The American Civil War, day by day - Page 33 - Politics | PoFo

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January 17, Friday

Gunboats with troops under Brigadier General C.F. Smith demonstrate until the twenty-second against Fort Henry on the Tennessee River, as part of the two-prong major reconnaissance in Kentucky. Confederate gunners fire on the gunboats, but ineffectually. Upon his return Smith will write to Grant, “I think two ironclad gunboats would make short work of Fort Henry.” Smith had been commandant of cadets at West Point when Grant attended, and Grant has still been inordinately respectful of Smith and has had trouble giving him orders. Smith, a professional to the core, has been able to put Grant at ease, but his opinions carry weight. The other prong consists mainly of McClernand’s troops of Grant’s command from Cairo. Bad weather hampers the expeditions and a heavy ice gorge blocks the Mississippi twenty miles below St. Louis, halting shipping.
January 18, Saturday

Former President of the United States John Tyler, seventy-two, dies in Richmond. He will be buried with elaborate services in Hollywood Cemetery on the banks of the James.

The Confederate Territory of Arizona is formed, consisting of the southern half of the Federal New Mexico Territory.

In Kentucky, in the vicinity of Mill Springs and Somerset, Federal forces under General George H. Thomas are converging on Confederates commanded by Brigadier General George B. Crittenden, who, thanks to his subordinate Brigadier General Felix Zollicoffer, is in a vulnerable position with his back to the Cumberland River.
January 19, Sunday

On the north bank of the Cumberland River is fought one of the two principle battles of the war in Kentucky, variously known as Mill Springs, Logan’s Cross Roads, Fishing Creek, Somerset, or Beech Grove. Confederate Brigadier General George B. Crittenden, realizing an attack is near, moves out in the darkness and heavy rain through shin-deep mud. Zollicoffer, conspicuous in his white raincoat, leads his Southern brigade in an attack that drives the Federal cavalry back. But during fighting at close quarters a nearsighted Zollicoffer approaches an officer and begins giving him orders. The officer is a Federal colonel, who shoots him dead; Zollicoffer’s men see him fall and are thrown into confusion. General Crittenden rallies the Confederates and renews the assault, at first regaining lost ground, especially in the center where their fire rakes the Federals at close range from a deep ravine. But more Federals under George H. Thomas come up, and after three hours of desperate fighting Federal troops mount a strong bayonet charge that smashes Crittenden’s left flank and buckles the entire Confederate line which quickly turns into first a precipitous retreat and then a rout. With difficulty the Southerners withdraw across the rain-swollen Cumberland during the night on a small steamboat and some barges, but they are forced to leave behind tents, mules, much of their food and most of their wounded. Crittenden’s troops are demoralized by the defeat, and the general himself is severely criticized for being in a position not of his own choosing. It is the first break in the Confederate Kentucky defense line, running from Cumberland Gap to Columbus on the Mississippi, leaving it wide open on the right. However, the mountain terrain is so rough that Thomas is unable to immediately pursue his advantage.

There were about 4,000 Federals on the field, with 39 killed, 207 wounded, and 15 captured or missing for casualties if 261. The Confederates also had about 4,000 effectives, with losses of 125 killed, 309 wounded, and 99 missing for a total of 533. A moderately small but strategically important battle, it presages things to come in the West, shows the weakness of the Confederate line, and boosts the Federal cause among the people of Kentucky and eastern Tennessee.
January 20, Monday

The Confederates complete their withdrawal across the Cumberland at Mill Springs, Kentucky, leaving the spoils of war to the Federals.

In Charleston Harbor a second group of hulks loaded with stone is sunk by the Yankees at the entrance of the shipping channel to halt blockade runners. As usual, this operation will not be long effective.

January 20-24 there are minor operations and skirmishing in and about Atchison, Kansas.

A blockade runner, known as the British Andracita or Confederate J.W. Wilder, is run ashore by Federal vessels off the coast of Alabama. Federal small boats try to take possession but are driven off by Confederate land troops.
January 21, Tuesday

The Federal reconnaissance of about five thousand from Grant’s command in Cairo, Illinois, returns from a difficult but satisfactory expedition into western Kentucky. There was little or no fighting, yet a definite threat had been posed to the Confederate bastion at Columbus, Kentucky.

In Richmond the news of the defeat at Mills Springs, the expedition from Cairo, the threat of Burnside’s invasion of North Carolina, and the winter doldrums in the armies are having their effect.
January 22, Wednesday

There is light shelling of Fort Henry on the Tennessee River by Federal gunboats; a skirmish at Knobnoster, Missouri, and the occupation of Lebanon, Missouri by Federals.

Richmond authorities name Brigadier General Henry A. Wise to the Confederate command at Roanoke Island, which is seriously threatened by Burnside’s overwhelming force at Hatteras Inlet.
January 23, Thursday

In St. Louis Major General Halleck puts teeth into his martial law orders and seizes the property of pro-secessionists who have failed to pay assessments for the aid of pro-Northern fugitives. Army officers are empowered to arrest anyone interfering with the execution of orders.

A small Confederate force carries off the county records from Blandville, Kentucky.
January 24, Friday

Two blockade runners are stopped off the mouth of the Mississippi; the Federal lightship off Cape Henry, Virginia, goes ashore and its crew is captured.

There is a week of small expeditions by Federals to the Little Sandy River and Piketon, Kentucky, part of the eastern Kentucky operations.

General Grant, convinced by General Smith’s opinion that an attack on Fort Henry would succeed, travels to St. Louis to talk to his superior, General Halleck. But he hardly starts speaking before Halleck cuts him off. Halleck has been considering such a move for weeks, and wants no advice from a junior officer.
January 25, Saturday

At Hatteras Inlet foul weather has long delayed Burnside’s Federal expedition targeting Roanoke Island, fierce gales whipping the waves into towering walls of water. At times the Picket, the tiny boat that Burnside had transferred to in order to calm his men, has appeared doomed, but fortunately remains afloat and no men are lost. Now the weather has finally calmed enough for Flag Officer Goldsborough to begin passing the ships over the sandbar into Pamlico Sound, only to receive a nasty shock—in spite of the risks they took to bring ships with such shallow drafts, they’re still too deep by about two feet for many of the ships to clear the sandbar even when they are lightened of men and cargo. For a time it appears the entire expedition will have to be scrapped, but a solution is found—a few of the largest transports are deliberately driven onto the sandbar under full steam, then held in place by tugs and anchor as the tide digs out the sand beneath their keels. Once afloat, they are driven farther into the sandbar until, foot by painful foot, a deep channel is cleared and the flotilla begins to enter Pamlico Sound. The last of the transports won’t clear the bar until February 4th.

During this time the Federal expedition is incredibly vulnerable to attack, but Brigadier General Henry A. Wise—the former governor of Virginia that gave General Lee so many headaches during his failed campaign in western Virginia—has only eight small work boats that have been converted to gunboats by placing a single 32-pounder per ship (save the CSS Sea Bird, which has two). General Wise has contemptuously referred to them as a “mosquito fleet,” and the name has stuck. It could do little more than sting the 64-gun Federal fleet, and would run the constant risk of being wiped out. His forces aren’t much better on land, to oppose the Union’s 13,000 troops some 1,400 men on Roanoke Island with Wise’s sole reserves some 800 troops stationed at Nags Head on the Outer Banks and 700 men on route from Norfolk. He also has little in the way of artillery—three forts with a total of 25 guns covering the channel along the island’s west coast, and on the mainland a barge mounting seven guns hauled up on the mud flats and given the plucky name of Fort Forrest. Wise knows how outmatched he is and has been bombarding authorities in Richmond for further reinforcements, to no avail—Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin argues that little can be spared without seriously weakening the Confederate battlefront in northern Virginia. The only person in a position to offer Wise real assistance is his immediate superior, Major General Benjamin Huger, who has 13,000 idle men at his disposal. But his response to Wise’s request is that he should demand “hard work and coolness among the troops you have, instead of more men.”

At Romney, Virginia, General Loring’s brigades that General Stonewall Jackson left to garrison the town are not happy with their assignment. Eleven of Loring’s brigade and regimental commanders sign a petition to Loring: “Instead of finding, as expected, a little repose during midwinter, we are ordered to remain at this place. Our position at and near Romney is one of the most disagreeable and unfavorable that could well be imagined.” When Loring receives the petition, he writes a covering note saying that it sets forth “the true conditions of this army” and sends it through channels to Jackson. Jackson dispatches it to the War Department with a brusque notation: “Respectfully forwarded, but disapproved.” To ensure that his officers’ petition doesn’t get stopped on its way to Richmond, Loring breaks with protocol and gives Colonel Taliaferro, about to depart for Richmond on leave, a copy of the petition and asks him to hand it personally to President Davis.
January 26, Sunday

There is a Federal naval reconnaissance January 26-28 at Wilmington Narrows or Freeborn’s Cut, Georgia.

The Confederate government orders General P.G.T. Beauregard from the Potomac District to the West, where he becomes second-in-command to Albert Sidney Johnston in that threatened area. This leaves General Joseph E. Johnston in full command in Virginia.
January 27, Monday

President Lincoln takes an unprecedented step by issuing the President’s General War Order No. 1. Long disappointed and chagrined by the lack of action of the major Federal armies, the President “Order[s] that the 22d of February 1862, be the day for a general movement of the Land and Naval forces of the United States against the insurgent forces.” He calls especially for advances from the army about Fort Monroe, the Army of the Potomac, the Army of Western Virginia, the army in Kentucky, the force at Cairo, and the naval force in the Gulf of Mexico. This remarkable order is intended to bring about aggressive military operations, and is issued only after constant urging by President Lincoln for advances east and west.

Emperor Louis Napoleon of France tells the French people that the American Civil War “has seriously compromised our commercial interests,” but that France will confine herself to hoping for termination of the war as long as the rights of neutrals are respected.
January 28, Tuesday

There is skirmishing for several days near Greensburg, Kentucky, and Lebanon, Missouri.


In Washington, the Joint Committee on the Operation of the War calls for the arrest of Brigadier General Charles Stone. The Joint Committee would have preferred to target General McClellan, but the President’s support for the general makes that impossible so instead they targeted one of his subordinates. As the field commander at the Ball’s Bluff debacle in late October, Stone is highly vulnerable and a convenient scapegoat. In the committee hearings, vague testimony suggested that he was a Southern sympathizer and some of his officers alleged that just before Ball’s Bluff a mysterious conference with Confederate officers was held under a flag of truce, and that messages passed to and from Confederate officers across the upper Potomac. None of these allegations were ever proved, but that didn’t help Stone. Neither did his own appearance before the committee in January—partly because he was never told the specific nature of the testimony against him, but also because of an order from McClellan forbidding him to give testimony “regarding [McClellan's] plans, his orders for the movement of troops, or his orders concerning the position of troops.” This made it impossible for Stone to explain his movements to the committee, but kept McClellan out of the investigation as well. Now, the new Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, clearly signals that he is in league with the Radicals of the Joint Committee by issuing an order to McClellan for Stone’s arrest. McClellan will sit on the order for as long as he can.
January 29, Wednesday

A small Federal force breaks up a group of Confederate dancers at a party at Lee’s House on the Occoquan in Virginia after a brief skirmish.

Major General Earl Van Dorn assumes command of the Trans-Mississippi District of the Confederacy. Like the man he is essentially replacing, General Sterling Price, he has grandiose plans and is eager for action.

General Grant indicates that he is aiming at a major offensive move from Fort Henry once it is captured.

There are several days of mild skirmishing in and around Blue Springs, Missouri.
January 30, Thursday

A large crowd gathers at Greenpoint, Long Island, New York, to witness the launching of the USS Monitor, the revolutionary iron ship constructed by John Ericsson. It has been a chancy journey to this point, the design very nearly being rejected by the Ironclad Board in September—Ericsson’s strange design looks like nothing the Board has ever seen. It will be described by one future observer as a hatbox on a raft, with freeboard of only eighteen inches and a flat bottom drawing just ten feet six inches, ideal for shallow Southern coastal waters and for rivers with their snags and sand bars, but dangerous on the open sea; but the truly revolutionary feature is the single cylindrical revolving turret in the center of the deck containing two massive guns mounted side by side. It is with some difficulty that Ericsson convinced the Board to accept his design, his promise that he could build the ship in only ninety days being a major selling point—already the Union Navy has been tardy in advancing the development of ironclad ships in spite of learning that the Confederates are converting hulk of the USS Merrimac into an ironclad of their own. Still, the Board gave Ericsson one hundred days, and now the strange-looking craft slides into the water with the cheers of the crowd and salutes from neighboring vessels. It’s eighteen days later than the contract specified, but much sooner than anyone else had believed possible.

At Southampton, England, the two Confederate commissioners to Britain and France, Mason and Slidell, land from a British vessel, completing their delayed voyage after having been taken from the Trent by the Federals and held in prison.

By now Halleck has received General Smith’s appraisal of the weakness of Fort Henry’s defenses, and is inclined to agree; he also puts much stock in Smith. But what may have actually forced his decision is a message from Washington that Confederate General Beauregard, the man that reduced Fort Sumter and routed the Union army at Bull Run, is heading west, allegedly with 15 regiments, to support Sidney Johnston. Halleck wires Grant: MAKE YOUR PREPARATIONS TO TAKE AND HOLD FORT HENRY. General Grant immediately begins preparations.
January 31, Friday

To implement the President’s General War Order No. 1, President Lincoln issues the President’s Special War Order No. 1, which pertains specifically to the Army of the Potomac. That army is ordered to form an expedition to seize and occupy “a point upon the Rail Road South Westward of what is known of [sic] Manassas Junction.” This is to be done before or on February 22, and is aimed at forcing General McClellan to open offensive operations overland in Virginia. Lincoln will later admit that it is “all wrong” to intervene so directly in military operations, but his amateurish orders do have a salutary effect on McClellan Faced with the order to move against Manassas, he will at last be compelled to take the President into his confidence and explain in detail the plan that has been incubating for nearly three months to shift the Army of the Potomac down the Potomac and approach the Confederate capital from the east.

The Federal Congress authorizes the President to take possession of telegraph and railroad lines whenever the public safety requires it.

Colonel Taliaferro has delivered the petition signed by General Loring’s officers at Romney, Virginia, to President Jefferson Davis, and shown the President on a map where Romney is located. Davis says that General Jackson has made a mistake and orders a telegram be sent to him. This same day a decree changing Jackson’s dispositions is sent through and signed by Secretary of War Benjamin. Alleging that a Federal force is moving to cut off General Loring’s command, the document states flatly: “Order him back to Winchester immediately.”

Upon receipt of the order, Jackson dutifully recalls Loring’s command to Winchester, then dispatches a letter to his immediate superior, General Johnston, to be forwarded to Richmond: “With such interference, I cannot expect to be of much service in the field, and accordingly respectfully request to be ordered to report for duty to the superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute at Lexington. Should this application not be granted, I respectfully request that the President will accept my resignation from the Army.” Johnston will hold onto the letter for several days in hopes of saving Jackson’s career by writing him asking that he reconsider. When Jackson declines to respond, Johnston will reluctantly forward the letter to Richmond. Jackson also sends an unofficial explanation to a friend and neighbor from his Lexington days—Virginia Governor John Letcher: “A single order like that of the Secretary’s may destroy the entire fruits of a campaign.... If I ever acquired, though the blessing of Providence, any influence over troops, this undoing of my work by the Secretary may greatly diminish that influence.... I desire to say nothing against the secretary of war. I take it for granted that he has done what he believes to be best, but I regard such a policy ruinous.” As soon as Letcher receives Jackson’s letter, he will go to Secretary Benjamin’s office to find the Secretary distinctly uncomfortable at the stir he has caused and willing to discuss the matter. What terms are proposed for a reconciliation will never be known, but Letcher will be authorized to communicate them to Jackson. Letcher will choose as his emissary another old friend of Jackson’s, Congressman Alexander R. Boteler.

In Britain Queen Victoria declares it is her purpose to observe neutrality in the American Civil War.
February 1, Saturday

There is a skirmish near Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Federal authorities and Amerind chiefs meet at Leavenworth, Kansas.
February 2, Sunday

Only a small skirmish in Morgan County, Tennessee, marks the day in fighting, but General Grant’s expedition assembling on the Ohio at the mouth of the Tennessee is rapidly taking shape.
February 3, Monday

Troop transports are moving from Cairo to Paducah, Kentucky, and the gunboat fleet begins heading up the Tennessee or south toward Fort Henry. Grant wants to land his troops just beyond the range of the fort’s guns and to find out the range he steams upstream in the Essex and opens fire. The fort responds with one of its best guns, a 6-inch rifle. The fire hits the Essex and rattles things about without doing much harm. The Confederate gunners cheer as the Essex falls quickly downstream, but Grant has his answer.

In very quiet Virginia there is a Federal reconnaissance to Ocoquan Village.

In Washington President Lincoln deftly declines the offer of war elephants from the King of Siam because the nation “does not reach a latitude so low as to favor the multiplication of the elephant.” More importantly, he brings out in a letter to General McClellan the conflict between their ideas of operations in Virginia. President Lincoln urges him to go directly overland south, while McClellan favors loading his army on transports, steaming down the Potomac River into the Chesapeake Bay, then following its coast to the mouth of the Rappahannock River and up that stream to Urbanna. At this landing on the Rappahannock's southern bank, McClellan would disembark, 50 miles from Richmond and in the rear of the Confederates along the Manassas line. This same day, McClellan completes a 22-page letter comparing the two plans—his and Lincoln’s—and naturally concluding that his is the better. Lincoln is not wholly persuaded, worrying that removing the bulk of the army from in front of Washington might open the capital to a sudden offensive by the Confederates in northern Virginia. Nonetheless, Lincoln feels that he either has to fire McClellan, which he is not prepared to do, or go along with the general’s plan. Without revoking his two attack orders issued on January 27th and the 31st, he will quietly let them lapse.

The US administration decides that crews of captured privateers are to be considered prisoners of war.

In the US Senate Zachariah Chandler of Michigan presents a resolution from the Michigan legislature which urges the putting down of insurrection, confiscation of property of Southerners, and abolition of slavery. This is similar to many petitions and pleas coming to Congress at this time, while in the other direction there are those who protest the trend toward making it a war against slavery.
February 4, Tuesday

Federal troops begin landing in the rain on the soggy banks of the Tennessee north of Fort Henry, as gunboats carry out a reconnaissance to the fort on the east bank of the river just south of the Kentucky-Tennessee state line. In the meantime, Fort Henry’s strongest enemy—the river itself—is coming up swiftly. At first General Tilghman isn’t dismayed by the approach of the gunboats—in a wire to General Johnston, he says that if reinforced quickly he has A GLORIOUS CHANCE TO OVERWHELM THE ENEMY. But no reinforcements are forthcoming, and the water creeps inside the gates of the fort and keeps rising.

In Richmond the Virginia House of Delegates discusses enrolling free Blacks in the Confederate Army; Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin cracks down on speculators, particularly in sales of saltpeter needed for powder; and the Richmond Examiner feels “that the Southern people are not sufficiently alive to the necessity of exertion in the struggle they are involved in. better to fight even at the risk of losing battles, than remain inactive to fill up inglorious graves.” Meanwhile, Confederate generals appeal to troops whose terms are about to expire to reenlist.

At Hatteras Inlet, General Burnside’s expedition against Roanoke Island has finally entered Pamlico Inlet, but again is beset by rough weather. The weather won’t clear for several days. There will be no surprising the Confederates.
February 5, Wednesday

Troops continue to file ashore north of Fort Henry on the Tennessee to cooperate with the gunboats in the coming Federal attack. They are to move on the fort early on the 6th. General C.F. Smith’s force is sent west of the river to take Fort Heiman, unfinished, on the bluffs above Fort Henry. It is found evacuated. Confederate Brigadier General Lloyd Tilghman, with somewhat over 3,000 men, fears the worst. The water is two feet deep at the flagpole, soon his guns at the lowest level will be flooded. And he doesn’t like the looks of the great flotilla of troop transports that is following the gunboats. He decides to pull out the bulk of his men and send them twelve miles to safety at the stronger Fort Donelson. When the main garrison is well on the road to Fort Donelson, Tilghman and some of his staff turn back to fight with the fewer than a hundred infantry and artillerists left behind to buy time.

Indiana Senator Jesse D. Bright is expelled from the US Senate by a vote of 32 to 14 for alleged complicity with enemies of the United States.

The East Room of the White House is filled this evening for a ball given by Mrs. Lincoln. The social press is full of praise.

In Britain Queen Victoria lifts all prohibitions against shipping gunpowder, arms, ammunition, and military stores from the United Kingdom.
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