Wachusett. Peterhoff is bound for Matamoros, Mexico, and the British will claim the United States has no right to stop such trade, albeit some of the shipments into Mexican ports find their way into the Confederacy. While a major international crisis will be averted, the incident focuses attention on the considerable trade from Mexico into the South. Eventually courts will rule that the United States cannot halt shipping into a neutral port no matter what its ultimate destination.

Skirmishing occurs at Hartwood Church and near Winchester, Strasburg, Woodstock, and Chantilly, Virginia. Major General D.H. Hill assumes command of Confederate troops in North Carolina.

In Charleston, South Carolina, the price of bread per half-pound loaf goes to $0.25 ($6.59 today) and flour sells at $65 ($1,713.16) a barrel.
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