The American Civil War, day by day - Page 24 - Politics | PoFo

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September 6, Friday

In the morning a small squadron of two wooden gunboats and a few transports land Federal troops at Paducah, forestalling an obviously planned Confederate move from Columbus to the strategic Kentucky city at the mouth of the Tennessee. There is no fighting and no casualties. It is U.S. Grant’s first major victory and it is bloodless. By seizing Paducah, and later nearby Smithland at the mouth of the Cumberland, Grant has prevented Confederate forces from claiming the entire state of Kentucky and planting their northern line on the Ohio River. The move also foreshadows the river campaign of the coming year. Having occupied Paducah, Grant will write Fremont: “If it were discretionary with me, with a little addition to my present force I would take Columbus.”

Federal Brigadier General C.F. Smith is assigned to command in western Kentucky as Grant returns to Cairo.

There are skirmishes at Rowell’s Run, western Virginia, and Monticello Bridge, Missouri.
September 7, Saturday

In the North Union meetings continue during these days in some cities, while in others peace and pro-secessionist elements muster their forces. There are occasional arrests for alleged pro-rebellion activity, and suppression, or threat of suppression, of the press. The people are beginning to take sides more firmly and to evaluate their personal stands.

In the South the issue of Kentucky has been decided, and here, too, people are declaring themselves—while the citizens of Columbus may have requested protection from the Confederacy, when Brigadier General Anderson, having shifted his headquarters as commander of the Military District of Kentucky from Cincinnati, Ohio, to Frankfurt, Kentucky, appears this day before the state legislature he receives an ovation. In the mountains of east Tennessee and Kentucky the pro-Union feeling is congealing.

On this quiet day there are modest operations around Big Springs, Missouri, and a skirmish involving Amerinds near Santa Ana Canyon, California.
September 8, Sunday

President Davis, concerned over the many areas of the military front that demand attention, writes General Joseph E. Johnston at Manassas, “The cause of the Confederacy is staked upon your army.... I have felt, and feel, that time brings many advantages to the enemy, and wish we could strike him in his present condition; but it has seemed to me involved in too much probability of failure to render the movement proper with our present means. Had I the requisite arms, the argument would soon be changed.”

In Missouri there are Federal operations against guerillas and a reconnaissance from Cairo by the Federals with an engagement at Lucas Bend, Missouri, September 8-10.

Four blockade runners are taken off Cape Hatteras by Federals.
Potemkin wrote:Precisely. A lot of people seem to become giddy whenever things are going well, only to instantly flip over into defeatism as soon as one battle is lost. The Bolsheviks had the same problem with their 'ultra-leftists' just after the Revolution. For example, after their initial successes against the Poles, Bukharin wanted Lenin to invade Germany, but as soon as the Bolsheviks lost a battle at Warsaw, he immediately advised Lenin to sign a humiliating peace treaty and surrender almost all of their hard-won positions. Lenin excoriated such people for their "infantile disorder". Wars are won, in general, by a stubborn, relentless refusal to give up when things get tough and - just as importantly - by a refusal to get carried away with giddy euphoria just because you've won a single small skirmish. Lenin knew this, and Lincoln knew it.

Another great example of at least the stubborn refusal to quit was the Roman Republic during its first two wars with Carthage. In the first war Rome had to become a naval power as well as a land power, and initially they weren't very good at it--the weather was at least as much of a killer as the Carthaginian fleet, practically entire Roman fleets lost to storms. The Romans just buckled down and built another one. And while Canae is remembered as the great victory of Hannibal over the Romans during his invasion of Italy, it was actually the third Roman army that he monster-stomped over. The Romans still fought on, even if they switched to a Fabian strategy for awhile (named after the Roman general in charge in Italy then), and most of their allies stuck with them. Apparently those allies had a better read on Roman character than Hannibal.
Doug64 wrote:Another great example of at least the stubborn refusal to quit was the Roman Republic during its first two wars with Carthage. In the first war Rome had to become a naval power as well as a land power, and initially they weren't very good at it--the weather was at least as much of a killer as the Carthaginian fleet, practically entire Roman fleets lost to storms. The Romans just buckled down and built another one. And while Canae is remembered as the great victory of Hannibal over the Romans during his invasion of Italy, it was actually the third Roman army that he monster-stomped over. The Romans still fought on, even if they switched to a Fabian strategy for awhile (named after the Roman general in charge in Italy then), and most of their allies stuck with them. Apparently those allies had a better read on Roman character than Hannibal.

They had just got through fighting against the Romans for several centuries, so they knew they weren't going to just give up. Besides, the Romans had a gift for politics - the allies had got a better deal from the Romans than they were ever likely to get from the Carthaginians, and they knew it. And they also knew that Hannibal would come and go, but Rome would always be there, and would be likely to brutally punish their disloyalty some day. Besides, Hannibal wasn't the first would-be conqueror of Rome who won every battle but lost the war - the phrase "Pyrrhic victory" exists for a reason. Lol.

Most journalists, of course, understand nothing of all this, and therefore tend to be chickenhawks. That was true in Lincoln's day, and it's still true in our day.
September 9, Monday

President Lincoln is troubled over the operations in the West and General Fremont, his commander there. The influential Blair family is urging the removal of Fremont. Lincoln sends Major General David Hunter to advise and aid the general.

There is a skirmish at Shepherdstown, western Virginia, as the threat of new major action looms in that area. Federal forces under Rosecrans move toward Confederates near Carnifix Ferry, Cox and other Federals are operating in the Kanawha Valley, while a third force digs in at Cheat Mountain to face Confederate operations under the general command of Robert E. Lee.
September 10, Tuesday

Rosecrans’ Federal command strikes Brigadier General (and former Secretary of War and Virginia Governor) John B. Floyd’s Confederates at Carnifix Ferry, a strategic crossing on the Gauley River in southwestern Virginia, but fails to break the Southern lines. However, outnumbered and in a bad position Floyd withdraws his Confederates during the night toward Dogwood Gap and Sewell Mountain. Casualties are light, but the Northern victory is useful in holding western Virginia for the Union. Floyd had attempted to hold his position against Lee’s advice and over his rival (also a former governor of Virginia) Henry A. Wise’s protest, and blames Wise for his loss. Meanwhile to the north, General R.E. Lee is planning his assault on Cheat Mountain.

At Lewinsville, Virginia, there is a small skirmish.

At Lucas Bend, Missouri, Confederates fight the Federal gunboats Lexington and Conestoga.

General Albert Sidney Johnston is appointed to command of Tennessee, Missouri, Arkansas, and Kentucky for the Confederates and becomes, actually, commander of the Western armies of the South. Johnston is the South’s ideal picture of a soldier, a man that exudes command presence. He was two years ahead of Jefferson Davis at West Point and had treated Davis so well that the future Confederate president contracted a permanent case of hero worship and considers him the greatest man now living, North or South. Nor is this just a Southern view, William Tecumseh Sherman describes Johnston as “a real general,” and Grant would later say that officers who knew him “expected him to prove the most formidable man that the Confederacy would produce.” General Winfield Scott, who described Johnston as “a godsend to the Army,” offered him high command. When Johnston, in command in California when the war began, went to the Confederacy, Federal officers mourned and Confederates celebrated a victory. Like many other Southerners he considered secession a calamity, but his loyalty to Texas never wavered.

Brigadier General George H. Thomas, a Virginian who has remained with the Union, is assigned to command Camp Dick Robinson in eastern Kentucky.
Late at night President Lincoln has a visitor—Mrs. John Charles Fremont, who has traveled from St. Louis to protest the treatment of her husband and to urge support of his emancipation and confiscation order. Although accounts will vary, President Lincoln will be said to have received the demanding woman coolly.
September 11, Wednesday

For five days General R.E. Lee and his Confederates campaign actively against the Federals, the heavy rains of the season, and the rugged mountains in western Virginia. Dividing his forces into five columns, Lee plans to attack the separated Union forces of J.J. Reynolds at Cheat Mountain Summit and Elkwater. There is light fighting at Conrad’s Mill; on the twelfth one Confederate column under Colonel Albert Rust fails to attack in what was supposed to be the signal for a general assault. The element of surprise is now gone and the weather growing worse. By the thirteenth it is clear that Lee’s plan has failed miserably, both because it required complicated movements and close cooperation, and because of the rough terrain and incessant rains. On the fifteenth the Confederates pull back. General Lee’s response to the fiasco is, “We must try again.” Casualties are light on both sides, but, coupled with Carnifix Ferry, it is a considerable disaster to Confederate plans to regain western Virginia. Furthermore, the campaign results in serious criticism of Lee from newspapers, civilians, and soldiers, and will dim his reputation for some months.

After this battle and the Federal occupation of the region, roving bands of Confederate irregulars will launch a campaign of ambush and raiding west of the Alleghenies on the flank of the Shenandoah Valley. “Their methods outrivaled the savage,” a Federal officer will claim. “They would lie in wait until an opportunity presented itself to kill the party they sought. Then they would remain watching the corpse to kill the men who might come to bury it.” The Federals will fight back with stratagems of their own. “The command became an army of scouts,” an Ohio soldier will recall, “adopting perforce a system of independent warfare.” The men will travel light, carrying only their weapons, ammunition, blankets, and perhaps some coffee and salt to trade with farmers in return for a hot meal and a place to sleep. The patrolling will often be brutal business. “There was no sentiment in driving bushwackers from their lairs,” a Federal soldier will write. “They never made an open attack. A puff of smoke and the whiz of a bullet was the only warning.” When the weather turns too cold to fight, the irregulars will simply return to their farms and pass themselves off as pro-Union men. And the Federals will retreat to their camps, where they face long, lonely days of picket duty and drill before the next round of bushfighting.

Near Washington there is a reconnaissance by Federals from Chain Bridge to Lewinsville, Virginia, and some action.

President Lincoln, after his interview with Mrs. Fremont of the night before, writes the general that he would order that the clause in relation to confiscation of property and emancipation of slaves in his famous proclamation be modified to conform with the acts of Congress.

The Kentucky legislature passes a resolution calling on the governor to order the Confederate troops in the state to leave. Another resolution calling for both Northern and Southern troops to leave is defeated. Unionists appear to be in control of the political machinery in Kentucky.
September 12, Thursday

In addition to the marching and fighting around Cheat Mountain and Elkwater, there is skirmishing at Petersburg and near Peytona, western Virginia, and in Missouri on the Blackwater.

In the northwestern part of that state on the Missouri River, General Price and his Missouri troops leave Springfield—occupied after Lyon’s shattered force withdrew—and converge 125 miles northwest on the commercial town of Lexington, where a Federal force under Colonel James Mulligan is posted due to its status as the most important center of population between St. Louis and Kansas City. Price regards it as an important first step in reoccupying Missouri. Vastly outnumbering the Federals, Price’s men push aside the pickets and begin what will be a nine-day siege of Lexington.

The Federal government orders the arrest of allegedly disloyal members of the Maryland legislature scheduled to convene in Frederick September 17. Numerous arrests will be made between September 12 and 17 and Maryland will remain firmly loyal to the Union.

President Lincoln writes Mrs. Fremont that he protests “against being understood as acting in any hostility” toward the general. But he does send Joseph Holt to St Louis to deliver to Fremont Lincoln’s letter modifying the emancipation order. Despite Lincoln’s instructions, Fremont will free at least two slaves of a Confederate officer.

At Russellville, Kentucky, Simon Buckner calls upon Kentuckians to defend their homes against the invasion of the North.
September 13, Friday

The siege of Lexington, Missouri, is well under way as Confederate lines press in on Union forces dug in around a small college. There is a minor action at Boonville, Missouri, but no indication that Fremont and his commanders are doing much to relieve Mulligan at Lexington.

President Davis writes Governor Letcher of Virginia protesting the governor’s allegations of lack of security for the state.
September 14, Saturday

President Davis rejects a complaint by General Joseph E. Johnston about the ranking of Confederate generals, one of the most galling incidents in a long series that will lead to the estrangement of the President and his general.

There is a skirmish at Old Randolph, Missouri.

At Pensacola Harbor, Florida, small boats from USS Colorado cut out the Confederate privateer Judah and destroy her by fire.
September 15, Sunday

President Lincoln and the Cabinet meet again to discuss possible removal of General Fremont, who is a sore problem to Lincoln at this time. The President also defends his government’s action in arresting, without charges, allegedly disloyal citizens of Maryland.

There is a light skirmish at Pritchard’s Mill, Virginia, near Antietam Ford, Maryland.

General Albert Sydney Johnston assumes command of the Confederate armies in the West, superseding Major General Polk.

In Missouri the uproar against General Fremont is heightened when he has Colonel-politician Frank Blair arrested.
September 16, Monday

At Lexington, Missouri, Major General Price begins his major push against the besieged Federal forces under Colonel Mulligan.

Confederates, on the other hand, evacuate Ship Island, Mississippi, not far from the mouth of the Mississippi below New Orleans and a few hours later it is occupied by Federal troops in small numbers. This will be an excellent station for patrolling the eastern delta outlets and the passes down out of Lake Pontchartain, as well as the ideal base from which to eventually launch an attack on New Orleans itself.

USS Conestoga takes two prizes on the Cumberland River in Kentucky as river operations in the West heighten.

There is skirmishing opposite Seneca Creek, Maryland, in Virginia; at Magruder’s Ferry, Virginia; and at Princeton, western Virginia.

The Confederate Secretary of War Leroy P. Walker, employed beyond his capabilities and knowing it, swamped with work and trussed up in yards of red tape, resigns to join the army where a man has only the comparatively simple frets of being killed or mangled. As a Brigadier General he will be given command of the garrisons in Mobile and Montgomery, Alabama. President Davis replaces him with Judah P. Benjamin, who has been largely wasting his talents as Attorney General since the Justice Department no more has courts than the Postal Office, in the early months, has stamps. The War Office, left in a snarl by Walker, is the perfect field for Benjamin’s administrative capabilities, though Benjamin will also continue to act as Attorney General until November 15th.
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