The American Civil War, day by day - Page 38 - Politics | PoFo

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I goofed yesterday and posted the April 10 from 1863! :( So here’s two day’s worth to get it right.

April 10, Thursday

President Lincoln approves the joint resolution of Congress calling for gradual emancipation of the slaves by the states.

For several weeks Brigadier General Quincy Adams Gillmore has been preparing the Federal attack on Fort Pulaski on Cockspur Island near the entrance to the harbor of Savannah, Georgia. Gillmore’s men have erected heavy batteries on Tybee Island, across the Savannah River facing the fort. The sturdily built work is garrisoned by 385 men under Colonel Charles H. Olmstead and holds 48 guns. It is feared that ordinary smoothbore shot and shell can never penetrate the brick walls from the distance they have to be placed, and so for the first time against such fortifications rifled guns with long range and penetrating shells are brought into play. On this cool, clear morning the Federal bombardment from Tybee Island begins. Fire from both sides increases rapidly, with many scars appearing on the outer walls of the fort. In the afternoon the bombardment slackens, but several guns in the fort have been dismounted and the walls badly dented.

On the Peninsula, predictably, General McClellan’s long delay gives the Confederates time to fulfill his fears and send reinforcements. For a while Richmond had delayed in sending troops because McClellan’s objective had not yet become obvious; his target might have been Norfolk, for example. Even after McClellan’s plans appeared clear, Johnston has been reluctant to furnish troops from his army, which by now is encamped south of the Rappahannock and Rapidan Rivers, 50 miles northwest of Richmond. Johnston considers the Peninsula fortifications indefensible—easy prey for McClellan’s big guns and susceptible to a flanking move up the York River. Instead of sharing his strength with General Magruder, he prefers to concentrate all the available Confederate forces in front of Richmond and there fend off and destroy McClellan’s invaders. Jefferson Davis has undertaken to convince Johnston to reinforce the Peninsula, with the help of General Robert E. Lee. Lee’s patience and tact have made him the perfect intermediary between the thin-skinned Johnston and the prickly President. In direct opposition to Johnston, Lee believes that the narrow Peninsula affords great advantages for an outnumbered defensive force. And yet Lee has dealt so diplomatically with Johnston that he has been able to impose his strategy without serious discord. Today Johnston begins gradually shifting units from his army to the Peninsula.

Elsewhere there is a skirmish near Fernandina, another episode in the “small war” that plagues Florida.

For the Federals, Major General Samuel R. Curtis assumes command of the District of Kansas.

President Davis wires governors of Confederate states, “Genl. Beauregard must have reinforcements to meet the vast accumulation of the enemy before him.”

Police break up a counterfeiting ring in St. Louis.

April 11, Friday

Federal guns from Tybee Island roar forth again in the morning against wounded Fort Pulaski on the Savannah River near the major Confederate port of Savannah, Georgia. Soon Pulaski’s fire slackens as the rifled guns and heavy artillery of the Federals, well protected, silence more of the fort’s guns and blast two visible holes through the brick walls. Youthful Confederate commander Colonel Charles H. Olmstead makes his decision and in midafternoon surrenders. Over five thousand shot and shell have been fired against the fort, with only one Federal killed. For the Confederates, the fort is a wreck, but only one man died, although others have been wounded. The fall of Fort Pulaski successfully blocks the main channel to Savannah and greatly strengthens the effectiveness of the never-ceasing Federal blockade. Once more, as it has so often this spring, the Confederacy reels from another blow.

General Mitchel takes Hunstville, Alabama, completely by surprise, seizing 200 prisoners, 15 locomotives, and a large number of cars. Then he uses his captured rolling stock to occupy key positions along 70 miles of the railroad in both directions, west to Decatur and east to Stevenson, just 35 miles from Chattanooga. Never one to understate his accomplishments, Mitchel reports to Buell’s headquarters, “We have at length succeeded in cutting the great artery of railroad intercommunication between the Southern States.”

And there is yet more. Troops of Brigadier General Ormsby Mitchel occupies Huntsville, Alabama, on the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, not far from Chattanooga, albeit his forces are small in number. Still they are threatening.
There is a skirmish at Wartrace, Tennessee, and at another Shiloh, this time in Missouri. At the siege of Yorktown on the Peninsula there is further light skirmishing.

At Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee, Major General Henry W. Halleck, Federal commander in the West, arrives to take charge of the troops. Alarmed by the near-defeat, Halleck removes Grant from field command and appoints him to a new, meaningless post, second in command of the armies in the West. In fact, there is nothing for Grant to do. Humiliated, he thinks about leaving the Army again. One day Sherman will visit to find him packing to leave, and with some effort convinces Grant to stay in the Army.

Meanwhile, orders are out to concentrate the Federal army. Already Grant and Buell are there, and Pope soon will be. From the build-up it is clear the Federals intend to move against Corinth and the deep South. Confederate governors are trying to respond to Davis’s call for troops for defense of Mississippi.

Once more the redoubtable Virginia is out. From Norfolk, Virginia, the Confederate ironclad steams into Hampton Roads with accompanying gunboats. There is uproar and consternation among the Federal transports, supply vessels, and fleet, with “tugs whistling and screaming about.” Northern ships scurry out of harm’s way. Nearby, Monitor, steam up, awaits the attack. The Confederates manage to capture three merchant ships, but there is no fight. The Southern commander will indicate he awaited combat with Monitor, but she did not come out.

The Federal House of Representatives by a vote of 93 to 39 passes a measure abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia.
April 12, Saturday

It is breakfast time at Big Shanty, Georgia; the Atlanta to Chattanooga passenger train of the Western & Atlantic has pulled in. At Marietta some twenty-two men had gotten on board, but they don’t go in for breakfast at Big Shanty. They are a party of Union volunteers from an Ohio brigade in civilian clothes under spy James J. Andrews, bent on breaking the vital rail line to Chattanooga—the plan is to seize a locomotive and race north, burning bridges on the line between Atlanta and Chattanooga; thus isolated, Chattanooga will presumably fall easily to the Union forces advancing from the west. The first part of the plan goes off without a hitch—detaching the locomotive and three freight cars from the passenger train, the raiders race north, pausing only to cut telegraph wires and make a few futile attempts to wreck the tracks. The mightily surprised train crew, their meals unfinished, led by Conductor William A. Fuller, take out after their locomotive, the General, on foot. First the pursuers commandeer a push cart and then three successive locomotives. The last of these was headed south, but the pursuers throw it into reverse and continue the chase going backward. Forced onto a siding by unexpected south-bound traffic, the raiders lose an hour and see their lead dwindle to almost nothing. They have no time for their primary mission—to burn bridges. The fleeing raiders desperately drop crossties on the tracks and uncouple first one boxcar and then two others as impediments. But the Confederate locomotives simply push the dropped cars ahead of them. Near Ringgold eight hours after the race started the General runs out of fuel, with the pursuers close on its heels and the raiders take to the woods. They will all be captured within a week. Andrews and seven others are later executed, eight will eventually escape from prison and reach Union lines, and six will remain in Confederate prisons until they are exchanged in March.

In the Southwest the climactic encounter of the campaign seems about to occur. The Colorado troops have entered Santa Fe, then joined Colonel Canby’s main force as planned 15 miles northwest of Albuquerque. But that climactic encounter will not take place. Outnumbered, with no answer to his plea for reinforcements, and hobbled by lack of supplies, General Sibley is left with no choice but to abandon New Mexico. Today, after burying some of their brass howitzers in Albuquerque, his Texans evacuate the town and begin a long, agonizing withdrawal down both sides of the Rio Grande.

There is a two-day Federal expedition to Bear Creek, Alabama.

The commander of the Federal Department of the South, David Hunter, orders that all slaves in and around Fort Pulaski, Georgia, be confiscated and declared free. This is one of several such orders by Hunter which will later be rescinded by President Lincoln, who feels it is beyond the province of military leaders to free slaves.
April 13, Sunday

A Federal expedition called the California Column leaves southern California this day, under Colonel James H. Carleton, on a mission to drive the Texans out of New Mexico Territory. While knowing of the invasion from Texas for some time, Carleton had wisely decided to wait long enough to train the men summoned to the colors before setting out.

On the Tennessee Federals carry out reconnaissance on the Corinth, Mississippi, and Purdy, Tennessee, roads.

In North Carolina there is a skirmish at Gillett’s Farm on Pebbly Run.

Federal forces under General Ormsby Mitchel occupy Decatur, Alabama, on the Tennessee River.
April 14, Monday

Federal mortar boats bombard Fort Pillow, Tennessee, on the Mississippi River.

The US flotilla on Chesapeake Bay carries out reconnaissance on the Rappahannock.

There are skirmishes at Montevallo, Diamond Grove, and near the Santa Fe Road, Missouri. In South Carolina there is a reconnaissance on Seabrook Island by Federals.
April 15, Tuesday

The Confederate retreat from New Mexico is marked by only occasional combat. The main flare-up occurs today when some of Colonel Canby’s men, following the Confederates south, catch up with Colonel Thomas Green’s 5th Texans at the town of Peralta, about 15 miles below Albuquerque. Not wishing to have to feed prisoners, Canby at first refuses to attack. But when Green’s artillery opens fire, the Coloradans, still eager for a scrap, pitch into the Confederates. The fighting soon spreads, the large Union force driving the Confederates into Peralta, whose thick-walled adobe buildings run for two miles along the Rio Grande. Seeing no reason to risk heavy casualties in house-to-house fighting, Canby again orders his men to halt and hold their lines. On the Confederate side, the morale of the Texans is cracking. They blame Sibley for mismanaging the campaign, and now 250 men have mutinied, threatening to shoot their officers if ordered into battle. So the Battle of Peralta thereafter consists of little more than sporadic skirmishing and desultory artillery fire.

As harmless as the Battle of Peralta may have been, it nevertheless hurries General Sibley southward. Abandoning his sick and wounded as well as all wagons, baggage, and supplies not deemed essential, he will set off on a hazardous detour across deserts and mountains 20 miles west of the Rio Grande. His plan is to circle Fort Craig, still held by Union forces, then return to the river south of the post.

At Picacho Pass Station, New Mexico Territory (USA) or Arizona Territory (CSA)—along the former Butterfield Overland Stagecoach route—Lieutenant James Barrett in command of a small scouting mission ahead of the advancing California Column disobeys orders to avoid contact with any Confederate units until the main column comes up by skirmishing with a patrol of the Confederate Arizona Rangers. Barrett bungles the fight, costing him two wounded, two dead, and his life. Though three Confederates are captured the rest escape to take word to Tucson, eliminating any chance of a Federal surprise attack. Still, even with this warning, the California Column’s rapid advance almost traps the Confederate rearguard in Tucson. The Federal commander, Brigadier General James Carleton (promoted from Colonel during the march from California), will then start detachments across the desert toward the Rio Grande.

Skirmishing marks the day at Lost Creek, Missouri.
April 16, Wednesday

Today McClellan has one last chance to win a quick victory on the Peninsula by assault. He only has to take advantage of an unexpected stroke of good luck. In the morning, McClellan directs Brigadier General William F. Smith to conduct a reconnaissance in force with his division at a place called Burnt Chimneys, a dam site one mile north of Lee’s Mill in the middle of the Warwick River line. Two batteries of Federal artillery pound the Confederate earthworks across the river, silencing two out of three of the Confederate guns covering the dam. Then Smith sends the Vermont Brigade forward to the edge of the river. A staff officer finds a fording place and two companies splash across. Quickly the Vermonters drive the Confederates from their forward rifle pits. Then Brooks sends three companies on a charge over the mill dam, while four companies cross the river at the ford.

At this point, the Confederate river line has been broken. If McClellan, who has arrived on the scene to observe, throws large numbers of troops across the river to hold open the breach, he can send the bulk of his army through the gap toward Richmond, leaving Yorktown isolated in his rear to be taken at leisure. But McClellan is content to have captured good riverside positions for his artillery, and a glowing opportunity passes. An hour after the operations starts, reinforced Confederates counterattack, killing 32 Vermonters. General Smith will later report the result: “The moment I found resistance serious and the numbers opposed great, I acted in obedience to the warning instructions of the general-in-chief, and withdrew the small number of troops exposed.”

In the Shenandoah Valley, Union General Banks’s pause at Stony Creek has been a Godsend for General Jackson. Back in early March, when General Joseph Johnston was about to withdraw from Manassas, he instructed Jackson to conform with the southward movement of Johnston’s army while blocking or at least delaying any attempt by Banks to join McClellan’s forces north of the Rappahannock. But now, with McClellan transferring most of his command to the Peninsula, the strategic situation has drastically changed. Johnston’s main force is falling back from the Rapidan to oppose the huge Federal army’s march toward Richmond, leaving Jackson uncovered and isolated. Johnston has realized this and sent Jackson new orders—henceforth, the primary purpose of the Valley army should be to prevent Banks from taking the railroad town of Staunton, from which the Union can not only control the Shenandoah Valley but threaten the main supply line east to Richmond. To assist Jackson, Johnston has left behind an 8,500-man division near Brandy Station, east of the Blue Ridge. The division’s commander, a crusty old general named Richard S. Ewell, has opened a correspondence with Jackson about ways in which they can cooperate to confound the enemy.

What they do will obviously be dictated by the Valley’s geography, and the hiatus provided by Banks’s perplexed delay at Stony Creek gives Jackson plenty of time to lay plans according to the maps that cartographer Hotchkiss is supplying. Crucial to operations in the Valley is a grid of roads that form a rough parallelogram around the long ridge of the Massanutten Mountain. Running eighty miles north-south between Staunton and Winchester on the Massanutten’s western side is the Valley Turnpike, the macadam marvel of this time, so straight in places it offers a clear view for two or three miles, and negotiable in all sorts of weather. On the eastern side of the Massanutten, between it and the Blue Ridge, a much inferior road runs through the forested Luray Valley from Conrad’s Store north to Front Royal. Another road skirts the northern end of the Massanutten, linking Front Royal to Strasburg and the Valley Turnpike. At the Massanutten’s southern end, a rough track connects the turnpike near Harrisonburg with the Luray Valley road, then continues eastward across the Blue Ridge through Swift Run Gap to Stanardsville. Along its entire length, the Massanutten is crossed by only one road, running from New Market up the western side of the ridge, then descending to split into two branches. One fork continues east to Thornton’s Gap in the Blue Ridge to Sperryville; the other turns southeastward to Fisher’s Gap. Rugged though it is, the route across the Massanutten is critically important. Any troops marching north or south along either side of the Massanutten will be exposed to flank attack from an enemy holding the New Market-Luray passageway. Conversely, whichever army controls this route can move with relative impunity along either the Valley Turnpike or the Luray Valley road. At his Rude’s Hill redoubt, Jackson is situated just north of New Market. He therefore commands the vital road across the Massanutten and has many fascinating possibilities for action.

But today the man of action is General Banks, who has finally decided that his best course of action is to seize the crossroads at new Market. So now Federal cavalry ride up Stony Creek, ford it at a place where Ashby’s men have neglected to post pickets, and capture 60 surprised Confederate troopers.

President Davis approves an act of the Confederate Congress calling for conscription of every white male between eighteen and thirty-five years of age for three years’ service. The measure provides for administration of enrollment and draft by state officials, assignment to units from their own states, election of company, battalion, and regimental officers, and for substitutions. There are no specific exemptions.

In military operations there occurs an engagement at Lee’s Mill, also known as Burnt Chimneys and Dam No. 1, Virginia. There is skirmishing at Whitemarsh Island, Georgia; and near Blackwater Creek, Missouri. Federal troops keep on the move in Alabama, occupying Tuscumbia.

President Lincoln signs a bill ending slavery in the District of Columbia.
April 17, Thursday

Below New Orleans the Federal mortar fleet is towed into position to target the city’s defending forts. Two thirds take up stations by a fringe of trees on the west bank of the Mississippi, within striking distance of both forts but hidden from enemy view by a bend in the river. The rest of the vessels are deployed at intervals across the river. Because Fort Jackson is the stronger of the two forts and is closer to the chain barrier the Confederates have laid across the river, the Federals decide to make it the prime target of their bombardment. Flag Officer Farragut’s main force pauses a mile or so downriver, waiting for the mortars to clear the way.

President Davis writes Governor Thomas O. Moore of Louisiana of his concern over attack from both directions; “The wooden vessels are below, the iron gun boats are above; the forts should destroy the former if they attempt to ascend. Louisiana may be indefensible to check the iron boats. The purpose is to defend the city and valley; the only question is as to the best mode of effecting the object.”

General Joseph E. Johnston arrives at Yorktown, Virginia; he has just been appointed commander of troops on the Peninsula. By this time, all but two of the seven divisions in his army—now known as the Army of the Potomac, like McClellan’s—has reached the Peninsula or is en route there. In the next few days, Confederate strength under Johnston will soar past 50,000 men. As the Federal’s numerical superiority rapidly dwindles to less than 2 to 1, an infantry assault without a siege no longer seems feasible, even for officers more aggressive than McClellan.

There is skirmishing at Warsaw, Missouri; near Monterey, between Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee, and Corinth, Mississippi; and near Woodson’s Gap, Tennessee, where a group of Union refugees are captured.

In the Shenandoah Valley Banks throws infantry across Stony Creek at the ford his cavalry seized yesterday. Federal cavalry gallop across a wooden bridge that spans the North Fork of the Shenandoah, driving off Ashby’s troopers, who have made an amateurish effort to burn the bridge. The Confederate horsemen now have to fight their way back to Jackson’s line at Rude’s Hill. Ashby, superb in battle, is among the last to reach the covering fire of Jackson’s artillery. No sooner does he arrive than his great white stallion falls dead of a bullet in its lung. By evening, Confederate souvenir collectors have plucked out all the hairs from the animal’s mane and tail.

General Mitchel’s plan to occupy Chattanooga has run into a roadblock—the failure of the spy Andrews and his raiders to do any significant damage to the Western & Atlantic railroad. Although Mitchel is only a few days’ march from Chattanooga, he doesn’t dare advance so long as that line remains open to enemy traffic. His pleas to General Buell for reinforcements are ignored; Buell’s troops and other Federal forces under Halleck, now overall commander in the west, have been committed to an advance southward from the Shiloh battlefield to the railroad town of Corinth. As he waits for reinforcements, Mitchel has his hands full trying to maintain his hold on the stretch of railroad he has seized. There are few Confederate troops in northern Alabama, but the thinly spread Federals are continually attacked by bands of guerrillas, who are supported and concealed by sympathetic residents of the countryside. Mitchel’s men react harshly to the assaults by the elusive irregulars, burning homes and robbing from the local inhabitants.

Despite the harassment of the partisans, Mitchel decides to extend his occupation of the railroad. Today he sends a brigade commanded by Colonel Turchin east from Decatur. Without opposition, Turchin advances 40 miles down the railroad toward Chattanooga. But on hearing a rumor that Confederate forces are threatening from the direction of Corinth to the west, Mitchel orders the brigade back to Decatur, and there he has them burn behind them the railroad bridge over the Tennessee River.

A Federal expedition from Summerville to Addison, western Virginia, will operate until the twenty-first.
April 18, Friday

At about 9 am below New Orleans, the lead mortar ship of the Federal fleet along the Mississippi west bank opens fire on Fort Jackson. Then the next ship opens up, and the next, with the firing timed so that a shell arcs toward its target every two minutes. Farragut has little belief in the mortars, but has allowed them to try to reduce the forts. By dusk, more than 1,000 rounds have been lobbed at Fort Jackson, and it seems that the boast of David Dixon Porter, commander of the mortar fleet, that he’ll reduce the strongpoints in just two days might be made good. Fort Jackson’s wooden citadel and barracks are ablaze, and General Duncan fears that the magazines are also in danger of igniting. But the defenders huddle inside the brick casemates, and most of the guns remain fully operational. A little after sunset, Porter orders the firing to cease.

In Virginia General Irvin McDowell, marching overland toward McClellan from Washington, occupies Falmouth near Fredericksburg. But he is still between Washington and the Confederate army, despite McClellan’s entreaties that McDowell be sent to the Peninsula, where the huge Federal army is doing little to win the siege of Yorktown.

In the Shenandoah Jackson’s artillery may have slowed the Union drive, but he calculates that Banks’s rare show of pugnacity means he has been heavily reinforced. So today Jackson abandons the Rude’s Hill position and hurries south to Harrisonburg, to march tomorrow from there 20 miles east to camp near Conrad’s Store at the foot of Swift Run Gap. While Jackson is hurrying toward Conrad’s Store, Banks occupies New Market.
April 19, Saturday

At dawn, the mortar fleet below New Orleans again opens up on Fort Jackson. More damage is inflicted, particularly on the fort’s parapets and platforms. A number of guns are dislodged or disabled, but some of these are quickly put back into working order. Inside the fort the men have suffered from the ceaseless roar of the mortars and the constant fires, but they find to their surprise that their casualties are few. At the end of the day, the fort remains essentially intact. For three more days the merciless bombardment will continue, thousands of rounds hurled at the stronghold. With each passing day the Federal fire becomes less accurate, owing partly to the exhaustion of the gun crews and partly to defective mortar fuses that cause the shells to explode in midair. Porter finally gives up trying to time the fuses, and orders the shells fired so that they will explode on impact.

Federals ponderously put pressure on Yorktown, Virginia.

General Banks awakens to the strategic significance of the road from New Market across the Massanutten, linking the two north-south roads running the length of the Shenandoah Valley. He sends an expedition of 1,000 men over the mountain to seize the Luray Valley bridges across the South Fork. The Federal force easily routs a band of Ashby’s cavalrymen who have been sent to destroy the bridges but who have partaken liberally of the local applejack along the way. By now, however, Banks has completely lost track of Jackson’s Valley army. His further movement south will be at a cautious pace.

Halleck is still enlarging and reorganizing his army at Pittsburg Landing.

There is less important fighting elsewhere: Edisto Island, South Carolina, sees another skirmish; as do Talbot’s Ferry, Arkansas; South Mills in Camden County, and the Trent Road, North Carolina.
April 20, Sunday

Flag Officer Farragut is growing impatient with the lack of results from the massive mortar bombardment of Fort Jackson below New Orleans. Once night falls two gunboats of Farragut’s flotilla, the Itasca and the Pinola, move up to the chain barrier. Sailors from the vessels slip onto one of the barrier’s hulks and set to work to release the chain. An enemy rocket lights up the river, and Confederate guns at once begin to fire on the intruders. But the Federal sailors keep up their work until they have severed the chain and opened a great gap in the barrier. Shortly thereafter, the rapid current sweeps the Itasca toward shore and grounds her there. The Pinola tows her sister ship back into the stream, and both ships get away downriver with their chain-breakers safely aboard. Still, Farragut will wait several more days in deference to Porter and his mortar fleet.

General McDowell meets President Lincoln at Aquia Creek near Fredericksburg and accompanies him and Secretaries Stanton and Chase back to Washington.
April 21, Monday

The regular Confederate Congress exempts government officials, ferrymen, pilots, employees in iron mines and foundries, telegraph operators, ministers, printers, educators, hospital employees, and druggists, among others, from conscription before adjourning. There will be a number of later revisions in exemptions.

The only new fighting to be recorded is a skirmish at Pocahontas, Arkansas, although the mortars continue firing in the Mississippi below New Orleans, the siege continues at Fort Macon in North Carolina, and in general there is no improvement in the deteriorating Confederate military picture.

General Robert E. Lee, currently a military adviser to a President who has a notorious aversion to taking advice, has no authority to command, he can only suggest. In a letter to General “Stonewall” Jackson dated today, that is what he does. The letter begins almost routinely with the news that General Irvin McDowell has moved to occupy Fredericksburg as a base of operations against Richmond. Then, in tentative terms, Lee writes: “If you can use Genl. Ewell’s division in an attack on Genl. Banks and to drive him back, it will prove a great relief to the pressure on Fredericksburg.”
April 22, Tuesday

In response to continuing entreaties to Washington, General McClellan has received a substantial part of General McDowell’s withheld corps—the 12,000-man division of Brigadier General William B. Franklin, one of his favorite generals. For a while, McClellan will talk of using these men in an amphibious assault a few miles below Gloucester Point on the far side of the York River, but will then think better of it and keep them aboard their transports to await completion of his siege preparations. The bombardment of Yorktown is to begin on May 5, and the preparations will take time and enormous labor.

McClellan has entrusted the siege operation to Brigadier General Fitz-John Porter, a capable West Pointer and a longtime friend who commands the sole Regular Army division in the Army of the Potomac. Porter knows his job and does it thoroughly, even to the extent of ascending frequently in Thaddeus Lowe’s balloons to study the enemy’s dispositions. On one ascension, the balloon breaks its mooring lines and drifts over enemy lines. When it finally drifts back to friendly territory, Porter climbs up in the rigging to open the gas valves and lands safely.

In Aransas Bay, Texas, daring Confederate raiders capture several Union launches.
April 23, Wednesday

To Flag Officer Farragut’s irritation, Porter asks for still more time for his mortar fleet to reduce the forts. Farragut decided to demonstrate the practical value of the mortars by ordering his signal officer to climb up the mizzen and observe the effects of the bombardment, waving a red flag for every shell that falls within Fort Jackson and a white flag for every shell that misses. Porter and Farragut see the white flag unfurled again and again, and the red one only rarely. “There’s our score,” Farragut says, “I guess we’ll go up the river tonight.” Originally Farragut had intended to have his flagship lead the flotilla, thinking it only right that the commanding officer place his ship in the position of greatest peril. But his captains dissuade him, arguing that if the flag officer should be killed or badly wounded just as the fleet is getting underway the resulting confusion would imperil the whole operation. So Farragut agrees to lead the second of the fleet’s three divisions. Through the evening final preparations are made—protective chains lowered to cover the ships’ sides and protect the engines and powder magazines, Jacob’s ladders hung over the sides so that ship carpenters can quickly descend to repair shell damage to the hulls, the vessels smeared with mud to reduce their visibility, ash and sand spread behind the guns to prevent men from slipping in the blood of wounded comrades.

In another Federal naval operation, the Chesapeake and Albemarle Canal in North Carolina is successfully blocked, shutting off an important small-boat waterway.

There is a skirmish at Bridgeport, Alabama.
April 24, Thursday

At 2 am two red lanterns rise to the mizzen peak of USS Hartford on the Mississippi River below New Orleans. These lights, burning in the pitch black of a moonless night, are the signal to get underway. By 3:30 am the little gunboat Cayuga, leading the way, has steamed past the barrier, unseen by the Confederate lookouts. As the next ship reaches the barrier, Confederate sentinels dimly perceive the silhouettes of the enemy ships, and the gunners of Fort Jackson and St. Philip open fire. The river reverberates with the roar of cannon and the bursting of shells and the night sky and the river is bathed in hectic red light. Confederate rafts, set afire and sent drifting downstream toward the flotilla, shoot great gouts of flame 200 feet into the air. Ashore, huge bonfires blaze up, their leaping flames casting still more lurid light on the Federal fleet to help the gunners at the fort. Even with this help the Confederate fire has little effect; clouds of gun smoke make accurate fire increasingly difficult, though Federal warships do take some hits. Through it all, Porter’s mortar schooners and steamers keep up their own bombardment of the forts. Now the motley Confederate fleet—minus the most powerful ship, the nearly finished Louisiana still anchored safely above the forts—steam toward the battle as more of the Federal armada come under the guns of the forts, including Farragut’s flagship. His officers plead with him to give up his perch on the mizzen for the relative safety of the deck, and moments after he reluctantly complies a shell smashes the rigging where he had stood. As the Hartford passes through the barrier, a lookout sights a tug pushing a fire raft toward the flagship. The flagship maneuvers to avoid the raft, but runs aground on a mud flat below the guns of Fort St. Philip. The tug pushes the fire ship against the ship’s hull and holds it there, but the Hartford’s gun crew sinks the tug with two shots, the fire raft drifts away, the flames on the Hartford’s masts are put out, and with a great lurch the ship pushes off from the mud flat and is back in action just before the six Confederate gunboats arrive. After a short exchange five of the gunboats begin to retreat upriver and the Varuna moves in pursuit. In her haste she outdistances her sister ships and is hit with two devastating rounds then rammed twice and sinks, though with the shallow water near the riverbank most of the crew cling to the tops of the protruding masts and are soon rescued. Another Confederate ship, the Manassas, attempts to ram several ships. She manages to strike the Mississippi a glancing blow, then a solid strike against the sloop Brooklyn, crushing both the outer and inner planking below the water line—if not for the Brooklyn’s protective chains, the blow would have been fatal. The Manassas attempts to move upstream, but her weak engines can make little headway against the current and she is run down and as her crew escape to the riverbank she is riddled until she drifts downriver in flames, explodes and sinks. Elsewhere the Confederate warship McRae takes on the gunboat Iroquois. McRae’s captain, Lieutenant Thomas B. Huger, knows how badly he is outgunned, having served aboard the Iroquois before the War. The exchange is as one-sided as could be expected, and Huger is mortally wounded by his former comrades in arms.

The Iroquois is the last ship to pass the forts, and as dawn breaks over the Mississippi Farragut’s fleet moves beyond the range of the enemy guns; the whole engagement has taken only two hours. The Federals have lost one ship, and have suffered 37 men killed and 147 wounded. The forts suffer light casualties, but the Confederate squadron has at least 61 killed and 43 wounded. Altogether eight Confederate vessels are lost, only two escaping. By midday, the Union fleet is steaming upriver unchallenged. Farragut has left Porter and his mortar fleet behind, with orders to demand the surrender of the forts. Should their commander refuse, Porter is to resume the barrage and, if necessary, cover a siege by General Butler’s army.

Ever since Porter had opened his bombardment days before, New Orleans has teetered between panic and hope. When the wind was right the citizens could hear the rumble of the distant guns, and there was talk of impending doom. Still, the sturdy resistance of the forts had seemed to bear out their commander’s boast, “We can stand it as long as they can.” By afternoon, however, with word that the Federal fleet has passed the forts, despair sets in. the city’s remaining defenses are pitiful. Pressed with constant demands from Richmond that he send reinforcements, General Lovell now has only 3,000 militiamen at hand, some of them so green that he declares himself “unwilling to put ammunition in their hands.” He informs Mayor John Monroe that he cannot successfully defend the city and that if he tries, Farragut will bombard it. To save lives and property, he means to evacuate his command. As news of his decision spreads, rioting erupts. Outraged citizens, determined to deprive the Federals of at least some of the fruits of victory, burn hundreds of bales of cotton and tons of foodstuffs stored on the levees. Molasses oozes out of smashed barrels and flows down the gutters of the streets. Mobs pillage without hindrance. The greatest Confederate loss is the unfinished ironclad Mississippi. Attempts to tow her upriver fail, so she is set afire and her blazing hulk drifts downstream past the fleet she had been expected to destroy.

Other fighting of the day pales in comparison, but there is skirmishing at Tuscumbia, Alabama; at Lick Creek and on the Shelbyville Road, Tennessee; and on the Corinth Road, Mississippi; all part of the Federal probing into northern Alabama and Mississippi.

In the Shenandoah Valley General “Stonewall” Jackson has gotten himself into a bit of a pickle with Turner Ashby. This is the culmination of a clash between the two commanders sparked by Jackson’s attempt to impose some discipline on Ashby’s cavalry. Ashby is a true descendant of the martial Virginians that fought in the Revolution and the War of 1812, a fearless and spirited officer. Like many another member of the cavalier society his formal education has been neglected but he is a marvelous horseman and a fine shot. He also thirsts to avenge the death of his brother Dick, a cavalry captain killed in an early skirmish with Federals. But Jackson has discovered that Ashby is severely limited. To be sure, Ashby and his horsemen have few peers at guerrilla operations, and they are no less adept at the thrust and parry of rearguard fighting. But in the disciplines demanded for coordinated action with the rest of the army, they are all but hopeless—and the fault clearly lies with their commander’s failure to impose any sort of discipline. In the Kernstown battle, for instance, Ashby managed to field less than half of his men, the rest having been left free to gambol about the countryside on their own business because Ashby thought the issue wouldn’t be joined until the following day. Since then the situation has worsened, and Jackson decided that he could no longer allow it to continue. He ordered ten of Ashby’s 21 companies attached to the Stonewall Brigade, the other eleven to a brigade recently taken over by Brigadier General William B. Taliaferro. Ashby would be in charge of either the advance guard or the rear, but he could obtain the men necessary for carrying out his assignments only by applying to Taliaferro and Winder for troops—in short, Ashby would be a commander without a command. Upon receiving the order, Ashby and his second-in-command, Major Oliver Funsten, decided to resign, putting Jackson in a serious bind. He couldn’t pretend that the cavalry’s performance will be improved with the departure of its hero—an officer he values for his fighting spirit and inspirational leadership. Jackson meant to change Ashby, not get rid of him.

Just as it appeared that Jackson’s dilemma was beyond solution, help came in the form of the general he’d recently given command of the Stonewall Brigade, Charles Winder. The chilly Winder has, most improbably, struck up a friendship with Ashby, and now he has ridden back and forth between the two disaffected officers in an unseasonable snowstorm, negotiating for a meeting between them. Tonight his efforts pay off as Ashby calls upon Jackson in his headquarters tent at Conrad’s Store. Exactly what transpires will never be disclosed, but the practical results are obvious. Although the cavalry companies remain technically under the infantry brigade commanders, they are in fact “detailed” back to Ashby. While Ashby is somewhat chastened, though unreformed, Jackson has backed down.
April 25, Friday

By this morning, the frenzy in New Orleans has yielded to a mood of sullen desperation. Now people gather in knots, muttering charges of treason while they wait for the Federal ships to appear. Farragut’s fleet moves north without haste. Just below the city there remains a final barrier, the weak Chalmette line to the east and the McGehee batteries on the west bank of the river. The Confederate gunners try to stop the Federals but are quickly silenced. At 1 pm Farragut’s fleet arrives at New Orleans and anchor in the river. Farragut sends Captain Bailey, Lieutenant George Perkins and a guard of sailors ashore under a flag of truce to present his demands to the city’s authorities. Faced by a mob shouting for their deaths, the two officers leave their guards behind and walk stiffly toward City Hall with the crowd dogging their footsteps. One member of the mob will later say that was “one of the bravest deeds I ever saw done.”

At City Hall, they meet Mayor Monroe and demand the city’s unconditional surrender. Monroe replies that New Orleans is under martial law, and therefore he has no authority to surrender; General Lovell, whose militia have evacuated the town, will have to be consulted. In due course Lovell appears and declines to surrender New Orleans, but he agrees to withdraw his authority over the city to permit the mayor and his council to make any arrangement they find necessary. During the discussions the mob has grown larger and more unruly. Several citizens have forced their way into the building and are pounding at the doors, demanding that the Federal officers be turned over for summary justice. Bailey and Perkins are escorted out a rear door and driven back to the levee in a closed carriage, while members of the city council try to calm the crowd. The announcement that Lovell has refused to surrender is loudly cheered, and the general takes the occasion to remind the townspeople that he has done his best to defend them against overwhelming odds. Then Lovell mounts his horse and rides to the railroad station, where he boards the last Confederate train from New Orleans to join his command outside the city. By evening a standoff has developed. Mayor Monroe advises his council that the best course will be neither formal surrender nor open resistance. Farragut insists on surrender and demands that the Louisiana flag be hauled down at all public buildings. But since the twin forts 75 miles below the city are still in enemy hands and Butler’s army cannot move on to New Orleans until they fall, he doesn’t press too hard. A teenage New Orleans girl tells her diary: “We are conquered but not subdued.”

By courage and daring the Federals have climaxed with victory a campaign that has resulted in the capture of the South’s largest city and most vital port. Soon the North will have a new base for operations against the heartland of the Confederacy, and a new hero has been found, this time a naval man. “Like Grant, Farragut always went ahead,” writes young officer George Dewey, years later to “go ahead” himself at Manila Bay.

On the coast of North Carolina near Beaufort the more than month-long siege of Fort Macon reaches its culmination. Federal troops of John G. Parke open a heavy fire on the fort, dismounting over half the guns. Gunboats go into action from the water side. Late in the afternoon the white flag rises and firing ceases as Colonel Moses J. White has no recourse but to surrender. Casualties are light, but yet another bastion of the South is gone.

In New Mexico Territory, General Sibley’s troops finally reach the Rio Grande. The difficult march has done little for the Texans’ morale, which was already cracking. Now, struggling over ragged mountains and cutting their way through dense thickets of desert brush with axes and Bowie knives, the Confederate army of New Mexico has virtually disintegrated. The 100-mile-long detour has taken eight days to complete. Discipline as dissolved, and according to one survivor, it was every man for himself. Famished and exhausted men have collapsed and been left to die. Others too sick to be carried along have been thrown out of the few wagons and abandoned.

Elsewhere on the active fronts there is skirmishing at Tuscumbia, Alabama; an affair at Socorro, New Mexico Territory; and a skirmish on the Osage, near Monagan Springs, Missouri.

At Savannah, Tennessee, Major General C.F. Smith dies of a seemingly minor leg injury. An experienced soldier, Smith has been a most valuable subordinate to Grant at Fort Donelson and in other operations.
April 26, Saturday

In the morning, Farragut dispatches another officer, Lieutenant Albert Kautz, to demand the surrender of New Orleans once more. Another mob is waiting on the wharf and refused to permit Kautz and his Marine escort to pass. When the Marines raise their rifles, the rabble push women and children forward, shouting, “Shoot, Yankees, shoot!” Kautz has been warned to avoid bloodshed, and he tells the Marines to lower their rifles. The impasse is at last resolved with the help of an officer of the City Guard, who is allowed to escort Kautz, a midshipman and a Marine to the mayor’s office. Negotiations between Kautz and Monroe go nowhere. The mayor, backed by the council, sticks to his position that he is not empowered to surrender the city, inviting Farragut to occupy it if he dares. While Kautz is conferring with city officials, a group of Federal sailors mount the roof of the Mint and raise the US flag. When the sailors depart, a gambler named William Mumford hauls down the Stars and Stripes and the mob tears it to ribbons. Mumford is the hero of the hour, but after the city is occupied he will be hanged for his effrontery by order of its military governor, General Butler.

Formal surrender ceremonies are held at Fort Macon, North Carolina, where the Confederate garrison of four hundred become prisoners of the Federals.

Skirmishing occurs at Neosho and Turnback Creek, Missouri, as well as Atkin’s Mill, Tennessee. There are several days of operations on Forked Deer River, Tennessee.

In the Shenandoah Valley the main body of the Union army under Banks has finally assembled at Harrisonburg. Banks still has no idea where Jackson’s army is located.

President Lincoln visits the French man-of-war Gassendi at the Washington Navy Yard, to the crew’s shouts of “Vive le Président.”
April 27, Sunday

General Butler’s troops have begun landing along the Gulf to open siege operations, and the morale of the Confederate troops holding the forts is rapidly deteriorating. General Duncan dispatches messengers to New Orleans to find out whether the city has surrendered; if it has, there is little point in continuing the struggle. He tries to buoy his men with a rousing proclamation that praises the sacrifice and urges them to “be vigilant and stand by your guns.” But the call falls on deaf ears—once night falls, the Fort Jackson garrison mutinies. The men turn on their officers, spike the guns and take potshots and anyone that attempts to hinder them. Half of the garrison flees to the bayous. Four small forts—Livingston, Quitman, Pike, and Wood—protecting New Orleans surrender to Federal forces.

At Vicksburg, panic spreads with word of the fall of New Orleans, with many of its people promptly fleeing their city. Merchants load their stock into wagons and clatter away; cotton is hauled out of warehouses to be burned before the Federals can get it; and families drive into the countryside in buggies and wagons. Meanwhile, other families, some from New Orleans, move into Vicksburg, reasoning that they will be safer from the Federals in town.

Elsewhere there is fighting at Pea Ridge, Tennessee; near Pittsburg Landing; at Bridgeport, Alabama; and at Haughton’s Mill near Pollocksville, North Carolina.
April 28, Monday

Below New Orleans, learning of the mutiny and desertion of the Fort Jackson garrison and believing that the garrison at Fort St. Philip has also mutinied, General Duncan is now prepared to yield to the Union forces. To his astonishment, Commander Mitchell of the Confederate fleet suddenly appears at Fort Jackson and proposes to continue the fight. This officer, who had refused to tow the ironclad Louisiana into battle position as Farragut was passing the forts, now has high hopes of getting her engines working at last and turning her guns on General Butler’s forces, who are moving overland to cut off the forts. Mitchell’s offer is several days too late. With the forts now threatened with a combined land and water attack, Duncan decides to go ahead with the surrender. But in a message to Porter accepting the Federal ultimatum, he warns that he has no control over the vessels still afloat. Mitchell, still unable to put the Louisiana into action, decides to sacrifice the ironclad. As the surrender documents are about to be signed aboard Porter’s ship, the Louisiana is set afire and sent drifting toward Porter’s flotilla, her magazines filled with powder. The ironclad explodes before reaching any of the Federal vessels. Late in the afternoon the troops manning Fort Jackson are evacuated and shipped upriver to New Orleans. As a tribute to their valor, Porter allows the Confederate banner to fly from the fort’s battlements until the defenders have passed from sight.

In northern Mississippi it becomes evident that General Halleck’s huge Federal army is about to advance on Beauregard at Corinth.

There is a skirmish at Monterey, Tennessee; at Bolivar and Paint Rock Bridge, Alabama; and at Warsaw, Missouri.

At Nassau in the Bahamas the British Oreto arrives to be outfitted officially as a Confederate raider, CSS Florida.
April 29, Tuesday

The massive army of General Halleck is completing its preliminary preparations for marching from Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee, toward the Confederates at Corinth, Mississippi. By now Halleck has over 100,000 men; Beauregard has about two thirds as many. Grant is relegated to second-in-command under Halleck, and is much upset by what he considers a demotion. In early operations Federals occupy Purdy, and there is skirmishing near Montery, Tennessee.

Other fighting occurs at West Bridge, near Bridgeport, Alabama; on the Mobile & Ohio Railroad near Bethel Station, Tennessee; at Pineberry Battery, Willstown, and White Point, South Carolina; Cumberland Gap, Kentucky; and Batchelder’s Creek, North Carolina.

The evacuation of the surrendered garrison at Fort St. Philip below New Orleans begins, and General Butler’s army occupies both Fort Jackson and Fort St. Philip. The two Confederate garrisons lost a total of 11 men killed and 39 wounded. The forts themselves, after a week of pounding, have suffered no irreparable damage. Though wooden buildings have been incinerated and the casemates are pocked by Federal fire, a Federal officer reports of Fort Jackson: “It is as strong today as when the first shell was fired.”

Meanwhile General Duncan reaches New Orleans and informs the civil authorities of the surrender of the forts. As a stunned silence spreads over New Orleans, cheers ring out aboard the Federal ships in the harbor. Farragut orders ashore a Marine battalion and a detachment of sailors, backed by two howitzers, to haul down all state and Confederate flags and raise up the Stars and Stripes. A crowd curses the Marines but makes no attempt to prevent them from doing their duty.

General “Stonewall” Jackson has received General Lee’s letter of the 21st, and is eager to oblige with its suggestion that he and General Ewell combine to drive back General Banks. Today he sends Lee a plan to take the offensive, involving Ewell’s division and a 2,800-man detachment under Brigadier General Edward Johnson, who has been holding out in the Alleghenies since the previous year. In recent days Johnson has been forced from his mountain positions by the Federals, and he is now being pressed close to Staunton by Brigadier General Robert H. Milroy, who commands the vanguard of John C. Fremont’s army. Under Jackson’s scheme, Ewell would cross the Blue Ridge and take over the camps of Jackson’s army at Swift Run Gap. From there, Ewell can threaten Banks if he moves against Staunton. Meanwhile, Jackson would march to join Johnson just west of Staunton. The two could combine to defeat an outnumbered Milroy before the rest of Fremont’s scattered army can come up, thereby forestalling a linkup between Fremont and Banks at Staunton. Finally, Jackson would combine his own command with those of Ewell and Johnson. With a combined force of 17,000 men, by far the most he has ever possessed, he could deal with General Banks. Jackson doesn’t wait for an answer from Lee, informing Ewell of the plan immediately.

In Tennessee, General Mitchel leads an expedition eastward of Decatur beyond Stevenson and drives a small Confederate force away from Bridgeport; there he captures the railroad bridge over the Tennessee and burns a smaller bridge beyond the town.
April 30, Wednesday

Union General Banks has completely misread the condition of General Jackson’s Shenandoah army and his intentions. Earlier in the month Banks reported that Jackson’s force is “much demoralized by defeat, desertion, and the general depression of spirits. He is not in condition to attack, neither to make strong resistance.” Two days ago, Banks repeated himself: “The enemy is in no condition for offensive movements.” Now he announces triumphantly that “there is nothing more to be done by us in the valley.” He requests that he and his army be transferred east of the Blue Ridge to join with either McClellan or McDowell for the march on Richmond.

In response to General Jackson’s message, this night General Ewell’s 8,500 men trudge over the Blue Ridge into the Shenandoah Valley. Picking their way in the darkness through General Jackson’s slumbering camp they bivouac a short distance beyond. In the morning, one of the soldiers in Ewell’s division will recall, “to our utter amazement, when we turned our faces to where we had passed his army the evening previous, nothing met our gaze but the smouldering [sic] embers of his deserted campfires.” Jackson was gone before they arrived. So starts a dreadful ordeal for Ewell, always in the dark about Jackson’s movements while ordered to prevent General Banks from moving toward Staunton, discourage any Federal attempts to leave the Valley for the effort against Richmond—and all the while, remain right where he is at Swift Run Gap.
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